Tuesday, April 08, 2014

So the other day I was told about Josephsbrau Prost (Rich Malty Lager) by my cashier at Trader Joe's. The conversation went something like this, "Do you like beer? Do you like bock? We have a new Maibock, do you want to try it?" The look on my face must've have shown indifference because the cashier followed with "it's only a dollar a bottle and I can get you one if you want." I agreed to try it and he fetched the bottle. "If you don't like it you can bring the empty bottle back and we'll refund your money."

Well, heck...it's not hat bad. It's not great either, but at 7.3 percent alcohol by volume it at least provides a fairly flavorful cheap buzz. The maltiness isn't that smooth, but it is slightly complex with some interesting caramel notes and almost a hint of coffee. Yeah, I know a little weird for an amber bock, but not bad. At a buck of bottle it's a decent low-end craft beer that I think fits the high-end of the cheap category. Available now for a limited time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I collect "retro" and vintage beer glassware. My most recent purchase replaced a Hamm's pilsner sham that got knocked over and broke into pieces. The new glass (pictured) promotes Busch Bavarian, an old Anheuser-Busch product (now Inter-Bud-Ambev or whatever) that was recently re-packaged into cans with a retro label from just after the time when the "Bavarian" part of the name got dropped. As you can see, the can says "Clear and Bright as Mountain Air" and "Busch Classic." The can says the beer was introduced in 1955 as Busch Bavarian. Wikipedia adds that it changed to just Busch in 1979. I'm guessing that real Bavarians were appalled by the original name and made Bud change it.

This beer has a bubblegummy and slightly fruity smell laced with a sort of medicinal aroma.It tastes very watery and light for its 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, with a bit of bubblegummy sweetness and a dryish, but slightly sweet finish. It's definitely light, but with a fairly inoffensive amount of corn. This stuff initially formed a bit of a rocky head (which I missed in the photo) and which I haven't been able to replicate since, which makes me think it was my imagination. Budweiser has always equaled Wonder Bread. They brew the Wonder Bread of beer and in this sense, Busch doesn't disappoint. That said, it seems like the kind of beer that just doesn't get you drunk, it makes you stupid and maybe a nasty, old, hillbilly. Oh, and if you're still interested, I paid a little about a buck for the big can and I noticed it's $3.40 a six-pack, definitely qualifying as cheap.

Well, what else can I say...it was time to head for the mountains.

Monday, April 09, 2012


PLZNR, huh? Interesting. A "Josephsbrau Brewing Company" beer the Trader Joe's Czech/German-style line of lagers bought for a buck. Available for six bucks a six-pack. Well, it pours nice an clear with a decent quarter-inch of head. Bubbles stream from the bottom of my PLZNR (pilsner) glass. Smells like fresh malt and herbal hops. It ain't too bad. Tastes crisp and well, like a Pils. Decent malt flavor here, with some decent hop bitterness. Tastes almost exactly like pils I had a Gordon Biersch. I'd drink this stuff again. Especially in summer.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Boatswain Pulls into Port

A new Trader joe's beer brand called Boatswain (pronounced Bo-sun) has pulled into port. It's brewed by Rhinelander Brewing Co. of Monroe, Wisconsin, which really is Minhas Brewing, which brews a lot of cheap beer for Trader Joe's. The two beers are both described as IPAs. One is simply called Boatswain IPA and the other is called H.L.V. -- or Heavy Lift Vessel. Both are also described as brown on color, but really only H.L.V. is really brown. The beer snob in me also knows that IPAs really shouldn't be brown, but this is cheap beer, so who cares?

I bought both these beers for $1.99 each. I tried the IPA first. It poured crystal clear amber with plenty of carbonation and big fluffy white head. This beer certainly looked tasty enough. It smmelled of sweet cereal grains with only a faint floral hop nose. I suppose I really shouldn't have expected much more than that. Then there was the strange metallic bitterness that cthankfully comes and goes quickly. I'm calling this mallt liquor for people who like hops, but there's also no way this is 79 IBUs as indicated on the label. (An IBU is a measurement of bitterness in beer. Budweiser has about 10 IBUs.)

