Sunday, December 16, 2007

Full Sail Session Premium Lager

On Friday the 14th, me, my wife, and some family friends decided to drive down to Douglas County immediately south of Carson City in search of a neighborhood adorned with Christmas lights. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the neighborhood, or we did and they just weren't doing the lights this year, so the travel down south was a bust. However, we decided to stop in Carson at Red's Old 395 Grill. What's so special about this place? They boast an impressive "vault" of 101 beers, whether on tap or in bottles. They even have hundreds, if not thousands of bottles lined up along the wall.

I was beyond impressed and overwhelmed with all the choices that the restaurant had to offer, beer-wise. But I wanted to have a beer that I don't usually have the opportunity to snag. So I decided upon a Full Sail Session Premium Lager, brewed by the Full Sail Brewing Co. of Hood River, Oregon. I've had their Amber Ale before, and I've always wanted to try some of their other beers.

Full Sail Brewing was founded in the small Columbia Gorge town in old Diamond fruit cannery in 1987. At the time, Oregon was starting to become a beer haven and Hood River was gaining notoriety for windsurfing, which is why the brewery is named Full Sail. What really put Full Sail on the map was A.) their ability to put their microbrews in a bottle, something that critics said was almost impossible, and B.) Full Sail Amber's gold medal at the 1989 Great American Beer Festival. Still another milestone was achieved when the company became entirely employee-owned in 1999, with profits split evenly amongst its 47 workers, a fact that they boast on their web site and bottles. Recently they've brewed another beer, Session Premium Lager, as a hearkening back to the beers that were popular before the wrath of Prohibition. Like Red Stripe, this one is sold in a pre-Prohibition-era 11 oz. stubby bottle which helps it stand out amongst other beers. (Full Sail Story, Session Lager)


Here come the stats:

Full Sail Session Premium Lager
BREWERY: Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River, OR, USA
STYLE: Continental pilsner
FIRST BREWED:
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV:
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS: 2007 World Beer Awards (World's Best Premium Lager), 2007 North American Beer Awards Gold Medal Award Winner, 2007 L.A. County Fair Silver Award Winner, "a silver medal in a New Zealand international beer competition"

The awards came from the November 2007 newsletter (currently found here). I plan on placing a call to the brewery to pick up all the remaining information, as well as clarify the awards.

The beer arrived in the stubby bottle, which I poured delicately into the glass (see, I'm trying to improve my pouring technique), resulting in an amber colored beer with no head in a frosted mug. It had a relatively strong aroma of wheat and hops. The taste also had a strong wheat flavor with a hint of hops and strong carbonation. The finish was very smooth and grainy-tasting. The whole experience was very pleasing to the mouth.

I enjoyed this beer a lot, and it was a great thirst-quencher as I was waiting for my delicious chicken fajitas. Pick one up at a liquor store or grocery store near you. Your great-grandfather would be proud.

~Prost!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

For today's entry, I decided to re-taste a beer that has already been tasted on this blog. The first time that I tasted Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale was at the 2007 Great El Dorato BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festival on a hot July day in downtown Reno. While I enjoyed its flavor, this beer was not tasted in the most optimum conditions. Therefore, I decided to give it another try after getting it fresh from a bottle that has been sitting in my fridge for a couple of weeks. Plus, it will give me a chance to elaborate on the history of the beer and its brewery.

Firestone Walker was founded in 1996 by brothers-in-law Adam Firestone and David Walker, hence the brewery name. The two could not be more different: Firestone was an American former Marine Corps captain and Walker was a British expatriate, but they both found they had a mutual love of beer and the common dream to open up the perfect brewery. So that's what they did, originally on a corner of the Firestone Vineyard estate in Los Olivos, California and now at their brewery in Paso Robles. Firestone Walker is a brewery which combines Firestone's family legacy as a vintner with Walker's knowledge of British styles of beer brewing. (Firestone Walker Proprietors, Firestone Walker Brewery)

In fact, it was this knowledge that helped them create their flagship Double Barrel Ale. After a disastrous initial brew in 1995, where Chardonnay residue leaked into the beer from the used wine barrels they were using, Firestone and Walker decided to use their own version of an obscure 19th century oak barrel called the Burton Union system. This system was first used in Burton-upon-Trent in 1840 to feed Britain's shift to pale ales, and was an oft-used system in those times that fell into disuse over the decades. Firestone Walker developed their version in 1996, called the Firestone Union system, to brew a much more well-received Double Barrel Ale. They are the only American brewery to use such a system, which is patented. (Firestone Walker History, Firestone Union Brewing System)


Here come the stats:

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale
BREWERY: Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA, USA
STYLE: ESB
FIRST BREWED: 1995
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS: 32 IBU
ABV: 5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate
HOPS: Mangnum, Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS: 2005 Australian International Beer Awards Silver Medal Award Winner, 2003 Real Ale Festival Gold Medal Award Winner, 2003 and 2006 California State Fair Gold Medal Award Winner and 2005 California State Fair Silver Medal Award Winner, 2002 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Award Winner and 2004 World Beer Cup Silver Medal Award Winner, 2002 California State Fair Gold Medal Award Winner, 2002 and 2003 World Beer Championships Gold Medal Award Winner

I got all but the calories, original gravity, serving temperature, and food pairings from the Double Barrel Ale webpage. A quick call to Paso Robles should get the rest of the info I need.

Now that I can actually see the beer, I can tell that it has a rich amber color with a slight white half-foam half-bubble head. It's scent combined a grainy aroma with the English and Slovenian hops that they put in the beer. I still tasted the hops, but it wasn't as pronounced as I thought due to the carbonation. I also tasted the graininess, but it too was muted behind both the carbonation and the hoppiness. The aftertaste still transitioned into that wheaty finish, however I got that gummy residue in my mouth a third of the way through the beer. I do appreciate its complexity, mostly because there were some flavors that I can't describe; I'll chalk it up to the barrel system, definitely a plus.

This beer is complex and unique and is for a beer lover who wants something a little different for a change. The barrel system helps to set this beer apart.

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BridgePort Ebenezer Ale

After a lack of alcohol over Thanksgiving weekend (except for the night out with the guys, and the basketball game...so maybe there was no lack of alcohol after all...), I've decided to get back off the wagon and start reviewing my six pack that has been waiting for me in Reno. Well, it's a six pack now that I picked up some beers that I couldn't get in Nevada. One of them, Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws, is a bottle-conditioned beer that will be ready for a review on Christmas morn. The other is the subject of this review: BridgePort Ebenezer Ale, a brew that is available in just about every western state...except Nevada. I think it's even available in Utah. (NOTE: The beer is not available in Utah.)

BridgePort touts itself as Oregon's oldest craft brewery, even trademarking the phrase "Oregon's Oldest Craft Brewery™" to boot. Founded all the way back in 1984 (take that, Widmer and Portland Brewing!) by Richard and Nancy Ponzi and Karl Ockert as the Columbia Brewing Co. in a century-old former rope factory in Portland's Pearl District, it has had a front-row seat to the microbrew revolution that has taken place in Portland and nationwide. In fact, it has led the way for Oregon's breweries to take their place in the world of beer. BridgePort Brewery is currently owned by The Gambrinus Co. of San Antonio, who has owned it since 1995. In addition to a brewery, BridgePort owns an ale house in addition to a brewpub/bakery of all things. (BridgePort History, Gambrinus Co. History, BridgePort Brewery Info)

It is best known for its flagship IPA, but has expanded its lineup to include an ESB, an amber ale, a stout, a pale ale (Blue Heron, itself well-known), and even a barleywine called Old Knucklehead, a beer I've tried to find on several occasions in Portland to no avail. So I snagged this one instead at Whole Foods at Bridgeport Village (not related) in Tualatin, Oregon, and brought it back to the Biggest Little City. It was originally brewed as a winter seasonal called Winter Brew back in 1986 and was sold exclusively in their brewpubs. Their first bottling was in 1999, but they realized that some other brewery had a beer called Winter Brew. So they held a company-wide contest to rename the beer, and Ebenezer Ale was the winner. They are now on their 9th bottling of the stuff, described as a "winter warmer" style ale.


