If you are at all involved in the beer world, you are probably a bit sick of reading about GABF by now, so I’ll make this brief. Remember reading our Top 25 Breweries to Check Out at GABF? If you had taken our advice, these are the award-winning brews that you would have tasted.
Category: 69 Brown Porter – 33 Entries
Bronze: Pullman Brown
Category: 17 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer – 32 Entries
Gold: Velvet Merkin (100% Barrel Aged)
Category: 45 American-Style Pale Ale – 109 Entries
Gold: Mission Street Pale
Silver: Pale 31
Category: 46 American-Style Strong Pale Ale – 84 Entries
Silver: IPA Nectar
Category: 49 American-Style Amber/Red Ale – 83 Entries
Gold: Red Nectar
Category: 52 Ordinary or Special Bitter – 47 Entries
Category: 13 Out of Category – Traditionally Brewed Beer – 66 Entries
Gold: Fathom IPL
Category: 4 Field Beer – 28 Entries
Bronze: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Category: 4 Field Beer – 28 Entries
Gold: Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale
Category: 8 Rye Beer – 32 Entries
Silver: Portsmouth Brewery Rye Not
Category: 74 Sweet Stout – 29 Entries
Bronze: Portsmouth Brewery Milk Stout
Category: 12 Experimental Beer – 43 Entries
Gold: Key Lime Pie
Category: 10 Session Beer – 30 Entries
Silver: Endurance IPA Jr.
Category: 78 Old Ale or Strong Ale – 38 Entries
Category: 40 Golden or Blonde Ale – 55 Entries
Bronze: Heavy Seas Gold Ale
Category: 31 Vienna-Style Lager – 35 Entries
Bronze: Heavy Seas Marzen
Category: 32 German-Style Märzen – 41 Entries
Category: 3 Fruit Beer – 75 Entries
Bronze: Raspberry Tart
Category: 28 Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest – 21 Entries
Silver: Noble Stuff Export
Category: 59 German-Style Altbier – 37 Entries
Silver: Bismarck Altbier
Category: 61 South German-Style Hefeweizen – 65 Entries
Silver: U-Boat Hefeweizen
Category: 63 Belgian-Style Witbier – 45 Entries
Silver: Whale Tail Wit
Category: 15 American-Belgo-Style Ale – 47 Entries
Silver: Simcoe Silly
Category: 78 Old Ale or Strong Ale – 38 Entries
Gold: Fourth Dementia Olde Ale
Category: 33 American-Style Amber Lager – 39 Entries
Bronze: Foothills Oktoberfest
Category: 19 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout – 34 Entries
Gold: Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout
Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA
Category: 6 Coffee Flavored Beer – 52 Entries
Silver: Coffee Monster, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 11 Other Strong Beer – 48 Entries
Silver: Panzer Pilsner, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 13 Out of Category – Traditionally Brewed Beer – 66 Entries
Bronze: Hot Rocks Lager, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 16 American-Style Sour Ale – 39 Entries
Bronze: Red Poppy, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA
Category: 44 English-Style India Pale Ale – 32 Entries
Gold: Beech Street Bitter, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 47 American-Style India Pale Ale – 142 Entries
Gold: “Pseudo” IPA, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA
Category: 48 Imperial India Pale Ale – 97 Entries
Gold: Doheny Double IPA, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA
Category: 51 English-Style Mild Ale – 27 Entries
Silver: Skidmark Brown, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA
Category: 56 English-Style Brown Ale – 46 Entries
Silver: Good Grief Brown, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 68 Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale – 54 Entries
Gold: Revelations, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 71 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout – 23 Entries
Bronze: Port Truck Stout, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 76 Imperial Stout – 50 Entries
Silver: Night Rider Imperial Stout, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 77 Scotch Ale – 34 Entries
Gold: Reed’s Wee Heavy, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Category: 64 French- and Belgian-Style Saison – 52 Entries
Gold: Saison Vautour
Category: 70 Robust Porter – 53 Entries
Gold: Pig Iron Porter
Category: 70 Robust Porter – 53 Entries
Gold: Pig Iron Porter
Category: 76 Imperial Stout – 50 Entries
Gold: Russian Imperial Stout
Category: 17 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer – 32 Entries
Silver: Humidor India Pale Ale
Category: 66 Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale – 33 Entries
Gold: Oude Tart
Only 6 of my 25 choices left the competition without a medal. Not too shabby. If you went to GABF and followed any of our recommendations, please let us know about it.
