Archive

Archive for the ‘The Cellar’ Category

From The Vault: A Date with The Bruery Hottenroth

Oh you beautiful thing, you

***This was one of my favorite reviews that Timperial ever did and I wanted share it with you all. Enjoy!***

 

Enjoyed on: 1/11/10

Brewery: The Bruery

Location: Placentia, CA

Beer: Hottenroth

Web: http://www.thebruery.com/

Presentation: 750 ML – Brown Glass Bottle

Vintage: 2009

Style: Berliner Weisse

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 3.1%

IBU: 2

Hops: N/A

Malt: Wheat

Vessel: Goblet

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Notes from the bottle: Brewed in memory of Fred & Sarah Hottenroth, this traditional ale can be served with raspberry or woodruff syrup, or simply enjoyed as is! Sour = Yum!

Food Pairings: Salad, chicken, raspberry or woodruff syrup

Cheese Pairings: Brie, gouda, havarti

Beer Advocate: B+

Rate Beer: 94 (3.68)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Once again, one requires a degree in linguistics to pronounce The Bruery’s latest offering. Luckily, their creations continue to be so downright inspirational that it’s easy to forgive them for their indulgences. Well, in this case, it seems to be a noble cause. This one is named in memory of owner and head brewer Patrick Rue’s grandparents.

First, a bit about the Berliner Weisse, for the tale is an intriguing one. A German story says that the Berliner Weisse style was once called “The Champagne of the North”. “Champagne” was actually one of the first words that came into my head after sipping this rare style, after, of course, thinking: “whoa…sour, I wasn’t expecting that”. Berliner Weisse literally translates to wheat beer from Berlin, and in addition to the obvious use of wheat, it is also characterized by a sour flavor and a very low abv. The style was once the most popular drink in Berlin, with over 700 breweries producing it. Not so rare back then, but now there are only 2 breweries left producing it in Berlin.

One thing (yes, there is a few) that Germany has been good at through the years, when it comes to brewing, is making up strange laws to govern beer’s production. The Reinheitsgobot, or German Purity Law, once strictly stated that all beer brewed in Germany must be made with water, barley and hops, and nothing else. The word “Berliner Weisse” has been reserved, much in the way that the word “Champagne” is throughout the world for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, for beers brewed in Berlin. In other words, you can’t produce a Berliner Weisse in Germany unless your brewery is in Berlin. Unlike the Champagne rule, the Berliner Weisse rule seems to only apply within Germany.

A final intriguing note on Berliner Weisse is that it is often traditionally served with flavored syrups to cut the tartness. The two suggestions given on the bottle are raspberry and woodruff syrup. Woodruff is a potently scented herb that is used in a variety of foods and drinks, mainly in Germany. Beyond its addition to beer, it can be found in sausages, jellies/jams, and even ice cream.

Oh by the way, we are drinking a beer here.

Pours a very peculiar hue. Extremely pale, straw-yellow that reminds me of white tea. It’s quite hazy, with sediment clumps found on the bottom of the glass. A pure white head barely rises on the pour and settles quickly. Despite the fleeting head, this brew has a lot of carbonation. Tiny bubbles quickly race from the depths of the goblet up to their freedom. This breathing lasts for quite a while. The sharpness of the fluid dancing in your mouth plays a large role in its reminiscence of Champagne.

If it weren’t for the carbonation I’d say this looks a lot like a lawnmower beer. Maybe we call this a plough beer? Either way, there is a lot of land around us…and farm animals.

We have just traveled to a backcountry German farm. A curious stroll from pasture to horse barn brings a battering to the olfactory nerves. Hay and earth and wet wood and mold and all sorts of horse related funkiness. It’s all there.

Side note: If I ever own a horse, his name will be Hottenroth, end of story!

Point is, the smells are plentiful if you really breathe deep and reflect. Wheat/hay and lactobacillus/brettanomyces (both used in fermentation) funkiness are most present, with some unleavened sourdough, a bit of lemon peel, white or skinless grapes (possibly infiltrating my mind due to the lingering Champagne thoughts) and periodically, a very faint strawberry and green apple odor persist.

The flavors…well…tart and funky, but in a really good way. Also, she is surprisingly sweet for a wheat beer. The carbonation makes it feel more like a lemon soda pop…that was…possibly left in the sun for too long…but in a good way. The wheat is omnipresent and makes it feel all the more like a hot summer day at the homestead. Ahh, escapism at its finest.

And then there is the matter of Hottenroth’s extreme session-worthiness. There is no mistake above. This beer is 3.1% abv. This is where Hottenroth is most noteworthy in my opinion. What do you session with, a lawnmower beer or a plough beer?

