Wednesday, September 30, 2009

92. Rodenbach Flemish Sour Ale

Brouwerij Rodenbach is in Roeselare, Belgium. Their Flemish Sour Ale starts with a sour candy adhesive nose, or, as it is known around here, the classic ol’ dirty band aid smell. Color-wise, it is a deep brown with red highlights—something of a mahogany—with a light ivory head. Bright, tart, and light on the mouth, it starts with a soft creamy and lightly tart front, moves into candy sweetness with sour fruit notes, and finishes with a tart, tongue-curling sourness. There is bite from both the flavor and the carbonation; in terms of mouth-puckering goodness, this one is a winner, although it is not as sour and puckery as Rodenbach’s Grand Cru. The only downside—when you’ve only got small bottles, it disappears too quickly.

From the bottle: “Rodenbach is the world-famous sour red ale from Roeselare, Belgium. Fremented by a complex culture of microflora, it is brewed to be intentionally sour and fruity with a sharp bouquet. A unique, centuries-old method of oak-aging and blending softens its bite and gives Rodenbach a clean, refreshing finish.”

From the Rodenbach website: “bestaat uit 3/4 jong en 1/4 gedurende 2 jaar op eik gerijpt bier. Michael Jackson, een internationale autoriteit als het om bier gaat, kende Rodenbach de eretitel toe van ‘het meest verfrissende bier ter wereld.’”

We couldn’t have said it better.

ABV: 5.1%


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

91. Lilja’s Argosy IPA

Lilja’s Argosy IPA is made by Sand Creek Brewing Company in Black River Falls, WI, although there is nothing on their website to indicate that it is made there—the best we could do was the BeerAdvocate page connecting the two. Maybe that’s because naming your brewery after one of the more infamous Indian massacres of the 19th century means you want to keep your latest offering on the dl...

Argosy IPA has a straw color and a thick, rocky off-white head—it’s “golden fleece colored.” The nose has almost no malt aroma and a light grassy hop aroma. Starting rather flat and with a slightly lagerish taste, Argosy IPA moves into a grassy hop bitterness that ends with an astringency that lingers unfavorably on the tongue. The hop profile is uninteresting—it lacks the flavor and aroma that might help improve the lack of malt in the body. The light body is rather thin feeling; there is some light creaminess via the head, but not much else. Overall, not that impressive—the thin body, limited hop presence and lack of a malt profile leave it wanting. Too bad it’s not a better beer, but as it stands, it is more like “IPA-lite.”

From the 6-pack: “The glowing golden hue of this India Pale Ale reminds us of the muyhologocal Golden Fleece so eagerly sought by Jason and the Argonauts. Jason assembled Greece’s greatest heroes and sailed forth on the Argo in quest of the mythical fleece. On the journey Jason and the Argonauts are attacked by mythical beasts, beseiged by fierce warriors, and seduced by beautiful women. Greek mythology suggests that Argus was the builder of Argo. When building the ship, Argus cut a beam from the divine tree of Dodona, which foretells the future. Unfortunately Greek mythology doesn’t tell whether Jason or the Argonauts quenched their thirsts with beer. However, we do know that you’ll enjoy this premium IPA whether your relaxing in a favorite chair with a good book, or chowing down on fish-n-chips after a rugby match. So, just make sure a six-pack of Lilja’s Argosy IPA is within reach.

Lilja’s Argosy IPA is hand-crafted using choice American two-row malted barley and fresh East Kent Golding hops, the traditional signature English ale hop known for its smooth, mellow bittering qualities and its pleasant flowery aroma. A prodigious amount of hops is added to the brew kettle throughout the ninety minute boil. Under strictly controlled conditions, the wort is force-cooled and fermented using a selected strain of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, a top-fermenting yeast. After several days of fermentation, the wort is now ale. Before bottling, the ale is filtered and cold-conditioned to assure quality and freshness. The science and technology of brewing have changed much in the last 400 years, yet one thing remains true: you don’t have to be aboard the Argo or live in Burton or Bombay to enjoy a bottle of Lilja’s India Pale Ale.”

Um, for this to “remain true,” wouldn’t Lilja have to have been brewing for all of those 400 years? Or am I just being an ass and actually paying attention to the non-sequitur nature of their trite advertising copy? If we had a Top 10 category for annoying advertising copy, Lilja would certainly be a contender.


Monday, September 28, 2009

90. Harpoon Octoberfest

Our fourth beer from Harpoon—besides the Leviathan Saison Royale, we’ve tried the Glacier ’08 Wet Hop and the IPA. I think I am about out of cheeky maritime references, especially ones with an Oktoberfest-inspired twist. I’ll keep thinking about it, though...

