Archive

Archive for the ‘The Cellar’ Category

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

Liquid Excursion, Brasserie des Rocs, Part 2

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Good beer, good tunes, good night.

In case you missed my musings on Brune in Part 1, please be sure to catch up here.  Otherwise, you’ll be a bit lost.

Allow me to apologize that such a long period of time has passed since the initial excursion.  The first edition was produced on a perfect Sunday night.  I was all alone in my cellar dwelling with nowhere to be and no one to distract me.  I was warm and blanketed in glorious sounds, scents, tastes and visions.  I had been craving Belgian ales so deeply, and I needed a calming escape from the rigors of life.  I found it that night, and it felt amazing.  I wanted to recreate the night for Part 2, but the stars really have to align just so for a true recreation.  It took a few weeks, but here I am, blissful as before.

I figured that I should, again, offer a score to the experience.  Last time saw a pairing with an undeniable founder of the long standing shoegaze movement.  Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie is a master of distortion, and some of the world’s most highly revered albums, namely My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, would not have existed where it not for him.  Tonight, I again attempt to pair my mind meltingly complex Belgian ale with equally profound sounds.  Though The Campfire Headphase is no Music Has the Right to Children, it’s never-the-less a pillar in the world of IDM, ambient, and downtempo.  It pairs perfectly well with relaxation, and even better with transcendence of mind and palate.

Triple Imperiale fills the glass with aquarium like wonderment. To gaze upon this brown, highly carbonated, viscous mess in my glass is much like what it would be to open your eyes beneath the goopy confines of a hot bayou.  The waters are muddy brown, but life thrives.  Bubbles rise from the depths… something stirs on the floor of this slimy hotbed.  Amidst the uncomfortable submersion, to see only briefly is unmasking evidence that there swims near endless translucent organisms, weaving in and out of every nook and cranny of the body.  Are these wiggling jellyfish with stingers at the ready, or may they be amoeba like microorganisms, mutated far from any micro precursor?

We need not contemplate these things, for a blind man would surely find endless delight here.  May the scents, sounds and flavors guide us tonight.

Triple Imperiale has all the complexity of nose that the world’s greatest ales possess.  It’s staggering.  It’s challenging… to the writer part of my brain, but completely delightful to the rest.  This beer is not too different from the Brune that I last reviewed in odor.  I wouldn’t say that it has a cherry tartness to it, but the esters power through the brown sugar and caramel and deep, slightly browned pie crust fumes at the forefront.  There’s more of a prune and date and robust red wine scent.  It smells wood aged in many ways.  There is a mustiness deep within, vanilla notes, caramelized, charing, with subtly bubblegum, taffy and cotton candy.  Good gracious!  Again, there must be a crucially long boil with this brew to cook the sugars so fully, and a yeast strain that could go toe to toe with the very best of them.  Brilliant.

Amoebas? Jellyfish? Flavor nuggets?

I feared that the flavor could never rival the scent, and that’s mostly true, but the music and the candle light in my room and the ominous crackling of the needle against the vinyl and the Belgian masterpiece before me… this is just all too much for me right now.  What a night!

The flavor is very wine like in it’s fruitiness and heat.  With the glaring exception of a malty-er-than-thou finish, this is a seriously vinous, estery, fruitscapade of a beer.  But beer it is.  The malty, baker’s chocolatey dry finish is profound, but long before the aftertaste, all that fruit lies upon breads and cookies and pie crusts and cakes…all slightly overcooked and crusted.  But like Momma used to say, the crust is the best part.  All the sugars are crystallized at the edge.   The peripheral is often the most exciting place to be.

This shit is super sweet, and I’m not speaking in colloquialism, but I could be.  The typical Belgian candy sugar meets Belgian yeast reaction in bubblegum is present, but it’s possibly closer to creme brulee, as was Brune.  Blue hot scorching of soft sugars.  Male vs. female.  Power vs. subtlety.  Pro-fun-dity.

I'm spinning...reeling in delight.

The Hop Brief: Hopworks Urban Brewery Ace of Spades Imperial IPA

December 10, 2010 4 comments

This may be in the royal flush of IIPAs

Enjoyed on 12/09/2010

Brewery: Hopworks Urban Brewery aka HUB

Location: Portland, OR

Beer: Ace of Spades Imperial IPA

Web: http://www.hopworksbeer.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.5%

IBU: 100+

Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

This hopped out beast had Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial hops, added at every point; mash tun, first wort, kettle, and dry hop. All the green goodness results in a beer with a huge citrus hop aroma, flavor and deep clean bitterness.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.06)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.94)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

For me, HUB Ace of Spades was first experienced on tap at Brouwer’s.  It blew my mind.  When I heard that it would be available in a limited runn bottling, I had to get on board.  I found one, and the cellar dweller in me begged it to be layed away, but my better judgment spoke forth, and may the hops still dominate…

Appearance.

