Upslope Brewing Company Belgian Style Pale Ale

Anything other than India Pale Ale that skews toward the “lower” end of the beer scale is a good thing. Increasingly, you see “session” pale ales and generally easier drinking pale ales cropping up all over the place. It’s nice to have an option to supplant the curse of insipid light lagers as the summertime beer of choice.

I had some of these same hopes for Upslope Brewing’s Belgian Style Pale Ale:

Upslope Belgian Pale Ale

Sure, it’s heavier than a lot of “session” pale ales at 7.5% ABV but the mild bittering (30 IBU) meant that it might drink a little lighter. No such luck. This beer was packing a spicy punch that was the direct result of coriander being prominent in the ingredient list.

Coriander needs to come with a warning label when used as a brewing ingredient. It seems like there is a knife edge “bliss point” with this particular spice. Too little and you do not taste it among the other flavors. Too much and it feels like coriander, coriander, coriander…

In this particular example we have a case of going too far over the edge in comparison to the rest of the beer. Coriander is supposed to have a citrus character and the flavor may have been enhanced by a Belgian strain of yeast that highlights those same flavor notes. Think about it like a flavor supercharger.

Brewers need to be careful when incorporating spices into their beers that can provide a lot of flavor punch similar to hops. Prior to the use of hops beers were spiked with lots of spices like wormwood in a style called gruit. Gruit fell out of favor as hops came into play because hops have a preservative quality that helped ensure beer was drinkable past a certain consume by date. However, some of these ingredients get used in addition to a normal hopping and the impact is overkill. It’s a lot similar to beers that get dry hopped. Sure, the IBU rating is not very high but there is a ton of hop flavor and aroma that amplifies the effect.

High hopes crashed themselves on the shoals of coriander overkill:

Purchased One Mug Rating

Friday Linkage 8/1/2014

August. Damn. Where did June and July go? It sure does not feel like the “dog days” with night time temperatures in the 50s, which I am digging because I have not had my AC on in weeks. It also makes me very anxious for football to start. Yes, I am that breed of American male that really looks forward to the football season. ‘Murrica!

On to the links…

Brewers Association Reports 18% Production Growth for U.S. Craft Brewers in First Half—Let’s start with some good news. Craft beer is kicking ass:

Brewers-Association-Mid-2014-Craft-Volume

10 Reasons to be Hopeful that We will Overcome Climate Change—Maybe, just maybe, there is hope that we can figure out a way to combat the coming climate change in a way that is not akin to sticking out head in the sand. I am cautiously hopeful as I see the deployment of renewables, the retirement of coal power plants, and the increasing efficiency of automobiles. It might not be enough, but it is a start.

Delaying Climate Policies Could Cost U.S. Economy $150 Billion Each Year, Report Shows—The big bugaboo with climate skeptics and outright deniers is that the cost of doing something is super high. What is the cost of doing nothing and seeing what happens? Really freakin’ high.

How to Power California with Wind, Water and Sun—People act like it is a fantasy that we could deploy renewable energy in such a way that could power entire states or countries. Blueprints exist people!

Danish Wind Power to Be Half The Price of Coal and Natural Gas by 2016—Go Denmark!

As U.S. gets Greener, it is Sending Dirty Coal Abroad—So, we now are exporting our dirty fuel instead of keeping it in the ground. Ugh.

Midwestern Waters Are Full of Bee-Killing Pesticides—We have laced the environment with a toxic legacy that will take a long time to figure out. Why can’t we just stop using these chemicals that are obviously so dangerous?

Feds Consider Ban On Bluefin Tuna Fishing As Population Dips 95 Percent—Our voracious appetite for this amazing fish is going to cause the species to go extinct. Stop eating Bluefin tuna people!

Farming The Bluefin Tuna, Tiger Of The Ocean, Is Not Without A Price—I applaud these efforts because it might mean the survival of the species in the wild, but we need to question the wisdom of raising such a voracious predator for wide consumption. Maybe we are the problem.

