Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weihenstephaner Vitus

Brewer: Weihenstephaner

Beer: Vitus

Style: Weizenbock

Tasting notes and comments: Vitus is a slightly sweeter thicker version of the Hefe Weizen by Weihenstephaner. The predominant flavors are sweet banana, a touch of cloves, and some citrousy, sour bite at end as it warms.

Rating: Recommended without reservation.

Ommegang Ommegeddon

Brewer: Ommegang

Beer: Ommegeddon

Style: Wild Ale

Tasting notes and comments: Ommegeddon uses Brettamyces in a second fermentation to impart some sour acidity and funk. It tastes something like Hennepin on steroids. The predominant flavors are lemony citrus and funk but nothing extreme.

Recommendation: With qualifications. A Wild Ale should have more funk.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Olde Richmond Batch #11 IPA

Olde Richmond Batch #11 is an unusual and enjoyable interpretation of IPA. The taste starts w/ sweet oranges, Belgian ale taste and smell up front followed by a mild but noticeable hop bite.

The brewer is ambiguous. The bottle claims to be from Olde Richmond Brewing Co. The address is the same as St. George Brewing. Perhaps it is a contract brew and Olde Richmond is a beer marketing company. The alternative is that St. George sells beers under two different labels.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

Corsendonk Christmas Ale is nice Belgian Strong Dark Ale. The taste starts w/ candy and brown sugar w/ a tiche of apple and finishes with spices (nutmeg?). The alcohol clocks in @ 8.5% and is totally hidden.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Best Beer on the Planet?

Trappist Westvleteren 12 is Fantastic Quadruple. The reviewers at both BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com rate it as THE best beer on the planet. It has earned its reputation. The beer is a complex medley of subtle flavors: sweet caramel, prunes, apples, pears, chocolate, alcohol, and an earthy hop bite. The malt and hops are perfectly balanced. The beer is too easy to drink given that it is 10.2% alcohol by volume.

Westvleteren 12 is brewed by the monks at the St. Sixtus monastery in Westvleteren, Belgium. The monks view brewing good beer as a spiritual activity and sell beer to support the monastery. The beer is sold at the monastery and buyers must make advance reservations to purchase a maximum of two cases.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Victory Baltic Thunder

Victory Baltic Thunder is excellent Baltic Porter. The taste is dark malt with figs and prunes and a hint of toffee. It is delightful to sip.

My understanding is that Baltic Thunder is a collaboration between Victory and Heavyweight, a now extinct brewer. Heavyweight brewed Baltic Porter called Perkuno's Hammer. After the brewer's demise, the brewer gave the recipe to Victory. There, the brewer's tweaked the recipe and the result is Baltic Thunder.

Three Floyds Pride and Joy

Three Floyds Pride and Joy is delightful. Floral citrus hops are nicely balanced w/ a tiche of sweet malt. It is a wonderful "small" beer.

The classification for the beer is ambiguous. The brewer states that it is an interpretation of a Dark Mild Ale. BeerAdvocate classifies it as American Pale Ale. I think APA fits best.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stone Russian Imperial Stout

Stone Russian Imperial Stout is a massive, malty stout w/ lots of chocolate and coffee flavors, followed by a bitter finish. It is good and complex and flavorful. I like less than the reviewers at BeerAdvocate. They rated it as one of the top beers on the planet in 29 December 2005, 10 March 2007, and 10 December 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Black and Tan

Black and Tan is 50% dark ale such as Porter or Stout and 50% light ale or lager. The classic Black and Tan is Guinness and Bass. A Black and Tan made w/ lager is sometimes called Half and Half, especially in Great Britain. The classic Half and Half is Guinness and Harp.

The dark ale floats over the light beer when it is poured carefully over the light beer, creating a nice visual effect. Reports indicate that this is an American affection. The alternative is to let the two beers blend together in the glass. Black and Tan sold commercially are simple blends.

Black and Tan derives its name from the colors of the two beers. The name may be related to the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, a paramilitary force sent into Ireland from England from 1920 to 1921 to suppress revolution in Ireland. The force wore mixtures of military and police uniforms and were called the "Black and Tans". That a "Black" Irish stout floats on top of a "Tan" British Pale Ale may be interpreted by some as an analogy for the success of the Irish over the British.

