Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bell's Brewery Inc. - Special Double Cream Stout

Quick!. Think of a state that has a prominent craft beer culture? If you are like me, the three states that instantly come to mind are: Oregon, California, and Colorado. After this initial search, I thought about the question more thoroughly are realized that Michigan, yes Michigan, has an equally established craft beer culture as the three aforementioned states. Michigan is home to such great breweries as: Founders Brewing Co.Dark Horse BreweryJolly PumpkinKuhnhenn Brewery, and Bell's Brewery, the makers of today's beer, Bell's Special Double Cream Stout.
After sitting in my closet and fridge for an entire year, this stout pours very deep black. As the beer was pouring, it appeared to be more aqueous then creamy which was very surprising based on the name. There was a very small head retention and it contained no red highlighting.
The aroma from this beer was quite weak. There was no discernible hop character in the nose, but chocolate malt, subtle coffee, and oats are present.
The taste profile was much more complex than the nose. There is a huge malt character in this beer and the sweetness was almost to cloying for my palate. To go along with the malt character, this stout has a black licorice component  and a slight burntness.
The mouthfeel was creamy and medium-bodied. With that being said, I expected it would be even silkier. Also, this beer contained almost no carbonation, possibly due to the aging process.
Overall, I let my anticipation get the better of me for this beer. I enjoyed this stout, but it was a little to sweet. I wish this sweetness was balanced with a prominent hop character. If I were to have this stout fresh I think the hops would add the missing component to make this stout exceptional.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

My First Homebrew - Red Ale

Ever since I discovered craft beer, I have had an urge to try and make products in the comfort of my own kitchen that could rival those produced by the craft breweries that I love. This past holiday season I received a homebrew kit from my awesome and truly understanding wife and I couldn't wait to put it use. Along with the kit, I received a red ale recipe and quickly went to work following the new year celebration. As this would be my first time brewing, I employed the help of two friends who had brewing experience to walk me through the intricacies and nomenclature of brewing. The afternoon of steeping grains, obtaining a rolling boil, cooling the wort, and transferring the liquid to the fermenter went very well with little in the way of obstacles. 
After waiting impatiently for fermentation to began, the air gauge began to bubble with the presence of carbon dioxide signifying the beginning of fermentation. Fermentation lasted for 3-4 days and then it was time to bottle. The bottling phase proved to be the most difficult of the entire process because I am a complete newbie to homebrewing and I was trying to do something by myself that I had never done before. After many tries to create a bottling siphon and being unsuccessful, I went and read Charlie Papazian's book, The Joy of Homebrewing. Now, feeling more composed and relaxed, I returned to the kitchen and the siphoning process went more much smoothly and I filled sixteen bottles with a very light red-brownish liquid. 
Since this is a blog about beer and beer reviews, I thought it would be appropriate to put my own brew up to the criticism and judging process that I apply to American and International craft breweries.
As I poured my first homebrew, I was presently surprised with its appearance. It was a coppery brown with very noticeable carbonation. The body was hazier than I expected, almost reaching light-blocking opaqueness. The head was very light and frothy dissipating to a half-finger head. 
The smell brought forth the image of grapefruit or orange concentrate. After getting past this dominating aroma, I was able to pick out two additional aromas: light malts and bready yeastiness. 
The taste profile had two very distinct phases. The first phase was an explosion of citrusy oranges, while the second phase contained a very sweet malt finish. I think this sweet finish was due to the ample amount of priming sugar I used during bottling. 
The mouthfeel was light, but I enjoyed the amount of carbonation. 
Overall, I am pleased with certain aspects of my first homebrew. First, I made through the process without having the pot overflow and having a major clean up session. Second, the color of the beer was its best feature and matched BJCP guidelines pretty well. Third, I really enjoy carbonated beers, so the level of carbonation in my homebrew was pleasant. With all those positives, there were some definite flaws in my red ale. The two major flaws were aroma and taste. The aroma resembled sweetened orange juice and the taste lacked a true presence of malt or hops. If I brew a red ale again, I am going to try and make something that rivals: Red Rocket Ale from Bear Republic Brewing Company or Hop Head Red from Green Flash Brewing Company.   