Harpoon’s Octoberfest has a dry sweet malty nose. The rich maple color is vibrantly clear, and it has minimal head and head retention. Starting dry, crisp, and nutty on the front, Octoberfest opens cleanly before moving into some malt sweetness with toasted notes and some carbonation bite in the middle, and finishing dry but not completely clean—it ends a bit too sweet. It doesn’t have that distinctive “I’m a lager taste” to it at the end; there are also some slight sour notes mixed with lingering hop bitterness in the tail end of the beer. Overall, the beer has a clean, smooth mouthfeel with decent bite from the carbonation, but the first half of the beer is much better than the second half.

From the bottle: “Harpoon Octoberfest features a malty, full-bodied taste and deep garnet-red color. We brew this marzen-style beer with festivals in mind. Celebrate with us. Prosit!”

From the Harpoon website: “Octoberfest beers are brewed with festivals in mind, and Harpoon Octoberfest is no exception. The Marzen style dates back to the days when refrigeration did not exist, making brewing in the summer impossible. The term Marzen refers to the month (March) when the last beer was brewed before summer. This beer would be lagered (stored) in ice caves until brewing resumed in the cool air of October. At this time, kegs of Marzen were tapped and enjoyed at harvest festivals. In 1810 at the wedding of Bavarian Crown Ludwig to Princess Theresa von Sachsen-Hildurghausen, the entire city of Munich celebrated with Marzen beer and the Octoberfest tradition was created.

The character and complexity of Harpoon Octoberfest comes from the malt and hops. When looking at a freshly poured Harpoon Octoberfest, you will notice the garnet-red color with a firm, creamy head. The beer’s color is from a blend of Munich, chocolate, and pale malt. The thick head results in part from wheat malt added to the grist. The hop aroma of this beer is not overpowering but it is present. Tettnang hops add a subtle spice nose that blends with the malt character. This beer is full-bodied, smooth, and malty. Willamettehops are used to provide a gentle bitterness and to balance any residual sweetness present from the malt. The finish is soft and malty with a mild bitterness.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 30
OG: 14.5° P


Sunday, September 27, 2009

89. Southern Tier Imperial Coffee Stout Jah*va

Our third beer from Southern Tier (how’s that for the inadvertent rhyme?)—it would seem that we currently have a thing for Southern Tier’s big beers, wouldn’t it? Our first one was their Crème Brûlée, and the second beer was their Imperial Mokah. We had this beer with our Sunday morning breakfast of grits and eggs. That, my friends, is good livin’.

Jah*va exudes roasted coffee notes along with dark sweet aromas; a deep mahogany color with red highlights, it has a creamy tan head. Starting with thick dark sweetness, some low-level burnt notes, a subtle chocolate flavor, and a decent amount of roasted coffee flavor, Jah*va’s middle moves into the classic roasted and burnt malt flavors before transitioning back into a rich but soft coffee flavor to close out the beer. The thick and rich mouthfeel is both dense and smooth; there is a bit of a carbonation bite in the second third of the beer, and some slickness on the palate, but clean, flavorful, and enjoyable. As it warms, alcohol begins to emerge in the nose, along with more coffee aroma, and it also becomes more rounded—flavors across the palate start to marry better. As an accompaniment to our breakfast, Jah*va was an excellent choice—breakfast deserves this type of reward.

From the bottle: “Over three thousand feet above sea level in the misty mountains of Jamaica, some of the world’s finest beans are hand picked on their way to becoming Blue Mountain coffee. Halfway around the world, plump spring barley grows to maturity in the loamy soil of North America while aromatic hops are cultivated to exacting standards. Here in our kettles, these three special ingredients are blended to create a heady mixture of sweet sugar, dark roast, and complex flavor. Please enjoy this brew in moderation.”

ABV: 11%
OG: 27° P
2-Row Pale malt
Caramel malt
Chocolate malt
Black malt
Roasted barley
Cascade and Columbus hops
Jamaican roasted coffee

Sorry, we didn’t have a snifter to serve it in. This was breakfast. So suck it up and deal.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

88. Stoudt’s Oktoberfest

Our fourth beer from Stoudt’s Brewing (our last one was their American Pale Ale), and our third Oktoberfest of the year—don’t worry, more are on the way.

Oktoberfest smells lightly malty with some toastiness; it has a clean white head, nice small bubbles and active carbonation, and brilliant clarity to go with the orange-yellow color—it is not as deeply colored as some other Oktoberfests we’ve had. Starting with a toasty malt flavor, Stoudt’s Oktoberfest reveals some light bitterness in the middle that accompanies the developing malt profile—it gets richer and breadier in the middle as it moves towards the end—before finishing rather clean and dry. With a medium body, the mouthfeel is smooth and mellow, with only minimal carbonation bite. It does have just about the perfect amount of hop bitterness in it. The solid lager flavors in the second half do round out the beer well; the malt profile is rich but not as complex as it could be—while balanced toward the malt side, as any Oktoberfest should be, it could use more sweetness to bulk up the flavor profile. Nonetheless, a well-balanced and enjoyable beer.