Here are the stats:

BridgePort Ebenezer Ale
BREWERY: BridgePort Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1986 as Winter Brew (first bottled in 1999)
CALORIES/SERVING: ~180 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 40 IBUs
ABV: 6.4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 16° Plato (1065.84)
MALTS: Three kinds of crystal, two kinds of roasted, and 2-row pale
HOPS: English Goldings, a little bit of Chinook
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 45-50°F (7-10°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH/USE IN: Gravies, basting meat, vegetable stew, pot pies
AWARDS: 2002 Brewing Industry International Awards (London, England) Silver Medal Award Winner

I got the IBUs, ABV, gravity, and awards from BridgePort's Ebenezer Ale webpage. The rest came from a phone call to the brewery at 4:15 PM on November 28th, 2007. I spoke with brewmaster Karl Ockert, the same one who helped found the brewery back in 1984, so you can be assured of its veracity. Thanks for the info Karl!

This beer is defined by its brewmaster as a "strong ale," and this description is no more accurate than with its nose. A strong nutty scent emanated from the beer once it hit the glass, which was very pleasing to my nostrils. Once in my glass, the beer's color was a rich dark brown that was slightly translucent. It was accompanied by a long-lasting head that didn't go away until I was done with two-thirds of the beer. The taste perplexed me, filled with a nutty taste with fruit undertones, a very delicious combination; it also was a very smooth beer with not a lot of carbonation. The only thing I didn't like was the aftertaste, which was a bit stale. However, I was able to taste the nutty-fruitiness of the beer with a slight hint of hoppiness mixed in.

This beer was in fact a winter warmer, as I felt the chills go away towards the end of the beer. Pick one up if you're in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, or Washington. But not Nevada. Or Utah.

Prost!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beer News: Hop Price Increases and Georgia Blue Laws

I've had these articles in my inbox for so long that one of them now 404s. But, while I'm on vacation and away from my beer, I decided to post them here and start a little discussion.

First up is from October 26th:

Forget Gas Prices: Beer is Going Up

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. (AP) -- Fans of Snipes Mountain Brewery's cloudy Hefeweizen relish the subtle wheat flavor of the bright, summery brew, and like beer drinkers everywhere, they know when their favorite brew tastes a little too hoppy or bitter.

Connoisseurs could be in for a surprise this year, and they may not be alone.

Small brewers from Australia to Oregon face the daunting prospect of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient and rising prices for others.

Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are likely to climb. How high is anybody's guess. Craft brewers don't have the means to hedge against rising prices, like their industrial rivals.

"I'm guessing, at a minimum, at least a 10 percent jump in beer prices for the average consumer before the end of the year," said Terry Butler, brewmaster at central Washington's Snipes Mountain. (Google Cache of Full Article)
What killed me was the next line: "Sales have been relatively flat in recent years among the country's big three brewers - Anheuser-Busch Cos., Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC. unit Miller Brewing Co - while small, independent brewers have experienced tremendous growth." I guess it just goes to show that if you brew pisswater "beer" with rice adjuncts, people are going to get sick of it. The only beer I badmouth are macrobrews for this reason.

But anyway, this was surprising to me. I guess it makes sense that in the race to find growable, renewable energy, many farmers are now switching to growing corn for ethanol. The drought in many states this year isn't helping, as farmers struggle to cultivate any decent-sized crop. My solution: we apparently pay farmers in this country to grow nothing, right? Why not have them grow hops and barley instead of nothing? I think of it as a Depression-era approach for beer growth; put people to work growing the stuff that makes American beer great.

If there's one flaw in my plan (aside from the "farmers growing nothing" bit), it's that the fundies will probably never let it happen. The baptists and pentecostals and the what-have-you will complain about the evils of alcohol and that the devil's in the drink, and the idea will get scrapped because some spineless congressmen will capitulate to their demands. Much like what my other story, from September 7, is about:

Georgia breweries dry up

Local laws that limit beer tastings hurt independents.

By Mina Kimes, Forbes Small Business Contributor

Georgia, with twice the population, has only three, down from eight a decade ago.

New rules governing brewery tours could reduce that number to zero, says Fred Bensch, owner of Sweetwater Brewing (sweetwaterbrew.com) in Atlanta, by driving away thirsty crowds and eliminating the brewers' best marketing tool.

"This would totally cripple us," he says. The dispute has been fermenting since May, when the Georgia Department of Revenue proposed limiting tastings to two ounces per brew. Under pressure, the revenuers raised the limit to 24 ounces, but with stipulations: Breweries can't serve samples until tours are over, they can't pour any beer if they charge admission (Sweetwater charges $8), and Sunday tastings are verboten.

DOR spokesman Charles Willey says the rules are for "public safety."

Bensch, who has operated Sweetwater since 1997, says it's part of a pattern of regulatory harassment. "Five breweries have gone out of business since we've started," he says. "This is an inhospitable place to brew beer." (Full Article)


"Public safety." What a cop-out. What difference does it make if a brewery charges admission for its tastings or not? People are still going to drink that beer. Why force patrons to wait until the end? Wouldn't it be safer to spread that beer tasting over an hour's time? Also, why forbid Sunday tastings? Beer doesn't get you more drunk on a Sunday. (The last one was more rhetorical than the others...I'm pretty sure Georgia's position in the Bible Belt is a prime reason.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-religion. I just feel that religious laws have no place in American legislature. Georgia's Blue Laws consist of religion imposing on people's freedoms, and I am pro-freedom. If you don't want to go to a store or a brewery on a Sunday, don't. It's your right. Just don't prevent me from doing the same, because I will do everything in my power to defy you.

This is all part of a larger rant I'm planning to write involving Blue Laws, dry counties, Prohibition, and freedom.

What do you think about either one of these stories? Raise a glass and let me know.

Prost!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Xingu Black Lager

Another black lager that I picked up from Booze Bros. is the exotic Xingu (pronounced shin-goo). This beer certainly caught my eye when I was perusing the foreign beers in Booze Bros., so I had to snag it. It is a schwarzbier from Rio de Janeiro, and it takes its name from an Amazonian tributary (the Xingu River) and region that contains some of the most untainted cultures in the Amazon Rainforest.

The earliest Western account of Amazonian black beer can be traced back to 1557, where it was used by the natives in religious and social ceremonies. The beer itself was brewed using manioc root and dark roasted corn, fermented with wild yeasts, possibly like the lambics of Belgium. This incarnation of Amazonian schwarzbier was first brought to America in 1988, a result of five Vermont women who hired beer historian Alan Eames to find dark beers on the verge of extinction worldwide. (Five Women in Search of Good Beer, from Amazon Inc.)


