Monday, September 27, 2010

414. Two Brothers Atom Smasher

Our first Oktoberfest-esque beer of the new year, this one from Two Brothers. The long litany of beers from Two Brothers includes Hop Juice, Long Haul Session Ale, Resistance IPA, Domaine DuPage, Bitter End, Heavier-Handed, Moaten, and Cane & Ebel. This makes nine, unless our math has gone horribly, horribly astray somewhere. Which is possible.

Atom Smasher pours a hazy copper caramel color with a thin white head and a fruity, oaky nose—it is more subtle and gentle than American oak, although we’re not sure where the fruitiness is coming from. There is a bit of sweet maltiness to the nose as well, but it is secondary to the fruit and oak aromas. The body starts with a slightly sweet malt character that is both restrained and soft on the palate; in the middle, more of the fruit and oak combination detected in the nose emerges, along with a slight hop spiciness. There is a slight juiciness to the finish that seems in contrast to usual parameters of the style, with a drying oak bite that cleans up the palate but does leave a bit of lingering spiciness and fruitiness on the tongue and the back of the throat. Atom Smasher has a medium body that has a slight cloying sticky sweetness to the mouthfeel (although the oakiness helps mitigate and minimize the cloying part) and a medium to low carbonation that gives a slight zesty touch in the final third while still feeling somewhat under-carbonated. We tend to like Two Brothers, but this beer did not really interest either of us—I guess we can see what they’re doing, but we’re not really sure it worked out the way it should. Overall, slightly disappointing for a Two Brothers beer.

From the bottle: “With a little tip of the hat to our scientific, pioneering neighbors we created the innovative Atom Smasher limited run artisan beer. A hefty, full bodied lager reminiscent of Marzen beers from days gone by. However, this beer is aged in our oak foudres to add a complexity unmatched by the imported versions of Oktoberfest beers today. Just add Lederhosen! ”

ABV: 7.7%
IBU: 22.6

Everyone loves a Lederhosen reference!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

413. Anchor Small Beer

Ah, Anchor Brewing, and their Small Beer. So dreamy. I always liked the idea behind the beer, and the fact that it is a refreshing and thirst quenching beer helps out too. Plus, the small beer in the big bottle is a nice visual joke. Well, if you have a sense of humor. This is our fifth beer from Anchor Brewing, including Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Anchor Steam and Christmas Ale 2009.

Anchor Small Beer pours a clear caramel copper with a creamy ivory head that leaves abundant lacing on the glass; the nose is creamy and grainy with a touch of malty sweetness in the background. Not surprisingly, the flavors in body match those in the nose, opening grainy with some malt sweetness before giving way to a gently bitter middle. The finish is dry with a touch of sharpness (not from the carbonation, but possibly from grain or the hops) and some lingering bitterness, although not much. At the same time, the mouthfeel has substance and some chewiness, with less corresponding flavor than one would expect—flavor is light while the chewiness is more pronounced, although the body is still medium. There is also some creaminess that lingers on the palate, accentuated by the soft, gentle carbonation. Anchor Small Beer is a deliciously easy-drinking beer that goes down crisp and smooth, and leaves you wanting more. I’ve loved this beer for a long time; I only wish it was more readily accessible in Ohio.

From the bottle: “The tradition of brewing two distinct beers from one mash has existed for thousands of years, and for centuries the term ‘small beer’ was used in English to describe the lighter and weaker second beer. By association, the term came to mean something of little importance. We make our Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from the rich first runnings of an all-malt mash, and Anchor Small Beer is our attempt to duplicate the ‘small beers’ of old by sparging that same mash: sprinkling warm water over the Old Foghorn mash after the first wort has run off, thereby creating a second, lighter brew from the resulting thinner wort. Technically, both beers are ‘ales’ because they are made with top fermenting yeast. We believe you will find Anchor Small Beer delicious—similar to what modern brewers call a ‘bitter’—and we hope you will also enjoy the idea of reviving an ancient brewing tradition, which is something of great importance.”

ABV: 3.3%
Malt: 2-row


Friday, September 17, 2010

412. BBC Bourbon Barrel Bière de Mars, BBC Bourbon Barrel Heine Brothers Coffee Stout, and New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

Tonight I headed on over to Jeffrey’s to meet up with him and Jeff for some good ol’ fashioned beer sampling. We had kind of an odd mix for tonight’s drinking smorgasbord, but all three were tasty in their own right. The two beers from BBC paired nicely both because they were from the same Special Reserve Series, but the Bière de Mars and the New Glarus were, while not similar, very complimentary. At least they were once the Bière de Mars warmed up. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Previously, we’ve sampled Heine Brothers Coffee Stout (the unoaked version), Rye IPA 75, Brandy Barrel Aged Queen’s Knickers and American Pale Ale from Bluegrass Brewing Company, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale from New Glarus.

