January 27, 2011

Old Stock Ale (bottle #2)

Sometime in March of last year I picked up a 4-pack of North Coast Old Stock Ale, 2009 batch. This beer is intended to be aged. I opened on bottle over the summer, figuring it to be about a year old at that point. It was a little harsh and relatively unbalanced, and the bitterness and alcohol bite only seemed to get stronger and rather unpleasant as it warmed up. I don't think I finished it. Obviously, I did this to see what the beer is like at an early age.

Last night I opened my second bottle and the results were noticeably different. It's more balanced, sweeter, with a nice earthy woodiness, a little caramel, maybe some cocoa and vanilla. Still has a bit of the alcohol bite like the first bottle. I'm thinking the third bottle will get opened another year or 18 months from now. I could probably buy another vintage to see it ages and even how the different years compare to each other... but I'm not sure I want to make my beer drinking so complicated.
Old Stock Ale

Theobroma

Theobroma is part of Dogfish Head's 'Ancient Ales' series. The recipe is based on chemical analysis of Honduran pottery dating back to 1200 BC. The original drink was the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink and one of the earliest examples of cocoa used for human consumption. This modern version is brewed with cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, honey, ancho chilies, and annatto seeds. As far as the chocolate thing goes, I really didn't get it. When the beer warmed up a bit I did taste a little bitterness that reminded me of dark chocolate, but I never detected any actual chocolate flavor. You could definitely taste the chilies though. The beer was pretty refreshing though. Prickly carbonation, pretty light body, a nice sweetness from the honey and a little bite from the chilies. Finished the entire bottle in about 20 minutes. Maybe I was just thirsty.
Theobroma

January 24, 2011

Avery & Great Divide

I had a couple beers yesterday while watching football. First up, Avery Dépuceleuse. Brewed with sour cherries, brettanomyces yeast, and aged in zinfandel barrels. Tart, sour cherry flavor is right up front, but with some other fruit flavors in there too like grape and apple. Fairly light body. Sharp carbonation on the tongue. The ABV is 9.5% but it's hidden pretty well. I questioned whether it was actually that strong though, because I drank it on an empty stomach and didn't feel a thing. Pretty good overall.
Depuceleuse
Next, Great Divide 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA. Aroma is all hops and smoky wood. The oak is a bit stronger than the hops in terms of flavor, but overall the beer was very well balanced. Definitely not implying there was too much oak. A little on the heaver side and not as crisp or refreshing as other double IPA's. I got more fruit and citrus flavor as it warmed up. Very smooth and drinkable. I found myself taking pretty large gulps of it. The 10% ABV is hidden in the flavor but pretty obvious once the 22 oz are sitting in your belly. Nice double IPA for cold weather.
Great Divide 16th Anniversary

January 19, 2011

Tasting Room at The Bruery

I just got back from a work trip in Anaheim, but I won't bore you with that crap. The good part of the trip was Saturday night when Marc, Rhett, and I went to The Bruery. The tasting room is at the back of the brewery itself, separated from the main brewing equipment by a row of fermenters. There were stacks of oak casks lining the walls, a handful of tables scattered around, a small 6-seat bar, and behind it 14 tap handles. At our end of the bar there were glasses filled with barley, rye, whole leaf hops, and oak chips.

the hops

dark roasted barley on the left, rye on the right

Lucky for us, there were 3 seats open at the bar, so we sat down and went straight for the beer. Marc and Rhett started with flights while I kicked things off with a glass of 7 Grain Saison (brewed with barley, oats, rice, wheat, corn, rye, and spelt). Low on ABV, a little hoppy, refreshing, but no where near the caliber of Saison Rue or Saison de Lente, or any other saison I could think of for that matter.

7 Grain Saison

After getting their first few tastes, Marc and Rhett said the beer was awesome and that they were really glad they came. I would have gone by myself if it had come down to it, but I was really glad I had some company. Next, I started a flight of my own; Orchard White, Saison de Lente, 3 French Hens, and Old Richland. Orchard White was good, but not what I was in the mood for I guess, and I finished it fast so I could move on. Saison de Lente kills 7 Grain Saison, but I wouldn't compare it to Saison Rue. It's a much lighter, different beer. Saison de Lente smells good, tastes awesome, and is very refreshing. I'd had 3 French Hens before but what the hell, it's so damn good how could I resist another taste?

