Wednesday, March 31, 2010

274. Avery Brabant Barrel-Aged Wild Ale

This is our fourth beer from Avery Brewing—we’ve run through Ellie’s Brown Ale, 16th Anniversary Ale and duganA IPA. Brabant is the first beer in their Barrel-Aged Series; it is a wild ale aged in Zinfandel barrels. As well, the name refers to a breed of draft horses from the West-Brabantian region of Belgium—while there are several other possible references to Brabant, the picture of a horse on the label’s oak barrel points me in this direction.

Brabant pours a deep chocolate brown with garnet highlights; the head is tan and minimal, and quickly rings the glass. The nose carries a nice sour aroma; there seems to be a nice mix of acetic and lactic acid as well as some of the slight plastic adhesive and medicinal aromas accompanying any of the dirty band aid family of beers. Brabant starts dry and lightly sweet before some of the tart sourness and vinegar take over; these flavors run through the middle and into the end. There is a slight adhesive flavor that emerges in the final third of the beer, and that lingers a bit long on the palate. This flavor is accompanied by a bit of alcohol flavor and heat in the final framing of the beer’s flavor profile, although the flavor is more prominent that the heat. The beer is medium bodied and dry, but also a bit sticky on the palate; combined with the medium to low carbonation, flavor does more of the work than mouthfeel in this beer. Nonetheless, a delicious and well-crafted beer—it was much better than both of us expected it to be, and that’s saying something, since Avery is from Colorado. While it is labeled as a wild ale, Brabant strikes me more as fitting into the Flanders Red Ale category than the Lambic category. And it was good enough that I might even be convinced enough to pick up another bottle or two to throw in the basement for later—it’s ready to drink but would probably taste as good (if not better) with a little more time.

From the Avery website: “Experimentation. Ales and lagers that defy styles or categories. This is what we are about: our driving force, our passion. To further facilitate this innovative spirit, we’ve developed our Barrel-Aged Series where anything, and we mean ANYTHING, goes! Brewed for those as adventurous as we are!

No. 1, Brabant, is a luscious dark ale fermented with two strains of wild yeast (Brettanomyces) then aged for 8 months in Zinfandel barrels. We hope you enjoy sifting through the vast layers of complexity in this mysterious ale.”

ABV: 8.65%
IBU: 25
OG: 10.74
Bottled: February 10, 2009
Production: 694 cases


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

273. J. W. Lees Harvest Ale 1999

Coming to us from J. W. Lees & Co. Brewers, located in Manchester, England. They’ve been in business since 1828. Jolly proper for them.

Pouring a rich clear deep caramel copper with a quickly disappearing white head, Harvest Ale 1999 has a malty toffee nose with low levels of alcohol and a subtle clean fruitiness that adds complexity to the nose. When swirled, short alcohol legs are left along the walls of the glass. The flavor begins with a lighter caramel flavor before shifting to the luscious toffee that dominates the beer, front to back. There is a small bit of bitterness and fruitiness in the middle, and alcohol flavor in the final third of the beer, but all the flavors are rounded by the presence of toffee. Harvest Ale 1999 has a medium to heavy body with medium to low carbonation that still leaves the beer full bodied and chewy, with richness and a smooth alcohol warmth. I’ve had other bottles of the same beer that had a delightful oxidized sherry-like finish; this particular bottle has none of that—instead it is slight caramel with loads and loads of toffee. Nonethless, while this bottle is not as complex, it is still an enjoyable and well crafted beer. The smooth blending of maltiness and alcohol creates an enjoyable and pleasant sipping experience, front to back.

From the J. W. Lees website: “Vintage harvest Ale: Released in limited quantities in Decemeber, Harvest Ale gives a rich, strong flavour, beloved by beer connoisseurs. It can be laid down like a vintage wine for enjoying in later years. We also provide Harvest Ales fermented in casks with sherry, port, whisky or calvados. ”

ABV: 11.5%


Monday, March 29, 2010

272. Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Our fifth beer from Stone (well, if we count the Stone/Maui/ Schmidt “collabo,” which I guess we will—and yes, I like saying the word “collabo”)—we’ve previously sampled their Pale Ale, the Vertical Epic 09.09.09, the above mentioned “collabo” with Maui Brewing and Ken Schmidt, and the IRS ’05-’09 vertical tasting. My goal is to say “collabo” at least 10 more times during the course of this review.

Arrogant Bastard pours a rich caramel copper with a thick tan head. The nose is hoppy and malty, with some dry biscuit. The front is sweet but dry—sort of a dry caramel malt taste—before moving into a bitter and hoppy middle accompanied by brown sugar sweetness. The finish is where the bitterness really comes across—there is a good burst as the beer rounds out, leaving a lingering bite on the palate that also carries with it some hop flavored tang. Arrogant Bastard has a medium to heavy body with plenty of drying on the palate from both the malt and the hops, along with a bit of tongue curling. The carbonation is medium, with a decent bite to round and lighten the body. The overall balance is pretty good on this beer—it’s a malt and hoppy “collabo” project that works seamlessly; some of the dry caramel malt tastes are not our personal favorite, but are done well here. A good beer, and one that Stone has used to help craft its overall larger image, but they do make much better beers than this one (like the IRS).

From the bottle: “ar*ro*gance (ar’o gans) n. The act or quality of being arrogant; haughty; undue assumption; overbearing conceit.

Arrogant Bastard Ale: This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory—maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make your beer taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.