Here are the stats:

Xingu Black Lager
BREWERY: Cervejaria Independente Ltda., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
FIRST BREWED: 1986? 1988?
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV:
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

I got this (limited) information from Five Women in Search of Good Beer. I hope an e-mail to the brewery or to EuroBrew, the American importers, will answer some more questions.

Like most dark beers, this one poured very dark almost black color with a slight tannish head. However, while the head wasn't that big, it still had staying power, lasting a really long time. The aroma just burst forth from the beer, smelling like dark chocolates with heavy fruit influences. The taste was, for the most part, indescribable. I was scratching my head throughout this tasting trying to describe the flavor. I think it was a carbonated grainy-fruit with maybe some slight nuttiness mixed in, but it was certainly very different from any beer I've ever had (including Old Peculier). And just as mysteriously as this beer's flavor arrived, it vanished into a slight grainy aftertaste that was welcomed into my mouth with opened taste buds.

This is a great beer for those looking to take a walk on the wild side. It's very different and enjoyable. I don't know the availability of this beer, but it's been around since 1988, so liquor stores will probably have it.

Saude!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Samuel Adams Black Lager

I've always thought that Samuel Adams makes some very interesting beers. Ever since I first heard about the Utopias (which weigh in at about 25% ABV), I started to keep my eyes on Sam Adams. One beer I noticed when I was buying my latest 6-pack at Booze Bros. (great selection of beer, BTW) was the Sam Adams Black Lager. Since most lagers I've had are light in color, I was intrigued, so I picked one up.

Samuel Adams Black Lager is a relatively new beer that is part of their Brewmaster's Collection. It is brewed in a less known beer style in the United States, called schwarzbier, or "black beer" in German. Unlike strong stouts and porters, schwarzbiers do not have a strong hoppiness to them despite their dark color. The schwarzbier that has been brewed for the longest period of time is Braunschweiger Mumme, which has been brewed since around 1390. However, in an archaeological dig in the German town of Kulmbach (considered the origin of schwarzbier), an ancient Celtic beer vase from the 8th century BCE containing blackened bread, which was used as an early brewing technique by Celtic and East Germanic tribes to subject beer to the forces of airborne yeast. While schwarzbier was thus proved to have been brewed in Bavaria for at least 2,800 years, Sam Adams' black lager version has only been brewed since 2004, a significantly shorter amount of time. (Samuel Adams World of Beer, then Brewmaster's Collection → Black Lager, Bella Online German Schwarzbier)


Here are the stats:

Samuel Adams Black Lager
BREWERY: Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA, USA
FIRST BREWED: 2004
CALORIES/SERVING: 191 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 4.9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 14° Plato (1057.14)
MALTS: Two Row Pale, Munich, Weyermann dehusked Carafa®
HOPS: Spalt Spalter
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

All information except the bitterness, serving temperature, food pairings, and awards came from the Sam Adams website (Flash-based, so no direct linking). I hope to get more information from the brewery itself.

The beer poured a thick almost-black color into my glass, accompanied by a tannish head. The beer's aroma wasn't too strong, but it smelled of a hint of coffee. Unfortunately, the taste was where the beer just vanished. I tasted the carbonation of the beer, with maybe a faint trace of coffee, but nothing else. The good news is that even though the beer tastes like almost nothing, there's no aftertaste that grows stale on your palette.

This beer seems to have been brewed more for novelty than for anything else, but it tastes better than most of those Central American lagers out there (and looks cooler too). Pick one up at your local supermarket; it's available year-round at stores across the country.

~Prost!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Booze Bros. Tasting - Belgians

I took a little trip down to Booze Bros. tonight to try some of their new Belgian beers. Let me just say that I really wish that I would've brought a notebook, because it's very hard for me to remember all of the beers that I had tonight (and my thoughts on their flavor too). Of the beers that I do remember, here are my favorites/beers of note.

  • Mc Chouffe from Brasserie d'Achouffe - I really liked this one. It is an 8.5% ABV Scottish-style dark ale that had a great aroma and taste. It was much better than the other Brasserie d'Achouffe beer I tried, which was their lighter flavored La Chouffe.

  • Grand Cru from Brasserie de l'Abbaye des Rocs - This was a great tasting Belgian strong dark ale with a great aroma to boot. I liked it even more than the Mc Chouffe, especially because it was 9.5% ABV, but didn't taste like it...it was ridiculously smooth.

  • Gulden Draak from Brouwerij van Steenberge - This tripel beer kicked my butt and made me feel all warm inside, and at 10.5% ABV, I'm not surprised.

  • I had a Gueuze (the name escapes me) that was very interesting. It tasted and smelled like sour orange...not something you would expect in a beer. I liked it, but it was the most polarizing beer of the night, with people either loving it or hating it intensely.


All in all, a great tasting.


I can't wait until 2 weeks from now, when they're tasting all of the Deschutes brews, including Jubelale. See you there!


Prost!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lindemans Kriek Fruit Lambic

My wife and I couldn't resist it.

We were at Cost Plus World Market picking up some pumpkin ale for a Harry Potter party we're going to this weekend (I'm going to blacken out the "ale" and write "juice" over it) when my wife spotted a bottle of Lindemans Kriek fruit lambic (I reviewed their Pêche lambic on Monday). She thought it sounded good because it contained black cherries, but when I told her that the late Michael Jackson said in 1985 that it was one of the 5 best beers in the world, we knew we had to get it. I've already gone over the brewery history and the style history on the Pêche lambic page; the only thing I'll add is that this beer has been brewed since 1930, and that kriek is the Dutch word for "wild cherry." (Lindemans brewery history)


Here are the stats:

Lindemans Kriek Fruit Lambic
BREWERY: Brouwerij Lindemans, Vlezenbeek, Belgium
FIRST BREWED: 1930
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: As an aperitif in place of dry sherry, with carbonnade à la bœuf, mussels in white wine or Gueuze, flavorful cheeses; traditionally served in tall, thick tumbler with cubes of sugar to sweeten to taste
AWARDS: 1994-1995 World Beer Championships Platinum Medal Award Winner

The first-brewed and awards came from Lindemans Brewery history, the food pairing came from Merchant du Vin's Kriek webpage (they're the American importers), and the ABV is from BeerAdvocate's Lindemans Kriek page until I can get a more accurate source.

Like the Pêche, it was bottled in a mini-champagne bottle, complete with cork and extremely-concave bottom. The aroma was a strong fermented cherry smell that smelled a little more natural than malt beverages like Smirnoff Ice. The beer itself was an opaque ruby red color with a light pink head (which my wife really liked). I was kind of disappointed with the taste, however. It did taste like black cherries, but it was kind of bitter; I guess that's what real black cherries taste like though, so I really can't slight it for that. On the plus side, the aftertaste was a nice cherry flavor that did not grow bitter.

While I didn't like this beer as much as the peach version, it still is pretty tasty. It was less carbonated than the Pêche, so it went down smoother. And it didn't leave as much of that stickiness in my mouth when all was said and done. Its availability is probably the same as the Pêche, so grab one at the nearest liquor store.

Op uw gezondheid!

Old Rasputin Update

Just a quick note saying that due to a phone call to North Coast Brewery, I was able to get some more information on Old Rasputin and update my review.

I'll have a new review tonight.

