Can-can with The Sea Hag

Beer Works Imperial Stout (draft)- Russian imperial stout- Boston Beer Works, MA, USA
Grade: B+
  Woof. A bit of the heavy this is then, eh. I’m a big fan of stouts and especially brewpub imperials. Thus, I’m no stranger to Beer Works and their Imperial Stout has never left me down. It is heavy on the alcohol and has a bit of a slick taste build up on the tongue by the bottom of the glass, but it doesn’t get heavy perse`. Sweet with nice malty flavors balanced with a coffee bite, this is an amazingly rich bevvie made to be savored. It’s hardly work drinking a pint of this down. One pint, (OK, maybe two) of this black gold will do you fine.
Blue Moon (draft)- Witbeer-  Blue Moon Brewing Co, CO, USA 
Grade: B
  Well, spank my ass and call me Charlie, I had no idea Blue Moon was produced by Coors. Well, I guess if Ford can make Jaguars I shouldn’t be shocked by an American mega-brewer putting together something that tastes good enough to not shotgun it down with a grimace. Blue Moon is one of my standard “go-to” pints when I’m out on the town. It’s a witbeer, which means it’s a cloudy, unfiltered, wheat-based brew similar to a hefeweizen, but usually lighter. Notice I said “usually” because in this case Blue Moon runs a bit heavy like a hefeweizen and is far from the lightness that tends to embody classic European witbiers like Hoegaarden. Still, it’s got a good taste that  is a bit outside the norm. There’s some citrus tang going on in there and I’ve always smelt something akin to coconut, especially when out of a bottle when drinking Blue Moon. (Most people just look at me like I’m out of my tree when I mention the coconut thing.) The fact that I see this on so many taps these days regardless of geography all makes sense given the distribution power of Coors. Kind of a drag to think it’s made by a big ol’ corporation, but anything that might keep a person from drinking another Bud Light is fine by me.

Guinness (draft)- Irish dry stout- Guinness Ltd., Ireland 
Grade: A-
 [See Past Review]

Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen (draft)- American pale wheat ale/Hefeweizen- Harpoon Brewery, MA, USA 
Grade: B
  Another of my “go-to” bar pints, UFO is a good if unremarkable domestic hefeweizen. It’s got a generally strong flavor, but lacks in the robust bready body of brews like a Paulaner or Franziskaner. Still, it’s a good middle ground when you aren’t looking for anything exotic, you don’t want the lightness of a lager, and a stout would be too much. There’s enough character to UFO that you feel like you’re actually drinking a beer and not something that you were told was beer though tastes suspiciously like water.

Kingfisher (bottle)- American macro lager- United Breweries- UB Group, India (by way of New York?) 
Grade: B
  Anyone who has been to an Indian restaurant has probably paired up their dinner with Kingfisher. There’s nothing too fancy going on here. Its light, crisp finish is a nice way to cut the richness of Indian dishes and cool the curry kick. There’s a certain bite to Kingfisher that I really like and keeps it among the regular rotation in my own refrigerator.  Looking around the web it seems that even though you will find this in the import section of your liquor store it’s probably brewed somewhere in New York state. Go figure. There are better and worse Indian beers out there, so when in doubt order Kingfisher.
Magic Hat #9 (draft)- Fruit/Vegetable beer- Magic Hat Brewing Company, VT, USA 
Grade: B
 [See Past Review]

Sea Hag IPA (can)- American IPA- New England Brewing Co., CT, USA-
  The art on the can looks like a bad metal band design from 1987: black background, yellow & red lettering, and a stylized Sea Hag reaching over the logo. (Note: There actually was a bad metal band in the 80’s called The Sea Hags. Yes, I still have the cassette.) I hesitated grabbing this because I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s and once had an awful experience with canned microbrew to boot. So put the two together and it made for a tough decision to grab this. I looked at the ominous black can and figured what the hell.
  When I popped the first can it immediately foamed up out over the top and as I slurped away the excess foam and got into the heart it Sea Hag was surprisingly tasty. There was a good amount of hop bite to it but there was a slight sweetness that helped to keep it mellow. I enjoyed this more than any other IPA I’ve had except for the high octane Dogfish Head brews and wouldset it just above Sierra Nevada. For those of you in the New England area, Sea Hag beats Harpoon IPA like a rented mule so find this stuff and give it a try. I’m not a fan of IPA, but this is what I’m going to look for when I want one.