From Stoudt’s website: “This medium-bodied amber beer elegantly combines a touch of malty sweetness with a pleasingly subtle aromatic hop character. A traditional German-style Oktoberfest beer brewed from the finest imported ingredients.”

ABV: 5%
IBU: 26
Malts: Two-row & Munich
Bittering Hops: Perle & Hallertau
Aroma Hops: Saaz & Hallertau

Today was the second meeting of my BJCP class; our focus was grain and malting, and we sampled Ambers, Dark Lagers, and Bocks. We started with the basics: the anatomy of barley, including the germ, endosperm, acrospire, rootlets, and the husk, and how malt and kiln grains (well, in theory—we weren’t actually malting and kilning, although that would be fun to try). We also discussed adjuncts, and the different malt characteristics that you want to consider when choosing a malt along with malt types and styles: base malts (like 2-row and 6-row, and also Vienna and Munich malt), caramel and crystal malts (no enzymes, used to add sweetness to a beer), and specialty malts and grains (chocolate malt, black patent malt, and roasted barley).

Today we sampled:
3A. Vienna Lager: Negro Modelo
3B. Oktoberfest/Marzen: Ayinger Oktoberfest/Marzen
4A. Dark American Lager: Blackened Voodoo
4B. Munich Dunkel: Hofbrau Dunkel
4C. Schwarzbier (Black Beer): Kostriker Schwarzbier
5A. Maibock/Helles Bock: Hofbrau Maibock
5B. Traditional Bock: Stegmaier Brewhouse
5C. Dopplebock: Ayinger Celebrator
5D. Eisbock: Kulmbacher Eisbock
15C. Weizenbock: Schneider & Son Aventinus


Friday, September 25, 2009

87. Port Brewing Hop-15 Ale

Our first beer from Port Brewing in San Marcos, CA. Port Brewing opened in May 2006 after Pizza Port acquired the old Stone Brewing facility in San Marcos.

Hop-15 is a hazy golden orange-brown with a creamy off-white head; the malt nose is bready accompanied by citrus hop aroma. Starting creamy sweet but sharp, Hop-15 quickly moves into a spicy and resiny hop bitterness—the creaminess doesn’t get much chance to hang around, as the large and aggressive hop quickly profile overwhelms it—before ending with a clean malt profile that links a lingering dry hop bitterness with some slightly astringent flavors. Mouthfeel is thick, heavy, and sharp, with a decent carbonation bite in the middle-to-end of the beer; it is not a very rounded or smooth beer—while not unpleasant, it is aggressive across the palate. The malt profile comes across as more English than American; there is a lighter sweetness, more breadiness than caramel, and a dryer finish. Small amounts of alcohol warmth also emerge as the beer warms. There is a decent amount of tongue curling from the bitterness, but we both found that appealing—while Hop-15 is a bit unrefined, and we could easily see this scaring away novice drinkers, the hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma make it well worth revisiting, especially if you like your hops ....

From the bottle: “Our beer oozes all the hop goodness you would expect to find in a double IPA. In your nose, you will experience a citrus hop quality which is balanced by a slight malt sweetness. The essence of a great double IPA is hops and as such the beer finishes with a pronounced spicy hop bite. Thankfully, for all of us hop-heads, we have decided to brew this beer more that once a year. Look for Hop-15 to make an appearance from time to time when space permits us to brew this, one of our favorite ales.”

From the Port website: “Welcome to San Diego—Home to Hop Heads on every corner and THE best place in the world to live if you enjoy Humulus Lupulus and the smell of a well hopped beer. This is Southern California, it’s the place where Blind Pig started the Imperial IPA revolution and San Diego Brewers have continued to be at the forefront of its’ evolution.

Today, fans of Double IPA come from every corner of the globe in search of many of the world’s best and most incredibly well hopped beers. It’s no secret that you can find many of them at Pizza Port as well. Like you, we love these beers and mostly we enjoy the happiness they bring us. So we brew all kinds of them. Beers like Hop 15, Lou P Lin, Hop Suey, Poor Man's IPA and Doheny Double IPA. We even buy kegs of other Double IPA beers because we love hops so much. Since the very first batch of Swamis IPA hit the taps back in 1993, we have had a love affair with these resinous green cones. They inspired us to brew Hop 15 and since that original batch was tapped, this has always been one seriously hoppy beer.

First brewed in 2002 to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the Pizza Port in Solana Beach, Hop 15 was imagined and designed by Tomme Arthur and Jeff Bagby. It was to be a celebration of 15 years of ‘Good Beer Brings Good Cheer.’ So there are 15 different hop varieties that are added to the beer every 15 minutes. Over the years, Hop 15 has racked up numerous accolades. It has won two silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival. It also was named Alpha King in 2004 and received a first place award at the Bistro Double IPA beer festival in Hayward, CA. Hop 15 remains won of the stickiest most resinous beers we have ever tasted and for that, we are thankful it is on tap at our brewery each and every day.”

