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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

11-11-11 Vertical Epic (Stone)

I have the 09, 10, and the 11 waiting in my cellar. I could not wait to try this 11 though! Chili beers can be a wondrous thing. I did keep one to age until after the 12-12 release. I had the notes in waiting to compare with a later tasting.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brew had a barely off-white and very frothy head. It was dark brown with a slight orange tint. I smelled sugar and the Belgian yeastiness. I, oddly enough, smelled tobacco too. I just read the tasting notes, and that's not in it. Maybe it's a combo of the spices (clove and cinnamon) and toffee malts. I can't wait to try it again and see.

Taste: The bitterness cuts the creaminess it had. I tasted the slight burn from both the chili and the spices. I was really surprised that the cinnamon and chili burn would complement each other. Never thought to put those to together. That coupled with the Belgian yeast and fruity esters was really fantastic. It left a dry finish. It was a very well-balanced brew. No harsh flavors of boziness that made me regret not aging it. The spices make it almost fitting for a November release. Can't wait to see what is in store for 12-12!

From the Stone site:
Not your typical chili beer! The famous mild green chilies from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico add layers of delicious flavor with a very mild heat component. The base beer itself is very reminiscent of a European amber beer, with Perle and Pacific Jade hops, Munich and other roasted German and Belgian malts, hopped and brewed to a very Stone like TBD IBU and 9.4% abv. Cinnamon is a wonderful spice if used judiciously, which we did here-it doesn't by any means dominate the beer's flavor, but definitely adds a subtly complex spice note that blends amazingly well with the bananaesters and green chili.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dragoons (Moylan's)

Keeping with the darker ales, I found notes for this Dry Irish Stouts in my archives. It was lost in the shuffle of my rough notes; worth writing about. I've been a fan of most of the Moylan's brews. They are inexpensive and delicious. Some are basic, some complex, all drinkable.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This dark, almost black, brew had a thick tan head. It settled to a ring. It smelled biscuity.

Taste: It was very biscuity. It was good. It was grainy. The dry aftertaste lightened the heaviness up a bit. It wasn't too dry though. It was quite drinkable.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Old Engine Oil (Harviestoun)

This is not about a summer brew at all. This is about a very special, highly viscous, decadent, roasted, chocolaty, oily, lactic, and black brew. I was introduced to this black ale while I was living near Kansas City, MO. It was at a chain pub with a decent bottle list. Mr. K ordered it. When the waitress grabbed his bottle that had a touch left in it, I thought he was going to chase her down. It's that good. Waste not a drop of this nectar of the gods.

The distributor's page does not list the locations where this brew is sold. It's not something you'll find in your standard liquor shop, but I've been able to find it around in different states. A contact at Harviestoun noted, "If you ever want to find out where you can get our beers in the USA, please just drop us a line (Facebook & Twitter are where we're most active). We're only a wee operation, but I always do my level best to respond to fans looking for our brews."

In looking at their site I found that they have an "Engineer's Reserve" version...I need to find this now!

I was having a stout kind of evening in my cool basement. This thick brew was the highlight of the evening. It's a fave, and I've had it sitting for a while. One of the many special brews in my booze lair. I drank a small pour to share the rest with Mr. K. I savored every drop.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brew was a super dark brown, almost black. It smelled like a dark chocolate roast and rich coffee. It had a chocolate-colored head that settled quickly. A ring of oil-slick (hop oils I assume) bubbles stayed around the top as I drank it down.

Taste: This competes with Fort Collins Brewing Company's Old Viscosity for the title of most viscous beer. It's right up there with Dark Lord in thickness. I got a coffee roast aftertaste. Very roasted. At the peak I got a bitter bakers chocolate followed by a little lacto-creaminess.

This is such a good beer. A quintessential brew. No herbs, spices, or fruits. No strong citrus, pine. or floral hops in scent and flavor. Pure bittering. A well-done beer.

From the Harviestoun site:
Old Engine Oil is a strong and dark, but wickedly smooth. Chocolate dominates the palate but is nicely balanced by a hoppy bitterness. Old Engine Oil is a delicious post-prandial beer with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Harviestoun's founder Ken Brooker spent much of his early life crafting wooden design prototypes for Ford. The viscous nature of this beer reminded Ken of car engine oil, so he named in in honour of his second love, the internal combustion engine.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

St Louis Craft Beer Week with UCBC

Kicking off Saint Louis Craft Beer Week 2012, I have a couple of notes from a visit to Urban Chestnut Brewing Company a few weeks ago. I highly recommend this spot. It's a nice comfortable pub with a varied selection of decent brews. This brewery tries to blend traditional styles with experimental recipes. They have some Founding Fathers-type brews using hop-alternatives like spruce.

