Wednesday, June 30, 2010

365. Rainier

Here’s to the conclusion that no one saw coming. We bought this Rainier at Polebridge Merchantile in Polebridge, MT (they have awesome huckleberry bearclaws), just outside Glacier National Park on a camping trip two years ago. Since then, this beer has traveled to Seattle and then back to Dayton, where it has resided in the back of our refrigerator, just waiting for a moment worthy of being cracked open. And here we are. I don’t think I need to say much about the merits of Vitamin R; for you naysayers who don’t know, Rainier is a Northwest classic. It is one of the two Northwest beers I cut my teeth on before the microbrew revolution took hold—the other being Olympia. I shotgunned pounders of Rainier before seeing Run DMC on New Year’s Eve in 1986. So you know it’s old school like that. Oh, and Rainier used to be brewed in good ol’ downtown Seattle, WA—you always knew when you were rolling up on the big old R outside the brewery next to I-5—but it has since been bought out and is now part of the Pabst stable. Rainier got bought out and shut down in 1999. Fuckers. This can says it was made in Irwindale, CA, but Rainier’s heart is still a part of the great Northwest. Oh, and just so all you haters know, Ranier won GABF gold in 1990, 1998, and 2000 in the American Light Lager category. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Described on the can as a “naturally brewed mountain fresh beer,” and “made with Yakima Valley hops,” Rainier pours a crystal clear straw color. The light white head quickly disappears, and the nose is a grainy and slightly sweet malt—let’s just say it smells like teen spirit, and leave it at that. Flavors start dry and biscuit-y, with some graininess in the background; the middle is slightly sweet and even, and the finish has a bit more graininess coupled with a light bitterness and a clean, crisp finish. Some of this could be from the age of the beer—after all, Rainier is not a candidate for aging—but a lot of it is just straight up Rainier. Rainier has a light, fresh body (even after two years!) with a dry, clean mouthfeel—as American lagers go, this falls on the dry, crisp side, not on the sweet, malty side. The carbonation is medium, with a light bite that helps the beer finish crisp and light. Rainier reminds me of those younger, carefree days, and tastes like my youth—it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Nonetheless, I’d happily crack a Rainier any chance I can get—nostalgia is getting harder to come by when it comes in 12 oz. cans.

From the Rainier website: “Rainier beer brings together nature’s bounty from the great Northwest. Pure spring waters combine with golden barley and verdant hops to produce a beer rich in taste and texture. Fermented slowly with a pedigree yeast culture under tightly controlled conditions, Rainier comes forth with a satisfying malty flavor over a slightly fruity background, spiced with Chinook, Mt. Hood, and Willamette hop notes.”

Here’s to a good year!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

364. Russian River Consecration

con·se·cra·tion, n. 1. the act of dedication to the service & worship of a deity. 2. the act of giving the sacremental character to Eucharistic elements of bread and wine.

One last beer from Russian River, or at least for a while, as not only are we swinging towards home, but this pretty much depletes the Russian River back stock we had built up. This marks beer number four from Russian River—Temptation, Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig round our drinking pleasure. Plus, they love definitions, which means we love them—who doesn’t love paying attention to language?

Described on the label as an “ale aged in oak barrels with currants added,” Consecration pours a reddish brown color—not quite bright enough to be garnet, but not dark enough to be burnt sienna—with a light ivory head that quickly disappears. The nose has a good amount of vinegar sourness—we think that is acetic acid—and smaller amounts of fruitiness, which is probably the currants, although there is also something of a grape-ish Bazooka Joe aroma that emerges from the background. Flavors start with bright citric bite followed by some vinegar sourness; the middle has small amounts of fruitiness before moving into a mineral-y finish that is chalky, dry, and tart. The small amounts of fruitiness in the middle give the appearance of sweetness in the middle, even though this is about as bone dry as Temptation. The chalky, dry finish is also more pronounced here than it was with Temptation, although they both have the same light body. Consecration has a bright, puckering, and tart mouthfeel—the dryness and high attenuation, coupled with the mineral and chalky component of the finish leave a tangy and tart residual sensation on the palate after the beer is gone, along with a fair amount of dryness. The carbonation is medium; mixed with the light body, the bite is tingly and bright. An enjoyable beer; like with the Temptation, there is some flushed cheek perspiration, and plenty of mouth-puckering goodness. I like this better than Temptation, although Elli finds Temptation more enjoyable than Consecration. I’m not sure what that means other than to say that this beer is a yummy treat.

Look at those red highlights!

