The folks at Heavy Seas allowed me some intimate camera time with their brew kettles, bottling lines, and the impressive “hop canon.” This is the result:
All this week my posts will be related to Heavy Seas Beer of Baltimore, Maryland. Why? Because they make great beer, are a local favorite, and were nice enough to let me wander around their brewery for a few hours with a camera.
Lager yeast and I have never seen eye-to-eukaryote. Every time I brew with it, I’m overly concerned by the lack of quick airlock-action, the diminutive krausen, and the whole needing to keep it cold even though that doesn’t make any logical sense to me. “Bottom fermentation” hides in that foggy part of my brain where I kind of understand what’s going on in terms of beer-science, but also still think it’s some kind of mystic raffinose related ritual.
For a long time, I thought all pale lagers tasted the same. I created a mental association between “lager” and “light,” as if all light beers were lagers, and vice versa. Unless it was something obviously different (like a märzen or a bock), that fizzy yellow-gold stuff all fell safely in the “mowing the lawn on a mid-July Saturday” category. Plenty of refreshment, but not much in terms of complexity. I blame four collegiate years of destroying my taste buds on Milwaukee’s Best Ice.
My fridge – colloquially named “The Beerhome” – is full of ales. That’s sort of its lot in life: a house with the thermostat stuck at 40º, bunk beds ready for several perfectly lined-up rows of stouts, IPAs, porters, and pales. I try to venture into new territory, but the tongue wants what it wants. Lagers don’t usually rent a room in the Beerhome unless 1) I’m having a party, or 2) I just had a party.
I bought Heavy Seas Davy Jones Lager because I’m a pirate. No hyperbole or jokes, I am legitimately a pirate. I have proof:
I’m obligated to try a beer that is pirate themed, even if it’s outside of my normal taste spectrum.
And I’m glad I did.
Unlike other traditional pale lagers, Davy Jones Lager ferments at ale temperatures (~68-70º F), and is then dropped to lager temperatures for the storing process. This is the same process used to create California Steam/Common beer, for those inquiring minds. Warm temperature tolerant yeasts became popular in the 1800s when refrigeration was a luxury not every brewery could afford, especially not during the primary fermentation phase.
The result of this temperature dance is a beer that honors the clear and crisp legacy of other lagers, but also retains fruity esters and complex malt notes. It tends to be creamier than lagers fermented cold, which pleases us picky, ale-centric drinkers. It’s got more up-front hop flavor (a nice citrus bump that I think comes from the Centennials), which is an appreciated departure from the bitter dryness of Czech style pilsners, or any of the American adjunct lagers.
At 6% it’s a bit stronger than you might expect from an “easy drinking” beer, but there are no phenols or fusels present anywhere. Davy Jones has quickly become one of my favorite beers to relax with after work. It’s also a great beer to gently introduce your Bud and Coors friends to the world of craft. Sadly, Heavy Seas only plans to brew it from May-July, so I’ll just have to fill the holds of my ship (basement) with enough to tide me over these harsh Maryland winters.
Heavy Davy Jones Lager Vitals:
- ABV: 6.0%
- IBUs: 30
- Hops: Warrior, Fuggle, Palisade, Centennial
- Malts: 2-Row, Flaked Maize, Wheat Malt, Biscuit
I can’t say I left the best for last, but I definitely didn’t leave the worst for last. Or the best for first, or worst for first. The order was completely arbitrary, truth be told.
I’m not saying I don’t plan out my blog posts, but I don’t plan out my blog posts.
Beers like this make me question how Budweiser makes any sales. When you could get this beer for a few dollars more, I don’t know why you’d ever bother with anything that dare call itself, “lager-style” beer. That’s a psuedo-name, like Yoohoo “chocolate drink “or Velveeta “synthetic cheese-rubber hybrid product.” Humans probably aren’t supposed to consume “-style” things.
I’m not saying “lager-style” beers cause mysterious illnesses, but it might explain a lot.
Heavy Seas Classic Lager is both classic and a lager. It’s very light (much lighter than anything I have already reviewed) making it a great Spring/Summer time beer. It lacks any semblance of sweetness, probably because it was made with real ingredients, not weird adjuncts and unspecified amounts of the “Secret Ingredient” (high fructose corn syrup).
I’m not saying mainstream American brews are made with high fructose corn syrup, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
I poured this into a glass for the sake of photography (this is my favorite photo, for anyone who has read them all), but in the future I’d drink it straight from the bottle. It doesn’t have a powerful aroma that needs a glass to breathe, and you’re more likely to spill it while gesticulating wildly in the throws of a particularly animated story-telling.
I’m not saying I wave my arms around like maniac after a few beers, but I could be confused with an Italian person.
Yuengling is (for better or worse) my go-to lager. It’s flavorful and cheap and goes down relatively smooth. But my palette is changing, growing, evolving. I’m starting to appreciate something with a little more intensity, and I think HS:CA can scratch that itch. It’s like one of those little hand-on-a-stick back scratchers, but made of beer.
