Monday, January 31, 2011

Trappistes Rochefort 6

Brewery: Brasserie de Rochefort
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 7.50%
Country: Belgium

Another trappist beer, this one hails from Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy and is the first of three in a series. The other two are the creatively named 8 and 10. Each one represents a step up in potency in both malts, flavors, and alcohol.

Murky brown with a fluffy off white head. Plenty of yeast visible floating around.

Sweet aroma. Dark fruits. Grapes, plums, and raisins. The aroma is fantastic, there is enough complexity to keep the sweetness from being overwhelming.

Yeasty flavor and tons of carbonation were present up front. The fruitiness from the aroma comes through a bit, but unfortunately a wave of carbonation comes through and washes a lot of the flavor away. Alcohol and sourness are both present and warming similar to what I've found in other Belgian dark ales. I wasn't too impressed with this and I hope the other two. Made me burp too much C-

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stone IPA

Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.9%
Country: USA, California

Another beer from Stone and another IPA. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Poured a bright golden orange. Thick white head that lingered a long time. Looked like a yummy textbook IPA. Aroma had plenty of the standard citrus aromas along with some piney hops present. Plenty of sweet malts upfront. Citrus and herbal from the aroma are both present. Transitions into a nice and dry bitter finish. Alcohol is hidden well. Body and carbonation are at a Overall another solid entry from the guys at Stone. B+

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

Brewery: Brouwerij Van Steenberge
Style: Flander's Oud Bruin
ABV: 5.5%
Country: Belgium

Found this at Whole Foods and it sounded interesting so I grabbed it. This style is also known as a provision beer which is a style of beer originally brewed for soldiers back in the day. Pour was a reddish brown with a big foamy head, with a cream colored head that lingered around. Aroma was incredibly tart with cherries and some yeast notes. The taste was sweet up front that turned into plenty of sour tartness. Fruity cherry and lemon flavors were prevalent. Some bready malts present once the wave of tartness subsided a bit. Finish is more sourness. No bitterness whatsoever. Plenty of carbonation and a dry and crisp finish. Less overtly fruity than a fruit lambic but still unique. Quite refreshing but a bit to much to have on a regular basis. B

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

Brewery: Mikkeller
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.90%
Country: Denmark

The simcoe hop is a more recent hop variety that is unique to America. The wonderful Hopslam uses a large amount of simcoe when dry-hopping to help give it its wonderful flavor. With no access to Hopslam throughout the year, I was eager to find something that might act as methadone to help me make it to next January. I saw this at Whole Foods, saw simcoe in the title, and I was sold.

Poured a dark and hazy caramel color. Huge and fluffy head stayed thick the entire time. Weak aroma, was mostly yeasty. Some odd notes that I hadn't smelled before. None of the yummy pine notes that were present in the Hopslam. Quite unpleasant. Taste was equally unpleasant, more yeast and other flavors that can best be described as stale and dank. Some bitterness but I felt like I had a gym sock stuffed in my mouth. I couldn't finish this and about half of the bottle found a new home in the kitchen sink drain. The search will continue. F

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Brewery: Flying Dog Brewing Company
Style: Belgian IPA
ABV: 8.30%
Country: USA, Maryland

Raging Bitch is the first beer from Flying Dog I've had since working my way through the variety pack. This is one of the more well known beers from Flying Dog and has been earning itself a good reputation since it was released in 2003.

Poured this into my tulip glass which has been getting plenty of use as of late. Left plenty of foamy head and a nice, lingering lace. Color was a bright and clear caramel.

Aroma had plenty of citrus hops. A Bit different from the standard grapefruit cascade hop variety. This has more of a lemon pepper aroma to it.

Sweet caramel hops with a bit of honey malt presence up front. Plenty of dark and fruity flavors throughout, raisins and apricots were the first two to come to mind. Left a nice lingering bitterness that wasn't overpowering. The body had a buttery and creamy feeling that tasted fantastic. Couldn't taste the alcohol, but it made its presence felt with a nice warming spiciness. This is a great sipper and worthy of its reputation. A-

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

St. Bernardus Abt 12

Brewer: St. Bernardus
Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 10.5%

This brew came on high recommendation from Chuck at Ashburn Wine Shop. I try not to set expectations on beer before trying them but Chuck built it up pretty big.

After giving the beer a good rolling and popping the cork the pour showed an opaque brown liquid as the bottle emptied into the glass. A thick light brown head formed and settled at an extremely slow rate.

Aroma is sweet with hints of dark fruit and almost a mustiness at the end.

Taste is complex and falls in line pretty well with the aroma. Hints of raisin and plums even some fig. Alcohol stays well hidden only noticeable on the extreme end of the drink.

Mouth feel is very smooth with a medium body.