From the bottle: “When we made the Toronado’s 2oth Anniversary Ale, we had no idea that it would turn out to be one of our favorite barrel aged beers we would ever make. With that said, we have always wanted to make a dark barrel aged beer using 100% Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, bu, we never were inspired. That is, until we blended five different beers to make the Toronado beer, the tobacco character from the dark malts blended nicely with the fruit character that developed in blending. So, with Consecration we set out to make a barrel beer using all Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Now, we are not saying this is a replicaof the T-rooms anniversary beer, after all, a beer like that can never be duplicated, and, there was no fruit added to that beer as there is with this one. All we are saying is that it gave us great inspiration to brew Consecration. Consecration is refermented in the bottle to create its carbonation—a process commonly used to make fine Champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment in the bottle, adding yet another layer of complexity and flavors. Pour slowly as to allow the natural yeast sediment to remain in the bottle.”

ABV: 10.0%
Batch: 002X3
Brewed: 6/18/2008
Bottled: 4/1/2009


Monday, June 28, 2010

363. The Lost Abbey Angel’s Share 2010

Already another from the Lost Abbey—see what a little trip to California can do four our drinking options? This makes el numero four from San Marcos, CA, including Serpent Stout 2009, Carnevale Ale and Avant Garde Ale. So so good.

Beer and World Cup? Hell yes!

Angel’s Share pours a luscious toffee with a very minimal ivory head—swirling the glass vigorously creates a covering over about half of the surface which then quickly reduces to an arabesque. As well, the swirling does leave some legs on the glass. The nose is a creamy caramel and toffee malt mixed with French oak and some sherry and fruitiness to round things out—the nose is quite luscious, complex, and balanced, and was enjoyable to pick apart. Angel’s Share starts with toffee and some creamy butteriness before moving into oak and vanilla flavors mixed with sherry and dark aged fruit alcohol flavors. The finish is tannic and sweet with a bit of an alcohol tang, creating a drying effect on the palate that brings the alcohol taste to the forefront. With a medium-heavy body and a rich, chewy mouthfeel that is slightly sticky, Angel’s Share also has a fair share of dryness in it from the oak tannins. The carbonation is pretty much a non-factor in this beer; both the oak and alcohol do more to shape and round the beer. An interesting beer, one that hints at a richness and complexity that it currently doesn’t have—it could use more aging to allow the oakiness to lessen and the malt flavors to deepen and develop. Currently, the nose is more impressive than the flavor profile both in complexity and nuance—picking the nose apart was more interesting than the body, although we enjoyed both. If you’ve got a bottle of this, sock it away for at least a year before you bust it out.

From the bottle: “Way down in Kentucky and across the pond in Scotland, distillers age their Whiskey for many years in oak barrels. Over time, some Whiskey is lost to evaporation. They refer to this loss as ‘The Angel’s Share.’ Each time a barrel is filed [sic], a measure of this liquid seeps into the oak, and is lost forever. Our Angel’s Share is a barrel aged burgundy colored ale infused with copious amounts of caramel malt to emphasize the vanilla and oak flavors found in freshly emptied bourbon barrels. Each batch spends no less than 9 months aging in the oak. As with all of our beers, this beer is brewed for sinners and saints alike. So be an angel and share it with a friend or two.”

From the Lost Abbey website: “The Angel’s Share Story: It’s warehouse #5 built in 1886 that gets the most attention. The other four weren’t built so well and succumbed over the years. On the outside, to most #5 is a rather unremarkable white washed building. That is until they pass through the weathered doors and are easily consumed. Here in the hallowed halls it just oozes history. Inside this three story building, they find row after row of whiskey slumbering away the days until the distiller calls their name and they are called into action. It’s a weathered building with a timeline of over one hundred and twenty years of continuous service. Looking around, there is a warm orange glow from all the wood inside. On both sides of the room for as far as your eyes can see, there are wood racks with carvings, nicks and dings. It smells sweet in here. Could that be the Whiskey breathing? Perhaps it’s the angels doing their work? Or is there just something sweet about 200 year old wood that intoxicates your sense of smell. Imagine the history that belongs to the wood in this ‘shed.’ It comes from seeds that were planted when the idea for the Revolutionary War was just fermenting. And it’s still here, every single day telling the story of this distillery. This warehouse has seen it all. It survived the harsh winter of 1913. There was the Tornado in 1956 and who can forget the flood of 1973? But, it’s still here. Still working, living and breathing whiskey as great grandpa designed it to do. Sure, there are more cobwebs and spiders than there used to be? It’s an old building after all. One of the family members proclaimed it to be a grand old warehouse of monumental importance, so now it’s on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. Yet, the premise has always been the same. We need a place to age those spirits. And #5 has always been there. Ask the family members to describe #5 and they all tell you the same thing.‘The Angel’s get more than their fair share from #5 but we don’t care. To us, there is nothing finer than the whiskey that comes from old #5. We wish they drank less. But then again, we really don’t need an excuse to drink more?’”

