Friday, December 28, 2012

552. Red Brick Hoplanta IPA

Our first beer from Red Brick Brewing Company in Atlanta, GA. We grabbed this and a couple of other IPAs to get our drink on down here in Florida. We’d tell you more, but you’ve already heard about the others. Plus, it’s called vacation for a reason.

Described on the label as “hoppier than a bullfrog with a stubbed toe,” Hoplanta pours a clear copper with a fair amount of orange and a profuse off-white head that hangs around while offering a fair amount of lacing. The nose is bread, caramel, and a touch of butter on the malt-side, with small amounts of bitterness and a touch of pine on the hop-side. Flavors start with creamy caramel and toast that segues into hop bitterness in the middle; there is more bread crust heading into the finish and some lingering, clean bitterness along with a slight grassiness. The citrus described on the website appears to be incognito, although there might be hints of the pine remaining in the aftertaste—not so much in the body, though. The body is medium and chewy, with a creamy, well-rounded carbonation that sits well on the tongue. A decent beer—we could make an evening of it if this was the best offered, but there is a lot better out there. It could be that this six-pack is a bit past its prime, but even with a punchier hop presence in the flavor and aroma, this beer still tastes like a career AAA player. Love the label, and we do wish it was better, but the beer is only average. Still, out rowing around on a rowboat, it does hit the spot.

From the Red Brick website: “An American IPA. Citrusy, piney, hop aromas and flavor. Full bodied.”

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 50
Malts: 2-row, Vienna, and Caramel
Hops: Bravo and Cascade


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Alan McLeod’s 2012 Yuletide Photo Contest

While we weren’t one of the winners, we were quite pleased that this picture made the shortlist for Alan McLeod’s 2012 Yuletide Photo contest. I almost said secretly, but since we are blogging about it, it is not so much of a secret anymore, is it? Well, unless you actually consider our readership, and then realize that this post is undoubtedly the best kept public secret ever. This year’s winners are listed here, and the grand prize winner for 2012 is here, along with a run-down of previous winners. And if you are wondering why you’ve never seen this picture before, that’s because we didn’t bother to take notes while drinking this particular beer. Hence, no blog post. It happens more often than you might think. So take that. I know you can deal. As well, I would like to send a thank you shout-out to Jeff Fortney for bringing this beer over one evening. And I’m glad to finally have a reason to post this picture—the warm, luminescent light coming through the beer and onto the bottle and down the stem of the glass is spectacular.


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Great Brett Yeast Experiment Brewday

This is a project I’ve been meaning to start for a while, but stupid stupid life has been getting in the way. It is now underway, however, and I am very much looking forward to the opportunities it will provide over the next several months, not only as a chance to understand the flavors created by different Brettanomyces strains and varietals better, but to then incorporate those beers with other ingredients (like fruits and herbs) and to also try combinations of different strains.

136. The Great Brettanomyces Yeast Experiment
6 lbs. Weyerman Pilsner
5 lbs. MFB Pale
2 lbs. Breiss White Wheat
1 lb. Weyerman Acidulated Malt
1 lb. MFB Vienna

Mash @ 149° F for 90 minutes w/ 5 gallons of RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 3 ¼ gallons @ 1.084
Batch sparge @ 165° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ½ gallons @ 1.032

Collected 7 ¾ gallons; topped off with 1 gallon RO water, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 2 ½ oz. U. S. Magnum pellet 10.0% AA

w/10 to go: 1 oz. U. S. Magnum pellet 10.0% AA

Chilled, split into five 3 gallon carboys, and pitched:
136a. ECY19 Brettanomyces custersianus
Brewed: 12/21/2012
Secondary: 3/16/2013 @ 1.002
Bottled: 5/5/2013 w/ 1.1. oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.000

136b. WLP645 Brettanomyces claussenii
Brewed: 12/21/2012
Secondary: 3/16/2013 @1.050
Tertiary: 5/10/2013 @ 1.004
Bottled: 6/10/2013 w/ 1.1 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.002

136c. WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois
Brewed: 12/21/2012
Secondary: 4/1/2013 @ 1.004
Bottled: 5/5/2013 w/ 1.1 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.004

136d. Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis
Brewed: 12/21/2012
Secondary: 4/1/2013 @ 1.002
Bottled: 5/5/2013 w/ 1.1 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.000

136e. Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces lambicus
Brewed: 12/21/2012
Secondary: 5/10/2013 @ 1.002
Bottled: 6/10/2013

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.000

Tasting Notes:

551. Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

Another beer from Epic; we scored this one at the DRAFT Christmas bottle exchange. Since the Utah Sage Saison, we’ve been looking to try something else by them, so I can’t complain. We’ll add this to the list that also includes Brainless on Cherries. Hells yes.