ABV: 10%
Malts: Two Row and English Light Crystal
Hops: We use 15 Different Varieties on a strictly don’t ask don't tell policy
OG: 1.086
FG: 1.014


Thursday, September 24, 2009

86. Harpoon Leviathan Saison Royale

“Can someone say over-carbonated? This looks like one of my beers.”

Our third beer from Harpoon Brewing (first and second)—Elli does love her some nautically-themed beer. Especially one that involves the ancient art of whaling.

Leviathan starts with a monster white head, and we do mean monster—the yellow straw color took a little time to develop out of the large pillowy head. There was a sweet fruity candy nose, with apple, banana, and pear aromas along with some clove and general spiciness to it. Leviathan has a tart, slightly sour, and metallic opening; the sweetness in the beginning was more of the candy variety. The middle has a pleasant spiciness; some slight yeastiness emerges at the end, as does some sharp sourness. There are also more of the metallic flavors from the start that linger in the dry finish. Leviathan has a phenolic, slightly tart mouthfeel; there is a decent amount of sharpness on the palate. The carbonation bite hits in the middle to end of the beer. Overall, a very dry beer, and not a very coherent beer—there is a bit too much going on to create a balanced beer. Aging might help improve the flavors by allowing them to better marry, but the already high carbonation levels also leave this one something of a ticking time bomb—the tradeoff between improved flavor and exploding glass is a mighty thin line to balance. The metallic flavor also makes this taste more like a Belgian golden ale than a saison. Elli’s comment halfway through this one was “I want my old Harpoon back.” I guess fancy ain’t always better...

From the bottle: “Brewed with a unique blend of spices, Leviathan Saison features lots of fruity esters and spicy acidity. The finish is dry with delicate Noble hops notes.”

From Harpoon’s website: “Belgian Saisons were traditionally brewed to slake the thirst of 19th century farmhands. Our Saison Royale uses authentic ingredients with a nod to that tradition while staying true to our own craft brewing roots. German Pilsner and North American Pale malts are paired with Vienna malt, making up the hearty malt bill for this brew. It is hopped with British East Kent Goldings and finished with Hallertauers from the Tettnang growing region in Germany, adding a spicy, clean hop finish.

We fermented the beer with a Saison yeast strain to provide the spicy, earthy character familiar to the style. To accompany this character, we added white pepper and Rosemary during the brewing, which adds depth and complexity to this celebratory brew. The result is a truly complex and rich Saison, with a noble hop character and a spicy finish. Fit for a king, better enjoyed with friends.”

ABV: 9%
IBU: 25
OG: 19° P


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

85. Smuttynose Finestkind IPA

Our second beer from Smuttynose Brewing Company, located in Portsmouth, NH.

Smuttynose Finestkind IPA has a hoppy caramel malty nose and a straw to copper color with a thick creamy head that laces well down the sides of the glass. The mouthfeel is soft and even, with a bit of a bite from the carbonation as the beer sits in the mouth. Creamy initial mouthfeel mixes well with light caramel maltiness, although overall malt presence at the front of the beer is subdued and thin. Light biscuit notes as beer moves into a hoppy middle with deep dry bitterness predominating. Carbonation adds extra bite as beer moves across palate and into the end, with enough bitterness coming through to create a dry sensation in the mouth at the end that lingers pleasantly. As odd as such a description may seem, the thin body meshes well with the dry bitterness of the beer—the balance between the two, mixed with the creamy mouthfeel, draws the different parts of the beer together nicely. In using the mouthfeel to provide the substance of the beer, the flavor profile becomes the vehicle for a hoppy bitterness accentuating the beer’s taste across the palate. As well, there is more bitterness than either flavor or aroma hops in this beer—lots of dry cotton-mouthy bitterness. Smuttynose IPA is both an enjoyable take on the traditional notions of an IPA and also some good drinkin’.

From Smuttynose’s website: “GOLD MEDAL WINNER - Best American Beer 2004 Great British Beer Festival

‘Hands-down one of the best American-style India Pale Ales ever crafted. This brew is lip smacking, with an aggressive and pungent grapefruit hop character. Wonderfully balanced and insanely drinkable.’ - Jason & Todd Alström, the Weekly Dig’s Beer Highlights of 2004

Portsmouth is a colonial era seaport town, so it goes to follow that sooner or later we’d brew an India Pale Ale as a tribute to those big, hoppy 19th century ales that made the long sea voyage from England's temperate shores, ’round the Cape of Good Hope, to the sultry climes of the faraway East Indies. But there's another reason we brewed this beer, one that’s closer to our home and hearts. Hopheads. Ten years ago we brewed our first batch of Shoals Pale Ale, our American interpretation of the traditional British ESB (Extra Special Bitter) style. At the time, it was widely considered to be darned hoppy. However, a funny thing happened over the last decade - our Shoals Pale Ale didn’t change; beer lovers did, and we started to hear more and more: ‘Why don't you guys make a really hoppy beer?’

