Category: Beer Review (Page 1 of 2)

The Impacts Of Freezing, Heat and Light on Beer

In the following experiments, we subjected a light beer (Corona Extra) to a barrage of separate extreme tests to measure the individual impacts of freezing, heat and light exposure.

The Impacts Of Freezing, Heating and Exposing Light to Beer

TASTE TEST PROCESS

We conducted repeated taste tests to see if any noticeable change could be detected using a kind of blind sensory method called a “triangle test”.  For example, when testing the effects of a certain factor like “beer exposed to light”, three unmarked samples of beer were poured, one of which was a sample that had been exposed to light, and the other two were unadulterated samples.

The testers were then asked to identify the sample they believed was different, and then the same test was repeated between 4 and 6 times to reduce the possibility that the testers were simply guessing correctly.  The tasters were not told in what way any beer had been altered.  Tasters were instructed to consider and describe the aroma, flavor, and carbonation level of each sample.

All beer samples were measured at three ounces each and served into snifter glasses at 50°F (10°C) in order to enhance the tester’s ability to detect any differences.

CHOICE OF BEER

The beer used in all experiments was Corona Extra, which was chosen in part due to its world-wide distribution making it more accessible to anyone who wanted to repeat any of these experiments on their own.  The other reasons a light beer like Corona was selected was because it’s said that it is easier to detect flaws in such light beers, and being bottled in a clear bottle makes the beer more susceptible to the effects of light exposure.  All beers purchased came from the same closed box (protected from light exposure), and were purchased from and subsequently kept in cold storage.  None of the control beers were determined to have any off-flavors.

THE EXPERIMENTS OF ICE, FIRE AND LIGHT:

THE IMPACT OF FREEZING BEER

It’s said that freezing and thawing a beer will reduce the level of carbonation in beer generating a “flatter” tasting beer.  Curious to see if a tasting panel could repeatedly identify a beer that had been frozen and then thawed compared to an unadulterated beer from the same case, a beer was frozen for two hours, thawed, and served immediately to a tasting panel who were asked to repeatedly identify the beer that was different.

The panelists were not told that the beer was frozen, but only to identify the beer that was different and describe what was different about it.

OBSERVATIONS

The tasting panel was able to correctly identify the frozen and then thawed beer with an accuracy rate of 75%.  The frozen and then thawed beer was described as slightly less carbonated and slightly less aromatic, and having a subtly duller flavor.  One taster noted a more “watery” character in the aroma.

The frozen and then thawed beer was also slightly lighter and hazy than the unadulterated beer as can be seen below (frozen and thawed beer on left, unadulterated beer on right):

Change in the Color of a Frozen Beer

To account for the minor difference in color, tasters were blindfolded, but were nevertheless still able to correctly identify the frozen and then thawed beer 75% of the time based on the aroma, flavor and carbonation level.

REFLECTIONS

The results of this test seem to reflect the commonly held ideas about the effects of freezing beer.  Interestingly, some tasters were able to correctly differentiate the beers by scent alone, while others could only correctly tell the difference by the different level of carbonation.  We approximate that the level of carbonation in the frozen beer was reduced by about 20-25%, resulting in fewer aromatics being generated for the nose to detect, and though no difference in flavor was noticed, folks did notice a difference in carbonation level resulting in what some described as a slightly duller beer.

Overall, the impact of freezing beer in this case was subtle and at times difficult to detect.

THE IMPACT OF HEATING BEER

It’s said that when beer is exposed to heat, it can reduce the shelf life of the beer by accelerating chemical reactions including oxidation. (It should be noted that aging certain styles of beer can be desirable as with certain Belgian sour beers and beers with higher alcohol concentrations.)

Curious to see if any noticeable change could be detected in heated beer, we wrapped a bottle of Corona Extra in aluminum foil to protect against light exposure, submerged the bottle in warmed water at a temperature range of 90-139°F  (32.22-59.44°C) for 24 hours, chilled to 50°F (10°C) and served immediately.

Heating a Bottle of Beer in a Pot

The general idea with this experiment was to approximate the effect of beer left in a hot car.  Although temperatures in a hot car can reach upwards of 172 F (77.78°C), we capped the testing temperature at 139°F (59.44°C).

For reference, below is a chart estimating vehicle interior air temperature v. elapsed time:

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time

OBSERVATIONS

Tasters were able to correctly identify the heated beer 90% of the time by scent alone, with some tasters accuracy rate at 100% over 6 repeated trials.  Tasters described the aroma of the cooked beer as somewhat sulfury with notes of hard boiled eggs, sulfury mud, raw grey clay, and cooked corn.  The heated beer was also described as having slightly lower carbonation, and was less crisp and less hoppy in both aroma and flavor as compared to the unadulterated beer.  No difference in color was noted, but less of an alcoholic kick was noted in the heated beer.

REFLECTIONS

The degree to which heat negatively affected specifically the aroma of the beer tested was striking.  Where one might have expected characteristics associated with oxidation in a heated beer such as cardboard, sherry, or apple juice, instead sulfur notes were detected.

However, the sulfury notes that were identified, especially in the aroma of the heated beer, might be explained by the fact that the hydrogen sulfide level in filtered beer consistently doubles after pasteurization, which illustrates that the level is not static, but is affected by various redox reactions that take place in the packaged beer.

We essentially pasteurized the beer multiple times when repeatedly reheating the beer to 122–140°F (50–60°C) over 24 hours, thereby increasing the potential level of hydrogen sulfide which has a low sensory threshold of only a few parts-per-billion.

THE IMPACT OF EXPOSING BEER TO LIGHT

When beer is exposed to UV light, particularly in the range of 350-500 nm, a reaction occurs in hops that can cause the beer to take on a “skunky” or “marijuana-like” character.  The particular offending chemical compound generated in this light-caused reaction is called 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, or “3-MBT” for short, and can occur in under 10 seconds resulting in what is referred to as a “skunked” or “light-struck” beer.  A potent compound, humans are able to detect 3-MBT at a threshold of around 4 parts-per-trillion.

The color of glass beer is bottled in can affect this skunking reaction, with brown bottles offering better protection, green bottles far less, and clear bottles none.  This is why folks might notice this phenomenon more often with beers like Heineken and Beck’s that are bottled in green bottles, and beers like Corona packaged in clear bottles.  Many brewing companies well-aware of this phenomenon continue to package their beer in clear or green glass bottles mainly due to marketing and branding priorities.

Some brewing companies such as Miller Brewing  avoid the lightstruck problem in brands such as Miller High Life by using specially formulated hop extracts that do not react with UV light to create 3-MBT.

To test the impact of UV light on beer, clear bottles of Corona Extra were left in direct contact with sunlight for 10 hours at a temperature range of 60-69°F (15.56 -20.56°C), chilled to 50°F (10°C) and served immediately along with two unadulterated samples.  We figured even though it’s said that a beer can be skunked in as little as 10 seconds, just to be safe we might as well leave it exposed for 10 hours.

