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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.

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