Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Mahrs Bräu – Oktoberfest (2016)

sierran nevada oktoberfest 2016

Oktoberfests seem to be brewed in July so they can be shipped to every liquor store and supermarket shelf in the western world by October. Most American Oktoberfest beers are simply caramel-flavored American lagers unpleasantly bumped up in flavor and alcohol. By making everything extremely loud, nothing truly stands out and what results is usually some tomato-tasting malt flavor with either too much or too little hops and and a warming alcohol finish rather than anything resembling the traditional märzen style. Sierra Nevada avoids this by partnering with a different traditional German brewery every year to brew what is annually one of the best American examples. For 2016’s version, Sierra Nevada teamed up with Mahrs Bräu to produce a simple, well-hopped pale lager. As the beer hits the tongue, the spiciness of the Germanic hops take hold and lead into a doughy, slightly chewy body of toasted white bread that finishes with a spicy hop finish and a slight note of warming alcohol. The warming finish and palette fatigue prevent the subsequent consumption of multiple bottles but Sierra Nevada’s 2016 brew thankfully avoids the grapefruit and mango IPAs for women trend to produce a decent, inoffensive drinking beer with well-developed simple flavors that can be savored while still letting you think about whatever else it is that you’re doing without having to pander to Panera Bread “crafted” bullshit such as pineapple phenol scented specialty Okinawan hops mixed with smoked habanero peppers in a stout that tastes like the fruity candy you leave for the annoying relatives you despise in a box of chocolates.

Quality: ***/*****
Purchase: ***/*****

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Coors Brewing Company – Coors “Banquet”

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The original Coors that is usually advertised with “Banquet” in the title is the least dumbed down for carbonated corn syrup soda chugging couch potatoes of the big three American adjunct lager brews. Budweiser and Miller High Life both taste strongly of green apple while Coors is still clean tasting. The beer smells of bready pale malts, adjunct grains, and somewhat fruity yeast esters. Gulping it down, carbonation slams the tongue, followed by a chewy combination of pale malt and adjunct sweetness that in combination with the yeast flavors, resembles liquefied banana bread. Coors probably slightly stresses the yeast of their flagship Banquet beer to obtain that banana fruit ester while most American brewers, including the so-called craft ones, have terrible control over yeast flavors and generally opt for a neutral yeast profile in comparison to the ancient British and continental breweries. Coors Banquet finishes with a bitter hop finish, noticeable but balanced to not overpower the other ingredients. At well under twenty dollars for a rack of twenty-four cans across the country, Coors Banquet puts hipster and yuppie swill to shame for a balance of flavor and price.

Quality: *****/*****
Purchase: *****/*****

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Miller Brewing Co. – Miller High Life

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Miller High Life, the apple juice of beer. The cheapest of the big three of Bud, Miller, and Coors, High Life is your typical heavily cost-reduced in both ingredients and production process mass market lager. The beer starts with beer flavor, then corn grits continuing into green apple-scented acetaldehyde, and finishing with a chemically bitter off-flavor resembling Bitter Apple brand dog deterrent rather than a proper dry or bitter hop finish. High Life might as well be carbonated apple juice with corn starch and detergent dumped in due to the cut-short lagering to stock urban liquor store shelves full. While the cheapest of the cheap outside of Game Day Ice, High Life is a beverage only suitable for sharing a swig with unwashed bipolar bums in bus shelters. Pabst Blue Ribbon, the watery favorite of Dennis Hopper and hipsters everywhere, is much more suited to the task of rehydration while sitting outside in ninety degree heat. High Life will only bring irritable bowels and unlike those bums, you won’t be comfortable squatting in the corner of a glass-enclosed bus stop. With food? High Life will make you hate yourself into not wanting to be like them: the homeless hammering you with their fists over refusing them change for crack, the larded alcoholics homebrewing IPAs, and the sweatshirted sports hooligans watching the NFL every Sunday while downing eight tallboys; High Life motivates teetotalling and fasting.