Fresh out the box, or bottle, this gem pours a very cloudy yellowish-orange tinted amber.  It’s not only a thick translucent syrupy joy in the glass, but it harbors many suspended bits of hop injection.  The head rose just as it should on a medium pour, and it displayed a very voluptuous crown of varying sized bubbles.  That head diminished at the center and outer reaches first, leaving a rocky lather that begged to be scooped and smeared on Chris Ellis’ (my roommate, closest human to me currently, recent author of a marvelous 52 Weeks article) face, in a gesture of prank, humor, and mostly love.  But I can already tell that this will be too darn tasty to violate with these unholy digits.  I display self control…for once.

The head is just off white and built with (clearly visible amidst the mirk) quickly rising bubbles.  Every so often they strike a bit of dry-hopped excrement and change coarse.  I feel like I’m gazing into an aquarium or something.  Far too entertaining to just look at.  I need to snap out of it and move on, there’s drinking to do!

Odor.

A deep inhale of this one tells a lengthy tale.  The malts come through with grace, and for that, you know, I’m very thankful.  There is a sweet, caramel coated, deserty goodness in there.  Based on color and depth of flavor, I’m thinking crystal 120 may play a role.  Maybe 90.   There is also a biscuit flavor that I adore.  I’m thinking flat out biscuit malt or victory, maybe a sprinkle of cara-pils.  I’m trying to reverse engineer beers, tune my palate…hey HUB, what grains do you use?

The first adjective that I think of when assessing the hop profile is spicy, but it’s full of pine and citrus as well.  The combination that they used is well rounded.  It’s very northwest of them.  Allow me to tip my proverbial cap.

Mouthfeel.

The MF is perfectly pleasant.  Possibly just a hair thin for an imperial, but by no means under-viscous.  The carbonation is most receptive with a swishing in the mouth, but on a simple suckle, it’s deathly accurate.  In my experience carbonating beers at Lazy Boy, I found it to be a bit persnickety.  There would always be a moment where I thought, “just a few more minutes with the carb stone and it will be perfect”, and then it was too much.  It’s surely an art, and HUB got it right with this batch.

Flavor.

The colder the beer, the less attractive I found the flavor.  There may or may not be a similar progression in my intoxication levels, but shut up right now!  Actually, I’ll say that the flavor of this beer, when it’s cooler, is probably 100% perfect to the tastes of a vast majority of IIPA drinkers.  It’s mostly balanced, but it’s bitterness stands tall and proud.  Mash and first wort hop addition, as noted on the bottle, will absolutely bring respect and profundity to this attribute.  I can’t help but offer props.

As it warms, the malts play more of a role.  Piping-hot-out-of-the-oven, hop spiced rolls have been served tonight, and I feel they may sustain me for life.  The ethanol is finally distinguishable, and I’ll tell you, it’s more than welcome in my home right now.  The entire experience of this beer has vastly improved in the last 15 minutes.

Aftertaste.

At the moment, I can’t think of a better example of a perfect finish in an IPA.  I seriously don’t think I’ve used the word balanced as a descriptor of an aftertaste before.  It’s 50% bittering dry and 50% sweet, mouthwatering candy.  The interplay is a joy to perceive.

Summary.

I probably should have ate dinner tonight, but sometimes the starving artist picks alcohol over food.  You know…liquid sustenance.  Be like monk, tilt glass, be nourished…repeat.  This beer tastes fucking awesome right now.  The balance is notable.  The blend of hops was mighty successful, enough so that I’ll utilize this knowledge in future homebrews.  Yet another note to self, biscuit and dark crystal live in syncopation.  Clone brew to follow.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.87

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.9

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.97

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.79

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

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

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.41

Archives of a Beer Nerd – Sixth Installment

December 9, 2010 3 comments

Just keep cruisin'

Yup, we plod on. The journey continues, down the beautiful path of beerdom, through the expansive pages of Timperial’s beer journal.

Introduction: Just in case you are new to the blotter, here is the link to follow if you need an explanation of what in the hell this column is all about. In a nutshell, the archive is a time machine that takes us back a few years to the initial days of my beer journaling. I’ve drank a lot of good beers through the years, and I’d like to share my thoughts on how they tasted. Hopefully I’ll whet your appetite and you will give these beers a try for yourself. If I’m lucky enough to make that happen for you, please tell us about your experience and how it tasted in your words.

