April 26, 2009

Beer of the Weekend @ 1

I love beer.

It must be a natural, genetic predisposition — i.e. the German in me — because I can’t explain it. I’ve never cared for hard liquor and couldn’t do the pretentious wine thing. (Wine, especially red, gives me epic hangovers.) I prefer my alcohol in liquid bread form, usually 12 ounces at a time, poured in pint glasses, and topped with a crown of foam that dissipates to a nice spotted lacing, which often takes the shape of a spiraling galaxy. There have been many times when I’ve stared down into a glass of PBR and marveled at the beautiful shapes created by the thin, ethereal froth.

Beer is my thing, so it was only natural to marry my love for brew to my greatest passion: writing. And here we are: one year, one week, and 60 beers later. (BotW #61 is, technically, the beginning of the second year.)

I’ve done a lot of drinking — productive drinking, that is. I could do the math and convert the ounces into gallons (baseball season doubles as gratuitous statistics season), but I’m being lazy. Some of it has been good drinking — great, orgasmic drinking — and some of it has been okay drinking. Thankfully, none of the beers I tried this last year were offensive, though a few were not my style.

About the year in brew, here is the complete, chronological list of all my BotW beers and their respective grades:

#1: Red Seal Ale (B-)
#2: Firestone Double Barrel Ale (B+)
#3: Steinlager (C+)
#4: Coopers Best Extra Stout (A)
#5: Spaten Premium (B)
#6: Mac’s Blackwatch Cream Porter (B)
#7: Moose Drool Brown Ale (B-)
#8: Black Butte Porter (B-)
#9: Paulaner Original Munich Premium Lager (B+)
#10: Weihenstephaner (B)
#11: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (B+)
#12: Estrella Damm (B)
#13: Downtown Brown (B+)
#14: Tooheys New (B-)
#15: Alaskan Stout (B+)
#16: Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout (A)
#17: Paulaner Hefe-Weizen (A)
#18: Franziskaner Weissbier (B+)
#19: Tsingtao (C)
#20: Pyramid Hefeweizen (C)
#21: Tucher Dunkles Hefe Weizen (A)
#22: Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (B+)
#23: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (A)
#24: Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen Amber (B+)
#25: Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Märzen (B+)
#26: Hofbräu Oktoberfest (C)
#27: Pilsner Urquell (B)
#28: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout (B+)
#29: Foster’s Premium Ale (B-)
#30: Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (A-)
#31: Old No. 38 Stout (B+)
#32: Old Scratch Amber Lager (B)
#33: Hofbräu Dunkel (B)
#34: Eight-Ball Stout (A-)
#35: Winterhook Winter Ale (C)
#36: Anchor Christmas Ale (B-/C+)
#37: Obsidian Stout (B)
#38: Hub City Oatmeal Stout (C+)
#39: Delirium Nocturnum (B+)
#40: Sleeman Honey Brown Lager 77 (B-)
#41: Blackhook Porter (B-)
#42: Spaten Optimator (A-)
#43: Hemp Ale (B-)
#44: Stockyard Oatmeal Stout (A-)
#45: Paulaner Salvator (B-)
#46: Pabst Genuine Draft (C+)
#47: Żywiec (C+)
#48: Censored (B)
#49: Turbodog (B)
#50: Steelhead Extra Stout (B+)
#51: Moosehead (C+)
#52: Sierra Nevada Stout (B)
#53: Murphy's Irish Stout (B+)
#54: Guinness Draught (C+)
#55: Molson Canadian (C+)
#56: Beamish (B+)
#57: Sierra Nevada Porter (A-)
#58: Köstritzer Schwarzbier (A-)
#59: Boont Amber Ale (A-)
#60: Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale (B)

Believe it or not, there’s more. Though I didn’t formally review them, I think they deserve to be named on an honorable mention.

-Grain Belt
-Schlitz (the new, non-Schlity recipe, apparently; I had the old one)
-Schell Octoberfest
-Honey Moon
-Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss
-Millstream Windmill Wheat
-Lazy Dog Chocolate Porter

A few things come to mind when I consider the list. The lowest grade I gave was a C, which brings to light two issues regarding my grading system: 1) I’m too generous, and 2) my grades are, in general, simple and undefined. Although I use a familiar scale, my final marks are not based on any finer criteria. Ratings on BeerAdvocate are calculated using the sum average of five 1-5 scale categories: look, smell, taste, mouthfeel, and drinkability. It’s statistical and therefore seems more accurate and founded to me. But when it comes down to it, The Quiet Man grade is centered on the same core evaluations. In fact, when I post my BA review the score is often identical to the one on BotW. Though it may not need any changing, I think my grading system needs some refinement.

Second guessing myself is inevitable when I look through the list. A few beers stand out in my memory as being excellent, but the grades I gave on the night of review don’t reflect the outstanding esteem I have for them. For example, how did I give Downtown Brown a B+? DB is the best brown ale I’ve ever had — from what I recall — yet it couldn’t crack an A? Eight-Ball Stout got an A-? From memory I consider it to be the best oatmeal stout I’ve ever had, yet looking at the list I see both Coopers Best Extra Stout and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout received A’s. What? How does that happen? Also, I feel a couple beers deserve A+’s, namely the dunkle hefeweizens I sampled last summer. Maybe I’m not too generous after all.

My dad always asks what my favorite beer is. I hate playing favorites, hate singling out one book, album, movie, restaurant, place, or memory. I’m a nice guy, which means I’m all-inclusive; I can’t leave anybody out. I have favorites, not a favorite. However, there is one album I listen to once a year because it deserves to be treated with religious zeal, one drinking establishment I hold above all others, and one building and place I love and cherish more than any other I’ve been to.

Two beers I tried in the last year are now at the top of my favorites list: Tucher Dunkles Hefe Weizen and Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier Dunkel. Superb brews. The style itself may be head and shoulders above the rest, but the verdict’s not in just yet; more drinking needs to be done. The dark variety of wheat beer blends the heavenly appearance, aroma, and taste of hefeweizen with the toasty, caramel, toffee elements I love about oatmeal stout.

Well, that’s all I want to write. It may be hard to believe, but I have better things to do than write epic tomes about beer. It’s been a good year (and one week) for beer drinking, and the next looks just as promising.

Cheers!