Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sprecher Black Bavarian, bottle, poured into inappropriate glassware

This morning I received the unfortunate and somewhat bewildering news that I'm allergic to brewer's yeast. Of course, this diagnosis--I mean, opinion--begs two very important questions:

1) How reliable is this testing method, anyway? Surely it must be totally, horribly wrong.

2) If I really am allergic to brewer's yeast, what constitutes a food allergy? I drink beer on a daily basis and have never so much as broken out in hives from drinking beer.

Whatever the case, my doctor told me to avoid beer for three months--a most disheartening prescription. Still depressed tonight, I decided I needed a beer.

I always say, if you want good cold-weather beers, start with a place that actually has cold weather. And, as I also say, if you want good German-style craft beers, start in Wisconsin. Black Bavarian? Check and check.

Black Bavarian pours with a high, fairly creamy head that smells of molasses, malt, dried figs, raisins, and a little whiff of chocolate. The taste generally matches the aroma, with the malt and molasses most prominent and some bitter stale coffee on the back end. The feel is more foamy than I'd hoped but still appropriate for a dark German, and at 6.0% ABV, there isn't the slightest taste of booze. You can enjoy this as a slow sipper if you're feeling dainty, but you can just as easily take it down in swishy two-ounce gulps if you're a burly German dude.

Grade: H, for hearty. It has a strong body but isn't heavy or overly dense. The molasses and dry fruit flavors make this a good desert beer, but it would make just as a good a mid-afternoon beer or complement to a blandly spiced meal with bitter vegetables. Black Bavarian is a Wisconsin German-style beer that holds up the conventional wisdom.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Southern Tier Creme Brulee, tap, served in goblet

I hadn't heard of this beer until last week when Zuch mentioned its polarizing effect on the beer geek set, and whatdyaknow, it shows up on the menu at my favorite spot this week.

I ordered it out of curiosity, expecting to hate it. I generally don't like sweet beers, yet I find a few downright delicious. The Creme Brulee being an imperial stout, I thought it might have enough body and booze to balance the sweet, or at least let me sip slowly enough to let it dissipate.

What is it they say about pessimism? You're either right or pleasantly surprised, I think. Well consider me the latter. Nine times out of ten I wouldn't order this beer, but on that one time, I'll be very pleased.

The aroma is fantastic--butter, caramel, and coffee. The taste pretty well mimics the smell but more malty and nutty, and there's a strong vanilla flavor that doesn't jump out on the whiff. You may be tricked to think you're drinking cold, carbonated coffee with Frangelico and International Delight French vanilla creamer, except without the cobbled-together taste of a desert cocktail.

The taste is robust enough to balance the sweetness, and the Creme Brulee soaks in its 9.2% ABV better than some 6% ABV beers I've had, which is to say that it goes down pretty easy. It's good as a slow sipper, but there's nothing stopping you from taking down an ounce or more on a single swig.

Grade: D, for delightful... internationally. Really, though, I would consider this a successful experiment. If it won me over, I'm pretty sure anyone would like it. I'll admit that by the end of the 12-ounce goblet, I was starting to get a little tired of it, as I will with anything that sweet. I think six or eight ounces would be plenty, but I could just as quickly find someone to put down three of these.