Archive for May, 2010

Spring Cleaning; or what some might call “Jackpot”…

What happens when you’re an avid beer reviewer and own a generous, rare, and delicious selection of beer but live in a city apartment with the heat of summer setting in and a head cold that just won’t let you get to those reviews?

The real question is… what happens when you’re ^THAT^ man’s girlfriend?

This weekend Hoptopia and I did what any normal couple does on a long, holiday weekend… we cleaned out a closet to become a “beer cellar”.  Some call these types of projects “Spring Cleaning.”  I call it “the Jackpot.”  See, Lee had a lovely little bug (and we ladies always know how men act when they’re sick, amiright? High five!) So, sad panda for him, he couldn’t taste beer- like, literally, his taste buds had gone on strike.  I, on the other hand, was simply suffering from a moderate case of allergies and a half chewed off arm (long story).  This fortunate turn of events brought about the need for someone to taste and write about twenty (that’s right, folks, TWENTY!) of Lee’s strange and illusive brews in an attempt to clear out room in the refrigerator to save the more fragile brews, such as pale ales and saisons, from a skunky fate.

It was a dirty, terrifying job, but somebody had to do it…

And that somebody was me.  Armed with six tumblers at a time, the know how on what order to taste the brews in to save my palate, and a spit bucket for my sanity, I set to work.

Brews Number 1, 2 & 3

Brews Number 1, 2 & 3

1. Fruli Strawberry Beer / Brouwerij Huyghe, Belgium /Fruit Beer / 4.1% ABV

Pouring an opaque amber-red with no head but a white layer of lacing, The Fruli beer smelled of a strawberry sugar lollipop.  It reminded me of the flat, circular sugar pops the bank used to give me when my mom would make a transaction at the drive through- the receipt would always come back with a lollipop on top.  Taste-wise, the brew was more like the liquid center of a strawberry flavored Halls with a slight medicinal menthol-like bitterness.  Fruli Strawberry Beer surprised me on how much I actually enjoyed the brew- the fruit taste was not overwhelming nor horribly off-kilter or artificial.  While it wasn’t my favorite, I wouldn’t say no.

2. Siamese Twin Ale / Uncommon Brewers, California, US / Dubbel / 8.5%

“Uncommon beer for uncommon people,” boasts this brew’s can.  The Siamese Twin Ale is brewed with coriander (not so uncommon), lemongrass, (getting weirder) and kaffir lime leaves (ding ding ding ding ding!).  The fizzy golden copper brew smells like ginger ale with a hint of fresh rain.  It tastes earthen- like sandy dirt and dust, clay and Playdoh.  There was also a slight menthol taste on this brew which left my mouth feeling a bit numb.  While I’m normally a fan of experimental beers, this one was not my flavor.

3. Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale / New Belgium Brewing, Inc., Denver, US / Fruit Beer / 6.5%

Frambozen is derived from the Flemish word for Raspberry, a flavor which, on this brew, New Belgium did not disappoint.  The cherry wood colored liquid immediately gave off a raspberry tang to the tongue while it smelled of compost and peat.  It is surprisingly sweet with a slight sour twist- too tiny for that of a Flemish Brown.  The Frambozen is very drinkable for the fruity drinker.

Brews Number 4, 5 & 6

Brews Number 4, 5 & 6

4. Monk in the Trunk / Jupiter Brewing Co, Florida, US / American Amber / Red Ale / 5.5%

This Florida native came to me direct from my buddy down in Tampa, DosBeerigos.  With sporadic carbonation and no head, I was worried that the brew might not have traveled as well as planned (although it was exquisitely packed).  The nose gave off a slightly bready, earthy and weedy malt flavor.  A surprising hoppy bitterness met my tongue; very refreshing but with a sour bite that was, luckily, offset by some great fizz.

5. Oberon / Bells Brewery, Inc., Michigan, US / American Pale Wheat Ale / 5.8%

Bells is a brewery that has not failed me yet, and Oberon is a great example of that.  With a nose like the beach in the bright summer sunshine (sandy organic seaweed smell), this brew walks the delicate line of balance between hops and malts.  The sweet caramel malt undertones support this tiny, bright, fizzy hop beer- great for any summer day.

