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


Sunday, November 18, 2012

542. Harpoon Leviathan Baltic Porter

It’s been a while since we’ve tried much from Harpoon; in fact, I’d forgotten this particular beer was hidden away in the basement. But I bought it and socked it away a couple of years ago, hoping and waiting for a day just like today, when Elli proclaimed that it was time to sample some delicious older beers. And the circle has now come complete. Previous examples of Elli’s maritime fixation include Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #32 Pott’s Landbier, 100 Barrel Series #31 Single Hop ESB, 100 Barrel Series #30 Island Creek Oyster Stout, 100 Barrel Series #28 Glacier ’09 Wet Hop, 100 Barrel Series #27 Helles Blond Bock, Octoberfest, Leviathan Saison Royale, 100 Barrel Series #24 Glacier ’08 Wet Hop and their IPA. That’s a lot.

Leviathan Baltic Porter pours a crystal clear rich molasses brown with a light tan head; there are a fair number of garnet highlights peeking through this beer, and the nose is rich in chocolate—both lighter cocoa and darker rich chocolate—mixed with dark fruit, specifically raisin and fig. Behind that, there is also molasses and caramel. Flavors start with caramel and dark chocolate, followed by raisin and cocoa in the middle. The fruit flavors drop in the finish, leaving a mix of chocolate and cocoa, with the cocoa lingering the longest. As the beer warms, molasses and brown sugar flavors emerge, both in the front and in the finish, and the carbonation develops a bit more bite as well—it was initially a bit sluggish when it came out of the bottle, but gets lighter on the tongue as it warms. The fruit flavors also recede with warmth, giving the beer a creamy, rounded, and chewy mouthfeel. As well, there is no discernible alcohol heat or warmth, which enhances the sipping character of this beer. All in all, it would appear that the time spent in the basement has served this beer well. While it is not quite a Baltic Porter anymore—the lighter lager characteristics in the finish are buried under layers of chocolate and dark fruit—it is still a very good and very enjoyable beer. Here’s to more lurking creatures from the depths...

From the bottle: “Dark fruit and bittersweet chocolate notes meld into a spicy finish of this hearty brew made with de-husked roasted malts and a lager yeast.”

ABV: 9.5%
Bottled: 11/13/2009


Saturday, November 17, 2012

541. Saison du Buff Trifecta

So I salted away bottle of each of these when they first came out, and then proceeded to forget about them. Well, until now. My initial realization came from the “Enjoy By” date on the Victory bottle: January 16, 2011. Don’t tell me when to open my beer! While we’ve previously sampled the Stone version, we haven't had a chance to sample all three at once in order to compare them. The approximate brew dates were: Stone in April 2010, Victory in July 2010, and Dogfish Head in August 2010. All three breweries put out new version earlier in 2012; I saw the new version from Stone, and I heard that both Dogfish Head and Victory brought one out as well, but these three are from the first go around. Aged, might I add, to perfection. All three pour a soft gold; the white pillow-y head runs from voluminous for the Dogfish Head version to minimal for the Victory version.

Dogfish Head: this version has the best nose and overall delicate aroma—slight mineral and herbal character that dances in harmony with the malt and yeast components. There is a clean citrus character, and a soft honeyed sweetness that plays well with the perfume-y aromatics of the herbs and yeast. The body is fuller than other two versions; the malt is sweet and slightly doughy, and the herbal flavors carry across the profile. The dry, sharp carbonation helps clean the beer, making the body appear drier than it is. However Dogfish Head handled the herbs should be the new model—it has the cleanest and brightest flavors of the three, and is still delicately nuanced after two years in the basement. It is Fortney’s favorite of the three.

Stone: the nose has similar characteristics to the Dogfish Head, but they are more muted and flat, and are accompanied by a musty earthiness. There is also a touch of vegetal, although it dissipates as the beer opens. Fortney calls it a “rancid chamomile,” which sounds harsh, but it is appropriate. Flavor-wise, the only real brightness is a soapy character on the palate mixed with vegetal and herbal flavors. There is a touch of cardboard across the profile, and the finishing bitterness doesn’t quite fit with the beer. It is dry and minerally, drier than the Dogfish Head, but the flavors don’t work as well. This would be a good beer by itself, but in comparison to the two other versions, it is the clear loser on table.

