Monday, May 30, 2011

Peculiar Wang Old Ale & Small Wang Pale Ale Brewday

The name for today’s beers stem from the childish albeit amusing antics of my family: at a homebrew party I threw a couple of years ago, underneath the list of beers they began adding their own beer names. When someone asked me where the Peculiar Wang Ale was, they all started giggling like schoolgirls. Ah, family. So Morgan, John, Jason, and Sean, this beer is for you. And since the the Old Ale recipe is a big one, I’m making a small beer to maximize my brewing enjoyment.

91. Peculiar Wang Old Ale
14 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
12 oz. Breiss Special Roast 6-row 50° L
8 oz. Breiss Caramel 6-row 60° L
4 oz. Muntons Dark Crystal 2-row 135-165° L
4 oz. Weyerman CaraWheat
3 oz. Simpsons Black Malt
2 oz. Weyerman Chocolate Wheat
1 oz. Simpsons Roasted Barley

Mashed @ 154° F for 90 minutes w/5 gallons of distilled water; 2 ¾ gallons of 1.080 wort (@ 150° F)
Batch sparged @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/4 gallons of distilled water; 4 ¼ gallons of 1.030 wort (@ 145° F)

Collected 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes) and added:
5 g. gypsum
1 lb. Turbinado cane sugar

w/60 to go: 1 oz. Magnum pellet 10.0% AA
.7 oz. Galena pellet 14.1% AA
.25 oz. Tettnang pellet 4.7% AA
.25 oz. Cascade leaf 7.5% AA

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

w/10 to go: 1 lb. (454 g.) Lyle’s Black Treacle

Chilled and racked to carboy on Wyeast 1056 American Ale cake from 90. Session IPA

Brewed: 5/30/2011 @ 72° F; free rise to 78° F over the course of 12 hours, with vigorous fermentation after 6 hours
Secondary: 6/15/2011 @ 1.020
Bottled: 7/15/2011 w/ 2.4 oz. table sugar at 70° F

OG: 1.088
FG: 1.018

91a. I had an extra half-gallon of wort left, so I put it in a growler and pitched Wyeast 1968 that was on hand; I racked it onto 1 lb. of Bing cherries (6/29/2011), then bottled it with .35 oz. table sugar and US-05 to re-yeast (9/22/2011).

91b. Pulled ½ gallon from secondary; put it on ½ lb. frozen ground cherries (6/29/2011), then bottled it with .35 oz. table sugar and US-05 to re-yeast (9/22/2011).

Tasting Notes (4/26/2011): Morgan Lewis’s Peculiar Wang has, sadly, still not carbonated, which means it probably never will; there is a slight hiss when the bottle is opened, but nothing beyond that. The underlying beer is interesting, but without the carbonation, it is a bit muddied and indistinct—I’ll be interested to more explicitly compare it with the two ½ gallon batches I put on fruit. The beer pours a rosy caramel chocolate and is flat and clean across the surface; there are some orange highlights in the glass and on the table through the glass. Aromas start with chocolate, rum raisin, and dark fruit, including cherry, fig, and dried fruit. I get something reminiscent of a tannic oak sharpness, which, since I used no oak, is odd—my best guess would be this is from the treacle. Flavors open with caramel and treacle—it almost has a pine and peaty character to it, or something similar that I lack the descriptive vocabulary to locate—before transitioning into a clean and dry middle that has vinous and slight oxidized cardboard notes. Again, I’d note something of a tannic oak bite and flavor, although I have no clear sense where the flavor is from, unless it is a combination of the treacle and slight oxidized flavors. I also get hints of the dark fruit from the nose in the front and middle, but much less evident in flavor than aroma. There is a touch of bread dough chewiness before ending with treacle, molasses, and brown sugar with a touch of paper. As the flavors indicate, the beer has also started to pick up some vinous and oxidized notes—I’m guessing that the lack of carbonation allowed the small bit of oxygen in the head space to speed up this process. Again, nothing over the top, but it is more prominent in a flat beer, and it increases the dryness on the palate. The body is medium, but dry—it does suck a bit of the moisture out of the mouth, but not in an overbearing way—it does strike me as distinctly British. There is, however, a touch too much alcohol—it is more in the flavor than in the heat, but again, it is within the parameters of the style. When I do this beer again, I want to raise the mash temperature 2° to 156° F and go for a colder fermentation; it doesn’t need more sweetness (I’d also cut the treacle in half—it is good, but dialing it back a notch might improve the malt character), but a touch more body would round the beer on the palate, especially if the carbonation comes through. The strength is the caramel flavor and complexity—via the treacle—and the developing oxidized notes. The lack of carbonation is a big problem. I might have to buy one of those carbonation caps for a plastic soda bottle, and make Jeffrey carbonate it for me to see what it would be like otherwise. Chock this up to lessons learned. 