Finally, Old Richland. I believe you can only get this at The Bruery itself. Old Richland is an American Barleywine dry hopped with Sterling, Centennial, and Simcoe... twice! It smells like liquid hops in your face, and it tastes amazing. At 9% ABV, you will feel it, especially if it's not your first, as was the case with me.

my glass of Old Richland

When Rhett finished his flight, he decided to stop, and just take sips of anything he hadn't had that Marc and I got afterwards. I can't remember what Marc finished with, but I went with a glass of Mischief (still my absolute favorite brew of theirs). After closing our tab, we talked with the bartender while munching on sliced steak and garlic fries with chimichurri sauce and chipotle shrimp tacos from the roach coach parked conveniently outside. Just before the tasting room closed (10pm), the bartender gave us a taste of Oude Tart, a Flemish-style sour red ale. Rhett liked the aroma but wasn't sure he liked the taste or not. Marc took a couple sips, but I downed most of it. I've become a huge fan or funky, tart, or sour beers. Oude Tart rocks. I forgot that I've actually had this before, at Brewvival 2010. I hope they have it again this year.

Visiting The Bruery will definitely become a tradition when we're in Anaheim for the NAMM show. It's a bit further away, but maybe next year we'll have time to visit Stone too.

Marc (left), Rhett (center), me

January 10, 2011

Wild Dog Coffee Stout, Batch 2

A great coffee stout from Flying Dog brewed with a special roast from Black Dog Coffee company. A little chocolate, a little vanilla, nice coffee flavor and definitely on the mellower, sweeter side rather than strong and bitter. Creamy. Good, simple flavors. Very delicious. It was a nice afternoon snack while watching football. I also recommend Great Divide's Espresso Oak Aged Yeti.

Devil Dancer

Here is Founders Brewing Company's ass-kicking triple IPA.

Heavy on the hops. 112 IBU's. Dry hopped for almost a month with 10 different varieties. Thick and almost syrupy in texture. I recommend drinking it by itself, like after work but before dinner. This will make your taste buds go so crazy you won't be able to handle anything else, and I mean that in a good way!

January 9, 2011

Bashah

A collaboration from BrewDog and Stone. How could it not be awesome? They call it a "Black Belgian Style India Pale Ale". I actually drank this almost a year ago (January 30, 2010) but I never posted about it. I was going through my photos and decided better late than never. It's post worthy because I know it was super tasty.

January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's a new year and the holiday season is over, but not without a good amount of superb beer having been consumed. The day after Christmas, my friend Robin at Good For The Palate hosted an evening party filled with food and drink. To start things off, I opened a bottle of The Bruery's Rugbrød, a dark, Danish-style rye ale ('rugbrød' apparently means 'rye bread' in Danish). Pours brown with a hint of red, kind of a dark auburn I guess, with a very thick head that almost makes you feel like you're about to take a bite of a tasty piece of bread. Creamy texture. Spicy notes, fig and prune, a little earthy, nutty, with just a touch of that rye bitterness. Huge fan of rye beers and this one did not disappoint!

Rugbrød

Next up was Robin's bottle of Allagash Odyssey, a very dark ale aged in oak barrels. I had Odyssey once before, at the 2010 Charleston Brewvival, and I had it in my head (without looking at the bottle first) that it was a stout. It's not, but you could easily be fooled by the thick body, heavy lacing, and extra dark brown, almost black color. The oak aging is obvious even as you pour, and when you take a sip there is a nice oaky flavor and a burst of alcohol, though it's not overpowering. A little coffee and cooked brown sugar, and with more vanilla and sweetness as it warms. It was snowing the night of the party, so I decided to take the shot of this one outside.

Odyssey

Like I have done with books in the past, sometimes I buy something based on first appearance. I love the artwork on the bottle of Tilted Smile, part of Uinta Brewing Company's 'Crooked Line' of beers. At this point I was starting to feel the effects of the alcohol, and I didn't make many mental notes of this beer. It was good, but that's about it. Nothing memorable, but very drinkable and a nice break from the two heavier beers I'd had earlier in the evening. Crisp, with a light hop flavor. Is it just me or does the 'Imperial Pilsner' beer style seem to just be a pilsner recipe with pilsner or medium malts and extra hops, almost a combination of a pilsner and a light IPA? Not that I'm complaining... I love Dogfish Head's My Antonia (more on that later).

Tilted Smile

New Years Eve. I stayed in this year. I'm 27 years old now and although I still love a night out at the bar or a rowdy party now and then, I did not want to deal with 'the crazies'. My dad calls New Year's 'amateur night'. It's true. People who don't even drink that often to begin with come out in droves and drink more than they should even if they were staying at home and not endangering anyone. I do not like being in that kind of mess.