Giving this one a B+


Dogfish Head Saison du Buff

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.8%
Country: USA, Delaware

Saison du Buff is a collaborative brew among three brewers that have all been featured on this blog: Dogfish Head, Stone, and Victory. Each brewery has their own version of this beer that has their own unique twist to the concept. Saison is also known as a farmhouse ale which was originally brewed by farmers in Belgium to help them through the harvest season. This particular version, according to the bottle, is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

The pour on this was fantastic. Huge amount of bright white bubbles came billowing out and hung around as a fluffy head the entire time. The color was a bright, pale gold that was hazy. Quite inviting. I had to do a lot of waiting for the head to settle before I could dive into this one. Smell was sweet and earthy, I managed to pick out the thyme and rosemary that the bottle proclaimed. Taste was quite sweet up front that quickly transitioned into an herbal and earthy flavor. This transitioned into a finish that was quite dry. No bitterness was really found, but the earthiness continued into the finish. I couldn't distinctly pick out the herbs mentioned on the bottle in the taste as I could in the aroma. Plenty of carbonation was present which isn't surprising given the massive head that was present. Overall, while I thought this was a good beer, I didn't think there was anything too special that would make me want to have this again. My guess is that this has to do more with the style of beer than the beer itself. C+

Photos courtesy of ShutterMug

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bottling Day

My first attempt at home brew finished fermenting the other day which meant it was time to bottle. It had been two weeks and a few days since brew day and the airlock had more or less stopped bubbling. If a beer is bottled too soon, there can be too much fermentable sugar left over which can cause the bottles to explode while fermentation continues. I spent the evening cleaning out bottles and getting ready. I had about fifty some bottles left over from all the beers I had been enjoying through the blog process which was more than enough for the five odd gallons that were brewed.

I peeled the top of of the fermenting tub and was greeted with a wave of massive hopiness. It smelled like an incredibly concentrated cloud of cascade hop gas. It made my eyes water and nearly caused to start coughing into the batch. I siphoned off a bit for the hydrometer reading and found that it had a final gravity 1.012. The original gravity was 1.052. This difference shows how much "stuff" fermented and became alcohol. This beer will be about 5.5% ABV.

I siphoned off the beer into the bottling tub and added the priming sugar. This sugar will be food for the yeast and will be fermented in the bottle to provide carbonation. I had tasted the beer when measuring the FG and it tasted like a nice and hoppy pale ale. A flat pale ale, but it tasted like beer nonetheless.

The beer left a thick nasty looking sludge in the bottom of the fermenting tub which used to be the yeast and other proteins that had settled during fermentation. This did not taste like beer and was, in fact, quite disgusting. I did manage to find the missing gasket that was pushed through during the first night, so great success!

The bottling itself was not to eventful, but now I have a cabinet of bottled homebrew that should be ready to drink in two weeks.

Saranac Seaon's Best

Brewer: Saranac
Style: Brown Nut Lager
ABV: 5.30%

Pour gives the expected brown/amber color with a nice thick head tat recedes to a solid lace that marks the glass.

Aroma has notes of hops and a nutty malt.

Tastes goes straight to hoppiness with a nutty finish much like the aroma. Beer finishes clean and crisp with little aftertaste.

Mouth feel is a lightly carbonated full bodied beer. Quite filling, wouldn't be able to drink too many of them.

I'm giving this a B- because it lacks some flavor, but is drinkable. Good for sitting around and drinking slow.


Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale (Alex's take)

Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
Style: Black IPA
ABV: 8.7%
Country: USA, California

Roy had reviewed this previously here. As a fan of both stouts and IPAs, I couldn't really resist the appeal of this since a black IPA is a mix between, well, a stout and an IPA. The pour was pitch black with no sign of any brown around the edges. It had a big and thick head which was fluffy and tan. Left a sticky lace and rings the whole way down.

Aroma contained plenty of citrusy hops up front with lots of roasted flavors as well. More hops were found in the taste. Somewhat pine-like with oranges and lots of sweet malts. Roasted coffee and oak show up after the hops subside. Tasted like what I was expecting as a mix between a stout and an IPA. Roasted notes transition into a big wave of bitterness that lingers a long time. Bitterness really takes control and overpowers everything else. Stout and IPA flavors battled the entire time for dominance. While good, this was more or less what I was expecting. I'd prefer a bit less bitterness. B

Monday, January 24, 2011

Liefmans Goudenband

Brewer: Liefmans
Style: Flanders Oud Bruin
ABV: 8.00%

Enjoyed some of this at a recent tasting and decided a bit more was needed. First impression was quite good.

Pours a dark reddish brown with a thick head that thins out nicely to a lace.

The nose is spicy and sweet. Picked up what reminded me of tart cherries as well.

The first drink had a certain slight puckering sourness to it. Not over overpowering but not something I have tasted in a beer thus far. It actually reminded me a lot of a cider made with green apples. Overall a complex and smooth beer with a great mouth feel and pleasing aftertaste.

I give it an A-, pick some up and enjoy!


Franziskaner hefe-weisse

Brewery: Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.o%
Country: Germany

I'm actually surprised that it took this long for a German beer to grace this blog. AJ picked this one up while at the Teeter. I'm usually not a Hefeweizen fan, but I wont turn down a free beer. Poured out leaving a huge white-fluffy head. Body was a hazy orange color which was to be expected. Aroma had a slight grassy flavor along with plenty of bananas and wheat. Flavor had lots of wheat and bananas. Its really quite distinct. Some grass flavors and a nice buttery feel which isn't overdone. No bitterness whatsoever in the finish. The high carbonation lends a nice spicy, crisp finish. I can see how this would be a great beer for a hot day. I really enjoyed this one which was a nice surprise. B+

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Duck-Rabbit Porter

Brewery: The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.7%
Country: USA, North Carolina

This bottle claims that the Duck-Rabbit brewery is the "Dark Beer Specialist" so I had some high expectations when pouring this one.