I’m not going to tell you that this 3.1% beer is the most complex-mind-blowing-must-buy-immediately beer I’ve ever had, but I can tell you that this sessionable beer is not thin and boring, and it sure doesn’t taste like the mash was cut with rice. It is a darn tasty beer, and you can easily drink a few of them in one sitting without slobbering on yourself and blathering like an idiot about farm animals or god-knows-what. Hottenroth is exciting, refreshing, delicious, and most of all inspiring. I choose the plough beer, and plenty of it.

My hat’s off, yet again, to the Famille Rue.

If you like Hottenroth you should try:

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Festina PecheTelegraph Brewing Co.’s Berliner WeisseSly Fox Brewing Co.’s Berliner Weisse

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop.

The Hop Brief: Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA

Spicy

Enjoyed on 3/7/2011

Brewery: Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.

Location: Portland, OR

Beer: Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale (Winter)

Web: http://www.hairofthedog.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. Brown Glass Bottle, Capped.

Vintage: 2011

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 7.0%

IBU: 80

Hops: N/A

Malt: Organic Pilsner, Rye

Commercial Description:

Blue Dot is named after our planet: we are only a pale blue dot in this universe. A Double India Pale Ale made with Organic Pilsner, Rye malt and a combination of intense northwest hop varieties.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.12)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.81)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Alan Sprints of HoD is a chef.  It’s not uncommon to see him in the kitchen when you visit their new (and amazing) tasting room.  He is also a master brewer – one of the best on this great blue dot we call Earth if you ask me.  When he creates a recipe, be it for a hearty meal or a complex brew, he puts years of experience and know-how (and heart) into it.  In the mighty Northwest, nothing moves us quite like an IPA.  Alan isn’t particularly known for profundity in alpha usage, but he is a legend with malt.  Let’s see what balance he can bring to the most hoppy of styles.

Appearance.

Blue Dot flows from its glass chamber and fills my tulip with a muddy straw-colored liquid.  When held to the light it glows a cloudy, translucent pale orange. If I didn’t know better I’d think this a Belgian Wit before me.

The head is very minimal and stark white.  Carbonation bubbles can be seen rising but, overall, the effervescence is minimal.  The crown completely dissipates and the lacing is very minimal.

Odor.

My initial reflections on the scent are of an Earthiness and a graininess. I sometimes think that I’m hyper-sensitive to pilsner malt.  It’s always obvious to me when it is used.  There is a slight spiciness in the nose but I wouldn’t have assumed that it came from rye had I not known it was a part of the grain bill.

A second waft brings thoughts of a tropical forest.  Bitter citrus and pineapple are most prevalent, but a sappy, resinous, pine-like greenness cannot be overlooked.  It’s somewhat floral as well.  “Orange blossoms” seems to be most appropriate, killing two birds with one stone.

Mouthfeel.

Blue Dot slips gracefully across my tongue and goes down silky smooth.  The carbonation, though pretty minimal here, plays in tune with the alcohol to bring a mild sting to the tongue and rear corners of the mouth.  The bitterness is so intense that it’s almost corrosive, which is more impressive than detrimental.

Maybe it’s the spicy rye.  Who knows what it is exactly, but it really stings, though mostly after the swallow.  Still, I kind of like it.  It’s similar to the effect that ginger has on the mouth, which I love.

Flavor.

First and foremost, this beer is a bitter bomb.  At 7% abv and with such subtle grains employed, the 80 IBUs are mightily magnified.  Once you’re able to reanimate your imploded face, the strongest palates amongst us may be able to detect the citrus and graininess that was prefaced in the nose.

Grapefruit juice and bitter orange peel are all over this one.  What mild pilsen character climbs through can claim a doughy, biscuity essence.   The rye is somewhat challenging to segregate due to the huge hop profile.  One must ask whom imparts the huge spice element.  I guess it’s huge enough to award to both parties.

[I feel I must offer a disproportionately high mark for the malt flavor, mostly due to its uniqueness.  Is this beer balanced in the traditional way?  Hell no! But...how could I not respect innovation and against-the-grain...ed...ness...  Puntastic!]

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is very dry with bitterness but by no means one-dimensional.  An exhale stirs up pleasant thoughts of freshly baked rolls.  A peppery heat can most likely be attributed to the rye malt and the alcohol.  Spicy hop bitterness only further asserts the notion.

It’s quite clear that this brew was formulated deliberately to excite the spiciest amongst us.  If I were in the business of pairing beer with food I would never miss an opportunity to place this beside a warm plate of spicy something-or-other with peppercorns.  Sorry, I’m no chef.

Summary.

I think Frank Herbert would be proud of what Alan has created with Blue Dot.  In his utterly epic sci-fi series Dune, lives, cultures, planets…everything revolves (figuratively) around “the spice”.  The Spice Melange.  It’s oddly ironic that this beer is named after the planet Earth when such a comparison about a fictional work steeped in interstellar politics can be made.  Perhaps this would be the defining beverage of choice on the desert planet Arrakis, of course, where it not so (seemingly…?) bereft of water.