Quality: */*****
Purchase: ***/*****

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Anheuser-Busch InBev / Florida Ice and Farm Company S.A. – Labatt Blue & Occult Burial – Hideous Obscure (2016)

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Occasionally an artist’s work and the chemical inspiration thereof are inseparable and must be experienced together. Occult Burial’s recent ersatz, Hideous Obscure, was inspired by the sloppy, mid-Eighties Teutonic speed metal recordings of Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction which were all written and performed under the influence of a copious deluge of the cheapest Euro pilsner poured down their throats by the liter. This proto-underground beer metal was composed so as to be musically comprehensible to even the drunkest bar patrons still standing in the audience. Lacking even the melodic narratives of Motorhead standards, rocking rhythms, groovy powerchord progressions, and catchy choruses repeated ad nauseam over speed metal gallops and pick-up drum beats, hammering the basic riffs and leads into the heads of all the long-haired drunks tackling one another protected only by jean and leather jackets. To get into the garage practice space, inebriated mindset of these Canadian imitators of the imported speed metal of their fathers, I decided to pick up the Genesee-brewed as mandated by the Obama administration modern recreation of what those in my generation considered a northern, imported treat alongside the likes of St. Pauli Girl, Beck’s, and Guinness Extra: Labatt Blue.

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Brooklyn Brewery – Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2016)

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As much as any sane person avoids the mention of our elites, we tend to shy away from names like “Brooklyn Brewery” because such trendy terms and locations can only be designed for the denialists who rule us through money, law and social pretense. Much as in the Soviet Union — another dying society in late-stage collapse — what is said in Pravda is never trusted and always mocked, but… very carefully. In Western totalitarianism, we still have the freedom to purchase, and so, we avoid those products tainted with the symbology of the elites.

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Cerveceria La Constancia S.A. / BevCo Ltd – Cerveza Caguama (2016)

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As the great IPA trend wears down, people have gone looking for a new sensation and since they like sweet beers, many have settled on “tourist beer”: following the model of Corona Extra, this is light grain-and-honey tasting beer with increasing amounts of alcohol. Dropping into this fray, Cerveza Caguama provides an interesting entry through a 4.6% ABV beer with the flavor profile of Corona Extra but the specific flavors more commonly found in Carta Blanca. It pours out with an aromatic distillation flavor, then quickly goes into the cereal scents which define its basic flavor. Of very light color, this El Salvadorian beer — named after the Great Loggerhead Turtle, as all of their marketing will tell you — drinks easily cold or warm, but the warmer it gets the more a yeasty undertone emerges. Its saving grace is its gentleness which along with its relatively monotonic flavor profile and high alcohol content make it a relaxing afternoon beer.

Price: $2.69 (Kroger)
Value: *****/*****
Quality: ***/*****

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Samuel Smith Old Brewery – The Celebrated Oatmeal Stout

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Whenever I try a new beer, I compare it to a similar offering from Samuel Smith Old Brewery. These venerable beers have decked the shelves of quality liquor stores for at least two generations in the states, and continue to sell because of their fundamental quality as interpreted by people who enjoy having a pint that is a flavor experience in itself.

The Celebrated Oatmeal Stout has a slightly bitter, thoroughly grainy, and rich dark taste that rewards the drinker with an even consistency from top to bottom of the glass. Unlike the hipster beers which ramp up a single flavor component, the slight bitterness expands into a creamy caramel which balances the yeasty tastes. The reason for its bitterness is revealed as it becomes clear that without that to balance the sweetness, this beer would seem like syrup, where with it, The Celebrated Oatmeal Stout takes on the flavor dimensions of a good coffee: an initial bite, then a caramelized nuttiness, followed by a smooth and warm taste, all of which are ensconced in a basic richness that makes this the beer you want if you can have only one.