ABV: 12.5%


Sunday, June 27, 2010

362. Deschutes The Abyss 2009 Reserve

More fancy stuff for the final week, and more from Deschutes. Ah, Deschutes. So near and dear. And being that this is lucky number 7 from Deschutes, what a way to round things out, no? Our last six include Black Butte Porter XXI, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Hop Trip, Inversion, and Red Chair IPA.

Described on the front label as a “stout brewed with licorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels,” The Abyss pours a rich thick espresso brown with a creamy tan head that reduces to a thin persistent covering; when swirled, it leaves legs on the glass and raises more of the creamy tan head. The nose is roasted malt with a dash of an herbal licorice aroma in the background (as opposed to an anise-based licorice aroma). Flavors open with rich molasses and chocolate sweetness, and move into roasted malt and dark coffee creaminess in the middle coupled with low levels of bitterness before finishing with a touch of vanilla and a light bourbon based alcohol presence mixed with a bit of tannic oak, roasted and burnt malt flavors, and chocolate. Abyss has a heavy body that is lightly vinous, creamy, and chewy, although lighter on the palate and cleaner than either Dark Lord or Serpent Stout. There is some warming from the alcohol, but no hotness or bite; the carbonation is light to medium, and mixes well with the oak to round the beer across the profile. An excellent beer that is drinkable now, Abyss should (hopefully) continue to develop with age. Abyss is the best of the last three; it has the wider and more complex range of flavors than Serpent Stout, and it comes together more coherently than Dark Lord. Lots more o’ the yummy—go Deschutes!

From the bottle: “It’s dark. It’s deep. It’s mysterious. This imperial stout has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich complex profile. The flavor of this special brew draws you in further and further with each sip. The Abyss beckons. Enjoy the journey.”

From the Deschutes website: “The Abyss has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich, complex profile. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors draw you in further and further with each sip. And at 11% alcohol by volume, you will want to slowly savor each and every ounce. Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 marks the fourth release of this dark and mysterious imperial stout. Limited availability in wax-dipped 22-ounce bottles and on draft at a few select establishments.”

ABV: 11.0%
IBU: 65
Best After: 11/1/2010

Elli’s parents, who were visiting, were less impressed than we were with this beer.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

361. The Lost Abbey Serpent Stout 2009

Our illustrious final week of big beers continues with the Lost Abbey Serpent Stout. This is our third beer from Lost Abbey; the last two were Carnevale Ale and Avant Garde Ale. Spoiler alert and obnoxious prose warning all rolled into one: sorry guys, it’s not a classic struggle between good and evil. It’s just beer.

It’s the fall of mankind!!!

Serpent Stout 2009 pours a deep, rich coffee with a latte-colored head. The nose, however, breaks with the coffee theme—there are chocolate, roasted, dark fruit, and alcohol aromas; the dark fruit combines with the alcohol to create a bit of a port-like or sherry-like aroma that is mixed with a bit of creaminess. The flavor profile is a super chocolate bomb—we’ve got sweet milk chocolate in the front, dry dark chocolate in the middle, and cocoa in the finish. In addition to the chocolate, there are molasses hints in the front as well as some roastiness that starts in the middle and lingers through the finish, coupled with a bit of alcohol flavor, small amounts of chalkiness, and possibly some hop bitterness as well, although we’re not certain on that last one. There is none of the fruit from the nose in the body, or any of burnt malt flavors you’d expect to find in a big stout like this—it is a very different beer from the nose, which is more complex and nuanced. Serpent Stout has a heavy body with a rich, vinous mouthfeel that is a bit sticky and also chewy; the alcohol is kept nicely in check—while there is a bit of alcohol flavor, there are no hot alcohol characteristics on the palate. The carbonation, while having a bit of bite in the turn toward the final third, is pretty minimal in the overall mouthfeel. A good beer overall; it could use a bit more variety and complexity in regards to the flavor profile, but it is still very drinkable. In fact, as it currently stands, Serpent Stout trumps Dark Lord; while both are still young, Serpent Stout is much more of an enjoyable beer right now—while both are good, Serpent Stout drinks easier than Dark Lord.

From the bottle: “From the beginning of time, it was so decreed. ‘From this Tree of Knowledge, you shall not eat this fruit.’ Soon enough, the serpent slithered through the Garden convincing Eve to tastethe nectar from this forbidden fruit. Once bitten and shamed, she then tempted Adam. Together, their atrocious actions brought Original Sin upon our world. Discontent to rest on his laurels the Serpent continued his cunning ways bringing forth more temptations. Ultimately, he foisted upon the world his own Serpent Stout--a liquid so dark and viscous that all who tasted soon fell victim to this evil incarnate. Some turned to false prophets seeking advice. None of it mattered. Each struggle revealed the battle between Good and Evil. And now that you are holding a bottle of this liquid, it is certain he has tempted even you... So, welcome to our Daker Side of Life--home to the Serpent Stout’s Original Sin and the tastiest beer known to man.”