The Brewery: Located in North County San Diego, we are a small, honest, brewery with unrealistically high, yet cantankerously unwavering, standards. We concentrate on creating the most satisfying, big character ales imaginable, by using only the finest natural ingredients. And lots of ’em! It’s an approach that leaves many bewildered, but it works for us Arrogant Bastards, and we’re the only ones that are worth satisfying.”

Oh, I get it. You’re talking down to me so I’ll like your beer more. So do tell me—how is this strategy, as one that is designed to brand and sell your beer, really any different that the “multi-million dollar ad campaigns” you mock, besides the volume of dollars put into the process? Or is smaller scale advertising somehow more virtuous than large scale advertising?

Also from the bottle: “Warning: Some materials used in the colored decorations on this product contain cadmium a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

That’s kind of a downer on my beer. Where’s all that self-righteous virtue now, Stone? Why don’t you try making me some beer labels that won’t deform newborns? Sure, I’m in Ohio and all, but just because I’m not in California doesn’t mean I don’t want pretty babies. Or maybe your approach to sex appeal-based advertising is in making my wanger fall off. First brewer’s droop, and now this...

ABV: 7.2%


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Porter Brewday

I decided to run a second porter since the last one was so far over the intended OG; my local homebrew club, DRAFT, has a throwdown with another local club, the Beaver Creek Badasses, in May, so I want to get something a little closer to the ballpark—it’s a knockdown, kick ’em when they’re down, no-holds-barred Robust Porter ass-whupping event. I was originally aiming for 1.058, so I can’t be too upset with today’s results. And yes, I know you’re supposed to start with smaller gravity beers and move to larger gravity beers when brewing sequentially on the same yeast. But I also know that sometimes brewing doesn’t work out the way we intend it to...

67. Porter
1 lb. Weyerman Pale Wheat
1 lb. Crystal 60° L
1 lb. Breiss 2-row
8 oz. Breiss Chocolate
8 oz. Dingeman’s Chocolate
8 oz. Dingeman’s Cara 8 Belgian

Mashed @ 154° F for 60 minutes; raised to 168° F
Sparged with 1 gallon of 168° F water

Added fluid to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:
5 lbs. Breiss Golden Light DME
.6 oz. Galena pellet 14.1% AA
1 teaspoon gypsum

w/30 minutes to go: ¼ oz. Cascade pellet 7.5% AA
w/15 minutes to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss
w/5 minutes to go: ¼ oz. Tettnanger pellet 4.7% AA

Cooled wort, racked to bucket, and pitched on pancake of White Labs 007 Dry English Ale Yeast from last Porter

Brewed: 3/28/2010 started @ 63° F; bubbling within 2 hours
Secondary: 4/3/2010; @ 1.016
Bottled: four gallons on 4/25/2010 with 6.25 oz. Pilsen Light DME

OG: 1.059
FG: 1.016

Tasting Notes (main batch) 9/15/2010: Pours a clear medium brown (almost cola-esque) with a light creamy ivory head; the nose is a grainy sweet malt with low levels of roastiness—there is no discernable hop aroma, and not much else. Flavors open sweet with a brown sugar flavor and light graininess; the middle is lightly bitter with notes of fruit before finishing with smaller amounts of roastiness and chocolate. There is a slight acrid flavor that lingers on the palate—it could be some hop astringency via the lighter body, but it does detract a bit from the beer. There is a slightly creamy mouthfeel with a medium body and carbonation. I’d say this has gotten better in the last three months, but it is still not spectacular. The finish is a bit harsh—a combination of the lighter body and hop bitterness that borders on astringency. Next time I make this I will try to leave a bigger body to create more balance and richness, and push to develop the dark, roasty complexity.

Barley’s 15th Annual Homebrew Competition (June 13, 2010): 28
Dayton Beerfest (9/11/2010): 33.7

Also on 4/25/2010, moved 1 gallon to carboy and added .3 oz medium toast French oak chips soaked in 1.1 oz. of Blanton’s bourbon & ¼ of a vanilla bean split open; bottled on 8/6/2010 with 1.25 oz. Pilsen Light DME.

Tasting Notes 8/6/2010: I should have bottled this one sooner (the three plus months on the oak chips was a bit much); while there is an excellent initial flavor, the oak tannic bite that comes in after this dries out the palate heavily—it is a big ol’ oak tannin bomb right now, so we’ll be sitting on this one for a while to see what happens.

9/15/2010: Pours the same as the original version, although the head is less and disappears quicker. The beer is still pretty oaky in the nose, but as I was running out of the regular version, it was time to do at least some basic comparison. There is still a lot of tannic oak in the nose, covering over much of the malt and leaving a bit of a sharp or harsh impression, although a small amount of creaminess sneaks through. While flavors are similar to above, the overall impression is drier and has a fair amount of what Elli would refer to as a “mouthful o’ acorn” flavor that hasn’t settled out or married with other flavors, and there is a drier impression in the mouthfeel via the oak. On a more positive note, the harsh finish of the above beer has been replaced with a bitter tannic bite, although I am not sure one is an improvement over the other. All in all, the rest of this will probably be sitting for a while.

271. Dogfish Head Immort Ale 2009

“It smells like fancy beer.”

More beer from Dogfish Head, the best little brewery in Delaware. And yes, I am making a purposefully obscure reference in that description. Care to take a stab at it?