Pour was a dark black color that had some brown around the edges. Tan head dissipated quickly not leaving much lace. Smell had a light sweetness combined with a smoky, roasted character. Taste is fantastic. Plenty of good and dark flavors to choose from. Smoke, coffee, burnt charcoal. Similar to what I'd expect a fireplace to taste like. I really enjoyed this one. Just for the record, I can see both a duck and a rabbit, but it looks more like a rabbit. A-

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lagunitas Brown Shugga' Ale

Brewery: Lagunias Brewing Company
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.99%
Country: USA, California

From the bottle: "We believe this special ale is something unique. Feeding brown cans sugar to otherwise cultured brewery yeast is a'kin to feeding raw shark to your gerbil. It is unlikely to ever occur in nature without human intervention. And it looks weird besides. But it has happened and now it's too late."

Pored a brown, reddish copper color with a bubbly tan head. Had a nice crystal clear body. It had a strong, sweet aroma. Brown sugar, some toasted toffee dominated the nose with a bit of hopiness. Taste had plenty of different sugar flavors. True to the name, brown sugar was the most dominant. Both molasses and caramelized sugar were present while toasted toffee shined through. A surprising amount of bitterness does a good job of bringing some balance to the picture. Some alcohol flavors and spiciness show up as well. Overall, it was a bit to sweet for my liking. B-

Friday, January 21, 2011

Barn Owl Premium Ale

Brewery: Cotleigh Brewery
Style: English Bitter
ABV: 4.5%
Country: England

This is only the second English beer to be looked at so far. Poured a cloudy and coppery brown with a nice and thick white head. Aroma was floral and grassy, quite mild. Malty and sweet up front. Some toffee like notes. Flavor turns quickly into the floral and grassy flavors found in the aroma. Somewhat like damp straw. Thin and watery body. Finished quickly with a light bitterness. Finish is quick and fleeting. Couldn't really find anything in the beer too enjoyable. Purchases of the beer go to an trust fund for owls. So something good I guess? D

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Troegenator Doublebock

Brewery: Troegs Brewing Company
Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 8.2%
Country: USA, Pennsylvania

Sill working through my gift pack. This is the second Troegs on this blog, the first being the awesome Mad Elf. The Doppelbock is a more potent version of the Bock style. For those that prefer SATs, Doppelbock is to Bock as Imperial IPA is to IPA. More malts, flavors, and alcohol.

This particular version poured a dark, ruby brown with a thin white head and a wispy lace.
The aroma was strong and spicy, plenty of malts and sweetness were present as well. The first sip contained plenty of fruity flavors. Raisins and cherries dominated with a spicness in the end with plenty of alcohol presence. The thick and syrupy body was sticky and sweet. This came off as a milder version of the Mad Elf. Less cherries and sweetness than the Elf, but a similar syrupy feel. Overall, it was a bit to thick and sticky for my liking, but was still pretty good. B-

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Brewery: Samuel Smith's Old Brewery
Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 5.0%
Country: England

Mostly black with caramel. One finger, dark tan head leaves a lace that lingers the entire time. Aroma has plenty of sweet malts present along with slight roasted notes and a hint of chocolate.

First thing I noticed was the fantastic mouth-feel. This is smooth, silky, and feels great. Low carbonation feels nearly flat, but this is a good thing in this case. The lack of bubbles makes this a gem to swirl around. Light sweetness up front blends with typical stout toasted flavors. There is a metallic, acrid taste that is common in stouts. In this case, it is mostly subdued which is quite pleasing. Bitterness is almost non existent. Best way to describe this beer is mild, soothing, and incredibly pleasing. A-

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve

Brewer: Rogue
Style: American Amber/Red Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Now I know Christmas has passed but I still have some Christmas beers to make it through. Next up is Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve which I picked up from good ol' Wegmans in a craft pack.

The color matches the style a deep amber with the some slight yellow on the edges. Head settles to a thin off white lace.

Lots of piney hops in the nose with some malt.

The taste follows the aroma quite well. Malty start with some pine in the middle and with the hoppier finish. The bitterness is minimal but a nice touch. Medium to heavy body and quite filling.

Really not much to it but not a bad beer, I am giving this a B-.


Bell's Hopslam Ale

Brewery: Bell's Brewery
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10%
Country: USA, Michigan

This might qualify as the first "whale" that has been reviewed on this site. Hopslam is only released once a year and in limited supply. Supposedly, only 600 cases of this made it to Virgina. Of those cases, most had been sold in the course of a week. There are plenty of beer geeks out there with the release date for this beer marked on their calendar. I was treated to some at Ashburn Wine after which I was told that they had some in stock but it was sold by request only and with a two bottle limit. Without hesitation, I bought my two bottles and proceeded to fantasize to when I could sit down and savor this brew some more.

I broke out the tulip for this one. It poured a bright orange color. Big white fluffy head lingers a long time. The clarity of this was perfect as well. An impressive sight to behold for sure.

BIG aroma. Plenty of piney, earthy resin notes up front. Behind that lays a combination of sweet, honey malts and citrus grapefruit. I'd be content with smelling this all night long. My head started to get dizzy from inhaling this after a while.

The taste was absolutely divine! Like the aroma, a pine-tree resin is present up front. The honey shows up second which not only provides a wonderful sweetness, but also provides an incredibly rich mouthfeel. More grapefruit hop flavors show up which give way to a dry bitterness. The only presence that the 10% ABV makes is a pleasant warming sensation at the end. All the flavors of the alcohol are concealed with the hefty malts and hops.