From the Lost Abbey website: “The history of the bible and religion is indeed the struggle of good vs. evil. Our Serpent’s Stout recognizes the evil of the dark side that we all struggle with. This is a massively thick and opaque beer that begs the saints to join the sinners in their path to a black existence. Pours dark and thick, with a creamy mocha-colored head and aromas of roasted malts, dark chocolate and french roast coffee. The mouthfeel is full, smooth and round on the tongue. The taste is rich with deep roasted malts, cocoa, coffee and a touch of vanilla balanced perfectly against the alcohol to create an excellent winter warmer.”

ABV: 11%

Elli’s idea for this was to mix Serpent Stout with a cider and make a snakebite, which would not only triple the serpent theme of the beer—serpent, apples, and snakebite—it would play perfectly into the whole Garden of Eden and fall of man theme. But we didn’t have any cider on hand, and were thus left with a good idea with no possibility of follow through. Or in other words, par for the course.


Friday, June 25, 2010

360. Three Floyds Dark Lord 2010

“I was hoping it would be like this, but drinkable.”

Another from Three Floyds, making this our ninth beer from Munster, IN, including Rabbid Rabbit, BrooDoo Harvest Ale, Brian Boru, Gumballhead Wheat, Robert the Bruce, Dreadnaught, Black Sun Stout and Blackheart IPA. And if you don’t know this is a Russian Imperial Stout, you are a sad, sad beer geek. Because, let’s be honest, is anyone else reading this? Actually, the real question is, is anyone reading this? I mean, beside my parents...

Dark Lord 2010 pours the color of used motor oil, although the lighter kind, so that there is a deep brown sheen to it—not that black as tar stuff that my dad used to dump down into mole holes. Yes, my dad did that. But that was in like 1977, when nobody cared about the earth. It is also clear, so that there are some orange highlights around the edges, even with all of the darkness. There is no sign of the patent-pending “reverse cascading head,” although this could be because this particular bottle is still rather young—the head that was there was tan and quickly ringed the glass. The nose is a roasty coffee malt explosion with some creaminess and what comes across as a touch of smoke in the background—like someone let the rauchbier dude in on brew day, and he snuck a bunch of that smoked malt into the brew kettle—and also a bit of alcohol aroma. It also smell kinda young—the aromas are there, and are good, but still run into one another too much rather than running smoothly together. Dark Lord begins with a thick rich molasses, chocolate, and roasted malt flavor in the front before shifting into dark fruit and rum raisin with a smoky burnt coffee backdrop in the middle, which lingers well into the finish and beyond. Sweetness returns in the finish, along with a whole bunch more chocolate, and Dark Lord ends with lingering chocolate and alcohol flavors. The body is heavy, thick, and rich—insert your appropriate terms here indicating massive heaviness—with a chewy mouthfeel that is also sticky and a bit cloying. The carbonation at this point is pretty minimal—maybe it picks up with age, but that “reverse cascading head’ failed to put in an appearance. It does help shift into the final third, but it also fails to lighten the mouthfeel or cut out the stickiness. The alcohol is fairly present, although more prominent towards the end—there is a bit of a lingering burn. An interesting beer, but not one that is really ready to drink—it is not terrible, and tastes very young—it most certainly would benefit from some aging. As it currently stands, while this is a challenging beer, it does not offer enough reward for the effort that currently goes into it. While we understand that this may be heresy to some, so be it. At this point, we’re not sure it lives up to the hype, but then again, as Chuck D always told us, don’t believe the hype.

From the bottle: “Dark Lord is a gargantuan Russian Style Imperial Stout, with a reverse cascading head that starts out billowing the color of burnt oil like the Dark Lord rising from the black primordial beginnings. Its resonant vinous aroma has been described as cherries, sweet malt, molasses, burnt currants, plums, with a port wine alcohol undertow. Mochachino notes buried within. Motor oil consistency, hellishly smooth yet divinely burnt and vinous. The first sip coats your palate with a palatial charred fruit and chocolate blanket. Alcohol burn wiggles its way down your throat with a thick body. Enjoy and thanks for your continuing support.”

From the Three Floyds website: “A demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligensia coffee Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar this beer defies description, available one day a year in April at the brewery, Dark Lord Day.”

ABV: we were told the 2010 was 15%—who knows?


Thursday, June 24, 2010

359. Russian River Temptation

temp-ta-tion, n. 1. something that seduces or has the quality to seduce. 2. the desire to have or do something that you know you should avoid.

Our third beer from Russian River, and since this one starts with a definition, you know it has to be good. Plus, unlike the last two beers (Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig), which emphatically warned us on the label to not age the beers, this one is in a different category. Go oak-aged wild beers!

