November 2011 Archives

Victory Baltic Thunder

| No Comments

Beer styles are strange beasts. There are a lot of stories surrounding the origins of many beer styles and they're often vague or conflicting. Take the Baltic Porter style. In my 5 minutes of research, I come away with a number of unanswered questions. Did the style originate in England? Or did it originate in the Baltic states (like Finland, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, etc...)? What's the difference between a Baltic Porter and a strong English Porter? Is the difference that Baltic Porters were brewed with lager yeast (rather than the traditional ale yeast)? Come to think of it, what the hell is the difference between a stout and a porter?

Near as I can tell, the style originated in the Baltic states as an attempt to imitate the English Porters, but perhaps because they're Baltic, they amped up the alcohol. The British were exporting their beers throughout the Baltic region and Russia, so I guess the locals enjoyed the beer so much that they tried their hand at it. There are some sources online that say many of the Baltic breweries switched to lager yeast and processes later, which would certainly lend a different character to the beer (and it makes sense that brewers in the frigid Baltic region would gravitate towards processes that required lower fermentation temperatures), though I also get the impression that many breweries continued to use ale yeast. All of this is still rather fuzzy though.

Ultimately, when you see something at the beer store labeled a Baltic Porter, what you can expect is a porter with a higher than normal alcohol (in the 7-9% range). It's basically the Porter's equivalent of the Russian Imperial Stout. Today's example comes from local brewing hero Victory, who collaborated with Tom Baker from the now defunct Heavyweight brewing to create the beer:

"We were always fans of Tom's beers, his Baltic porter in particular. After he chose to close his brewery and his Baltic porter vanished from the shelves, we were left thirsty for that beer. So, to quench our own thirst and that of consumers, we worked with Tom and shared his notes and thoughts on the style." said Bill Covaleski, president and brewmaster of Victory Brewing Company.
Though inspired by Heavyweight's Perkuno's Hammer, this beer has a slightly different recipe (apparently they wanted to use the same Perkuno's Hammer label, but the local beer distributer objected and Victory thus came up with the Baltic Thunder name). It's also apparently one of the lagered varieties of the Baltic Porter, though I didn't really pick out any of that character in the beer. Speaking of which, here's what I did pick out in the beer:

Victory Baltic Porter

Victory Baltic Thunder - Pours a dark brown color with just a hint of amber highlights and minimal head. Aroma is full of chalky roasted malts, maybe just a hint of fruitiness and chocolate. Taste is nice and sweet, with the caramel and roasted malt character coming out in the middle and lasting through the finish. Really well balanced mouthfeel; nice full body, but the alcohol is well hidden and it still goes down easy. Overall, this is my kinda porter. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip on 11/5/11.

So I'm still mopping up some old reviews, after which you can expect the Holiday beer review deluge to begin.

Allagash Fluxus 2011

| No Comments

A couple years ago, just as my beer nerdery began flourishing in a big way, I picked up a bottle of Allagash Fluxus 2009. This is a series of beers where the gloves come off, and Allagash's brewers feel free to push the limits of beer. Fluxus comes from the latin, meaning "continuous change", and so many of these beers represent odd mixtures of style or beers with uncommon ingredients. The recipe is very different from year to year. The 2009 version that I had was a saison brewed with sweet potatoes and black pepper. This seemed absurd to me at the time, but it really knocked my socks off. The 2010 variety was apparently an imperial chocolate stout. I never did manage to catch up with one of these (though it was certainly available, I just found myself pursuing other beers at the time). Here in 2011, I see it the beer described as a French-Style Farmhouse Ale (and also as a Biere de Garde). I generally find this a favorable style, so I picked it up:

Allagash Fluxus 11

Allagash Fluxus 2011 - Pours a medium amber brown color (copper?) with a finger of light colored head that sticks around a while, but doesn't really leave much lacing. Aroma is strongly influenced by noble hops - earthy and floral, with just a hint of sweetness, maybe even candi sugar or caramel peeking through. It's almost like the nose of an... Oktoberfest beer*? Not what I was expecting at all. The taste has some of that same character, though perhaps the yeastiness is adding complexity too. There are some kinda toasty notes here as well, maybe even some nutty flavors, further lending credence to the Oktoberfest hypothesis. Mouthfeel is actually quite nice. Well balanced carbonation and medium body. Not a quencher at all, but easy to drink and it hides the alcohol well enough. It's a strange melding of styles here. We've got the hopping of a Euro-lager with the spicy yeast character of a French or Belgian ale. A most unusual experiment with an intricate blend of well matched flavors, probably very much in line with the goal of the Fluxus line of beers. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it's really my thing. Hey, this happens from time to time. It's a very well crafted and complex beer, and I'm glad I tried it, but I find myself appreciating it more on an intellectual level than with my taste buds. Perhaps if I was more of a Euro-lager kinda guy, this would rock my world. Alas, I am not that guy. B

Now, I usually try to write my reviews based solely on my initial tasting of the beer, but with beers that come in 750 ml bottles, I tend to try accompanying the second glass of the beer with something to eat. This combination of flavors sometimes produces unexpected results** and sometimes even improves my feeling on the beer***. Usually, this is a snack of cheese and/or crackers, but this time around, I opted for an unconventional accompaniment. For whatever reason, I associate nuts in the shell with the holidays, and I recently picked up some. Given the Oktoberfesty nature of this beer, I thought the toasted, nutty character of the brew would go well with the mixed nuts, so I broke out the nutcracker, and yes, it did indeed match up****. It actually made the second glass from the 750 ml magnum a more enjoyable experience than it normally would have been. I don't think I'd increase the rating of this beer because of this, but I did want to mention it because I found the combination interesting.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip on 11/25/11.

Ironically, this is probably the best Oktoberfest beer I've had all year (not that I've had a ton, but still). It's not one of my favorite styles, but this one worked well enough, and I loved the unconventional holiday feeling I got from drinking the second glass.

* According to Allagash's website, the beer is hopped solely with "Alsatian Brewers Gold", which is not technically a noble hop, but it apparently is a very European variety that is used in German lagers, and often appears on Oktoberfest beers. So I'm not crazy. Or rather, I'm not crazy because I detected these aromas/flavors in the beer. I may or may not otherwise be crazy.

** And sometimes it does not. Matching beer with food can be difficult due to the depth and breadth of flavors possible in beer.

