Some Details Forgotten in Latest AB InBev Buy

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Whenever one beer company takes over another, there is always reflection. Especially if it’s by someone like AB InBev.

What will happen to Brewery X? How will this impact their beer? Should I care about them any more?

From my American point of view, it’s been an interesting case trying to track the recent purchase of Belgium’s Bosteels by AB InBev, which was announced earlier this month. Bosteels, maker of Kwak, Karmeliet and Deus, is a 225-year old brewery.

Immediately after the announcement, people seemed to ask: but how much of the “family” aspect will be left?

During this week’s discussion on The Beer Temple, I got to chat with host Chris Quinn and others about the purchase. As is often the case, there’s plenty beyond the top-level assumptions or quick reactions.

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Who is the Best? Presenting the Real World Cup of Beer

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The entire world is entranced by The Beautiful Game for the next month as the World Cup kicked off this week. OK, maybe not the United States, but there’s a lot of land out there.

But what’s soccer (or football?) without beer?

The folks at The Big Lead offered up a great chart recently of the “most popular (i.e. best-selling domestically) beers from each of the 32 World Cup countries.” It’s a fun graphic, if only to better acquaint yourself with everyone’s favorite beers from around the world.

However, I fear that chart is only half the story. I’m here to tell the rest.

It’s all well and good to know which beer is each country’s favorite, but we might as well know who would win the World Cup based on this new information, right? That’s what I’m here to do.

I went through every beer listed on the Big Lead chart and took rankings from RateBeer and Beer Advocate in order to assign each brew a quantitative value. Per World Cup rules, the two highest-ranked beers from each of the initial eight groups  moved on before the knockout stage began.

Some of the results might surprise you…

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Are RateBeer’s “Best Beer” Rankings Destined to be Dominated by America?

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“Here’s the deal. I’m the best there is. Plain and simple. I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence.”
– Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights

This week, RateBeer releases its annual “best beer” compilation, spanning individual beers, beers by style and more. It culminates on Friday with the “top brewers in the world.”

Curiously, RateBeer decided not to rank their “best beers” in order from top to bottom – as far as I can tell the first time they’ve ever decided to go this route. The only other change over the years has been switching between ranking the top 50 and top 100.

So while we may not get to find out which imperial stout undoubtedly gave Westy 12 a run for its money in 2013, we at least have an idea of what RateBeer voters liked the most. No surprise, it’s a lot of big stouts and IPAs, with the occasional quad and barleywine thrown in for good measure. However, if you recall, there is a changing palate for beers of lesser heft, including some saisons, lambics and more.

This year’s list got me thinking, courtesy of a post over on Fuj on Tap, where The Fuj ponders Upstate New York’s place among the list. Or rather in this year’s iteration, it’s lack thereof despite the presence of many US-based brews.

As a native of that region I had particular interest and it got me to thinking … is it the manifest destiny of American breweries to become a hegemony of the RateBeer “best beer” lists?
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A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings

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Today we take a break from Monday’s RateBeer number crunching, but don’t worry, it’s back on Friday.

From part one of this series on our beer-related behavior, RateBeer.com’s rankings showed us how much beer nerds from around the world LOVE imperial stouts. Especially well-made rare ones.

Then again, don’t just take my word for it:

While limited-release imperial stouts will likely always end up high on beer rankings, that trend may be slowly changing. In the last couple years, other styles have been clawing their way toward top spots thanks to an increase of innovative breweries like Vermont’s Hill Farmstead and Florida’s Cigar City.

These tasty brews are important for changing the way we think about beer and what we like, but just as important is the geographical location. When we talk about global beer production – especially that of the top-ranked beers in the world – it’s increasingly becoming something of an “Old World” vs. “New World” situation.
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A Taste of Pure Michigan: Arbor Brewing Lineup

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Sure, Founders and Bell’s breweries may get most of the attention for Michigan beer thanks to wide distribution, but there’s plenty more to be had.

That’s something Friend of the Program, Mark Graves, touched on with his Six-Pack Project entry for Michigan. There are about 100 total breweries spread across the Great Lakes State, so there’s something to be had by all.

The Missus recently made a trip to Ann Arbor, where upon her kindness and the suggestion of a local grabbed me a mixed six-pack of Arbor Brewing‘s lineup. Baring the slogan “Mitten Made,” I can’t imagine of a more fitting way to be more “Pure Michigan” for my tastebuds. Let’s take a dive into some of their offerings, which seem to have a uniquely Belgian inspiration.
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Six-Pack Project Review: Beers from DE, IL, MA, MI, PA and … Belgium?

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It’s almost that time again – another round of the Six-Pack Project is coming your way at the end of this month. It’s a special batch that knocks off several more states in our beer-loving union (and beyond).

In the meantime, it’s worthwhile to look back at the last round and see what beers stick out. For those of you planning Labor Day vacations, now’s a good time to check out the Six-Pack Project archive and make a mental note of what brews to seek out wherever you may be traveling.

What looks most exciting from our last entry? Well, quite a bit. Here are the posts we’re looking at this time around:

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A Unique Experience with … DC Brau

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Along with the requisite trip to the original Dogfish Head brewpub during my recent beergrimage, I was taken to one of Washington, D.C.’s great up-and-coming breweries, DC Brau.

When the brewery opened in 2009, it was the first brewery to operate inside the District of Columbia since 1956. Now it’s joined by several others, including Chocolate City (2011) and 3 Stars (2012). Given its lead in opening, DC Brau is the most commercially advanced of these, shipping six-packs of cans around the immediate DMV region.

