Yuengling Black ‘N Tan

Yuengling Black & Tan
Yuengling’s Black & Tan

Goofy, that i haven’t reviewed this one yet. It’s a staple beer for me, always have some on hand. Usually, the beers i review are ‘spensive and high-alk so i only have a few at a time, at most. But for regular old sit-and-have-a-beer times, Yuengling’s Black & Tan is the most important beer in my house. So at long last, here’s some chatter about it…

A Black & Tan is normally understood as 1/2 lager and 1/2 stout, though there are other places which do it different. In any case, it’s blended beer. A good bartender can make you a B&T which actually stays separated in the glass before you drink it. once you drink it, of course, it mixes together. Or, you could buy it in a bottle (or can) pre-blended. This is what Yuengling does.

For years i avoided Yuengling because i’ve had some Chinese and Japanese beers and they just didn’t wow me. Lol, come to find out that “yuengling” is a German name, who would assume that? But the stuff is made in Pennsylvania, the brewery’s been independent since 1829, and they are one of the few true and blue independent family-owned breweries who never got gobbled up by a corporation.

That’s a big reason why i buy Yuengling, now that i know it’s not made in Shanghai, and now i know that my purchases help keep a major indy brewery going. For general consumption, their lager is darn good, and priced nice at $10 for a twelver. Their IPL is good, and they come out with seasonal things all the time, and i frequently try those, just because their B&T is so integral to me as a utility beer.

On its own, YB&T is a good beer. It’s got the attacking quality of stout with the friendly handshake of a lager, the oats and sour and pumpernickel of the stout blended with the barley and light hops of the lager. For those who remember the brief fashion of dark beers in the 1980’s, this is the culmination of that fad. Sweeter than most, damn near opaque in color, a heavy taste in the mouth which invites cheddar and rye crackers. Pretty sweet but pleasingly heavy, on its own i’d rate this at 6.7.

For just sitting around watching a game, you don’t want hi-alk and some people can’t afford to casually quaff craft beers at $11 per sixer. I can’t, anyway. That’s where Yuengling’s Black And Tan comes in. About 3 years ago i discovered something about YB&T, something amazing which no other beer can do. This beer can be used as an ingredient to make ANY other beer tasty. No lie, ANY other beer. Obviously, you don’t want to add this willy-nilly to a beer which outranks it… i’m not going to try mixing this into a Smuttynose, for god’s sake.

But for reals: i tried it with over a dozen beers and it works every time. Just pour a 12-oz beer into a 16-oz pint glass, then top off with Yuengling’s Black & Tan. The injection of YB&T takes over, you can see the dark brown cloud mixing in as you pour, and the taste is worlds beyond the original substrate beer. And further no lie: i went on a quest, or more accurately i went on an anti-quest, to find the crappiest, cheapest beer i could find. Works every time.

Pabst, Old Swilltaukee, Genny, Busch, Rolling Cock, Swilltaukee’s Worst, Hamms, Coors, Budweezer, Swiller, and many more. I could not find a beer cheap enough to avoid YB&T’s civilizing influence. Most of them were undrinkable on their own, but with just a few ounces of Yuengling they’re actually delicious. This is the secret of YB&T, one 12er of this turns a 30er of crap beer into something you can drink and actually enjoy, and it doesn’t break your debit card in half.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try it yourself. Obviously, don’t go to your regular beerstore and pick up some PBR. You don’t want them to think less of you from that moment on. But stop at a corner store and pick up the cheapest thing they have, the most nasty and crabshacky thing on the shelf. Try it naked first, spit it out of course, then add a few oz of YB&T. Voila! Sudden craft!

Well, it’s not craft beer, and it’s not great beer, no brainchild of any brewmaster here, but for just-havin-beers, this secret trick of YB&T transforms rote sipping into something you can enjoy tasting. Or at least drink without gagging.

The later part of the anti-quest has been to try YB&T mixed into light beers, known as the crappiest of the crap, and sure enough, this stuff makes a light beer tolerable.

Bud Select 55

Bud Select 55
Bud’s Select 55

Now, as you know i’ve long been searching for the crappiest beer known to mankind, because i have yet to find a beer which cannot be made into a tasty pint by adding a few ounces of Yuengling’s Black & Tan. I exhausted all the regular bland dribblers sold around here: the ones which come in a 30-pack for $13. Severe lightbulb moment, when i realized that light beers are, as a species, entirely crappier than cheap regular beers!