92. Small Wang Pale Ale
Third runnings from 91. Peculiar Wang Old Ale

Mashed @ 157° F for 45 minutes w/4 gallons of distilled water

Collected 4 ¼ gallons of 1.016 wort, brought to a boil (90 minutes) and added:
3 g. gypsum
½ lb. Turbinado cane sugar

w/60 to go: ¾ oz. Simcoe leaf 14.1% AA

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

w/10 to go: ½ oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

w/5 minutes to go: ½ oz. Simcoe leaf 14.1% AA

w/0 minutes to go: ½ oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

Chilled and racked to carboy (3 gallons); pitched on starter made from the dregs of a Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere on 5/19/2011

Brewed: 5/30/2011 @ 70° F
Secondary: 6/22/2011 @ 1.002
Bottled: 7/15/2011 w/ 2.75 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.032
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes (12/14/2011): While this beer got hopped like a pale ale, the remaining malt and yeast character pretty much takes that style out of the running. It pours a crystal clear dirty orange/tawny color with a thin tan head. Aromas are musty and lightly tart with a touch of barnyard—it has more going on in the nose than 97, and is lighter in color. In regards to flavor, the front is a dry husky malt that leads into musty funk; the middle is chalky and tart—it reminds Elli and I both of Smarties (the rolled candies, not the Canadian rip-off M ’n’ M’s)—which leads into the finish that is a mix of what I would call goat-y (for lack of a better term) and bitter, which seems to be the only remainder of the hops. The bitterness is clean and dry, and lingers with the funk on the palate. The carbonation is bright and spritzy on the tongue, but is also dry and flat. There is also a slight touch of cardboard, but I don’t believe it is from oxidation—rather, the yeast has just consumed almost every possible bit of sugar, leaving the dry residual grain flavors behind, but not much else. For example, I can taste the Breiss Special Roast as one of the lingering astringent flavors in the middle and on into the finish. I like this version better than 97, but they both mainly serve as experiments confirming the need for a lighter malt bill. Well, that, and the need to make more small beers. But who doesn’t know that already?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Session #51 and ½: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off, Part Deux

This tweener version of the Session (see results of Session 51) allows for more cheese and more beer. Always good together. My plan was to focus on the one cheese I could actually find, Humboldt Fog, and then grab as many beers from the list as possible. Or at least what was affordable. Oh, and invite a couple of friends over to assist us in the tastings, as some of these beers only come in big bottles. Oh, the humanity.

What we’re drinking:
Schneider-Weisse Adventinus (from Brookston Beer Bulletin)
Duchesse de Bourgogne (from Wine and Beer of Washington State)
Saison Dupont (from The Brew Lounge )
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (that was us)
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (from 99 Pours)
21st Amendment Monk’s Blood (from Ramblings of a Beer Runner)

Since I didn’t take notes, the top 3 cheeses from each of us will have to suffice:

1. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil
2. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
3. Saison Dupont

1. Saison Dupont
2. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil
3. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere

1. Saison Dupont
2. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil
3. Schneider-Weisse Adventinus

1. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
2. Saison Dupont
3. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil

Tabulating our rankings in a reverse-point manner (3 for 1st, etc.) makes Saison Dupont our overall winner (9 points), followed by Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (8 points), Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (6 points), and Schneider-Weisse Adventinus Weizenbock (1 point). The Duchesse did surprisingly poor, although I would say it was the bottle we had more than anything else—very very sweet and almost no sourness or complexity. Dupont was the best match for the entire cheese—it mixed well the crumbly inner cheese, the funky outer cheese, and the sharper rind. Dee-licious!

Thanks, Jay, for the great idea. A fun time was had by all, even if we don’t have the notes to prove it...

Cheese it!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Session IPA Brewday

Today’s beer is for the upcoming Rockit Cup; like the SOB I brewed back in March, this is an attempt to get a group of brewers from our club, DRAFT, to brew the same beer using the same recipe, and discuss the results to build our overall brewing knowledge. I can already tell you what I learned thus far: with a 1.054 OG (projected OG for the recipe was 1.044), I’m getting far better efficiency than the 70% projected for the recipe. Go learning!

