TAP Beer of the Week: Brew Free or Die IPA

Nov. 2, 2010–If there are any liberals in Texas, they may be muttering the line I heard a lefty Phillies fan utter after his team was knocked out in the League Championship Series by the Giants: “Well, it’s not the end of the world. That comes November 2.”

Whatever one’s political leanings, there is no joy among Texas Rangers fans today, as the Giants polished off the American League champs 3-1 last night to win the 106th World Series four games to one.

The news isn’t great in the beer world, either. I was hoping to spotlight a Texas beer this week–preferably something from Rahr & Sons of Fort Worth–but nothing rolled up to the door and I just couldn’t find any other Texas beers in time. So I’m going with another brew from the World Series champs’ town, made by the 21st Amendment Brewery, which is within walking distance of the Giants’ home field.

Actually, Rahr is going to have to perform further obeisance than merely giving way at the TAP Beer of the Week stand. Two days before the Series began Shaun O’Sullivan, co-owner of the San Francisco brewpub, was contacted by Fritz Rahr, owner of the Texas brewery, and the two made a suitably professional wager on the games.

Sullivan, on the company’s blogsite, said that in the unlikely event that Texas won the Series, he would wear a Texas Ranger’s shirt while drinking a Rahr & Sons beer outside of San Francisco’s AT&T Park. But should the Giants win, “Fritz will be wearing a Giants shirt and drinking a 21st Amendment canned craft beer outside of Arlington Field.”

Other than the attendant shame and humiliation, it doesn’t sound like there’s a real loser in this proposition. No word yet when the bet will be paid off, but maybe the principals will get back to us.

Meanwhile, I do happen to have a few cans of 21st Amendment on hand. Along with the Brew Free or Die IPA (which resonates well in New England, where the official state motto of New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die,” is reinforced daily on every license plate), I have the Back in Black and–with one of the great beer names of recent note–Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer.

More and more craft breweries are putting their beers in cans these days, as the old stigma that any beer in a can is, ipso facto, no good, steadily fades away. That strong, good-tasting beers can actually come out of a can may not be great news for the megabrewers of bellywash. Craft brews were once nowhere to be found at golf courses except (sometimes) in the clubhouse, since bottles weren’t permitted out on the course or in most beverage carts. The only thing holding them back now are the continuing bad tastes of some golfers.

The Brew Free or Die tastes pretty good. It’s a loaded can, that’s for sure, at 7% ABV, and heavily hopped–Warrior for bittering, Columbus and Cascade in the finish, and then dry-hopped with Amarillo, Simcoe and Ahtanum. I’m not that familiar with the latter, but it appears to have citrus and floral aromas, both quite evident here. The flavor is heavy on the hoppy grapefruit, but with a pleasing malt profile to round it heartily out. A solid beer, the best-seller at the brewpub, and no surprise there.

I have to admit that it felt a little weird pouring a beer out of a can into a glass, but I could get used to it. This one pours a bit hazy with an orange hue, which certainly seems appropriate under the current baseball situation.

Truth be told, the 21st Amendment’s canned beers are made out in Minnesota, at the new-old Cold Spring Brewery, which has seen its ups and downs. Cold Spring Export beer was a hard-to-find but touted brew for awhile, since it had been formulated in the late ’70s to meet Rheinheitsgebot standards by Charles Finkel, to be distributed by his Merchant du Vin company.  (Quite possibly the nation’s first contract brew.)  Sought after for a time, but the time and the beer have passed on.

[Update: TailGate beers canned at Cold Spring are aimed more at football fans. Click here for story.]

So has the most notorious beer ever canned at Cold Spring–Billy Beer, named for President Jimmy Carter’s late brother Billy. (Billy wasn’t devoid of beer sense, if this quote attributed to him is to be believed: “Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at a Georgia filling station, you’d decide you wouldn’t want it.”)

One thing to be said for Cold Spring–it survived Prohibition. Hence the name of our brewery in question, which pays tribute to the constitutional amendment which ended The Great Experiment. That’s always worth a drink, and so is a tribute tipple to the Giants, winning their first World Series since 1954, when they were still in New York. They fell short in the Series of 1962, 1989 and 2002. But that page is turned, and San Francisco has its first World Series flag.

Name: Brew Free or Die IPA
Brewer: 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, California
Style: IPA
ABV: 7%
Availability: 14 states and D.C.
For More Information: 21st-amendment.com

5 Responses to “TAP Beer of the Week: Brew Free or Die IPA”

  1. David Jensen

    Another reason why the Cold Spring facility works well for 21st Amendment is because the local water at Cold Spring matches very closely the water local to San Francisco. The allows for a very very similar product for 21st Amendment out of Cold Spring to what is produced at the brew pub in San Francisco.

  2. Tom Bedell

    Naturally, I’d rather be sitting in the pub and sipping it there, but I’ll take your word for it, David. Tried the Back in Black tonight–nice enough beer but didn’t appeal to me as much as the Brew Free or Die! Going Watermelon tomorrow.

  3. Tom Bedell

    Okay, waited until last night to have the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. Even with such a great name it’s something of a novelty, to be sure, but being a big watermelon fan to begin with I rather liked it, and could certainly see stocking some for summer barbecues.

    It’s a 4.9% wheat beer that undergoes a secondary fermentation once the watermelon puree is added (though the can suggests it’s watermelon concentrate with added watermelon juice), so with some active yeast inside the recommendation is to agitate before opening, not the typical recommendation in the world of beer cans.

    I didn’t get any melon in the nose until the beer warmed up a bit, but there’s no mistaking it in the flavor. (Well, not quite true–my wife guessed pineapple at first, then tangerine….) I thought there was just enough watermelon to make the beer refreshing rather than cloying. Those with no taste for watermelon should definitely steer clear, but the rest of us can enjoy the best of both worlds,and seedless at that.

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