OBSERVATIONS

After repeating the same test four times to minimize any doubt of lucky guessing, panelists were able to correctly identify the beer that had been exposed to UV light each time with a 100% accuracy rate and by scent alone.  Although a strong skunk musk aroma was immediately noticeable upon opening the bottle, once the beer was served, bonus aromatics were noted including rotten vegetables (rotten squash), water from a backed-up kitchen sink, burnt rubber/plastic, and dirty waste water from a wet vac after cleaning a carpet.

REFLECTIONS

While certainly a skunk-like aroma was expected from exposing a light beer to UV light, the additional aromas of drain water, burnt rubber, and rotten vegetables were not.  That said, the chemical produced by beer exposed to UV light that causes the skunk-like aroma is called 3-MBT, a kind of mercaptan, which has also been described as burnt rubber.  However there are actually a variety of mercaptans that may be found in beer, such as methanethiol (methyl mercaptan) which has been described as “like drains or rotting garbage”, descriptors similar to aromas noted about this ultra lightstruck beer.

In short, it seems this unfortunate beer was first struck by light, and then by a garbage truck.

That said, the worst of the offending aromas seemed to become somewhat muted after leaving the opened lightstruck bottles of beer out indoors at room temperature for about 24 hours, suggesting that some of the mercaptans are volatile or perhaps intermediary byproducts in a longer chain of chemical reactions.

By the way, if you’re interested in a more formal scientific analysis of the effects of lightstruck beer over the course of several days, here’s a link to a 1965 Japanese paper called Studies of the Sunlight Flavor of Beer”.

Sunlight never tasted so gross.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Certified Beer Judge, Award-Winning Homebrewer and Cider Maker, Beer Reviewer, American Homebrewers Association Member, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

 

Beer Syndicate Reviews Ommegang’s Game of Thrones-Inspired Beers (Final Season)

Back in December of 2012, Ommegang officially announced its collaboration with HBO to roll out Game of Thrones-inspired beers, with the first of its kind, “Iron Throne Blonde Ale”, released in March of 2013 just ahead of the series season 3 debut on March 31.

Fast forward to 2019, and as the eighth and final season of the popular Game of Thrones series draws to its dramatic conclusion, it also brings with it five limited-release GoT-themed beers, the latest and perhaps last in a total of fourteen different brews produced since the initial launch.

By the way, if you missed out on some of the GoT-inspired beers from seasons past, apparently Ommegang’s got Melisandre working some resurrection magic back in the brewhouse because a few of them are about to get brought back to life.   Recently announced on its Instragram account, Ommegang will be re-releasing three previously retired fan-favorite GoT brews (Take the Black Stout, Fire and Blood Red Ale, and Winter is Here Double White Ale) all in time for the holidays 2019 in a gift pack along with a GoT commemorative glass.

It’s still not confirmed if Ommegang will be releasing future GoT-inspired brews to accompany any of the upcoming GoT spin-offs, though our money is on yes they will.

But enough about the future and the past, let’s get back to the beers of right now.

Four of the five final season brews pay homage to four epic Game of Thrones characters who managed to survive to season eight, namely Daenerys, Cersei, Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister.  The fifth brew is a tribute to whoever the final occupant of the Iron Throne will be.

Speaking of which… In true Game of Thrones-like fashion, we at Beer Syndicate pitted each of the final five brews against each other in a brutal trial-by-combat taste-off to see which beer is most worthy to be placed in the built-in cup holder affixed to the Iron Throne.

And whichever character’s beer that stands victorious is our pick for who will take the Iron Throne.

Ready.  Set.  Dracarys.

Game of Beers

FOR THE THRONE: STRONG GOLDEN ALE FERMENTED WITH PINOT GRIGIO AND VIOGNIER GRAPE JUICE

BREWERY DESCRIPTION: Complex and compelling, yet delicate and refined, For the Throne is our tribute to the final occupant of the Iron Throne. This strong golden ale is co-fermented with Pinot Grigio and Viognier grape juices, then bottle conditioned with Champagne yeast.  The beer pours a striking golden copper with a fluffy white head. Aromas of honeysuckle and toasted grain mingle with notes of pear and apricot. The finish is clean and dry, with vibrant effervescence. For the Throne is an ale fit for royalty.

BEER SYNDICATE REVIEW: Sometimes referred to as an “oenobeer” (wine-beer), For the Throne conjures up aromas of sparkling apple juice, honeysuckle, pale malt reminiscent of angel food cake, a hint of Meyer lemon pith, peppery saison-like yeast and clean alcohol.  The palate is presented with a peppery saison-like character, fruity notes of pear and faint aged pineapple followed by impressions of cava, unoaked chardonnay, apple juice, simple syrup, grain husks, sharp young grappa-like alcohol notes which accentuate a certain minerally acidity in this medium-bodied brew with a fizzy cider-like carbonation, finishing with an aftertaste of yeast and salt.

SCORE: 82/100

SPECS
ABV: 9.5%
IBU: 30
FERMENTABLES: Pilsner and Carapils malt, dextrose, Pinot Grigio & Viogner grape juices.
HOPS: Bravo, Saaz.
YEAST: Primary: Ommegang house yeast; Secondary: Champagne yeast.

MOTHER OF DRAGONS: SMOKED PORTER & KRIEK ALE BLEND

BREWERY DESCRIPTION: Inspired by Daenerys Targaryen, this blend of a smoked porter and a Belgian kriek represents the smoke and fire that Daenerys has unleashed on her opponents during her ascent to conquer and rule the seven kingdoms. “Mother of Dragons” — a beer for Daenerys — is a richly complex blend of smoked porter and Belgian kriek. It pours a deep ruby-brown with alluring aromas of tart cherry, dark roast and hints of smoke.

BEER SYNDICATE REVIEW: Overall, Mother of Dragons is a tasty potentially dessert beer dominated by fruit-forward notes of candied raspberry and cherry that provide a mildly tart acidic balance to this medium-sweet milk chocolaty toasted (not smoky) porter.  Even at a minority blend ratio of 25% sour cherry beer (kriek) to 75% porter, fruity aromatics take the lead with notes of soft raspberry fruit snacks and mild cherry, followed by chocolate-covered raspberry jelly candy, and coco nibs.  Flavor-wise, fruity flavors of raspberry, goji berry, pomegranate and cranberry overshadow the medium-sweet milk chocolate character of this medium-bodied porter, leaving behind an aftertaste of Raspberry Tootsie Pops.

SCORE: 83/100

SPECS
ABV: 6.6%
IBU: 24
FERMENTABLES: Pilsner, caramel malt, Munich 20, Cara 20, chocolate malt, Special B and smoked malt barleys, midnight wheat.
HOPS: Saaz, Magnum, Hallertau.
YEAST: Ommegang house yeast, Liefmans mixed culture.
BLENDING NOTES: 75% smoked porter, 25% Belgian kriek.

QUEEN OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: BLEND OF SOUR AND BLONDE ALES

BREWERY DESCRIPTION: A special blend of Belgian sour ale and Belgian-style blonde ale, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms reminds us that to Cersei, everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.