This spot is fairly new. It's in a spot of downtown between the busy parts of Washington Ave and the completely dead areas. Maybe this is area of revival. 

They had biergarten that made me think of Berlin. It was nice and open, but enclosed. The selection outside was limited, but it was fitting for the weather. Lagers and light ales. The long narrow tables gave us room for everyone without feeling crowded. The umbrellas not only block sun, but all the light pollution. I really didn't feel like I was in Saint Louis. All it needed was a big screen for a soccer game. 

It was very, very hot, so about halfway through my stein we ducked inside. Loud music made it hard to catch up with friends. It was interesting music though. I got to sit near the bar and see their inside selections. 


Winged Nut (Left)
"We affectionately refer to the first beer in our Revolution series of modern, American craft beer, as our unusual little bird. It’s a little on the flighty side @ 5.7% ABV, and it’s a little on the wacky side because we brew it with finely milled chestnuts (genus castanea …for you nut freaks), Willamette hops, and we ferment it with a Bavarian Weissbier yeast strain. All of these nuances contribute to its ‘nutty’ personality."

Look and Smell: This hazy brew was light brown. It had a frothy head. It smelled of spice and nuts.

Taste: It was lighter than expected. It was a bit powdery. I thought that was a bit weird. I asked my friend to try it, it's one of her faves. She said that it was normal. It was spicy (clove) and nutty, about the intensity of the aroma. I think the spice went well for this chestnut brew. While I wouldn't say it was my favorite, I would recommend getting it. If you are at Urban Chestnut, you must try the chestnut brew.

ABV: 5.7% | IBU: 25

Oxnbrau (Right)
I found a description for a doppelbock/maibock blend (Urbanator), but this was just a doppelbock. It's not on their site, but it's on untappd. 

Look and Smell: This was a rich brown and had a thin bubbly head. I couldn't really smell it over the bar. I was enjoying the company, so I didn't try too hard.

Taste: I tasted sweet malt. It was very thin. I left a stickiness in my mouth. There really wasn't much to it. Doppelbocks aren't known for their complexity in flavor. It was nice and light for the summer heat.

ABV: 8% | IBU: 35

I tried a sample of the spruce brew, Old Tjikko, and I wasn't impressed. I actually didn't like it. One of the people at the table likened it to eating pine needles, and who would do that? I haven't had a wide range of spruced brews. I've only had one, and that Yards (Poor Richard's) brew was much better.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Torch (Haymarket)

Finally getting to hit Haymarket Pub & Brewery's Sunday movie night, I ordered this pale ale to go with Hot Fuzz. Haymarket offers smaller or larger pours of beer. You can try more brews, getting more than just a little taste. I did order a standard size of this brew, but it's a very good option if you were visiting for the first time or making a night of it.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had a thin bubbly head. It smelled of toasted malt.

Taste: This tasted of light malt with a nice bitter spike. It had a clean aftertaste. Very drinkable (as the menu says). It's a flavorful and light beer.

From the menu:
This unique and drinkable pale ale is brewed with almost all Vienna malt and hopped with Warrior, Willamette and Crystal. Named for the Austrian writer Karl Kraus and his biting satirical newspaper, "The Torch."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Angry Birds (Haymarket)

Haymarket Pub & Brewery does some really fun events. This is one spot that I wish I lived much closer to. They have Drinking and Writing shows, have guest speakers, give away baseball game tickets, and have Sunday movie night with fun double features. It's a comfortable spot. It hasn't been super crowded when I've gone. It's clean, the servers are attentive without being distracting, and it's smoke-free. Of course their beer and food is fantastic.

When I had visited Haymarket last year, this Belgian Rye IPA had just won gold at the GABF. They didn't have any more on tap. When I went back a few weeks ago for movie night, they had some, so it was my first pick. It went well with Shaun of the Dead and some house-made sausages.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had a thin head made of tiny little bubbles. The smell was a sweet spice. Rye spice.

