GOOD SIR, I CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUEL!

"I'll see your pomp and raise you some circumstance."

Sorry about the title, we don’t mean to raise any alarms.  We simply don’t understand politics so the only logical explanation of the British PM clinking bottles with the US President is to arrange pistols at dawn.  No?  OK, maybe they’re celebrating the end of global warming and the rise of the machines?  Still wrong, I suppose.  How about exchanging local beers after the rare instance of a 1-1 England-US draw at the World Cup?  No, that can’t be it either and the G-20 is certainly no place to exchange such pleasantries.  What?  Seriously?  That’s what this photo is from?  The respective leaders exchanged beers in a friendly “mine’s better than yours” competition?  And President Obama remarked that unlike the Brits, he only drinks cold beer?  Let’s all pray to St. Arnold that these two gentlemen picked the best that their respective countries have to offer so we’re not all embarrassed in the end.  After all, this is England and the US, two of the greatest beer producing countries in the world.  How could this possibly go wrong?  For the pleasure of our viewing audience, Aleheads.com would like to present a point-counterpoint brought to you by Sir Magnus Skullsplitter (Representing the US) and Dr. Ripped Van Drinkale III (Representing England).  Let the duel commence!

In this corner, hailing from the (Once) Great and (Long time ago) Powerful Country of England, weighing in at 16.9 oz and 5.2% ABV….Wychwood Hobgoblin!

Uh, really Mr. Cameron?  This is what you’re bringing to the table to face off against the US?  Granted, the man you’re handing this beer to is clueless and made fun of you because he thinks all of England drinks warm beer, but still.  A gimmick label, an even more gimmicky name, and worst of all…A clear bottle!  Come on now, you might as well just hand over the keys to the Kingdom.  Also, wasn’t the original wager supposed to be the best lager in England vs. the best beer in America?  Last time I checked, an English Brown Ale does not a lager make.   I’ll give Cameron a break on the style since I would have picked either a Brown Ale, Mild, or English IPA since they represent England’s greatest beer gifts to the rest of the world.  Obama was basically telling Cameron that he’ll take America’s best beer and put it up against something England doesn’t brew very well.  Seems like the kind of fair fight the US is usually looking for.  For the betterment of society and to the benefit of all Aleheads throughout the world, I will do the noble deed and see what the Hobgoblin has in store.

Deep tawny, ruby colors pour from the bottle with little effervescence to cushion the fall.  Toffy, sweet, buttery, repeat.  That’s the nose in a nutshell and lasts until the glass is tipped on its bottom.  The buttery taste hits your tongue first (Diacetyl for you nerds), which gives off a nice sourness.  As mentioned many times before on this site, the sour notes are a good thing and it’s what the brewer intended.  Finish gives off loads of caramel and a bit of burnt sugar.  Since the bubbles dissipate quickly you’re left with a mouthfeel that’s  smooth and creamy to say the least.   Drinkability is just about average.  I could take down two probably, but after that the sweetness and buttery flavors would put me off and make me want a hop-bomb to cleanse my palette.  I bet the draft version is much, much better.  There’s definitely some funky flavors that I pin right back to the clear bottle.  2.5 hops from me.  In the future Mr. Prime Minister, Samuel Smith represents everything you’ll ever want to present in an English Beer.  I appreciate the effort and like that you went with a smaller brewery, but I can only imagine you lost this battle.  Let’s hope Obama made a poorer choice than you…

And in this corner, from one of the greatest beer-producing country in the world — the home of Pliny the Younger and Elder and some fantastic Russian Imperial Stouts, weighing in at 12 oz. and 4.2% abv, Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat beer!

Wait, what?  Now, I know that President Obama is a Chicago homer.  Far be it for me to suggest that the leader of our great nation look outside his home district at, say, a Russian River or Founders brew.  Wouldn’t want to upset the good folks in Illinois.  If President Obama wants to provide an American beer, my meager mind cannot fathom the political ramifications of choosing a beer from somewhere other than his home city.  But the 312?  Goose Island brews a fantastic Imperial Stout, an excellent IPA and double IPA, and even their flagship beer, the Honker’s Ale, could show the UK how we brew ESB’s in the USA.  Instead, the President decided to go with a beer style we don’t do particularly well in America — a beer that many Americans might add an orange slice to.  Well, let’s just go to the tasting note to see how this one stacks up.

I had the  beer served from the tap in a 20 oz. pint glass at The Pony Bar in New York City.  The beer pours a hazy golden color, with a puffy white head.  The head disappears relatively quickly, leaving behind some nice lacing on the glass.  The aroma is very typical for a wheat beer.  Citrus, wheat, some fruitiness, however the aroma is relatively faint.  No single smell is particularly distinctive.  The taste is also relatively quiet.  Definitely a citrus/wheat taste, though not as strong as I’ve had in some other wheat beers.  In terms of mouth feel and drinkability, the 312 is a perfectly average wheat beer.  Nothing about it really stands out, in a good way or a bad way.  I could drink a few of them in a sitting, but frankly it’s a little bit boring.  A very safe choice by the President, but it lacks the boldness I think is necessary for an American beer representative.  Normally I would give the beer 2.5 hops, but the Aleheads have a rule that on July 4th all American beers get an extra 0.5 hop, so I’m going to give the 312 Urban Wheat 3 hops as a solid, if predictable, wheat beer.

So there you have it folks, much like the Founding Fathers did 234 years ago, we have once again announced that we shall kick England’s ass.  No longer will we be subject to tired, crummy English beers!  We will not go gently into that dark night!  We will stand up and say, “GIVE ME AMERICAN CRAFT BEER, OR GIVE ME DEATH!”  Happy 4th of July all!

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