Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead #12

I finally got my hands on a bottle!

Ever since I've found out about this beer in my Beers of the World book, I've wanted one. I have always been a fan of the barley wine: its thickness, its ability to warm you from the inside, its high alcohol content, and especially its rich flavor. I have not reviewed too many barley wines, the only ones being Young's Old Nick and Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws.

BridgePort Old Knucklehead marks my second Oregon barley wine and my second BridgePort beer reviewed, my first being Ebenezer Ale (see that entry for a history of BridgePort). First brewed in 1989, this beer was designated a BridgePort Big Brew in February 2008. The batch I have, number 12, was aged in American Oak Bourbon barrels and blended back into the cask, which adds a wealth of flavor and complexity to the brew. The numbers not only correspond to the batch, but used to also designate a "knucklehead," or someone who has contributed to the brewing process. I'm not sure to whom #12 is or if they even do that anymore. Oh, and I believe it's bottle conditioned too, but it doesn't say so on the bottle. More fodder for the e-mail. (BridgePort - Our Beers → Old Knucklehead)

Here come the stats:

BridgePort Old Knucklehead #12
BREWERY: BridgePort Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Barley wine
FIRST BREWED: 1989 (this vintage brewed 2008)
ABV: 9.1%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 20.8° Plato (1087.32)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Desserts, by itself as "an after-dinner libation" (Beers of the World also suggests sausage casserole)
AWARDS: 2002 Brewing Industry International Awards (silver medal), 2000 Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival (2nd place), rated "Highly Recommended" by the Beverage Tasting Institute in 2002

I got all but the calories, malts, hops, and serving temp from the Old Knucklehead page. (Since they've switched to Flash, you need to go to Our Beers and click "Old Knucklehead".) The serving temp came from Beers of the World. A phone call or e-mail may get me the rest of the info.

This beer has a strong aroma, most evident as I poured it into my glass. It definitely had a malty syrupy nose that had just a little sweetness to it. A clear brown color also exposed an off-white, almost tan-colored head. The beer itself had a little bit of sweetness to it, but quickly transformed into an alcoholy malt flavor that, like the smell, was syrupy and thick. Because of all the alcohol (I mean, it is 9.1%), that was the flavor left in my mouth, which to me tastes similar to a hop aftertaste, but better.

This beer is excellently crafted, and I can appreciate its complexity. Since I had it laying around for almost a year in varying temperatures, who knows what a fresh Knucklehead, or one that further conditions for another year or two, will taste. Pick one up in the next month or so. Hell, grab three or four and let some sit for awhile before trying them.

Also: Stay tuned to The Beerocrat because next I will get to some beers I've been dying to review: Trappist beers!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blue Dawg Wild Blue

I have no idea where or when I picked up this beer, but I know that I got it at some point from a friend. I think it was the one who moved to San Diego four months ago because he gave me a few beers that were lingering in his fridge before the move. Anyway, when I was trying to figure out what to have tonight, I found the Blue Dawg Wild Blue blueberry lager in the back of the fridge and decided to give it a go.

It is allegedly brewed by the Blue Dawg Brewery out of Baldwinsville, New York. I say "allegedly" because the Blue Dawg Brewery is a special group within Anheuser-Busch. It may be brewed in Baldwinsville, but it's still a product of the big three. I wonder why A-B needs to hide behind an obscure brewery to produce a decent beer; my guess is that the beer snobs would never go for a Budweiser Blue Lager because they hate the big three, and the economy/regular beer drinkers would get Bud, Busch, or Natty Light instead. Coors takes a similar line with Blue Moon, and I'm sure Miller has a similar situation with some craft beer, although none come to mind at the moment.

After digging a little, I found some information about this particular beer. It was first brewed in 2005 and released to a few cities in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, after which it was further test-marketed in St. Louis in December 2007; it was nationally released last year. A-B decided that it was good enough to put in the Fruit Beer category at the 2006 North American Beer Awards. It was a smart decision too, winning the gold that year. (Wild Blue product info)

Here come the stats:

Blue Dawg Wild Blue
BREWERY: Blue Dawg Brewey, Baldwinsville, NY, USA; Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO, USA
STYLE: "Fruit-infused lager"
ABV: 8%
MALTS: 2- and 6-row barley
HOPS: "Aroma hops" from the Willamette Valley, "German hops" from the Hallertau region of Bavaria
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "pork rib roast with fig and pistachio stuffing ... pork tenderloin with apricot mustard ... fruit salad with ginger syrup ... mixed-green salad with dried fruit"
AWARDS: 2006 NABF Gold Medal (Fruit Beer)

The bulk of this information came from the Wild Blue product info page. I will try to get some info from the brewery, but a lot will probably be proprietary, and besides, who at big three breweries ever listen to a little ol' blogger like me?

