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Belt's Beer Garden: slumming it!

Sometimes you're just too broke to afford good beer...here's a few alternatives.

This week Norm suggested we do a throwback to when we couldn't afford really good craft beer...a time when most of our beers were more water than beer. I was skeptical but agreed none the less...my wallet could use the break after all.

Up first is Norm's review of a classic adjunct lager, Rolling Rock.

rolling rock

Dive bars, greasy diners, Wal-mart and Backpage; sometimes you just have to lower your standards to satisfy a need. This holds true for beer as well. I estimate that I've been a beer snob for about a decade. If there was a Bud or Miller product in my fridge that meant guests were coming over. But a strange thing happened to me recently. After ten years of chasing the best IPAs and Stouts I could find, I had a desire for some of the beers I drank during my youth.

There's a certain recollection of beer flavor engrained into my brain from my earliest drinking days. At that time I was mostly chasing down beers that came in 30 packs because I had very little money and one goal. The 30 packs back then were primarily Stroh's and Old Style. Toss in PBR and maybe some Old Milwaukee and there's that taste of nostalgia. Good ol' American Adjunct Lagers.

Recently I've been enjoying PBR and Schlitz for my drink down memory lane, but for this review I'm going to another can of ancient history. Rolling Rock.

Rolling Rock is brewed by Latrobe Brewing out of Missouri. It has a very mild 4.6% ABV and will set you back $8.99 for a twelve pack of 12 ounce cans or bottles.

When poured into a glass (any glass will do), Rolling Rock is about two shades darker than water. It emits the color of white gold. It wants to be gold, but it's far lighter. There's really only one liquid I can think of with this same tone. Here's a hint: It's one letter in length and starts with a P.

The aroma is a tad skunky with a slight notes of corn. If you try really hard you may get one molecule of hop smell as well. As the appearance indicates, nothing here is going to seduce or deter you from continuing on with this endeavor.

The Rock is nicely carbonated and leaves a big foamy head that quickly dissipates. Not much lacing to speak of. Or has ever needed to have been discussed about this beer.

While the appearance and aroma may have you expecting a mild disappointment, the taste saves the day and gives you just a very tiny disappointment! This stuff is really okay. I mean, it's not good, but it's not awful either. It's super light with the mildest hint of hops. There's a bit sweetness as well, but again, everything is so watered down that nothing grabs your attention. As adjuncts go, you get that generic taste from the additional ingredients added for its mass production needs.

Is rolling Rock a good beer? No, not especially. But it's drinkable. This style of beer has taken more abuse than warranted in this craft beer crazy world. There's a time and a place for all beers. For Rolling Rock, that time was when I was 18-28. But it also has its time these days as well. When the moment is not really about the beer. Sometimes the moment's about the food or the activities. Sometimes you need to be up at 6 in the morning but you still want to have a few. Whatever the reason, lower your standards once in a great while and go slumming. Rolling Rock gets 5/10.

5 beers

For my "slumming it" brew, I still wanted to do something I had never tried before. Luckily for me, my roommate had a leftover hard cider that I had never had: Angry Orchard's Hop'n Mad Apple.

hopn mad

Angry Orchard is owned by The Boston Beer Company, who is behind all the Sam Adams beers, but they are also the countries biggest hard cider producer (with about 50% of the US market).

The last few years they have begun making a ton of variations to their old classic cider. This one, for example, features two types of hops (Galaxy and Strisselspalt) that supposedly add a hoppy taste/aroma with out adding any bitterness or compromising the flavor.

The beer - er, cider - poured a light straw yellow color with very little head topping it. I didn't really smell any hops, mostly just crisp apples and...well, that was about it.

When I tried it for the first time, I'll be honest, it wasn't half bad. It wasn't great either...but better than I was expecting. Up front there is a ton of sweet apple, almost to the point of being too tart, with an ever-so-slight floral hop aftertaste. And when I say ever-so-slight, I mean you really need to be looking for it to find the hops.

There is a sweet, slightly dry finish to Hop'n Mad that doesn't really last too long. It's a really easy to drink and quite sessionable cider (as it tastes like apple juice) and would be a pretty decent beverage during the hot summer days. As it's still February and only 16 degrees here today, I think I'm drinking it out of season. Oh well.

It's got a solid ABV to it, at 5% (better than Norm's Rolling Rock!), and only sets you back $8.99 for a six-pack.

Basically, it's adult applejuice with a hint of hops. It's kind of tart but kind of good. Overall, not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. 6.5/10

6.5 beer