Prost!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lindemans Pêche Fruit Lambic

For a change of pace, I decided to veer off the beaten path of wheat-based beers and go for a Belgian specialty: the lambic beer. Like certain wines, the style can only be brewed in a certain region to be a true lambic, in this instance the Pajottenland region of Belgium. It uses what's called spontaneous fermentation, or fermentation through wild yeasts in the air, to give it a unique flavor. (The Lambic Beers - caution, pop-ups abound)

The specific lambic I chose is a fruit lambic, Lindemans Pêche (French for peach), described by the Cost Plus World Market employee as "the nectar of the gods," so naturally I had to try it. Lindemans is located right in the heart of the Pajottenland, in the town of Vlezenbeek, near Brussels. It was started in 1809 as a farm, but decided to start more lambic brewing activities in the winter, when there was less farming to do. Their lambic was so popular that by 1930 they ceased all farming to focus on the demand. They released their Framboise fruit lambic fifty years later, and it was so popular that they branched out, releasing their peach lambic, Pecheresse, in 1987. (Lindemans Brewery History)

Now, I think that the Pecheresse and the Pêche are somehow related, but I don't think they are exactly the same beer; the British Beer-Pages gives Pecheresse an ABV of 2.5%, but American BeerAdvocate gives its ABV as 4.0%. Chances are its ABV was beefed-up for the American audience, and I have absolutely no evidence to back that up. However, the brewery can claim that it brews one of the 5 best beers in the world: Lindemans Kriek, a cherry lambic; it was so designated by the late great beer hunter, Michael Jackson. (Beer-Pages Lindemans Fruit Lambics, BeerAdvocate: Lindemans Pêche, Lindemans Brewery History)


Here are the stats:

Lindemans Pêche Fruit Lambic
BREWERY: Brouwerij Lindemans, Vlezenbeek, Belgium
FIRST BREWED: 1987
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 45°F (7°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Peach Melba, peaches in brandy, pear tarts, salad Nicoise, sorbet, egg rolls, peach cobbler, Waldorf salad, haroses, free-run chicken crepes, Belgian waffles
AWARDS: 1994-1995 World Beer Championships Gold Medal Award Winner

The first-brewed and awards came from Lindemans Brewery history, the food pairing and temperature suggestion came from Merchant du Vin's Pêche webpage (they're the American importers), and the ABV is from BeerAdvocate's Lindemans Pêche page until I can get a more accurate source.

The cool thing about this beer, among many things, is its wine bottle-like appearance, from its dark-green bottle to its cork and extreme concave bottle bottom. That's right, it has a cork! Let's see your bottle of Bud do this:


Many of this beer's characteristics reminded me of hefeweizen. Its color is a cloudy yellow-orange color and its head is a nice foamy white. It even has an aroma of peaches and wheat similar to a Franziskaner (but with citrus). But all that wheat disappears in the taste, which is basically fermented peach juice with carbonation and a hint of grain. My wife described it as "apple juice." It was a fantastic taste that was devoid of any overly-agressive hoppiness or bitterness, and it went down smooth. My only gripe has to do with any sweet drink I encounter: it leaves a sticky residue in my mouth due to the sweetness factor.

This beer certainly is a great nectar. It seems to be very well distributed in the states, so pick one up, or one of its cousins, at a store nearby.

Op uw gezondheid!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

After a hell of a week, I decided to imbibe one hell of a beer. That's when I reached for the strong stuff: North Coast Brewing Co.'s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, weighing in at a whopping 9% ABV. While it's not the strongest beer I've had, it's stronger than most beers you'll see in the supermarket.

Russian imperial stout is actually an English style of beer that was specifically shipped to the Baltic, specifically the Empress of Russia (as a porter, a slightly weaker version of a stout). It was brewed with a higher alcohol and hop content to keep during the voyage by sea, similar to IPAs. Word has it that Grigori Rasputin, the famed Russian mystic, also developed a strong affinity for the beer style. So, when North Coast Brewing Co. of Fort Bragg, California, needed a name for their Russian imperial stout, they chose to name it for the Mad Monk himself.

His portrait appears on the bottle of his namesake, above the Russian phrase "Сердечный друт не родится вдрут", an old Russian proverb which translates to "A good friend is not easily made." It was first brewed in 1994 but wasn't bottled and sold until 1996; it was done so in 4-packs, a practice that is now done with all high-ABV beers, including Old Rasputin. In 2007, they've brewed a special 10th anniversary version of the beer, Old Rasputin X, that's been aged 9 months in 12-year-old bourbon barrels. I hope I can find it in the store, but I think it's only sold at the brewery itself...sadly. I'm always a sucker for a limited edition. (Imperial Russian Stout info, Beers of the World, Old Rasputin webpage, brewery phone call, North Coast Brewing Co. News)


Here are the stats:

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
BREWERY: North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, CA, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1995 (on tap), 1996 (bottled)
CALORIES/SERVING: 303 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 75 IBU
ABV: 9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 20.95° Plato (1088.00)
MALTS: (proprietary, they said "many domestic and imported malts")
HOPS: (proprietary)
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 55°F (13°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Rich chocolate cake
AWARDS: 2006 Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Fest Gold Medal Award Winner, 1996-1999 & 2004-2006 World Beer Championships Gold Medal Award Winner, 2004 Spring Beer & Wine Fest Gold Medal Award Winner, 1999 & 2002 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner (imperial stout category), 1996 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Award Winner (imperial Stout category)

The ABV, IBUs, and the awards came from North Coast's Old Rasputin webpage, and the serving temperature and food pairing came from Beers of the World. I called the brewery at 4:10 PM PDT on October 22nd, 2007, then again at 4:35 PM PDT on October 25th, 2007, to get some more info, which Mark from North Coast graciously provided. Thanks so much Mark!

This beer had a very strong aroma from the moment I opened the bottle. It was strong and smelled of fermented fruit...very pleasing to my nostrils. Its color was almost black with no light escaping the glass, and had a very foamy tan-colored head that did not dissipate at all, as this picture demonstrates:


It seemed to fade from tan at the top to a darker brown about halfway down the glass (which the flash ruined in the photo). Like its aroma, its taste was also very strong, tasting of more alcoholic fermented fruit mixed with dark chocolate (how I love those chocolatey beers...mmm...). The aftertaste was a bit too harsh and hoppy at the beginning, but it faded nicely into a chocolate-coffee mixture. I could feel its flavor burn into the back of my nostrils, a very nice effect. It's also not a chewy beer, a trait I've noticed with other beers of this ABV, like Hair of the Dog's Adam and Fred beers. This one is nice and fluid without having a molasses-like consistency.

If you've had more than your share of 4-6% lagers and ales, this beer may get you buzzed in one fell swoop, hence it's price being a little steeper than other beers. But give it a go. Who knows, you may go Mad with delight for this beer.

Будем!

UPDATE: I called the brewery today and spoke with Mark, who was able to fill in some of my blanks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Old Peculier English Ale

This beer came via the recommendation of a beer-loving employee of Cost Plus World Market: Old Peculier English Ale. He liked it because, according to him, its taste would change after each sip of the beer. I was intrigued, so I picked one up the next time I was in the store.