*** I think a large part of how I came around on stouts is that I managed to match it well with various cheeses and meats. In particular, I find that Havarti cheese goes well with stouts, and of course, any grilled meat goes well with the roasty flavors. Beer Advocate usually has some suggestions on their sidebars for each beer, though I think it's all based on style and not the specific beer. Nevertheless, I've found it helpful.

**** And now my floor is covered in nut shrapnel.

Labyrinth

| No Comments

Earlier this year, I had a bottle of Uinta's Cockeyed Cooper, a bourbon barrel aged barleywine that was fantastic. It's part of Uinta's Crooked Line, a series of heavy-duty beers that isn't even legal to sell in a lot of the most common beer sellers in the brewery's home state of Utah (i.e. this beer can't be sold in grocery stores or establishments with a "beer only" license - those places are limited to beers less than 4% ABV (so... basically English milds and light beer?)) Stronger beers in Utah have to be sold at state controlled liquor stores or places with a "Full" liquor license. Or out of state, which I suspect is where most of these beers are sold. As someone who also suffers under some weird liquor laws, this sort of thing has always inspired solidarity in me, and so I'll gladly plunk down some cash for these beers.

It helps that they're really well crafted and have wonderful artwork (apparently from local Utah artists) on their labels as well. Labyrinth's label is certainly eye-catching - it pops right off crowded shelves, even when it's not front-and-center. And it's mesmerizing to look at (though not quite one of those weird optical illusions, I was still half expecting to see a secret hidden message on the bottle if I got drunk enough* or stared at it the right way). It's described as a Black Ale brewed with licorice sticks and aged in oak barrels. I assumed this meant an American Black Ale (or Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale or whatever you want to call the style), but it turns out that this is actually an imperial stout. The labeling for this beer seems to have a lot of suggestive power (more on this below the review)...

Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale

Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale - Pours a very thick, black color with a dark brown finger of head. Complex aromas of roasted and caramel malts, along with a heaping helping of bourbon, oak and vanilla and, of course, booze. Tastes starts out very sweet, maybe even some dark fruitiness peeking out, but the alcohol and roasiness come out with full force in the finish. The bourbon/oak/vanilla flavors are also there, adding a sense of richness and complexity to an already flavorful beer. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, with just a little boozy sweet stickiness. It's clear this is strong, but it's also very easy to drink and it hides the extremes of alcohol very well. Exactly what I'd want out of a barrel aged imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.2% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip on 11/19/11. Bottled on 12/29/10.

I find it interesting that most of the descriptions of this beer do not mention the bourbon. The bottle itself just says "aged in oak barrels" and in the description, it says "toasted oak", with no mention of bourbon. Apparently the barrels were previously used for bourbon and rye whiskey, but it doesn't really say that anywhere. Including, I might add, most reviews on Beer Advocate and RateBeer. Of the first 70 reviews listed on BA, only 6 mention bourbon flavors, though to my palate it was clear as day ("rye" shows up only once)**. Licorice, which I couldn't really pick out*** (though perhaps it added to the complexity), is mentioned in 6 of the first 10 reviews. What does this all mean? Could it be that all these reviewers are full of shit? Seriously, here's one of the reviews:

...suggestive of brown sugar (which has an increasingly burnt quality as the flavors evolve), candied fennel seeds, and licorice root. Low bitterness, though the deep roast notes lend a somewhat acrid quality. Toasted dark rye, black pepper, with a touch of cinnamon/clove as well in the finish. The oak contributes an additional sensation of char which further balances the initial sweetness.
Um, yeah, sure. Candied fennel seeds? Yeah, my palate is that attuned too. In all seriousness, I shouldn't talk - my palate isn't the most refined in the world and I often drink in less than ideal conditions. But I do find it interesting how suggestive the labeling and marketing has been with this beer. I suspect that if it said it was aged in rye whiskey barrels on the bottle, half the reviews would call out rye as a distinct flavor element (perhaps even delving even deeper, describing "toasted Jewish marble rye" flavors or something else that is absurdly specific). Or maybe I'm just full of shit myself.

* And at 13.2% ABV, drunkenness was likely.

** I wasn't as thorough with RateBeer, but spot-checked results seemed comparable. For that matter, I didn't look at all the reviews on BA either. Sue me.

*** I'm certainly no expert on licorice though, so maybe it is obvious and I just wasn't perceiving it.

Oak Aged Double Feature

| No Comments

Continuing the Oak Aged posting this week, here I've got two big Oak Aged beers, matched with gorgeous but flawed films. First up, Tarsem Singh's Immortals, a horribly scripted Greek mythology story that is nonetheless worth watching for some wonderful, stylized action sequences and Tarsem's trademark visual style (a feast for the eyes!) Next, I watched Terrence Malick meditative The Tree of Life, a non-narrative fever dream, again gorgeously photographed and mesmerizing, but going on for way too long and, odd as it may be to say this, too much dialogue (and there's not really much dialogue in the movie, but what's there is kinda insipid). Very pretty movies, both, but also flawed. The beers I drank to match were big and flavorful.

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard - Does the backwoods bastard pictured on the label look like Gandalf the Grey to anyone else? No? I'm the only nerd here? Great. Anyway, you don't see this style of beer, a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, aged in barrels very often (or, uh, ever - this is the only one I'm aware of*). This beer actually starts out as Founders' year-round brew, Dirty Bastard, which is then aged in old bourbon barrels, bringing up the ABV and imparting the usual complexity of bourbon barrel notes. Pours a dark, deep brown color with very little head. Aroma is full of bourbon and oak, with some of that underlying scotch ale character coming out. Taste starts with sweet malts, followed by a big wallop of boozy bourbon and oak. Ends with a surprisingly dry finish (well, not super dry, but more dry than I would have expected). The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied - not as heavy as I was expecting, which makes this very easy to drink. I wouldn't say the booze is hidden, but it's not as powerful as the ABV would suggest, which is interesting. Overall, a really good beer, something I'd like to try again, but also something that could probably use some additional aging to marry the flavors together a little more. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11.

Avery Samael Ale

Avery Samael's Oak Aged Ale - Back in the day, when I first started posting things on the internet, message boards were all the rage. Along with that came the use of handles, basically online nicknames people took for themselves. I've since grown out of that fad**, but there are still some folks I met back in the 1990s message boards that I think of by their handles, rather than their real names. One such person is my friend Roy, who I always knew as Samael (which is also apparently the name of the prince of demons, but whatever). As such, during my recent Texas excursion, I saw this beer and had to have it, despite not being a native Texas beer (it's not something I've seen around these parts though, so it's still something mildly ungettable for me). So I got one and greedily smuggled it back to PA***.