The last installment left us near the end of January, 2008.  I had just tried my first ever Abyss.  Let’s see what new and exciting things I tasted next.

Photo credit: Hallam

Do you still exist?

1/23/08

North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg, CA) – Cru d’Or

8%.  Belgian style through and through.  There is not much head present (bottle cap fitted).  When cold, it is very bland, but as it warms…flavors burst forth!  It has a light brown color and great clarity.  The odor is of yeast, plums, an almost medicinal alcohol, but very pleasant.  Nice sweetness…the maltiness comes through, drying the palate.  I find this to be a nice Belgian, though it could use more carbonation.

Timperial Commentary: Does this beer still exist?  I completely forgot about it until I read this in my journal.  I do remember really liking this beer and getting it again in 2009.  It’s a seasonal, I remember that, but what season?  You got me.  I also remember someone telling me that this beer did very well cellared for a few years.  I clearly don’t have any down there.

I was able to find the beer on NCB’s website, but only by searching specifically for the beer by name.  If you scroll through all of their beers listed on the main “beers” page, it is not listed.  Maybe it has been retired.  That would be sad.

Photo credit: shyzaboy

1/26/08

Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, PA) – Golden Monkey

9.5%.  This beer pours with a clear, golden color and a minimal head.  It’s a tripel Belgian style ale brewed with spices, and that is exactly what it tastes like.  It smells like a white ale with nutmeg added.  It has a strong alcohol effervencence…very sweet and spicy, though a bit drying a few moments after the sip.  The flavors really linger.  This beer provides major memories of home.  What a great winter beer…warming and tasting of Christmas.

Timperial Commentary: Oh man…Golden Monkey really does remind me of home in PA.  It especially reminds me of For Whom The Beer Toales (our Chicago correspondent), who absolutely loves getting the “monkey on her back”.  I am reminded of having beers at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, which was just a few blocks from where I lived once upon a time.  That’s a must visit in Philly if you ask me.  Great beer, food and live music.

I totally neglect this beer!  I think I’m going to have to race out to the bottle shop right now and get some, crack it open, inhale, and enjoy the roller coaster of emotion.

Check out beeraday.net for some amazing beer photos.

2/1/08

Kiuchi Brewery/Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki, Japan) – XH

7% Strong ale matured in oak casks used for Shocyu (distilled sake).  It pours a very cloudy, effervescent amber, brownish color.  There is a lot of sediment on the bottom of the glass.  The head is thin and wispy, with slight retention.  The nose is full of sour yeast, probably a result of the oak.  There is an odd, soapy aroma present as well.  Earth and sour in the flavor.  Maybe it’s power of suggestion, but I get a cherry cough drop after taste.  Kiuchi’s ingenuity and uniqueness continues to amaze me.

Timperial Commentary: Kiuchi is one of those breweries that can do no wrong in my mind.  The only beer that I have ever tried by them that I wasn’t highly impressed with was the Nipponia, but I can surely respect it for its historical nod.  Sorachi Ace hops are the big fad right now, and Nipponia surely plays a role in that.  In reading my review, XH sort of comes off as being spoiled or infected or just plain gross.  I mean, a sour, earthy, soapy, cough medicine beer…that sounds terrible.  Oddly though, I’ve had this beer several times since my initial review and I really like it.  It’s powerfully unique.  I’d love to see more breweries attempting to use sake barrels to age beer.

P.S. XH stands for Extra High.  Impress your friends.

A Year Ago: Peeking Back At 2007 Stone Old Guardian

2007 Stone's Old Guardian Barley Wine

***We’ve pulled this post out of the vault as part of our 1 year celebration. One year ago today, we were still meandering through our first few posts. Though we were rookies, Timperial’s brief review of Old Guardian sounds pretty good to me.***

Enjoyed on 12/7/2009
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.

Location: Escondido, CA

Beer: Old Guardian (the OG)

Web: http://www.stonebrew.com

Presentation: 22 Fl. Oz. (650.6 ML) – Brown Glass Bottle

Vintage: 2007

Style: Barley Wine Style Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 11.26%

IBU: 95

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Tulip

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Notes from the bottle: “Ingredients: A whole buncha Barley, tons o’ Hops, Water & Yeast.” Also, an enormous amount of text from brewer Greg Koch that I’d rather not type. Interestingly, the content is mainly about the current (at the time it was written) building of the Stone Bistro. There is also mention of the “just over a hundred” Stone employees. The current homepage of the brewery states: “Happy Holidays from all 278 of us at Stone!” Yes, Stone is a force.

Bottled on: “Limited Early 2007 Release”

Flavor will continue to develop for some time to come.