BBC Bourbon Barrel Bière de Mars
This beer has a super-oaky nose—the creamy vanilla oak sweetness overpowered pretty much everything else here. It starts with a sweet front that dries out quickly (it tastes like via the oak, since it is even creeping in here), opening up the middle to a creamy oaky bomb that continues on into the finish with tannic flavors that linger on the palate. At this point, it was interesting and tasty, and the group consensus was that it needed to be aged a bit to take some of the oakiness out of the body. However, as it warmed, the oakiness faded into the background, allowing some of the Bière de Mars characteristics to emerge. Here, the creamy vanilla hints of the oak merged well with the dry malt sweetness and Belgian yeast character. While I thought it was good before, the nuance that developed was delicious and downright impressive. Kudos, BBC.

ABV: 8.5%

BBC Bourbon Barrel Heine Brothers Coffee Stout
After the gratuitous snickering at the name of the coffee makers, we poured our second beer. The nose was a rich mix of nuttiness, dark chocolate, and coffee. Beginning with sweet chocolate, Heine Brothers Coffee Stout moved into a drier middle that featured a nutty rich coffee flavor before the slight chalkiness and roastiness of the finish. I forgot to take more notes because the Bière de Mars was finally starting to warm up, and was getting a lot tastier. However, this beer also got better with some warmth, although my nod for the best beer of the evening goes to our next beer...

From justdrinkbeer: “An oatmeal stout brewed with English roasted barley and caramunich malts to impart a roasty and slightly sweet malt flavor. The Heine Brothers specially roasted organic Mexican coffee is added in two doses. A ration is stirred into the hot unfermented wort to extract coffee flavor. Then freshly brewed coffee is also added after fermentation is complete to impart a fresh coffee flavor and aroma. An additional conditioning in Woodford Reserve Borubon Barrels for 90 days compliments this already robust beer with notes of bourbon and oak. ”

ABV: 7.5%

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
Pouring a light bubbly cherry, Wisconsin Belgian Red has a very sweet cherry nose mixed with candy sweetness underneath. The body is light, with spritzy bright candy sweetness and cherry flavors blended beautifully in the body. The finish is dry and fruity while the body light, smooth, and clean—there is an evenness and balance across the profile in both flavor and mouthfeel that was enjoyable. Very light and very drinkable—it tastes like melted cherry Otter Pops, but in a good way. This is one of the more interesting beers I’ve tried in a while—I’m glad Jeffrey decided to bust it out, as I had never tried it before, and it was far, far better than I anticipated. Damn, that was some tasty beer. And already the scheming to score some more begins...

From the New Glarus website: “You hold the marriage of wine and beer. Belgian Red is a tapestry of flavor. This beer is brewed with whole Montmorency Cherries, Wisconsin Farmed Wheat and Belgian Roasted Barleys, lagered in oak tanks and balanced by Hallertau hops we aged in our brewery one full year. Over a pound of Door County Cherries in every bottle makes this beer uniquely ‘Wisconsin.’ So unique, in fact, that we applied for a patent. Expect this beer to be ruby red, with a medium body that is highly carbonated and intense with cherry flavor and bouquet. Serve your friends Belgian Red in a brandy snifter or champagne flute and toast life with beer from the land of Wisconsin.”

ABV: 4.0%

Also, the funniest comment about beer I’ve read in a long long time: “Whew. You can’t swing a dead cat in this state without knocking over a firkin of mild.” Dag. Thanks, Jeff. You made me spit out some beer while reading, which is always the sign of good times and clever verbiage.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dayton Beerfest Beer Judging

Today was Beerfest, the DRAFT yearly shindig. And since I am a sucker for volunteering, I ended up being the Cellar Master. This meant I was in charge of the stewards, and handing out beers to those stewards to give to the judges. With 186 entries, that meant there was a lot of beer to shepherd around—let’s see you keep 186 beers straight during the course of a single day. I didn’t think so, Mr. Wizard. And yes, I am gendering my insults male. If my use of specifically male-focused language to bag on what I see as predominantly masculine behavior patterns really bothers you, I suggest you address your concerns to me in the form of a sestina, a rondeau, or maybe even a haiku. How about a villanelle? You can even try some heroic couplets if you feel your larger versification skills are on the outs. Just as long as it is poetic, and not a limerick. Because, let’s be honest, clever and witty repartee is always welcome. And after spending a day doling out beer, some of that is needed. That, and drinking a couple of the left over entries. Hey, I wasn’t judging beer all day, so I needed it. And they went down smooth...