As you see, my nerdiness is vast and covers many more planes than just craft beer.  I’ll attempt to stick with just the one in this particular forum.  The point to it all is that this beer is spicy as shit.  The malts and hops coincide to form a perfect storm and it all whips around so fast that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the origins on what the tongue perceives.  It’s sci-fi beer and it’s delicious.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.85

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.92

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.46

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.90

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.01

The Hop Brief: 7 Seas Ballz Deep Double IPA

Yeah, going deep.

Enjoyed on 2/28/2011

Brewery: 7 Seas Brewing

Location: Gig Harbor, WA

Beer: Ballz Deep Double India Pale Ale

Web: http://www.7seasbrewing.com/

Presentation: 16 oz. – Can

Vintage: 2011

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.4%

IBU: 84

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

A mash tun packed mostly with Pale Ale Malt and several different varieties of Crystal malt provide a firm, slightly sweet malt flavor while copious amounts of resiny Yakima Valley hops go berserk on bitterness, flavor and aroma.

Beer Advocate: B- (3.45)

Rate Beer: 79 (3.37)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Clearly, the canning trend is blowing up around the country.  It would take far too long for me to name them all, but I think we all know that when highly respected breweries such as Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Surley, Maui, Anderson Valley, and Big Sky are doing it, everyone wants a piece.  Not to mention the fact that it creates less waste, it easier to transport, and it is completely impenetrable to UV light.  I would be surprised if there was a brewery out there today that wouldn’t admit that they would love to can if they could.

To my knowledge, 7 Seas was the first WA brewery to can with any regularity, and they went straight for 16 ouncers.  Bad-ass fellas!  Bad-ass!  With any luck, the contents of said bad-ass pounder will be equally wicked.

Appearance.

This big Northwest IPA pours from the tall boy can (!) a clear, dark reddish amber color that is very much on the darker end of the SRM scale for IPAs.  The glugging pour that is inevitable from the opening in a can produced a surprisingly small head of just off-white bubbles.  The crown quickly subsided and left a few splotches of lace on the glass.

When held to the light, this brew is very clearly filtered and in the all too common way of the Northwest, very lightly carbonated.

Odor.

The nose is pretty subtle and by no means screams double IPA.  I find it to be quite fruity, both from the hops and the malt.  I get a sense that there might be some wheat in the mash, but that could just be a sensory connection with the banana notes that I perceive.

There is definitely a tropical fruit wafting off of this unique brew.  I pick up some papaya and pineapple and citrus rind, as well as a bit of plum and red grape that could come from the darker crystal and munich malts that I’d assume lend the reddish hue.

Grains are very prominent in the nose as well and come across with a fruitiness that prompts Belgian thoughts.  I always revert to thought of Special B when I sense this attribute, which is really just a Euro crystal malt.

Mouthfeel.

The mouthfeel is very smooth and full.  Overall the body is impressive and seems to benefit from the minimal carbonation.  With that being said, I think there is enough depth in body to withstand quite a bit more effervescence and not lose points.  I strongly feel that more carbonation would assist the drinker in perceiving the flavor nuances here.  I feel the bubbles really awaken the taste buds.  I would make this suggestion to any lightly carbonated beer.

Flavor.

Am I drinking an IPA?  Yes, it’s pretty bitter but this is a much more malt forward beer that I expected.  I’d call it more of an Imperial Red.  There is little to no hop flavor to this beer.  There is a fruitiness, no doubt, which could be from the hops, but for me it comes across as being a product of a specialty grain heavy mash with a slightly higher than normal fermentation temperature for an IPA.

I hesitate to use the word “estery” because it’s not a wine-like fruitiness.  It’s more of a barleywine like experience.  In fact, this could easily turn into a barleywine with a fairly minimal increase to the grain bill.  This is a very well brewed beer in my opinion, it’s just not a double IPA.

Aftertaste.

The finish is super dried out by the bitterness and what I would imagine is a fairly low final gravity.  The corners of my mouth and the bottom of my tongue are actually being constricted by the dryness, which is distracting.  Once I get past that I find that the malty depth lingers for some time and is, again, very barleywine like and pleasant.

Summary.

