Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strange brew and a smoke

I was invited to a Memorial Day picnic.  Like most picnics there were tables loaded with food, a grill piled high with burgers and coolers full of beer.  

My buddy, knowing my love of good craft brew, handed me a Bigfoot barleywine.  Hmmm, okay.  Off to a good start.  Sweet!

Next he handed me. . . wait, what?? Was ist das??

Kirkland Signature brand beer.  Huh? Costco brand beer? Really?

As I suspected, the beer isn't actually brewed by Costco, it is contract brewed.  But by who?  The bottle says it's brewed by New Yorker Brewing Company in Utica, NY. Who are they?  You might be surprised to know that New Yorker Brewing is also known as Matt Brewing Company who is best known for brewing Saranac beer.  I have to say that I was surprised to discover that F.X. Matt Brewing Company is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States (D. G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest).

In my experience, Saranac beer is average craft beer.  Not bad but nothing special.  

At the time, I didn't know who was actually brewing the Kirkland beer but I was still very curious about the quality of the brew and how it would taste.  For $19.99 a 24-pack, these things are worth knowing.

Since I was at an outdoor party, I drank them all straight from the bottle so I can't tell you what they look like or give you a good description of the aroma.  So, I'm going straight for the flavor.  

India Pale Ale (6.50% ABV) A decent tasting IPA.  Actually, a pretty good middle of the road beer.  Not too hoppy, not too malty.  A good balance of grapefruity bitterness and caramel malts.  A lingering bitter aftertaste. Good mouthfeel; somewhat light with nice carbonation.  Overall: good. 

Pale Ale (5.40% ABV) The sweetness of caramel hops combined with bready grains and the mild bittering of hops.  Actually pretty good. The light mouthfeel and lively carbonation makes this beer very drinkable. A good refreshing beer.  Overall: good.

Amber Ale (5.70% ABV) Malty and relatively sweet. But I couldn't get past the metallic taste, so that ruined it for me right off the bat.  I didn't like it. Overall: blah

German Lager (5.50% ABV) A decent pilsner style beer.  A good representation of the style.  Light, mildly bitter, goes down easy and very drinkable.

For all of the beers, I'd say they're a bargain for the money.  They're not fantastic craft beer, but they're not bad either.  For the money, they are spot on or better.  

These are way better than macro brews in the same or higher price bracket.

I'm not a beer snob.  There's a time and place for almost every beer. Sometimes money is something to be considered.  I wouldn't be ashamed to serve Kirkland beer at gathering.  


And since my buddy was kind enough to give me a cigar, I'll review that, as well.  In fact, he's been saving this particular cigar just for me.  

My Uzi Weighs a Ton made by Drew Estate is a 60-gauge cigar. Nicaraguan leaf filler with a Connecticut wrapper.

This is a big cigar.  Bigger than I usually smoke when I puff the occasional cigar.  I was thinking it was going to be harsh.

I was pleasantly surprised.  This is a remarkably mild smoke.  The wrapper has a spicy flavor and adds nice character.  

The tobacco is packed tight.  It's got an easy draw and an even burn.  The ash is nice and dense.  

I'm no cigar expert but this was a pleasant tasting cigar with a nice long smoke. I liked it.  Thanks, James!

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