It pours a deep brown color with minimal head. Smell is full of dark fruitiness and caramel, with just a little of the vanilla oak flavor. Caramel flavors dominate the taste, along with a heaping helping of booze. The oak and vanilla is there too. As it warms, dark fruity notes emerge. Really complex stuff here, though not particularly well balanced. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, with a sticky finish. A really big alcohol presence here, a little on the harsh side. Overall, it's a very good beer, but like the Backwoods Bastard, I'm thinking this one would benefit from some aging in order to let all the intricate flavors to balance each other out. When it's this young, it's a little too hot to handle, maybe even a bit cloying towards the end, though still enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 15.31% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11. Bottles released in April 2011 (batch no. 7)

A theme seems to be emerging from a lot of barrel aged beers I've had lately, which is that they could probably use some more time to mature. The complex marriage of flavors that makes a barrel aged beer great seem to be difficult to balance, though when it's done right, it's a big revelation. That being said, I generally enjoy even these young versions, so it's not like you won't be seeing any more barrel aged beer reviews (indeed, one more already in the pipeline, and several more in my basement that I might just let sit for a while). I'm also really interested to see how Dark Intrigue matures, given that it seemed pretty well balanced to me on its first day of release...

* Not that I'm an expert on the style, but still.

** My handle was tallman, a reference to a cheesy but cherished 70s horror film that I was in love with at the time (and still am, to a degree). And no, I'm not very tall.

*** Using the same giddy packing techniques I did for that Wytchmaker beer. I'm still amused at the prospect of becoming a bootlegger.

Victory Dark Wednesday

| No Comments

So today saw the release of Victory's Dark Intrigue, a bourbon barrel aged version of their Russian Imperial Stout, Storm King (in an event they called Dark Wednesday). I've never been to a big beer release, and this one was purported to be a big deal. Apparently all of last year's batch sold out in 45 minutes or so, and Victory announced that this would be the last year they'd be making this particular beer. They apparently made more of it this year, but given the extremely rare nature of the beer, I decided that I must go to the brewery early and get me some bourbon barrel goodness.

Because I'm a nerd, that's why.

Victory Brewery

Victory's brewery is in a weird location. It's like you're driving around in a neighborhood, lots of houses, when suddenly you make a right turn and bam! Brewery. I actually know several people who live in homes within walking distance of the brewery. This, of course, makes me want to sell my home and look for such houses, but I digress. Not really knowing what to expect, I left my house rather early this morning, arriving at around 8:45 am. I ended up being #44 in line. They have a nice, stress-free system here, rather than the clusterfuck I was expecting. You arrive, they give you a numbered wrist band, and you're thus free to do whatever you want until around 11 am, at which point they request you get in line, in order. Nevertheless, most of us just stood around in a rough approximation of order. It actually rained this morning, which I think decreased the turnout a bit (300 cases were apparently available, and well more than that showed up, but still), but it was all good. Most folks were well prepared, and those that weren't were able to head to their cars without losing their spot in line.

Dark Wednesday line

The few hours passed by quickly. The rain died down, the sun came out, and thus we assumed God was blessing the occasion. Beer nerds are apparently quite friendly folk, and I spent most of the time talking with my neighbors in line. Oddly, we did not introduce ourselves. I have no idea what their names are and I didn't give mine. Strange. But we talked beer and shared stories and had a generally good time. The time came, and we got our beer. It was all quite exciting, in a nerdy way. Upon returning home, I immediately cracked the case and put one in the fridge for later. I was assuming that the beer would still be young and brash, not very well balanced, and that it would take a while for it to mellow out, but I got a case of the stuff, so I might as well try one as soon as possible:

Victory Dark Intrigue

Victory Dark Intrigue - Pours a pitch black color with a finger or two of light brown head that slowly disappears, leaving some nice lacing patterns. The nose is very complex and surprisingly balanced for such a young beer. I'm getting some roastiness, some hops, and a nicely matched amount of oak and vanilla, with just a bit of bourbon and booze. The taste starts off with some sweet and maybe even chocolately notes, with some bitterness settling in the finish and aftertaste. Booze cuts in on the bitterness though, making it all seem balanced. In addition, the oak, vanilla and bourbon come out in the middle and last through the finish, but it's not nearly as overpowering as I was expecting. The mouthfeel is very strong and full bodied. It's thick and coats the mouth, what the beer nerds would call chewy. There's a bit of a bite to this too, though things seem to smooth out a bit as it warms up. The booze and bourbon give the beer a sorta hot character, which lends itself to the typical warming alcohol feeling as I drink. Overall, I was not expecting this to be as good as it was. I was thinking that it would need to age a bit before all the various flavors would come together, but damn, this is working right now, on day one. I'm sure it will mellow out some, perhaps that hot bite will smooth out with time. Great stuff from Victory. I'll give it an A, though I'm sure that's partly the novelty speaking here. So sue me.

I actually had a regular old Storm King last night, in preparation for this bourbon barrel version. I actually reviewed this beer a while back, but the one I had last night was much better than I remember (at least a B+ if not an A-), but perhaps having it on tap makes a difference (I'm also told that having it on cask is amazing, but I'm dumb and haven't tried that yet, despite it being available regularly). That being said, the bourbon barrel version is definitely a step up, which basically means that this was all a fantastic idea.

Victory is saying that this was an experiment with barrel aging. The general idea was to take one of their existing beers and put it in bourbon barrels to see what happens, then take their learnings and apply it to making new and unique barrel-aged wonders. Given how this turned out, I can't wait to see what they do with barrels next.