It is not exactly the news to write a review praising Samuel Smith Old Brewery in 2015, but it is a good reminder: for half of what you spend on hipster IPAs, you can get a classic that has nurtured casual drinkers for generations. It is too intense in both flavor and body to drink like an alcoholic, but serves as the perfect complement to a winter afternoon. Unlike most beers, it feels clean and whole in the mouth and does not break down into its constituent components. Like the best of beers, it combines flavor with composition and delivers a 5% ABV without it overshadowing the other aspects of the beer. Keep your trendy beers; this is all I’ll need.

Quality rating: 5/5
Purchase rating: 5/5

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Lagunitas Brewing Company – Lagunitas India Pale Ale (2015)

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The great secret of hipsters is that they are K-mart shoppers like everyone else. That is: their lives lack meaning, and they fill them with objects, but they demand artisanal™ exotic and ethical lifestyle objects instead of the accessories the rest of the herd demands. The guy buying an 18-pack of Miller Lite wants only to be accepted by his social group, but the hipster is a social climber, and wants to appear unique, thoughtful, wise, “in the know,” different and unusual to his social group. That is because unlike in a healthy blue collar social group, where people want to demonstrate competence, hipsters need to show they are socially important which they do through flattering the predominant individualist opinion (SJW) and then doing something unpredictable. It is the conformity of non-conformity.

Next time you see a (giggin’, which I’m told is slang to mean without a plan) hipster cruising down the street in his Victorian moustache with 1970s porno beard on a penny-farthing cycle while texting on his iPhone 6HIV+, realize you are just seeing another shopper. He is in fact the most mainstream of shoppers, hoping that he can borrow the hipness and authenticity™ factor from a niche and extend it to the same rules of acceptance that apply to every other social group. As a result, hipsters represent a lucrative market because in their desire to be clued in, they are clueless. Everything for them is a signal, a show of appearance and lifestyle accessories for others, so they do not care about the underlying quality. They are not shopping for a Mercedes-Benz. They want a Hyundai with superheroes painted on it and a smartphone jack, which are actually easy and cheap to achieve. Hyundai puts out the same butt-stupid product as for anyone else but tricks it out, and the hipsters buy it for 30% over list. Flawless victory for commerce! This is no different than how they sell absurdly burly trucks to rednecks, or chromed-out cars to “the urban market,” or even how they make girly cars out of last year’s model for the clueless 20-something bar concubine market segment. In the case of beers, the IPA demographic has exploded as hipsters have realized they can socialize for hours just talking about their favorite IPAs, and marketers have realized that if you take average beer and dump grapefruit into it, you can sell it to hipsters for 30% over list.

That being said, the review of Lagunitas India Pale Ale is this: slightly better-than-average beer entirely concealed behind grapefruit juice flavor, this IPA has above-average alcohol and zero taste since you literally have no idea what the underlying beer tastes like. It seems like a thicker, meatier version of Budweiser with higher ABV (6.2%). It would not matter if it was horse urine because the grapefruit juice obliterates that. Luckily it is not absurdly sweet to counter the bitter citrus, but more likely, a yeasty middle of the road beer given a jolt of some of Everclear to bump it up to hipster levels. That way, they can drink alongside their wine-swiggin’ friends and still be about as drunk when it comes time to share a Lyft (via micropayments) for the trip back to their managed housing. There is simply no reason to pick up this beer unless you are buying it for the price, which at $5/22oz is acceptable in most areas. Unfortunately, it just does not deliver a pleasurable drinking experience, so unless you are picking this up for hipster cred factor, it is unnecessary like so many other things.