IPA

IPA, or India Pale Ale, is Pale Ale with an extra dose of alcohol and hops. It was first brewed for British troops stationed in India. "Regular" Pale Ale would spoil during the long, hot trip from England to India. The brewers discovered that the extra alcohol and hops helped preserve the beer and IPA was born. The style experienced a rebirth in the US in the late 20th Century. The American brewers amped up the alcohol and hops and used more aggressive versions of hops than the original. Americans think that if a little is good, then more must be better. Today the English IPA tend to be tamer, with less alcohol and hops, than the American versions.

IPA is one of my favorite styles. The extra dose of hops guarantees that the beer will be flavorful. To drink good IPA is a wonderful experience. A good test of whether or not you are a "hophead", someone who likes hoppy beers, is whether or not you like IPA.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two More Favorite Beers

















De Dolle Still Nacht and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA have crept into my top 10 list based on recent tastings. The top 10 now contains 12 beers. I count like the Big 10 does.

Still Nacht is Belgian Strong Ale. The flavor is a delightful medley of candy sugar, orange zest, spices, funk, alcohol and subtle hop bite. The beer is a seasonal release and usually arrives early in the calendar year. It ages wonderfully. I recently consumed a 2-year old bottle and it was FANTASTIC.

120 Minute IPA is at least a double IPA and may be a triple IPA. It tastes like a BIG English Barleywine. Bitter hops fight to emerge from a sweet raisin mash, followed by big alcohol blast. It is a 2+ hr. sipper. It is an occasional purchase due to its price. A 12 oz. bottle goes for $9 or $10 dollars.

Chimay Tripel has earned an honorable mention. A recent glass on draft was FANTASTIC.

Inventory

I purchased Unibroue Trois Pistoles, Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Weihenstephaner Vitus, Schneider Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, and Chimay Tripel today. Trois Pistoles is strong Belgian Dark Ale. La Fin Du Monde and Chimay are Tripel. Vitus is Weizenbock. Aventinus Weizen Eisbock is Eisbock. Chimay is also Tripel.

All are wonderful beers. The Unibroue beers are great values.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dinner w/ Book Club

















I enjoyed three beers while having dinner at ML's with my wife's book club: Harpoon Winter Warmer,
De Dolle Stille Nacht, and Bell's Expedition Stout. They demonstrate the variety of styles available to beer geeks.

Harpoon Wi
nter Warmer is spiced mild ale. Cinnamon and nutmeg tastes stand out without being overbearing. This is a fine beer for the holidays and a good example of Winter Warmer that feature spices.

De Dolle Stille Nacht was FANTASTIC: a complex medley of orange zest, candy sugar, spices, alcohol and funk. It is Belgian Strong Dark Ale and the alcohol is 12% by volume. The brewer bottled the beer in 2006 and it had been sitting in my cellar for almost two years. I want to buy more and age some longer.

The Expedition Stout, while good, was a disappointment. An unsalted soy flavor diminished the beers flavor and bursts of alcohol made the beer "hot". Perhaps this is a result of oxidation? The brewer bottled the beer almost two years ago. A similar vintage a week earlier was a fantastic chocolaty treat.

The two different experiences with Expedition Stout indicate the difficulty of reproducing consistently craft beer. The brewing process is complex and the result is alive. The ability of the large brewers to produce products that are consistent across time and location is amazing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Tonight's year-old Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale was a welcome oasis of hops in a malty winter. Celebration Ale is a highly rated IPA. However, I tend to find it to be too piney. Drinking one at room temperature felt like drinking Pine Sol. I cellared a bottle last year to see if time would smooth out the hops would. It did and the piney taste was greatly diminished. I noticed a sweeter malt beginning than what I remembered and it was balanced by a nice hoppy finish. However, the hops did not have "zing" and a slight piney aftertaste persisted.

