Archive for January, 2011

When beer goes bad

Last week I came across a bad beer, which happens every once in a while. So, I did what I think every brewery would want us to do, I e-mailed the brewers and told them about my experience.   I included all the important info: production date of the beer, store where I purchased the beer, and conditions in the store. I did this for two reasons.  Probably the most important reason was that I really wanted them to know that this particular beer wasn’t being treated well at that store. Also, I wanted them to know that I hadn’t been discouraged by the experience and that I was looking forward to tasting a fresh sample soon.

The brewery responded the very next day apologizing for my experience and wanted me to understand (as well as I want you to understand) that they have little control over their beers once it is delivered to the stores. After delivery, it is then up to the storeowner to take care of his/her inventory. Certainly, some do it better than others and this can have an unfair impact on a brewery especially if you decide not to buy their beer again.

The brewer also invited me to stop by their brewery and told me they would be happy to replace my bottle with a fresh one. However, before you go and start complaining to breweries about their beer in hopes of a replacement, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Do you know the beer style you are drinking?  Maybe it IS supposed to taste like that.
  • Give a detailed description of your tasting experience to explain the flavors you did taste.  This will help the brewers identify any problem.
  • Tell the brewer where you bought the beer.  They may consider changing vendors if enough people complain about the conditions.
  • Don’t judge the brewery by that one beer.
  • Don’t rant if want to be taken seriously.

I decided to use this recent experience as an excuse to explain three common off-flavors found in beers. Also, at the end of each description I indicate who you should contact if you do encounter any of them.

Oxidation happens when oxygen is introduced into the beer sometime after fermentation and before it is consumed. The resulting taste is something like wet cardboard or paper (don’t ask me how I know what that tastes like).  Generally bottles or cans are flushed with CO2 before filling to avoid oxidation. This is also why beertenders will overflow your growler when they fill it up.  This purges any O2 out of the bottle so your beer won’t oxidize before you drink it.  Unfortunately there isn’t anyway to tell if the beer you have in your hand is oxidized until you open it. The good news is that this off-flavor is very rare.  Contact the brewery if you encounter this off-flavor.

Light struck is a term used to describe a beer that has been exposed to ultra-violet (UV) light. UV light causes a chemical break down, which in turn releases previously hidden sulfur compounds out of the beer. The resulting taste and aroma is reminiscent of skunk (again, don’t ask me how I know what that tastes like).  This is especially problematic for beers in clear or green bottles because they filter out very little UV light. Unprotected beer can be “skunked” in a matter of minutes and can easily happen to the beer that is in your glass especially if you are outside enjoying the warm SoCal sun.  Unfortunately there is no way to tell if a beer is skunked before you buy it but you can reduces the chances if you avoid bottled beer that is sitting out in the sunlight or under florescent lighting.  Reach for the bottles packaged in boxes or the ones toward the back of the shelf in the dark. Oh yeah, and keep your beer in the shade.  Contact the storeowner and notify brewery if you encounter this off-flavor.

Bacterial infections happen when sanitation breaks down during the brewing or the bottling phase and bacteria is introduced into the beer. Bacteria will eat any sugar left over from fermentation, which will destroy the malty flavors and body of a beer causing it to become “thin” and almost watery. If the contaminated beer is stored for an extended period of time it can also cause the beer to over carbonate and create a “gusher”.  A gusher is a beer that erupts like a volcano and continues to spew out the long top after it has been opened.  Another side affect from a bacterial infection is a sour beer.  You will probably know about the infection long before you drink the beer because it can have a vinegary aroma.  If the aroma didn’t grab your attention the puckering effect will, when you drink it.  Don’t be alarmed if you drink a beer with a bacterial infection.  You won’t to get sick from it.  I drink ‘em all the time; in fact one of my all time favorite beers is a sour beer.  However, the brewers of sour beers KNOW how to brew them and understand how to use the bacteria to create a delicious flavor profile.  Unfortunately there is no way to tell if a beer is infected before you open it.  The good news is that brewers take sanitation very seriously and unintentional infections are rare.  Contact the brewery if you encounter this off flavor.




