Monday, February 28, 2011

460. Great Divide Grand Cru

We’re hitting up Great Divide like Tonya Harding did Nancy Kerrigan. That’s right, I said it. In the long non-stop roller coaster ride that it is our relationship with Great Divide, I can only say this: I want more. We’ll add this to a list that includes Yeti ’08-’10, Smoked Baltic Porter, 16th Anniversary Wood Aged DIPA, Hercules DIPA, Wild Raspberry Ale, Hibernation, Samurai Rice, Hoss, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, Fresh Hop, Double Wit, 15th Anniversary DIPA, and Denver Pale Ale. That’s 14, folks.

Grand Cru pours a clear reddish amber color—it has garnet highlights and a soft tan head that slowly reduces to a ring. The nose is toasted malt candy sweetness mixed with dark fruit esters, including cherry, fig, and a touch of raisin, and some general perfume-y juiciness. Flavors open with gentle toasted malt flavors and candy sweetness; these give way quickly to darker fruit flavors like raisin, cherry, and fig along with a touch of restrained spiciness. There is a slight taste of alcohol that balances the flavors in the middle, creating a sweet rum raisin effect that carries into the finish. Creamy and caramel malt sweetness closes out the beer, although it is rather clean—there are slight lingering astringent flavors and an alcohol warmth that emerges after the flavors have left the palate. The body is medium to heavy; Grand Cru is lightly chewy, but it hides the 11% ABV well—I expected a much younger and sharper alcohol character, when I got a smoother and rounder alcohol that helped balance the malt profile. The carbonation is a bit low; it is present in the mouthfeel, but in pretty minimal levels. This is a good but not exciting beer. While there are no obvious flaws, there is nothing to get that excited about either. I appreciate the overall balance in the beer, but nothing makes it stand out—it’s like Switzerland: neutral with sound mechanics. Potentially some age could draw out the character in this beer, but with this one I am not at all certain. Harrumph.

From the bottle: “Grand Cru is our very special Belgian-style dark ale. Imported malts give it a round malty richness, and the fruity complexity and slightly spicy character come from brewing with a proprietary Belgian yeast strain. Don’t let the name fool you: while it may be a special occasion beer, the medium-bodied, elegant incarnation is anything but snobbish.”

ABV: 11%
Bottled on: January 12, 2011


Saturday, February 26, 2011

SODZ British Beer Fest Judging

Nothing says fun on the weekends like getting up even earlier than you do during the week. But alas, such is my dedication to beer. Today’s event was the SODZ British Beer Fest at the Winking Lizard in Columbus, OH; that meant an early start from Dayton to get there for the 9 a.m. start of judging. Egads. At least I got to carpool with Jeff Fortney so I had some inspiration to stay awake for our droll commute. The competition focuses on British beer, which means that it covers BJCP categories 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19, and 24-28, cutting out any of the categories that aren’t appropriately British. Indubitably.

I was assigned to judge category 9D, Irish Red Ale. Since there were 17 entries, we had two sets of judges with a queued pull. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective), Sandy and I ended up judging 9 beers, while Dave and Rick, the other pair of judges, only did 8. Slackers. As well, as we found out afterwards, Irish Red Ale was the category for the Lucci Cup Informal Club Brew Challenge for 2011. The basics of the Lucci Cup are as follows: Frank Barickman chooses a style, provides both an all-grain and an extract recipe, and then taunts his fellow club mates to brew something that can beat his version of the beer. This year, he even went so far as to only brew an extract version. Those who participate have to both enter their beers in the BBF competition as well as publicly declare that they are participating in the Lucci Cup; as Frank observes on one of the SODZ club posts, “I will make my scores public regardless of how they place in the competition. So if I score 15, I will have live with it! If I score 40, you will have to live with it!”

This year’s recipe was from Jamil Zainesheff’s and John Palmer’s Brewing Classic Styles. To give you a sense of the exchanges, after the inital post above, a week later Frank offered the subsequent follow-up post:

Based on some of the comments on the board, I have revised the recipe that I will brew. I apologize for not fully disclosing what I intended to make for the Lucci Cup. I realize for some of you this will not be hard to replicate even if you do not have the exact ingredients.

Irish Red Ale
O.G. Why bother?
F.G. 1.014
IBU 27
ABV 5.2%

20 min. boil.
Boil volume: 3 gallons.
Then add unfiltered Bellefontaine water direct from the tap to get 5.5 gallons in the fermenter.

8.1 lbs Canned LME (preferably from an aged can)
6 oz Crystal Grains (40L)
6 oz Crystal Grains (120L)
6 oz Roasted Barley
23 oz Special Roast
10 oz Buster Brown Shoe Box
4.125 oz Cluster 5%AA (60 min)

Yeast: Wyeast # 1084 Irish Ale that has been contaminated with Brettanomyces andLactobacillus (or get a yeast cake from the AGB).