Described on the label as an Imperial Stout brewed “with cocoa nibs and coffee added and aged in whiskey barrels,” Big Bad Baptist pours an inky rich chocolate with a cocoa-colored thin head that quickly reduces to a waft-ish skiff covering complete with arabesques. The nose is dusky cocoa, coffee, and a hint of vanilla from the oak; there is also roast malt and hints of alcohol. Flavors are brash and to the fore: chocolate, cocoa, and roast make up the front, moving into coffee and vanilla in the middle, while the finish is cocoa and a touch of alcohol warmth with more of the roast lingering along with the alcohol warmth. The cocoa does fights it out with the roast in the finish, not lying down to the bigger, sharper flavors. The body is medium with a nicely chewy malt mouthfeel and a restrained carbonation that helps brighten the beer on the tongue. It was a bit hot when first opened, but as it warmed, the other flavors rounded and balanced the beer. An interesting beer that could probably have used another year before we opened it, but we saw the ABV only after I cracked this sucker open. My bad! The cocoa aspect of this beer really stands out, however; it is delicate and ephemeral in a beer that is not subtle, and even as the beer warms and the oak, vanilla, and alcohol start to exert themselves, the cocoa subtlety remains. Epic has been doing some good things—after this and our experience with Utah Sage, we may have to dabble more extensively in their catalog in the future.

From the Epic website: “One Big Bad Imperial Stout with Cocoa nibs and Coffee beans. Each release number uses a different dark roasted coffee.

ABV: 11.8%
Release #3: bottled 12/9/2011
Malts: Muntons Maris Otter, Briess 2-Row, Crystal Muntons, Weyerman Light Munich T1, 2-Row chocolate, 2-row black, and roasted barley
Other: Millcreek Coffee (French Roast) and Cocoa Nibs.
Hops: Nugget, Chinook, and Cascade


Thursday, December 20, 2012

February Rockit Cup: Grinder’s Mild

Another British beer for the Rockit Cup, the idea being that anyone who brews this will also be able to enter it in the SODZ British Beerfest held a week or two later (they haven’t posted the details for it yet, but the basic parameters are still up from last year). Thanks to Chris Wyatt for the recipe!

February Rockit Cup: Grinder’s Mild
6 lbs. Maris Otter
½ lb. Torrified Wheat
¼ lb. Rolled Oats
¼ lb. Dark Crystal (80-120)
2 oz. Chocolate
1.5 oz. Black

Mash at 155˚ F for 60 minutes

1 oz. EKG @ 60

Wyeast 1968, 1728, or 1318

Ferment at 67˚ F and carbonate to 2.0 volumes; Chris suggested incorporating a “¼ cup crusty damp dark brown fudgy sugar” with whatever you use to carbonate the beer (i.e. not in addition to, but in replacement of)—if you’re going to force carbonate it, feel free to throw the sugar in the boil with 5 minutes to go.

Let’s get brewing!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

550. Free Sail Brewing At Last! American Pale Ale

This is probably one of the weirder beers I’ve reviewed in a while. Not because of the beer itself, mind you, but because of its provenance. You see, it was given to me by a student whose father brewed it for him for his 21st birthday. Which—apart from the context we are discussing here—is pretty damn cool. However, it is not every day that you get beer from one of your students, former or not, although it is not without precedence. Still, I do have to admit I was excited to try it—the last couple of beers passed my way by this student were pretty damn tasty. So without further ado...

At Last! pours a slightly hazy copper caramel that carries a fair amount of orange; the head is off-white but not quite tan, and starts with a half-inch of body before falling to a thin covering that never quite fully dissipates. The nose is orange, pine, and resin on the hop side, and grainy/husky caramel with a touch of Belgian candy on the malt side. There is also some earthiness and grassiness and a hint of corn once the initial burst of aroma recedes. Flavors open with toast and orange marmalade, giving way to caramel and hop bitterness in the middle. In the finish, there is a bracing and clean bitterness that lingers pleasantly and carries hints of pine and evergreen as well as the orange found across the beer’s profile. The carbonation is bright but restrained—it cleanses the palate rather than biting—and allows the bitterness to roll across the tongue and on into the finish. As well, the creamy, chewy malt character gives the beer body and helps support the hop bitterness. A touch of corn from the nose survives in the middle, but nothing drastic. The beer does look a bit darker than it tastes—I expected a bit more caramel from the color, and thus was pleasantly surprised by the brighter malt and hop balance this beer achieves. Kudos to Will’s dad (blame Will—he never told me your name, although my mad google skills did produce this) for a well-made beer, and kudos to Will for hitting that 21st milestone: you are now free to enjoy all that South Park Tavern, Trolleystop, and Lucky’s has to offer! Just don’t forget about that education!

