I’ve made it to the PNW. It makes me feel like I’ve reached the promise land. There is great beer everywhere. The selection of beer out here is astounding and I’m really looking forward to drinking my way through it all. The downer, is while I’m in beer paradise, I’m also in the beer wasteland that is the Kitsap peninsula. Sure, there are a plethora of breweries out here, with a few more slated to open soon, but actually finding that beer can be tricky. There are a good number of pubs nearby that I can get a pint, but to bring some beer home is trickier than I expected. Beer stores are hard to come by out here. The grocery stores do a bang up job…for grocery stores…but there are no stores devoted to just beer (at least that I have found just yet). To get to a bottle shop one must leave the peninsula entirely. Now, yes, I am looking a gift horse in it’s big toothy mouth, but I know it’s not all bad. Like I said, there are a good number of pubs serving good beers and a decent selection can be found at grocery stores.
Once again, this is going to be a tasty adventure. Cheers!
If there is one type of beer that Bahrain liquor stores stock in massive amounts, it’s strong, terrible, malt liquors. I thought it would be funny to pick up a couple and do a side by side, but as you will read, it was less funny and more terrible burning. The iconic paper bag that malt liquors come in haven’t made it out to Bahrain so the standard black bag of shame will have to do.
So, which can of burney pain eventually came out on top? Will the crown stay intact or will the pirates steal the royalty’s fortune? Let’s find out.
Royal Dutch Super Strong 12%
The label design is dull- strike one. If it weren’t for research purposes I would have never purchased this, instead buying a boatload of the Pirate because there is a pirate on the can and if all I care about is getting lit up I might as well pretend I’m a swashbuckler.
Gotta take that first swig straight from the can. No aroma check, no color check, just a hard and deep gulp. Unf, this is rough. It’s full bodied and syrupy smooth with a bit of carbonation in the back end. Royal Dutch slides down the throat with a red-hot alcohol tail, which balances out the grainy sweetness. After pouring it into a glass I can see that this is crystal clear gold with a small head. The aroma is cheap booze mixed with malt sweetness. It has a rough grain profile masked by the fumes and the high level sugary aroma. The more I drink the more fruity notes I’m picking up. (Five minutes later) I can’t taste anything. My tastebuds are burnt off and I might be drunk.
Pirate Super Strong 12%
Can chug- medium to thin boded with a much harsher finish. Not much flavor other than fusel alcohol. Seriously, it burns. Back again and…ouahhh it is hot. Oh man, I’m trying to hold on to hope that I’ll like this one better but that gulp just bit me, I think.
Poured into a glass I see that this one is bright hay/gold with a large head. Clear because filtering is AWESOME! Aroma is a mix of booze, grain, fruity notes and apple really coming thru. Flavor is mostly cereal grains and a lot of booze. Sweet and light fruits, too. Not much, really. I’m mostly surprised about the lack of flavor in this one. (break, lost track of time) I’m seriously drunk. My head is floating, my fingers are dancing, and I don’t know what is going on right now.
Job well done, boozed up brews. I guess you’re both champions.
But in reality, only the Pirate is a champ. The reason is two fold. One, you have a much awesomer can and name. Who doesn’t want to get drunk and pretend to be a pirate? No one. Not even pirates because today’s pirates suck and pirates of yore were cool (except that they sucked, too). But, at least their attire is neat and I can wear it at Halloween. Two, it has less flavor, which means it has less bad flavor and that is a positive. Sure, the booze is a bit harsher, but it’s 12%. Don’t buy it if you didn’t expect that.
The wife and I made Coco’s curry tonight. Yea, it happened and I am bragging about it. I decided it was high time to start pairing more than just pilsners with delicious curry so I snagged a Lagunitas IPA out of my beer fridge. How’d it fare?
It was mighty fine, thank you. The boxed Coco’s Vegetable Curry is quite mild so on one level I’d say the beer overpowered the curry. Had this been a level two or three, instead of the zero it was, it would have been about the right intensity. As it was, the beer cleaned out the palate so I could enjoy each bite as it was my first.
Beer has a beautiful and tragic history in the United States. Imagine where we would be if it weren’t for the crushing effects of prohibition. I am a whole-hearted supporter of the current craft beer revolution and do my part by brewing a little of my own. As a longtime history geek, I like keep an eye on where the industry has been, too. Which brings me to this post. I plan on doing the occasional historical brewery, tavern, beer related post. Starting…now.