BEER SYNDICATE REVIEW: Rightfully billed as a blend of a Belgian Blonde and a sour, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is brilliantly executed, though for a beer inspired by Cersei, one of GoT’s greatest villains, it’s somewhat easy on the sour for being a sour Belgian Blonde ale.  (See what Ommegang did there– Cersei. Sour blonde ale.  Yep.)

Queen of the Seven Kingdoms pours a formidable two thick fingers of billowing creamy pale tan head which gently recedes revealing an opaque golden-honey body while leaving behind a bit of delicate lace clinging to the interior of the glass.  Tempting aromatics include loquat, angel food cake, sweet pale malt, lemon Pixie Stix, grapefruit candy, stewed peaches and apricots, and pleasant Belgian yeast, but little suggesting this will be a strongly sour brew aside from a lemony hint of lactic acid.  Indeed, more tart and tangy than truly sour, this medium-bodied sour blonde offers up flavors of underripe loquat, cumquat, lemon tonic water, quinine, lemon SweeTarts, and signature Belgian yeast all balanced by a medium-sweet wheaty malt presence.

Nowhere near the intense sourness of a straight Belgian Lambic, the tart component of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is approachably restrained allowing the Belgian Blonde component to shine through, ultimately resulting in a masterful success.

SCORE: 86/100

SPECS
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 18
FERMENTABLES: Two-row, honey malt and aromatic malt barleys, flaked red wheat, dextrose.
HOPS: Styrian goldings, Saaz.
SPICES: Lemon peel, grains of paradise.
YEAST: Ommegang house yeast.
BLENDING NOTES: A blend of sour ale and blonde ale.

KING IN THE NORTH: BARREL-AGED IMPERIAL STOUT

BREWERY DESCRIPTION: A beer for Jon Snow – a dark and brooding imperial stout has always been bold enough for normal times, but now that winter is here, something bigger and bolder is needed for the long, dark night. Thus, we enlisted the help of barrels and time to produce King in the North, a rich, bold, barrel-aged imperial stout unlike anything we’ve brewed before.

BEER SYNDICATE REVIEW: Pouring a huge moosey khaki head over a pitch black body, King in the North is a straight-forward imperial stout delivering aromas of chocolate wafer cookie, marzipan, chocolate pudding skin, Grape-Nuts cereal, mild Bourbon barrel, and a hint of vanilla and root beer, all of which do well to mask an undercurrent of clean vodka-like alcohol.  Although not a viscousy, woody chocolate-bomb, flavors of dark chocolate are present along with dark roasty malt, a hint of vanilla from the barrel aging, root beer barrel candy, a touch of molasses and big alcohol in this medium-full bodied medium-sweet imperial stout which should only become smoother with age.

SCORE: 89.5/100

SPECS
ABV: 10.5%
IBU: 40
FERMENTABLES: Two-row, Cara 45, chocolate malt and roasted barleys, midnight wheat, dark candi syrup.
HOPS: Columbus, Styrian Goldings, Northern Brewer, Chinook.
YEAST: Ommegang house yeast.
AGING NOTES: Aged for 6 months in bourbon barrels.

HAND OF THE QUEEN: BARLEYWINE ALE

BREWERY DESCRIPTION: A beer brewed for Tyrion. As one who knows and loves wine above all, and as his court brewer, we would brew him one. Hand of the Queen is a big, bold barleywine fit for those who seek knowledge and truth, both great and small.

BEER SYNDICATE REVIEW:Certainly more of an English-style barleywine than a hopped-up American version, Hand of the Queen tantalizes with malt-forward aromas of oatmeal cookies, fruit cake, sticky prunes, crumb cake, candied cherries, pecan shells, Boston brown bread, marzipan, a hint of wholegrain banana bread, a touch of star anise, and mild alcohol.  The first sip is greeted with medium-high malty sweet notes of fruit cake, oatmeal cookie batter, dates, raisins, candied cherries and a hint of banana bread that act brilliantly to balance the warming bourbon-like alcohol that emerges mid-palate in this medium-full bodied simply outstanding example of an English barleywine.

SCORE: 92.5/100

SPECS
ABV: 10.7%
IBU: 31
FERMENTABLES: Two-row, Cara 20, Extra Special, Crisp Pale, chocolate malt barleys.
HOPS: Magnum, UK Fuggles, Kent Goldings.
YEAST: Scottish ale yeast.


So there you have it— The Hand of The Queen Barleywine Ale is that last beer standing. 

And if this taste-off death match is any clue as to who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne, it’s the perhaps less likely candidate Tyrion Lannister.  But of course in the often jarringly unpredictable world of Game of Thrones, the unexpected is to be expected. 

[Beers scored according to BJCP Beer Style Guidelines.]


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, Award-Winning Brewer and Cider Maker, BJCP Beer Judge, Beer Reviewer, American Homebrewers Association Member, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

Beer Syndicate Reviews Decade-Old African Beer Forgotten in a Hot Garage

Up front, allow me to apologize for some inexactitudes in the title of this article:

1. We actually tasted THREE African beers of the same brand called “Tusker”, which is a popular lager produced in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the beers was 12 years old, another was 7 years old, and the third one was recently purchased.

Tusker Labels

2. The older beers were first stored at room temperature, and then accidentally left unrefrigerated in a hot garage for the last four years. Of course the term “hot garage” is relative. In this case, the garage would reach temperatures upwards of 117 °F (47 °C) during many months of the year.

117 Degrees F

We figure there might be some questions about this tasting experiment, so here’s a rough attempt to answer some of those:

Q1. Did anyone get sick or die from drinking this old beer?

A1. Nope.  No reports of stomach aches, headaches, dizziness, blindness, greyscale, herpes simplex 10, gender impermanence, partial or complete death, space-time fissures, ransomware, or explosive-D.

Q2. Were these beers intended for aging like some sour beers or some high ABV beers?

A2:  No, the beers in this tasting were ABSOLUTELY NOT designed for aging.  The beers in question were your run-of-the-mill standard lager beers weighing in at 4.2% ABV.  In fact, the brewery indicates “Tusker” is best within one year of bottling, and these dates are listed on the bottle.

Printed on Bottling Date

Q3: Wait, so you’re telling me that a brewery from Africa has been clearly listing easy-to-understand calendar bottling dates and “best by” dates on their beer for at least the last twelve years?  Why don’t more breweries in the U.S. and the rest of the world do this?

A3: Fantastic question.  We assume that the African brewery that produces Tusker is utilizing some ridiculously expensive advanced technology unavailable to most other breweries in the world.  We can’t think of any other possible explanation for why a brewery would not want to let consumers know when their beer was bottled.  Let’s move on from this question quickly please.

Q4: If you knew these beers weren’t intended for aging, especially out in a hot garage, what possessed you do conduct this experiment?

