BeerCast #21 – USA

Posted by on Sep 22, 2008 in American Beer, BeerCasts | No Comments

As everybody knows, the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, and by a happy co-incidence our 21st podcast takes in four beers from that very country. America dominates the global brewing market, but there is a spirited craft beer scene that floats just under the mass-marketed bilge usually available over here. ‘Brewed to taste light’ – no thanks. The BeerCast foursome travel from sea to shining sea, and begin with a classic from the west coast – Anchor’s Liberty Ale. We then zip around a thousand miles inland to the Mile High City of Denver, and Great Divide’s Titan IPA, which we discover during recording is unfortunately three months out of date. So maybe the scores should be listed with an asterisk, or something. Our road trip east continues as we pitch up in Boston for Harpoon’s Winter Warmer, before enlarging our carbon footprint even more by returning to California to end with Sierra Nevada Porter. On the panel this week with Richard and Shovels are MrB and Grooben.

1. Anchor Liberty Ale (5.9%abv)
The Anchor Brewery, San Francisco, CA.
355ml glass bottle

The Anchor Brewing Company are a well-known feature of San Francisco, and started life in 1896 under the resourcefulness of two German immigrant brewers (Ernst Baruth and Otto Schinkel), who acquired the Pacific Brewery which had recently been started by another German ex-pat. After renaming it Anchor – the reasons why having been lost in time – they survived many tragedies and eventually overcame prohibition to become one of America’s most eminent producers. However, the 1960’s brought hard times, and they almost closed for good until being rescued in 1965 by a man named Fritz Maytag. San Franciscans certainly have much to thank him for.

What They Say“Liberty Ale uses a special top-fermenting yeast to give subtle flavours and characteristics. Carbonation is produced by an entirely natural process called ‘bunging’, which produces champagne-like bubbles. Dry-hopping is also used to impart a unique aroma to the ale.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – It’s an amazing beer which I really, really like
Grooben – Very robust strong flavour, hoppy not overpowering
Shovels – A beer with character, nothing insipid here
Richard – Not really drawing me in as much as it should 6

2. Titan IPA (6.8%abv)
Great Divide Brewery, Denver, CO.
355ml glass bottle

5280ft above sea level is apparently one mile – and just so happens to be the elevation of the USA’s 26th most populous city, Denver. In 1994 brewer Brian Dunn saw a gap in the market for a new producer in this outdoorsy (and predictably thirsty) city, and opened the Great Divide Brewery. They have since won 12 Great American Beer Festival medals (the first only 3 months after brewing their first batch). Producing 13 different beers, over half of them are self-styled “big beers” – imperial stouts, barley wines, and double IPA’s. Titan IPA falls into the latter category.

What They Say“Brewed for hop disciples, Titan IPA is a big, aggressively hopped India Pale Ale – starting out with piney hop aromas and citrus hop flavours, and finishing with a rich, malty sweetness that is balanced with crisp hop bitterness.” [Label Tasting Notes] “Ruby red grapefruit juice, with touches of orange zest, backed by a bracing, minerally bitterness and finishing with a caramel sweet malt zing.” [Rocky Mountain Brewing News]

What We Say
MrB – It tastes of bread 7
Shovels – Initial alcohol taste but then other flavours come out
Richard – Pretty awful but nicer when I’ve had it before 5
Grooben – Tastes bitter and kind of strong, but what’s the point? 4

3. Harpoon Winter Warmer (5.5%abv)
Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA.
355ml glass bottle

Boston’s Harpoon is said to be the largest craft brewery in New England, having been established in 1986 by three men, one of whom wrote a business plan for a brewery whilst at Harvard Business School. They expanded steadily in the late 1990’s, and in 2002 imported a state of the art brewhouse that had been built specially in Germany and shipped over. Harpoon produce four regular ales, plus a Hefeweizen called UFO (UnFiltered Offering) – Winter Warmer was their first seasonal beer to be developed, back in 1998, and is only available in the States between November and January.

What They Say“When you bring a glass of this dark copper ale to your lips to take your first sip you will notice the aroma of cinnamon. There is no aromatic hop added that might overpower the distinct spice scent. The medium body of this beer is formed from caramel and pale malts, which create enough body to support the spices without making the beer excessively rich. Bittering hops are added to counter the sweetness of the malt and spice, and the finish of the beer is a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg. The combination of these two spices results in a balanced, pumpkin-pie flavor. The overall character is a smooth, medium bodied ale spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Only tastes of cloves, it doesn’t really cut it 4
MrB – No body whatsoever, it badly needs a better base 4
Shovels – It smells of a lot and tastes of not so much 4
Grooben – Needs to be more robust to cope with the spices 3

4. Sierra Nevada Porter (5.6%abv)
Sierra Nevada Brewery, Chico, CA.
330ml glass bottle

On the 5th of November 1980, the Sierra Nevada brewery produced the first batch of their now-famous Pale Ale. Founded just the year before in Chico by an ex-homebrewer called Ken Grossman, they have gone on to become one of the largest and highest rated breweries in America. Ken studied Chemistry at California State University (which is in the aforementioned town), and after graduating remained to open a homebrew shop. Once he took the plunge and moved up to a brewery proper, the plaudits and awards soon followed.

What They Say“Dark and rich, Sierra Nevada Porter is a delicious, medium-bodied ale with a creamy head. The Porter’s smooth flavour (malty with a hint of caramel) comes from a blend of deep-roasted barely malts.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Two different sweet malts make it cloying, but nice 6
MrB – Might be one of the smoothest porters I’ve ever had 5
Grooben – Decent but perhaps overly sickly for my taste 5
Shovels – Takes over the mouth with the sweet smoothness 5

BeerCast panel verdict

Anchor Liberty Ale (30½/40)
Titan IPA (22½/40)
Sierra Nevada Porter (21/40)
Harpoon Winter Warmer (15/40)

Panellists – (from top left) Shovels, MrB, Grooben, Richard



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with our 22nd episode, a showcase edition on Gloucestershire’s Wickwar Brewery. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!

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