Pouring a brilliant straw, Temptation has a bright, tart, and minerally nose with possibly some light fruitiness—something like a light yellow raisin—and a light white head that quickly disappears. The front is dry and tart, moving into a lightly sour profile in the middle with a bunch of vitamin C tablet tartness—the tartness actually put a wisp of perspiration across my cheeks. There is also just a bit of brettanomyces funk hidden in the tartness of the middle. The finish is dry, minerally—almost a bit chalky— and rather clean. Temptation has light body with a puckering and dry mouthfeel across the profile; the carbonation is bright and effervescent on the tongue. Coupled with the oak and citric tartness, the puckering factor on this beer is off the charts—see my previous note about my flushed cheeks. As well, this beer has a high level of attenuation—there is not much in the body in the way of anything fermentable. At the same time, this beer is damn good; the dryness is well balanced, and the sour tartness makes it refreshing and crisp. While this is not the funkiest or sourest beer we’ve come across, the strength is in the subtlety and smoothness—there is not a hint of alcohol, and the brightness of the beer makes it very, very quaffable. If it weren’t so damn expensive and hard to procure, this would be an excellent beer to introduce people to the possibilities of barrel-aged wild ales; as is it is still something to hang onto for that special occasion.

From the bottle: “Is it beer, or is it wine? ‘Aged in French oak wine barrels with distinct characteristics of fruit and subtle oak’ sounds more like a description of wine than beer. Actually, Temptation is a blonde ale, after the primary fermentation it is aged in used French oak chardonnay barrels. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout the barrel aging. During this time, secondary fermentation occurs using a yeast strain disliked by most brewers and winemakers called Brettanomyces. The addition of ‘Brett’ gives Temptation intriguing characteristics and a pleasant sourness. Temptation is refermented in this bottle to create carbonation – a process commonly used to make fine champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment in the bottle, adding yet another layer of complexity and flavor. Pour slowly as to allow the natural yeast sediment to remain in the bottle.”

ABV: 7.25%
OG: 1.062
IBU: 27
Batch: 004X3
Brewed: 5/25/2008
Bottled: 6/2/2009
Primary Yeast: Abbey Ale
Conditioning Yeast: Rockpile & Brett Wyeast 3789 Blend


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

358. North Coast Old Stock Ale 2004

It’s been a while since our last beer from North Coast—February to be exact—although we did get that lovely shout out from North Coast in April. Anyway, this beer was a gift from Aaron Spoores—thanks, my man—and it marks our sixth beer from the brewers in Fort Bragg, CA, including Brother Thelonius, Old No. 38 Stout, Red Seal Ale, Cru d’Or Organic Belgian Style Ale and Old Rasputin XII.

Old Stock Ale 2004 began exuding a rich rum raisin malt nose as soon at the bottle was opened; pouring a crystal clear copper with luscious red highlights, it has a tan head that starts creamy before settling down to ring the glass. In addition to the rum raisin aroma from the opening of the bottle, the nose also has a sweet bready malt aroma that Elli describes as cake, and there are also some creamy components to it—put all together, the nose strikes us as a delicious boozy raisin cupcake with some light white frosting. But in a good way. Flavors start sweet, bready, and lightly biscuity with just an ever so slight taste of alcohol before rolling into an even dry middle. There is a bit of a return of sweetness at the end, accompanied by more of the alcohol flavor and low levels of bitterness that close out the beer. Old Stock Ale is medium bodied with a bit of stickiness and chewiness in the mouthfeel, although very smooth and even on the palate; there is also a slight alcohol warmth in the final third that blends nicely with the finishing sweetness. The carbonation is medium—the amount left in the bottle was actually rather impressive—although it doesn’t lighten the mouthfeel very much. Old Stock Ale is subtle and well-balanced overall; the flavors have had the time to marry across the profile, resulting in an excellent and delicious malt beverage. As already noted, this beer is very smooth and even; while it could use a bit more complexity of flavor (we would guess that this beer has peaked and is on the way down), it is still an excellent treat for which we are especially thankful—thanks again to Aaron.

From the North Coast website: “Like a fine port, Old Stock Ale is intended to be laid down. With an original gravity of over 1.100 and a generous hopping rate, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round-out and mellow with age. It's brewed with classic Maris Otter malt and Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops, all imported from England.”

ABV: 11.4%


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

357. Deschutes Black Butte Porter XXI

A big bottle of something special from Deschutes tonight—their 21st Birthday Reserve of Black Butte Porter. Can you blame us? Since we’re headed into the home stretch with our year-long blog, it’s time to bust out some of the gems that we’ve socked away. Nothing says victory like ransacking your basement of all of it’s gems. This is our sixth beer from Deschutes—the list includes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Hop Trip, Inversion, and Red Chair IPA. In sadder news, Black Butte Porter XXII just got cancelled. How bad does that suck?

