Tag Archives: coriander

Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit

Wit or white ale are the gateway drug into the craft beer addiction. You wake up one morning from a Natty Light hangover, realize that you graduated from college almost a year ago, and decide that on your next night out you will not be that guy crushing light lagers.

At the bar you are offered a plethora of choices—unless it is one of those bars with two taps reserved for Budweiser and Busch Light, which are always classy establishments where no one ever gets stabbed with an improvised edged weapon—that almost causes paralysis by analysis. Do I want a European pilsner? Or is an IPA a better choice? A Russian imperial stout sounds like a lineup of ex-Soviet hockey players, but is it right for me just a few days removed from wondering which beer came in 30 packs for less than $20?

You look around and notice a lot of people have tall glasses of a hazy, golden beer with an orange. How bad can it be if it has an orange in it? What is that beer that every girl in a sundress and flower crown is drinking on the patio? It’s Blue Moon. What’s a Blue Moon? A Belgian style white ale.

Here is the deal. There is a reason that Coors made Blue Moon its entry into the faux craft movement…people want different that is not too different. You cannot expect people to go from drinking beer measured in twelve pack increments to throwing back IPAs with IBU ratings in the seventies. They are going to run back to the beer cooler for something familiar and never come back. You need a gateway drug. Belgian style white beers are that gateway drug.

Revolution Brewing understands this and brews Bottom Up Wit:

Revolution Bottom Up Wit

How is Revolution Brewing’s wit different than Blue Moon or Shock Top? Not so much. These are easy drinking beers. How easy? At 5.0% ABV and 14 IBU it compares favorably, statistically speaking, to a Bud Light at an estimated 4.1% ABV and 8-10 IBU. With a little coriander and orange peel there is a lot more going on in terms of flavor, so you feel like you are drinking something that is more artisanal or original than a light lager.

At the end of the day white ales or wits are fairly boring. Maybe it is a style of beer that someone will do something original with and blow people away, but until then I will stand by my assertion that brewers keep this style in their quiver to have something almost anyone can drink when visiting a taproom:

Purchased One Mug Rating

Here is what other people are saying about Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit @ Beeradvocate

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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

Snapshot and Cold Snap

The downside to my adventures in kegging homebrew is that my rookie mistakes and general procrastination have forced me to wander the coolers full of six packs of craft beer aimlessly wondering why one beer would be better than another.

Recently, I was disappointed with New Belgium’s Spring Blonde but the beer I was looking for originally finally showed up on the shores of Iowa.  I picked up a six pack of Snapshot and got around to pouring a glass:

Snapshot

Is this beer really this light or is it just my camera?  Yep, it’s as light as pale straw or drought stricken grass in eastern Colorado.

The light color of the beer should have been an indicator of what was to come, but I was hoping for a revelation.  Instead I got a thin beer with almost no punch of flavor.  It is supposed to have Cascade hops providing bitterness and aroma, but there was almost no traditional beer bitterness.  The official description notes how Snapshot is supposed to use some of the same yeast/bacteria utilized in their sour beer program to provide a punch.  Sorry, I tasted none of that.

The beer just tastes flat, not in terms of carbonation, but flavor.  I used to take for granted that New Belgium Brewery was going to produce excellent craft beers that I would enjoy drinking.  However, the beers coming from its tanks recently come across as derivative and uninspired.  It’s an expensive alternative to your traditional American macro brews:

Purchased One Mug Rating

Next to Snapshot was another decal noting a new arrival, Samuel Adams Cold Snap:

Cold Snap

This is an interesting beer.  The stated bitterness (7 IBU) is so low as to be non-existent, but the inclusion of a host of other spices–orange peel, plum, hibiscus and fresh ground coriander according to the beer’s website—provide a flavor that compensates for a lack of traditional beer bittering.

With a name like Cold Snap I was expecting more of a winter beer with heavier malts or more bitterness, but Cold Snap is like a great lawnmower beer.  It drinks light without being watery—yes I am looking at you Snapshot—and it has enough flavor to be interesting without overpowering your mouth.

About the worst thing I could say about Cold Snap is that it would be a beer that you would get bored with fairly quickly, but maybe that is why Samuel Adams decided to make it part of the seasonal rotation.  Nonetheless, it’s got potential:

Two Mug Purchase

Container Garden Grows

My container garden has grown by 100% this year!  Okay, I went from four pots to eight pots but that is still 100% in the eyes of the law.

Last year, I had mixed success with my four tomato plants.  Two were smaller cherry or grape varieties that my daughter basically ate straight off the vine.  Every afternoon she would make the trek to the patio with a bowl in hand to pick tomatoes and not even make it to the kitchen to wash them off choosing instead the bathroom sink in the basement.  She would not want to waste the time to climb a set of stairs.  I would consider that a success.

The larger varieties just did not put out much fruit.  I know that part of the problem was a pretty nasty windstorm that damaged lots of garden plants in the neighborhood.  I also know that I did a pretty poor job of supporting and trimming the plants for maximum production.

The container garden looks like this:

This year I am trying out San Marzano tomatoes instead of Romas.  According to the foodies, San Marzano tomatoes make the best sauce.  In addition, two cherry tomato plants and two bell pepper plants complete the salsa/sauce garden.  To the left are pots containing basil, for tomato sauce and pesto, and cilantro, which my wife adores.  I just hope she gets enough off the plants before they go to seed and become coriander.

