Monday, October 29, 2007

Bell's Double Cream Stout

I couldn't really wait to get started on the stash of stouts I have so last night while studying pharmacy nutrition seemed about as good a time as any. Bell's Double Cream Stout is a 7.5% brew that is produced between November and March each year. This bottle that I received was from the '06-'07 batch. It pours as a clear, dark brown liquid that appears black in the glass. The head is pretty creamy and substantial at first, almost reminding me of a Guinness or nitro-tap head, but not really. It subsides into a sticky froth after a short time. The aroma is roasty with a milk chocolate-like sweetness and the taste is also again some roasted malt (on the more subtle side) with a creamy lactose sweetness to it. A chocolaty mocha flavor sticks around in the end. None of these flavors are really extreme, they are all pretty straight forward and not out of hand, to make for a smooth (yes the mouthfeel is soft and creamy), flavorful, easy drinking sweeter stout. BA score of 4.05 given.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alesmith (Summer) Yulesmith

With the hops probably dwindling away in my Alesmith Yulesmith Summer release, it was time to open it up and get the double hoppy goodness that awaited. This would actually be my first experience with the Summer version, released every July, though I had the Winter Yulesmith imperial red ale last year. The guys at Alesmith have pretty much perfected the art of a pillowy, rocky head in a double IPA. The smell is really citrusy, piny, with a bit of that earthy kind of foliage aroma too. Somewhat of your standard double IPA aroma more than not. Oh, there's some caramel malts detectable too. The taste blasts concentrated hop oils and a competing sweetness before leaving an earthy bitterness in the back of the mouth afterwards. It has a medium body, not crazy syrupy but close. It's a nice double IPA overall, even though I'm beginning to get somewhat tired of them (unless I come across a fresh Pliny on tap). This one gets a 4.1 from me on BA, and for reference, the Winter '06 version got a 4.45.

I was also able to score some nice beers this week in anticipation of a fun Winter break which starts for me on December 13th. I was able to grab a couple bottles of the 2006 Alaskan Smoked Porter that a local store still had, while also getting a couple bottles of the 2007 version that was just released. While I was at it I also picked up a 6 of the 2006 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale since it sounded like a nice winter sipper (have never had a bigfoot, and the only barleywine I've had was Old Guardian, which I liked). I guess I've been a little reluctant to get into barleywines.

In addition, my big stout lineup is growing very nicely. It looks like I'll really be able to take a serious look into the world of imperial stouts soon. The ones I've acquired are...
1. Three Floyds Dark Lord ('07)
2. Founders Breakfast Stout
3. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
4. Alesmith Speedway Stout
5. Stone Russian Imperial Stout
6. Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper ('06)
7. Port Brewing Old Viscosity
8. Bell's Double Cream Stout
9. North Coast Old Rasputin
10. Stoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout
*Italics denote ones I've sampled before

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Football, Maui CoCoNut Porter, and New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

Another glorious day of college football was upon us and as I'm studying in my room my sister shouts to me, "Get a good beer ready so we can do our toast." Since she always calls up our friend in Florida to do a pre-USC game toast, for games that we are not at I must have a good (and preferably strong for her tastes) beer ready for action. Today I went for taste above potency and reached for a Maui CoCoNut Porter, a silver medal winner at this year's Great American Beer Fest in the specialty beer category. Having tasted it only once in a small sample I was pretty excited to get a larger glass of this. It comes in a 12oz can with live yeast, pours as a clear Coca Cola color though looks very dark in the glass. The smell is mostly roasty but has a certain creamy sweetness to it that I would not guess is coconut if I didn't know. The taste is much better if you let it warm up. If you attempt to drink it straight from the fridge it will be very roasty and mildly sweet with the coconut coming in only in the lingering aftertaste. As it warms up it all sort of blends together and becomes a sweet porter. Not too bad, but I actually prefer the Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla more for a flavored porter. 3.9 on BA for the Coconut.

With USC wrapping up a 38-0 victory of Notre Dame in South Bend I decided to bring out a special beer for the family to celebrate with. That beer would be the New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red that I've been holding onto since summer. I poured this into champagne flutes and it received a "WOW" from everyone. My Dad said things like that ought to be illegal it was so good. It pours a dark red but shines vibrantly around the edges and when hit by light. The head makes a brief appearance and then leaves without a trace. This might be the easiest beer to describe of all time. The smell is sour cherry and the taste is sweet cherry pie filling with a very faint tartness to it. Not complicated but damn tasty. I scored it a 4.6 on BA.