Food Pairings: Dessert of any kind

Cheese Pairings: Pungent ones such as Blue, Gorgonzola, Limburger

Beer Advocate: A-

Rate Beer: 99 (3.97)

Timperialstout’s Notes:
I believe this is the last of the very few beers that I brought with me from Philadelphia when I moved here. It’s a bit sad that it will be gone after tonight, but it’s been refrigerated for far too long and I was really beginning to worry about its seal’s integrity. From what I’ve gathered, extended stays in the refrigerator can dry out the rubber on the inside of the bottle cap and cause the seal to be compromised. I’m not exactly sure how long that takes, but I’d rather not toy with the great OG.

No worries after tonight, I now have a real cellar for cellaring. Let’s get into it.

She pours a glowing amber, near tangerine hue. A stunning clarity and a surprisingly plump head for the age. A not entirely strong pour brings about a nice tan cap of varying sized bubbles that leaves a dense lacing on the glass. That’s from all the unfermented sugars. This one is really sticky, and that is just what I love. The scent is of salt water taffy I think. Maybe a bit of cotton candy, slightly metallic in there too… with hops just squeaking through in the end.

Nearly three years of aging and the hops have more presence than natural preservation, yeah… “tons o’ Hops” indeed. The mouthfeel is so smooth and delightful, honey coated. A slight prickle from the carbonation is more present just after the pour and while slightly colder. Hop bitterness is definitely there still. When you age a beer for several years you sort of expect that bitterness to fade, and though I surely love malty sweetness, beer perfection to me is malt and hop extremes coming together on the battlefield and bringing balance where it shouldn’t exist.

This OG’s malt vs. hop square-off is no doubt being won by team barley, but the hops are fighting for their lives. To me, that shows serious class, and brewing skill. It’s Stone, I’m not surprised. Alcohol burn is minimal. No off celery like flavors that I so often get from barley wines, especially the younger ones. It’s a great Monday night!

If you like Old Guardian, you should try…

Hair of the Dog – Doggie Claws
Victory – Old Horizontal
North Coast – Old Stock Ale

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop and aged to perfection all on my own.

Bathing in Christmas Ale: A 30 Day Holiday Journey

December 6, 2010 1 comment

Though 11 days: Stille Nacht tops the quality list.

There is a writer out there who does a beer challenge every once in a while called 100 beers, 30 days. I am not her. But, I am sorry that the challenge mentioned herein somewhat resembles it. I’m doing it all for Christmas.

When I decided to move 1000s of miles away from my family and live the professional life, I recognized a deep dark hole in my holiday season. The holidays are meant to spent with the family, gathering about in funky clothing, before the yule log, sipping egg nog and smelling piney air. I miss all of that specter.

From my 512 square foot condo, I am a man restrained. I cannot lug a tree from the lot; I cannot set lights in my window. I have become deprived of the most festive season of all.

Well, it’s not happening again. I have decided to fight back with a furious celebration of Christmas in a glass. That’s right – 30 days of Christmas beer.

Starting on Thanksgiving, I began a 30 day journey through holiday-inspired brew. We have many fine choices up here in the Northwest, and I intend to get to them all. Of course, many nights will be filled with my old faithful – Great Lakes Christmas Ale – but I am making a concerted effort to diversify the intake.

Please follow my adventure on Facebook, where I will post one new Christmas beer tasting per evening. I have already posted the first 11 days of beer. Check them out by following this link.

At the conclusion, I promise to post a ranking list of my favorites. I will be ranking these beers based both on their ability to harness Christmas in a glass (style) and their ability to put me in the holiday spirit (quality).

If you are drinking Christmas beer – let us know! Happy Holidays from your friends at BeerBlotter.com.

 

The Hop Brief: Avery Brewing Maharaja

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Caramel dipped hop nuggets.

Enjoyed on 11/23/2010

Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.

Location: Boulder, CO

Beer: The Maharaja

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

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.24%

IBU: 102

Hops: Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Chinook

Malt: Two-row barley, caramel 120L, victory

Commercial Description:

Maharaja is derived from the sanskrit words mahat, – “great” and rajan – “king”. Much like its namesake, this imperial IPA is regal, intense and mighty. With hops and malts as his servants, he rules both with a heavy hand. The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.2)

Rate Beer: 100 (3.95)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

The Maharaja is no. 3 on ratebeer.com‘s top 50 summer seasonals for a reason… it’s an amazing IIPA.  As part of Avery’s Dictator’s Series, along with The Kaiser (Imperial Oktoberfest) and The Czar (Russian Imperial Stout), this beer demands respect and admiration, and you’d be silly not to dole it out.  Before I moved out west, this was my number 1 favorite impy IPA.  I haven’t had it in about a year and a half so I’m really excited to sit down with it tonight.