Remember when I reviewed Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale and mentioned Paul Theakston's family brewery that was bought out by Newcastle in 1987? Old Peculier is brewed by that brewery, originally started by Robert Theakston and John Wood in 1827 in Masham, North Yorkshire, England. They originally set up their brewery in the Black Bull Pub. T&R Theakston takes over the Lightfoot Brewery in 1919 (I like that it was allegedly because Lightfoot always beat Theakston at cricket). In 1974, they took over the Carlisle State Management Brewery, which was the only state-owned brewery in the country. After a 17-year battle, Scottish & Newcastle bought out the brewery in 1987, but four of the brothers Theakston regained control in 2004. (Theakston Brewery history)

Now, I thought it was strange that the beer was spelled Old Peculier with an "e", seeing as how it is spelled with an "a". However, what I didn't know is that a Peculier is "a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of a person or body other than the bishop of a diocese." So this beer is essentially named in honor of the old Peculier of Masham, founded in 1741 (the label and the bottle cap illustrate the Peculier's seal). I don't know when the beer was first-brewed (Wikipedia says the 1890's, but then again, it's Wikipedia). (Reference.com "Peculier" entry, the bottle)


Here are the stats:

Old Peculier English Ale
BREWERY: T&R Theakston Ltd., Masham, North Yorkshire, England (under authority of Scottish & Newcastle)
FIRST BREWED:
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 5.6%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

The ABV came from Theakston's Old Peculier webpage, but that's it. A call to Scottish & Newcastle Importers of San Rafael, CA, may be in order.

This beer poured an almost-solid dark ruby red that revealed itself after a moderately-sized half-foamy half-bubbly light tan head. It stayed for a little bit, then quietly retreated. In its wake was a very fruity and slightly chocolatey/nutty aroma that wafted to about an 18-inch radius. The taste did not drastically change between sips like for the Cost Plus employee, but it was an interesting taste. While the initial taste was a weak bubbly grainy taste, once I swallowed it, an explosion of fruit and nut occurred in my mouth for about two seconds before fading out to another grainy taste without the carbonation. For a second, I thought that I tasted bubble gum (!) in a fleeting moment. It's finish was a very light grain that was not intrusive and was very pleasant.

This is a very interesting beer, and I highly recommend it as a change of pace from the usual lager or ale. It certainly has an interesting character.

Cheers!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sierra Nevada Stout

I've been a little under the weather recently. I've had a chest cold that has given me a nasty cough. So if while I'm writing this review I need to turn away to cough, rest assured that I'm not trying to be rude to you. Besides, beer is supposed to have health benefits, so maybe I should've had more beer when I was starting to get sick.

My comeback-of-sorts is Sierra Nevada Stout, another beer from regional brewer Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. While a very brief history can be found on my Summerfest beer review, there are a couple other facts I'd like to throw out. Ken Grossman, being an "avid backpacker," named the brewery for the mountain range of the same name because he loved to hike throughout them. The current brewery opened in 1989 and was expanded to 800,000 barrels a year in 1997. Apparently, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale wasn't the only beer that was first brewed in 1980; among them was this beer, one of the "original four," which I assume also includes their other year-round brews, Porter and Wheat. Over the past couple months, Sierra Nevada has released two long sought-after beers: their Anniversary Ale, a special beer brewed each anniversary (this year is an IPA), and Harvest Ale, an ale brewed with fresh hops flown down from Yakima, Washington, the same day. (Sierra Nevada About Us webpage, phone call to brewery, Anniversary Ale and Harvest Ale press releases)


Here are the stats:

Sierra Nevada Stout
BREWERY: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1980
CALORIES/SERVING: 225 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 60 IBU
ABV: 5.8%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 16° Plato (1065.84)
MALTS: Two-row Pale, Munich, Caramel, & Black
HOPS: Magnum, Cascade, & Willamette
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 45-50°F (7-10°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Smoked raw oysters, shellfish, lentil stew
AWARDS: 2000 California State Fair Gold Medal Award Winner (Stout, Sweet & Foreign category)

I got all this information, except the first-brewed, calories per servings, serving temperature, and foods to pair with, from the Sierra Nevada Stout homepage. The rest I got talking to the Sierra Nevada receptionist and Theresa from Customer Support/Quality Assurance on the phone on October 9th, 2007 at 4:15 PDT. Thanks so much for the info!

Like most stouts I've encountered, the head was rather large, a very bubbly but foamy light-tan explosion once the beer hit the bottom of the glass. When it settled, it revealed a solid, dark-brown color that seemed to suck in all the light around it. It had a strong aroma of dark chocolate with a hint of fruit that was pleasant. The taste was a mixture of chocolate, coffee, and burnt (or is that "roasted"?) hops. However, it's the aftertaste that I really didn't like about this beer. Its 60 IBUs came roaring at me in the finish, which in and of itself wasn't a bad thing, but it was a bitter hop flavor, and I didn't really enjoy it.

Hop heads might though, as it seems like a combination of stout and IPA. It's a well-crafted beer with an over-ambitious finish, but don't let it stop you from picking one up if you enjoy a hoppy bite at the end.

Prost!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Malt Liquor

I felt like having a nice light-colored beer after the deliciousness that was Anchor Porter I had Monday, so I pulled a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse out of the fridge. Now, there are a couple of weird things about this beer. First of all, in spite of being from Germany, one of the country that knows how to make a good beer, they put it in a damn green bottle! Clear and green bottles are a big pet peeve of mine, but especially in this case because I've seen pictures of this beer in a brown bottle. Second of all, I would think that "Hefe-Weisse" would classify it as a hefeweizen, but apparently, in tiny text to the right of the logo on the label, it's clearly classified as a malt liquor. Apparently it's some weird classification thing, but it lumps good beers like this into Olde English 800 and other cheap "high gravity" beers. Third is the naming confusion. I've seen "Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse" (my bottle), "Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier," "Franziskaner Weissbier," and "Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell" (the hell is German for "bright"), and I think that these may all be the same things.

The Franziskaner brewery can trace its history back to 1363, when a brewer named Seidel Vaterstetter was first mentioned to own "the brewery next to the Franciscans [monks]" in the Munich Residenzstraße. The fact that it was across the street from the monastery is how Franziskaner got its name. After changing hands a couple times and merging with the Leist Brewery in 1861 and Spaten in 1922, Spaten-Franziskaner-Leistbräu AG has Munich artist Ludwig Hohlwein create Franziskaner's mascot, the "Franciscan Friar," which adorns each bottle to this day. I have no idea when Franziskaner was brought under the InBev name, but probably sometime in the last couple decades. InBev says it was sometime after 2001, and Wikipedia says 2004. My guess is that the weissbier has been brewed all this time, even before the German Purity Law, which this beer follows. (Printable Franziskaner history, About InBev, Franziskaner Wikipedia entry, InBev's Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse page)


Here are the stats:

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Malt Liquor
BREWERY: Spaten-Bräu, Munich, Germany (under the InBev umbrella)
FIRST BREWED: 1363
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 5.1%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

I got my first-brewed date inferred from the language of InBev's Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse page, where I also got the ABV.

The beer poured an exquisite cloudy golden color, meaning that it is unfiltered. The head exploded a white puffy cloud of bubbles from the bottom of the glass, though it reduced over the span of a minute or two. The aroma was very pleasing to the nose, a combination of orange and citrus with a hint of wheat. The taste was a little bubbly at first, but transitioned into a nice wheaty-citrus flavor. It wasn't too strong, but I feel it could've been a little stronger. The finish leaves a nice hint of wheat in the aftertaste, almost clean, without tasting stale.

This is a pretty good hefeweizen, and I still have no idea why it's called a malt liquor on the bottle. Because it's distributed by InBev and imported by Spaten, you can find it in a number of establishments.