Mouthfeel is rich and thick, bordering on syrupy. Lower levels of carbonation make this a delight to savor a long time. Like the 90 Minute IPA, this ale is beautifully balanced. Plenty of malts serve to check the generous hoping. I'll admit that this replaces the 90 Minute as my favorite beer for now. Its a shame that this only comes out once a year. I have my calendar marked for future releases already. A+

Monday, January 17, 2011

Starr Hill Pale Ale

Brewery: Starr Hill Brewery
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Country: USA, Virginia

Another beer from my Christmas gift pack. This is also a beer brewed Crozet Virginia which is about twenty minutes away from Charlottesville. I've had a few beers from them before with mixed results. I thought their IPA was good but their lager was not that great.

This one poured a bright, coppery amber. thin white head dissipates quickly. The aroma was the typical grapefruit hop aroma that is common in this style. The taste had some sweet base malts with biscuit flavors and some fruity hopiness mixed in. dry bitter finish that lingers a bit. Tilts a bit more toward the bitter end of the spectrum. Pretty simple overall, not too exciting. B-

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some of the beers enjoyed the last few months

Had these bottles laying around to hopefully be reused for home-brewing. From left to right there is:
  1. La Fin Du Monde
  2. Stone Runiation IPA
  3. Red Rocket Ale
  4. Westmalle Trapist Ale
  5. Trois Pistoles (Sort of hidden)
  6. Double Bastard Ale
  7. Duvel Tripel Hop Ale
  8. Rogue Chocolate Stout
  9. Bell's Hopslam
  10. Bitches Brew
  11. Affligem Noel
  12. Racer 5 IPA
  13. Chimay Grande Reserve
  14. Delerium Tremens (Also hidden)
  15. Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
  16. Founder's Breakfast Stout
  17. Burton Baton
  18. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale

Mountaineer Pale Ale

Brewery: Mountaineer Brewing Company
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.59%
Country: USA, West Virginia

Saw the label in Total Wine that said this was from West Virgina. I have plenty of family there and hadn't had a WV beer so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Poured a hazy yellow orange with a thin white head that dissipated quickly. I smelled a citrus grapefruit aroma with a bit of harsh astringent notes. Not the nicest thing in the world.

Plenty of sweet malts. Citrus hop characters up front mixes with the sweetness. Finish is only slightly bitter with some sour notes showing up as well. Kind of dull for my liking. I would have liked to have had some more bitterness, hopiness, and less sweetness. The mouth-feel was pleasant and had a nice crispiness but there wasn't much else going for this. C-

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ed Hardy Premium Beer

Brewer: Cerveceria Mexicana
Style: Lager
ABV: ???
Country: Mexico

Saw this at Total Wine and figured what the heck? This is the same Ed Hardy known for covering every conceivable surface in gaudy tattoos. At checkout I noticed that the clerk had the title "Lead Beer Consultant" on his name tag. I told him I was surprised he didn't say anything about the Ed Hardy. He told me that given the other beers I was purchasing, he figured I was playing a joke on someone. So yeah... playing a joke on myself here.

Poured a golden yellow color. Had a bright white head about a finger thick that dissipated quickly.

The aroma was of sour grains and damp straw, not terribly pleasing.

A bit of sweetness and not much else. A bit grassy. No bitterness no aftertaste. There really isn't anything to be found here. Not as bad as I expected it to be, but I don't want to have to drink this again. I didn't pour it out so I wont give it an F. But still, there is nothing premium about this beer. D-

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blue Point Toasted Lager

Brewery: Blue Point Brewing Company
Style: Lager
ABV: 5.3%
Country: USA, New York

Bright amber and gold color. Big and fluffy white head. Crystal clear body.

Sweet aroma, similar to caramelized sugar.

Tastes similar to the smell, sweet and sugary but not overstated. True to its name, there is a nice toasted toffee-like taste. Finishes clean with a biscuit malt taste. A few times I noticed some alcohol which is a bit surprising given this has an average amount in it. Body is well endowed for a lager which is a nice change of pace. An enjoyable drink that is a step above the average lager. B

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chimay Grande Reserve

Brewery: Bieres de Chimay
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 9.0%
Country: Belgium

This looks to be the first authentic Trappist ale to be reviewed on this blog. I had thought I had talked in depth about Trappist ales before, but couldn't find any posts mentioning them. Essentially a Trappist ale is a style of ale brewed in a monastery by monks. Trappist monks are also known as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance , a Roman-Catholic order. Essentially these monks produce goods to be sold to support their monastery.

Of the 171 Trappist monasteries in the world, seven produce beer as their offering. Six are in Belgium and one is in the Netherlands. These beers are the only ones allowed to carry the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo on the bottle. The beer making monasteries are: Chimay, Rochefort, Orval, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Archel, and Koningshoeven. These beers are some of the most highly renowned beers in the world. I've had Westmalle. I have three different Rocheforts cellared. Westvleteren is rated by both beeradvocate and ratebeer as the top beer in the world. That being said, I had high expectations for the Chimay Grande Reserve.

Pour was a dark cloudy brown with a thick, bubbly, tan foam. I couldn't pick up too much aroma surprisingly. What I found was some sweetness present with a bit of chocolate near the end.

The first taste was syrupy sweet, lots of raisins present. There was a pleasing clove spiciness that showed up as well. No bitterness to speak of. The moth was nice and velvety and not too carbonated. Went down quite well and the alcohol is totally masked.