Celebration Ale is a seasonal release from Sierra Nevada. The brewer consistently makes good beer and sells it for good value. I recommend that new beer geeks sample the brewery's products to learn about good beer and beer styles. The brewery tends to put an American twist on styles by using bitter Northwest hops.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barleywine

















Barleywine is BIG beer. It is wine made from barley and other grains, as the name suggests. The alcohol is 8% by volume or higher. To achieve such a high level of alcohol, the brewer uses massive amounts of malt. American brewers tend to combine this with massive amounts of hops. Englsh version tend to be fruity and sweet. The American versions tend to be flavor explosions combining a big malt taste with loads of bitter hops.

Barleywine ages well due to its high alcohol content. With age the flavors mellow and evolve and the hops tone down.

Some of my favorites are J. W. Lee's Harvest Ale, Great Divide Old Ruffian, and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale. Harvest ale is English. The version aged in calvados casks is a beer in my current top 10 list. It is a sticky sweet sipper packed w/ flavor. Old Ruffian and SNBFBW are super malty hopbombs. SNBFBW may be the most flavor per dollar in any beer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence is interesting but misses the mark. The taste is English Stout w/ some cocoa in the mix. Ommegang bills the beer as Belgian Stout and BeerAdvocate classifies it as Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It seems to fall between the cracks. It is too watery and thin to be a great stout. I would prefer Bell's Expedition Stout or, if I wanted chocolate in the boil, Rogue Chocolate Stout. Both are better and cheaper. It lacks the complexity to be a great Belgian Dark Ale. At 7% alcohol by volume, I am not sure that it is "strong". Ommegang makes some really good beer that are good values. Chocolate Indulgence is not one of them.

Ommegang Gift Pack


















I purchased an Ommegang Gift Pack today from Costco. It contains one bottle each of Hennipen, Three Philosophers, and Chocolate Indulgence. It also contains a glass. Ommegang beers are typically good values and the gift pack is really good - three quality Belgian style ales plus a glass for $18.

Hennepin is Saison, very good, and a great value for a Belgian style ale. It is one of my go-to beers.

Three Philosophers is Quadruple w/ some cherry lambic added.

Chocolate Indugence bills itself as Belgian Stout. BeerAdvocate classifies it as Belgian Strong Dark Ale.

My beer stash now totals 160 bottles.

Tripel

Tripel derives its name from the use of three times the malt that is used in a "single". More carbohydrate means more alcohol: Tripels are notoriously alcoholic. Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color.

A good Tripel is delicious. The typical flavors are candy sugar, light fruit (apples, melon, and pears), citrus, funk, alcohol, spices, and hops.

Two of my favorites are Chimay Tripel and St. Bernardus Tripel. Neither is currently listed in my top 10 beer list but both are close. A recent Chimay on draft was fantastic.

Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout derives its name from Stout produced in England for consumption in the Russian Court. In order to withstand the journey, the brewers made the Stout bigger: more malt, more hops, and more alcohol. Royalty in Moscow liked the flavor and brewers continued to refine the style. American brewers have taken the flavors to even greater extremes and balance big malty brews with loads of hops. They are dark and thick. The term Imperial is now sometimes used to refer a "bigger" version of a more traditional style.

Stout can be wonderful beer. Imperial Stout can be even more wonderful. The typical flavors include chocolate, smoke, and coffee. The American versions often carry huge amounts of hops. The result can be a malty profile or a profile that is balanced, a big malty flavor followed by a strong bitter hop presence.

My two current favorites are Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout and Bell's Expedition Stout. Both are on my current top 10 list.

Saison

Saison is an old style. It derives its name from French name for seasonal workers. It was ale brewed to serve to the workers during the summer and fall season. It is also called Farmhouse Ale. It is light, spritzy, and often has citrusy flavors. The brewer will often add some spices to the mix. Finally, it can have a bit of "funk", a slightly sour flavor that is described variously as horseblanket, barnyard, or wet hay. I describe the flavor as proof that beer is fermented.

Two favorites are Southhampton Saison Deluxe and Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux. Ommegang Hennepin is quite tasty and a good value.











Dubbel

Dubbel has twice the malt of a "single". Dubbels are dark malty beers and pair well w/ food.

