Monday, November 30, 2009

153. Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

This is our second beer from Port Brewing (well, unless you also want to count Lost Abbey, but we’ll let that go for now); our last beer was Hop-15, another delightfully hoppy gem of a beer.

High Tide is a hazy gold color with a tan head that leaves some lacing on the glass. The nose is, not surprisingly, a whole lotta hops—the bread and biscuit malt is quickly buried by the hops, including grassy, citrus, floral, spicy, and resin hop aromas. The opening biscuit malt flavors are quickly overrun by hops, both in terms of bitterness and big hop flavor: in no particular order, we got citrus, floral, grapefruit, resin, and spicy hop flavors. The finish foregrounds the Simcoe—lingering bitterness with a resin hop bite. High Tide has a medium to light body; there is obviously some tongue curling and puckering from the aggressive hop load, and some bite, but no real astringency. The carbonation is low although present. This is the best of the fresh hop beers from this year thus far; it is a fresh and clean beer with good malt and hop balance and bright, lively hop flavors across the palate. We’re making this one a Top 10 Best contender.

From the bottle: “Our version of a seasonal IPA brewed and dry hopped with freshly harvested Centennial and Simcoe flower hops. Fresh hops beers can only be brewed once a year. During this annual fall harvest, we use the hop cones at their peak of freshness bursting with flavor and aromas. Each fall we brew High Tide IPA in celebration of the new crop year. We hope this seasonal IPA will be a welcome addition to our lineup of distinguished beers and be sought by hop heads everywhere seeking something a little more extraordinary.”

From the Port website: “Each and every fall, we experience a coastal experience in San Diego known as the “Super High Tide.” This happens later in the Fall Season when the tidal swings reach a range of about 8 feet in difference between low and high tides. When this happens, there are days when the tide just gets too high and flattens out the surf. The lineups shut down and surfers are left to wait until the High Tide recedes. While waiting for the tides to shift in your favor, might we suggest a High Tide IPA? Brewed only once each year to coincide with the Hop Harvest in Yakima Washington, High Tide IPA is made with 180 lbs of Fresh Hops per batch that are plucked from the vines and sent straight to our brewery. We skip the whole drying and processing stage which means the hops are ultra fresh and full of flavors we can’t normally get. Like grapes, Hops are only harvested one time each year and as such, we make what we can when we get them. The recipe is very simple and basic with an emphasis on the variety of hops we select each year. Lately, we have selected Centennial and Chinook hops for our High Tide IPA. We used Centennial at the end of the boil and Chinook for the Dry Hopping. Now that we have brewed High Tide, we will sit and wait for the ultra High Tides of Fall to arrive knowing full well that we have sufficient stocks of great beer to get us through the flattest of sessions. We hope you’ll stock up too.”

ABV: 6.5%
OG: 1.062
FG: 1.012
Malts: 2-R0w
Kettle Hops: Amarillo pellets
Whirlpool: Centennial fresh hops
Dry Hop: Chinook fresh hops


Sunday, November 29, 2009

152. BridgePort Hop Harvest Ale

Our second beer from BridgePort; our last one was their IPA, which helped start us off on our delicious odyssey.

Described as a triple-hopped Imperial style fresh hop beer, Hop Harvest pours a hazy orange brown with a light tan head that laces the glass rather well. The nose is slightly floral, slightly burnt—with the burnt seeming to come from the hop astringency. Hop Harvest starts with a bready malt front reminiscent of British beers, and moves into a spicy bitterness with some grassy flavors, and finishes with caramel malt and light apple flavor (acetaldehyde?) and a rich resiny bitterness. The body is medium to light, which was rather surprisingly light for a 7.0% ABV beer, medium carbonation with not much bite, and a clean, refreshing finish with brightness not from the carbonation—more from the fresh hop flavor and tang of the beer. There is also some slight tongue curling from the higher hop levels. A well made fresh hop beer; there is some slight acetaldehyde in the nose and finish, but nothing overbearing, and it gets mixed in with the bitterness at the end. Hop Harvest does have a clean, young taste from the fresh hops that is delicious and refreshing, and even thirst quenching—we will certainly look for this one again next year.

I couldn’t find anything about Hop Harvest on the BridgePort website, but I did find the facebook page listing BridgePort’s Hop Harvest Release Party. I hope you all find that as scary as I do, although those are the kind of updates and invitations that might actually make me interested in facebook.

