Saturday, October 31, 2009

123. Bristol’s Smokebrush Porter

Our second beer from Bristol’s Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, CO—our last beer by them was Red Rocket Pale Ale. Smokebrush is a robust porter.

Smokebrush Porter pours a deep brown with red highlights and a creamy tan head. The nose has a sweet roasted character to it with chocolate and crystal malt aromas in the background. The front is dry and chocolaty with some dark sweet malt flavors that lead into a roasty middle and finishing with a return of the dryness and some light smoke flavors. Smokebrush has a light body that is initially creamy with the chocolate, but the creaminess dies towards the middle and end of the beer. Carbonation is present, but not obtrusive—it’s mainly neutral, like Switzerland. This tastes quite a bit like a Schwarzbier, which may be why I like it so much & why Elli doesn’t; it could use a bit more complex of a malt profile to create a wider range of flavors. Overall, I give it a big thumbs up, but Elli thinks it stinks. And yes, I know that rhymes.

From Bristol’s website: “Our city would be a bland and humorless place without the Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts. Since 1992, their random acts of creativity have made us smile, made us think, reminded us of our better selves. Besides, any group that could bring us both a gallery of contemporary art and a giant, drivable toaster has our enthusiastic support. That’s why 100% of the profits from this beer will go to support Smokebrush's Creative Community Efforts, like the Uncle Wilber Fountain. So enjoy this mahogany-hued blend of richly roasted malts and subtle smoke character. We call it art for art's sake.”

ABV: 5.8%
IBU: 30
Malts: 2-Row, Crystal, Chocolate, Smoked Malt, and Peated Malt Munich
Hops: Mt. Hood & Columbus

Today’s BJCP class focused on off flavors and troubleshooting, and specifically on learning to identify the different types of faults that can emerge while brewing beer. Today’s class was led by Gordon Strong (yes, that Gordon Strong). His basic advice was to learn to see, smell, and taste faults in beers, and to learn the proper ways to describe these faults. He further advised learning about what part of the brewing process creates particular types of faults (i.e. is it related to initial production, like with the mashing or from the boil, related to fermentation, or due to infection), and a reciprocal knowledge of styles for where particular faults are appropriate and where they are not. We spent a good portion of the time discussing the tensions between perceptions and adherence to guidelines/judging beers. Our tasting list for the day included:

Rolling Rock: fault example: DMS: light sulfur-based smell; canned corn juice flavor; overcooked vegetable taste. DMS is a volatile, and can aerate off during the boil.
Budweiser: fault example: acetaldehyde: yeast derived flavor; found in the finish; Budweiser calls it part of their “snappy” finish.
Moosehead: fault example: skunky: also known as light struck; this is a chemical reaction caused by the reaction of bitter compounds in hops with sunlight, which transforms compound into the chemical that skunks spray; commonly found in clear and green glass beers.
Samuel Smith Pale Ale: fault example: diacetyl (vs. caramel): fermentation flaw caused by premature separation from yeast; is a by product of yeast metabolism; can be induced by pumping O2 into beer while fermenting; in nose, it is diacetyl, while it emerges as a caramel butter flavor in the body, which helps build toffee flavors.
Old Speckled Hen: fault example: skunk/stale/oxidized: some paper flavor; flavors get muted and dry.
Gueze Girardin 1882: fault example: sourness: lactic sourness; flavors include grapefruit zest and woody characteristics.
Schneider-Weisse fault example: cloudy/phenolic: clove in nose and taste; yeast suspended in beer.
Green Flash West Coast Ale: fault example: bitter/astringent: hop derived; volume of vegetal matter leads to astringent bitter flavor, while astringency or drying in mouthfeel created by residual bitterness that is harsh.
Harvest Ale ’99: fault example: sherry/alcohol/fruity: sherry flavors created by oxidation; good oxidation improves with age; melanoidins oxidize to make sherry and dark fruit flavors.

Much of this discussion was designed to prepare us to answer the main troubleshooting question on the BJCP test: T1. Describe and discuss the following beer characteristics. What causes them and how are they avoided and controlled? Are they ever appropriate and if so, in what beer styles? (three will be given)
a) cloudiness
b) buttery
c) low head retention
d) astringency
e) phenolic
f) light body
g) fruitiness
h) sourness
i) cooked corn
j) bitterness
k) cardboard
l) sherry-like
m) acetaldehyde
n) alcoholic

See? I told it wasn't just drinking beer and hanging out...