While this was a good beer, I feel that it was a bit over-hyped. Frankly I was expecting more from it. I'd drink it again for sure, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. B

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rogue Chocolate Stout

Brewery: Rogue Ales
Style: Stout
ABV: 6%
Country: USA, Oregon

Poured a pitch black, no hint of brown anywhere around the edges. Nice and thick head. The foam was a light chocolate color appropriately enough. Quite foamy and bubbly, it left a lingering lace.

Rich chocolate aroma with a touch of oatmeal. Quite a pleasing aroma, this is up there with the Founder's Breakfast Stout in the smell department.

Initial taste was sweeter than I initially expected but certainly not in a bad way. Earthy hop flavors mix with the sweetness initially. Smooth, dark chocolate flavors are present throughout. Finish is bracingly bitter. The aftertaste presents the toasted flavors that I was expecting. Best way to describe it would be roasted toffee. Bitterness lingers a long time.

Mouthfeel was nice and creamy from oatmeal malts. Carbonation gives this a nice spiciness that mixes well with the flavors. Certainly not a typical stout. Coffee flavors are much more understated than in a typical stout. By far, my favorite part of this is the aroma. So smooth and chocolaty, I could smell this all day. Everything else about this beer is incredibly pleasing to sip on. Fantastic. A

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Racer 5 India Pale Ale

Brewery: Bear Republic Brewing Company
Style: IPA
ABV: 7%
Country: USA, California

Bright amber color and clear. Bottle conditioned so yeast and other particulate is visible. Nice head, about a finger thick which left plenty of lace and rings going down.

Aroma is sticky sweet with a lush wave of grapefruit and pineapple with a little bit of earthiness to it. Tons of dry-hopping going on here, very pleasant to smell.

Sweet malty taste. Plenty of citrus notes from the aroma are present while sipping. Body is nice and velvety. Some creamy banana-like flavors show up in the middle. Light carbonation keeps this pleasant to swirl around. Finish is a pleasing dry bitterness. Goes down nice and easy. This is on the stronger end of the IPA spectrum and is close to becoming an Imperial IPA. Flavors are nice and balanced that is a bit more sweet than bitter. This is a fantastic beer that I'll certainly need to drink more of. A

Monday, January 10, 2011

Home-"brewing" Hard Cider

Cider(hard) has been in the American landscape since the colonial times. It was often the primary drink in a landscape that didn't have potable water at every turn. Many people think that it is having a 2nd coming in the USA.

Me? I'm just making it because I might be gluten-intolerant.

I have all of the necessary equipment to make a 5 gallon batch:
  • 6.5 gallon plastic fermetor bucket - "Ale Pale"
  • Rubber stoppers with an "airlock" to stop air from coming in, but allow CO2 to go out
  • Beer "thief" - to take small samples from fermentor
  • Hydrometer - to measure alcohol content
  • A beer bottle capper
  • A wine corker
That's really all I need. However, I decided that I wanted to test out a few recipes before committing to a 5 gallon batch, so I bought 4 1-gallon glass jugs for experimenting. ($4.95/ea by the way).

Here are the 3 recipes I used, which I based loosely on things I've read on the internet:

Orange/Ginger Cider
- 0.5lb of dark brown sugar
- the zest of 2 navel oranges
- the juice of 2 navel oranges
- roughly 3 Tbsp of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- Top off with Apple juice

Cinnamon/Nutmeg/Cloves Cider
- 0.5lb of dark brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole nutmeg, cracked into about 6 pieces
- 1 clove (I'm experimenting here, and people say to be cautious with cloves, they overpower whole batches)
- Top off with Apple Juice

Plain cider (yes, its this easy)
- 0.5lb dark brown sugar
- Top off with Apple juice

For all 3 of the ciders, I dissolved the brown sugar in some juice on the stove-top, heating it slightly.

For each of the "spiced" ciders, I made a little tea out of the ingredients and about 1/2 gallon of Apple Juice, and simmered it for about 20 minutes to extract the flavors. I then mixed them into their jugs, tossed in some Nottingham Ale Yeast, and topped them off with juice before sealing them up.

These ciders had original gravities between 1.060 and 1.068, which puts them to be about 7.5% ABV by the time they're done. I'll probably sweeten them up with Apple Juice concentrate after fermentation (the yeasties eat up ALL the sugar in the juice, making it a very very dry drink).

From what I hear, these babies will stop fermenting in 1-2 weeks, and I will be able to bottle. Then another week or 2 before they're tasty.

Duvel Triplel Hop Special Ale

Brewery: Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat
Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 9.5%
Country: Belgium

Here is the bottle that my wife gave me for Christmas. A fantastic pick as Duvel is a world renowned brewery and the Duvel classic beer is a fantastic beer that needs to be reviewed on this site. The Tripel Hop version of Duvel is the same basic recipe as the classic Duvel with extra hop addition. The original contains both the Saaz-Saaz and Styrian Golding hops. This version adds the Amarillo hop and is dry-hopped with a second serving Styrian Golding. This dry-hopping imparts more hop aromas to the final product.

Poured a bright golden yellow, hazy and bubbly. Huge amount of bright white fluffy foam that never goes away.

This had a light aroma that was fruity, sweet, and floral.