90. Session IPA
8 ½ lbs. Breiss 2-row
¾ lb. Breiss Caramel 20°
¾ lb. Weyerman Light Munich
½ lb. Breiss Caramel 60°

Mashed @ 149° F (148° F actual) for 90 minutes w/ 4 gallons of RO water (162° F)
Batch sparged @ 166° F (165° F actual) for 20 minutes w/3 ½ gallons of RO water (175° F)

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (60 minutes) and added:
w/60 to go: 4 g. gypsum
½ lb. Turbinado cane sugar

w/45 to go:
½ oz. Warrior pellet 15.8% AA

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

w/10 to go: ¾ oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

w/5 minutes to go: ¾ oz. Simcoe leaf 14.1% AA

w/0 minutes to go: ¾ oz. Cascade leaf 7.5% AA

Chilled with wort chiller, racked to carboy and pitched Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Brewed: 5/19/2011 @ 70° F
Secondary: 5/30/2011 @ 1.006
Bottled: 6/1/2011 w/ 3 ¾ oz. table sugar: ¾ oz. went into a mini-keg; and 3 oz. went into the rest of the beer, which was bottled

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.006

Tasting Notes (10/4/2011): Session IPA pours a crystal clear tan-colored copper with lots of lively fine bubbles; the head is a dense off-white with excellent retention. The nose leans towards hops over malt, even at this late date, but overall the beer is remarkably well-balanced and approachable—there is a touch of Centennial sourness (ala Two Hearted), Simcoe evergreen and resin, and the slightest Cascade citrus tang for the hop character, and behind that are caramel and Munich malt blending and rounding the whole. Flavors start with caramel malt mixed with resin and evergreen hop flavor, leading into a dry, biscuit malt middle accompanied by a light but bright hop bitterness. The finish is bright with a slight touch of chewiness—the caramel appears briefly, and then the evergreen and citrus, followed by a subtle lingering bitterness. The body is light, but fits the beer profile, and the carbonation brightens the beer on the palate while also lacing the glass nicely. All in all, this is a beer that needs to find a spot in the regular rotation—it is easy, enjoyable drinking, but with the subtlety that rewards the palate.

I pulled out the mini-keg of this to drink with everyone the night before the wedding; since most people were from out of town, we had everyone over to our place after the rehearsal dinner and pulled a bunch of stuff out of the cellar. The hop flavors were much brighter and retained a lot more character in the mini-keg, which I’m guessing has something to do with the larger volume. And it was a stupendous hit—that beer disappeared lickety-split, all one and third gallons.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

481. New Belgium/Allagash Vrienden

Holy score of scores! Sometimes those seemingly out of the way beer stores offer up sweet sweet liquid gold. And Gays Hops-n-Schnapps in Angola, IN (seriously, I couldn’t make that name up if I tried) yielded up this gem. Or several of them, since I bought out what they had on the shelf. I mean, let’s be honest, this one hits pretty much all the requisite marks. We’ve got New Belgium, and then Lips of Faith, followed by collaboration, and then Allagash, mixed with brettanomyces, and finally lactobacillus. Sounds like a recipe for deliciousness. And by sounds, I mean is. Our previous encounters with New Belgium include La Folie Falling Rock Tap House 10th Anniversary, Mighty Arrow Pale Ale, Ranger, Le Fleur, Misseur?, Transatlantique Kriek, Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. Sadly, we haven’t had any beers from Allagash, well, at least none we’ve written up. Mea culpa. If you feel so inclined, send some our way, and we’ll correct this egregious and slightly embarrassing error.

Described on the label as an “ale brewed with hibiscus and endive,” Vrienden pours a reddish orange—the hibiscus color is there, but it is not nearly as red as Goose Island’s La Fleur. The head is white and light, and quickly rings the glass, although there are a few skiffs of foam floating around on the surface. Elli describes the nose as brett-y goodness; when pushed to further expand her description, she declared it floral and herbal combined with earthy and mineral-ly crispness, followed be a touch of sweetness. Well put, my dear. Flavors open with a dry, crackery malt and move into mineral tartness and floral fruitiness mixed with earthy and hay flavors that are also tangy and sour. The turn to the finish has a spritzy, effervescent carbonation burst that wipes the palate clean before finishing with a lingering mineral earthy funkiness and bitterness. As the beer warms, the tartness increases, and so does the sweetness in the body and mouthfeel—there is a fair change from front to back on this beer: the initial mouthfeel is dry, crisp, and light-bodied, while toward the end of the bottle, it was dry, tart, and medium-bodied. The alcohol is well-hidden, but does peek out a bit as the beer warms. Let’s just say that there is a lot going on with this beer, and all of it is good. We likey. Ah, Lips of Faith, how we’ve missed you...

