Firkin Around....
The Blog of King of Prussia Beer Outlet

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Sample Six Summer Alternatives

Holding on to Summer

Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, DE.
by Joe Elia

Maybe I am getting old.  Actually I know I am getting old because I catch myself saying things old people say.  Lately I been saying, "Fall beers already...geez it gets earlier and earlier each year."  Our distributors are pushing pumpkins and Oktoberfest beers while it's still sunny and warm and my kids are sitting on the couch moaning hourly, "There's nothing to do."  These are sure signs that summer is still in full swing.
Buddy on the beach.  Note the bottle opener on his
Troegs dog collar

When the fall beers come out, the summer beers become more elusive.  This is unfortunate because there are still four to six weeks of warm weather left in which to enjoy summer beers.  And what about Labor Day?  Have the brewers forgotten about this beer drinking, barbecuing, beach trekking, pool going summer holiday?  Showing up to a Labor Day get together with an Oktoberfest beer is just as awkward as showing up in lederhosen.

So, in an act of rebellion against the season pushers, I headed to Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, DE.  With the wife, the kids, Buddy (our faithful Pit Bull), and a six pack in tow, I sampled some alternatives in case your favorite summer beer is MIA from the shelves. 

Try Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA if you like Victory Summer Love

If there was ever an IPA made to drink in warm weather Chainbreaker is it. With an alcohol by volume (ABV ) of 5.6% and just enough bittering to qualify it as an IPA, this beer is very drinkable year round but excels as a summer brew.  Made with Citra and Cascade hops and Belgian yeast, Chainbreaker bursts with complex yet subtle notes of  citrus and spice.  It drinks more like a wheat beer, a classic summer time favorite, than a full blown IPA.  This is also a great beer for those who don't customarily drink IPA's.  If you like beer you'll like this offering.  It is a great alternative to Blue Moon, Magic Hat Circus Boy and any other wheat based ale.  Other similar beers to try are Founder's All Day IPA, Clown Shoes Miracle IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5, and Harpoon White IPA.

Try Thirsty Dog Labrador Lager if you like Sierra Nevada Summerfest

Bud, Coors, Miller, and Yuengling (of course) are technically lagers.  The actual beer snob term for them is American Adjunct Lagers. The Labrador Lager is an excellent microbrew choice for those who normally drink these standard beers.  It is brewed as a Dortmunder style using German grains and yeast.  These ingredients combined with a slightly higher alcohol content (6% ABV) make a highly drinkable beer like its big brewery counterparts without their watery qualities.  It is a crisp, clean drinking beer that accompanies all your usual summer fare; hotdogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, etc.  It also carries itself well into football season.  Again this is a great alternative to Bud, Miller, Coors, Yuengling, Land Shark, DAB and Sam AdamsOther similar beers are Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, and Sly Foxx Helles Lager.
Try Lagunitas Pils if you like Troegs Sunshine Pils

This is another German styled lager only it is a pilsener, or pils for short.  Lagunitas brews this beer using German Saaz hops giving it a bolder taste than other lagers. This beer drinks clean and crisp with some herbal hints and a smooth, slightly noteworthy bitterness. The bitterness is not overwhelming however and ends with a subtle yet enjoyable dryness that is perfect for warmer weather.  The 6% ABV nicely rounds out the flavor of Lagunitas Pils without leaving the sense that you just drank octane.  With its bolder taste this is a great beer to drink with bbq'd pork or chicken, and grilled shark, tuna, or swordfish.  Like the Labrador, this too is a great football season beer.  Lagunitas Pils is an excellent alternative to Heineken, Stella Artois, and most German imports.  Other similar beers to try are Victory Prima Pils, Staropramen, and Oskar Blues' Mama's Little Yella Pils.

Try Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale if you like Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale

The Extra Pale Ale from Flying Fish is an extremely light drinking, well balanced beer.  With a little more fizziness than most beers and a slight citrus note, this pale ale is a great warm weather beer, much like its Farmhouse cousin.  Its light, bubbly quality and a low 5.2% ABV means this is a craft beer that won't weigh you down and is perfect for an active day outdoors.  This beer pairs well with lighter fare such as chicken and fish or with salty snacks such as nachos.  EPA is also an alternative if you like Michelob, Corona, Pacifico, and Modello.  Other similar beers to try are Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale, Anchor Brewing Liberty Pale Ale, New Holland Sun Dog, New Holland Monkey King, and Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