Several fruit flavors present, some apricots and bananas. Nice alcohol spiciness is warming and pleasant. Creamy body and light carbonation levels makes this delightful to taste. Finished with a nice bitterness, warming lingering alcohol taste, and slight biscuit flavors. Well balanced and delicious. A

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Victory Lager

Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
Style: Lager
ABV: 5.2%
Country: USA, Pennsylvania

First brew from the nice eight pack mix I got for Christmas. Second beer from Victory to make the list, first being the Prima Pils.

This poured a pale golden yellow. Body is crystal clear with few bubbles to see. Head is thin and white, about half a finger, and dissipates quickly.

The aroma is faint but pleasing. Some grains typically found in lagers along with a bit of lemon

Good clean taste, light body but a bit thicker than a standard macro lager or pils. Light carbonation. Light bitter grain flavor, finished sweet and flowery with a hint of citrus. Quite refreshing. B

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Terrapin Side Project 13 (Big Daddy Vlady's Russian Imperial Stout)

Brewer: Terrapin
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.25%

Terrapin is a brewery based out of Atlanta Georgia and through some research does a lot of 1 time release side projects so I got my hands on one. Being that its still cold outside I am glad it was a Russian Imperial Stout, one of my favorite types of beer.

Pour was dark and a roasty aroma filled the air. The head a thick brown foam that receded but left its markings on the side of the glass. A good smell picks up a nose with chocolate notes along with that roastiness noticed earlier. Slight toffee comes though and some hops.

The flavor followed the aroma with a good amount of roasted malt. Some chocolate made it through mid swallow. The finish has a slight bitterness to it which then returned to a more chocolaty aftertaste. Reminded me a lot of >70% dark chocolate. A few more sips revealed a little bit of licorice and a hint of toffee. Good medium to heavy body as expected form this type of beer. Mouth feel was very smooth. Definitely a beer that could keep you warm in the winter months.

Not a bad RIS by any means, doesn't quite measure up to one of my favorites, Stone's RIS but not a bad brew at all. I'm giving this one a B+.


More of my photography

Trois Pistoles

Brewer: Unibroue
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 9%
Country: Canada

Pours a dark murky brown color. A solid half inch of fizzy bone white head. Fruity sweet aroma with a dry white-wine grape aroma.

The fruitiness caught me off guard as that is a typical characteristic of a lighter ale. Raisins and brown sugar are both present. The 9% ABV is hidden very well. The alcohol makes its appearance as a nice and long warming feeling that lingers for a while.

Certainly a good beer, not quite as good as the La Fin Du Monde though, but still well done. A-

First attempt at home brewing

So it has finally come to this. No more taking the easy way out by sipping on brews where all the hard work was already done. It was time to step up to the big leagues and brew my own beer. I had received the Ale Pail brew kit for Christmas and was biding my time while the last components I need to start a batch showed up. On Friday, my 20 Qt stock pot showed up from Amazon and I knew it would be a good night to start.

For my first batch I went with a pale ale recipe from the How To Brew book with a few modifications to make it my own. For my malts, I'm using are a couple of cans of Munton's Light Malt Extract, Briess Caramel Malt, and Fawcett Pale Chocolate malt. My hops will be Northern Brewer hops for bittering, Cascade hops for bittering and finishing, and Glacier hops for finishing. Yeast is a liquid strain of American Ale yeast.

The first step of this process was to heat up some water to steep my specialty malts in. So I added one gallon of water to my 5 gallon pot, placed it on my old electric range and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more. It took the better part of an hour and the thermometer was only registering 140, I'd need to get this up to at least 150 (preferably up to 160) in order get the mash to start releasing the sugars which will be turned into sweet, nourishing alcohol by the yeast later on.

My problem here was that my range is flat and my pot was so large that it didn't sit flush with the element so there is a layer of air that made this grossly inefficient. Luckily, I remembered that my propane grill outside has a side element that would be perfect for this. So-what that it was the middle of a winter night and it was well below freezing with snow on the way? I had beer to brew damn-it! So I fired up the grill and transferred my pot. In no time flat I hit my temperature and I was ready to steep. Thank you clean, efficient, beautiful propane. Hank Hill would be proud.

I steeped for thirty minutes and had a nice looking wort going. I'm hoping that the caramel and chocolate malt will impart some nice sweetness and roasted notes to the final product. Next step was to add the main malts and start the hop boil.

This was the first time I had seen a liquid malt extract before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The best way to put it is that it makes molasses look watery by comparison. Took awhile to scoop this mess out and into the pot. Once I got it out, I brought my water level up to three gallons and cranked up the heat. Even using propane, I figured it'd take a while to bring this to a boil. About twenty minutes in I started to worry. The grill had been running on one tank all summer long and had gotten plenty of use. Lifting the tank, it didn't quite feel empty, but it was no where near full. If I ran out of gas halfway through, I'd be toast. The electric range would never heat this enough and everything I'd done to this point would be a waste. My paranoia got the best of me so I did what any sane and rational person would do in this situation. Jumped in the car in shorts and moccasins and sped off the Home Depot which was closing in 10 minutes. I left instructions with my brother-in-law AJ to start the hops if the pot started boiling before I returned.

Luckily we live close to the Depot and had green lights all the way (read: I sped like a maniac through a string of yellow lights while screaming "I NEED PROPANE!!!"). I made it with five minutes to spare, got my tank and headed home. I made it home with no problem and found the kettle boiling nicely with the first hops already added and a timer counting down to the next addition.

