Category Archives: The Third Wheel

Guest beer blogger Chris Schatschneider reviews a variety of beers and bars every week. Otherwise known as “The Pilsner Palate”, “The Bard of Bitters”, and “El Hefe”, Chris selflessly drinks copious amounts of beer for the benefit of others. We salute you Shotz!!

What Beer Styles Do We Like? A Bayesian Approach.

I love the internet.  Speaking as an old man who remembers The Dark Times, I can say that never has so much information been so readily accessible.  In the days before free and easy information we would just argue over stuff.  Was it Kurt Russell or Patrick Swayze in Road House? Which movie was better? Rocky I or Rocky II?  Did Mikey really die from eating pop rocks and drinking soda at the same time?  Without having any means of answering these questions (other than going to a public library – yea, right. Good luck with that) there was no way to resolve these questions other than to argue. I mean, just imagine trying to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon without access to the internet?  It would be impossible.  But today, most arguments are avoided completely by simply googling the answer.

But in addition to answering trivia questions, the internet also exists for us to express our opinions.  Nowhere are our opinions more important than the internet, where our well-thought out and reasoned opinions are joined by thousands more to create a large caterwauling mess.  Which brings me to the topic of this blog post.  In addition to loving beer, I also enjoy going to some beer websites and reading reviews about beers that others have tried.  There are two great websites for this :  Ratebeer.com, and Beeradvocate.com.  Both of these websites allow people to rate the beers that they have tried, as well as write reviews about them.  I tend to favor BeerAdvocate.com mostly because it also provides information about the styles of beers that are being rated.  Both websites have cool features that allow you to sort the beers based upon the ratings.   At Beeradvocate.com, they rank their beers (on a 1 to 5 scale) based upon a “WR (weighted rank) [which is] a Bayesian estimate that pulls data from millions of user reviews and normalizes scores based on the number of reviews for each beer or place. The WR represents the beer or place’s score against all others.”.  As a statistics aficionado,  I had to stop for a moment an appreciate the use of Bayesian estimates, which tend to pull the a ranking closer to a mean value, especially when the reviews are few in number.   But their statement also generated a number of follow-up questions, such as whether the Bayesian estimate was pulling the rating toward the grand mean or the style mean?  Did they treat raters as being nested within beer?  What about the multiple rater problem???  Luckily the beer aficionado in me told the stats person in me to STFU.

So I was browsing Beeradvocate.com and I wondered – what beer styles are rated the highest?  Sadly, this answer was not readily available from the pull-down menus (not the first time I’ve been disappointed by a pull-down menu).   So I decided to get this information manually.  I created refreshable web queries in Excel for each of 84 beer styles listed and populated an Excel spreadsheet with the top 50 beers of each style (along with their ratings).  Then I graphed the results. What did I learn (other than apparently I have too much free time)?   I learned that the most highly rated beers are angry beers that are high in alcohol (see graph).  The bar graph contains all the beers that had an average score of 4 or above.  Looking at the graph, it seems like there are 4 styles that stand above the rest of the best – Double or Imperial Stouts, Imperial Russian Stouts, Double or Imperial IPAs, and American Wild Ales.  The stouts and IPA’s at the top of the list didn’t surprise me.  But the American Wild Ales?  These are beers that have an additional strain of “wild yeast”  or bacteria added to the wort that can leave a sometimes earthy, sometimes sour taste to the beer.  The only American Wild Ale I have seen in these parts of the country are from Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown NY.  Further research seems to indicate that most of the best American Wild Ales are brewed on the West Coast, and they don’t seem to make it this far east.  That’s too bad – I would love to give these Wild Ales a good tasting.  Another surprise in the top 10 were the Saisons.   These beers also have an earthy/sour flavor to them that I didn’t think many people would find pleasing – or rate that highly.  Overall, the beer styles that made the top of the list are typically high in alcohol and complex in flavor.  They have a lot going on.