Taste: It tasted as it smelled. The rye spice was light. It was incredibly smooth. The bitterness fights the sweet malt. It was thicker than expected. I can see why it won gold! The rye and Belgian sweetness is a really good combo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rayon Vert (Green Flash)

After a nice tart and sweet cider from the tap at Sheffield's, I checked out the bottle list and found this Belgian-Style Pale Ale from Green Flash.

I've only had a couple of Green Flash brews and really enjoyed them. This brett-laced brew seemed like it would quench my summer thirst.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: I smelled whole leaf hops and the sour brettanomyces wildness. It was gold with a ridiculous head.  It just wouldn't quit. It was a delicate pour and the head was just all over the place. Super foamy. Even when carefully pouring out the last bit after I was finishing up the first pour produced a thick foamy head.

Taste: It was musky, bitter, and dry. The sour was subtle, just enough to make it crisp. It was a different kind of brew, and one that I might find craveable.

From the Green Flash site:
If Green Flash were founded in historical Belgium, Rayon Vert would have been our flagship brew. A bold layering of hops finds balance from traditional malts. Bottle conditioning with fresh ale yeast and Brettanomyces finishes the beer, adding a delightful effervescence, dryness and continuously evolving character. Rayon Vert is Green Flash.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Totally Roasted (Vander Mill)

Ciders are a delicate beverage. Like any, the flavors are based on a delicate balance of ingredients and process. With hundreds of varieties of apples, a wide range of yeasts, and additions, you'll find ones that you love and hate. The fermentation and aging adds a complexity that you don't find in your standard apple juice. I normally don't write notes about wine or other fermented fruit beverages beyond lambics, but this cider was worth noting.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a clean pale gold color. It smelled like cinnamon, strong and uplifting. The toasted nuts smell took me back to summer and fall fairs. It was that strong. The apple smell balanced it out. It made my mouth water.

Taste: It was like drinking a refreshing apple pie. The toasted nuts really came through. It was creamy, but the acid from the apple cut through it. I got the cinnamon and sugar I associate with toasted nuts and apple pie...sweetness from the apple sugars. The acid cleaned the palate and left that dry aftertaste.

It was very hot day. I drank this on the patio at Sheffield's in the shade. I rarely drink the same thing twice in a row, especially at a spot with such a good selection. This was so light and refreshing, I ordered a second and recommended it to a friend.

From the Vander Mill:
This cider was specially made for a draft customer in Grand Rapids, MI. We are using over 4lbs of homemade cinnamon roasted pecans in a 30 gallon batch of this limited edition cider to bring you “Totally Roasted”. You will notice that soaking pecans in cider brings a unique texture and taste to the drink. We use cinnamon and vanilla during the roasting process and follow that up by adding whole cut vanilla beans to the cider. These subtle tastes certainly make this a cider all its own.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lips of Faith Tasting II (New Belgium)

I had been stocking up on New Belgium Lips of Faith series brews. I've had a few before and did a private tasting with Mr. K of another four this past month. With new ones out, we grabbed a Tart Lychee and two other fruity/sour LoF brews from our stash for private tasting parte due.


Prickly Passion Saison (2011)
"Peter picked a prickly pear and paired it with a passion fruit. 'Perfect! Pitch it in!' He proclaimed. Now we have this pleasing prickly passion saison brewed with fruit juices and French saison yeast to our brewmaster's picking."" —From the bottle, more fun than the site.

Look and Smell: This amber-gold brew was musky. It has a solid, white, frothy head. I couldn't stop smelling it. It was fantastically earthy and fruity at the same time. The sugars left light lacing as I drank it.

Taste: It was fruity. It had a floral and fruit hop taste to it, not just the fruit juices. It wasn't as sour as I was expecting, lighter than a sour apple (pear). There was a bit of spice to it too. May have been from the yeast or other special additions.

ABV: 8.5

Biere de Mars (2012)

"A celestial collision of orange-hued ale, citrusy lemon verbena, and unidentified flying brettanomyces." —From the bottle, not on the site anymore.

Look and Smell: This orange brew had a thick foamy head. It left light lacing as I drank it. I was super floral, almost too much. I didn't want to keep smelling it, like I did with the Prickly Passion. It was lemony.

Taste: It was a smooth herbal brew. That floral bitterness, like sucking on flowers, taste was present. It matched the aroma. It had a light acidity. It was like over-brewed tea. A tea with great herbs and flowers. Slight honey. It was pretty good if you were in the mood for something like this. Served cold in the summertime.