Rating based on BeerAdvocate's rating system:

Appearance: 3.5/5
Smell: 3/5
Taste: 2/5
Mouthfeel: 3.5/5
Drinkability: 3/5


Monday, January 16, 2012

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company - Ruthless Rye IPA

When one thinks of the father of the American craft beer renaissance, Ken Grossman, the founder of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, is my obvious choice. Beginning with a homebrew store and producing five-gallons batches, Mr. Grossman developed what would become the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the iconic, hop-forward ale. Since the development of his award-winning pale ale, Mr. Grossman has stayed actively involved in the brewing process producing a philanthropic ale series, Ovila Abbey Ales, an exceptional year-round portfolio, the educational Beer Camp series and the newly released, Ruthless Rye IPA.
After seeing an advertisement for the Ruthless Rye on a recent Beer Advocate magazine, I have been searching for this adjunct IPA. The clarity of this beer was astonishing, and with its copper-orange color, it was truly eye pleasing. The one-finger head was very bubbly leaving excellent lacing and a thin film along the outside of the glass.
The nose of this beer is very earthy. A grassiness resonates throughout the smell with a subtle citrus backbone. The addition of rye provides a spiciness that is quite pleasant and aromatic. Underneath the rye and hop character a sweet malt backbone creates a well-balanced aroma.
The taste profile is quite short and somewhat uneventful. There was a burst of grassy hops along with the spiciness of the rye, which was excellent, but this mouth party almost immediately ended with a very dry finish. I was hoping for the rye to play a greater role in the taste profile, but it was overpowered by the hops.
The mouthfeel was quite light, and coupled with minimal carbonation, was somewhat disappointing.
This a good beer, but not a great beer. I wanted it to excel in every way, but it just measured up to other rye beers that I have had like: Hop Rod RyeRed Rye PA, and Righteous Ale.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anderson Valley Brewing Company - Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout

I have always enjoyed both Russian Imperial and American Stouts, but recently, I have developed an affinity for Oatmeal Stouts. With this in mind, I ventured to a local bottle shop and picked up the Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout from Anderson Valley Brewing Company.
This stout pours an oil black opaqueness with no observable highlighting. Due to the possibility of this bottle being old (picked it up from a make-your-own-sixer), I wasn't surprised when the head dissipated almost immediately after I had completed the pour.
The aroma for this stout contained no real smellable oatmeal notes. However, dark chocolate and roasted malt combined to make the aroma quite pleasant.
The taste profile was very balanced with dark chocolate and oatmeal washing over the palate during the initial phase of the taste. A very nice hop bitterness completes the taste leaving a subtle hop character on the back part of the palate.
Before seeing the beer, I thought this stout would have a creamy, silky consistency, however, the mouthfeel was more aqueous than I anticipated. With that being said, the viscousness and light carbonation combined to create a medium-bodied brew.
At 5.7% ABV, the Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is as close as a stout can get to being sessionable and I could see myself enjoying multiple pints throughout a cold winter night. This a good beer, and if love stouts like myself, definitely give this one a chance and I think it may convert you to the "dark" side.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Atlanta for the Holidays