(Family enjoying the last few minutes of the USC game with some New Glarus beer)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The 2nd Perfect 5 - St. Bernardus Tripel

I headed up to Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena during another school break on Wednesday, looking forward to their Oktoberfest celebration this week. Unfortunately, and as is often the case, they were out of many of the oktoberfests. So I decided to pull one from the standard menu that I hadn't yet. My friend Loren had recently given me a recommendation for the St. Bernardus Tripel after he had had it a few weeks ago at the same location. They served it in the St. Bernardus chalice (different than pictured) and it looked amazing. Great hazy golden color, great fluffy white head and the aroma was standard Belgian yeast earthiness and tiny malty/sugary sweetness. The taste was a perfect balance. Everything about this beer I couldn't imagine being better. It now joins Russian River's Sanctification as the only other beer I've rated a perfect 5 on BA.

In quick addition to that, it was also Urthel Night on this particular night. They had 3 (or 4) Urthel beers on tap and a complementary Urthel glass offer with purchase of a beer. So I ordered up their quadrupel called Samaranth. It was standard high strength, 12% ABV, but when it came I seriously thought they poured the wrong beer. It was a dark golden, not the dark brown that I expected. But apparently that's actually the quadrupel. And it was strong. It started out with a nice and very sweet fruity taste but the back end brought lots of alcohol, mostly causing a bitterness at the end and then a minor burn. I gave it a 3.75 on BA, but at least I got a cool Urthel tulip glass as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

This bottle came via a trader on the East Coast. It's a bummer that some Eastern states can get Great Divide beers, which hail from Colorado, yet CA can't. The first beer I tried from this brewery was the Titan IPA, which I really liked. Hercules Double IPA is 9.1% ABV and the side of the label states, "Hercules Double IPA is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, fit for the gods. Hercules Double IPA delivers a huge amount of hops from start to finish. Its hefty backbone of nutty, malty sweetness balances its aggressive hop profile."

Upon pouring from the bottle you can tell this thing is going to be a bit viscous. It glides down into the glass and begins to form a frothy white head when poured aggressively. As I noticed with Titan IPA, this head is great looking and has great retention. The initial smell of the beer is an orange citrus type of hop aroma as well as some sweet floral hops. All is pretty much as expected at this point, and unfortunately the taste was as I expected as well. You see, based on the viscosity I could see it pouring with and the syrupy sweet aroma, I could tell this fit into the sub-style of double IPA's I don't normally prefer. I'm talking about some great beers, but also ones which I just can't wrap my head around. To name a few I would say this was like Alpine's Exponential Hoppiness, Avery's Maheraja, Ballast Point's Dorado, and Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA. Every one of those is renowned by beer geeks all over, but I just can't get into the syrupy alcohol, malt, hop soup mess. On the other hand, just for reference, I prefer double IPA's that I don't perceive to have these characters, but still pack a huge hop punch (Victory Hop Wallop, Pliny the Elder, Port Hop 15, and Stone Ruination to name a few). Getting back to the Hercules, the taste was a barrage of thick malt, resiny hops, and pronounced bitterness. Maybe on another day I could have finished this bottle...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting Back to Belgians

I had a several hour break between school stuff and stopped by Lucky Baldwin's in Sierra Madre for a couple beers. Lately I've been really into lighter Belgian ales such as pale ale's, tripels and blondes. I really love the idea of having a complex yet light, tasty and easy drinking beer. I thought Leffe Blonde may be that beer... until I had Affligem Blond the other day. This beer was a fantastic and easy drinking Belgian pale ale. It's very soft all around. The flavors aren't too sharp and just roll through the mouth really nicely. A little bit of earthiness, a little bit of sweetness, and a great ability to really be gulped. An instant favorite of mine and worthy of a 4.65 on BA.

The next beer up was Het Kapittel Prior, a 9% Belgian dark ale. Poured into a tulip, this beer had the most amazing head retention I've ever seen. It sat there for at least 10 minutes without moving while I let it warm up a little, and it wasn't about to go anywhere. The taste wasn't so exciting though. On first impression it definitely has that Belgian dark ale flavor of roasted malts, sugar, and Belgian yeast. The high alcohol was effectively hidden. Where I thought it went wrong was during the very end of the sip, when a massive sugar quality was picked up. So sweet it was hard to drink. This was my second sampling of a beer from Brouwerij Van Eecke, the first being the Poperings Hommel Bier which I didn't think was that good, but wasn't horrible. Same goes for the Prior.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Russain River Tempation

Felt like a lighter beer (in body, not in taste) after getting home from school today and this was about all I had that would be new to me. The Russian River Temptation is a blonde ale that is inoculated with brettanoymces and aged for about a year in french oak chardonnay bottles. It was finally bottled in October of last year meaning it was about 2 years ago that this was brewed and put into barrels.