I’m not saying I make bad analogies, but some of the stuff I say doesn’t make much sense at all.
Buy! Enjoy! Thank me later! By buying me a beer!
8.25 out of 10
Thanks to everyone who read (and hopefully enjoyed) my reviews. I plan to do more in the future, and will probably turn this into a weekly column at some point.
A loose cannon aboard a pirate ship would probably be a pretty terrifying thing.
~3,500 lbs of steel and iron rolling around wildly at the whims of the waves, slamming into man and barrels of rum alike.
I can’t imagine anything good ever came of a loose cannon, short of that one scene in At World’s End when they loose the cannons to tip the boat upside down (which probably would have totally worked and MythBusters should try that).
Unless you count this beer, which would be a great thing to come of a loose cannon, if only in name.
This is a flagship (I’m just overflowing with bad puns) beer for Heavy Seas and I’ve seen it on tap in more than one bar. It’s a pretty traditional and well presented IPA with generous hopping and a crisp, only-slightly-bitter return.
I could talk with this beer. Talk about politics. About the state of the union. About which weapons would be the best to fight of a smallish throng of classic, Romero-style zombies. The important things in life.
I could walk with this kind of beer. On the beach. Around my yard as I mow. To the local 7-11 to get week-old taquitos. This beer can and should go places.
I could get deep with this beer. Talk about astronomy. Physics. Which deep sea creatures are the most horrifically nightmarish and why. This beer will make your brain even juicier than it was prior to you drinking it.
And despite the fact that I don’t actually know how, I could sail with this beer.
I could point the 30 pounders at my enemy’s broadside. I could cut across the wind, leaving her dead in the water. I could yell to my men to “loose the cannons!” and they would all stand around looking at me, wondering why the hell I’m the captain when I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.
I meant, if you had let me finish, “Fire!”
Its color is similar to Dogfish Head Shelter Pale. It’s more orange and opaque than Harpoon IPA (which is surprisingly yellow, but I digress) but it is also heavier, and slightly sharper in terms of carbonation. It has a generous head that will give you a nice beer mustache if you’re too eager to drink. It’s sour and savory, like a bottle of hot sauce minus the chili.
I’m a fan of this IPA. I buy it frequently. Partly because it’s a Maryland beer, partly just because it’s flat-out good. Dogfish head 60 minute is arguably a better IPA, but Loose Cannon is cheery, casual, and cheap(er).
8 out of 10.
Next up: Smuttynose Star Island Single!
My taste buds are always up for an adventure. Especially if that adventure includes hops and malted barely. I’ve plowed through my fair share of small craft samplers over the years, but never truly took the time to appreciate how good (and sometimes bad) the collections may be.
Spring means Spring seasonals, most of which are citrusy and wheaty, which are juxtaposed to my normal beer-pallete, which is fickle and likes what it likes.
I decided to pick up two non-seasonal samplers that contained at least three of a beer I already liked, so I could at the very least enjoy one fourth of my purchase should the other nine turn out to be rancid.
Sampler #1: Smuttynose Variety Sampler
I tried my first Smuttynose (Pumpkin Ale) last fall, at the behest of my fellow beer enthusiast Justin. As one who has a voracious appetite of any combination of fruit and alcohol, I was eager to try it. Last fall alone, I tried nine new pumpkin ale varieties and I would place Smuttynose PA near the top of that list.
This sampler came all the way from Portsmouth, NH, which is the sister city to Nichinan, Japan. I don’t quite get the box or label art (maybe it’d make more sense if I was sitting on a porch of some old house in New Hampshire), but I’m not one of those weird snobs who turns his nose up at a beer based on the bottle it comes in.
The four beers in this sampler were (past tense, I drank them all):
-Smuttynose IPA (the flagship)
-Shoals Pale Ale (a heavy, highly hopped pale)
-Old Dog Brown Ale (a semi-sweet, nutty ale)
-Star Island Single (crisp, grassy, Belgian pale)
Sampler #2: Heavy Seas Sunken Sampler
Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, MD, is basically in my backyard. For those of you who don’t know Baltimore, the entire city is infused with nautical themes; an 1854 sloop-of-war (the USS Constellation) sits anchored in the harbor. I’m always a sucker for local beers, getting a giddy squeal of delight when I see “brewed in Maryland” on the label or packaging.
Heavy Seas, a pirate themed series of beers that boasts plenty of Chesapeake Bay charm. I’m sure any of these would make a marvelous match for some fresh blue crab. An additional gimmick with this sampler is that you’re given a mystery beer, marked with an iconic “X” on the box.
The names and label design of these brews is delightfully silly and clever:
-Gold Ale (a Beer World Cup 2010 winning crisp, pretty golden)
-Black Cannon IPA (a malty, hoppy, stouty IPA; this was the “mystery beer” in my case)
-Loose Cannon IPA (a traditional but abundantly hopped IPA)
-Classic Lager (a slightly sour and flavorful twist on a generic beer)
Individual reviews to follow.
First up…Shoals Pale Ale!