When I was still a youngster at home in Detroit, we used to wait with bated breath until the annual Sears or JC Penney’s Christmas catalog showed up at the house. My brothers and I would spend hours going through the catalog and looking at all the holiday goodies that we dreamed to see under the Crees family tree. We would draw prominent circles around something we really wanted, and then add our initials to make sure there were no mistakes as to who wanted what. Generally, not a lot came out of the effort. We got what we got - and at least a portion of our annual Christmas haul involved not stuff we’d circled, but rather underwear and socks. Still, a good part of the holiday experience involved the reading of those catalogs while hoping and dreaming for at least some of what we had hinted at as we highlighted the good stuff. Today, I continue to read and mark things I hope to try or buy in the future. I suppose that with being an adult I should be able to pick and choose a lot easier than I could when I was a kid and had someone making many, (if not most), of my decisions for me. Still, I am married, so in reality not much has changed! Nevertheless, let’s talk about some really fun reading. Not the Sears catalog. Beer magazines. I’ve been picking up magazines specializing in all things beer for quite some time. There is some fascinating and educating reading out there. I thought I’d offer some ideas. This is great reading out on the deck ...with a fine-brewed beverage in hand. The Beer Connoisseur The Beer Connoisseur is an excellent magazine jam-packed with quality reading material and loaded with suggestions and reviews. For example, the latest edition offers up an article entitled ‘Brewing In The Classics’ and suggests: “The benefits of a Liberal Arts education are many, and one is that by studying great literature you can uncover a surprising amount of information about beer and brewing.” For lovers of the Great American Pastime, there is a review of ballparks entitled “Craft Beer Steps Up To The Plate” noting: “More than any other major sport, baseball is tied to beer. There’s just something about passing an afternoon gazing lazily out over an emerald field with a brew in hand.” Indeed. DRAFT Magazine I like DRAFT Magazine. It is one I read regularly. This is a magazine I’d suggest to someone just starting out in the exploration of the world of brewing. There is a lot of information passed on in a very congenial way. There are a lot of beer reviews. I’m creating quite a “wish list.” The great thing about these guys is that they realize that their opinion of any given beer is not the catch-all, end-all. As they remind readers: “The most important thing to remember about our reviews is that they’re ours; you may taste beer differently than our experts, and no review can substitute a real beer on your own two lips.” Amen. Beer Magazine Beer Magazine gets serious about the basics without getting overly heady or pretentious. A recent featured article discussed the “Hidden Qualities of Beer” in which the author suggested all sort of ideas for using beer ...other than drinking and cooking! “Clean furniture? Attract bees? Soothe your feet? Is there anything that beer can’t do? Find out what to do with beer you don’t drink.” Then there was “27 Things Every Beer Drinker Should Have!” Some of these things, I want! Also there was a great recipe for Arctic Craft Brewery Milk Stout Chocolate Cake. Oh my gosh! Brew Your Own Brew Your Own is a more specialized magazine for folks toying with the idea of home-brewing. You can find just about everything you need to know here. Every issue includes recipes, how-to projects and expert advice to help you brew world-class beer. All About Beer Magazine All About Beer Magazine is very, very well-rounded with not only a review of beers but also commentary, columns, and the occasional step outside the immediate field. For example, this month’s edition offers an article on ciders entitled “Not Your Father’s Hard Cider.” There is also a review of a Costa Rican craft beer and a cute article asking the question, “Where is the strangest place you’ve had a beer?” This month’s All About Beer Magazine runs an extensive article reviewing the 2012 World Beer Cup sponsored by the American Brewers Association. Very good reading. And there are more. Have fun.
THIS WEEK’S DRAFT PICKSKuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Fourth Dementia Kuhnhenn Brewing Company Warren, Michigan This is one of the best beers in the United States. Beer Advocate rates it 22nd, and it deserves the standing, (if not a higher position on the list.) However, be forewarned. This scrumptious offering packs a punch - 13.50 percent ABV! Fourth Dementia is a Old Ale style brew that pours gloriously dark. It is near black if not all the way there. There was very little head and this ale is moderately carbonated. The scent of this ale is intoxicating - a rich toasted malty aroma with an astonishing array of hints and tones. Take your time in sniffing out the hidden goodies. It will be well worth the wait as you sniff, swirl in the glass, and sniff deeply again. Chocolaty, with strong tones of caramel and molasses. There is a strong hint of rich darker fruits and some additional hints of licorice. There is a little tinge of vanilla tucked back in there as well. There is a decent hint of a bourban-esque smell. Obviously this comes from the aging process and the elevated ABV content. At first wash, (and tasting should be slow and well purposed), there is no disappointment. The taste strongly complements and compliments the scent. Fourth Dementia is somewhat more sweet than some might expect, but whatever the case this is a rich and luxurious brew. There are hints of the barrel aging tucked away in the taste, but the firm, pronounced maltiness carries the day. The somewhat elevated alcohol level doesn’t express itself in the general mouth-feel. You just wouldn’t know this brew has more ‘muscle’ than other stouts or more hefty ales or dark lagers. This is a wonderfully balanced beer, and one deserving of your full attention. Chill it a touch above moderate - toward the top end of the 45-55 degree range. Sip it slow with nothing but good conversation to cap off a civilized evening. McSorley’s Irish Black Lager Pabst Brewing Company Illinois McSorley’s Irish Black Lager offers a most enjoyable sit-and-sip for back deck explorers. Affordable and by no means “standard,” this is a very well ‘constructed’ brew. The Black Lager pours very, very dark with some hints of a deep red at the outer edges. There is little head and just a touch of color maintained on the surface. What head does develop disappears pretty quickly. There is a strong malty smell that I find most welcoming in ales and dark lagers. It indicates a well thought out roasting program and quality grain list. There is a little fruitiness, but much more mature malting. If you take the time, some tones of licorice and a more defined caramel aroma make their way to the surface. It’s also pretty easy to discern a rich espresso scent with a swirl or two in the glass. This version of McSorley’s line is not too carbonated which is fine with me. If I wanted my beer overly fizzy, I’d just drink pop instead! The malts so evident in scent are more muted in first taste. That’s a good thing. Nothing is overwhelming here. The brew is very well balanced. There is just a hint of tartness alluding to the careful use of hops to keep the drink from being overly cloying. This Black Lager is very level headed, and even more tasty when chilled to the right degree. McSorley’s Irish Black Lager is not pretentious and should be enthusiastically enjoyed. I’d suggest this with more hefty meals - to pair with grilled meats and sausages and all the more substantial side dishes. This is a hearty brew, but not too strong to take away from the supper offering.