The Angel's Share

| No Comments

When a distiller lays down a barrel of bourbon or scotch for aging, something strange happens. Some of the precious liquid is lost. It seeps into the wood and evaporates. Our friends in Kentucky and Scotland refer to this lost liquid as "The Angel's Share". As it turns out, when you barrel age beer, the same thing happens. But oh, it is so worth paying the Angels their share:

Lost Abbey The Angels Share

Lost Abbey The Angel's Share - Pours a very dark brown color (I know the picture above looks kinda like chocolate milk, but I didn't realize my new phone has a flash on it, so it looks brighter in the picture than it did whilst drinking) with minimal, quickly disappearing head. Smells strongly of caramel, oak, vanilla and bourbon. Taste is full of rich, sweet malts, maybe some dark fruitiness, that oak and vanilla, with the bourbon coming out in the middle and intensifying through the finish. The booze comes out more in the finish as well, along with a nice warming alcohol feeling. Mouthfeel is full bodied; super rich, almost syrupy but with just the right amount of carbonation. As it warms, the bourbon and booze become even more prominent. This is an outstanding beer, though I wish I had a bottle of it to lay down for a year or two. It's really fantastic right now, but I imagine a slightly mellowed out version of this being near perfect. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 11/11/11.

It's been a bourbon barrel soaked couple of weeks here at Kaedrin HQ. The above was an unexpected catch at a local beer bar's anniversary celebration, but I've had a few other barrel aged wonders recently, and we're rapidly approaching Dark Wednesday, when Victory will be releasing their Dark Intrigue (basically bourbon barrel aged Storm King stout). They did this last year too, and it sold out rather quickly. Apparently this is the last time they'll be making this, so this is also my last chance to get some. I'm excited.

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #6: Bottling

| No Comments

The Christmas beer was in the fermenter for two weeks, so it was bottling time. Fermentation started quickly, lots of bubbles in the airlock for about 4 days, after which, things trailed off quickly. The biggest question with this brew was the spices and damn, this smelled great. The cloves were probably the most prominent of the spices, but it seemed well matched to the rest of the beer. That being said, I wanted to get some more cinnamon out of this, so I chucked a few cinnamon sticks in the bottling bucket to give it some extra... cinnamonity? And the finished product did indeed seem to display a little more cinnamonitivity. My guess is that the spiciness will fade in time, so this will probably be nice and complex by Christmas.

Final gravity was 1.014, which was a hair lower than expected, but that's a pleasant surprise. If my calculations are correct, this will bring the beer to around 6% ABV, which was my exact target. I gave it a taste, and it seems pretty good. I don't really have a feel for how non-carbonated beer will taste once it's carbonated, but this seems right. Nice spiciness, good body, seems like it will be good stuff. The appearance is a very pretty dark amber color.

My Christmas Ale, straight from the fermenter

There's about 6 weeks before Christmas, which should give it enough time to condition in the bottle. My saison was awesome at week one, but that's rare and in this case, I'm assuming the spices need some time to settle down. 6 weeks should do the trick.

Not sure what's next. I'm saving the dubbel for the summer and since it's winter, I'd like to make something that requires lower fermentation temperatures. An IPA (single hopped Simcoe?) or maybe a British ESB of some kind (my nutty idea is to get me some bergamot oil and make an Earl Grey British ale, maybe even using some tea in the initial steeping phase.) Funnily enough, a lot of Christmas beers say that they get better with age, so I might even want to make next year's Christmas beer now, and age it. Or something. I was also thinking that it might be time to get a secondary fermenter, which would allow all sorts of fun stuff like dry hopping and oak aging (and bourbon oak aging!)

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Double Feature: Documenting IPAs

| No Comments

I recently lamented my lack of double feature posts, a fault more of circumstance than anything else. I've been drinking more of a variety (which does not always lend itself to the comparative nature of double features), and some styles just don't lend themselves to this type of post. One style that's always been a boon to double features is the IPA. It's a style of tremendous variety, yet you can often come away from drinking one particular example feeling that it tasted kinda the same as any other IPA. So pitting two examples of the style against one another and comparing the differences has always been illuminating. This double feature was a bit odd, for a few reasons. By total coincidence, they were both 7.2% ABV, lending a nice sense of stability to the proceedings. But then, one of the beers tasted nothing like an IPA, despite being labeled as such.

To match with my beers, I undertook a filmic double feature of two Errol Morris documentaries. Gates of Heaven was Morris's first film, and it's one of those documentaries that proves that you can make almost any subject interesting. It follows the ins-and-outs of pet cemeteries, including the folks that run them and the people who have opted to bury their pets there. It's not quite riveting, and there is a sorta low-budget, bare-bones vibe to the production, but Morris is able to glean a lot of interesting stuff from an obscure subject. Morris' latest film is Tabloid, a bizarre tale of a former beauty queen who is charged with kidnapping a Mormon missionary. It's an amazing story, pure tabloid gold, but told in a way that made me think a lot about the nature of media and how stories can unfold in the news. I won't ruin it, but there are many revelations and the old British tabloid reporters are an absolute riot (one of them particularly loves the phrase "spread eagle", even verbing it at one point). Certainly one of the best films of 2011 (so far) and highly recommended. Now, onto the beers:

Troegs Scratch 49

Tröegs Scratch Beer 49 (Fresh Hop IPA) - This is from Tröegs's experimental series of small batches where they are able to play with strange ingredients or non-traditional brewing techniques. In this particular case, we've got a Fresh Hop IPA. Also known as a Wet Hop beer, this is basically a style that utilizes hops that were picked within 24 hours of brewing the beer. Most hops are dried, concentrating and preserving the various flavors and aromas. They're often processed even further into pellets or plugs, which generally helps preserve their potency. But a lot of breweries will ask their local hop providers for some fresh hops so that they can brew something with them, and thus we get fresh hop beers. They're also called wet hop beers because their water content is 80-90% of their total weight (these will go bad if you don't dry them out or use them right away). I've actually had a few fresh hop beers this year, and there is something different about them, though I'm not entirely sure I could pick them out of a lineup.

This one pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head. Smells fantastic. Very citrusy sweet, with a twang of something else in there. Perhaps an earthy herbal or medicinal aroma, but in a good way, and it becomes more prominent as the beer warms up. Whatever it is, it comes out in full force in the taste. Much less citrus in the taste, which heavily favors an earthy or maybe grassy bitterness, especially in the finish and aftertaste. Mouthfeel is somewhere around light or medium body. Just enough body that it isn't quite quenching, but not so much as to be a heavy sipper either. Overall, a decent beer. Nothing I'd go crazy for, but it is very different from your typical IPA, which is certainly a plus. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/4/11.