From the bottle: “Get a Belgian brewmaster and a master of Belgian brewing together and there’s sure to be spontaneous imagination that leads to micro-organisms mingling in fermentation bliss. Allagash and New Belgium are pleased to offer you our collabeeration brewed with the slightly fruity hibiscus flower, the aromatic brettanomyces, and the flavor-boosting lactobacillus. We recommend pairing it with creamy, soft cheeses and charming vrienden—that’s ‘friends’ in Flemish. Enjoy!”

ABV: 8.5%


Saturday, May 14, 2011

480. Three Floyds Alpha King

So after the IPA brewday, we headed on up to Indiana for a little vacation time. Which means scoring all the beer we wish we could score regularly. Like Three Floyds Alpha King. I remember the first couple of times I had this beer—at that time, it tasted so so hoppy. Now, I’d consider it a rather moderate and well-balanced version of an American Pale Ale—sure, it’s got some hops in it, but there is less bitterness and enough malt character in the body to balance and round the beer. How’s that for yet another example of the hop tolerance created by American craft brewing? Even though we’re regionally challenged, we’ve still managed to score our fair share of Three Floyds: Moloko Milk Stout, Blackheart IPA 2010, Dark Lord 2010, Rabbid Rabbit, BrooDoo Harvest Ale, Brian Boru, Gumballhead Wheat, Robert the Bruce, Dreadnaught, Black Sun Stout and Blackheart IPA.

Alpha King pours a hazy orange and copper—probably more copper than orange—with a creamy white head that puts in some work to keep hanging around. Serious work. It does, however, manage to lace up the glass pretty decently. The nose is a mix of biscuit and caramel malt and citrus, herbal, and floral hop aromas. Or in other words, it smells delicious. Tastes delicious too, what with the gentle biscuit and sweet caramel bready flavors in the front and the citrus, floral, and herbal hop flavors in the middle (there is more floral than herbal flavor, hence the lack of parallelism in my two lists—no, I’m not rummy with beer). There is a touch of bitterness to the middle, albeit very light, that lingers nicely through the finish, helping to lighten and clean the overall finish. The turn into the finish has a brief return of the caramel sweetness before the bitterness comes to the front, along with a slight mineral and herbal touch. The body is medium with a chewy, bright mouthfeel; the carbonation helps cleanse the palate in the finish, contributing to the crispness of the beer. All in all, Alpha King is a damn good beer—we both dig on it, and are always happy when we can find it. Like now. So hurry up and get your ass to Ohio, Three Floyds. We love you, but we do get tired of searching you out.

From the bottle: “Alpha King is an American Pale Ale with a bold citrus hop character. We brew all out beers for our own demanding tastes. If you’re unwilling to compromise on your beer, we urge you to try it.”

From the Three Floyds website: “3 Floyd’s flagship beer, Alpha King is a big American Pale Ale that pours a deep amber with a creamy head. This ale is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Warrior hops giving it an intense citrus aroma and a crisp hoppy finish.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 66


Elli’s Extra Resin-y IPA Brewday

So my instructions for the hop profile on this beer were as follows: “I want it to be bitter and herbal with a lot of pine and resin. Actually make it extra-resin-y.” When I asked about the aroma, I was told “Never mind about the aroma. Worry about the extra-resin-y.” We then discussed and chose hop types, where I was given another “extra-resin-y” reminder. So here it is, extra resin-y and all. Rock on.

