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Brew Review: Vapeur de Bises

Looking more like a wine bottle than anything I’d ever had beer from, I was intrigued when my girlfriend’s father offered Vapeur de Bises. It was clearly different, which very often means good, but at least means interesting.

After pouring, smelling, and tasting this beer, I can’t even describe it as “interesting,” it was just awful.

Without any smell or taste, one would be tempted to think that Vapeur de Bises is something resembling a brown ale. Soon, though, the scent of cider is overwhelming. That’s when it became clear that this may be headed in the wrong direction.

Cider is indeed what came across in the first sip, but I would have much preferred a Woodchuck to the rotten apple dynamic here. Moving from that initial shock, Vapeur de Bises then starts to give off a flavor that I think is best described as “dusty basement.” Even as those strong tastes settle while you get used to them, the general sense of sourness couples with the lack of carbonation to form a thoroughly unenjoyable beer.

Almost definitely one of the worst beers I’ve ever tasted.



3xB: Southern Tier Krampus

This week’s Big Bottle: Southern Tier Krampus


Brew Review: Yazoo Sly Rye and Pale Ale

Heading to Nashville for a couple days, I had high expectations for music and the general bar scene, but didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of beer.  Figuring I should try something local, I stumbled upon the Yazoo Sly Rye and Yazoo Pale Ale soon after getting into town.  Each was solid, though certainly nothing special.

The Sly Rye was first, coming along with a delicious barbecue lunch.  As promised, it was a rye stout from Nashville, pouring expectedly dark with little head.  The first sip offered the initial taste of a stout, but the body left a lot to be desired, becoming fairly watery quickly.  Overall the flavor was good, but not strong.  In general this would probably be a fine beer, though it certainly is not quite what I’d look for in an interesting stout.

Yazoo’s Pale Ale delivered similar but slightly more impressive results.  Much like the Sly Rye, it poured and smelled as expected, a typical lighter brown with a distinct but not overwhelming hoppy aroma.  The first taste was very good, lots of flavor and a clean, crisp finish with just enough bitterness.  As I kept drinking, however, the Pale Ale seemed a bit more ordinary.  Though good, it reminded me a lot of a Sierra Nevada with a little less going on. Not bad in the slightest, but not the type of interesting beer that you hope to stumble into when trying a local brew.

Both beers are certainly worth drinking, especially if you’re looking for some local flavor, but neither is going to be terribly memorable.  If you’re in Nashville, give the Pale Ale a try, but you won’t be surprised to find most of the locals drinking PBR.


Beer Madness! 44 (8)Abita Amber v. (1)Two Hearted

(8) Abita Amber
(1) Bells Two Hearted

Straight out of a classic overtime 8/9 matchup with Whale’s Tale, Abita Amber doesn’t get any favors from the selection committee, drawing Bell’s Two Hearted in the second round.  Bell’s faced little competition from Miller Lite, winning with a rarely seen March Madness shutout.  You have to feel good about Bell’s in this contest as well, but was their first test a little too easy?  Can Abita ride the momentum of a last-second win?

Beer Madness! 29 (8)PBR v. (9)Red Stripe

(8) PBR
(9) Red Stripe

This game has the feel of a duel between two teams that have seen better days.  Just like this year’s Michigan State/UCLA first round matchup, these programs have known glory, but seem to be on the downward trend.  Clinging to the glory of it’s 1893 title, PBR is an early favorite to edge out its short, stubby Jamaican counterpart.

Beer Madness! 25 (1)Yards IPA v. (16)Natural Light

(1) Yards IPA
(16) Natural Light

Weighing in at a respectable 7% ABV, Yards is a clear favorite to advance easily from the first round.  Despite playing in the Southwest, far from it’s Pennsylvania home, Yards simply offers too much for the watery not-quite-beer taste of Natty Light.  If this were a frat party the results might be different, but fortunately for the viewing population, Natural Light is unlikely to hang around very long.

Beer Madness! 22 (1)Heavy Seas Siren Noire v. (16)Schlitz

(1) Heavy Seas Siren Noire
(16) Schlitz

A classic David vs. Goliath matchup.  Heavy Seas brings with it a strong reputation of high-caliber players, known to rarely disappoint in big moments.  Schlitz, however, has the popular appeal to offer some resistance to the heavy favorite.  On name alone, many casual viewers will be tempted by the allure of Schlitz, but most will find that pick barely defensible once the Siren Noire makes itself known.

Beer Madness! 15 (6)Great Divide Titan v. (11)Duck Rabbit Milk Stout

(6) Great Divide Titan
(11) Duck Rabbit Milk Stout

While I try to avoid picking my brackets based on mascots, the Titans vs. the Duck Rabbits presents intriguing possibilities.  As for the beers, Great Divide always produced solid products and this is no exception.  Duck Rabbit’s Milk Stout is nothing to dismiss, but has more of the feel of a mid-major than a battle-tested top conference team.  11 over 6 is a tempting upset to pick, but I’m sticking with chalk here in giving the edge to the Titans.

Beer Madness! 9 (2)Back in Black v. (15)Abita Turbodog

(2) 21st Amendment Back in Black
(15) Abita Turbodog

Anything that the brewery claims is inspired by Paul Revere has to be an early favorite.  Taking the nontraditional good-beer-in-a-can approach, Back in Black may be a bit overrated at a two seed, but still makes a strong case to advance.  If you’re looking for a deep sleeper while filling out your brackets, think about the solid but fairly standard Turbodog.  Personally I’m going to stick with the 21st Amendment’s successful merging of some of my favorite elements of both IPAs and very dark brews.

Brew Review-Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

Lagunitas has a great reputation, so despite my fear of anything that advertises itself as being “sweet,” I was optimistic that if anyone could do it right it’d be Lagunitas with their Brown Shugga’.