From the bottle: “Adventurously Hoppy, Invariably Smooth.”

ABV: 6.75%


Sunday, December 16, 2012

549. Flat 12 Bierworks Nunmoere ABA

Another trip to Indianapolis for cyclo-cross means another trip to Flat 12. This time we packed food in, and spent some time hanging out in the tap room so we could sample more of their beers. Our consensus: Flat 12 beers are clean, dry, and well-attenuated across the board. And also super drinkable. We were going to try the Lacto-Matic Milk Stout and compare, as it seemed like the best candidate to have some residual body, but the keg blew right before we went up to get samples. So it will have to wait until next time. Our last beer from Flat 12 was Half-Cycle IPA, which was delicious.

Nunmoere pours a crystal clear dark chocolate with orange
Run that hill!
highlights; the head is a creamy tan with good retention that re-rouses easily. The nose is a clean mix of pine, herbal, and roast; at first seems like it won’t work, but it quickly starts to grow on you. While clean, it is also surprisingly pungent—Jeff described it as a fig that had been charcoal-roasted to a crisp accompanied by a subtle metallic tang. There is also a touch of roast creaminess amongst the evergreen hop aromas. Flavors start with roasted caramel and chocolate in the front, with pine and evergreen hop flavor helping transition into the bitterness of the middle. There is a subtle biscuit with the caramel as the beer heads into the final third, with resin hop bitterness, chocolate, coffee, and roast the predominant flavors, and a long lingering bitterness—while not especially bright and clean, it is still quite enjoyable. The body is medium, lightly chewy, and rounded—it is uncluttered, but still has a residual maltiness that helps carry the aggressively hopped body, lending support to the roast and bitterness that carries the beer. As well, the charcoal roast and hop bitterness pair especially well in this beer. This is the closest to a well-hopped lighter-bodied stout that we’ve seen in a Black IPA, much more so that Sixpoint’s Diesel—the flavors are brighter and more distinct with an almost aggressive but balanced relationship between the roast and bitterness. Delicious, but not for the faint of heart.

We also tried two of the 12 Beers of Christmas series, the Glazed Ham Porter and the Brandy Walkabout. The Glazed Ham Porter is good, but spiced, which means I am contractually obliged to complain about it. You all know my feelings on spices in beer. I will say that the spices are in balance with the beer, which is tantamount to me saying that I like it. The Brandy Walkabout was interesting: it was their normal Galaxy single hop pale ale aged on brandy-infused oak spirals. The vanilla and oak cut down on the overall hop flavor, and created a more distinctly smooth and creamy mouthfeel. I like the initial hop bite in the Walkabout Pale Ale, but this version does cut down on some of the sweeter malt flavors in the body—honey and caramel—that tend to get in the way. Choosing between the two versions of Walkabout would be hard, though, so I’ll just let my comments stand.

From the Flat 12 website: “Don’t let the color deceive you, this beer is lighter than it looks and packs a big hop punch. Loaded with 5 different American hops, Nunmoere is a complex bland of roasted malts and fragrant hops.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 78


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rockit Cup Northern English Brown

In news that nobody is waiting for, the December Rockit Cup—Northern English Brown—came off without a hitch at last night’s DRAFT meeting. While I did not participate as a brewer—a first, might I note—I did steward the blind tasting for the four contestants: Ben Cripe, Brian Gallow, Jon Vanderglas, and Tim Turner. Brian brought two versions—one bottled and one kegged—so we actually had five beers, and Jon wasn’t able to make it, so Jeffrey McElfresh played the part of Jon. Oh, and Tim played Ben’s normal role, bringing a two-year old version of a Northern English Brown to throw a monkey-wrench into the works. All the versions were quite similar—well, except for Tim’s—and people had more trouble than normal in identifying their own beers, which is, of course, awesome. The final standings:

1st: Brian Gallow, bottle version
2nd: Jon Vanderglas
3rd: Brian Gallow, keg version
4th: Tim Turner
5th: Ben Cripe

The version Brian bottled had a smooth, rounded, and creamy mouthfeel that helped set it apart from the others. His keg version tasted good as well, but was a bit sharper on the palate. I’m drinking the keg version right now—Brian gave me the rest of the growler to take home—and a day later, it is more rounded on the tongue via the lost carbonation, making it much closer to the bottled version. The nutty, chocolate character is enjoyable as well—as a whole, Ben’s Rockit Cup recipe makes a splendid beer—and the subtle hint of toffee in the nose and the flavor gives the beer depth and complexity. I’ve also got a bottle of Jon’s to sample as well; while not as clean as Brian’s, the chocolate malt flavor has a slight alkaline cocoa that is delicious and the mouthfeel is soft and creamy. Both are excellent beers, however. Ah, here’s to many more Rockit Cups!