My goal last year, this year, and for the next couple is to experiment with some different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs to figure out my favorites before tilling under a large section of my yard for a full blown garden.  That garden will have some perennial plants, most likely a bed for asparagus, and plants that require more soil depth than a container can provide, like carrots and onions.  I would also like to grow some uncommon beans just to be different.  And sunflowers…

The catalog from Seed Savers Exchange is almost like garden porn.

Another gardening project for this fall is to establish a bed for garlic because there is nothing better than locally grown garlic that you cure yourself.  Plus, you get to enjoy eating garlic scapes early in the season.  Some people get excited for ramps, but I get excited for scapes.

Post-Weekend Beer Musings

My brother and his family were down from Minneapolis this weekend, which means only one thing…we tried to drink all of the beer that was in the house.  Unfortunately, unlike previous visits, my homebrewing hobby means that there are literally bottles hiding all over the kitchen and pantry.  There are a couple of bottles of wit here, a few bottles of ale there, and maybe something lurking in the dark recesses of that cupboard no one really cleans out regularly.

Coriander

I need to apologize to my wit beer.  It was not the fault of the yeast that I did not like the beer.  It was coriander.  I opened the latest version of my American Ale using 1056 yeast with bitter orange and coriander as flavorings.  The taste in my mouth that really put me off has to be coriander because it is the only consistent ingredient between the two whose flavor I cannot place, but that I do not like.

This is not the most scientific diagnosis of the problem, but it is going to suffice.  Prior, I thought that coriander was a flavor in beers that I liked but it must have been masked by the heavier hopping of beers I enjoyed.  Since my homebrews are relatively lightly hopped the flavor of the coriander can really show through.  Ugh!

More Organic Beer

A second organic beer recipe went into the carboy on Sunday.  This recipe differs slightly from the prior recipe that was put into bottle son Sunday.  This beer uses the same extract and grain (6 lbs organic light malt extract and 1 lbs organic C-60L steeping grain) with Wyeast 1056 American Ale as a yeast.  I switched the Cascade hop to an aroma hop and went with Ahtanum as the bittering hop.  It is so easy to get lost and play around with these things.

Guilty Pleasures

I like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. There I said it.  Normally, it is a total summer brew–light, sweet, and forgettable.  Like so many songs on the radio in the summer or movies made by Michael Bay.  When Summer Shandy left the shelves I knew it was time for fall and everything that meant–cooler temperatures, football, and the perfect weather for hearty ales.

Now, for some reason, Summer Shandy is in my grocery store in Iowa in February.  I was walking the aisles, shopping for the weekend’s adventure, when the loudspeaker announced that samples were available in the liquor section.  Huh?  Like a mindless lemming I steered my cart every closer and witnessed the bizarre miracle that is Summer Shandy in the winter.  Now available in 16 and 12 ounce cans.  A twelve pack of 12 ounce cans jumped into my cart.

Why am I so weak?

15 Pack?

The walk-in beer cooler at the grocery store is always a mystery to me.  Why?  Because of the endless variety of ways that tasteless, industrial lager from major breweries is packaged.  Would you like cans, glass bottles, or plastic bottles?  Perhaps you would like a mini-keg?  Half-barrel or quarter-barrel?

The truly baffling element of this endless display of marketing muscle is the variety of package quantities of cans.  Disregarding for a moment the possibility of alternate volumes (e.g. 12 ounce versus 16 ounce versus 24 ounce versus whatever those Foster’s cans are called), there are so many options.  In just one variety (Miller Lite) there were 4 packs, 6 packs, 12 packs, 15 packs, 18 packs, 24 packs, and 30 packs of cans.  15 packs?  WTF?

I know that part of this is the “wall of beer” or “billboard in a cooler” theory of marketing whereby a major manufacturer creates a billboard of their product by occupying so much shelf space.  However, I think part of it is the madness and lack of creativity of marketing MBAs to figure out new ways to sell awful beer.  Swedish bikini teams, talking lizards, and past their prime sports celebrities do not make for a good performance review.

Fermenting Revolution

A friend suggested that I read Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World by Christopher O’Brien because the title seemed to speak to a philosophy of mine: the world would be a better place is people would just sit down for a nice beer once and a while.

O’Brien feels the same way and we agree on a lot of the same points.  Where I find fault with the book is that it reads at times like a treatise from an undergraduate course in the gender history of world beverage.  That is to say, everything wrong in our beer culture is the result of greedy male brewers taking power away from small scale female brewers thus industrializing the product and stealing its soul.  Did this happen?  To some degree, but to make it the central part of a narrative on the beneficial power of beer is to mistake this travesty as a defining characteristic of the craft beer movement in the modern age.

Too much time is spent on the sins of the past and not enough on the promise of the future.  Furthermore, the book really fails to capture the breadth of the good stuff going on with craft brewers across the country, not to mention homebrewers.  Sure, it’s easy to talk about New Belgium or Dogfish or Great Lakes because those guys are the heavyweights of the craft brew scene but missing a lot of more locally important brewers pushing the limits is selling the movement short.

In the end, I was disappointed with Fermenting Revolution because it failed to live up to the promise of its title.