Miller 64

Miller’s 64

As fateful as Luke and Darth, as Luthor and Batman, Lucy and Charlie, the Millers and the Buds have been at war for decades, destinies intertwined in a deathgrip as they fall to the mat with claws in each other’s throats. No surprise then, that these two are racing to the bottom of the low: ultra-light beers. Bud has the “55 Select” and here is Miller’s “64”. So Miller has nine more calories, let’s see what they do with them.

As a reminder, this portion of the beer reviews is a public service. I’m careening through the crap, so you don’t have to. The basic premise is that there is no beer on Earth so crappy that a few ounces of Yuengling’s Black & Tan can not make it taste like nearly good beer. So far, this theory has withstood some truly horrific beers, some shudder-worthy liquids. One day a bright light over my head, and realized that “light” beers are even crappier than cheap beers, so the second phase of this quest marches forward lower into the swamplands.

The color is yellow, more likely due to Yellow #5 than anything malted, and the odor is nearly nothing, if anything, perhaps saltwater taffy and in that regard, half the smell is the wax paper wrapping. Lightly carbonated here, and the only other bit of info we care about is the number 2.8, which is the % alk. Label says “perfectly balanced” which is no info at all, they could be referring to a “balance” between mouse urine and banquet beer.

And actually, that’s not far off. No real beer taste to speak of, because that would increase the carbs, and we’re not talking about carbonation, though it might do that too. One mighty thing in “64”s favor: it does not make you gag, like some light beers. Most light beers are around 100 calories, and i don’t know what they spend it on. Not malts, for sure. But i really have to focus here. Not on what this is as beer, but how it matches up with the cream of the crap.

On that account, Miller 64 stands tall. And physically tall too. No really, the cans are too tall for the middle shelf in the fridge, which is for cheese, eggs, lunchmeats, and drink cans. But the taste is the tallest midget under the rainbow, right up there with Michelob Ultra, which has the delusionary confidence to call itself “premium”. Lightly tinny, barely fizzy, reminds one mostly of weak lemonade which was jammed full of ice seven hours ago.

On its own, Miller “64” gets a 1.8 rating. But when rescued with Yuengling’s Black & Tan, this is as good as Mick Ultra, and much better that Yuengling’s own light beer. We have to remember, of course, that even the worst cheapo regular beer improves to a higher level of tolerability with some YB&T, than any light beer.

Nobody chooses to drink light beer. But if you have to drink light beer, choose this one. It’s just as good (!?) as Michelob Ultra, and if you have to drink light, then the reason why is likely the cals and/or carbs. This has got 30 less calories than Mick Ultra, for the same price, so there’s no reason not to choose Miller 64.

Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA

Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA

Damn those pesky torpedoes! The real Commodore Perry was full speed ahead about beating the English Navy and now let’s see what Great Lakes Brewing has tagged as his 21st Century legacy… ahh, an IPA, an English-origin beer. As the label says, how ironic.

Color is light golden, not much bubbling going on, and the aroma out of the glass seems hoppy, a bit, but also meaty, as in real meat. And the taste bears this out: it tastes like there’s roast beef in my beer. At 7.7% alk and 70 IBU’s, this ought to be a serious experience, but i just can’t get over the eau de au jus in this beer. Not kidding, tastes like someone let their grill drippings into a batch of beer.

The hops are not overpowering, because the beer body comes through quite well in this, and it’s a nice flavor of malts. There’s a little wheaty taste but mostly some mid-toast barley and a hint of corn even. With the overall meaty taste, i would almost expect some potato flavors in here to make it a balanced meal.

The hops are not as fierce as 70 IBU’s would make you think, but fully evident. More to the pine side of the cone than the fruit side, a hint of tongue-numbing attests to evergreen influence, and the more sips i get, the more the hops take over from the beer body. But there it is all the way through: that taste of beef. You know when you fry burgers in a skillet and each burger gets those gray beads of fat built up around the edge? Eat one of those, and that’s what the meatish taste is, in this here IPA.

Pretty odd to find burger lard in an IPA, but it’s not the terrible thing that you might imagine. The beer body is barleybread, and a touch of beef fat actually goes hand-in-glove with it. If you try this IPA, might wish to have a packet of ketchup at hand to make the flavor complete. Maybe some dill relish. Oh wait, i know what this taste is: Yorkshire pudding but with a barley dough instead of wheat dough.

So what have we learned? About Commodore Perry, next to nothing. But about the beer which culturally appropriates his name? When you have some friends over and do some BBQ’ing, this would be an excellent beer to provide. The aftertaste of Cmdr Perry IPA will make your burgers taste like a star spangled success, no matter how bad a grillmaster you may be.