Immort Ale pours a hazy maple syrup (the grade A all natural stuff, not that Mrs. Butterworth’s crap) and has a thin ivory head that leaves some lacing; the beer also has some legs when swirled or tilted against the side of the glass. Maple sweetness is the first aroma in the nose, followed by low levels of clean oaky wood aroma without much in the way of tannins, and a bit of alcohol spiciness; some smokiness emerges with some warmth. Immort Ale opens with maple syrup and brown sugar sweetness to start, followed by a bit of heat in the middle along with some carbonation bite, and finishing with oak, vanilla and alcohol, with a touch of smokiness in the lingering alcohol flavor. Heavy bodied with dryness from the alcohol and the oak; the carbonation is medium with small tight bubbles that help liven up the heavier body, and there is some creaminess from the oak without much in the way of a tannic bite. An enjoyable beer for slow sipping and picking apart the different flavors that emerge across the palate and as the beer opens up with warmth; we’ve got two more bottles from this four-pack that we’ll keep sitting on and try one of them again in another year.

From the label: “Vast in character, luscious and complex, this smooth, full-bodied ale reveals interwoven notes of maple, vanilla & oak.”

From the Dogfish Head website: “We started brewing Immort Ale at our brewpub in 1995 and began bottling it in 1997. For this beer, we use maple syrup from Red Brook Farm – Sam’s family farm in Western Massachusetts, peat-smoked barley, juniper berries, and vanilla. Immort is fermented with a blend of English & Belgian yeasts, then aged in the big oak tanks at the brewery. The sweet and earthy flavors meld magnificently in the Immort Ale. But, be warned the ABV is 11%, so after 1 or 2 you may start feeling immortal (even though we promise you won’t be). Immort Ale is released each and every spring (after the sap starts flowing).”

ABV: 11%


Saturday, March 27, 2010

270. Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree

Another beer from Dark Horse, although this one isn’t a Stout—shocking, I know. Our Dark Horse list thus far includes Plead the 5th, Fore Smoked Stout, Too Cream Stout, One Oatmeal Stout and Crooked Tree IPA. We had this on tap @ the Trolley Stop; they tapped this last night, along with a 1/6th barrel of Burton Baton (I love you, Jason!). That, my friends, was also good drinking. So Elli and I rolled on down to the Trolley for our beer of the day after a tasty dinner at Taqueria Mixteca, which if you don’t know about, then you better learn quick—it’s the best Mexican in Dayton. I had pozole, which is a shredded pork and hominy soup, and Elli had a vegetarian burrito. That plus two horchatas (and of course the complimentary chips and salsa) clocked in at under $15. Delicious, and a bargain. But we’re here to talk about beer...

We got served Double Crooked Tree in a 10 oz. glass; the nose is caramel and malt with low levels of alcohol, accompanied by some piney and spicey hop aromas. As it warms, vanilla and oak begins to emerge, as well as some tannic hints from either the hops or the wood. Pouring a hazy rich copper, Double Crooked Tree has a thin white head that rigns the glass quickly. The beer begins with a rich, sweet caramel malt. There is light vanilla and oak mixed in along the way, created a nuanced, complex beginning. The middle is characterized by hop bitterness and spiciness; as it warms, the bitterness becomes much more pronounced. There is also some alcohol in the middle that runs on into the end, finishing with dry and biscuit malt flavors and lingering spicy bitterness. Double Crooked Tree has a creamy, rich malty mouthfeel; the carbonation is low, but is bright on the palate. There is a good amount of warmth from the alcohol in the middle and the end. A very drinkable beer overall; Double Crooked Tree has a nice balance between malt and hops, and the alcohol is well hidden, especially in a beer so young.

From the Dark Horse website: “Have you read the description for the regular Crooked Tree yet? Well this beer is almost the same just double the flavor and alcohol. We actually took the Crooked Tree recipe and doubled all of the ingredients except the water, just the way a DOUBLE should be made. Big hops balanced with tons of malt give this beer a huge body. Although this beer is as cool as ‘The Fonz’ when first purchased, it gets really mellow and smooth with some age. After a year or two stored in a cool dark place you’ll notice the heavy caramel and malt flavors are trying to sneak past the hops. This beer is hugely delicious so it will need your undivided attention (the chores can us).”

ABV: 12.0%


Friday, March 26, 2010

269. Lupulus Iberian Ale

All the way from Spain, Lupulus Iberian Ale is brought to us by Companyia Cervesa del Montseny in Seva, Spain. Described as a hoppy Iberian ale on the label, Lupulus pours a soft but clear straw color with bubbly and lively carbonation, creating a firm white head. The nose is sweet but dry—there is a flat even quality to it that is reminiscent of Belgian ales. Starting candy sweet before dropping into a dryer and bitter middle, Lupulus also contains some musty and slight barnyard characteristics that lead into a grassy and tart finish. With a light body and bright, effervescent carbonation, Lupulus has a dry and tart profile balanced out with hop bitterness, although no real hop flavor or aroma. The overall profile reminds us of Belgian and French saisons. We like the beer, but would be more inclined to drink it if it was made closer to home and not clocking in at $5.99 for an 11.2 oz. bottle; the flavors are interesting, but not enough to push it up into the Belgian specialty market that is still worth the price. Nonetheless, we are happy to see Spain entering the craft brewery game, and look forward to seeing more from them and from Cervesa del Montseny.

From the bottle: “Iberian Ale – The hop plant: in Latin, humulus lupulus. Lovely, aromatic hops are what this aromatic ale from Spain’s first craft brewery is all about.”

