Beer of The Month: Maibock

For May, what beer is more natural than a Maibock?

The German bock tradition originated seven hundred years ago in the northern-German town of Einbeck and was later picked up by brewers in Bavaria who created the Maibock variant. They pronounced the name of the town as “ein Bock” goat-patch-beer-3.jpgwhich means “a goat”  in German. As a result you’ll often seen the image of a goat on bock labels. 

Maibock is an offshoot of the traditional bock and is associated with springtime and often the end of Lent (time to get drunk!). Similarities include a medium/high alcohol content, usually in the 6 – 8% range, and the golden to light-amber color. Where Maibock differentiates itself is in the hops. While still maintaining the strongly-malted profile of bocks, Maibock introduces additional hop notes for a more balanced taste and a drier finish. You’ll still find bock’s bready and toasty malts, but with a side of bittering, spice and pepper from Noble hops. 

Maibock serves as a wonderful transition from heavy, malted winter beers into lighter, hoppier summer beers. With the increasingly longer days, this style provides a great metaphor for coming out of the darkness into the light!

Beer of the Month: American Amber Ale

April’s beer is an easy-drinking beer that’s probably familiar to most people and a go-to beer for many. A relative to the well-known pale ales, American Amber Ale has a darker color, fuller body, and a greater malt influence.goat-patch-beer-3.jpg

At the first appearance, ambers will be clear and amber (no surprise there) to copper in color. Most ambers will have a light-to-medium body with medium head, and typically a noticeable, but not excessive, hop aroma.

As far as flavors go, roasted malt/caramel characteristics will predominate but still leave room for detectable hop bitterness that provides a pleasant balance. You’ll find no flavor extremes here. With an ABV that generally falls into the medium/low range, these balanced beers go down easily and are relatively sessionable.

Along the Front Range, most beer-drinkers know Odell’s 90 Shilling and New Belgium’s Fat Tire, which both provide good examples of the style.

 

 

Beer of The Month: Altbier

March brings springtime and slightly warmer temps, but many days still have a nip in the air, which makes Altbier a great fit for this month’s beer. Altbier lightens things up from the thick, alcohol-heavy beers of winter and bridges the gap to lighter summer beers. While not a hard and fast rule, Alts were traditionally more often madeAltbier 2 in the winter and spring months so if there’s a season for it, now’s the time.

Historically, Altbier has come from Dusseldorf and the surrounding region of Germany.  It differentiates itself from other German lagers in that it uses top-fermenting yeast but still ferments at cool temperatures like bottom-fermenting lagers. The cooler temperatures result in a slower and longer fermentation. Alt means “old” in German and may refer to the longer time that it takes to make the beer or that the use of top-fermenting yeast is an older method of beer-making.

The longer fermenting and conditioning time produces a smooth, balanced beer with an amber to auburn color rarely straying into brown territory. The initial aroma should be clean and slightly malty with the potential for very light fruit esters or hop spiciness. The flavor stays true to the aroma with modest maltiness and possible hints of fruit, spice or herbs from Noble or Spalt hops. Body will be medium and alcohol will fall into the low/medium range and should not be noticeable.

Rarely, you may run across a stronger and more flavorful version called Sticke Alt. This variant has another percent or so of ABV and a more hops-forward taste.

Beer of the Month: Stout

20180106_150906_HDRFebruary has become Stout Month thanks to the designation invented by the Mountain Sun family of pubs. Despite the somewhat Hallmark Holiday feel of it, they do make a good point that it’s a great time to drink this hearty winter style.

Stouts actually cover a lot of territory so first let’s talk about commonalities. Stouts are dark-colored, from brown to almost black, with significant roast malt flavors. You’ll find no noticeable hops, sourness or anything in that realm. They are generally low-carbonated, medium-bodied beers but can range up though full-bodied, and the frequent addition of nitrogen can impact their mouth-feel. Regular Stouts usually have low/medium alcohol content, but any time you see “Imperial” be prepared for a high-gravity treat. As a category I think of Stouts as warm, comfort-food beers for the cold dark nights of winter.

Getting into the nitty-gritty on some of the variations, Irish Stouts and Dry Irish Stouts are likely to be  familiar to almost everyone. These beers showcase the chocolate, roast, 20180527_134925_HDRand coffee characteristics of the malt and downplay the sweetness. Alcohol tends to be low. The best-known (though definitely not craft-beery) example is Guinness, which also figures into the origin story of Stouts. Stouts grew out of porters, where stronger porters were designated Stout. Guinness adopted this practice in their Extra Stout Porter but eventually dropped the “porter”, and their wide distribution network helped popularize Stout as a unique style.

