Monthly Archives: June 2014

Gone to the Dog(fish)

Off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  The presenter–whose name I should have gotten–mentioned that his choices were designed to feature summery brews, most appropriate for this time of year.
Namaste
The first was Namaste, a white beer that leads with light flavorful lemongrass and coriander and then the fruit arrives, full-bodied orange. There’s a hint of black pepper on the end, a nice spiciness.  There’s a little bit of pucker, not so much like sour as like the tannin of a red wine.   This has more oomph than most 5% ABV (4.8 to be more precise), so it would make a fine session brew. [I must say that this doesn't seem to be what the instructor had in mind when saying "Namaste" in yoga class. One small step on the road to Nirvana?]

 

 
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Moving into the “tormented small animals” portion of the evening (to judge by the labels), the next brew was Festina Peche, described as a Berliner Weisse (or “neo-Berliner Weisse”).  The classic Berliner Weisse is quite sour, and I’m not sure I would like it, not having acquired a taste for sour ale.  THIS beer leads with peach then settles into malt, with just a tiny touch of hops on the end. I find this very refreshing and not at all sweet, but also not at all sour. I definitely want to try more of this.  At only 4.5% ABV, it’s another good session choice.

 

 

aprihop_25Next was Aprihop, which I have had before, but this has more hops than the last time I tasted it, so I think the recipe has evolved. It’s described as “massively hopped” but I don’t find it so, the fruit brings it into balance.  This gives a subtle apricot like an anti-lambic, maintaining dry body rather than sliding into too much sweetness. Easy drinking and 7%.

 

 

 

 

positive_crop
Positive Contact is dangerous stuff, easy to sip away and it doesn’t taste like 9% ABV.  This is like a summer spiced cider, rather than the autumnal harvest ciders.  Drinking more of this, it’s a great Belgian-style summer brew.  If you drink it too cold you don’t get the cider, but it emerges as the beer approaches a better temperature, then the spice arrives, with just a bit of hops on the end.  Let it warm further, and hints of the cayenne arrive. I don’t quite pick up the cilantro, but that must flow into the complexity.  It’s a collaboration of Dogfish Head and Dan the Automator . . . and I leave Deltron 3030 as an exercise for the student.

 

 

 

 

r_and_w_03Moving up the alcohol ladder, we reach Red & White at 10% ABV.  As a style it’s a witbier, starting Belgian and becoming unique with Pinot Noir juice and a touch of oak.  This is rich and very dark for a “white” beer.  It’s interesting that it’s so rich, because my usual complaint about pinot noir is that it’s too light and lacks body. This takes care of *that* problem.

 

 

 

 

palo_santo_25

Palo Santo Marron has a unique woody flavor from the aging. It’s a brown ale that is very Stout-like, but a dry stout rather than a creamy stout. Lots of roasted malt. The beer is aged in “exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood,” described as one of the hardest woods in the world and crafted into 10,000-gallon vessels.  The tasting was of bottles that had then aged for a year at home, an aging that you can’t get at retail, and this yielded even greater complexity.  Sipping a “new” bottle at home, the nose arrives with a funky, woody, good aroma, then the first sip spreads chocolate, then the woody notes and a certain dry dustiness arrive. The finish is like the scent of dry hardwood with chocolate and coffee notes.  Rich stuff, you can practically chew it, and the 12% ABV could be quite a surprise.

 

 

 

That’s something consistent across the whole tasting: all of them have more alcohol than is apparent. All of them have great balance, so you get lemongrass and apricot and cider and red wine, but you always get an ale and a very satisfying one.

This was a nice set of choices in fine sequence, one building on another, and these were interesting choices to act as a wakeup call for those who define Dogfish in terms of 60-Minute, 75-Minute, 90-Minute, and 120-Minute IPAs.  Mind you, as I started writing this I was sipping a 60-Minute IPA, and the caramel and butterscotch of that brew leads into a nice citrusy body before the strong hop finish.  But now I’m savoring a Palo Santo Marron, and that’s a great way to wrap up an evening!

Images courtesy of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
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This Beer Is Out of This World!

“Space, the final frontier — these are the voyages of the Starship Beer Truck . . .”

– James T. Kirk, from an early draft of the pilot script

4-spaceSide4

“With space tourism a burgeoning reality and thousands of rejoicing, happy space fans booked on suborbital flights, we, like your local troop of boy scouts, want to be prepared. Let’s face it, some of these intergalactic holidaymakers will want the option to enjoy a brew while looking at our big Blue Globe. Why deny them the chance?”

– 4 Pines Brewing Company, Vostok Space Beer

OK, so the beer hasn’t made it out of this world yet, but as they say, they want to be prepared. In collaboration with Saber Astronautics, they are working to advance the progress of brewing beyond the cradle of Earth. The beer HAS made it to weightlessness. It has been consumed by “professional microgravity flight researchers” going through 15 cycles of Zero-G parabolic flights. [If there were "accidents" it wasn't from drinking too much (6 samples of 150ml each), it was because they don't call that plane the Vomit Comet for nothing!]