A4: Three words: science.  (Well, “three words” if you include the first two words of the previous statement; and now an additional twenty-nine words from this sentence used to explain the first statement.  So, technically thirty words?  Well, now a total of fifty-one words.  Or do the words “twenty-nine” and “fifty-one” actually count as one single word or as two words?  Sorry, let me get back to you on this question.)

Q5: Why African beer?

A5: Great question.  Why African beer?  No particular reason other than we intended to do a beer review on Tusker twelve years ago when we first bought it, but didn’t get around to it.  Then, five years after that, we bought a new bottle, and… you got it… didn’t get around to it.  We finally got around to it.

Q6: Do you think the beers aging in the hot garage did anything weird to the beer?

A6: Not really.  I could be wrong, but my impression is that heat generally accelerates the aging process, so perhaps the beer took on an increased aged character?  But after twelve years, what’s the difference.

Q7: I’ve heard that after a few years, beer can develop “floaties”, or little clumps of coagulated protein.  That twelve-year-old beer must have looked like a snow globe, right?

 A7: Like you said, “floaties” in old beer can be pretty common.  They may look weird, but floaties aren’t dangerous or taste like much of anything.  Oddly enough, there were no floaties in any of these beers.  My guess is that floaties tend to develop in beer with more protein in suspension such as in beers that contain some portion of wheat like in the image of a seven-year-old Canadian wheat beer below.

Floaties in Seven-Year-Old Wheat Beer

We did, however, notice that all of these beers were bottle conditioned, and that layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle was a darker shade of brown in the older beers.  Below is a rare image of yeast and sediment caked on to the bottom-inside of the 12-year-old bottle of Tusker, also known as a “Yeast Totality”:

Yeast Sediment Layer Inside a Beer Bottle

Q8: So I’m assuming the older beers were disgusting.  The 12-year-old beer must have been awful, a drain-pourer for sure, right?  How did it not make you guys sick?

 A8:  No, they weren’t disgusting.  I get that some people have this natural fear of old food because we know that many kinds of food spoil after a certain time and can make humans sick.  Of course, there are some well-known “shelf stable” exceptions like honey and bottled spirits like vodka that basically have an infinite shelf life.  And although most beer certainly isn’t intended for aging, I would suggest that a properly bottled beer never “goes bad” and spoils in the way chicken or milk might.  Instead, most bottled beer tends to be “best” by a certain date, but likely never gets to the point where it is undrinkable or would make somebody sick.  This is because the alcohol and, in many cases, the hops in beer act to preserve the beer, preventing harmful organisms from growing in the beer.

Q9: So I’ve heard that old beer tastes a certain way because of oxidation.  They say beer will start to taste like cardboard.  Is that would happened here?

A9:  “Cardboard” is a commonly quoted descriptor for old or oxidized beer.  But that’s a generalization because not all styles of beer will age in such a way that they necessarily smell or taste like cardboard.  But, yeah, a faint cardboard or papery character was slightly noticeable in these aged beers, though the more unmistakably obvious descriptor in this case was cooked squash.

Q10: I like the elephant on the label of this beer.  I assume the name “Tusker” is in reference to the elephant on the label and that image was chosen because the elephant is a popular image associated with Africa?

A10: Sort of.  The beer is named in memory of the company’s founder, George Hurst, who was killed during an elephant hunting accident in 1923.  “Tusker” is a nickname for a male elephant.

Q11: A little morbid, but okay. Any other elephant facts while you’re at it?

A11: Sure.  Here are five: (1) In 1956, a contestant on the game show “The Price is Right” won a live elephant. (2) Elephants are one of the few species that can recognize themselves in the mirror.  (3) Elephants are not scared of mice as some myths suggest, but they are scared of ants and bees. (4) African elephants can distinguish different human languages, genders and ages associated with danger.  (5) Female elephants go through the longest gestation period of all mammals, with pregnancy lasting 22 months.

Q12: Okay, enough with the elephant factoids.  Twelfth and final question:

What were the beers like?

A12: Here are some descriptions, starting with the freshest one and ending with the 12-year-old beer:

Tusker Finest Quality Lager (Fresh Bottle)

Overall, Tusker is a bit on the honey-sweet side, particularly for a lightly flavored Pilsner.

Tusker BeerA hard pour into the center of a snifter glass barely managed to muster up a mere three millimeters of quickly fading off-white head over a clear pale apple juice-colored body.  Aromatics include a hint of dry Kix cereal, faint tupelo honey, golden corn syrup, subtle malt, a note of flour, a touch of calcium and uncooked biscuit.  Honey-forward flavor with a note of cream corn in a generally watery, but thirst-quenching, light-bodied Pilsner. Medium-high carbonation, medium-low sweetness and bitterness although absent of actual hop flavor, with an aftertaste of tupelo honey.

 

Tusker (Seven-Year-Old Bottle), a.k.a. “The Abused”

A touch darker in color compared to the fresh Tusker, with clearly oxidized squash-like character present throughout.

Old Tusker BottlePours a slightly hazy pale amber body forming about 1/8 inch of off-white frog-eyed head that fades in less than ten seconds.  The aroma is reminiscent of cold but cooked butternut squash with a touch of maple syrup and a pad of butter, light brown sugar, no hops and no alcohol.  Cooked squash is the main player in the flavor along with medium-sweet honey suckle nectar, watery Port wine, medium-low carbonation, no hop character, sweet graham cracker paste, Honey Smacks cereal, watery prunes, and wax paper with an aftertaste of white raisin and Port.

Tusker (Twelve-Year-Old Bottle), a.k.a. “The Crypt Keeper”

Compared to the seven-year-old Tusker, the twelve-year-old version was more complex and mellow, slightly darker in color with more cedar, honey and tobacco character and less squash.

Old Tusker Beer BottleThe lightly dusty bottle of twelve-year-old Tusker pours a slightly hazy deep gold body with an off-white film of head that fizzles out in under ten seconds.  The aroma is suggestive of baklava, light raw squash with salt, cedar-aged cream soda, cold Lipton iced tea, honey, a hint of chlorine, peeled sweet potato, and cedar cigar box inside a humidor.  Flavor impressions include honey, mild squash, light brown sugar, vanilla cream soda aged in cedar wood, medium-sweet cane sugar, inhaling an unlit honey-dipped cigarillo, Lipton “Brisk” iced tea with a light lemon tanginess, no hop character, and a touch of brown paper bag leaving behind an aftertaste of loose tobacco, subtle prune and white raisin.

So there you have it.  That’s what some old beer that was stored in a hot garage was like.  No one died.  No one hated it.  In fact, dare I say, the old beer was actually enjoyable, with the 12-year-old version scoring an 85/100… as far as aged-Tusker goes.


Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World Review

Once upon a time, “Sierra Nevada Beer Camp” meant the rare and exciting chance that you, lucky member of the general public, could literally win a golden ticket à la Willy Wonka to attend “Beer Camp” at the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico, CA.