Friday, October 30, 2009

122. Bell’s Third Coast Ale

More Bell’s makes for happy drinking. This is our fourth beer from Bell’s Brewery; we’ve tried Two Hearted, Octoberfest, and Oberon. We had this on tap at the Trolley Stop.

Third Coast Ale has a delicious and complex nose; besides the sweet malt and the more complex dark sugar aromas, there are dark fruits and some low level alcohol notes as it warms. Color-wise, Third Coast is a dark brown with a white head; it appeared clear, although maybe a bit hay, but the bar was kinda dark, so you’ll have to forgive the environmental influences. The front is sweet with fruit flavors—there is both caramel and raisin running across the mouth at the start—before moving into some bitterness and dark malt sweetness mixed with molasses, and finishing with roasted malt and chocolate flavors as well as a return of the raisin flavors that linger on the palate. Third Coast has a thick, heavy mouthfeel that may be a bit syrupy; the carbonation is a bit light, and there is not much bite in the profile—it is even a bit light by English standards. There is some warmth in the mouth as well. While there is a lot going on, Third Coast is a complex and interesting beer; it has an excellent profile in terms of flavor and balance. We would be interested to see how this aged; while good drinking now, we’re wondering if some of the dark fruit flavors would continue to develop and get more complex across the flavor profile.

From Bell’s website: “A barley wine with deep amber color. The brandy of ales, this beer has vintage character and will mature in the bottle at cellar temperature for years.”

ABV: 10.2%
OG: 1.098


Thursday, October 29, 2009

121. Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused

Our third beer from Boulder Beer Company, although this one does gets pretty regular usage around the ol’ homestead—such a tasty, tasty and easy drinkin’ beer. Our previous beers from Boulder are Obovoid and Flashback.

Hazed & Infused has a bready, floral nose; the nose does get more biscuity as it warms. It pours a hazy (well, one would hope with a name like this) deep copper with a rich creamy tan head that laces the glass. The front has a dry biscuit malt sweetness, moving into some bitterness with crystal and caramel notes and some light hop flavors, and ending clean and smooth with some lingering bitterness. The body is medium, and is lightened by the carbonation. There is some light drying on the tongue from some of the bitterness, as well as some slight creaminess. Hazed & Infused is well balanced between the malt and hops; the malt develops across the palate, while the hops give a good turn and bite to the beer. Definitely an excellent session beer for all night drinking; it is easy drinking, and very quaffable, and goes does well. We both love this beer, so I guess there isn’t really much more to say.

From the Boulder Beer website: “Hazed & Infused is ‘hazed’ in its natural unfiltered state, and ‘infused’—dry-hopped with Crystal and Centennial hops—during fermentation for a big, bold, unique taste. Originally a one-keg brew for our pub, its popularity has soared and is now available in over 20 states.”

ABV: 4.85%
OG: 12.5° P
Malts: U.S. Medium Caramel, U.S. 2-Row, U.S. Roasted
Hops: Nugget, Willamette, Crystal, Centennial


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

120. Ithaca Flower Power IPA

Flower Power IPA is brought to you by the Ithaca Beer Company in Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is home to Moosewood Restaurant as well as Cornell University. I spent six weeks in Ithaca one summer going to the School of Criticism and Theory—basically summer camp for academics—which was delightful, as Ithaca is gorgeous (or gorges, if I am to follow the cheesy-ass pun adorning bumper stickers everywhere). And while I enjoyed the nightlife, I don’t recall seeing anything by Ithaca Brewing at that point, although I did get to make lots of geeky literature-based in-jokes, and take Houston Baker out to lunch. Yes, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl—what do you expect from a fourth year graduate student? But I haven’t regaled you with the saddest experience while there—the first night, there was a dinner event to get to know all the other participants. I was in a small circle of graduate students talking about who we were and what we were studying when Frederic Jameson approached our group from almost directly behind me. The other people in the circle all saw him coming, while I was completely blindsided. Thus everyone scattered, and I was left in a one on one conversation with Fredric Jameson. Having just finished reading The Political Unconscious about two months before for my orals, I was completely unprepared for this moment. Let’s just say he handled it beautifully; he attempted to talk to me about what I was working on, and was generally an all around swell guy. I, on the other hand, was having difficulty forming a sentence. To use an appropriate sports metaphor, I totally dropped the ball. And then kicked it out of bounds. Repeatedly. So in my bright shining moment, I blew it big time. Welcome to academia...