Hops were added at the 60, 30, and 15 minute marks. Bittering hops are added early, flavoring hops are added half way through, and finishing hops are added at the end. The reason for this is that hops contain alpha acid humulone resins and volatile oils that impart the characteristic flavor and aroma. As the hops boil, the alpha acids isomerize and impart their bitter flavor. On the other hand, the boiling breaks down the oils which takes away their aroma and flavor. For that reason you add your aroma and flavoring hops later in the boil to keep these aromas present and hopefully create a yummy beer.

Once the boil finished, I added another can of the Muntons and turned off the gas. I waited about ten minutes while the remaining heat pasteurized the malt. I now had what is called a wort, essentially young, not yet fermented beer. Next I needed to cool the wort quickly and induce the "cold break." The cold break is when the rapid change in temperature causes residual proteins to coagulate and settle to the bottom of the kettle. While not critical, this makes the beer clearer later on prevents chill haze from occurring.

AJ and I had a tub filled with ice and water and we plunged the pot right in. It took maybe twenty minutes for the temperature to drop from 220 to 80 degrees. We saw the cold break, which looks sort of gross, and pulled the pot out. I poured the contents into my fermenting tub and added water to bring the total volume to five gallons. I pitched the yeast and sealed the lid. Last thing left was to add the airlock. This allows for any CO2 to bubble out while the wort ferments while keeping air and bacteria out. CO2 is later created by adding more sugar and allowing fermentation to occur in the bottle.

While pushing the air lock into the lid gasket, I got a little too excited and managed to push the gasket straight through and into the wort! AJ and I exchanged glances like a pair of deer stuck in head lights. There was a ton of foam in the tub so hopefully the gasket would be resting peacefully on top. No such luck, we could see a spot in the foam where it had fallen straight through. We sanitized a spoon and went hunting for the missing gasket. Still no luck. We sealed the tub back up and place the air lock in the now gasket-less hole. Luckily it seemed air tight enough. Pushing the lid down caused the water to rise in the air lock meaning air wasn't escaping around the sides. The gasket itself was sterilized so it shouldn't hurt the beer.

Currently I'm playing the waiting game. The yeast should start fermentation in the next couple of hours and in about two weeks this should be ready to bottle. Hopefully this will become a delicious batch of beer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fat Head's Sorcerer

Brewery: Fat Head's Brewery
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 9.3%
Country: USA, Pennsylvania

This is the second beer I had while at Fat Heads. Had this one served in a snifter. Body was a dark and hazy brown with a thin, off-white head.

Smell was loaded with lots of licorice with a bit of chocolate to it. Reminded me of sniffing a bag of Good N' Plentys. More licorice showing up in the first sip. Lots of sweetness to be found here. Raisins and chocolate both made an appearance as well. Big wave of sharp alcohol along with more sweetness rounded out the finish.

This is a sipping beer for sure. I'm usually not a big licorice fan, but wasn't put off by this one. It was a bit too sweet and could certainly use some balancing bitterness. The alcohol was a bit to pronounced for my liking as well. Still a yummy beer that I wouldn't argue with. B

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fat Head's Head Hunter

Brewery: Fat Head's Brewery
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.9%
Country: USA, Pennsylvania

Mar and I were in Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic on New Years day and had gotten a recommendation to check out Fathead's Saloon located down on Carson St. This place was absolutely fantastic. Fathead's boasts 42 different beers on tap from places such as Stone, Dogfish Head, Founders, and Bell's. They also include about half a dozen house brews on tap from a wide array of styles. Food here was fantastic as well. Lots of different burgers and sandwiches including sandwiches picked by Maxim as the best in the country.

The first beer I had here was the Head Hunter IPA which was a silver medal winner at the 2010 Great American Beer Fest. It poured a bright amber color with a hint of orange. The head was thin and wispy that didn't linger long.

This had the most unique aroma of all the beers I've had so far. A big wave of sharp pine with basil, thyme, and other herbs in the background. I'd always heard of pine hop aromas before, but this was the most pronounced by a mile. A wonderful smell for sure.

Taste was as pine filled as the aroma. If you managed to turn a Christmas tree into a beer, it would taste a heck of a lot like this beer. Fruity hops made an appearance as well with plenty if pineapple, grapefruit, and lemon present. A mouth puckering wave of bitterness finished this off and lingered around a long time. This was listed at 89 IBU but tasted almost as bitter as the Stone Ruination IPA which is listed at 100+ IBU. This goes to illustrate how important the malt sweetness and hop bitterness balance out. A bit more malt would go a long way to make this a bit more balanced. Overall though, this was a fantastic beer that I would drink again in a heartbeat. If you are ever in the Pittsburgh area, do yourself a favor and check this place out and get yourself a glass or two (or three). A

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Brewer: Samuel Adams
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 5.9%
Country: USA, Massachusetts

Poured a dark ruby-red color that had a big, thick, off-white head. Aroma was sweet with a little bit of spiciness. Flavor was an intense sweetness, with some hints of spiciness. Nearly no bitterness to speak of. Some of the familiar Sam Adams biscuit malt finish that I've become accustomed to. Familiar slick medium body and mouthfeel.

