Hometown Blonde

I always have high expectations for any beer from New Glarus, especially a style as simple as a pilsner.  This is not your typical pilsner, however, but if you’re fan of rich ones, you’ll love Hometown Blonde.

For starters, this pilsner is on the heavier side, at least as pilsners go.  Hometown Blonde uses four varieties of German hops to achieve a richer and creamier “Old World” style pilsner.  Hops clearly comprise the backbone, a concept I’ll never argue with, but from a person who’s not the biggest pilsner fan, they’re a little much at first.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say they tasted stale, but their strength clashed with the light and creamy texture.  I wasn’t used to this, as it’s been a good long while since I’ve had a legit pilsner, but Hometown Blonde grew on me.  Hops add meat to the normally-bland pilsner, and this is one I would willingly pick up again.

If you like a good pilsner you’ll love Hometown Blonde.  The flavor is consistent and finishes clean without an aftertaste, but the middle was a little much for me at first.  If you’re not used to thicker pilsners, don’t pass judgment quickly; if you know you’re a pilsner fan, this is for you.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    3
Thickness            4
Hops/Malt          4
ABV                       4.8%

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Summit Pilsener

This beer is very simple, like all pilsners are supposed to be, but unfortunately not very good.  The main characteristic all pilsners should have is being easy to drink, and that is Summit Pilsener’s main offense.  Although this pilsner has the other characteristics you’d expect of the style, such as color and thickness, taste doesn’t follow.  This pilsner isn’t smooth or clean, and isn’t very easy to drink.  The sweetness provided by the malt is nice, but doesn’t yield a creaminess you find in great pilsners.  Each sip ends with the malt sweetness turning to a wheat flavor that leaves a stale aftertaste.  This pilsner wasn’t very refreshing and was over-carbonated, which added to the lack of smoothness.  As you can tell, I wasn’t fond of this beer, which is too bad because it’s a relatively easy beer to master.  If you want something to satisfy what most pilsners are supposed to, even Budweiser and Coors come closer.

Overall                 3/10
Color                    3
Thickness            4
Hops/Malt          6
ABV                       4.8%

Saranac Bohemian Pilsener

I remembered this Saranac selection as being pretty good, and years later, it’s still a rather good pilsner.  Some of it’s characteristics are unconventional of what you find with most pilsners, but in the end, it’s still good.  An underlying carbonation is present throughout, and although it’s a little striking at first, you get used to it.  Because of the carbonation, Bohemian Pilsener could be a little smoother, but it isn’t off-putting.  The flavor is what you’d expect from a pilsner: equal parts malt and hops with a nice, light creaminess.  The mouthfeel is a little heavier than most pilsners, yet still refreshing.  After a while I felt full from a combination of the heavier-than-normal thickness, carbonation and full flavor.  But despite this, I liked Bohemian Pilsener.  Although it was thicker than you might normally like, it was full of flavor.  If you’re looking for a lighter pilsner, this wouldn’t be for you; if you want a pilsner with a more full flavor, you’ll enjoy this.  I would have Bohemian Pilsener again if I wanted a pilsner flavor to savor, not one to simply quench my thirst and go down easy.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    4
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.8%

Good and bad from New Belgium

For my first set of reviews I’ll be starting with two beers from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo.  The brewery offers many different styles of beers, from more commonly found tastes to the much craftier (and pricier) Lips of Faith series.  And, best of all, a large amount of their products are available in 26 states, so you usually have a lot to choose from.  I won’t be reviewing Fat Tire, the brewery’s most common and popular beer, in this post, but I will later.  And as you see from the headline, one I like, and one I don’t.  And check out the links page for the New Belgium Web site, which has cool features such as videos, recipes and food pairings for each beer.

Ranger India Pale Ale

This IPA is part of the brewer’s Ranger series.  I look at Pale Ales and IPAs as the red wine of the beer world.  They tend to be dry, aromatic, have a slightly higher alcohol content and offer the most complex taste.  This IPA is no different, and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s not too dark, not too light and has the perfect amount of hops.  Before you even taste it, the fruity bouquet hits you.  They use hops that produce fruity scents, and when you take a sniff you get a citrusy aroma, which to me resembled a grapefruit.  The ale has a medium thickness and is bursting with flavor.  At first a combination of savory bitterness and sweetness hits you right away, but not too overpowering.  While some IPAs can be heavier and even wheat-like, which can weigh you down, this one is nothing short of refreshing.  There is also a pleasant aftertaste that leaves your mouth slightly puckered and wanting more.  In the wine world, if a wine changes taste from lips to throat, it is called “complex.”  This, then, must be a complex beer.

I recommend this IPA to anyone that wants to try an IPA for the first time or likes them already.  The hops are in great balance with the thickness of the beer; even though it’s on the lighter side for IPAs, it is chock full of flavor and it’s fruity note keeps you refreshed.  I was struggling on the overall rating for this because I went from really liking it to loving it.  In the end, it came down to one thing: each time I was almost done with one bottle, I was waiting to open another one.  I just couldn’t get enough.

Overall                 9/10                    Notable Bouquet       Citrus, Grapefruit
Color                    5
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          2
ABV                       6.5%

Blue Paddle

Blue Paddle is New Belgium’s version of a Czech lager/pilsner.  America is known for lagers, so it seems to natural to produce one, plus many are seen as brewers’ “base” beers.  I was not a fan of Blue Paddle, though.  It didn’t have much flavor and wasn’t very smooth.  It seemed to have a touch of carbonation.  Lagers are meant to be refreshing, but this wasn’t.  I didn’t like it at first but decided to give it more tries…after all, I did buy a six-pack of it.  But nothing changed.  During each one I didn’t want to finish it and I ended up giving some of them away.  It took me a while to put my finger on another beer it reminded me of, and I was finally able to place it: Miller Genuine Draft.  It surprised me too, but it tasted like MGD.  So, if you’re a fan of MGD or are looking at this at the store, my advice is to save your money and just buy MGD.

Overall                 3/10
Color                    3
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.8%

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson