The Great U.S. Beer Region Experiment Part 1: Vietnam

We will be visiting 5 regions, 4 of which are in the US, to find out what exactly is going on outside the normal beer world. I’ll also try to give a little bit of background and history for each region and style in the back story.

The lineup for the week is as follows:

  • Today: Hue Beer (Hue City, Vietnam)
  • Tuesday: Kosher He’Brew Messiah Bold (Saratoga Springs, New York)
  • Wednesday: Great Divide IPA (Boulder, Colorado)
  • Thursday: Highland IPA (North Carolina)
  • Friday: Thomas Creek Deep Water Dopplebock Lager (South Carolina)

As for today, let’s check out Vietnam before we dive into the U.S. beer extravaganza…

Hue Beer BottleThe Back Story:

The beer industry in Vietnam is rather different from that of the U.S. While the vast majority of the beer consumed in the U.S. is from macrobrews in North America and Europe, leaving craft beer to a much smaller market share, Vietnam’s beer industry is centered around local microbrews. There are around 300 microbreweries crafting a local specialty called Bia Hoi, or “fresh beer,” sold by the barrel to cafés and restaurants without preservatives, intended to be consumed the same day they are packaged.

Aside from that, there are a few major producers of bottled beer, one of which is the Hue Brewery. Partially owned by Carlsberg, the Danish brewing company and the 4th largest in the world, the Hue Brewery is basically a large-scale, single-beer producer, though they’ll also occasionally indulge in seasonal fare. That single beer, creatively named Hue Beer, is a pale lager, a similar style to the Budweisers and Millers of the world.

The Results:

Hue Beer PourThe appearance of the beer is a light golden yellow, rather dull, with head retention of only a few seconds. The carbonation is coarse and aggressive, and the foam has a soapy, filmy quality.

The nose of the beer is rather plain, though a bit heftier than a standard lager, with notes of acrylic paint, grass, walnut and green apples.

The mouthfeel of the beer is sharp, though a bit thin, and it fails to reach the mouth in any way. Once it hits the tongue, it dissipates. Pretty much everywhere but the tongue, the feel is fleeting.

The flavor of the beer is not quite as plain or as weak as the nose would suggest, though it’s still a pale lager (read:: comparable to Pilsner). Green apples, straw, and a very light floral, perfumey note as it approaches the finish. The finish itself is mealy, grassy, and bitter, a bit longer than expected but not nearly satisfying enough for a craft-priced beer.

This would be a beer that you’d use to cool down your mouth after a spicy barbecue or hot-wing-style meal… the alcohol barely comes through and is more cooling than warming. I would also give it the okay to sip in warmer weather, so long as it stays ice cold. This beer doesn’t develop in the glass; rather, it begins diminishing immediately, and the flavor becomes unpleasant once it strays from refrigeration temperature.

For the Casual Drinker:

There’s really not much to say here… if you’re a fan of American-style lager, you’ll probably like this beer. Pair it with a barbecue-style meal, something spicy, or anything that you’ll be grilling or eating outside, really. The real question is are you willing to shell out around $2 per bottle for it (that’s about the same price as a Dogfish Head, Clipper City, or a Bell’s craft beer).

The Conclusion:

To be honest, I was expecting something a bit more exotic than the typical American lager experience, especially at that price. I suppose if you want to experience an Eastern beer, you could shell out for it, but I’d just as soon sip on 3 Budweisers at that price. 2/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Hue Beer

Producer: Hue Brewery, LTD

Region: Vietnam

Vintage: n/a

Alcohol: 5.0%

pH: unknown

Price: $2 per 12 oz bottle

Summer’s Almost Over… So Drink Up!

Though it may not feel like it here in the US, it’s almost time for the temperature to start dropping. Whether you’re enjoying a mild heat in New England, suffering through air quality warnings in the humid mid-Atlantic, or staying indoors to avoid the sweltering 110 degrees of the western deserts, all these hot times call for a crisp glass of white wine.

There are, of course, several styles to choose from, from the most aggressive, acidic thirst-quencher to the most pleasant, sugary summer sipper and many in between. If you’re planning to send summer out in style with a glass or two, I have a few recommendations that just might make the season seem less severe. Let’s go to the board:

Sauvignon Blanc: In case you haven’t been reading much of my blog, I can let you know that I swear by this grape. Especially those from New Zealand, the Sauvignon Blanc grape delivers a consistent experience whether it’s grown in France, California, or New Zealand: acidity with citrus flavors, as refreshing as a glass of ice cold lemonade. Very rarely a sweet wine, the Sauvignon Blanc is nevertheless a standard goto for inexperienced wine drinkers. Recommendations under $20: Barker’s Marque, Matua, Kim Crawford

Picpoul: Possessing an acidity and body similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a lighter citrus (think lemon-lime) and more tropical flavor profile, the Picpoul is an underrepresented varietal wine here in the US. Typically from the Picpoul de Pinet region in Languedoc, France, this wine provides the same consistency as the Sauvignon Blanc. Also an aggressively dry wine, it’s still a very pleasant sipping wine. Recommendations under $20: Hugues de Beauvignac, Chateau Petit Roubie, Hugues Beaulieau La Petite Frog (3 liter box)

yellow and blue torrontes cartonTorrontes: Torrontes is a varietal wine that grows extraordinarily well on the western coast of South America. The combination of high altitude, long days, consistently mild seasons, and volcanic soil all create the conditions for a unique, fuller-bodied dry white wine to shine. Torrontes will have a floral and citrus profile, offering perfumey aromas that combine with a decent sweetness and acidity for a very soft, creamy experience. Novice drinkers will especially appreciate the straightforward flavors this wine offers. Torrontes is also a natural complement to most seafood dishes. Recommendations under $20: Gouguenheim, Yellow + Blue (1 Liter Tetrapak), Susana Balbo

Riesling: Riesling is a varietal wine that varies very greatly depending on its region and its winemaker. You can get syrupy sweet dessert wines, bone-dry, acidic tongue-tinglers, and everything in between with flavors across the fruit and floral spectrum. Depending on the terroir, you can also get a good dose of mineral or metal.  Recommendations under $20: Cono Sur, Dr. Loosen, Jacob’s Creek

What do you guys think? Any other recommendations for beating the summer heat? Need to know where to find some wines in your area? Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help!

Organic, Delicious, and from Washington State

Yesterday, Josh Wade at Drink Nectar lamented, to an extent, the growing pains of the wine industry in Washington. Among his highlights, he noted that Washington’s QPR is generally extremely agreeable, albeit more select, and that Washington State’s boutique wineries would have a hard time matching the production and pricing of California, as selling under $30 would necessarily cut into their profits necessary to survive. He also laments the lack of Washington wine available across the country. Lower volumes attract less interest in larger distributors, leaving the massive of the massive in California to take over the world. Shops have to actually put in some effort to invest in Washington wines.

Per Josh, Washington's production pales in comparison to California's, 150,000 tons annually to 4 million tons

Lucky for you and me both, some of Washington’s wines still make it across the country, although it’s typically the lower-end fare. Regardless, finding Washington State is always a fun challenge, and if you can find a palatable wine, such as Badger Mountain‘s Organic Riesling, for the typical California-level bargain prices, well, it just gives me hope for the future of the region.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a fairly deep straw color and a fairly full viscosity.

The nose of the wine is an orchard-like blend of flowers, pear, and citrus, accompanied by a very light minerality and baking spices scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is very smooth and tangy, with a delightfully active acidity that dances on the tongue.

The flavor of the wine is not quite as full as the nose would suggest, with underripe clementines, tart pear, and green apple on the finish. There’s a hint of minerality, and it comes with a delightful baking spice that really matches the light fruit flavors extremely well. Very dry, and everything about this wine is crisp and pure. When paired with havarti cheese, the fruit flavors intensify and the sweetness comes forward even more.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a good entry-level wine if you’re trying to explore the Pacific Northwest. Different from the Finger Lakes and California, this Riesling has a more Alsatian style, offering very little sweetness, and instead being bolder and more nuanced. Don’t expect a dessert wine, I guess is what I’m saying. Pair with light seafood or chicken dishes… spice will overwhelm this, and heavier meats will utterly clash with the flavors.

Conclusion:

At a price of $11, this wine is definitely worth a try. It’s not representative of the best that Washington has to offer… not even close… but you’d be hard-pressed to find many wines of this quality at this price. Oh, and it’s organic, which is certainly a plus! 6/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: N-S-A Organic Columbia Valley Riesling

Producer: Badger Mountain Vineyards / Powers Winery

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Riesling

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: 1.7 g/l

Alcohol: 13%

pH: 3.08

Price: $11

Purchased at: Weaver Street Market, Hillsborough, North Carolina

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