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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

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.

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.

The Hop Brief: Hale’s Ales Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double IPA

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I can't wait till the next SBW!

Enjoyed on 12/21/2010

Brewery: Hale’s Ales LTD.

Location: Seattle, WA

Beer: Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double India Pale Ale

Web: http://www.averybrewing.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.3%

IBU: 100

Hops: Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop.

Malt: Belgian Aromatic and Munich, oats, likely NW pale or 2 row or Maris Otter…possibly others.

Commercial Description:

Seattle Beer Week II Double IPA We do a couple different IPA’s here at Hale’s Ales, Mongoose, Supergoose, Aftermath, and so we were aiming for an IPA that was outside of these flavors. The big feature of this beer is the hops, so naturally we argued first and last about the malt bill. Our target was a rich orange color based around a couple of light color malts, Belgian Aromatic and Munich. We also were looking for a strong malt backbone to support a pretty aggressive hop bill, so we incorporated oats to allow for a rich body and mouthfeel. On to hops. Our goal was a blend of Northwest Hops emphasizing floral, citrus and pine characteristics. We did a couple of trial batches attempting to dial in the right hop character. We went a little heavy on Columbus in the first batch and ended up with a weird pineapple character. The second batch was dynamite on the flavor, but didn’t quite hit the perfect aroma. Our final batch incorporated Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop. Late hop additions were 1.6 lbs/bbl. Dry hops were at 1.0 lb/ bbl.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.1)

Rate Beer: 97 (3.68)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Remember Seattle Beer Week 2010?  I do and I don’t, if you know what I mean.  It’s nearly impossible to exercise moderation during said week, and I partied like a rock star.  Err…a beer nerd.  That notion, non-existent moderation that is, seems to hold true when creating the week’s beer as well.  The inaugural brew in 2009 was crafted by Pike Brewing and was also a Double IPA.  When the Seattle Beer Collective gets down, they get down.  They destroy palettes with booze and IBUs.  The dates have already been set for SBW 2011, May 19 – 28, but the official beer’s brewer has yet to be announced.  Who will it be?  I can’t wait to find out, but for now, lets just enjoy my last bottle of the 2010 before the massive hop character becomes…well, less massive.

Appearance.

I’d say, based on looks, that Hale’s was right on with what they were aiming for.  This brew has a rich orange hue that is very inviting.  When the light isn’t quite so direct, the fluid takes on a more amber color, but when held directly to the light, SBW2010DIPA glows a gold flaked orange.  Though the beer is hazy from the dry-hopping, there is barely any sediment to speak of.  The carbonation is visible, but not so strong as to build an out of control head on the pour.  The lacing is worthy of a double thumbs up, and the head sticks around throughout.  Very impressive.

Odor.

There is little doubt that this beer has a solid malt backbone.  It’s possibly odd that I started this section with that statement.  Yes, hops dominate.  Was I supposed to mention that?  I thought it goes without saying.  I’ll get to the lupulin in a moment.

The first thought I had when evaluating the malt essence was Victory malt.  There may or may not be Victory in the grain bill, possibly it’s the Munich, but I got a whiff of peanuts and a dash of popcorn.  Those notes came right after the pour when the effervescence was at its peak.  Now that the beer has calmed a bit, I can’t seem to discern anything other than a faint caramel stickiness draped upon the overpowering hoppy fruitiness.

I smell and smell again, and each time I seem to get a slight nuance from the hops.  At times, it’s all fruit, mostly passion fruit or some soft tropical pleasure.  Other times, it’s completely floral.  Unfortunately, I’m no botanist, and therefore am unable to provide genus,  but I can tell you that the potency is immense.  I think of Elysian Jasmine IPA and its overwhelming ability to transport me to a Japanese tea garden.  A garden, we surely are in.

As the beer warms, some more of the malt is uncovered, and it easily coalesces with the flora to place me directly within the leavened pores of a fruit cake.  If you could take that scene in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where they stumble upon the Oreo in the front yard and snack time ensues and replace the cookie with a fruit cake…yeah I’m doing a swan dive right into the fluffy cakey goodness right now.

As it warms even more, the booze enters the jaunt, and some slight uninvited vegetal scents pop in.  Try to drink this one cold(er).

Mouthfeel.

The body of this guy is truly lovely.  I can’t say that I would have guessed there were oats in this, but since I do know, I’ll strap on my monocle, clutch my jolly old belly (lavishly draped in a vest of the Queen’s finest textiles) and bellow deeply in an English accent that this beer’s “silky smooth mouthfeel is made possible by the almighty oat”.  The oats effect may also be responsible for the killer head retention, or maybe Cara-Pils could hold a minor percentage in the bill.

