Monthly Archives: July 2014

G’Knight, Sleep Tight, (Don’t) Let the Jala-Heim Bite

GKnight SmallG’Knight Imperial Red IPA from Oskar Blues was a bit of an eye-opener. I’m not usually that impressed with red ales, but this one nailed a sweet spot with a nice dash of hops giving a hint of mango and basically succulent flavor. I really look forward to trying this again.
photo 1Hot-Jala-Heim Beer With Bite, from Horseheads Brewing : this features Jalapeno & Anaheim chili peppers. It seems like a German Weisse with a peppery nose and with noticeable heat on the finish. This is no Ghost Face Killah, but neither is it entirely subtle. That may be true of the Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle, which is basically a Smoked Porter with a hint of pepper on the end. I think I prefer this one as a direct chili pepper beer. Incidentally, it went well with Chicken Florentine.


KasteelKastell Cuvee du Chateau 2010: vintage beer, a Belgian Ale that has been bottle aged for four years. At 11% alcohol it has a good chance to age for a while. It pours a dark amber like peanut brittle. The nose is somewhat bread-like, perhaps from residual yeast? On the palette, it gives rich malt in the Belgian trippel/quad style, but nectar-like. This is as much like a wine as it is like a beer, but as it lingers on the palette the continuing malted caramel dispels that notion. There are hops on the end, but very subtle.

 

urthel2Urthel Samaranth Quadrium Ale, a very solid quad with a rich wine-like consistency and sippabilility. The yeasty malt shows the Dutch response to the Belgian ale. You could almost chew this, and it stands up to food like a big Napa Cab. Softly hopped with a long finish.

 

 

 

 

Weyerbacher Vipidis Lupulus whacks you right in the mouth with heavy hops, right after capping its glass with a huge off-tan head that lasts a long time. The nose gives citrus and bread aromas. On the palette it starts with fruit, maybe mango, but turns swiftly to resin and grapefruit. Yes, it’s piney but on the bitter side even of that profile. This is an Imperial or Double IPA, unfiltered, so be careful pouring the last bit from the bottle, there’s quite a bit of yeast in the bottom, and this isn’t like the Orval bottle that traps the yeast. All in all, it’s a hophead’s ale, but the hops really aren’t in balance with the rest. There are other Weyerbachers, like Last Chance IPA, that I prefer to this one.

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Mainely Maine

With a tip of the hat to a ticky-tacky tourist trap near Ellsworth, Maine . . . I was off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting of the Allagash Brewing Company of Portland Maine. I tasted five from Maine and two from elsewhere.

 

SaisonBottleAllagash Saison is clearly Belgian, yeasty and malty without the sourness of some saisons. Yes, there’s touch of sourness in the nose, but not on the palette. It has good body where some saisons are a bit thin. There’s a sense of sweetness to it, tempered by slight acidity and slight peppery spiciness; actually I find the finish pleasantly dry. 6.1% ABV, making this the most “sessionable” of a strong set.

 

 

 

photoTripel is classic Belgian. Poured orangey gold with about a half-inch head, leaving lacing behind and holding a ring for a long time. It leads with caramel, yeast and malt on the nose. Rich with great mouthfeel, hints of orange and butterscotch, a bit of herbs, a bit of honey, and a long yeasty finish. 9% ABV.

 

 

 

Curieux roomTake the Tripel, age it for two months in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, then blend this back with “fresh” Tripel.  Allagash Curieux pours a beautiful white 1-1/2″ head over a hazy golden orange with just the faintest hint of bourbon in the nose, along with mild hops over yeast. On the palette: bourbon, smooth, creamy . . . a very soft mouth feel with layers of malt, yeast, caramel, maybe a suggestion of butter pecan, and whiskey.  This is 11% ABV which is sneaky strong. Maybe the bourbon character is adequate warning that this is stronger than it tastes. The bourbon lingers on a long finish with maybe a touch of coconut.

 

Allagash_Pour_OdysseyOdyssey is a dark wheat beer bordering on a stout, slightly raisiny on the nose, then very creamy and smooth on the palette with a touch of peanut brittle with smoke on the end, where an oakiness emerges especially with vanilla on the finish. 10.4% ABV. I spoke to someone who is trying to like oak-aged beer, but can’t quite get there yet. If this can’t bring someone like that home, I don’t know what will, except perhaps a milder approach like Innis & Gunn.