Well, the results are in. GABF 2010 is officially over and the results have been tabulated. Thanks, Pizza Port, for not taking all of the medals.
While Washington put up a reasonable fight, the show was stolen by several Southern California brewers, who swallowed up all of the best brewpub awards this year at the GABF.
Here is what we see.
Washington shows up.
Washington appears to have turned in a respectable finish, earning a total of 7 medals (well, if you count Pyramid). Out of the total 237 Medals, Washington will take 1/34th of the medals. But, in a year where the event seems to have been dominated by San Diego brewers, its an ok finish.
Washington award winners include the following:
Hales Ales – Kolsch Ale – Gold Medal
Chuckanut Brewing – Vienna Lager – Gold Medal
RAM Tacoma – Total Disorder Porter – Gold Medal
Elysian Brewing – Dark O The Moon – Silver Medal
Pyramid Brewing – Apricot Ale – Silver Medal
Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout – Bronze Medal
Chuckanut Brewing – Pilsner – Bronze Medal
San Diego is on fire.
This was the year for So. Cal. San Diego brewers, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey/Pizza Port, Ballast Point, Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing, took home a total of 14 medals. Los Angeles brewpub, TAPS, took home three medals, as well.
Pizza Port Carlsbad is the big winner with a total of 6 medals (almost matching Washington state). The brewpub is one of several brewpub locations for the retail line of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey. The Carlsbad location is headed by brewer Jeff Bagby, who took home the Best Large Brewpub of the Year, for the second straight year.
Pizza Port’s San Clemente pub took home the Small Brewpub of the Year, while also collecting the Gold Medals in the two most hotly-contested categories – American-Style IPA and Imperial IPA. We cannot wait to get a taste of these ales during San Diego Beer Week.
One other note: Fathead’s Brewery took home the Silver Medal in the American-Style IPA category. This is the same IPA that floored us during a recent trip to the Cleveland brewer’s pub. Try to get this if you ever visit.
Check out the complete list of winners by following this link. Start planning your trip for next year’s September event!
Yes, that’s right, it’s time for the third and final installment of my Top 25 Breweries to Check out at GABF. Just in case you missed the first two installments, click here for part one (first 10 choices) and here for part two (next 8 choices).
My final 7 choices begin now, and remember, these are in no particular order.
Flossmoor Station – When I think of Chicago area breweries I immediately think of Goose Island, Three Floyds and Flossmoor Station. Oddly though, I have never had a single beer from FS. I know them only by reputation. Since they are technically a brew pub, they utilize their smaller scale and constantly experiment, more often than not, with positive results. If I were going to GABF, I would be strongly inclined to check them off my list.
Stewart’s Brewing Co. – These guys are from Bear, DE which really isn’t that far outside of Philly, but oddly they don’t have a very strong distribution in the area (at least they didn’t when I lived there). If things haven’t changed in a big way, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a decent amount of Northeast residents that are unfamiliar with Stewart’s completely. They are extremely low-key to say the least. I remember seeing them at some of my first ever beer fests in PA like Kennett Brewfest and Philly Craft Beer Fest and wondering who they were and where they came from. Quite a few festivals came and went before I actually was brave enough to try their product and, once I did, I was appalled that I had missed out on so many opportunities. From then on I never passed them by, and was never once disappointed.
