Friday, June 20, 2008

Give Michelob a chance

I'm continuing to reevaluate my beer-snobbery.

I had basically written off the big domestics in favor of microbrews and imports, until twice recently I dined at Chuck's Steakhouse, 9695 Kings Highway on Restaurant Row in Myrtle Beach.

My wife and I always love the food at Chuck's, but the steakhouse has only one beer on tap, Michelob Lager, plus a tap for the beer substitute Michelob Ultra. (They also have a selection of bottled beers.)

But Chuck's knows how to make the most of that Michelob, offering a big, frosty, 28-ounce goblet for $5.50.

On both of my recent visits, the goblet was perfectly frosted.

I thought the Michelob had interesting hop characteristics, followed by a pleasant dryness.

It was not the blandness I had come to expect from big domestics. Michelob had something going on. It paired well with steak. I finished the goblet smiling.

Later, I went to the Michelob Web site, which claimed that their lager is made with European hops and "a 100-percent-malt blend." Meaning: no rice, no corn, just barley malt. What a difference.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A visit to Capital Ale House in Richmond, Va.; a date with Legend Brown Ale

I stopped at Capital Ale House in downtown Richmond, Va., during a break from my rocket ride down Interstate 95 yesterday. The barkeep said the only locally brewed beer on tap was Legend Brown Ale, but of course several other local and regional brews -- along with dozens more -- were available behind six doors of coolers that were packed with bottles.

Legend Brewing Co.'s Brown Ale felt and tasted just about perfect. It was sweet with just enough hops to keep it honest. The medium-light body served both sip-ability and drink-ability.

Capital Ale House had a frost strip, or frost in a stainless steel indention, set into the long, wood bar. Nice touch.

My 12-ounce Legend Brown Ale was $3.50.

My house burger was $7.49.

Capital Ale House also offers take-home bottles for 25-percent off the list price, as long as each purchase meets a $10 minimum, which is due to concerns of local residents, according to the menu.

So I picked up two bottles to go.

My take-home Legend Golden Ale, in a one-pint, six-fluid ounce bottle, was $6.50.

And my take-home 12-ounce bottle of Full Nelson, from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Virginia, was $4.

Stay tuned and I'll tell you what these good-looking beers taste like.

-Colin Foote Burch

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Old Dominion Brew Pub, Ashburn, VA; sampling five beers at Old Dominion Brew Pub

Live, from Chantilly, Va., I'm filing a review of Old Dominion Brew Pub in Ashburn, Va., for blog watchers as well as readers of my Beerman column in the Weekly Surge of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tucked away in an office park, Old Dominion Brew Pub at 44633 Guilford Drive, Ashburn, Va., gave me a sampler flight of these beers ($6.25):

Beach House Pils: The yellow-golden sunshine of this brew is intense in the best way a pilsner can be. It hits with a ton of taste, especially citrus-like flavors, and a crisp finish.

Dominion Lager: I tasted a touch of roasted malt, subtle yet still more than I usually get in a lager.

Dominion Ale: A solid ale, amber in color, advertised as the product of two-row pale, caramel, and black malts, and Kent Golding hops.

Dominion Pale Ale: This is a regular pale ale, but I've tasted India Pale Ales this good and hoppy. Outstanding, more punch than a typical pale ale, with hints of grapefruit and a dry finish.

I also tried a full pint Dominion Oak Barrel Stout: Wow. This might be my favorite stout, ever. I wondered what was taking so long for the barkeep to bring my pint of the stout when I realized that the beer was slowly pouring into the pint glass while I waited. How slow? I watched another pull of a stout, as the pint glass stood on another, inverted pint glass and the stream slowly went down the side of the glass. I started counting when the glass was about a fifth full. I estimated about a full minute for the pour. Nice.

The head was a dark beige, almost with a faint tint of orange to the color.

As advertised, the flavors were of vanilla and bourbon. I didn't find a bit of bitterness in it. In fact, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout was sweet and yummy. The body was medium, not as heavy as it could have been.

One important note:

Today, I spent approximately three hours trying to find the Old Dominion Brew Pub in Ashburn. It's tucked away -- quite literally -- in an office park.

In fact, overcoming my maleness, I asked for directions not once, not twice, but three times, and I still couldn't find the damn thing. Then, duh, I called the brew pub's phone number, and found a recorded message with helpful, clear, straightforward directions.

-Colin Foote Burch

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Choosing the right cooler for beach & boating

I saw a Styrofoam cooler at a local grocery store for $5.99. I figured you could pack 18 cans and ice into it - and then pick the beer off the ground when the bottom busts out.

If you're going to buy a cooler, make a little investment. Skip the Styrofoam.

A better idea would be to look for the Thermos collapsible can cooler, which expands from a cloth ring into an insulated cylinder full of brews. It holds 54 cans plus ice, keeps the beer cold for three days, and retails locally for around $20.

Better yet, try the 64-quart Coleman Extreme, a traditional rectangular structure, outfitted with wheels, and enough space inside to pack 85 cans. It can keep the brews cold for five days, and retails locally for around $60.

Just remember - if you're going to invest in a nice cooler, put some decent beer in it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chuck's Steakhouse and its 28-ounce Michelob

I was wrong about big domestic beers.

There, I said it.

They're not all bad.

In fact, Michelob Lager has more to offer than I expected.

Having been a bit of a brew snob lately, I have not tasted much in the way of big domestics, not for a while. I think the last time I drank a big can of Budweiser was more than a year ago, at the House of Blues, when the band Drive-By Truckers was on the stage, and I was afraid I would get my ass kicked if I bought Heineken.

So I had written off the big domestics in favor of microbrews and imports.

Until I dined at Chuck's Steakhouse on Restaurant Row here in Myrtle Beach -- twice, recently.

My wife and I like to eat there when we can; it's got an excellent, old-school steakhouse touch to it. I even like the fact that their salad bar isn't a mile long; it's something more typical of the era before salad bars mutated and took over the restaurant industry.

Anyway, Chuck's has only one draft beer, Michelob, plus a tap for the beer substitute Michelob Ultra.

The folks at Chuck's will sell you a big frosty goblet containing approximately 28 ounces of Michelob for $5.50.

I noted that the Michelob had interesting, hoppy characteristics, followed by a pleasant dryness.

This was not the blandness I had come to expect from big domestics. Michelob had something going on. It showed up. It had something to offer.

Perhaps all the time I have spent focusing on the imports and microbrews, and learning about their characteristics, helped me understand what there was to appreciate in that Michelob.

Because after I made my favorable assessment of Michelob, I looked up the company Web site, on which -- it is claimed -- that their lager is made with "European noble aroma hop varieties" and "a 100-percent-malt blend of the finest two-row and caramel malts."

Damn, it really makes a difference, especially when compared with Bud.

Hmm, I'm sounding a bit sappy here. But then again, I'm now determined to give Coors and Miller another go. Maybe there's something I've been missing -- whoa, did I say that?

Stay tuned.

-Colin Foote Burch

Monday, June 2, 2008

Best locally brewed beers in the Myrtle Beach area

Hey folks -- my cover story in the Weekly Surge will be available at this link for about three more days. Check out my picks from Myrtle Beach / Pawleys Island microbreweries and brewpubs. If you are a beer drinker who lives in the greater Myrtle Beach area, or if you are planning a visit, this article is a must-read if you want to make the most of your beer-drinking dollar.