Described on the label as a “porter brewed with chocolate beans and coffee added with 20% aged in bourbon barrels,” Black Butte XXI pours a rich cherry wood color—rich brown with subtle red highlights—with a white head that quickly disappears. The nose is subtle and complex; dark fruits mixed with cocoa, oak, and vanilla, and just a touch of alcohol in the background. The oak and vanilla dissipate after a couple of minutes, allowing the fruitiness to dominate the nose. Starting with a rich dark sweetness that has molasses and chocolate flavors, Black Butte XXI moves into sweeter and fruitier flavors in the middle—cherry, currant, and prune— although still accompanied by chocolate. The finish is sweet, with some alcohol flavor, and a touch of roastiness from the coffee that helps transition from the middle to the end, merging well with the chocolate and sweetness. Black Butte XXI has a medium to heavy body with a rich, smooth mouthfeel; the carbonation is medium to light, and only contributes minimally to overall palate sensations. The alcohol flavor and tang pick up significantly as the beer warms; the taste is good, but still a bit sticky on the palate, although since we are drinking this before the “Best After” date, we shouldn’t be surprised—while nice now, this beer should age well, allowing the beer to dry out a bit and marry the flavors into more of a seamless whole. Very well done; rich, balanced, and nuanced across the profile with subtle notes that we’re sure will continue to develop, which is good because we have another bottle of this in the basement.

From the bottle: “XXI. What does 21 years of hardcore experimentation look like? Witness the imperial version of our Black Butte Porter. Three types of chocolate malt. Three varieties of Northwest hops. Cocoa nibs from the Dominican Republic. Locally roasted Ethiopian coffee. Painstakingly aged in bourbon barrels. Joyous abandon in a bottle. After 21 years we recognize the safe path, we just refuse to take it.

From the Deschutes website: “This masterpiece is a tribute to Black Butte Porter, the revolutionary Deschutes Brewery beer that has excited beer enthusiasts since 1988. This special Reserve Series release is a colossal version of Black Butte Porter. Our brewers enhanced Black Butte XXI by adding some Theo’s Chocolate cocoa nibs from Seattle, dry-hopping it with 100 pounds of Bellatazza’s locally roasted coffee, and then aging a portion of it in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels. These regional partners provided quality artisan ingredients that give this commemorative beer a truly handcrafted complexity. ”

ABV: 11%
IBU: 55
Best After: 10/17/2010

We do like that Deschutes has beers with “Best After” dates. Ah, so rich.


Monday, June 21, 2010

356. Founders Pale Ale

This marks our sixth beer from Founders, following KBS (which was itself a bonus beer), Centennial IPA, Black Biscuit, Harvest Ale and Breakfast Stout. We found this on tap at Dewey’s, so we had it with dinner.

Served to us in pint glasses, Founders Pale Ale was a soft copper that was slightly yellow; it has a minimal head that quickly ringed the glass, although it did leave behind some lacing. The nose was a toasty, bready, and grainy malt nose with a little spicy hoppiness and some slight bitterness. The flavors followed the nose: the opening was mostly a toasty and bready malt that shifted to a spicy bitterness in the middle. The finish saw a return of some of the breadiness with some caramel malt flavor and dry biscuit, and also some graininess; the spicy bitterness from the middle also lingers on through into the finish, and also a bit beyond. Founders Pale Ale has a medium body and also a medium carbonation; there is some creaminess and dryness in the mouthfeel, although the dryness is more from the malt than the hops. As well, the bite from the carbonation and the hop bitterness merge in the final third to help clean and round the beer. Founders Pale Ale is more British than American as pale ales go—the bitterness defines the second half of the beer, with minimal hop flavor and aroma. Good, but nothing really outstanding.

From the Founders website: “A testament to Cascade hops in a bottle. This medium-bodied pale ale has a distinctive floral hop aroma and refreshing citrus flavor. You’ll notice a slight malty sweetness with a balanced hop finish. Perfect to enjoy anytime, anywhere.”

ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 35

I guess ours was a little old or something, because there was none of that “distinctive floral hop aroma and refreshing citrus flavor” to be found. Oh well.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

355. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Another little something from Brooklyn Brewing—this is our fourth beer, including Black Ops 2010, East India Pale Ale and Pennant Ale ’55. Sorachi Ace pours a soft hazy straw with a white pillow-y head; the nose is tart, dry, creamy, and slightly earthy with some yeast esters dancing around to complicate things. Flavors are crisp and dry across the palate; the front is soft and cracker-y, moving into a slight bit of sweetness in the middle combined with yeast ester flavors (perceived mostly via a light fruitiness) and bitterness from the hops. The finish is slightly paper-y with some lingering bitterness. Sorachi Ace has a medium body; as saisons go, it is dry, but not as highly attenuated as some of the other ones that we’ve had—some of the dryness here may be attributable to the malt and hops. There is also some creaminess in the flavor and mouthfeel, along with dryness and softness. The carbonation is medium with a decent bite in the middle that does set up the bitterness nicely; it helps to clear the palate and round the beer. The balance and the body are good; it could be lighter in the body, and the carbonation could be a bit more effervescent to brighten and lighten the beer. A good beer overall; we’d be happy to drink more, and would like to try it on tap to see how it compares.

