Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

Coming in at Number 6 on the Clean out the Fridge Countdown Part Deux is another brew from the Deschutes crew: Deschutes Obsidian Stout (for Deschutes' history, see my Black Butte Porter review). This beer, like so many from Bend's first brewery, is named after a nearby landmark, specifically the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located 13 miles south of Bend, which contains one of the world's largest obsidian flows (over 700 acres), called the Big Obsidian Flow. According to Deschutes' head brewer Brett Porter, Obsidian Stout has a solid following amongst beer drinkers, and is brewed using whole-flower hops, which means that the hops are not in pellet-form and allegedly give off a better aroma and flavor. They must be doing something right, because it has won a myriad of awards over the past decade. If you can, try it at their brewpub; it is served in nitrogenized form, where nitrogen and CO2 are infused into the beer to give it a smoother, creamier taste. (Cascades Volcano Observatory website, Deschutes Obsidian Stout website, phone call with Brett Porter)

Here come the stats:

Deschutes Obsidian Stout
BREWERY: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR, USA
STYLE: Stout
CALORIES/SERVING: 220 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 6.4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 16° Plato (1065.84)
MALTS: wheat, black barley, roasted barley, carapils, munich, higher-colored British caramel
HOPS: Nugget Willamette northern brewer
SERVING TEMPERATURE: Either room temperature or cold (in the fridge for 1 hour prior to drinking)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Chocolate, red meat, shellfish, oysters
AWARDS: A ton...

I got the calories, IBUs, ABV, and awards from the Deschutes Obsidian Stout website. The rest came from a phone conversation with head brewer Brett Porter on February 18, 2008. (Another cool guy who called me in the early evening on a holiday to answer my questions. I really appreciated the time he took for some Reno beer blogger.)

Like many stouts I've had, this one poured thick and black, with no light visible on the other side. Despite my best efforts to keep the foamy tan-colored head within the confines of the glass, it almost overflowed. A strong smell of roasted coffee and dark chocolate emitted from the beer, including, I think, a slight hint of smoked wood. The taste was a hoppy roasted coffee with a little carbonation, but it transformed into a strong hoppy finish. The beer was very velvety, and I really wish that I had some chocolate on-hand.

This beer has a lot more flavor than your average Guinness stout. Pick one up at a nearby retailer, or stop by their brewpub the next time you're in Bend (soon to expand to Portland).


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws (2007 Vintage)

Today, I opened up my fridge and found that I have a lot of beer in there. Which is usually good, except I keep wanting to buy more beer. However, I need to drink this beer before I buy more so that the beer I bought doesn't go bad and thus go to waste. Hence, I have decided to start another Clean out the Fridge Countdown. You at home can follow along with me as I go through all the beer that's in my fridge in no particular order.

From L to R: JosephsBrau Winterfest Lager, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws Barley Wine Ale, Buffalo Bill's America's Original Pumpkin Ale, Full Sail LTD #2 Lager, Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale, Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale

First on my list (and coming in at Number 7) is the 2007 vintage of Hair of the Dog's Doggie Claws (for brewery history, see Hair of the Dog Ruth), a barley wine that's "brewed in the west coast style." Brewed in September/October of every year and released in November, it's a winter seasonal that will truly warm you up with it's 11.5% alcohol content. This is officially the strongest beer I've had, with HotD's other strong beers, Adam and Fred, being the runners up. This will mark the fourth Hair of the Dog beer I've had, and I haven't been disappointed yet. I'm expecting this one to pack a wallop.

After speaking with Alan Sprints, he revealed that it was first brewed in 2000 as "Fido" and it was only available on draught when he entered it in the Toronado Barley Wine Festival (which is actually going on right now in San Francisco). He bottled it one year later and changed its name to Doggie Claws. He now brews 350 cases a year, half of which is sold at the brewery and the rest is sold in Oregon and Washington. Every November, he throws a big release party, an event that I'll have to attend sometime soon.