This beer caught my eye with its reddish-purplish color and light purple head, but now that I know it's by A-B, I'm sure that was an intentional gimmick; the color probably comes from the blueberry syrup that they added to the beer. The head itself was very bubbly but thin, and it didn't last long. It had the pleasant aroma of blueberries with subtle hoppiness. However, the beer itself was a little too carbonated and tasted too much like alcohol, although the blueberry flavor was the dominant one. The alcohol of this beer definitely settled towards the bottom, though, especially as the beer went flat (and it went flat quickly). The aftertaste was sugary and fruity, once again with the blueberry in the lead.

This beer was a little too sugary for my taste, seeming to be a step or two above Smirnoff Ice, mostly because the sugar didn't leave that weird residue in my mouth this time around. This is a beer for people who don't like the taste of beer, similar to lambic beers but produced like a macrobrew. If you want a fruit beer, you could try this one, but I'd stick to the real fruit beers like Lindemans.


Widmer Okto

For the last two or so years, I've always wanted to try this beer. Unfortunately, whenever I ran to the stores to try and grab one, they were always sold out, and the season was always almost over. Finally, when I was in Portland during Labor Day 2008, I managed to find this beer (with the help of my parents).

I don't know much about the history of Widmer Okto, such as how it came about and when it was first brewed. Those will be asked in an e-mail I send to Widmer. (I'm gonna have them running around for a long time!) I do know that this beer is a Munich style ale intended to match the style of beer found at Oktoberfests worldwide. Widmer itself holds an annual Oktoberfest in Portland, with food, music, and a lot of good beer. Sounds like a party to me.

Here come the stats:

Widmer Okto
BREWERY: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Munich Style Ale
ABV: 5.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13° Plato (1052.85)
MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Munich 60L, Extra Special, Carapils Malt
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Mt. Hood, Tettnanger
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Grilled bratwurst, burgers & other hearty fall fare"

Most of my information comes from Widmer's Okto webpage. An e-mail to the brewery is in order for the rest of them.

This beer poured a dark amber, but not dark brownish, color with an accompanying small cream-colored bubbly head. I really enjoyed the nose of this beer, which contained malts, hops, and a slight hint of fruit. The taste was a little too carbonated, in my opinion, but then the maltiness came through along with some citrus flavors. The aftertaste was faint and malty, and didn't wear out its welcome.

I enjoyed this beer, like I do so many other Widmer beers. This would be a great beer for any occasion, but especially for your local Oktoberfest. Since it's available nationwide (except Utah and Oklahoma) between early August and late October, I guess you'll just have to wait until then.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Widmer Brrr

This was the other (actually, the first) beer that I snagged in Portland over my Christmas vacation. At the time, most of the northern states, including Oregon, were buried under massive amounts of snow; Portland in particular had 15 inches of the white stuff between December 20th and December 24th, when my wife and I landed at PDX. It was amazing that we were even able to fly into the airport at 1 in the morning. We honestly consider it a miracle that we made it.

While stocking up on some supplies at the Safeway in town, I couldn't help but notice that there was a new Widmer brew for sale: Brrr, described on the bottle as a "seasonal ale." What was the most shocking about finding this beer was that there were no 6-packs of Widmer's traditional winter seasonal, Snow Plow Milk Stout. A little research reveals that their website has changed the availability to "Limited Release," whatever that means. I think I need to place an e-mail to the brewery and find out what's what.

As far as Brrr is concerned, this is a new brew, coming out as Widmer's first new winter seasonal in four years. It's possible that this may have been brewed before 2008, but only served in their Gasthaus Pub; I'm checking on that. Speaking of which, Gasthaus says that their beer has "[n]otable hop aroma and flavor" and "[s]tealthly alcohol content." I guess when you clock in at 7.2% ABV, it should be classified as "stealthy." (Widmer Newsletter from Nov 11 2008, Widmer Brrr website, Gasthaus Pub's What's on Tap)

Here come the stats:

Widmer Brrr
BREWERY: Widmer Brother Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Seasonal Ale
ABV: 7.2%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 17° Plato (1070.25)
MALTS: Pale, Caramel 10L & 80L, Munich 10L, Carapils, Dark Chocolate
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Simcoe & Cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Holiday favorites like turkey and ham"

I got most of this from Widmer's Brrr website. An e-mail to Widmer should net me the rest.

