***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: Double Nut Brown Ale
Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
***Today’s post comes to us from our good friend Mark Leavens, former brewer from the Gilligans Brewing outfit. Though Gilligans has shut down, Mark still home brews on a large scale and is planning some big things for the future. Mark has been invited to share beer stories on occasion at BeerBlotter.com.***
If you were listening closely enough on June 17th you would have heard Alice Cooper’s voice wailing, ‘Schoooooollls out for EVER’ at Schooner Exact Brewing Company. Minus black eye liner, fake blood, and necks being constricted by boas, this marked the day Schooner Exact owners Heather and Matt McClung officially ended their teaching careers to focus solely on brewing beer to share with us thirsty folk. But just because they are through with teaching, don’t expect Schooner Exact to stop schooling us with their beer!
After three and a half years of bouncing from an ActivSpace (f@#! them, see history of Gilligan’s Brew Co. and Two Beers Brew Co.) garage, to a shared warehouse space with Trade Route Brewing Co. in South Park, Schooner Exact has finally landed their own space in the SODO district of Seattle and upgraded to a 15 barrel brewing system!
A couple of friends and I had the opportunity to stop by their tap house/brewery the other day to congratulate Heather and Matt for quitting their day jobs. I assure you though, the kids will be fine. I’m a substitute teacher.
Located just south of the West Seattle Bridge/Spokane St. on 1st Ave. S., and just north of the bridge over the train tracks, Schooner Exact is admittedly not an easy place to reach for those of us living north of downtown. However, with sandwich boards labeled ‘BEER!’ set up out front, we knew exactly where to steer our bikes.
A huge loading dock covered with picnic tables provided ample outdoor seating and an appropriate entryway to beer school. With the 12’ tall loading door open, the brand new taproom seemed massive and yet very welcoming, especially with Heather at the helm behind the bar.
The tap list consisted of the Schooner Exact classics 3-Grid IPA, Regrade Pale Ale and Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen, which were accompanied by their Gateway Golden, King St. Brown, Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat, and the infamous and award-winning Hoppy the Woodsman rounding out the lot. Teacher approved, these tap handles formed a superb single file line down the hallway of awesomeness.
Not wanting to jump right into the 9.6% ABV bourbon barrel aged Woodsman, I decided to start light and crisp with the easy drinking Golden Ale. If proposed with the proposition, I would have gladly consumed this pint of gold heaven all night long while partying at the moon tower, but there were more options to douse my taste buds that day, so it was time to move on to the malty rich Brown. Comprised of a blend of chocolate and special Belgian malts, this silky smooth ale slithered down the pipe while leaving a satisfyingly sweet finish with the palate.
Speaking of pipes, apparently if one is adventurous enough or at least willing to try something once, Heather and Matt will gladly serve up the ‘Shocker.’ This concoction is two parts pink (Raspberry Wheat), one part Brown and will leave you all tingly inside.
I didn’t get shocked or do any shocking this particular day, but I probably wouldn’t tell you that much about my personal life anyhow, so I’m just going to change the subject and let you decide whether or not to pull out, or should I say, put in the ‘shocker.’ By the way, the raspberry wheat was as thick and delicious as a wheat beer should be and had a strong fruity aroma.
So anyway, to contrast the sweetness it was time to part the cheeks, er, I mean open the mouth and hop away. 3-Grid IPA. Exceptional! This well-balanced brew is one of my favorite IPA’s being brewed in Seattle right now. It’s a must try for someone who prefers an IPA where the bitterness doesn’t destroy your sense of what anything else tastes like.
But for those hop heads out there, let it be known that Matt and his new brewing partner Dave ‘Hutch’inson (formerly of the Rogue Issaquah brewery and Georgetown Brewing) are putting out a series of experimental Imperial IPA’s, with the most recent one being called the ‘Virgil Gamachinator.’ Brewed with a ton of citrusy Amarillo hops, this behemoth rounds out at 87 IBU’s and 9% ABV! Find it and drink it.
To remind us again that beer school was still in session, Matt brought out the bourbon barrel aged Hoppy the Woodsman. Enter ‘giddy like a little school girl’ line. First introduced to me at the 2008 Winter Beer Fest, this brew has won 1st and 3rd place in back-to-back years of pouring at Hale’s. It has officially put the former high school chemistry teacher and Schooner Exact on the brewing podium while putting their beer on tap all over Seattle.
Go see and taste for yourself. You WILL be schooled!
***This Notes of a Beer Nerd was originally published on December 30, 2009. As I am preparing for my trip to The Bruery’s tasting room in Placentia, CA next weekend, I thought it was a great time to do some research on one of the brewery’s finest. That – and this write up is sexy.***
Enjoyed on: 12/13/2009
Brewery: The Bruery
Location: Placentia, CA
Presentation: 750 ML – Brown Glass Bottle
Style: Julebryg / Dark Rye Ale
Malt: 3 types of Rye
Recommended Serving Temp: 50 degrees
Notes from the bottle: A deep auburn colored robust Danish-style ale with spicy rye, and caramelly, bready malts. Rugbrod Rye Ale is suitable for aging up to 2 years when cellared properly, around 55 F (13 C) in a dark place. Best served at 50 F (10 C). Pour carefully, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottle. Best served in a tulip or wine glass. For proper pronunciation, chef recommended food pairings and recipes, please visit our website.