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

411. Three Floyds Blackheart English Style IPA

While we’ve already tried this beer once before, the new label art (well, and the fact that we found some more of it) means that we figured the beer was good for another entry. While we’ll not be so bold to just cut and paste the old notes in again, the two beers do share some similarities, although this one has a bit fresher hop flavor across the beer profile. One thing that hasn’t changed—while we’ve got a new label here, there is still a fair amount of the creepy vibe in the label art. As with all things Three Floyds, however, the beer is a delicious treat. Hooray for Three Floyds. Oh, and we’ve previously tried Dark Lord 2010, Rabbid Rabbit, BrooDoo Harvest Ale, Brian Boru, Gumballhead Wheat, Robert the Bruce, Dreadnaught, Black Sun Stout and Blackheart IPA. Since we’ve hit up Blackheart before, we’ll call this one 9 ½.

Blackheart pours slightly cloudy and is the color of bread crust with a thin ivory head that hangs around and laces the glass decently. The nose is bready with a good dose of spicy resin hop aroma; flavors start dry with bread and biscuit maltiness coupled with some early hop flavors—like with the nose, spicy and resiny—that bleed into the middle, along with a decent amount of bitterness. The resiny and spicy hop flavor runs through the middle and into the end; there is a return of bread crust malt flavor in the finish, but also a good amount of bitterness that lingers on the palate. With the bitterness, there are light oak and acorn flavors that mix with the hops. Blackheart has a creamy but drying mouthfeel with a chewy medium body; there is a bit of alcohol warmth at the finish, particularly as the beer warms, although it is partially masked by the lingering hop bitterness. The carbonation is medium, but does contribute, along with the hops, to some of the dryness in the mouthfeel. This version of Blackheart is quite similar to the last; the main differences are more hop flavor across the profile, and less directly apparent oak flavor, which are probably connected, with the hop flavor covering some of the oak components. Nonetheless, Blackheart is still delicious and enjoyable.

From the label: “This beer is Three Floyds’ U.K. IPA brewed with all English ingredients and aged on toasted oak. An artistic collaboration with our friends Tim Lehi & Jeff Rassier at Blackheart Tattoo in San Francisco. Check it!”

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 70


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

410. Bell’s The Oracle DIPA

Another oddity and rarity from Bell’s; this was one of Belmont Party Supply’s special releases for Dayton Beer Week (I believe it was Friday). So I sat on it for a week or two. So sue me. This is also the beer that makes it a full baker’s dozen from Bell’s: we’ve tried Oarsman, Bourbon Barrel Hell Hath No Fury Ale, Batch 9000, Hopslam, Cherry Stout, Sparkling Ale, Winter White, Christmas Ale, Third Coast, Oberon, Octoberfest, and Two Hearted. I told you it wouldn’t take us long...

The Oracle pours a clear caramel copper with a light ivory head that leaves more lacing on the glass than one would initially suspect. The nose is very hoppy, with spicy, resin, pine, and evergreen dominating, and there is also some fruitiness buried in the back—primarily apple and pear—and some caramel malt. The apple and pear in the nose disappears rather quickly, leaving the hoppiness to run rampant. The Oracle opens with a dry caramel sweetness that is quickly overtaken by hop flavor, even in the front—spicy and resin hop flavors quickly come in on the caramel, and run into the bitterness of the middle. There is a fair amount of pine and evergreen hop flavor that comes out in the middle along with the bitterness, with both the spicy and resin flavors carrying over from the front and running on into the finish. The finish has a small amount of malt sweetness that re-emerges in the finish—more candy than caramel—that works well with the spicy bitterness that lingers on the palate. There is a bit of grassiness, but it works well overall with the beer—nothing distracting. The medium to heavy body easily hides the higher alcohol content—there is only a slight touch of warmth at the end, and even that could still be from the hops—while the carbonation is medium. Along with the hops, the carbonation helps dry out the beer and get it to finish smooth on the palate. The Oracle has a different hop profile than most Bell’s beers—spicier and with more resin and pine than either Hop Slam or Two Hearted. Nonetheless, an excellent and well-balanced beer that makes for smooth and easy drinking. Probably too easy, which is another way of saying this beer will bite you in the ass if you’re not careful. But damn good drinking.

From the bottle: “A double IPA that is sure to make you as all-knowing as Pythia. It’s just a matter of interpretation.”

From the Bell’s website: “Our take on the West Coast-style Double India Pale Ale, The Oracle places hop intensity first & foremost, making only the slightest concession to malt & balance. The fireworks start with the floral aromatic punch of two separate dry-hop sessions with Amarillo and NZ Pacific Jade. Resinous, citrusy hop flavors mixed with aggressive bitterness from a massive kettle addition deliver on that aromatic promise.”

ABV: 10.0%
OG: 1.088
Batch Number: 9901


Friday, September 3, 2010

409. Jeffrey McElfresh Imperial IPA

While this beer concludes Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week, I am certain that Jeffrey has many more excellent beers on the horizon. Thank again, Jeffrey, for all of the delicious beer, and for making this week better.