Strong Ale

Strong Ale is a catch-all category for beer that is high in alcohol and does not fit well into other categories.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Inventory
















My inventory increased over Thanksgiving. Both parents visited beer stores to purchase something that they thought I might like. They succeeded. I brought home a 6-pack of Troegs Mad Elf Ale, 750 ml of Ommegang Abbey Ale, and a bomber of Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.


I described Mad Elf Ale in an earlier entry. Visit the Label for Troegs. This six will head to the cellar. I already have 5 bottles in hand and it should age well.

Ommegang Abbey Ale is an excellent example of a Dubbel. Visit the Label for Dubbel for more information.

Stone Arrogant Bastard is Strong Ale. I describe it as Barleywine on steroids. It has a deep, dark husky flavor. Reviewers on BeerAdvocate rated it as one of the top 100 beers on the planet on 29 December 2005. This bottle is heading to the cellar to see what happens to it in 2 years. Visit the Label for Strong Ale for more information on it.

Thanksgiving

















I enjoyed three beers on Thanksgiving day: St. George Golden Ale, Southampton Saison Deluxe, and Bell's Expedition Stout. The Saison and Stout are two of my favorite beers. The Golden Ale was new. My Dad and Mom both bought beer for the meal in hopes of finding something that was new and that I would enjoy.

The Golden Ale is flavorful Blonde Ale. The body is thick and the taste is pleasant,malty, biscuity. A faint background of hops gives balance. This could be a wonderful beer to use to introduce people to craft beer. It is different but not too different from a macro lager.

The Southampton Saison was a delight but not the fantastic experience I remembered or anticipated. Maybe I rushed too quickly from the Golden Ale. The Saison is a world-class beer. It pours with a massive head. The taste is a complex medley of spices, citrus, and light hops. I think that I need to examine another bottle soon to learn more about the cause of my slight disappointment.

The Stout WAS fantastic. Sweet malt and milk and bittersweet chocolate predominate. Traces of alcohol peeked out: the alcohol clocks in at 11.5% by volume. The beer accompanied perfectly chocolate pecan pie, chocolate chess pie, and a chocolate roll that MW made. (I was eating a Thanksgiving meal.) It was also a delightful sipper after dinner.

Expedition Stout is an outstanding example of Imperial Stout. One description of Expedition Stout is that it is a black as used motor oil and twice as thick. The alcohol clocks in at 11.5% by volume. I think it is a hop monster but the hop bitterness was buried by the sweet malt in this tasting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Legacy Euphoria

Legacy Euphoria is an interesting and flavorful beer. It bills itself as a Tripel. BeerAdvocate classifies it as Belgian Strong Pale Ale. It has a sharp tart flavor - think crab apple - up front w/ some sweetness, hops, and alcohol rounding out the flavor. A metallic aftertaste detracts slightly from the experience.

The beer was a gift from a fellow beer geek. I will be happy to buy the next bottle.



Monday, November 24, 2008

Smuttynose "Finest Kind" IPA

Smuttynose "Finest Kind" IPA is my favorite IPA. Hops is the featured ingredient, with just enough malt backbone to hold everything together. The hops have a wonderful blend of citrus, pine, and bite - just less than too much.

This review follows tastings of a 6-pack purchased in October and numerous others previously. The last of a 6-pack tasted great with a spicy Southwestern soup that MW prepared.

Reviewers at BeerAdvocate rated the beer as one of the top 100 beers on the planet on 29 December 2005.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Belga Cafe

















I tasted
three beers during and after a wonderful dinner at the Belga Cafe in Washington, D. C.: Chimay Tripel, Rodenbach Classic, and Unibroue Maudite. I was attending a conference and found a "Belgian restaurant" with Belgian beer on tap.

The glass of Chimay Tripel was great. Funk, lightness, fruitiness (apples and pears), and a sour bitter hop finish combined to produce a flavorful and refreshing beer. According to style, Chimay Tripel clocks in @ 8% by volume. I am thinking of adding it to my list of top beers.

Chimay is one of 6 Trappist breweries in the world. This means that the beer is brewed by monks as a means to sustain their monastery. The Cistercian Trappist monks of Chimay have produced world-class beer and cheese since 1862.

