Monday, October 31, 2011

489. Weihenstephaner Festbier

What would Fall be without German beer? Let me tell you—someplace dark, strict, and terrible. Sure, the whole lack of hops thing coupled with Reinheitsgebot does create some problems, but without the larger benevolence that is the dream of Oktoberfest, we’d be relegated to some sort of creepy Amish nightmare world, shunning technology and recounting previous days of Rumspringa as the only recourse to staving off the vengeance of assaulting our fellow Amish and shaving off their beards. Oh wait, that already happened. My bad. Plus, all of us non-Amish still have to deal with the aches and pains of adult responsibility, technologically driven or no. But you know what separates us from the Amish, don’t you? That’s right, my friend. Beer. Sweet, delicious beer. Which brings me back to Germany. So thanks, Germany, from keeping us from ending up like the Amish. Or the Shakers. Or even (and more importantly) the Mormons. I wish I could lay claim to beer being the solution to all of our fundamentalist religious problems, but that might be going too far. But it would make a good start, wouldn’t it?

Weihenstephaner Festbier is our fifth beer from Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany. We already sampled the magic of Korbinian, Hefe Weissbier and Dr. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. Festbier pours a clear gold with a brilliant white head that slowly reduces to a ring; the nose features bread crust and dough malt aromas coupled with a light hop bitterness dancing in the background. There is also an ephemeral candy sweetness in the nose that took me most of the beer to pin down. Flavors start soft and gentle on the palate; the carbonation is there, but more as a rounding characteristic. Malt flavors include bread and a slight graininess; the hop bitterness manifests in the middle, dropping off before the finish and reappearing as a palate sensation of lingering bitterness at the conclusion of the beer. There is a slight rise in sweetness in the middle right before the carbonation strips the flavor away, leaving a graininess and huskiness that melds with the bitterness of the finish. There is a touch more malt character than some of the other Weihenstephan beers, but it still has a delightful balance—the traditional hop character of a lager beer lurks behind the malt character, asserting itself as the beer starts to warm. But the overall character of the beer is clean and crisp—it says drink me on a brisk fall afternoon with the smell of dead leaves and change in the air, and I’ll remind you that the pleasure of seeing and experiencing the closing of the year connects you to the natural rhythms of the world. And while that may seem like a lot for a beer to do, maybe you need to get the hell out of the house and drink more beer outside by a fire with the crisp bite of fall in air to understand what the hell I’m talking about. Either that, or start planning now for your mid-life crisis so that the fireworks of your lost detachment can outshine the futility consuming your life. Here’s a better plan—get out there and live.

From the Weihenstephan website: “A full rich bodied, hoppy, seasonal lager. Especially brewed for the Festbier season. This beer truly represents the Bavarian way of celebrating. Deep gold color, great mouthfeel and lots of flavor. Prost!”

ABV: 5.8%


Friday, October 28, 2011

488. New Holland Hopivore Michigan Wet-Hopped Harvest Ale

Another fresh-hop beer. After all, it is the season, and I just can’t say no to all the new versions popping up everywhere I look. That’s right, I’m a fresh-hop mark. Or maybe I’m a fresh-hop john. Basically, whichever one is more offensive. Yes, I choose that one. You heard me. So take that, adverb boy. Because I’m ruffling feathers today. Mixing it up. Pulling the rope-a-dope. And no, I don’t know where this is going. But I like it. This is our sixth beer from New Holland (including the bonus beer, Envious) ; previous encounters include our short but passionate affair with a curvaceous bottle of Beerhive Tripel, El Mole Ocho, Dragon’s Milk, Golden Cap Saison, and Envious.