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 60


Saturday, November 28, 2009

151. Stone/Maui Brewing/Ken Schmidt Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

Since this is a collaboration beer, we’re not sure where to locate our focus—we’ve had Stone (Pale Ale and Vertical Epic 09.09.09) during our current run, and we’ve tried Maui Brewing Company beers in the past—they’re one of the innovators of craft beer can use, and they had an awesome t-shirt for Penguin Imperial Stout that we tried to buy when we were in Maui, but they only had extra smalls left. Sorry, but skin tight t-shirts are not our forte. And let’s not forget Ken Schmidt, who got to live every home brewer’s dream. Since that makes it 2-1 in favor of Hawaii over California, we’ll go with the island state—well, that and the Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, and coconut. Stone, you get props for the organizational focus, but beer sounds more Hawaiian than Californian.

Made by homebrewer Ken Schmidt, Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing, and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing, KCMC Porter has a chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt nose with toasted nut and macadamia aromas rounding out the profile. It pours a deep chocolate brown with orange highlights and a minimal tan head. KCMC Porter has a smooth rich malt front with some sweetness and chocolate, moving into roasty and coffee flavors, and finishing with very light coconut notes at the end, and also some light burnt/roasty notes & a little warmth from alcohol. The mouthfeel is rich with some creamy toastiness in the middle to end that mixes well with the coconut; the medium body and lower level carbonation keeps the focus on the flavors in the beer. The burnt aromas do increase in the nose with warmth. Overall, there were more burnt notes that we would’ve expected in a porter; still, nicely balanced, but not perfectly to style. KCMC Porter was better and more nuanced that we expected, although the sweetness does cover over a good portion of the coconut in the flavor profile.

ABV: 8.5%

Today was the final BJCP class, but I was flying home from Seattle and Thanksgiving so I’ve got nothing to report. The test is on December 5th; I’ll keep you all posted.


Friday, November 27, 2009

150. Aldergrove Brown Eyed Girl British Mild Ale

“Do you remember when we used to sing?”

This version of a British mild brown is from Steffan’s Aldergrove Brewery in Tulalip, WA. I’m guessing that Aldergrove is a fairly small brewery—their label looks about a half step up from being printed out on home computer. We found this at Bottleworks in Seattle.

Brown Eyed Girl has a light malt nose with a slight estery smell; it smells—quite literally, in fact—like a light brown ale. While it is brown colored, it is very clear, and, keeping with the British style, has very light carbonation. It begins with almost no front; there is a slight light faint sweetness that moves into some brown sugar, nutty flavors, and light spiciness, and it finishes with low levels of bitterness and rather dry. Brown Eyed Girl has a light body and very low carbonation; both qualities contribute to making this beer rather thirst quenching and quaffable: with the low ABV, you could easily drink a whole boatload of this stuff, which is most certainly the point with a mild. Although there is something a bit cola-ish in the beer, a taste that does increase with warmth, it is nonetheless complex and interesting, even for such a light beer—the smooth rounded malt profile in the middle hits all the right notes. For our money, this is easily the best 115 calories you are going to find in a twelve ounce bottle. To quote M.C. Hammer: “Proper.”

From the Aldergrove website: “Brown Eyed Girl is a classic ‘session’ beer that is full-flavored yet low in alcohol and low in residual sugars. With hints of chocolate and caramel it is deceptively dark yet refreshingly light on the tongue. Hmmm, is this beverage conflicted or is it complex? Try it and tell us what you think. As beer styles go, the mild is one of the least well-known. At it’s height of popularity in the UK it outsold all other styles combined. However, since the Industrial Revolution many more different ales were springing up and taking their turns at the top of the hill. Stronger brown ales, porters, bitters and pale ales eventually pushed the small mildly flavored session beer out of popularity. Session beers have gotten short shrift in the modern marketplace. Steffan believes this has only to do with the legacy of Prohibition. Since Prohibition the few American breweries that survived had to compete for scarce raw materials to make beer in large part due to the war-time shortages arrising from WWI & WWII. The dumbing-down of American beer resulted in the pale fizzy tasteless beverage that soon came to dominate the world as the post-war economy expanded. Instead of returning to making more robust beers that were popular in the prior century, brewers used the lower costs and increased profits to attempt to gobble up more market share. This type of beverage was typically cheap and of very low alcohol content, another legacy of Prohibition. Many local jurisdictions in America by law restricted the alcohol content of beer to 3.2% by weight. In these locations the only beer that could be had legally was by definition a session beer. Once the craft beer revolution began in the 1970’s the pendulum swung very far to the stronger end on the alcohol spectrum. Now that stronger beers are more widely available the desire for stronger beers has begun to become satiated. Not everyone who likes full-flavored beers wants to get blotto after two pints. Enter the craft-brewed full-flavored session beer.”