Flower Power has a bready malt nose with citrus and floral hop aromas; the off white head goes with the cloudy copper color, and the beer laces the glass almost all the way down. It begins with a tangy malt sweetness mixed with a bready malt flavor before moving into bitterness and big hop flavor in the middle with citrus, floral, and grapefruit hop flavors, and ends with a dry malt finish and some lingering bitterness. There is a medium body with a chewy mouthfeel; the soft front is in part via the minimal carbonation, although there is some bite in the middle to end. Overall, an excellent IPA; there is a nice mix between the English and American IPA traditions, although it could use a bit more malt complexity to better develop the flavor profile. Elli was less excited by this beer that I was—the big hop flavor mixed with the bready malt was a nice way to play to the strengths of both brewing traditions.

From the Ithaca website: “Enjoy the clover honey hue and tropical nose. Simultaneously punchy and soothing with a big body a finish that boasts pineapple and grapefruit. Flower power is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process.”

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 75
Malt: 2-Row and Honey malt
Hops: Columbus, Cascade, & Ahtanum
Dry Hops: Simcoe, Centennial, & Amarillo


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

119. Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

“This one could be kinda old...”

Another from the Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth, NH. Our last two from them were their Finestkind IPA and Farmhouse Ale.

Shoals Pale Ale is a dull cloudy brown with a minimal white head. The nose carries with it fruity esters and some light hops; there is not much malt character to it, although the breadiness of the nose increases with warmth. Shoals begins with light fruit esters and some dry malt flavors, moves into medium levels of bitterness and some soft bready malt, and ends with hop bitterness and fruity flavors carried by either the yeast or the hops. There is also some caramel malt flavor that emerges in the front with warmth. The body is light with a soft mouthfeel and a low level of carbonation; there is also a hint of dryness on the palate. Shoals Pale Ale comes across as more of an English style Pale Ale than an American one with the fruit esters and the low levels of aroma and flavor hops (low carbonation as well). While this could be in part due to age (see photo) it could also just be from the fact that it is an English style Pale Ale.

From the Smuttynose website: “Our interpretation of a classic English beer style is copper-colored, medium-bodied and highly hopped. Its flavor is delightfully complex: tangy fruit at the start, with an assertive hop crispness and a long malty palate that one well-known beer writer has compared to the flavor of freshly-baked bread.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 30
OG: 1.050
TG: 1.012
Malts: Pale Brewers, Crystal 60°L, Carastan, Wheat
Hops: Cascade & Chinook


Monday, October 26, 2009

118. Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat

Our third beer from Long Trail, and the second in three days (DIPA and IPA). We’d like to start by observing that this beer has one of the best labels ever. The nuance of artwork in the picture—we’ve got a bear who is about to get roller-pinned for stealing pie—is, well, downright priceless. Not only is he wearing glasses and making the “oh” face because he thinks he’s about to get away with something, he’s got a magical floating bow tie that matches his suspenders. But that’s just the beginning: coupled with the slightly phallic placement of the beer bottle and hand, the stolen pie takes on potential new meaning, as does the female bear’s angry response with the rolling pin—she has the classic angry line shaped eyes, indicating her ire at the pie-stealing, pleased with himself, sporting a beer bottle woody bear. Not to get all psychoanalytic on all y’all, but this label is truly a work of art.

Blackbeary Wheat is a brilliant straw color with a light white head. The nose combines elements of dry lager malt characteristics, fruit and jammy blackberry aromas, and a slightly metallic fruit smell. Blackbeary Wheat starts with a light and crisp malt front—almost lagerish—and then moves into a subtle but pleasant fruitiness in the middle with light but clear blackberry flavors. The finish is rather clean with some crispness, although the fruitiness lingers. Blackbeary Wheat has a light, soft, but crisp mouthfeel—it is both lively and brisk with a pleasant carbonation bite and clean palate flavors. Light bodied—it is light enough to be either a lager or a dry cider—but simultaneously exhibiting a substantial depth of flavor, Blackbeary Wheat is a well balanced beer. The fruit flavors are enjoyable, but do not dominate, and the beer is dry and clean with crisp taste on the palate. Deceptively complex for such a light clean fruit beer, Blackbeary Wheat is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable beer. And an easy Top 10 Best Label contender.

From the bottle: “Blackbeary Wheat features 2-row malt, crystal, plenty of malted wheat, and is finished with a hint of blackberries in the kettle. >6 carbs!”

From the Long Trail website: “Light & refreshing with a hint of blackberry at the finish makes this beer a real thirst quencher! This brew combines 2-Row Pilsen and of course plenty of malted wheat.”

ABV: 4.0%
IBU: 8
Malts: Two-Row and Wheat
Hops: Nugget


Sunday, October 25, 2009

117. Elysian The Immortal IPA

From the Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle, WA.

