September 18, 2012 Rozanne Woodward 0 Comments
We had all been working on our individual assignments for a week, so our beer palates were lubed up and ready for the greatest challenge: 12 very different beers in one night. After explaining our mission to a slightly befuddled (but game) waitress, we jumped right in with a round of lagers (apples to apples) from the four corners of the globe.
ROUND 1 (INTERNATIONAL)
Kirin Lager (Japan) Steinlager (New Zealand) Corona (Mexico) Red Stripe (Jamaica)
Right off the bat, we got a bitter beer face from Lodore with Kirin. The brew had the same skunks-n-farts first impression as Heineken sometimes does, or maybe Grolsch. Phil insisted it tasted Italian, which brought to mind a battle of the noodles on Iron Chef … but I digress. The table dubbed it "the reason to drink sake," and we were already hunting around for food to cleanse our palates.
Steinlager, besides being the most fun name to say (try it with a Sean Connery accent), brought high hopes to the table. First of all, it came in a massive 22-ounce bottle. Secondly, it came from Down Under. Now, Americans expect certain things from Australia: silly accents, bastardized Western wear, and hard core liquor. Apparently, what makes New Zealand different from Australia is that they lack hard core liquor. Steinlager got the "making love in a canoe" award (fucking close to water) from Phil. I was just disappointed it didn’t curl my tongue up and give me an accent, or that it didn’t taste like kiwi, or that it didn’t make me want to wrestle bodybuilders in rugby shirts. Lodore said, "It tastes like aftertaste." If that. It comes in such a big bottle because you’ll need that much just to get a buzz going.
To smooth over our diappointment, we went straight for the old familiar: Corona. The king of Mexican beers, Corona is one of the few macrobrews to live up to its own commercials. It was the most drinkable, and had a warm aftertaste. Our food also showed up at this point, so we all hunkered in with burgers, fries, and comfortable beer. (Point of service: we got no limes. That’s a cardinal sin.)
Now we were ready to tackle the wild and unusual again. Red Stripe was more evocative of its homeland than Steinlager. It had an apple juice smell, and tasted quite sweet for a lager. This isn’t surprising since Jamaica is the home of original root beer and ginger ales. We were all happy … in fact, giggling happy. Lodore suggested there must be a little Bob Marley in every bottle. We tried to peel off the label to see if Marley’s head was painted on the back in black velvet, but it turned out the label was painted on, like Corona’s. At this point, we knew we needed a break.
ROUND 1 RESULTS: A three way tie. Phil, in a surprise move, picked Kirin. Lodore went with Corona. I chose Red Stripe. No clear winner meant one clear loser… STEINLAGER SUCKS.
ROUND 2 ( UNITED STATES)
Mississippi Mud (Tennessee) Grant’s Scottish Style Ale (Washington) Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager (Louisiana) Santa Fe Pale Ale (New Mexico)
The menu said it came from Kentucky. The name suggested it came from Mississippi. The label said it came from Tennessee. Wherever it came from, send it back. Mississippi Mud arrived in miniature jugs with wee little handles and a label with an alligator on it.
Beer drinker’s rule of thumb: the fancier the bottle, the crappier the beer.
Lodore: "Hey, it does taste like mud!" Spoofing the label text, Phil said it "ruins the traditions of both English porter and Continental pilsner," and declared it, like Newcastle, "a dark beer for people who hate dark beer." The recipe did seem to be mostly food coloring. There was a strong hint of prune juice … hmmm, maybe the Mississippi Mud part kicks in the day after. Aside from reminding us what floor cleaner smells like, and making Lodore want to start a jug band, this beer was useless.
We thought something strong was in order next, so we dove right in to the Grant’s Scottish Ale. Grant’s is a reputable brewery from Yakima (Lodore prounounces it ‘yarmulke’), Washington, so our guard was down. The very first sip turned to glue on the back of my tongue. It was instant cottonmouth. I never thought I’d say this, but this is a beer that should be watered down. Lodore read the foam like tea leaves, took two sips, then began licking Phil’s shirt. Phil just shrugged and said it was "hoppy." Yeah, understatement. I ate a dill pickle to get rid of the taste. The glue was still there. If you have a household project coming up, just remember that a six pack of Grant’s Scottish Ale and a little saliva creates one powerful epoxy.