Here come the stats:

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
BREWERY: Hair of the Dog Brewery, Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: West-coast barley wine
FIRST BREWED: 2000 (draught), 2001 (bottle)
CALORIES/SERVING: ~200 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 11.5% (my bottle says 11%)
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 25.67° Plato (1110)
MALTS: Organic pilsner, British crystal
HOPS: Amarillo, simcoe
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Spicy cold cuts, cured meats, pizza, ginger cake
AWARDS: 2006 Hard Liver Barleywine Fest 1st Place

I got the style, IBUs, and ABV from the Doggie Claws webpage, and the award came from the Hard Liver Barleywine Festival Past Winners site. The rest came from an interview with Alan Sprints on Saturday February 16th. (By the way, I thought it was really awesome that he called me back on the weekend. He's a classy guy and I appreciate him taking the time to talk to a little blogger like me.)

Once I opened the bottle, I first noticed the hoppy aroma that radiated from the bottle. It poured a clear amber color and produced a foamy off-white head. The interesting thing about this beer is that over a matter of minutes, the beer grew darker and less transparent, evidenced in this photo:

The taste was hoppy, but not overly so; I could taste the 11%-plus alcohol content and the honey that came from Mt. Hood. The aftertaste started off sweet and alcoholic, but transformed into a little bit of the hoppy taste that I don't like; however, that did not deter me from drinking this beer. And I was right: it did get me buzzed.

This beer is a great value for the price and ABV and is one of the most interesting barley wines I've had. Pick up one the next time you're in Washington, Oregon, California, New York, or Denmark (random distribution, I know).


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Steinhaus Fat Weasel Ale

A couple things before I get into tonight's review: I know I haven't been updating this blog very often. I've been going through a couple changes in my life, from holidays as part of a new family to shifting job responsibilities and overtime on important projects. Now that the rush season appears over, I can return to reviewing that sweet sweet alcoholic liquid known as beer.

Also, for some reason changes to Blogger's internal template handling caused my JavaScripts to go offline since I don't know when. They should be working now.

At our annual Super Bowl party, a friend of mine brought over a beer I had never heard of before: Steinhaus Brewery's Fat Weasel Ale. I asked him to leave one behind so I could try it out. I had never even heard of Steinhaus Brewery; according to the bottle, it's based out of Paso Robles, California, known for acclaimed brewer Firestone Walker. I did a little digging and, according to RateBeer, it actually is either a product of Firestone Walker Brewing Co., also based in Paso Robles, or Mendocino Brewing Co. in Hopland, California. My guess is that Firestone Walker does do the brewing, but I can check up on that. Also, it appears that this is another Trader Joe's exclusive brew, similar to JosephsBrau, though I don't know for sure. (RateBeer Fat Weasel Ale, RateBeer Fat Weasel Pale Ale)

Here come the limited stats:

Steinhaus Fat Weasel Ale
BREWERY: Steinhaus Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA, USA
STYLE: Pale Ale or IPA
ABV: 7.1%

I guessed on the style based on the taste of the beer, and the ABV was on the bottle. I'll try to find out who really brews this beer and get the info out of them.

Speaking of the bottle, this caught my eye:

The brewery is misspelled "Stienhaus Brewery Co.", though I'm not sure about the spelling myself. If it really is Stienhaus, then the joke's on me.

This beer poured out a thick cloudy copper color, atop of which was a thick, foamy white head that took awhile to fully dissipate. When I smelled it, it had an aroma of fruits, grains, and a hint of citrus, almost lemony. I took a taste, and my initial impression is that it reminded me of an IPA because of its hoppy and carbonated textures. I thought for a second that I had tasted metal, but that may have been the hops. The aftertaste was mostly clean, but after every subsequent sip the bitter taste of the hops lingered and built upon itself. Meh. At least the alcohol didn't settle on the bottom like some beers.

The hoppiness of the beer was definitely an IPA or an APA, though it wasn't spectacular. Then again, I'm not an IPA person. If you want to pick one up, you can find it at your local Trader Joe's. I don't know about availability, unfortunately.