6. Porterhouse Red / The Porterhouse Brewing Co., Ireland / English Pale Ale / 4.4%

Sadly, this beautiful looking dark amber brew smelled and tasted more than a bit off, forcing me to the conclusion that, somewhere along the line from Ireland to Lee’s hallway, this brew had skunked.  Let’s have a moment of silence for my fellow Red…

Brews Number 7, 8 & 9

Brews Number 7, 8 & 9

7. Dr. Klankenstein / Sixpoint Craft Ales, New York, US / Stein Beer / ABV Unknown

To illustrate how lucky I am that I got to try this specialized, one-off production brew, there was no label to be found on this bottle.  A true stein beer, this was made by heating rocks to insanely high temperatures to heat the beer for fermentation purposes.  The clear, caramel colored beautiful brew boasts a large head that subsides to a milky layer of lacing.  On it, I smelt lemon peel, fresh baguette, and a slight grass and pine.  These were all reflected in the taste- sweet and hoppy with sweet peanuts and lemon iced tea.  This flavor pairing made me want to drink this brew at the local baseball game.

8. Black Raspberry Reserve / Sly Fox Brewing Company, Pennsylvania, US / Fruit Beer / 8%

One of the more beautifully colored brews of the night, the Raspberry Reserve poured maroonish and clear, the color of R39 gel (for all my fellow lighting nerds out there, that’s my favorite gel color- Exotic Skelton Sangria).  The delightful “pop” of the cork on this brew gave me the idea that the carbonation would be ever present.  After the head subsided, the top of the liquid housed pretty little bubbles that I could have stared at for hours- slowly conjoining with their fellow peers.  Otherwise, the beer was exactly what it said it would be- black raspberry preserves on the nose and taste.

9. Wrassler’s XXXX Stout / The Porterhouse Brewing Co, Ireland / Irish Dry Stout / 5%

The first in my line of stouts for the night, I had high hopes for XXXX (while also baring in mind that this was the brother of the skunked Red Ale).  Smelling more like a rauchbier (no complaints here!) than a stout, I smelled burnt earth where the rain washes out a fire pit after cooking hot dogs.  Wrassler’s tasted very salty and dry, like carbon charcoal without the ashy-ness.  As a stout lover and rauchbier enthusiast, this beer gets a thumbs up in my book!

At this point I needed a Tostitos break to recharge my palate.  On here I will do the same.  Take a hot second, chew on what I’ve given you, dip it in some salsa; make it your own.  Stay tuned for brews 10-20!  Cheers!

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A Night of Simply Beer Part Deux: British Bitter and Black Cherry Stout

That’s right, Ladies and Germs- it is time for the next installation of Simply Beer homebrew! Peter Kennedy, craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer extroadinaire, was kind enough to send yet another Simply Beer care package to my work establishment (I am now the envy of all my co-workers).  This time he included two of his brews- the British Bitter and the Black Cherry Stout.

My night began with the British Bitter, which clocked in at a whopping 3.4% ABV.  The great thing about the low alcohol content is that this beer can accompany a lunch hour meal without the worry of getting drunk (the definition of a session beer, basically).  The brew poured a half cloudy, half clear golden amber color with no head.  On the nose were pear juice and green apple airheads- that tart/bitter/sweet combination.

The first thing I noticed about the sip of this beer was that it was very low on the carbonation- in fact, there was barely any of which to speak.  It was a very watery consistency, but held a punch of taste.  If I’m being honest (and that’s what I do,) this was not my favorite “PetahBeer!” (as I have affectionately called Peter’s Beer- ha!)  But, then again, I haven’t had much in the way of British Bitters, which doesn’t really seem to be my style.  To me, the brew tasted like dirty, watered down fruit punch- the type I had as a kid which was cheap and made me jealous of all the kids’ who had Minute Maid.

(Blogger’s Note: I tasted this beer with my favorite Brit, Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia, and he kindly informed me of the fact that this brew was, in fact, a great example of a British Bitter; which, in turn, makes it a perfect example of what I love about beer.  There are so many different styles and flavors out there, and we don’t have to like them all!)

PetahBeer!

PetahBeer!

Next, and sadly, last, was the Simply Beer Black Cherry Stout.  I was really excited to get this beer, and it certainly did not disappoint!  The pour was one of the prettiest Auburn/Amber tinted blacks I have ever seen.  The head was super creamy and of the milk chocolate colored persuasion.  It smelled like the Wild Cherry Ludens I used to beg my mom for as a kid (I was a very sick child and begged for Wild Cherry Ludens for each of my monthly strep throats!)  Also on the nose was the aroma of Real Cherry Italian Ices.

The brew was refreshingly light and dry with an ashy finish.  Surprisingly enough, the beer tasted exactly like black cherries! (Blogger’s Note: heyuk, heyuk!) The brew also included a beautiful tiny fizz and a slightly hoppy overbite.  A very interesting observation that I made is that the quicker your sip was, the sweeter the taste of the brew was.  In other words, the longer you held the beer in your mouth, the more of the flavor profile you would get- including the bitter/sour hoppiness.

The Simply Beer Black Cherry Stout is yet another great installment in the line of Simply Beer homebrews that I have had the privilege of sampling.  The British Bitter, while not my style, stood up with the rest as well.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again- this Peter Kennedy fellow is going places.  Keep an eye out for the Simply Beer logo- one day you will see it on your local beer shelf!

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May 6 : The Lost Abbey : Framboise de Amorosa : Ladies of Craft Beer with Taylor Shaw

May 6 : The Lost Abbey : Framboise de Amorosa : Ladies of Craft Beer with Taylor Shaw

New Brew Thursday!

The name says it all...

The wonderful gentlemen from New Brew Thursday- Brad Kohlenberg, John Holzer and Stephen Johnson- are craft beer advocates and all around awesome dudes.  They were gracious enough to host Taylor Shaw to talk about a group I founded called the Ladies of Craft Beer.  Taylor is another craft beer advocate and our San Diego based spokeslady as well as one smart cookie.

Ladies of Craft Beer was established as a group of women craft beer drinkers who wanted to help spread the good word to other women who didn’t know about craft beer.  Many women are biased on beer due to the stereotypes that are out there- often set into place by the macro brews.  We are hoping to enlighten women on the truths about beer.

Another great aspect of the group is that it is not only for women, but men can participate as well.  The thought process is for men to encourage the women in their life to be able to share in their interests.

Anywho, I’ll stop rambling on- Taylor covers it all perfectly in the New Brew Thursday video.  Take a looksee and let me know what you think.

Special thanks to the guys at New Brew Thursday; Evie, their camera operating super-lady of craft beer; Dr. Bill for his Master Pairings; Taylor Shaw (@TheArtofBeer) for her support, help, generosity, spirit and overall amazingness; and lastly but not least- to all of you- the people who make what we do possible.  Keep on reading, sharing, suggesting, drinking, and most importantly, talking- talk about what you’re drinking- what you like about it, what you don’t like about it, how you would change it, what makes it special, and why we should drink it.  Beer is, in itself, a social advocate for us; why shouldn’t we do the same for it?

Slainte, salud, and Cheers!

He Said/She Said #2 – Troegs Scratch #28 (2010 Troggen Roggen), Eve’s Cidery Bittersweet Cider & Alaskan Brewing Company’s 2009 Smoked Porter

He Said/She Said #2

Don't try no shakin' on the wild ride...

Welcome to stage two of the He Said/She Said beer review journey.  Again, I have joined forced with Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia.  If you haven’t checked out his site yet, do so.  Now.  Your palate will thank you.

Our night started out with a 12 oz bottle of Troeg’s Scratch Beer #28.  (Blogger’s Note: The linked up website shows the thought process behind Troeg’s Scratch Beer series, however, the brew described is actually the next in the series, #29, and has not been released yet.) #28 has affectionately been code named “Troggen Roggen” and is a Roggenbier, or German Rye beer.  Neither Lee nor I had ever partaken in this style brew before, so we were both excited to delve into Scratch #28.