You could say, then, that Smuttynose IPA is a physical salute to the glory of the American hop grower. The citrusy hop flavor coming from a mixture of Simcoe and Santiams is pleasantly balanced by a smooth bitterness from the Amarillo hops. The beer itself is light bodied and crisp with a golden color that will throw a slight haze, as we bottle it unfiltered. At 65 IBU's, this is definitely not a training-wheels IPA, but is meant for hop lovers looking to satisfy their craving in a way that's not easy to find. We think they’ll be quite pleased.
Our IPA is dry-hopped and unfiltered. The lees (sediment) that formon the bottom of the bottle are a natural part of this fine ale.”

ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 65
Hops: Simcoe, Santiams, & Amarillo


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

84. MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter IPA

MacTarnahan’s Brewing is in Portland, OR. Grifter has a totally awesome label. I can’t emphasize that enough—the black eye is a nice touch—they captured sketchy with this one.

Grifter IPA has a pleasant hop and malt nose, with some slight bready and roasty aromas carried along in the malt profile. With a rich caramel color and a creamy tan head that laces the glass well, Grifter looks and smells like a winner. Beginning with a creamy bready caramel malt front, Grifter moves into a bitter spicy middle and then closes with a little warmth and bitter spiciness that lingers on the palate. Grifter IPA has a soft, smooth mouthfeel, with a little bite from the carbonation at the end. The malt body is a bit heavy—it could use a bit more hoppiness to balance out the profile, although we did like the beer’s spiciness, coming as it does from either the rye or the hops. As well, as noted above, the label is decidely awesome--it is most certainly a Top 10 Best Label candidate if there ever was one.

Obnoxious prose warning: the label describes Grifter as “a deliciously wayward ale, lurking wherever thirst gathers.” The MacTarnahan’s website continues this trend: “Sometimes you don’t see trouble coming. And sometimes, that’s the best thing that could happen. This ale is a lot like that. It's a criminally delicious surprise that will that will steal your allegiance and con your thirst into leavin’ town. And you won’t even know you’ve been had until all you have left is a craving for it’s malt body and big, fresh aroma.”

ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 54
Malts: 2 Row, Munich, and Caramel
Hops: Chinook, CTZ, Cascade, and Centennial


Monday, September 21, 2009

83. Widmer Bros. Drifter Pale Ale

Widmer Brothers Brewing is in Portland, OR, although they also contract brew their beer for the East Coast (specifically their Hefewezien) out of Red Hook’s Portsmouth, NH brewery. They’ve been brewing since 1984. My college days in Eugene coincided with Widmer’s expansion in the ’90s—Hefeweizen on tap was as cheap as all the crappy domestics, so we were all drinking Widmer like it was going out of style. Ah, nostalgia.

The bottle does refer to being “the original” Drifter Pale Ale—not sure what that is about.

Drifter has a hoppy nose with light, crisp, and toasted malt notes. Slightly opaque, it has a burnished amber color with a light off-white head. Beginning with a soft, clean biscuit malt front that is crisp but also lightly roasty, Drifter Pale Ale moves into a light hoppiness in the middle that is pleasant and well-balanced with the biscuit malt of the front. It closes rather clean and crisp—carbonation kicks in at the tail end of the middle and helps build the crisp closure. There is a bit more hoppiness in the nose than in the body, but it is still solid overall. Drifter has a soft smooth body; there is some late crispness from the carbonation, and the sweetness does linger a bit, but not very long. Overall, Drifter is a very refreshing and enjoyable beer—well suited for late summer and early fall drinking.

From the Widmer website: “With its unique citrus character, smooth drinkability, and distinctive hop character, Drifter Pale Ale is truly an original. Brewed with generous amounts of Summit hops, a variety known for their intense citrus flavors and aromas, Drifter has a taste unique to the Pale Ale category. True to style, the bittering hops are perceptible enough to give the beer a crisp, clean, quenching finish, yet also soft enough to keep the beer smooth and balanced.”

ABV: 5.7%
IBU: 32
OG: 14.0° P
Malts: Pale, Caramel 20L, Caravienne 20L, Caramel 80L, Carapils
Bittering Hops: Alchemy
Aroma Hops: Summit & Nelson Sauvin
Dry Hops: Summit & Nelson Sauvin


Sunday, September 20, 2009

82. Highland Cattail Peak Organic Wheat Beer

Our second beer from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. Asheville is home to Biltmore Estate, the gi-normous estate build by George Washington Vanderbilt in the 1890s. Sporting 175,000 square feet and 250 rooms, Vanderbilt was apparently planning on putting up a few people back in the day. Ah, the lovely excesses of Gilded Age America. Asheville is also home to an unfair share of breweries. Besides Highland and French Broad, there is also Green Man Brewing (also known as Jack of the Wood), Pisgah Brewing, Wedge Brewing, OysterHouse Brewing, and the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company. I'm sure two or three more have popped in the short time that I've spent typing this. In other words, a vibrant craft brewing scene.

