Thursday, January 27, 2011

Narragansett Lager

The fifth beer to get reviewed is a beer that claims to be "Made on Honor" & "Sold on Merit!" It also claims to be "famous!"  These are some BIG phrases for a beer that I drank out of a can!  Which is actually why I chose this beer....the about genius marketing! For me, the can evokes happy thoughts of summertime outdoor activities, when a cold can in your hand is the icing on the cake, whether it be by the pool, the lake, playing bocce ball, a competitive round of Beirut, a pig roast etc...the can = good times in the warmer months and that is why I went for it, admist all the other beers in my vision at the store.

According to this tall, slender yet attractive pint can, the Narragansett Brewery dates back to 1890 and has been brewing, "award-winning classic lager for more than a century."  Furthermore, the can sold me on the catchy phrase, "Hi-Neighbor!" Isn't there some truth to that neighborly phrase when you drink out of can?  It's as if you're at a tailgate wandering around and people keep calling you over, offering you a can from their cooler--yes, we know how to tailgate @ Boston College :)

Additionally, the can boasts, "If you're not drinking Narragansett, you're not from New England!"  Interestingly, in all the years I've lived in NE, I've never heard of this beer.  Moreover, the Narragansett Lager is NOT brewed in New England, but rather in Rochester, NY. The beers that are produced in Providence, Rhode Island are their Porter and their Bock.  If you're into those types of brewery details their website has a lengthy historical biography which, if I had more time, I would share more details with you, but since I don't, it's an interesting read and can be found under Mom's Malt Barley Resources. 

However, I will share a few facts about lagers and specifically their lager:
  • Lagers ferment at the bottom as opposed to ales that ferment on the top.
  • They take one to three months to ferment at a much colder temperature than ales. 
  • There are various styles of lager (which in German means, storage) such as a Pilsner, Bock, Dortmunder Export and Marzen.
  • The Narragansett Lager was the first beer brewed by “The Original Six” back in 1890; was the bestselling beer in New England from the 1930s to the 1970s; and was the official beer of the Boston Red Sox from 1944-1975.
Beyond just being a sucker for the can, I found the beer at Trader Joe's, which came highly recommended to me from a fellow mom, as a place to find beer on the cheap side of life.  For $5.99, I came home with six sixteen-ounce cans.  Do the math, that's a good deal! And, here is the crux of the issue that I had with the beer.  It was a good deal but it felt like I was back in college buying cheap beer to either tailgate with or chug for fun beer drinking games & that I was not drinking the beer for taste.  Don't get me wrong, the beer isn't bad, it's just not very flavorful.  However, that didn't stop me from trying to pair the lager with our various dinner choices throughout the week (I did purchase a six-pack) in an attempt to find a winning combination.  The night we had Thai food was probably the best in terms of balancing the spicy cuisine with a cold frosty beer. 

Taste: a light to mild flavor with a refreshing finish
*contained a slightly metallic taste too but that's the can (I hope!)

Color: gold like a bale of hay on a warm summer's day

Thickness: very light body & when poured into a glass yields a plethora of bubbles & head

Will It Help Me Sleep Better: I would need more than one as it only has a 5% ABV

Mom Factoid:  According to the history section on the brewery's website, a young artist by the name of Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss, ("Green Eggs & Ham" anyone), was hired to design an icon for the Narragansett Brewing Company- Geisel designed Chief Gansett!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rising Tide's Ursa Minor--Weizen Stout

The fourth beer to get reviewed in the blog was a surprise selection. I was scooting through a local health food store--Lois' in Scarborough-- (truth be told I was actually there with the little duo to buy the soon to be 3 year old a cookie) when I couldn't help but peruse their "healthy" beer case.  Given that I had zero time for this perusal, I quickly grabbed at the singleton beers and pulled out of the case an Ursa Minor Weizen Stout.  Since I am a stout fan, the cool name was irrelevant, I just went with my gut knowing that sipping a stout sounded great.  Lucky for me and for you, the brew proved to be a wise choice. 

Later that day, I was able to do a little research and found out that the Ursa Minor Weizen Stout is from the newest brewery to open in Portland, Maine. The Rising Tide Brewing Company described as, "a family-owned craft brewery, specializing in artisanal, hand-crafted ales brewed in small batches (90 gallons at a time) in a one-barrel brewhouse."  According to the bottle, the Ursa Minor is Rising Tide's version of a winter wheat beer that is, "perfect for an icy winter's eve." It has a,"German wheat-beer yeast and a base of malted wheat, along with a blend of dark crystal and roasted malts to create a wheat stout."

Even though, I am a big stout fan, I really didn't know what I was drinking, so by definition:
  • Stout beer is a dark, sometimes bitter beer that was first commercially produced in the 1730s.
  • Stouts were traditionally the generic term for the strongest or stoutest porters, typically containing 7% or 8% alcohol.
  • The first stouts were from Ireland, where Guinness is produced.
  • Stout beer is composed of barley and varied types of malt resulting in large variety of stouts.
  • Variations include: Dry/Irish, Imperial, Milk, Oatmeal, Chocolate, Coffee and Oyster.

Taste: A nice mixture of strong nutty flavors blended with brief encounters of chocolate.
*This beer was an excellent complement to our pulled pork slow cooker meal! If you are familiar with The Dinosaur BBQ restaurant & sauces, you won't be disappointed with the outcome of this dish!
Color: very dark brown like a bold cup of coffee
Thickness:  not thick, actually light with an airy quality to the body due to the wheat
Will it help me sleep better?  Oh yes, with a 6.7% ABV, I was toasty which served as a nice escape from the bitterly cold & snowy weather conditions outside-ah January in Maine!
Mom factoid: When it's time to introduce your little people to the galaxy be sure to share with them that Ursa Minor is Latin for Smaller Bear when contrasted to Ursa Major. It is a constellation in the Northern sky.  It is notable due to its location at the North Celestial Pole.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gritty's Scottish Ale

Perhaps, the fourteen inches of snow that fell earlier in the week impacted my choice to stay local, with the next brew selection for the blog.  I was needing to feel the comfort of being with others, after being isolated & stuck at home with the little duo during the storm.  The Scottish Ale proved to be a perfect choice, both psychologically and physiologically.  While drinking the beer and eating a reuben sandwich with sweet potato fries, I felt as though I were at a pub without the "hassle" (ex: finding a sitter, changing out of pajamas, staying awake past 7pm etc.) of going to one!  The beer not only physically warmed me up but it truly made me smile & warmed my psyche. 

This double warmth propelled me to think of the unique places I have been in my lifetime, with friends, enjoying "interesting" conversation over a pint or two.  Speaking of unique places, I will mention one here that I thought of & would recommend visiting, if you ever find yourself in Vestal, NY: The Ale House otherwise known as the "Beer Joint of Your Dreams!"  A hidden gem for that region, if you're looking for a quick bite to eat, with a cold pint (they have an amazing selection from all over the world) and both good company and conversation. (Their website can be accessed under Mom's Malt Barley Resources.)

Back to the review, the Scottish Ale is from a local brewery, Gritty McDuff's, located in Portland, Maine.  Here are a few points to note, after scoping out Gritty's website (listed under Mom's Malt Barley Resources):
  • Gritty McDuff's was established in 1988 
  • It started as a small brew pub in Portland's Old Port (bonus, the husband works in the Old Port)
  • There are now three breweries state wide: (Lewiston/Auburn, Freeport (home of LL-Bean) & Portland--I have been here with an 18 month old--very kid friendly with a unique eating area with long tables that promotes sitting with strangers & making new friends)
  • The pub brewery in Portland (my next to neighboring town) produces five classic ales: Sebago Light, Portland Headlight Pale Ale (note Mom Factoid below), McDuff's Best Bitter, Best Brown Ale, and Black Fly Stout 
  • Gritty's releases many seasonal ales depending on the time of year, so every January they release their Scottish Ale--which typically means a strong dark ale
Taste: I detected a bitterness but not too strong or hoppy; the malty flavors fill the mouth with each sip
*hints of sweet butterscotch pop onto the palate
Color: a deep bronze like a rich caramel 
Thickness:  heavy on taste but not thickness--thin to medium body
Will it help me sleep better?  absolutely as it boasts a warm 6.3% ABV
Mom factoid: The Portland Head Light, located at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth (one of the coolest parks I have EVER been to), is the most viewed lighthouse in North America.  FW has a great playground & with the ocean in the background you can't beat the view!  If you are in the area, stop by for the view of a lifetime. For more information go to:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UFO Harpoon's White Unfiltered Wheat Beer