Hydraulic Brewery / N. Thomas Brewery / Dayton Breweries
Founded in 1865 as the Hydraulic Brewery at First and Beckel by John Wager. The brewery had a slow buildup and passed through many hands until finally making it’s way into the possession of Nicholas Thomas and George Weddle in 1880. Thomas was a German immigrant, like many others who started breweries in the Dayton/Cincinnati region. He previous owned a grocery and, from the sound of things, blindly leapt into the brewing business. Weddle sold his stake in the brewery to Thomas in 1893 and under his control the brewery grew to a 80,000 barrel capacity (from just 600 when Thomas first began with the company). The Hydraulic Brewery was eventually incorporated as the N. Thomas Brewery in 1900, with Thomas as the president. The brewery continued to grow and build new additions, including a 300 barrel at a time brewhouse in 1902.
At about this time, Dayton was fighting the advances of the dry movement and many area breweries saw fit to form an organization that would have more power to wield control over unsightly taverns causing much of the consternation of the movement. They would cut off the beer supply to the rowdy taverns, which would mean no more customers, and the tavern would close. The dry movement would then have to thank the breweries themselves for closing the bars. It obviously failed since prohibition happened, but at least they tried. The N. Thomas Brewery stayed independent at first, but eventually joined the group two years later in 1906. You could say that was the end of N. Thomas, but the name lived on and the beer continued to be brewed up until prohibition and in fact, the output was ramped all the way up to 150,000 barrels a year. With that, the Dayton Breweries closed a partner brewery, The Adam Schantz Brewery, but renamed the N. Thomas Brewery to the Schantz-Thomas Brewery.
Prohibition eventually did the conglomeration in, as it did with so many other breweries nationwide. At the end though, only the former N. Thomas, now Schantz-Thomas Brewery was still producing suds for the public.
But wait, there’s more! Miami Valley Brewing Co.
Thankfully, prohibition didn’t last forever. With the repeal of the Noble Experiment in 1933, the site of the former Hydraulic/N.Thomas Brewery once again created the wonderful elixir. The Miami Valley Brewing Company built a new brewery at First and Beckel to produce post-prohibition lagers and ales. MVB started out with the Nick Thomas Line of beers. Pilsener, Bock, Holiday brew, were part of the initial offerings. Later, MVB started pushing other brands like the London Bobby line, and Miami Special. Robert Musson’s “Brewing in the Gem City” has a load of labels from that time frame. My favorite has to be the Miami Special that has palm trees and a sailboat on it…because that’s what people think of when they think Miami Valley (I get it, Miami Florida, I just think that’s a bit ridiculous). MVB continued to brew, eventually expanding the plant to 175,000 barrel capacity following World War II, however increasing competition from national brands made sales relatively flat. Brewing finally ended for good in 1950 at the First and Beckel street location, ending 85 years of brewing there.
The Brewery was tore down in the years following MVB’s closure. A junk yard now sits at this once mighty and important site in the history of Dayton’s brewing legacy. Apparently, a couple of the smaller buildings remain to include the old bottling/canning line. While sad, it isn’t unlike many of the old industrial sites of past.
For a much more thorough history of the brewery with great images of the men who created the breweries, the complexes themselves, and the vessels that their beers were served in, please check out:
“Brewing in the Gem City” by Robert A. Musson, M.D. (offers a very solid history with an excellent collection of photographs)
“Breweries of Dayton” by Curt Dalton (Focuses more on the academic histories, with images to augment, as well)
It’s been a while so, let’s have a showdown! Weiss, weizen, wheat, whatever. It’s not my favorite style and I generally go for anything else at a bar when confronted with it as a choice. And no, an orange slice doesn’t make it any better; this isn’t Corona (I realize you put a lime in Corona but please make the connection, folks). However, wheat beers are pretty common and rather popular if you look around a bit.
The small selection of choices out here usually contains a couple wheat options. A couple weeks ago those couple of options grew rapidly into four, FOUR, different options. What was a man, even a wheat beer disliker such as myself, to do? Well, a showdown, of course.
All the previous showdowns have been a one man operation. However, luckily for me, I have a great wife who was eager to play along this time. That meant I could finally do one of these blind. I drank the beers, my wife did all the bar tending. Let’s get to it.
