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The Beer Blog
04 September 2007 @ 01:17 pm
Goose Island Nut Brown Ale

From the bottle:
"Deeply malted with just the right touch of hops, Nut Brown Ale is a rich, complex beer with notes of caramel, chocolate and honey. Great with food, friends, or all by itself."
From the website:
"Our deliciously creamy brown ale

Brewed in the English tradition, Nut Brown Ale combines the finest domestic and imported malts to produce a chestnut-hued ale of unusual complexity. Subtle notes of chocolate, honey and fine tobacco give this world champion ale an enjoyable and satisfying "nutty" finish."
Nutty finish. That's pretty accurate wording, really, though to be honest it makes me want to snicker rather than lick my lips.

But we'll get back to that later.

First, some history about the company, just because I found it and it's interesting. According to their website, Goose Island - a Chicago-based brewery - has been creating beer since 1988. Goose Island creator John Hall borrowed from the European microbrewery concept and developed an American pub that allowed patrons the opportunity to watch the brewing process. In 1988 the first Goose Island Brewpub appeared in Chicago, a larger brewery and bottling plant in 1995, and a brewpub in 1999 not far from Wrigley Field.

The menu of available beer runs the gamut of varieties, but is dominated by ales. Like several other companies capitalizing on a young crowd that likes its beer like its produce - fresh and hard to come by - Goose Island increased its marketability with seasonal beer varieties. With titles like "Kilgubbin Red Ale" (available Jan-April), "Oktoberfest" (available Sept-Nov), and "Christmas Ale" (Available when else? Nov-Jan), Goose Island bottles controlled amounts of each flavor annually and cashes in on the folks who like the thrill of the wait, the hunt, and the triumph of handing around beer featuring a goose in a santa hat on the label.

Speaking of labels - Goose Island deserves some credit for the branding, because they definitely spent some money and effort. Goose Island may not be a microbrew, but the whole setup gives it the feel of one. The oval logo(featuring the ubiquitous goose of course) and old script surrounding the label on my bottle immediately says 'tradition' and 'old recipe' to me, amusing since the brand is a relative youngster in the world of beer producers. Goose Island isn't in love with that setup either - several seasonal varieties have very different and original designs that set them apart. Good show, boys - pairing up the local-sounding name with the appropriate packaging. I'd buy the story if you said it was from the forties or earlier.

So with as much effort as all that put into the craft, you'd expect quite a beer. I certainly did. After a short debate, I picked up a bottle of Nut Brown.

I disagree with the bottle's claim of "being good with[...]friends..." given that any talking during a six pack would probably be punctuated by a lot of "what the hell IS this stuff?"

My first impression was the scent (not the color, because typically I prefer beer straight from the bottle), which was pretty enticing and - like all beer - distinctly misleading. Face it, the stuff usually smells like fresh bread, and even if you love beer, you have got to admit that of all the tastes it can have, fresh bread isn't one. Anyway, Nut Brown smells pretty yeasty, meaning sweet and tangy, and - oddly enough - a little like soy sauce.

That should have been my first clue.

Nut Brown came across as incredibly salty on the first swallow. This had a kind of salt burn that hit the roof of my mouth and stayed on the back of my tongue until I'd finished the beer and had several long drinks of water.

I didn't taste chocolate or caramel, and certainly not honey. The label did get one thing right, and that's the mention of 'nuttiness' in the flavor. Nut Brown picks up the taste of overly roasted peanuts, pungent and bitter. Goose Island Nut Brown Ale - to me, on Monday night - tasted like beer after a mouthful of burned salted peanuts. I was in the middle of a conversation with a couple friends who are aware of my hobby, which is how I found out that social drinking isn't recommended when you're not aware of just how 'complex' Nut Brown can be. Nothing like trying to wrestle past grimaces to keep a conversation alive.

Overall, not impressed with Goose Island Nut Brown Ale. Not giving up on the whole brand yet, but crossing this one off my list.

At least until the next time a good friend needs a laugh.


I'm willing to give it another go at someone else's expense, but at this point the body of the beer doesn't impress me enough to make me shell out another buck for Nut Brown.
 
 
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The Beer Blog
29 August 2007 @ 01:59 pm
So last night was a friendly ball game. Nobody really professional, you know? I mean, no ticket charge, no concessions, no overcrowded bathrooms, and the whole thing had about the maturity of a step up from shirts vs. skins. That's my favorite. Didn't participate this time, maybe next time. If I had been, you probably wouldn't be hearing this now. I'd still be crippled up in bed.