On the other end of the continuum, I also graphed out the least favorite styles. Please forgive me, but the vertical axes of the two graphs are not on the same scale. Do note, however, that the top of the scale for the worst beer styles (4.0) is the lowest average rating from the graph above. It’s pretty clear that the worst of the worst are the beers that most Americans drink.  Light beers, American Adjunct Lagers (fancy name for the buds and millers of the world) and Malt Liquor.  Colt 45 does not work everytime with people who rate beer on the internet.  Two styles that made the list that I found interesting were the American Wheat beers and the American Dark Wheat beers.  I’m going to take a guess as to why they are down here.  Compared to the German Wheats, the American Wheats are too highly hopped.  Wheat beers have a certain creaminess to them, and that gets ruined with the addition of hops.  Much in the same way no one wants bitter ice cream, no one wants to taste bitter when they are expecting creamy.  Another common theme in the bottom list is that almost all of these beers are fairly low in alcohol content and are fairly simple in flavor.  Apparently people who love beer love to get buzzed fast.  Who knew?

So if you’re interested in knowing more about beer or styles of beer, I urge you to check out beeradvocate.com or ratebeer.com.  They really have a wealth of information about craft beers.  It can even make going into a craft beer store more fun.  Check out some different styles of beer and see which ones you like the best.

Parlay Sports Bar and Grill: Engineered for You! A ThirdWheel Review

Sometimes when it gets crazy at work and the ducks are quacking at the door, I like to hide out in area coffee shops to get work done.  One of my caffeinated hidey-holes is the Bruegger’s on North Monroe Street.  If you have been in their parking lot at any time in the last 6 months you noticed a prodigious amount of construction mayhem going on in the building they share.  Well, it appears that a bar has risen from the mayhem.  A sports bar called Parlay Sports Bar and Grill.  I had been tracking the development of the space for quite some time now – and I finally found their facebook page recently and discovered that they had a “soft open” on May 21st. A soft open apparently means that one day they just unlocked the doors to see who wanders in. Well, I wandered in last Friday to check the place out.

Stadium Seats for clear views of the big screen TV’s

As a new Person who Blogs, I am learning as I go.  And I learned that if you walk around a place with a large professional camera taking pictures, the people who own the place want to know what the hell you are doing. Apparently this is not a natural behavior seen in your standard bar-goer.  But it did give me the opportunity to meet Doug – one of the new owners of Parlay.  Doug was an engineer in a previous life, and he’s added some great features to Parlay.  First feature is the “stadium seating”.  This will allow people to watch the big screen TV’s at the same time without having an obstructed view of the screens.  I mean hey– it works at the Tallahassee AMC theater – why shouldn’t it work here? Brilliant.

Another nice touch comes with the booths for sit-down eating.  There are TV’s on the wall over each booth – with the speakers at the booth broadcasting the sound for the TV on the opposite wall.  This makes complete sense.  You would never watch the TV that’s directly overhead – you would watch the TV that is across from you.  And they are high up enough so it doesn’t look like you are staring at the people in the other booth.  Unless you are actually staring at them.  Then no amount of engineering (short of a duck blind) is going to help you.

View from the throne

But the pièce de résistance is in the bathrooms (bear with me here).  As you walk into the restrooms there is a TV monitor over the sink.  Now, this is not the first men’s room I have been in that has a TV monitor.  But this is the first men’s room I’ve been in that has strategically placed the monitor so its viewable from the stall.  That’s right folks.  If the call arises, you can watch your game from the throne. Only the mind of an engineer can think this stuff up.

So how’s the beer you ask?  Parlay currently has between 10 to 12 taps dedicated to craft beer (and only 2 or 3 for the macrobrews!) and a good selection of craft beers in bottles.  On my visit I had a Southern Tier 2X IPA and a Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout on draft and both were excellent.  I also tried the Jalapeño Roll.  It was a like a Chinese roll (deep fried) with jalapeños and cream cheese inside.  It was served with a raspberry jam and it was delicious!  If you like craft beer, sports, and the ability to watch TV from every angle in a bar, you need to check this place out.

Check out the taps!

Parlay Sports Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

ThirdWheel Beer Review: Summer Heat means Summer Wheat!

