Thursday, July 27, 2006

Respect Beer

For a long time my favorite beer website, other than my pink site, has been a site called Founded by beer loving brothers Jason & Todd Alstrom, Beer Advocate features beer news, education, information on beer styles, beer events and reviews on literally hundreds of beers.

With the motto "Respect Beer," you'll understand why I love these guys. When they were recently named "Best Beer Web Site" by Details magazine (mine wasn't up yet) Todd said, "There's no doubt that most within this age group are among the beer drinking impaired and in dire need of assistance when it comes to their choice of beer. If can help, mission accomplished!" I dig that beer passion.

Well my dear readers, with the intention of changing the way the world thinks about beer, the Alstroms are launching their first ever Beer Advocate Magazine. If you subscribe before August 1, 2006, you'll become a "Founding Subscriber" and lock into an annual subscription rate of only $19.95 a year.

How cool will you look when you have the boy over for the first time and your beer magazines are scattered all over! (You've hidden all the People under the bed, of course)

Click Here to subscribe.

Subscription Includes:
  • The Fall 2006 Inaugural Issue (limited edition)
  • 12 issues total: 10 monthly issues (starting 2007), plus Year in Review and pocket beer guide
  • An official 2007 BeerAdvocate Calendar
Additional Info:
  • Offer valid with timely annual renewal, expires August 1, 2006
  • Inaugural issue ships fall 2006
  • Subscription begins 2007

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ales vs. Lagers

Simply put, all beer can be divided into two categories: ales and lagers. Obviously there are subcategories of different "styles" of beer for each category. "Beer" is a beautiful yet generic term which covers all categories of this delicious malt beverage. So, what then is the difference between ales and lagers? The difference is mainly in the temperature at which the beer was fermented, what kind of yeast is used in the process and how long the beer takes to mature.

Ales are brewed using "top fermentating" yeast, which means that once the beer is done fermenting, the yeast rises to the top of the tank before it drops to the bottom. These brews are fermented warm at 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Ales are fuller in body and residual sugar and can take just three weeks to produce.

Lagers are the most common beers brewed in the world. Budweiser, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors, Busch, Heinekin, Becks, etc. are all lagers. They use "bottom fermenting" yeast, meaning the yeast falls to the bottom of the tank immediately after completing fermentation. Compared to ales, lagers are usually dry and crisp, and ferment at colder temperatures and can take six to eight weeks to produce.

Chicks who have been more exposed to wine than beer can understand it this way. Ales are the red wine of beer. Like red wine, they ferment warm and have rich flavors and characteristics. Lagers, on the other hand, are more like white wine. They ferment at lower temperatures and have cleaner, more delicate flavors.

Try this out for a beer /food pairing experiment: Where a meal would call for a red wine, try substituting an ale, and where a meal calls for white wine, try a lager instead.

This information was provided by the fabulous Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, Ca.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Beer Myth #1

Since I've been writing this blog, I've been even more sensitive to what beers women order, how they order them and what that tells me about what they understand about beer. Every day I realize just how very much this blog is needed. Every day I'll get, oh I'd say, 8 million women who ask me for a light beer. When I ask them what they mean by light, they say, "You know, a beer that's not dark."

Its so .... sad.

Of course, every time I have to dispel what I call "Beer Myth #1." I feel like one of those dolls where they pull the string in the back and I just spit out the same things over and over and over again. It makes me want to do a little shoulder grabbing and shaking and drilling the following into the head of every beer drinker.

Beer Myth #1: A beer that is dark in color is bitter and heavy.

This is, by far, the biggest misconception that women have about beer. If you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this: The color of a beer has nothing what-so-ever to do with the strength, alcohol content, bitterness or "heaviness" of that beer. I'll say it again. Just because a beer is dark in color does not mean that it is heavy or bitter.

This misconception stems from, once again, the mass beer market, 90% of which are either pilsener style or american lager style beers. Budweiser, Busch, Michelob, Miller, Coors, Heineken, Moretti and Corona all fall into this category. They are all light in alcohol, very light in flavor, have virtually no aromatics and are very light in color. Because these beers are all that most of us have been exposed to, we wrongly associate that light color with those other "light" attributes.

Additionally, because these beers are not, in my opinion, necessarily good quality or good tasting (when compared to most craft and artisanal beer) many people, especially women, want these beers to be as light tasting as possible, so they don't experience so much of a not so great beer. They don't want a beer with an "aftertaste." What they are really saying is that they don't want a beer with a bad aftertaste. If something tastes great, wouldn't you want that flavor to linger?

The ONLY thing that the color of a beer tells you is how long and at what temperature the malts (grains) have been roasted that have been used in the making of that beer. Another ingredient in beer, HOPS, are responsible for the bitterness in beer, and hops have absolutely no visible characteristic in beer. The alcohol content of a beer is determined by the AMOUNT of malt used in making the beer, not the color. And the alcohol content of a beer is what determines the "heaviness," the weight or viscosity of a beer, again not the color.

Ordering a beer by its color is like judging a book by its cover. Instead, order a beer by what you feel like tasting. You don't even have to worry about using the correct "beer jargon." Who cares about that? I would rather you order a beer using flavor descriptors like: nutty, crisp, lemony, bitter, toasty, sweet, chocolatey, creamy, effervescent, bright, spicy, fruity, yeasty. Believe me, you'll get a beer that you might actually LIKE, versus a beer that you are trying to taste the least.

I'll quote another beer expert who wisely said, "Do not judge a beer by its color."

Seriously. I mean it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Beers of Summer

Ah...Summer. I love summer. I heart summer. I dig summer. Especially because each summer there are a few releases of summer beers that you can't get any other time of the year. These seasonal beers are somehow able to convey some flavor or aroma of summer that coppertone previously had the market on. And what better time of year to have what you want than summer? Summer is when we get to relax, kick back, enjoy ourselves, indulge ourselves.