Process: Steep grains at whatever temperature you like for 30 min. At 15 min., add 5 oz. of cardboard to the steeping water. Wash grains with water at 212+ degrees (pour 1 qt. hot water over grain bag to extract final sugars). Add the aged LME and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes (it’s not important). Make sure that the flame is on when you add the LME. This will help caramelize and burn some of the sugars. Add hops at beginning of boil (or sometime in the process if you forget). At end of boil, add 5 oz. cardboard to the wort and steep for 15 minutes before chilling (this is critical). Cool overnight preferably in an old dirty basement with no lid on the kettle or fermenter. Ferment at 87 degrees or higher for 10 to 14 days. Make sure you underpitch and only partially ferment. This will help promote diacetyl. If are lucky enough to have one, it’s highly recommended to pitch one of Sixty’s beers before bottling. This adds complexity to the depth of the brett and lacto character of the beer.

Needless to say, I had a good time at the event.

Michael Noonan won the Lucci Cup, Best of Show went to Kyle Bullock for his Robust Porter, while Frank Barickman was the Runner Up with his English IPA. Full results can be found here. After the Awards Ceremony, I also got to try a Jolly Pumpkin Bambic, which was made for the Winking Lizard’s 25th Anniversary. Dee-licious.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

459. St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition

St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition is from the Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in Inglemunster, Belgium. I wish I had more to offer than that, but I don’t, except for this brief aside: this beer is brought to you by Darren Link. I was wandering around in Belmont Party Supply, aimlessly trying to determine the flavor of the evening. You’ve all been there, and know what I mean—you’re looking for that tasty that you’re craving, but you don’t quite know what it is. I ran into Darren, who works next door at Brewtensils—I had stopped there to grind the grain for my Gose. Our discussion led him next door to find a treat of his own (he wanted an 1809 Berliner Weisse), and as we wandered the aisles, he pointed this out to me. You’re a good man, Mr. Link.

St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition pours a hazy burnished but simultaneously iridescent gold; it has wonderful orange highlights that dance on the table after each sip. The head is a thin white covering that quickly reduces to a ring, but there are lots of tiny white bubbles constantly running along in miniscule lines inside the glass. Aromas start with citric sourness followed by lower levels of earthy and barnyard funkiness; as well, there is a slight mineral component that, along with the sourness, brightens the beer in my nose. Flavors start tart, sweet, and dry—there is that citric sourness that makes my mouth pucker and my cheeks flush—before giving way to the earthy and musty funkiness of the middle. The finish has a return of the citric bite mixed with a mineral dryness—both provide the final tart punch, and both linger pleasantly on the tongue and the sides of the mouth. Gueuze Fond Tradition mixes effervescent carbonation with a dry, puckering mouthfeel—the lightness of the body balances the brightness of the carbonation. With warmth, a bit more of the earthy funkiness emerges, both in the nose and in the body, but it is still second fiddle to the bright puckering tartness. Coupled with the reasonable price—$6.99 for a 12.7 oz. bottle—this is something we’ll be hitting up again soon. Puckery goodness aplenty!

ABV: 5.0%
Bottled on: June 20, 2008


Gose Brewday II

Since I already had everything in place, I figured it was only appropriate to make a second batch, what with the delicious yeast cake just waiting for more scrumptious sugars to devour. The first batch was at 1.012 when I moved it the secondary; it tasted soft and bready, and the salt and coriander helped round the flavors. While it is not quite as sour as I was hoping for, it does have something of a nice salty tang to it already, so here’s hoping the sourness will continue to grow, although I’m not sure if Lactobacillus continues to sour after the initial fermentation (Jeffrey, any thoughts or advice?). I’m guessing that a larger starter of Lactobacillus, or letting it get going by itself before adding the other yeast is going to be the real solution; for now I’ll hold out illusory hope that the current yeast cake is magically all Lactobacillus so this beer is where I want it to be. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always next time. I also see what Kristen England meant when he said most people don’t put in enough salt: I followed his recipe calling for 12.4 grams of salt per gallon in Brewing With Wheat, and the salt character is far, far less noticeable than I anticipated. I might even try a third batch, and run up the salt level to see what happens. Because I’m crazy like that.

83. Gose the Gozerian II
4 lbs. Wheat (3 lbs. Breiss Torrified Red Wheat & 1 lb. Weyerman Dark Wheat)
2 ¼ lbs. Weyerman Light Munich
2 ¼ lbs. Weyerman Bohemian Pilsner
½ lb. Weyerman Acidulated Malt

Mashed w/ 3 gallons of RO water @ 150° F for 90 minutes
Batch sparged with 2 gallons RO water @ 168° F for 15 minutes

Added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:

w/90 to go: ½ oz. Hallertauer Leaf 4.1% AA

w/10 to go: .70 oz. coriander

w/2 to go: peel and juice of 1 tangerine

@ removal from heat: 62 grams Kosher salt

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched on Safale US-05 and Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus cake from the last batch

Brewed: 2/24/2011 @ 66° F
Secondary: 3/3/2011 @ 1.011; began fermenting in under an hour; 1 ½” of krausen in 5 hours and up to 68° F—peaked at 70° F
Bottled: 3/15/2011 w/ 4.0 oz. of table sugar @ 63° F