It’s the end of May here in Tallahassee (as it is elsewhere)  and that means the onset of high heat and humidity.  Unless we are blessed with a tropical weather event, it will reach the 90’s every day from now until the end of September.  With temps in that range, the palate no longer cries out for the dark thick moody beers we developed relations with during the winter.  As Tallahassee turns into a giant steam room without the rocks, we seek lighter thirst-quenching beers that we can drink more than one of without ending the evening face-down on the brown shag.  One family of beers that meets this need are the wheat beers.  But not all wheat beers are the same!  They can vary quite a bit in hop character and alcohol content.  There are four main categories of wheat beers:  Hefeweizen, Berliner Weisse, Belgian Witbier and American Wheat.

Hefeweizen – Hefe means yeast  in German (and Boss Man in Spanish – but don’t get distracted) and weizen means wheat.  These beers are brewed with 30%-50% wheat malt.  No one brews with 100% wheat malt, as our civilization has not evolved enough to handle pure uncut wheat.  These beers are cloudy from the suspended yeast present in the beer.  These yeasts imparts a very mild banana or clove flavor, and are very low in hop bitterness.  They tend to produce a large head when poured (especially into a traditional hefeweizen glass).  These beers have a really smooth mouthfeel to them and they are perfect for a warm summer afternoon.  They tend to be relatively low in alcohol content (usually around 4-5%) so you can enjoy more than one.   Two other beers in the same family are the Krystalweizens (clear wheat) and Dunkelweizens (dark wheat).  The krystalweizens are hefeweizens that have the yeast filtered out, and the dunkelweizens use a darker malted wheat.

 Both of these beers retain the smooth mouthfeel and banana/clove flavors of a hefeweizen, with the krystalweizens having less of those flavors, and the dunkels adding a nice mild roasted flavor.  All of these beers are extremely low in hop bitterness (with most having no bitterness) and they range in the 4-6% ABV.  The most beloved versions of these beers come from the Weihenstephaner Brewery in Germany.  If you haven’t had one of their beers, you need to add that to your beer bucket-list.

Berliner Weisse – Berliner Weisse is a wheat beer that will usually undergo a second fermentation process that will add tart or sour notes to the beer.  It’s very lightly hopped (if hopped at all).  These beers are typically very low in alcohol content (with many in the 3.0% ABV range, which is well below the macrobrew light beer Mendoza line of  4.2% ABV) .  If you order this beer in Germany, they may ask you if you want it “red” or “green”.   It’s common place to add a small amount of sweet syrup to this beer, with red being raspberry flavored and green being some unholy herbal flavor that I can’t remember.  These beers are more difficult to come by here in Tallahassee.  It’s hard to imagine why a beer with only 3% alcohol isn’t flying off the shelves, but it is what it is.  There are a few American versions of this beer – the most famous being Dogfish’s Festine Peach.  Cigar City in Tampa also has a version of this brewed with passion fruit (disclaimer – I have not tried this one).  The American version typically has some kind of fruit added to it, and the alcohol content is higher.  But they still retain the sour/tart notes typical of a Berliner Weisse.

Belgian Witbier.  First thing you should know about Belgian beers is that they brew all their beers with some magical yeast that only exists in Belgium.  Their yeast strains add very interesting flavors to their beers.  A Witbier (Witte means white in Dutch, which I am told is a language all of its own) is an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with Belgian yeast and assorted spices (orange peel, coriander, chamomile, etc).  It’s very low in hop bitter.  It’s essentially Belgium’s version of a hefeweizen, with the banana/clove notes being replaced by the orange/coriander flavors.  Chamomile is also frequently added to these beers, but I have no idea why.  You can barely taste chamomile in chamomile tea.  If chamomile can’t compete against hot tap water for flavor dominance, it has no hope in a brew kettle.  The best American versions of these beers come from Allagash (Allagash White) and Ommegang (Ommegang Witte).  The worst version of this style is A-B’s Shock Top, which is a witbier with training wheels.   Hoegarden is probably the most popular version of this style.