Immortal IPA starts with a bready, biscuity, and lightly toasted malt nose mixed with some sweetness and light floral hop aromas. The cloudy copper body and creamy white head reveal a subtle sweetness and a bready malt flavor to start. The middle is characterized by a well-sized but balanced bitterness with floral and citrus flavors, and finish is dry with some biscuit notes and a relatively clean and pleasant bitterness. Immortal IPA has a medium body with a creamy and chewy mouthfeel, lively carbonation, and a well-suited slight drying on the tongue. An excellent and enjoyable beer; it is well balanced between maltiness and hop bitterness, and has a well developed chewy mouthfeel. This beer is also a good example of the possibilities available in mixing English and American IPA styles—the malt body has bready & toasty sweetness (English), but also a large dose of hops across the beer profile (American)—the hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma work well, although it could use a bit more hop aroma. The label, however, is kinda chumpy. I know they're playing off of Zeus and Greek gods and all, but overly-muscly steroid monster looking Greek gods are kinda creepy.

From the bottle: “A beautiful blend of hops and malts, the Immortal IPA is a Northwest interpretation of a classic English style, golden copper in color and loaded with New World hop flavor and aroma.”

From the Elysian website: “Refers to Zeus, supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and of the Pantheon of gods who resided there.”

ABV: 6.3%
IBU: 42
OG: 1.063
Malts: Pale, Munich, Crystal and Cara-hell
Hops: Chinook, Amarillo, and Centennial

According to the label, this beer was brewed for Elysian Brewing Company by New Belgium Brewing.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

116. Long Trail IPA

Our second beer from Long Trail; our last one was the Long Trail DIPA.

Long Trail IPA has a low malt and light floral hope nose along with a bit of mustiness; the color is hazy golden with a creamy white head that laces the glass well down the sides. Opening with a light malt sweetness, Long Trail IPA moves into a big bitter middle and then finishes dry with a little sourness. The body is light to medium, and the carbonation is bright with a nice bite to it. There is also some dryness and puckering in the mouth via the hop bitterness. A good beer overall; it could use more of a malt body to set up the beer, and more complexity and balance between the malt and hop profile—the dimensions are a bit limited. The mix between English IPA hopping—tons of bitterness and no real hop flavor or hop aroma—and a more neutral American IPA malt profile doesn’t work as well as it could, leaving the beer interesting but not super exciting.

From the bottle: We’ve brewed our filtered IPA for 13 years, and never considered offering the REAL (unfiltered) version that is naturally carbonated just as it comes out of our fermenters. Well here it is! We hope you enjoy our REAL IPA.”

From the Long Trail website: “Real IPA, as it ws first brewed in the days of the British Empire, was not the carefully filtered brew that we call IPA today. The first IPAs were unfiltered and featured extra hops and higher strength as a preservative for the long trip from England to the colony of India. Our traditional IPA is naturally carbonated, dry-hopped & unfiltered like the old days.”

ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 56
Malts: Two-Row and Crystal
Hops: Nugget and Cascade

For our sixth BJCP class, the focus was on hops. Besides discussing the different uses of hops within the boil—bittering, flavoring, and aroma—we looked at the different types of packaging for hops (leaf, pellet, plug, extracts, and oils), and different hop varieties. After running through the European, English, and American hop varieties, we had an interesting discussion about the similarities and differences between American and English IPAs, and how hop use and hop choice influenced and affected those styles. A good time was had by all....

Our fine fine sampling beers for the day included dark ales:
12A. Brown Porter: Sam Smith’s Famous Taddy Porter
12B. Robust Porter: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald
12C. Baltic Porter: Baltika Porter
13A. Dry Stout: Guinness
13B. Sweet Stout (Milk or Cream): Left Hand Milk Stout
13C. Oatmeal Stout: Samuel Adams Oatmeal Stout
13D. Foreign Extra Stout: Lion Stout (Tropical-Type)
& Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Export-Type)
13E. American Stout: we didn’t try this one—8 is enough
13F. Russian Imperial Stout: I think the Lion Stout was supposed to be this, but in reviewing the BJCP style guidelines, I’ve moved it up to where it is supposed to be. Don’t worry—part two of my day should take care of any loose threads...

So after the BJCP class, I went home to rest up for the Miami Valley Beerfest, which focused on big beers and barley wines. Class ended at noon, and this started at two, so basically, my only real goal was to eat a big meal and drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids...this was going to be a long long day of drinking.

