Monday, March 18, 2013

The Lost Abbey - Saint's Devotion

The craft beer movement has been full of innovation: brewing techniques, barrel-aging practices and revisiting ancient recipes along with development of exciting new taste profiles (Black and White IPAs). This endless pursuit to keep innovating has lead brewmasters down an interesting path, inoculating their products with the wild yeast strain, Brettanomyces. 
Tomme Arthur, brewmaster of Lost Abbey has been at the forefront of this movement. His latest offering, Saint's Devotion, a Belgian Blonde Ale with "brett" pours a hazy-golden yellow with orange highlights. A light, airy head billows then dissipates, leaving excellent lacing around the entire glass. 
The aroma is full of pale malts with fruit sweetness. The sweetness conjures images of apple, pear and pineapples. The "brett" character presents as a musty, barnyard funk which works well against the fruitiness. 
The fruitiness that was present in the aroma takes a back seat as the "brett" took a commanding role in the taste profile. The barnyard funk in the aroma is complimented by an herbal earthiness that is accentuated by a high level of carbonation. The finish contains a slight acidic quality that is very dry and pleasant. 
A great balanced "brett" beer; gave it a try!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Founders Brewing Company - Imperial Stout

There are a number of craft breweries that produce a collection stouts (Dark HorseCigar CityBells Brewery), but few rival those being offered by Founders Brewing Company. Their collection of stout is comprised of the obtainable Breakfast Stout and Imperial Stout and the ultra elusive Kentucky Breakfast Stout (aged in oak bourbon barrel) and Canadian Breakfast Stout (aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels). With the Imperial Stout hitting shelves over the past couple of weeks, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try a product within my favorite beer style.
Founders Imperial Stout pours a beautiful, opaque black with no noticeable carbonation both in the beer's body and head. The head that did form was small, slick and wispy leaving quickly following the pour. When held to the light the beer had no ruby hues hugging the glass.
The aroma contained no delectable hop presence. It was comprised of dark chocolate that intensified as the beer warmed. Complimenting this chocolate component was a sweetness that reminded me of molasses. The striking, somewhat unexpected quality of the aroma, booziness, was more powerful than I have experienced in other American versions of Russian Imperial Stout.
This stout contained a very forceful tasting profile. Although forceful, the taste of this stout had a beer-lover's complexity. The initial phase of the taste is a washing of dark chocolate and roasted malts. The hops that were undetectable in the aroma provide a popping hop-bite finish during the second wave of the tasting profile. The combination of malts and hops bring out a subtle tobacco/smokey quality that worked very well with the other ingredients. The finish was very fulfilling because each ingredient was identifiable and lingered on the palate activating multiple sensory receptors.
At 10.5%ABV, this stout is pushing stylistic guidelines, but the alcohol apparent in the aroma is not as prominent as in the tasting. With many malts used to create this beer, the mouthfeel is silky and velvety with just the right amount of chewiness. Enjoy this stout as an after supper dessert, but sip patiently and the beer will open up allowing the flavors to balance appropriately. For the stout lovers, Founders Imperial Stout is a must try; Seek and Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Narragansett Brewing Company - Narragansett Porter