Cattail Peak has a pale yellow color and a creamy white head. The nose reveals light wheat aromas along with some subtle spicy hints. Beginning with a smooth creamy soft wheat flavor, Cattail Peak builds into a rounded middle with some bite and low levels of spiciness before ending with a slight musty sourness. We’re not quite sure how to locate the mustiness—it doesn’t taste like the soapy hop taste of a lager, but there is not enough of the flavor to really say more—while it is not the flavor of a lager ending, that’s the best description we could come up with. The tastes does linger a bit, but then disappears, ending clean and crisp. As well, we’re not sure we can identify the hibiscus, unless that is what we are getting as the light spiciness in the middle or the musty ending. Light-bodied, Cattail Peak has a soft, smooth mouthfeel with a pleasant and crisp carbonation bite. Smooth, subtle, and well-balanced, it is most interesting for what it doesn’t do in regards to American wheat beers: it is not bland, it does not have a grassy profile, and there is a real nuance of flavor in the profile. While it does come across in part like a lager, it is nonetheless good quality drinking

From the label: “An invigorating wheat beer with 100% organic grains, a hint of rye and the tang and hue of organic hibiscus, this refreshing brew is as cool as the breeze that blows down from Mount Mitchell to Cattail Peak. Enjoy this delicious creation when the hottest summer day demands the best of the Blue Ridge.”

ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 17
Hops: Palisade, German Hersbrucker


Saturday, September 19, 2009

81. Great Divide Samurai Rice

Great Divide’s meteoric climb up our charts might have hit a small bump in the road with our most recent sampling—number seven was certainly not lucky, although this was more circumstantial and rhetorical than because of any problems with the beer. First off, Elli couldn’t smell or taste, so she wasn’t much help. She did dutifully go through the motions like the trooper she is, but with not much success: “What kind of flavor profile do you get with this one?” “Um, malty?” Second, the food pairings on the bottle were more than a bit lame and blasé: “Asian food, seared tuna with sesame seeds, goat cheese.” Run out of ideas on this one? “Hmm, what would go well with a beer named Samurai?” “Um, I don’t know, how about Asian food?” C’mon guys, get your head in the game.

Samurai Rice has a light malt and a light hop nose. While a clear straw yellow, it was a bit hazy from some small bits floating in the beer, and it has a minimal white head. Samurai Rice starts a bit sweet on the front—there is a soft sweetness to the front that tastes like more than just barley. Our (or, in this case, my) taste buds would say the sweetness comes from corn, but going with the name, we’ll go with some rice as the source of it. The turn to the middle brings some bitterness and crispness, and the end has a slight return to sweetness before ending dry and clean. Light-bodied with a well rounded carbonation bite that contributes to the crispness, Samurai Rice’s mouthfeel effectively contributes to the beer’s overall character. Besides the lame food choices on the bottle, there was very little to critique about the beer across the board.

Check out the old school label

From Great Divide’s website: “Samurai is an easy drinking, unfiltered ale that changes the status quo for unfiltered beers. The addition of rice gives Samurai a slightly fruity, crisp, refereshing, and clean taste. This is definitely not your everyday unfiltered beer.”

And I thought I liked adjectives...

ABV: 5.1%

Today also marked the first day of my BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) class—10+ weeks of learning and reviewing beer styles, developing my knowledge of the art of brewing, and sampling classic examples in order to understand all of the different beer styles. I can hear all of you already—“Oh, a beer tasting class. THAT must be difficult.” Well, besides blocking out three hours every Saturday morning, let’s see you memorize all of this. Yeah, that’s what I thought. We started with a general overview of the BJCP program, and talked about our collective goals for the next couple of months, leading up to the BJCP exam on December 5th. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the purpose of the BJCP is to:
1. Promote beer literacy
2. Promote the appreciation of real beer
3. Recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills

Our beer sampling for the day included 1.Light Lager and 2. Pilsners:
1A. Lite American Lager: Sam Adams Light
1B. Standard American Lager: Pabst Blue Ribbon
1C. Premium American Lager: Miller Genuine Draft
1D. Munich Helles: Weihenstephaner Original
1E. Dortmunder: Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
2A. German Pilsner (Pils): Warsteiner Premium
2B. Bohemian Pilsner: Cvechvar
2C. Classic American Pilsner: no commercial examples available


Friday, September 18, 2009

80. Founder’s Breakfast Stout

Founder’s Brewing is located in Grand Rapids, MI, the 114th largest city in the U.S. Grand Rapids is nicknamed the “Furniture City”; I guess “Gem City” doesn’t look so bad in comparison. Grand Rapids is also home to Hideout Brewing Company. We had this on tap @ South Park Tavern.