OG: 1.034
FG: 1.010

Tasting Notes: 5/11/2011: Gose the Gozerian II is a slightly hazy straw with a soft persistent white head. The nose is cereal and lactose—or, as Elli describes it, cereal and milk—the warm milk and cereal remains that need more cereal to finish breakfast. Flavors start with a saline doughiness that is mainly wheat flavored; the middle is bright, sharp, and slightly sour, while the finish is dry, tart, and slightly acidic—although the cereal flavor never really disappears across the profile. The Fruity Pebbles flavor that initially characterized this beer is mostly gone at this point, but it is still a flickering, lingering presence—sort of a ghost of Christmas past type thing at this point, if that makes any sense. The mouthfeel has also continued to lighten and brighten—while tart and dry, there is still some substance and feel on the palate. As well, the carbonation is bright and crisp, enhancing the overall crispness of the beer. There is also a much lower salt presence in this one; even though the difference in salt between the three is pretty minimal (82 has 65 grams, 83 has 62 grams, and 84 has 70 grams). Elli gives the nod to 84 as her favorite, while this one is the one I like the best.

Monday, February 21, 2011

458. Kevin Lolli Pumpkin Stout

Somebody, it would appear, has learned how to clean bottles since his last visit. I’d actually be afraid that I’d been given the same bottle as last time if I hadn’t recycled that one on my own. That is, unless Kevin is stalking my recycling. Which is always possible. Something, however, tells me Captain LSAT has a few more pressing concerns than scavenging back alleyways looking to get his creepiness on. And the sound of inevitability he hears at the end of the tunnel signals the end of the cool, laid back days of Beardo the Clown. Sorry, but I gotta get my digs in while I can. I will note, as a means of turning this back towards the beer, that while listed as a Pumpkin Stout, the pumpkin is pretty minimal (which means the spice is pretty minimal), and that this beer is more a sweet stout than a pumpkin stout.

Photo gleefully stolen from here. Looking good, Kevin.

Pouring a rich, thick, dark chocolate brown, Kevin Lolli Pumpkin Stout has a mousse-y tan head that both hangs around and reciprocally laces the glass a decent amount. It would appear, Kevin, that you’ve mastered the art of head retention with your beers, as both have been abundant and voluminous. The nose is sweet chocolate malt laced with a low level of pumpkin—I am ever so glad the spice volume was dialed down to uber-minimal, as there is balance between the components currently, although I expected to pick up a bit more roastiness in the nose. There is also a slight touch of bubblegum phenol, although that could be from either the pumpkin or some light banana fruit esters; I am not 100% certain one way or the other. The roasted malt is more discernable in the body; flavors start with dry chocolate malt in the front before giving way to light coffee and sweet chocolate in the middle. There is also a touch of pumpkin/light spice flavor and just a touch of roastiness in the middle, which leads into the bigger roasted malt and sweet chocolate finish. If there is any bitterness, it is covered over by the chocolate sweetness, and the malt character continues to build throughout the profile. There is a touch of roastiness and a slight off-flavor that could be from the spices that lingers just a touch too long on the tongue. The mouthfeel is creamy, silky, and sweet; the medium body and medium carbonation help round the beer on the palate—it is gentle and delicious, and goes down easy. As with the last beer, the head is still omni-present as I finish the beer—what kind of deal-with-devil did you make to create the retention here, tiger? Nice work overall—I think you should run the same beer sans pumpkin and spice, and see how it works as a straight up Sweet Stout, since it is already pretty darn solid.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

457. New Belgium La Folie Falling Rock Tap House 10th Anniversary Special Edition

While we already tried La Folie, the fact that this is described on the label as “a special blend of all 10 of New Belgium’s Foedres designed to challenge your senses,” and it was bottled specially for the Falling Rock Tap House’s 10th Anniversary means that we’ve got at least a couple of reasons to consider this something slightly different. So we will. After all, we make the rules around here. I picked this up a while ago in Seattle at Bottleworks, and we’ve been saving it for an appropriate occasion. Tonight was that occasion. And no, you don’t need to know anything more than that. Previously from New Belgium, we’ve tried Mighty Arrow Pale Ale, Ranger, Le Fleur, Misseur?, Transatlantique Kriek, Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. It’s been a while, New Belgium, but we’re back.

Yo! Highlights! Highlights, yo.

La Folie Falling Rock 10th Anniversary pours an orange-ish brown with an initially foamy white head that quickly reduces to a few wispy arabesques across the top of the glass—sort of the traditional sour beer head. The nose is an interesting mix of acetic sourness, tannic oak with a touch of mustiness, and slight mineral-like aroma that is not quite fully chalky. With some warmth, dark fruit flavors like cherry and raisin start to emerge, and in the final third of the bottled we also got some slight earthy funkiness along with an increased citric sourness. The initial flavor is tart, sharp, and puckeringly sour, although there is also a candy sweetness that accompanies the tartness. As the tartness recedes, bone dry chalky and mineral flavors emerge in the middle before a return of the tartness in the finish; the mix of acetic/vinegar tartness and oak tannic flavors bite and linger pleasantly. La Folie has a light, dry, and tart mouthfeel; mixed with the bright carbonation and the drying components added by the oak, it is lively and puckering on the palate, to say the least. I ended up with a slight flush of perspiration from the tartness across my nose and cheeks about halfway through the bottle. So. Delightful. This version is also more nuanced and developed that the La Folie 2010 we had over Thanksgiving in Seattle—I am guessing the blending and additional aging of this bottle has shoved it on over into the exceptional category. Easily one of the better beers we’ve had this year; totally a Top 10 Best contender.