Be a Patriot, Eat Less Beef—Cows are horrible for the environment, especially when raised in feedlot conditions, and too much red meat is bad for our health. We just need to eat less meat, beef or otherwise.

Produce from School Gardens Increasingly Ends up in School Cafeterias—It’s so cool to see programs where kids grow vegetables for consumption on premise. Too many people do not understand how food is grown or raised. Ask them where a tomato comes from and you will get told, “the grocery store.”

Heard on the Street: E-I-E-I-O—If New York City can adapt and adopt backyard agriculture, well any place can probably do it. Although I am thinking that New Yorkers will somehow find a way to claim that they came up with the idea of urban agriculture first, that they do it better than anyone else, and that you are stupid for thinking otherwise.

Your Giant American Refrigerator Is Making You Fat And Poor—Refrigerators in the U.S. are huge and a lot of people have more than one and a deep freeze in the garage. What the hell are we doing with so much space? Take a minute and really look at all the old food in your refrigerator. It’s probably disgusting.

Upslope Brewing Company Craft Lager

Upslope Brewing Company from Boulder, Colorado was a new name to me as I perusing the refrigerated cases at the liquor store in Steamboat Springs. My knowledge of Front Range breweries runs toward the Denver metro and ends about there and as a non-resident I am not too unhappy with that performance.

Started in 2008, Upslope Brewing has a year-round lineup consisting of five beers and a rotating lineup of special releases. One of the year-round beers is Craft Lager:

Upslope Craft Lager

It’s a light lager with middling alcohol (4.8% ABV) and almost no bittering (15 IBU). When it’s cold it goes down easy and that is about all that you remember.

Utilizing a mild hops like Saaz for such a small amount of bittering leaves little aroma or non-bitter flavors to be exhibited. A light lager seems like a perfect blank canvas to experiment with some subtle flavors that might get lost in a beer with a more malt heavy body. I have seen this style used to showcase rose hips, ginger, peppercorns…the list goes on for a while. Some of these experiments were successful and others were less so. Some were even non-qualified disasters.

This beer was inoffensive to the point of being boring. It’s really no different than a hundred other lagers out there. If what you want was the bare minimum in beer flavor just pick the cheapest option out of the cooler and call it a day. This lack of any character is actually something that experts think is afflicting the German beer market. Sales of beer and consumption have fallen a lot recently. Experts peg the reason being the wide proliferation of a few similar styles of beer. Basically, beer is boring in Germany and consumers want something with a little excitement.

I was hoping that after a good experience with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils that I would feel warm and fuzzy about lagers. It was just not to be:

Purchased One Mug Rating

As a note, Upslope Brewing Company has committed to donating 1% of the revenue from Craft Lager to Colorado Trout Unlimited through the 1% for Rivers Campaign. If you are into that sort of thing.

Oskar Blues Old Chub

Dark beer can be a conundrum. To a lot of people dark beer means a heavy load of hops, alcohol, and malt body. In reality, a lot of dark beers actually tend to be light on the alcohol and hops—I am looking at the world of stouts that drink as easy as insipid American light lager. Truly, spend a day drinking Guinness or a craft doppelganger and you will understand quickly that dark does not necessarily mean big.

Oskar Blues Old Chub is not trying to hew to that convention:

Old Chub

It’s a big beer, but in all the wrong ways for this particular beer drinker. Old Chub was a serious let down after the awesomeness of Dale’s Pale Ale and the lager perception bending powers of Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

What happened? First, the beer is strong (8% ABV) and that alcohol does not seem to be balanced out or integrated with the rest of the beer. It tastes like the beer was fortified. This is not Night Train or Thunderbird, so don’t worry about ending up wrapped around a bottle of bum wine. Still, you can taste the booze with every drink.