89. Elli’s Extra Resin-y IPA
6 lbs. Maris Otter
6 lbs. Pilsen
1 lb. Breiss Victory
1 lb. Dingemans Cara 20° (CaraVienna)
½ lb. Breiss Caramel 120°
½ lb. Dingemans Biscuit Malt

Mashed @ 152° F (150° F actual) for 65 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons of RO water (167° F)
Batch sparged @ 168° F (166° F actual) for 20 minutes w/4 gallons of RO water (181° F)

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (65 minutes) and added:
w/60 to go:
7 g. gypsum
1 oz. Magnum pellet 10.0% AA
1 oz. Millennium leaf 16.6% AA

w/15 minutes to go:
1 tsp. Irish Moss
1 oz. Simcoe leaf 14.1% AA

w/10 to go:
1 oz. Chinook leaf 11.9% AA

w/5 minutes to go:
1 oz. Centennial leaf 11.5% AA

w/0 minutes to go:
1 oz. Amarillo leaf 10.7% AA

Chilled with wort chiller to 68° F, racked to carboy on Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale cake from 88. Willamette Pale Ale

Brewed: 5/13/2011 @ 68° F
Secondary: 6/3/2011 @ 1.014; dry-hopped w/ 1 oz. Chinook 11.9% AA on 6/5/2011
Bottled: 6/15/2011 w/ 3.55 oz. table sugar @ 68° F

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.011

Tasting Notes: Elli’s Extra Resin-y IPA pours a rich caramel copper. And, as the picture clearly indicates, it has a profuse and abundant tan-colored head—it is thick and got a good inch over the top of the glass before it found any sort of stasis. The nose is heavy on the spicy and evergreen side of things: if this beer was an open-mike rap battle, the lyrical skills of Chinook and Simcoe have made mince meat of Centennial and Amarillo while Magnum and Millennium look on. In addition, the nose has bread and biscuit malt character than slightly clashes with the hop and spicy hop aromas; this initial aromatic presence plays out in flavor profile as well. The opening evergreen, pine, and spicy hop flavors clash with the sourdough and breadiness of the Victory malt in the front of the beer—there is almost a slight sweet rye spiciness created in the confrontation of flavors that further throws things off, even though there is no rye anywhere near this beer. The middle has a dry biscuit malt flavor mixed with a clean, bracing bitterness; again, not the perfect mix, but better than the initial combination. The finish is slightly tacky and dry on the tongue, although the big lingering is effective. The overall body is too dry—there is a slight touch of alcohol warmth along with the bitterness, but the biscuit and sourdough emphasize flatter, drier flavors on the palate, leaving a husky or grainy impression. The caramel malt (both the 20° and 120°) have disappeared in the beer; while the Pilsen and Maris Otter should leave this beer lighter in body and thus a perfect vehicle for some residual caramel malt flavor, the combination with the other specialty grains creates a dark grain character that seems to dampen all of the interesting hop nuances that could have been created in the beer. I’m left with something of a Lysol-esque hop character—i.e. heavy on the evergreen—which clashes with the dry biscuit and bread character of the malt. Oh well—you live and you learn. Elli, I’m sorry the beer we made for you was something of a disappointment. The good news is that we can try it again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

479. Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkelweizen

More German beers in the house—I’m loading up on those sweet sweet 16.9 German bottles. Homebrewers, you know the ones I’m talking about. We’d drink Pliny to get them, but for some reason they don’t distribute in Ohio. Stupid Russian River. Ayinger Ur-Weisse is brewed and bottled by Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer in Aying, Germany. Say that ten times fast after a couple of their beers. We’d like to get in on that private brewery action, if you know what I’m saying. As well, this is our first beer from Ayinger, although what with the recent spate of German beers we’re, who know when it will ever end?

Ur-Weisse pours a clear orange amber with orange highlights that splay all over my table—a very pretty beer. I did purposely pour gentle to initially leave the yeast behind; mid-bottle, the yeast clouds the beer and kills the highlights. The head is initially profuse, but quickly reduces to a white ring with very active carbonation. Aromas consist of wheat and bread along with banana and clove; it’s not so much the banana cream pie of last night’s beer—this one is closer to spiced banana bread. Flavors open with caramel and apple, followed by banana and clove. There is wheat flavor in the middle and the finish—that slight gumminess and creaminess that is gentle and soft on the palate. There is a slight carbonation bite moving into the finish as you swallow, which helps cleanse the palate and highlight the clove and banana flavors at the end. The beer is medium bodied with a soft, gentle, and almost delicate mouthfeel. While Ur-Weisse is a little light on the dunkel aspects of the Dunkelweizen, it is nonetheless a tasty and interesting beer.

According to the Ayinger website, Ur-Weisse“is a strong amber-colored, yeast cloudy wheat beer. The beer is strong with the first taste and malty in aroma. The top-fermented, yeasty taste sensation is unmistakable. This beer is rich in sparkle and has just a touch of a special bitter quality. The fruity, malty mild aroma will have you won you over immediately!”