ABV: 6.0%
Hand Bottled #07 6729


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gose Brewday

Salt, sour, spice, and wheat. That pretty much tickles my fancy with each tick of the list. I’ve been looking forward to making this beer since I learned about it. Besides the recipe on the Mad Fermentationist’s blog, check out Stan Hieronymus’s Brewing With Wheat and Jeff Alworth’s posts on Beervana. All interesting and worthwhile. See also here. As for my brewday? After the brewing was over, I headed down to Thai 9 for the Bell’s Hopslam firkin tapping. While talking to Jason from the Trolley, I told him I had spent the day brewing a Gose. “Gozer the Gozerian?” he immediately responded. “No,” I said, “but it is now.” [Note: the wordplay here is much more clever if you know that gose is pronounced “gose-uh.”]

82. Gose the Gozerian
4 lbs. Weyerman Wheat (3 lbs. light/1 lb. dark)
2 ¼ lbs. Weyerman Light Munich
2 ¼ lbs. Weyerman Bohemian Pilsner

Mashed w/ 3 gallons of RO water @ 150° F for 90 minutes
Batch sparged with 1 ½ gallons RO water @ 168° F for 15 minutes

Added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:
w/90 to go: ½ oz. Hallertauer Leaf 4.1% AA

w/10 to go: .65 oz. coriander

@ removal from heat: 65 grams Kosher salt

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched 1 packet Safale US-05 and Wyeast 5335 Lactobaccilus

Gose goes in the bottle...
Brewed: 2/17/2011 @ 72° F
Secondary: 2/24/2011 @ 1.012
Bottled: 3/1/2011 w/ 5 oz. of table sugar @ 63° F

OG: 1.036
FG: 1.011

Tasting Notes: 5/10/2011: Gose the Gozerian pours a hazy straw-colored yellow—it’s not quite the lemonade color of some of the better Berliner Weisses I’ve seen, but it is on the way. The head is luscious, creamy, and white with pretty decent staying power (that’s the wheat talkin’) while the nose is salty and perfume-y with a gentle hint of wheat. Flavors start tart and bright; the front is bready with a light lactic zing, while the middle is salty and dry, with the saltiness lingering through the finish and a bright tangy burst to round out the beer. The mouthfeel is both creamy and lightly chewy—there is a bit of a breadiness to the body—while the carbonation is crisp and effervescent. This version has become tarter with some age, although it has the breadiest wheat taste and presence of the three. Still, delicious and quaffable.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hopslam Firkin & Stone Events

Since such things are so few and far between in Dayton, I feel compelled to make something of the following: on Thursday, February 17th at 7:00 pm, there will be a tapping of a Bell’s Hopslam Firkin at Thai 9. Be there or be without some delicious delicious Hopslam, suckers.

As well, word on the street has it that Greg Koch of Stone Brewing might, and yes, the word was might, be at the Trolleystop around 11:30 pm. I do know that they will have a keg of the Green Flash/Pizza Port/Stone collabo, Highway 78 Scotch Ale.

D-town mother-fuckin’ what?

Don’t shoot the messenger...

456. Sierra Nevada Hoptimum 2011

Let’s just start by observing that the Presidential portrait on the label where the head is replaced by a hop cone is brilliant. Rather than using the name to drive the image, Sierra Nevada uses the language of portraiture to develop their image. Nice. Well played. Classy, even. One might be tempted to point out that Sierra Nevada is revealing a different face for their brand, what with the new labels provided for beers like Hoptimum and Homegrown Estate Ale. Saucy indeed. Me likey. Anyway, we’ve seen Sierra Nevada before around these parts, with that whole 30th Anniversary and all—including our previous experiences with 30th Anniversary Jack & Ken’s Black Barleywine, 30th Anniversary Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru, Homegrown Estate Ale, 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, Hoptimum makes lucky number thirteen. Straight outta Chico.

Described on the bottle as a “whole cone Imperial IPA” and “the ultimate whole-cone hop experience,” Hoptimum pours a clear orange copper with a light white head that fades to a ring. The nose, unsurprisingly, is a massive hop bomb that pretty much combines everything: citrus, herbal, pine, tangerine, grapefruit flavors, along with a slightly metallic and almost medicinal aroma via the sheer hop volume. Flavors begin with a light malt sweetness before quickly giving way to hop bitterness in the middle, with a slight mineral flavor and pine, resin, and spicy hops flavors combined with a metallic and light medicinal grassiness. Hoptimum’s finish has lingering bitterness with slight warmth from the alcohol; overall, a rather clean, dry finish for the size of the beer. If there is any sweet or stickiness in the palate, it is abundantly covered by the sheer scorching hop volume—and I mean that in all of the good ways, of course. The carbonation is rather balanced, as is most of the beer, which is something of a phenomenal result for this big of a beer. An excellent beer across the board; it is big, but a well executed big beer that has character and depth. We were both more than pleasantly surprised with this beer—I only wish we could find more. Top 10 Best all the way.