Odell Brewing Co. – It wasn’t until Odell started their Woodcut Series back in ’08 that my radar picked these guys up. This past May saw the 4th release in the line, an oak aged lager. All four have a 96 or higher on ratebeer.com. From what I understand, their standard offerings are pretty darn solid as well, especially the IPA. Working with wood, a lot of hops, brett…these guys might be on the trend train, but I want on board.
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. – You know that other massive American-based brew fest, The World Beer Cup? Yeah well it’s huge and Firestone Walker has won the Champion Mid-sized Brewery three times now. As far as I know, that’s unprecedented. It’s quite clear, these guys are one of the best around when it comes to making beer. Union Jack is probably my favorite single IPA in the world. Double Jack is easily in my top 5 favorite double IPAs in the world. Abacus is very possibly my favorite all time barleywine. Their anniversary beers are outstanding, Parabola, I mean come on… If I didn’t put these guys on the list somewhere I would have to kick my own ass.
FiftyFifty Brewing Co. – I would imagine that there is a few of you out there that read Draft Magazine. You know, the Playboy of beer. Beer porn. Anyway, do you know the section called “What’s In a Name?” That is where I first heard of FiftyFifty. Though I can’t exactly recall the details of the story, I remember being intrigued. I also liked the imagery and design that they evoked through their labels and website. As it turns out, they make a killer imperial stout, or so I gather. It’s a 100 on ratebeer.com and it won bronze at last years GABF in the “Other Strong Beer” category. Obviously, Timperial Stout wants to take a stab at this one.
Ballast Point Brewing Co. – The San Diego beer scene is a force to be reckoned with. Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith, Port/Lost Abbey/Pizza Port, Alpine, Coronado…I’m out of breath. All of these breweries make amazing beer and It’s really impossible to dispute that. If you were to fish for one thing that seems to tie all of these breweries together, it would be hops. Every one of these breweries, with the exception of the Belgian style based Lost Abbey (but Tomme’s other labels pick up the slack there), make stellar IPAs. Ballast Point makes at least three and each is more stunning than the last. If you find yourself in dire need of a little IBU boost at GABF, take a gander at BPB’s booth and see if Sculpin is a flowin’.
AleSmith Brewing Co. – I shudder a little bit when I think about Alesmith, in the very best way possible. I love this brewery so much. I wish everyday that Seattle would distribute their product, though all it really takes is a trip to Portland for purposes of stocking-up. I love Alesmith so much because I very passionately enjoy a lot of their beers. I’ll never forget the first time I tried, well, most of the beers that I’ve tried by them. The IPA is, like I said above, from San Diego. There’s just something special about those SD IPAs. Horny Devil is so perfectly Belgian with its fantastic sweetness and remarkably balanced spiciness. Old Numbskull is all that you could ever ask for in a barleywine. And Speedway Stout my friends…to drink Speedway Stout is to have a religious experience. I can tell you that there was a large period of time when I was very quick to answer any brave soul willing to ask me what my number 1 favorite beer of all time was with, Speedway Stout. Now I’m a bit more cautious to answer that question but, if I was forced to at gun point, my answer would be Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Possibly if I were to get a hold of the barrel aged version of Speedway, that answer would be different.
Well that about covers it. If you are going to GABF this week, damn you, I am super jealous. Please do your very best to enjoy each and every minute of it. Visit the breweries that you know and love, but also visit the breweries that you have always wanted to try but couldn’t for whatever reason. I am very hopeful that my musings can be found valuable to you in some way. If you have other suggestions for our readers, please do not hesitate to post a comment. If you end up checking out a brewery that I recommended and you have an opinion on their product, good or bad, let us know. Safe travels to you all.
When we last left off I had 15 more breweries to chose in my top 25. If you missed the intro and the first 10, check this out. Remember, these are in no particular order. No sense in delaying any further… here is my next 8.