HI - Neighbor! Well, not really, but for those who are checking out the blog, thanks. Hi-Neighbor is the famous slogan of The Narragansett Brewing Company originally founded in 1888 with their first beer being produced in 1890. The brewery stayed in business until 1981, when upgrades to the aging structure fell through. Luckily, Mark Hellendrung's nostalgic empathy for the beer that symbolized Rhode Island for almost a century, created a movement to bring back their classic portfolio. In 2005, Mr. Hellendrung was successful and brewing begin anew with former brewmaster Bill Anderson at the helm.
Brewmaster Anderson has re-created four seasonal products, FestBockSummer Ale and today's beer, Porter. This offering pours very dark brown allowing very little light to penetrate through its body. The head of this beer is very, very light by composed of extra-large bubbles and reaches three-fingers in height. There was very little head retention, however, as I consumed this beer, nice lacing stuck to the sides of the glass.
The smell of this beer contained three aromatics. Ganasett Porter had a slightly roasted aroma provided by the dark malt. To compliment this roast character, light coffee notes and hints of dark chocolate waft from the glass. The website has the IBU's listed at 28 but I didn't detect any hint of bitterness through the aroma.
The taste had a distinct minerality reminiscent of a brown porter from England. It's possible that Brewmaster Anderson altered the water chemistry of Rhode Island water to mimic the "hard" water of England, but most likely this flavor component is the combination of in-state water and the selected grains for the grain bill. The taste lacked the coffee notes and roast that were present in the aroma, but the dark chocolate character found in the aroma carried over slightly into the flavor. Drinkable yes, flavorful, not so much.
The mouthfeel of this porter was very light, bordering on watery. The carbonation level of this porter was elevated for the style, but after warming, large bubbles receded into much smaller bubbles adding a touch of silkiness. At 7%ABV, this porter, with its light body is quite drinkable. This drinkability is raised with its 1.50$ price tag and the fact that it is canned.

Congratulations to Mr. Hellendrung to resurrecting a classic New England brewery. Good luck to him and his team for whatever the future may hold,


Monday, January 14, 2013

Great Lakes Brewing Company - Dortmunder Gold

The Midwest is full of great breweries: Bell's, Three Floyd's, Boulevard and the producer of tonight's beer, Great Lakes Brewing Company. Great Lakes has a vast portfolio of ales, lagers and cult offerings, but the beer that some argue that allowed the brewery to rise to prominence in the craft beer community is their Dortmunder Gold.
This Dortmunder Export pours a golden-copper color with very light and wispy head. The head retention is quite good with the one-finger width lasting an impressive length of time. When holding the glass up to the light their is a noticeable carbonation rising within the body. The body has impeccable clarity, its leading visual characteristic.
The aroma is comprised of two distinct qualities. First, there is an initial burst of malt sweetness. As the beer warmed, the sweetness settled creating a very balanced aroma with the second component. The second component, light-earthy hop presence, conjures up images of the rural backyard of my childhood home. Together, these aromas create a pleasant smell.
The taste profile mirrors the aroma. The sweetness from the malt coats the palate without any noticeable  cloying-residual sugars. This sweetness lingers, almost to long, but transitions to a herbal, earthy bitterness to balance the sweetness nicely.
At 5.8% ABV, this export lager is at the high end of alcohol content according the the Beer Judge Certified Program guidelines. I DON'T CARE! This lager is extremely smooth and very crisp making it perfect for new craft beer drinkers or for the seasoned aficionado looking for an award-winning and flawless lager.


Monday, January 7, 2013

St. Peter's Brewery Co. Ltd. - Old-Style Porter

Hello! Happy New Year Everyone! I am really looking forward to what 2013 has in store for the craft beer community: new beer releases, collaborations, growth and my own personal homebrewing endeavors.
Lately, I have been re-tracing my roots in craft beer, English ales, so I decided to begin 2013 with a classic English Brewery, St. Peter's and their Old-Style Porter.
This English Porter pours a deep-beautiful mahogany with a light, one-finger head. The head retention was quite weak leaving only wisps across the surface of the beer. When held up to the light, the beer is translucent, which was somewhat surprising. After doing some research on St. Peter's website, I found out this porter "blend of a mature Old Ale and a younger light beer – just as a true Porter should be. The marriage produces an extremely characterful brew which is dark in color..."This old ale component of this porter is probably why the beer allows light penetration.
The aroma of this beer is clean and uncomplicated. It contains an abundance of malty sweetness, most likely from the old ale component of the blend. This malt sweetness is balanced nicely with subtle roast and coffee notes. I was unable to detect a hop presence in the aroma. I think this is due to use of English hops, which can impart earthy notes that blend well with English style grain bill somewhat masking their presence. 
The taste is very similar to the aroma. A burst of malt sweetness instantly coats the palate. Once this sweetness fades, both bready and bitter coffee notes balance the taste. During my initial sips, there was no hop character, but as the beer warmed, the hops entered the taste profile creating a "full" beer. Also, the warmer temperature allowed the old ale component to really shine and dominate the flavor profile with notes of caramel. I can only imagine how good this beer would be on cask!
When this beer was served cold, the mouthfeel was thin and watery, but as it warmed it became more luscious and velvety increasing my overall perception of the beer. At 5.1% ABV, the sessionability of this beer is immense. I could easily see myself ordering this beer on cask in dark, traditional English pub or at a local beer bar for imbibing happiness. If you are looking for straight forward, uncomplicated, enjoyable porter then this may be right for you.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Favorite Beers of 2012

With the 2013 fast approaching, here is a list of my favorite beers from 2012. 

