Sunday, November 28, 2010

435. Upright Five

Our first official beer from Upright Brewing Company (we had Seven on tap at Bottleworks), located in Portland, OR; this was one of the treasures brought home from Seattle. Pouring a hazy dull straw, Five has a prolific and mousse-y ivory head that profusely laces the glass. The nose is perfume-y and spicy with a pleasant hoppy backdrop while the body is dry and crisp on the tongue. Starting dry with cracker and biscuit malt flavors, Five moves into bitterness in the middle with light spicy hop flavors and a lingering bitterness that lasts well past the finish. There is also a slight citrus tang or bite in the finish. The well-attenuated body accentuates the bitterness, leaving a pleasant mix of dryness and slight chalkiness to mix with the bitterness. The carbonation is just short of bright, helping to further balance the beer on the palate. Delicious, crisp, and refreshing, Five combines the best characteristics of a saison with American hopping practices to create an eminently drinkable beer. Nice work, gentlemen. We can only further add that this is a Top 10 Best contender. Kudos.

From the bottle: “Five is our hoppy beer, starting with a strongly aromatic and spicy nose. On the tongue deep herbaceous flavors underscore a firm bitterness that lasts through a dry finish. This beer is made with pale and caramel malts, rolled barley, Willamette, Liberty, and Perle hops, xanthohumol, and French saison yeast. All Upright Brewing Company beers pair well with locally made bread and artisan cheeses, amongst other straightforward foods. Pour into your favorite glass, whatever that may be, and enjoy!”

From the Upright website: “Five is a farmhouse pale ale that was born after enjoying a few small production European brews that use a heavy hand of hops. Ours blends several Mt. Angel grown varieties to create a deep and complex flavor with an underlying earthiness. Pale fruit aromas created during the fermentation brighten the profile and bring the beer balance.”

ABV: 5.5%
Malts: Organic pale & Organic caramel
Unmalted: Rolled barley
Hops: Willamette, Liberty, & Perle
Specialty Ingredients: xanthohumol (bottles only)

Dag. I’m not sure about that 120 gallons part.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

434. Dr. Fritz Briem 13th Century Grut Bier

Another beer from Dr. Fritz Briem and the Doemens Institute; our last one was Dr. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. Chatter on Al Gore’s invention seems a mixed bag as to whether Weihenstephan contributed to the production or not. I’ll just let that go, and focus on the beer. Grut Bier pours a hazy, dirty gold and has an herbal grapefruit and spicy ginger nose; there are also pine and other spice elements nestled in amongst the herbal and ginger notes, along with a slight metallic tang. The head is white and light, and quickly disappears. Opening with a light sweetness before transitioning into a tart herbal middle with slight wood flavors, Grut Bier also has bite from the ginger before giving way to candy sweetness in the finish coupled with rosemary pine flavors that linger along with the herbal flavors (I want to say that there is also bay leaf, but I am less able to ascertain what bay leaf tastes like by itself on my palate, unless I felt like heading over to the cupboard, pulling one out, and sucking on it for verification; for all of the obvious reasons, I am going to hold out on that). The carbonation is spritzy and bright, coupled with a light body, and the beer is light and effervescent on the palate—it literally dances on the tongue. With an interesting and complex mix of flavors, Grut Bier is a well-made and all-around well-balanced beer. The flavors, carbonation, and body all work seamlessly together to create an excellent drinking experience. This beer is certainly a Top 10 Best contender for the new year—it offers different and new palate and flavor sensations. Damn tasty stuff.

Gruit Ale is beer. And Soylent Green is people.

From the bottle: “Before the German Purity Law ‘Reinheitsgebot’ of 1516 it was common practice to use any kind of different spices, herbs, fruits and other plants to provide balance to beer. Hops was not yet well known at this time. Grut Bier has roots in many cultures and each culture had its own ‘special ingredients’: Egyptians, Native Americans, Arabian Tribes, Gaulles, Germanic Tribes and the Vikings. This interpretation of a traditional Grut Bier is spiced with Lorbeer (Bay Leaves), Ingwer (Ginger), Kummel (Caraway), Anis (Anise), Rosemarin (Rosemarie) & Enzian (Gentian). It is brewed with water, wheat & barley malt, ‘pollinated wild hops’ and fermented using top fermenting yeast.”