When I originally went to taste this beer, it had been frozen solid by my stupid beer fridge (speaking of "brrr"), so I let it thaw in the fridge for a couple days, drinking and reviewing Hinano Tahiti instead. When it was ready and I finally poured it into the glass, it had a gorgeous dark reddish-brown color with some flecks (probably yeast or remnants of the freezing). The head was a puffy light tannish color. The nose was very hoppy and reminded me a lot of Widmer's own Broken Halo IPA (they use the same or similar malts and hops in each), though not as strong. This beer, however, had a stronger hop flavor than Broken Halo, and was carbonated to boot. Like many IPAs, this beer did leave that hoppy aftertaste in my mouth.

This is the problem I have with reviewing IPA-style beers. One may think that I'm bad-mouthing this beer because I didn't particularly enjoy its flavor, and that is blatantly false. Is Widmer Brrr a good, well-crafted beer? Yes. Did I enjoy its flavor? No, because IPAs aren't my beer style of choice; stouts, porters, and strong ales are. However, anyone who enjoys IPAs will love this beer hands down. It is a well-crafted beer, yet another winner from Widmer, and perfect for hop-heads. Me? I'll be stealing some bottle-conditioned Snow Plow from my father-in-law's fridge. Mmmm.

Widmer says it was only available through the first week of January, but if you hurry, you may still find some on the shelves.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hinano Tahiti

When I was in Portland over Christmas, I went shopping at the local Cost Plus World Market to see what their beer selection was like compared to Reno. I have to say that while a lot of beers were the same, they had some pretty cool beers from other countries (I found a Norwegian beer named "Ø"!). One of my finds was a Tahitian beer by the name of Hinano Tahiti, which I snatched up.

From what I gathered on their website and on the bottle, this beer was first brewed in Tahiti in 1955. For the opening year they went all out, engraving their distinctive "vahine" (Tahitian for "woman" or "girl") logo onto their bottles and launching the Miss Hinano festival. They then expanded internationally: China got Hinano Tahiti in 1960, Japan in 1991, and France in 1992; it is unknown when it was imported into the United States for the first time. The 33 cL longneck bottle (the size I bought) was introduced in 1998. I still have no idea what "Hinano"'s probably Tahitian for something. I asked that question in the e-mail (Website)

Here come the stats:

Hinano Tahiti
BREWERY: Brasserie de Tahiti S.A., Papeete, Tahiti
U.S. IMPORTER: Young's Market Company, Orange, CA, USA
STYLE: Lager, maybe a pilsner
ABV: 5%
AWARDS: "Gold medal in Luxembourg, Brussels"

This information either came from the bottle or Hinano Tahiti's website, which is unfortunately Flash-based to prevent direct linking. I plan on sending an e-mail to both Brasserie de Tahiti S.A. and Young's Market Company asking them about additional information on this beer.

For an 11.15 oz. beer, this one almost overflowed my glass (probably because it took a little tumble just before I took it out of my beer fridge). It poured a pale yellow color, almost like a slightly opaque straw color, but the accompanying head was puffy, bright white, and long-lasting. The smell had a mixture of metal and citrus, which reminded me of pilsners. The taste pretty much reflected its nose, except I could taste the carbonation and bitterness. Its aftertaste originally held the same taste slightly, then changed to a wheaty taste, but after the first few sips, that pilsner taste was all I could taste (leading me to say "taste" six times this sentence...I think I need to go to bed). I'm sure part of the reason my tastebuds had trouble with this beer is that it was served just above freezing thanks to a fridge malfunction.

All in all, not a bad beer, especially if you enjoy those Central and Eastern European pilsners like Pilsner Urquell. Not my cup of tea, but people like bitterness more than I do. I have no clue on distribution, but it's probably only found in select stores on the West Coast.

À votre santé !

UPDATE: Special thanks to Hinatea, who told me that "vahine" means "woman", "girl", or "lady", and that "cheers" translates to "manuia".