What I sampled:
Allagash Curiex (Bourbon Barrel Tripel)
Brewdog/Mikkeller Divine Rebel (Barley Wine)
Brooklyn Monster (Barley Wine)
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (American Brown Ale)
Founders Old Curmudgeon (Old Ale)
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA (Imperial IPA)
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout (Imperial Stout)
Green Flash Imperial IPA (Imperial IPA)
Harviestoun Ola Dudh 12 Year (Old Ale)
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30 Year (Old Ale)
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40 Year (Old Ale)
Ithaca Brute (American Wild Ale)
J. W. Lees Calvados (Barley Wine)
J. W. Lees Lagavulin (Barley Wine)
Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura Dark Dawn Stout (Sour Stout)
Kiuchi Hitachino XH (American Strong Ale)
Stone/Brewdog/Cambridge Juxtaposition (Black Imperial Pilsner)
Victory Hop Wallop (Imperial IPA)
Widmer Cherry Oak Doppelbock (Doppelbock)

I also had some Goose Island Bourbon County Stout via Aaron, but that wasn’t on the record, if you know what I’m saying.

My notes are pretty spotty, especially as the day progressed. Juxtaposition was not as good as I expected, and neither was Madrugada Obscura. I liked the Ola Dubh 30 Year better than the 40 Year. The peatiness of the J. W. Lees Lagavulin was very nice, but could use some aging, so if I can score some more of that, I’ll throw it in the cellar for a bunch of years and see what happens. Divine Rebel and Old Curmudgeon got good marks, but the rest was mostly a blur of tasty tasty beery goodness.

All told, this puts me at 29 beers for the day. Let’s hope this is a record that stands for a while—I walked home and after this and made good friends with my couch for several hours...


Friday, October 23, 2009

115. Fort Collins Kidd Black Lager

Our first beer from Fort Collins Brewery in Fort Collins, CO.

Kidd opens with a roasted chocolate nose and low levels of coffee aroma. The deep rich dark brown hue of the beer reveals orange and red highlights with a minimal tan head. Beginning with a roasted malt flavor, Kidd’s middle has bitter chocolate and coffee flavors. There are also some burnt notes in the middle, which detract from the profile and don’t mesh as well with the lighter lager body. It closes with dryness and light bitterness; the mainly clean finish also has a light sulfur flavor with lingering chocolate flavors—the finish is well done. Light to medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, Kidd is both thick and light at the same time—the chocolate gives it some substance even while leaving the beer light on the tongue. The carbonation is a bit light overall; some of the wateriness comes from not enough carbonation or bite in the beer. A good beer overall; the opening and closing flavors are excellent, but the burnt notes in the middle jar the overall flavor profile and the carbonation is too light for the style.

From the bottle: “A hint of smoked malt compliments the chocolate malt in this surprisingly light bodied Schwarzbier. Experience Kidd’s intriguing aroma and complex flavor as you enjoy this remarkable style of beer.”

From the Fort Collins website: “Schwarzbier was crafted to taste much lighter that it looks. Chocolate malt lends Kidd its color while German Tettnang hops create the minimal bitterness of this brew. We’ve added a dash of smoked malt to make our Schwarzbier slightly more complex.”

ABV: 4.5%
IBU: 23-ish


Thursday, October 22, 2009

114. North Coast Cru d’Or Belgian Style Ale

Cru d’Or Organic Belgian Style Ale is from the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg, CA.

Cru d’Or pours a cloudy reddish-orange copper with a tan head. The nose is a mixture of sweet malt and fruit—primarily dark fruit and raisin—along with yeast esters and dark sugar. The sweet malt front reveals a complex array of flavors; there is malt sweetness mixed with dark sugar flavors, some dryness & maybe a little alcohol warmth. The middle is a well-rounded combination of dark stone fruit and even dried fruit flavors—prune, plum, raisin, and cherry run across the palate creating a rich thick body—and Cru d’Or ends with a return of the initial sweetness with some light lingering flavor. The medium body balances well with the soft, thick, chewy textures; there is not much bite from the carbonation, but enough to liven up the beer and keep the mouthfeel from being too heavy. The complexity between the stone fruit flavors and malt creates an array of flavor and palate sensations across the profile of the beer—an excellent, well balanced and memorable beer. Cru d’Or is most certainly a Top 10 Best contender.

And it’s organic!

From the North Coast website: “Belgian yeasts are legendary for the fruity flavor and floral bouquet they give beer. Hundreds are used by Belgian brewers, and each is unique. Cru d’Or, a Belgian-Style Dubble, is an homage to this magic ingredient, and the result is a world-class beer that is lush and profoundly aromatic with a warming finish. Being organic, Cru d’Or is brewed with the same reverence for pure ingredients as the Abbey and Farmhouse Belgian ales of the past. Delicious. Certified organic by Oregon Tilth.”

