December 28, 2009

BrewDog Riptide

This is the second imperial stout I've had, ever (first was Stone Russian Imperial Stout, which I had about a year ago and loved). Crafted by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Scotland, the Riptide "twisted merciless stout" won World's Best Imperial Stout at the 2007 World Beer Awards.

Pours very dark brown, essentially black with a hint of burgundy if you hold it up to the light, with a creamy tan head. Dark roasted malts produce notes of coffee, espresso, and dark chocolate in both aroma and flavor. This beer is smooth and silky, and surprisingly light (it is not heavy as most people would assume). The 8% ABV is noticeable in the aroma but not overpowering in the flavor. As the beer warms up, the flavors become even stronger. The best part of this beer is the finish - warm and smooth, with the lingering taste of dark chocolate... really good, bitter dark chocolate. A delicious brew!

December 23, 2009

Solstice d'hiver (and special guest)

From Brasserie Dieu de Ceil in Quebec, Canada. An American-style Barleywine with 9.8% ABV. This beer has a lot going on. It pours a deep, reddish-brown with a small tan head. It's consistency is viscous and syrupy, like watered-down molasses. It's initially sweet, with a delicious roasted malt flavor, and finishes bitter and dry. There are hints of dried fruit, like raisin, prune, and fig. The bitterness comes not only from the hops but from the roasted coffee bean flavor. The alcohol is well hidden, with a very pleasant warming sensation at the back of the throat, great for sipping on a cold night.

I've also had the Peche Mortel, which I really enjoyed and intend to try again so I can post my thoughts...

On a side note, my girlfriend is having an Anchor Steam 2009 Christmas Ale, which I am stealing sips of. I know it can be aged, but it is very interesting fresh as well. It is spicy, with a chai flavor to it, and an aroma that reminds me of pumpkin pie. It is a deep blood red color with a thick, creamy tan head. I should pick up a 6-pack and drink a bottle every few months and see how the flavors change...

December 22, 2009

Oro de Calabaza

I had a little fun with this beer, and by fun I mean I had to clean up after it, and by clean up after it I mean I had to clean up the beer (no, I did not have to clean myself up as a result of drinking the beer). Anyway, here's the Oro de Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan. It comes in 750 mL bottles and is a Belgian-style golden ale, aged in oak barrels and bottle conditioned. My bottle had an extra, homemade white sticker on it that said "Batch 292". Oro de Calabaza was a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winner 2004 and Bronze Medal Winner 2005 in the Belgian & French Ale category.

I pulled the beer out of my refrigerator and set it on the counter. Then, I walked into the other room to grab my girlfriend's camera (because it's better than mine). I came back, took a few test shots, then set the camera down and proceeded to open the beer. Surprise! Foam explosion! Needless to say, this beer has a ton of carbonation, and left a nice, fizzy, beer mess all over my countertop...

Fast forward through the cleaning process, and I'm pouring the beer into a goblet. The color is a deep, pale yellow, and hazy. It has a huge, thick, bubbly head that subsides to a thin ring around the edge of the glass that doesn't leave much lacing but follows you all the way to the end. Pinhead sized bubbles are constant. Thanks to all the carbonation, there is a very refreshing, tingly mouthfeel. There is a light to moderate hop flavor, with a lot of peppery spiciness going on, in addition to lemon. Despite the oak aging it has only a subtle woody flavor, and wasn't nearly noticeable as it is in say, Oaked Arrogant Bastard. The woody flavor is light and not something that should scare off any drinkers who normally avoid that sort of thing.

I was worried that the beer was bad when it exploded, but I didn't pick up any weird flavors. It does have wild yeast, which could explain the extra foam and carbonation. This isn't my typical beer, so I think I was actually able to pick out the flavors a little more easily (as opposed to the subtle differences between two IPA's for example... my palate is still learning).

December 19, 2009

Green Flash Imperial IPA

If you like hops, this is a great place to find it. Brewed by Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, CA, this Imperial IPA is a hop-laden juggernaut, with 101 IBU's and 9.4% ABV. It uses Summit and Nugget hops to achieve its terrific hop flavor. I have only found it in 22 oz bombers.