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – If I where to say that these guys are the best production brewers in my home state of PA, I’d be telling you that they are better than Stoudts, Troegs, and Victory. That would be a very bold statement, so I’m not going to make it, but they are the only one of the four that I’m putting on this list. I miss their brews severly. Double Simcoe IPA is outstanding, as is pretty much anything they attempt in the Belgian realm. Oh, and Blithering Idiot Barleywine…what I wouldn’t give to have one of those in hand right now…
Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Company – You have heard our OH contingent gush about these Akron brewers for a while now. HFB makes some seriously extreme stouts and IPAs. It seems as though they have an endless supply of recipes for both. Or maybe they just take one and let it manifest in as many ways as possible. Either way, it’s very exciting to follow, and I know I’m not alone on that. We all know what styles the beer nerds like the most – stouts and IPAs. Good game plan boys. Keep it up.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company – Over the past few years this NY brewery has been getting loads of praise from media sources of all kinds. I’m sure being based just north of the Big City doesn’t hurt on that front, but they do have 20 beers with scores of 90 or greater on ratebeer.com. From what I have read, they have a passion for sours and they do them very well. Stroll up to their booth, ask about Flemish influence and see where it leads you. I don’t think you will regret it.
Portsmouth Brewery – There is this little beer that comes out of a little New England brewery called Kate the Great. Ever heard of it? Talk about outlandish hype. No matter what feelings you may harbor about wildly hyped beers, you know full well that, given the chance, you would want to taste and build your own opinion. That’s where I’m at and that’s why I want to visit their booth. Even if they aren’t pouring Kate, are they a one hit wonder?
Short’s Brewing Co. – My knowledge of Short’s is actually quite, well…short. Since I have plans to go to MI for the first time this Christmas, I have been doing extensive research about breweries and bars to visit. MI has to be one of the best states in the entire union to visit for beer purposes. There are so many fantastic breweries there, it’s kind of absurd. I’ve already mentioned Kuhnhenn, and will follow this addition with Founders. I’ve decided to leave off Bell’s because, though I love them, they simply aren’t in the top 25 for me. This is not to mention Jolly Pumpkin, Arcadia, Dark Horse, Dragonmead, New Holland, good god… so many to chose from. Alas, I can’t chose them all. Of those that I have never tasted, Short’s seems to have the most community support behind them at the moment, and thus, they make my list. Oddly enough, I received a tweet from Short’s very recently announcing the beer that they will be pouring at GABF. Instead of just posting the link here, in fear of you not taking my word for it and following said link and reading what they are bringing, I’m going to just paste it in below. This is insanity to the nth degree.
In true Short’s fashion, and keeping with the tradition of past Great American Beer Festivals (GABF), this years list of beers to be poured at the 2010 GABF certainly does not disappoint. Short’s will be pouring everything from cult favorites, to popular concept beers, and will even be including a highly rumored yet rarely seen barley wine behemoth!
Blood Orange Wheat Wine
Estimated ABV- 9.6%
Estimated IBU’s- 76
Hops- lots, Simcoe
Malts- lots (from Briess in WI)
Notes- Blood orange puree fermented w/ a super hopped wheat wine, dry hopped and spice w/ blood orange zest and green peppercorns. The blood oranges lend a wonderful purple hue to this amazingly sessionable monster of a beer.
Barley Wine aged in Bourbon barrels for 10 months
Estimated ABV- 12%
Estimated IBU’s- 50+
Malts- 6 different varieties
Notes- This beer had a boil time of 6hrs and 66mins, and was batch number 666 brewed on devils night 2008. It was also fermented w/ 30 lbs of raisins. Big sweet toffee flavors complimented by the sweetness of the raisins. The bourbon barrels add some subtle vanilla tones and slight oak qualities. A very session worthy barley wine.