Benediktiner Weissbier – 5.4%
I’d never heard of this one before my local bottle shop started carrying Benediktiner earlier this year. I grabbed a sixer a few months back and liked it enough to pick up more when this showdown came about. This has the darkest body of the bunch. An aroma of light spice and wheat with mild sweetness. The flavor carries the theme through and is the most flavorful of the group but there was something about it I just couldn’t get thru, which kept me from really enjoying it. How did it fare stacked up against some competition? Well, if you are a fan of the showdowns you know the first one up is the first one out, so not well. I would say this one didn’t really compete for a medal (the Olympics are coming up, enjoy the reference).
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen – 5%
The quickest way to get on my good side is to not skimp on the serving size. From the moment I first laid my eyes on Schöfferhofer, a solid 10 months ago, I knew I would like it. The odd thing was that once I decided to mix it up with some other wheats I assumed this would be my least favorite. The -hof surprised me. A deep golden and a tall white head on this one. Decent aroma of clove and yeast. Solid spice lead-in. I half expected a bubblegum or banana bomb but that teaches me to judge without knowing the facts first. The flavor is what ends Schöfferhofer’s gold medal run at bronze. Not nearly as much spice, yeast, or clove as the aroma suggests. Muted was the word that first came to mind when I took a sip.
Hoegaarden – 4.9%
You’re asking yourself what has become of my beer prowess, aren’t you? Why would I include a Belgian witbier in a showdown of German weizens? Well, my store had it, for starters. And more than that, Hoegaarden is what people think of when they think wheat beer. Sure, you could argue Blue Moon, but Blue Moon is only popular because Hoegaarden opened the door for it. So I had the opportunity to stake the most well known wheat against some lessor known wheats and see what could be so different. My initial thought, before the competition began, was that I would be able to pick out the Hoe, even blindfolded, but it wouldn’t be all that different of a beer, relatively speaking. I was wrong. I’ve never been of the impression that Hoegaarden has all that much flavor going on in it, but when you take away sight, and focus purely on smell and taste, the profile really zings ya. Citrus, lemon, light spice, and light floral notes in the flavor and aroma. Easily the most carbonated of the players. I actually really enjoyed this one. I did not expect that. I’ve had it so many times that I stopped paying attention to it when I was drinking it but that ends now. I’ll be pretty happy when the best thing some corner dive bar has on is Hoegaarden from now on.
Hacker-Pschorr Weisse – 5.5%
In the span of four short months, I have gone from a Hacker newbie to a Pschorr promoter. I had a couple of their offerings in Munich during Oktoberfest, I picked up some Munich Gold a month or so ago here, and most recently grabbed a six pack of their Weisse. All have been really enjoyable German brews, surpassing all my expectations. The Hacker-Pschorr Weisse is full of spice and yeast, clove, and light bubblegum. The flavor is a touch of sweet malt, but mostly the nice spicy clove and soft wheat notes. Unlike the Schöfferhofer, the spicing isn’t muted in the flavor compared to the aroma. I’m sad I only grabbed one six pack as I could easily drink a few of these in a night. This is a really solid, enjoyable wheat beer.
At the end of the day I can say with absolute confidence that none of these are going in my top ten beers. It’s not their fault entirely, it’s just that exist within a style that I really don’t find much enjoyment in. Having said that, I do have a newfound understanding of the flavors in the beers. I really enjoy the spicier wheat beers with clove and yeast showing through. The Belgian witbier style is something I need to dive deeper into since that was a sure eye-opener. And if I ever run into a Hacker-Pschorr Weisse again, I’ll be sure to have at least one round of that hazy delight.
Bahrain Burgers, Taproom, and Brewery* finally served their first local beer to round out the trifecta of naming, and it was…pretty decent. I wasn’t expecting too much- it was my first brew in more than a year. I snagged a porter kit from Midwest Brewing (the kit is tasty, I’m not knocking it) and brewed up the all-grain batch a couple months back. Simple, straightforward, solid. I chose a kit because I was confident that it would be good, I didn’t have to worry about formulating, and I could focus on the things that have previously held me back: process. I’ve been struggling with my process for a while now- mostly because my last four batches have been brewed in four different “breweries.” When there is no continuity, for me at least, there is no process and there is no way I’ll be able to brew a proper batch. Our current location offers up more space than I’ve had in years, which means plenty of room to spread out and organize the equipment.
It was a glorious brew day.