Chimay Tripel is sometimes called white (blanche) label or Cing Cents. The label on the beer is white. The labels of the other two beers produced by the monks are red (rouge) or blue (bleue). The label on the 750 ml bottle contains the words "Cing Cents".

Rodenbach Classic was a tasty refreshing treat. It is Flanders Red Ale. The flavors are a mix of apple, cherry, sweet, sour, and vinegar. It is extremely refreshing and cleanses the palate wonderfully. The flavors seems "brighter" and more vibrant and the vinegar flavor seemed more pronounced than I remembered from bottles I had tasted. The waitress said that I would either like the beer or hate it. I liked it a lot.

Unibroue Maudite served as the nightcap back @ the hotel. It was a wonderful assortment of wheat, funk, yeast, malt, apple, clove, and "bite". I was in food heaven after I added a few slices of stinky cheese and sections of apple. I classify the beer as Belgian Amber Ale. BeerAdvocate calls it Belgian Strong Dark Ale.

Dinner Party
















I tasted 3 beers @ a dinner party last Friday: Michelob Pale Ale, Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout, and Sierra Nevada BigFoot Barleywine Style Ale. The Loves came to celebrate Emily's birthday with us.

Michelob Pale Ale was better than I remembered. A passable and pleasant Pale Ale.

Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout was a tasty treat. The smoke and chocolate flavors accompanied well flank steak and formed a fantastic combination w/ cinnamon gelati ice cream.

Sierra Nevada BigFoot Barleywine Style Ale formed the nightcap. The bottle I drank was just under 3 years old. This bottle had lost some of its earlier aggression and the body seemed weaker than I remembered. It is still a tasty flavorful treat. Piney bitter hops drive the taste and they are balanced by a strong malt backbone.

SNBFBW a great example of an American Barleywine. A fresh one is a flavor explosion caused by a collision of a massive malt backbone and two tons of bitter northwest hops. Reviewers on BeerAdvocate rated SNBFBW as one of the top 100 beers on the planet on 29 December 2005. It goes great with sticky sweet desserts like carrot cake with creamy icing.


SNBFBW occupies a significant portion of my cellar. It is released early each year. I have bottles from 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. With age the hops become more mellow and the malt emerges and evolves. Reviewers report that port and chocolate flavors emerge over time. I hope to test for the presences of these flavors thoroughly myself in the coming years.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Michelob Porter

The Michelob Porter I drank last night was pleasant and tasty. It is not world class, but a fine accompaniment to scrambled eggs and ham. An odd off taste did emerge as the beer warmed. An earlier post described Michelob Porter as thin.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top 100 Beers

As of 17 November 2008, I have tasted 59 of the top 100 beers in the planet, with 2 more aging in the "celler", based upon the reviews and formula in place on BeerAdvocate on 29 December 2005. As of 02 December 2007 I had tasted 55 of the top 100 beers.

The number decreases when using the reviews and formula in place on BeerAdvocate more recently. Using the ratings in place on 10 March 2007, I have tasted 46 of the top beers on the planet and have 1 more in the cellar. Using the ratings in place today, I have tasted 36 of the top beers and have 1 more in the cellar.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2008

Anchor Our Special Ale 2008 is a fine Winter Warmer. The color is dark mahogany. The smell is malty with a tiche of chocolate in the background. The taste follows the smell with some spiciness dancing further in the background. It is a pleasant sipper and would accompany well robust meats or dessert.

With a second taste I might classify the beer as Brown Ale. The beer leads with a pleasant malty sweetness with undertones of milk chocolate and smoke is ends with a spicy flavor. Hops bitterness is mild.

Anchor Our Special Ale is also called Anchor Christmas Ale. It is sold from November through mid January. The recipe changes from year to year. I think that the changes are minor.

Anchor is one of the first commercial craft brewers. Fritz Maytag acquired the brewery in 1965 and was a pioneer.

Anchor is best known for its California Steam Beer, a lager that is brewed like an ale. Steam Beer uses a special lager yeast that ferments quickly and at temperatures that are higher than typical lager yeasts. Anchor has a trademark on "Steam Beer". Other beers of this style are called "California Common".

These notes are based on tastings from a 6 pack in November 2008.