Hopivore pours a mix of orange and copper—it’s very harvest-y, I guess—with a thin eggshell head that reduces to a ring rather rapidly. Ah, alliteration, how I love thee. In the nose, there is a pretty even mix of malt and hops, with spice and pine on the hop side and biscuit and amber on the malt side. Flavors follow suit—there are toasted bread and biscuit malt flavors mixed with caramel sweetness in the front, coupled with a bright spicy hoppiness. The middle has an even pleasant bitterness that balances the malt character, leading to a rather balanced finish that features a touch of evergreen pine hop flavor before the gentle lingering bitterness that mixes with the dry biscuit malt character. The balance is nice, although the biscuit and caramel malt is too much in the front of the beer—the subtlety of the hop aroma and flavor is muted by the more distinctive malt characteristics. At the same time, the body is medium to light—much of the sweetness is in the taste, not the mouthfeel. This is a pretty decent beer, and certainly very drinkable (and enjoyable as well), but it is trying to do too many things at the same time. In looking to combine the fall harvest ale with the fall wet-hop beer, New Holland has turned two good beers into one that is muddled more than anything else. Either crisp up the finish of the malt character with a lager yeast and forget about the fresh-hop, or drop the harvest component and lighten the malt character in the body to showcase fresh-hop nuance and complexity. Either/or: don’t do both. I do love wet-hop beers, but most non-West Coast versions treat this style as more novelty than craft. Dammit.

From the bottle: “Michigan-grown hops are the story in this seasonal harvest ale. Hopivore is wet-hopped, with hops added to the brew just hours after harvest, creating rare, fresh flavors.”

P.S. That Farmhouse Hatter IPA you guys made was top-notch—it still stands as one of the best examples of a Belgian IPA that I’ve tried to date.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dandelion Saison w/ Brett B Brewday

We can officially declare this one more of the same; I wanted to make another version of this with hops so that it would have some staying power. I also used MFB Aromatic rather than Pilsen malt, and whole dried dandelions from this summer—I combined cleaning up the yard with gathering brewing supplies. Genius, I know. The no-hop version tasted delicious when I transfered it over—a light earthy herbal bitterness with the brett character just starting to manifest in the background. Here’s to more of the same.

102. Dandelion Saison w/ Brett B
8 lbs. MFB Aromatic
1 lb. Weyerman Dark Munich
1 lb. Dingemans CaraMunich 20° L
1 lb. Breiss White Wheat

Mashed @ 153° F w/ 4 gallons of RO water for 70 minutes; collected 2 ½ gallons @ 1.064
Batch sparged @ 172° F w/ 3 ¾ gallons RO water for 20 minutes; collected 3 ¾ gallons @ 1.026

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; brought to a boil (70 minute) and added:

w/60 to go: 2 oz. New Zealand Pacific Hallertau pellet 4.5% AA
.75 oz. dried dandelion (whole)

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish moss

w/10 to go: 1 oz. German Hallertauer leaf 4.1% AA
.7 oz. dried dandelion (whole)

w/5 to go: 1 oz. German Hallertauer leaf 4.1% AA
.6 oz. dried dandelion (whole)

Chilled, and racked onto Wyeast 3711 French Saison & Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis cake from 101. No-Hop Dandelion Saison

Brewed: 10/27/2011
Secondary: 12/16/2011 @ 1.002
Bottled: 3/2/2012 w/ 4 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes (7/27/2013): I’ve held out on typing up notes on this because I wanted to see the effect aging had on it. Dandelion Saison pours a copper orange—the pound of dark Munich is really showing here—with a creamy white head that laces the glass well. The head also has better retention than some of the Brettanomyces beers I’ve made in the past—we’ll see how that goes in the future. In the nose, I get candy, floral earthiness, and spiciness with a touch of mineral mustiness, or in other words, pretty much what I’d expect from Brett B. Flavors follow suit: there is bread crust and candy sweetness in the front that gives way to the dry, spicy earthy funk of the middle. There is hay and fresh fall dry leaves in the finish, alongside just a touch of alcohol and a mix of lingering funk and herbal bitterness. While the beer has some sweetness, it is bone dry in the body—crackery bone dry. Besides the herbal bitterness in the finish, there is less dandelion that I expected, although at this point, everything has blended together virtually seamlessly, so even picking it apart this much has taken some time. I’m happy I have a fair amount of this left; I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to progress.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CMI Oktoberbest Zinzinnati Beer Judging

