DRAFT PICKS: Beer tasting — Good beer, great food, fine fellowship

I had the pleasure of being part of a late-spring beer tasting session this past weekend, and was asked to place the six samples (samples, not full glasses!), in order on the table.

Just by way of disclosure, this was a sampling … a tasting … not a binge! Although there were six different beers involved, each person at the table most likely didn’t drink more than one normal bottle of beer throughout the entire evening. It is all about quality, explorers. Not quantity.

In “designing” the evening, I strayed a bit away from the “classic” style of tasting more than one beer at a sitting.

Generally speaking, beers are poured in some order (sometimes called a “flight”), and are sampled from lightest in color to darkest in color.

I’m not sure why this is the accepted method. It may have something to do with the idea that the lighter colored brews are less potent than the darker. That certainly is not always the case.

Anyway … I placed my samples in an order that had the most mild, yet expressive brews at both ends of the sampling, with the more assertive offerings in the middle range — from stronger, to more muted, to stronger.

Here’s my way of thinking.

The first glass was a wonderful, mild Belgian monastic ale — welcoming and very gentle on the palate.

The last was a very muted, but robustly flavorful light ale with well defined dessert tones that expressively ended the evening.

Between the two, the more hefty, hearty brews were sampled and enjoyed, but the evening’s capper brought the whole thing to a gentle close.

It worked out well.

The real “discussion beers,” the ones you might like or dislike to a greater or lesser degree were tucked away in the middle. The stars of the show were at both ends of the evening. Both kicking off and wrapping up the sampling were the “consensus brews.”

It was a fine evening.

Good beer. Great food. Fine fellowship. And the greatest of these is fellowship.

Now … one of the brews reviewed this week is a dopplebock. I had a reader ask about this style. They had purchased a few, were expecting something strong, but got, instead, something sweet.

Yessir. They DID get sweet … and ALSO got strong although it might not have been too evident.

Dopplebocks are bocks, with a bit more … muscle.

They are typically more malty; stronger and more full-bodied in flavor; a bit stronger in ABV and sweeter as well.

This combination was well designed by the monks in Europe who “invented” this style. Dopplebocks are packed with calories which gave the holy fathers a goodly amount of energy and sustained them well during long periods of fasting.

There are different types of dopplebocks — some lighter in color and others darker. They were brewed thus in part to fit the spirit of either winter or spring holidays — lighter in spring, darker in winter.

Generally, however, dopplebocks are darkish beers.

They can be beefy — anywhere from
6.5 to 12 percent ABV. They often, however, don’t seem too strong.

Be careful!!! Sweet can knock you on your keister! These are very malt-forward brews. The sweetness, however,  actually turns some explorers off more that the ABV.

All in all, dopplebocks are classic examples of Old-World brewing.

They are very enjoyable in their own right. Enjoy.

Butt Head Bock
Tommyknocker Brewery
Idaho Springs, Colo.

Butt Head is brewed and categorized as a doppelbock. It has a little kick with 8.20 percent ABV, but you don’t really feel the heat.

Butt Head pours a pleasing amber color — a bit darker than light. There is a decent amount of head, but it comes and goes pretty quickly leaving just a touch of lacing. The beer was a little hazy in the glass. It wasn’t clear, but there still was a crisp
appearance.

This is a very malty brew and that is evident from the first sniff. There is a lot of malty expression here, with deep tones of caramels, defined hints of darker fruits (maybe even some raison scent), and a good amount of brown sugar aroma.

There also is just a touch of a background boozy smell. Not much, but it’s there.

I enjoyed the taste. Butt Head is just a touch too sweet for me, but it really isn’t overwhelming.

There is a nut toffee quality. One can pick up on the dark fruits, but you need to work at it a bit.

Butt Head has some very dominant malts and there is an almost molasses-tasting base to the recipe.

This is definitely a full-bodied brew — hefty and muscular. Dopplebocks do tend to be a bit sweeter than some brews, so I expected no less from this offering.

There is a nice mouth-feel to Butt Head. It is less thick than one might anticipate. It pours and smells a bit syrupy, but really isn’t so in taste or mouth-feel.

There’s no doubt about it — Butt Head is malt forward. If you are looking for a hoppy brew … pass on.

I enjoyed this Tommyknocker brew. BUT … it should be well chilled — on the cooler side of chilled. Otherwise it may seem sweeter and stickier than it really is.

SummerBright Ale
Breckenridge Brewery
Breckenridge, Colo.

Wellllllll … I really am an admirer of the Breckenridge team. They have produced some exceptional brews.

This isn’t one of their classics.

It’s good enough. I wouldn’t pour it down the drain.

SummerBright pours kind of summer hazy. This American Pale Wheat Ale is a nice deep yellow color with a goodly amount of head pushed by an overly enthusiastic carbonation. The mouth-feel is just a little too … excited … for my taste. There is a lot of foam, and while a good, decent head can certainly help in the scenting, this was a bit too much.

Considering that the bottle label says “ … brewed with orange and lemon peels” one might expect a rather pleasant nose. Um … not so much. There is a very yeasty smell to SummerBright, and not in a pleasant, fresh bready manner. This brew smells a bit … I guess “stale” might be the word. You can pick up tones of citrus fruits, but they are very muted. There is little or no pick-up on the malts.

The tasting begins much like the scenting — a bit of a disappointment.

The lasting carbonation battles any fresh tastes there may be present. Too bad.

The yeasty aroma carries through to the tasting. There is a nice shot of the citrus flavoring toward the end of a sip, and certainly in the lingering after-taste. It’s odd, but some of the best taste in this sampling came after the swallow.

There is a degree of hoppiness, but I’d expect more malt expression. It is, after all, promoted as a malt beverage.

I doubt this will be a summertime option in the Crees fridge.

SummerBright is not horrible, but it certainly was a disappointment. Honestly, I have to recommend any number of other summer brews.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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