Appearance.

This stately beverage pours into my pint glass with a pretty regal, cream-colored head that, as it slowly recedes, proves to be very sticky.  The edges of the lofty crown pull down, leaving a rocky dollop of bubbles on the center of the surface.  The lacing is so thick, I think I could write “Tim was here” on the inside of my glass.  The liquid itself glows with an opulent radiance, much brighter than I expected, taking into account the high lovibond crystal used in the mash.  I’d say there is a bit of an orange hue to the amber-colored fluid.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this beer was filtered after fermentation and then dry-hopped in the bright tank.  The beer is not cloudy, per say, but there is a lot of floaters in there.  It actually looks slightly similar to the Green Flash IPA that I most recently reviewed.  It’s less cloudy but still noticeably permeated with minuscule bits of hop love.  Suspended hop chunks pretty much exude sex in every way if you ask me.  Uhh…in beer that is.

Odor.

Well, the odor is a perfect fucking 10.  It’s enough to make me just shout “OH MY GOD!” I’m weak in the knees.  I’ve already dropped in praise of the righteous Maharaja, without a single sip drank.  I’ve just been body slammed from the height of, I dunno, Mars, with a pure hop-tipped warhead, while simultaneously being lifted from the soil by the most maliciously rising volcanic peak of molten malt madness.  I’ve been pressed so intensely hard together at the impact that I’ve formed into diamond.  In fact, a five diamond score of perfection.

The hops are being poured from a dump-truck, directly into my nostrils.  The collaboration of hops used seem to meld into a cocktail of your most notable lupulin attributes.  Pine, herbal, woody, floral, citrus…you name it, it’s there.  Most notably, the caramel maltiness.  This is the biggest hop bomb that I can think of that is righteously balanced with malt.  Just plain silly!

Mouthfeel.

The MF (don’t hate) is, yet again, obnoxiously dead-balls accurate.  It’s syrupy, slick, sweet, cloying.  The body is stout like Schwarzenegger at his prime.  It dominates my moth like Conan the Barbarian, or wait…sorry your highness, like the great dictator Maharaja.  So far, this is the best rated IPA I’ve ever reviewed.

Flavor.

The flavor is layered like my famous dip.  Each sip is like being wiped about beneath the unrelenting seas at high tide, but here, fear shifts to joy as a slight lack of oxygen mingles with a sudden realization of the underwater beauty.  It’s an (only slightly) unnatural high.  Semantics…

Initially, there is a bitter firecracker explosion on the back of tongue, and then, the sound catches up with a mighty **CRACK** of sweet, caramely maltiness.  The inspirational soundtrack floats on in full orchestration when the finish brings boozed fruit and baked deserts.  When fully blended, the celebration is majestic, befitting of a king.  The perfection continues.

Might I add, in plain English, that this beer is the epitome of balance, as in, pushing extremes of both bitter hops and sweet malts in equal parts.  I’m awestruck.

I don’t find the hops to be too bitter, I don’t find the sweetness too overwhelming, I don’t find the heat to be overbearing.  I’m in a good mood, yes, but I’m seriously searching for flaws, in a devil’s advocate sort of way, and I’ve got nothing.

Aftertaste.

I’m a discriminating IPA drinker.  I realize that.  My best friend in the world, DSR, fellow BBB (beerblotter brethren), fellow homebrewer, fellow IPA lover, finds great comfort in bitterness.  A dry finish is a part of that game, and I know that many PNW beer drinkers play on that field, but it’s not my bag.  I like hop FLAVOR and minimal bitterness.  This beer’s aftertaste is precisely where I tread.  I’m happy to continue to tread there, that is, until there is no more sips to take.

Summary.

I was recently asked, by someone in the beer community whom I respect for his knowledge, what, other than the obvious ones (Pliny, Double Jack, Wisdom Seeker, etc.) was amongst my favorite IPAs/Double IPAs.  I responded with Avery Maharaja.  I paused, as I often do after stating such a revealing answer, for the resulting reaction.  I was greeted with apathy.  Indifference.  He was unimpressed.  I was embarrassed.  Maybe too much time had passed since I had last tried it.  Had it changed?  Had my respect for it need be diminished due to the current market of boldness?  Tonight, my stance has been solidified with complete and utter surety.  Avery Brewing has always been up there for me when it comes to the best breweries in the world, and tonight is just one more weight-bearing brick in the mortar for the dynasty that Adam Avery had born.  Respect!  