So the anti-quest continues. This time, it’s Budweiser’s “Select 55” light beer, named after the number of calories in a can. Most light beers have about 100 calories per 12 ounces, including Michelob’s Ultra, which you would assume they mean ultra-low-cal, but instead they mean it’s ultra yummy for a light beer… naturally that’s both a paradox and an oxymoron at the same time.

This here ultra-light is the lightest of the lightest, 55 calories is the lowest i’ve seen. That’s the kind of technology which a vast brewery-industrial complex can buy. Miller has a 64-cal one, but i have yet to gamble on it. And in the end, no matter how crappy this one is, it follows the other crappy sheep and is easily made tame and tasty by mixing in some Black & Tan.

So mission accomplished there, but what is Bud 55 Select like on it’s own? I took the plunge into icy waters so you don’t need to. Surprisingly, it nearly tastes like beer. Moreso than the Mich Ult, this one has a faint shadow of malted grain, even if it is rice. No hop character to speak of, but we already know it’s cheap, 67¢ a can. It’s thin, it’s watery, they don’t say but we know it’s low-alk, and it’s slightly carbonated. Sort of like a fizzy wet rice cake.

With YB&T mixed in, it’s fine as a base, and that’s the real shocker. I don’t believe a beer exists which can’t be juiced into semi-yum by Yuengling’s dark influence. But on its own, Bud 55 is only a situation beer, like when you head over to a buddy’s house for a bbq and his wife has decided that he needs to lose a few so she’s stocked the house with Bud Select 55. You have to tell her that it’s fine. In your mind, though, this beer rates a 1.6 flat.

Bells 2 Hearted Ale

Bells 2 Hearted Ale
Bells’s 2 Hearted Ale

This had damn well better be good. Went looking for what a “session” beer is (this is not one), and found some other reviews, and they raved and drooled all on, about Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Around here it was a couple bucks off on sale last month, but i didn’t take the bait. I paid full price for a sixer of this, $10.99, so it had durn better be great.

Color is deeper than pale but not getting into amberland, heavy head and even effervescing. No mention what kind of hops, just that they “stuffed” them in, and it says “Ale” on the front but on the back label they call this an “IPA style” beer. Good enough for me. 7.0% alk so it’s far from sessionistic, and the smell is all good: orange blossoms, ferns and pine forest.

So far, such good. The taste.. oh my. This has got the creamy flavor of the top IPA’s like Full Sail and Smuttynose, and that explains how the nasal appreciation nearly reminded me of a creamsicle. But it’s not a creamsicle, it’s a beer, and it’s really good.

This will take a while, a couple pints at least to consider the ramifications here. #5 on my Top Five IPA’s is Sam A’s 48º Latitude rated at 9.1 but this may be the fish who knocks Sam off. A Michigan product, and you know that’s where all the Germans and Poles settled in the USA, and somehow the brewing know-how of the old Country survived some depressions and a prohibition.

Oooh, this has the hops that turn into other things in your mouth. You ever had those squishy semi-circle lime candies, back in the days before gummi things were invented? They came in lemon, orange, and lime, and a red one which i’m not sure what it was supposed to be. They were the gummis of 2 generations ago. The hop side of this beer has the taste of those lime-wedge candies, minus the crust of sugar of course.

Oooof, nice sweetness to the beer body, and just balanced enough to not be sweet but tart-sweet in the final taste. But no escaping it: this is a sweeter IPA than most. Creamy, sweet, citrus… no wonder “creamsicle” sprung to mind. These Michiganders have got the right idea, except for the sweetness. I know that’s what the typical American palate leans toward, but in this case it’s a touch overdone.

So no, this one will not displace Sam Adams from the Top Five. It’s a very, very good IPA, the beer body has that astringent quality that makes German beer the best in the world, even before it gets the overlay of hops. I prefer heavier body, in beer if not in ladies, and this one is medium-heavy but extremely well done for its size. You can really tell that this is all barley, a “real beer” made the way that Opa Krauss made it in the root cellar a hundred years ago. It even got a burp out of me 1/3 the way through the second pint.