ABV: 4.6%


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

433. Alaskan Double Black IPA

Another non-porter beer from Alaskan Brewing Company; this one is part of their Pilot Series, which is their Limited Edition Specialty Series—the same one that their Baltic Porter is from. Previously, we’ve tried Amber, Baltic Porter and Smoked Porter, making this our fourth beer from ABC.

Double Black IPA pours a deep rich chocolate; in the glass it looks black, but when tilted you can see that it is really more of a dark chocolate. The head is a burnt cream that is initially creamy, but quickly reduces to a ring with an island left in the middle—we’ll call it the Island of Burnt Cream, which is like the Island of Dr. Moreau, only with the animals turned into desserts and tasty alcoholic beverages. Ah, to find that island. Aromas revolve around roasted malt, chocolate, and spicy hop bitterness—the roasted malt and chocolate cancel out most of the hop aromas (we’re assuming that there are hops, since we can taste the bitterness), leaving just the spicy component. All three components blend nicely in the nose, but it smells more like a stout than an IPA. Flavors open with caramel sweetness and roasted malt; the middle dries out and is bitter with chocolate. There is a light return of caramel sweetness and roastiness in the finish coupled with a bit of creaminess and dryness, ending with a light touch of chalkiness. With a medium body and a medium carbonation, Double Black IPA is smooth and even; the roastiness and bitterness mix well together. While we’re sticking with the “it’s not so much an IPA,” it is still a delicious and tasty beer that gets better as it warms—the chocolate and roastiness merge better with the bitterness than at the beginning, and the body opens up on the palate. I just wish we could find some more of that Baltic Porter...

From the Alaskan website: “Alaskan Double Black IPA is a combination of traditional beer styles, with a flavor profile most similar to an Imperial IPA and the dark black color, rich flavor and light chocolate head usually found in heartier stouts and porters. The aroma of Alaskan Double Black IPA consists of fresh, citrus notes from Northwest hops and the heavy, dry bouquet of roasted grains. Brewed with an array of dark malts, Alaskan Double Black IPA features the distinctive flavors of coffee and bitter chocolate with a subtle toasted sweetness. Large hop additions late in the boil, and dry-hopping after fermentation, lighten and refresh the overall perception and flavor of the beer. It finishes with a dry palate and lingering warmth and bitterness. The Black IPA, also called ‘Cascadian Dark Ale’ or ‘American-style India Black Ale,’ is a relative newcomer to the craft beer world. We may not know what to call it yet, but we do know it’s dark and it’s hoppy and we can't get enough of it.”

ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 70
OG: 1.087


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

432. Iron Horse Hop Hub Pale Ale

Our first beer from Iron Horse Brewery, located in Ellensburg, WA, “straight from hop country” as it says on the bottle. This is their 4th Anniversary ale, labeled as the “Beer Shoppe Anniversary Ale” on the bottle, although there is nothing on the Iron Horse website to indicate that this beer ever existed. And the bottle is bike-themed! So in other words, it is all good. We also had Caldera Ür Bock Rauch Beer, which was a bit too sweet in relation to the smoke flavors—it was more Kansas City BBQ than smoky rich bacon-y goodness. Our third beer for the day was Hopworks Urban Brewery (or HUB) IPA; HUB is located in Portland, OR, and is pretty much a straight up West Coast IPA: say hello to Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade hops coupled with a lighter malt load—organic Canadian pilsner and organic German Munich and Caramunich. Big hop flavor coupled with a chalky dry malt body. Dee-licious. HUB IPA also contributes to the bike-theme of today’s post: Hop Hub Pale Ale and HUB IPA (see the bottle photo if you’re more into the visual thing)—we couldn’t plan this if we tried. Sure, the Caldera is dragging down the bike-themed post, but you’ll all suck it up and deal, won’t you? Because if not, I’ll be forced to taunt you a second time.

Pouring a hazy tan with a light white head, Hob Hub Pale Ale has a restrained spicy hop aroma with lower levels of caramel malt sweetness underneath. There are also light fruity and apple hints along with the spiciness in the nose. Flavors are crisp and bright; there is light breadiness in the front followed by light bitterness and fruity and floral hop flavors. The finish is bready and bright with lightly lingering bitterness. Hop Pub Pale Ale is medium-bodied with a crisp body and brisk carbonation that helps round the bitterness and the body, along with a light chalky dryness. Elli liked it more when it was cold; I liked it more as it warmed up—the hop character ended up much like the fresh hop beer we made (well, minus the bitterness)—the floral, fruity, and light apple components are a lot of what we got of those hops we pulled off of the bike path. The difference here is the bitter components, which do help the overall beer. Nice job, Iron Horse. Wish we had more, but I doubt I’ll be seeing this in Dayton anytime in the near future. Ah, beer: why must you taunt me so?