This is an important scientific endeavor, and as in all good science these pioneers are seeking to solve a problem. Basically, most beer would NOT be a good quaff in space. There are two problems, really, though the first is relatively minor. In microgravity, the tongue swells slightly, reducing the sense of taste. The more significant problem is that in microgravity, carbonation has nowhere to go, remaining in suspension in the liquid. In vitro, this is apparently a very unpleasant sensation. Worse still, “if you have to burp, you will burp both beer and bubbles.” This will not make you popular with your fellow travelers.

4-Stout-smaller

Vostok’s answer is based on 4 Pines Dry Irish Stout–high flavor, low carbonation, and Gold and Silver at the Australian International Beer Awards. “It is meant first for people who love beer so it MUST TASTE SUPERB on Earth. It will support the growing space economy by being equally superb in microgravity.”

So how does it taste? I must confess that I have not tasted it, because *I’m* on the wrong continent! They don’t distribute the beer outside Australia. My research budget won’t cover the flight to Australia, and my day job might object to my taking the time. However, I would be happy to review it if presented with a sample. Let me go further: I would be delighted to try Vostok in the environment for which it is intended. I would, however, need someone to pick up the tab for my space flight. Maybe if I wrote politely to Richard Branson, he would be interested in helping me further the advancement of science . . .

I must say that Vostok is furthering the mission of the New BPLF, continuing the march of progress begun so long ago by the Beaker People:

Humanity loves beer, we always have and always will. So much so that the evolution of beer has often matched and (in our humble opinion) now transcended the evolution of man.

– 4 Pines Brewing Company, Vostok Space Beer

 

Ad Astra!

Images courtesy of 4 Pines Brewing Company
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Long Ireland Could Use More Fun

LongIrelandDoubleIPA     I went to a tasting of the Long Ireland Beer Company. These are very straightforward, no-nonsense brews, but perhaps a bit TOO straightforward.  The brewer presenting them was gruff and no-nonsense with no patience for silly names.  He thinks that if you brew a pale ale, you should call it “Pale Ale.”  He led off with their Celtic Ale, a slightly red-tinged ale with a simple presentation running closer to “beer” than to “ale” with even–to my taste–a hint of lager; well, it wasn’t to my taste.  He followed with their Pale Ale, which is just that, direct and not very complex, perfectly drinkable but with nothing very special about it.  The third item was their Double India Pale Ale.  This was pretty good, enough so that I bought a bomber, and it was a satisfactory IPA with good body and a nice trailing hop bite. I would try it again but I wouldn’t particularly seek it out.  To wrap up he poured their Breakfast Stout, a slightly sweet, fairly thin stout with a hint of coffee. This is a new style to me, but so far I prefer a heavier, creamier stout.

To try to be fair to Long Ireland, the Growler and Gill was incredibly noisy that night, making it very hard to hear whatever he said about his brews, and hard to thoughtfully savor what he had to pour.  To also be fair, they describe their beers as “full flavored” and they are exactly that; I think these beers are exactly what they set out to produce.  There are no wallflowers here. However, I think perhaps that they could use a little more nonsense and a little more fun to go with their solid brewing.  Silly names don’t compensate for poor brewing, but I have to say that some of the best brews have silly names.

Maredsous Abbaye Abdij Tripel — No, it’s not a silly name.

I expect a lot from a Benedictine Tripel, and this delivers: rich yeasty malt, full-bodied, and a nice nose with hints of spice.  I had it up against snacks which included a habanero jack cheese, so some of the subtleties got lost!  It stood up well and I’ll have to try it again soon.  10% ABV, so it carries a kick.

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Burpee Berries and the Lake Erie Monster

Last night I had a bottle of (take a deep breath) Kyle Hollingsworth / Keri Kelli / Stone Collective Distortion IPA. This is a limited edition Double/Imperial IPA coming in at 9.2% ABV.  Stone calls it a collaboration of the brewery with the keyboardist of The String Cheese Incident and the guitarist for Alice Cooper.  It may not be quite as radical as that sounds, but it pulls no punches.  It pours a pretty amber with a moderate head tending toward foam, this is a well-carbonated beer.  The bottle mentions that it is made with elderberry and coriander.  Well, I got the coriander right away in the nose, but didn’t get the berry.  I did get a ton of hops.  It’s a nice sipping beer, and <burp> THERE are the berries!  Score one for the carbonation! All of a sudden the berry was obvious, and very pleasant.  As the beer came up from refrigerator temperature, the berries and spice became more and more apparent, tending almost toward a cassis note.  I consider myself duly chastised for drinking my beer too cold.  Good stuff.

However, I do have a complaint for the good folks at Stone. Could you edit your copy and use a larger font?  This gnat’s ass font is too much for eyes old enough to drink!