Green Flash Imperial IPA pours a light golden-amber color, with a small white head. It has a very earthy aroma, with a hint of pine. It is a very refreshing beer, offering a variety of tastes from its mossy, citrusy start, smooth honey-like body, to its pleasantly bitter aftertaste. I'd been meaning to try this beer since I saw it at Dawson's over the summer, but I didn't pick one up until now. Even though I very much enjoyed the beer, it is not really a good choice for cold seasons. I imagine taking massive gulps of this beer while picking steamed blue crabs in the summertime.

Although Green Flash Imperial IPA is easy to drink, the alcohol flavor is masked well and it's 9.4% ABV will sneak up on you. Like I said before, if you like hops, this is a great place to find it, and in my opinion it's one of the better big IPA's I've had. As far as Green Flash goes though, I still enjoy the West Coast IPA much more, simply because it comes in regular sized bottles, is a little less potent, and has a much drier finish which I really prefer. I'll probably review that one when summer rolls around...

December 17, 2009

Tactical Nuclear Penguin

Tactical Nuclear Penguin is the world's strongest beer, or so BrewDog Brewery says. I believe them. Other sources say that Sam Adams Utopias is the strongest, but maybe not everyone knows about TNP yet. Originating in Fraserburgh, Scotland, this massive brew was matured for 18 months in oak casks before spending 21 days in an ice cream factory at -20° Celsius. This allowed the brewers to remove much of the water content of the beer and increase the ABV to a crushing 32%. Yikes! Don't worry though, TFP is meant to be served in small, "spirit sized measures", and it even says so on the bottle. Oh, and do I even need to mention how awesome the name is?

BrewDog managing director James Watt says the beer is about pushing boundaries, taking innovation in beer to a new level. One disbeliever called it a marketing ploy and questioned whey a brewer would produce a beer almost as strong as a whiskey. Here's a good question: Why not? If a distillery can make a spirit that is strong in alcohol content, meant to be mixed, watered down, or served straight up in a small portion, why can't beer? Some people need to learn to be open minded, or else keep their mouths shut.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin is limited to 500 bottles, half going on sale for £30 (about $48) and the rest going for £250 (a little over $400) with a share of the company included. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll have a chance to try this brew, but the effort these guys put into to it and the story behind it is pretty cool. Check out this entertaining (and informative) promotional video that BrewDog put together for Tactical Nuclear Penguin. These guys look like they have a lot of fun brewing their beer.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog on Vimeo.

December 16, 2009

Maredsous Tripel

Here's another beer that I picked up at The Wine Source. This is the Maredsous Tripel, brewed by Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Belgium. I got mine in a 4-pack of bottles, but it also comes in 750mL bottles. The name is licensed to Duvel by the monks of Maredsous Abbey. I did some brief research but couldn't figure out whether the abbey ever actually brewed this beer on its premises. I think Duvel may simply have wanted a real monastery whose name they could use in order to create a line of "authentic" abbey ales. On the other hand, now that I think about it, Maredsous must have brewed its own beer at some point, because if there weren't some old recipes lying around for Duvel to follow, how could they ever claim them as authentic? Duvel definitely lent at least one thing to the Maredsous line, most noticeably the same short, wavy-necked bottles it uses for its signature golden ale.

Obviously, the Maredsous Tripel is a strong beer, at 10% ABV. When poured, the color is orange/amber, with some clarity, but not completely transparent. The head is light tan and very bubbly. The froth isn't consistent though. It's got lots of tiny bubbles mixed with huge ones that make it appear almost dough-like, or like whipped cream partially melted in coffee. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the head before it subsided, but maybe I'll snap one later on. The head dissipated quickly, but left thick lacing in the glass after each gulp.

The aroma is floral and fruity, as you'd expect from a Tripel. The flavors I picked out varied a bit as I went along. At first, there was a slight bitterness, more in the aftertaste, like banana or cherry, but after a few sips hints of orange, apricot, and honey came out. There was also a spice note in there, prominent but smooth and complimentary, although I couldn't put my finger on the specific flavor. It may have been cinnamon or nutmeg. I've read some other reviews that said the alcohol flavor was too strong, but it didn't bother me. Of course, it could be that the alcohol wasn't noticeable to me because I had a Sierra Nevada and a Monk's Blood beforehand. Either way, it definitely wasn't something I found bothersome even in the least. The overall taste is very smooth and refreshing. I didn't have any food with it, but I imagine pairing it with lamb or pork shank, spicy sausage, or a medium-bodied stew.