HUB IPA says “Ride your bike,” dammit.

From Rate Beer: “Hop Hub is fermented just up the street from America’s hop mecca; the Yakima Valley. In this pale ale we are showcasing two strong and odiferous domestic hop varieties; chinook and amarillo. Hop Hub has ample citrusy hop aromas and flavors. We backed up these two high roller hops with a snappy blend of specialty malts, including caramel, honey et al., to keep this beer from tipping over.”

ABV: 6.0%


Monday, November 22, 2010

431. Laurelwood Workhorse IPA

Today marked our annual pilgrimage to Bottleworks; while we were there, we enjoyed an Upright Brewing Seven, which was a glass of 3711 delicious goodness. That’s right, I’m making beer yeast jokes. It’s for your own good, really. Some day you’ll understand. We also tried Big Time’s Baltic Porter. All while perusing the lovely options available to us at Bottleworks. Sheer deliciousness. Today’s selection is from Laurelwood Brewing Company, which has several lovely locations in downtown Portland; it is our second beer from them—the last one was Prevale IPA.

Workhorse IPA pours a delicate copper with a minimal white head; the nose is caramel sweetness and breadiness combined with spicy resin hop aroma, although there is something bright to the nose as well. Flavors pretty much follow the nose—we’ve got some caramel and breadiness in the front before giving way to bitterness in the middle; there is spicy pine and resin hop flavors in the middle as well, leading into the lingering bitter finish. While there is a slight amount of hop grassiness in the finish, overall Workhorse finishes rather clean. The body is medium with a medium to light carbonation that helps accentuate some of the chewiness in the mouthfeel. Workhorse is well-balanced between malt and hops; you could almost say that it falls to the malt side, but the hops do balance out the body, even with the chewy maltiness. Elli likes Hop Monkey IPA (also by Laurelwood) more than Workhorse IPA; I’m torn, as both have their own strengths despite their differences. In other words, both are winners. Moral of the story: Laurelwood rocks.

From the Laurelwood website: “Our biggest seller in the pubs, this is an extremely well balanced yet super flavorful IPA brewed in the West Coast style. The over-the-top aroma comes from a heavy handed dose of hops in the kettle, hop back and 2 separate dry-hop additions. A slightly sweet finish helps balance the hop bitterness and creates an ale that is both big on flavor yet remains quite drinkable.”

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 80
Malt: Great Western 2-row, Great Western C 40, & Briess Carapils
Hops: Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, & Columbus


Sunday, November 21, 2010

430. Caldera Hopportunity Knocks

Thanksgiving week means travel, food, and beer. And while it doesn’t always follow in that order, today it did. Since we were headed to Seattle for the illustrious event, that 6 a.m. flight got everything off on the right foot. And by right, I mean terrible. But all was uphill after that—right off the plane, we headed to Central Market to stock up on food, and, more importantly, beer. Today’s beer was recommended by a random stranger who saw us reading the back of the bottle and said “That beer rules. I’m grabbing one for myself.” Who can say no to that? After all, when Hopportunity Knocks, we’re listening. Caldera Brewing Company is located in Ashland, OR. This beer is part of Caldera’s Kettle Series, which is a limited small batch series of seasonal releases.

Hopportunity Knocks pours a rich hazy dark caramel; there’s a bit of copper to it as well, via the browns in the caramel, but it is more caramel than copper. The head is creamy, eggshell, and generously laces the glass. Aromas are an abundant caramel mixed with hops—the nose alone tells me we are back in the Northwest—we’ve got bread and caramel malt with some creaminess mixed with pine and resin hop aromas. I’d say the nose has almost a chewy component to it, but that would seem slightly oxymoronic. Flavors start dry and bready, but also with a fair amount of caramel flavor, although not as much as the nose might suggest; caramel sweetness and hop bitterness come into play in the middle—big hop bitterness—although some of the sweetness is mitigated by the drying character of the hop bitterness. The finish is spicy and dry biscuit with a lingering bitterness that is lightly chalky. Hopportunity Knocks has a creamy rounded mouthfeel; sure, there is big bitterness, but as a whole it is very drinkable. The carbonation is medium with a fairly creamy component to it. Delicious, and very Northwest. When we first started drinking it, the slight hop sourness in the finish was the tip-off that Centennial hops made up a good portion (if not all) of the hop bill—it reminded me of Bell’s Two Hearted—but as the beer warmeth, the richer malt and creaminess in the carbonation cover this over a bit. Nonetheless, a solid beer. It’s good to be home.