Very interesting beer, and an IPA rating has to take into account the body, the hops and the balance. Balance is good here, hops are comfortable, and the malt body is solid enough to support everything else. Don’t think i would buy this for Beer Appreciation Night, but for a picnic? Hell yeah! Rating is a casual 7.3 for good balance but unexpected extra tastes.

Bells Oberon Ale

Bells Oberon Ale

Have seen this on the shelf many times but didn’t realize until i got it, that this is from the same folks who make the Two-Hearted Ale, the one with the fiesty fish on the label. This one has a happy sun, and not much else on the label. Just that it’s 12 ounces, 5.8% alk, and it’s a wheat ale with a “spicy hop character” and some other descriptors, but by now i’ve learned about beer label blurbs, so most of that stuff goes in one ear and right out the other. Come to think of it, the sun on the label doesn’t look all that happy, more somewhat ungruntled.

So this should be interesting. The 2-Hearted got a strong 8.7 from me, and i fancy a weissen (wheat) beer now and then, let’s see how Bells did. The color is not really, as the label says, like a sunny day. Unless you’re looking directly at the sun, and don’t do that. It’s yellow, like completely yellowish yellow, with some light bubbling and a smattering of floaty things suspended in mid-beer.

And the taste is as good as i’d imagined. Obviously, the hops are not “spicy” but i can see where someone with an overactive imagination, or someone with a communications degree from a party-school college, might come up with “spicy”. The taste is actually “yellow” to me. Cross a dandelion with a daffodil and bite that. Fruit note is more lemon than a grapefruit or stone-pit fruit, and like most wheat beers the grain is upfront in it’s own idiom, but as with all weissens, more muted than barley malts.

Not too bad, and what someone called “spicy” is just, in fact, German-ness in the taste. A real German beer would have that bitey twist of flavor in spades, here it’s half a hint. But nice to have it there at all! This is my first weissen up for review, so there are no peers to compare it to yet. Thus, must rate this as simply a beer and how much i like it. That’s 6.5 for being a little sweet which tones down the grain.

New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

New Belgium’s Rampant Imperial IPA

OK, had some dentistry done today, so am hitting the assortment of hi-alk beers waiting in the fridge for review. Just did the Uinta Dubhe Imerial Black IPA, which is in fact a stout with “IPA” mysteriously slapped on the label, at 9.2% alcohol. Now let’s keep the imperial theme going with this one, NB’s Imperial IPA, nicknamed the Rampant, at a feral 8.5% alk.

Label has a crown overgrown with hop vines, so someone at New Belgium doesn’t understand that word “rampant”, but hey, public schools whatever, let’s move on. Color is tawny gold, small head and no bubbles eagerly reaching for the surface. Label claims it’s good on the nose, and shucks, they’re right. This has got one of the best aromas of an IPA yet tested. Not spiky pine or punchy citrus, but those mellower fruits, plum and peach, just as the label mentions peach, and there it is. Florals too, and we know that flowers don’t grow on pine trees, even though the label mentions pine as well.

The bubbles appear where your lips meet the liquid and swirl up from there, so they’ve got the carbonation locked in tight here, and it’s light but maybe that’s what “imperial” means when talking about beer? It did make me burp, so it’s not like this is flatter than a middleschool prom. One odd thing, the smell is better than the taste here. I could sniff this pint all day long, but there are some smells inside that don’t translate to the tongue.

The taste is veritably heavenly. I liked the NB Ranger IPA, and this is indeed a little more far-ranging than that. Still have some numbness from the novocaine, so will paste a mental post-it to pick this beer up again and make a more sober review. It deserves that, judging from my initial reaction, which is luv.

Damn, that taste is good. This might be the one which knocks off Sam Adams 48º Latitude from the Top Five IPA’s, but again, that serious decision will await a more sober review with all my nerve endings firing properly. Right now, i just appreciate the 8.5% alk. The taste is worldly, there’s that citrus fruit, but not a nostril-enlarging pucker. Here, it’s more general fruitiness, and yes there is that pine, but the undercurrent is berries and spice.

Cripes, this is one fine IPA. In fact, this may be a rare opportunity. Now i need to gather a bottle each of The Five and some of this Rampant, and do some fine-tooth testing. I’m going to give this a provisional rating of 9.1 on a par with higher into the 9’s. Potentially very high… i have not enjoyed an IPA this much for quite a while, and that’s not just the drugs talking.

