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.