Recently in Beer Category


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The inspiration for this blog is that Erica and I consider ourselves adventurous eaters and drinkers, and we wanted to share some of those adventures. In that vein, I'm intrigued by a new social networking site that's started up very recently: Untappd. It's a social networking site for drinkers and lets you see what beers your friends are having. The site is optimized for mobile browsers, to make it easier to check in your drinking while out and about. There are, I'm sure, pros and cons to sharing that information with the world (and the site does let you take your profile private, which is good, but by default that setting is off and anyone can see what (and how much) you've been drinking). But the "if you're drinking this you might like these" recommendations it's been offering up are pretty intriguing. If you sign up, I'm "fuzzy".

Piwo grzane: Hot Beer with Syrup

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Our friend Kenner just returned from a trip to Poland with intriguing tales of heated alcoholic beverages and as the weather chills here as well those are sounding very attractive. We're already fans of toddies, Glögg, Quelque Chose, etc. so we're very open to the whole concept. One of Kenner's finds was a warm mead, which sounds great. The only problem with mead is that the same word is applied to a lot different things, so I feel like we'd need to find the same brand or style to make sure we were trying the same thing.

The other drink he described was both more re-creatable, but had a certain dangerous sound. Piwo grzane--hot beer, with a flavored syrup, that you drink through a straw. Let's break that down for a second.

Beer. Yay! We like beer.

Hot beer. Huh. I know I just said we like Quelque Chose, but to an American palatte warm beer sounds odd, and saying the words "hot beer" out loud just sounds wrong.

... with a syrup. Here again--we drink plenty of fruity beers--lambics and fruit-flavored beers, but we tend to prefer the tart-er ones and there's something about adding a syrup that sounds a little weird.

... that you drink through a straw. You drink soda with a straw. But Kenner was very insistent--it's better through a straw.

OK, well we were ready to give it a try. Kenner said there were lots of variations--different beers, flavored syrups, etc (but the straw was important!) but that they had liked Okocim lager with raspberry syrup.

Our local liquor store didn't have any Okocim (this being Chicago, I'm sure I can find some eventually) so I thought I'd go with a tasty but simple lager and picked up a six-pack of Red Stripe.

We already had some Torani Raspberry Syrup, which is mostly sugar-water with flavor, but our local grocery store happened to have real Polish Polonaise Raspberry Syrup (Syrop Malinowy), which is made with raspberry juice. Our cashier gave us the thumbs up as we were checking out. "Very good with just a little water," she said. Noted.

Supplies for Piwo grzane (Hot Beer with Syrup)

The actual preparation was dead easy. I poured two bottles of lager into a big Pyrex measuring cup, heated it up in the microwave for about three and a half minutes, then poured it out into two pints glasses. I gave a healthy pour of raspberry syrup into each glass -- which fizzed up and mixed nicely on its own. And then two straws.

The verdict: very nice. Warming, tasty. Maybe a little too easy to drink fairly quickly. Definitely an addition to our winter-drink list.

Piwo grzane: Hot Beer with Syrup

Here's a Happy Combo

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Hoosier Mama raspberry peach pie with crumble topping and New Belgium Ranger IPA. The tartness of the beer offsets the sweetness of the pie and vice versa. Happy happy combo.

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

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Pizza Beer

The tag line of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is "Beer so good it deserves... a wine glass!" I'd suggest a shot glass, because that's as much of this beer as you're going to want to drink.

"I like pizza and I like beer. So why wouldn't I want to combine the two?" you might think. And that, I guess, is the question the Seefurth family of Campton, IL asked themselves. The answer, unfortunately, is that you wouldn't want to combine the two because it tastes terrible.

And it's not that it doesn't taste like pizza -- this ale "brewed with oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic" certainly has the aftertaste of a big bite of pizza. The problem is that it's the wrong order. You'd take a big bite of pizza and then a swig of beer to cleanse your palate for the next bite. WIth this beer, all you've got is the lingering taste of pizza. Drinking it on its own is unsettling -- all the aftertaste of a greasy slice without the actual pizza. And the only food I could imagine pairing it with would be... pizza, in which case it would be overkill.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Oct 12, 2008: Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer)


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Shandy fixin's

Our dear Wisconsin friends at Leinenkugel's have a new summer brew showing up in bottles and at bars that have "Leinekugel's Seasonal" on the menu -- the Summer Shandy. Leine's are making their Shandy as a wheat beer with "lemonade flavor". Erica and I have been drinking and enoying it, especially on these recent scorchers, but it was reminding me of the Shandies I had as a youth* in Australia.

In my recollection, the Shandy in Australia was half beer and half English-style lemonade, which is halfway between American lemonade and Sprite. And a quick peek at the Wikipedia entry for Shandy showed that around the world a Shandy can be just about any kind of soft drink mixed in with beer. Perhaps the biggest difference between that style of Shandy and Leine's premade one is that the mixed ones dilute the alcohol, which means that on a hot summer day, you can drink more of them without getting quite so sloshed**.

So the only thing for it was to pick up a bunch of Shandy fixin's and have an old-fashioned Shandy taste-off.

Since we were comparing to Leine's Summer Shandy, I wanted a comparable beer without the lemonade flavor and so I grabbed some Leine's Sunset Wheat***. All the Shandies were half-beer and half-mixer:

We started out with some solid American lemonade: Simply Lemonade-brand:
Fuzzy: Smooth, light, very refreshing and almost frighteningly drinkable.
Erica: Awesome and delicious.

I thought R.W. Knudsen Spritzer Jamaican Lemonade might be something like the Austalian lemonade I was remembering (but it's not):
Erica: Tastes more artifical -- I'd rather just drink the spritzer.
Fuzzy: Pretty weak and watered-down.

The Wikipedia entry had mentioned a number of variations of ginger ale or ginger beer, so we thought we'd try Canada Dry Ginger Ale:
Erica: Like watered-down beer.
Fuzzy: Yeah, also pretty weak.

Since regular ginger ale seemed too weak, we tried some Sprecher Ginger Ale, which claims on the bottle that it's "icy-cool and spicy-hot with real ginger". In fact, by itself the Sprecher Ginger Ale doesn't have that strong of a ginger kick and it isn't much better mixed with beer:
Erica: Maybe it'd taste good with some fruit in it. It's a little bitter.
Fuzzy: Blah.

I'm a big fan of Limeade, so why not:
Erica: I'd rather drink Limeade on its own without messing it up with beer.
Fuzzy: The lime doesn't mesh as well with the beer as the lemon did.

Another entry in the maybe-it's-like-English-lemonade was Trader Joe's French Market Pink Lemonade:
Erica: Uh-oh, this might be my favorite. It's sweet and fizzy. Plus, anything pink you can't go wrong with.
Fuzzy: I'll give it a close second after the regular lemonade.

After trying all those variations, we gave the Leine's Summer Shandy another taste and frankly it came up short:
Erica: Huh, this is now my least favorite. It's kind of bitter.
Fuzzy: Weird, I really liked it yesterday.

So, the regular lemonade and the Trader Joe's fizzy pink lemonade were both favorites. And if the weather stays this hot, I think we'll be drinking plenty of both.

* By youth I mean 18, and that was legal for bars there. So there.
** That may, of course, be a positive or a negative for you.
***After all our tasting was over, I noticed that the label described it as "beer with natural flavors". WTF? Flavors? The whole test is ruined and we'll have to conduct it again (and again and again)!

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jul 9, 2007: Shandy!)

Dolomite at Piece

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Dolomite Malt Liquor at Piece

Piece (1927 W North) is already a favorite of Team Gerdes -- Erica likes the exotic pizza toppings like mashed potatoes and artichoke hearts and I like the New Haven-style Plain Crust because I'm not actually a big cheesey-pizza fan. We both like the beer -- the Worryin' Ale has, indeed, washed away many of our worries and the beermosa (a sour German beer and orange juice) is fifty times better than it sounds. Tonight, I ordered the "Brewer's Choice" to get a dollar off my beer and it was the Dolomite -- Piece's own micro-brewed malt liquor. Which they serve in a glass in a paper bag. Erica laughed every single time I took a drink and refused to let me take it out of the bag. It also got me well-buzzed. Got-a-quarter?

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, May 30, 2007: Dolomite at Piece)

Pumpkin Beers: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

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Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

Every Fall Erica and I get excited about pumpkin beers. And every Fall we completely forget which ones we had liked the year before and which we didn't. So I'm mainly doing a service to me-a-year-from-now by recording some mini-reviews of this Autumn's pumpkin beers.

And let's be clear -- nobody wants pumpkin beer. What we want is clove, nutmeg, and allspice beer -- pumpkin pie flavor, basically. The trick is to get it somewhere between so-subtle-that-all-you-taste-is-beer and Pepsi Holiday Spice.