Overall, this recipe has a lot of potential but seems to be slightly misguided.  It kind of breaks my heart because I want this beer to be so much better.  It has a bad ass name, it’s packaged in a tall boy can which houses some pretty killer artwork, and it’s a high IBU beer of the Northwest.  There is so much potential there for this to be a beer that us Pacific Northwesterners are wicked proud of.  I’ve had plenty of other 7 Seas beers that I thoroughly enjoyed, so who knows, maybe this beer I’m searching for will still come from the boys in Gig Harbor.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.79

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.84

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.83

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.10

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.81

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 8.27

Memories of Belgium: A Date With Westvleteren 12

Our first two Westy 12s.....ah the memories

***One year ago, our gang was preparing for an epic adventure to Belgium. Still today, we can’t shake the thrills of the trip. We will relive some of our experiences over the next few weeks. We wanted to start with one of the best – our trip to Saint Sixtus Abbey.***

 

 

 

Enjoyed on 3/18/2010

Brewery: Brouwerij Westvleteren/Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus

Location: Westvleteren, Belgium

Beer: 12

Web: http://www.sintsixtus.be/

http://www.indevrede.be/

Presentation: 0.33L brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: Belgian Quadrupel

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.2%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Chalice

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Notes from the bottle: Part of me just wants to put N/A here for consistency sake, but I’ve, not surprisingly, never put N/A in this section.  The bottles that contain the three beers of Westvleteren have no label what so ever.  The only marking that can be found on the bottles themselves is the word “trappistenbier” emblazoned in the glass about ¾ of the way up the bottle.  The differentiator is in the cap.  The 12 has a yellow cap.

Food Pairings: Deep, meaty dishes with a lot of flavor, smoked things

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Beer Advocate: A+

Rate Beer: 100 (4.49)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to write a review of this beer.  It is, without a doubt, one of the hardest beers to come by in the entire world.  But, if you are familiar with Westy 12, you already knew that.  That is without a doubt a reason that 12 is consistently rated the number one beer in the world on nearly every list out there that was created for the purpose of rating individual beers.  The question that has always haunted me most is on the other side of that coin; does it taste like the best beer in the world?

When it was finally solidified that Beer Blotter was going to Belgium, it went without saying amongst us that we would find our way to St. Sixtus at all costs.  We rented a car whilst there, largely for the purpose of this portion of our trip, considering that no reasonably managed public transit system would deliver us to Westvleteren.  Please, Google Map (satellite view) the town.  You will see how remote it is.  Nestled in the heart of West Flanders, it is closer to the French border that any other major city in the country (not that that’s really saying anything, Belgium is very small).

Short aside: If you think about it, by choosing to head to West Flanders for this visit, we were making a huge time and money sacrifice to taste a beer that we only knew of in lore.  A beer that we didn’t even know was good with any definity.  Were it not for a man they called “The Beer Hunter” telling the world that this was the best beer in it, things would be ever so different.  Never the less, we trek on.

The closest town of any population is Poperinge.  Those familiar with that name are probably thinking of hops right now.  Poperinge is the hop center of Belgium, and our travels in this remote corner of the country found many a hop field.  It was truly a beautiful drive.  Thin, barely paved roads snaked through ancient European farm, one after the other.  To find a tranquil monastery out there in the countryside, well, it just seemed right.  One could get some serious meditation in out there.

Thursday, March 18th was Beer Blotter’s West Flanders day, and we meditated together, albeit indirectly, with Trappist abbey monks, via the enjoyment of the holy product they produce.

Since the abbey itself is not accessible to the public, our consumption would be confined to the café and visitor center – In de Vrede.  This is a very modern looking building adjacent to the monastery…much, much too modern.  We could have easily been in America once we stepped through the doors.  With the exception of the abbey merchandise and a few photos on the walls of the brewing equipment, In de Vrede is a pretty sterile place to have a beer and cheese plate.  I guess it doesn’t really matter though…they serve all three Westy brews out of the bottle for a very reasonable price.  This is the only place in the world that can, or will say that.

We went straight for the 12, without a single care for what it may do to our pallets, as if we just may up and have a heart attack in the next 15 minutes and not be able to taste it before death.  The much-heralded elixir was poured right from the yellow-capped bottle (no kegs exist) into the official Westvleteren chalice.  The time had finally arrived.  Fear stuck me.  What if it was bad?  All my hopes and dreams would be spoiled in one sip.  Ok, maybe I’m being a little too dramatic…

The fluid is a deep mahogany brown, allowing just the slightest bit of light to pass through it, mostly near the edges.  A fluffy, off-white, near tan head arose from the pour and stuck around for a while, eventually diminishing to a wisp and ring where the beer met the glass.

The nose was somewhat challenging to decipher at first.  The beer was chilled unnecessarily, but understandably.  Also, a major malfunction of the chalice as a serving vessel: yes, it looks cool and is no doubt the quintessential Belgian presentation, but it offers no collection of scents.  I definitely stuck my nose into the fluid on several occasions trying to gather in the smells.  Patience and a lot of swirling brought a wonderful, deep malty sweetness and a substantial dose of that near omnipresent yeast fruitiness in Belgian ales.  Dark, rich breads, stone fruit and spices came to mind.