 

 

 

Allagash_Bottle_BlackBlack seems very thin for stout, but with a nice hop bite. There’s tobacco on the nose and a deep treacle sweetness. It’s slightly smoky on the palette with a bit of creaminess and a sort of mineral tang, followed by mocha. Hops comes along on the end. 7.5% ABV, once again a bit more alcohol than is apparent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo 3I’d call the Allagash offerings unusual across the board. I think it’s been too long since I’ve been in Maine!

www.allagash.com   @AllagashBrewing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving away from Maine, I tried Local Option Morning Wood, from Chicago. They call it an Oak Aged Coffee Amber. This looks just like apricot nectar once the slight head recedes. It gives a malty & yeasty nose, then coffee arrives on palette. This is more like iced coffee than hot, but the carrying flavor is the malt. There’s oak too but–to me–quite subtle. To those who aren’t thrilled with oak, the oak may dominate the coffee. Instead, for me I get a long gentle coffee finish.

I finished up with Thornbridge Halcyon, an American style IPA from an English brewery, which sounds like a contradiction in terms but works very nicely. Moderate head with citrus notes. On the palette this is rich and piney, leading with hops into very clean malt. It’s very fresh with nice acidity playing off the molasses of pulled pork sliders.

Most images courtesy of the Allagash Brewing Company
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Banana and Toffee and Choc, Oh My

shakebottleSharing some fun beer at a pool party, we led off with Shake Chocolate Porter from the Boulder Beer Company. This is dark brown, almost black, with not a lot of head. The nose announces the chocolate with a touch of coffee. The nice body shows solid malt and continues the chocolate with some caramel. 5.9% ABV. You know it’s a good porter, and the chocolate lingers on the finish. This did very well with 5 of our 6 tasters, and the 6th hates beer and was brave enough to try based on the chocolate, after which he retired from the scene.

 

 

 

 
We followed that with Wells Banana Bread Beer, and it really does taste like banana bread with the hops providing the spicing. Naturally it’s much drier than banana bread, and there’s even a hint of citrus. It’s very drinkable and subtle enough to have several at 5.2% ABV, though it still may be too sweet for hopheads. 4 of the remaining 5 tasters enjoyed this a lot, and the 5th skipped it for the very good reason that she loathes bananas!

On to Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding, which they call a dessert beer and I’m not inclined to argue. Good flavor, and easy drinking at 5% ABV. I have no experience with English pudding, but this gives me a pretty good idea that they are worth seeking out. The beer starts pretty sweet but gets tempered by mild hops. Basically it starts as a toffee dessert and moves smoothly to good ESB. This meant that it was less liked by those less into beer, and more liked by me. Makes sense!

We wrapped up with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout: very good, very dark and relatively sweet, continuing the easy drinking at 5.2% ABV. This is a stout with bittersweet chocolate as opposed to Shake which was chocolate with porter. The purist may go with the stout, but the casual drinker will go with the Shake . . . and besides this was a hot day by the pool, definitely not normally stout territory. To some extent this wasn’t fair, I’m really the only one in the group who favors stout over the sweeter alternatives. I didn’t realize until well into the tasting that three out of four were from the same brewery: Wells & Young’s in Bedford, England.
WellsYoungs1080

Images courtesy of the Boulder Beer Company and of Wells & Young’s.
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Some tasting notes, after aging one month

Just some tasting notes that have been lurking in my drafts folder for exactly one month.  I visited Ramsey Wines & Liquors, and despite the name, for me their beer has become the main event.  Their beer selection is huge, and several times recently I’ve gone on the “beer finder” for one or another brew, and up pops Ramsey. Anyway, they have “mystery” 6-packs in a stapled brown bag, with two sorts at the moment.  One is “Even More Hops” and the other is some name like “New for Spring.”  Since I’m on a hop kick I picked up one of the former last week, and tried again this week.  To my very slight disappointment, the latest one is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not much of a complaint.

dalesOne that I discovered and mentioned last week is Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues in Colorado.  As I said before I would have been put off by the fact that it’s in a can, but more fool I.  Good stuff, and now I have another.  Perhaps more importantly, I got the mystery 6-pack for $13.47 (how they pick that number I don’t know).  Well, I saw Dale’s Pale Ale at Stew Leonard’s this week . . . for $9.99 per can!  Can you say, “quite a deal”?  I knew you could. *

Another one in the 6-pack is Ballast Point Sculpin West Coast IPA, and as I mentioned, the funny thing was that the night before I bought the first mystery six, I had the Ballast Point Sculpin at The Dog & Cask.  Excellent, rich IPA.  That IPA is from San Diego, like Stone, a brewery of which I’m very fond.  However, another item in the 6-pack is Stone’s Go To IPA, and I was disappointed by that one.  It struck me as all hops and little else. [Note that my impression was quite different, one month later.]