From the Montseny website: “Beer style: IBER ALE – top-fermented lager style of our country. With this top-fermented beer we rediscover the traditional beers of our Iberian ancestors (Archaeological sites: The village of Geno (Lleida) dates to 1,000 BC Bronze Age; Can Sadurni Begues (Barcelona) dates to 3000 BC Neolithic Age). The recipe includes malts and hops used in current high-consumption domestic beers of the Pilsen style (bottom-fermented) or Lager family. Tasting notes: All the intensity of hops in combination with Pilsen malt, to quench the thirst. Ingredients: Malt: Pilsen, Wheat and Caramel; Hops: Cascade, Fuggles, Nugget, Target and Styrian Golding. Yeast. Serving temperature: Between 6 and 12º C. At low temperature we have the flavour and bitterness of hops clearly defined to freshen our palates as in a Lager style beer. However, the optimal tasting is obtained above 9º C, at which point the textures and flavours produced by the Ale yeast and body or sweetness of the malt emerge, balancing their taste with the bitterness of the hops.”

ABV: 5.4%


Thursday, March 25, 2010

IPA Brewday

This beer was my first experiment in harvesting yeast out of a bottle; I saved the last inch of three bottles of Bell’s Two Hearted, covering the mouth and neck with paper towels soaked in Star San. I boiled ½ lb. DME with ½ gallon for 30 minutes, cooled it, and racked it into a one gallon glass carboy, added the bottle dregs, and capped it. It took a couple of days to see any activity; I swirled the bottle vigourously 4-5 times (at least) a day to stimulate activity. Once activity got going, the smell coming out was that of normal yeast activity; with hindsight, I probably should have used Bell’s Pale Ale or Amber (less hops, so better yeast viability), but I only figured this out after I had made the starter. Once the starter was pitched into the beer, the airlock started bubbling within 5 hours. I made the starter two weeks ago, the same day brewed the last IPA. If you look at the picture at the bottom, you’ll see the yeast starter in front of the carboy.

66. Two Hearted Clone
1 ½ lbs. Breiss 2-row
1 lb. Breiss Vienna 3.2 L
½ lb. Breiss Munich 10 L
½ lb. Cara 8 Belgian 7.7 L
½ lb. Breiss Caramel 20 L
½ oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

Mashed @ 150° F for 60 minutes; raised to 170° F
Sparged with 1 gallon of 170° F water

Added fluid to brew kettle, brought to a boil (60 minute) and added:
3 lbs. Breiss Pilsen Light DME
1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA
½ tsp. gypsum

Hop schedule:
w/45 min. to go: 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA
w/30 min. to go: 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA
w/15 min. to go: 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA, 3 lbs. Breiss Pilsen Light DME, and 1 tsp. Irish Moss
w/5 min. to go: 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA
@ removal from heat: 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

Cooled wort, racked to bucket, and pitched starter made from Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

Brewed: 3/25/2010
Secondary: 4/3/2010 @ 1.016; dry-hopped w/ 1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA
Bottled: 4/8/2010 with 6.0 oz. Pilsen Light DME

OG: 1.064
FG: 1.015

Tasting Notes:

Barley’s 15th Annual Homebrew Competition: 26 (they got this beer after the sourness/infection had taken off, June 13, 2010)

268. Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout

“I’m not sure we should be encouraging the imperialism.”
Elli’s comment before drinking this beer; her term for the turn towards bigger and bigger beers—i.e. making everything into an imperial beer

Another in a long line of stout beers from both Dark Horse and Michigan; this is our fifth beer from Dark Horse—kinda fortuitous, huh?—and like our 876th stout from Michigan. Previous beers include Fore Smoked Stout, Too Cream Stout, One Oatmeal Stout and Crooked Tree IPA. We gave the cold shoulder to Tres Blueberry Stout, although in retrospect, we may feel a little bad about hurting its feelings.

Plead the 5th is an inky dark brown with garnet highlights; the brown head is pretty minimal—it barely gave us more than a ring on the glass. The nose is roasty with a bit of dark fruit and creaminess—the roasted aromas are not harsh, but rather smooth and rounded. Plead the 5th has a roasted and toasty malt front; the middle has some dark fruit flavors—some raisin, some currant, or maybe some grape—and the end is burnt and spicy with some alcohol that lingers along with the final roasted flavors. Heavy bodied and a bit syrupy, Plead the 5th has a thick and creamy mouthfeel. There is also a good amount of warmth in the back of the throat, although not as much alcohol flavor and feel for a 12% ABV beer as we expected. Excellent flavors, but a bit heavy on the mouth, and the lingering alcohol does increases with warmth—we’re not sure if this is an improvement on some of their smaller stouts. We’ll be interested to see how this beer ages, as it has the potential to become something quite delicious.

Update (3/20/2011): We pulled out another bottle to try. Let’s just say that the year in the basement has been very good to this beer. Flavors are smooth and even across the palate—much more than last year. As well, a fair amount of the alcohol flavor has disappeared; the emphasis now is on smooth roasted malt and creaminess in the finish. The body is still a bit sticky, but you’re not going to completely escape that in a beer this big, are you? There are also a lot more chocolate and coffee flavors, specifically in the front and middle, that blends well with the fruit flavors in the middle. The finish has a pleasant mix of roastiness mixed with molasses and brown sugar. The noise is a slight bit disappointing—there is roasted malt, fruit, and licorice, but all are very faint. We’ve been waiting for it to open up as it warms, but nothing much yet.

From the Dark Horse website: “It’s big and full bodied with lots of roasted malts and balanced with heavy hops to put this imperial in a league of its own.”

ABV: 12.0%

I think this ABV pleads the 5th...


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

267. Boddingtons Draught Style Pub Ale vs. Tetley’s Draught Style English Ale vs. Belhaven Draught Style Scottish Ale

Today we’re having our Second Annual Widget Draught Can Drink Off. Yes, we know annual means once a year, and we did the Murphy’s and Guinness Drink Off less than a year ago, but too bad. It’s our website, so don’t get all semantical on us. Today’s contestants are Boddingtons Draught Style Pub Ale, Tetley’s Draught Style English Ale, and Belhaven Draught Style Scottish Ale. Boddingtons is made in Luton, England, Tetley’s is made in Leeds, England, and Belhaven is made in Dunbar, Scotland.