ABV: 8%
IBU: 30


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

113. Stegmaier Oktoberfest

“It has all the downsides of an Oktoberfest, with none of the upsides.”

Stegmaier Oktoberfest is brewed by Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Stegmaier was “aquired” by Lion Brewing in 1974. I put the scare quotes around aquire.

Stegmaier Oktoberfest has a bready malty sweet nose with some faint lager aromas; the dark amber color is covered by a light ivory head that partially laces the glass. Opening rather sweet with some off tastes in the middle (mostly DMS) that muddle the malt flavor, Stegmaier Oktoberfest ends a bit cloying with the sweetness. While there is also some crispness, it is not enough to balance out the thick sweetness or to give it the crisp ending required in a good Oktoberfest. Also, there is no hop bitterness discernable in the end; the closure is more sweet than dry. The mouthfeel is soft with a medium body and mild carbonation, although a bit sticky across the board. Overall, this would be a nice beer at a baseball game when I didn’t expect any better, but not so much as an Oktoberfest. While the balance of an Oktoberfest tends toward sweet, the balance on this beer doesn’t work—the sweetness carries across the palate without enough complexity or malt interest, leaving it a bit too syrupy. This one is a Top 10 Worst candidate.

From the Lion website: “Stegmaier Oktoberfest, a classic Oktoberfest/ Marzen beer, has an initial malty sweetness with a dry finish. It is a smooth clean malty beer with a complex, distinctive malt character. We use the finest two-row, Munich and Vienna malts and a touch of Noble hops to balance the sweetness.”

ABV: 5.7%


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

112. Avery 16th Anniversary Ale

Our first beer from Avery Brewing, which is in Boulder, CO.

Described as an ale brewed with jasmine flowers, peaches, and honey, Avery’s Anniversary Ale has a clear straw color and a full creamy white head. The nose is complex—there are both yeasty and estery notes, along with honey, spice, and pepper aromas, finished off with citrus scents, specifically orange blossom and flowery aromas. The sweet malt front of Avery Anniversary carries with it honey flavors as it moves into a spicy and peppery middle, finishing clean and dry with a few sour notes and some tanginess that could be peaches. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy with a decent bite from the effervescent carbonation, and the body is light. With warmth comes an increased spiciness and a more noticeable and discernable peach flavor. A solid and effective beer—a bit more malt complexity in the front might be nice, but with the high attenuation that comes with saisons, that might be hard. The rest of the flavors are spot on.

From the Avery website: “Finally, we’re SIXTEEN! Dad, can we have the keys? No really, we’ll totally take care of her—keep her clean—fill up her tanks—show her off to our friends and let ’em see what we can really do. Really? Thanks, dude! Promise to make you proud. Now to go find Jasmin, Peches and Miel! Well, we got her started and decided to add a few things to the tank. SIXTEEN is a harmonious combination of jasmine, peaches and honey fermented with an unmistakable Belgian yeast strain, all weaving a marvelously spicy and fruity, massively estery and dry, saison ale.”

ABV: 7.69%
OG: 1.065
Malts: Two-row barley, pale malted wheat
Adjuncts: peaches, jasmine and honey


Monday, October 19, 2009

111. Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter (2008)

Our first beer from Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, AK. Ah, the great white North. Or is that Canada?

Starting with a roasted, smoky, and chocolaty nose that has strong wood notes, Alaskan Smoked Porter gets smokier and more rauch-bier smelling as it warms. The color is a deep chocolate brown (it is almost coffee colored) that is nearly opaque with some red highlights and a creamy tan head that laces the glass. Alaskan Smoked Porter opens with a soft roasted malt front with a nice smoke presence that balances well with the malt, and moves into chocolate and darker flavors—either light burnt notes or coffee flavors—before finishing dry with some smoke and roastiness lingering on the palate. It has a rich, thick mouthfeel and creamy characteristics that balance nicely with the smoke to build a dry finish. A well balanced beer between the smoke and malt—both accentuate and build the beer collectively. As Elli informed me, “this is pretty good for a porter. Actually, it’s very good. I’d give it honorary Top 10 Best status. Not real Top 10 Best status, because it’s still a porter.”

From the bottle: “We applied the Alaskan tradition of alder-smoking to the malts of this rich, intensely flavored porter, a recognized leader among the world’s smoked beers. Enjoy it now or age it for several years.”