Tastes Lame! Less Filling!

Well, I’m trying to get rid of the spare tire and extra chin I’ve picked up over the last couple of years or so and that means I’ve been experimenting with the curse of light beer. It’s not fun. I’m figuring that by May I’ll be down towards my fighting weight again and won’t have to worry so much about my beer-related caloric intake. For the next couple of months there will be light beers populating this list regularly, but there are plenty of people doing the same thing so maybe this’ll help for those of you out there in need.

What I’ve come to realize is that no light beer is going to be all that good. The best tasting is Sam Adams Light (not reviewed here), but at 125 calories you’ll look much hipper drinking Guinness which clocks in at a buck-and-a-quarter as well and is just plain tastier.

The conclusion I’ve come to during this brief time is that if you love beer and refuse to drink the beer flavored water that tends to be light beer your only choice is to cut the quantity you consume. Reduction doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you are willing to try new brews. There are plenty out there that you can really sit back and savor over the same amount of time it would normally take you to clang back two or three generic pints.

Anyway, this list covers about two weeks or so.


Amstel Light (draft)- Light lager- Amstel Brouwerij B. V., Netherlands
Grade: C+
Is there anybody reading this who hasn’t been subjected to this beer? This is never my beer of preference as it’s usually just the lesser of brewed evils that gets presented. Any sales conference, company party, and most weddings I’ve been at the beer choices are almost always: Bud, Bud Light, Heineken, or Amstel Light. I’ll be chuffed if I’m drinking any of those other three nightmares. This is beer to drink when you have to or when you are young and think that you look sophisticated drinking “imported” beer, but are smart enough to not put up with the always skunky taste of Heineken. Basically Amstel’s inoffensive, functional, and something you can drink without any effort. I’ve had worse (SEE: last two reviews of this entry).

Hoegaarden (draft)- Witbier- Brouwerij van Hoegaarden, Belgium
This, my friends, is the nectar of the gods. I have absolutely been addicted to this stuff since the first sip 8 years ago. Witbiers are unfiltered beers akin to hefeweizens the difference is witbiers are lighter than hefes and tend more towards a crisp, citrus finish as opposed to the earthy, almost potato-like finish of hefes. I honestly think I could drink this beer at any time of the day, all day long. It’s refreshing and crisp, but there’s plenty of flavor going on with it. This is my favorite beer and I recommend it highly to anyone who drinks beer. Luckily it’s become a relatively popular import and relatively easy to find in liquor stores or bars with a broad range of imports. The only downside is that it seems like as its accessibility has expanded, the more often I’ve run across some weak pints from taps; hard to know if it’s the beer or the bar to blame. Regardless, I’ve never had a bad bottle so maybe give it a try at your local package store if you see a six-pack. It’s bottle fermented so make sure your read the pouring instructions to get the best flavor.

Kirin Light (bottle)- Light lager- Kirin Brewery Company Limited, Japan
Grade: C+
You’ve already heard the light beer spiel. I’m convinced none of it is going to be great, I’m just hoping for decent and that’s exactly what I got with Kirin Light. The flavor is thin and no comparison to Kirin Ichiban, but still more flavor than say any of the mass produced domestic light beers and less emotionally scarring (for me at least) than Amstel. At least now I know what to get with sushi. The only problem is I don’t think I’ve ever been in a bar that carries the light version and it’s a pretty rare animal in liquor stores. Still if you can find it, have a go.

Macau (bottle)- Euro pale lager- Macau Beer Company Limited, China
Grade: C
[See Past Review]

Magic Hat #9 (draft)- Fruit/Vegetable Beer- Magic Hat Brewing Company, USA
Grade: B
I’ve got to be in the right mood for #9, but when I am this is tasty stuff. Yes, that is apricot you taste, but it works because the bitter tang of the apricot is canceled out by the bitterness of the beer. The result is you notice the fruit taste, but it’s not like you’re drinking a beer with cough syrup dumped in as I’ve found many fruit beers tend to taste like. No, this is good stuff built on what would be a solid beer without any of the fruit flavor. It’s definitely something different that’s easy to drink after the first head-scratching sips. Plus, I dig on the funky packaging this company uses. Word of warning, you will on occasion find a bar with a slightly watery batch on tap. Not often enough to be discouraged; but just in case your first pint is seemingly bland try again at another bar or have a go at a bottle.