Boddingtons has a dry, slightly chalky, and slightly fruity nose mixed with some sweetness; it pours a crystal clear gold (well, once it settles out), and has a rich creamy lingering white head—got to love those widget draught cans! The beer opens with creamy sweet front; the middle is a bit thin, but has pleasant bitterness. While there is no hop flavor in the middle, the bitterness does come through nicely in the middle, and lingers on into the end, which is dry and clean. Boddingtons is medium to light bodied with a creamy thick mouthfeel; the carbonation, while present, is rather light on the palate—it helps build the creaminess, and rounds the beer across the palate, creating more of a consistent evenness than any sort of bite.

From the can: “Since 1778 when it was first brewed at the Strangeways Brewery in Manchester, Boddingtons has been renowned as a unique, pale-gold ale. In English pubs, Boddingtons is served using the traditional hand pulled method which mixes the air with the ale as it pours, producing a distinctive creamy head and smooth body, with little gassiness. Ordinary packaged ale cannot match this quality, but the new Draughtflow System does. By releasing millions of tiny bubbles when opened, Draughtflow cans give the creamy head and authentic fresh taste of Boddingtons Pub Ale. ”

ABV: 4.7%

Tetley’s pours a clear copper with a thick thick ivory head that laces the glass profusely. It took a little sucking to break through that head when we were sipping on it. The nose is a malty caramel—kinda hard to get to it through the head. Opening with some caramel malt and a touch of toffee in the front, Tetley’s moves into a soft and lightly bitter middle with more of the toffee and caramel before finishing dry and with a bit of corn flavor—it mostly just fades away. Much like the Boddingtons, the body is medium to light with a creamy thick mouthfeel that is also dry on the palate. The carbonation is similar to Boddingtons—dry and even, although creamy. Tetley’s has more caramel flavor and less hop bitterness than Boddingtons, leaving it a bit less balanced as a whole.

From the can: “A uniquely smooth taste. For best results; serve cold from the fridge, pull the tab, listen to the surge & pour down the side of the can in one smooth movement.”

ABV: 3.6%

Belhaven pour a hazy brownish copper—there’s a bunch of small bits floating in it—with a creamy and thick ivory head. Elli wanted to know if the small bits were from “widget-conditioning.” Starting malty sweet with caramel and some biscuit and roasted flavors, Belhaven Scottish Ale shifts into light roasted chocolate in the middle, which is also accompanied by nutty and fruity flavors. The finish is creamy, malty, and lightly roasty, with a touch of smokiness to close things out. Belhaven is medium bodied with a creamy but also dry mouthfell, and a bit more carbonation presence in the mouth than the other two beers

From the can: “The Belhaven Brewery is Scotland’s oldest surviving independent brewery dating back to 1719. Belhaven Scottish Ale is a fully rounded ale, a complex mix of malt and hop producing Belhaven’s easily recognised malty and nutty flavor.”

ABV: 5.2%

Aroma Advantage: Belhaven gets the nod here; while it is a bit bigger of a beer, the complex aromas are able to cut through the thick creamy head and make their presence felt.

Appearance Advantage: Tetley’s comes out on top here; the slighter darker color with a touch of red in it made it stand out, and the thick head was impressive. Tetley’s does also have some sort of larger widget inside the can than the other two beers—it is attached to the bottom, and as the can tells us, “listen to the surge.” We did, and the results were good.

Flavor Advantage: We have a split decision here: Elli likes Boddingtons, while I like Belhaven. Since we’re crossing beer styles, the arbitrary factor is on the upswing. Elli favored Boddingtons because it was the only one with any real hop presence, even if it was only in the bitterness, and because it has a clean and simple malt profile. I like the darker, richer malt profile of Belhaven, and the nuance as it ran across the palate.

Mouthfeel Advantage: Elli favors Boddingtons; I see it as something of a toss-up—since all three are draught cans, there is a certain similarity in the mouthfeel that is a bit homogeneous. While the flavors are more distinct, the mouthfeel seems less so here.

Label Art Advantage: Tetley gets last place here—the little dude holding a beer and the multiple fonts leaves this can a bit busy overall. The Belhaven is nice and simple—the color arrangement is good, and the use of the natural aluminum color is clever. But we’ve got to go with the classic bees on barrel of Boddingtons. Classic design and packaging.

Overall Advantage: We’re again split down the middle: Elli goes with Boddingtons, and I go with Belhaven, so I guess we’ll have to call it a draw. But Tetley’s doesn’t get to be in on it.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

266. Alaskan Amber

Our third beer from Alaskan Brewing Company, although this is our first non-porter ABC beer. We’ve previously enjoyed both their Baltic Porter and their Smoked Porter.

Alaskan Amber pours a hazy copper color with a light tan head, leaving behind a rich malty nose with some melanoidin and biscuity aromas running along the edges of the malt profile. Opening with a rich caramel malt flavor, Amber moves into biscuit and melanoidin flavors with a light touch of fruitiness and graininess in the middle, and finishes clean with a touch of bitterness. Amber is medium bodied with some crisp and dry lager characteristics that help balance out the large malt profile; there is also a touch of creaminess in the mouthfeel, but not very much. The carbonation is a bit soft, accentuating the malt sweetness of the beer. This beer certainly falls on the malty side of things—Elli calls it a “malt bomb”—and could use a bit more of a hop profile to balance out the beer as a whole.