548. Sixpoint Diesel

Each dawn is clear
Cold air bites the throat.
Thick frost on the pine bough
Leaps from the tree snapped by the deisel

The above are the opening lines from the eighth poem in the “Logging” section of Gary Snyder’s Myths and Texts; it is also the excerpt Sixpoint uses to keep their poetry-theme going with Diesel. How can anyone not love beer and poetry? Well, I mean, as long as you have a soul. Our previous dalliances with Sixpoint include Apollo, Bengali Tiger IPARighteous Rye, that sweet, Sweet Action, and Signal.

Diesel pours a clear chocolate with some light red highlights and a cafe au lait-colored head that manages to hang around for a while, and even provide some lacing on the glass along the way. It also rouses rather easily when swirled. The nose is a mix of roast and pine, with the pine rather faint and in the background; as it warms, there is also some caramel sweetness and a more pronounced bitterness. Flavors start with roast, caramel, dark chocolate, and a touch of brown sugar, leading into pine and hop bitterness in the middle. The finish is dry and crisp, with residual caramel flavor mixed in with creaminess and even more bitterness; there is also a touch of mineral chalkiness and burnt toast, and maybe a hint of alcohol buried behind the bitterness. The body is thin, with more bitterness than roastiness, and none of the weird sourness found in some of the other Black IPAs we’ve sampled: it strikes us as more Black IPA than stout—even if we were pretending it was a dry stout—regardless of Sixpoint’s description on the website. There is some lingering astringent roast that is the last remaining flavor on the back of the throat—it almost comes across as alcohol heat, if that makes any sense. Nonetheless, a solid beer from a solid brewery: the emphasis on bitterness got good marks from Elli, and I found both the bitterness and the dark flavors with a light body enjoyable and refreshing. Word.

From the can: “On the darkest days of the year, light becomes a luxury. Just when you think you cannot penetrate the darkness. . .SNAP! Light pierces through the roasted pine forest.”

From the Sixpoint website: “This undefinable black brew is part black IPA, part American Stout, but 100% Diesel powered. Robust chocolate and roasted flavors, with thick pine hop flavor and aroma.”

ABV: 6.3%
IBU: 69
SRM: 33


Friday, December 7, 2012

Session 70: In the Words of Chuck D

It is my firm suspicion that “hype” is one of the middle stages of beer geek development, quite possibly the longest, somewhere between “sanctimonious” and “jaded.” Actually, it may be coterminous with the first one. In fact, many people may never get beyond the “hype” stage—I like to think of it as the equivalent to the anal stage in human development. C’mon, you all remember that point where you absolutely had to try some fancy-pants beer, no matter what the cost. And for that reason alone, it is also the most over-exploited stage by the brewing industry, mainly because, well, the other stages are not so financially lucrative. Sure, both the earlier and later stages can contain the impetus towards or the residual impulses of the “hype” stage, but neither is nearly so rampant with a complete lack of impulse control.

Then there is the fine line between “hype” and “quality.” The overwhelming and ubiquitous nature of “hype” tends to stand in the way of attempts at both subjective and objective discussions regarding beer. You know, whichever one you favor. And where do beers that earn a name based on exclusivity and scarcity fit in? I get Dark Lord as a product, and even a day-long event, but I don’t find Dark Lord that exciting. I know, I know, the heresy. Rather, our favorite moments are when we get to discover something interesting on our own—when we choose something off the shelf and take it home, and get to determine from that experience whether the beer has any merit on its own. Like our recent experience with Epic’s Utah Sage, or even our recent visit to Flat 12 Bierwerks in Indianapolis. Both were a product of our interest in discovering beer on our own terms. Sure, no one can completely escape the colossal juggernaut of “hype” created by beer advertising and social media. But it tends to leave you alone the more you ignore it.

The Session is a monthly first Friday beer blogging event; this month is hosted by David J. Bascombe at Good Morning... Drink and blog, y’all.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Styrian Golding Brewday

This beer is the second run on the ECY03 Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend); I went with a more traditional hop for this one, mainly because I had just gotten a pound of Styrian Goldings from Hops Direct, and wanted to try them out.

135. Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Styrian Golding
8 lbs. MFB Pale
1 lb. MFB Vienna
1 lb. Breiss White Wheat
½ lb. Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Mash @ 150° F for 60 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 gallons @ 1.072
Batch sparge @ 167° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ½ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ½ gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 2 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

w/15 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

w/5 to go: 8 oz. table sugar
4 g. crushed coriander
2 g. crushed seed of paradise
2 g. crushed cumin seed

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

Rested 15 minutes, chilled, racked onto ECY03 Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend) cake from 133. Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Comet

Brewed: 12/6/2012
Secondary: 3/13/2013 @ 1.002; dry hop w/ 2 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA
Bottled: 3/18/2013 w/ 4.25 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054 @ 73° F
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes (4/28/2013): Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Styrian Goldings pours a clear tan with a white head and lots of tiny, streaming bubbles. The nose is spicy bright lemon and mint up front, with a delicate floral perfuminess behind it. It doesn’t yet have the brett earthiness or leather seen in 135. Flavors open with candy sweetness and lemon; in the middle there is a hint of mintiness and hop bitterness. There is a touch of tartness developing in the middle and on in to the final third of the beer; coupled with the mint hints, there is a slight breathy menthol note in the finish that is refreshing and bright, and pairs well with the spritzy carbonation. There is also a fleeting lemon/orange twang in the finish that merges seamlessly with the other flavors. The body is light and dry, although there is some residual sweetness (not mouthfeel) in the body that makes the beer appear bigger than it is; when I remake this, I am going to swap out the MFB Pale for MFB Pilsen, use a larger percentage of table sugar to further dry out the body, and cut the MFB Vienna in half; I might augment that with a ½ lb. of acidulated malt, but I’m not sure yet. I think this is a fantastic beer, specifically in regard to the delicate balance of hop and yeast flavors, but the current residual sweetness from both the MFB Pale and Vienna is a bit distracting. And it hurts me to say that; I like this beer better overall than 135, the earlier version with Comet. I think that Phil Markowski is on to something when he notes in Farmhouse Ales that one of the keys to a saison is a large amount of low AA hops; with the drier body, you get subtle complexity between yeast and hops that gets lost when using the larger AA hops. Sure, there can still be complexity, but it can get drowned out when hopping saisons like you would an American IPA. The one other thing I will do when I remake this is to use a hop with a slightly higher AA for the bittering addition, as 2.9% AA is low, even for Styrian Golding.

547. Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Baltic Porter

Leinenkugel’s has gotten into the fancy beer game with their Big Eddy series; the RIS was pretty solid, so we decided to give this one the ol’ college try. Our previous dalliance in the land of cheese features Red Lager. Sorry, outside of Leinenkugel’s, Wisconsin has a lot to offer.

Big Eddy pours a burnished burnt toffee with a moderately persistent tan head; the clear body offers some garnet highlights once the beer gets lower in the glass. The nose is toffee and dark fruit—mainly plum and raisin—along with a fair amount of brown sugar and caramelized fruit. Flavors start with chocolate and dark Belgian candy, giving way to fruit—fig, plum, and raisin this time—and brown sugar in the middle. There is also a touch of oxidized fruit, along with slight hints of cocoa. The finish has a touch of alcohol and a fair amount of lingering raisin. The body is rather chewy for a Baltic Porter; it gets a bit sticky as it warms, and doesn’t finish as clean as other examples we’ve had. The flavors, however, are delicious—as Elli points out, this beer will certainly get better with a little bit of age on it, although that might push it even farther away from being a Baltic Porter and more towards a Belgian Strong Ale—it already has some of the fruit flavors and characteristics as it is now. Still, a very good beer, one I’m glad we decided to try.

From the bottle: “A rich, malty brew with toffee, port, and chocolate notes and a dark fruit finish.”

From Leinenkugel’s website: “With a blanket of malt flavor and notes of toffee, cocoa, caramel, toasted bread and sherry fruit flavors, Big Eddy Baltic Porter is a hearty dark beer that has a clean lager finish.”

ABV: 8.5%
Malts: Blend of 2- and 6-row Pale, Munich, Crystal Rye, Roasted Barley, Special B, and Chocolate Malt
Hops: Cluster zand Mt. Hood
Other: licorice root


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

546. Avery IPA

It’s been a while since Avery came to town—all the way back to Black Tot. But since all beer roads lead to Dayton—and, more specifically, our fridge—there is always that inevitable return, and once again beer from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s favorite brewery finds itself holding court on our kitchen table. Besides Black Tot, we’ve also supped upon Seventeen Dry-Hopped Black Lager, Anniversary Ale Ten (2003), Brabant Barrel-Aged Wild Ale, Ellie’s Brown Ale, 16th Anniversary Ale and duganA IPA.