Beer Camp Entry Form

Winning not only meant hanging out and sipping rare brews with the crew at Sierra Nevada (SN), but even better it meant creating your very own special beer at the SN brewery to be served at a local hometown bar of your choosing with the potential to have that very same beer of yours get national distribution as part of a Sierra Nevada Beer Camp mix pack.

Those were the days…

Since 2014 though, the Beer Camp variety pack has come to mean a mix of collaboration beers brewed with other professional breweries, which of course brings a kind of excitement of its own.

First teaming up with only U.S. breweries in 2014 and 2016, this year the hop-obsessed Sierra Nevada went global with its one-time-only mixed 12-pack by joining forces with six of the biggest international names in the industry including Mikkeller, Duvel Moortgat, Ayinger, Fullers, Garage Project and Kiuchi, but still kept one foot firmly planted stateside with collabs from six well-regarded U.S. breweries such as Avery, Surly, Saint Arnold, The Bruery, Boneyard Beer, and the much raved about rising star that is Tree House.

But even with this roster of heavy hitters in play, let’s face it: as with music, brewing collaborations can be something of a crapshoot with struggles for creative control being but one of several possible hurdles.  Best case scenario, the resulting double-team brew can be a product greater than the sum of the breweries involved.  In other cases, the concept beer just doesn’t capture the magic hoped for.

In all cases though, expecting perfection from every collaboration beer is not exactly realistic, especially from a first-and-last attempt at a new recipe by breweries of differing strengths and focuses.

That said, we found this year’s lineup was, well, good with enough variety to keep things interesting.  Some hits, some misses, but on average we give the mix pack an 80/100.  For what it’s worth, both the BeerAdvocate (BA) and RateBeer (RB) general users scored the 2017 Beer Camp variety pack an average of about 85/100 with the most hop-forward beers scoring the highest, and the fruit and spiced beers scoring the lowest, as is the fashion at the moment.

So without further ado, the following is how the 2017 Beer Camp Across the World shakes out in ascending order of greatness as determined by a panel of mostly BJCP beer judges scored according to the current BJCP Beer Style Guidelines:

Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World Review
Beer Camp Across the World

[Packaged in April 2017, Sampled May, 2017]

12. Ginger Lager: (Sierra Nevada & Surly Brewing Co.)

The Gist: This mega ginger-spiced lager tickles the nose and heats the palate, showcasing notes of ginger, more ginger and also ginger. Feel the burn.

Ginger Lager: (Sierra Nevada & Surly Brewing Co.)Description: Pours a finger of foamy off-white head over a clear honey gold-colored body.  Heaps of ginger burst forward in the aroma followed by eucalyptus and juicy crushed oleander leaves, apple juice, light honey, toasted caramel malt, and wool sweater. The flavor leads with tingly raw acidic ginger spice and peppery oleander leaves, followed by radish, citrus leaf, and lemon.  The hot ginger spice burn increases with subsequent sips, leaving behind an aftertaste with notes of oleander and turnip.

Label text: “The abrasive attitude of Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Co. brings an aggressive yet refined approach to creating recipes. We came together to create this easy-drinking but complex ginger-infused lager. It’s brewed with hot ginger and a pinch of cayenne to spice up the heat and then dry hopped with an inclusion of oak for a touch of woody vanilla to round out the flavor.”

11. Atlantic Style Vintage Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Fuller’s)

The Gist: As the label text suggests, this strong ale might be perfect for aging.

Atlantic Style Vintage Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Fuller’s)Description: Pours a fat finger of frothy tan head that slowly dissipates over 40 seconds to reveal a hazy deep copper body. Aroma: light pomegranate, Welch’s grape juice, Citrus leaves, light citrus blossom, strawberry shortcake, mild toast, light caramel syrup, candied tangerine, stewed pluots, and warming alcohol. The first sip confronts the taste buds with bitter undertones of tart unripe fruit, blueberry syrup, pithy candied tangerine, and a medium-high plum sweetness offset by a singular bitter, astringent hop character with a solvent-y alcohol finish lingering into a bitter aftertaste.

Label text: “Fuller’s Brewery in London has been producing some of the UK’s finest ales since the mid-19th century. Together we created a new recipe for an Atlantic-Style Vintage Ale—a robust beer, perfect for aging, and brewed with plums for a touch of rich fruit flavor that both mimics and enhances the natural yeast-driven aromas.”

10. White IPA with Yuzu: (Sierra Nevada & Kiuchi)

The Gist: Big exciting lemon aromatics followed up with unrelenting bitter lemon pith flavors in the taste.

White IPA with Yuzu: (Sierra Nevada & Kiuchi)Description: Forms a half finger of whipped egg white colored creamy head that fades over 30 seconds to reveal a lightly hazy deep gold body.  Aromatics include lemon candy shell, lemon grass, citrus leaf, mild grapefruit, angel food cake, a hint of Crispix cereal, and vanilla Tootsie roll. Flavor impression include spicy lemon zest, hops, dry grain, lemon oil, mild booze, white roses, yellow grapefruit, with a pithy citrus bitterness and a touch of lemon grass lingering into the aftertaste.

Label text: “Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery, makers of the Hitachino Nest beers, have an elegant take on classic beer styles with a uniquely Japanese influence. They suggested adding yuzu—an Asian citrus fruit—to a hazy white IPA and we jumped at the chance. What emerged is a hoppy yet refined version of the style with a bright citrus flavor and a spicy finish.”

9. Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse: (Sierra Nevada & Saint Arnold)

The Gist: Combining two of the most popular beer trends (hoppy + sour) equals automatic winner, right?  Perhaps, though in Sierra Nevada’s Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse the hop character was subtle if at all noticeable in an otherwise lemon-centric, slightly salty sour ale.

Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse: (Sierra Nevada & Saint Arnold)Description: A hard pour forms nearly an inch of pillow-y soft peaks of slowing fading off-white head, revealing a hazy lemon pie filling-colored body.  Aromatics of Lemonhead candy, Lemon-Lime Gatorade, salt, ReaLemon plastic bottle, yeast, pound cake with lemon icing, and nearly undetectable hops.  Lemon certainly is the star of the show in the flavor of this light-bodied Berliner with notes of sour lemon juice, lemon grass, followed by Sun Chips, a touch of cumin, and a hint of dry gin, leaving behind and aftertaste of yeast, lemon and cumin.

Label text: “Texas’ Saint Arnold Brewery takes a broad view of beer styles, mastering everything from traditional German-inspired recipes to big experimental creations. Together, we teamed up to brew this dry-hopped Berliner-Style Weisse. Featuring a fruit-forward hop character backed up by a snap of mild tartness, it boasts a flavor that’s complex, compelling and very drinkable.”

8. Raspberry Sundae Ale: (Sierra Nevada & The Bruery)

The Gist: Raspberry syrup, vanilla and alcohol muffle out most of the cocoa in this blonde ale.