From the bottle: “When hopportunity knock, answer it. This ale is Caldera’s rendition of answering the Pacific Northwest calling for a @#!& pile of Centennial hops with a big beer to back it up. Don’t get left out in the cold, open up and fill the void within you...If ever in Ashland, Oregon, come by and check out the Caldera Tap House, located at 31 Water Street.”

ABV: 6.8%


Saturday, November 20, 2010

429. Founders Newaygo County Cherry

Nothing says holiday cheer like fancy beer. And Founders is just the brewery to make that holiday cheer even more special. We had this beer on tap at South Park Tavern as part of their Barrel Aged Beer Fest. Previously from Founders we’ve tried Devil Dancer, Pale Ale, KBS (as a bonus beer), Centennial IPA, Black Biscuit, Harvest Ale and Breakfast Stout.

Newaygo County Cherry is Cerise that has been aged in a bourbon barrel. And let’s just say that the bourbon and oak comes through on this one. The body is a clear pale reddish tan color, with a slight spritzy head that is creamy (which could also be from the oak). Flavors are equal parts cherry, vanilla oak creaminess (or, in other words, American oak), and bourbon, which also describes the nose (although the body has a much better balance between the three than does the nose). Basically, it tastes pretty much like an alcoholic seltzer, although I do mean that in the best possible way. The strength is the simultaneous subtlety and complexity of the cherry flavor, particularly in relation to the oak and bourbon; I’d like a chance to drink this in conjunction with Cerise to better compare the two, although something tells me that won’t be happening anytime in the near future.

ABV: 7.0%


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

428. The Bruery 3 French Hens

The latest entrant into the Bruery’s timeless “Twelve Beers of Christmas” series. While not as long running (or as numerically savvy) as the Stone Vertical Epic series, the Belgian does speak more to, well, at least me. Elli is on the fence on this one. This beer also allows us (or at least me) to renew our love affair with the Bruery (after all, I’ve gone so far as to spike one of my own beers with their yeast): I’ve got an Autumn Maple and Coton waiting for me in the basement, but the rest of their beers are a wee bit more difficult to procure. We have, however, tried Saison de Lente, Rugbrød, Hottenroth, Orchard White and Saison Rue, so all is not lost. But I’d like this to be a much bigger listing of beers. Maybe in January when I’m in Los Angeles...

Described on the label as “75% Belgian-style dark ale & 25% Ale aged in French Oak barrels,” 3 French Hens pours a hazy burnt umber with a creamy tan head that reduces to a ring—albeit a healthy ring—after a couple of minutes. The nose is fruity and slightly vinous; the fruitiness bears a strong resemblance to Belgian yeast esters, while the vinous aroma carries rich dark malt. There is also a bit of oaky creaminess in the back behind the other aromas; when freshly swirled in the glass, a bit of creamy, candy juiciness comes out—another classic Belgian aroma—although it is covered over again rather quickly. The front is a mixture of dark malt sweetness and slight roastiness that is slightly discordant with the oakiness of the middle. I know, I know, this beer is designed to be aged for another nine years, which will give 3 French Hens plenty of time for such flavors to marry. But I’m just sayin’. The middle also has some brown sugar and molasses that helps smooth the path to the finish (these flavors creep a bit into the front as well as the beer warms), which is creamy, dry, and slightly spicy. There is no real perceptible alcohol flavor, but there is some warmth in the mouthfeel. 3 French Hens is medium bodied with a creamy, slightly chewy mouthfeel. The carbonation is subdued; it helps balance the beer, although there is a bit of a bright bite in the turn to the finish. There is also something slightly sharp about the beer that factors in as an intangible—it is not so much in the mouthfeel, rather it is apprehended holistically—sharp and not fully rounded. This, too, could be a product of the beer’s intended trajectory: it is not so much young (since it is certainly drinkable) as it is a bit inharmonious on the palate. And, being that this is the “third verse” of the saga, that term strikes us as particularly appropriate. We did buy a couple more to salt away; after all, harmony comes with practice and patience.