Black Licorice Lager
Black Lager spiced w/ Vanilla bean, chocolate mint, and anise
Estimated IBU’s- 24
Notes- Sweet chocolate and roasted malt characteristics compliment the additions of vanilla bean, anise, and chocolate mint. The vanilla aromas are found in the nose and in the initial flavors up front, followed quickly by the anise. The finish (especially when it warms a bit) contains the chocolate mint, preventing the anise from becoming too overwhelming.
Key Lime Pie
Golden Ale made w/ fresh limes, milk sugar, graham cracker, and marshmallow fluff
Estimated ABV- 5.5%
Estimated IBU’s- 21
Hops- Cascade, Simcoe
Malts- Pilsen, Munich, Vicotry
Notes- This beer sounds too good to believe, but it’s exactly that. Attempted last year as a new concept beer, it has already been remade twice, and there are plans to distribute a limited amount in six packs. Made w/ fresh limes, milk sugar, graham cracker, and marshmallow fluff we were able to recreate this popular dessert into a heavenly drinkable version.
Imperial Spruce India Pilsner
Imperial Pilsner hopped as an IPA and spice w/ Blue Spruce needles
Estimated ABV- 7.2%
Estimated IBU’s- 90
Malts- Pilsen and maze from Briess Malt in WI
Other Notes- fermented w/ tons of N. Michigan blue spruce tips. The spruce presence is enormous giving the beer a refreshing “gin like” quality when it is cold, that almost becomes “sap like” as it warms up. Surprisingly light bodied considering the big flavors of spruce and complimentary summit hops
Founders Brewing Company – Everyone that I know that has ever tried the product of Founders considers them to be one of the best breweries in America. I have tried their product and I think they are one of the best breweries in America. If you go to their website and take a look at their 5 year round beers, 3 seasonals and 7 specialty releases, you will most likely be impressed. What they do, they do extremely well. This is one of those breweries that you could blindly approach their booth, outstretch a finger, and no matter what ends up in your glass, you will not be disappointed.
Clipper City Brewing Co. – You may know these guys as Heavy Seas. Not at all unlike Founders above, each and every beer that CCB makes is outstanding. I’m a beer geek, and light pilsners are generally boring and worthless to me. Hand me a Small Craft Warning Pils and I’d thank you twice. The thing that would most excite me about visiting the CCB booth at GABF is the fact that, when I lived and drank in PA, the Pyrate Fleet (see brewery website) was all there was. I want some of that Mutiny Fleet so bad!
Three Floyds Brewing Co. – I just laughed to myself. You know, of all of the breweries I have listed so far, for some reason this one seems the most obvious. It’s Three Floyds people, it’s Three Floyds. Ok, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t make such assumptions. TFB makes a beer called Dark Lord. It’s an imperial stout. It’s amongst the most sought after beers in the world. TFB also makes an imperial IPA called Dreadnaught. If Dark Lord didn’t exist, Dreadnaught would easily take it’s place as one of the most sought after beers in the world. Oh yeah, and everything else that they make is delicious. Another note – they host the best brewery tour that I have ever experienced.
Sorry folks, but you are going to have to wait just a bit longer for the remainder of my choices. Don’t fret, you’ll get them before your plane leaves for rocky mountian high…
The 29th edition of the Great American Beer Festival is just 2 weeks away. Sadly, I’m not going to make it this year. Even sadder, I’ve never made it. It’s on my bucket list, I assure you, but I can only really afford one big trip a year and the last few years…well, it didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. I already took my trip this year. I went to Belgium. I think that that’s a pretty good excuse.
But, just because I’m not going doesn’t mean that I can’t pretend. I’ve decided to make a list of the 25 breweries that I would visit at the fest if I where going. Hopefully, this will be of assistance to some of our readers out there that are going. Of course, this list is strongly influenced by my beer experiences, which are most likely very different from yours. Maybe you grew up in WI and have had all the New Glarus you can handle. That’s OK, but I have had a very minimal experience with NGB and given that it is a very well-respected brewery with minimal distribution, I’d visit their booth. Just a small example of the way this will go down.
