All posts by Otto

Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat

One of the styles of beer I like the most is a beer brewed with wheat. This particular style can go by many different names, with each one having a slightly different type of flavor.

For example, a Weissbier (or Weizen) is a Bavarian style beer where they replace most or all of the malted barley with malted wheat. Generally, these have hints of banana and clove flavors, owing to the style of the yeast being used. The name “weissbeer” means “white beer”, and it is called that because of the pale appearance of the beer.

Among the weizens you also have the style known as Hefeweizen. This is an unfiltered version, with a very cloudy appearance, because it still contains a significant proportion of the yeast used to brew the beer. This adds a distinctive flavor, although because of that, the initial taste can sometimes seem a bit rough. It is fairly common (though disputed by enthusiasts) to add lemon to the beer, to help with that initial sharp taste of the beer. The hefeweizen style is fairly low in hops and usually highly carbonated, to help offset the sweetness of the malt and provide balance.

And then there is the style known as Witbier, which is also an unfiltered wheat, but flavored with “gruit” instead of hops. Gruit is generally a mix of coriander, orange, and sometimes a little bit of hops as well. Witbiers therefore have a fruity flavor, and can also be slightly sour.

One of my favorite wheat beers though, doesn’t much fall into these categories.

Light American Wheat Ale or Lager with Yeast
Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer is a lively, refreshing ale with a natural citrusy flavor and distinctive cloudy appearance. This easy drinking American-style wheat beer has become our most popular offering, and the best-selling craft beer in the Midwest.
ABV: 4.4%
IBUs: 14
Availability: Year Round
Glassware: Pint Glass

Technically, I suppose you could consider Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat to be a hefeweizen, except that it’s made in Kansas City, and probably doesn’t follow all the same guidelines as your more German hefe’s would follow. So it fits into the category of American Wheat Ale, realistically. It it a blend of a number of these styles, as it uses both malted and unmalted wheats, three different varieties of hops, and even though it is unfiltered, it has a relatively low cloudiness.. unless you deliberately stir up the yeast which have settled to the bottom, which you should absolutely do.

When bottled, Boulevard takes the extra step of adding small amounts of live yeast to the bottle, to give it a small amount of bottle fermentation during shipping, and to leave the yeast in to get that extra cloudy profile and flavor that is just awesome.

It is a very popular beer in the midwest region, and can be found on tap in all the states surrounding Missouri and Kansas. You can sometimes find it on tap elsewhere as well.. I’ve seen it in Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA, but generally speaking you will only find it elsewhere in bottles. This is significant because it’s a different beer on tap than in bottles, and though similar, the difference between the yeast in the keg and the bottle fermented yeast is a big one. If you find it on tap, try it. And yes, you’ll probably want a slice of lemon. Not orange. Putting a slice of orange in a wheat beer is blasphemy.

Also, recently Boulevard announced that they’re teaming up (or being sold, depends on who you ask) with Duvel. I am uncertain whether this is a good or a bad thing. If it means improved distribution channels for Boulevard, so I can finally get it on tap regularly here, then I’m all for it. I don’t expect Duvel to try to change the beer though. You don’t mess with a damn good thing.

Guinness Draught

When most people think of stouts, they only think of one beer.

Guinness Draught

It’s so much the “stout” that many people are surprised to learn that it’s really not a heavy beer at all.

A stout, generally speaking, is a dark beer made using roasted malt. The term “stout” comes from the traditional usage of it for the “strongest” or “stoutest” porters. However over time, it became more of a style of its own, and does not necessarily have to be a high alcohol beer.

Guinness Draught, for example, clocks in at 4.3%, much less than the normal average of 4.8-5.0%.

Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout
Brewed by: Guinness
Pasteurised. Usually called Draught; sometimes called Cold or Extra Cold - same beer, but served colder. Launched in 1961. Ingredients: Pale ale malt, about 25 to 30% flaked barley, and about 10% roasted barley, with no other grains or sugars; several hop varieties, mainly Goldings (pellets and isomerized extract); a flocculent head-forming ale yeast.
ABV: 4.3%
Availability: Year Round
Glassware: Pint Glass

Of course, the first thing you notice about Guinness is the black color with that thick, light tan, creamy head. It’s iconic, basically. Other beers are black, and other beers have a thick foam, but the combination is decidedly Guinness.

When drinking it, that foamy head retains better than just about every other beer out there. There will be foam all the way down, until the last sip. It has a smooth, rich taste. Slightly sweet, with hints of coffee, chocolate, and roasted barley. That roasted and unmalted barley gives it a distinctive tang that some other stouts lack. However, Guinness Draught is not a complex beer at all, really. It tastes pretty much the same all the way through, without any real variation towards the end.

Guinness Draught is also a low-calorie beer, with only 123 calories per glass. That’s actually lower than skim milk or orange juice. Some people say it’s a “meal in a glass”, but it’s really not heavy or filling at all. It has fewer calories than almost every other beer you’ll find in the bar.

