Monday, May 4, 2009

Big Brother Is Watching You. So Flip Him Off...

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll remember that I frequently comment on the weather here in Alaska. Living on The Last Frontier, the weather greatly defines what we can do, day-to-day; much more so than most other parts of the USA. I'm sure that to most folks Outside it seems like we're always being hammered by bad weather, either blizzards, ice storms, or avalanches, with the occasional volcanic eruption for comic relief.

While Alaskan weather can often be brutal, every so often we get a week like the one just past, one that reminds us all why we moved up here. For the last seven days we have had wonderful clear skies, with glorious sunshine, thanks to a nice "blocking high" sitting over most of the state and deflecting any cold, wet weather away. It won't last forever, but it sure has been nice...

So, anyway, there I was, sitting on my porch, enjoying the spring sunshine and the 80 degree (I kid you not!) weather, and I decided to give another saison-style beer a try. You'll remember from last week's blog the origins of the saison style. (If you don't, just scroll down and read it again!) This time I decided to try Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales's Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale.

Jolly Pumpkin is based in Dexter, Michigan and has earned a reputation in beer circles as interesting & innovative brewers. Their website states that by using "open fermentation, oak aging, and bottle conditioning, we are dedicated to elevating craft brewing into an art." The same website describes Bam Biere as "an artisan farmhouse ale that is golden, naturally cloudy, bottle conditioned and dry hopped for a perfectly refreshing balance of spicy malts, hops and yeast." The site lists its ABV at 4.5% and brags that Men's Journal magazine named it as one of the Top 25 Beers in America. With all that build up, I was really looking for something special.

Unfortunately, what I got was a disappointment. The beer poured nicely into my snifter, with the pinpoint carbonation of a typical saison and the fruity aroma you'd expect from the style. However, the first sip was so tart it made my lips pucker! I love a sour beer as well as the next beer geek, but this does not seem to be at all appropriate to the style. The beer was so tart it significantly reduced its drinkability. I finished the bottle, but it was a bit of a struggle.

I am loathe to judge a beer as individualistic as this one based on a single bottle; you never know when it may have picked something up or been improperly handled on the long road from Michigan to Alaska. However for now, at least until I can pick up another bottle to try, I have to give Bam Biere a thumbs down.

Looking for something a little more uplifting, I opened a bottle of Lagunitas Brewing Company's interestingly-named Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale. It's pretty obvious from the name and from various little notes on the label, that there's a backstory with this one. I've only heard it tenth-hand, but it seems the Feds shut the brewery down while trying make some sort of BS case against them for selling marijuana. When you read the fine print on the label-- "Shhh...Be vewry,vewry kwiet. We're sneakin' awound wookin' for gwon-up taxpayers dowin' tings we don't appwoove of... Be vewry kwiet... Dare around here somewhere... Shhhh... Be Vewry, Verwy quiet..."-- it's pretty clear that this beer is their way of giving the Feds the middle finger. A pretty ballsy move, all things considered...

But I digress. Let's talk about the beer. It claims to be an "Imperial Mild", which as styles go, is about as oxymoronic as they come. Or could come. It pours a chestnut color, maybe a little orange, with not much in the way of a head. The aroma smells of apples and citrus, then perhaps brown sugar. Caramelized apples? The taste suggests sugar and spice, a strong malt backbone with lots of hops (72 IBUs) to balance. The 9% ABV warms the body & the soul, just like our Alaskan sunshine, and leaves you wanting more. This bad-boy is dangerously drinkable.

Perhaps the Feds should start keeping tabs on anyone buying it, just to make sure they're not abusing it? Oh wait, they probably are. Well, as we Alaskans like to say, "Here's to you, Big Brother!" {Insert the rude gesture of your choice here.}

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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