The kind of cool thing about summer beers is that in the official beer world, they don't really exist as a historical style, so they can be whatever the brewer desires. Summer beers really started when microbreweries realized how popular their seasonal harvest, winter and holiday beers were. Why not summer ales? After all, it is a time when there's a plethora of fresh herbs, spices, fruits and produce at a brewers disposal. Summer ales tend to be lighter ales, wheat beers and fruity beers: beers you can drink after mowing the lawn, or in my case, after not mowing the lawn.

Summer Pix 4 Chx:

Craftsman Smoked Black Lager - Pasadena, California
As part of their self-proclaimed "contrarian style," Craftsman Brewery makes a black summer beer that has been smoked over beechwood, creating a beer that is dark, but not heavy, with roasted malts that are smokey, but nowhere near ashey. Its a very crisp and dry lager that pairs, shall I say, PERFECTLY with summer bar-b-q or, according to executive chef Sang Yoon, "Anything off the grill." Forget about it. Seriously.

Three Floyds Brewing Co. Gumballhead - Munster, Indiana

This American Pale Wheat Ale is a summer release from an awesome brewery in a place called Munster, Indiana. Its an extremely drinkable beer, especially on hot summer days. The aroma is clean and crisp with the distinct grapefruity-ness of Amarillo hops. This beer reminds me of the pool boy, beautiful, but not complex. This is a perfect lakeside picnic companion.

Allagash Brewing Company, Allagash White - Portland, Maine

Modeled after the traditional "White" beers of Belgium (also referred to as "wit" beers), Allagash White gets its unique flavor brewing from wheat and a special blend of spices. This beer is light and slightly cloudy with notes of Curacao orange peel and coriander. Allagash combined these ingredients with their very own proprietary Belgian yeast strain to create the remarkably unique and refreshing beer that is today their flagship brand. This beer is a great compliment to salads with fresh vinaigrettes, goat cheese, summer lunches of chicken and fish. Try it with apple pie. Trust me...its unbelievable.

Craftsman Orange Grove Ale -
Pasadena, California

Okay, I'll admit it. I love Craftsman Brewery. I really do. This beer lives up to my expectations. This delish summer ale is brewed using whole fresh Valencia oranges. I call them "landsman brewers" because they don't let any part of the orange go to waste. That means that they use the peel in addition to the bitter pith. This ale is no orange crush. Its a bright pale ale with subtle orange peel in the nose and quenching citrus nuance with a dry finish.

We're just in July, so you'll have plenty of time to try these and other artisanal summer brews. Don't feel pressured though, because after the summer beers come the fall beers! There are so many styles to look forward to: Marzen/Oktoberfests, Harvest Ales, Pumpkin Ales, etc. So I can tell you my love for beer will still be strong, after the beers of summer have gone.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Turn Away from the Lite

And the mass beer marketers of this great land watered down their beer and said, "Let there be light beer;" and there was light beer. And the mass beer marketers tasted the light beer: And it was bad. Really really bad. But, the mass beer market spin doctors saw a "Lite" at the end of the tunnel: the female demographic. And ladies, we fell for the great lite lie hook, line and stinky beer.

Here's what lite beer means to me. A mass produced crappy beer that has been DILUTED with water until nearly all the depth of flavor and character has been stripped out of it. Girls, believe me when I say that its just not worth it. It just isn't.

The most disheartening fact about drinking lite beer is that there really is no benefit to drinking it., a leading beer knowledge website, says that lite beer is "all more or less (expletive deleted.) What you gain in the way of less calories, you lose in a major way with flavor, aroma and body." And for what? I am in no way advocating that you drink Budweiser, but as an example; Budweiser is only 33 calories more than Bud Lite. And, GET THIS, you burn that amount of calories by SLEEPING for a HALF-HOUR.

What about carbs? We ladies are always concerned with the carbs. Again, according to Beer Advocate, while it is true that carbs get converted to fat, the carbs that exist in beer are the kind of carbs that are not derived from fat. They are the "simple" carbs that your body can break down quickly into energy.

In addition, Ladies, lets just be cool. Can we try to just be cool? In the land of real beer, "light" can mean so many things. It can mean a beer that is light in color (which tells you very little about the flavor.) Light can mean that a beer has a lighter body compared to bigger beers. Light can mean that a beer has a lower alcohol content. In general, "light" is a vague and confusing descriptor to real beer connoisseurs. Unless, of course, it is very clear that by "light" you mean "lite." In that case, "I would like a lite beer," translates to, "I don't know anything about good beer and so instead I would like to have something that tastes like (expletive deleted.)" Does that seem like something a smart chick would say?

C'mon girls. Life is short! Date a bad boy, but don't drink a bad beer. Why force ourselves to power through something we have to choke down to no benefit? Don't we already do that enough? Its time to fully enjoy the good things in life. And one of the best things in life is the fine malt beverage called beer.

Make your fellow beer chicks proud. Don't be a Carol-Anne.
Turn away from the lite!

Check out these stats. It just isn't worth it!
(12oz) (ABV%) Calories Carbs (g)

4.9 143 10.6
Bud Light
4.2 110 6.6
Miller High Life
4.6 144 13.1
Miller Lite
4.2 96 3.2
Coors Original
5.0 148 11.3
Coors Light
4.2 105 5.0

(ABV% stands for Alcohol Percentage by Volume)

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2" in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. This time the students were sure and they responded with a unanimous "Yes!"

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and proceeded to pour their entire contents into the jar -- effectively filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children; things that, if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car."

The sand represented everything else. The small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued "there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal."

"Take care of the rocks first -the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."


Happy Fourth of July Beer Chx