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

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00

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

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.91

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

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

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.89

The Hop Brief: Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA

November 17, 2010 3 comments

Warning: Face may implode.

Enjoyed on 11/15/2010

Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.

Location: Vista, CA

Beer: West Coast IPA

Web: http://www.greenflashbrew.com/

Presentation: 12 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 7.3%

IBU: 95

Hops: Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, Cascade

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

 

This West Coast-Style India Pale Ale is extravagantly hopped, full flavored, medium bodied and copper-colored. A menagerie of hops is combined throughout the brewing process to impart specific characteristics. Hops used include Simcoe for a unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes, and Cascade for floral aroma.

 

Beer Advocate: A- (4.17)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.87)

 

Timperial’s Notes:

 

Background.

Green Flash is, unofficially, a member of the San Diego IPA Masters Club (SDIPAMC).  The only reason that they are not official members is because the SDIPAMC doesn’t exist.  I just made it up, right then.  But by golly it should exist.  There is something in the warm air down there, or maybe it’s the water…who knows, but San Diego county seems to have an endless supply of IPAs come out of it, each one better than the last.  I think I’ll just let the numbers tell the tale.

All of the following rating are courtesy of www.ratebeer.com

Green Flash (Vista, CA) West Coast IPA: 99

Green Flash Imperial IPA: 99

Coronado (Coronado, CA) Idiot IPA: 98

Coronado Hoppy Daze IPA: 97

Stone (Escondido, CA) IPA: 100

Stone Ruination IPA: 100

Alesmith (San Diego, CA) Yulesmith Summer IPA: 100

Alesmith IPA: 100

Ballast Point (San Diego, CA) Sculpin IPA: 100

Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA: 99

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA: 98

Karl Strauss (San Diego, CA) Big Barrel Double IPA: 97

Karl Strauss To The 9s Imperial IPA: 96

Port Brewing (San Marcos, CA) Hop 15: 100

Port Brewing Wipe Out IPA: 99

Port Brewing Mongo: 99

Alpine (Alpine, CA) Exponential Hoppiness: 100

Alpine Pure Hoppiness: 99

Alpine Nelson IPA: 99

Alpine Duet: 99

And I didn’t even get into the Pizza Port IPAs.  It’s just plain ridiculous.  It’s clear that SD is IPA Valhalla.

 

Appearance.

 

West Coast IPA pour an extremely cloudy (chunky even) orange tinted amber with a big rocky head formed of varying sized bubbles.  The foam takes quite some time to settle, leaving generous globs of lace in its wake.  The lace and head are stark white.  About a millimeter or two of foam remains atop this bitter masterpiece throughout.

There is an obscene amount of particulate suspended in the solution.  I’d imagine that, most likely, the floaters consist of tiny bits of whole leaf hops that were left behind after dry-hopping.

 

Odor.

 

The nose is full of hop resin.  Pine and citrus seem to weigh in with equal parts.  Much to my delight, there is a sturdy framework of sweet, biscuity malt at the core of the hop mountain.  The hop scent is very pungent and earthy.  There is some muskiness, like wet wood or mud.  It garners images of a harvest on a rainy day.  Clearly there is no fresh hops within, but the profile portrays the guise exquisitely.  There is a small amount of skunkiness to the odor as well but all of the attributes coalesce to better allow me to appreciate the highlighted spice of the style.

 

Mouthfeel.

 

West Coast IPA feels wonderful in the mouth.  It’s not to thin and not too syrupy.  Actually, I’m very impressed with its density.  It feels much more like an imperial IPA

 

Flavor.

 

The bitterness in the flavor is intense, but the above IBU stats already said that.  Personally, I find it to be a bit much, but I am thankful that there is a lot of hop flavor here to seduce my thoughts away from my impending facial implosion.  Grapefruis, most likely from the Simcoe, is most easily pinpointed, and is most prominent on the back of the tongue and in the back corners of the mouth.  Yeah…it’s pretty much all citrus, and it’s the adjoining bitterness that forces thoughts of grapefruit, or of bitter orange.

There is a malty, sweet component to the flavor, but it is nearly all relegated to the aftertaste.  I’m mostly impressed with how intensely bitter this is, yet somehow I’m left feeling excited about the complete picture that this beer paints.  It’s as complex a single IPA could be.  Or, possibly more aptly, it’s the most complete, rounded example of an IPA that I can think of.  No one element unanimously blows me away, but each characteristic is well composed and the layering of it all has been executed adroitly.  This is a superb example that all brewers should study.

 

Aftertaste.