I cleaned and sanitized with full confidence in the cleanliness. I boiled water, I steeped grains, I added hops, I pitched the yeast, all without feeling rushed, cramped, or pressured.
I’ve had some bad batches of late, which has put some severe strain on my brewing enjoyment. But this was a success. Not an award winner, not a brewpub opener, just a solid beer.
It’s a little thin, a little under carbonated, but there is nothing wrong with it. It isn’t infected, it doesn’t taste off, it is as a porter should be.
We also made delicious burgers tonight. They seriously rocked. A mixture of pork and beef, with a plethora of spices and topped with caramelized onion jam awesomeness. Seriously. Awesomeness.
(*Not a real brewery, taproom, or burger joint. But, if you know the password you can get all three)
I’ve had enough wallowing in self pity about the lack of good beer and the expense of it all out here. It’s time to take advantage of what I do have and move on with my life. So here is my first step.
My wife had to work late the other night so I was left all alone to my devices. What was I to do? I’d been in the mood for some local-ish cuisine of late so thought it was time to indulge.
I couldn’t be bothered to make the two-minute walk to my local schwarma stand so I phoned in an order from some random “greasy spoon” type joint a few kilometers away. Hummus, Kebbah, and a schwarma plate; I do love the food in this region. I was in the scholarly mood so I went looking for the best beer pairing for my meal of adequate middle eastern cuisine (the food was OK, passable, but meh. About what I expected, though). I decided that fried kebbah and hummus would probably pair well with a pilsner while the schwarma would need something a little more substantial to wash away the spice and grease of the meat. Sierra Nevada Summerfest, though a little out of season (however, is summer ever out of season in the middle east?), was the obvious choice to start and luckily, I had just picked up some Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA the other day. Boom, dinner decided.
The hummus was ok. The kebbah (my first experience with it) was rather nice. Lamb meat filled, deep fried bulgur, spice. Tasty. The Summerfest did its job perfectly; tearing through the oil and grease of the kebbah while light enough to compliment the hummus without overpowering it.
The schwarma, much like the hummus, left a fair amount to be desired. It wasn’t bad and it had plenty of spice, it was just boring. However, the 60 Minute IPA really saved the day. Each bite was cleaned up with a gulp of the grassy delight. If only the schwarma had been better, this would have been a meal to redo. Since it was not, I’ll just have to give it a go with better hummus and schwarma- but the beers will stay the same.
Hummus has long been a favorite of mine, and, as a man who loves tasty things, I of course love schwarma. The kebbah was new to me. It isn’t a dish that will turn my world on its head, but one I’m glad I tried and will go for again.
Month nine. Beer selection is lacking diversity; F*%#king expensive.
I could stop there. I won’t stop there, but I could. Bahrain is about what you would expect from an Islamic nation. Alcohol, while legal, is not for the locals. Alcohol is for the me and the you, who are visiting this island for a bit. I am luckier than most as I have access to the Navy base here, which does its best to stock more than just Carlsberg, Bud, or Heineken. Why, just tonight, I had a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, a Warsteiner, and now I’m polishing off a Kona Island Lager. If you aren’t as lucky for me, may I suggest catching the next flight to a more beer friendly nation?
All hope is not lost, however. The British have been here longer than those pesky Americans, therefore there is more catering to British tastes than American. That means at more than one bar I have found Wells Bombarider ale. One pint was good, one was god-awful (for those counting, that means I’ve found it at two bars).
Which brings me to the other problem with finding good beer in a country that does not have a friendly relationship with booze: proper care and attention. Since many of the owners and bartenders in Bahrain don’t drink their offerings, how can they be expected to make sure their product is properly taken care of and in servable condition? They can’t. I don’t hate them for it, that is their right. But, hire someone who does drink and who knows how to take care of draft lines, how to keep kegs fresh, how to not make me want to throw a pint of ale against the wall. Please?
There really isn’t a point to this, other than to give you an idea of this country and it’s beer habits. The basics are:
Beer can be found at a vast number of hotel bars/restaurants
Carlsberg is the most popular beer
Cider is more common than I would have ever expected (Strongbow, Somersby, Savanna)
Poor imitations of the Irish Pub theme are rather common- this one actually makes them similar to many other beer drinking nations
Cheap beer is expensive. 3BD is common. 1BD = $2.6 Yikes.
On certain days and in certain bars you will find yourself drinking among many Saudis. They like booze.
I’ve crossed Bahrain off the short list of locations to open my eventual brewery.