From the Alaskan website: “The name of this beer style comes from the German word ‘alt’ meaning ‘old.’ This refers to the aging that alts undergo since they ferment more slowly and at colder temperatures than most ales. Slow fermentation helps condition the flavors in Alaskan Amber, contributing to its overall balance and smoothness. Richly malty and long on the palate, with just enough hop backing to make this beautiful amber colored ‘alt’ style beer notably well balanced. Alaskan Amber is based on a recipe from a turn-of-the-century brewery in the Juneau area. It was voted ‘Best Beer in the Nation’ in the 1988 Great American Beer Festival Consumer Poll.”

ABV: 5.3%
IBU: 18
OG: 1.054


Monday, March 22, 2010

265. The Bruery Rugbrød

This marks our fourth beer from the Bruery, which is located in Placentia, CA. Our previous three include Hottenroth, Orchard White and Saison Rue.

Described as a “Julebryg-style dark rye ale” on the label (and no, I am not certain what that means, but see below to get that all sorted out), Rugbrød pours a hazy chocolate with caramel and orange highlights and an abundant tan head that lingers and lingers and lingers. The nose is bready with some chocolate aromas, and has a dry, almost biscuit-like component to it. Rugbrød starts bready with roasted and chocolate flavors; the middle brings some caramel sweetness, and also some of the rye spiciness, which continues on into the end of the beer. There are chocolate and dryness at the finish, and some lingering alkaline cocoa flavors that are slightly unpleasant. The flavor profile is a bit muddled across the board; there are not a lot of crisp, clear distinctions between the flavors present in the beer. Maybe aging this would help, but maybe not; we don’t currently know. Rugbrød has a medium mouthfeel with a good chunk of dryness on the palate. The carbonation is a bit too effusive in relation to the beer; it may contribute to the overall dryness, but could be toned back. Interesting for what it has to offer, but not that exciting.

From the Carlsberg website, which tells us what a Julebryg beer is: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Beer! Most Danes know the blue and white advertisement for Tuborg Julebryg (Tuborg Christmas Brew). But probably not many know that the famous animated commercial, which features Santa Claus in blue clothing, is actually older than the beer itself. The commercial was originally launched in 1980 as a special holiday commercial for ordinary Tuborg pilsner, but it became so popular that for Christmas 1981 we created the special Tuborg Julebryg. Although Tuborg Julebryg is a seasonal beer and is only on the market for six weeks every year, it is still Denmark’s fourth best selling beer. It’s only beaten by Green Tuborg, Carlsberg Pilsner and Tuborg Classic, which are available all year round. Its launch, known as ‘J-day,’ always takes place on the first Friday of every November and is an annual day of celebration across Denmark. Carlsberg employees drive around the bars and cafes, handing out free beer to really get the festive season started. Tuborg Julebryg is a bottom-fermented, wiener beer brewed on lager, münchener and caramel malt with English liquorice. The beer is dark-golden with a fresh aroma of caramel, grain, liquorice and blackcurrant.”

This is from the Danish Wikipedia. We used an online translator (thanks Google Translate!), so it is a bit off, and, well, not all of it got translated. Double awesome: “A Christmas brew a special beer, as brewers send the market in the run up to July. Som regel er en julebryg stærkere (i en højere skatteklasse) end almindelige pilsnere, men enkelte bryggerier har også juleøl med pilsnerstyrk. As a rule, julebryg is stronger (in a higher tax bracket) than regular lager, but some breweries also Christmas beer with lager strength. En julebryg skal ikke forveksles med en nisseøl, der som regel er en mørk hvidtøl med den tilhørende søde smag og lavere alkoholprocent. A Julebryg should not be confused with a Nisseøl, there are usually a dark hvidtøl with a sweet taste and lower alcohol percentage. Julebryggen var allerede i gamle dage en stærk lagret øl. Christmas brews were already in the old days, a strong matured beer. Normalt drak man til hverdag tynd øl, men til jul serveres en stærk, vellagret øl, så stemningen hurtigt kunne gå højt. Normally one would drink a beer usually thin, but for Christmas served a strong, well seasoned beer, then the mood could quickly go high. Juleøllen var specielt velegnet til at matche den fede mad, der blev serveret ved juletid. Julebryg was especially well-suited to match the rich food that was served at Christmastime. En sødlig variant heraf blev nydt til risengrød. Den første danske julebryg, der blev udsendt i større omfang, var X-mas fra Ceres , der kom på markedet i 1969. It was mainly a local phenomenon in Aarhus and environs, where the release of the year’s brew was made in November to an event called the X-days during the 1970s. In 1990 put the brewery Tuborg focus on Christmas brew by introducing the term snebajer as a greeting on the labels of Green Tuborg. The following year was a snebajer to a stand-alone product and in 2006 Denmark’s best-selling Christmas brew. Det tegnede univers blev opfundet af Peter Wibroe , og reklamefilmen, som blev lanceret på daværende tidspunkt, vises stadigvæk uden ændringer i landets biografer og på tv. In 1990 the brewery introduced the annual J-Day, which celebrates the release of this year’s Christmas brew.”

From the Bruery website: “Meaning ‘rye bread’ in Danish, we took our inspiration for this beer from the Danes’ staple dark, whole-grain rye bread. Brewed with three types of rye malt, this robust brown ale showcases the earthy, spicy character of the grain, complemented by bready, nutty barley malts and a hint of roast. Loosely based on the Scandinavian Christmas beer or ‘Julebryg’ tradition, this beer is perfect for the colder weather of winter, although it will be available year-round (because who doesn’t love a dark beer now and again, regardless of weather?) And don’t worry about the name, we can’t pronounce it either!”