Heady Topper - The Alchemist 

John Kimmich, The Alchemist, has a created a truly spectacular Imperial IPA. Heady Topper provides blast of bright tropical fruits: pineapples, mangos and oranges that provide a taste unlike any other bitter beer that I have tried. With just enough malt to maintain some ideals of balance, Heady Topper drinks almost like fruit juice, which could be quite devilish at its 8%ABV. For all the hopheads out there, this beer rivals Pliny the ElderHopslam and many of the unbelievably hoppy beers brewed by the Alpine Beer Company

Mycernary - Odell's Brewing Company

 The aroma of the Myrcenary is amazing. It is bright, rich, citrusy, and mildly dank. The clarity of this Imperial IPA is reminiscent of pilsner or kolsch, which to me, shows the brewer's craftsmanship. The taste is everything you want in a Double IPA: massive hop character with just enough malt backbone to keep it from becoming a hop bomb. Tropical fruits are abundant from beginning to end with pineapples and mangos dominating much of the flavor. The ability to have this beer super fresh, at the taproom in Fort Collins, COL., undoubtedly enhanced the beer's character leaving a truly long lasting impact on my taste buds to this day.

On the Wings of Armageddon - DC Brau

My brother-in-law, Baumbusch, recently graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. On our last trip to the nation's capital (graduation in May), he introduced me to a new (at the time) brewery that he loves, DC Brau. At the ChurchKey, I tried On the Wings of Armageddon and was absolutely blown away. This 100% Falconer's Flight hopped beer wafts an intense-aromatic nose that is slightly bready. The head retention is one of this beer's best characteristics, refusing to break, but when it does, intricate lacing covers the glassware. When in the nation's capital, be sure to check out the brewery, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Edward - Hill Farmstead Brewery

During Extreme Beer Weekend in Boston, I was fortunate enough to attend a Hill Farmstead tap takeover at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA. Edward, Shaun Hill's liquid homage to his grandfather, is the best pale ale that I have ever tried. At 5.2% and 85IBUs, Shaun Hill has created an unbelievably drinkable, yet aggressively hop forward pale ale that delivers on all levels: sessionability, flavor and enjoyment. Its tropical fruit characteristics and piney-spicy finish make it truly unforgettable and a must try for all craft beer enthusiasts. 

Kipling - Thornbridge Brewery

On BeerAdvocate, Kipling, is classified as an English Pale Ale. I disagree with this classification because of the hop varietal, Nelson Sauvin that is used exclusively in this beer. This New Zealand hop varietal imparts pineapple and tangerine qualities to the beer that balance very well with the Maris Otter Malt creating a truly distinctive pale ale, neither English or American; Its Thornbridge. At 5.2%ABV, this beer has become my favorite, "somewhat" readily available session beer. I hope to have this beer on cask some day soon, so I can further gain an appreciation for well-designed and tasty real ale. 

Indra Kunindra - Ballast Point Brewing Company

Have you ever had a moment where you had to convince yourself about something continuously to make sure that it's true? Well, the first time I sampled Indra Kunindra, I had such a moment. I had to keep telling my brain that yes, I am drinking beer. This Foreign Export stout is brewed with a plethora of exotic ingredients that created a tasting that flowed from coconut to lime ending with chile spiciness. Holy crap! This is a very unique beer and I hope Ballast Point continues to experiment with very exotic ingredients to the success of this product.