Try Clown Shoes Miracle IPA if you like Sam Adams Summer Ale

Miracle IPA is a great example of a session IPA.  Session or sessionable beers are brewed for extended drinking sessions.  IPA's are notoriously hoppy, bitter, and have ABV's between 6.5% and 8%.  In an effort to give IPA fans a session beer, brewers have been crafting IPA's that are easier to drink over the course of a few hours.  Miracle IPA, with its 5.5% ABV is an enjoyable warm weather beer.  Its hop/bitterness profile is well balanced with some hints of citrus.  It is assertive without being aggressive and pairs well with grilled beef, pork, or lamb.   If you like IPA's or enjoy Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Yards Extra Special Pale Ale or Troegs Pale Ale, Miracle IPA is an excellent alternative.  You may also want to try Founders All Day IPA and Goose Island IPA.
Try Ithaca Apricot Wheat if you like Leinenkugel Summer Shandy

Beer brewed with fruit is difficult to do well.  In many cases there is too much fruit and not enough beer or the other way around.  In the worst cases both are understated to present a beer that seems like it was mixed with fruit in your kitchen.  Ithaca's Apricot Wheat is an excellent example of what a fruit-beer fusion can be.  It combines the easy drinking lightness of a wheat beer with just a hint of apricot and sweetness in the finish. This is a great beer to drink with desserts, salads, and grilled vegetables.  Apricot Wheat is an alternative if you like Magic Hat #9, Magic Hat Elderbetty, Sam Adams Porch Rocker, Traveler Curious Traveler and Bud Light Lime. It is also an alternative to Blue Moon and Shock Top.  You may also want to try Dogfish Head Tweason'ale and Old Dominion Cherry Blossom Lager.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beer and Family

My Trip to Troegs Brewery

by Joe Elia

Flights of Troegs scratch batch #107 and #109
photo by Serena Elia
Enjoying beer is not just a visceral experience.  It is more than the taste of hops, malt, yeast, and alcohol on the palate (a word I don't use much).  There is a philosophical aspect to beer that I appreciate.  Beer represents communion, fraternity, camaraderie.  Ironically, as a husband and a father a love of beer moves from it's true spirit of togetherness to more of a solitary pursuit.  It is something I enjoy but the closest people in my life don't. 
So when my wife mentioned she wanted to take the kids to Hershey Park, I sheepishly suggested we go to Troegs Brewery as part of the trip.  Honestly I was expecting her to shoot the idea down.  A "what kind of father wants to take his daughters to a brewery?" type of thing.  But surprisingly she liked the idea. When my daughters seemed interested in going as well, I was equally as surprised. 

In the lobby at Troegs
photo by Serena Elia

Troegs is roughly 4 miles from Hershey Park.  It is easy to find and easy to get to from all the attractions.  Started in 1997 by Chris and John Trogner, the original brewery was located in Harrisburg.  It wasn't until 2011 that the company moved to its current facility in Hershey, making a beer and family outing possible.
They offer self guided and guided tours through the brewery.  The self guided tours are free and are offered
Sun-Wed from 11am to 9pm and Thu-Sat: 11am to 10pm.  We took the self guided tour through the brewery because you must be at least 21 years of age to go on the guided tours.  The self guided tour however is just the right size with family in tow.  You can grab a beer in the tasting room and then meander about the central walkway through the brewery.  You are separated from the machinery by glass partition walls that contain brewing facts and info about beer production and Troegs itself.
Information on fermentation on the self guided tour.
 I thought my kids would be bored and whiny with the self guided tour, but again they surprised me.  The information is unique and presented is museum style snippets.  The fermenting equipment is impressive in both size and sheen.  I was surprised that my wife was enjoying herself and her beer (yup, I'm pretty lucky).  She bought a Scratch Batch #107, a tasty Saison made with beets.  Like many women, she is not a fan of the big, hoppy beers that Troegs is known for.  While she has enjoyed their Sunshine Pils once or twice, she doesn't really appreciate the robustness of their other brews.  I chose the Perpetual IPA to drink.  It's one of those beers like Smuttynose or Harpoon that you forget about in your quest to try new beers.  I was glad I revisited and I reminded myself to add more cases to the next order for KOP Beer Outlet.

Flights of Scratch batches #108, a lively tripel and #109, a brooding stout.  #107, a saison brewed with beets, already met it's demise.
 The tour ended in the gift shop.  It was filled with the usual gift shop stuff...tee's and hats, signs and stickers.  However, Troegs artwork on their beers and gift shop items are thoroughly unique.  They all seem to blend the sinister with the jovial.  The tipsy Mad Elf's smirk conveys both mirth and mayhem.  The horned god of the Troeganator, with his sinister smile and piercing stare haloed by his white hair is a throw back to the gods of some ancient clan of Norsemen.  And who can forget the Nugget Nectar hop clutched in a hand raised defiantly as if in rebellion against some oppressive regime.

After the gift shop we went back to the 
tasting room.  I had an hour and half drive ahead of me so I didn't want to indulge to excess, but I did want to sample the Scratch Batch offerings.  These beers are small batch beers that are only available in the tasting room.  These special brews rarely become widely distributed which makes repeated visits to Troegs worthwhile.