ABV: 3%
Calories: 115


Thursday, November 26, 2009

149. Hair of the Dog Ruth

From the Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, OR. Since we had this beer during our Thanksgiving day festivities, Elli and I got harassed by my family—“What are you writing that down for?” “Why do you need to keep notes on your beer?” “What are you, some sort of professional beer taster now?” They didn’t harass me out of any sense of bad will, but more because that is what my family does—we unmercifully give each other a whole rash of shit, whether deserved or not, at any given opportunity. Ah, family. I’m sure you can all relate.

Ruth has a bready malt and floral hop nose; it is a hazy yellow gold with a light white head. Starting with a bready and biscuity front with some additional malt sweetness, Ruth moves into a bitter middle with fruity and citrus hop flavor before finishing bitter with lingering spicy and resin hop flavors. Lighter bodied than one would expect, Ruth still has a decent substance; there is some bite from the carbonation, but contributes to rather than detracting from the beer. Overall, and excellent beer with a nice balance between malt and hops—the floral and citrus hop mix in the body is pleasant and refreshing, even as it is based on hop flavor. Our only questions would be in the classification—it’s American, and it’s Pale, but with that hop load, it seems to be bordering more on an American IPA that a Pale Ale.

From the Hair of the Dog website: “Ruth is a light and refreshing American Ale, made with pale malt and crystal hops. She was inspired by my Mother’s Mother, Granny Ruth because of her love and support. Don’t be Ruthless. Have one on Granny.”


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

148. Big Time Perspective IPA/Scarlet Fire IPA

We had these two beers at Big Time Brewing Company, which is located at 4133 University Way NE, Seattle, WA; I’ve been going here off and on pretty much since I was of legal age (ahem), or at least there abouts; they’ve been brewing for 21 years now, since 1988. We even took my friend Dave there for his bachelor party—he was dressed as a clown (and a really sketchy clown—see below), so that made it extra fun. This was Elli’s first visit to Big Time, so we decided to try a couple of their IPAs. As always, they had a solid beer line up and everything was delicious and fresh tasting.

Perspective IPA has a bready nose with light hop aroma, but nothing clearly distinct; with a hazy copper color and a creamy white head, it laces the glass nicely. Beginning with a malty front and some light biscuit and cracker flavors, Perspective shifts to bitterness in the middle along with some floral hop flavors, and ends dry with some lingering and well-balanced bitterness & some just plain hoppiness. The bitterness in the middle blossoms as the beer warms. Medium bodied, Perspective is creamy but also dry with a light tongue curling from the hops. The hop profile leaves it somewhere between English and American versions of an IPA—there is too much hop aroma and flavor to be English, but is a not quite as much as some of the classic American examples, but it is nonetheless well crafted and very enjoyable. Overall, a well balanced and drinkable beer; it has a good “on tap” flavor—fresh, and not too crisp—and is a very good house beer.

From the Big Time website: “Yet another of Big Time’s signature big, bold and assertive IPAs. Simcoe and Amarillo hops dominate this one. Clinton, from the Park Pub in Seattle’s Woodland Park neighborhood, famously described this beer as ‘this S#!% is off the hook!’”

ABV: 6.5%
OG: 16.8° P

Scarlet Fire IPA has a caramel malt nose mixed with citrus, grapefruit, and resin hop flavors; it is a hazy dark copper with a white head. It opens with a sweet caramel malt front with maybe some crystal malt sweetness, and moves into a bitter middle with resin, grapefruit, grassy, and floral hop flavors; Scarlet Fire finishes sweet, with a little tongue curling from the lingering bitterness. Scarlet Fire is medium bodied, has a bit of tongue curling astringency, and a bit softer feel on the palate than Perspective, possibly from a bit lower level of carbonation. The hop profile is much more aggressive than Perspective; although very enjoyable, it is a bit less drinkable. Most certainly a solid version of an American IPA; while the balance is skewed towards hops, the malt profile does carry its load here.

From the Big Time website: “It’s come to be known as our fifth regular beer. A little bit bolder than the Bhagwan, with a greater depth of hop character through extensive first wort hopping. It's got all the C hops stuff that we love, just more.”

ABV: 6.4%
OG: 16.5° P


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

147. Deschutes Inversion Ale

This is our second beer from Deschutes; the last one was their Red Chair IPA. Inversion starts with a hoppy, malty nose, with pine and resin aromas coming to the forefront. It has a deep orange copper color and a light tan head that laces the glass a little bit. Beginning with a soft malt front, Inversion quickly moves into big bitterness with more of the pine and resin flavors found in the nose before finishing with some lingering bitterness. The body is medium, with some carbonation bite and a fair amount of tongue curling from the large hop presence in the beer. An excellent example of an American IPA; it could use a bit more of a malt profile to better balance out the beer, but overall, Inversion is solid and good drinking.