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 30


Sunday, March 21, 2010

264. Midnight Sun CoHoHo Imperial IPA

Back in the day when I was a teenager, before I had status and before I had a pager...Oh wait, that was something else. This beer here is our second beer from Midnight Sun—the last one being Sockeye Red IPA. I’m sensing some sort of theme with the whole salmon thing they got going on.

CoHoHo has a heavy caramel malt nose with a slight sappy or piney quality; the color is a reddish copper with a creamy ivory head that sticks around and laces the glass. The beer opens with a sweet thick caramel malt that is mixed with some slight spiciness; the middle has brown sugar sweetness and bitterness from the hops, while the finish is piney—either from the juniper or the hops—as well as dry and slightly harsh, but with a good amount of residual sweetness—the finish is not very clean. The body is medium, but a bit sticky on the palate. While the head retention is good, the carbonation is medium to low; as Elli observes, any carbonation is “fighting an uphill battle against this beer.” I think she is referring to the stickiness and residual sweetness, which does give CoHoHo a heavier presence on the palate than it actually has. While CoHoHo has potential, there is not quite enough pay off in the flavor in regards to the thickness of the body. We may need to drink this in more appropriate weather—it is described as warding off winter woes on the label—but we’re not sure the temperature would improve our ability to enjoy CoHoHo, and we’re pretty certain we’re not trekking to Alaska in the middle of winter to try it there. We do (or at least I do) like the label—the crazy coho salmon with a Santa hat and psychedelic eyes is totally awesome. We’re (or at least I am) making this one a Top 10 Best Label contender.

From the label: “CoHoHo Imperial IPA is a true American Double India Pale Ale, designed & crafted to ward off those way North winter woes. While exuberant hops add punch to an abundant malt base, bonus ingredients—like brown sugar, hoeny and juniper berries—boost character, complexity and holiday spirit. Make merry all winter long!”

From the Midnight Sun website: “When the loveable ‘hopheads’ at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse requested a winter version of alehouse favorite Sockeye Red IPA, our brewers instinctively spawned CoHoHo Imperial IPA. CoHoHo begins with generous measures of pale two-row and specialty malts along with spirit-boosters like brown sugar and honey. Hefty doses of Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe hops beautifully balance that outrageous malt bill while juniper berries heighten the festive character of this exuberant beer. Make Merry all Winter Long...”

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 85
Malt: Pale 2-row, Various Special Malts
Hops: Cascade, Centennial, & Simcoe
Other: Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup, Honey, & Juniper Berries


Saturday, March 20, 2010

263. Brooklyn Black Ops 2010

This is our third beer from Brooklyn—previously on what we’re drinking, we explored the joys of both East India Pale Ale and Pennant Ale ’55. Our friends Jeff and Jeffrey were over to sample some beers and to play Brewmaster, a card game where you brew beers and collect beer festival trophies—the one who collects the most trophies wins the game. The game was pretty fun, but it could have used a bit more complexity—while you had to collect two yeasts to brew a Belgian beer, there was no reciprocal need to collect extra hop cards to brew an IPA. And I do need someone to explain to me why there was no hop shortage card as one of the cards that made you lose brewing materials or your turn. I know, I know, it’s just a card game. Anyway, Elli ended up winning the game, and we tried a couple of tidbits along the way.

Jeffrey with the sweet beer festival trophy!

Black Ops pours an opaque black with a thick brown creamy head; the nose includes plenty of oak and bourbon, as well as plenty of roasted malt and smaller amounts of vanilla. Beginning with a rich roasty front, Black Ops has an oaky and bourbon middle with some of the vanilla from the nose; there is some alcohol flavor in the end, although the beer finishes dry and creamy. The mouthfeel is creamy, thick, and chewy, although the body is only medium, and the carbonation helps smooth out the beer across the profile. There is a bit of alcohol warmth at the end, but nothing overbearing. The balance of the oak flavors in the beer is a real plus; mixed with the roasted malt and vanilla, the subtlety is already apparent in this beer. Black Ops is a delicious beer; while it could use a bit more age to limit the alcohol flavor and warmth at the end, this would only be to make an already good beer better. And besides, what do you think our second bottle is doing right now?

From the bottle: “Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. However, if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under the cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly ‘Black Ops’ was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oak notes. They say there are only 1000 cases. We have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Not so excited anymore, huh, tough guy?

Given the above description, it is not surprising that there is nothing on the Brooklyn website.

ABV: 11.6%

Jeff also brought over another beer from Jackie O’s—some sort of Orange Wheat Funk. It had a bretty-funky nose, some still discernable orange flavor, and a dry and slightly sour profile. Good, but we don’t have much in the way of notes—we were all concentrating on the Brewmaster game.


Friday, March 19, 2010

262. BBC Rye IPA 75

Our third beer from Bluegrass Brewing Company, which is still located in Louisville, KY; we’ve previously sampled Brandy Barrel Aged Queen’s Knickers and Bluegrass American Pale Ale.