A solid beer, but like a lot of offerings from Tröegs, it didn't blow me away. I thus turned to my local, hometown brewers' latest creation:

Boxcar India Pale Ale

Boxcar Brewing India Pale Ale - Pours a darkish golden orange color with a finger or so of bubbly white head. Aroma is musty and just a bit spicy (you can really tell they used a Belgian yeast with this), with not very much of an earthy hop aroma and maybe just a hint of citrus (but you have to look for it). Taste is very sweet and spicy, with a little fruitiness and a nice dry finish. Again, very little hop character or bitterness here, at least, nothing like an IPA. Mouthfeel is quite nice, very well carbonated, a little of that harsh Belgian feel (which I always enjoy). Overall, it's a very nice beer, but it's not really an IPA, which makes it hard to rate. Ultimately, I really enjoyed it, so I'll give it a B, but it should probably be marketed as more of a Belgian Pale Ale (or even a Belgian Strong Pale)...

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/4/11.

The Boxcar beer kinda threw me for a loop. I feel like the lone review on Beer Advocate is pretty unfair, as it's a D+. When you read the review, it seems he's docking points because it's not really an IPA. It's a fair criticism, but then the rating says under it "Avoid", which is pretty unfair, as it's a pretty good beer. I agree that it's not really an IPA, but I don't really know how that should play into its rating. It seems more like a criticism of the branding or marketing of the beer than the beer itself. But on the other hand, it's branded/marketed wrong! Weird. I suppose I should also disclose that this is an uber-local brewery (right down the street from me, basically in the dude's garage), and I'm a total homer, so I'm inclined to cut them some slack. But I suppose if you're really looking forward to an IPA and you open this, you'd be in for a big surprise. What say you?

Astrobeer?

| No Comments

I've been reading Mary Roach's book Packing For Mars, and I found this bit about beer in space interesting:

From time to time, there was talk among the astronauts that it might be nice to have a drink with dinner. Beer is a no-fly, because without gravity, carbonation bubbles don't rise to the surface. "You just get a foamy froth," says Bourland. He says Coke spent $450,000 developing a zero-gravity dispenser, only to be undone by biology. Since bubbles also don't rise to the top of the stomach, the astronauts had trouble burping. "Often a burp is accompanied by a liquid spray," Bourland adds.

They ended up looking into wine and sherry, even going so far as to develop special plastic pouches inside cans to package the stuff, but it got nixed when teetotaling taxpayers started complaining. Also, the smell was apparently pretty powerful (a bad thing in the tight quarters of spacecraft), even nauseating (a bad thing no matter where you are).

So no beer in space. At least, not until we are able to outfit the spacecraft (or station) with a rotating room, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, that is a fantastically expensive and problematic enterprise in itself, but the benefits would expand beyond being able to drink beer in space. We might have to build something like that anyway, if we're going to get to Mars without killing our astronauts.

Baby Tree

| 2 Comments

So this beer is labeled as a Quadrupel. I've written about a few Quads on the blog, but I've never really written much about the style, instead just referring to it as "mildly mystifying", which is certainly true (I've also said it's a brew "which is like, 4 times better than regular beer, right?"). It's usually referred to as a style of Trappist origin, though obviously lots of non-Trappist brewers make beers in the style. Beer Advocate describes the style thusly:

Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium, a Quadrupel is a Belgian style ale of great strength with bolder flavor compared to its Dubbel and Tripel sister styles. Typically a dark creation that ranges within the deep red, brown and garnet hues. Full bodied with a rich malty palate. Phenols are usually at a moderate level. Sweet with a low bitterness yet a well perceived alcohol.
What's more, BA lists about 150+ examples of the style, including heavyweights like Rochefort 10, Westvleteren 12, and St. Bernardus Abt 12. The weird thing about the style, though, is that it seems to date back to... 1991. That's the year Koningshoeven (known to us Yanks these days as La Trappe), the only non-Belgian Trappist brewery, supposedly coined the term Quadrupel. The sourcing is somewhat vague about this. My meager collection of beer books has very little to say about the style. In Brew Like a Monk, Stan Hieronymus refers to it as a "style that's not quite a style." With the help of google books, I see a reference in The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer that says La Trappe/Koningshoeven's Quad is "the beer that supposedly coined the Quadrupel name." (Curious, that. While Quads are indeed very strong, I was not aware that they had gained the power of speech and were coining controversial style terminology.) Notorious beer history wonk Martyn Cornell takes a more measured approach:

[Koningshoeven] made Dubbel and Tripel for a long time and has "reinvented" (Tim Webb) the terms Enkel and Quadrupel to extend its beer range at either end of the strength scale. The terms double and single for different strengths of beer were used across Northern Europe: the three commonest styles of Swedish beer before the middle of the 19th century, for example, were dubbelt öl, or double ale, enkelt öl, or single ale, and svagöl, "weak ale".
From a common sense point of view, it seems wise to acknowledge that the term "Quadruple" (and various fancy/foreign spellings of such) could have been applied to various strong beers for a long time. But it does indeed appear that Koningshoeven has succeeded in reinventing the term, as when people talk about a Quadrupel these days, they're generally referring to the style that Koningshoeven began to brew in 1991. Of course, that does little to explain why this is a distinct and separate style from, say, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Indeed, the BJCP doesn't list Quads as a style, instead classifying them under Belgian Strong Ales or Belgian Specialty Ales. Ah, the joys of pedantic style debates. Well, enough of that, let's drink some Baby Tree, a particularly good example of the style:


Pretty Things Baby Tree

Pretty Things Baby Tree - Pours a beautiful dark amber brown color with just a bit of head that seems to persist reasonably well. The aroma is filled with dark fruitiness and sweet malts. The taste is bursting with dark fruit (apparently plums), with just a bit of spiciness to offset it. Extremely well balanced taste (generally the hallmark of a great beer for me). The mouthfeel is rich and full bodied but very smooth, making this extremely easy to drink (especially for a 9% ABV beer!) I suppose it could be a bit of a sipper... if I wasn't gulping the stuff down so quickly because it's so smooth and full of awesome. In reality, 9% is actually rather low for this style that isn't a style, so I guess that makes a sort of sense. Whatever the case, the alcohol is hidden really well, and this is just an all around fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a goblet on 10/29/11. Bottled June 2011.

Pretty Things (another of them newfangled "gypsy brewers") are now on the list of breweries where I'll need to seek out more of their stuff. And naturally, I want to get me some more of this particular beer as well. As for other Quads, I will say that it's among my favorite styles, so expect to see some more of them (or, at least, Belgian Strong Darks, which seem to be popular this time of year). I think I may even have a line on a bottle of the fabled Westy 12!

Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA

| No Comments

During my recent trip to Austin, I actually stopped at a grocery store to pick up a couple of beers to smuggle back home. I've never done this before, so I was a little worried about confiscation or broken bottles. So I put the bottles in ziploc bags, wrapped them in clothing and made sure they were in the middle of my bag. Fortunately, it all worked out in the end, and I got me some Texas beer:

Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA

Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA - Jester King is a pretty small brewery based in Austin, TX, but they've been making a name for themselves with their big imperial stout and some barrel-aged offerings (and bitchin' label designs). They've also been in the news lately for trying to fight Texas' asinine beer laws (ever see a sentence on a lager that says "ale in TX"? That's because Texas law requires brewers to call lagers above 4% ABV an ale - i.e. Texas law requires brewers to lie about their beer. And that's just one example.) This beer is a relatively straightforward beer, except for the inclusion of Rye in the recipe. I've had a few beers with Rye, but I can't say as though I have a really good palate for picking it out. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this beer muchly...

Pours a very pretty dark amberish orange color with tons of slowly disappearing head (seriously, took forever for it to go away) that leaves copious lacing as I drink. Smell is filled with sugary sweet hoppy aromas. Typical citrus and pine here, but also something else, perhaps that rye? Taste starts sweet, with a nice, well balanced bitterness coming in towards the finish. Not quite refreshing, but it's not extreme either. Mouthfeel is extremely smooth and compulsively drinkable. Overall, a really nice IPA with well matched flavors. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/22/11. Hops: Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe. O.G.: 1.062.

Certainly a good first impression and a favorable rating amongst the various Texas breweries I became acquainted with during my vacation. Here's to hoping they get distribution up here in PA someday. Hey, Jester King? We have horrible beer laws too! You should send beer up here so that we can commiserate together...

Novembeer Club

| 2 Comments

Another month, another beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is just a monthly gathering of friends from work for dinner and, of course, lots of beer (and often other alcoholic wonders). We had an average turnout, but still lots of fun and we had so much beer that we couldn't even get to all of it... A transitional period in terms of seasonal beers. Some leftover fall seasonals, some holiday beers, but the majority of beers were regular offerings:

beerclub-nov11.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or as sacred scripture (as I'm sure you do with all my other posts). The choice is yours. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat - A very solid Hefeweizen from semi-local Tröegs. I've actually had this a few times before, but there's nothing particularly unique about it. A really nice example of the style though. B
  • Amager Julebryg 2008 - Dark color, with a wonderful aroma that is filled with crystal malts and caramel flavors (and maybe some subtle spicing). Taste is a little more roasty than I was expecting from the nose, with some coffee and maybe a little chocolate apparent. Full bodied but smooth, a really nice beer. It feels more like a solid stout than a holiday beer, but it's good either way (Beer Advocate calls it a dubbel, which sorta fits, but I probably wouldn't have guessed that from the beer itself). The bottle sez it was spiced, and it was certainly complex, but nothing particularly stood out (this is actually a good thing). Brewer Amager warrants further exploration. B+
  • Guinness Black Lager - This feels like a more crisp, carbonated version of Guinness' famous dry stout with less roastiness. It's an easy drinking beer, but the flavor seems oddly muted (perhaps because of the other brews of the night). Nothing wrong with it, but not a particularly special beer either. C+
  • Abita Turbodog - A great name for a beer that turns out to be a standard brown ale. Certainly nothing wrong with it and a solid example of the style, but not particularly special either. B-
  • Wychwood King Goblin - According to the bottle, this beer is only brewed under a full moon. It's got that typical Wychwood style label which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the beer doesn't quite live up to the branding. Lots of head and perhaps as a consequence, a little too light on the carbonation. Not quite flat, but it wasn't a good mouthfeel at all. Taste was hoppy, but not in the typical American pale ale way - perhaps this is more of an English pale ale (BA has it pegged as an English Strong Ale). Not a horrible beer, but not something that I could really connect with either. I don't know, Wychwood beers seem to be hitting me the wrong way lately... C
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - An interesting example of the style as it seems to emphasize the pumpkin more than the spices (which are still there, but not anywhere near as prevalent as they typically are in pumpkin ales). Smooth, tasty, and easy to drink. Nothing revelatory, but a good example of the style. B
  • Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes - One of my contributions for the night, this is a really interesting combination. Basically a Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it features the hallmarks of both styles. Unlike a lot of style mixtures, I think these two styles complement each other well. Very sweet and malty, with that typical Belgian yeast character coming out in a prominent way. I actually have another bottle of this sitting around, so look for a full review at some point...
  • Fegley's Brew Works Rude Elf's Reserve - Another beer I'll probably review separately, but I will say that this is a hugely alcoholic (10.5% ABV) spiced beer. Kinda like an overspiced pumpkin beer without any pumpkin (I had one of these earlier, along with a pumpkin ale, and found this one sharing a lot of the pumpkin spices)... Look for a separate review sometime this holiday season...
  • Dana's Homebrewed Dubbel - A nice dubbel style beer, only recently bottled, so it could probably use some more time to condition, but it's still pretty good. Nice traditional Belgian yeast character with a medium body. Easy to drink.
We didn't get to try a few of the beers in the picture, including Troegenator, Hoptober, and Amish Four Grain Pale Ale. All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, as we will most likely be drinking all Holiday beers (aka, my favorite seasonals).

Damnation

| 2 Comments

Damnation. No relation. Heh. Seriously, though, this is the bigger sister beer to Russian River's Redemption (a light Belgian Pale "single" or "Patersbier"). Russian River is famous for their crazy barrel aging and sour beer experiments, but this is just a good old-fashioned Belgian Strong Pale Ale. Don't let that fool you, though, as this is one fantastic beer. I've actually had it several times before, both in the bottle and on tap, and I've always loved it.

Russian River Damnation

Russian River Damnation - Pours a slightly cloudy light golden color with a finger of white head. Aroma is full of Belgian yeast spiciness and plenty of citrus, maybe even some lemony sweetness. Taste has lots of sweet malts along with typical Belgian spiciness and again, an almost lemony sweet twang. Not exactly tart, but it's there. Exceptionally well balanced flavors here. Complex, but no one element is overwhelming. Mouthfeel is on the light to medium side, which is interesting considering the strength of the brew. Perhaps if I didn't wait so long to open this sucker, the carbonation would have been a little stronger (not that this is bad or inappropriate, just different than I remember from previous tastings). Overall, it's a fantastic brew. I've had this several times before, and will most likely have it again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.75% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass. Batch #60, brewed 7/9/2010, bottled 8/5/2010, and drank on 10/1/11.