From the bottle: see the picture below.

From the Deschutes website: “After several months of experimentation, energy and obsession, Deschutes Brewery’s brewers have triumphed once again. Inversion IPA's trio of American hops delivers an over-the-top nose with hints of orange and grapefruit. Inversion is then dry-hopped for seven days resulting in an added hoppy kick. To balance the hop character, Deschutes’ brewers used crystal and caraston malts that weave throughout the beer providing soft, complex caramel flavors. Just like clear days up on the mountain, Inversion IPA will deliver a path to higher ground. Inversion IPA is a phenomenal NW-style India Pale Ale, beckoning all beer drinkers and enticing IPA lovers to invert their world and find clarity above the routine of the everyday.”

ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 80
Calories: 228 per 12 oz. serving


Monday, November 23, 2009

146. McTarnahan’s Lip Stinger Farmhouse

Our second beer from McTarnahan’s; our last one was Grifter IPA, and the inspiration for our Vagabond-themed Beer Contest, which no one has yet bothered to enter. Go figure. Blogging really is like typing something up and then throwing it right into the trash can, isn’t it? Thanks, Robert Frost.

Lip Stinger is a Farmhouse Ale brewed with Peppercorns; it pours a hazy gold with a thin creamy head that leaves some slight lacing on the glass. The nose has a slightly Belgian sour aroma that is also slightly musty with some estery accents. There is also some candy sweetness mixes with some breadiness—most of this is very light and gentle, but it creates an interesting and enjoyable nose. The front is marked by a soft candy front with some spiciness (mainly coriander) and herbal notes; the middle moves into citrus flavors and some light bitterness before finishing dry with some tartness and peppery spiciness. Citrus does run across the entire flavor profile. Lip Stinger has a light body with bright, lively carbonation that bites in the middle to draw out some creamy citrus flavors; it is also dry from being well-attenuated. Overall, Elli calls this one of the more drinkable saisons we’ve come across—she’d drink it of her own choosing. It’s not the most complex, but is very enjoyable and drinkable, with solid, interesting flavors.

From the McTarnahan’s website: “Lip Stinger is an effervescent and rustic farmhouse ale. This limited release ale is fermented with cracked peppercorn to introduce a spicy nose and warming mouth feel that will deliver a flavor sensation that is endlessly interesting. Enjoy the heat….and no pouting!!”

ABV: 4.8%
IBU: 32
Malt: 2 Row, Pilsen, & Wheat
Hops: Saaz & Mt. Hood
Spice: Malaysian and Indian 4 pepper blend


Sunday, November 22, 2009

145. North Coast Red Seal Ale

Our third beer from North Coast; the other two are Cru d’Or Organic Belgian Style Ale and Old Rasputin XII. We had this on tap at South Park Tavern, always an enjoyable venue for beer drinking fun.

Red Seal pours a rich copper with a creamy ivory head. The nose is caramel mixed with light toastiness, and is accompanied by spicy and fruity hop aromas. The flavor starts with a clean malt sweetness followed by caramel flavors in the front; the middle is bready with a good dose of bitterness from the hops, and it finishes with dry, chalky, and toffee flavors along with some lingering spicy bitterness. Medium bodied, Red Seal has a chewy, creamy, and rich mouthfeel; the carbonation is medium—it rounds more that shapes the profile. A decent and enjoyable beer, one light enough for an entire evening of drinking, and interesting enough to keep you wanting more.

From the North Coast website: “Malt and hops are beautifully married in this full-bodied, copper-red Pale Ale. Red Seal is generously hopped for a long, spicy finish. An excellent accompaniment to grilled meats and rich sauces.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 42


Saturday, November 21, 2009

144. Bell’s Sparkling Ale

Bell’s is back; this one was one neither of us had tried before, so we had to give it a run. This is beer number 7 from Bell’s: our list includes Winter Wheat, Christmas Ale, Third Coast Ale, Oberon, Octoberfest, and Two Hearted.

Sparkling Ale is a brilliantly clear yellow gold with a light white head that profusely laces the glass. The nose is grainy and bready along with a good dose of Belgian-style yeast esters, mainly banana and some sourness. Sparkling Ale starts with a small bit of acidity followed by a sweet dry malt and candy sweetness in the front; the middle moves into fruit—including apple, pear, and strawberry-like flavors from brighter fruits—along with some metallic tangs and spicy flavors, and closes with some bitterness mixed with candy sweetness and light alcohol sweetness. Sparkling Ale has a medium body and a dry but sweet mouthfeel mixed with a medium carbonation bite. The body is lightened by the carbonation, although there is a bit of creamy fruitiness as well. A good beer, but not as complex or rich as some Belgian triples. Also, we’re not sure what makes this an American Triple, besides being made in America.