From the bottle: “Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison, a cracklingly dry, hoppy unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, but featuring the rare Sorachi Ace hop. Fermented with our special Belgian ale strain, we add more Sorachi Ace hops post-fermentation. After 100% bottle re-fermentation with Champagne yeast, the beer emerges with a bright spicy lemon zest aroma. It tastes like sunshine in a glass, and that suits us just fine, especially with seafood dishes and fresh cheeses.”

From the Brooklyn website: “As a chef does with spices, we look to get the best qualities of each hop and create a harmony of flavors and aromas. However, a few years ago, we ran into a hop unique enough to deserve its own moment in the sun. A large Japanese brewery first developed the hop variety Sorachi ace in 1988. A cross between British Brewers Gold and the Czech Saaz varieties, it exhibited a quality that was unexpected—it smelled really lemony. The unique flavor of Sorachi Ace was bypassed by hte big breweries, but we think it is pretty cool. ”

ABV: 7.6%
Malts: German 2-row Pilsner
Hops: Oregon grown Sorachi Ace
Initial release date: 7/23/2009


Saturday, June 19, 2010

354. Hoppin’ Frog Hoppin’ to Heaven IPA

This is our second beer from Hoppin’ Frog; our last one was Barrel Aged BORIS. As part of our reparations for drinking too much West Coast beer, we’ve stepped up our efforts to drink locally and think globally.

In the background is sweet sweet World Cup action...

Pouring a hazy burnt copper with a mousse-y white head that leaves a fair amount of lacing, Hoppin’ to Heaven IPA has a spicy hop nose backed with grassy and vegetal aromas; there are small amounts of maltiness as well, but the hops are far more prominent. Flavors start with bready sweetness that is light and honey-like; the middle has a little bit of bitterness along with spicy, pine, and resin hop flavors. The bitterness really asserts itself in the final third, with spicy and grassy flavors lingering along with the bitterness in the finish. The body is medium with a bit of chewiness in the mouthfeel, along with a good amount of crisp bite from the hops and the bitterness. The carbonation is medium, but rather soft on the mouth; there is probably as much bite from the bitterness as from the carbonation. The balance of the beer is towards the hops, and the lighter malt flavors, which are quite good, help accentuate the hoppier profile. A good beer overall, although we would like a bit more distinct hop flavor.

From the Hoppin’ Frog website: “Raise your glass to the heavens in a toast to hops – the spice of beer! This classic American IPA features the finest American hops to add a spicy, assertive, and citrusy character to its full-bodied, rich malt taste.”

ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 68
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.018


Friday, June 18, 2010

353. Sierra Nevada Charlie, Fred, & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock

This is the second in the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary beer series after the Fritz and Ken’s Ale, and our ninth beer from Sierra Nevada, including Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Bigfoot, 30th Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale, Kellerweis, Celebration, Torpedo Extra IPA, Anniversary Ale 2009 and Harvest Wet Hop Ale 2008.

Charlie, Fred, & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock pours a crystal clear with a creamy white head. The nose is grainy, sweet, fruity, and slightly juicy; flavors open with dry biscuit maltiness before moving into a clean fruity middle that is also slightly creamy—there are light grape and citrus flavors that verge on pineapple. The finish is sweet, biscuity, and quite bitter, although not very clean—the bigger bitterness may be to cover up residual imperial-style sweetness of the beer. CFK’s Imperial Helles Bock has a medium to heavy body with medium carbonation that bites mostly in the final third. There is a bit of a tang from the bitterness on the palate. A good beer in general; the finish does get a bit sticky, especially after carbonation bite. We’d like this a bit more if it was a bit smaller so that the finish was drier and cleaner. However, they did an excellent job of scaling up the size of the beer while retaining its original characteristics.

From the bottle: “Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt are two of the country’s most esteemed homebrewers and writers. Their influential books and steadfast promotion of brewing culture helped propel the craft brewing movement. Charlie and Fred agreed to work with us on this very special brew in honor of our 30th Anniversary. This Imperial Helles Bock is a testament to the ever-evolving brewer’s art. Bold yet balanced with distinct toasted malt character, moderate sweetness, and clean floral hops.”