ABV: 6.2%

Tart Lychee (2012)
And the one I was waiting for!!! "To sweet and sour. In celebration of one of the greatest combinations  ever, lychee fruit brings tropical sweetness to the party hosted by Felix, our golden wood-aged sour beer. Cinnamon sticks were invited to spice things up and so are you. Get in on the tasty revelry that is tart lychee."

Look and Smell: It was a cloudy straw-colored brew. The foamy white head was so bubbly you could hear it as it settled. It smelled like musky oak, smooth lychee, and cinnamon.

Taste: Moving from the groves of Florida, my best bet for lychee is the jarred varieties soaked in sugary syrup or some such thing. I've tried them in martinis, hoping the vodka would mask the syrup and give me a hint of that natural fruit. Infused in beer, without the actual flesh to bite into, this still gives me that feel of the natural fruit. The cinnamon really complements it. I've never thought of those flavors together. The oak works well with the musky, earthiness of the natural fruit. It was tart, juicy, and clean. It was woody, oaky, and earthy. This brew was a real treat.

ABV: 7.5%

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Resin (Sixpoint Craft Ales)

I had been wanting to try this IPA since Sixpoint came to Indiana. Just the name alone brings piney goodness to my mind. You can see the whole story of Resin on their site. If you have five minutes, give it a watch. Would be better with a pint of this hoppy-goodness in hand. I enjoyed a half pint in a local brewpub. Good thing they had it...the beers made at the joint were less than desirable.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had a solid bubbly head. It left heavy lacing as I drank it. I could smell pithy hops over the bar.

Taste: Even through the overly-chilled brew, I could taste the citrus. I could taste the pale malt. What made this beer special, a brew I'd go out of my way for was the sharp piney bitterness. Even with that sharpness, it smoothed out by the end. It was quite nice. Straightforward and just what I'd look for some days.

From the Sixpoint site:
Whatever flames upon the night.
Man's own resinous heart has fed.
A beer that celebrates the extraction of hop resin for a concentrated yet balanced brew.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lips of Faith Tasting (New Belgium)

I had been stocking up on New Belgium Lips of Faith series brews. I've had a few before: Sahti, Cocoa Molé, Abbey Grand Cru, Super Cru, and La Folie 2010. I grabbed four of the ones I hadn't tried yet from the booze lair and got ready for a private tasting with Mr. K.


Dunkel Weiss 
"Cat-burglar-smooth and just as fond of the dark, dunkel weiss sneaks together wheat and barley malts with a pinch of black pepper. Nab one before it gives you the slip!" —From the bottle, not on the site anymore.

Look and Smell: This black brew had a thick, tiny-bubbly, off-white head. It smelled wheaty and yeasty. I got a little ripe fruit smell. Like a very ripe banana? It left moderate lacing as I drank it down.

Taste: It was bready. It was a bit acidic, yet smooth. The malt really smoothed it out.

ABV: 9% 

Vrienden

This Allagash and NB "collabeeration" was "Brewed with the slightly fruity hibiscus flower, the aromatic brettanomyces, and the flavor-boosting lactobacillus." —From the bottle, not on the site anymore.

Look and Smell: This amber brew was very effervescent. It lead to a white, bubbly head that doesn't quit. It stayed as a 1/4 inch layer of tiny bubbles. It was very herbal smelling. I didn't really get much of the typical beer aroma (malt, hops, yeast).

Taste: This hibiscus and endive brew was very light. The floral bitterness was the main flavor. I also tasted bitter citrus, lime. A floral sweetness lead to a very dry aftertaste. It hit all over my mouth, roof and tongue. It leaves a dry and fruit aftertaste, like a dry apple cider. Very interesting. Very good summer brew.

ABV: 8.5%

La Folie 2010 & 2011
January of last year, I tried La Folie 2010 for the first time. I wanted to try this sour brown after aging it for over a year and side-by-side with the 2011. 

Look and Smell: They both had a dark ruby tint with a thin ring of tiny bubbles as the head. They smelled like dark cherries. The '10 had a stronger scent. It was more sour and more spiced.

Taste: The '10 had a strong sweetness and was more sour than the '11. It was a nice and even balance. The '11 tasted more like a smoother, sweeter molasses. It was more spiced than the '10. Both left an acidic and wood-dry aftertaste. I could taste the difference in flavor, but didn't really prefer one over the other.

