Category Archives: beer

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

This one participated to my search for the perfect shandy — the panaché according to the French. You can read my attempts to recreating it with local ingredients (more or less, a local replacement for the French limonade actually).

Last year my son had mentioned this drink to me and I was eager to try it. But it’s a seasonal item that retailers don’t carry nor sell out of season — spring and summer season that is). So I had to wait until spring came to get my hands on it.

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

According to the bottle’s label it’s a weiss beer brewed with honey and flavored with lemonade : so more or less a white type of beer which I  like the most, flavored with lemon and honey. Looks it can be close to a shandy with a hint of lemon flavor in a beer but is it close to the French panaché ?

It’s made in Wisconsin by Leinenkugel and its alcohol content is 4.2% vol.

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Pale yellow and very cloudy (white beer after all) with a nice beige foam rim.

Nose : a blast of lemon as expected plus some scents of wheat beer.

In mouth it is not too sweet (less sweet than my homemade version of the panaché but a panaché is actually sweet) because it is flavored with lemonade and not mixed with actual lemonade. It doesn’t have that much honey so it’s not actually sweetened like a soda as it seems and feels when tasting it.

The taste is lemon and wheat beer not white beer though : no spice, no orange peel, no coriander flavors. Anyway the lemon flavor would overpower all of those because it’s a lemon juice flavor and not merely a lemon peel flavor.

It is pleasant and refreshing though not a shandy panaché in the French meaning. In France we would call it a lemon flavored beer but not a panaché in any case.

Nicely bitter and lemony, good for summer days definitely.

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

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Making shandy in America

Making shandy

Making shandy

A classic for the summer in France, the shandy that we call panaché which literally means « a mix of ». The closest translation I found was shandy, a mix of beer and non alcoholic drink. However you never can get a panaché in a bar nor in any liquor and beer stores. 

Then my son mentioned a « summer shandy » that was sold but it is not a French panaché at all (review to come).

So I went on the hunt of making it at home. Making the perfect panaché or at least the French panaché I enjoy when in France, was really a bit of a hunt — I had to gather the right ingredients which was not as simple a task as it may have seemed. 

The beer, no problem, there are plenty of them, local, cheap or imported, gourmet or expensive from all the countries you can think of. Of course you don’t want to use a gourmet nor an abbey beer for that but rather an ordinary everyday beer. I chose to go with imported beers from Europe figuring I would be closest to the taste. I selected the generic Heineken lager beer and a French lager beer (might as well get even closer to the origins), a 1664 by Kronenbourg (the generic Kronenbourg was nowhere to be found here in New Jersey.)

But the complicated part was the other ingredient, the French limonade, or rather what we consider and call limonade in France. Here it’s nowhere to be found, ever. I have looked for it in the past when the kids were little and now to make the shandy. Not to be confused by what’s called lemonade here, which is a non sparking sweetened lemon juice, what we call a « citronnade » in France.

The closest « limonade » I could think of was a lemon/lime soda such as Sprite and 7-up. Not quite the same as the French limonade but worth a try. It’s lemon and lime, which the French limonade doesn’t have (it’s only a lemon tasting soda).

So I had my ingredients, Heineken and 1664 Kronenbourg for the beers and Sprite and 7-up as makeshift limonades.

Making shandy

Making shandy

I used my son as a guinea pig and for 4 evenings we tried all the combinations : Heineken with Sprite, then Heineken with 7-up then the 1664 with Sprite and lastly the 1664 with 7-up.

The first evening we were quite disappointed by the combination of Heineken and Sprite : too limy. The unwanted lime taste was too be expected but at that level it took away the real panaché taste with this strong lime taste.

The second evening was better, the combination of Heineken and 7-up worked better because the 7-up felt less limy in taste than the Sprite. Better but quite not there yet. 

The third night we tried the 1664 Kronenbourg with the Sprite and again too limy though it felt closer than the combination of Heineken and Sprite. Using a French beer helped, so I ruled out the Heineken for future shandy making. 

So I had high hopes for the last night when we tried the combination of 1664 and 7-up : that was indeed the closest. A tad off, not exactly the panaché taste but close enough and good enough for our expatriates’ enjoyment. 

I keep this combination as my recipe for makeshift panaché when I want to enjoy one on this side of the ocean on a summer day. It reminds me of summers of my youth and my son does also enjoy them as memories of his French summer days. 1664 and 7-up soda, half and half and it works close and good enough. We had this combination tried by a local friend who loved it (he had of course never heard of the real panaché and only knows the « summer shandy » that has nothing to do with a French panaché).

1664 and 7-up, way to go !