From the Alaskan Brewing Company website: “Smoked Beer. Known as ‘rauchbier’ in Germany, smoke-flavored beers were virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988. The dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor of this limited edition beer make it an adventuresome taste experience. Alaskan Smoked Porter is produced in limited ‘vintages’ each year and unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle much like fine wine. Water, five types of malt, 2 varieties of hops and yeast with no adjuncts, no preservatives and no pasteurization. Our glacier-fed water originates in the 1,500 square-mile Juneau Ice Field. Prior to brewing, selected malts are smoked in small batches under carefully controlled conditions in a commercial food smoker using local alder wood.

Vertical Tastings of Vintage Alaskan Smoked Porter: A unique aspect to smoked beers that we have found at the Alaskan Brewing Company is that the smoke acts as a preservative even in beer. The smoke combined with the yeast left in the bottle allows the beers flavor and aroma to evolve over time. We have been known to hold vertical tastings with a variety of vintage years of Alaskan Smoked Porter. As it ages, the smoke becomes more of a subtle background note. Around the third and fourth years the beer's other flavors such as sherry, currant, raisin, and toffee-like nuances come forward. The fifth year sees the reemergence of the smoky character to the forefront.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 45
OG: 1.068


Sunday, October 18, 2009

110. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale

Another beer from Lagunitas—our fourth. We’ve run through El Chupalupalo, IPA, and New Dogtown.

Little Sumpin’ Extra has a hazy orange amber color and a creamy ivory head that laces the glass well down the sides. The nose is hoppy—there are pine and resin aromas with a light malt character. Some spiciness also emerges with warmth. Starting with a soft sweet front and some caramel flavors, Little Sumpin’ Extra moves into a bitter middle that has grass and pine hop flavors along with some slight astringency that carries through to the close. The bitterness does linger on the palate as does some of the residual malt flavor. The mouthfeel is a bit sticky and heavy, although also slightly creamy; the hop level does create a bit of dryness and puckering, especially at the end, although it is more on the side and back of the tongue. Overall, the hop load is nice, but there is too much sweet maltiness without as much flavor or variety—there is not a very complex malt profile. Little Sumpin’ Extra could use a better balance between malt and hops to drive the beer forward.

From the Lagunitas website: “The Big Sister of the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale...Lots of Wheat for a Curious Malt Complexity and Leaving it Light in Color, But Huge in Flavor and Satisfaction.”

ABV: 8.74%
IBU: 72.51
OG: 1.082


Saturday, October 17, 2009

109. Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #28 Glacier Harvest ’09 Wet Hop

Our sixth beer from Harpoon. I’m calling a moratorium on maritime references, at least those of the Moby Dick variety. I’d take the pirate maritime slant, but Disney’s about killed that one forever. Thanks, Disney, for riding another one into the ground. I'll take my pirates as conceived by William S. Burroughs, thank you very much. Not quite the family friendly tales ala Disney, hmm? In that vein, how about I replace Melville with some good ol’ fashioned Edgar Allen Poe maritime references? After all, Arthur Gordon Pym is always a hoot.

Glacier ’09 Wet Hop is a redux of Harpoon’s 100 Barrel Series #24 Glacier Harvest ’08. The labeling is the same, the write up on the website is the same, all the described calibrations are the same, but this beer ain’t the same one as offered last year. Maybe the soggy, wet summer affected the hop harvest that much—we’re not fully sure. All we know is that this one lacks some of the definitive hop qualities and characteristics that defined last year’s offering. But I might be getting ahead of myself...

Glacier ’09 Wet Hop is a clear reddish copper color with a creamy tan head that borders on rocky, and laces the glass nicely. The nose is bready and toasty with no real hop aromas—the closest thing to it is some graininess and low levels of a lager-esque aroma. The front opens with a dry, toasty malt flavor that moves into a slightly grainy middle—there is not much in the way of hop bitterness, although there are some low levels of astringency at the end of the beer. Besides the astringency, the end is pretty clean, with some of the malt returning. Glacier ’09 Wet Hop has a soft medium body with medium carbonation and some bite in the final third of the beer. As it warms, the body does get thinner, and there is some warmth on the palate that is not from alcohol later on in the beer. Ultimately, this beer strikes us as more of an Oktoberfest than a fresh hop—we’re not sure how or why to explain this, other than to observe that the hop profile on this beer was almost non-existent, and certainly not in line with any of the fresh hop beers we’ve ever tried. It’s a good beer, but if this is supposed to be a version of #24, Harpoon has failed miserably. And they are too good of a brewery to do that. So where does this leave us? Hell if I know. Our guess is either Oktoberfest in the wrong bottle, or this year’s version of Glacier ’09 Wet Hop just sucks as a fresh hop beer.

