DRAFT PICKS: Drinking for the full experience

So, what is the best way to drink a beer?

Not from the bottle.

Sorry.

Lifting a tall-neck will never give you the full experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when downing a cold one out of the bottle lends itself to the larger experience. Standing around a blazing campfire.

Popping the cap off a sweating bottle of beer seconds after the mower has been shut off.

There’s nothing wrong with drinking beer from a bottle, but understand, you’ll never really be able to fully enjoy the holistic experience - sight, scent, taste, mouth feel. (And allow me to note that while lagers can flow refreshingly well from a bottle, ales too often lose a lot in bottle serving.)

So, I do drink from bottles on occasion, but I prefer glassware any day of the week.

What glass?

There are all sort of glasses designed for beer drinking. Lager glasses. Pilsner glasses. Ponies. All shapes and varieties.

But if you want to invest in one glass that I believe fits the bill for all beers, it’s a good, old-fashioned schooner.

A who-ner???

A schooner is a glass originally designed for drinking certain wheat beers in Germany and Austria. In most of the beer drinking world, a schooner simply describes the glass style, not the content purpose.

The reason I like schooners, (and the reason I do ALL of my beer samplings for this column from the exact same schooner), is that it is a thick glass, broad rimmed drinking vessel. The thick glass doesn’t allow it to absorb hand-heat as quickly as more standard stuff, while still allowing light to show through as I enjoy the wide range of colors and clarity we find in beers.

The broad, actually very wide rim allows more opportunity to really get involved and enjoy the maximum release of aroma from the fresh poured brew. You can get deep into a schooner. Swirl its contents around a bit to liven up the basic tones and increase the release of hidden scents.

When you drink deep, the wide brim allows the aroma to accompany each sip.

Compare the brim width of a schooner to the size of a bottle neck opening and you’ll understand from where I am coming.

Without being too snobbish, a good, clear schooner, (or any clear, wide-mouthed glass), lets a drinker enjoy the subtle differences in hue - the deep mahoganies, crisp ambers, or hazy straw colors - as well as allowing more access to the wide world of aromatic ales - with espresso, caramel, chocolate, and even woodland tones.

I sample all my new brews with the same tool in order to get a more balanced view of everything I’m testing and tasting.

You simply can’t get the same view of the world from a good glass as you do from a long-necked bottle.

Look, you can drink any ol’ beer from a bottle, but if you want to enjoy a new lager or ale, don’t forego on the experience. Use a good glass.

It’s not about being a snob. It’s all about getting the most enjoyment out of your investment.

And speaking of beer festivals ...

A kind reader sent me a tip about the Michigan Rock N Brew Festival in Lansing.

According to their website, “The Michigan Rock N Brew 2012 is a festival dedicated to promoting Michigan Music, Michigan Businesses, Michigan Environmental concerns, and exclusively serves Michigan Microbrew Beer.”

Sounds good.

The event takes place at the Adado Riverfront Park in Downtown Lansing, and is held from noon - 10 p.m., Aug. 4-5.

Like most beer fests this is a 21-years or older event. Don’t bring your kids. If you want or need to bring the youngsters ... DON’T.

Yes. This is a music festival, but it is also a beer festival. Beer tickets will be sold at the gate, at ticket booths, and by the “Ticket Guys & Gals” walking around with T-shirts that say "Beer Tickets" on them.

Tickets can be purchased through the tickets@michiganrocknbrew.com website.

For the music side of things, there will be two stages.

On stage will be a huge variety of musical talent.

Just a friendly hint - the name of this festival is Michigan Rock N Brew.

Rock n Brew.

No mention of jazz and brew. No mention of country and brew. No mention of blues, or pop, or anything other than Rock N Brew.

So ... don’t be disappointed if you head to Lansing and there is no Tony Bennett-style singer on stage.

It’s Rock N Brew.

Sounds like a great time will be had by all.

Keep your eye on this column for more beer festival information, and if you have a tip, feel free to send it along.

Enjoy your next schooner of one of the following.

Innis & Gunn

Rum Cask

(Oak aged beer, from rum barrels)

Scotland

This is a delicious ...nay, scrumptious offering from across the pond, but readily available in many, many better beverage stores.

It pours a rich, deep red - much more red than many ‘reds’ I’ve had recently. The color tones in this brew are very, very inviting.

There is a light frothing of head that is pretty much gone in a blink, leaving a hint of foam - a light lacing of the same.

Settling in for a deep sniff, I found an wonderfully tempting blend of aromas. There was some serious oaky, woodsiness that should be obvious considering where the brew spent a good portion of its life - 57 days in an oak barrel. Not 56, or 58. Exactly 57!

There are also fun hints of some light fruits, and definite tones of spice - possibly reminders of the rum.

The first healthy sip of Rum Cask is ...surprising. It pulled me up short.

This is a wonderfully fruity-esque, mildly sweet-ish beer.

Well chilled, Rum Cask is really quite exciting.

The beer is certainly up front - although not too hoppy in the least. It is also not malty for that matter.

The kick of rum flavor is so very evident. Not the alcohol part of the rum experience, rather the taste of quality rum that is just ever so subtly absorbed in a tremendously inviting glass of beer.

This is a fine, fine meal beer. I’d suggest something to actually contradict the semi-sweetness - roasted meats, blackened fish, and the sharper cheese families.

Innis & Gunn also have brews aged in whiskey casks, but the Rum Cask is by far and away the best of the lot.

Highly, highly recommended.

Honey Brown

Dundee Brewing Co.

North American Breweries

Rochester, N.Y.

Honey Brown is a modestly sweet lager that is produced with honey - as its name suggests!

The company is very proud of the fact that this single brew has packed corporate display cases and lined shelves with any number of national and international awards.

For good reason. This is a good brew. Nice. Very, very refreshing when served cold after working up a sweat in the gym, yard, or around the house.

Honey Brown is not nearly as “threatening” as many beers can be when folks are starting out on an exploration of the brewing world.

This is simply a good all-around lager ... with a kiss of honey.

Honey Brown pours a rich amber color and forms a good head that lingers and offers plenty of time to get in and sniff the somewhat yeasty/bready aroma with the sweet honey kicker.

The first sip explains it all. There are no questions left to be answered.

Honey Brown is honey sweet, but not as deep or full as real honey. (The IBU on this brew is 10 so you know it is not going to put-off the new beer taster.) You can certainly tell the honey is there, but it is by no means overwhelming.

Cold, this becomes just what the doctor ordered on a hot, sticky afternoon.

Just the beer to plop down in a lawn chair and start with a good, healthy gulp.

(Get the first “gulp” out of the way, then spend some time hunting out the subtleties.)

This is a simple beer to pair with food - almost anything you pop on the grill on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Seriously. The lack of complexity makes this a great complementary drink with just about anything you’ll set on the table under the umbrella or awning. Enjoy.