From the bottle: “Fill your glass and toast your friends with this special brew. Our take on a ‘glass of bubbly,’ Sparkling Ale is an American Triple—light in color with a subtle fruit body.”

There is nothing about Sparkling Ale on the Bell’s website.

ABV: 9.0%

Today’s BJCP class focused on answering the Exam Recipe Question. We concentrated on breaking the question into the component parts—giving style parameters, identifying the basic brewing parameters, selecting the proper quantity and style of ingredients, and selecting the proper procedures for the style (mash procedures, for example)—and then how to best calculate grain and hop volumes and types to correspond with the assigned style. We practiced constructing a couple of recipes, and talked about the need to keep the recipe simple—unless you know the ins and outs of a style, extra information will probably bite you in the ass.

Our beer sampling today involved sours and a smoked beer:
17B. Flanders Red Ale: Duchesse de Bourgogne
17C. Flanders Brown Ale (Oud Bruin): Liefman’s Oud Bruin
17D. Lambic: no good examples—the Boon Kriek did double duty
17E. Gueuze: Boon Gueuze
17F. Fruit Lambic: Boon Kriek
22. Smoked: Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbier


Friday, November 20, 2009

143. Left Hand Fade to Black

Our second beer from Left Hand (the last one was their Milk Stout); we had this on tap at the Trolley Stop for Left Hand night; one of the Left hand brewers was in town for this, although no one seemed to really want to talk to him, as small talk fares poorly when confronted by the man who had a hand in making your beer. Oh, and Fade to Black is a Foreign Extra Stout.

Fade to Black starts with a roasted burnt malt smell, along with some chocolate as well, and has a deep black and brown color (sorry—the bar was dark and that’s the best we could do). It starts with some roasted malt flavors with sweetness and chocolate, moves into burnt roasty and light coffee flavors with some biscuit, and finishes dry with some bitterness and some lingering burnt notes. The mouthfeel is creamy, well-rounded and balanced in flavor. Very even and smooth—the sweetness and dryness work very well together in this beer. There is minimal carbonation present, but very little bite from it. Overall, a well-crafted beer. Smooth and clean with no real noticeable alcohol warmth or flavor—the alcohol is well-hidden for an 8.5% ABV beer.

From the Left Hand website: “Welcome to Fade to Black. That time of year when the day seems to fade away. Drifting further into the darkness with each passing day. Pours black with licorice, espresso bean, molasses, and black cardamom notes that give way to a feeling of self loathing, burnt opportunities and smoked relationships.” Way to make that beer sound like it is full of fun—because what I look for in a beer is a feeling of self loathing.

ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 30
OG: 18° P
Malts: Pale 2-row, Roasted Barley, Black Malt, Chocolate Malt, Cara-Aroma, & Malted Wheat
Hops: Magnum & U.S. Goldings


Thursday, November 19, 2009

142. The Bruery Orchard White

Our second beer from the Bruery; our last one was the Saison Rue. Orchard White pours a clear pale straw with an effervescent white head; the nose is fruity, with pear and citrus aromas, and some light spicy yeast notes. The front begins with sweet malt and fruit—besides the apple and floral flavors, there is a general fruitiness to it, most likely produced by the yeast. From there, Orchard White moves in candy sweetness in the middle, and finishes dry, lightly cidery, and very clean—almost like a brut champagne—with a slight sourness too. The mouthfeel is light and dry, with a bright, bubbly carbonation that is clean and fresh on the palate. A clean, bright beer overall; Orchard White is very reminiscent of a French cider or even a California sparkling white wine—it is that dry. There is a more complex fruit nose and flavor profile, but in terms of mouthfeel, it’s pretty close to a dead match. Very light body and malt profile, although this increases slightly as the beer warms, along with the spiciness evident in the beer—the coriander and other spice flavors pick up as the beer warms.

From the Bruery website: “Orchard White is an unfiltered, bottle conditioned Belgian-style witbier. This hazy, straw yellow beer is spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender added to the boil and whirlpool. A spicy, fruity yeast strain is used to add complexity, and rolled oats are added for a silky texture.”