English and American Stouts have many similarities to Irish Stouts with the key differences being more sweetness and potentially slightly higher20181205_185334_HDR alcohol. If you see a craft beer listed simply as a “Stout” on the menu, then likely it is one of these. One key note in this category is that brewers like to experiment. Craft breweries have added everything from cherries and plums to vanilla and pumpkin spices. Several have even combined peppers, chocolate and cinnamon for a tasty Mexican chocolate stout.

In addition to adding flavor ingredients, some recipes make more fundamental changes to the beer. Oatmeal Stouts add oats to the mash for a nuttier, bready flavor and a much smoother, fuller body. Milk Stouts add lactose sugar for a sweeter and somewhat smoother beer.

Finally, the royalty: Imperial Stouts. There really is a royal connection, as these were brewed for the Russian Imperial Household back when Russia had that sort of thing. Perhaps the bitterly-cold Russian winters required offsetting warming beverages, because these thick, almost-syrupy, high-alcohol beers will certainly heat you up. These very dark, full-bodied brews intensify the standard Stout flavors of roast, coffee, chocolate and sometimes dried fruit which ideally balance the higher alcohol for a  smooth and complex-but-pleasant quaff.  You may see the terms Russian Imperial or American Imperial but they are very similar, and barrel-aging has become popular as  a way to add even more complexity and alcohol.

 

Learn About Belgian Beers!

20171106_194213_HDRBruz Beers is hosting another round of their Learn About Belgian Beers classes. These classes cover the basics and major categories of Belgian beers and you get to taste a dozen of them while learning about history and characteristics of each. Tickets are $25 for either the February 2 or February 16 sessions, however Bruz typically offers these classes twice a month along with homebrewing courses so no worries if you can’t fit it in your February calendar.  Check out their website for the most up-to-date schedule.

Style of the Month: English-Style Bitter

With the transition from lighter summer beers to maltier, darker and stronger winter beers, the English-Style Bitter seems to be a good crossover. While lower in alcohol and more sessionable, these beers follow a malt-forward profile. Bitters20171108_162039_hdr.jpg have been a staple of British drinking for years but the style hasn’t really caught on as much in The States. If you haven’t yet tried one it’s worth giving it a shot this month to see if that’s a direction in which you want to expand your beer palate.

On first appearance, bitters will have gold-to-copper color and light-to-medium body. They are in the pale ale family but maltiness is typically the most noticeable flavor, with notes of English hops in the background providing the bitterness. Many people also perceive biscuity, nutty, or toasty flavors. The hops and yeast generally also impart a dryness to the beer, particularly on the finish. Aroma is usually low with possibly a hint of hops. Often these beers are cask-conditioned and thus have a lower carbonation than most beers.

Sometimes you will see the terms ordinary,  best, special, or extra special associated with these beers and that simply indicates the strength of the beer, with the ABV rising as the beers get more “special”.

 

Style of the Month: Berliner Weisse

I decided to try out a new type of post and maybe add a little education value to the blog  so starting in August I’ll feature a new style of beer every month. Since August still has reasonably hot weather, a nice refreshing Berliner Weisse seems appropriate.

A typical Berliner Weisse is light-bodied, light-colored, low-alcohol and sour. Most people would describe this wheat beer as crisp and refreshing with low concentrations of both malt and hops. Frequently Berliner Weisse exhibits a slight level of cloudiness. These days most brewers add lactobacillus to achieve the souring vs. the traditional method of letting wild critters in to do the work.  Image result for berliner weisse public use photos

A brief history of Berliner Weisse starts over 500 years ago with tart beers brewed in northern Germany and possibly Flanders. The style really took root in Berlin and thrived for about 400 years until the late 1800’s when it began to lose favor. By the end of the 20th Century only a couple of Berlin breweries made the style. Fortunately the beer was saved from extinction and it has enjoyed a renaissance both at home and abroad, although technically a Berliner Weisse must be manufactured in the confines of Berlin. The recent popularity of sours may also help account for its frequent appearance on craft beer taplists.

The two best-known examples in Berlin are Berliner Kindl and Schultheiss. If you order the beer in Berlin you will generally be offered the opportunity to take it “mit schuss“, which translates to “with a shot” of flavored syrup. Most people drink it unadulterated, though. If you choose “mit schuss” in Germany your two options will be a red, raspberry-like option (Himbeere) and a green, medicinal choice (Waldmeister) that I personally would not recommend. Many American craft breweries have added their own spin with fun flavors like peach and prickly pear.

Overall, a cold Berliner Weisse offers a fresh and sessionable experience for hot summer afternoons, whether doing yardwork or just kicking back on the patio.