From the Sierra Nevada website: “A group of hop-heads and publicans challenged our Beer Camp brewers to push the extremes of whole-cone hop brewing. The result is this: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Simply put—Hoptimum: the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed with our exclusive new hop varieties for ultra-intense flavors and aromas. Resinous ‘new-school’ and exclusive hop varieties carry the bold and aromatic nose. The flavor follows the aroma with layers of aggressive hoppiness, featuring notes of grapefruit rind, rose, lilac, cedar, and tropical fruit—all culminating in a dry and lasting finish.”

ABV: 10.4%
IBU: 100
Malts: 2-row Pale, Golden Promise, Munich, & Wheat
Bittering Hops: German Magnum
Aroma Hops: Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
Dry Hops: Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
Torpedo Hops: Citra & Chinook


Friday, February 11, 2011

455. Jeffrey McElfresh Belgian Pale Ale

This beer, sadly, marks the conclusion of another Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week. However, I would like to point out that if McElfresh was a state, it would rank above New Hampshire and below Massachusetts (and be tied with Delaware—take that Sam Calagione!) for the overall number of different beers we’ve had here at what we’re drinking. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. We’re rooting for McElfresh to challenge Oregon, Michigan, and maybe even California. Let’s get to work there, tiger. Time’s a wastin’. I’m already waiting for installment number three of JMHDW. Word!

McElfresh BPA pours a hazy copper—I’m guessing it would be a bit clearer, but since it is a tad overcarbonated, it drew the yeast up off the bottom of the bottle with the initial pour. The head is white and pretty mousse-y, but settles down given the time. McBPA has a toasted, bready malt nose along with fair amount of spicy and fruity notes—let’s just say that this beer certainly invokes Belgian with the ol’ magical sniffer. The front starts with a soft caramel and bready malt flavor before the orange/citrus fruit esters and spicy phenol flavors pick up in the middle. The middle is also leavened by a touch of bitterness before giving way to a slight touch of sweetness in the finish, followed by a dry lingering bitterness. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy with a pleasant gentle carbonation. As the beer warms, a dry chalky mineral tang develops as a lingering presence in the back of the throat after the other flavors have passed along; it also has some warmth and astringency to it. I’m not sure what to make of this other than to guess that this is the cause of the overcarbonation. It is certainly out of character with the soft malt profile and the gentle balance of the rest of the beer—I was warned that something had “turned” in this beer, and when I had the same thing two weeks ago, it was much cleaner across the entirety of the beer’s profile. Nonetheless, the basic beer itself is solid minus the developing infection. I remain undeterred—bring it on, Jeffrey, I’m already longing for more.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Belgian Dubbel Brewday II

This is the second round of our Dubbel experimentation; we headed on out to good ol’ Preble County to brew a second batch on Jeff Fortney’s system. For this one, we actually hit our gravity. Dubbel down on that, my man.

81. Belgian Dubbel II (brewed with Jeff Fortney)

16 lbs. Castle Pils
4 lbs. Weyerman Dark Munich
2 lbs. Weyerman Light Munich
1.5 lbs. Dingemans Cara 45 (Caramunich)
1 lb. Dingemans Biscuit
1 lb. Dingemans Aromatic
1 lb. Dingemans Cara 8 (Carapils)
1 lb. Dingemans Special B
2 oz. Dingemans Belgian Chocolate

Mashed w/ 8.5 gallons of RO water (plus chemical additions)
@128° F for 15 minutes
@144° F for 30 minutes
@158° F for 30 minutes
@166° F for 10 minutes

Batch sparged w/8.5 gallons of RO water (plus chemical additions) @168° F for 10 minutes

Added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute), and added:
w/60 to go: 2.5 oz. Styrian Golding pellet 5.2% AA

w/15 to go: 2 Whirlfloc tablets

w/10 to go: ½ oz. Tettnang pellet 4.5% AA

w/5 to go: 1.5 lb. Belgian Dark Candi Syrup & 1.5 lb. Belgian Dark 2 Candi Syrup

@ removal from heat: ½ oz. Tettnang pellet 4.5% AA

Chilled to 62° F and split into two 5 gallons batches; I pitched on the White Labs WLP550 pancake from last batch, while Jeff pitched on the Wyeast 3787 pancake

Brewed: 2/10/2011 @ 62° F
Secondary: 3/17/2011
Bottled: 3/28/2011 w/ 4.5 oz. table sugar @ 62° F

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.018

Tasting Notes: Dubbel II pours a rich figgish orange—sort of a burnt caramel mixed with rum. It is mostly clear with a slight bit of chill haze and the head disappears rather rapidly, although there is a steady stream of consistent small bubbles running up the side of the glass. The nose is a mix of Belgian candy and dark fruit—mostly raisin, but also stone fruit, fig, and date. Flavors start rich and sweet but gentle, with a not quite caramel fig fruitiness that blossoms into raisin and date in the middle. The light but bright carbonation both cleans the palate and lightens the beer heading into the finish, leaving a chewier dried fruit and date flavor lingering on the back of the tongue. There is also a touch of creaminess that borders on clove phenols. The beer has a medium mouthfeel that is lightened by the carbonation, and there is no perceptible alcohol flavor or warmth on the tongue. Competent and enjoyable, but not especially exciting—I was hoping this would develop more character with some time (we’re at 6 months in the bottle now), but it has not. While there are no real flaws I can point to, it lacks some of the subtlety you’d expect to find—that light toast malt character, and a more nuanced dark fruit character. The gentle brightness couple with the cleanness on the palate is a plus—it dances on the tongue—but it needs something more to make it memorable.