Every second holiday season, my wife and I make the journey south to enjoy the company of friends and family in historic Roswell, GA and hip Midtown, Atlanta, GA. I look forward to every trip south, but this trip always bring multiple opportunities to dive head-first into Atlanta's beer culture because friends and family are more willing to sample and indulge.
I began my dive with my brother-in-law, Jamey, in the comfort of my mother-in-law's home with a beer I have always wanted to try, Wake n' Bake Oatmeal Coffee Stout from Terrapin Brewing Company. I love stouts and this beer delivered on all its advertised hype. It poured a pure oil black with ruby red highlighting. With my mouth absolutely salivating, I sampled with utter delight. The taste profile began with an initial flood of coffee that subsided to leave a hint of chocolate and bitterness. The oatmeal created a silky, creamy mouthfeel, which bordered on divine. This is one of finest constructed stouts that I have had the chance to taste.  
The second wave of my sampling occurred in Little Five Points, a section of Atlanta that is east of downtown. We began the day with at The Wrecking Bar. As we entered, I was transported back 300-400 years to medieval tavern (minus the leather sofas). There was beautiful hardwood floors and exposure brick on the walls. Granite and brick columns added both support for the second floor and ambience to the downstairs bar. We decided to start with a sampling tray of eight beers. All the samples were very delicious, but the Jemmy StoutVictor Squared IPA, and Golden Nelson Ale were the stand-outs. After we had completed the tray, we had the opportunity to speak with the brewmaster, Bob Sandage, which was a true delight. He was very nice and extremely knowledgeable about his beer. If you ever find yourself in Atlanta, the Wrecking Bar is a must stop - it will not disappoint.
Feeling great, Jamey and I walked two minutes to a very hipster section of Little Five Points to the Porter Beer Bar. Every time I have been to the Porter the draft list is amazing and this visit was no different. After contemplating for far to long, I settled with the Moonraker Ale from JW Lees Co. and Brewers. It was a very interesting take on the winter warmer style with hints of gingerbread and cinnamon with a very delicious tart finish. My second and final beer was the collaboration blend of seven different beers from three New York breweries: Shmaltz Brewing CompanyCaptain Lawrence Brewing, and Ithaca Beer Company. This beer is easily one of the best beers I have ever had the opportunity to drink with its dark fruit-figgy quality interwoven with deceptively sour notes.
To complete this amazing beer day, we stopped off at Hop City Beer and Wine. This was my third visit to this store, but Jamey's first and he was blown away by the tremendous selection of domestic and import craft beer and the quality of beer available at their "Growlertown". The haul this time was full of Russian Imperial Stouts from Scandinavia with a single from both New Zealand and Germany.

Throughout the remainder of the week, cool family outings took place culminating with The Roswell Ghost Tour. Following these great events, Jamey, my wife (and his sister), Emily, their step-brother Chris and my father-in-law, John ventured to a local Taco Mac. Everytime I go to Taco Mac, I always think, we don't have anything like this in Boston! Taco Mac is a family-friendly bar beer with good bar food and a great beer list. Throughout the multiple discussions, appetizers, yelling at Brian Kelly and Notre Dame Football, I sampled: Duck Rabbit Porter, Fort Collins Brewery Double Chocolate Stout, and Highland Brewing Company's Oatmeal Porter.

What follows is all the beer I had the opportunity to sample, Oh buddy!:

Bell's Brewery: Best Brown
Bierbrouwerij Grand-Cafe Emelisse: Triple IPA
Brooklyn Brewery: Brown AleThe Companion
Duck Rabbit Craft Brewery: Porter
Fort Collins Brewery: Double Chocolate Stout
Harvieston Brewery: Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
He'Brew (Shmaltz Brewing Company): Genesis 15:15Geektoberfest
Highland Brewing Company: Oatmeal Porter
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company: Brown AleHoney WeissBig Eddy (2011)Creamy Dark
JW Lees Co. and Brewers: Moonraker Ale
Kona Brewing Company: Pipeline Porter
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company: Southern Pecan
New Belgium: 1554 Black AleRanger IPA
Scuttlebutt Brewing Company: Tripel 7
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company: Celebration Ale
Southern Tier Brewing Company: Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout
Sweetwater Brewing Company: 420 Pale AleFestive AleHappy Ending Stout
Terrapin Brewing Company: Wake n' Bake StoutMoo-Hoo StoutSo Fresh and So Green GreenRye
Victory Brewing Company: Headwaters Pale Ale
Wild Heaven Craft Beers: InvocationOde to Mercy
Wrecking Bar: BaDunkeldonkColin's Wee HeavyGolden NelsonHale Street HefeweizenJemmy StoutVictor IPAVictor Squared