This year’s Oktoberbest was held across the river in Kentucky on the 16th floor of the Radisson (sorry, Northside)—nothing like a scenic view of downtown Cincinnati to set the stage for drinking beer first thing in the a.m. No, wait—let’s paint a better image of beer judging than that. After all, if I was a college football fan, I’d already be drunk at this point. And while my comparison is neither nice nor fair, I’m comfortable enough with myself to point out that I don’t care. Take that, annoying drunken Ohio State fans. Yes, college football, I accept your apology.

First beer of the day: 10:08 a.m.

For the morning flight, I judged Category 10: American Ale with Frank Barickman; there were actually six judges total, with a queued flight of 22 beers, but I was paired with Frank. Judging with Frank is always a treat—he’s witty, knowledgeable, and an all-around good time. After our lunch in the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel (ah, the 70’s), I judged Category 14: IPA with Jim Matt, one of the brewers at Sun King in Indianapolis. Again, this was a queued flight with six judges—I think there were 21 beers total—and I had an enjoyable time discussing beers with Jim and trying to learn as much as I could from him. After the judging finished, Jeffrey and I swung by the Party Source on our way out of town, and then headed back to Dayton. Ah, the life of a beer judge. Oh, and results are here.

As far as swag goes, CMI still sets the bar. Last year, a gift certificate to Northern Brewer. This year, portable coolers for all the judges. Damn. I’ll certainly be back next year.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

No-Hop Dandelion Saison w/ Brett B Brewday

This beer is my entry for this year’s DRAFT Iron Brewer Competition. And, as you can probably guess, this year requires brewing a beer without hops. I know, I know. Consider this revenge for Reinheitsgebot. My recipe for this one pretty much follows 98 (hell, I’m even using the same yeast cake), with the exception that I cut the hops and pitched a package of brettanomyces bruxellensis, the hope being that if there are no remaining sugars in the beer—simple or complex—it will be harder for any type of infection to flourish. Gotta like that solid logic, huh? Sure, I could have gone with wormwood or lavender tips to offer some preservative qualities, but I'm a risk-taker. Plus, the other dandelion saison tasted delicious when I switched it over to the secondary—the light mineral & herbal bitterness is a good match with the lighter body of the saison. And given that 3711 ran the last one down to 1.000, adding the brett should pretty much close out anything worth consuming rather rapidly.

101. No-Hop Dandelion Saison w/ Brett B
8 lbs. MFB Pilsner
1 lb. Weyerman Light Wheat
1 lb. Weyerman Light Munich
1 lb. Weyerman Acidulated Malt

Mashed @ 152° F w/ 4 gallons of RO water for 90 minutes; collected 2 ½ gallons @ 1.062
Batch sparged @ 167° F w/ 3 ¾ gallons RO water for 20 minutes; collected 3 ¾ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; brought to a boil (70 minute) and added:

w/60 to go: 3 oz. dandelion leaves, coarsely chopped
1 oz. dandelion root, coarsely chopped

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish moss
2 oz. dandelion leaves, coarsely chopped
.7 oz. dandelion root, coarsely chopped

w/5 to go: 2 oz. dandelion leaves, coarsely chopped
.7 oz. dandelion root, coarsely chopped
1 0z. crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
6 g. hibiscus flowers
1 g. grains of paradise, lightly crushed

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched on Wyeast 3711 French Saison cake from 98 (swirled up and dumped half of cake out); added Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis

Brewed: 10/20/2011
Secondary: 10/27/2011 @ 1.008 & 64° F
Bottled: 12/16/2011 w/4 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.046
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes: (4/12/2012) I purposefully waited to type up these notes because I was interested to see if the beer would spoil. I figured the dueling experiments of no hops combined with the lack of sugar via the Brettanomyces bruxellensis would create something of a beer storage detente. And that is precisely what has happened. No Hop Dandelion Saison pours a faintly hazy and dirty gold with a thin white head that never quite fully disappears. The nose starts with a slight tartness—a mixture of faint cherry and acidity—before giving way to soft bread dough and faint graininess. All the while, there are hints of earthiness and herbal mustiness infused with malt candy sweetness dancing around the edges. The mouthfeel is dry, tart, thin, and sharp; the Brett B and acidulated malt influences are equally apparent, as is the utter lack of body to the beer—it is, to put it bluntly, bereft of substance as it is brimming with flavor, although there still might be a touch of residual gumminess. Flavors open with graininess and candy before giving way to an earthy, musty dryness in the middle—it is slightly reminiscent of the flavor and bite in champagne, although there is more dirt and earth here. In fact, I’d be inclined to describe the flavor in the middle as hop bitterness if I didn’t know this beer was lacking them, but I’m guessing that is the dandelion doing its work here. There is just a touch of residual sweetness in the finish—light and bright—before the musty funk and herbal bitterness returns to dry out the palate. As a whole, this beer is delicate and complex; it is simultaneously soft and bright on the palate, and the slight funk provided by the Brett B blends well with the soft malt and dandelion. I’m not sure I like it, but I would certainly drink it. And if nothing, this has certainly been a successful experiment—I’ll pop another one in another six months and see where it is at.

Monday, October 17, 2011

487. Goose Island Fleur 2010 & 2011

Somewhere along the way, we pulled out bottles of Goose Island’s Fleur from 2010 and 2011 and drank and compared them. I’m not sure exactly when, but I have discovered both the notes and photographic evidence to prove it—how’s that for your classic forensic evidence? I even think we invited Jeff and Jeffrey over to enjoy the fun, but at this point, who knows? Either or you two care to validate my spotty and shoddy memory? We’ll just call this our beer for “today,” and move on—after all, if you can’t learn to roll with it, you’re gonna have a painful, shitty life. Take that, Albert Camus—you can suck my existential dread. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Anyway, this is our fourth beer from Goose Island. Previous ventures include Bourbon County Stout 2009, Summertime, and Honker's Ale. And in a shocking new development, future ventures will include Sophie and maybe even Matilda. That’s right—I can predict the future when we’ve got bottles awaiting us in the fridge. Does that make me a beer tease?

Fleur 2010: Fleur 2010 pours a clear tan with a thin white head; the nose is sweet candy mixed with floral and hibiscus. Flavors start dry, tart, and floral before moving into gentle sweetness and floral hibiscus in the middle. The finish is clean and even; there is a tart tang than increases as the beer warms. While the mouthfeel is gentle and delicate, the carbonation is sharper; yet both balance well in playing across the palate. My rudimentary descriptions aside, I can safely assert that the last year has been very, very good to this beer—it kicks the crap out of 2011.

Fleur 2011: Surprisingly, this beer is more carbonated than the 2010, with a darker red and pink coloring to the beer. The nose mixes caramel and candy; flavors start with floral and candy components, giving way to caramel in the middle with a muted candy sweetness, and a non-descript finish. This beer is not nearly as clean or as dry as the 2010. There is more body in the mouthfeel; however, while creating a more rounded feel on the palate, this same effect paradoxically limits the most subtle and enjoyable characteristics of the 2010. My advice: wait. This beer is an easy lesson in cellaring—it’s cheap, and you can buy another bottle next year to host your own comparisons. Just don’t misplace the notes...

From the Goose island website: “A Belgian style pale ale blended with hibiscus and kombucha tea, Fleur is a beautiful, rose-colored ale with an aroma of strawberries and hibiscus flowers. Her flavor balance starts with a hint of sweet, ripe berry and finishes tart.”