First up was The Bruery's 3 French Hens. It is 75% Belgian-style dark ale blended with 25% (I'm assuming of the same batch) aged in French oak. Pours a fairly clean brown with a small head that thins quickly but continues to play around on the surface. Very much Belgian on the nose and palate. Strong, complex aromas and flavors, but very well balanced. Bready, yeasty, dark fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, a little vanilla, figs, caramel... yum.

3 French Hens

Second in line was Baltimore brewer Brian 'Stillwater' Strumke's Belgium-brewed import beer, 'of Love & Regret'. First off, the carbonation is lively, suds pouring out as soon as I popped the top. I set the beer in my goblet and let the suds slowly drip down and settle so I wouldn't lose too much beer (nice trick by the way). Love & Regret is another saison style from Stillwater, this time brewed with beermaster Jef Goetelen in Beerzel (Antwerp), Belgium. This is Brian's 'spring' beer, and he incorporated several botanical elements into the brew; heather, chamomile, lavender, and dandelion. The result is a lightly funky, earthy, and refreshing beer with aromas and flavors to match. It really is what Brian intended it to be, a "liquid interpretation of the spring season... like a fresh meadow in spring." Absolutely delicious.

of Love & Regret

We also had a bottle of Dieu du Ciel Dernière Volonté (no photo, sorry!). Cloudy golden color with a nice white head. Sweet lemon and spice on the nose. Has a great, funky flavor, with lemon, grapefruit, pear. Light, citrus hop flavor, not so much pine. Robin stopped by on New Years and had some of this with me and she really liked it. I did too, so I'll probably get another bottle (it was only $4.99 at Dawson's) and have another round (this time with a proper photo).

So, now that 2010 is over, I wanted to throw out my picks for the best beers I had over the 12 months. I've had so many that it's hard to choose. I've documented dozens through BEERsimple but there are dozens more that aren't mentioned here (I have a notebook with a bunch of scribble, sometimes just the name of a beer, sometimes with tasting notes, and sometimes even with the label torn from the bottle).

In no particular order...

De Dochter van de Korenaar L'enfant Terrible - This beer made me fall in love with funky, sour beers.

Bell's 2 Hearted Ale & Founders Red's RyePA - Both of these beers I had for the first time while visiting Michelle in Michigan (Bell's and Founders are both Michigan breweries). My first taste of 2 Hearted was from a hand pump at Slow's BBQ in Detroit. Michelle and I split a 6-pack of RyePA while watching movies one night on the couch. 2 Hearted may actually have topped 60 Minute IPA and Green Flash West Coast IPA as my favorite hoppy beers, but unfortunately I can't get it in MD. Absence makes the heart grow fonder I suppose. Not only are these beers awesome, but they will always remind me of my summer with Michelle.

Brooklyn Detonation Ale - One of the most powerfully flavored/hopped beers I've ever tasted. My favorite from my first trip to ChurchKey.

Dogfish Head Bitches Brew & My Antonia - I have never been a fan of World Wide Stout of Chicory Stout, so I was overjoyed when Dogfish released Bitches Brew and not only is it (in my opinion) worlds better than their other stouts, but it was one of the most delicious, smooth, and chocolately stouts I've ever had. My Antonia is a collaborative effort between Sam Calagione and Birra del Borgo in Italy. In a process that is fast becoming tradition, each company used the same recipe to brew their own version. I haven't had the Italian version, but Dogfish's version is a delicious 'Imperial Pilsner' brewed with (no surprise here) pilsner malt, but continually hopped with Noble and West Coast hops. The first time I had a glass, it was with Sam Calagione himself at a private event at RFD in Washington, DC.

Oliver Ales 3 Lions - Another local beer, native to Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore. I was disappointed when my favorite local beer bar, Heroes, stopped carrying Brewer's Art's Pale Ale and soon after, Resurrection (actually it may not have been their fault; I don't know the story). Fortunately, Heroes started serving 3 Lions, a delicious strong brown ale.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast - click here to see previous post

Honorable mention... Stone Vertical Epic 10.10.10

My next three picks are breweries and not specific beers; Nøgne Ø, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, The Bruery. These guys represent what I would want in terms of success as a brewery, if I were a brewer myself. All the beers I've had from all three brewers are insanely delicious, have a ton of flavor, are well balanced, and are also beautifully packaged. I recommend anything they have to offer. I've had the pleasure of enjoying the following from each:
Nøgne Ø: Batch #100, Brown Ale (favorite), Imperial Stout, India Pale Ale, Saison, Two Captains
Stillwater: Stateside Saison, Cellar Door (tie with Existent), Autumnal, Existent, of Love & Regret, A Saison Darkly
The Bruery: Saison Rue, Saison de Lente, Mischief (favorite), Rugbrød, 2 Turtle Doves, 3 French Hens