The mouthfeel was undeniably smooth and slick.  Good body for a Belgian, but carbonation was present as well, though subdued.  Intriguing.  A bitter smack to the pallet brought hops temporarily to the mind, but make no mistake, this is a malt bomb!  A distinct burnt brown sugar flavor is most present.  Molasses and chocolate are sensed as well.  The spices are hard to pinpoint amongst the intense sweetness, but they are there.  Complex is for sure.  The carbonation, slick mouthfeel and rich sugars lend a cola like aspect to the beer.

The 10.2% isn’t completely hidden, but is by no means overpowering or boozy.  The aftertaste is very lasting, thankfully.  There is a slight dryness and the carbonation wilts away with time.  Rochefort 10 was the abbey beer to beat for us.  It’s close, but I’d give 12 the upper hand.

Beer Blotter can now answer that looming question…does 12 taste like the best beer in the world?  Well…have we had a better tasting beer in our time?  Yes, BUT…this beer is really, really good.  It’s a hearty, unique, complex quad with a lot of history and a great story.  Have we had a beer more rare?  No.  If you combine the taste and the rarity, do you get the best beer in the world?  Quite possibly.  Was it worth the trip?  A resounding YES!

2 interesting things we learned about Westy along the way, from the Belgians that know it best:

All the hoops that have been set up by the abbey to limit the ability to obtain the beer is really annoying…to everyone, hence the extreme mark-ups found in all the bars and bottle shops that sell it and the large number of bars that now refuse to sell it, either out of frustration or simple inability to get it.

If you ever order a Westy at a bar (other than In de Vrede of course), make sure you ask your bartender or waiter to let you watch them open the bottle in front of you.  As it turns out, it is a growing trend to keep an empty Westy bottle around in the back of the bar.  Then, when one is ordered, the bartender will fill it with St. Bernardus Abt. 12 and serve it as if it were the ordered beer.  This method working more times than not since most have never tasted said Westy, and saving the bar some serious dough along the way.  There are probably worse scams in the world since Abt. 12 is a damn good beer, but a scam none-the-less.

If you like 12, you should try…

St. Bernardus Abt. 12; Trappistes Rocheford 10; and Allagash Four

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased at the only place in the world that it can be procured at a reasonable price, as the monks intended – the abbey itself.  Get jealous.

bartender......another 12 please.

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Cigar City Brewing Bolita Brown

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Who's down for a game of Bolita?

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 2/22/2011

Brewery: Cigar City Brewing LLC

Location: Tampa, FL

Beer: Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale

Web: http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com/

Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2009

Style: Double Nut Brown Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.0%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Commercial Description:

Bolita was a type of lottery popular with the working class citizens of the Ybor City district of Tampa. Bolita means, ’little ball’ but profits from the illegal (and often rigged) game were anything but little. In the 1920’s Tampa native Charlie Wall was the undisputed kingpin of the Bolita racket.

Our Bolita is a Double Northern English-style brown ale that has a complex malt forward character with notes of chocolate, toffee and hints of roasted nuts in the finish. Bolita pairs well with Baklava, Big Band Music, Cool Evenings and robust cigars.

Food Pairings: Pork, brownies

Cheese Pairings: Camembert, Asiago

Music Pairing: Sun Ra

Beer Advocate: A- (4.09)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.76)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I have been saying for a while now that The Bruery and Cigar City are the two most exciting new breweries to open in the past 5 years.  In the case of The Bruery, I have relatively strong access to their beers and can speak with experience.  With CCB, I am forced to go completely by word of mouth, publications and ratebeer/beeradvocate ratings…until now.  Thanks to the overwhelming kindness and social grace of Jess and DSR, the better 2/3 of Beer Blotter, I was gifted with this bottle after they toured NYC in 2009.  I had been waiting for a special occasion to open it.  When I received a god-awful bill from a recent ER visit I made, I decided that I’d substitute “special occasion” with “extreme desire to escape reality”.  Let’s see if they live up to the hype.

Appearance.

Just after opening the bottle, at a very cold temperature mind you, a bit of foam formed and began to slowly creep over the rim of the bottle.  Out of fear of losing some of this rare brew to the table top, I quickly filled my snifter.  A lively head rose up but I was able to get a good pour and not overflow the vessel.  Bottle-conditioning success!

The fluid itself is a gorgeous mahogany color, and when held directly to the light it appears slightly toward a very dark, murky amber.  Light does not pass through and though it is evident that the carbonation is strong, it is nearly impossible to see any rising effervescence.

The head is tan in color and fairly light in density.  It falls somewhat quickly from its initial heights but leaves behind immense globs of lace, eventually settling into a soft, brownish-tan wisp.  As I revel in the appearance, from a top view, I’m reminded of being on a beach, right at the point in which the crashing waves dwindle and recede.  A froth of salty water resting upon dark, drenched sand, awaiting the next gravity fed barrage of the mighty sea.  If I could shrink myself down and anxiously submerge my feet in these cool sands, I would not hesitate.

Odor.