Breakfast Stout is inky black in color with a minimal tan head. The nose is a delicious burnt roasted malt with some coffee and light caramel aromas. Starting with a soft roasted malt front that moves into a burnt roasted barley and coffee middle with some thick rich sweetness, Breakfast Stout rounds out with creamy lingering roasted and burnt flavors. While there is a good amount of roasted barley burnt flavors, they are not harsh at all; there is a smooth rounded body to the beer that is chewy and thick, carrying with it toffee and caramel notes, so the oatmeal balances this beer out quite effectively. It is medium to heavy bodied with medium carbonation and bite, and the chewiness of it gets accentuated as it warms. Elli says it is very good and well made, but not quite Top 10 material. Founder’s Breakfast Stout is quite enjoyable, but it does take some work to sort through the flavors in it—it requires some slow sipping to enjoy all it has to offer, but it is very rewarding to those who do take the time to work through it.

From the Founder’s website: “The coffee lovers consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh roasted java nose topped with a cinnamon colored frothy head that goes forever.”

ABV: 8.3%
IBU: 60


Thursday, September 17, 2009

79. Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

Our second beer from Stone Brewing Company, and certainly the beer with the fanciest back story thus far. Damn, did you make me type enough from off of that bottle?

’09 Vertical Epic has a deep, deep almost dark chocolate brown color that is not so much hazy as practically opaque, and a thick creamy tan head that clings nicely to the glass. The nose is a bit faint overall, but does carry some banana and vanilla notes along with some general spiciness and some darker malt aromas. It starts with smooth and rich malt notes with chocolate and vanilla notes, some light burnt and roasted flavors, along with both dark and light fruit notes; these slowly fade off the palate in a pleasant manner in the middle, and some maltiness reemerges before ending with some burnt and chocolate flavors that predominate at the end along with some vanilla, oak, and some light alcohol flavors. The mouthfeel is slick and rich, but also very clean. There is some light tannic from the oak—it does still taste a bit young—but not that much bit from the carbonation. The chocolate flavors do increase with warmth, as do the alcohol and vanilla flavors. Interestingly, it is not as Belgian-like as we would have expected from the label and the initial aroma of the beer. We will be interested to see what this beer turns into over time—it is quite nice right now, but it easy to see how this beer could get much much better.

From the label: “ep·ic (ěp’ ĭk) adj. (1) Heroic and impressive in quality. (2) Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size. (3) Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic.

The eighth in an ‘epic’ series.

As with any good epic, herein lies the promise of larger-than-life experiences, heroics and twists & turns as the adventure unfolds. This bottle-conditioned ale is chapter eight, and is specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012. Provided you can wait that long. At that time, enjoy it in a ‘vertical’ tasting along with its ten Stone Vertical Epic Ale brethren. Each one unique to its year of release. Each with its own ‘twist & turn’ in the plot line. Each one released one year, one month and one day from the previous year’s edition. To remind you, the release dates are:

02.02.02 03.03.03 04.04.04 05.05.05 06.06.06
07.07.07 08.08.08 09.09.09 10.10.10 11.11.11 12.12.12

This is quite a complex and layered beer. Bold and smooth chocolate flavors combine with a Belgian yeast lending tropical fruit/banana flavors and hints of spiciness, all complemented by citrus notes from an addition of tangerine peel. Rich vanilla beans add a nice counter to the chocolate malt – actually enhancing the chocolatiness. The finish is smooth, with additional traces of vanilla and toasted characters from French Oak. The goal for this edition of the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series is to be reminiscent of artisanal chocolate accentuated with orange.”

They’ve got some narrative, it would seem...

From the Stone website: “Mitch Steele (Head Brewer): During the brewing process we added dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel to complement the flavors of the porter. The vanilla bean addition is fascinating, as it actually enhances the chocolate character from the roasted malts, and the candi sugar adds a nice hint of molasses flavor to the finish. The tangerine actually turned out to be quite subtle on the finish, and combines nicely with the chocolate malt character. We aged this beer on French oak chips, which contributes a smooth and subtle woody undertone and even more vanilla flavors.”

Mitch Steele’s Tasting Notes: “Appearance: This beer pours deep brown with a thick, frothy, creamy head of tan foam.
Aroma: Many layers, starting off with chocolate and coffee from the chocolate malt, and vanilla notes from both the vanilla bean and French oak. A balanced oak flavor comes through in the mix. As the beer warms, the influence of the Belgian yeast is more evident, as tropical fruit and spice flavors become more pronounced.
Flavor: Begins with chocolate roast malt character and vanilla. The vanilla accentuates the chocolate nicely. Layered in are banana esters, and hints of clove, and then the finish is a bit stronger on the oak with hints of molasses and citrus from the tangerine peel.
Palate: Medium body, very complex, and finishes very smooth. The 8.6% alcohol is not overly evident, and the flavors blend together nicely.
Overall: A delicious, complex beer. It should age nicely over the next three years, and the flavors should continue to meld together wonderfully.”