Prost!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Anchor Porter

Today has been a hell of a day. After having a great weekend, I come back to work to be kept continually busy with meetings and things going wrong. I thought I was going to go insane with all the problems that kept cropping up. It was like facing the Hydra; when one problem was finished, two more popped up in its place. Then, on top of all that, my wife and I were cooking a pizza when it slipped off the oven rack during removal, having it land on the bottom of the oven and catch fire. We managed to smother the fire and wave out the smoke, but now our place smells like burnt pizza, and we of smoke.

That's when I decided to crack open one of the beers I purchased last Friday: an Anchor Porter. The Anchor Brewery was opened during in San Francisco in 1871 by German immigrant brewer Gottlieb Brekle as something different (name and date unknown). It was bought by another German immigrant brewer, Ernst F. Baruth (with his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.) in 1896. It was at this point that it was renamed the Anchor Brewery, and it continued the tradition laid down from its previous owner producing steam beer (or beer brewed under primitive conditions with no ice), or California Common beer. Steam beer is now a trademark of the Anchor Brewery. After surviving the 1906 earthquake, sudden deaths of owners, Prohibition, fires, and World War II, the effect of 1950's television advertising by the big boys hurt craft brewers, and the brewery was on the edge of closing for good. In 1965, a man by the name of Fritz Maytag bought a majority of the brewery for a few thousand dollars and slowly, but surely, turned the brand around. In 1972, their Anchor Porter was first brewed, bottled for the first time two years later. They now brew 8 beers at their Mariposa St. brewery and show no signs of stopping, thanks to the current microbrew wave that's been growing since the mid-1970's. (Anchor's history parts 1, 3, 5, and 6, Anchor Porter homepage)


Here are the stats:

Anchor Porter
BREWERY: Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1972
CALORIES/SERVING:
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 5.6%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS: 2-row barley
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

I got the first-brewed, ABV, and malt information from the Anchor Porter website. I will call the brewery tomorrow for some addition information.

This beer was a very dark brown, almost black color with a billowing tannish head that bubbled furvently, then suddenly stopping to keep its pillowy form. When I poured the rest of the beer, the head looked like a mountain range:


The aroma was a faint hint of dark chocolate, but its taste was more of a caffeination transitioning to a black coffee flavor. I certainly appreciated that their porter had a lot more flavor than the others had. The problem is with the aftertaste; it just kept building as I drank the beer, something I tend not to like about most beers in general. But, like I said, it had a good taste, so I can't complain.

I liked this beer a lot better than their Steam Beer and Liberty Ale, but that's my opinion. It has a rich enough flavor to stand out from other straight porters I've had before (save Alaskan's Smoked Porter). Pick one up the next time you're out and about.

Prost!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Alaskan IPA

I got a pleasant surprise last Friday when I came home from work. Back when I was researching my Alaskan Smoked Porter entry, I called up the brewery and talked with some people who worked there. Not to brag, but they were so impressed with the research I was doing and the amount of effort I put into the entry that they felt that I deserved some sort of prize. I was taken aback, not really expecting anything except information and a "Thanks for your interest," what I usually get from most breweries (if they respond at all). It arrived, overnighted from Juneau to Reno, on Friday. Here were the contents:


  • An Alaskan IPA hat
  • A portfolio filled with reprinted articles and information on every single beer they made
  • A thank-you note
  • A book, Smoked Beers, that was signed by co-owner Geoff Larson (the co-author of the book)
  • Three bottles of Alaskan IPA

I was taken aback again. Alaskan was so kind to provide me information and send me this nice stuff. They clearly didn't have to. Alaskan therefore gets my approval as the coolest brewery I've ever spoken to. They were friendly and laid-back enough to deal with the sometimes-invasive questions from a little blogger from Reno about their beer, and they spoke to me with class and respect. That's enough to get in my good books forever, but the swag didn't hurt either. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.


So, naturally, the IPA I received from them is the beer I tried. I would like to let you know, however, that the fact that I received swag will not influence my review in any way, shape, or form. I don't know when this beer was first brewed, but, like all their beers, the water comes from the Juneau Ice Field and rain, which Juneau receives 90 inches of annually. (Alaskan IPA homepage)



Here are the stats:

Alaskan IPA
BREWERY: Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska, USA
FIRST BREWED:
CALORIES/SERVING: 210 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 55 IBU
ABV: 6.2%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13.97° Plato (1057)
MALTS: "two-row and specialty"
HOPS: "European and Pacific Northwest"
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "grilled prawns, spicy food and as an aperitif"
AWARDS:


The IBUs, ABV, original gravity, malts, hops, and foods to pair with came from the Alaskan IPA homepage, and the caloric information came from a document I received from Alaskan via e-mail. I hope to get other information soon from another e-mail/phone call.


Now, my first impression of this beer is: "HOPS!" That assessment came from the smell, with the aroma almost being pure hoppiness, and a STRONG hoppiness at that. The beer was an amber color with a half-bubbly, half-foamy head that was emitting the intense hoppy scent. But I was pleasantly surprised by its taste. While there was a lot of hoppiness to it, it wasn't bitter, and in fact, transitioned to a nice buttery beer taste. The only thing I didn't like about the beer was its stale hoppy aftertaste, which seemed to grow with the beer, but eventually faded away.


When I spoke to Alaskan, they told me that this IPA was for people who don't like traditional IPAs, and I have to say that they're right. Most of the hoppiness is in the aroma, but it still has some hoppy taste to it. Not bad, in my opinion. I still have two more bottles to enjoy, and believe me, I will. You will too if you don't like your overly hopped-up IPA.


Prost!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Black Sheep Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale

The end is here! We have reached the top of the countdown!

The number 1 beer on the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is a beer that honors the great pioneers of wacky British comedy, Monty Python. It's...Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale! The bottles claims that it was "tempered over burning witches," but in actuality, it is brewed by Britain's Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. The history of the brewery isn't very long; it's only been around since 1992, started in Masham by Paul Theakston. However, his family has been brewing in Masham for six generations until the family brewery was bought out by Newcastle in 1987 after an arduous seventeen-year battle. Determined to continue brewing in Masham, Theakston built a new brewery and has brewed several different ales, including Holy Grail. That beer was released in 1999 in recognition of the 30 year anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus. And yes, according to The Foot crushing the Black Sheep logo on the bottle, it's official. (Black Sheep History, Eurobrew's Holy Grail page (US Importer))


Here are the stats:

Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale
BREWERY: Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire, England
FIRST BREWED: 1999
CALORIES/SERVING: per 500 mL bottle
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 4.7%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

I got the first brewed and ABV info from the beer's website on Eurobrew (you can also get the ABV from Black Sheep's own website).

This beer has a very alcoholy aroma to it when I poured it, but it wasn't strong enough to be smelled from a short distance. It poured a rich clear amber color with a white foamy head. When I tasted it, it definitely had a very hoppy flavor with strong hints of the underlying alcohol and rich grains. In spite of its hoppiness, it finished relatively cleanly, not leaving that much of an aftertaste in my mouth. It tasted like it had more alcohol in it than was shown on the websites.

It's a pretty decent ale with a good flavor and finish. Do yourself a favor and silly walk over to your nearest pub/liquor store and try out Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale if you're a Python fan. You don't even need to fight the Black Knight to get it.