 

The bitterness wants this beer to finish bone dry, but somehow the lingering sweetness combats most impressively.  I’ll give it a high B grade, mostly because there is balance amidst the 95 IBUs.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.89

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.94

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.97

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.70

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.86

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

 

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.26

 

Alaskan Winter Ale is Released, It’s Spruce Time

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Where the eagles perch, we harvest and drink.

I recently wrote an article about all (well, maybe not all, but most) of the winter ales that are made by Washington brewers. You can find it here.  As much as I was tempted to discuss some of my favorites outside of WA, I censored myself in order to not divert any of the much needed attention on our home state’s winter bounty.  Now I’ve lost all inhibitions, mostly due to Alaskan Brewing’s recent announcement that it’s Winter Ale season.

This is not just any ordinary winter warmer.  No no, this is something much more special.  Who better to tell the tale than Alaskan themselves.

From their website:

 

 

winter_style

English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers.

 

winter_flavor

Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

 

winter_history

From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska.

 

winter_ingrediients

Alaskan Winter is made from glacier-fed water, Sitka spruce tips and a generous blend of the finest quality European and Pacific Northwest hop varieties and specialty malts. Our water originates in the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field and from the more than 90 inches of rainfall we receive each year.

 

These be the tips

 

I love old ales, and I love pine flavors, so naturally I adore this release and always look forward to it.  I had actually wanted to homebrew a spruce ale recently but didn’t know where to find the tips.  Some homebrew shops carry spruce flavoring but I have heard that it can be very overpowering if not used extremely sparingly.  I guess I could just go out into the wilderness and harvest my own.  According to Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska (who also provided the picture to the right):

 

The key to cooking with the tips of evergreen trees is to harvest them when they first begin to emerge from their brown papery casings. At this stage, spruce tips are very tender and have a fresh flavor that tastes lightly of resin with hints of citrus.

As spruce tips mature, the resinous aspect of their flavor intensifies. When the spruce tips begin to harden, form actual needles, and lose their bright spring green color, I no longer use them for cooking.

Spruce tips are rich in Vitamin C. Spruce tip tea (just dry the spruce tips) has long been used by indigenous peoples to soothe coughs and sore throats, and to alleviate lung congestion.

To harvest spruce tips, pop the tips off the end of the bough as if you’re picking berries. When you’re done picking, remove and discard the papery casings, and discard any hard stem that may have broken off with the tip. The spruce tips are now ready to use.

 

Wow, this sounds very do-able, and healthy!.  It seems that late spring to early summer is the best time to harvest, so I guess I’ll just have one more reason to look forward to the warmer weather in 2011.

 

Beer & Glassware: Not Just Any Beer, Any Glass – Part 2

November 11, 2010 1 comment

BBQ beer.

In case you missed Part 1, check it out here. I’m just going to get right into it.

 

Pint Glass – Brasserie McAuslan St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

 

This strange one pours black with a tan rusty head.  The smells rising from the liquid are 100% mesquite.  I’m immediately reminded of the one and only other beer that I’ve had that could be described in that way, Arcadia’s Imperial Stout.  This beer is smokey and sweet at the same time.  Did they add barbecued wood to the boil?  The mouthfeel is a bit watery and thin, which seems odd considering the fact that the brewery went as far as to say that this is an oatmeal stout.  Oatmeal, being the key word.  I’d expect more luxury from the oats.  The aftertaste, however, is very lingering and allows for some chocolate and coffee notes to be uncovered.  At 5% abv, this beer feigns strength, but has no lack of intriguing flavor.  Good stuff from north of the border.

 

Pint Glass – Stone, Maui, Ken Schmidt Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter

 

We drank this beer, out of a pint glass, and it was good.  If you want to know what it’s like, read my full review of it here.

 

Mug – Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

 

Ah Bell’s Brewing, a Mid-West stalwart.  There will never be a time that I’m not excited to swill some of their precious nectars, unless of course they are spoiled.  That’s what happened here.  Most likely, the store that we bought this from did not take proper care of the merchandise.  The 10 malts that are used to brew Double Cream Stout push the abv to a level that is probably a bit low for cellaring, 6.1%, but we have only had it down there for a little over 6 months.  I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t our doing, but who really know.

Everything started out just dandy.  It poured with a very attractive head of tan that rose an average height and then eventually settled completely.  There was coffee and some dark chocolate in the nose.  Though the smell was not necessarily exciting, it didn’t put me off.  The flavor, however, did put me off.  I found it to be bitter, oily and acidic, with some mal-brewed coffee lingering in the midst.  Then, as it lingered on my tongue, things went tart and I was assured that this was absolutely not what Bell’s intended.  Frustrating, to say the least.  We better move on.