From the Sierra Nevada website: “Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhart are the men who launched a thousand breweries. Their writing on the art of homebrewing and steadfast promotion of beer culture helped propel the craft brewing movement. Charlie and Fred agreed to work with us on this special ale in honor of our 3oth anniversary. This Imperial Helles Lager is a testament to the ever-evolving brewer’s art. Bold yet balanced with distinct toasted malt character, moderate sweetness and clean and floral hops. Enjoy!”

We do wonder about the ever-so-subtle differences between the comments on the bottle and on the website—what led to wordsmithing we see here?

ABV: 8.3%


Thursday, June 17, 2010

352. Avery Black Tot

The third beer from Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series; we previously sampled Brabant Barrel-Aged Wild Ale, but missed Sui Generis—but pretty much everyone missed that one. We do need to score a bottle or two of Dépuceleuse to stock away for a rainy day. Previously, we’ve tried Seventeen Dry-Hopped Black Lager, Anniversary Ale Ten (2003), Brabant Barrel-Aged Wild Ale, Ellie’s Brown Ale, 16th Anniversary Ale and duganA IPA. from Avery, making this our seventh beer from Boulder, CO—or at least the seventh beer from this brewery in Boulder, CO. I know, I know, the details...

Black Tot pours an inky dark chocolate; it has orange highlights and a burnt tan head that reduces to a ring after two or three minutes. The nose is an interesting mix of creaminess, dark rich malt, cane sugar, burnt sugar, molasses, tannic oakiness, and low levels of rum sweetness (but not alcohol). The oak contributes to the creamy and tannic aromas, and the parts are more distinct than married together. Flavors begin with a good amount of sweetness—cane and burnt sugar flavors, molasses, and rich malt sweetness—before transitioning to a tannic middle that is sharp and even almost tart; the oak tastes young and bright and some slight roasted malt peeks through as well. The finish still contains a good amount of lingering oak tannins, and a return of the rum sweetness with some rum alcohol flavors to round things out. The body is medium; the bright oak makes it feel thinner than it is on the mouth, and the carbonation almost disappears in relation to the sharpness of wood and alcohol. There is bite and puckering from both oak tannins and the alcohol at the end. Black Tot is sharp and very young tasting—this beer needs some time to mellow and allow the flavors to marry before we’ll even have a sense of what this beer could end up tasting like. I’d say that we opened this at least a year too early, if not more.

From the bottle: “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. 3. Swabbies, what could be better than yer daily rats o’ thick, chewy, and robust Imperial Oatmeal Stout? What say you, mateys? Aye, throw in yer beloved empty rum barrel for aging! To our sweethearts and wives, may they never meet! Huzzah!”

Um, do pirates actually think about aging beer? I didn’t think so...

ABV: 10.08%
Bottled: 1/13/2010
Production: 315 cases


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

351. St. Feuillien Saison

This is our first official beer from St. Feuillien, although we previously drank and blogged about St. Feuillien Brune Belgian Abbey Ale. Brasserie St. Feuillien in located in Le Roeulx, Belgium. And who doesn’t love Belgium? Well, besides the French, I mean.

St. Feuillen Saison pours a dull, hazy gold with a spritzy and mousse-y white head; the nose has a spicy Belgian yeast ester aroma with a bit of juicy/creaminess buried underneath. Flavors begin with a soft and spicy malt front that dries out in the middle; there are also some yeast ester flavors and a bit of the classic juicy saison flavor that Elli always finds, although in this beer it blends cleanly into the body. The finish has a slight (and I mean ever so slight) bit of sweetness before the carbonation bite and the high attenuation drop the beer into a lightly bitter and dry finish. St. Feuillen Saison has a medium albeit dry body with a medium carbonation that emerges in the final third of the beer; the carbonation couples well with the dryness of the beer to build the crisp bite of the mouthfeel and give the beer a bright and lively feel on the palate. This beer is an excellent example of the style; the high attenuation blends well with the crisp carbonation to create a refreshing and thirst-quenching beer—smooth, easy, and enjoyable to drink from first pour to last sip.

From the St. Feuillen website: “St. Feuillien Saison is what the Belgians call a beer of the terroir, a traditional farmhouse ale with all the rich savour of the fertile land of southern Belgium. Saison, a warm golden blonde ale, is a top-fermented classique. Thanks to secondary fermentation in the bottle, Saison has an unmistakable flavour full of rich nuances and a slight tang. Saison, the latest in a long line of top-quality St. Feuillien beers, went into production in March 2009 at the request of the US market, where there is a big demand for this kind of “hoppy” beer that is so emblematic of the rich Belgian tradition. As soon as it was launched in New York on 11 April, Saison was an instant success with consumers across the Atlantic, so much so that the launch of this new St. Feuillien product in Belgium was delayed by several weeks.”

ABV: 6.5%