Raspberry Sundae Ale: (Sierra Nevada & The Bruery)Description: Forms a finger of light tan head lasting about 40 seconds over a hazy amber brown body. Aromatics include vanilla Tootsie Roll, raspberry IHOP syrup, raspberry lip gloss, doll hair, raspberry-swirl vanilla ice cream, no hops, faint alcohol, and dry raspberry shortbread cookie.  Lactose contributes to the medium-full, slightly waxy mouthfeel in this powdered sugar sweet ale that exhibits flavors of light raspberry syrup, strawberry Starburst, raspberry Fun Dip powder, vanilla powder, light malt, finishing with hot booze, leaving behind an alcoholic and somewhat husky tannic aftertaste.

Label text: “The Bruery in Orange County is famous for its experimental , Belgian-style and barrel-aged beers, and this release fits nicely in their wheelhouse. Inspired by the flavors of an ice cream sundae, this rich blonde ale features cocoa, vanilla and raspberry, with lactose added for extra creaminess. Now you can have your dessert and drink it, too.”

7. West Coast Style DIPA: (Sierra Nevada & Boneyard)

The Gist: Sierra Nevada’s “West Coast Style DIPA” was rated the highest of the 2017 Beer Camp mix by RateBeer with a near perfect score of 98%, and second highest on BeerAdvocate at 89/100.  In case it wasn’t clear already, big hoppy beers are the unquestioned popular champions of the American craft beer scene, no doubt about it.  While enjoyable, the beer could benefit from more of a malty backbone and a bit more body to elevate it clearly out of IPA territory and squarely into Double IPA land.

West Coast Style DIPA: (Sierra Nevada & Boneyard)Description: Pours a thick thumb of foamy off-white head which slowly fades over 45 seconds to reveal a nearly clear deep gold body.  The aroma offers up notes of pink grapefruit gelato, mild vanilla, dried mango, pepper tree bark, pine resin, colored marshmallows, dry malt extract, a hint of corn tortilla, pineapple leaves, freezer frost, a touch of salt flakes and pineapple yogurt.  Flavor impressions include grapefruit Sunkist Fruit Gem candy, pine needles & resin, a touch of vanilla, mild canned peaches, and a medium sugar cane sweetness cut with a sharp green pepper corn spiciness.  West Coast Style DIPA finishes boozy, leaving behind hop-derived perfume-y notes and balsa wood in the aftertaste.

Label text: “We just love brewing hoppy beers” is the way Oregon’s IPA masters at Boneyard Beer kicked off our collaboration talks. Well, as it turns out, we do, too, so we went all out on this intensely hop-heavy West Coast-style Double IPA. It’s bright golden, crisp and brimming with intense citrus and herbal hop flavor, just how we like ’em.”

6. East Meets West IPA: (Sierra Nevada & Tree House)

The Gist: Not surprisingly, this hop-heavy IPA was the highest rated of this year’s beer camp series per BeerAdvocate with a solid 90/100 and a staggering 97% per RateBeer.  No doubt a solid IPA, with the West coast characteristics outshining the East.

East Meets West IPA: (Sierra Nevada & Tree House)Description: Pours about a finger of fluffy off-white head which lasts nearly a minute on top of a hazy golden apricot syrup colored body.  The aroma is citrus-forward with sweet notes of orange creamsicle, orange blossom, citrus leaf, tangerine and a hint of lemon and grapefruit peel followed by elements of grassy sweet alfalfa sprouts, pepper tree leaf, light pine resin and cedar, somewhat reminiscent of Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA.  The first flavor impression is pithy citrus peel, tangerine, lemon and grapefruit peel that while on the sharp side, the edge is slightly rounded by a reduced hop bitterness and mild vanilla orange creamsicle note.  Medium –low malt sweetness balanced by white notes of pepper and salt.

Label text: “In just a few short years, Tree House has made a big impact on the beer scene with their approach to the IPA – low bitterness, intense juicy hop flavor and unfiltered haze. As fellow lovers of the IPA, we combined our styles – the classic American IPA malt body and the New England approach to hopping- resulting in lightly bitter, unfiltered beer with huge hop flavor.”

5. Dunkle Weisse: (Sierra Nevada & Ayinger)

The Gist: If there was any tug-of-war for creative control in this collaboration, Ayinger clearly won with this exceptionally traditional, well balanced stylistically accurate Dunkle Weisse.

Dunkle Weisse: (Sierra Nevada & Ayinger)Description: Pours two fingers of exceptionally fluffy, oatmeal-colored head that lasts well over a minute over a cloudy milk chocolate colored body (plenty of yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle).  Mild note of fresh banana (plantain chips) in the aroma followed by Nilla Wafers cookie, rum raisin ice cream, malt-forward toasted dark wheat raisin bread, no hops and only very faint alcohol.  Nilla Wafers cookies make an encore in the flavor along with a touch of chocolate, faint graham cracker, mildly tannic walnut/almond/pecan shell nuttiness, rye chip, medium/ medium high body, some alcohol warmth mid-palate, medium-high carbonation, very light roast, medium sweet, medium-low bitterness, but no hop flavor. Hint of anise in the finish.  The aftertaste leaves a pleasant vanilla shake impression with yeast and mild toast.

Label text: “Bavaria’s Ayinger are legends in the brewing industry, known for their love and perfection of classic German beer styles. Playing off their background, we came together to create this dark twist on the Bavarian-style wheat beer. This beer features layers of wheat malt flavor and was handled through traditional open fermenters to highlight Ayinger’s famous Hefeweizen yeast character.”

4. Dry-Hopped Barleywine-Style Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Avery)

The Gist:  One of the highlights of the pack, imagine Sierra Nevada’s tasty hop-drenched Bigfoot Barleywine fermented with canned peach syrup.  Clearly, another one of Sierra Nevada’s go-to beer styles, and for good reason.

Dry-Hopped Barleywine-Style Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Avery)Description: Pours a big 2 ½ fingers of dense foamy head that lasts a full minute, leaving behind a bit of lacing over a nearly clear deep amber body.  This dry-hopped barleywine leads with floral aromatics of marigold and dandelions, followed by spicy rye, sweet honey graham cracker, dry hop cones bursting with yellow resin-y lupulin glands, bran, light peach tea, cedar, baby pine cones, canned peaches, fresh cut bartlett pear, a hint of apricot, peach vanilla ice cream, and Cap’n Crunch cereal crunch berries.  Malty sweet, full bodied and viscous as is typical of American Barleywines (medium carbonation).  The flavor is a medium bitter, almost resinous hoppy character, with elements of black tea, vanilla ice cream, dried apricot, canned peach syrup, light toffee, perfume-y dried chamomile leaves and white pepper, leaving the entire mouth coated in hops and a touch of rye long into the aftertaste.

Label text: “Colorado’s Avery Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada both make American-style barleywine ales verging on the hop extreme. For this collaboration-dubbed “Big Hog” as an homage to the two beers that inspired it-we recreated both barleywine recipes and then blended the beers into a new hop-heavy creation. It features rich, bittersweet malt character with notes of caramel and toffee balanced against a massive wall of hop flavor and is bottle conditioned for longevity.”