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Just as CB CraftBrewers had the whole monkey-themed lineup of beers, Ballast Point out in San Diego has all the fishes. Mostly ugly fish too, but this one isn’t as horrifying as the rest. Looks like some kind of tuna, but its eye is not really all that big. BP “Sculpin” IPA came highly recommended, but as with Lagunitas beers, also from California, the BP’s are fairly pricey. Luckily, found this Big Eye and the Sculpin in a pick-a-six rack, so can try ’em without investing a lot.

This 7.0% alk IPA is a healthful dark gold, and has that sewer-water attribute with thirty thousand little bits o’ grit suspended in liquid, but by now we realize that this is a great omen presaging a great IPA. Unfiltered means untamed taste. In this one, however, there is so much litter that it’s piling up on the seafloor in my pint glass as i write. Presume that the Big Eye needs a layer of sediment to support it’s primary prey, the hopworm.

Not much info on the label at all, so have to go on taste alone with this fish. Nasal appreciation is lively, with tart-fruits and florals, and strangley, a hint of provolone. Hey, who knows? At an early age i learned that a chunk of Cheez Wiz on a hook works just as fine as any worm. Carbonation is pretty low on this one, a small amout of CO2 bite but nearly no head nor effervescing.

The taste is sweet, hops lower than the smell would advertise, and the floaty specks do tell the story right: the full flavor of beer swims here. Those hops which do come forward are the jaunty kind, more plum than grapefruit, if this was a cherry it would be the pie kind, not the snacking kind. Yum, with the Big Eye not trying to hop your schnozz off, the fuller malt flavor is free to bring out the blossom notes of hi-hopping. Almost a perfumy taste in there.

I like the taste, even though this is not what i look for in an IPA. I look for an astringtent that would pucker a lizard, but that’s not what this Charlie Tuna is about. This is a neat package of beer+hops, self-contained and not referrent to anyone else. Getting toward a tangerine taste. But the sediment did pile up and the final gulp was rather chewy.

Not too bad, glad i tried one bottle and glad i didn’t have to shell out 16 clams for a full sixer. If you try it, drink fast or swirl now and then, lest the last swig be oatmeal. Rating 7.6 for the sedate hopping, up for the solid beer body, down for the pricing.

Rogue Dead Guy

Rogue Dead Guy

The top of the game, when the game is low-information labeling. No useful info whatsoever on the label, other than it’s made in Oregon. In fact, i’m not even sure if this is Dead Guy Beer made by Rogue, or if it’s Rogue Beer made by Dead Guy. Since the cap says “Rogue” i’m gonna go with Dead Guy Beer made by Rogue, although it’s not Rogue Brewing, it’s Oregon Brewing, even though there is a Rogue River in Oregon. Confused yet?

Not sure if this is ale, IPA, lager, pilsener or eau de toilette. But there is a guy on the label who looks dead, holding a beer stein. And he’s wearing a hat, not sure if i’m supposed to read anything into that or not.

The color is very orange, not quite porterish but darker than a pils. This could be a lager or an amber ale. Not much carbonation but plenty of floating specks, so whatever it is, it’s not filtered too heavily, and that’s usually a good sign to my tastes. Smell is heavy, orange-caramel, sweet in the way that a rotting orange is sweeter than a fresh orange, in that sickly way which rotting things have. Like dead guys.

Oh, oof, and that’s the taste of it too. Rotting orange, i nailed it on the head by the smell. Actually, i’ve had beer like this before, from somewhere in Eastern Europe, i don’t speak Cyrillic letters so don’t know what the label of that one said, but it’s still on display as a curiosity in the row of unique beer bottles above my bar. Pretty sure it’s Russian, and it was probably a high-class brew in Russia, but not too great on my American tastebuds. This neither.

Anyway, that’s what this Rogue Dead Guy reminds me of. Nearly flat, very sweet in a fruity way, and a back-mouth taste of highly toasted grains. I like that grain taste, but the floral sweetness and fairly syrupy consistency are not for me. If forced into a corner and told to guess, i’d think that this is in the style of a Belgian ale. Maybe that’s what the hat means, maybe it’s a dead Belgian monk’s hat.

I remember that Russian beer had a slight fishy taste to it, like they used water right from the Volga. That’s not in here, even though the Rogue River in Oregon is famous for good fishing, but all the other things i did not like are in here. Yes, there’s a dead guy here, but not sure if he fell into the fermentation vat and that’s what i taste, or if he simply drank this beer and subsequently died.