ABV: 5.7%
IBU: 15


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

141. Scuttlebutt Porter

Our first beer from Scuttlebutt Brewing Company in Everett, WA. They do start with a definition on their opening page, which we always appreciate: Scut*tle*butt (skut’l-but) n. 1. Nautical. A drinking fountain on a sailing ship. 2. Slang. Idle, often sensational and groundless talk about other such as might be passed at a scuttlebutt. Syn. Gossip. 3. Proper Noun. The name given to Cynthia L. Barrett by her fun loving father prior to her birth more than one half century ago. 4. Geographical. The name given to a micro-brewery on Everett’s waterfront by its owner to placate his wife regarding their financial security being forsaken to invest in a harebrained brewery at a time in their lives when things should be a little less hectic.

Scuttlebutt Porter has a chocolate malty nose that is rich and slightly roasty; it pours a deep opaque brown with a creamy head that laces the glass well. Chocolate and roasted malt flavors make up most of the front; there is a slightly biscuit malt flavor that emerges in the middle along with some perceptible hop bitterness, although in very low quantities, and finishing with a return of some chocolate and more roastiness, although the chocolate is flatter and less sweet at the end—tastes more like carob with dry and chalky flavors rather than the sweetness of the front. There is also some slight bitterness in the end—we’re not sure if this is in relation to the hops or roasted malts, but we think it’s the hops. The body is light, although rich in flavor; there is a creamy mouthfeel that is enhanced by the minimal carbonation, which is pretty low and provides little bite. A very drinkable beer overall; it is light and enjoyable enough for a whole night of drinking, especially as it is not overpowering on the palate. Scuttlebutt Porter could have a more complex malt profile—it is good but a bit bland—and maybe a touch more hops, but that might change this into something else.

From the Scuttlebutt website: “Full bodied with a creamy, chocolate, roast coffee finish.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 20
Hops: Cascade


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

140. North Coast Old Rasputin XII

This is our second beer from North Coast; our last beer was Cru d’Or Organic Belgian Style Ale. North Coast’s Old Rasputin XII is an oak aged version of Old Rasputin made to celebrate their twelfth anniversary. Elli was initially skeptical about this beer—as she informed me, “I don’t drink beer to get flavors like this; I eat ice cream to get flavors like this.” She did modify her initial response as we progressed, but not completely. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here...

Old Rasputin XII is a deep chocolate brown color in the glass; there are red highlights when held up to the light, although you have to work a bit to see them, and a creamy tan head that laces the glass nicely. This beer also has some legs to it; it gathers and runs down the side of the glass when swirled much like wine, pointing to a higher alcohol content. The nose confirms this: with the oak and wood aromas comes a distinct warm alcohol aroma that marries nicely with the fresh rich vanilla from the oak. Old Rasputin XII begins with a chocolate & dark roasted malt sweetness in the front, moves into a big oaky middle with rounded wood and vanilla flavors, and then finishes dry with some alcohol warmth on the tongue. There are also some cocoa and chalky/alkaline flavors starting in the middle that follow on through the close and mix well with the dryness at the end. The body is medium with some slickness and stickiness in the mouthfeel, although Old Rasputin XII is also very creamy, a creaminess that mixes well with the oak and wood flavors to create some pleasant tannic puckering that, while revealing the youth of the beer is still enjoyable right now. The big oakiness also probably contributes to the dryness at the end of the beer; the nose does get noticeably oakier as the beer warms. A well crafted beer overall; the oak adds a nice complexity to this beer, although, as noted above, it does taste a bit young—when the oak, vanilla, chocolate, and alcohol all marry in a couple of years, this beer is going to be delicious.

From the North Coast website: “For the past few years, barrel-aged Old Rasputin has been released in such limited quantities that it has been available only at the brewery retail shop. However, we have received so many requests for this beer that for the 12th anniversary, NCBC produced enough Old Rasputin XII to put into broader distribution. There’s certainly not a flood of it, but it is available in select areas. We guarantee that the Old Rasputin XII will be worth the search. It is amazing stuff. Aging in oak whiskey barrels adds a level of complexity that amplifies the espresso/chocolate notes in the flavor profile and takes this unique beer to new heights.”

ABV: 11.2%


Monday, November 16, 2009

139. Full Sail Grandsun of Spot IPA

Grandsun of Spot IPA is from Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River, OR; this beer is part of their Brewmaster’s Reserve 2009 series.