Considering that there are roughly 460 breweries pouring at the fest, one needs to develop a game plan. Otherwise, ones head would likely explode. My general rule would be to make sure that all of the brewery’s booths that I visit fit into 1 of 3 main categories.
These categories are as follows:
1) Breweries whose product I have never tasted, due to never living or visiting within the distribution area, and whose product is met with great respect in the beer community. Breweries who I may have never heard a “buzz” about before but have been big winners in past GABFs would also fit into this category.
2) Breweries whose product I have tasted before, but whose product is met with such a profound respect in the beer community that I would desire to drink said product at anytime, anywhere.
3) Breweries whose product I have tasted before in my time living and drinking in the Northeast, but are either missed greatly by me or have released new products since my departure that I have not yet tasted.
With as many breweries as are attending this year’s fest, these rules alone would by no means whittle the list down to 25. I’ll tell you right now that I will be forced, quite painfully I may add, to leave some true gems off the list, but no one ever said it was easy to make lists like this. Here’s my first 10 choices, in no particular order.
New Glarus Brewing Co. – I mentioned these guys above so I might as well put them on here first. NGB only distributes to WI. That makes it a bit of a challenge for a lot of us to get. Thanks to a good friend’s willingness to share, I was able to taste a few of the standard releases about a month ago. They were quality brews with great ratings from the community, but it’s their rarities that really put NGB up on a pedestal. If they were pouring Raspberry Tart I just might get in line twice.
Dry Dock Brewing Co. – This is a very small brewpub out of Aurora, CO but it was awarded the Small Brewery of the Year at last year’s GABF. That’s enough to pique my interest.
Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. – I hope to visit this Michigan brewery in December when I visit my girlfriend’s family. Their Raspberry Eisbock and 4th Dementia Old Ale are both subject to a cult following in the beer community. These are two of my favorite styles and I would have a hard time coming up with many beers in the world that I want to get my hands on more.
Foothills Brewing – This North Carolina brewery is mostly famous for their imperial stout called Sexual Chocolate. Not only is it massively hyped on the internets, but it won the bronze metal last year in the Impy Stout category. That gives it some pretty respectable cred if you ask me. Timperial wants.
Pizza Port/Port Brewing/Lost Abbey – This is Tomme Arthur’s world. Tomme is a living beer legend for a reason. I’d steer more toward the Pizza Port offerings simply because I have not tasted their particular brand of grog. There are four different Pizza Port locations that enter beer, and they all seem to do very well in the competition. I’d lean more toward the San Clemente and Calsbad locales.
McKenzie Brew House – Even the biggest beer junkies in the West may have never heard of this one. It’s actually in Glen Mills, PA which is the town that I grew up in. The “town” (no actual downtown) is so small that I very rarely tell people that I grew up there in order to combat the blank stare that I would no doubt receive. I just tell people that I grew up in West Chester, PA because there is at least a remote chance that they would have heard of that one. Anyway, this is not only on the list because it fits into category 3 above but because they have been winning a bunch of awards lately. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.
Iron Hill Brewery – Another small brew pub that is near and dear to my heart from back east. I’d venture to say that these guys make some of the best beer I’ve ever had. Not a single trip back home will pass without a stop here. Seattleites just may have sampled some of their product at Elysian’s Pumpkin Fest.
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery – I couldn’t really name one particular reason to check these guys out, I just know that I have read about them for various reasons for quite some time now. Another very high quality brewer from North Carolina.
Cigar City Brewing – If you have never heard of Cigar City, you need to read more. These guys are absolutely blowing up the world of craft brewing right now, and they are still super new. If I could get a little bit personal with you for just one moment. I have a goal that I’m working toward. That goal is to open my own brewery in the next few years (I know, aren’t I just so unique). With this in mind, I am constantly analyzing breweries – learning from their positive and negative attributes. There are two American craft breweries that have opened in the past few years that exploded in popularity right from the onset. Obviously, I want my brewery to open in such a way as well. Tampa, FL’s Cigar City and the next brewery on my list are two businesses that should be analyzed by all future entrepreneurs.
