Monday, August 31, 2009

Dogfish Head Midas Touch Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Midas Touch
Style: Historical Recreation | ABV: 9.0% | IBUs: 12
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head Midas TouchWhen I first heard about Midas Touch, it was such a cool concept for a beer that it instantly shot up to the top of my "most wanted" list. Essentially, the mad scientists at Dogfish Head, along with with molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, recreated the oldest-known fermented beverage in the world by reverse engineering traces of a drink left on 2700 year old Turkish drinking vessels. These weren't just any ancient drinking vessels though, they were allegedly found in the tomb of King Midas.

The resulting brew was quite the crossover; part beer, part wine, and part mead. Included in the ingredient list are honey, white Muscat grapes, and saffron in addition to the four traditional elements of beer (grain, hops, yeast, and water). The brewery describes Midas Touch as a "smooth, sweet, yet dry ale that will please the Chardonnay or beer drinker alike." Reception was so good that Dogfish have gone on to create two more "historical recreations," Theobroma and Chateau Jiahu.

So, bringing an ancient drink back to life may just be the greatest idea for a beer ever, but does it work in the real world? Let's fill a drinking vessel and find out.

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden-amber body with less than a finger of bubbly, off-white head that burns out pretty quickly and leaves little lacing.

Aroma: A fruity, floral, perfumy, spicy, and sweet mix. Very unique.

Taste: Crisp and dry with lots of grape, making it almost wine-like at times. Underneath there's a light malt backbone with mild accents of honey shining through to ground it all. There's something vaguely chocolaty towards the finish, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Alcohol is there, but masked rather effectively. The aftertaste is grapey and mildly malty. My wife described it as replacing "all the bad things about wine with all the good things about beer." Your mileage may vary.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with fine carbonation and a dry finish. Some alcohol burn in the mouth, but not too much.

Drinkability: The only thing really holding it back is the alcohol content; a quaffable ancient brew.

Verdict: To be perfectly honest, I liked this beer before I ever opened a bottle; the concept of time travel in a bottle is pure brilliance. Now that I've finally got my hands on some tasted it, I'm delighted to find that the beer itself is actually complex and quite enjoyable.

Grade: A

Guinness Draught Review (Nitro-Can)

Brewery: Guinness Ltd. | Beer: Guinness Draught
Style: Irish Dry Stout | ABV: 4.2% | IBUs: 40
Serving Method: 14.9 oz. nitro-can poured into pint glass

Guinness Draught (Nitro-Can)When discussing beer with my fellow beer geeks, time and time again Guinness Draught comes up as part of the genesis of their love of beer. It's usually a pint of Guinness that helped them realize there is more to the world of beer than soulless, fizzy yellow clones. They might have even gone as far as ending up a full-fledged brand evangelist, proudly telling anyone within in earshot that Guinness is the manliest beer ever produced and the only brand that matters.

Inevitably, they end up working their way up the craft-beer ladder, perhaps chuckling a bit when they look back at the old days. Tellingly though, they still love a pint of Guinness–at least every now and then. Not just for old time's sake, but because Guinness is just an enjoyable beer.

This is all what happened to me, I'm the cliche. I enjoyed my first pint of Guinness in a faux Irish pub here in Houston one night and a light just went off above my head. From that moment, beer was not just something to get you drunk, it was so much more. Soon, I was one of those "Guinness people" telling Bud Light drinkers off at every chance I had. I ended up with bottle openers, endless numbers of pint glasses, a real deal neon light, a closest full of Guinness shirts and sandals, and even a mini-fridge (now used as a rudimentary cellar). And though Guinness doesn't mean everything to me that it used to, I have no regrets–it helped make me the beer advocate I am today.

In my mind, regardless of what is in the actual can/bottle/keg, the craft beer world owes a hell of a lot to Guinness. The prototypical "gateway beer" (more-so even than Fat Tire, or Blue Moon), Guinness has turned a massive amount of people on to good beer and that's good for everyone. But, that being said, what's inside the pint glass is still rather important...

Appearance: Guinness Draught is truly a beautiful thing. Perhaps the prettiest glass of beer I have ever seen, a tulip-shaped pint glass filled with a properly pulled Guinness Draught is as iconic as it gets. It's dark reddish-brown (not quite black), pierced by laser beams of red light, and capped by a creamy tan head. And my god, the bubbles–I could get lost watching the head settle on a pint, it's simply hypnotic.

Aroma: Chocolaty, roasty, and slightly sour malt with a little dark fruit thrown in. It's lacking a bit in intensity, but some of that's probably due to the dense nature of the nitro-head.

Taste: Quite similar to what the nose promised: mild milk chocolate, weak coffee, dark fruit, and sour roasted malt predominate, with a little light bitterness thrown in to help balance everything. There's some metallic iron-like flavors from time to time, but they don't ruin everything. It's not a particularly intense as far as flavor goes, but it gets the job done as a session brew. The aftertaste is roasted malt with mild bitterness.

Mouthfeel: A creamy as hell and amazingly silky medium-light body with smooth carbonation to match. Dries out in the finish.

Drinkability: While it's not exactly my first choice for a hot Summer's day, Guinness is still an amazingly drinkable beer.

Verdict: Chances are, if you're reading this you know exactly what it's like to have a pint of Guinness Draught. Inoffensive and generally uninteresting, yet highly recognizable and iconic, it's quite the paradox. Just the kind of paradox that's perfect to ponder over a familiar pint.

Grade: B