ABV: 5.2%
IBU: 32
Hops: Super Styrian, Styrian Golding, Saaz
Malt: 2-row, Caramel, Sugar

Does anyone besides me find the use of the pronoun “her” to describe a beer slightly creepy?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

486. Fort Collins The Incredible Hop Imperial India Wheat Ale

I’m glad that people like bringing beer over to my house, because sometimes we don’t drink it, and then later I find interesting bottles in the back of my fridge. Enter Fort Collins The Incredible Hop. I’m pretty certain that our friends Art and Chloe brought this over during the chaos of wedding week, and tonight when I was looking for that first sweet beer of the evening, I stumbled upon this. And yes, in the chaos of our fridge, it is possible to stumble upon things. So if you want to turn your snooty nose up at use for not being refrigerator neat-freaks, you go right ahead, Mr. Fridge Fascist (or Mrs., or even possibly Miss—my scorn knows no gender bounds). Anyway, this is our third beer from Fort Collins Brewery—we’ve previously wet our whistle with Rocky Mountain IPA & Kidd Black Lager. Dag-tastic!

The Incredible Hop pours a rustic tan—there are orange and yellow components, although no real highlights, since this glass has a raised bumpy design on it. This means the color is difficult for all of you to see in the picture, but these glasses are so sweet I still don’t care—maybe in another week I’ll feel some semblance of pity for my hoards of dedicated readers (feel free to self-identify in the comments if you aren’t Jeffrey or Lolli, but I’m guessing that pretty much covers it). Basically, it’s a light body for this big of a beer. The nose is a big punch of evergreen and pine hops with a touch of wheat gumminess in the background, and the initial flavors follow the nose: spicy pine and evergreen hop flavors in the front with very little in the way of malt flavor to get in the way. In the middle there is a pleasant bitterness to go with the spicy hop flavor before sliding into some chewy malt character and a pleasant lingering bitterness—one might even say the finish has a slightly dough-y malt character that sets up finishing bitterness quite nicely. The body is medium to heavy, but not really obtrusive—it is not even much of a factor, and while there might be a touch of alcohol in the finish as well, it is in the background. A good beer overall, but not one that is especially exciting. The lighter malt character allows the hops to shine, but it does still feel slightly out of balance—I’m not sure we’re feeling the “synergy” noted on the label, unless “synergy” is a codeword for boatloads of hops and “tartness” is the codeword for minimal malt character. And don’t you know, I’ve been ranting so much during this review that I’ve completely run out of beer. So I guess that means we’re done for now.

From the bottle: “This beer is the love-child of two of my favorite styles: big, hoppy IPAs and crisp, refreshing American Wheat beers. Synergy is achieved as the bold citrusy hops of the IPA harmonize with the thirst quenching tartness of an American Wheat. Pairs nicely with hikes to Horsetooth, Poudre River floats, and moonlit bike rides.”

This beer is part of a series of four high-gravity, highly hopped beers by Fort Collins. See here for more details.

Onion bubs indeed.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Wild Yeast Lambic Brewday

This beer began several months ago as an experiment to collect and culture wild yeast; while the final insertion of the yeast into wort was delayed via our nuptials (the beer should have been brewed in September, not October), that’s the fun that accompanies life. Oh well. I keep telling myself I was giving the yeast an extra month to rest and build up their reserves. No, it didn’t really make me feel better or actually help.

Wild Yeast Experiment:
6/29/2011: I boiled 1 oz. DME in 12 oz. of RO water, and split it into two 12 oz. beer bottles. Into one bottle I added four ripe blueberries from our backyard, and into the other, I added four wild raspberries picked off of the bike path. The blueberry bottle started slow, with a slimy/chunky krausen and a weird clumpy head that became, for lack of a better description, something resembling a large chunk of phlegm. The raspberry bottle started quicker and cleaner, and also finished well before blueberry bottle.