3. Hoppy Belgian-Style Golden (Sierra Nevada & Duvel Moortgat)

The Gist: Not as hoppy as the name suggests, but lemon is certainly noticeable and complimentary in the aroma and flavor of this generally well-crafted example of a Belgian Strong Golden Ale.

Hoppy Belgian-Style Golden (Sierra Nevada & Duvel Moortgat)Description: Pours a thick finger of off-white fluffy, almost stiff egg white textured head that fades within 30 seconds over a clear deep yellow body (no yeast haze).  Inviting aromatics of lemon angel food cake, candied lemon peel, lemon vanilla cake mix, lemon custard, lemon leaves, mild alcohol, light plantain or unripe starchy banana, Extra Pale dry malt extract, flour, mild alcohol and a hint of minty hops.  Lemon character follows through in the flavor with notes of lemon custard, dried lemon zest, a touch of lemon-flavored vodka, some astringency and a citrusy hop character becoming more pronounced as it warms.  A bit boozy for an ale of only 8% ABV. Aftertaste is dried banana chips, pith, radish, alcohol and grain husk.  Medium-high carbonation and medium body.

Label text: “Belgium’s Duvel are the masters of the golden ale-a beer style they helped create-so it was a natural fit for our breweries to combine the style with Sierra Nevada’s hop-forward fanaticism. The resulting beer is bright golden and brimming with hop flavor with a pop of bright lemon, and perfectly accented by the fruity and complex character of Duvel’s signature yeast.”

2. Campout Porter: (Sierra Nevada & Garage Project)

The Gist: Despite its name, no campfire smokiness present in this porter, though sipping many bottles of this brew next to a glowing fire would be well enjoyed.  Sierra Nevada capitalizes on its knowledge of brewing a solid porter while Garage Project lends a touch of New Zealand with its addition of manuka wood and honey.

Campout Porter: (Sierra Nevada & Garage Project)Description: Campout Porter pours a billowing two fingers of dense dark tan foam that holds its own for well over a minute, slowly revealing a dark brown body (22-24 SRM) with good clarity when held to the light.  The aroma is an intriguing convergence of dusty dry mesquite wood, toasted pumpernickel bagel, radish, flax seed, hint of vanilla, subtle chocolate Frosty, light pine needle, pinecone resin, chocolate covered blueberries and cherries, wet bark, rich dark soil, with perhaps a hint of chocolate orange sticks.  More so baker’s chocolate than coffee-like roasted malt in the flavor of this medium-low malty sweet porter.  Imagine cold coffee slightly sweetened with vanilla ice cream followed by elements of barrel, light raisin, a touch of brown sugar, and prune skin finishing with mild alcohol warmth and dark chocolate, all of which muffles out any obvious honey character.  Campout Porter closes with an aftertaste of baker’s chocolate, mesquite pods, volcanic rock and ash.

Label text: “In honor of Beer Camp, our friends at New Zealand’s Garage Project brewery wanted to carry the camping theme straight to the flavor of our beer. Featuring a unique malt smoked over manuka wood, rare manuka honey and vanilla beans, this robust porter has sweet notes reminiscent of marshmallows toasted over a campfire.”

1. Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Mikkeller)

The Gist: Spiced beers are one of the most unforgiving and difficult of beer styles to get right often faltering as a result of over-spicing, followed by mismatching the combination of spices in conjunction with the underlying beer style.  Despite this, Sierra Nevada and Mikkeller swung for the fences with its Thai-Style Iced Tea ale, and against tough odds, delivered a memorable homerun in terms of balance, complexity, and creativity, masterfully capturing the essence of Thai-spiced iced tea in a beer.

Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale: (Sierra Nevada & Mikkeller)Description: Pours a fat finger of fluffy, manila folder-colored head, lasting about 40 seconds and leaving behind a bit of lacing over a clear medium amber-colored body.  The aroma is first and foremost dried apricot, with notes of vanilla bean, faint clove, green tea ice cream, condensed milk, pleasant alcohol, apples stewed with Red Hot cinnamon candies, a dash of nutmeg, cardamom, brown sugar, caramel, ginger, allspice, and candied orange peel.  Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about the flavor of this beer is the balance and show of restraint, with no single spice dominating, but all elements complimenting one another magnificently so.  Medium fruity sweet flavor of yellow mango with a light sprinkle of nutmeg and paprika, dried star fruit, dried apricot skins, honey suckle nectar, mellow lactose, garam masala, peach vanilla ice cream, with an underlying character of Darjeeling green tea, leaving behind an aftertaste of peach schnapps, tannic chamomile and dandelion.

Label text: “Denmark’s Mikkeller brewery is famous for pushing the boundaries of beer, so when we decided to partner we knew the result would be a wild ride. This beer was inspired by flavors of a classic Thai Iced Tea. It;s sweet and rich, with warming spice notes and delicate fruit flavors that maintain a drinkability from the use of black tea in the finish.”

Beer-Inspired Thoughts

A spiced beer edging out an imperial hop-bomb?!?

BLASPHEMY!!!

We admit it: a big boozy barreled-aged whatever or a hop-drenched you-name-it is typically going to be the predetermined crowd-pleaser in many a beer circle.  You don’t even need to taste the beers in question— just figure out which beer sounds the hoppiest/booziest, and crown it winner.

Indeed, not even some super certified beer judges are immune to the influence of popular taste.

True story: there was once a brewing competition where the judges were asked to determine which beer best represented the particular beer style it claimed to be.  If you’ve never judged in a beer competition like this, the basic idea is not to score your personal favorite style of beer the highest, but instead to score a beer according to how well it represents the description spelled out in a pre-defined beer style guideline like the BJCP Beer Style Guidelines or the Brewer’s Association Beer Style Guidelines.

Sounds simple enough, right?

The decision for first place came down to two beers: a superior true-to-style fruit beer and a good but not as true-to-style Russian Imperial Stout.  Which of the two beers took first place?  Hint: Not the fruit beer.  Why?  Because according to the judges at the table, it would look weird to have a fruit beer beat out a Russian Imperial Stout, even though the fruit beer better represented the fruit beer category more so than the Russian Imperial Stout represented the Russian Imperial Stout category.

Is this fair?  Not exactly, but imagine how weird it’d look if say a spiced beer were to ever beat out a super hoppy beer.

Yeah.


Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

Canadian Bomb Shelter Beers for the Imminent Apocalypse

With the official Doomsday Clock currently the closest it’s been to “midnight” since the onset of the Cold War in 1953, people are starting to ask the big question:

What beer should I stock up on for when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding into town?

In response, BeerSyndicate sampled a selection of seven-year-old canned beer to determine which ones held up the best in preparation for prolonged life in a vault. 

By the way, the concept of the “Doomsday Clock” was originally created by former Manhattan Project physicists in 1947 and has been maintained ever since by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with past contributors including the likes of Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer to name a few.  The clock itself is the symbolic analogy for a human-caused global catastrophe with “midnight” representing the end of civilization.

As of January 2017, the clock is 2 ½ minutes to midnight. 