Jeffrey’s Imperial IPA beer pours the color of bourbon—it is a dead ringer when held up next to my bottle of Old Potrero—and is crystal clear. Like really clear. How the hell did you do that, Jeffrey? The head is eggshell (with some lacing), and the nose is hoppy goodness—I get a spicy, pine-y, and resin-y evergreen with citrus and a bit of grassiness in the back. There are probably other softer aromas, but the big fragrance of spicy pine (Simcoe?) overpowers and drowns them out. Flavors start out hoppy, transition into hoppy, and then finish hoppy. OK, not completely, but pretty damn close. There is a touch of malt sweetness in the front that is hidden by some of the slightly herbal hops flavors dancing around in the front; the middle kicks you in the teeth with the bitterness (but in a good way), as well as bringing the pine, resin, and spice hop aroma from the nose into a living presence in your mouth. There is a brief flash of creaminess and sweetness along with a bit of bite from the carbonation in the turn to the finish, which is a long slow run down bitterness lane—it both builds and lingers pleasantly on the back of the throat. The body is medium to heavy with a clean but slightly sharp mouthfeel. There is a decent amount of alcohol warmth in the back of the mouth along with small amounts of hop astringency and grassiness. While the heat is more intrusive than the astringency, the overall beer is still delicious and enjoyable, although I wouldn’t recommend housing it down—there is a slight flush forming on my cheeks as I finish this delicious tidbit. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that means this beer has a solid punch. I’d like to see what happens to this beer with some age. While the hop complexity might drop out, the lessening of the alcohol warmth and the marrying of the alcohol with the other components would further round the beer. But let’s save the philosophical meanderings, and instead offer mad kudos to Jeffrey for being the brewing dynamo that he is. I’ll make you a deal Jeffrey—you keep brewing, and I’ll gladly keep drinking your beer. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?


Thursday, September 2, 2010

408. Jeffrey McElfresh Weizenbock

This beer comes in the nice, tall 16.9 oz (500 ml for those of you scoring at home) German-style beer bottle. All authentic and shit. Awesome. Pouring a rich toffee and molasses brown, this beer also has ruby and orange hints that emerge when held up to the light, even with the slight cloudiness from the yeast. The head is ivory, and slightly profuse, with a rich, lightly sweet malty nose mixed with dark fruit—raisins and possibly prunes—backed up by molasses and soft banana esters. Flavors open with bready malt coupled with wheat flavor, chewy melanoidins, and low levels of spicy clove phenol; the middle has banana yeast esters and some richer molasses sweetness that shifts into a more candy-like sweetness combined with a wheaty nuttiness in the finish. The finish also contains a small amount of hop bitterness that helps balance the light alcohol flavor, both lingering lightly on the palate to help the beer end clean, although with some residual flavors. The mouthfeel is creamy and a bit chewy, with a alcohol warmth at the back of the throat, and the carbonation is bright but does not limit the rich maltiness of the beer (although combined with the alcohol and bitterness does help dry out the beer on the palate). A good beer, but one I know less about as a whole, so I am less able to place it. The beer has good flavor; the alcohol warmth is slightly high, bordering on providing a bit too much heat. But the malt complexity and depth works well in the beer, and provides a solid body. Aging this beer could allow the flavors and alcohol to better marry, helping limit the warmth at the end while also allowing some of the fruit flavors to further develop across the middle.

You can’t hide that Grand Cru from me!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

407. Jeffrey McElfresh The McElfreshinator Dopplebock

My first official proclamation of year 2 of what we’re drinking: I am naming this beer The McElfreshinator. So it is written, so it shall be. The McElfreshinator pours a creamy toffee chocolate, and has an ivory tan head that reduces to a ring after about 45 seconds. Aromas include a maltiness, melanoidins, and dark fruit—specifically plum and raisin. Flavors start malty, with melanoidin, warm bread crust, and a rich caramel toffee framing the front. Fruit flavors and dark sugars emerge from the middle—plum and raisin mixed with brown sugar and molasses. The finish features a return of sweetness and some slight alcohol warmth, although very subtle, and more of the malty fruitiness, ending rather clean with only light lingering brown sugar and raisin sweetness. The McElfreshinator has a smooth, rich mouthfeel—the body is medium to heavy, and the carbonation is low to medium. I would like it to be a bit chewier in the mouthfeel; the flavors are good, but a bit more creamy chewiness to thicken out the mouthfeel would help push the “liquid bread” elements of the beer. Nonetheless, a delicious beer that is finally starting to come into its own—it tastes much better than the last time I tried it. That last bottle I’ve got is getting tossed in the basement to try again later. If you’re nice, I might let you try it. But probably not.