With DC-themed, near-graffiti art on its walls, the DC Brau headquarters is split into two sections – a small tasting/hang out room and its canning/fermentation space. I really liked how open their building was, which allowed my friend, Justin, and I to get a look at some of their equipment:

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After grabbing some samples, we decided to share a couple six-packs of their flagship brews. The Citizen, a Belgian pale ale, and Corruption, an IPA, both impressed.
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A Unique Experience … with Orval

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This bottle of Orval is special for several reasons:

  1. It’s fresh from Belgium, having been bottled in July for its ideal seven(?) week conditioning.
  2. It was delivered to me from Belgium, by way of my brother who visited the Orval brewery a week ago.
  3. Instead of a proper serve, it was enjoyed at room temperature, straight from the bottle after traveling across country with my brother.

All this amounts to a rather unorthodox way of drinking his beer, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fantastic. Since I didn’t pour out the beer, I can’t comment on its visuals, but I assume the mixing of the beer through multiple flights gave it some wonderful characteristics after flying from Belgium to Seattle to upstate New York, where my family recently gathered.

This beer contains: water, hops, barley, candi sugar and yeast. But it smelled like pepper and damn-near tasted like a pumpkin spice beer. It had a refreshing dryness to it. I have no idea why, but can only assume the aromas and flavor was a conglomeration of all the contextual variables that brought the bottle from Belgium to my hand. I’ve had Orval a long time ago, but I couldn’t comment on this bottle’s taste compared to one found at a beer store here in the States.

I can’t give detailed impressions because I didn’t take notes – just enjoying a beer with my brother – but it was a great beer that was wonderfully carbonated and offered a great spicy tingle on my tongue.

These are all odd descriptors, but added up to a great beer drinking experience I’ve never had before. I hope to have it again.

Boulevard Brew Company Sixth Glass

This is another top-flight beer sent through a beer swap with Scott from Beerbecue and it is another winner. I have now sufficiently enjoyed my first Boulevard Brew Company beer – Sixth Glass.

Per Scott’s suggestion, I paired this Belgian quad with a medium steak (and potato for good measure). I wasn’t let down on this combo or the beer. It’s got a 90 on Beer Advocate.

I found this brew to not necessarily be one of the more tame American-made Belgian beers, but offering so many quality-but-not-overbearing characteristics it was hard to get bored while drinking it. It poured a great amber color with an awesome head that produced big bubbles lacing the glass as the beer disappeared. Wonderful smells lifted out of the snifter I was using.

It was easy to find a couple of the prominent aspects of the beer you might expect, including fruity esters offering an earthy raisin characteristic and fig. Also spices – cloves, perhaps? There’s just a touch of sour funk, but nothing truly discernible because Belgian candi sugars knock that out pretty quick. There’s also a great amount of malt sweetness to it as well, rounding it all out.

The flavor or the beer was a real show-stopper, starting with that Belgian candi sugar flavor right up front, but transitioning into caramel sweetness from the Munich malt used in the beer. I made a note that I sensed brown sugar and lo-and-behold, it’s one of several sugars Boulevard throws in this beer. This part of the brew actually tasted wonderful with the potato I had made – a natural pair. Not to be outdone, the beer showcased pepper, toffee and toasted malt flavors. To me, any hop bitterness is non-existent.

What surprised me most was how hard it was for me to notice alcohol in this beer. At 10.5 percent ABV, it can give you a kick in the pants, but I feel like you’d be hard-pressed to really find it. Even still, it paired wonderfully with the steak – the richness of the meat and fat melted into the carbonated sweetness of the beer. It was even better as the beer got warm.

Hit the jump for my “Rate That Beer” sheet.
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Passionate Fermentation: Sierra Nevada and Russian River have a baby, Brux is born

In my experience, there seems to be a direct connection for (some) beer drinkers that if “wild yeast” is printed on a label it means sour. Not necessarily so.

This is especially the case with Sierra Nevada/Russian River collaboration Brux, which is fermented with brettanomyces bruxellensis, a Belgian yeast strain that’s commonly found in beer styles like lambics and krieks. While there’s no fruit in Brux, the yeast definitely provides similar characteristics. I’ll give way to a great blog post at IThinkAboutBeer that furthers my point, but I highly recommend heading over to get a full idea of what wild yeast is and what it means when it goes in your beer:

In reality, Brett doesn’t provide huge amounts of sourness.  Other agents, which I’ll discuss shortly, provide that function.  In most cases, Brett is used in bottle conditioning where it only provides an additional small level of tartness (due to the much lower oxygen levels involved).  What it really exceeds at is adding some funky and delicious flavors, which include: barnyard, horse blanket, floral, earthy, tropical fruit and more.

Despite “wild” yeast used in Brux, this is no Brett Beer. Brux has an 87 on Beer Advocate.

I will say this – I was impressed from the start. While the beer created little head that barely stuck around for me to stick my nose in the glass, the color was kind of stunning. While the shade of the beer was a yellow-brown-amber, it was absolutely clear as day after it sat for a few minutes. It was just a tad shady right after my pour, but it quickly looked like a darker-hued version of a lager or pilsner.

The smell was equally curious, offering first notes of banana, orange and even ginger. The most prominent was the unmistakable Brett smell which offers a touch of sour funk, but in this beer it came across as sweet instead of a wet blanket … almost sugary. Whiffs of a non-specific floral aroma linger in my nose after a deep inhale.

When took my first sip, the carbonation of the beer left a tingle on my tongue, giving way to a very crisp and immediately yeasty/bready beer. This beer is VERY carbonated, although I suppose this would be typical of a Belgian style. Again, I can sense the Brett, but it’s not sour to me. Instead, it comes across sweet and tart. As pointed out in the IThinkAboutBeer post, this makes sense.

I would’ve loved to have another bottle of this to store and have after a year or two, but the price certainly discourages that. Also, my local shop was limiting purchases to one bottle per person. Womp womp.

Hit the jump for my “Rate That Beer” sheet.
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