Michelob Ultra (bottle)- American Macro Lager- Anheuser-Busch, Inc., USA
Grade: D-
For some reason I was convinced this stuff was supposed to taste good and have less calories than any other light beer. I blame the advertising blitz a few years back. The reality is that neither of those things is true. This is piss water with a mild beer-like flavoring and 95 calories a bottle. I had a bottle in a pub and after being disturbed by the lack of beeriness I ordered a pint of Amstel and it tasted -shudder- good. This event should speak volumes as to the quality of Ultra given my early tirade. Don’t waste your money.

Michelob Ultra Amber (bottle)- American Macro Light Lager- Anheuser-Busch, Inc., USA
Grad: F
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse. Basically take its predecessor, make it darker and somewhat visually appealing, but give it a weird bitterness that tries and fool you into thinking it has flavor. True, it does have flavor, but unfortunately it’s worse than the original. It was a bitter metallic aftertaste, like drinking Ultra with pennies in my mouth. Yum. Again, don’t waste your money.

(I know far, far less about wine than I do beer so, grain of salt here.)

La CremaSonoma Coast Pinot Noir– 2005, California
Grade: B+
This spicy full body red was paired with Afghani food (Helmand in Cambridge, MA- highly recommended) which was very rich, savory, and spicy in its own right. The combination was great, because the food rounded the sharper edges of the wine to make its flavor bold and velvety with a touch of fruitiness (just like me). This pinot was pretty good on its own before the meal came, but very strong. If aggressive wines frighten you, you might want to pair this up with a robust meal to get the best enjoyment out of it.

And so it begins…

Guinness (can)- Irish dry stout- Guinness Ltd., Ireland
Grade: A-
     Do I really need to tell anyone anything about this beer that they don’t already know? You either love it or hate it. Very dry and on the bitter side it’s still amazingly smooth to drink. While it’s not my favorite stout, it is as dependable as the sunrise and that first sip is just as refreshing. This is one of the only beers I have downed an entire pint, not chugged mind you, but slowly savoring each mouthful because I simply could not help myself. If you think Guinness is too bitter, but still want to try a traditional Irish stout search out Murphy’s. If I could find that in more bars, that would be my Irish stout of choice as it’s got slightly less metallic bitterness to it and more of a coffee finish.

Sam Adams Hefeweizen (bottle)- American pale wheat ale/hefeweizen- Boston Beer Company, MA- USA
Grade: C-/D+
     This stuff isn’t bad as far as beer goes, but in terms of hefeweizen I wouldn’t even consider it one. That’d be like calling a Segway a motorcycle because it has two wheels. Sam’s hefe has a decent taste, but very little body to it. That is really where a hefe is made or not, in the body where you actually feel like you are drinking something crafted versus something simply made. Harpoon’s UFO, Red Hook’s hefe, and Blue Moon (though technically a witbeer, not a hefe) are better American choices and of course the Germans, Paulaner and Franziskaner, do it the best. Sam Adams does plenty of good beers, but this isn’t a shining example of one of them.

Tell Tale Ale (draft)- Euro dark lager- Boston Beer Works, MA- USA
Grade: B
     If you live in the Boston or Salem area you can usually count on decent brews coming out of the Boston Beer Works. Only downside to brew pubs like this is that who knows when they’ll have a particular brew again thanks to their constantly rotating selections. Tell Tale Ale is an interesting beer, easy drinking, but still plenty of flavor. A little sweet and caramel-touched, which might be too much for some, but I thought was just right. It’s on the dark side of things but it’s far from heavy and scary. Definitely worth a pint next time you’re down by Fenway or the Garden.

Macau (bottle)- Euro pale lager- Macau Beer Company Limited, China
Grade: C
     Not great, but it is fun to drink exotics like this if only for the oddity factor. Macau is crisp with a bit more of a sweet finish than most lagers as is common with Asian beers. It’s very similar to others like Tsingtao and even Singha or Kirin, though not nearly as good the latter two. I would say 2 of these in one sitting is enough because it builds up a slick sticky aftertaste that can get too overpowering. Basically, if you see it around give it a try for the hell of it.