Weekday IPA

As the weather warms up, my tastes turn away from sweet malt and toward the quenching bitterness of hops. No other style of beer showcases the flavors and aromas of the hop flower (Humulus lupulus) more than IPA. American IPAs, along with other similarly assertive styles, have been heavily emphasized by craft brewers over the years — probably as an attempt to differentiate from tasteless macrobrews. But, sometimes the flavor pendulum swings too far, and…

Face-meltingly bitter Double IPA's with scorching hops

Last week, we tasted some Session IPA's. Many of these beers offered nice, juicy hop flavor, but less alcohol. Well, sometimes you don't want “some” hops. Sometimes you want a lot of hops, dammit, and enough alcohol to render you mute and drooling. If that's the case, Double IPA is the beer for you! Double IPA is the beverage equivalent of Spinal Tap's amplifier — it goes all the way to 11. Everything about it…

Black IPA body: Darker malts dominate these palate-pleasers

During our month-long celebration of all things IPA, we've tasted “regular” IPA, swilled … er … sampled Session IPA, and been rendered stupefied and stumbling by downing Double IPA. To round out a month of hoppy excesses, it's only appropriate to finish up with the new kid on the block, stylistically speaking, and sample some Black IPA.

All in the family: The beer family feud you've never heard of

A month-long introduction to the Lager Family ensuesOver the past several hundred years, the tremendous diversity of beer styles has grown, changed and mutated in ways that resemble a family tree, rather than a mere collection of beverages. Unbeknownst to many dedicated drinkers, an ongoing feud split the beer family in two, and influences our beer choices to this very day. Beer is more than just a thing you drink that makes you feel all…

All in the Lager family: American-style Pilsners

It pains me to say this, but most of the worst beers in America are Pilsners. Well, that's not quite accurate – most of them started off as Pilsners, and were warped and distorted by a perverse combination of the economics of mega-mass production and the banalities of popular taste. The foulest of the macrobrews have fallen far from their Pilsner roots, and have become corn-laden parodies of this once-noble style. But — there is…

Lager heads: Back to the old school with Czech Pilsner

This month, we're sipping Lagers — smooth, easy drinking beers with flavor profiles that tend to be more moderate than the larger, more diverse family of beers called Ales. In this article, we'll take it back to the old, old school — right back to the origins of the most venerable and popular kid in the Lager family: Pilsner.

The black sheep of the Lager family: Black Lagers!

When we began our grand “Month of Lagers,” I mentioned that the Lager family was largely pale in color. In beer, as in all important things, exceptions are the delicious rule! The most notable exceptions are a small group of beers called Black Lagers, or Schwarzbiers.Black Lagers occupy a unique space in the beer continuum. True to their Lager family roots, they tend to be light-bodied, lower in alcohol, and of more moderate flavor impact.…

What the Helles?

The word hell conjures up many images, but in German it simply connotes something “pale” or “light.” In beer terms, a Helles is the palest of Lagers – a style known for being lighter in color as a whole. Helles is a sort of pseudo-style, a convenient alcoholic umbrella that covers a class of the lightest, palest lagers. Is it a style? A description? A semantic convenience? Who cares.

Fernet: The strangest liquor you've never heard of (unless you work in a restaurant)

Fernet is not a small furry mammal. It's actually a bitter, Italian digestif, typically consumed at the end of a heavy meal, typically neat, but sometimes in a cocktail. I'd seen it in bars before, typically one of the bottles in the back – but earlier this year, it began to crop up in my life in unexpected places. A woman, whose discerning palate I respect enormously, kept a massive bottle by her bedside. A…

Fernet cocktails: Crafting the perfect concoction with Fernet Branca

In my last article, I was introduced to Fernet Branca, a mysteriously bitter Italian digestif with a cult following in the hospitality industry. Lest you accuse me of minimizing the strange, intense bitterness of this liquor, let me say for the record that Fernet Branca is the most peculiar thing I have ever put in my mouth. That includes a rusty bottle of Oerbier from 1982, and an experimental sake yeast brew from Allagash called…
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