02 March 2009

Some dateless moose

It probably says a lot about me that the best summers of my young adulthood are forever bound in my memory to a particular off licence beer promotion. The one spent dossing about Belfast (there was no work to be had, honest) was all about the dirt-cheap Michelob Golden Draught on sale at the tiny offy just off Botanic Avenue (we had to clear our fridge of its extraneous contents, like food, and shelves). I left college several years later and took up my first proper job the following June. Having rented what seemed like a massive one-bedroom apartment in Harold's Cross, I discovered that the Londis opposite the park was doing six-packs of Moosehead Lager for a fiver. It seems now as if every evening involved climbing the hill up to the shop, filling my German army surplus rucksack with Moosehead and striding jauntily homeward with the sun on my back. It was probably only most evenings, however.

Moosehead Lager has been a regular fixture on the Irish beer market ever since, though the price has gone up quite a bit -- it being an early victim of the Great Euro Changeover Gouge, in which the licensed trade indulged shamelessly. And of course my interest in lager isn't what it was back when we had warm summers, so I have not felt the need to indulge in any Moose-related nostalgia.

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a red-label Moosehead Pale Ale on the shelves in DrinkStore. Like much of the stock there it was covered in dust so I searched the bottle for a best-before date. There was none. I asked the proprietor who assured me it had just come in, but went to fetch the box. No date on that either. I'm not a stickler for dates -- no Irish ticker can afford to be -- but it does make a difference with pale light beers: that stale mustiness you get is really not nice.

I decided to take a chance anyway. Fortunately, through the miracle of Twitter, the brewery found me and taught me how to decode the encrypted born-on date on the bottle (the first letter is the month, the next two the day, and then the year followed by 52, so my G03852 means my beer was made on 3rd July last year -- should still be fresh enough).

On pouring, I discovered an incredibly pale beer, pretty much pilsner-coloured. No aroma to speak of, but there's a bit of body to it. Unfortunately, once the taste kicks in, this body gives the impression of being sugar-derived. Not that it's especially sweet, but there's no hop character at all -- there's really nothing to the flavour except that minor sugariness. Perhaps ice cold it might be enjoyable, but the carbonation would likely be all wrong without the refreshing lager fizz. I retain my fond memory of Moosehead Lager, but I won't be buying the pale ale again.

While I was at it, I opened another pale ale from eastern North America. Genesee Cream Ale is another super-pale ale which doesn't really resemble ale at all. There's no head on this one, despite unpleasantly large amounts of fizz. The body is bad-lager-thin and there's a vague dry, sour, burnt corn kind of flavour, a bit like nasty English keg ale -- Worthington's in particular -- only with fizz instead of nitro. Not pleasant, even though I was having it cold. "Cream" and "ale" are two words I really wouldn't associate with this travesty.

So, there you go: proof that ale -- lager's sophisticated cousin -- can be just as deserving of lager's reputation for bland rubbishiness. Remember that this Friday is lager time on The Session, and you lot can tell me whether your own local yellow fizz matches the quality of these ales.

17 comments:

  1. Ok I was wrong about twitter. I have heard enough "then the makers contacted me" stories in the last week to show its amazing. How has it become so ubiquitous in one week? Stephen Fry getting caught in a lift seems to have been the best advertisement in history.

    I.O.U one i was wrong "Im a little tea pot" dance

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  2. ohgodpleaseno
    *mind scrub*

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  3. I have to say I'm not at all sure what twittering is all about, how often one should do it, and where one should do it. But yeah, having makers contact you makes it seem more appealing than just another way to expose your life on the auld Interweb. I guess I'm getting old. :D


    By the way, TBN, was that the same army surplus bag you use now?

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  4. The very one. Now approaching its 18th year of service, not counting the time it spent in the actual German army.

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  5. "Now approaching its 18th year of service, not counting the time it spent in the actual German army"

    Schindler and I are like peas in a pod! We're both factory owners, we both made shells for the Nazis, but mine worked, damn it!

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  6. Any time I wear it I find myself veering to the right...

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  7. I have seen and nearly bought the Genesee Cream Ale a number of times... I'm glad I haven't now!

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  8. Brendan4:05 pm

    Long time listener, first time caller here, Cream Ale is a beer type developed by American ale breweries to compete directly with the popularity of lager breweries in the nineteenth century. Genny Cream Ale and a few others are the remaining relics of that time.

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  9. Thanks Brendan. Any idea why they chose that ridiculous name for it? It's about the least creamy thing I've ever encountered.

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  10. I was similarly unimpressed with the Genesse Cream Ale. I was all enthusiastic about cheap American beer with the Spielberg imports and thought it might be something good.

    Twitter is indeed fun, but the celeb aspect of it bores me. It would appear that their day to day is as mundane as ours.

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  11. good to see some US beer on here - haven't come across anything but the common standards in Essex - I will have to look a bit harder after trying all the English Ales

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  12. Beer Nut I think the cream thing is to do with the amount of corn (maize) that's used in it, usually 20%+. Some have that it remained then of creamed corn.

    Its roots many be from Kölsch or Kölsch style beers, where the wheat is replaced with corn and its an ale fermented like a lager

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  13. Thanks Oblivious. That's pretty convoluted and most probably true. I've never tasted creamed corn. I'm not in a mad rush to either.

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  14. Ed Carson11:47 pm

    Genny Cream Ale is brewed with 6-row barley and corn. I believe it is shown a photo of a hop plant. It is then fermented with a lager yeast at ale temperatures. The name comes the "thick" "creamy" head it is supposed to have. Here in the US, most of legacy brands with ale in the name were brewed with a lager yeast

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  15. Cheers Ed. I'll bet the photo isn't even in focus.

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  16. Ed Carson1:24 pm

    That photo is the first time I've seen a bottle of it. Usually, cans are whats available at the local beer distributor( @ $ 18.99 a case it's a premium selection.)

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  17. Alan has a picture of a bilingual can of it here. He might have posted that link here if it wasn't for the Curse of Twitter (which is to say: use Twitter -- you're missing half the banter if you don't).

    $18.99, incidentally, would not quite be enough to buy a six-pack of this beer in a Dublin off licence, I think.

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