Grande Cuvee Baltic Porter - Les Trois Mousquetaires

Winner of the 2010 World Beer Cup in the style of Baltic Porter, The Three Musketeers have a created what many believe is the prefect porter. Almost fully opaque, this robust full-bodied ale abounds with flavor. Bitter chocolate, hints of smoke and subtle cherry blend for an amazing tasting experience with flavor-upon-flavor. If you love porters and/or stouts this beer delivers on all levels and deserves to be sought out. When you find it, buy it!


Petite Sour - Crooked Stave     Artisan Beer Project

Chad Yakobson and his wild yeast strains have developed an almost cult following among beer geeks. This beer poured very cloudy, reminding me of a classic witbier. There is a wonderful, puckering sour that almost overwhelms the back portion of the palate. Lemon is the dominate flavor, but other fruits, grannie smith apples and lime, compliment the lemon very well. The "Brett" control in this beer was very well done because it didn't overpower any of the other flavors. A fantastic sour ale from an ingenious beer blender and cellarer. 

Westvleteren 12 - Abbey of Saint Sixtus

The highlight of my beer consumption this year, Westy 12 may be the most complex ale I have ever tasted in my life. Instantly, dark, rich fruits: prunes, dates and figs coat the palate. In balance with these dark fruits were the grains creating hints of toffee and caramel. The mouthfeel was very creamy and contained an appropriate level of carbonation. At 10.2% ABV, this beer is unbelievably smooth. The alcohol content is so well hidden, you feel as though this dark ale is sessionable. As crazy as that sounds, its true. If you ever have the opportunity to share this truly great beer, please respect and cherish it!

I had a great year of beer consumption with friends and family. I hope you had an amazing year as well. 

I cant wait to see what 2013 holds for innovation, collaboration and acculturation for the craft beer community.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kiuchi Brewery - Hitachino Nest Beer: XH

With winter bringing it's cold, blustery winds and blankets of snow (and ice, and slush), I start to reach for "warming" beers. Many of these beers will be spiced with flavors of the holiday season: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, etc. or barrel-aged in whiskey, bourbon or wine barrels. With my distaste for over spicing in beer (ie. my dislike of pumpkin beers), I definitely reach for barrel-aged products. The Kiuchi Brewery, makers of the Hitachino line of beers, easily grabbed my attention with their Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH). This is the only beer that I have seen where the brewmaster has matured an ale in distilled sake barrels. Instantly, my mind began thinking about the taste possibilities; I needed to try this beer.
This beer pours a beautiful, dark shade of burgundy that produced a one-finger head. I expected ample head retention for this Belgian ale, but the head subsided much quicker than I would had anticipated. Within the body of the beer, many tiny particulates (yeast) were moving with the flow of the beer. These particulates created a less than desirable clarity for the style.
During my first sniffs, the aroma was very one-dimensional: malt sweetness. Due to the one dimensionality, I was a little perplexed because I was expecting floral notes from the sake and oak and vanilla from the barrel. I decided to let the beer for 10-12 minutes allowing it to warm, hopefully opening new aromatics. As anticipated, I opened a pandora's beer. The traditional smells of the Dark Belgian Ale, dark fruits: raisins and prunes, came to the forefront. Nestled within these fragrances, English hops presented themselves adding a pleasant, dry bitterness to balance the sweetness. Finally, the oak and vanilla were present, but still not at the level I anticipated.
The tasting parallels the aroma very closely. The malty sweetness bursts instantly upon contact with the palate. This sweetness quickly relinquishes its hold on the taste profile and oak, vanilla and hop character make their presence near the back of the palate creating a dry finish. The aftertaste was the only place that I was able to detect sake within the tasting. A faint, floral bouquet washed over the palate, but didn't linger long enough for true enjoyment.
This Nest Beer, a medium-bodied ale with a slight chewiness, contained a moderate level of carbonation which I believe create the initial burst of flavor within the taste. At the lower end of the alcohol level spectrum for Belgian Dark Strong Ales, Kiuchi Brewery has created a "session" ale within this style category. This beer is full of subtle complexity, but I was hoping for the sake component to play a more prominent role because I don't think I will see an aged product akin to the XH ale in the very near future.