ABV: 5.8%


478. Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier

We’re rolling up on that Weihenstephaner. This one is a filtered hefeweizen, and damn is is clear. I read Gordon Strong’s new book, Brewing Better Beer, through mine while I was drinking it. No, I’m just kidding. But I could have. Seriously. Although technically, I should have been reading Stan Hieronymus’s Brewing With Wheat. Get it? Because this is, like, a wheat beer, or something. I’m so tired of having to explain my jokes to you, Jeffrey. Anyway, this is our fourth beer from Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, including Korbinian, Hefe Weissbier and Dr. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse.

Unsurprisingly, Kristall pours a crystal clear straw color, with a prodigious white head. Since the beer is so clear, the profusion of small tiny streaming bubbles is a nice treat, which gives the beer an effervescent visual quality that at least partially follows through in the mouthfeel. The nose is a creamy banana clove combination that is reminiscent of banana cream pie—it is creamier and smoother than the traditional Hefe Weisse, but very much in line with the original. Kristall opens creamy and soft on the palate—there is a bit of a carbonation bite towards the finish, but the front is gentle and delicate. Flavors are creamy banana followed by a slight wheat gumminess in the middle and finishing with clove and light vanilla flavors that linger and dance on the back of the tongue. While the carbonation is gentle, it is also bubbly and delightful—the combination of creaminess and carbonation creates a gentle soothing effect that is one of the highlights of this beer. A softer, gentler, and more delicate version of their traditional Hefe Weiss, Kristall allows the perfume-y components of the beer to parade across the palate, leaving drinkers with a different yet eminently enjoyable beer. Surprisingly complex and gentle—this beer was a pleasant surprise.

ABV: 5.4%


Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Session #51: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-off

So on Friday we were “occupied.” Not like in we were invaded or anything, but merely otherwise involved. You know the drill. So the fun and hijinx of the Session and Jay Brooks’ call for a cheese and beer bonanza had to be postponed until today. Rather than take any sort of scientific approach that focused on pairings, we went with the four cheeses and four beers approach. You know, mix and match. Embrace the random. Here’s what we grabbed:

Champignon Mushroom Brie
Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Goat Milk
Vintage 5 Year Gouda
Widmer 10 Year Cheddar

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
Weihenstephaner Hefe Weisse
Westmalle Dubbel
Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

Let the fun begin!

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere: Humboldt Fog matches Bam Biere for a couple of reasons: the funk in the outer layer of the cheese melds well with the sharp mineral-ly and funky components of the beer—sort of complementing funks—and the sharper inner crumbly and creamy goat cheese matches the brightness and spritziness of the beer. None of the other three were a terrible match, although Widmer and Champignon were both too subtle to hold up to bright mineral funk of Bam Biere. Vintage Gouda did have the complexity to hold up to the beer, but the nutty, biscuit, and creamy flavors didn’t balance correctly.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier: both Champignon and Vintage Gouda work decently for similar reasons: each pairing offers a study in opposites. The creamy density of Champignon balanced the brightness and softness of the beer, while the stronger flavors in the Gouda offered a different texture and character of flavors against which to balance the lighter and brighter beer. The flavor of Widmer Cheddar completely overpowered the gentle flavors of the beer, which was an interesting shift from the way it was overwhelmed by the Bam Biere, while the Humboldt Fog just didn’t quite work—the creaminess of the goat cheese didn’t work in the ways that it did with Champignon.

Westmalle Dubbel: sadly, none of the cheeses were a good match for this beer. Both Widmer and Vintage Gouda offer a similarity in complexity, with the nutty caramel of Gouda fitting in with Westmalle’s fruity malt character, but neither was a perfect match. As well, the creaminess of Champignon balances the complex malt character, but not exactly. And the funkiness of the outer layer of Humboldt Fog did not work well with the soft, gentle, and complex malt profile at all, although the inner creamy part was a better match.

Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout: Widmer Cheddar found its match: it brings out the sweet molasses character of the beer, and each balances the other nicely—both are improved via the pairing. Champignon brought out the roasty chocolate character of the beer, but was overall less interesting, and Humboldt Fog got covered over and didn’t work. Vintage Gouda was an interesting match, but as Elli offers, “neither did anything for each other.”

The remains of the day...