Cheers!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Young's Old Nick Barley Wine

I have always been interested in having my share of barley wines, so I decided to choose one for the number 2 spot on the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown:" Young's Old Nick Barley Wine. This beer comes from across the pond, which is most apparent in the moniker "Old Nick," what the Brits have nicknamed Satan, The Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, or The Devil. (When I first heard of Old Nick, I thought they meant Santa, but I guess I just needed to rearrange some letters.)

Barley wine (alternately spelled barleywine) is a style of strong ale dating back to 18th or 19th century Britain. It actually originated out of Britain's constant wars against France, where true patriots always drank British ale over French wine. Therefore, to compete with France's high ABV wines, the Brits created a new beer style that had between 10 and 12% ABV. Apparently, the style wasn't called barley wine until 1903, when Bass created the name to describe their No. 1 Ale (I don't know what the style was called before). Since then, the style has become popular worldwide, with many US craft brewers, including Full Sail, Rogue, and Sierra Nevada, brewing their interpretation, usually naming it something beginning with "Old." (CAMRA - Barley Wine, Behemoth Brews: Barley Wine)

Young's was borne out of an inn in Wandsworth, The Ram, that was started in 1533 and added brewing in 1581. It changed hands a couple of times over the next three centuries until it was bought out by Charles Allen Young and Anthony Fothergill in 1831, establishing the Young's brand at The Ram and 80 other taverns. The Ram (a Dorset horned ram, to be exact) was registered as Young's trademark in 1893. When the brewery celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1981, Queen Elizabeth II showed up for the celebration. In 2006, Young's partnered with fellow brewer Charles Wells to create Wells & Young's Brewing Company Ltd. Under the agreement, The Ram brewery was sold and brewing of Young's was moved out of Wandsworth. (Young's History: 1533-1581, 1582-1831, 1832-1890, 1891-1981, and 2006)


Before we continue, I should note that this beer review may not be that accurate due to the fact that it expired in November 2006. It originally wasn't my beer; it is one of my wife's brother's beers he left over at his parents' house. I acquired it at some point a couple of months ago.



Here are the stats:

Young's Old Nick Barley Wine
BREWERY: Young & Co.'s Brewery PLC, London, England
FIRST BREWED:
CALORIES/SERVING: per 500 mL bottle
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 7.2%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS: Pale, Crystal
HOPS: Fuggle, Goldings
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

This information came from the bottle (ABV) and US importer Belukus Marketing's Young's Old Nick webpage (malts and hops). I may call them for additional info.

This beer poured a dark brown that was translucent if you looked hard enough through the glass (it's hard to tell because it's so dark). The head was an off-white tan-ish color that was foamy and light in appearance. I could detect a faint hint of dark chocolate in the beer's aroma. This trace was a lot more pronounced in the taste, which was a smooth mix of chocolate and alcohol. After a few more sips, a sweetness could be detected. The only problem is that I felt the alcohol was starting to settle, but I don't know if it was because the beer was expired or not. The aftertaste was creamy and not stale at all, even as I drank down to the higher alcohol parts. Like the Alaskan Smoked Porter, I began to feel warm inside while I was drinking this beer, probably because of the high alcohol content.

This is a pretty good beer. Like I said, it may not be a perfect review because of the expiration date, but the fact that it's still drinkable means that it can be kept well past it's Best By date like a fine wine. It has a Hell of a taste.

Cheers!

Site Updates

I received some information from the Widmer and Alaskan breweries yesterday that I had requested. Therefore, three beer reviews have been updated with new information:


Enjoy!


By the way, a new entry will be coming tonight. Tune in to see what #2 in my "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Widmer Broken Halo IPA

Happy Silver (25th) Beeriversary to me!

The third-to-last beer in the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is also the 25th beer I've reviewed for this blog, the Widmer Brewery's Broken Halo IPA. While Widmer has released many an IPA in the past, they have usually been as seasonals. Their first one that I know of was Spring Run IPA, which was brewed in the spring months until 2004. After changing their hopping technique and lowering the ABV slightly, an IPA was released as the first of their "W" series of craft beers for the first part of 2005 (the beer itself was called W'05). My guess is that the beer was such a success that it was re-branded as Broken Halo IPA in 2006, complete with a new logo and packaging. (I confirmed that W'05 and Broken Halo are almost identical.) The best part for hop-heads: this Widmer IPA is available year-round.


Here are the stats:

Widmer Broken Halo IPA
BREWERY: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
FIRST BREWED: 2005 (as W'05)
CALORIES/SERVING: 190 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 45 IBU
ABV: 6.0%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 14.25° Plato (1058.22)
MALTS: Pale, caramel 10L & 20L, carapils
HOPS: Alchemy, cascade, zeus
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 42-46°F (6-8°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Spicy hot foods like Mexican, Asian dishes, or hot wings"
AWARDS:

I got all information but the calories, awards, and serving temperature from Widmer's Broken Halo website. The rest came from e-mails to the brewery.

Once again, the aroma hit me like a ton of bricks. This time, it was a hoppy aroma that spilled forth from the beer as I poured it. Seeing as how it's an IPA, that's par for the course. The beer poured a cloudy golden-amber color with a nice foamy white head that took awhile to dissipate. The head itself was very hoppy and tickled my upper lip as I drank the beer. While this beer was hoppy, it didn't really turn me off to it (I'm not usually a fan of IPAs) and was quite drinkable. The only problem with the hoppier beers is that they tend to leave a bit of a dry aftertaste in my mouth, but that's quickly solved by drinking more of the beer.

Overall, I like this IPA, but it may be a little tame for total hop-heads. It's a good beer, but if you want a true hoppy adventure, stick with Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale. For those of us not so IPA-inclined, this one is a good-tasting romp through a hop patch.

Prost, and here's to at least 25 more beers reviewed!

UPDATE: I filled in some of the blanks from an e-mail I received on September 25th, 2007. Thanks so much David! I really appreciate it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Alaskan Smoked Porter (2006 Vintage)

The fourth-to-last beer in the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is the 2006 vintage of Alaskan Smoked Porter. It is brewed by the Alaskan Brewing Co., which was founded in 1986 in Juneau, Alaska by Geoff and Marcy Larson. They started out brewing their flagship Alaskan Amber beer from a recipe that was popular during Juneau's gold rush days a century earlier. Then, inspired by rumors of gold rush brewers using roasted malts in their brews, they teamed with local Taku Smokeries to roast some malts on some indigenous alder wood in 1988, releasing it Christmas Eve of that year.

Since then, it's been a runaway success, with a new vintage brewed in limited quantity each fall. This beer pretty much introduced smoked beer, known in Germany as rauchbier, to America. It was available only in Alaska until 1997, when it was released to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Northern California (it was brought into Northern Nevada in 2001, hence my pickup in Reno). It even was sold in the UK. The interesting thing about this beer is that the smoke acts as a bottle conditioning agent, which alters the flavor over time like a fine wine. This is similar to Deschutes and Hair of the Dog's bottle conditioning, but Alaskan uses a different catalyst. Because of this, it gains a uniqueness to the flavor that has made it the most award-winning beer at the Great American Beer Festival, which is fitting, considering that the brewery is the most award-winning craft brewery at the GABF. (Alaskan History, Alaskan Smoked Porter Stats and Story, two press releases, and a phone call to the brewery)

There are a lot of interesting facts surrounding this beer that I found out through my correspondence with the brewery. The smoker that they've used for every batch of Smoked Porter since 1988 is now owned by Alaskan so that the brewery can maintain consistent levels of quality. Like Hair of the Dog, Alaskan has a library of all their vintages, used mostly for vertical tastings of two or more vintages. Geoff Larson, co-founder of the brewery, co-wrote a book on smoked beers, appropriately called Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (you can find it at Amazon). Speaking of the Larsons, I hear tell that for vintages of a year or two old, they love serving them over vanilla ice cream with raspberries for dessert. (Note to self: try that out.)