Honestly, this is almost identical to the Sam Adams Winter Lager. The only differences are that this ale was a bit sweeter and I was able to catch some of the cinnamon in the taste. I decided to check the Sam Adams website to find out more about the two. Both use Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, Copeland pale, and Munich 10 malts. Both use Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops. Both use Orange peel, ginger, and cinnamon as special ingredients. There are a few hops and malts different between the two, but I'd wager that these are 90% identical. Still pretty enjoyable but I was hoping for something new. B

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

Brewer: Stone
Style: Black IPA
ABV: 8.7%

Another fine brew from the guys at Stone. I had the pleasure of trying this a Stone tasting/dinner a few months back and then again at a local tasting. I figured it would be good to pick one up and review.

Pour is deliciously dark but when some light passes through becomes a dark amber/cherry color. Head is thick and recedes slowly to a light brown lace, not unlike a lot of stouts.

Roasted malt and smokey notes hit the nose. A slight aroma of toffee after a few deep inhales.

Flavor is no doubt different to me, the best way I can explain it is a porter's coffee, toffee and roasted malt combined with the bitterness of an IPA then finishes with a nice smokiness. Nice complexity and I would expect nothing less from the guys at Stone. A light to medium body brew that I could see myself enjoying more of.

Overall B+


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Brewer: Samuel Adams
Style: Vienna Lager
ABV: 4.9%
Country: USA, Massachusetts

The flagship brew for Sam Adams, I had my expectations set high.

A bright coppery color poured out leaving a nice and big fluffy white head. Head lingered a while and left a good looking lace.

Aroma was wonderful. Sweet caramel upfront with plenty of citrus and floral hop notes throughout. I honestly didn't expect this much aroma making this a nice surprise. Certainly an enjoyable beer to sniff.

First sip brought plenty of the sweetness in the aroma to the forefront. Some nice spiciness was present as well, cloves perhaps? A good mix of hop presence throughout, grapefruit and nectarine. Less pronounced than in a pale ale or IPA, but adds a nice touch. Ends with a the biscuit malt presence and bitterness that I've come used to in these Sam Adams brews.

This was quite an excellent beer. Much more taste than a standard lager but not enough to drive away drinkers not used to the more potent styles. I'd have to say this my favorite lager I've had so far. Since this is also easily found on tap in many places, this will make a good default beer when out and about. A-

Monday, January 3, 2011

Samuel Adams Holidy Porter

Brewer: Samuel Adams
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.9%
Country: USA, Massachusetts

Poured mostly black with some brown around the edges. Aroma was mostly sweet and sort of medicine like, hard to place. Initial taste was very sweet, almost cola like. Finish was quite bitter as well though the two flavors were disjointed. This somehow managed to be both too sweet and too bitter at the same time. I also felt like the medium body was overly carbonated as well. I didn't care for this one at all and don't want the second one that came in the case. D

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Samuel Adams White Ale

Brewer: Samuel Adams
Style: Witbier
ABV: 5.2%
Country: USA, Massachusetts

One more from the Sam Adams winter mix pack. Poured a bright unfiltered golden color. Fluffy white head dissipates quickly leaving some thin circles of lace ringing the glass on the way down.

The aroma is sweet and spicy, with a hint of orange.
Orange and sweet malts upfront, grainy biscuit like malts and spiciness round out the finish. Medium body and carbonation. Another good one from Sam Adams though I have to say that this is pretty similar to the Winter Lager reviewed previously, the biscuit malts being the biggest similarity. This is better than the Winter Lager though as there are more flavors present throughout. While quite good, its still lacking a final "umph" to push it into the top categories. Certainly worth drinking though. B

Had this one again and it wasn't as good as I had remembered and I've had better Witbiers since so I'm bumping this down slightly to a B.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Victory Golden Monkey

Brewer: Victory
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 9.5%

This isn't my first Victory brew, a few months ago I had made a trip to the brewery outside of Philly and enjoyed a few of their many offering, Golden Monkey was not one of them.

The pour was beautiful, a gorgeous golden honey color filled my glass. I could see the small particles of sediment floating around making it translucent liquid. A nice white head thinned down to a beautiful lace.

The aroma was teaming with citrus notes, especially lemon. I was preparing myself for an amazing beer.

The taste was for from simple but not overly complex either. It started with a slight sweetness that turned into balance between hoppy bitterness and citrus. It finishes with a bit a of fruitiness. The aftertaste brought some of the bitterness back and was subtle but lingering. There was also a slight taste of alcohol in the finish which isn't overly surprising at 9.5%.

I really enjoyed this beer and was glad I had a six pack for my imbibing pleasure. I give this a solid A-.


Palo Santo Maron

Brewer: Dogfish Head Brewery
Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 12%!!!
Country: USA, Delaware

I do love me some Dogfish. This is one of their Brown Ales that has been aged in wooden barrels to impart lots of flavors.

Poured a dark, dark black. No hint of brown around the edges. Plenty of dark brown head lingered a long time.

Mild aroma, some alcohol and some woodiness to it.

Stout like in taste, lots of toasted malts, less coffee flavors than a standard stout. Caramel and chocolate. Plenty of wood in the finish. An ale sweetness is present as well. Puckeringly bitter, and finishes with a wave of alcohol. At 12%, I'm surprised that this isn't more prominent. Interesting mix. The thick body, light carbonation, and dark color all scream stout, but the stout flavors are more subdued with the sweet characteristics of a lighter ale mixed in. The wooden barrel aging certainly shines through giving this a nice smokiness throughout. Another unique entry from the guys at Dogfish Head. B+