Making shandy

Making shandy

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

This one is the first beer from Magnify Brewing, the local brewery from Fairfield, NJ, that I tasted. It’s called Low Visibility, it’s a pale ale and it’s made in New Jersey. 4.8% vol.

Their website : https://www.magnifybrewing.com

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

This is the very one I had a sip of during the little social event (dinner and beer) that followed the filmmakers’ workshop and event organized by Unique Photo a couple of weeks ago. At that time I could only have a tiny shot in a little plastic cup because I had a long drive home afterwards.

The tap room bartender told me it was a pale ale, which is what I usually prefer, also that it was one with the lowest alcohol content from all the beers they had that night. I couldn’t taste it properly in those conditions and figured I would eventually come back one day, with a driver, to be able to have a full review.

But the other day, while browsing the beer section at my favorite local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines, I suddenly found a pack of this very beer from Magnify Brewing. It could have been one or the other of their beers but it was precisely that one, the Low Visibility, that I had tried quickly and that I seemed to like (it’s very difficult to really appreciate when having a tiny sip from a thimble sized plastic up).

So I grabbed a pack in order to have a proper tasting at home. First it only comes in an aluminum can, which I don’t usually like : when given the choice I always buy the glass bottle version, I find the aluminum to give an unpleasant note to the beer and to make it taste somewhat off. We all know that it is one of the glorious properties of glass to be neutral and to never give any taste to the drink or food that it contains. Aluminum cans might also not conserve the beer the same way, with some chemical reactions happening between the container and its contents. However this time I didn’t notice anything bad and nothing felt off.

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Nice bubbles and a small rim of foam, pale yellow to beige. The beer itself is bright pale yellow as well as slightly cloudy, as I remembered it being a kind to white beer, Hoegaarden style when I tried it at the brewery. 

The nose is definitively like a white beer, with scents of citrus and coriander, a very strong scent of these two scents — a little too much for my liking.

Fortunately in mouth the strength of these two perfumes/ tastes is less pronounced than I feared at first, which is good news and what I remembered from the 2 sips at the brewery. I could not really smell it in that tiny plastic cup at that time, thus I didn’t notice that strong scent / perfume.

I like it better that in mouth it tastes like a classic white beer, well balanced, not too perfumed. It also has a good balanced bitterness, not too strong and of course some hop taste but not too much, just enough to be recognizable and pleasant at the same time. All in all it has more a taste of hop and beer than a taste of citrus and coriander. It definitely has less of those 2 than a classic white beer such as the Hoegaarden white beer. Between the two scents, I would say more coriander than citrus, that is really faint, and the hop taste is way more pronounced than in a classic white beer. The hop flavor is not exaggerated though and rather pleasant : a well balanced beer with a round bitter aftertaste and a lot of freshness. This beer can do great in summertime.

Some yeast aftertaste also (in a pleasant way).

After the tasting I enjoyed it with some Tex-Mex tacos and empanadas with fresh green salad and lime seasoning. 

I’ll definitively have it again as an alternative to the Hoegaarden I sometimes like to drink, let’s drink local after all !

To be continued…

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Magnify Brewing Low Visibility Pale Ale

Introduction to the Magnify Brewing beers

Magnify Brewing beers

Magnify Brewing beers

Last week I got introduced to yet another local business, during a workshop for video and filmmakers, organized also by a local New Jersey photo store, Unique Photo in Fairfield, NJ. After the daily classes, the participants, teachers and organizers were all invited (invited is really the word, we didn’t have to pay for anything, nor food nor drink, thank you Unique Photo and thank you Sony, the major sponsor of the filmmakers event) in a local brewery also in Fairfield, NJ, Magnify Brewing. 

Their website : https://www.magnifybrewing.com

Local indeed, the beer is brewed right in Fairfield, NJ and the brewery also serves as a tap room/tasting location, just off the commercial Route 46. It was a bit of a hunt to get there, as it was not on Route 46 as I expected but a little bit hidden on some back road in a commercial and industrial lot maze. But thanks to modern navigation systems, I made it in time for the after workshop party. The place was all reserved for us (thank you again Unique Photo and Sony which paid for it all) and we had also access to two outside food trucks for tacos and ice-cream to go along the beer tasting — all of that free of charge !

Invitation to taste Magnify Brewing beers

Invitation to taste Magnify Brewing beers

As I needed to drive back home and I don’t stand alcohol very well, I couldn’t try all the beers but the tap room bartender offered me a tiny sample in a small plastic shot glass to have an idea. As per my usual taste of light beers — I am not a beer drinker and when I do drink beer, I am more a pale ale type of drinker — he advised me to try one of their lightest, the Low Visibility Pale Ale with only 4.8% vol. of alcohol. It seemed promising and appeared to me as a type of white beer (pale color and cloudy, as well as for its taste that reminded me of one of my favorite white beers, the Hoegaarden Original White Ale). It was not a proper tasting of course, just two sips to get a general impression.