 

I wish my house had its own ale.

 

Snifter – Traquair House Ale

 

This 7.2% Scottish brew departs its bottle with a clear brown, near red color and possesses a stark white, thin head.  I found it to smell exactly like Juicy Juice.  I guess that means it’s like a plethora of fruits mashed into one indistinguishable, homogeneous piece of produce.  Grape and cranberry might have been most prevalent, but it’s hard to say for sure.  The fluid has a very striking smoothness.  On the back of the tongue there is a lot of Belgian yeast fruitiness, possibly some bubble gum.  There is a very pleasant, sweet aftertaste.  In summation, this beer is just plain juicy, and it works…well.

The snifter is my favorite of glasses.  I like the way it looks, distinguished.  I like the way it feels in my hand, rounded and organic.  The way the circumference of the lip is slightly smaller than the apex of its width, it really allows for a slight “trapping” of the precious odors, all the better for me to smell my dear…

 

Memories rush back of Pelgrom in Antwerp

 

Chalice – Brouwerij Haacht Gildenbier

 

I really shouldn’t be in charge of writing about this beer.  This little gem that we brought back from Belgium with us is DSR’s little baby.  If you are ever in his presence, just mention Gildenbier, or “the archer beer”, or the beer we discovered in the underground, dungeon like brick lair that is Pelgrom in downtown Antwerp.  He may demand your attention for about the next hour with his tales, but believe me, it will be time well spent.  The man is passionate about Gildenbier, and I can’t blame him in the slightest.  It exists in a very special corner of our collective hearts.  It is Belgium in a bottle.  Let’s see how it tastes.

When the great archer is inverted, out pours a clear brown liquid with a subdued white head that soon dwindles to a spotty foam.  It has a very pronounced date aroma, but distinctly of Belgian descent.  There is a lot of malt depth to be found here, with some roasty, grain sweetness providing a sturdy body.  That all too familiar Belgian yeast fruitiness is very prevalent, and for me it mostly manifests into a very recognizable pear essence.  Ever so delightful.

 

And now we are in Cambrinus in Brugge

 

Chalice – Brouwerij De Bie Stoute Bie

 

This is another little nugget that survived the long flight back from Europe.  Our tongues first became acclimated with the work of De Bie in a pretty bad ass beer bar in Brugge called Cambrinus.  As time passed after Cambrinus, we realized that their beers were surprisingly hard to come across in Belgium, so when we found a bottle, we snagged it.  This, like the above Gildenbier, was slightly difficult for us to open.  In a perfect world we could keep them for years and years to come and eventually open them in a much more ceremonious way, where reminiscence may stand long overdue.  But we know better, and with Stoute Bie’s 5.5%, it would surely not last such a span of time.  So here we are, and here’s what it was like.

Stoute Bie pours black in color with the most glorious head ever.  The foam is crazy fluffy with orange, red, and brown highlights.  The nose is very, very complex.  It is wildly sweet and sour.  There is a fruitiness within that plays with the sour, lending thought of sour cherries.  Also in the nose, an oily coffee bitterness, and vinegar.  How perplexing?  The flavor is intensely sweet up front with many of the scents translating over.  The only flaw here is found in the aftertaste, which is plagued by that metallic flavor that we have previously discussed finding in many beers of Belgium.  We still don’t really get how that comes to pass.  If there is any redeeming aspect here with the Bie, it’s that the metal is slathered in a super sweet syrup.  Not enough to mask it completely, but enough to prevent it from spoiling the experience.

Want to chew on a molasses soaked log? I do.

 

Snifter – Deschutes The Abyss

 

You see that snifter next to The Abyss over there?  Yeah, that little puppy is made of crystal.  That gold rim, that is some high carat, real deal gold.  When Beer Blotter busts out the vintage Abyss, they drink it in styzile.

Just as a reminder, this beer is brewed with molasses and licorice and 33% of it is aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels.  It fills the crystal glassware with pure black oil liquid and a tan head that settles to a wisp and ring.  It is very earthy in the nose.  There is very little sweetness to be noted.  The wood and licorice come out in the nose, as do roasted malts, all of which seem to impart a barren dryness.  The flavor is very peppery up front, shifting into molasses soaked wood.  I can only think to call the flavor “mature”.  It reminds me, in a way, to Pu-erh tea.  It’s just so earthy that I feel it’s much more of an acquired taste than most beers.  So very dry.  In the exhale following the swallow, the booze and licorice mingle expertly.  Some salty pretzel notes simmer to the surface as the beer warms.  This beer is really unique and deserves it’s notoriety.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.