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Tonight I’m meeting Lake Erie Monster from Great Lakes Brewing.  This is a purist’s Imperial IPA, no spice or berries, just barley, hops, yeast, and water.  It’s a bit scary to think of water coming from Cleveland, but it’s a long time since the Cuyahoga caught fire.  Somehow I think they have an excellent source. Solid hops, solid flavor, an earthy caramel with hops that go on and on. I think I’ll have another!

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Nice Weekend, featuring Firestone Walker Sucaba Barley Wine

It’s been a busy weekend. It would have been even busier if I had been able to figure out a way to get back–legally–from the Craft Beer Festival yesterday at the Growler & Gill. With 50 breweries, it didn’t seem that driving home was an option. I investigated car services, but the best I was able to find was $60. One way. That would have raised the cost to $170 for a 3-hour festival. No joy. Maybe next year I can find another way.

Not that I suffered.

Yesterday, I had a couple of Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot barley wines. Very nice, a nice caramel touch and a malty body. Very pleasant, and I have one more in the fridge. The other that I had was Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Aventinus, a weiss doppel bock, rich and powerful and extending the caramel theme, but with a solid German interpretation of the dopple bock style. Remarkably dark for a weisse beer.

Today I was back at the Growler & Gill, and it was a very nice visit. First, I tasted a Keegan Mother Pucker Wild Ale. Wild it may be, but sour it was, reminding me of lemon juice. I can’t say that sour ale is a style that has impressed me, and this was a fairly extreme example. I also tried the Peekskill Eastern Standard IPA, and it was quite nice and worth another try. However, instead I went with a Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious ale aged in apple brandy casks. There’s cider up front on a light and spicy nose, followed by good apple smoothness with a touch of hops on the end. That was very worthwhile, and I was able to say so to Justin, one of the brewers at Captain Lawrence.

Janet tried the River Horse Tripel Horse, and it’s a solid Belgian-style ale, but she chose to go with the Ramstein Blonde Wheat Beer, a light and creamy sessionable wheat, easy drinking and very smooth.

The feature of the evening was the Firestone Walker Sucaba barley wine. This was described as a blend of about 13 different brews, most of which are not available away from the brewery. It had a nice oakiness like an Australian shiraz, with lots of complex malt and a touch of dark fruit and maybe chocolate. It could also knock you on your ass if you didn’t pay attention to the ABV. It didn’t seem like high alcohol, but it was shown as 12.4% ABV. Apparently it’s available in bomber and I hope to find it, but it was great on draft.

Now I’m sitting at my computer sipping Green Flash Palette Wrecker, very far from any of the drafts that I had earlier. This has fierce, all-consuming hops. The whole idea is that once you have this, your palette is wrecked, and I won’t argue. I will enjoy. Yes, there’s a nice malt at first, but then there’s an avalanche of hops, and quite bitter hops at that. It’s a finish-of-the-evening sort of brew, and the finish of a nice evening at that.

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Good JuJu

Good JuJu

If the juju is so good, why is there a skull with snakes and rats in the eye sockets? There’s a question to contemplate while sipping Good JuJu from Left Hand Brewing Company. It’s “beer brewed with ginger” or, naturally, ginger ale with a little kick. It *does* remind me of ginger ale, and it’s crisp, light, and refreshing, ideal for a hot summer day. At 4.5% ABV, you could have quite a few of these, ideal for a LONG hot summer day. As they call it, “a refreshing frivolity.”

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Hefeweizen Evening

Tonight I had two hefe weizen, one a classic from Bavaria, and one an upstart from Connecticut. The classic is Ayinger Brauweisse, and I’d say it is indeed a classic, brewed in accordance with the beer purity law, so the subtle fruitiness and the subtle spice come from the hops and not from any other source. As a wheat beer, there’s a certain bready chewiness to it, and a stick to the ribs aspect, but it’s heft is belied by its ABV, only 5.1%. The upstart is from Two Roads, their No Limits Hefeweizen. The can says “Take the Bahn Less Traveled.” Everything about it is a bit less subtle than the Ayinger. It’s a bit fruitier, a bit spicier, and a bit crisper. It is less chewy and it’s lighter, though only a tiny bit in ABV, 5%. I confess that I prefer the Two Roads, but the purist and the traditionalist will prefer the Ayinger. Image

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Bear Republic Apex Special IPA

Apex is a good, solid–very solid–IPA which leads with a nose full of hops, distinctive, perhaps I should know what kind: herbal with a little citrus.  On the palette there’s good mouth feel with a touch of caramel, a hint of brown sugar, a maltiness, a little sense of champagne fizz, and then a whole lot of hops. I like this even better than the Racer 5.  Racer 5 is the basic, Apex is the advanced.
With dinner I had a couple of pints of Defiant Muddy Creek Lager.  That’s not a bad beer when having a couple of pints, slightly earthy but a little thin for my taste.  Meanwhile I had a taste of my wife’s Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweizen, and that’s a very good, predictable beer, particularly good for those growing beyond Blue Moon.

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