Someone may like this kind of beer, but not me. Rating: 1.3

Shiner Bock

Shiner's Bock
Shiner’s Bock

The bock beer that made Shiner, Texas famou… err, well, there’s a nice goat on the label as all bock beers should have. Only this one is NOT a goat. It’s a bighorn ram, which is a sheep. Cripes, leave it to Texas. “It’s got four legs and horns, and golly the critter’s got the word ‘big’ right in the name! Yee Hawww!”

In any case, it’s a bock beer and i love bocks, goat or no goat. Great caramelly color up there near porterland, rich and extra beery aroma, and we have light bubbling. Label calls this 1913 recipe “lightly hopped” but i’d say it’s normally hopped. No mention of the alcohol content, but they do call this an “ale” and in Texas that matters, for taxation purposes.

The taste is very, very nice. The slight sweet of under-fermented malt-sludge, mixed with the sour of the sludge itself, add in some hops and you’ve got a shiner, and i don’t mean someone knocked you on the cheekbone. Carbonation is higher than it looked from the outside of the glass, and i’m all in favor of that, after some nasty flat beer yesterday.

This is a really good bock, better than Genesee’s, which is my staple bock. Still not as complex and hip-deep of flavor like a doppelbock, but this one is knee-deep in goodness. I could drink this a lot… if it was cheap. Very smooth and polished, which is not always the case with a bock beer, but i suppose they’ve had 107 years to get it right, minus some dry years back in the 1920’s.

I’d give this a solid and respectable 8.6 rating.

Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Uinta’s Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Not sure whats up with Uinta. Not only is the brewery’s name unsuited for human tongues, but this beer is called “Dubhe” and i think you need your tongue cut into three forks in order to pronounce that correctly. The label is pretty, though, a starswept Utah twilight skyline, complete with buttes and mesas and other easy-to-pronounce things.

This sucker has a big wide label, like their Hop Nosh i tried, and just like the Hop Nosh, there’s very little information on it. Lots of slogans and back-pats, but only one useful nugget: this Imperial Black IPA has a striking 9.2% alcohol content, which must just drive the Mormons out there to fits. Oh, and it’s made with hemp too. Wow, these people are just asking for a fight in Utah!

And, now the mystery of the non-carbonated Hop Nosh is solved. I didn’t just get a defective bottle of the Nosh, apprently Uinta Brewing just doesn’t believe in carbonation. What do they do with it? I know my chems and my bios, and so i know that when yeast make alcohol, they fart out carbon dioxide. So where did it go? At 9.2% alk, there was certainly a lot of yeast farting going on, in and around this beer. What happened to it?

On the good side, whereas the uncarbonated Hop Nosh was nasty, this is a pretty delicious beer so i don’t mind that it’s flatter than an Olympic gymnast. Don’t know what makes it “Imperial”, other than if an emperor says he’s wearing clothes, then his beer is fizzy too. The color here is almost stout, but brown where stout would be blacker, and still as opaque. Smell is very nice, hoppy and mealy and would probably work fine for killing wasp nests.

And it tastes like stout too, only a tad hoppier than most stouts. Very heavy carmelized mouthful, an insistent urge to chew once or twice before swallowing, it’s got that pumpernickel taste. I know what’s going on here. Uinta made a stout, then figgered out that America is nutzy for IPA’s. So they popped a few extra hop cones in there, and Voila! Now it’s an IPA! Uhh, errrrm… we meant “black IPA”. No, we meant Imperial Black IPA, yeah, that’s what we made. Yupsiree. We meant to do that.

So this is not an IPA. The label is a lie, which the Mormons out there will also take umbrage at. This is a stout with 1.3 times as much hops as in a stout. But i can’t really compare this to other IPA’s then, now can i? For stouts, the standard is Guinness. Against that field of competitors, Dubhe I.B.IPA fares decently. Sweeter, but it’s made for Americans so we’ll let that pass. More hops, and it turns out that’s not a bad thing for a stout.

As it happens, i like stouts. If i didn’t, then i’d be royally pissed off that they call this an IPA. Imperially pissed off, in fact. But as it stands, rating this as a stout and not an IPA (where it would score poorly), this odd contraption gets a 7.7. More carbonation might have lifted it a couple tenths, but it’s OK as it is. Just, don’t look at the label and think you’re getting an IPA.

Long Trail Green Blaze IPA

Long Trail’s Green Blaze IPA

At first one eyebrow raised over the name of this IPA, oh those kids today, but then realized that “blaze” is also a word for a hiking trail marker painted on a tree, so we’re not doing the double-entendre thing here, not even a single-entendre, since there’s a silhouette of a hiker on the label and the brewery’s slogan is “Blaze A Happy Trail.” The green is referring to hops, not some other kind of green which might or might not blaze. I think.