The scent is surprisingly vinous and estery…almost tart.  It takes a deep waft and some searching to find the nuts and malts beneath, but they are there.  The full experience in the nose – that being the combination of the before mentioned attributes – is actually really enjoyable, though my first impression is that this was not intended by the brewers.  Though, upon further reflection, this is a Cigar City beer and there is no doubt that, in its current state, this would pair effortlessly with a cigar.  Even still, as this is my first and only experience with this beer, I ponder the role that travel and age may play here.  It may require a trip to the Southeast to truly know.

Had the label come out and told me that this beer was aged in wood I would feel much better about everything, but really, if it isn’t, and this isn’t the intended scent, maybe it should be because it’s amazing!  It’s full of cherry notes and brown sugar, strawberries and rhubarb, pie crust and sugar cookies filled with jam.

Nuts and chocolate, again, can be found, but much deeper than the rest.  The moment that they are found, it all comes together in a holiday-like harmony that really sends me to another place and time.  It’s a magical experience.  Very, very much unlike most brown ales, there is no subtlety to the nose.  It bursts out of the glass like an overly perfumed grandmother.  In this case, I want to rest my shoulder on granny all evening long.

Mouthfeel.

The MF is on the high side with respect to carbonation, which slightly inhibits my ability to gauge anything in this category.  Through many sips I determine that it’s above average in body but not overly cloying or oily.  It’s spot on for a double brown ale.

Flavor.

It’s in the flavor that the nuts and chocolatey, roasted malt characteristics truly shine, but that only really holds true when the beer is colder.  In that stage the flavor is much reminiscent of Nutella.  When you couple that with the fruity nose, well, quite literally… it’s like enjoying a Nutella dipped strawberry, which, let me tell you, is simply stupendous!

The grains do not present any acridity or chalkiness and it all goes down smooth and sweet.  As the beer warms the experience has much less of a yin and yang effect and the flavors seems to devolve more into what was experienced with the surface scents.  The maltiness is pressed to the aftertaste and it all transitions into something very Belgian in nature.  If there was ever a time that I’d bet wood was involved in the production of this beer it would be now.  Strawberry bubblegum screams the loudest, but a woody, earthy flavor rests below.  That may be my palate misinterpreting the nuts since they are rare in this context.  The booze really brightens up here and plays yet another role in my (spiked?) barrel theory.

Amidst all this seeming mayhem, there is not an ounce of me that is disenchanted by any of it.  In fact, I can’t get enough.  It’s a chameleon of a beer.  What strange shade will I see the next time I blink?

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is an afterthought for most of my time with this beer.  It’s all sweet and just slightly acidic, but with warmth there is a lasting, cocoa powder graininess that gives the impression of a chalky dryness that isn’t actually there.  This is probably the worst part of the entire experience of Bolita Brown but that is a bit of a misnomer because the whole experience is grande.  There is no doubt that I want to continue to the next sip.

Summation.

It’s been a long time coming, this foray into the realm of Cigar City, and whether I “compromised” the product or not, I really enjoyed my time with it.  I have great hopes that the time will soon come that I have full access to CCB’s product line.

If you like Cigar City Bolita Brown, you should try…

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale; Smuttynose Brewing’s Old Brown Dog Ale; Lazy Magnolia Brewing’s Southern Pecan

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased by Beer Blotter with our own hard-earned money, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

The Hop Brief: Speakeasy’s Double Daddy Imperial IPA

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

WA contraband

Enjoyed on 2/7/2011

Brewery: Speakeasy Ales and Lagers

Location: San Francisco, CA

Beer: Double Daddy Imperial IPA

Web: http://www.goodbeer.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.5%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

Doubling down on malt & hops, DOUBLE DADDY raises the stakes. With it’s good looks & No-Limit style,DD takes the pot every time.

Beer Advocate: B (3.65)

Rate Beer: 96 (3.61)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

This shit is contraband yo!

It’s rare that a brewery exits a market, but that’s just what Speakeasy did to Seattle about a year ago.  Obviously it sucks to lose the distribution of a great brewery, but I think I took it extra hard.  I have a lot of wonderful memories that revolve around this brewery.  This very beer was a long-standing number 1 favorite IPA of mine.  Speakeasy is one of the first breweries that I discovered in which I really liked every beer that they made.  They are one of the first breweries outside of the North Atlantic that I visited and toured.  Every time that I fantasize about my future brewery, I think of the aura, the people, the tunes, the beers, the setup of the Speakeasy brewery in San Fran.  I want mine to be like theirs.

I stumbled across this bottle at John’s Marketplace in Portland and I had a mini freak-out.  God, I really hope that they send their outstanding wares to Seattle again in the near future.

Appearance.