Best Pairings: in terms of the final tabulations, we had a split decision. Elli found the Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout and Widmer 10 Year Cheddar the best match, while I thought the Jolly Pumpkin and Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog the best match. But since we both got to eat fancy cheese and drink fancy beer, I’m pretty certain we’re both winners.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

477. Weihenstephaner Korbinian

Let’s start with the obvious: I love that Weihenstephaner doesn’t have the traditional “-ator” name found in most doppelbocks (like Ayinger Celebrator). Although let’s be honest—their name could well pre-date the whole “-ator” phenomenon. I’m certain there’s a story in there somewhere, but my internet skills are just too moribund to find anything that would provide appropriate justification. Plus, I might like my particular narrative a bit too much to want such a story destroyed. The truth? We’ll save that for later. Our last two beers from Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany include Hefe Weissbier and Dr. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse, a collabo with Doemens Institute.

Korbinian pours a deep, rich, and clear chocolate; there are some nice orange and red highlights to be seen through the side of the glass, while the head is tan with some initial coverage before reducing to a thick ring around the glass. All in all, a pretty beer. I hope calling it pretty doesn’t make Korbinian feel emasculated. The nose is rich toasty malt mixed with luscious dark fruit—you can almost see the smell-lines rising up off this one (like the stink-lines coming off of Moe Syzslak). There is candy sweetness hidden away in the back as well, but it is under the main initial thrust of malt and fruit. Flavors start with a rich toasty malt before moving into dark fruit in the middle—mainly prune, raisin, grape, and fig, although there could be some craisin as well—I’ve been eating a lot of dried cranberries of late, and you’d be surprised how often that flavor shows up elsewhere. Toffee and caramel emerges in the front and middle as the beer warms, and works as a pleasant accompaniment to the fruit flavors in the middle. The finish dries out slightly; there is a touch of hop bitterness, mainly perceived as a light tackiness on the back of the tongue, and a soft gentle alcohol presence, although the malt presence is still very forward. Korbinian has a creamy, chewy mouthfeel that fits well with the medium to full body—besides being pretty looking, it is easy on the mouth. Smooth sippin’ deliciousness. But then again, they’ve had almost a millenium to perfect the whole process, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

ABV: 7.4%

P.S. Anyone know what the bear that is carrying stuff on the label is all about? I guess that via my description, that would make it a pack-bear, but I’m pretty sure that is not a real word. Whatever. The pack-bear is awesome, and always makes me laugh. Good pack-bear.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ernest Hemingway and Ballantine

“You have to work hard to deserve to drink it. But I would rather have a bottle of Ballantine Ale than any other drink after fighting a really big fish. When something has been taken out of you by strenuous exercise, Ballantine puts it back in.”

Oh hell yes. This morning, I was reading the New York Time Book Review when I came across Tony Perrottet’s end-page essay “Building the Brand” that included a Ballantine ad featuring Ernest Hemingway. Yes, that Ernest Hemingway. You know, of “Get Your Manliness On” fame. While I am sure others in the blogosphere have already noted this, I feel compelled to include my voice in the (hopefully growing) cacophony because, seriously, can you really ever get enough Ernest Hemingway Ballantine ads? But we all already know the answer to that one...

Also, check out the link in Perrottet’s article to Paul Devlin’s “For Whom the Shill Toils” from Slate in 2006. Pure genius.


Monday, May 2, 2011

476. Dogfish Head Hellhound on My Ale

It’s been a while since we’ve punched that Dogfish Head ticket. After all the yeast schenanigans and beer dumping on Brewmasters, it is good to see something end up in the bottle again. We can, however, add this one to a long list of tasty and interesting beers, including Raison d’Extra, 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.

Pouring a dirty hazy gold, Robert Johnson’s Hellhound on My Ale has a decent white head that slowly fades to a brief covering, but it does lace up the glass rather impressively along the way. The citrus sourness of the Centennial hops comes through clearly in the nose; behind that, there is a bit of bright candy sweetness and some lemon citrus zest along with a touch of alcohol aroma buried all the way in the back. In the front of the beer, there is a fair amount of spicy malt sweetness; the malt is pretty unobtrusive. Either that, or covered over by the hops. The middle does feature some candy-like sweetness and a whole mess of bitterness mixed with floral, citrus, and spicy hop flavor, while the finish is bright with lingering bitterness and just a hint of lemon and some alcohol warmth. The beer is medium to heavy in mouthfeel, but everything in the flavor profile tends towards brightness and lightness, counteracting a fair share of actual heaviness. There is also some alcohol warmth, but the bitterness, spicy hop flavor, and carbonation does hide a decent amount of it. It does creep in, though, especially after all of the flavors have left the palate, and you’re left with just the warmth on the back of your throat. It is a 10.0% beer, however, and I wouldn’t hold out on this one, as the real strength is the hop flavor and character of the beer. Actually, this is one of Dogfish Head’s more drinkable big beers—there is character and balance here. Elli likes it for its front to back hop presence, and I have to concur—it goes down smooth and easy. Too easy for a beer this big.

