I never thought that beer could get so complicated, but this one is a perplexing mystery that I’m still trying to unravel. The beer was tasty, but I’m a little short on the details. Stay tuned for the full story!
As I’ve mentioned previously, my beverage preferences have long fallen solidly on the malty side, with bocks, stouts, and porters prevailing. Shockingly, as this endeavor progresses, it seems that my tastes are beginning to shift (or at least expand) a bit. Take today’s selection, for instance. Not so long ago, anything with IPA in the name wouldn’t have elicited much excitement on my part. In fact, mild whining would have been more likely. On this occasion, however, Flying Dog Wildeman Farmhouse IPA was my first choice from a mixed six-pack brimming with malty goodness.
A familiar face on the craft beer scene, Flying Dog has been perfecting its art for over twenty years. Back in 1990, Flying Dog opened as a tiny brewpub in Aspen, CO. Six years, a few awards, and a cross-country move to Frederick, MD later, Flying Dog is a nationally distributed brand with a capacity of about 100,000 barrels per year. It comes as no surprise, then, that Flying Dog puts out some pretty tasty beer.
Despite Flying Dog’s respectable reputation, I was a bit skeptical of Wildeman Farmhouse IPA, since mixing wildly disparate flavors can be a unpleasant game. While some concoctions, like chocolate-covered bacon and twist soft-serve, are pure brilliance, others, like Chicken n Waffles Vinaigrette, are simply appalling. Fortunately, Wildeman fell into the former category. An expertly-executed melding of styles, Wildeman is the mullet of beers – classic, mild-mannered farmhouse at the front; raucous hoppy, bitterness at the back. The facts:
Flying Dog Wildman Farmhouse IPA
|Hops:||Identified only as “a secret blend of several hops”|
|Notes:||Yeasty, with notes of citrus and spice on the front end; followed by a kick of hoppy bitterness|
|My Take:||An impressively executed beer mullet. Darn tasty!|
Today I committed a beer-drinking faux pas tantamount to wearing white shoes after Labor Day: I consumed a Marzen in January. You see, Marzen, often known as Oktoberfest, was developed in response to an embarrassing problem facing German brewers during the Middle Ages: skunky beer. The culprit was heat; during much of the year it was too warm for proper fermentation. As a remedy, those brewing sticklers in Bavaria drafted an ordinance limiting beer brewing to the days between Sept. 29 and April 23.
To ensure an adequately-preserved supply through the summer months, alcohol content was increased and beer was stored in mountain caves. This new style, a malty, aged lager, became known as Marzenbier or “March beer.” As some stories go, barrels used to store Marzen needed to be emptied in time for the brewing season; this mass draining of beer barrels in late September set a precedence for the modern Oktoberfest.
According to that 1553 brewing ordinance, today’s beer, an Oktoberfest from Bloomington, Indiana’s Upland Brewing Co., should be in a cave somewhere in the Bavarian Alps, stored safely for future consumption. Thanks to the miracles of modern refrigeration, however, I was able to enjoy this fairly decent example of one of my favorite beer styles.
Call me dull, but I love a good Oktoberfest. With a perfect balance of malt and hops, combined with a clean finish and nice alcohol kick, Oktoberfest strikes me as a quintessential example of good, hearty beer. So deep is my affection for this style that, when I went on a solo hike this fall that started as a 2-hour jaunt and ended as a 6-hour misguided wandering with no food and little water, all I could think about was making it to the nearest beverage purveyor for a generous serving of Oktoberfest.
As for today’s beer, all the Marzen-banter up to this point was really just an attempt to compensate for the fact that Upland’s Oktoberfest is not particularly interesting. While it embodies all of the requisite Marzen characteristics – rich, malty flavor with a slightly hoppy bitterness on the finish that dissipates quickly – it lacks the savory notes that my favorite Oktoberfests possess. To summarize:
Upland Oktoberfest Lager
|Hops:||Identified only as “rare German” hops|
|Notes:||Classic Marzen – malty, with a hint of hoppy bitterness and a very clean finish.|
|My Take:||Perfectly decent, but I’d choose New Glarus Staghorn or Tyranena Gemuetlichkeit over it any day.|
Wondering where I get my info? I’m a librarian, silly, I know everything. In case you doubt, a few sources:
Beer savant Michael Jackson: http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000255.html