December 07, 2009

Beer trials and Heater-Allen Isarweizen

Tonight it's nearly 20F in usually mild Portland, OR. What a better time for a glass of sunshine? So with dinner I opened a bottle of Heater-Allen Isarweizen. Yes, that's an Oregon Pinot Noir Riedel glass. Not beer mug will do for this local lager. Rather, something that allows me to enjoy the aroma of this excellent wheat beer. You can see the golden color. I should have shaken the bottle a touch first to get more yeast in suspension, as the later pours were gradually cloudier. The aroma was all wheat and citrus, though I didn't add any lemon to my glass. I felt right back in an Austrian beer hall. Yum

Thinking about beer, I reflect on my experience two days ago down at the Green Dragon with friend Seamus Campbell, author of The Daily Wort. With the help of several friends and the Dragon, Seamus conducted a beer trial. Two flights of three beer samples, double blind. We had no idea what we were trying, or even if each sample was a different beer. Seamus is writing a book called The Beer Trials to investigate taste and perception of quality vs. price, like that. With a neighbor friend, I tried the first three samples and quickly was convinced that the first two were identical. They tasted like Pilsner Urquell to me, but turned out to be Czechvar, the old Budweiser Budvar, the "real" Budweiser that was an old favorite back in my Europe days when I could drink it fresh. Or maybe I didn't have a very evolved taste in beer. Here in the US, it's no good. The third sample was Heineken. Sweeter, maltier but still bland and industrial.

Then a second flight of three more samples. Quickly samples A and C appeared identical, malty and a little sweet. They made me think of Sam Adams Boston Lager, which I haven't had for years. I just associate it with mass produced "craft" brew. Turns out it was Fat Tire Amber Ale, which makes perfect sense. I never liked that beer. Too malty sweet. Sample B was obviously darker and seemed fresh hopped and a little green. I thought it might be Bridgeport's fall Hop Harvest release, a big fresh hopped beer. Turns out it was Ninkasi's Believer, Oregonian but not fresh hopped. I didn't quite like this one either. Just too vegetal and green like the latest Hop Harvest.

All in all, give me a Heater-Allen anytime. But I think I did pretty good in the blind tasting. The beers could have been from anywhere, and essentially were. How do you think you'd do?

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