30 October 2013

Shiver me tinnies

We’d love to send you something, do you have an address that would suit to send it to?

That's all the e-mail said, but I could see it came from the company which does PR for Heineken Ireland. I like surprises so I gave them my address without asking further questions. A couple of hours later a parcel arrived containing eight half-litre cans of Coors Light. My lucky day. Less than a month out of the brewery, too. It wasn't just a random gift, however: they were promoting a gewgaw which comes free with sufficient purchase of the beer. This affixes to the bottom of the can, keeping it extra-cold while it's being consumed. From, presumably, the can itself. Swish.

While all this is outside the regular programming at The Beer Nut, I don't actually have a review of Coors Light here. Not that I've never tasted it; indeed I stumbled into the official launch of the draught version back in the summer of 2000. It was in Dakota on South William Street. There was an ice sculpture. Anyway, here I am with four litres of a beer I've never reviewed so it would only be proper to do some experimentation.

First, to give it the treatment every beer gets. The first can was kept in my beer fridge at 10°C. As the picture shows, the can is "cold", but not "Rocky Mountain cold". It's a very pale yellow and there's masses of fizz. The head subsides most of the way but a thin white mousse remains, constantly topped up by the busy bubbles. The aroma offers an odd mix of tin and ripe apples. That sweet fruit thing is the opening flavour but it disappears quickly, replaced by... nothing. There's a huge void right where you'd expect the main part of the taste to be. It's not watery -- the texture is actually quite slick and heavy -- but no identifiable malt elements and certainly not even a whimper from the hops. There's maybe just a tiny metallic buzz on the side of the tongue. Boring beats awful every time, but I really didn't think it would be hard to find things to say about this beer. Quite an achievement of the brewer's art.

So if it's this bland at serving temperature, what's the point of having it cold? To find out, I stuck a can in the freezer to earn that extra blue stripe, and I froze a mug as well, for good measure. Served this way, it's cold. It burns. It feels almost flat, which I guess is an unintended consequence of the solubility of CO2 at low temperatures. The slickness is even more apparent, though is perhaps more of an icy slipperiness now. The appley fruit is almost gone but there's still a bit of a tang from the metal. The glass contents disappeared quite quickly and thoughtlessly: the beer equivalent of popcorn. Plain, unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. The cans left after this experiment will likely be put to use in this way, with the Saturday night curry.

So much for the drinker's preference. How does this beer stand up served the way the PR company intended? I reached for the gewgaw -- a "Chill Puck" to give it its proper name in scare quotes -- frozen per the instructions, and dutifully affixed it to the can. It's just as flat consumed this way, and tastes exactly the same. The most annoying thing about drinking straight from a frozen can is how cold it it is to touch -- a handled mug is definitely the way to go if very cold beer is what you're after. Whether the device does actually help keep the second blue stripe lit for longer is not something I can confirm or deny in this limited experiment which didn't involve drinking an unadorned can, but it seems likely that it performs some sort of service, the thing itself remaining completely cold to the touch throughout proceedings.

It's easy to scoff at beers like Coors Light. It's fun too.

28 October 2013

Upstate fake-out

My bottle of Sainsbury's Tap Room IPA was deposited by a houseguest (cheers Thomas!) and bears the mark of "Tap Room Brewing Company" of Rochester, New York which sounds immediately makey-uppey. Two seconds' research reveals that this does indeed come from Rochester's North American Breweries megaplant, birthplace of a zillion other American "craft" brands.

It's a big boy at 6.3% ABV and a clear dark orange colour. No qualms about the aroma: all lovely lemon sherbet and orange pith. The hops calm down a bit on tasting. Big sweet malt notes take over so the sharp citrus becomes altogether fluffier mango and mandarin smoothie, with just the merest tang of bitterness on the end. After the initial hit it gets more muted, however, and I was finding it a bit heavy and dull by the half way point.

In summary, it hits all of the places you expect this sort of American IPA to hit, but for me it lacks the finesse of the more established brands: your Sierra Nevadas and your Goose Islands. If it were as cheap and cheerful as the Sainsbury's own-branding suggests I might go for it again, but more likely I reckon I'd trade up to something with a bit more hop action.

24 October 2013

Foolproof

I did my best to look after my bottle of Bronze Age ale in the year or so between getting it and drinking it. There's a glass door in my beer fridge but I made sure the bottle was right at the back. Unfortunately the tell-tale skunkiness was apparent as soon as I drew the cork. Ugh.

It's badged as a "farmhouse ale", a style I wouldn't have thought of as especially hop-forward. This one in particular is from Belgian brewery Hof Ten Dormaal, brewed under the aegis of Stillwater Brewing of Maryland. The long maturation has stuck the yeasty lees firmly to the bottom of the bottle and not even the high carbonation can dislodge it, resulting in a clear golden glassful, stacked high with foam.

A proper sniff of the poured beer and the skunkiness has subsided somewhat. There's the hot sugary spiciness I associate with Duvel in particular, even though this is rather lighter at 6% ABV. The novelty ingredient is raw spelt but I've no idea what that's supposed to add to the flavour. It's a lovely beer, though: there's a big pepper piquancy at its heart, a gunpowder dryness of the sort you sometimes find in lambics. The sweetness comes in the form of a mild red apple flavour, but no real hop character that I can detect.

If it wasn't so damn fizzy it would be really first-rate, but all that carbonation interferes badly with its drinkability. It's a tasty curiosity to be enjoyed slowly on a swirl-and-sip basis.