Victory: this version is the most classically saison-like of the three. The nose is earthy and dry with softer herbal characteristics, but has more Belgian yeast character in the nose—there are both floral and fruity aromatics with a soft hint of malt sweetness. There is some tannic bite in the body that strikes both of us as mineral and herbal residue, but it works well in the beer. This is also the driest and most attenuated version of the beer, and has both the least herbal presence and the most Belgian yeast character of the three. The carbonation is lighter than other version, but the mineral bitterness serves to clean the palate and close the beer nicely. This version is, not surprisingly, my favorite. It carries the subtle herbal flavors of the Dogfish Head, but is the strongest saison of the three.

A delightful experience in all; too bad there aren’t more bottles to try later. We all thought the aging improved the beers; flavors were married well, allowing subtlety to shine through.

ABV: 6.8%
Herbs: rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley


Thursday, November 15, 2012

540. Full Sail Brewer’s Share Berliner Weiss

More from the West Coast, which is the Best Coast. It has been a while since we’ve punched that Full Sail ticket, but, well, here we are again, sailing on full steam ahead. And yes, that was my attempt at chiasmus. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly acceptable if you need to look that up. And no, I won’t stop peppering my comments with obscure linguistic devices. After all, it is the mad skills that pay the bills, not the mundane ones. Plus, since this guy officially disappeared, it appears I’m back to writing for my lonesome self. That one tragic tear rolling down your cheek is what keeps me blogging, my dear reader. Well, and the beers I get to drink. See? I can be both literal and smarmy in the same post. And if that ain’t the new journalism, then color me incoherent. Anywho, previous Full Sail beers include Wreck the Halls and Grandsun of Spot IPA, as well as the spectacularly made up Full Sail Super Fantastic Magic Carpet Ride. It’s a carpetbagger’s delight!

Brewer’s Share Berliner Weiss pours a crystal clear and vibrant gold with a light white head and plenty of tiny streaming bubbles along the side of the glass. As well, the beer feature numerous gold highlights as light cuts through the glass. The nose has the dusty dry cardboard of lactobacillus, along with a slight sharp tang mixed with a certain pungency, while behind that, there is a touch of wheat gumminess. Basically, the aroma is the drier, earthier lactobacillus and not the brighter, sharper and tarter that I prefer. Flavors are dry and paper-y with a touch of apple juice in the front, accompanied by cracker, biscuit, and wheat. There is a tang from the lactobacillus—and probably some from the wheat—as the beer moves into the middle, a tang short of tart but almost to lemon. I get a sharp dry bite as the beer turns towards the finish from both the carbonation and the lactobacillus, and there is a touch of the lingering champagne brut character on the middle back of the tongue that also manifests itself in the feeling of a slight mineral residue on the back of the tongue. Additionally, there is a touch of residual vegetal flavor as well as some lingering cracker sourness, along with a touch more of the apple. The body is simultaneously gummy and cracker dry, a mix of the effects of the wheat malt and the carbonation. And after everything passes across the palate, there is a slight candy sweet tang that is the last flavor left behind. While this is not the best of the commercial versions of this beer—a good bottle of 1809 is hard to beat—it is still well made. I do wish it had a more prominent—and by that I mean tarter—lactobacillus presence. There is too much wheat without the reciprocal cleansing tartness, and the earthy cardboard flattens flavors on the palate. But I’m still happy to see a beer like this produced and distributed in the United States. It warms the cockles of my heart.

From the bottle: “Featured Brewer: Chris Haveman. Four times a year we hand the keys to our massively talented brewers and let them throw down. Whoever comes up with the most insanely delicious new brew gets to share it with the entire beer-geekosphere. It’s something we call Brewer’s Share. And what, pray tell, inspired Chris to brew his wheat-o-rific Summer Delight? A secret desire to have his cake and drink it, too, perhaps? ‘I was inspired by my love of summer actually,’ says Chris. ‘When I found out we’d be brewing at the beginning of the season, I immediately thought of the perfect summer style—a Berliner Weiss.”

ABV: 4.0%
IBU: 9


Sunday, November 11, 2012

539. Fort Collins The Incredible Hop Wet Hop IPA

More from Fort Collins Brewery and their The Incredible Hop series. And this one out of a glass you can see through—look at those bright, luscious colors! We’ve had their beers before, most notably The Incredible Hop Imperial India Wheat AleRocky Mountain IPA & Kidd Black Lager.