I had another one last week, Lasso from Great Divide, also in Colorado.  This one I didn’t find very memorable, quite drinkable but not one I would choose again . . . but now I have the opportunity to see if I change my mind

Today I had a Lancaster Hop Buggy Amish Grain Amber Ale.  This was pretty nice, good hops with a slightly nutty edge. Not a favorite, but I won’t mind having another.

SamichlausMeanwhile I took a detour, a very unusual brew from Austria called Samichlaus Classic from Castle Brewery Eggenberg.  They note on the label that it’s brewed only one day each year, December 6, then aged for 10 months before bottling. However, it may then be aged for several years before release.  I have to say I’ve never had anything quite like it. My very first impression was chocolate, followed by molasses, and the very viscous quality emphasizes the molasses.  It coats the palette and the finish goes on and on.  I don’t know how they age it during those ten months, but I find a hint of oak giving a touch of toast and vanilla. That could come from something else entirely, of course.  They recommend storing and serving it at cellar temperature, so I only left it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  This pays off in depth of flavor.  They call this a malt liquor.  I don’t know—yet—what distinguishes a malt liquor from an ale. It’s obviously a long way from the cold brewing and storage of a lager.

* To be fair, that was $9.99 for the large can, not the 12-oz.

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Summer Lovin’

By now, my tendencies toward heavy hops and toward Belgian ales must be pretty clear, but I’m happy to explore the summer side of life. The theory is to aim for light, refreshing, and generally lower-alcohol brews that can carry you through the whole barbecue, or the whole warm summer evening. This is the realm traditionally dominated by Milwaukee Yellow Fizz with the funky metallic aftertastes . . . if they have any taste at all. Let’s look at the styles that the adjunct lagers imitate unsuccessfully (though with vast commercial success).

[We could refer back to the Berliner Weisse like Dogfish's Festina Peche, but we already covered that, not that I would mind another!]

Schlafly Summer Lager. Helles style, meaning very pale indeed. Basic lager with a citrus hint, much higher quality than that stinky yellow stuff. 4.5% ABV and very little hops. Not bad but it reminds me that fundamentally I’m an ale guy. That isn’t true for many of these others.

summer1Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, which they refer to as “cream soda for adults.” Well, I never acquired a taste for cream soda, but I have a taste for this. It pours with a nice frothy head, medium amber and a bit cloudy, delivering caramel in the nose and vivid butterscotch on the palette, 5% ABV. I think this would be a crowd pleaser for the crafty and flavorful enough for all but the diehard hopheads. This is very approachable for those who hate both adjunct beer and hops, and perhaps might be a beer to lure some of the Milwaukee masses to the Craft Side of the Force.

River Horse Summer Blonde. Moving into New Jersey–which I did a long time ago–this gives a quiet head and a pale amber; it’s a smooth summer sipper. At 4.5%, it’s clearly sessionable. There’s a hint of ocean in the nose and on the palette like a distant cousin of an Islay scotch without the peat, and without most of the hops for that matter. Very nice!

Ramstein Blonde Wheat Beer. Staying in New Jersey, from High Point Brewing Company, this is a hefeweizen, 5.5% ABV, pouring a typical hazy wheat yellow with a strong head. Slightly spicy nose, and I guess I’m learning what brewed wheat smells like. On the palette it’s yeasty with a touch of banana, light bodied enough for summer with a bit of fizz. Like most Ramstein beers, I think it can please German purists.

SunBlockCaptain Lawrence Sun Block. Crossing the Hudson to New York, we go further into the wheat style. This has a nice sustained off white head with a bit of hop bite followed by clear orange from those hops. On the palette comes orange peel, then malt and solid grain with a moderate citrusy hop bite. A little pine lingers on the long finish. This is my favorite of the group, but River Horse is gaining on the outside, with Anderson Valley coming on. Mind you, this is the one I bought more of. Twice. And I’m sipping it right now!

Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious, an ale aged in Apple brandy casks. Poured slightly cloudy gold with a foamy head. This gave a cider nose with a hint of brandy, but I knew the brandy was there. On the palette good apple, smooth, a bit of sweetness and a touch of hops on the end, and no question that this had relations with brandy and oak! Very drinkable, but as a trippel style it’s really stretching to call this summery and it probably belongs in the fall with its hefty ABV (at least 10%). I’d drink it anytime, though.

Maredsous Dubbel Belgian abbey ale. A heavy hitter snuck in among the summer crowd. Caramel shading to chocolate over full bodied malt with some Classic Belgian yeast. Maybe a trifle musty…then someone noticed that the bottle says “Best By 02/2011.” So this is 3.5 years past the “best by” date! At 8% abv it survived but must have been much better.

Image courtesy of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
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Everybody Must Get Stone(d)

With compliments to Bob Dylan, I have to say that every beer fan should sample Stone Brewery ales (sample=guzzle). The classics are the big IPAs like Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA and Stone Ruination IPA. One has to respect beers with Attitude that can back up their swagger.

Josh Matt, their Upper New England Regional Brewery Rep, came to the Growler & Gill on July 3 to present the latest and greatest, and in fact bypassed the established big guns to present newer and less known items.

Stone-Go-To-IPA-6-PackOnlyHe led off with the new (March 2014) Stone Go To IPA. This is a wakeup call to those–like me–who associate Stone with high alcohol, high hop IPA, keeping the hops but relaxing the alcohol to produce a session IPA. They tout a “hop bursting’ technique which blasts in hops at the end of the brewing process, yielding 65 IBUs. Josh told us that there are 11 different kinds of hops, producing great complexity; I found citrus and pine and herbs and everything. It’s also very fresh, perhaps ideal for hot weather as well as a “more the merrier” approach to the number of brews per unit session. I have to say that the first time I tried this, some months ago, I found it a bit too light and less complex; I wonder if the recipe has been tweaked since March. Perhaps I was just in a heavy-hitter mood that time, or conceivably a bottle that wasn’t up to snuff, or up to hops.

For those who complain that Stone only makes heavily hopped (as well as high alcohol) brews, Stone Saison is an answer. It’s even newer than the Go To, debuting in April. Mind you, this still delivers 45 IBUs at 6% ABV,so it’s no lightweight, it’s a solid farmhouse ale delivering citrus and herbs. I found it very smooth and slightly fruity.

EnjoyBy_070414_bottleNext was Stone Enjoy By 07.04.14, an emphemeral beer and you’re already too late for it! This Double IPA deliberately does not last and whacks you over the head with its expiration date, five weeks after its “bottled on” date. I found this to be nice and piney, even a little light, and “light” isn’t an adjective that I associate with a Double IPA. I attribute this to the sheer freshness of the ale, a stylistic thing rather than implying that their other ales stay on the shelf too long, I think they move out promptly! I had already had the April version, and Josh mentioned that this is the same recipe and that it’s not the normal habit to repeat the recipe. Naturally I grabbed a bomber on the way out to enjoy the next day, slipping in under the wire. With more time and more quantity, I pick up a nice shot of orange in the hops in the nose. The next edition will be Enjoy By 08.16.14 and will be bottled two days from now . . . but it won’t taste the same!

2014_Ruinten_web_smallI mentioned the heavily hopped, high alcohol IPAs? The next was Stone Ruin Ten IPA, the Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA. This is the third annual release celebrating the ability to ruin palettes everywhere. This strikes hard at 110 IBUs and 10.8% ABV. If that was a session beer, it would be for a very short session! Speaking of fresh, this beer was released less than a month ago. The nose hits with heavy hops but with a surprising bready note, and somehow a hint like cinnamon. My palette is tough enough to handle this, finding rich, piney hops and a complex, mouth-filling brew. After a few gulps a malt core emerges and also a nice caramel. I really didn’t get this with just an ounce or two tasting, but it became clear as I worked on a full glass. Sometimes a tasting registers as “complex” without all the details.

2014_StchPrjct_Quadro_BottleIf I wanted a complex, mouth-filling brew–and I love them–the final entry in the tasting is one that you can practically chew: Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale. [Hmm...do you think there are any Star Trek fans in Stone's house?] Stone has visited Belgium and conquered the place. As you might gather from the name, this is a Quad, delivering 9.3% ABV and 40 IBUs, hoppier than the Trappist version. It’s super malty with a lot of yeast and only a hint of the classic dried fruit sweetness. There was something spicey going on that I couldn’t quite place, and John told me that this comes from rye as well as the triticale. By the way, Josh gave us a challenge to pronounce the name, and I failed miserably, showing that my brief fling as a physics major did not take.