454. Jeffrey McElfresh Belgian Specialty Ale Orval clone

Stop. No really. Stop. Stop right there. Cease and desist. Back it up. Back it up, I said. Little bit more. Daaaaaaamn. Jeffrey, I know you’re not gonna be able to stop drinking this beer, but I’m here to tell you, you need to sack some of it away, like right now, because it is gonna get better. A whole lot better. Sure, it is good now. Really good. Really really good. But when George Clinton puts his hands all the way into this one, it’s gonna make panties fall off. So you better listen. Because if you’re down to your last bottle, and I hear any of that “Oh, I wish I’d saved more of this,” or “Why does it only get good when it is all gone?,” I’m gonna punch you right in the stomach. Straight up. And then I’ll tell you I told you so. Yes, potential disrespect for this beer is prone to create threats of and/or actual acts of violence from yours truly. And you’re gonna need to call me when that funk drops all the way in, because I’m not sure you can handle that much funk. Because it will blow your mind. Boom. There it goes.

World’s Creepiest Mustache

So where to start. Sure, this beer has color. And yes, there is head retention and lacing and all that other whatnot. But the nose. Damn, that nose is bewitching. Slight spicy with a touch of citrus, earthiness, and just the beginnings of some barnyard funk—that minerally, hay-like, estery, tongue-drying spritziness that is just creeping into the picture at this point. But creeping in enough to whisper seductively in my ear. And to tell me of things to come. The body finishes off what the nose started. There is just a tang more funkiness in the body than in the nose—having led me down the dark path, it is making sure it is going to guide my destiny. Spicy earthy and loamy flavors at the front before moving into a drier and more minerally middle. There is still a touch of dark fruit and raisin with the dryness, and the skin flavor of the raisin lingers on into the finish—it is almost a rum raisin effect with a slight tannic bite. The finish is lightly tart and bright which, coupled with the carbonation, gives a spritzy and zesty feel to the finish. It tingles on the back of throat on the way down, for crying-out-loud. A light alcohol warmth emerges out of the zesty tingle, creating a pleasant balance between the two. After that, all I’m left with is a light lingering dry mineral funkiness in the back of my mouth—the same one that was initially offering portents of things to come. Currently, Smokey Brown gets the nod for your best beer, but in six months this beer is gonna own Smokey Brown. Own it and make it do bad illegal things. For money.

If you don’t give me another bottle of this, Jeffrey, I’m erasing all my posts about your beer.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

453. Jeffrey McElfresh Dubbel

It is day three of America’s newest and most favorite national holiday, Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week. Ahem. Part II. Today, the napkin tells me we are drinking McElfresh Dubbel, which pours a brilliant toffee with amber and garnet highlights—lush and rich with a thick creamy eggshell head that laces the glass and while still maintaining the bright carbonation in the glass. Ah, heaven. The nose is toffee and caramel malt along with some breadiness and smaller amounts of fruit including raisin and cherry—very malt forward. There might be a touch of spiciness in the nose as well, and/or a subtle perfumy character, but it low and buried in the back under a bunch of other things. Flavors in the beer match the nose; there is caramel and toffee malt in the front, lighter raisin and cherry fruit flavors in the middle, and some brown sugar sweetness before a finish that is clean and drier than I expected via the carbonation. Smooth, creamy, and rich mouthfeel with bright carbonation that balances the beer and lightens the body. There is no discernable alcohol warmth or flavor, although there might be a slight hop bitterness that emerges as the beer warms. This is a well-made beer, but the flavor profile is not as complex as I expected—for some reason it strikes as a bit of a lighter version of a dubbel, be it via the brighter carbonation or a lighter body. It may also be a bit young—three or four months may allow some of the fruit flavors to further develop across the palate. While it is my least favorite of the three thus far in this version of JMHDW, it is still a solid beer. And that creamy luscious head! It didn’t diminish the throughout the entire drinking of the whole 22 bottle. Damn!