Once we were treated with as many beers as we wanted to try (not for me unfortunately, next time I’ll come with a driver), tacos and ice cream and the evening was coming to a close, we (each one of us) got another nice surprise. We were offered, to take home, a pack of 4 one-pint cans of our choice between 3 of their beers : either the Red Carpet, the Vine Shine (not sure if I remember right for this one) and the Huge. Back to the bartender for some advice as I hadn’t been able to taste any of those. As I told him I had enjoyed the sip of Low Visibility he had given me to try, he advised me to pick the less strong or the milder (in taste and alcohol I guess) of the bunch, which was the Huge, a double IPA (with a whopping 8.5% vol. of alcohol though). So I got to go home with a pack of 4 of those cans of the Huge variety. This made me even happier than simply getting free beers, as it meant I could have a proper tasting at home with tasting notes and a post for the blog. Thank you again to our hosts and sponsors, Magnify Brewing, Unique Photo and Sony, for the nice present on top of an already nice event. I made some mental notes also to come back with friends and a driver, to take a tour of the brewery and sample some of their other beers.

Magnify Brewing Huge double IPA

Magnify Brewing Huge double IPA

A proper tasting of the Huge double IPA is coming soon. At first I had planed on this past week-end but something unexpected happened : as I went to my favorite local wine store, namely Stirling Fine Wines, to taste this newly available Italian wine from MoodWine, I browsed the store and, for once, also the beer section. There I stumbled upon some Magnify Brewing beers ! Furthermore they had in store the very one I had tried during the event, the Low Visibility : it was so unexpected ! I was so happy that, in addition to the Huge double IPA, I could have a proper tasting of the Low Visibility Pale Ale too. I could now go deeper than the glimpse I had the other day at the brewery.

Therefore a proper tasting of the Low Visibility Pale Ale had to come before the tasting of the Huge double IPA to respect the chronology — and the strength of the 2 beers actually. So I tasted it last Sunday night and the review will be coming soon to the blog. But before I wanted to tell the whole story behind it and how I got acquainted to those beers. After all this is all what it is about : tasting wine, beer or whisky is not just about drinking but also and mainly about the encounters we make, the talks we have and the stories behind the craft and the making of all those wonderful beverages that bring friends and people together, that connect and bond them whatever their background and cultural differences. 

The tasting comparisons and all the conversations we have around a drink, about that very drink or previous or future drinks and all other subjects, all the stories we tell, make it an enjoyable life experience. Sooner than latter we find even more common ground and interests regarding those other subjects that we didn’t know we had in common and this bonds us more.

To be continued…

Magnify Brewing beers

Magnify Brewing beers

Magnify Brewing beers

Magnify Brewing beers

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

It didn’t take long for a beer to sneak in. The excuse was sore muscles from cleaning the leaves (I tasted it back in early November this year).

This is an imported beer, special edition Oktoberfest 2018 from Spaten, Munich, Germany. The Spaten brewery exists since 1397!

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

I am not even a beer drinker. I mainly indulge times to times with some Corona type beers because they are light and their taste is not too bitter, with some Tex-Mex food.

But that day I tried the Oktoberfest beer made in Germany that I found at my local joint (Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, New Jersey) 3 miles from home.

It was advised by one of the associates there: when I asked for a good imported lager or bière blonde, he got me that special edition or brew for Oktoberfest. 

It was about time to drink it as it was already early November.

I didn’t even have the proper meal to go with it, as I already mentioned the excuse was the sore muscles from the leaves raking and blowing.

5.9% alcohol, quite high in alcohol for a beer — at least in America. 

Very dark golden color with fine regular bubbles and a yellowy head (foam). Full body, thick, the attack is strong, not too bitter but full in mouth. Then an aftertaste of roasted cereals, almost a hint of coffee and fresh whole bread hot from the oven. The texture too reminds me of bread hot from the oven.

Very malty, toasted bread, almost a cake baked in the oven like a muffin or a French quatre-quarts (pound cake) with honey notes (and the color also leans towards honey).

Even though it’s strong in alcohol and taste, it’s pleasant to drink and leaves an excellent aftertaste: a fulfilling beer.

I would not call it a refreshing beer — that’s not its purpose obviously — but a beer to savor and enjoy thoroughly with all its malt aromas and flavors in mouth. A serious beer indeed.

What remains afterwards is the malt taste.

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018

Beer Spaten Oktoberfest 2018