The carbonation is rocking well after the pour but never overbearing.  All in all, a great success.

Flavor.

Much like the nose, this element seems to fluctuate, oscillate, ebb and flow.  When the experience is averaged, balance is reached so astutely.  Doubtless, the malts are mighty strong here, standing tall amidst the triple digit bitterness units.  Bitterness… what a challenging topic right now.  With the fear of skipping ahead and spoiling the aftertaste section below, I must reference the moments after the swallow to make any attempt to wrap my mind around the role of bitterness here.

If you’ve read my Hop Briefs in the past, you know that, ultimately, my enjoyment of IPAs rest in the bitter vs. sweet, hop candy battle.  When this beer hits the tongue, the tongue recoils in fear.  On a sensory level, one must then pay close attention to the aftershocks, not the heavy hitting initial blow, to fully appreciate this beer’s nuance and complexity.  The aftershocks, or the aftertaste in this case, is so, so pleasurable.  It’s sweet and hoppy and not at all dry.  The malts are twinkling in the background and everything is right in the world.  How this contradiction holds together in the rolling centrifuge across my tongue, I can’t explain, but allow me to again bellow, “Roll on my intrepid friend, be free!”

When it comes to the actual hop flavor, it still holds a lot of fruitiness, but not so much floraliness (new word discovery, chalk it up!).  I’m actually getting a large dose of spice just at the moment that I swallow.  If beer is liquid bread, this beer is a culinary joy ride.  I’d feed on this one for days and days.  It’s all too hop-laden to realize any specific, legitimate malt characteristic, but the balance is undeniable.

Aftertaste.

It’s glorious.  See above.

Summary.

The absolute best part about this beer is the fact that it seems to be a living organism.  It’s like the sea breaching the shore – it attacks over and over again, but never twice in the same manner.  By this right, this is the most complex IPA I’ve had in recent memory.  Oddly enough though, complexity only goes so far with IPAs as far as I’m concerned.  This one beer may have the aspects of 4 different IPAs, possibly more, but maybe only one of those would be a perfect 10 in my book.  Though I deeply enjoyed the ride, the moments where SBW2010DIPA tasted like something slightly less desirable left a blemish with enough weight to set in scar.  If for nothing other than to deepen my confliction, may it be that this scar lends an endearing quality and in time I regret not distributing the highest of marks.  May time tell the tale.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.94

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.98

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.70

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.88

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.48

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Creme Brulee

Hmm...I wonder why they call it Creme Brulee...

***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 11/2/2010

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Location: Lakewood, New York

Beer: Creme Brulee

Web: http://www.southerntierbrewing.com

Presentation: 22oz – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2009

Style: Imperial Milk Stout

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.0%

IBU: N/A

Hops: Columbus, Horizon

Malt: 2-row pale malt, dark caramel malt

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 42 degrees, as per the bottle

Commercial Description:

We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition.

By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew.

Food Pairings: Oysters, Cheesecake, Chocolate

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Music Pairing: Cream or Vanilla Ice

Beer Advocate: B+ (3.95)

Rate Beer: 97 (3.69)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I’ve never met a Southern Tier beer that I didn’t like.  Though that may not mean much to some (especially my Beer Blotter brethren, who are staunch in their stance that I think every beer is good), I assure you that it is not meaningless, as least in my mind.  For me, there is only a handful of American breweries that I would say that about, and it must be noted that I wouldn’t even consider publishing such a statement about a brewery that is anything less than prolific in their releases.  Some breweries that immediately come to mind are Avery Brewing, Brooklyn Brewing and Clipper City Brewing, all of which have extremely solid year round releases as well as stunning seasonals and special releases.

In the Seattle market, STB’s 12oz year round releases are often harder to find than the 22oz imperial ones.  We have discussed this phenomenon before on the blog and it continues to be true, most recently with the entrance of Uinta Brewing to the local market.  In a nutshell, it is a common marketing scheme for breweries entering a new market to send their most hotly desired beers first, to build hype and excitement, and hopefully market share, and then further expand from there.  For nerds like me, this is a pretty successful game plan.

This particular brand of marketing is especially advantageous for STB considering that they have 16 beers in their “Imperial Series”.  Yes, I said 16.  That is way more than their non-imperial releases.  Now that is a quality that I can’t help but respect in a brewery.  Long live Southern Tier!

Appearance.