The Bruery – I feel like we talk these guys up on the blog all the time. These guys are amongst the top ten breweries in America, hands down. I really shouldn’t have to go into it any deeper.
I have 15 more to choose, so check back frequently in the waning days of the pre-GABF calendar.
***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 7/19/2010
Brewery: Big Time Brewery & Alehouse
Location: Seattle, WA
Beer: Old Sol Wheatwine Ale
Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped
Vessel: Oversized Wine Glass
Recommended Serving Temp: 50 degrees
Notes From the Bottle: The labels on Big Time bottles have a very DIY feel to them. This isn’t surprising considering that they only sell the bottle in-house. The website offers the following information:
Old Sol Wheatwine Ale, our summertime barleywine style ale, introduced in 2002, Old Sol is available on tap and in bottles to go.
The 2003 Old Sol won a GOLD MEDAL at the Great American Beer Festival. This summertime version of Barleywine made with 46% wheat and Warrior, Simcoe & Amarillo hops will be a sure winner.
OG 23.6 Plato 1.100 SG 9.75% by vol. 7.75% by wt. Brewed on the Lunar New Year, tapped on the Summer Solstice.
Food Pairings: Shellfish, chicken, salad
Cheese Pairings: Gorgonzola, Limburger, Feta
Beer Advocate: A
Rate Beer: 89 (3.52)
Wheatwine is a strange animal. The style is still very new, and no one seems to know quite what to make of it. The specs, more often than not, require a malt bill that is nearly 50% wheat and an abv ranging from 9% to 14%. When it comes to competitions or indexing within beer rating websites, wheatwine is often lumped into the barleywine or strong ale category. Even though it seems that large beer festivals like GABF are permanently expanding the number of categories up for vote, wheatwine has yet to be added. Something tells me that it won’t be long until this exciting style has its day in the spotlight.
That something is the fact that wheatwines seem to be gaining trendiness by the day. More and more breweries have been making them, and if you were to take a look at some of the community run sites like beeradvocate.com or ratebeer.com, you’d probably be surprised that it didn’t catch on much earlier. Unlike ratebeer.com, beeradvocate.com actually has wheatwine as a category, and lists 70 beers. That may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t when you take into consideration that other not-so-popular styles like rye beer, old ale, and rauchbier have 322, 248, and 125 entries respectively. Also, a large percentage of the beers listed under wheatwine are variations on the same beer, one-offs, or brewery only draft specialties. But, my point that this style should have caught on earlier isn’t solely based on the fact that it’s an untapped resource. Even more so, it’s the ratings that have been acquired by the wheatwines that do exist.
There are very, very few wheatwines on beeradvocate.com that are rated lower than a B. ratebeer.com’s number system may offer a bit better of a perspective, but like I said earlier, they don’t recognize the style on its own, so it takes a bit of digging.
Smuttynose Brewing out of Portsmouth, NH makes, most likely, the longest standing, most widely known wheatwine in the States. In fact, other than the beer reviewed here tonight (and one mentioned later in this article), the entire Beer Blotter collective has only ever had one wheatwine…that of Smutty. Smuttynose Wheat Wine is a 95 on ratebeer.com. The much talked about collaboration Oatgoop, between Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, IN and Mikkeller of Denmark, recieved a 98 on ratebeer.com. General stalwarts of the style, New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole and Terrapin Gamma Ray are rated 91 and 90 respectively. Point being, the people like the wheatwine.