All in all, a most satisfactory tasting which did require a taste for hops, though much less so than expected from Stone, especially the Saison. I also have to say that the richness of the malt muted the hops of the Quadrotriticale making it approachable for anyone who loves a Belgian.
http://www.stonebrew.com/ @StoneBrewingCo

I followed up the tasting, crossing the continent from San Diego to Maryland, going to a Flying Dog Single Hop Double IPA. I confess that I don’t know which one; I think they ran out of room on the blackboard and I didn’t know to ask. I could claim that this was because of the 10% ABV, but the reality is simple ignorance. My palette is not yet educated enough to distinguish among Citra, Amarillo, and El Dorado hops. In any case, this was super hoppy with a big head fading moderately leaving a coating and a big collar. It gave malt and caramel, starting sweet and turning dry as the herbal hops arrive. Hmm . . . herbal . . . probably not citra. Good stuff.
http://flyingdogbrewery.com/ @flyingdog

Images courtesy of Stone Brewing Company
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Welcome to the Club!

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to try so many excellent and interesting brews, but I’m far luckier to have good family and good friends . . . and they spoil me. One of many acts of generosity was the gift of a beer of the month club subscription, actually two such gifts running back to back. [I told you they spoil me!] I’ll be reporting on these over the next six months. The first shipment was a great start, all new to me and all keepers!

Rodenbach

rodenbach2

This is a Flemish red ale from Brouwerij Rodenbach. The label states “aged in oak vats” and specifies “75% ‘young’ ale, 25% ale matured for two years.” The brewing process features lactobacillus bacteria as well as yeast. That’s a different approach in my limited experience.
Pours as a dark reddish amber with a mild head and a collar that leaves faint lacing on the glass. The nose surprised me with a strong but pleasant sour note, hard to place, and then a trace of vanilla opening into more complexity as the temperature rises. On the tongue, the first impression is the same sourness, still hard to place, with maltiness coming in and hints of apple. All of a sudden it came to me, that sourness was like a good fruit vinegar on a salad. OK, OK, the beer isn’t like a salad! Then a toastiness creeps in, and I realize there’s a backbone of oak to this brew, similar to an oaked chardonnay. On the finish, the sourness drifts toward tart apple and lingers there. This is very smooth, and wine-like in mouth feel, but you would never want a wine this sour! As a beer, and with food, this works well, but you have to have a taste for sour ale.

Standing Wave Pale Ale

Pours medium amber with a head like a lemon meringue pie. The head persists, laces the glass, and then remains as a ring. The hops hit the nose right away, strongly, on the citrus side with a woodsy note, followed by caramel. They continue to predominate on the palette over a malty, toffee body and more citrus. Hops remain dominant through a long finish like a strong IPA rather than a pale ale. This went very well with Jarlsberg on crackers and with horseradish cheddar.

Konig Pilsener

Pours a crystal clear straw color with a generous bright white head (a little too generous for my pouring skills, though I kept it in the glass). Very light and crisp with a citrus hint, an herbal touch like a sauvignon blanc, then a gentle pool of malted grain, and a faintly metallic touch of hops on the end. There’s a buttery sensation in the mouth feel with a mild but distinct yeasty lager bite; those who favor ales may find this harder to approach. This is a German pilsener/pilsner dating to 1911, from a brewery dating back to 1858. In a craft beer world where ten years is established and twenty years is the Old Guard, the real long timers give a touch of humility. Nice summery quaff, easy to pair with food though too light for BBQ.

Mustang Route 66 American Lager

mustang3

You don’t find me drinking many straight lagers, as opposed to Belgian and Pilsner lagers, but I like this one. Normal amber in the glass with no head and almost no foam, leaving a small ring of bubbles around the glass. The first touch on the nose is herbal, resolving into caramel and then walking into a bakery. On the palate it’s primarily malty, again with caramel, and more sweetness than I’m used to in a lager. Very little hops at first and then a touch on the end with a persistent caramel finish. I think this is my favorite lager so far this year.
Mustang is a resilient company, and it had to be. No sooner had they purchased their first brewhouse, than an Oklahoma twister blew it away, lock, stock, and nearly-mature beer. That was just a year ago, but their new brewhouse is up and running, and this bottle tells me that it’s running well.

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