Food Pairings: Pork, lamb
Cheese Pairings: Monterey, Pepper Jack
Beer Advocate: B+
Rate Beer: 89 (3.58)
What the hell is Rugbrod? Good question, I didn’t know either. As is turns out, Rugbrod means “rye bread” in Danish. What the hell is a Julebryg? Good question, I didn’t know either. As it turns out, Julebryg is a Scandinavian term for a winter warmer. Tis’ the season. Now that we have crossed the language barrier, let’s see what this unique brew offers.
This one is unfiltered and bottle conditioned. A subtle, inquisitive pour brings a glass full of head. It takes several minutes and a lot of patience to get a tulip full of beer. A dark auburn fluid eventually settles out from the luscious tan head. The scent is so warm and cozy I wish I was enjoying this by a fire in a remote European village. Understandably Danish, it’s Belgium that comes to mind when i put my nose to it. So bready! Croissants and ryes and pumpernickel. A faint fruitiness lends the Belgium thoughts.
Despite the big head there is not a lot of carbonation feel to the liquid. The mouthfeel is pleasantly smooth and some alcohol comes through as it warms.
The flavors are more of yeast with mild fruitcake notes. A drying aftertaste is present, like I just swallowed a mouthful of absorbent, porous bread. Bread, bread, bread… so much bread here. Rye beers are not extremely common, yes, but I have no doubt had my share, and none have tasted quite so much like the bread.
I’ve always had a great appreciation for bread, in its many forms. Some subtle, even bland, other deep and flavorful. It seems like such a simple food, something that has always fed man. Sustenance for the most poor, a simple pleasure for the most rich. The process of baking bread and its ingredients make it a similar product to beer in many ways, and it is surely a great accompaniment as well. Throw some cheese in the mix and I think I’d have all I ever need for a happy life.
Some chocolaty, caramelly flavors come through well after the swallow reminiscent of Werther’s Original Caramels. The Bruery really made something special here. Unique, intriguing, historic, delicious. My hat’s off to the Family Rue.
If you like Rugbrod, good luck finding something similar. If you like rye you should try, or buy:
Bear Republic Brewery’s Hop Rod Rye; Two Brothers Brewing’s Cane & Ebel; Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Terra-Rye’ZD
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop .
Enjoyed on 3/18/2010
Brewery: Brouwerij Westvleteren/Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus
Location: Westvleteren, Belgium
Presentation: 0.33L brown glass bottle, capped
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
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)
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.
***This is our most visited link on the site – I thought I would break it out for your Saturday enjoyment. Cheers!***
Enjoyed on 9/22/2009
Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company
Location: Chicago, IL
Beer: Bourbon County Stout
Presentation: 12 Fl. Oz. (355 ML) – Brown Glass Bottle
Style: Imperial Stout
Barrel: Oak – Bourbon
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black
Recommended Serving Temp: 40 degrees
Notes from the bottle: “I really wanted to do something special for our 1000th batch at the original brewpub. Goose Island could have thrown a party. But we did something better. We brewed a beer. A really big batch of stout-so big the malt was coming out of the top of the mash tun. After fermentation we brought in some bourbon barrels to age the stout. One hundred and fifty days later, Bourbon County Stout was born-A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with a thick foam the color of bourbon barrels. The nose is a mix of charred oak, vanilla,carmel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer. It overpowers anything in the room. People have even said that it’s a great cigar beer, but I haven’t yet tried a cigar that would stand up to it.”
-Greg Hall, Brewmaster
Best Enjoyed in a broad mouthed glass.
Bottled on: 10/28/2008
Flavor will continue to develop over 5 years.
Food Pairings: Flourless Chocolate Cake
Cheese Pairings: Capriole Bourbon Chocolate Torte
World Beer Cup Recognition:
Judging Category: Barrel Aged Beer: 2006: Gold Medal
Beer Advocate: A
Rate Beer: 100 (4.19)
I let this sit in the bottle and warm for almost an hour after I removed it from the fridge before pouring. Clearly not strong carbonation, as is generally the case with big imperial stouts. A very vigorous pour produced a thin head on top of the most opaque of solutions. Though it was small and short-lived, it possessed the most marvelous hue. It seemed to glow in the light with a powerful rust color. Miniscule reddish brown bubbles settled to a thin of wisp on the surface and gathered where the fluid met the glass, like light was being projected from below the glass and spilling past the blackness. The scent is stunning, so complex my knees began to tremble. I believe I have found my true love. Oaky, woody, bourbon booziness has never been so evident in a beer. It stings the nose with its heat. The weather is not nearly cold enough for the warming blanket that will soon encase me. So many more scents…vanilla (oh so much vanilla), chocolate, coffee, molasses, pretzely malts. The mouthfeel is a bit slick and coating, viscous…for your lingering enjoyment. I may now realize why the brewers prefer serving this one at 40 degree. The flavors are becoming more and more masked by the intense alcohol. It has become liquor before my eyes, stunning liquor at that. I can completely see the “cigar beer” nature of Bourbon County Stout. I feel distinguished imbibing it…and that I should be wearing a smoking jacket. I feel very confident that I could forever be sustained on the glory of this stout. May we grow old together my friend.