The Incredible Hop pours a crystal clear and vibrant orangish copper with a wispy tan head, while the nose features too much caramel and toffee, followed by earthy, grassy, and spicy resin hop aroma, and even a touch of pine/evergreen. The caramel does throw a wrench in some of the more delicate aromatics—the spicy and evergreen get lost behind it, especially in conjunction with the earthy and grassy hop character traditionally found in fresh hop beers. I also get a slight touch of buttered toast mixed with alcohol after my nose gets acclimated to the other aromas. Flavors start with caramel, grass, and resin. As it moves towards the middle, pine and acetone come out, along with heat from the alcohol. The bitterness picks up in the final third, along with warmth from the alcohol and a stronger pine and resin hop flavor. Still, however, there is the lingering caramel and toffee. The bitterness and the hop flavors cover some of the alcohol, but the alcohol increases as the beer warms, to the detriment of the beer. It is clean on the tongue; the carbonation and bitterness limits the stickiness, but the cloying elements increase as the beer warms in the glass. I like this beer in theory more than practice; fresh hops are one of my favorites, but this one is skewed toward big and malty, which limits the delicate hop flavors that should be the selling point in a fresh hop beer. Elli thought the caramel flattened the hop character—it was, she thought, too sweet and too big, and tasted more like a mediocre DIPA than a fresh hop beer. Which is disappointing; we’re always excited to try fresh hops beers, but outside the West Coast (well, and notable other exceptions), most breweries go with the more-is-better mantra. In a beer dependent upon the subtlety, nuance, and delicacy of hops in their most pristine condition, dousing them with caramel malt like it was Blue Cheese dressing and/or smothering them in souped up bigger beers seems counterintuitive at best. But then again, maybe it is just us.

From the bottle: “Crystal hops were sourced locally and handpicked off the bines and added to the brewing process the same day. This method is what produces the floral, grassy, smooth character that is so vivid in a wet hop. Harvested once a year in the fall this fresh hop treat is sure to delight your tastebuds and deserves a salute to the generous bounty that surrounds us. From all of us here at FCB, enjoy.”

ABV: not much chatter on this one. Beerpulse lists it as 9%; BA features petty squabbles.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Comet Brewday

This beer is not Brettanomyces-only, but the idea is still a delicious one. This is a partial remake of the previous 126. Saison w/ Comet, which also featured East Coast Yeast. And that beer was delicious. And by delicious, I mean I almost drank all of it before I realized it was gone. That good. Comet would be one of the new hops that should do well; I’m remaking this beer, and I already bought another pound of Comet hops. Again, yes, that good. Think zesty citrus and orange with bright spicy floral notes. Hops Direct says they have a wild, American aroma,which also works. I’m hoarding the last couple of bottles, one of which I will use to write a review. Shortly. Or not. You can just wait for it. While dreams of sugar-plums dance in your head.

133. Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Comet
4 lbs. Weyerman Pilsener
4 lbs. MFB Special Aromatic
1 lb. Breiss White Wheat
½ lb. Dingemans Cara 20
½ lb. Weyerman Dark Munich
½ lb. Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Mash @ 148° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.076
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ½ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 oz Comet leaf 11.0% AA

w/15 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA & 1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/5 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA
8 oz. table sugar
4 g. crushed coriander
2 g. crushed seed of paradise

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA

Rested 5 minutes, chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched ECY03 Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend)

Brewed: 11/10/2012
Secondary: 12/6/2012 @ 1.014; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA
Bottled: 2/28/2013 w/ 4.0 oz. table sugar
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.004

Tasting Notes (4/27/2013): This is a combined tasting of 133. ECY Farmhouse Brett Saison w/ Comet and 142. Rockit Cup Single Hop Session IPA w/ Comet: I wanted to see how Comet compared in the two styles. Both beers pour different shades of tan; the Saison is clearer and has more tan in it, while the IPA is slightly hazy and more of a dull gold. Both have a white head, with the saison having better retention and coverage—it is silkier and provides Belgian lacing on the glass. The nose of the Saison is a mix of resin and citrus, which includes mineral, lemon zest, orange flower, and dried orange as well as some spicy earthiness and just the hint of brett leather beginning to show. The IPA is more citrus forward, with peach, mango, passion fruit, and over-ripe pear—it much more tangy, although the spicy earthiness is lurking in the background. The Saison opens with cracker and toast malt with mineral hop tang and citrus; it further dries out in the middle and has a gentle cleansing bitterness that lingers into the finish. The earthiness and lemon zest start in the middle and run into the finish, and there is slight tart lemon citrus bite in the finish followed by the lingering bitterness and an earthy brett dryness. The carbonation is lively but not bright, although the beer itself has bright, crisp flavors even with the dry body. With the IPA, opening flavors are a kiss of caramel and orange marmalade; there is the same mineral tang as in the saison, but this one has more of a resin citrus bite to it. The middle is spicy resin bitterness mixed with pear and mango before giving way to bright, clean finish that features an ever-so-faint evergreen tang along with a gentle but assertive bitterness. This beer has more body and more hop flavor, but the underlying bitterness is strikingly similar between the two. I do get a slight gumminess from the wheat in the IPA that I don’t find in the Saison, which is surprising given that there is twice the wheat (1 lb. as compared to ½ lb.) in the Saison. While both the ½ lb. of oatmeal and the more attenuative yeast in the Saison helps account for the difference, the perception on the palate is still interesting to contemplate in relation to the differences in the malt profile. Still, when focusing on the shared hop between these two beers, I think that Comet has components that make it equally viable in both styles. There is a slight earthy gaminess behind the citrus and tropical fruit that may throw off some people, but it still finishes clean and bright. While I want to say I prefer the Saison to the IPA, I can’t honestly admit that: each beer plays to different strengths in regards to this hop. The Saison foregrounds the earthy components of the hop (and it is a bit longer in the tooth), while the IPA highlights the complex citrus and tropical fruit aspects of it. Either way, I’m hooked: Comet is the hop de jour at this house.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

538. Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA

Oskar Blues is now being distributed in Ohio, which means I get to try beers like this, and add it to the list of previous Oskar Blues beers that have been smuggled into the state like illegal contraband. Or like ill-gotten booty. Or like beer geek magic. I’ll let all of you choose your favorite simile out of those three, or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even construct your own in the comments. Or in other, more precise words, I’ll just have more fun talking to myself here. Any-who, this is our fourth beer from Oskar Blues—it has been a while—following in the footsteps of “infinitely recyclable” cans like Ten Fidy, Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Dale’s Pale Ale. This one, however, is a tall boy. Which means those 16 ounces of 8.0% beer are going to make me suffer just that much more tomorrow morning.

Deviant Dale’s pours a brilliant and crystal clear amber with a fair amount of orange—it’s a touch darker than copper, but not quite tan or brown—and a meal-y yellow head that offers decent retention. The nose is located squarely at the crossroads of pine and resin; while there is a touch of creamy malt, caramel, and corn hidden behind the hops (it reminds me of the smell of warm caramel corn), this is primarily a hop-forward beer. As it warms, some alcohol starts to emerge in the nose, which, in conjunction with the hops, gives the beer a slight hint of lacquer or acetone. The body and flavor is nicely restrained for an 8.0% ABV beer; there is some chewiness, but nothing sticky or cloying, and the carbonation and alcohol tang thin and lighten the beer on the tongue. The carbonic bite in the second third strips some of the body away, leading into the final hop bite and bitterness of the finish. Not surprisingly, flavors favor hops; there is a spicy caramel bite in the front, followed by pine and resin that accompanies the rising levels of bitterness in the middle. The cleansing carbonation bite allows pine, resin, and a green evergreen blast of hop flavor to balance the bitterness as the beer heads into the finish, which lingers pleasantly on the palate along with a touch of alcohol warmth (the alcohol does get hotter as the beer warms). I also get a hint of lingering bread crust along with the bitterness. A good beer, albeit a bit unnecessarily hefty in size—it’s not quite a DIPA in terms of body, but the hop pay-off is too low for a top-tier IPA. The alcohol gets in the way a bit here as well; again, this seems part of the tension: the elevated ABV doesn’t marry perfectly with the cleaner malt profile, while the hop flavor and aroma is impeded by the size of the beer. So basically, it is a study in contrasts. And again, this is a good beer, it just doesn’t seem to fit well anywhere. Unless—and I know this will sound terrible, although I mean it in the best possible light—your target audience is the classic middle-of-the-road American beer geek who thinks bigger is better but doesn’t know enough about hops or style to understand the potential limitations that come with calling this an IPA. See? That sounds terrible. And I do like this beer. But I also stand by my comments. Because let’s be honest: my description is an apt one for a sizable portion of the craft beer audience right now. And just because it sucks doesn’t mean it’s not true.

From the Oskar Blues website: “Deviant Dale’s IPA (8% ABV, 85 IBUs) was born at the crossroads, in a juke joint, as if Dale’s Pale Ale sold its soul to balance Deviant’s foreboding aromas of citrus, grapefruit rind and piney resins with a copper ball-of-fire color and inscrutable finish. The 2011 GABF Silver Medal Winner (American IPA Category) is the Devil incarnate with untold amounts of malt and hedonistic Columbus dry-hopping. Oskar Blues’ southern spirit caught a northbound blues bus to ColoRADo to deliver the boundary bustin’ brewery’s first 16 oz. tallboy can.”