Grandsun of Spot pours a burnished copper with an ivory head; the nose is both bready and hoppy with earthy, spicy, and resiny hop aromas. There are a lot of hops across the entire flavor profile; while there is an initial start to sweetness in the opening, the bite and tang of bitterness starts almost immediately, rising to a sharper bitterness in the middle with grassy and resiny hop flavors emerging, and closing with some sweetness and a return of bitterness coupled with some lingering astringency—there is more sweetness evident at the end than there was in the beginning. The initial mouthfeel is soft and dry, due both to hops and malt; the carbonation gives some bite in the middle and helps build the overall profile. The puckering and tongue curling from the bog hop profile comes with some astringency and low levels of tannic bite. The malt and the sweetness comes through in the front as the beer warms. The balance of this beer is to the hop side over the malt—there’s not quite enough malt backbone to carry off Grandsun of Spot’s big hop presence, and the balance could use better coordination to make the malt better compliment the hops, although the sweetness of the honey malt is a pleasant addition. The aggressive hop profile is enjoyable and works well, we just want a bit more malt to help carry the hop punch.

From the bottle: “The next brew in our summer ‘Sun’ series that began with Sunspot IPA. Grandsun is brewed in the aggressive IPA style with Columbus and Zeus hops accentuating a malt blend featuring Munich and Honey malts for a full malt flavor.”

There’s nothing on the Full Sail website for the Brewmaster’s Reserve 2009, but they do have their listing for 2010, which includes Spotless, their newest version in the Sunspot line: “Continuing our summer sun series, Spotless is named to honor our sun that has been spotless for over a year. This aggressive IPA has a rich golden color with a fruity finish. The beer is well hopped to 70 with Willamette and Zeus hops ending the beer a bright bitterness and a rich hop flavor.”

ABV: 6.0%


Sunday, November 15, 2009

138. Boulevard Saison-Brett

Our first beer from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, MO; this one is No. 5 in the Smokestack Series, and the bottle reads no. 01047 of 11925.

Saison-Brett is a hazy golden color with a pillowy white head and effervescent carbonation—bubbly and bright, even in appearance. The nose brings with it citrus, fruit, lemon, yeast esters, and candy, along with some light hop aromas. Starting very Belgian, Saison-Brett has a sweet candy front that is simultaneously dry; the middle brings some hop bitterness and low levels of funkiness before finishing with citrus, lemon, and some light metallic flavors. The initial sweetness continues throughout the flavor profile. The body is medium with a bright lively carbonation that is bright and sharp on the palate, helping to enhance the dryness of the beer. With warmth, the Belgian esters increase in the nose; the bottom half of the bottle had some sharp tannic bite and an increased funkiness as it warmed—both balanced will with the Belgian and saison characteristics of the beer. Overall, a well crafted and delicious beer.

From the bottle: “Our gold medal-winning Saison was the starting point for this limited edition ale. It was then dry hopped, followed by bottle conditioning with various yeasts, including Brettanomyces, a wild strain that imparts a distinctive earthy quality. Though this farmhouse ale was given three months of bottle age prior to release, further cellaring will continue to enhance the ‘Brett’ character, it that’s what you’re after.”

There is nothing about the Saison-Brett on the Boulevard website, although they have information on the Saison. Go figure. I can tell you it is currently #77 on Beer Advocate’s Top Beers on Planet Earth. How’s that for a description?

ABV: 8.5%


Saturday, November 14, 2009

137. Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

Our second beer from Weyerbacher; our last one was their Harvest Ale. We had this on tap @ South Park Tavern.

Starting with a rich pine and resin hop nose, Double Simcoe IPA pours a deep copper orange with a light white head. The dry malt front moves almost immediately into the bitterness of the middle, with floral, citrus, pine, and resin flavors and some caramel malt sweetness drawing things together, and ending dry with a pleasant lingering bitterness. Double Simcoe has a soft creamy medium bodied mouthfeel; the carbonation is light, but sparkly in the middle, and helps set up the big bitter finish. There is some slight puckering and dryness on the palate from the large hop load, especially at the end. Overall, a very enjoyable beer, although not for everyday drinkin’—this beer showcases Simcoe’s strengths and complexities quite effectively. And also very American.

From the Weyerbacher website: “Double Simcoe IPA, 9.0% abv, is our incredible reward for Hopheads seeking the intense hop flavor in a Double IPA, without the harshness. It is brewed untilizing only the Simcoe hop variety. This hybrid hop, developed and trademarked by Select Botanicals Group, LLC in the year 2000, was created for its high alpha acid content, maximum aromatic oils, and low cohumulone (harshness) levels so that brewers can really put a lot of ’em in a beer and not create an overly harsh taste.

Double Simcoe IPA is a full-flavored ale with hints of pineapple and citrus upfront, a good malt backbone in the middle, and a clean finish that doesn’t linger too long. Check it out, and you’ll soon see why everyone’s talking about it. Double Simcoe is available year-round.”