But the bottle is full of helpful info, like the alk%, 6.5, and the IBU’s therein, 60, which is high, high, high, d0000d whoah. And it waxes poetic about a “lupulin landscape” of resin… hey waitaminnit here, i thought we were talking about hiking? Nicely, Long Trail Brewing (of Vermont) also lists the hops they stuffed in here: Chinook, Equinox, Columbus and Mosaic.

Color is nearly amber, dark-gold with that orangey core, and it’s cloudy like a Vermont dawn, with nearly no carbonation evident when looking from the outside. The nostrils flame open at a rush of hopitude, the label says “pine, resin and tropical fruit.” I don’t know why so many beers claim to be “tropical” when i have never tasted papaya or mango in any of them, i suppose it just sounds good when some copywriter is sitting around blazing. So to speak.

The fact remains, this IPA has one of the strongest hop aromas i’ve smelt, but will the taste live up? Well, yes and no. This is hoppy, like a cricket up a jackrabbit’s ass. So hoppy that there’s an element of salt in the flavor, and as an entrant in the Hoppier Than Thou race, this one is on the leaderboard. Not wearing the yellow jersey, but within striking distance. Woot, this has got a pucker in its pocket, the tropical fruit here is the lime, and the rest of the hop complex is pine, like you’ve got a notion to walk up to a marked tree on the trail and lick the blaze right off the bark.

The beer body… uh, is there one? All i can taste is not 59 but a full sixty IBU’s in here. Let me sip a few small fast ones and see if i can find it. No, i really can’t. This must be beer, but the malts have all gone to the woods. Stunning accomplishment on the hops side of the equation, really outstanding blend of the four cone types used, but the beer body is in hibernation. This is the first beer where i truly can’t pick out any of the flavors of the grains used to make it. Assume there were some, i just can’t… uhhm what was i talking about?

As said, the hopmix here is exemplary. If you’re watching that race, to Hoppier-than-thou Mountain, then this is an IPA you want to get into the hand not holding your walking stick. If you’re seeking balance at the summit, then this is not your IPA. If Long Trail Brewing could put this hop melange into a beer that has beer in it, then we’d be talking about gold medals. They should hike a couple states East to Maine and ask the Smuttynose people how to do it, or better yet, share the Green Blaze hop recipe with the Smuttys.

Fantastic hops, but the balance is obliterated. How to put a rating on that? Darn, i don’t know. One side of the equation is a 9.9, the other is a 2.1 so i have to take the easy way out and average the pair, for an even 6.0. With a more foundational beer body, this could have been a masterpiece. So let’s rate it a 6.0 but with an asterisk.

Davidson Brothers IPA

Davidson Brothers IPA

Not much info on the bottle, might have been more on the carton, but i got this one off a pick-a-six rack. All it says is that this stuff is “brick kettle brewed since 1996”. First of all, a happy 25th to the Davidson brothers next year, and second of all, is there really such a thing as a kettle made out of bricks? Also says “Original Recipe”, 12 oz, and it’s from Glens Falls in NY, and i may be wrong, but that might be the real town that was the inspiration for Bedford Falls in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Or maybe it was Seneca Falls? I forget.

But on to the beer: a nice smell out of the bottle, pleasing orangey color, the same as many of my fave hoppy beers, so they didn’t skimp on the malts at the Davidson house. Sure enough, when i got my tongue wrapped around this, or vice versa, it’s making me happy because there’s a heartier beer body than many other IPA’s. No idea how strong it is, and that’s kinda a relief: what you don’t know, you can’t fear. Or maybe vice versa, sometimes.

Hmmm, the balance is a tiny bit off, but in the opposite way of most IPA’s. Here, the body is a little more assertive than usual, but no offense to the hops in this one, they are very large themselves. As a whole package, i think we have a winner here. No idea if it took them all 20 years to get it right or if it was hi-qual right from the first brick kettle-full, but today, this is a very good IPA.

Yeah, after more sips i stand by the assertion above: this is a small deviation from a perfect balance of beer/hops but in a good direction, for my tastes at least. Citrus hop flavors, the meaty beer leads them into a berry flavor. At the back of the mouth the taste is roasty and toasty, which most IPA’s, even good ones, tend to drown out with massive hopping. There is a little bitter taste which is not hops, must be from the grain, and that’s a distraction.

The texture and flavor are great, solid body and steady hopping which could go a touch higher, overall a competent IPA but not award winning. Rating this at 7.5 for the good body, subtractions for the extraneous bitter and missing balance.