Friday, October 01, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the flexible folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can provide the beer, wine, or whisky you need in a package best suited to your particular idiom.

A recent story in the Houston Chronicle detailed how the humble can is gaining respect among craft beer brewers:

Yet craft brewers--generally smaller, independently owned companies that use premium ingredients and lack the production-scale savings enjoyed by mass-market giants--have been turning to aluminum in greater numbers since Colorado-based Oskar Blues got the can rolling in 2002.

Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis makes a three-point case for cans: 1. They completely block sunlight and have a tighter seal against oxygen, offering better protection from the two things that degrade beer; 2. They are better for the environment because the lighter, more compact cans can be shipped 100 cases per pallet, compared with 60 cases of bottles, requiring less fuel for transportation; and 3. They don't break like glass, making them good for hikers, bikers and others enjoying outdoor activities.

This argument for cans over bottled is echoed by Tallgrass Brewing Company in their Canifesto:

It turns out that the humble aluminum can is the best choice for a whole lot of reasons. Cans are better for the beer. Cans seal better than bottles and totally block sunlight, which keeps our beer tasting fresher, longer. Cans are more fun. You can take cans to the pool, concerts, lakes, stadiums, hot tubs, golf courses, and anywhere else you can’t take glass. Last, but not least, the aluminum can is WAY better for the environment than bottles.

I have to admit to being skeptical toward canned craft beers in the past. But as more and more brewers are making the change and producing excellent beers in cans, I've come around on the matter. In addition to Kansas' Tallgrass, I have also recently enjoyed a very nice canned IPA from the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. I'm not yet convinced that cans are necessarily a superior packaging option, but it's certainly not any worse than bottles.

More important than the package the beer comes in is the delivery system to your mouth.

Craft beer in cans? Yes, and it may be tastier that way:

"This is a century-long pendulum that is swinging away from mass-market products and mega-brands toward a movement of authenticity and rare products, and for beer, often times that happens in cans," said Randy Mosher, the Chicago-based author of "Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink."


"No nice beer should ever be drunk out of the package, bottle or can," he said. "You're doing a disservice to a really good beer by drinking it out of anything other than a glass."

Amen to that.

Which is why the motto of world renowned local craft brewer Surly is "Beer for a glass, from a can." Surly was my first exposure to craft beer in a can and their outstanding products have eliminated any stigma I used to harbor about canned beer. This week's beer of the week is Surly Fest:

A traditional Oktoberfest bier from Surly? Nein! If you want one of those, grab your passport and head over to Munchen (bring us back some pretzels.) Our Fest inspired beer is brewed with imported malted barley, rye, and a German lager yeast strain. We hop this beer with a single variety... and then we dry hop it. A single hop, dry hopped, rye lager bier? Ja!

Blue and white Bavarian flag checkered design on the can with the surly fellow in the Surly log sporting an alpine hat.

Style: Rye lager

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

COLOR (0-2): Copper brown and slightly obscure. 2

AROMA (0-2): Rye malt with spices. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white with good volume and retention. 2

TASTE (0-5): Flavors of rye, malt, spicy hops, and a bit of a peppery finish come together nicely. Medium-bodied and decently drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Slightly sweet and smooth. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Definitely not your vater's Oktoberfest, Surly Fest is a welcome departure from the norm. With more flavor than most fall offerings, this is definitely one of the better beers of the season. Get some while it lasts. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15