Doomsday Clock

Look, you got lucky with Y2K.  You dodged a bullet in 2012 with the Aztec calendar thingy.  Any day now, the Large Hadron Collider might do us in with an accidentally spawned Earth-swallowing black hole, assuming a Homo-(sapien)-phobic A.I. doesn’t pull the plug on us first.  And of course it’s only a matter of time before we hit DEFCON 1 with North Korea, Iran or New Jersey.

The bottom line is that sooner or later, your luck is gonna run out.

But BeerSyndicate’s got your back.  At least when it comes to picking a beer that will survive the first seven years of the nuclear winter.

Doomsday Six Pack

Nuclear Winter is Coming…

For this review, we reached back into the depths of the beer fridge and pulled out three beers that time forgot.  Three beers that somehow rather remarkably held up seven years past their bottling date.

What’s even more surprising is that none of the beers in question are particularly well-suited for aging unlike a cellar-friendly Gueuze or a big boozy such-and-such.  Perhaps it was the refrigeration that slowed the aging process while canning fended off much of the dreaded effects of beer-degrading oxygen and light.

Or maybe the traditional low hopping rates of the beer styles sampled actually helped with the perceived preservation of the beers since hop character and bitterness are typically the first things to fade.  As hop character diminishes, the perceived sweetness of a beer increases conversely.  Being as how these beers are only mildly hopped to begin with, not only would any pronounced hop character be inappropriate, any increased perception of sweetness due to hop degradation may actually benefit the beer somewhat.

Regardless of how, these beers largely avoided the telltale characteristics of inappropriately aged beer that leave a once crisp balanced brew tasting often like squash, cardboard and sweet apple juice.

Rickard’s White.

Full disclosure: Rickard’s White is not a craft beer.  It’s brewed by Molson Coors of Canada, and according to Molson, the recipe is based on the American-made Blue Moon recipe, but uses different ingredients. Unlike Blue Moon however, Molson makes no attempt to hide the fact that Rickard’s White is not craft (the Molson brand is displayed right on the can plain for the world to see).  Also displayed on the can is the bottling date code of “F260” (translation “Feb. 26, 2010”), which according to Molson marks the start of the beer’s 110-day lifespan.  Needless to say, this beer has exceeded that 110-day window by a bit.  In any case, “ageability” likely has nothing to do with whether a given beer is marco or micro brewed, not that you’d be terribly picky in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The Gist:  While we can’t tell you how well a Blue Moon might fare after seven years in the can, we can tell you that Rickard’s White was surprisingly still identifiable as a Witbier— lightly fruity with pleasant notes of coriander in the aroma and flavor.  As is, the beer scored a 75/100.

Rickard's WhiteDescription: Rickard’s White pours a thick finger of dense fluffy off-white head that dissipates in about 30 seconds, revealing a hazy golden honey colored body with a fair amount of the expected age-derived “floaties”. Yes, even after all these years, trace amounts of lovely coriander are still detectable in the aroma especially as the beer warms.  Other aromatics include guava, blueberry yogurt, Juicy Fruit gum, papaya, Apple Jacks and ‘Asian honeydew snow smoothie‘ with the only aged character being that of spent tea bag. Flavor-wise, subtle coriander is cut with a citrus tang, Sprite, a hint of guava, light malt, baking powder and alcohol. Medium carbonation, medium-low body.  The beer finishes with an aftertaste of mild seltzer water and a touch of popsicle stick.

What are “floaties”?  Floaties (also known as floaters or “snowflakes”) are little chunks of coagulated protein that have fallen out of the solution of the liquid beer as a result of aging, and are typically darker in color in darker colored beers.  Floaties can develop and become noticeable in as little as two years depending on the particular beer style and storage conditions (floaties will appear sooner in unrefrigerated beer).

Beer "floaties", floaters or snowflakes.

Beer “floaties”, floaters or snowflakes.

To be clear (no pun intended), floaties are not the same thing as yeast sediment which is normal in bottle-conditioned beers of any age.  Yeast tends to be smooth and dense and gives beer a cloudy appearance when aggressively disturbed as when rolling a bottle of bottle-conditioned Hefeweizen or swirling the bottle during the pour. Floaties, on the other hand, are bread crumb-sized clumps of protein and if present are easily disturbed like the white particles (“snowflakes”) in a snow globe.  Even beers that are appropriate for aging like Gueuze and Flanders Red will very likely develop floaties over time.  Floaties don’t taste like much of anything and are fine to drink, but can sometimes be left behind in the bottle if poured carefully.

KLB Raspberry Wheat.

The Gist: After more than half a decade in the can, raspberry is still detectable in the aroma and flavor of KLB Raspberry Wheat. Despite an aroma of Raspberry Schweppes Ginger Ale suggesting a possible sugar bomb in the taste, the beer is actually on the dry side, more similar to a light-bodied raspberry seltzer than a raspberry soda pop. [4.5% ABV.]

KLB Raspberry WheatDescription: Pours about a pinky of quickly fading eggshell white head with plenty of frog eyes (bubbles) and some lacing over a hazy medium amber body.  The aroma is reminiscent of Raspberry Schweppes, pomegranate, Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider, and La Vie De La Vosgienne raspberry bon bon candy.  Flavor: raspberry seltzer, mild alcohol, light acidity, raspberry seeds, honeysuckle, strawberry apple juice, effervescent medium carbonation with a hint of vanilla leave behind an aftertaste of wheat husk, light bitterness and raspberry lip gloss in this light-bodied brew.  Score: 77.5/100

Rickard’s Dark.

The Gist: A mild flavored 4.8% ABV dark ale with subtle notes of coco powder and walnuts balanced by a light tanginess.

Rickard's DarkDescription: A self-described English Porter brewed with maple syrup, Rickard’s Dark pours a nearly clear brown with garnet highlights and develops a finger of dense tan head that slowly fades over 30 seconds leaving some lace behind in the glass. The aroma is an interesting mix of raisin, coco powder, dried malt and slightly under-baked wheat bread with hints of balsamic vinegar, tamarind, faint alcohol, dried cranberry, brown sugar, chocolate wafer cookie, walnut, watery coffee, dry autumn leaves and spent Lipton tea bag.  The flavor is mild-mannered and relatively clean with notes of light coco powder, walnut shell, and dusty stick with a medium-low sweetness balanced by a light tanginess, finishing with elements of dry stick and grape skin.  Medium carbonation, medium-low body.  Score: 75/100.

Thus concludes Beer Syndicate’s Bunker Beer Review.

So the next time you’re out stocking up on Nuka-Cola, RadAway, and Blamco Mac & Cheese, remember to pick up a 100 pack of any of these canned beers to help get you through the nuclear winter season.

[All beers were evaluated solely by BJCP beer judges.  In addition, two other seven-year-old canned Canadian beers were sample, namely Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale and Muskoka Hefe-Weissbier, but these did not hold up as well as the others listed above.]


Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

[BeerSyndicate.com did not receive any compensation from any party to review these beers.]

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