Just a year ago, it seems to me that it would have been very safe to say that there was only a handful of breweries in America making the style. Most likely, a good percentage of the craft beer lovers out there are not all that different from us, and have only tried one or two different wheatwines in total. In the last few months, more and more brews have been popping up in the style. Boulevard Brewing out of Kansas City, MO just recently added a wheatwine to the Smokestack Series called Harvest Dance. It received a 97 on ratebeer.com. Locally, Black Raven Brewing of Redmond, WA just made a wheatwine for Malt and Vine‘s (a Redmond based bottle shop) third anniversary. Only three ratings exist so far on ratebeer.com. – not enough for a score, but I can tell you first hand, it’s delicious. I was lucky enough to taste this little gem the day it was released. The 9% brew was enhanced with the addition of California orange peel, black pepper corns, local nettles, and a distinct sour quality. Quite possibly, Black Raven is so far ahead of the game that they are already throwing curve balls at the competition.
Just today (yesterday as you read this), there was a report on the front page of beernews.org that Duclaw Brewing out of Baltimore, MD will be releasing a wheatwine called Misery. They just keep coming and coming. You won’t get any complaints from me.
Enough about the rest, lets talk about the best…well, for tonight at least. The beer on the menu this evening is brought to you by Bill Jenkins of Big Time Brewery. ***Attention all, this is a name that you need to memorize.*** This guy can brew a beer! Yes, Bill is a celebrity in my eyes. I dare you to make a list of the best breweries in WA that doesn’t include Big Time. Yes I know, it is nearly impossible to get their beer outside of the University District brewpub, but that’s the charm of it, right?
Lets gather in the experience of Old Sol.
Old Sol fills the glass with a beautiful, clearly filtered, orange-tinged amber that looks ever so inviting. The carbonation is clearly minimal here, and the head, or lack there of, is right inline. What foam does develop on the pour is stark white and leaves a faint bit of lacing on the inside of the glass after each sip. A ring of white persists, in conjunction with the slightest cirrus cloud of a wisp.
The odor is very fruity, sweet, and boozy. Belgian style ales come to mind immediately. Notes of mango, nectarine, peach, banana… where it not for the malty scents at the core I’d sense this was a fruit juice before me. The malts are light and biscuity with a dash of caramel and vanilla. The wheat is doing things that I’m not entirely used to it doing, and I like it. So many of my experiences with wheat beers have been with unfiltered beers. Most often these brews are jammed up with suspended yeast that, inevitably, steals a lot of the subtle fragrances of the wheat itself. I finally feel like I am spinning, arms outstretched, through the great wheat fields that dominate the Mid-Western states of this great country, and it’s a good feeling. This thought may be just what sparks thoughts of a barnyard scent lingering deep within the nose.
The most elegant characteristic of this beer, and for that matter – this style, is the mouthfeel. “Velvety” seems to be the word of choice in the style guidelines, and I’d have to agree. The carbonation and alcohol seem to hibernate all the way until the swallow, which leaves only the viscous, sugary, syrupy, mouth-coating, wheaty goodness at the forefront for ultimate enjoyment. I’d be lying if I said it was hard to swallow, but sometimes I just want to revel in the moment and let the fluid glide around my mouth for ages.
Honestly, as odd as it sounds, the taste of this beer is the least exciting. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it by no means takes away from the marvelous and unique experience that this beer provides.. What can I say, wheat is subtle. I’m also a tea drinker, so I know and respect subtle. The Belgian thoughts creep back, but then quickly subside when the wheat strikes. Infused sugars dominate, with a bit of spice and banana essence that seems to be a constant extract of the malt in question, or possibly the yeast. With great warmth, some bubblegum flavors make their presence known. There is another bizarre attribute found post-swallow – the flavors remain but the sweetness if so dominant that a dryness competes. I want more but I don’t need more. Confused, I’m fearful of a hangover, but I’ll take it in stride. All for the joy of sipping down the next big thing in craft brewing.
If you like Big Time Brewery & Alehouse Old Sol Wheatwine Ale, you should try…
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.