My liquid dessert this evening has a fairly small crown of tan bubbles.  As the head approaches the rim of the glass it appears to be more of a brownish rust color.   With time, it settles to a wisp and ring.  Each and every sip brings a foamy wash of lace across the nearest face of the glass, but only small splotches remain affixed.  One could say that the “legs” are impressive on this one.  Yet again, Timperial Stout’s favorite style pours completely opaque.  Though impenetrable to all light, it brightens my eyes with its gorgeous roasted malt depth.

Odor.

Sweet Fancy Moses this beer cannot possibly be anything other than liquefied Creme Brulee! All the sweetness of heaven was impossibly condensed into the fermented concoction before me.  This solution stands so supersaturated in sucrose, lactose and fructose that any honest scientist would be frozen, googly-eyed in dismay.  I have a sudden urge to make an appointment to have my teeth cleaned.  Yowee!

I hope I’ve successfully put a bit of weight behind my words.  From an odor standpoint, this beer is the absolute epitome of desert.  I have always thought that all of STB’s beers were crazy sweet, in a good way, but this is above and beyond, in a better way.  The scent is pretty much exactly of creme brulee.  The vanilla is so prevalent here that I can only assume that the entire planet’s reserves of vanilla beans were swiftly depleted in the days leading up to the brew.  I can’t even carve through the non-beer scents that are at play here.  Other than the onslaught of creamy vanilla, there is a milky and a caramelized sugar sweetness that plays perfectly to the inclination that this beer is not only called creme brulee but that it tastes like creme brulee.  The custard, the jagged edges of splintered, solidified caramel, the eggy creaminess, it’s all there in the smell.  Mind blowing!  I feel as though I should be sipping this one out of a ramekin rather than a snifter.

Mouthfeel.

This is an imperial milk stout with a dump truck’s load of sugary goodness in it.  To say that this is smooth in the mouth is probably the biggest understatement of my life.  Yes, there is a faint pop of carbonation that tickles the back of the tongue right before the swallow, but what prefaces it has a smoothness that I thought could only be exuded by a spirit.  If this was my Hop Brief column and there were ratings to pair with each section, Creme Brulee’s mouthfeel would be a perfect 10.

Flavor.

I initially found it odd that the brewer suggested drinking this beer cold, since I almost always prefer my imperial stouts when they warm up to around 55 degrees, but after my experience with it I see why.  The main result of allowing this beer to warm is that it becomes more like the 10% beer that it actually is and less like the scientific spectacle that it maybe should remain as.  Out comes the alcohol burn, the grain, the bitterness.  My goodness, that sounds ridiculous coming from me, I know.

Allow me to explain.  When cold(er) this beer tastes like it smells, pretty much to a T.  There is no booziness to be found.  There is oodles of desert sweetness that, seemingly, could never be the result of commonly used brewing malts.  Some may call it a ploy, but in my world, the flavor of something is why you drink that something.  If you like Mike’s Hard Lemonade because you like the way it tastes and you get a pleasant buzz from it, I will NEVER give you shit about it.  Life is short, drink what you like…have fun.  If I were to tell someone that was typically apposed to imbibing a beer the same color as motor oil that it tasted like bitter baker’s chocolate, tobacco and wood, I’m not at all confident that that would settle their nerves.  On the other hand, if I told then that it tastes EXACTLY like one of the most delicious, sweet deserts you can buy, I may be able to tip the scale.  Are the STB brewer’s a bunch of panty peeling bitches for going that route, I say hell no, but I guess that’s up to you to decide.

Aftertaste.

This is precisely where I expected it to be considering all of the predecessor characteristics.  There is no dryness when cold and just a hair when warmer.  The Flan like qualities linger for ever and ever.  The mouth remains completely coated in syrupy sweetness and its truly a delight.  Though it may result in a boat load of cavities, I’m pretty sure that it would be sickly sweet (very pleasurable) to have one of these for desert everyday.

Summation.

You may have gotten the feeling that I like STB.  It’s true, they are in my top 10 in the world.  The fact that they have 5 different imperial stouts doesn’t have anything to do with it, err…wait…I’m Timperial Stout…yeah…maybe top 5.

If you like Southern Tier Creme Brulee, you should try…

Three Floyds Brewing‘s Moloko Milk Stout; Dark Horse Brewing‘s Too Cream Stout; Bell’s Brewing‘s Special Double Cream 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.

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops

October 27, 2010 1 comment

It's a secret...

