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Beer gimmicks: the good, the bad, the bizarre

aprihopIn the world of beer, there are many whacky ideas. Just recently the Internet was all atwitter with news that some enterprising soul (pun intended) had decided to start brewing Star Trek themed beers. But, there have been many other odd, misguided and downright bad beer ideas. Some are almost to unbelievable too be true, but be assured, they are.

Not surprisingly the majority of beer gimmicks are brought to you by the mega brewers such as Anhueser-Busch, Miller and Coors. The big dogs always seem to be chasing each other’s tails, each trying to out gimmick the other. Who could forget the Bud Light bottle with a label that features a blank spot for you to write your name with a finger nail or key? As if the beer would last long enough to require a name tag. Or what about the Vortex bottle from Miller Lite? The advertising for this bottle claimed it “lets the great pilsner taste flow right out.” But, does that mean that it flows more quickly than it did before or that it merely comes out of the bottle? The jury is out. And then there is the gimmick that seems to draw the most attention – both positive and negative – the Coors Light Cold-Activated can. This beauty has graphics of mountains that turn blue when the beer is cold. The geniuses in marketing seem to have forgotten that most folks keep their brew in an ice chest or refrigerator meaning that the mountains are blue most of the time.

But, the domestic mega brewer have not cornered the market on beer gimmicks, There are plenty of other breweries that have marketed their brews with gimmicks. Scottish brewing mad scientists Brew Dog have been pushing the envelope of alcohol content in beer for years with soaring ABVs, But oddly, that is not the biggest gimmick. The brewery actually took bottles of their 55% ABV beer called The End of History and stuffed them inside a real squirrel or stoat. PETA members were appalled.

Other breweries are slightly less ambitious with their gimmicks than using stuffed animals as decanters and, to a degree some might call them trends rather than gimmicks. That is for you to decide. But, a gimmick that seems to have gained quite a bit of traction is the notion of barrel-aging beer. At first brewers gravitated mostly towards whisky and scotch barrels to age their beer. This process imparts complex flavors from residual liquors in the barrels and the wood of the barrels themselves. But, of late, brewers have begun taking the barrel-aging craze a step further by employing everything from gin to tequila barrels – not that there is anything wrong with that. Brews that have become legendary because of the barrel-aging include 3 Floyds Dark Lord and Cigar City Hunahphu.

An emerging gimmick – or trend if it makes you feel better – is that of fruit flavored IPAs. Seminal Delaware brewer Dogfish Head has had an apricot flavored IPA on the market for a few years with its Aprihop. Word has it that there is another fruit-flavored IPA coming from Sam Calgione’s off-centered brewery soon. Another brewer that has infused fruit into its IPA is Burnt Hickory Brewing of Kennesaw, Ga. The brewery’s Didjits is brewed with blood oranges and is said to not surprisingly have a bitter citrus flavor.

Gimmicks and beer seem to go hand-in-hand, so we may as well get used to it. That is not to say they are all bad. Who could argue with the genius of ageing beer in liquor barrels or infusing fresh new flavors? But, some truly are outlandish. Then again, if vented, wide-mouth cans help you to enjoy your beer more, who are we to judge?

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2013 in Beer

 

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The Super Bowl Cometh!

All throughout the history of the Super Bowl, beer has played a central role. According to Slashfood.com, 51.7 million cases of beer are sold during the days that lead up to the Super Bowl. That’s more than 50 cold brewskis for every person who lives in the greater Jacksonville area! And most of those are from the big guys like A-B, Miller, and Coors. Pity. Beer advertising, to some, is as important as the game itself. And, in some years, the ads were more exciting than the game. In 1989 Anheuser-Busch, the iconic St. Louis brewer now owned by Belgian/Brazilian beer conglomerate InBev, launched Bud Bowl. This stop-motion animated series of commercials featured A-B products playing football against Bud Light bottles. The advertising campaign was wildly popular and for several years became a stalwart part of the Super Bowl experience.

This Sunday millions of people around the world will tune in to one of the most watched events in television history. They will huddle around small black and white televisions in poor, Third World countries. They will watch in bars, hotel rooms, and on the Internet. They will gather at massive parties, with television screens in every room and mountains of food. They will watch from hospital beds, military bases, and prison cells. Since January 15, 1967 when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, the world has stood still on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the pageantry, the gladiatorial games, the wardrobe malfunctions.