I decided to try the Tripel because I'd had the Maredsous Brune (brown ale) at Brasserie Beck in D.C. and absolutely loved it. I promise I'll review the Brune and get some pictures sometime in the future. Anyway, the Tripel is a pretty good brew but nothing about it really stands out. It's not bad, but not memorable. Don't get me wrong though, it's still a very drinkable beer, and affordable too. A 4-pack of 12 oz bottles is still the same price, or possibly cheaper than many 750mL bottles of "better" ales, depending on what you drink. If you're having guests over that enjoy something more than just the average beer, or if you simply prefer the option to stop at 12 oz rather than committing to 22, then a 4-pack of Maredsous Tripel is something you'll want to pick up at least once.

On an additional note, I had another one the next day, dead sober, and the alcohol is not overpowering at all, so if you read other reviews that say it is, take it with a grain of salt. The alcohol flavor and aroma is more apparent as the beer warms up, so if you take an hour to drink 12 oz of beer, then you may have a problem, but if you take 25 minutes or less to enjoy a single bottle, then you'll be okay.

December 15, 2009

Monk's Blood

The first of my recent purchases that I tried is Monk's Blood, brewed by 21st Amendment Brewing in San Francisco. Founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O'Sullivan spent time traveling to Belgian breweries in order to develop the recipe for this fine brew. The result is an Abbey-style ale that pays homage to the monks of Belgian monasteries who, during times of fasting, subsist entirely on "liquid bread", a.k.a. beer. Monk's Blood features a unique mix of malts along with Magnum and Centennial bittering hops, Amarillo flavoring hops, and Abbey ale yeast. Special ingredients include dark Belgian sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and dried figs. The final brew is aged in oak, has 34 IBU's, and is 8.3% ABV.

Part of 21st Amendment's "Insurrection Series", Monk's Blood comes in uniquely designed, sealed box of 4 cans. The cans themselves are jet black with white and red lettering. I had heard of 21st Amendment Brewing before but never tried anything from them. Aside from simply wanting to try one of their beers, my attention was grabbed by the unique packaging and also its name, which reminded me of Devil's Milk from DuClaw Brewing.

Monk's Blood pours a deep mahogany color with a hint of red. It is medium-bodied, with a smooth, creamy texture and light hazel colored head that dissipates quickly. The taste of the figs and raisins is immediately noticeable. Although strong in alcohol content, the alcohol flavor is not overbearing, and instead adds to the overall taste rather than standing out or detracting from it. The aroma is sweet and fruity, and the oak aging is obvious, although it reveals itself as a slightly nutty aftertaste rather than a full on flavor. Overall, Monk's Blood was sweeter and less bitter than I expected, but then again, it's not a typical Abbey ale. It's a great beer, complex yet easy to drink, with stronger hints of spice uncommon in its more traditional counterparts.

December 14, 2009

Recently acquired

Last Friday, Robin and I spent part of the day doing some Christmas shopping on the Avenue (36th Street) in Hampden (Baltimore, MD). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything for anyone I actually needed to shop for. Bummer. On the bright side, being in Hampden did give us the opportunity to stop at The Wine Source on Elm Street just off the Avenue. The store name is a bit misleading because in addition to their large and rather unique wine selection, they also have hundreds of craft, foreign and micro brews, a large selection of spirits including uncommon and small batch varieties, and even a dedicated sake section. Obviously, my beverage of choice is beer, so with a little help from Robin I picked out 7 brews that I've never had before. I would have taken more time to look through the seemingly endless racks of beer, but we only had 18 minutes left on our parking slip.

Here's what we got:
  • Green Flash Imperial IPA
  • 21st Amendment Monk's Blood
  • Maredsous Abbey Tripel
  • Aventinus Weizen Eisbock
  • Aventinus Dopplebock
  • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Golden Ale
  • Brasserie Dieu du Ceil Solstice d'hiver

Photos and reviews to follow...