Pumpkin beer is something of a niche market and so we're usually drinking the products of a number of small breweries. But all that my local Jewel had in the way of pumpkin beers was Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, brewed by Molson Canadian and imported by Blue Moon Brewing Company (themselves a subsidiary of Coors). So we start off the year with a mega-brewery beer.

The first bottle of Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale -- well, what did I just say about not wanting? It tasted like someone had pureed a pumpkin and mixed it into a beer. A little slimy, in fact. And I couldn't taste the spices at all. A second bottle seemed much more on the mark. It veers towards the subtle end of the spectrum, but we've got that cozy Autumn feeling going on (and not just because I've had two bottles of beer). Erica also gives it the thumbs up.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Oct 23, 2006: Pumpkin Beers: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale)

Glögg Off!

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We agree wholeheartedly with Chicagoist's Chuck Sudo, Glögg is the way to make it through the winter. But let's be serious -- are we going to make our own Glögg? No, we are lazy. That is why we are drinking spiced, spiked wine instead of doing laundry.

So for your benefit, Erica and went to Binny's this weekend and said, "give us one of each Glögg you have. We're gonna have an old-fashioned Glögg-off!"


We decided to drink samples of each bottle in order of ascending alcohol content, under some theory that that would let us better retain our taste buds through the process. To clear our palate between Glöggs we had some slices of Manchego (an incredible Spanish cheese) that we had also picked up at Binny's after being enticed by an in-store tasting with actual Spanish people. And for times' sake, we didn't use a double-boiler or anything fancy to heat the Glöggs -- we microwaved them in demitasse cups for 20 seconds. (Cf. "lazy" above. Also, that's how we drank Mr. Hans' all last winter.)

So we started with St. Christopher Glühwein at 8.5% alcohol by volume. Now, St. Christopher is a) from Germany, not Scandinavia and b) not actually a Glögg because there's no distilled liquor added to the wine. But you know what, it's pretty tasty. The back of the bottle says it contains red table wine, sugar and aromatic spices (cinnamon and clove). And that seems to be enough -- subtle but tasty, and it would be pretty easy to add a shot of vodka or brandy to punch it up if you felt you needed that (I think mixing two liquids doesn't violate my laziness rules). And it's $5.99 for a 1 liter bottle.

Next up was Vin Glögg, "A Winter Wine," from Glunz Family Winery & Cellars, at 13.5% alc/vol. We had high-hopes for Vin Glögg -- it's local (-ish. Glunz are in Greyslake, but the Glögg is made with California port and red wine), in a very attractive bottle, and is flavored with blended oils of citrus fruits, nuts, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, "and a couple of secret ingredients." And is it ever flavored! As soon as we opened the bottle we exclaimed, "citrus-time!" Vin Glögg is almost over-poweringly citrused and spiced. Erica says it was like drinking a fruity drink, rather than wine. A tag on the bottle suggests that "some folks like to add a cinnamon stick or a couple of cloves or a twist of lemon or orange rind" but I can't imagine doing so -- the resulting flavor explosion might kill you. $9.99 for a 1 liter bottle.

And last, but not least, our old friend Mr. Hans' Andersonville Glögg, "A Taste of Scandinavia". As far as I know, this is the Glögg served at both Hopleaf and Simon's. We first encountered Glögg at the Hopleaf last winter. At the Hopleaf most drinks come in a specific glass and the special glass for Glögg, it turns out, is an old-fashioned punch glass, which always makes me feel like I'm getting drunk with my aunt. And getting drunk you will be -- Mr. Hans' is a stiff 19% alc/vol. At our tasting, we struggled hard to discern what might be the spices making up the "fine wines, brandies, and select spices" that go into Mr. Hans', but the best we could come up with was "rocket fuel." But if you come in from the cold and want something to warm your toes, Mr. Hans' Rocket Fuel may be just the ticket. $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Without going into the complicated rating system we used, we give the Glögg-off Gold Medal to the not-a-Glögg-at all St. Christopher Glühwein, the Silver to Mr. Hans', and the Bronze to Vin Glögg.

As we invite some friends over to help us finish off the 2.75 liters of Glögg we have in our kitchen, we may try some of the suggested additions to Glögg drinking, like adding a raisins and a blanched almond to each cup. But that might be too much like work.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of hot alcoholic beverages, I'll mention our other favorite no-work-but-heating-it beverage, also a Hopleaf discovery: Quelque Chose. A tart cherry beer, I'm willing to go the extra mile and get out a pan of water to gently heat a bottle of Quelque Chose.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Dec 19, 2005: Glögg Off!)

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