Follow me on twitter @ HopHeadSaid

Follow me on facebook @ Hop Head Said


Road Trip Review

I just got back from a road trip to Legoland.  “What does Legoland have to do with beer?” you ask. Well, it wouldn’t be a road trip for me if I didn’t at least visit one new brewery/beer bar or try a new beer and this trip included both!

About 15 miles from Legoland there is little brewery wonderland called Stone World Bistro and Garden.  This is one of the best beer bars I have ever been to and I would rank it as an equal to Brouwer’s Café in Freemont, WA near Seattle.  Not only do they serve all the Stone offerings but they also have an extensive tap and bottle list.  However the goodness doesn’t stop there, the food menu is incredible.  I had a spicy crab cake that paired well with Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. My kids had two different mac and cheese offerings that were just the right amount of adventurous for kids. They also have a great vegetarian selection.  My wife was impressed that there wasn’t one garden burger or portabella burger-thingy on the list!

This is a popular destination so be sure to make reservations.  Their website does say that Fridays and Saturdays are busy and indeed they are.  I called at noon to make reservations for Saturday evening and I couldn’t even get a person. I was transferred immediately to a recording telling me that they were fully booked for the evening but I was welcome to come in and put my name on a waiting list.  I thought there would be no way we would get in but my wife convinced me that we should at least give it a try. We did get there early (4:45) and we did get a table right away.  So, I suggest you get there early or make your reservations well in advance if you are there on the weekend.

The next day we visited Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach for lunch.  If you like BBQ and beer then you will love this place.  This is my second time visiting Beachwood BBQ and it won’t be the last.  While this isn’t necessarily a vegetarian friendly place, my wife (a vegetarian) suggested we go here so she could have the bleu cheese grits with fried arugula, again.

Beachwood BBQ’s beer list is quite impressive.  Don’t take my word for it though, check out their hop cam. I especially like their hop cam because it helps me to mentally plan my food/beer pairing before I even get there.  I enjoyed Beachwood BBQ’s 4th anniversary beer (review coming soon) which was described as a golden imperial stout.  Talk about a rule breaker but it paired very nicely with my brisket sandwich and hushpuppies.

Not only is this a great beer destination they are also the producers of my new favoritel iApp.  This FREE app comes equipped with their most updated menus, hop cam images and bottled beer and wine lists.  But, my favorite function on this app is the beer journal.  It uses the same categories I use on my Beer Goggles section with easy to use touch selections to quickly add information without having to type every word.  You can get quite detailed without having to type out a single word. Now I don’t have to worry about remembering my old school beer review notebook.  You can find the app in iTunes store.


Magic Hat Brewery

I came across this blog interview by and I needed to share it with you.  Magic Hat is one of my favorite breweries and not because I like everyone of their beers.  I don’t, in fact I may enjoy less than half of their beers, #9 is one that I do, but I love that they are trying something new with almost every batch. This adventuresome spirit works for them and their loyal drinking fan base. For example, you won’t find a style printed on their labels.  You can approximate a style for each one of their beers but they are very good at taking a base style and twisting back and around again so many times that it becomes hard to recognize.

I had the pleasure of visiting their brewery in Burlington, VT a few years ago.  You get a feel for their brewing attitude long before you walk through their doors.  A giant rusted sheet metal tower thingy with cut out shapes stands out above their main building beaconing you to their door.  A surreal carnival-like image that promises to be fun but  as you get closer you realize it was probably put together by a two fingered ride mechanic.  “Have no fear,  you will be safe once you get inside”  my inner voice was telling me and was I glad I listened.  Their “gift shop” has more of that carnival freak show atmosphere except there are no carnies but there is great merchandise not to mention samples of their beer!  A perfect mix if you ask me.

Drunkest Cities

I found this list quite interesting especially since Sioux City, IA (I taught kindergarten there for 14 years) ranked 14 well ahead of powerhouse drinking towns like Portland and Seattle.

The Daily Beast‘s Drunkest US cities.