7/20/2011: I boiled 3 oz. of DME in 32 oz. of RO water, and split it into two half gallon growlers. I poured off small samples of the fluid from each bottle, but swirled and dumped most of the contents of each 12 oz. bottle into each growler. Similar pattern to last time, with the blueberry slower and steady during the course of fermentation, and the raspberry quicker and faster. Towards the end, the phlegm clump in the blueberry bottle continued to grow, although it never covered the entire top of the growler—it just thickened and expanded. In the raspberry growler, small white dots developed all over the surface; there was not enough to cover the top, but there were quite a few slowly developing.

Blueberry: the sample tasted doughy and candy sweet; there was a slight medicinal flavor, but the main impression was bread dough and bright candy sweetness.
Raspberry: the sample was sharp and minerally; it was hard to distinguish flavors from the raspberry character obviously present (and in the color—look at that nice red color), but the main presence was the sharp mineral character mixed with a Vitamin C tablet flavor.

8/12/2011: I boiled 6 oz. of DME in 32 oz. of RO water; I drained as much of the fluid as I could without significantly disturbing the yeast cake, and then added the new wort to each growler. Both took off more quickly and more aggressively than before, although the raspberry still outpaced the blueberry. Over the course of time, significantly more white dots and even smaller pieces collected on the top of the raspberry growler, while the phlegm clump grew, but still did not cover the entire surface—maybe 1/3 of it.

Blueberry: Still mainly dominated by bready flavors and candy sweetness; there is a slight puckeriness developing, but not really tart. There is also a light musty/earthy component that is slightly funky as well.
Raspberry: Tarter and sharper than last time—I find this one quite pleasant—and the notes record that this is “Vitamin C delightful.”

I also took some of the samples (since I had about a 12 oz. bottle of each) to the monthly DRAFT meeting, which is my local homebrew club; while there were several interesting responses, my favorite was the moment of recognition by one person who only realized too late what we were discussing: in a very indignant voice I was queried “Wait—I’m drinking a starter?”

10/7/2011: Having sanctioned our love, I got back to making the lambic intended to be the base beer for the yeast; after brewing the batch, I split it in half into two 3 gallon carboys, drained as much of the fluid of each starter as I could, and inoculated each carboy with one of the yeast starters. Both tasted very similar to the last time I tasted them; there was a slightly increased adhesive/medicinal character to the blueberry starter, but nothing overpowering. Both still seem on track, and worth dumping into 2 ½ gallons of wort. So here’s to things working out in the long run....

100. Wild Yeast Lambic
8 lbs. MFB Pilsen
4 lbs. Weyerman Light Wheat

Step Mash:
113° F for 15 minutes: 1 ½ gallon RO water @ 136° F—118° F actual
122° F for 15 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 146° F—125° F actual
149° F for 45 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 212° F—145° F actual
158° F for 30 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 212° F—154° F actual; collected 3 ¼ gallons @ 1.054

Batch sparged w/ 3 gallons RO water @ 190° F for 20 minutes—168° F actual; collected 3 gallons @ 1.028

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:
2 oz. hops; 1.8 oz. German Hallertauer leaf 4.1% AA & .2 oz. Williamette leaf 4.8% AA

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish moss

Chilled, split batch in half in two 3 gallon carboys, and pitched wild yeast cultures—one into each

100a. raspberry version
Brewed: 10/7/2011 @ 78° F
Secondary: 11/4/2012 @ 1.048; racked into clean carboy and pitched ECY 04 Brett Blend #1
Tertiary: 2/16/2013 @ 1.002
Bottled: 2/28/2013 w/ 1.75 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.002

100b. blueberry version
Brewed: 10/7/2011 @ 78° F
Secondary: 9/1/2012 @ 1.022; racked onto 2 lb. 14 oz. blueberries, 2 lb. 12 oz. mulberries, 12 oz. cranberries, 10 oz. blackberry & blueberry mix, & 1.5 oz. paw paw (I found one in the freezer when pulling out all the other fruit); on 11/10/2012, I pitched an old vial of ECY01 Bug Farm 5 (Aug. 1, 2011 preparation date) & 4 Hungarian oak house toast cubes

OG: 1.054

Tasting Notes (9/1/2012): The beer in the blueberry yeast version tasted much better that the last starter bottle we recently sampled; there was less adhesive harshness, and much more fruit and candy flavor. It was also a bit doughy, in part from the 1.022 gravity (which also helped with the sweetness).

(11/4/2012): The beer in the raspberry version was far less tart that the starter bottle we tried a couple of months ago, although the nose was equally acidic. We’ll see what happens when the ECY 04 Brett Blend #1 takes off...

(5/9/2013): 100a: This has now been in the bottle a couple of months, so it is probably ready to try. The beer pours with a slight chill haze that quickly dissipates, leaving a crystal clear golden straw beer with a light white head and profuse small bubbles streaming up the sides of the glass; it maintains a ring and some swirling arabesques, but leaves little lacing. The nose is musty earth, pear, apple, and some developing funk, specifically hay and barnyard with a citrus twang. Flavors start with a dry crackery tartness mixed with lemon and earthiness. Tartness picks up in the middle with some gentle pear and apple hints mixed in, leading into a dry and crisp finish with just a touch of residual sweetness to balance out the tartness. The body is bone dry; coupled with the bright, sparkling carbonation, the beer dances on the tongue. It also brings some light rosettes of sweat to my cheeks. As it warms, the earthy tang picks up in the front and the middle, and the carbonic brut bite from the carbonation better balances the slight sweetness in the finish. Currently, this beer is developing some gueuze-like characteristics, ones that will hopefully continue to build. As well, I look forward to comparing this version with the beers that went onto the various yeast cakes involved in this beer: 132a, which went onto the original wild yeast raspberry cake, and 138a, which went onto the wild yeast/ECY04 combination from this beer. So many delicious possibilities. I also entered this beer in the AHA NHC as an American Wild Ale (Category 23); it scored a 41 in the Wisconsin regional, and advanced to the second round in Philadelphia. Here’s hoping it does well there!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Three Floyds comes to Ohio

While I’m not telling anyone anything new here, I did want to at least acknowledge that all our lives are now a bit brighter. This means that, on occasion, I can score 22s of Dreadnaught and Behemoth locally, like I did last week at Belmont Party Supply, or enjoy Three Floyds on tap, like I did earlier this evening at the Trolley Stop, where they had Broo Doo Harvest Ale, Arctic Panzer Wolf, Munster Fest, and Alpha King all on tap. Yes, I tried all of them. Man, that was nice. Welcome back, Three Floyds.

Broo Doo reminded me of the Fresh Hop beer I made last year with hops off the bike path (although, let’s be honest, their version is far superior)—complex and subtle hop character that is both fruity and slightly spicy with a delightful lingering bright bitterness. It was also far better that the “aged” bottle I inadvertently acquired. Alpha King was Alpha King, which means it was stupendous, while Munster Fest was the best American Oktoberfest I’ve had thus far this year. And can anyone tell me the actual differences between Dreadnaught and Arctic Panzer Wolf? Both are super approachable; while Panzer is a bit lighter in the body (if I recall correctly), I’ve never had a chance to compare them side by side (since I already drank the Dreadnaught I got last week). Maybe someday...

And Aaron, keep your damn spoon out of my beer.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

485. The Brew Kettle White Rajah IPA

Time once again for some local beer, this time in the form of The Brew Kettle from Strongsville, OH. I’m drinking this beer out of the sweet new 50 cl glasses we scored via our recent wedding (thanks David and Phyllis!). And you know everyone loves beer swag—well, except maybe for this guy. In addition, I’m spending my evening copy-editing PLD poems (hence the book in the photo)—after all, aren’t academics and beer a natural mix? Yes, I’m working hard to set up the semiotic joke that is coming below. Anyway, this is our third beer from The Brew Kettle; previously, we’ve partaken in Four C’s and Old 21. I sense a theme...