The tunnel grew darker. We moved on to Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager, possibly the world’s first and only Goth beer. Despite being a lager, Dixie (brewed in New Orleans, natch) tasted very much like an ale, and was extremely sweet. Lodore declared she’d rather drink a cocktail. We all studied the label as if it would answer our burning questions. How is it ‘blackened’? Is it lager? What’s the voodoo part? Are we drinking chicken blood? The label said nothing. Well, it did say, "According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects."
Just when we were beginning to think there was no decent beer anywhere to be found in America, we came to Santa Fe Pale Ale. Arefreshing unfiltered ale with light hops and minimal aftertaste, we were ready to jump out of our booth and order a case after the last three fiascos. Since it’s easier to complain than praise, and this beer offered nothing to complain about, we settled in and enjoyed it to the last drop. The big surprise: it’s actually brewed in Santa Fe, not made in Albuquerque then covered up with a more chic locale.
ROUND 2 RESULTS: It was unanimous … SANTA FE PALE ALE RULES.
ROUND 3 ( COLORADO)
Banshee Gold Ale (Fort Collins) Left Hand Sawtooth Ale (Longmont) Jarre Creek Honey Brown Ale (Douglas County) Laughing Lab Scottish Ale (Colorado Springs)
This round went considerably fast for a few reasons. First, we had already consumed eight beers (well, seven beers and one Steinlager). Second, our photographer, Sean, showed up and immediately regaled us with stories of prison-style dry humping. Yes, beer is fun to talk about, but prison-style dry humping is going to dominate any conversation it comes up in. Our comments were few and far between, and my notes are mostly unintelligible, but plow on we must, for the good of mankind. Banshee Gold Ale kicked it off with a strong honey flavor that had Phil crying foul: "Too sweet!" Then again, this is the guy who picked skunky Kirin. Lodore declared it the first white zinfandel beer in existence. We enjoyed it, but not that much.
Left Hand Sawtooth left us mostly speechless. Phil and I loved it … a good strong ale with enough character to stand out even after all the others. Lodore just made her bitter beer face. At about this time, our bladders broke, so frequent trips to the bathroom were giving us a better lay of the land. Our table was littered with bottles (we insisted the bus boy leave them there as trophies). Lodore reported that the women’s bathroom featured a vending machine dispensing Obi tampons and Looney Toons temporary tattoos … which led to some questionable comments about Yosemite Sam mud flaps, if you get my drift.
Jarre Creek brought our attention back to beer, mostly to make fun of it. This supposed Honey Brown had no scent, no honey, no nuts (" nut’n honey"), and no reason for living. And it was brewed in Douglas County, home of Jurassic Park Meadows and golf course neighborhoods. I was just surprised that something coming out of Douglas County actually had color. Phil wondered if we weren’t drinking the first case ever brewed (the label contends Jarre Creek has been brewing since way back in 1997). It all adds up to some rich fart with an expensive brewing hobby who managed to sucker Old Chicago into carrying his product. This was even less of a beer than Steinlager. It should have been called Jarre Creek New Zealand Brew. It should have at least come in a fancy bottle. Ptui.
Finally, we braved another Scottish Ale, Laughing Lab from Colorado Springs. Thankfully, Bristol is a damn fine brewery, and this one didn’t glue our mouths shut. A great beer to finish off the evening, and we decided to let the comments rest and drink beer the way it was meant to be enjoyed — as a drink, not a conversation topic.
ROUND 3 RESULTS: Aside from realizing Colorado has better breweries than the rest of the United States combined, we split on the vote. Phil and I went with Left Hand’s strong Sawtooth, while Lodore sided with her sweet tooth and chose Banshee Gold Ale. Since it’s a democracy, the decision is final … LEFT HAND SAWTOOTH ROCKS.