The unusual head on the beer comes from the use of nitrogen in addition to carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is still in the beer, but in a lower quantity, so it’s a more “flat” beer than usual. When poured, nitrogen is added to pressurize the beer, and then it is poured through a fine grate in the tap handle. This creates the characteristic bubbles and downwards flow around the edges, and also creates the very fine frothy head. Nitrogen is used because it is less soluble than carbon dioxide.

In canned versions, Guinness invented the “widget” which has much the same effect. The widget is a small plastic container which contains pressurized nitrogen. While the can is closed, this pressure is contained by the can and the liquid in the can. When the can is opened, the pressure is released and a small hole in the plastic is created. The nitrogen rushes out this tiny hole, creating the same small-bubble effect and giving it the same characteristics as the tap version.

Yes friends, Guinness is science.

It even extends to pouring systems. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Guinness, you know that they recommend a certain style of pouring a draft beer. The style is to pour about 3/4th of the beer first, then allow it to settle before pouring the final amount. Their tap handles reflect this by having two modes (forward and backward), but the truth is that those modes do basically the same thing. The forward mode just allows for a faster initial pour, while the backward mode gives more control. The ideal pour is to have the foam forming a dome shape across the top of the glass.

But they also support the “Exactap” systems. If you’ve never seen these, then you should watch this video. This system pours a full beer in about 4 seconds flat, including Guinness. I’ve seen them in use mainly at stadiums and other sports arenas, and they are pretty nifty.

Guinness on tap is something I look for specifically when I travel and visit bars, and usually my second choice of the evening. It’s a great beer. Not the best stout, and not the best beer, but always a solid contender and a smooth beverage.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Let’s talk about a beer style for a second…

One style that gets much maligned by your average beer-snob is the American Lager.

American-Style Light (Low Calorie) Lager
PBR is not just any beer- so you would expect the history to be a bit unusual, and it is. Pabst was originally called Select with the can opener. Today this classic American brew has been adopted by a whole new generation of PBR drinkers. Currently PBR is one of the fastest growing domestic beer brands. When you're this good quality always comes through-PBR ME ASAP!
ABV: 4.74%
Availability: Year Round
Glassware: Pint Glass

Technically, they’re usually criticizing the “American Adjunct Lager”. An “adjunct” is a beer made with unmalted grains such as rice or corn instead of what the beer is normally made with, which in this case would be malted barley. Rice and corn are cheaper and produce a slightly differing style. Rice, for example, results in a lighter body and mouthfeel and sometimes can add a mild sweetness to the final product.

To me, people who criticize an entire style of beer aren’t worth listening to. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bud Light tastes like crap too, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

My favorite American Adjunct Lager would be Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).

While PBR has undergone a revival of sorts in the last decade, and has gotten something of a reputation as an “urban hipster” beer, the truth is that it’s a damn fine brew and an exemplar example of the style.

Once, when explaining how to describe a beer, I described PBR like so:

“Clear golden color, with a 3/4 inch thick white head, which quickly reduced to a minimal thin lacing. Pleasant but subdued scent, mostly sweet lagered malts. Slight amount of grain flavors, with subdued grassy hop undertones. Minimal bitterness. Somewhat fizzy in appearance, but only lightly carbonated flavors. Crisp and dry mouthfeel, with a slight hint of oiliness when warmer. Overall clean flavor, very light malts used. Good session beer, would be excellent with stronger beef or spiced chicken flavors.”

Whenever I use this terminology to describe what many think is a cheap get-em-drunk beer, people think I’m mildly insane.

So I will refer those people to this description from Charlie Papazian, founder of the Association of Brewers and the Great American Beer Festival.

A contrasting counterpoint of sharp texture and flowing sweetness is evident at the first sip of this historic brew. A slowly increasing hoppiness adds to the interplay of ingredients, while the texture smooths out by mid-bottle. The clear, pale-gold body is light and fizzy. Medium-bodied Blue Ribbon finishes with a dusting of malts and hops. A satisfying American classic and a Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Logo

Thing is, I love PBR. It’s not my favorite beer; it’s not even in my top ten. But it’s my go-to beer for relaxing at the bar and chatting with friends. Why? Because it’s pretty darned good, you can have 3 or 4 of them without feeling like bloated crap, and it’s reasonably priced. It’s a session beer, quite simply.

Everybody has their own tastes. If you don’t like PBR, then that’s fine. But if you don’t like PBR because of the “hipster” thing, or because you don’t like the whole style of what I like to call “beer-flavored beer”, then you might want to reconsider your position. I don’t like okra because I think it tastes like fried lawn trimmings, but I didn’t discount vegetables entirely because of that dislike.

And hey, if you prefer Old Style or Schlitz or (god-help-you) High Life, then more power to you. To each his own.

Oh, and if you’re the kind of person who just says “I don’t like beer”, then I hate to tell you this but you’re on the wrong site. Just go away and enjoy your wine, ya weirdo. ;)