From the bottle: “The third verse of our ‘Twelve Beers of Christmas’ saga incorporates vinous and oaky notes into a bold and spicy dark ale. Happy Holidays! 3 French Hens is suitable for aging up to nine years (soon after the release of ‘Twelve Drummers Drumming’) when cellared properly. Best stored and cellared around 55° F (13° C) in a dark place. Ideal serving temperature is 50° F (10° C). Please pour carefully, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottle. Best served in a tulip or wine glass.”

From the Bruery website: “Three French Hens is the third in the 12 Days/Years of Christmas Series. We again drew some inspiration from the name and decided that at least a portion of this beer had to be aged in French oak barrels. What we came out with is a bold and spicy Belgian Dark Strong Ale, 25% aged in oak. This beer is designed to take the journey through time until 12 Drummers Drumming, but is a delightful holiday treat right off the shelf.”

ABV: 10%
IBU: 22.5

And for all you crazy homebrewing fools out there, chiggety-check out the Bruery’s Batch 300 Homebrew Contest. Ah, so so dreamy...


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

427. Skinny Dave Williamson Barleywine

The latest homebrew to grace my presence; this beer is based upon the Big 10/20 recipe that Dave found on the Brewers Association website. Dave gave this beer to me on National Homebrew Day (May 1) when we brewed a Dunkelweizen on his system, and I dutifully stuck it in my basement. When I came across it the other day while rooting around in the cellar, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on this bad boy. So here we go.

Pure beefcake...

Skinny Dave Barleywine pours a slightly hazy rich caramel copper with a creamy rich tan head; while it has a brilliant and active carbonation made up of very tiny bubbles, the carbonation is very light on the palate. It does, however, look awesome in the glass. The nose is equal parts creamy and rich malty caramel; as it warms, the creaminess comes to the forefront, although the rich malt is still present. Flavors start with balanced caramel malt sweetness, moving into a creamy softer middle, and finishing dry and sweet on the tongue. There is no alcohol or stickiness—just a nice even clean malt flavor across the palate. This beer has had time for the alcohol and flavor to marry together—there is an ever so slight warmth that develops in the back of my throat, but that is it. The mouthfeel is smooth and balanced; there is a slight carbonation bite in the final third, but it mostly helps to put the dry finish on the beer. While good as is, the malt character still needs further time to develop complexity and depth, although the creamy sweetness in the front and middle is delicious. This beer is on its way to someplace better; I’ve cracked it after the first stage of marrying and coordinating flavors, but prior to the second stage of the full development of complexity that comes with age. But it was such a delicious learning curve.

OG: 1.098
FG: 1.016
Malt: mostly 2-row with some crystal
Yeast: WLP002 to 1.034; champagne yeast in secondary to 1.016
Brewed: Easter weekend, 2009
Bottled: June 1, 2009


Monday, November 15, 2010

426. Left Hand/Terrapin Oxymoron

Ah, the collaboration: creating excitement and giddiness in beer nerds coast to coast. And who doesn’t love the collabo? While I could go with the all-purpose bad guy (that would be Nazis), I’m tempted to create a more appropriate nemesis for the blog. The Amish seem a good choice, what with their hatred of technology and all (although they do love bicycles, so that does give them some bonus points), but that also seems more like beating up your little brother—far too easy. So we’ll just call my search for a new nemesis the latest of my long line of failed contests. You got an idea for an appropriate nemesis besides, well, apathy? Here’s to letting me know. Previous beers from Left Hand include 400 Pound Monkey, Fade to Black and Milk Stout, while our previous beers from Terrapin include Hopsecutioner IPA, Wake ’N’ Bake (which was a bonus beer), and Rye Pale Ale.

Oxymoron pours an orange-ish caramel with a creamy eggshell head that reduces to a thin covering after a minute or so; the nose is a creamy caramel breadiness with a touch of hop spiciness and resin rounding out the aroma. As it warms, a more prevalent lager graininess emerges. Flavors begin with caramel before shifting to an accentuated creamy lager-esque character in the front; the middle has sweetness and a decent amount of bitterness, but less specific hop flavor—there is again some spiciness and resin that almost coalesces into evergreen, but not quite. There is some tacky biscuit dryness that returns in the finish, and a pleasant lingering bitterness that has a bit of the traditional lager bite to it. Oxymoron has a medium to medium heavy body with a chewy clean mouthfeel that is also slightly sticky; the carbonation is medium with some dryness from the hops as well as some creaminess on the back of the mouth. An interesting beer, but one that strikes us a bit too much between styles—it’s not quite an IPA, but not really a lager either. While we laud the experimentation—and the collaboration—the beer is more one-hit wonder than longstanding fan favorite.