ABV: 8.6%
IBU: 50
OG: 20° P
Hops: Perle and Magnum
Malts: Pale Malt, Crystal Malt, Belgian Aromatic Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, and De-Husked Black Malt
Additional Ingredients: Tangerine Peel, Vanilla Bean, and Dark Candi Sugar


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

78. Stoudt’s American Pale Ale

“It’s tasty in a nondescript way”

Our third beer from Stoudt’s Brewery (first and second). We had this on tap at South Park Tavern. Yes, again.

American Pale Ale (and yes, it is both name and category here) starts with a light malt and a faint floral hop aroma. The color is a tawny gold, and it has a light white head. It begins with light clean malt flavors, with both biscuit and crystal malts playing themselves out in the opening. In the middle, the beer moves into a pleasant bitterness that is not overpowering; the bitterness lingers, but is not cloying, astringent, or overpowering. Elli was feeling less like talking about beer today. As she reminded me, “we have to drink a beer for the day, but we don’t have to talk about it.” When I reminded her that the blog was her idea, I got a snide look that told me I was an ass. Which I am, but that’s not the point.

Slight grapefruit in hops at end.

American Pale Ale is a pretty straight forward American pale ale—well balanced, and while nothing really stands, it is a clean and enjoyable beer. So we each had another. And we each had each other.

From the Stoudt’s website: “This uniquely American beer offers a crisp, medium body with a light amber color. Generous additions of Cascade hops provide a refreshing bitterness and vibrant citrus aroma. ”

ABV: 5%
IBU: 41
Malts: Two-row, Munich, & Caramel
Bittering Hops: Cascade & Warrior
Aroma Hops: Cascade


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

77. Great Divide Hoss

We’re back to Great Divide yet again—Hoss is our sixth beer from Great Divide Brewing, and wise money bets says it won’t be our last. We had this with our dinner of roasted red pepper pasta with fresh tomato basil pesto we made from the fruits of our community garden plot. The red pepper pasta came from Pastafinity at the Second St. Market. Do note the sweet John Deer bowl as well—who doesn’t love tractors?

Hoss has a spicy rye nose with a bright, clear, and clean burnt sienna color, and an effervescent white head. Starting with a creamy soft and smooth malt front with richness that builds into a well-rounded spiciness from the rye, Hoss also has some crispness and a carbonation bite with a slight hop bitterness to round out the beer. It ends a bit dry and biscuity, and pretty clean; there are also some light raisin fruit notes mixed in with the malt closure. Another excellent offering from Great Divide—if this is their vision of an Oktoberfest/Harvest-style beer, then count me in—the spiciness pushes the beer’s flavor and complexity in interesting and enjoyable ways.

From Great Divide’s website: “Hoss is based on the Marzen lages of Germany. Rich, layered malt notes, with hints of cherry and dark fruits, dominate, while the unique addition of rye imparts a slightly earthy, spicy character. Hoss finishes crisp and dry, and its brilliant red-orange color is a toast to the late-summer sunsets that make the perfect backdrop for this beer.”

Um, don’t take this the wrong way, Great Divide, but the addition of rye ain’t that unique—the GABF medal you just won was in the rye category. Category equals not unique. Sorry to point out the obvious. Our meal was excellent, but not the best fit with the beer—the colors work nice, but all of the flavors didn’t quite marry.

ABV: 6.2%


Monday, September 14, 2009

76. Starr Hill Jomo Lager

Starr Hill Brewing is located in Charlottesville, VA. First opening in September 1999 in an old store front in downtown Charlottesville, Starr Hill has since moved to a larger facility outside Charlottesville.

Jomo Lager has a hazy straw color with a white creamy head. It has a grainy malt lager nose, and a generous white head. Jomo has a soft lightly creamy malt front, a crisp clean middle with some light bitterness lingering at the middle to end, and a dry finish. Hints of toastiness from the malt and some slight spiciness from either the hops or malt are layered along the way. The body was a bit dark (as was the taste) for a lager—this beer verges on being more of an Oktoberfest than a straight lager—we wouldn’t have complained if we had been served this and told that it was one, especially with the slight creamy opening and the more complex and malty body (although it was not as sweet as some of the Oktoberfests that we've had). With a soft smooth mouthfeel and a crisp refreshing carbonation bite, Jomo is enjoyable from beginning to end.

From the Starr Hill website: “Starr Hill’s Jomo Lager is a smooth, multiple-award-winning Light Amber Lager. Fermented with Southern German Lager yeast, its crisp, clean taste, and noticeable hop aroma are effectively balanced with a slight malty sweetness. This is a crossover beer that appeals to the broadest spectrum of brew aficionados.”

ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 23
Malts: Two Row, Munich, and Caramel
Hops: Tettnang and Hallertau