From the Harpoon website: “For the 28th session of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, we’re celebrating this year’s hop harvest with Glacier Harvest Wet Hop beer, a pale ale made with fresh Glacier hops. Wet hop beers are brewed using fresh, ‘wet’ hops instead of traditional dried hops—hops contain about 60% moisture when they are first picked. Typically, when hops are picked they are quickly dried and refrigerated to increase shelf life and make them more consistent for brewing. Freshly picked wet hops, however, need to be used within hours of harvest or they will begin to degrade rapidly. Wet hops retain more of their natural aroma and volatile flavors that dissipate when dried. This gives wet hop beers a fresher hop flavor and aroma than that of beers hopped with processed hops. This yields an immersed, intense hop flavor in the beer. Harpoon brewer Ray Dobens, creator of the beer, added a heroic dose of fresh hops the day of the harvest. The hop flavor and aroma from this copper-colored ale comes from a generous late addition of freshly harvested ‘wet’ hops.”

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 38
OG: 16° P

So I haven’t been able to find any of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #29 to sample, which kinda chaps my hide, as it was Ginger Wheat, a beer that is one of my favorites. I’ve brewed Ginger Wheat more than any other beer—probably something like 20 batches in total. So any o’ you Harpoon hombres out there reading this that want to hook me up with some of that sweet sweet Ginger Wheat, your karmic numbers will be peaking, let me tell you.

For this meeting of the BJCP class, we all traveled to Cincinnati to participate in the Cincinnati Malt Infusers Oktoberfest Home Brew Competition. We all either judged or stewarded (I was a steward). Participating was a good way to get a sense of how beer judging runs.


Friday, October 16, 2009

108. Founders Harvest Ale

Our second beer from Founders—our last beer was their Breakfast Stout. As well, for all those interested, there is a Founders Beer Event tonight (February 2nd) at South Park Tavern—they’re tapping a keg of Black Biscuit at 8 pm. Don’t worry, South Park, since no one reads this, your secret is safe with me...

Harvest Ale has a hoppy nose that quickly covers the light malt sweetness that is present—there are pine and grass aromas, along with some lighter grapefruit aromas lingering in the background. The color is a light golden copper that is slightly hazy, and is accompanied by a creamy rich white head. Harvest Ale has a smooth malt front that is more toasty than bready before moving into a bitter in the middle; the bitterness is nice, but there is not much discernable hop flavor. It then concludes dry with lingering bitterness and a touch of astringency, although the astringency remains pretty minimal. Harvest Ale has a rich mouthfeel with some creaminess in the middle from the carbonation, along with some dryness from the hops. Overall, a well balanced beer that has better coordination between the malt and the hops than Green Flash, although we like the hop punch from Green Flash better. At the same time, this beer is more drinkable than the Green Flash—we’re not sure we could see a whole night of Green Flash, but we can envision a whole night drinking Founder’s Harvest.

From the Founders website: “This liquid dream pours a hazy golden orange straw color with a large puffy white two-finger head. First sip of this beer rewards with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh orange and lemon citrus then continues to introduce toasted malt undertones.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 70


Thursday, October 15, 2009

107. Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale

Green Flash Brewing Company is located in Vista, CA. We had this beer on tap @ South Park Tavern. Yes, again. And in case you were wondering what the name of the brewery means...

Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale has, unsurprisingly, a strong hoppy nose with the citrus, floral, and resin notes reminiscent of Simcoe hops. It is slightly hazy with a deep copper/orange color and a light white head. In terms of the flavor profile, Hop Head has a dry biscuit malt front that quickly transitions into a sizeable amount of bitterness and a large hop body—there are tart citrus and grapefruit flavors as well as some smaller resin and grassy flavors—before ending with resiny bitterness that lingers pleasantly on the palate. Hop Head has a medium body that is slightly creamy, along with some bite from the carbonation and a bit of dryness from the hops in the mouth at the end. The malt profile is subtle, but works with the large hop body effectively; the body is big enough to balance out the hops, but does not interfere with the hop flavor and bitterness itself—it is only as malty as it needs to be. An enjoyable and delicious beer with a big hop punch that sits well on the palate. Hop Head is a Top 10 Best contender for the year.

From the Green Flash website: “Resinous hop character and bitterness balance the rich carmel malt base. We took it a step further and Amarillo dry-hopped the brew to 45 ibu’s, creating refreshing and savory hop flavors and aromas. Is it red IPA? That’s your call.”

ABV: 6%
IBU: 45