***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 10/20/2010

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Beer: Black Ops

Web: http://www.brooklynbrewery.com/

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

Vintage: 2009

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Bourbon

ABV: 11.6%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Tulip…ish

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Commercial Description:

Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. However, if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly “Black ops” was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oat notes. They say there are only 1,000 cases. We have no idea what they’re talking about.

Food Pairings: Grilled meat, ice cream, brownies

Cheese Pairings: Aged Gouda, Cheddar, Parmesan

Music Pairing: Small Black from Brooklyn

Beer Advocate: A- (4.25)

Rate Beer: 100 (4.00)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

Being from Philadelphia, I have had pretty much every beer that Brooklyn makes.  Well, at least the ones that were available before I moved to Seattle three and a half years ago.  In PA, there are some very odd laws based around beer.  As a consumer, you have to buy any beer that you want to take home with you from either a bar (six-packs only) or a distributor (full cases only).  You cannot buy beer at a grocery store, convenience store, etc.  There are a few bottle shops around that sell individual bottles, but they are few and far between.  With this in mind, many larger breweries end up producing “variety” cases, almost exclusively for PA consumers.  Most of the time, these include 4 different six-packs, but sometimes there’s even more variety.

Brooklyn was one of the breweries that offered the variety case and I purchased it quite often.  For me, this was one of the few variety options where I liked every beer, even the lager, and that fact stuck with me.  I have always respected Garret Oliver and Brooklyn since those burgeoning days of beer nerdiness.  As that nerdiness reached full bloom, I abandoned the variety case all together and exclusively shopped at the bottle shops, despite the inconvenience.  Those days allowed me to find Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout.  To this day, that beer is one of the beers I most miss from the East coast.  It’s just like what you think it would be like, chocolatey, sweet, smooth and warming.

Once I heard that the brewery that made one of my favorite East coast stouts was doing a limited run of bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, I flipped out.  But, alas, I quickly excepted the fact that I would probably never get a chance to try it, being so far away from the distribution area.  But then, the other 2/3 of beerblotter took a trip to NYC.  I said to them before they departed, “If there is one bottle that you return with, for the love of god make it be Black Ops!”  Yadda, yadda, yadda, here we are today.

Appearance.

This monster pours with a huge head of brown and a slight hint of clay color.  It should go without saying that the liquid itself is oil black.  As the head dwindles, which takes quite a while I may add, there is some serious lacing left on the glass that seems to be caramelized or heated to crystallization on the inside of the glass.  It’s a sight to see!  The head never does fully dissipate, leaving an impressive 1/8 of an inch to the very end.

Odor.

The scent is outrageously smooth and complex.  Notes of bourbon, pretzels, vanilla, white cookie or white cake batter, wood, tobacco and a medicinal booziness exist.  As it warms, there is a sense of saltiness that is produced in the nose, possibly a suggestion from the pretzel connotation, or possibly the other way around.  Maybe the scent really is of salt and the baked, malty notes bring pretzels to mind.  The world may never know.  Also uncovered: Burnt sugar, creme brulee, brown sugar, rum, almond biscotti…did I mention that this is complex?

Mouthfeel.

This is smooth without being too cloying or syrupy.  The champagne yeast is not as active as I suspected it would feel in the mouth, but it must play a massive role in the body, which is super unique.  The use of champagne yeast in beer is rare, but it has produced fantastic results here.

Flavor.

Many of the bourbon flavors are realized on the tongue, which I feel is unique – I generally just get the odors.  The dark, roasted malts seem to be most prevalent near the end of the flavor profile.  They impart a chocolate nib bitterness, but there is no dryness to be found.  Vinous and a bit juicy (read: not drying) with an intense mouth watering nature, but not overly sweet.  It’s perplexing how the flavor lingers forever and is not dry but it’s simultaneously not very sweet.  Many of the flavors associated with the scents listed above come and go as the liquid washes over the taste buds.  The experience is like eating a slurry of every desert ever made, and it’s awesome!

Aftertaste.

There is a whole butt load of booze in the aftertaste, which makes it a bit challenging to pinpoint the subtle nuances.  There is definitely some licorice in there, I did get that.

Summation.

This beer was shared amongst the three beerblotter members, and each one of us was completely smitten by it.  It is, without a doubt, one of the best bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts we have ever had.  This beer is not easy to find, especially on the West Coast, but hear me now: do WHATEVER you must to get this!

If you like Brooklyn Black Ops, you should try…

Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss; Big Sky Brewing‘s Ivan the Terrible; North Coast Brewing‘s Old Rasputin Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged 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.

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