Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ale Showdown (or An Excuse To Drink on a Tuesday Night)

After having a couple more of the New Holland Red Tulip Ales, I realized that my first review of it might have been a bit harsh. I looked for an excuse to blog about it again to no avail. Then the answer came to me as I browsed the beer aisle at Meijer:

A 1-on-1 Ale Deathmatch!

Yes, our first beer comparison. This one is between two ales: New Holland Brewery's Red Tulip Ale and Goose Island's Honker's Ale. This is gonna be one damn fun weeknight. Let's get on with it.

As I mentioned in my previous discussion about Red Tulip Ale, it's defintely striking as you can see. It has a very photogenic red hue that is much brighter than most ambers. In comparison, the Goose Island Ale had a very pale color. It looked very much like a Sam Adams.

The Red Tulip (how can I make that sound like a manly beer?) has a very rich, thick smell. It's not overpowering, but it definitely leaves an impression on you as you raise it to your mouth. There were a lot of subtleties in its scent that I couldn't quite pick out (damn allergies). The Goose Island, on the other hand, was definitely straight-forward. It had a light, hoppy scent and made absolutely no qualms about its sharpness. This is defintely an ale that's gonna kick your ass.

The texture of Red Tulip is definitely consistent with its scent. It feels very smooth and creamy (kind of like a good Double Bock) with just a hint of carbonation at the end to let you know it's there. It's definitely very rich and doesn't match the texture of most other summer seasonal beers. It was in texture that the Goose Island separated itself most from it's Ale-ian brother. It had a very rough and dry texture and left me almost parched-feeling after a normal sip (more on this later). It's definitely not at all diplomatic in texture.

Red Tulip left me confused. It says on the bottle that it is an ale, but if I were drinking it blindly, I'd think it were a non-bitter porter. It was very malty and I could almost detect a hint of chocolate (although nowhere near porter levels). The surprisingly complex taste makes me classify it as a porter light. It would definitely be a good beer for someone who's just starting to get into darks. The Goose Island had a very bitter, biting taste. It reminded me very much of Sam Adams without the sourness. In fact, just as Red Tulip had me thinking it was a porter, this ale kept me thinking it was a lager.

If you don't mind tasting your beer after you've already swallowed it, Red Tulip has a very nice aftertaste. It subtlely lingers. Nothing very powerful; it's more of a reminder. The Goose Island had no beer aftertaste, but it definitely left a strong bitterness on the palate.

Other Notes
Red Tulip was a neat beer. I noticed a slight flowerly scent after taking a sip (no doubt an homage to the festival after which it's named). This scent (just like all the other qualities of this ale) was slight and just enhanced the complexity. There was also a pleasant chalkiness at the end of a sip. I still can't believe that this thing isn't a light porter.

At first, I thought the Goose Island was a very direct, simple beer. Then as I took some larger gulps, it measurably and surprisingly changed on me. It got much smoother as I took more at a time. I also found it to be more refreshing than the Red Tulip as I was drinking it, but it definitely left me dry afterwards.

The easiest conclusion to draw from this showdown is that I'll sleep very well tonight. :-) I definitely enjoyed both these beers and discovered while drinking them how versatile ales can be. I found the Red Tulip to be much more complex and a fine beer to have by itself as you're winding down the day (read: drinking alone because your wife is pregnant). It's porter-ness still astounds me. The Goose Island ended up being a very different ale. It would definitely accompany food very well. It has a sharpness in taste and texture to set itself apart from a meal and its bitterness on the aftertaste could be easily toned down by the next bite of food. While I liked both beers, I would definitely have to give the nod to the Red Tulip Ale as it was just a more enjoyable ale to drink.



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