Avery IPA pours a clear dull gold with a profuse eggshell head that leaves plenty of lacing behind on the glass. The nose is biscuit, bread, and caramel malt coupled with a burst of spritzy floral pine hop aroma. There is also a slight creaminess lurking underneath the hop aroma. Flavors don’t stray too far from that: we’ve got bread and pine in the front that shifts to sweet caramel and pine in the middle, along with a fair amount of hop bitterness as the beer travels across the tongue. The finish is also pine, coupled with a touch of biscuit and some resin hop tackiness on the roof of the mouth. The finish is dry, but not quite clean—the big hop bitterness is nice in the body, but is slightly muddy in the finish as some of the balancing flavors disappear. Nonetheless, Avery is a solid and enjoyable IPA, albeit a couple of generations removed from contemporary American IPAs—it is more Harpoon IPA than Brew Kettle White Rajah IPA. We’d personally like a bit less caramel, but the bitterness levels are right where they need to be—bracing and crisp.

From the bottle: “Our IPA demands to be poured into your favorite glass to truly appreciate the citrusy, floral bouquet and the rich malty, yet dry finish. Brewed by hop heads, for hop heads.”

From the Avery website: “In the 1700s one crafty brewer discovered that a healthy dose of hops and an increased alcohol content preserved his ales during the long voyage to India (as depicted in our label) to quench the thirst of British troops. Today, we tip our hat to that historic innovation by brewing Colorado’s hoppiest pale ale. Avery IPA demands to be poured into your favorite glass to truly appreciate the citrusy, floral bouquet and the rich, malty finish.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 69
Hops: Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial
Malt: 2-row, Munich 10L°, and Caramel 120L°


Sunday, December 2, 2012

545. Flat 12 Bierwerks Half-Cycle IPA

“If this is half of a double IPA, then they picked the right half.”

Flat 12 Bierwerks is one of the newer breweries in Indianapolis, IN—they’ve been open for almost a year now. We were in town for a cyclo-cross race for Elli, and afterwards decided some beer was in order. Not like that is a shock for anyone. The brewery is located in a slightly industrial area of town—well, at least according to our less-than-perfect understanding of the area, and the description on the website. It is also right across the street from Smoking Goose, although they were closed today. That would have made an awesome event even even more awesome.

Half-Cycle IPA is served in a 16 oz. clear plastic cup. Yes, plastic. While certainly a downside, if plastic is the only way I get to drink this beer, then I’m certainly willing to live with a plastic cup. Color-wise, the beer is a very orange copper with a minimal white head. Besides the clearly present bitterness, aromas are restrained and indistinct: the dominant non-bitter character of the nose was the orange. Just orange, too—none of the other citrus fruits, just orange. There is a touch of light candy sweetness if you really looked for it, and some dank and resin hop aroma, but not much else. As the beer warms, the bitterness drowns out the other aromas. Flavor is centered on hop bitterness as well. There is some bread dough and bread crust in the front, along with the orange from the nose, but hop bitterness quickly swoops in and rolls the rest of the way through into the finish. The initial clean tang of hop bitterness in the middle gives way to resin in the finish; there is a touch of orange that returns in the finish as well, and some lingering mineral bite on the back of the tongue. As with the nose, as the beer warms, the hop bitterness covers over the softer flavors, like the bread dough malt character in the front of the beer. The body is medium and lightly chewy—it is, as Elli noted, just well-rounded enough to hold the bitterness without really getting in the way, giving the beer body and backbone but not really intruding otherwise. The bright carbonation combined with the bitterness contributes to lightening the body on the palate as well. This is not a classic American IPA: there is far more hop bitterness than flavor and aroma, although via the hop volume flavor and aroma does bleed through. The closest equivalent we can think of is Smuttynose IPA, which also focuses on bitterness over flavor and aroma. As well, the lower ABV allows for big hop bitterness without a huge sticky body, certainly a plus when compared to the increasingly monstrous creations that are the current trend in American IPAs. Which is just another way of saying that this is a damn good beer—both of us were impressed not only with this beer, but all the other ones we tried before choosing this one. We also bought a growler to take home, and I’m already looking forward to our next trip to Indianapolis in two weeks so that I can savor a pint of their Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale—the sample I had was a delicate balance of roasted malt and hop bitterness.