Rye IPA 75 pours a deep copper with a minimal ivory head; the nose is spicy, mostly from the rye, with some resiny hop aromas running around the edges of the spicy. Starting with rye spiciness and some caramel sweetness, Rye IPA move into some bitterness and hop resin flavors before finishing with a return of caramel sweetness and more of the rye spiciness, with a bit of lingering bitterness from the hops. The mouthfeel is a bit thick, syrupy, and quite heavy; it has a decent amount of legs on the glass, is a bit goopy in the mouth, and is much heavier that one would expect for a 7.5% ABV beer—it has a viscosity and movement in the glass that we haven’t really seen before in a beer. The hop flavors are good, but they don’t stand up to the thick malt and rye body; the nose is more rounded and even than the body and flavor profile. The carbonation is medium to low, but rounds the beer nicely into the finish. This beer would be better with a lighter body; the nose and flavors are good, but the body is too big and sticky for the beer as it currently stands—they need to up the ABV to make this an Imperial, or lighten the body. But the current beer is more in between—while that could make it a DIPA, it still has too much body with not enough payoff for that category. Stripping back the body to make this a solid Rye IPA seems the best direction to head.

From the Bluegrass website: “Gorgeous orange color, bright fresh clean hops, delicious hops dominate but nice minty rye flavor is very good, well done crisp beer; nice job, like the kick the rye gives.”

ABV: 7.5%


Thursday, March 18, 2010

261. Southern Tier Krampus

“Are you naughty or nice?”

Another imperial beer from Southern Tier; we’ve had three other big beers from Southern Tier, including through Crème Brûlée, Mokah, and Jah*va, and we’ve also had Old Man Winter, their Winter Ale. This is their Christmas seasonal, so we are drinking it a little out of season, but there’s nothing new about that with us...

Krampus has a clear copper color with a light but persistent white head. The nose is lightly caramel and grainy, mixed with Chinook hops aroma, giving it some spicey and piney hop notes. Opening with caramel malt flavor in the front, Krampus quickly moves into hop flavor and bitterness middle; there are resin and pine hop flavors before ending crisp and dry with some lingering bitterness. The body is medium with some light tongue curling from the hops, and the carbonation is medium. Overall, not what we expected—Krampus has very few of the lager characteristics we thought we’d find. While it is an Imperial Helles, the hop presence is much larger than any lager we’ve come across. There is a crispness to the finish, but it has the hop and malt balance of an IPA without the syrupy nature of some of the bigger DIPAs and Imperial IPAs. The 9.0% ABV is pretty muted as well; it is not until it gets decently warm that any alcohol flavor or mouthfeel makes its presence known. Interesting and enjoyable, although I’m not sure if we’d pull the trigger on this one again. Bottle number two is still lurking in the back of the fridge...

From the bottle: “St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, is a magical figure, the bringer of gifts and an icon of holiday spirit. Forgotten by most is his evil side kick and enforcer of ‘the list.’ European tradition says while St. Nick is busy delivering presents to good little boys and girls, Krampus hands out punishments to the bad. A fanged, goat-horned bully, the Christmas Devil uses sticks and chains to beat the naughty children. Dark malts and aromatic hops create the diabolical spirit of this brew. It is finished with lager yeast and aged cold for no less than 30 days. This Imperial Helles Lager will warm even the darkest hearts. This season, replace the cookies with a bottle of Krampus. If he happens to pay a visit, toast to him with this devilish brew. Merry Kramp-mas to all, and to all a good pint!”

ABV: 9.0%
OG: 20° P


Porter Brewday

Since I underplanned and was below the mark for the OG on last week’s IPA, it makes perfect sense that I overplanned and was way over on the OG for today’s Porter. Stupid poetic justice...

65. Porter
1 lb. Rahr White Wheat malt
1 lb. Crystal malt 60° L
1 lb. Breiss 2-row malt
8 oz. Breiss Chocolate malt
8 oz. Dingeman’s Chocolate malt
8 oz. Dingeman’s Cara 8 Belgian malt
2 oz. Simpsons Black Patent malt

Mashed @ 154° F for 60 minutes; raised to 168° F
Sparged with 1 gallon of 168° F water

Added fluid to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:
6 lbs. Breiss Golden Light DME
.6 oz. Galena pellet 14.1% AA

w/45 minutes to go (I forgot it earlier):
1 teaspoon gypsum

w/30 minutes to go:
.5 oz. Cascade pellet 7.5% AA

w/15 minutes to go:
1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/5 minutes to go:
.5 oz. Tettnanger pellet 4.7% AA
1 lb. Sunshine’s Organic Blackstrap Molasses

Cooled wort, racked to bucket, and pitched White Labs 007 Dry English Ale Yeast

Brewed: 3/18/2010 started @ 64° F
Secondary: 3/28/2010; currently 1.020
Bottled: 4/3/2010 with 4.8 oz. Breiss Golden Light DME

OG: 1.074
FG: 1.020

Tasting Notes 8/15/2010: Pours a rich chocolate with a minimal head that quickly rings the glass; the nose is dark, rich malty sweetness mixed with molasses and brown sugar and just a touch of the sulfur that you get in molasses accompanied by some earthy hop aromas. Flavors start with chocolate, coffee, and a roastiness before giving way to a richer, sweeter middle, with brown sugar and molasses. There is some sort of slightly harsh metallic tang that appears at the tail end of the middle as the beer moves into the finish; it lingers through the finish on the back of the tongue, mixing with the dryness and bitterness that also emerges. The body is medium and has a slightly vinous and thick mouthfeel. There is also some warming from the alcohol at the back of the throat—probably a bit too much, in fact. The carbonation is a bit light as well. While the flavors are good, they are a bit uneven, and the harshness that appears does detract from the overall impression of the beer. The flavors imparted by the molasses from the last five minutes also took this beer pretty much out of the Robust Porter parameters, leaving it somewhere in between a porter and a stout; I’m going to try entering it as 13D. Foreign Extra Stout.

Dayton Beerfest (9/11/2010; as 13D. Foreign Extra Stout): 31.5