Joe's Rants and Raves

  • Jun 17 - 02:34 PM: What is Bitter? : Joe McBane

    Bitter is a term that most beer drinkers have heard of but few actually understand. There are a number of misconceptions associated with the term. The most common is that people assume the beer is going to be, well incredibly bitter. The second less common one, but one that I have heard many times over the years is that it is anything that comes from a handpump.

    While it is true that most beers that are poured through a handpump in England are bitters the type of dispensing is not exclusive to the style. Many great stouts, brown ales and porters to name a few have found their way into a glass via a handpump.

    The style is actually only moderately bitter in taste. You should be able taste all of the ingredients that went into the brew. The key is balance and drinkabilty with many subtleties of flavor. Appearance can range from golden to copper in hue. These traits make the style a perfect candidate for a handpump. The full flavors are really allowed to shine.

    In my experience once people taste it, it tends to have a very broad appeal. The less savvy enjoy it as it does not overwhelm the palate and the afficionados are able to appreciate some good session beer drinking. No one can throw back double IPA's all of the time.

    In short a bitter is an English pale ale.

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  • May 29 - 05:29 PM: A Sign : Joe McBane

    The Tap and Mallet has a sign. It is official we are open and we have beer!

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  • May 16 - 01:42 PM: Draft Misconceptions : Joe McBane

    The vast majority of people that come into a beer bar only want draft beer. This is understandable as they usually can't get this at home. However there are certain situations where bottles are are far superior to draft. Simply put if there is yeast in the bottle you want the bottle. Draft beer cannot offer the benefits of yeast due to the size of container and pouring techniques.

    Good examples of styles where the bottle is preferable are most high quality Belgian ales, bottle conditioned British beers and German wheat beers. The yeast in a bottle conditioned Belgian allows for that sharp carbonation that really is a crucial part of the drinking experience. The same can be said of British beers. While the carbonation doesn't tend to be as aggressive it is a lot finer than anytyhing a draft beer will produce. In both these styles that have been shipped across the ocean and are normally slow movers the yeast will help preserve the beer and enhance character over time. It is also worth noting that you don't actually want the yeast in your glass although if you were to drink it it would keep you nice and regular the follwing day. German wheat beers are a little more debatable. They are usually pretty good on draft except when the kegs gets towards the end. Often at that point most of the yeast has gone and you are left with fairly clear thin beer. The yeast gives these beers a much fuller body and softer mouthfeel. Out of a bottle the carbonation is similar to a draft pour but you get a solid and consistent amount of sidiment each time.

    Keep these remarks in mind next time we don't have your choice beer available on draft but is bottled in the cooler.

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