ABV: 9.0%

Today’s BJCP class focused on the brewing process. Having discussed the ingredients (I missed yeast last week) and some of the component parts of brewing, we looked at how to put all of it together. Adding to our examination of mashing, we discused lautering, specifically recirculation (vorlauf) and sparging, and further discussed the multiple functions of boiling, including isomerizing alpha acids from the hops, coagulating and precipitating wort proteins and tannins, and evaporating undesirable aromatics. We rounded this out be examining the different ways of chilling hot wort quickly and efficiently, and finished by talking about packaging, maturing, and carbonating beer. Our sampling was also a bit more eclectic; because some of our classes got condensed, we mixed and matched with the tasting:

10B. American Amber: North Coast Red Seal Ale
10C. American Brown: Bell’s Best Brown
11C. Northern English Brown: Hobgoblin
16C. Saison: Dupont Saison
16D. Biere de Garde: At. Amands French Country Ale
19A. Ole Ale: Fuller’s 1845
19B. English Barleywine: Thomas Hardy’s Ale
19C. American Barleywine: Bigfoot Sierra Nevada


Friday, November 13, 2009

136. Snoqualmie Falls Harvest Moon Ale

Our first beer from Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company in Snoqualmie, WA.

Harvest Moon is described on the label as a German Style Festbier; it has a light bready malt nose with a cloudy caramel orange color (I did inadvertently dump the yeast from the bottle into the glass, so my bad) and an ivory head that laces the glass. There is some sweetness in the front of the beer that mixes well with the bready and toasty malt flavors; the middle has low levels of bitterness and an emphasis on the bready malt flavors, and Harvest Moon closes with some lingering candy sweetness, but also dry. The mouthfeel is creamy and chewy with a medium body; the carbonation helps round out the beer, and rolls well across the tongue. Well-balanced overall, but harvest Moon has a bit bigger of a body than most of the other fest and Oktoberfest beers we’ve had this year; it is good, but not very lager-esque at all, and a bit sticky in the overall mouthfeel—none of the crispness you’d expect. While not as finished or refined as it could be, Harvest Moon is still an interesting and enjoyable beer.

From the Snoqualmie Falls website: “We used highly kilned Munich, Two-row Pale and light Crystal malts to create a Harvest Moon Festbier, a fire-orange beer flavored with German noble hops. Enjoy the rich color and exceptionally clean, satisfying taste of this seasonal ale with your favorite foods.”

ABV: 5.3%
OG: 1.056
IBU: 24


Thursday, November 12, 2009

135. Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale

Our 9th beer from Great Divide: the list includes Hibernation, Samurai Rice, Hoss, Oak Aged Yeti, Fresh Hop, Double Wit, 15th Anniversary DIPA, and Denver Pale Ale. They’re still in Denver, CO. And we’re still not...

Wild Raspberry opens with a fruity, berry, musty, and biscuity nose—the raspberry aroma does increase with warmth. Color-wise, Wild Raspberry is a purple-ish brown with an ivory head that laces the glass well. The front of the beer features light malt and biscuit sweetness with some initial raspberry fruit flavor; the sweetness and fruit drop in the middle, which is otherwise rather neutral, but do reassert themselves at the end—especially the fruit sweetness—accompanied by a dry malt finish. Wild Raspberry has a medium body that is a bit sticky, and the ending fruit flavor is a bit cloying, although the clean and sharp carbonation helps reduce the effect. Overall, a well crafted beer, but not really to our interests (and I say this as a man who loves a well done fruity wheat beer); it is good for what it is, but a bit too sticky with the fruit flavors.

From the bottle: “Wild Raspberry is a unique, thirst-quenching ale fermented with real red and black raspberries. Its balance of malt and fruit flavors make it a beer lover’s fruit beer.”

ABV: 5.6%


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

134. Bell’s Winter White Ale

Another beer from Bell’s—liquid gold in a bottle. Or in the case of this beer, hazy, cloudy gold. During the winter months, this beer gets regular usage—it is good holiday drinking, light and refreshing.

Winter White has a musty and lightly grainy nose with low levels of fruit esters—slight banana—and some clove spiciness along with citrus aromas. It pours a hazy straw color with a tight white head. The front is grainy and bready with some wheat in the background, and moves into some citrus fruit and slight banana flavors in the middle before ending spicy. The light the medium body is fresh and bright on the palate although there is some creaminess as well; the carbonation bite lightens the beer, contributing to its crisp character. Easy drinking and well balanced, with plenty of hefeweizen characteristics to carry the beer along.

From the Bell’s website: “A Wheat Ale brewed with American Wheat and a proprietary blend of Hefe and classic Belgian-style yeasts. A refreshing winter alternative created from the subtle fusion of two classic flavors.”

ABV: 5.0%
OG: 1.052