P.S. That MGD 64 t-shirt is hot, Captain SexElfresh. Tighter! I want it tighter!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

452. Jeffrey McElfresh Table Saison

And the wonderfulness that is Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week Part II continues. As the napkin informs me, this is Jeffrey’s Table Saison, a light, bright, and eminently drinkable version of the style. It’s even circled so I know I’ll like it. Listen to the napkin: the napkin knows all. Pouring a slightly hazy straw with a rich white head—and plenty of those tiny tiny white bubbles billowing up through the beer in the glass—McElfresh Table Saison has a dry crackery and spicy nose mixed with perfume-y and juicy yeast esters along with a slight hop tang. As it warms, the juiciness turns into a more discernable fruitiness. The beer starts dry and lightly sweet with a crackery follow through before the spiciness and bitterness of the middle asserts itself, finishing sharp and lightly tart. There is a spicy bitterness that also lingers on the palate, along with a touch of alcohol warmth at the back of the throat. The soft malt character mixed with higher carbonation gives this beer a refreshing mouthfeel. My complaints here are few: the finish is not as clean as I would like—there is a slight cider flavor that is off-putting in relation to the acidic tartness, and the slight alcohol warmth stands out a bit. Both are most likely products of the well attenuated body; the lack of residual malt character is not there to round the overall profile. Nonetheless, both of these concerns are pretty minimal to the overall beer, which is classic in both its simplicity and complexity—the traditional saison characteristics are superb. Damn straight. This one got nailed.

P.S. Jeffrey, is this White Labs WLP565 or Wyeast 3724?


Monday, February 7, 2011

451. Jeffrey McElfresh Bière de Garde

Oh snap! That moment of transcendent magic we’ve all been waiting for is finally here: Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week Part II. This is the best sequel in the history of forever, or at least since humanity emerged from caves and abandoned hunting and gathering for the joys of agrarian life. The downside, of course, is that that particular part two was also on the way to humans eating paint chips, but that’s a different story, and not so good an example of the vision of a triumphant sequel that I am trying to sell here. As well, it is possible that the next installment of JMHDW will be ever better (not to be confused with WWJD II)—it could be in the reciprocally sequel-appropriate 3D—but the possibilities are just too fantabulously awesome to even contemplate, so I’ll stick with the here and now of JMHDW II. My lord, I’m giddy with excitement, so let’s get down to brass tacks...


McElfresh Bière de Garde pours a delicate tannish caramel brown with delightful orange highlights that are the color of Johnny Rotten’s Public Image Ltd.-era hair. The head is made up of miniscule white bubbles that quickly reduce to a ring, while the nose is a complex mixture of toasty and caramel malt sweetness with creamy and bready components as well, but stops just short of having dark fruit notes (malt, not ester derived). Really, the nose is quite divine. Flavors open with toasty and toffee malt sweetness; the middle is creamy but also a bit drier on the palate, with no discernable hop bitterness—if it is there, it is very light. The finish features a touch of Belgian candy sweetness and smaller hints of darker fruits like plum and fig, but it is also dry with a touch of bitterness and/or alcohol flavor that lightly lingers. The medium body is slightly undercarbonated, which would be my only real complaint about the beer, leaving it a bit soft on the mouth (although it does reciprocally enhance the soft toasty malt components of the beer). While I am unsure of the exact strength of the beer, the alcohol is well hidden—it is most certainly a malt forward beer. The strength is the malt complexity coupled with the cleaner finish. As the beer warms, there is an increase in caramel flavors across the profile as well as a larger manifestation of the darker fruit flavors in the middle and end of the beer (I mean, hell, I got a 22 of this beer, so it took me some time to work through it). While certainly delicious now, I’d be interested in seeing the long-term effects of some additional garde-ing—I think the malt complexity would get richer and more complex even though this is a lighter version of a Bière de Garde. Nice work, Jeffrey. You’re in effect like alternate side of the street parking rules.

P.S. I’m officially skipping work tomorrow as part of my secret silent plan to make JMHDW an officially recognized national holiday. Who is with me? Come on, where’s your faux indignation and half-assed civil disobedience now? All y’all are a bunch of Western Marxists, aren’t you?


Friday, February 4, 2011

The Session #48: Cask, Keg, Can, or Bottle

The Session is a first Friday beer blogging adventure begun by the likes of Jay Brooks of Brookston Beer Bulletin and Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer. The idea is to get a body of like-minded individuals all writing about the same topic, so I figured I’d toss my proverbial hat in the ring and see what happened. Can’t hurt too bad, can it? This month’s host is Simon Johnson at Reluctant Scooper. Kudos, my man.

So, Cask, Keg, Can, or Bottle, hmmm? My answer revolves mostly around the location of consumption: bottles for at home or at a friend’s house and casks/kegs for those nights when I’m stepping out on the town. I will confess that my greatest attachment is to bottle-conditioned beer, mostly because of the license it provides to store beer that I can pull out and drink at my leisure over a longer period of time. Sure, bottles can have problems with oxidation in the long run, but let’s be honest: who has the cash to store whole kegs? And who regularly pulls out a keg and invites over the appropriate number of people to drink it? Although if you are the type of person who ages kegs, and you need help with them, please call me. I’d be happy to do my part. After all, when at home, bottles do provide a greater diversity of options, albeit in the exact same manner that kegs do when out on the town. Given the current rise of canning, I could be easily convinced to embrace cans for the same reason, although I am not sure if a bottle-conditioned/live-beer-in-a-can is a possibility—anyone know?