From the Flat 12 website: “The Half Cycle is so named due to its marriage of single and double IPA characteristics. In baseball parlance, a single and double is half of “the cycle”, and this IPA is a heavy hitter. It’s a single IPA, hopped like a double, with an over-the-top hop character that’s a bit spicy, citrusy, piney, you make the call. Light in color, but not on flavor, Half Cycle is dry hopped with a pound of high alpha American hops in every barrel.”

ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 104.1

We also hit Brugge Brasserie for some dinner; I had the Pooka along with a steak and a mess of French fries. So so delicious.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

544. Founders Imperial Stout

I bought this either about one or two years ago—I can’t rightly remember which. Either way, that year or so has done nice things to this beer. It also gives us a chance to revisit Founders, which is always a pleasure. Our previous encounters with Founders include Nemesis 2010, Newaygo County Cherry, Devil Dancer, Pale Ale, KBS (as a bonus beer), Centennial IPA, Black Biscuit, Harvest Ale, and Breakfast Stout.

Founders Imperial Stout pours an inky—and I mean inky—dark chocolate brown with a very minimal cappuccino head. The head looks like the thin skiff covering you’d get on a cappuccino, and the beer itself is thick as well—you can see the small, tiny bubbles struggling to escape the viscous liquid, leaving only the barest sheen of an arabesque covering. The nose is chocolate, coffee, and roast (in that order), with the chocolate taking up much of the extra space around the other two. As it warms, a softer caramel sweetness starts to emerge from the chocolate, as does more of the soft roast character along with some cocoa. There may be some hints of tobacco and leather lurking as well. Flavors open with chocolate, coffee, and roast, lead into caramel and a slight roasted sour tang in the middle, and finish with a chalky mineral roast that lingers pleasantly on the back of the throat, slowly getting more alkaline as it fades before ending with cocoa. The mouthfeel is rich, chewy, and rounded, although the roast presence thins and cleanses the palate in the finish, smoothing the beer more than would be anticipated in the initial sip. Surprisingly little alcohol warmth or flavor anywhere to be found in this beer, although a touch emerges as the beer warms. The residual roast chocolate on the back of the throat is enjoyable; the roast might be a bit excessive in relation to the other elements of the beer—it is a bit one-dimensional in that regard—but again, it is not over the top. All in all, a smooth-sipping slow-drinking big beer, perfect for cold late fall/early winter evening. While this is not the best RIS we’ve ever had, it is certainly solid across the board.

From the Founders website: “Brewed with ten varieties of malted barley, this stout is smooth as silk, yet complex and rich in body. Serve this guy at cellar temperature. Put another log on the fire, sit back, and enjoy the friendship of this ultimate winter warmer.”

ABV: 10.5%
IBU: 90


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dork Lord Tasting 2006-2012

No, that’s not a mis-spelling.

So tonight I went to the geekiest beer nerd event I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. And I mean the geekiest. Hands down. What made it particularly enjoyable for was that it focused on a beer I don’t know that much about—I have only tried Dark Lord once prior to this evening—as well as an aspect of beer culture that I don’t normally follow either: tracking down and collecting the rare and elusive special versions of already rare and elusive beers, like the Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord 2012 or the Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord 2012 aged on Ancho Guajillo Chilis, bottles that were both opened this evening. Certainly, I like the idea of both Dark Lord and rare American craft beer, but I do not have the time, or, more importantly, the money, to dedicate to tracking down products like this. But I won’t lie—I’m certainly happy to taste them when they come my way. Very happy. Plus, my overall lack of knowledge regarding this segment of American beer geek culture meant that I got to observe the evening as something of an outsider: I got to enjoy the atmosphere and refreshments while not being quite fully cognizant of the larger conversation regarding Dark Lord that I witnessed. In other words, it was a pure spectatorial pleasure at all levels.

The seven different Dark Lord vintages that were on display made for an enjoyable comparative tasting. There was a significant shift across the beers—with Dark Lord, age certainly does help, as the brightness, sharpness, and alcohol presence in the 2011 and 2012 were a bit much. However, I’m not sure my verbiage can match the gustatory enjoyment expressed by others in attendance. And that, my dear readers, is saying something. I had never thought to use “soy sauce” as a descriptor for a beer, and yet the term fit perfectly with the attributes being described by numerous attendees. My only low point during the Dark Lord portion of the tasting was that my 2007 pour was, I think, the last from the bottle—it was a silty, gritty, chalky mess that in no way matched the conversation I heard going on around me. So I kept quite and took one for the team. After the initial run through the 2006-20012 vintages, the two specialty bottles— the aforementioned Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord 2012 and the Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord 2012 aged on Ancho Guajillo Chilis—got cracked and sampled. The Cognac version was a delight, although another year or two would undoubtedly further improve the beer, while the Ancho Guajillo Chili version was a bit too spicy for the beer. Which is saying something for a beer that has a FG in the 1.050s. There was also a bottle of Three Floyds Barrel-Aged Alpha Claws something-or-other, but my memory of it is lost in the shuffle of other drinking delights. See how dismissive one becomes when surrounded by such a cornucopia of unadulterated beer porn?

