PHEW! It took some courage, some fortitude, some strenuous beer glass lifting endurance, but I’ve done it. I am now completely caught up on my beers and can deliver you folks the straight dope on what’s pouring at Bailey’s. So, without further “abrew”…
- Hale’s Kolsch—I was thinking that I wouldn’t like this beer, but actually, of the lighter beers on tap right now, it just might be my favorite. Definitely a session beer, it’s got a dry taste, just a little tinge of sweetness, a slightly straw like flavor, and a tiny hop bite at the end (actually, more like a hop nibble). The more I got into it, the more I realized that it tasted an awful lot like a Pilsner… even suspiciously so… but since Kolsch beers are fermented with ale yeast, that’s impossible, right? Whatever the case, it’s tasty and perfect for hot weather.
- Sierra Nevada Summerfest—First of all, here’s what I got right: this beer definitely has that distinctive hop finish that anyone familiar with Sierra Nevada’s products is going to recognize. In fact, it pretty much tastes like a Pilsner version of their Pale Ale, if you can wrap your mind around that. If not, let’s put it this way (and keep in mind this flies in the face of my earlier prediction): it’s definitely sweeter than the Kolsch and the hops aren’t so much bitter as they just kind of stick around in the background and thicken up the mouthfeel. Still a pretty clean beer, but it gets just a little cloying. Oh, and here’s something else I got wrong for those keeping score: Sierra Nevada doesn’t do a Summer Ale; I was thinking of the Sam Adams Summer Ale. Yes, I know I’m an idiot, thank you very much.
- Anchor Summer—Even sweeter than the Sierra Nevada Summerfest with just the slightest tinge of citrus and low—but present—hoppiness throughout. Actually doesn’t taste like a wheat beer at all, even an American version; the body’s a bit too thin for it. It’s actually very similar in taste to the Kolsch and Pilsner. I was right when I guessed it wouldn’t be as sweet as most other summer ales I’ve had; but this one’s also much lighter tasting than I was expecting.
- Hair of the Dog Greg—This was nowhere near as sweet as I thought it would be, either. But that’s a good thing, because I was prepared to make ugly grimacing expressions. Actually, for the first second or two after you take a sip, there’s absolutely no taste at all, then there’s this slight apricot flavor that eases in (the squash, I’m guessing), becomes prominent, disappears with the emergence of some hops, and then returns again on the finish. This is a much milder beer than I would have expected and far more subtle and quiet than any other Hair of the Dog beer I’ve had. But I do like it; up there with the Kolsch as a really solid choice for a hot day’s session beer.
- Salmon Creek Oaked Scotch Ale—Probably my second favorite of the night, this scotch ale has a beautifully rich malt sweetness that’s tempered by a very mild oakiness that only fades out when the mild hops show up at the end. It’s far, far mellower than most scotch ales I’ve had, which is actually a welcome change, as some I’ve had were tooth-achingly sweet. Definitely one of the better scotch ales we’ve had on and a really great example of a well-balanced beer.
- Walking Man Sasquatch Legacy—I had no idea what to expect with this one. An Imperial Vienna? What the hell does that mean? Turns out, this beer actually tastes a lot like a hoppy pale ale or slightly mellow IPA. I know it’s impossible for a German lager beer to taste like an IPA (Geoff told me so himself numerous times), but I’m telling you: the hoppiness of this beer is pretty intense; it permeates all the way through, only allowing in little peeks at the rich toasted Vienna malt flavors and the background flavors imparted by the lager yeast. Not sure how I feel about this one; I guess, as a Vienna beer, I’m not crazy about it, but as an IPA (or IPL, I guess), it’s pretty interesting and damn tasty.
- Lucky Lab Triple Threat IPA—Okay, I think I nailed my prediction on this one. Really thin body, big piney Northwest hops, and a slightly cloying sweetness. This is definitely the kind of IPA that will stick around in your mouth. For hopheads, it’s a slam dunk; personally, I like a little more body in my IPAs, but this is still a solid choice.
- Beer Valley Leafer Madness Imperial IPA—This beer doesn’t mess around. Big orange scent, lots of citrus, huge hops. Everything you’d expect from an Imp IPA. Hops are the dominant flavor though, and this actually isn’t quite as sweet as the Molten Lava, so that was yet another thing I was wrong about…
- Baron Uber-Weisse—Geoff and I argued about this beer for about ten minutes. It’s a Dunkelweizen, I told him. It’s a Weizen-bock, he countered. Well, he’s kind of right, since there’s a lager yeast at work, but I swear this tastes like a really rockin’ Dunkel with its roasted chocolate and banana esters (think Banana Split with hot fudge… mmmm…). After a few sips, I did notice just a little bit of that tart, winey flavor that you get out of weizen-bocks, though, so I’ll concede that there’s some of that as well, even if it isn’t as dominant as the Dunkel flavors. Anyway, we decided to just call the argument a stalemate and the beer “delicious.”
- Cascade Cuvee de Jongleur—I was frightened. A sour beer? “Oh God. What am I getting myself into?” Turns out, there was no need to fear. Sour though it may be (and cidery too), this Flanders is remarkably easy to drink (though by no means a guzzling beer) and nowhere near as overwhelming as I was expecting. The body and carbonation is just big enough to support the raspberry tartness that builds with a sip and then fades away pleasantly. As with the lambic style, it’s so drastically different from what most people know of beer that it will scare some away, but for those willing to take a chance, it brings its own rewards.
Alrighty, manifesto concluded! I don’t know about you folks, but what I’ve gotten out of all of this, besides hand cramp and a pounding headache, is that I should leave the predictions to the fortune tellers, the tarot card readers, and the astrologists and spend a little less time behind the computer and a little more time at the bar with a taster tray of new beers in front of me. If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations! You totally deserve a beer. Golly… might I recommend one of the TEN I just listed?
(Oh, and Geoff: if you even think about putting another new beer on tap today, I’m going to drown you in a kiddie pool full of Schlitz.)