My first Friday in June 2010 was exactly what every Friday night should be - new beers. Once again, my brothers in brew at the Vreeland Mart hosted a beer tasting. This time, however, the co-host was Discount Drinks. These two locations combine to pack quite a punch when it comes to beer selection on both a national and international level.
Adding a nice change of pace, the venue was completely different. Instead of stuffing us all in a meeting room at the Community Center, we went outside. Tents, a DJ, and hot dogs and Italian sausage on the grill made for a great atmosphere. While the clouds and cool temps were pleasant, the slight breeze made sniffing the beers a challenge, but we got over it! It was really good, too, that the storms stayed to our north. The end of the world was taking place just over the horizon.
Something else made the evening more fun. It was the opportunity to spend a few bucks and help out the Relay For Life. Portions of the proceeds, plus the 50/50 raffles, went to the Relay. That fellow won $275!!! Like a true gent, he gave a chunk of it back to the Relay. Get a beer for that man! They should market this a bit better. If there can be "Save Second Base", maybe we should get something going with "Beers for Breasts" or "Hops for Hooters". I'm not kidding. Oh wait. It has already been done - here, here, and here. So what. Detroit needs it, too! Anything that can be done to knock off breast cancer is worth it. (Here is some encouraging news in case you missed it.)
Speaking of beer, how did I do? 6 newbies, plus a non-beer treat.
#750? Hamtramck Beer (pronounced "Ham-TRAM-ick) by the Michigan Brewing Company was, I am sad to say, dull. The bottle gave very little info on the beer. We were not even sure what it was! On the pour, I thought it was a wheat - yellow and cloudy. Further research showed that it is a lager. Really? I thought good lagers had taste! This didn't. From start to finish, it was pretty lifeless. It almost appeared to be a small brewer's version of the big names junk. Very disappointing. 2 out of 5.
With the sad start of #750, things picked up a bit. The Dundee Stout (#751), from the Genesee Brewing Company (formerly the High Falls Brewing Company) was, by all standards, a fair stout. The creamy body and the subtle roasted tones on the tongue were quite pleasant. There was nothing out of place. A fair drink. 3 out of 5.
The weirdest beer of the night certainly goes to #752, El Mole Ocho by the New Holland Brewing Company. Have you ever heard of a beer with mole spices in it? (That would be mole ("mole-ay") by the way, as in a mexican dark sauce. Not "mole" as in a burrowing beasty. I wouldn't want to try that beer!) A spiced porter, the overload on the nose was really quite something. The rep mentioned jalapeno and I found it, as well! Goofy, I tell ya! Unfortunately, the spices were so out of control, a weird transition occurred as I sampled it. When I first tried it, it was very "eh". A few sips later, it was really quite good. By the time I finished my meager sample, it was really sort of gross. Something was really killing it at the finish. Cinnamon maybe? When I think of spiced beers, I think of autumn stuff. Not summer. When I think of El Mole Ocho, it won't get an eight ("ocho" is spanish for "eight"). 2 out of 5.
You never know what might pop up at a beer tasting. Rapunzel (#753), a tag-team effort from the Arcadia Brewing Company and the Redwood Lodge in Flint, Michigan was probably the rarest beer of the night. According to the rep, this stuff was only brewed for a short time and in small amounts. In my opinion, in this situation, total volume produced is directly related to quality. Apparently, it has a wheat/IPA combo feel to it. I was a bit confused by what the rep said, but that is secondary, I guess. It looked like a wheat but had taste characters of an IPA. I suspect it would be good for a hophead, but not for me. 3 out of 5.
#754, St. Bernadus Abt 12, from the St. Bernadus Brewery in Belgium, was the best beer of night. In fact, it ranks as one of my best beers ever. I don't give "5's" very often but this one qualifies for sure. Every single aspect of this beer is a pure delight. The look, the smell, the body, the finish. All of it. I could tell you about the brown/ruby cast and the top-notch quality of the malts. I could tell you about the slight hint of fruits or caramel on the palate or the spectacular and smooth body. But what is the point, right? In the same sense as "a picture is worth a thousand words", I think "a good beer should be consumed, not described". Get out there and buy it. If you like beer, you must try this. Enough said.
The final beer of the evening was a bit of let down. Sofie (#755) , from the crew at the Goose Island Brewing Company, is a sparkling ale. I have reviewed these before and, sorry, I don't understand them. The label hooked me right in, stating that it was 80% ale with 20% ale that was aged in wine barrels with orange peels. Yeah, great. Tone down the carbonation, would you please? On the pour, the sampler glass filled up like a bad pop and per usual, the carbonation wrecked the opportunity to taste the beer. 3 out of 5. I was chatting with another fellow. He agreed.
Also, the evening was memorable as it was my first real chance to give mead a try. Yeah....mead, the ancient ancestor to all of our modern alcoholic drinks. Early Greek pottery shows them puking their spleens out so this stuff has been around a while. In fact, I would suggest that beer and wine as we know them would not have occurred it had it not been for mead. While other goodies can be added, it is basically water, honey, and yeast fermented to something wonderful.
So, where does one get mead nowadays? How about a meadery? The B. Nektar Meadery had a table and at least 6 different bottles of product. Admittedly, I found the Vanilla-Cinnamon Mead a bit harsh. The finish was a bit icky. The Bourbon Barrel Mead, on the other hand, was extraordinary. Both were quite sweet and had a nice, texture to them - I would describe it as something that is thinner than olive oil but not by much. I can promise you I will be adding a bottle of this stuff to my after- dinner menu when I have guests. Awesome.
Thinking back, "awesome" sums up the night. Yeah....good stuff.....