This bottle was from batch 002, and the Russian River bottle log told me to cautiously open the bottle under very cold conditions due to being overcarbonated. It ended up fizzing over a little but I didn't lose much beer. The smell was a great blend of chardonnay wine and sourness. After it warmed up a little and with some swirling I could also get a bit of very mellow musty/earthy/barnyard type funk. I won't say it was horseblanket because I don't know what a horseblanket is or smells like (and I don't think half the people that use that term do either). The taste was standard Russian River sour beer amazingness. Very chardonnay winy (imagine that), and a pleasant but heavy sourness. In many ways this beer is what I remember Sanctification tasting like, though maybe that was higher on the sour side and less on the wine side. In addition this beer is very "drinkable." The acidity doesn't burn me as much as Supplication did, which I thought was that beer's only drawback. This blonde ale is very puckering yet easy to drink. Another great beer from Russian River. I haven't had a bad one yet. I haven't had a mediocre one yet for that matter. From their Pale Ales, to their Stouts, to their Belgian's and wild beers, each one is top notch. In fact, they are so good I'm thinking about making a return trip up to Santa Rosa this Winter break. 4.65 on BA for this one.

Allagash Tripel Reserve

This would be about my 4th offering from Allagash. I loved the Grand Cru, but was not too excited after I had the FOUR and Curieux. I probably wouldn't have tried the tripel for a long time but the owner of the best liquor store in the area threw this in during a purchase as it was one of his favorites. Since I do like tripels I was pretty excited to try this (especially in my awesome new Ommegang chalice that my buddy Kevin picked up for me from their brewery recently).

It is very clear in the bottle at room temp but develops a massive chill haze when refrigerated. The smell is pretty much right on, as far as I can tell for the style. A very nice yeasty/earthy aroma. The taste is that great unique yeast taste along an underlying sweetness. The best feature is how well the 9% alcohol is hidden. It is very well balanced, much more than the last tripel I had (Maredsous 10). It looked like Allagash once again redeemed itself. Maybe I'm not so much into their big/expensive beers (for lack of a better term) but the two regular releases I've had from them I've really loved.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Balsamic Vinegar + Beer

I didn't even realize that the first Friday of the month was coming up, so I missed out on the The Session #8 which was about beer and food. However, this last week while listening to some old Craft Beer Radio podcasts I noticed something interesting that is semi-related. In show #70 titled "Stouts" they talk about a study that was done where bar patrons were blindly poured two of the same beers, but one with balsamic vinegar added. What they found was that the majority of people liked the one with the vinegar more. The reason I find this more interesting than I normally would is because when I was in Santa Rosa a couple months ago I was talking to the owner of a bar that carries a lot of Moonlight beers. We were talking about the special brown ale Moonlight tap they were carrying that day (which my friend had ordered a glass of). He gave us a more or less "secret" tip, saying that it becomes even better when you get a light coating of balsamic vinegar on a spoon and dip the spoon into the brown ale. Apparently this tip even came from the man who creates these beers. It sounds interesting, so if you're on 4th street in Santa Rosa stop in at The Flavor Bistro and see if they have the brown ale on tap along with their other standard Moonlight taps, or try it on any old brown ale and see what you think.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Maui Brewing Big Swell IPA

I selected the Maui Brewing Company's Big Swell IPA to accompany my pork chop dinner tonight and what a good choice it was. This beer comes as a bottle conditioned can, and I decided to dump the whole thing into my glass, yeast and all (usually I try to keep as close to 100% of the yeast out as possible). Anyway, the beer pours a dark copper color, though probably a little lighter than the picture indicates (flash). It has pretty good clarity until that yeast gets dumped in and a great looking rocky, sticky, airy head. The smell is very floral and reminds me a lot of the Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. Since Big Eye uses only centennial hops, I'm guessing that the Big Swell is dry hopped with centennial. Regardless, it gives off a very fresh and floral character that I thought was great. The taste is pretty well balanced. It's no Green Flash or Stone IPA but what it does is nice anyway. A more balanced IPA, but really tasty. The malt doesn't come across sweet, it's more of a lightly caramelized and toasted type of character. The hops still have that floral taste you expect from the aroma and the bitterness is pretty mild. Big Swell feels really good in the mouth, maybe due to the yeast I poured in that probably added some body to it. Overall it was a really good beer, and a lot better than it's current score of 83 (3.65) on BA. I gave it a 4.1, and luckily I still have 1 more can.