Second, the cocoa and coffee flavors override any other flavors to the point that the beer tastes kind of like a poorly drawn mocha with an extra shot of espresso from the dregs of the Starbucks grind bin. Coffee is a hard mistress to tame when it comes to beer and few do it well—yes, Coffee Bender pulls the trick off amazingly.

Last, the beer’s aroma and flavor stick around the back of your mouth like a night in a dive bar. You wake up the next morning, cough out few wads of whatever that stuff is in the back of your throat, and taste the unfiltered cigarette that some hipster was smoking beside you. Yep, that’s what it was like with Old Chub. You can chase it with a pint of Dale’s Pale Ale and still find remnants in your throat.

It’s like a Sputnik…nope, it’s more like bong water:

Zero Mug Purchase

 

Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

I have been harsh to lagers lately. Most of the lagers I try leave my palette with an off taste that is not quite burnt. It’s not musty or soapy either. It’s just an odd flavor that makes me want to pour the beer out and grab the nearest pale ale.

Since I was such a fan and consumer of Dale’s Pale Ale while in Colorado I brought home some Mama’s Little Yella Pils:

Little Yella Pils

What is this liquid masquerading as a lager? It has none of the bad traits I associate with the breed. It, dare I say, drinks smooth like my favorite ales. What alchemy have the brewers at Oskar Blues conducted to create such a monster?

First off, this beer is true to style meaning that it does not employ the use of so-called “adjuncts” like corn and rice. Say what you want about corn and rice in beer, but the traditional recipes used in Europe do not call for the ingredients. These beers also do not use a lot of the ingredients modern American brewers are using to craft stunning beers—yes, I am looking at you Surly Coffee Bender.

Second, the hop bill consists solely of Saaz hops. This is a very traditional hop for pilsners and seems more in place in this style as opposed to more common American craft beer hops like Cascade, Centennial, or Willamette. A pilsner lager is normally an easy drinking beer—hence the use of this style as the backbone of American light lagers that are meant to be consumed in units measured by 24 cans—so a potent hop really interferes.

The end result is a “smaller” beer that begs to be quaffed. I came home from a three hour long hike with my daughter and enjoyed a beer on the patio as the sun was setting. It fit the moment perfectly.

This all kind of surprised me because Oskar Blues is known for being on the more aggressive side of craft brewing. It’s not Stone Ruination aggressive by any means, but several of their beers are pushing higher alcohol and/or bitterness levels. This is not a brewery known for making session beers. Heck, the main line beer—Dale’s Pale Ale—clocks in at 65 IBU.

It’s a malty, not too hoppy easy drinking beer from a brewery better known for trying to knock your socks off:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

Steel Toe Brewing Size 7 IPA

In my zeal to drink the bounty of brews that I smuggled home from Colorado—many more opinions on beers from the Centennial State are forthcoming—I forgot the handful of bombers from Steel Toe Brewing that I picked up on my trip to Minnesota over the Fourth of July. Beer…hidden in the back of the refrigerator…have I committed a crime?

Steel Toe Brewing was founded in 2011 in St. Lois Park, Minnesota which is a “suburb” of Minneapolis. I do not know what qualifies as a suburb anymore since people in Prior Lake seem to believe that they are part of the Twin Cities metro area. I digress.

The brewery has a lineup that consists of four year round beers: Provider Ale, Rainmaker Double Red Ale, Dissent Dark Ale, and Size 7 IPA. There is a selection of seasonal beers, but I am too lazy to list them out on a Monday morning.

This weekend I grabbed a Size 7 IPA bomber and got to drinking:

Size 7 IPA

Despite the diminutive nature of the name—heck, even I wear a shoe bigger than size 7—this is a big, brassy beer.

Do not pick up a bottle of Size 7 and think you are going to sip it while enjoying some light snacks. This is a beer that requires boldness in all that endeavor to complete a pint. Drink it with a side of bacon or a bowl of habaneros. Do not be subtle because Size 7 does not do subtle.