Quality rating: 2/5
Purchase rating: 1/5

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Brouwerij Affligem – Affligem Dubbel (2015)

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What sort of beer would you want at a metal gig? Strong, savage perhaps, but flavorful. What about a metal gig with keyboards? There you might have Affligem Dubbel, a tasty and strong double-fermented beer with a fruity and spicy undertone that is less extreme than found in most Belgian ales. It pours in a thick medium brown stream with minimal head, and immediately presents the scents of a rich beer. In flavor, it is mostly a darker sensation with mostly a malt flavor, some bitterness from spices (coriander in a blend unique to this variety of beer) and as it spreads and warms on the tongue, a fruity flavor like apple and pear baked together with a citrus topping. Alcohol flavor melds smoothly with the beer and is hardly detectable, melding into a strong caramelized flavor with a pleasant aftertaste of molasses. If you want a comparison to more familiar beers, consider this a richer and denser German-style version of Newcastle Brown Ale as made by Belgium corporations… err, Trappist monks (the first hipsters to popularize the beard). At 6.8% alcohol, this beast provides enough of a dose in a single 750ml serving to satisfy the metalhead who still wants to remember the show. Affligem Dubbel succeeds at making a beer for daily enjoyment, which is a process of understanding how flavors meld to make a satisfying beer experience, and its wide availability suggests it is geared for a market other than the foodie-style novelty crowd. It does not yet rise to the level of an iconic taste like many of the best-loved beers, but presents a solid middle ground which incorporates the Belgian style without going over the top. While many of the nu-Belgian style coriander-and-citrus beers are outright disgusting, this one is worth the time and fighting through the burly men with long bears and tattoos who are buying IPAs at the beer counter.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 3/5

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Margaritaville Brewing Co. – Landshark Lager (2015)

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When a friend and I hit the local liquor shack and saw these hanging out, I was skeptical because of the hip name. Marketing and quality tend to work in inverse proportion to one another. Then again, a new brand has to fight hard in this over-populated beer market especially with all of these idiots buying hipster IPAs.

As we walked in the door, I finally connected “Margaritaville” with that guy who made the funny music. Not really a fan of country, or of entertainment, I felt my spirits sink. This was probably just a commercial con and we bought into it (for $4.99 for four sixteen-ounce beers, roughly the price of half a Starbucks latte downtown). “Ah, what the hell,” I said. “How bad can it be?”

The surprising answer: not bad at all. This is a well-designed product and as part of that, Margaritaville Brewing Co. has included quality beer. The name is cool; the logo is cool; I hate cool because it means an avalanche of tools who buy stupid stuff and drive the good stuff off the market, or into niches where it is hard to get and far more expensive. But the beer is good. The short review is that it is like a sweet, natural-tasting and high alcohol (4.7% ABV) version of Corona, with the kind of harvest time sweetness that 1664 has. This is a beer for drinkers and not people who like lite beers and lite cigarettes. You can actually put yourself into giggles and drooling with Landshark Lager, which immediately makes me appreciate it more as a beer designed to beat back the idiot beers from the beach scene or wherever people drink Corona, probably the same place they smoke Marlboro Lights and eat fat-free Ranch Dressing, both of which are proof the Communists won back in ’54 and they just never told us.

This is a thin beer with no alcohol taste, but like the best of the pale lagers it captures the yeasty and bready flavor of beer, just gently and hidden behind sweetness. I am not the world’s biggest sweet beer fan, or sweet things fan, since those belong in childhood with candy and people saying things like “it will all be all right” (obvious mental cotton for cuck beta bottoms). You can pour one of these and enjoy a beer that reminds you it is a beer, not just a wine cooler with suds, and the increased alcohol makes it fit in with the powerhouses of any well-stocked pub. Beer has been knocking up the ABV to compete with wine, which is now the preferred tipple of the average yuppie wannabe and so has hit the optimum price points, probably because some idiot in Congress regulated it less in exchange for hookers ‘n’ blow from a lobbyist. Either way, this beer is refreshingly free of hipster marketing that tries to be cute and artisanal (pronounced “artist anal”) even if it has mainstream branding and appeal. Especially at this introductory price point, it’s worth considering for casual drinking.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 3/5

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