From the bottle: “2011 marks the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson who, according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever. Dogfish Head pays tribute to this blues legend by gettin’ the hellhounds off his trail into this finely-crafted ale. Hellhound is a super-hoppy ale hits 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, 10.0% ABV, 10.0 SRM in color, and dry-hopped with 100% Centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrel brew-length. To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the Centennial hops (and as a shout out to Robert Johnson’s mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson) we add dried lemon and flesh to the whirlpool. To read more about Robert Johnson go to”

ABV: 10.0%
IBU: 100

P.S. Is it too much to ask for a scarier hellhound? It could just as well be good ol’ Barky on fire...


Sunday, May 1, 2011

475: Sierra Nevada/Abbey of New Clairvaux Ovila Abbey Dubbel

More in the way of the collaboration. This one couples Sierra Nevada with Abbey of New Clairvaux, although via the website for the beer, it looks more like 30th Anniversary Part II. But I digress—for the collaboration, all things are forgiven. And since we’re dealing with a project intended to rebuilt a Spanish monastery that was built in 1190 in Trillo, Spain, dismantled and moved to the United States by Randolph Hearst in the 1930s, and then abandoned until recently, the collabo seems like even more of a good thing—we’ll be looking for the Saison and the Quad that will follow the Dubbel. This is our first beer from Abbey of New Clairvaux (shocking, I know); from Sierra Nevada, we’ve tried Hoptimum 2011, 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. Or, like all of them.

Ovila Abbey Dubbel pours a hazy orange-ish copper with an off-white creamy head. Or, in other words, your classic dubbel—the only real difference is that this one is slightly cloudier than others we’ve tried. The nose is brown sugar and some dark fruit coupled with some perfume-y spiciness—which is what I believe the label refers to as black pepper, although I perceive it more as clove (which is also listed on the label). Or as Elli put it: “a little sugar, a little spice. You know, everything nice.” The aroma is a bit flat compared to some of the more famous dubbels, but it works well with the beer that it is. Flavors open with dried fruit and drier malt; the sweetness picks up in the middle and rounds out into fig fruitiness, although there is also apple and pear—there is a delicate component to this beer that leaves it lighter and more ephemeral than other dubbels. The finish is sweet but dry, in part from some of the alcohol flavor and warmth that slowly builds in the beer. The body is medium with a creamy and lightly spritzy mouthfeel—both help lighten and balance the beer, which, while it has substance, comes across as lighter compared to some of its Old World counterparts. Elli found that the lightness made it more drinkable, which I agree with, but it also limited some of the complexity that can be found in dubbels. This could, however, be a product of age—I’m willing to bet that in a year, the alcohol sharpness and warmth would recede and the fruit and malt complexity would reciprocally emerge, leaving a much more interesting beer in its wake. As is, however, Ovila is still an enjoyable beer that led to an interesting discussion of the style. And that is more than a hearty endorsement for any beer.

From the bottle: “A collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux, Ovila Abbey Dubbel brings the centuries-old monastery brewing tradition to America. Ovila Abbey Dubbel features a complex and rich malty sweetness with hints of caramelized sugar. The aroma is a heady and layered mix of fruit and spice with hints of clove and black pepper from the unique Belgian-style yeast. A portion of the proceeds from this ale go toward the restoration of the historic Santa Maria de Óvila chapter house on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. This medieval building stood for nearly eight centuries in Spain. William Randolph Hearst purchased the monastery in 1931 and planned to use the stones for a castle even grander than his famous San Simeon. Although Hearst’s plans crumbled, these historic stones will rise again in a California Cistercian abbey.”

From the website: “Ovila Abbey Dubbel is brewed in the abbey tradition, and perfect for the rebirth of spring. Clear and deep copper in color, this Abbey Dubbel has a complex and rich malty sweetness with hints of caramelized sugar. The aroma is a heady and layered mix of fruit and spice with hints of clove, raisin, and black pepper from the use of an abbey-style yeast.”

ABV: 7.5%