But, clashing and clinking glass bottles were not the only successful beer advertisements. Other favorite ads run by A-B during the Super Bowl included the Budweiser Frogs (BUD – weis – errrrrrr!), the young Clydesdale learning the ropes, and the iconic “WASSUP?!” ads. Miller Brewing Company famously tried to belittle their rival in a notorious ad depicting the famous A-B Clydesdales and a defecting Dalmatian. Miller also ran what is most likely the shortest ad in television history with a one-second spot during the 2009 game.

I told you when I started this column I would not focus much on the big boys. So, in keeping with that promise, let’s move on to the beers we all love here – crafts and micros! While the masses are guzzling up the flavorless national brands, you my friends, should look to a more satisfying brew to quench your football fueled beer fever. Why not feature beers from the two team’s regions? Or, fill a few growlers of some of the superb local brews available right here in Jacksonville. Below are a few suggestions that are sure to tickle your buds – taste buds, that is.

There are many great beers that can be found locally which are brewed in either Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin brews to try are:

Sprecher Brewing Company
Abbey Triple

Abbey Tripels are, as the name eludes, triple fermented ales first concocted by those crazy monks in Belgium. But, I suppose being locked in a monastery for years wouldn’t be so bad if got to brew beers like these all day long. This beer, Sprecher Brewing Company of Wisconsin is a faithful reproduction of the style that pours a hazy pale orange-amber topped by a the finest of laced foam. When you put your nose to it – yes, you can smell beer just like wine – you’ll detect banana, clove, orange zest, and black pepper.

Now, take a sip, the taste should reveal the same flavors you smelled with the addition of ginger, coriander, and a pinch of nutmeg. The body is a light medium, with a moderate carbonation and an almost dry finish. Go easy on this one though; at 8.41% ABV it only takes a few to make you feel like you just got hit by a Packer linebacker.

Lakefront Brewery
Lakefront IPA

The aroma is grassy and piney, backed by a balanced and not overwhelming malt backbone. The taste is spot on. The caramel backbone is noticeable, but the bitterness from the hops shines. Pine and floral notes also come through. A likeable, drinkable IPA that is pretty much par for the course.

Leinenkugel
Classic Amber

A nice amber color just as the name implies, this beer produces a nice two finger white head that fades to a thin layer and a slight amount of lacing.

You will smell lots of sweet malts and grains with a small amount of hops detected at the end.

Just like the nose, sweet malts make their presence known up front when you first sip this brew. Lots of hoppy bitterness at the end, more than the nose belies. Pretty hoppy for an amber but it will grow on you.

Pennsylvania Brews you should consider:

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Blanche

This easy drinking beer is another Belgian style. Pour this beauty into a glass and you’ll be rewarded with a cloudy, golden yellow hue. On the nose (there I go with the snooty wine-tasting terminology) you should pick up toasted malts, straw, and grains. You will also notice light, earthy hops, a floral characteristic, and the faintest hint of lemon.

The taste reveals a light, sweet citrus, wheat, and maybe a little apple. At only 5% ABV you could drink several and still be able to enjoy the antics of the other party-goers (you know, like that crazy neighbor Dave showing everyone how many brats he can shove in his mouth at once).

Erie Brewing Company
Misery Bay IPA

For those who enjoy a hoppier beer, try this brew from Erie Brewing Company. When poured into a glass you should get a pleasant grassy/citrusy aroma and an appealing golden-copper color. Your firs sip should let you know it’s an IPA with pleasant, but not overpowering, bitter hops and a sweet undertone of maltiness.

Victory Brewing Company
Victory Lager

For a taste all your friends will enjoy – even those who drink the big boys – try this easy drinking lager.

Crisp, light malts and sharper citrus aromas hints of leafy, spicy hops greet your nose.

Smooth light malt flavors kick things off in your mouth on this one and are joined quickly by bright citrus flavors – more lemon rind than anything else. It’s like drinking the feeling of a Steelers touchdown!

Local Brews

Locally brewed, fresh beer goes great with your Super Bowl food spread. Swing by Intuition Ale Works and tell Lindsey, Robbie, Cari, or whoever happens to be pouring quality beer on the day of your visit to fill your growler up with an I-10 IPA, Willow Branch Wheat, or People’s Pale Ale. Or visit Brian and the gang at Bold City for a growler of fresh Killer Whale Cream Ale or Duke’s Brown Ale. Going local is always a great choice with these kinds of choices!

So, on Sunday as you prepare for the gridiron clash of Packers against Steelers, toss aside those dull flavorless beers and pick up something with a little more taste. True, they don’t have clever commercials, but they will make your party stand out. And, we won’t tell if you watch and enjoy the commercials anyway.

Long live the brewers!

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Beer, Local Brewery, Team Hopheads

 

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