DD is much lighter in color than most IPAs.  I’d call it gold or pale orange.  Based solely on the color, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a lager.  It’s maybe just one shade darker than most lagers.  It’s also very clear and displays a fairly soft carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass.  The head is full on white and is pretty subdued on the pour.  It fades quickly down to a thin sheet on top of the liquid but manages to leave a fairly dense lacing on the inside of the glass.  It is this lacing that is really the only impressive element to the appearance.

Odor.

The odor kicks ass!  It’s so perfectly balanced that I want to lift my glass high and toast the brewers of Speakeasy.  It has become all too common lately for the hops to completely dominate imperial IPAs.  Often, it seems the hops are used to cover up what would otherwise be a highly mediocre beer.  Here, with DD, you know that you have a quality crafted beer before you, prior to even tasting it.  That’s impressive.

I’d tend to concede that the grainy element of the scent is most prevalent here and that the hops are actually just slightly positioned in the background rather than the much more likely foreground.  The malty element seems very natural and almost uncooked.  It’s a bit confusing because I’d estimate that the boil would be, at least, in the 90 minute range to allow for various hop additions but there is little caramelization noted.  Clearly the crystal used, if at all, is very low in intensity.  It’s like sticking your head in a freshly opened sack of 2-row.  Pure, unadulterated malted barley.

At first, the hops lend a sappy, pine like earthiness with a little bit of grapefruit tang.  The malts are very round and soft within the nose, but the hops are sharp, as is the booze’s heat.  It’s a contrasting experience that might just be a text-book worthy anecdote for “balance” in beer.  As the beverage warms, the pine bite seems to fade a bit and bitter orange peel is all that I can think about.

Mouthfeel.

This beer feels like 100% silk in my mouth.  The low carbonation and heavy body cause the liquid to glide down my pipes with ease.  Dare I say too much ease.  There is nothing negative to speak of here.  I’d say that this is well on the more viscous side of the scale, which can be read as a higher score for me, at least when it comes to impy IPAs.

Flavor.

The flavor of DD is all about balance.  Do we sense a theme?  Probably the best theme possible when reviewing an imperial IPA.  The interesting thing about this one is that the “imperial” element is only really found in the abv.  I can understand them not choosing to use the word “double” because that may be misconstrued as double the hops.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt that DD has more hops per barrel than Speakeasy’s standard IPA, Big Daddy (named after the owner of Toronado in San Fran), but hops really do not dominate this beer in any way.

The whole experience of this beer is soft, mellow and soothing.  The bitterness is dampened by the hefty grain presence (there’s your imperial).  The alcohol isn’t fucking around, but it’s not harsh, simply warming.  The hops are all sorts of bitter orange and grapefruit, which kind of brings thoughts of a cool breeze on a hot summer day.  With each sip, I wonder… if a thirsty bee may have fell into good graces, only to be awakened when slurped and bring a foul sting to my tongue, awakening me from this much-needed fantasy escape from the chilled clutches of winter.

The malts continue to exist in a very unencumbered fashion.  This is beer in its purest sense, and that gives me goose bumps.  How a brewer is able to encapsulate that within such an extreme style category is highly impressive.  I feel like the recipe is probably built on a lager platform.  The grains were magnified, the yeast was shifted to that of an ale, and it was all intensely hopped.  Pretty simple and wildly successful.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is most hot with booze and lingers for quite some time.  Both graininess and bitterness can easily be perceived.  It all blends itself so pristinely that details fail to manifest.  It just exists as a brilliantly developed beer that had sadly departed from the pleasure sensors.  Each and every sip tragically leads to a swallow and each passing swallow tragically leads to an empty glass.

Summary.

Lately, few beers have transported me to far away places like DD has tonight.  I feel stimulated, provoked, inspired.  It’s amazing!  If I could give extra credit I would.  The oddest part about this review is that I have given very high scores to almost every area except for the area with the most weight, hop flavor.  That’s pretty rare.  Though I fucking love this beer, it probably deserves to be punished for that fact.  This is The Hop Brief.  Or, maybe my scoring system is flawed and an exemplary beer deserves an exemplary score.  I’ll mull over this existential question and happily field your thoughts on the matter.  Email me or comment below.

Thank you Speakeasy, and please, come back to WA.  You are missed.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.80

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.52

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.98

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.26

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Unita Brewing Labyrinth Black Ale

February 4, 2011 1 comment

I've become lost in this labyrinthine world.

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 2/3/2011

Brewery: Uinta Brewing Co.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Beer: Labyrinth Black Ale

Web:http://www.uintabrewing.com/

Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Corked & Caged

Vintage: 2010

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Oak

ABV: 13.2%

IBU: 56

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Commercial Description:

Enter the Labyrinth, a multi-dimensional black ale. Discover the complex intermingling of black licorice and toasted oak. Seek the subtle hints of bittersweet chocolate. Explore pairing Labyrinth with flavorful cheeses and rich desserts.