Kegs and casks are always enjoyable, but I more connect them with being out on the town, with kegs as a stand in for the normal evening out, and casks representing special one-off events. While beer culture is on the rise in Dayton, OH, there are only about four or five locations that have an extensive tap selection, and casks are few and far between. For example, I know that there is a firkin of Hopslam that is going to be tapped locally next week, which I will undoubtedly attend. And I most decidedly enjoyed the Heavy Seas Loose Cannon 420 Cask that made an appearance last April 20th. I’d certainly love to see more casks, but since I live in Dayton, I also need to remain realistic. Until we get a brewpub of our own with cask events every Friday (or even once a month), casks are still strictly special event-grade material. As well, the growth of the craft beer world has reciprocally made some of these events less enjoyable to attend locally—at times overly-crowded and at others a bit too aggressively uber-masculine. While such growth may be good for beer, it is not necessarily so good for me. Remember, kids, beer is not a contest.

Having said that, I do wish, however, I was attending the Bruery’s First Firkin Friday, which represents the type of experimentation and possibility that such an event should embody. They’ll be pouring five different versions of their Saison de Lente: a cask of Saison de Lente 2011, while on draft will be Saison de Lente 2010, Saison de Lente 2011, 100% Brett Saison de Lente 2011, and 0% Brett Saison de Lente 2011. Oh, the possibilities. Think of all the variables to taste that are represented in that line-up. While beer may not be a contest, I still can have beer envy, can’t I?


Thursday, February 3, 2011

450. North Peak Diabolical India Pale Ale

That’s right, I’m officially back. Sorry for January. But I was having so much fun. Anyway, two in almost as many days from North Peak. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. If you missed it, which I’m not sure is possible, our last one from North Peak was Vicious. Grrrrr!!!!

Pouring a rich, dark copper, Diabolical is clear with an eggshell-colored head and a spicy herbal and citrus hop nose. I didn’t get much else in the nose, although Elli thought the malt character was a bit too juicy in relation to the hops—she called it “plump,” which I liked, so I put it in quotation marks to call attention to it. Flavors start with a light, dry malt sweetness that is quickly taken over by hop bitterness. The middle does have some biscuit dryness along with a bit of spicy and citrus hop flavor, but it all bows before the bitterness, which is the primary presence in the middle. The finish has a brief rise of caramel candy sweetness—brighter and sweeter than the opening, in fact—along with more of the bitterness from the middle, although it is a bit more subdued in the finish even as it lingers pleasantly on the palate. The mouthfeel is better than Vicious—it is more full-bodied and rounded—but the hop flavor is better in Vicious. The carbonation lends a creamy element to the body as well, and tames some of the sharpness from the hops. Again, a good beer, but nothing that really stands out. Although the label has a rabbit with horns on it that is totally awesome. That’s an easy Top 10 Best contender—behold the jackalope, my minions!

From the North Peak website: “The devil made us do it. From the ABV and IBU figures to the fiendish use of Cascade, Perle, and Willamette hops, Lucifer was whispering in our ears the entire time. Citrus and pine scents greet you and are followed by the sharp bitterness expected of an IPA. The beer’s true wickedness is revealed in the smooth Pale, Crystal 30, and wheat malts that surreptitiously broaden the beer’s appeal to more than just hopheads.”

ABV: 6.6%
IBU: 66.6%


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

449. North Peak Vicious American Wheat IPA

Located in Traverse City, Michigan, North Peak Brewing Company is a side project of Ron Jeffries. Yes, I know other brewers are involved (Jon Carlson, Greg Lobdell, and Mike Hall—I can read the website). But I’m here for the Jeffries. I’m just sayin’. They do get an extra-special shout-out for using old school stubby bottles—reminds me of the days of Lucky and Rheinlander. We had Vicious with some Reypenaer 2-year gouda—not because we thought they’d be a match, or because we’re overly excited about food and beer pairings, but mainly because aged gouda is awesome, and we had just bought some. And it couldn’t wait.

Vicious pours a burnished copper with a thin white head; the nose is caramel and wheat—more caramel than wheat—coupled with spicy and resin hop aromas. There’s a touch of pine hiding in the back as well. It’s rather a pleasant nose, actually; the malt and caramel are well-balanced. Flavors start with a caramel malt flavor before moving into hop flavor in the middle—there is pine and citrus along with the spicy resin components of the nose. The finish has a bit of a gummy wheat flavor along with a healthy dose of bitterness that lingers, along with a touch of caramel sweetness. The body is a bit soft and flabby, although that could just be the wheat talking—but it does feel a bit uneven in relation to the hop profile. While Vicious avoids the slight sourness found at the end of other American wheat beers, it is not as balanced in the body as Gumballhead, for example. The carbonation does help give the beer a creamy mouthfeel. Overall, I like it, but it is not stupendous.

From the North Peak website: “Beware of beer. There, we warned you. The frothy head, and pungent, piney dryhopped scent (from Cascade and Amarillo hops) should alert you to the brew’s imminent attack on your senses. Next, Cascade, Perle, and Willamette hops will batter your palette [sic] with bitter ferocity. Finally, pale, Crystal (30 and 75), and wheat malts converge in a cloudy, thick body and give you a smooth kiss of sweet death—and leave you howling for more!”

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 66.7

Why does this beer attack my painting tablet with bitter ferocity? What did it do? What’s next, my pets?