Desperately Seeking Sleeman

We recently made a trip from the Camelot-on-Earth that is Syracuse, New York to our place of origin, Rochester, a scant 80 minutes West down the thruway. Though we were born in the Flower City, we moved away before legal drinking age. So when it came time to selecting a mixed selection of beverages with which to while away the sleepy hours, we were out of our comfort zone.

We could have made the trip to the outstanding Beers of the World, which is approximately 20-25 minutes away, and kind of out of the way. Beers of the World is one of our favorite purveyors of libations, and as such the temptation to traverse all the way to Henrietta was palpable.

We remembered, however, that we were not to get paid until tomorrow. We had approximately $15 in our pocket, and probably no more left in the bank until 6AM the next day. To find a decent 12-pack of beer for $15 would be difficult at best. So we punted, and made the 5 minute drive to Wegman’s Perinton, a grocery store which was once known in my family as the “luxury Wegman’s” before it was surpassed by newer locations that look more like castles than places where you could buy all the components of a good garbage plate.

Wegman’s beer selection, by any standard, is outstanding for a common grocery store. They have lots of sixers and twelvers on display, and a decent-sized walk-in cooler. Furthermore, they seem to know how to separate the crap (Coors / Bud / Miller / Busch / Pabst / Piels) from the micros and craft brews.

Given our monetary situation, we wanted to get something affordable. But weary of the typical (and frankly tiresome) Sam Adams or Saranac twelve-packs, we wanted to try something we hadn’t had before. The only twelver that filled the Bill was Sleeman.

When my Capital District counterpart (also the architect of this blog you see before you) and Yours Truly — his humble Central New York field agent — went to Montréal last summer, we went on a somewhat fruitless sojourn to find great Canadian beers. We found a few diamonds in the rough at some micros, and enjoyed some of the very solid Leffe at the pubs, but other than Molson Dry, the only non-traditional beer it seemed we could find for purchase to bring back to the hotel was Sleeman.

Sleeman’s HQ is in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, home of actress Neve Campbell. One of our fondest memories of last year was looking over the Montréal skyline at midnight out of the hotel window, drinking Sleeman with our Electric City bureau chief. But we didn’t remember the beer being that memorable. Neveretheless, despite our lukewarm reaction, and the unusual bottling (only the necks of the bottles have labels), we decided to give the ol’ girl another go-round.

The Sleeman 12-pack contained three bottles each of four styles: The IPA 46* Ale, the Porter 68*, the Cream Ale 64*, and the Original Dark 50* Amber Ale. The reviews are in:

IPA 46* ALE: Though the flavor is pleasant enough, this dark golden brew is more like a watery English Ale. It’s very bright, but the dry malt dominates the brew, making it more of an English IPA (an traditional ale with extra hops) than an American IPA (usually an orgy of hops). There was a hint of chlorine. It is, however, pretty thirst-quenching for a hot day, given its lack of viscosity on the tongue area.

PORTER 68*: This looks like a thinner porter, with a deep mahogany red color, but not a lot of thickness. Looks glassy. The smell is a nice, deep dark berry smell, with a hint of coffee. The coffee smell here is much more mild than with normal porters. The flavor, however, flips it, with the bitter coffee becoming dominant with the cherry/berry as an accent. It does sweeten as it warms up. Its a little creamy, but actually very smooth for a porter. Not very thick, but pleasant.

CREAM ALE 64*: We could tell by looking at this one that it probably wasn’t going to be as good as the others. Looks a bit light and weak. The smell is reminiscent of Miller, Bud … dare I say, GENNY? If you really inhale deeply, you might find some slight flowery accents. The flavor is more like a lager, with lots of corn adjunct taste; some sweetness breaks through, but not much. We found this one to be just a step above Coors, only for that little hint of sweetness. These are the three you bring to a party for your friends who only drink Michelob Ultra.

ORIGINAL DARK 50* AMBER ALE: With a deep but clear red appearance and a fluffy head, this is certainly the prettiest beer of the bunch. The smell is a little weak, with the bitter malt smell we anticipated, and a roasted character. The flavor carries the bitterness of the smell, but it’s a dull bitterness. Its sweetness (again, berries we imagine) comes out as it warms up, as does a really nice, unexpected smoky quality. It’s creamy, but not that thick. It’s probably the only beer in the bunch that isn’t watery for its style. It’s a very solid roasted, smoky, cherry-sweet amber.

We wish they had made the 12-pack four each of the Amber, the Porter and the IPA, but we’re not the head of marketing. Besides, the masses need to have a beer too. Nothing blew my skirt up, but three out of the four were good bargains.

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~ by William H on July 14, 2007.

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