The brew poured golden and full of sediment.  Lee immediately got collard greens cooked with bacon on the nose, while I got a whiff of natural clay (the kind you would find as a kid playing in the muddy dirt).  Instead of bacon, I smelled super salty pork rinds.  Lee rounded out the aroma with cloves and a bit of rhubarb crumble.

We agreed that the brew was very effervescent and tingly.  Lee noted that it was super bitter, but that the intense carbonation (up there at the level of big champagne bubbles) balanced the bitterness very well.  He also tasted grilled bananas, which, paired with the cloves he smelt, as well as date and golden raisin undertones, caused him to compare this Roggenbier to a light abbey ale.  He also called out sharp, sour black current and gooseberry undertones.  I found a tiny taste of citrus at the turning point of the swallow- as if adding a powder packet Crystal Light Grapefruit-ade to a bottle of water- watered down, sugary grapefruit hints.  I would drink this beer again but am not a huge fan- it’s definitely not at the top of my list.  Lee, on the other hand, really liked Scratch #28, stating he could easily drink more than one.

We moved on to Bittersweet by Eve’s Cidery.  While cider is NOT a beer, they are often close to beer in complexity and fermentation and are sometimes found in the beer aisle.  While the bottle says that this cider is 10% ABV, that is on the high end of the spectrum for ciders, which usually top out at about 8%.  While some ciders are full of sediment, this cider poured clear and golden, like a champagne style apple juice.

Lee smelled suntan lotion with aloe, wet gravel, the marshmallows from Lucky Charms and melted butter on this cider.  The obvious aroma for me on was fresh rain in an apple orchard- a clean, crisp, organic apple smell.  Also among the nose was gasoline.  Lastly, a smell that brought me back to my childhood, was the scent I would get upon opening one of those huge Popcorn Factory popcorn tin full of buttery popcorn, cheesy popcorn, and caramel popcorn.

The massive, soda-like bubbles on Lee’s tongue complimented the lemon Jolly Rancher taste.  The clean, refreshing apple juice base gave nothing of an alcohol content away.  I thought it tasted more like green apple Warheads than of lemon Jolly Ranchers.  Whatever the case, the large carbonation and clean citrus taste lent the cider a palate cleansing vibe, much like a sorbet in between courses.  Lee compared it to a French table cider, stating that, although the cider is decent on its own, he would like it better with a large meal- and any kind of large meal at that.

Last, but certainly not least, we popped open a 22 ounce bottle of Alaskan Brewing Company’s 2009 Smoked Porter.  At 6.5% ABV, this brew poured out a beautiful russet rust color with lots of creamy head.  Lee even commented on the head, (uncommon for Hoptopia), stating that it looked like a gorgeous root beer float.

Lee’s first reaction to the nose was “really, really, really smoky burnt bacon.”  From there he added candied carrots, chipotle, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes.  I took thickly burnt charcoal and overdone steak fillets marinated in teriyaki and soy sauces as well as sesame oil.

Both of us agreed that our taste buds were assaulted with an onslaught of ash upon the first sip.  Lee described it as “chewing sketching charcoal” and ashy and volcanic, like cindered rock.  The beer overwhelmed us both with its hoppy bitterness and lack of any sweet malted flavors.  To me, it was almost as if the beer could be made smoky due to roasted hops and could forgo malts altogether.  Lee thought that the brew will be far to overwhelming for some people- even including the most seasoned of beer drinkers.  As an avid smoked beer fan, I was not completely sold on this porter. While the ashy and bitter tastes were definitely amazingly extreme; the two giant tastes compete with each other, leaving no room for the tiny complexities that I love so much about smoked beers (chocolates, caramels, spices, oh my!)

While Lee admitted to liking the Smoked Porter, he said that he would have to be in a specific frame of mind to order it.  I liked it a lot but the dual flavors were so intense that I would nurse the brew all night (not always a bad thing!)  Even with the lower alcohol content, this beer is one for sipping.

As they say, two heads are better than one, and, well, three beers are better than two.  I couldn’t have asked for a more diverse and complex set of brews to taste on this He Said/She Said (Part Deux!) extravaganza.  Lee and I both had a blast doing this tasting.  Again, we hope that you can walk away from reading this a few beers smarter and ready to talk about what you taste in your drinks in the following nights to come.

Cheers!

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