From the bottle: “Sometime around midnight in a city nobody can agree on, the idea for Left Hand and Terrapin to brew a collaboration beer was born. Oxymoron is the third in a series of one-time releases between our two breweries. A combination of contradictions embodied in liquid form, Oxymoron is an American-style IPA brewed with three German malts, six German hop varieties, and a lager yeast strain. Obnoxious yet reserved, elevated yet modest, it's the embodiment of blending two brewing philosophies together in order to achieve singularity. Consider it an expression of cruel kindness.”

ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 65
Style: Teutonic India Pale Ale
Malts: Weyermann Pale Ale, Munich I, & CaraAmber
Hops: Magnum, Northern Brewer, Perle, Tradition, Spalter Select, & Hersbrucker
Dry Hops: Tradition, Spalter Select, & Hersbrucker


Saturday, November 13, 2010

425. Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra

Today’s drinking pleasure was made possible by the kindness of Casey McAdams and Dave Williamson—Casey brought the Dogfish Head, and Dave the Russian River. Since we’ve already had Blind Pig and Consecration as part of our previous shenanigans, a careful process of elimination reveals that Raison d’Extra gets the nod for beer o’ the day. Such a delicious dilemma... Today’s drinking was part of the 3rd Annual Tomtoberfest celebration, which is just about as egregious and self-referential as it sounds. I did brew the rest of the beer involved, so I feel perfectly fine with the level of hubris expressed in the day’s designation. Previously sampled beers from Dogfish Head include the Dogfish Head/Victory/Stone Saison du Buff collabo, Immort Ale 2009, Chicory Stout, Theobroma, 120 Minute IPA, Festina Peche, Squall IPA, Burton Baton Oak Aged Imperial IPA, and Sah’tea—making ten all told.

Raison d’Extra pours a thick, rich walnut with a rich, dark fruit nose—those raisins are still doing good work, even all these years later. As well, the age on this bottle has allowed a wonderful marrying of flavors and components—I wouldn’t have guessed it was an 18% ABV beer from the smoothness and richness of fruit and malt dancing across my palate. I’d love to regale you with more detailed notes, but, well, I was consuming this in the middle of Tomtoberfest, which meant that note-taking really wasn’t an option. Rest assured that I did enjoy this beer with the appropriate level of care and concern.

Remains of the day...

From the Dogfish Head website: “A bigger, bolder version of our Raison d’Etre. This is a bulbous, brown ale brewed with a bunch of malt, brown sugar and raisins.”

ABV: 18.0%
IBU: 40
Bottled: 3/15/2007


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

424. Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru

Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru is the last of the four beers produced by Sierra Nevada for their 30th Anniversary; we haven’t drank the Jack and Ken’s Barleywine yet, but don’t worry—it’s a-comin’. We’ve got the trifecta, now we’ve shooting for the quad-fecta. As the bottle notes, Grand Cru is 22% ale aged in bourbon barrels, and 78% ale. Added to the rest of the Sierra Nevada beers we’ve tried, this makes ten: 30th Anniversary Charlie, Fred, & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock, 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.

Grand Cru pours a hazy copperish orange with a creamy, long lasting tan head. The nose is rich caramel and dry biscuit malt that is both creamy and lightly tannic/oaky, with some hoppiness accompanying the aromas across the profile—although nothing that specifically stands out. Flavors start surprisingly restrained and light, there are dry, cracker-y malt flavors before a shift to caramel; the middle has bitterness, but with not much in the way of distinct hop flavor, although there is a touch of both pine and resin. Both Elli and I expected this to be hoppier. The finish is creamy and bitter, with the bitterness outlasting the creaminess and creating a nice drying tackiness on the back of the tongue and throat. Grand Cru has a bright but rounded carbonation—it starts off brisk, but then rolls smooth without as much of a bite as one might initially expect. There is a fair amount of creaminess to the body and mouthfeel as well; the medium to heavy body is lightened by the bitterness and the carbonation. While there might be a slight amount of alcohol warmth, the bitterness masks it almost completely, and it drinks much smoother and easier than a 9.2% ABV beer. Much smoother. As well, Grand Cru is not really what we expected—the three beers combined in this one are certainly all vintage Sierra Nevada, but the combination creates something distinctly different than Sierra Nevada’s normal modus operandi. And that, we think, says something important about Sierra Nevada. Marking this as their Grand Cru gives me hope about beer, brewing, and, more importantly, Sierra Nevada. Here’s to 30 more, my man.