White Rajah IPA pours a light tan/copper with a white head that quickly rings the glass. The nose is combination of pine/resin, citrus, and tropical fruit, with the most prevalent aromas being pineapple, mango, and passionfruit backed by grapefruit. The pine and resin are deeper and more in the background—as well as a touch of Belgian candy sweetness. I’d be tempted to call this dank, but that might seem overly opportunistic, and we can’t have that now, can we? (For recent discussions of dank in the blogosphere, see here and here—I do love the semiotics of beer—go language!) This beer is certainly West Coast in the nose, and, more precisely, Pacific Northwest as opposed to Southern California—it is simultaneously bright and earthy. So good. Flavors open with fruit and a slight metallic tang—there is citrus, mango, and orange marmalade hop flavor mixed with pine and resin hints before the clean candy sweetness and bitterness takes over. The middle is bitter but clean—there might be a touch of biscuit, but no harsh or astringent characteristics. Again, that paradoxical bright and refreshing character mixed with a resin-y musty loaminess (yes, I am intentionally avoiding the aforementioned reference here—so sue me)—let’s call it the magical combination of fruit, evergreen sap, and fresh mushrooms. The finish has a brief touch of caramel along with an evergreen hop flavor and bright lingering bitterness to close out the beer. There is also a touch of alcohol warmth that tickles the back of the throat as the beer warms. The body is medium while the carbonation is present but not really tangible; as it warms, the Belgian candy sweetness and slight caramel flavor increases, but this is still mostly a showcase for our little green friends. The abundance of hop flavor also leads me to believe that this beer benefits from boatloads of late addition hops—I’m calling hop-bursting on Brew Kettle, not that calling that is a problem. While it is slightly more of a NW IPA in the nose than the body, that’s just splitting hairs. And I do like it: White Rajah is one of the best examples of a West Coast IPA I’ve seen outside the West Coast—Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA probably still gets the overall nod, but the Brew Kettle did its homework on this one. Nice work on this one—the sooner White Rajah hits the regular rotation, the sooner I can punch that ticket on a regular basis.

From the bottle (and the website): “White Rajah: A West Coast style IPA full of citrus-like and tropical fruit-like hop flavor and aroma with an assertive yet smooth bitter finish...malt, take a back seat please.”

ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 70


Monday, October 3, 2011

Ring the Bells

This last weekend—Saturday, to be exact—what we’re drinking got hitched. I know, I know—it’s about time, right? So it’s now all official and the likes, what with the whole for better or for worse thing. And I can tell you all how that played out: I got the better and Elli got the worse. Or, as one of my cousins put it: “Thank you, Elli, for marrying into the family. You’re now part of the long term plan to make this family better through marriage. Because we need it.” Ah, family.

I’m also happy to report that we successfully avoided almost every single traditional component of the wedding reception—there was no mashing cake into each other’s faces, no bouquet or garter toss, no first dance, no kissing when glasses got chimed. You get the picture. Hey, if you like that stuff, good for you. But we don’t. So it got nixed. Thank goodness. There was, however, good food, ping pong, a personalized cornhole game we had made for the occasion (get your mind out of the gutter, pervert), and, not surprisingly, good beer. Basically, it was a large dinner party for all our family and friends, with bluegrass in the background provided by Ben Cooper and friends. So in other words, it was totally awesome. And as I’m hoping that you’ve guessed, the labels here are the beers we had on tap. Nice, huh? We closed out the Bam Biere and the Hazed and Infused, and got about 2/3s of the way through the Old Rasputin. And if everything works out according to plab, the rest of that will get consumed at the DRAFT meeting next Friday. Damn straight. Because we’ve got it like that.