American Wheat Beers.  Here’s where things begin to deviate (as is often the case when Americans get involved).  American wheat beers differ from their European counterparts in that they will most often up the hop and alcohol content.  The presence of a hop characteristic may surprise the uninitiated if they are expecting the slightly sweet/spiced flavors of a German/Belgian wheat beer.  Personally, I find that it all depends on the mood I am in.  Sometimes I crave the light-malty-banana-orangey flavors of a witbier or hefeweizen, and sometimes I like some hop bitterness to tone things down.  The important point is to know what to expect because not all wheat beers are the same.  Some great American Wheat beers are Bell’s Oberon Ale, Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Southern Tier’s Hop Sun.  These beers won’t have the banana-clove notes of a hefeweizen or the spices of a witbier, but the wheat flavor and aroma are still present along with some hoppiness.

Well, if you’ve made it this far into my post, congrats and thank you!  If I had to summarize the preceding information it would be this.  German wheats – no hops with banana/clove notes.  Berliner Weisse – slightly sour beer with no hops that is hilariously low in alcohol. Belgian witbiers – no hops with spices added.  American wheats – no spice or banana notes but some hoppiness.  All refreshing on a hot summer day.  Choose wisely!

Finally, a post about wheat beers wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of “fruiting” the beer by adding lemon/lime/orange wedges.  Beer snobs will certainly give you a disapproving stare if you allow one of these impure wedges into your wheat beer.  I think they need to mind their own beers and stay out of yours.  If you like a wedge of something in your beer – for heaven’s sake, put one in!  Don’t let beer snobbery reduce your enjoyment of a beer.  All of the beers I posted pictures of are available in Tallahassee as of today.  Now get out there and give these beers a try!

The start of a new series: The Third Wheel!

(L to R) Abe, Sara and Chris (may not be an exact image)

Hi. My name is Chris. I’m a friend of Sara’s and Abe’s. And I like beer. I consider myself to be a beer enthusiast as opposed to a beer snob. I love me a good Double IPA or Belgian Tripel, but I wouldn’t turn down a cold macrobrew if the occasion presented itself. A beer for every season and a chicken in every pot. Or something like that. Anyway, I have a habit of going into local beer and liquor stores and buying beers I haven’t tried before, or beers that are coming into season. And now I am going to blog about it. Which the younger folks tell me means I am going to write it and put it on the internet. Kids.

Terrapin Brewery is based in Athens Georgia, and has been putting out some very interesting beers. This one is their 10th Anniversary Ale. The actual name of the beer is not pronounceable. It’s an equation, -1[〖Xe〗^iπ ]=10, which actually looks quite complicated and out of place on a beer label. Luckily (or unluckily) I had two semesters of calculus in college and knew that e^iπ is Euler’s Identity, and it equals -1. Then solving for X is quite easy…and has absolutely nothing to do with drinking this beer.

Terrapins 10th Anniversary is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed with the addition of some malted rye. The Belgian Strong Pale Ale style is typically high in alcohol and low in bitterness, and this beer follows in that tradition. The carbonation is excellent and it leaves very small bubbles in the glass. The mouth feel is excellent and the addition of malted rye gives it a spicy malt flavor. As an aside, if you haven’t given a rye beer a try for one reason or another, I would urge you to do so. It’s not like eating rye bread or a corned-beef-on-rye (which is delicious in its own right). Malted rye adds a nice subtly sharp spiciness to beer. Terrapin 10th Anniversary Ale nicely balances the slight sweetness of a Belgian Pale Ale with the spiciness of a rye beer. Terrapin also added some coriander, orange peel, and chamomile to this beer – but for the life of me I can’t taste any of it. But I don’t need to – this beer is excellent as is. But be careful – this beer hides its alcohol (10% ABV) quite well. This beer will sneak up on you and punch you in the face. Currently available at Liquor Loft on Tennessee St. I would definitely pick up another.

(Look for “The Third Wheel” beer review to be a weekly feature on TwoInTally…which means Abe and Sara better keep up a little better with their blogging)