The second beer to get reviewed is in many ways the complete opposite of the Honey Porter.  The UFO was like drinking "summer" in a glass!  Wow--very could be the orange slice that I squeezed into the beer (a user friendly suggestion that is right on the bottle) but I didn't seem to detect "orange" per se, rather a light citrus blend on the palate.
Visually, once poured, the beer looked to be a mushed yellow & due to the falling yeast
sentiments I felt like I was watching a sunset with the variance of soft hues blending with each other in the glass. 
Okay, but back to my reality, it's January in Maine and there's snow on the ground & we are most likely under a winter storm watch until April.  So, how did this summery beer get into my fridge?
I asked the husband, who did the weekly grocery store run, to purchase, with thought, a beer for me to review. I suggested a winter beer (given the time of year) or a Maine beer (given we have a wide assortment of local breweries) yet, he came back with a Boston (Harpoon Brewery) white beer.  Perhaps, this is a bigger commentary on the level of communication in our relationship, but regardless, he bought the six-pack (he gets extra points for purchasing more than 1 bottle) & clearly I didn't object.  Interestingly, since the name of the beer is so dense (not UFO but the whole name), it propelled me to do some research; just a bit so I knew a little more about my subject (ah, the English education major in me is shining through).  Let me share what I learned in my brief research:
  • wheat beers are a beer that not only have a large proportion of wheat but also contain a large proportion of malted barley (total coincidence with my blog name!) 
  • "hefe" is German for "yeast" and is the name for unfiltered wheat beers
  • "unfiltered" is a beer that doesn't have the yeast removed from it
  • "white beers" are usually unfiltered & have a hazy appearance due to the presence of yeast
Taste:  crisp & light 
*One final thought about the husband, he christened our slow cooker with chicken & dumplings, which is what I paired the UFO with. Thus, comfort food met summertime last night which equaled deliciousness!
Color: muddled yellow
Thickness:  light to moderate depending on the amount of sentiment you sip
*tends to be quite carbonated as well--a soda quality with the bubbles & fizz
Will it help me sleep better?  yes but you'll need more than 1 as the alcohol content is only 4.8%
Mom factoid: due to the presence of the suspended yeast there is continuing fermentation in the bottle which produces lactic acid (you know that burning sensation, which is the lactic acid breaking down in your muscles, that you feel after chasing your kid(s) all day, everyday) and the lactic acid can leave a slightly sour taste

Friday, January 7, 2011

Samuel Adams Honey Porter part of the Brewmaster's Collection

The first beer to get reviewed in the blog--an ironic choice in that it has Boston routes as do I (BC alum & former Newton Public Schools Employee--Go Lions & Tigers!).  The fate of being first is not always easy--(1st children know this all too well) & sadly, it is only first because it happened to be the last beer in our refrigerator.  This lonely bottle was part of a six-pack purchased at a small beer store in early December in Scarborough, ME for under $5.00; quite the bargain, as it usually sells for $8 a six-pack.  Being the smart shopper that I am, I scooped it up only to realize, after the fact,that it was on sale because the expiration date was earlier this fall.  Alas, perhaps the taste could have been altered but given my desperation at 5pm, sometimes referred to by moms as the "witching hour," to drink anything with alcohol this past date wasn't a factor to me.  So while I was feeding the 6mos old in his high chair, flipping pancakes and burning pre-cooked bacon, I finagled the bottle opener and poured my first sips. 

Taste:  the honey comes through & definitely leaves you with a sweetness on your tongue
*although it is a porter, it is not overly heavy and very smooth.
**Delicious choice with bacon and pancakes :)
Color:  dark almost like a coke
Thickness:  slight to moderate
Will it help me sleep better? Yes
Mom factoid: honey is a natural way to help little people (older than age 1) when they have a cough or sore throat--just give a teaspoon of honey during cold season!