From the bottle: “Brewers Reserve is a special ale highlighting our pioneering history and the innovative spirit that has carried us through all these years. It is a marriage of our three most acclaimed ales: Oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and fresh Pale Ale blended together and generously dry-hopped. Come join us in celebrating thirty years with this most special brew. Drink it now, or save it for a future anniversary of your own.”

ABV: 9.2%

Oh, and I drank it out of the glass I poured it into. So suck it.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

423. Kevin Lolli Imperial IPA

Yes, I know it looks like I’m drinking a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but that’s only because someone needs to learn to clean bottles. I’m looking at you, Kevin. I’m also drinking this beer out of a Knoxville Brewers’ Jam tasting glass, which, while a seemingly innocuous and by proxy super-uncool glass, was smelted by hand from the bones of my slain enemies, and then painted with their blood and viscera. So color me bad ass.

In addition to holding beers, this glass reminds me of crushing my enemies, and seeing them fall at my feet.

Pouring a tea-colored copper with a creamy, long-lasting head that provides a fair amount of lacing, Kevin’s Imperial IPA is the second version of this beer that I’ve sampled of late that is based upon the recipe in Jamil Zainasheff’s Brewing Classic Styles. The nose is big hops with a slight underlying candy caramel aroma—I get evergreen, resin, pine, and citrus, followed by a slight amount of grassiness—sort of like if they made a hoppy version of kettle corn. Flavors start bitter with a big caramel front, the former helping to keep the latter in check. The middle has a drop in sweetness, allowing the bitterness to come the forefront, along with resin and evergreen hop flavors. There is a touch of candy sweetness that comes back in the finish, as well as some grassiness, along with a nice long lingering hop bitterness. The beer has a medium to heavy body and a creamy mouthfeel mixed with a touch of astringency from the hops, although nothing overbearing. There is a slight tang of alcohol heat, but it is pretty subdued, and the carbonation gives the beer a bit of silkiness on the tongue, helping to round the beer overall. The grassiness does build a bit as the beer warms (and it tastes like pellet hops grassiness as well—the green sludge mixed with the yeast helps confirm this), especially in the lingering flavors on the back of the tongue, as does the alcohol heat, but this is overall a solid and enjoyable beer. It does have less overall hop complexity as compared to Jeffrey’s version, but this beer also has less alcohol warmth and astringency. And seriously, the head is still hanging around. Thick, too—not some of that thin covering crap. The beer is gone, but there is a layer of foam left in the bottom of the glass. Now, how about cleaning the labels off those bottles, tough guy?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

422. Smuttynose Big A IPA

Previously part of Smuttynose’s Big Beer Series, this one has been pushed into full time production to become a regular contributor to the delinquency of children. We found this on tap at South Park, where we got to watch the Seattle Seahawks get absolutely manhandled by the New York Giants. Previously from Smuttynose, we’ve tried Old Brown Dog Ale, Baltic Porter, Imperial Stout, Shoals Pale Ale, Finestkind IPA and Farmhouse Ale,

Elli’s Breakfast Stout is sneaking into the picture...

Served in the ever-ubiquitous pint glass, Big A IPA pours a hazy, dirty straw—it is not quite copper, but almost. The thin white head hangs on tenaciously, and laces the glass for at least the first third of the beer, after which I forgot to pay attention anymore. The nose features biscuit and caramel malt coupled with pine and evergreen hop aroma in the front, and an underlying herbal hoppiness in the background. There is also a slight metallic scent dancing amongst the other parts, but it disappeared as the beer warmed. Big A IPA is all caramel in the front; as it warms, more of the biscuit comes out. Bitterness takes over in the middle, with herbal hop flavors to the forefront that linger on into the finish. There is also a spicy evergreen hop flavor that marries well with the herbal flavors. In this sense, the middle is the inverse of the nose; while the nose was predominantly pine with an herbal background, here the flavors favor herbal hoppiness with pine and evergreen in the background. The finish has a slight re-assertion of sweetness, but is mostly bitterness that lingers nicely on the palate. Big A IPA has a medium to heavy body that is well disguised by both the dry biscuit malt and the big hop bitterness; both work to lighten and hide the slight stickiness of the mouthfeel. Carbonation is medium but bright, helping to round and smooth the beer. Overall, smooth and drinkable for a bigger beer—the alcohol was well-hidden, and there were no discernable alcohol flavors. Big A IPA is better balanced than many imperial size IPAs; while it is more East Coast than West Coast in terms of its IPA pedigree, it is certainly worth checking out for its smoothness and evenness. Well done!