ABV: 6%

Monday, July 9, 2012

Twist of F8 (Figure 8)

On our last day of 100° weather, I caved and got a pint of this watermelon wheat. I had tried it on one of my first visits to F8. I wasn't a huge fan, but I'm not one for fruit wheats. I figured with the heat and time of year for the perfect slice of watermelon, I might be in the mood for this.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It had a really foamy head. It was orange-ish. It smelled juicy sweet.

Taste: It was a hearty wheat. It was watermelon sweet. I want to say like a Jolly Rancher...which just sounds awful. It wasn't that awful, but it wasn't my pint of beer. It was well-crafted for what it was. I can see this being a top seller. Mr. K was nice enough to swap at the half pint for his biscuity Camp 4 brown ale. If you aren't a huge fan of the fruit wheats, but still have a hankering, go for the half pint.

From the menu:
Watermelon wheat ale is a blend of three grains with hallertauer hops and a hint of watermelon that wafts above the pleasant summer-style wheat for a refreshing finish.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Illumination (Central Waters)

Where has Central Waters been all of my life? I guess they've been in Wisconsin, at least since 1996. Local Option had a couple of their brews on tap. Since this is my first experience with them, I can't say that all of their brews are amazing, but this DIPA was a great introduction to this brewery for a hop enthusiast.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This straw-colored brew had a thick frothy head. The brew left nice strings of lacing from the hop oils as I drank it down. It smelled like grass. Very green and earthy.

Taste: It was bitter with a light sweetness that took the edge off. It tasted like drinking an evergreen...it a good way. The other two people at the table enjoyed a couple of shared sips. I'd be rude not to share a brew this good!

Friday, July 6, 2012

All Day IPA (Founders)

I had heard about this brew recently, but never really saw it anywhere. I saw it on tap at Local Option and figured it would be great way to beat this summer heat. It really, really was!

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had a frothy white head. It smelled a bit orange-y.

Taste: It tasted of orange pith. It was really light but still had lots of character. This really is an all-day beer. I'd take this over a lager any day of the week.

From the Founders site:
The beer you’ve been waiting for. Keeps your taste satisfied while keeping your senses sharp. An all-day IPA naturally brewed with a complex array of malts, grains and hops. Balanced for optimal aromatic and a clean finish. The perfect reward for an honest day’s work and the ultimate companion to celebrate life’s simple pleasures.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Devil's Drip (Figure 8)

I had the chance to enjoy this Belgian-style tripel on my first of many visits to the new F8 brew pub. It actually went very well with my rich mac & cheese.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This orange brew had a thin bubbly head. It smelled like sweet Belgian sugars. A touch of banana aroma came through.

Taste: It was a bit boozy and pretty sweet. It would be a great dessert. It brought out the sweetness of the cheese in my dinner. I got the spicy clove and something else that I couldn't put my finger on. It wasn't the standard weihenstephan yeast banana/cloveness. It seemed that there was more to it.

From the F8 site:
A classic Tripel, complete with yeast esters from its double fermentation expressing themselves as flavors of bananas and cloves.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom, Fireworks, and Farmers Markets


Today is Independence Day. It's a day to think about our freedom. A day to consider the acts of the American Revolutionaries and their fight to break away from the taxation and rule of the kingdom across the pond. It's a day off (for most). 

The 4th of July is a full celebration of summer. It's pool parties, time with family, and a time to enjoy fresh summer fruit and veg. It's a legal day to blow up tiny little, colorful, projectiles. It's a reminder to get out and enjoy summer. 

All of the farmers markets are in full swing by this point of the year with all of the great, fresh produce, breads, jams, and plants. Even in a season of erratic warm and cold snaps, even in a heat wave, the farmers are bound to have something to sell. If you were wise, you would have visited the markets this past weekend to stock up for today. Sweet, juicy, watermelon is always a favorite. When it's this hot, the juice running down your arm after a taking off more than a mouthful matters not. Big ripe strawberries are my favorite for today. Sour or sweet Michigan cherries are perfect if you can find them. The fresh peas are a great side for grilled salmon.

The 4th of July is a time for community celebration. It's a celebration for America, with no religious conflict, dietary requirements, or financial requirements to get in the way. No presents required. No slaving over a giant meal in a hot kitchen needed. Simple, fun, and fresh.