My pint is an 18-oz lager-style glass, heavy glass to hold its pre-chilling, and 18 so that you get a full pint after accounting for head. For this beer, i needed those extra two fl-oz’s because the head is so luxuriant. More evidence that this is a competently made beer from head to toe. It’s really hard to identify the taste that makes German beers the best. The closest i can come is comparing the almost tinny back-mouth taste to the dust that gathers on cuckoo clocks. Honestly, that’s the best i can do. It’s like the dry side of the pillow on a hot night. It’s like a heated icepick. It’s like the final few days of the Sahara Forest. I told you, the dusty cuckoo was the best i could do.

Well, this beer is about 60% of the way towards real German beer. And that’s a helluva lot further along than most American beers, crafty or uncrafty. At heart, that is the greatest compliment i can bestow on a beer: “it’s closer to German than most.” So very enjoyable, a treat to taste, but the sweetness is a subtraction here. I don’t have the most typical American palate, sue me or don’t.

Suspect that the sweetness is from a faster fermentation run, leaving some grain sugars uneaten by the yeast army. This is probably on purpose, because Michigan is in America. But i taste everything else in this beer, and more than “yum” i say “what if?” What if they ran the yeasts into their microscopic graves, and ate up half of the residual sugars which they now bottle? What if Bell’s Brewery made a Three Hearted Ale? Of course it would be stronger alk, but with the hops and malts they’ve got going, this contestant might be the first American brewery to duplicate real German beer.

Ah, what if. Meantime, Two Hearted Ale is pretty good. Could be better but would it be as popular if they made it better? Dunno, but do know that i’d rate this as 8.7 for good beer and balanced hops, with deductions for sweetness.

Keegan Bine Climber IPA

Keegan Bine Climber IPA
Keegan’s Bine Climber IPA

Don’t know what a bine climber is, but a busy little can here with plenty of info, and we like that. Geek humor is always great too, and according to the label i am holding 3.02 x 10^-3 barrels of IPA. To the math-fearers, that’s .00302 of a barrel, and to the truly thick, that’s 12 fluid ounces. A can of beer. Don’t worry, just drink it.

They list out the malts used (2Row, Pilsener, Munich and wheat), and the hops (Columbus, Citra, Falconer’s Flight, and Cascade). IBU’s are at a healthy 44. Also has a SRM number, which is a mystery to me but this IPA has 3.9 of those, whatever they are. The one piece of info missing on the can is one of the crits: the alk content! But since this is a “session” IPA we can infer that it’s at 4.5% or so.

Actually, now that i think about it, a bine climber might be a hop plant. Not sure, but there’s a maybe there. Anyway, the color is roundabout gold-ish, with plenty of floaty specks in there, which is usually a great sign for an IPA. The aroma is plenty hoppy, pine and sharp fruity, with a hint of schnozzberries.

Now down to it: the drinking of the drink. Catches in my throat a little bit, this one wears its 44 IBU’s well, and it had better because the malts are clearly overshadowed here. According to Keegan, there’s some wheat in here, but i can’t pick it out. The hops are hard and heavy, and i like this blend’s taste. It’s got my fave, Cascade, and truthfully here, this is one of the hoppiest IPA’s i’ve ever had. This one gives Hop Stoopid and Hop Hunter a run for their money.

Being “session” and thus low-ish alcohol, this would be an ‘easy drinking’ beer if it wasn’t hopped to the gills. I can declare it a good Summer beer, with the tart and foresty hops leaving your mouth dry and salivatey, this would be refreshing on the back deck on an 85º evening. But i can’t imagine drinking more than 2 or 3 of these in a row, the hopsy-turvy attitude would get absurd fast.

So if you buy this, prepare to share. As the glass went lower, and my mouth grew accustomed to the full-on hopslaught, the malts, the beer’s body, started to peek out from under the gtreen curtain. I can at last tell that there’s wheat in here, and the pils, and the other grainy tastes must be the other 2 malts, which i know nothing about. For that matter, i’d never heard of Falconer’s Flight hops, but there it is on the can.

The beer body is light, and the hops are all erect, so this one doesn’t have great balance. If you’re on The Quest for Hoppier-Than-Thou, then you owe yourself a tonguewash with this IPA. They really do hop the hell out of it. Other than that notable, there’s not much to shout about. I’ll rate it 7.0 for the hop madness, without that it’d be 5-something.