Normally I would say that Russian River continues to impress, but I'm pretty sure that Damnation was actually the first Russian River beer I was ever able to get a hold of a couple years ago. It turns out that this is one of the easiest to find RR beers in the area (heck, my local Wegmans usually has some of this in stock), and it's also relatively cheap (for a RR beer). Well worth trying out if you ever get a chance. I continue to devour whatever RR beer I can find, though at this point, I think I've managed to get my hands on most of the popular varieties (I think Salvation will be next on my list)...

Black Damnation III

| 2 Comments

I don't know much about Belgian upstart brewers De Struise, but they certainly seem to enjoy a pretty good reputation. Unlike a lot of Belgian breweries, De Struise seems to have a wide and varied set of beers, including limited editions and barrel aged beers and the like. They also seem to do a lot of collaborations (indeed, my only exposure to De Struise thus far has been their collaborations with Stillwater). In this particular case, we have another beer aged in Islay Scotch casks (let's hope this goes better than last time), so yeah, lots of smoky, peaty, almost medicinal flavors will be present. This time the base beer is De Struise's Black Albert, a Russian Imperial Stout (there's apparently a whole series of Black Damnation beers that put the Black Albert beer through a bunch of different treatments). Will it be able to stand up to the powerful Scotch flavors? Only one way to find out:

de Struise Black Damnation III

De Struise Black Damnation III - Black Mes - Aged on used Caol Ila barrels, the beer pours an opaque black color with a finger of creamy, light brown head. I'm not getting much out of the nose (probably a more a function of the full glass and bar atmosphere than the beer), but the taste is full of peaty Scotch flavors, finishing with a warming alcohol burn. The dark roasted malts are able to stand out a bit against the onslaught of peat, but it's clearly a background character as opposed to something that is assertive in itself. The mouthfeel is not quite as rich as you'd expect, but it's still quite full thanks to all that alcohol. Overall, it's a good beer, but it is just a tad overwhelmed by peaty Scotch character. If, perhaps, I had a bottle of this, I have to wonder if it would mellow out after some aging... A worthy experiment, and something I might try again (if it's ever made again and if I can afford it!) B

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/8/11.

It was a bit expensive, but I'm glad I got to try this. I'm actually quite looking forward to the bottle of De Struise's Pannepot that I recently acquired as well.

I really wanted to start this beer earlier, but due to a variety of factors1, I didn't get to this until now. All I really knew is that I wanted a winter warmery type of beer, which is pretty damn vague. My local homebrew shop owner was very helpful, despite my lack of preparation here. We discussed a bit, talked about Anchor's Christmas Ale (which, granted, changes every year), and eventually settled on a dark red ale with my choice of spices added at the end of the boil. I'm actually pretty happy with the recipe - it sounds really good. Now to find out if it will taste good!

Beer #6: Spiced Christmas Ale
November 5, 2011

1 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)
2 oz. Roasted Barley (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Golden Light LME
3 lb. Amber DME
1 lb. Golden Light DME
1 oz. Northern Brewer (Bittering @ 8.6% AA)
1 oz. Hallertau Hops (Flavor)
1 tsp Irish Moss
1 tsp Bitter Orange Peel
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Coriander
2 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Whole Cloves
Wyeast 1056 - American Ale Yeast

Nothing super unusual here, though there are only two hop additions. The reason for this is that the aroma will be derived from spices rather than hops. Speaking of spices, I have no idea what I'm doing. Everything I've ever read about spices indicates that it's very easy to overdo things. So I'm deliberately attempting to keep it down2. Looking around at some other recipes, I see people adding about 0.5 oz. (or more) of spices to beers, which works out to 3 tsp. I'm trying to do less than that (though it's difficult to tell with cinnamon sticks/whole cloves, but I'm using slightly less than most recipes I've seen), which will hopefully leave me with some spicy goodness without overwhelming the beer.

Not wanting to go in completely blind, I tried making a couple cups of spice tea (i.e. hot water and spice) using two different spice mixtures. I completely overdid the Nutmeg, which overpowered the other spices, so I cut that down in the recipe. But otherwise, it smelled pretty great. Of course, this doesn't even come close to approximating the final product I'm hoping for, but it seemed like a useful exercise. Alright, enough preamble, let's get this party started!

Steeped the specialty grains in 150° F - 160° F water for around 20 minutes, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, and put the lid on to bring the wort to a boil. Once there, added the 3 pounds of Amber DME, stirred like crazy for a while, brought it back to a boil and added the bittering hops. Here starts the clock. 30 minutes into the boil, added the rest of the DME and LME. This brought the boil to a standstill, so I took some extra time to get it back to boiling (which took 5-10 minutes). After another 10 minutes, I added the flavor hops. 5 more minutes, added the irish moss. With about 3 minutes left, I started adding the various spices, removing from heat just when I was finishing with the spices.

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 90° F, strained the wort (removing most of the spice and hops) into the fermenter, topped off with about 2.5 gallons of water, mixed it up real good, and took a sample and hydrometer reading. The wort was still about 75° F, so I had to wait a bit to get the temperature down (I moved it out of the kitchen, which was pretty hot at this point, and it cooled off after about 25 minutes so that it was in the high 60s). Not sure if the extra time sitting out in the open will be good for it, but it was definitely too hot to finish. I pitched the yeast, put the top on the bucket and installed the airlock. The temperature in my closet is in the mid 60s, which is perfect for this. Done.

Original Gravity: 1.060. Assuming 75% attenuation, that should bring me down to 1.015 and about a 5.9% ABV. I'm actually hoping for slightly higher attenuation (and thus a dryer beer with slightly higher ABV), but either way, this should be pretty good.

So I'm looking at two weeks in the fermenter, then bottling, and at least 2-3 weeks bottle conditioning. This will bring me to early/mid December, which is just in time for some Holiday celebration. Indeed, it should be peaking right around Christmas and New Years (though it may peak later).

I don't think I overdid it with the spices. I could clearly smell them in the finished product, but it didn't seem overpowering. I guess we'll see what happens after the fermentation. My guess is that it will become even less potent after the yeast has its way with the wort. Worst case scenario, if the spices aren't coming through, I'll throw a cinnamon stick in the bottling bucket to give it some extra oomph. But from what people say about these kinds of spices, I should be fine.