Food Pairings: Game, Gelato, Chocolate Cake

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Music Pairing: David Bowie

Beer Advocate: A- (4.08)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.78)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I’ve explained this many times before in this column, so I’ll make it brief.  Uinta, by sending their Crooked Line to Seattle before any of their standard beers, is playing a hand that has become very familiar to us beer geeks.  Send the trendy, extreme beers first when attempting to enter a new market and build up a reputation.  Then, slip in the standards and lay down more of a foundation.  Labyrinth is one of four beers in the Crooked Line and it’s an imperial stout.  You know full well that Timperial Stout had to try it.  Here we go!

Appearance.

They should call this a black ale.  Oh, wait…  Yeah, this is black alright.  It’s about as devoid of transparency as a brick wall.  I think I could ignite a fist sized chunk of magnesium behind the glass and not even know that anything was different in the room.   I held it up to the light and the room went black.  I think you get it.  Labyrinth is impossibly black.

The head rose up on the pour with just the vigor that I would expect from a high gravity stout that has been bottle conditioned.  Actually, now that I think about it, that expectation took a bit of subconscious calculation.  I’d expect a high gravity stout to have a very minimal head and a bottle conditioned beer to have quite a large head, so I figured it would about split the difference, and it did.  As it somewhat quickly receded, some thin lacing layed in its wake.

That head is very much the color that you would expect from a beer so jet black.  It’s espresso colored.  It’s a very dark tan, near brown with auburn highlights.  I just described my ideal head on a beer.  It’s so beautiful and inviting I can’t wait to sip!

Odor.

A deep inhale at the mouth of the glass forces a massive smile to my face.  The odor speaks of an amazing imperial stout.  It’s so deep and roasted and complex and sweet…  The first thing that comes to mind is a very high cocoa content chocolate bar put into convection and sweetened generously.  A flourless chocolate torte perhaps?  Definitely something baked and dry.  Brownies might be too sweet to apply here.  The licorice is faint but detectable and works magnificently.  Vanilla bean seems to be involved as well.

The oak combines with the base grain and the hops to form the scent’s backbone and bring realization to the experience – this is in fact a beer and not a melted desert.  There is some earthiness, some damp wood and a little bitter coffee.  The whole experience is a bit frantic as the sweets and the not-so-sweets are constantly struggling for supremacy.

Mouthfeel.

Oh how silky smooth it is!  It’s not the most viscous impy stout I’ve ever had but it’s close.  Labyrinth coats every corner of the mouth with its essence and has absolutely no reservations about it.  This beer is a big, bold bully and any lingering flavor that may have existed in my mouth prior to it’s arrival has been sent packing, tail between its legs.  I slight swishing of the liquid stimulates enough carbonation frothing to sting my cheeks, or maybe that’s the booze.  It’s a pleasure to be drinking this tonight.

Flavor.

Upon my very first taste of Labyrinth I felt I had a serious winner.  It’s thick and robust.  It has a bitterness, but it’s mostly sweet.  It’s a beast of an ale, not doubt.  But, after subsequent sips, and as the beer warms, I’m becoming less and less attracted to it.  It’s highly astringent and the booze is somewhat painful.  I do very much like the chocolate cake notes and the oak has infused itself marvelously.  Those two elements are not to be overlooked.  I think that the licorice is somewhat harsh and the overall grain bill may be too heavily weighted toward black.

The label on the bottle does suggest that Labyrinth is better at cooler temperatures.  I don’t know why I always ignore these precautions.  I guess, ultimately, I don’t think that a beer should be hiding in the foggy, fault-hiding chills.  Let that shit breath.  Let my taste buds work in their ideal temperature zone.

As I push deeper and deeper into the bottle I begin to think that I won’t be able to finish it.  I couldn’t tell you the last time that that happened.  There continues to be flashes of the greatness that this beer has to offer (chocolate, oak) but they are fleeting at best.  A medicinal quality begins to appear, but it’s mostly just this weird earthiness and some metallic, off flavors.  I feel somewhat like I’m eating a piece of rain-soaked bark with a rubbing alcohol chaser.

Aftertaste.

This area is two parted.  In the forefront, there is a booze laces acidity that is really burning the inside of my mouth.  Just as it sounds, it’s uncomfortable.  The second part is a chalky bittersweet chocolate dusting that isn’t exactly bad but I’d much prefer a sweeter finish.  It’s all pretty acrid and it lingers for some time.

Summation.

I feel terrible because I probably shouldn’t have reviewed this beer but I needed to get a review in and based on the beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com ratings I figured this would be a treat. Maybe I’m just a bit off today.  I’m going to give this beer one more try someday soon.  Maybe I just got a bad bottle or bad batch or something.  Uinta deserves better treatment from me than this.

If you like Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale, you should try…

Full Sail Brewing’s Imperial Porter; Deschutes Brewing’s Abyss; Goose Island Brewing’s Bourbon County Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.