Pouring this beer, I was surprised by the red/amber tinge to the brown that one might expect from a brown ale.  It had a light head but a strong, fresh, distinctly hoppy aroma.  The smell alone was quickly convincing me that this was a good decision, though the gentle sweetness that accompanied the hoppiness reminded me not to be too excited just yet.

Taking the first sip, any second thoughts were quickly put to rest.  The immediate taste is a bit sweeter and less bitter than the aroma might suggest, but this balance forms an incredibly full flavor with enough complexity to keep the consumer interested through the last sip.  Even with its distinct sweetness it avoids the trap of becoming syrupy.  The bitterness from the first impression also reappears towards the end, leaving a fresh finish.

I would highly recommend Brown Shugga’ to anyone looking for an interesting beer with a lot of flavor.



Brew Review-Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout

Sitting at home in Boston over Christmas, getting pummeled by snow while celebrating the holidays, I could not help but be drawn to the heartiness of the many stouts that my parents had in the fridge. They had an impressive collection of homebrews from neighbors and relatives, as well as a number of New England brews. With my brother at college in Vermont, Otter Creek has been a family favorite for the past few years, as we always enjoy some connection, however tangential, to the beer we choose.

So when I saw Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout–an organic beer that comes from Otter Creek–in DC I had to try it. I admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. Some other organic beers tend to be high on the organic and a little low on everything else that one tends to think of in good beer. But Otter Creek generally does it right so it was worth a shot.

This beer pours very dark, with little head. It gives off an initial aroma that is rather strong, but does not present anything unique or remarkable. The first sip stays true to the smell, doing little to give this brew its own identity.  While not quite as creamy as some stouts, Wolaver’s Oatmeal nonetheless has a full flavor with a little bitterness to keep things interesting.  Rather than adding the chocolate or coffee flavor of some stout varieties, or the sweetness that can accompany oatmeal stouts, this beer doesn’t get too creative.

Overall, Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout is very good, but if you’re looking for a flavor off the beaten path you should look elsewhere.  In my mind, this is your everyday quality stout.



Brew Review-Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale

I am a big Flying Dog fan.  I’ve rarely been disappointed by their beers, and considering how widely available they are it’s nice to have that kind of consistent option for what I think are genuinely interesting beers.  So when I opened the fridge to find that my roommate left for Christmas without a few of his Doggie Style Classic Pale Ales, I got pretty excited.

Pouring it, I was excited by the rich color and fairly strong smell of hops.  The first sip betrayed my initial impressions a little bit, coming across fairly plain.  There was just enough bitterness to keep it enjoyable, but there was not the same depth to the flavor that I have come to appreciate from Flying Dog.  My roommate (not the one I stole it from) said he tasted citrus, though that wasn’t anything that stuck out to me.  As I kept drinking the flavor became a bit stronger, though the finish lacked anything to make me keep coming back for more.

Overall, this certainly is not a bad beer.  It is probably very accurately named as just a “Classic Pale Ale,” but I had gone in expecting more.  I wouldn’t hesitate to drink it again, but hopefully my roommate will buy something a little more exciting for our fridge the next time he decides to leave town.



Roundtable Discussion: Your DC Bar of Choice

With the announcement this week that Brickskeller will be closing its doors in the next couple weeks, it seemed fitting to take inventory of what we still have in DC.  J Street Beer  has had a day or two to think it over and we added a bit of a twist.  The question is not just what our favorite DC bar is, but what we would change about it if given the chance.  Enjoy our thoughts and throw in your own picks, disagreement, or soul-crushing criticism in the comments section:


Critica de Cerveza – Buller’s Honey Brew

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for just about a week now and besides being amazed at how cheap the beer is (think $2.50 at a restaurant… for a liter!), I’ve been a bit disappointed at the general beer scene.  So when I stumbled upon a real brewery, it was easy to see past the cheesy Americanisms and take the chance to have some real, good beer.  It certainly wasn’t the best beer the world has to offer, but after wine and the Argentine equivalent of Bud for a week it was a nice change of pace.

Buller’s was the name of the brewery, and they had a nice small selection of their own beers that each offered something a bit different.  The light lager was essentially a cheap beer plus, the hefeweissen threw more banana into a beer than I’ve ever seen, the IPA didn’t quite live up to the bitterness promised by the name, and the stout bested Guiness, but we’ve talked about that in our overrated column.  Most interesting to me was their Honey Brew, a beer with a few layers that seemed to be their calling card.


Brew Review-Miller Genuine Draft

“It’s all that was left in the fridge.”

The age-old defense for bad beer selection. We’ve all heard it and most of us have probably used it more than a few times ourselves.

Well I’d like to write today in defense of “all that was left.” Is this because I think it’s a legitimate excuse? Yes. Is this because I went to write a brew review and only had MGD in my fridge? That too. So in honor of the legitimacy of drinking a beer because you didn’t have something better, I’ll treat this review with all due respect.


Brew Review-New Belgium Rancher IPA

Spending the weekend in Fort Collins, CO, I had the good fortune of sampling a number of New Belgium beers. Though Fat Tire is a classic and their wheat beer is actually pretty good, the Ranger IPA was my personal favorite. It also seems quite well-regarded among Fort Collins locals, but I’m guessing this is at least in part due to the inevitably low bar on any college campus.


Thinking About Drinking Games

Drinking games always leave me with a lot of questions.  It’s not anything about how they’re played, but more about their names, players, or general existence.  Two that I could never figure out:  Why do some people call it beer pong and others Beirut?  And, why are girls so good at flip cup?

The question that I want to think about today is a bit different:  Where do drinking games fit in the broader beer culture?