I have to say I "drain-poured" the bulk of the IPA, but quite possibly because I'd been drinking Three Floyds (expensive craft beer) earlier in the evening. I still moved on to the H.L.V., the darker brother of the IPA. I felt like this beer was a little better as the dark malts obscured the likely use of adjuncts. The label says dark brown and this time it is to believed. A slightly more pleasant aroma with this one, that fades quickly. The hop bitterness seems a little more for real this time, but I'm still not impressed, even for two-dollar price point. Tastes like a hoppy version of on of my all time favorite Huber Bock (another Minhas brew, but not sold at Trader Joe's.) That said, I think I'd rather pass these beers up and spend an extra buck on a bottle of Charles Shaw.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Short Stuff

I used to buy Rhinelander Export at least 10 years ago when it was produced in 12-ounce brown returnable bottles by Huber Brewing Co. in Monroe, WI. These bottles were distributed in sturdy, reusable cardboard boxes. The bottles and boxes were great for homebrewers (I still have a few of them) but are sadly no longer available as the new owners of the brewery went to much cheaper packaging. It's been quite awhile since I've had a Rhinelander Export and even longer since I've had Rhinelander Bock (all the way back to college.) The Bock is no longer produced, but Rhinelander is back in a retro seven-ounce brown stubby bottle. I had to pick up a couple of these little guys (they were only 79 cents each) on a recent trip to Wisconsin. I even considered buying a case. It turns out a case (for $11.49) might have been hard to swallow. The beer pours a clear yellow with just a bit of fizz. It smells like cheap beer: a sort of fresh, worty aroma with a little puff of vanilla. Rather sweet without being cloying. It has sort of a marshmallow-like powdery sweetness which coats the tongue. The finish is a touch sweet and just short of unpleasant. I think the case of Shortys should be a little cheaper as I remember paying about 13 bucks for a whole case of 12-ounce bottles about 10 years ago, but I couldn't resist the packaging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Beer By Any Other Name...

...might be good, but thumbs down for Name Tag (formerly Red Oval) Lager. Suckered in by the low price and a friend's review that it was pretty good, I tried this beer tonight and actually liked it at first. It looked quite appealing in the glass. A rocky head of foam and nice golden hue, a fruity nose and a bubblegummy taste, but alas it was not to be. I should have known better, as I've been let down by the brewer in the past. You see, Name Tag beer is actually brewed for Trader Joe's by Minhas Brewing in Monroe, WI, purveyors of many bargain basement brews such as Mountain Creek (a.k.a. Mountain Crest) lager. I was a fan of the brewery when it was known as the Huber Brewing Co., which it had been for decades. Huber was famous for it's Huber beer and in my 20s I was famous for having a bottle of Huber Bock in hand (sometimes referred to as the Brown Bullet.) Anyhow, the flavor of tonight's can of Name Tag Lager seemed to deteriorate after a few sips; a weird after taste sort of developed, somewhat metallic perhaps, but almost an odd sort of sweetness. That said, I was still able to finish it, although it left me wanting for a Pabst or Old Style.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bombastic Baltic Porters

Baltic Porters are the bomb. That is to say they are cheap way to get "bombed." They're stronger beers that seems suited to winter: Eastern European winters. They range from between 7.5 and 9.5 percent alcohol. They are a good choice if you want a cheap buzz and you like dark beer. Here is a sampling of some Baltic Porters (that is to say beers that are from Baltic states like Estonia and Poland.) All of the beers below should be found for no more than $1.79 to $2.50 a half-liter bottle.

First up is Saku Porter, an Estonian beer which pours the color of motor oil and tastes fruity with strong flavors of burnt caramel. Its carbonation dissipates and its foam subsides to nothing over the course of several minutes, but the beer doesn't go flat. Flavors of prune, raisin (dark fruits) and molasses with a tawny finish. Hops play a minor supporting role here, as the finish is just shy of sweet with burnt marshmallow notes. Next up is the Polish Okocim Porter, an old favorite of mine. It pours quite dark. Pours with plenty of carbonation that forms a compact but energetic. Very smooth. Starts with chocolate/cocoa flavors, then these meld into more tawny, fruity flavors with a slight tartness and late burst of tannin (but not in any way off-putting.)
Polish Zwyiec Porter is the strongest of the three and the cheapest. It is truly black malt liquor. Comes across simple and a bit watery...but strong! (Actual alcohol content by volume is 9.5 percent, your mileage may vary.) Fairly neutral malt flavor at first, but then there's some espresso flavor and a rather harsh bitterness from grain and hops. Touch of ethanol. Strongest but weakest in terms of flavor.