Additionally, everyone who attended brought a bottle of their own to share after the initial round of tasting. I brought a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout from 2009; compared to what others brought, I felt a bit lame. But then again, I am not so sure that there is anything that cool in my basement. I did get to try Westvleteren 12 for the first time this evening as well—chalk it up to another first in an evening full of firsts. My favorite beer of the evening was Arcadia XV, a brown ale aged in wine barrels with Michigan cherries. We also got to try Arcadia 15, which was aged in bourbon barrels, but it wasn't nearly as good. My greatest regret is that I didn’t get to finally try the Bruery’s Black Tuesday—I had to head for home before it got opened. Foiled again. Do enjoy the picture of the spoils that I “borrowed” from Joshua Hatfield.

Thanks, Gus, for an excellent evening. It was super awesome. Oh, and if you’d like to see the video produced during this delightful evening, go here. While not epic (and I do use that term with all its ironic glory), it is, well, posted on the internet.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Lambic Brewday

Another East Coast Yeast beer, this one a straight lambic using ECY20 BugCounty. Time to start stacking up the sours. Check back in a year or so, and we’ll drop dirt on this one.

134. Lambic
9 lbs. Weyerman Pilsener
4 lbs. Breiss White Wheat
1 lb. MFB Vienna

Mash @ 149° F for 90 minutes w/ 4 gallons of RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¾ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ¼ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 7 gallons; brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 2 oz. aged hops (German Hallertau 4.1% AA)

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss

Chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched ECY20 BugCounty and 5 Hungarian oak cubes, medium toast (boiled for 10 minutes in water and cooled)

Brewed: 11/23/2012 @ 81° F; fell to 66° F over the first 48 hours
Secondary: 1/29/2014 @ 1.006; split into two 3 gallon carboys
134a. 3 gallons to bulk age
134b. racked onto 6 lbs. sour cherries


OG: 1.058

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

543. Epic Utah Sage Saison

Another beer from Epic, mainly because this is a saison, and, well, I’m a sucker for saisons. Our last Epic beer was Brainless on Cherries, which was enjoyable (and better in the bottle), but some of the others we’ve had along the way have not been as enjoyable. Still, this is a saison, so it is time to roll the dice.

Utah Sage pours a lightly hazy hay with a thin white head; the nose is redolent with herbal sage aromas accompanied by yeast esters and phenols and a touch of mint. The beer starts dry with a touch of candy sweetness and yeast fruitiness, giving way to hints of sage and a mineral bite in the middle, followed by honey and mint in the finish with a combination of a dry mineral tang and a bright, almost citrus-y herbal zing lingering on the back of the mouth. The beer is well attenuated, often a problem with other American saisons (so that is a plus mark for Epic), and there is a touch of alcohol warmth in the finish, although nothing overbearing. The yeast character is certainly Belgian, although it might not be the best fit for a saison, and it could use a bit more hop bitterness, although I am guessing this is a product of not wanting to step too heavily on the delicate sage and herb flavors. The sage in the nose is the strength of this beer; the flavor is good in the body, but could use just a touch more, although collectively the flavors are in balance across the beer profile. This beer is better than I thought it was going to be; the herbal sage character in the nose is delicious, and continues to delight over the course of the beer (I know the description below says rosemary, but there is not really any apparent here). And this beer cost $6.99 for the 22 oz. bottle, which makes it a delicious bargain as well. I might have to change my mind about Epic if they keep producing beers like this.

From the Epic website: “This seasonal Saison is brewed with fresh herbs. The first whiff is that of a festive array of rosemary, thyme with a dominating profile leaning towards sage. This beautifully crafted farmhouse style Belgian beer is warm with herbal notes and backed with earthy hops.”

ABV: 7.6%
Release #3
Malt: Weyermann Pilsner, Muntons Maris Otter, Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt and Rye malt, Muntons Wheat Malt, and Briess Pregelatinized Barley Flakes
Hops: Centeenial, Amarillo, Calypso
Herbs: fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary
Brewed: January 30, 2012
Bottled: March 30, 2012