With a crowd of people, of course, there's nothing better than a frosty cooler full of whatever the poor bastard 'lucky' enough to get stuck with buying decided to bring. Tonight it was Bud Light and Miller Lite, with a few tossups of Mike's Hard Lemonade and Zima for non-beer-drinkers who still wanted to participate. It was a long game, plus since beer's kinda not-really-allowed around here, we kept it low key.

Miller Lite's got a bad rap, at least around here. I don't know how much of that is experience and how much is just territorial bullshit again, but I don't judge a beer til I've tasted it. Some of the things I hear about Miller Lite is that the taste is weak, or it's too bitter. I know there's stronger beer out there in terms of taste and alcohol content, but not everyone goes for that, really. So let's be fair folks, it's not bad beer. It's what I'd call a 'social' beer. You don't have to give it your full attention, and it's not sitting around in the back of your mouth reminding you that five minutes ago you had a swallow.

I cracked open a can and sat in the grass. Some of the guys brought their girlfriends, who were sitting in front of me, so as an added bonus I got the back views of a couple string halter tops with my drink and my baseball - not a bad deal.

Miller Lite smells like your typical widely-distributed pilsner - in that it smells like hops and yeast: essentially like bread or pizza dough baking. Because of the hops, it also smells (and tastes) kind of woody. That could also be from the aging process, I don't know much about Miller's brewing process.

The smell's not so important unless you like sniffing your beer before you drink it. I do, but I don't pretend to be normal. If I was, I wouldn't be blogging about sniffing beer.

So what does it taste like?

Miller Lite isn't offensively strong, but it's also not tapwater. It has a typical bitterness but not over the top, and (more's the positive) the bitterness doesn't hang around in your mouth. There's not much to it, it's pretty carbonated, meaning it'll sting if you let it sit in your mouth - so don't, really. Why would you do that anyway?

One thing that DID stand out in the middle of it was a really prevalent woody taste. I was kind of surprised, it tasted like an old barrel. Not STRONG, but too THERE to miss.

I wouldn't call it a sweet beer either, I've had those. I'd call Miller Lite a pretty midrange domestic American beer. It's not memorable, but sometimes the ball game (and the string bikini of a halter top in front of you) is more important than the beer.

I'm not starting a rating system. Don't even THINK about it.
 
 
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The Beer Blog
28 August 2007 @ 02:17 pm
So here we go, first post. Welcome to thebeerblog on Livejournal. The purpose of this puppy is mostly for my own entertainment, and maybe to put to use some of my experiences with a great local pastime no matter which part of the world you come from: the consumption of beer.

What is beer?
According to Wikipedia, beer is defined thus:
"Beer is any alcoholic beverage produced through the fermentation of starchy material and which is not distilled after fermentation. The process of beer production is called brewing. Because the ingredients used to make beer differ from place to place, beer characteristics such as taste and colour vary widely, and consequently its type or classification. It is the world's oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage."

How is beer made?
Well, that really depends on who you ask. The guy down the street might tell you that up in Canada they make beer with bear [or moose, beaver, etc.] piss. I don't know about you, but I don't think I've run across any brand of Canadian beer known to contain this ingredient (though let me know if I'm incorrect). So since Mr. Rogers never covered modern-day beer-brewing practices, this article isn't a bad discussion on how beer comes together and essentially what's in it. I'm not Mr. Rogers, so you'll have to go over there or use Google for the answer to that question.

Why a blog? What's the reason behind making thebeerblog?
Famous last words: It seemed like a good idea at the time? All the food critic positions in the Times were filled? Seriously, I have a ton of spare time on my hands lately, since I work nights as a bartender/general bar manager, but recently lost my day job. So that leaves me a ton of time earlier in the day. This sounded like fun. I didn't used to be much of a blogger, but over time it's kinda started growing on me.

Why beer?
Because I like it.

So what's your street-cred for all this? Why the hell should I trust YOUR opinion?
I'm a beer-drinker, and I have tastebuds, and I drink a lot of beer. You don't need a PhD in beer science in order to know how it tastes. I know I might be biased in some things, but I'll be as honest as I can. You don't have to trust me. That's your choice, pure and simple. Hell, you could just hang out here to argue with me out of pure cussedness. I just ask that you don't flame and troll, because I won't flame and troll. Seriously, didn't your mothers teach you any better?

What's your favorite beer?
I'm finding new favorites all the time, but if I have to pick at a party, I'll go for whatever's in the keg.

What's up next?
You'll know it when you see it.
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