The brewers at Steel Toe do not want me to say that the beer is balanced. They even go so far as to say: If you ever call Size 7 balanced we’ll kick you where it hurts (in the hop sack). Fair enough, but with the golden correlation of ABV (7.0%) and IBU (77) coming in close to balance there is something to be said for that adjective. I just won’t come out and say it because I like my hop sack the way it is…unkicked.

If this beer has a downfall it is that it is too much. By the bottom of the second glass you are starting to look elsewhere for your liquid refreshment because you need a break:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

Friday Linkage 7/25/2014

It seems like the world is falling apart or maybe we were just living through a period where the time until doomsday was much further out. I do not know, but it sure feels like things have gotten really crazy in the last couple of months.

On to the links…

National Park Service Calls Development Plans a Threat to Grand Canyon—Seriously, why can we not leave the Grand Canyon alone? First, it’s damning the Colorado River and next it’s uranium mining and then it’s airplane tours that are supremely annoying. And on it goes…

Obama Administration Opens Eastern Seaboard To Oil Drilling Surveys—This was a total WTF moment. Isn’t enough of the U.S. open to oil and gas exploration already? Aren’t oil and gas companies sitting on millions of acres of leases? Confusing.

Despite Foot-Draggers in Congress, Wind Turbine Company Adding 800 Jobs to Colorado Manufacturing—Everything is in spite of Congress these days, but as the price to deploy wind equals the price to produce electricity from coal there will be no requirement for Congress to act. The market will have decided.

Iowa Governor Accused Of Passing Up $1 Million For New Solar—If all politics is local, I guess that my local clown is Terry Branstad who is the biggest shill for industry in state politics right now. Never mind the hush money paid to people that were fired or his inability to follow basic traffic laws, Governor “Brain Dead” is a joke when it comes to moving the state forward.

States Against E.P.A. Rule on Carbon Pollution Would Gain—Too bad certain politicians’ objections to anything done by the Obama administration is driven by politics and optics as opposed to reality. The benefit to a state’s citizens is irrelevant if there is hay to be made on Fox News.

Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In—Texas actually took a proactive approach to building an infrastructure to exploit wind power and it is paying off. Hard to believe in a state that is run by a clown like Rick Perry that something this visionary was undertaken.

China’s Energy Plans Will Worsen Climate Change—Is there ever any good news from China lately? At least this is not the start of the zombie apocalypse.

Tall Wood is the Next Big Thing in Construction—There have been reports that so called “tall wood” will take off as construction costs with more traditional steel and concrete rise due to global demand and climate concerns, but I am not holding my breath given the power of vested interests.

California’s Next Oil Rush might be Surprisingly Delicious—As California confronts the reality of a drier future it’s water intensive agriculture is going to need to look at other crops if it expects to be in the business for any period of time. Almonds and alfalfa are going to be out and olives might just be in.

California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn—Never mind the drought and the state asking for people to conserve water, if the HOA or city demands a green lawn in the desert it must be done.

How Morro Bay Went from a National Disaster to a Sustainable Success Story—It is possible, even in California, to have a success story.

Cargill to Phase Out use of Growth-Promoting Antibiotics in Turkeys—The elimination of antibiotics as a growth promotion agent is one of the simplest reforms that can be undertaken to check the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. An extra pound or so on a turkey carcass is not worth one life lost to a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

Eat Invasive Species!—Invasivore.org is a site dedicated to spreading the know how and culinary skills necessary to make delectable delights from your local invasive species. Asian carp anyone?

Soylent Survivor: One Month Living on Lab-made Liquid Nourishment—It’s hard to believe how much mileage the creator of this meal replacement has gotten. If it had been named Slim-Fast does anyone think that the media would have paid this much attention? Nope.

Why Don’t Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt Anymore?—The obvious answer is that the white stuff in the middle is not actually ice cream. Still, I am a little frightened by the chemical concoction that is being passed off as ice cream. Another reason for homemade.