So there we have it. Not sure what's next. I've wanted to make a Belgian dubbel since I started (about a year ago), but winter is not the time for that. I should really make something that requires lower fermentation temperatures. I'm thinking perhaps an Simcoe single-hop IPA (or mixed hop IPA).

1 - And by variety of factors, I mean that I was lazy.

2 - But then I found that I had some leftover bitter orange peel from my saison, so I added a tsp of that too. I still think I'm under most other recipes when it comes to spices...

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Allagash Big Little Beer

| 4 Comments

For Beer Advocate's Belgian Beer Fest, the Allagash folks apparently collaborated with the hallowed Alström Bros to create two beers. First was Little Big Beer, a funky 10.5% wild ale. Then, using the second runnings of the Little Big beer, they made Big Little Beer. This one turned out to be more like a straightforward Abbey single. At least, on paper, that's what it looks like. But damn, this thing turned out to be quite flavorful, almost like a Tripel without the alcohol:

Allagash Big Little Beer

Allagash Big Little Beer - Pours a very cloudy golden color with a finger of creamy white head. I actually didn't pick up a ton in the nose (I'm assuming that's more a function of the full glass and bar atmosphere than the beer), but it did have a typical Belgian yeast aroma. Musty and spicy. The taste, though, is very powerful. Full of spice and fruity citrus, almost perfectly balanced with a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is light, refreshing, and compulsively drinkable, with that perfect dry finish. The amazing thing about this beer is that it seemingly packs the flavor of a Tripel (or at least a Belgian Strong Pale) into a very lightweight beer. At 5.5%, I would have expected this to be much less flavorful, but it's now obvious why it's called Big Little Beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/8/11.

I totally lucked out in finding this beer. It just happened to be on tap when I went to dinner (though, granted, I went to the Station Taproom, which always has an interesting selection). According to Greg, Allagash is considering making this a year round brew, but I'm guessing that's just wishful thinking (I would totally buy tons of this stuff if it was readily available though, so if Allagash is reading this, please go for it). Greg's also got some additional details about the recipe used for Big Little Beer, in case you're interested...


Hop'solutely

| No Comments

Ah, the delicious world of hop puns. I know lots of folks hate puns, but I always get a kick out of them, even though they're dreadfully overused, especially with respect to IPAs and hop puns. Smooth Hoperator, Hopacalypse Now, Hoptical Illusion, Black Hop Down (for an American Black Ale), Hoptimus Prime, Modus Hoperandi, Tricerahops, Hoptober, Hoppy Ending, Hopzilla, Secret Hoperative, Hopular Mechanics, Hopencrantz and Gilderhops are Hops, by Tom Hoppard and ok, fine, some of those are made up by people who hate hop puns, but most of them are actual beers. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is how the beer tastes, so let's get to it, shall we:

Fegleys Brew Works Hop-solutely

Fegley's Brew Works Hop'solutely - Billing itself a "triple" IPA, this 11.5% ABV monster isn't exactly sporting my favorite hop pun, but again, it's what's in the bottle that counts, not what's on the label. Local beer critic Joe Sixpack actually named this his 2010 beer of the year, saying "Is Hop'solutely as good as Pliny the Younger? In a word, yes." Pliny the Younger is, of course, the other "triple" IPA - the exceedingly rare big brother of Russian River's Pliny the Elder. The general consensus is that both of the Pliny beers are among the best in the world, but there are always contrarians who will argue otherwise. And in the case of the Younger, a beer I've never had, I have to wonder if its rarity is part of the reason it gets ranked so highly. Well, my bottle of Hop'solutely was actually sitting on my shelf longer than it probably should have. I don't know if there's any substance to the notion that a caged and corked IPA degrades faster than a capped bottle, but if so, this one probably aged more than it should have. It almost certainly lost some of its hoppy character. But on the other hand, at 11.5%, it should be able to stand up to some longer-term aging. Well, regardless, here was my initial reaction:

Pours a dark gold color with a finger of white head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells nice and hoppy - pine, citrus, caramel and booze are prominent. There's even some earthy floral notes in the aroma as well. As it warms, the hoppiness fades a bit, but it still smells great. The taste is very sweet, nice flavor from the caramel malts, some citrusy notes, and just a little bitterness. Oh, and lots of booze in the finish, lasting through aftertaste. As it warms, that booze takes on an even more prominent position... A really nice warming effect coming from the alcohol. Mouthfeel is very heavy, almost chewy, but it remains smooth. Just a bit of stickiness in the finish. This is powerful stuff. Not quite a sipping beer, but not really something you want to gulp down quickly either. Overall, it's quite a good beer. I would really like to try this again when it's fresher, as the bottle I had was sitting around for a while. I'll give it a B+ for now, but I suspect it could be higher depending on my mood...

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on... um... sometime in early/mid September. I.B.U.: 100+. Hops: Cascade, CTZ, Summit, Amarillo and Chinook hops. Dry hopped with Chinook and Amarillo.

Someday, perhaps, I'll do a double feature of Pliny the Younger and Hop'solutely, declare a winner, then pass out because I'll be totally shitfaced. Speaking of double features, I haven't done one in quite a while. I'm not sure why this is, but I may have to rectify this grievous oversight this weekend.

Stoudt's Stout

| No Comments

Sometimes I forget just how awesome the state of Pennsylvania is in the beer world. Oh sure, our liquor laws are absurd and draconian, but we have an amazing variety of brewers in this state, and especially in the Philadelphia area. Stoudts is out near Reading, about an hour and a half from here, which is close enough for me. I've had a few of their flagship beers before, but nothing that ever really blew me away. So I figured I should try out one of their bigger beers, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout:

Stoudts Fat Dog

Stoudt's Fat Dog - Pours an opaque black color with a small tan head. Smells of roasted malts and coffee, with perhaps a touch of sweetness. The roastiness is more subdued in the taste (something I like) and a subtle chocolaty flavor also emerges. Very sweet, but tempered by a well balanced dry bitterness in the finish. Full body, lots of carbonation, and a well balanced alcohol character. Overall, a very well crafted beer, but not something I see myself seeking out on a regular basis. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 9/10/11.

And of course, on their website, they mention a bourbon barrel version that's no longer available. Thanks a lot, Stoudts! But then, they "just might have do it again", so there's still hope for us barrel-aged fanatics.

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.