Here are the stats:

Alaskan Smoked Porter
BREWERY: Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1988
CALORIES/SERVING: 225 per 12 oz. serving (or ~413 per 22 oz. bottle)
BITTERNESS: 45 IBU
ABV: 6.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 15.8° Plato (1065)
MALTS: "5 types", some of them smoked in small batches (the types are proprietary)
HOPS: "2 varieties" (the varieties are proprietary)
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 54°F (12°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Smoked seafood, cheese and other robust foods"
AWARDS: A ton...

All info but the calories per serving, the serving temperature, and some of the awards came from the Alaskan Smoked Porter website and the Alaskan Smoked Porter story, and the serving temperature came from Beers of the World. Awards came from press releases on their website, found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (That's a lot of press releases I waded through.) I confirmed during a phone call to Alaskan on September 24th, 2007 that the malts and hops are protected secrets, and the calories per serving came from an e-mail from them the next day.

Like Tuborg Gold, this beer has one powerful aroma; I could smell it back from where I was taking the picture. The nose was a mixture of smoke and chocolate that was pleasing to my nasal passages. When I poured the beer, it poured a dark brown, almost black color with a foamy light chocolate-colored head. The beer's taste was very distinctive, a chocolate-coffee flavor infused with the same smoky flavor that I smelled. The finish left a pleasant taste in my mouth (the aftertaste didn't grow stale), and my throat was warming me up from the inside.

This is a well-crafted beer. At times, I thought the smokiness overpowered the chocolate/coffee flavor a little too much, but that doesn't make it bad. Because of its bottle-conditioning nature, different flavors will emerge over time, so buy a couple of bottles and wait a year between each. It's easy to see why this beer from The Last Frontier has won so many awards. They brew a new vintage every November, so the 2007 should be available in a little over a month.

Prost!

UPDATES: I added some information I picked up from a phone call to the brewery at 4:10 PM PDT on September 24th, 2007. I received additional nutritional and fun factual information from them in an e-mail received the next day. The people I spoke to are very nice for taking the time to talk to a little-known beer blogger out of Reno. Props to Alaskan!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tuborg Gold Pilsner

Coming in at number 5 on the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is Tuborg Gold pilsner in the golden-brown bottle. I could actually find some information on this beer, because it's a very well-known Danish beer. The Tuborg Brewery was founded in 1873 in Copenhagen, and began brewing its flagship beer, Tuborg Grøn, in 1880. Tuborg names a few of its beers after the color of the label, with Grøn referring to the green label. Other beers named this way include Rod ("red") and Guld ("gold", the beer I'm having).

Tuborg Gold itself was first brewed in 1895 for export (but has since grown popular in Denmark), and is nicknamed "The Golden Lady" after the company made TV commercials for the beer in the late 1950's starring model and actress Anette Strøyberg, a Danish Brigitte Bardot. It is currently available in Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia, Turkey and Nepal, but somehow managed to find its way into my Beers of the World pack. The beer, like the others in the Tuborg line, have been brewed under the Carlsberg family of breweries since the two merged in 1970. (About Tuborg (UK) (requires age verification), Carlsberg's Tuborg Gold Page, Annette Vadim (Anette Strøyberg) IMDB Profile, Carlsberg's History)


Here are the stats:

Tuborg Gold Pilsner
BREWERY: Carlsberg Brewery, Copenhagen, Denmark
FIRST BREWED: 1895
CALORIES/SERVING: per 11.2 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 5.8%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS: "Lager"
HOPS:
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 41-46°F (5-8°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Fish dishes, spicy dishes
AWARDS:

I got the first brewed date, ABV, malts, serving temperature, and compatible foods from Carlsberg's Tuborg Gold website.

The first thing I noticed about the beer was its smell. This is a very aromatic beer, and I noticed the grainy smell from a couple feet away as I was taking that picture. The head was a half-foamy, half-bubbly white mixture, and it revealed a slightly cloudy golden-yellow beer in the glass. The taste was a very light grainy flavor with a slight metallic undertone that most pilsners have (I couldn't make out the fruit and nuts Carlsberg says I should be tasting, and I don't know what fennel is). While there wasn't a ton of flavor, the beer was very smooth and not at all acrid, finishing very cleanly and without aftertaste.

Overall, while this beer may not be the most flavorful, it's definitely one of the smoothest beers I've had, making it different from most pilsners. Try one if you're in Denmark (or Nepal, apparently).

Skål!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whitbread Pale Ale

At number 6 on the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown" is another beer from the Beers of the World multipack I grabbed from a BevMo! store: Whitbread Pale Ale. Its country of origin is England, so naturally it is an English Pale Ale style. What surprised me about this beer is the lack of information on it. I tried finding a product page about the beer, no luck. I tried searching on InBev's website (InBev brews this beer), no dice. I tried the US importer's website, and it doesn't exist. I couldn't find anything on Sam Adams' website either (they brew the US batch in their Cincinnati brewery). It's as if this beer doesn't really exist.

I do know, however, that Whitbread & Co. Ltd. was established in 1742 by Samuel Whitbread (his signature adorns the label) in swinging London, where and when this beer was first brewed. I also know that Whitbread has since expanded into many different other businesses, including hotels, coffee shops, conferencing centers, and the British TGI Friday's chain. They also brewed such beers as Boddington's and Mackeson Stout. I say "brewed" because Whitbread doesn't do it anymore; they sold their brewing operation to Belgian-owned Interbrew in 2000 for between £400-450 million. That's really all I could find out; if you know more, drop me a line by e-mail. (The bottle, Whitbread's website, BBC page on the Interbrew deal)


Here are the stats:

Whitbread (English) Pale Ale
BREWERY: InBev, Luton, Bedfordshire, England (a UK subsidiary of InBev, Leuven, Belgium)
FIRST BREWED: 1742
CALORIES/SERVING: per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS:
ABV: 5.7%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY:
MALTS:
HOPS: Styrian Golding
SERVING TEMPERATURE:
FOODS TO PAIR WITH:
AWARDS:

The ABV came from the RateBeer website, and the hops and first-brewed date came from the bottle. I may be able to find info from the importers in Cincinnati, as well as ask them why they don't have a website in this day and age.

At first, I thought that the overly-bubbly head was going to dissipate before I could get a good picture, but I was wrong; it stayed there for around a minute and a half, going from carbonated and bubbly to light and foamy, staying its clean-looking off-white color. The beer itself poured a dirty reddish-amber, which was beautiful to look at in the light. The beer's aroma was that of equal parts grain and hop, which lent itself well to the taste, also a grainy-hoppy mixture. It wasn't overly powerful on either end, but still had enough of each to register on the taste buds. The finish was just a little hoppy, but it eventually faded away. Beer shouldn't linger any longer than it has to.

I don't know where you can find it on its own, but if you can, check it out. Honestly, I haven't had a lot of EPAs, so I don't know if there are better or worse ones. But, its taste isn't that bad, so give it a try.

Cheers!