I apologize for the ridiculous schedule and other commitments that kept me away from my usual beer blogging until now. Plus some sort of allergy has me feeling like a walking zombie right now.
One question that would undoubtedly come up if I had a rabid following who wrote me letters is what’s in my fridge and why. Living on a grad student “salary” the answer is often Yuengling, which I have observed before has about the best quality-to-price ratio anywhere.
If you came over tonight you would find two things on tap – a sixer of Stoudt’s superlative Trippel, which remains the best Belgian-style ale I have tried not made by francophones.
The second brew, Erie Railbender, I found after I moved back to the Pittsburgh area some years back. Following the tradition of act globally, drink locally (remember my first beer blog?) I tried everything I could find from the area. My wife and I kept coming back to two brews: the porter from Great Lakes in Cleveland (reviewed here) and a strong scottish ale from Erie Brewing Company in Erie, PA.
The label gives one clue to why Railbender kept showing up in our fridge – short of a traffic stop the label is the only way that you will find out that Railbender falls just short of 7% ABV. Most high-alcohol beers have an off-putting bitterness, or else (in the case of double- or triple fermented beers) they have a sweetness and thick cloud of yeast protein that disguises intimidating ABV’s of up to eight or nine percent. Erie pours a clear amber and goes down easy, distinguishing itself from most ales by the depth of flavor that comes from the ridiculous malt party that Railbender yeast throws before it dies. The brewers at Erie must have used some atomic-mutant superpower to defy the immutable laws of beer and craft a smooth, light-drinking 6.8% beer, and if so let me be the first to declare my allegiance to our mutant brewer overlords.
Some complain that Railbender lacks the shin-kicking oomph, the thickness and the lasting head of a Scotland-brewed ale like McEwan’s, although that cuts two ways. After dinner or out back with friends I might pop a McEwan’s and think to myself, good god this is a BEER, but the intensity works against McEwan’s when you want to serve it with dinner or have two or three (or four or…) during a long football game. Erie’s product stands closer to an amber ale when it comes to when and how you want to drink it but, IMO, it stands up a little higher.
As always, compare my opinion against the true aesthetes at the Beer Advocate.