From the Smuttynose website: “Ever since Stash Wojciechowski, the ‘Killer Kielbasa,’ created this Imperial IPA for our Big Beer Series, Big A IPA has gotten a lot of attention. Lauded by the New York Times and Men’s Journal Magazine, it’s been one of the most talked-about beers around. Brewed in very small quantities, it has also been one of the hardest-to-find. Until now. Big A IPA has everything you’d want in an India Pale Ale, only more: more hops, more malt & more flavor. Now it’s available year-round, so you can enjoy this big, flavorful beer any time you want. Na zdrowie!”

ABV: 9.7%


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Saison Brewday

I got the Breiss Cherrywood Smoked malt a while ago; since then, I have been engaged in rigorous debate in regards to the type of beer that would best showcase its attributes. The choice to run with a saison was not only because I like saisons, but with the hope that the highly attenuated beer created by the 3711 yeast would allow the subtle qualities of the cherry-smoked malt to shine through. Here’s to keeping hope alive...
Even the Ducks love Tom...
79. Saison
1 lb. Dingeman’s Pale
1 lb. Breiss Cherrywood Smoked malt
8 oz. Weyerman Smoked malt
8 oz. Breiss Caramel 20L
8 oz. Breiss Munich 6-row 10L
7.5 oz. Fawcett Halycon Pale
4 oz. Dingeman’s Cara 45

Mashed w/6 quarts water @ 140° F for 30 min. & 151° F for 50 min.
Batch sparged with 1 gallon of 180° F water for 10 minutes

Added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (70 minute) and added:
4 lbs. Breiss DME Pilsen
4 oz. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. New Zealand Pacifica leaf 5.3% AA

w/10 min. to go:
½ oz. New Zealand Pacifica leaf 5.3% AA
1 tsp. Irish moss

@ removal from heat:
½ oz. New Zealand Pacifica leaf 5.3% AA

Chilled wort, racked to bucket, and pitched mason jar of Wyeast 3711 French Saison saved from batch 74

Brewed: 11/4/2010
Secondary: 11/20/2010 @ 1.004
Bottled: 1/15/2010 w/ 4.5 oz. table sugar @ 50° F

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.004

Tasting Notes: Cherry-Wood Smoked Saison pours a dirty hazy straw with a rather dense and prolific head. The nose combines the strengths of the two main elements; there is a soft subtle smoke component—more smoky and woody than greasy or bacon-like—that balances nicely with the fruit and floral components of the Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. Flavors open with a slight sweetness that quickly merges with the dry smokiness. The middle is dry and slightly tannic and woodsy mixed with floral and fruit esters from the yeast. There is also a juicy roundness that I find in all 3711 beers—it is pretty much the hallmark of the yeast—before a dry and almost papery finish that allows the malt and smoke to slowly fade off of the palate with a touch of spiciness thrown in for good measure. Light, dry, and crackery mouthfeel; coupled with the smoked malt sensations, this beer sucks the moisture out of your mouth. The bright, almost sharp carbonation further enhances the dryness; given the high attenuation of the beer, there is a slight acidity from the carbonation that melds seamlessly with the smokiness. There is a small amount of alcohol warmth in the finish as well, although it mixes in well with the smoke flavors. I’ve become increasingly smitten with this beer—when I first had it, I thought it was uninteresting across the flavor profile. However, once it fully fermented and dried out, the slight drop in sweetness allowed the smoke character to round and frame the palate sensations in a way that enhanced the 3711 yeast character. In the pantheon of random experiments that marks my brewing inspiration, this beer turned out to be far more interesting than I anticipated. The combination of smoked malt with the 3711 yeast brought interesting components of both to bear on this beer. Even slightly more shocking is that I’ve gotten quite positive response from others as well; I’m not sure if it is the novelty of the beer or that it really that good. It even ended up getting 3rd place in the first leg of the Brewster’s Cup, our year-long club competition, so I guess the praise was not merely faint and convivial. I’ll certainly be experimenting with smoked malt and saisons further to see what I can create.