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 85
Canned: 10/05/2012


Monday, November 5, 2012

537. Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout

Another beer from Samuel Smith’s. But when the beer is this easy and smooth going down, who could possibly say no? Certainly not any rational person. Then again, if rationality is going to be my benchmark, I’ve just cut out a good 85% percent of the population. 90% if I’m feeling mean and cantankerous. What with all the sputtering of vindictive bile, sentence fragments, and dire political prognostications being trotted out in Ohio these last few months, we need beer like this to rein in the rampant jingoism and self-serving congratulatory rhetoric that represents our current election cycle. Because that is certainly not rational. Or useful. Or even interesting. Although, my friends, that may be asking just a bit too much from this beer. It is, after all, British. This is our third beer from Samuel Smith’s, including Imperial Stout and Organically Produced Lager. Mercifully, it won’t be our last.

Organic Chocolate Stout pours a rich, deep chocolate with a tan head that offers fair retention; the beer is crystal clear, and has pleasant ruby red highlights when held to the light. Not surprisingly, the nose is redolent with chocolate and cocoa—both creamy milk chocolate and cocoa—mixed with just a hint of alkaline chalkiness. It almost smells like chocolate milk, albeit with a bit more of that hint of coconut and tropical cocoa butter that darker chocolate can provide, and milk would tend to cover over (and this tropical dimension comes out more as it warms). Flavors follow suit: it opens with sweet chocolate and a hint of caramel, giving way to a drier cocoa in the middle. There is a touch of roast in the finish, but the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel keeps it at bay, as does the slight brown sugar and alkaline sweetness that borders on but never quite achieves dark fruit sweetness. As well, there is a final uptick of cocoa after these flavors pass. The carbonation lightens the beer on the palate, but light enough to be unobtrusive otherwise, while the mouthfeel is medium and slightly chewy—basically, both are vehicles for the flavors of this beer, and serve mainly as backdrop. There is a slight residual residue on the palate as the flavor disappears—I’d describe it as mineral-like or the slight grit of cocoa, but nothing distracting. All in all, a clean and enjoyable beer—this is certainly something you could spend the night drinking, enjoying the bright, refreshing flavors and the subtle depth of character. In many ways, this is a lighter and more drinkable version of Southern Tier’s Choklat, which, while delicious, is too big a beer for regular drinking. Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, on the other hand, goes down easy and clean. Well made and well done.

From the bottle: “Brewed with water from the original brewery well sunk in 1758, the gently roasted organic chocolate malt and real organic cocoa used in this ale impart a delicious, smooth and creamy character, with inviting deep flavors and a delightful finish—this is the perfect marriage of satisfying stout and luxurious chocolate that will lead to smiles and refills. Samuel Smith’s brews in traditional coppers, uses stone ‘Yorkshire Squares’ for fermentation, and ships every bottle from the brewery with great pride.”

ABV: 5.0%


Sunday, November 4, 2012

East Coast Yeast 05 Brett Blend #9 Brewday

We’re making the shift from fresh hop beers to Brettanomyces-influenced and inspired beers. Which means it is time to get back to old projects while also starting new ones. Today’s beer is both: it is a split batch, half which will go on the yeast cake (or whatever it is) of one of the versions from the Wild Yeast Lambic I did last year, and the other half gets the ECY 05 Brett Blend #9 in the picture. The batch 100 beer that I’m pulling off the cake gets the other East Coast Yeast pictured here: ECY 04 Brett Blend #1, described as “three individual Brettanomyces isolates from lambic producers combined to give an aggressive brett presence in any beer” as well as “vigorous, funky and acid-tolerant,” which is good since the beer it is going into is already rather acidic (although not necessarily that fermented—see the bottom of the post). This beer marks my first attempt at a Brett-only beer; over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’ll be trying my hand at several others as well.

132. East Coast Yeast Brett Blend #9
9 lbs. MFB Pilsen
4 lbs. Wheat

Mash @ 149° F for 90 minutes w/ 4 gallons of RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 2 ½ gallons @ 1.088
Batch sparge @ 170° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.028

Collected 6 ½ gallons, added ½ gallon, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 1 oz. aged hops (German Hallertau 4.1% AA)

Chilled & split batch (3 gallon carboys):
132a. yeast cake of 100. WildYeast Lambic Raspberry
Brewed: 11/4/2012
Secondary: 2/7/2016 @ 1.040; racked onto 196a. Yeast bay Lo Christi

OG: 1.060

132b. pitched ECY05 Brett Blend #9
Brewed: 11/4/2012
Secondary: 2/16/2013 @ 1.042
Tertiary: 6/16/2013 @ 1.024

OG: 1.060

Tasting Notes: