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Monday, March 31, 2014

Jalapeno Imperial IPA – Alaskan Brewing Company


                As many of you know, I love beer.  Heck, I wouldn’t have started this blog if I didn’t enjoy talking about, writing about, and drinking beer.  Coincidentally I also really like spicy foods, so when one of my friends mentioned last week that Alaskan Brewing Company released a Jalapeno Imperial IPA, I knew that I had to try it.  Alaskan Brewing releases very good beers, so I was pretty sure that their newest Pilot Series beer would be enjoyable.  I was not sure if the spicy jalapenos would play nice with the hops, but I will get more into that at the end of the post.  However, with my love of spice, my previous enjoyment of Alaskan Brewing Company beers, and my increasing enjoyment of imperial IPAs, I was intrigued.  Read on for more info…

                At Beeradvocate, Jalapeno Imperial IPA has a score of 86.  Over at ratebeer, it has an 89 overall with a 95 for style.


They Say:

Pilot Series

The Alaskan Pilot Series showcases the boundless creativity of the Alaskan Brew Crew through a rotating collection of big, bold and distinctive brews packaged in 22 oz bottles. Each new recipe is first perfected in our 10-barrel pilot brewhouse, then tested through our Rough Draft series of draft-only beers. Those special brews that fly beyond expectations ascend to a limited release in the Alaskan Pilot Series.

The specialty beers in our Pilot Series are available in limited quantities throughout the states where Alaskan beers are sold. Because this is a rotating collection, we recommend trying our Pilot Series brews soon after their release date - they may not be around for long!

Style

The American Imperial IPA style was developed and made popular by west coast American breweries seeking to create a highly intense drinking experience. The style is most often characterized by a gold or copper color, citrus hop character, big malt body and lingering bitterness. The addition of jalapeño peppers lends itself to furthering this intensity, while effortlessly pairing with the style’s hop profile.

Flavor Profile

This Jalapeño Imperial IPA is fresh from the onset, with a quartet of bright hops playing off zesty jalapeño heat. A lustrous head retains the citrusy combination of Centennial, Sterling, Magnum and Apollo hops. Fresh jalapeños are used not only during brewing, but also after fermentation for a pleasant aroma, full-bodied flavor and genuine picante kick. A sweet bready malt backbone provides balance to the peppery fire. 

History

Alaskan brewers set out on a quest to brew up a hop-forward beer with a smooth malt body and just enough heat to stave off the cold of an Alaskan winter. In the spirit of exploration, and as a challenge to their skill, they sought to maximize the flavor of jalapeño. The result is a well-balanced beer that showcases not just the volcanic power of the jalapeño pepper, but also its flavor and aroma.

Ingredients

Alaskan Jalapeno Imperial IPA is made from glacier-fed water, the finest quality Centennial, Sterling, Magnum, and Apollo hops, premium two-row and specialty malts, and a whole lot of fresh jalapeños.

Recommendations

A complex hop build and jalapeño kick make this beer a perfect pairing for pub fare, such as fish and chips and cheeseburgers. Rich foods like red meats and cheeses will pull out the malty characteristics, but ultimately South and Central American food is the partner this brew was born to tango with.

The Story Behind the Label

Forming the Northern part of the seismically-active Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands are home to dozens of active volcanoes, making up over three quarters of the volcanoes that have erupted in the past 200 years in the U.S.  The largest 20th century explosion on earth occurred here, the 1912 eruption of Novarupta and Katmai, which formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. While Alaska is often thought of as a cold place, this unexpected heat is also a part of who we are, and the jalapeño heat in this double IPA provides a reminder that you may be surprised by what you find in Alaska. The volcano pictured on our label is Augustine, named by Captain Cook in 1778, which is the most active of the eastern Aleutian volcanoes and is often seen letting off steam in Cook Inlet. 

Stats:
Original Gravity: 1.081
Alcohol by Volume: 8.5%
Bitterness: 70 IBU
Color: 15 SRM


I Say:

                Alaskan Jalapeno Imperial IPA pours a brilliantly clear copper with a thick creamy white head that holds moderate retention and leaves intricate lacing behind in the glass.  This is a gorgeous beer to look at but no one ever pours a beer with the intention of staring at it, so moving on…  Mild citrus hops immediately come to the forefront on this beer, with notes of bready and caramel malts.  Fresh, green jalapeno comes in just behind the hops and malt.  The spicy jalapeno carries through to the finish with a hint of orange.  The aroma is pleasantly complex, an excellent combination of citrusy hops, and spicy peppers.

                Bready malts and orange citrus hops come to the forefront in the flavor with a dose of fresh green jalapenos rounding out the hops.  Lingering citrus and jalapeno carry throughout the flavor and linger long after the last sip.  The jalapeno is only moderately spicy, but the combination of the spicy jalapeno, orangey citrus hops and bready malts work well together.  Jalapeno Imperial IPA is moderately malty with a moderately high level of hop bitterness.  It is medium bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation.

                Alaskan Brewing Company’s Jalapeno Imperial IPA is a great beer!  Going into this, I didn’t think that Jalapenos would work well in an IPA because hop bitterness enhances spice, so I thought one would overwhelm the other.  Fortunately though, the spice is subtle enough, and the bitterness is smooth enough that the two do not interfere with each other.  The citrusy hops, bready malts, and jalapenos all work together excellently in this beer, although I find myself wishing there was a more heat.  That doesn’t highlight a deficiency with the beer more than just a personal preference on my part.  In fact, it’s probably better that the spice isn’t more pronounced because the subtle spicing will get more people to enjoy this beer and go back for a second bottle.

                If you are new to spicy beers, pick this one up, it will be an excellent introduction to the joys of brewing with peppers.  I know I will be picking up a few more bottles the next time I see Jalapeno Imperial IPA on a shelf and isn’t that really the best thing anyone can say about a great beer?
                
                That’s all for today, check back soon for the next post!
                
                Cheers!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lazy Marmot – Grand Teton Brewing Co



                It’s getting to be that time of year again when the first Grand Teton Brewing Cellar Reserve beer is released.  Year round, the good folks at Grand Teton produce solid beers that are for the most part underrated, but where they really shine is in their seasonal Cellar Reserve releases.  The first release for this year is their Lazy Marmot Maibock Lager.  I contacted brewmaster Rob Mullin to get some insights into this beer that were not included in the press and got some great feedback, including the insight that Lazy Marmot is almost twenty years in the making.  I have a lot of respect for Rob and am grateful for his additional insight.  As usual, the press release contains some great information about the style, and is worth the read.

True to form, brewmaster Rob Mullin and his team chose to brew with local ingredients, with the base malt being Idaho 2-row instead of the more traditional Pilsner malt.  The difference being that pilsner malts produce a more delicate malt flavor that is crisper and cleaner than 2-row, whereas 2-row is smoother, maltier, and a little bready.  I was unsure what to expect from a maibock with a 2-row base malt, rather than the crisper pilsner.  However, the Grand Teton crew has produced consistently excellent Cellar Reserve beers in the past, so I went into the beer without any preconceptions, taking it as it was and hoping that the decision to switch out the pilsner malt for a local American 2-row would be a be a good decision.

                With that said, on to the review.  I am sure that over the next couple weeks there will be a score for Lazy Marmot on the two main beer review sites, but as of now there is no score and no reviews on either Beeradvocate or ratebeer.


They Say:

GRAND TETON BREWING COMPANY RELEASES
Lazy Marmot Maibock

VICTOR, ID – Grand Teton Brewing Company, known throughout the West for their exceptional craft brews, is proud to announce the release of Lazy Marmot Maibock, the first in their 2014 Cellar Reserve series. 

Lazy Marmot is brewed squarely in the German tradition. Grand Teton Brewing used Idaho 2-Row Pale along with German Vienna and CaraHell malts for a clean, slightly sweet flavor, then subtly spiced the brew with German Tradition hops. They fermented with lager yeast from a monastery brewery near Munich and allowed it to ferment and condition for more than three months for a smooth yet crisp character.

In Germany, strong lagers are called “bocks” or “bock biers.”  There is some dispute over the origin of the designation. “Bock” in German also means goat, and that animal often appears on labels as a symbol of the style. Some say bocks are brewed for the season of Capricorn, which includes Christmas, while others say that the beer has the “kick of a goat.”

The historically-minded staff at Grand Teton like to credit the style’s originators, the people of Einbeck, in northern Germany. The beers that gave Einbeck the nickname, “City of Beer”, were first brewed in the 14th and 15th centuries. They were brewed very strong because they were sent long distances, fermenting on the way. Before long, Einbeck, pronounced Ein-bock by the southerners of Bavaria, became famous for its strong beers, which came to be known simply as “bocks.”

Einbeck is a beautiful medieval city, architecturally distinctive for the one story--or taller--arches that grace each house. These arches allowed entry of the town brew kettle, which passed from house to house according to a lottery held each year on May 1st. A pale bock brewed to commemorate the lottery became the city’s most celebrated beer—Maibock.

Try Lazy Marmot Maibock as an aperitif to stimulate the taste buds, or with any flavorful fish, such as trout or salmon.   

Alcohol by Volume:  7.8%
Original Gravity (Plato): 18° P
International Bitterness Units: 18
Color (Lovibond): 10°

Lazy Marmot Maibock will be available February 15th, 2014 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:
The Maibock is a blast from the past for me. I started brewing professionally 23 years ago at Old Dominion, a lager brewery in Northern Virginia. For years we only brewed lagers, including our flagship Dortmunder Export Dominion Lager and our spring seasonal, Dominion Maibock. 

Although we didn't use the strain commercially at Old Dominion, I did acquire the Lazy Marmot's lager yeast around that time. I've carried it with me from brewery to brewery for almost twenty years, before finally banking it at White Labs. We used it this time at a very low temperature (48F) over a long time (twelve weeks total in the tanks) for a very traditional, smooth malty lager flavor. It brought back many great memories.


I Say:
 
Lazy Marmot pours a slightly hazy light honey in color with a moderately thick, creamy, bright white head that holds excellent retention through almost the entire glass.  It leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind.  The aroma is very malty with sweet and lightly toasted notes that blend well with slight herbal hop notes, and a hint of sweet alcohol.

                The flavor is very rich and malty with biscuit and honey malt notes.  Herbal, and slightly spicy, hop notes give way to a hint of sweet alcohol warmth on the back end that compliments the complex maltiness.  This is a very well balanced beer, with a moderately high maltiness and a moderate level of hop bitterness.  Lazy Marmot is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                Maibocks are one of my favorite styles in the spring, and Lazy Marmot is definitely a very good example of the style!  The brewers at Grand Teton have once again brewed an excellent beer that is worthy of inclusion in the Cellar Reserve series.  I know that I will be on the lookout for it when cases start arriving in Wisconsin, and you should be too!  The hops will likely fade and the malt will become increasingly more complex as this beer ages.  I for one am going to pick up at least four bottles, 2 for immediate consumption and two for extended cellaring.
               
Well, that’s all for today, check back soon for another post!
               
Happy Drinking!



It’s getting to be that time of year again when the first Grand Teton Brewing Cellar Reserve beer is released.  Year round, the good folks at Grand Teton produce solid beers that are for the most part underrated, but where they really shine is in their seasonal Cellar Reserve releases.  The first release for this year is their Lazy Marmot Maibock Lager.  I contacted brewmaster Rob Mullin to get some insights into this beer that were not included in the press and got some great feedback, including the insight that Lazy Marmot is almost twenty years in the making.  I have a lot of respect for Rob and am grateful for his additional insight.  As usual, the press release contains some great information about the style, and is worth the read.

Friday, January 3, 2014

17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA – Stone Brewing Co.



                As I am sure many of you are aware, an IPA is best when fresh, with the hop character fading quickly in some and at a slower rate in others.  Stone Brewing is a big proponent of drinking their beers as fresh as possible, most notably with their Enjoy By series, which is great if you have ready access to Stone beers and can pick up a bottle shortly after its release.  Up here in Wisconsin that isn't an option, and hasn't been for a few years.  Personally, I get my Stone beers from Colorado when family comes out to visit or on a rare trip down to Illinois where Stone is still readily available.  The 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA is one of the former.  Sure, it came out on August 14, 2013 but I didn't have a bottle in hand until mid-December.  Heck, I almost didn't grab my notebook to take notes on 17th Anniversary because I was convinced that there wouldn't be much life left to this beer.  Then I remembered a speech Mitch Steele gave at the Home Brewers Conference last year, mentioning that many of the newer Stone beers were holding their intended flavor far longer than expected, so I grabbed my book, popped open the beer and prepared to take notes on it so that I could compose a post for all you nice folks who take an interest in my opinions.  On to the review!

                On Beeradvocate, 17th Anniversary has a score of 88, with the bros giving it a 90.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 98 overall with a 92 for style.

They Say:

                Our latest anniversary beer, starring an all-German cast of malt and hops, is yet one more glorious example of a Stone IPA brewed outside the box. Our brewers have brought their experiments with German hops to fruition, leaving convention behind to create this hefty IPA entirely with pilsner malts. These provide a superbly crisp mouthfeel, while a unique mix of noble and new-school hop varieties adds layers of bright, bitter flavors. Despite the daunting name, this beer isn't designed to bring about the end of the world, but it just might destroy some of your preconceived notions of what an IPA can be. 

Brewmaster Mitch Steele’s Tasting Notes
Appearance - Pours deep gold and brilliantly crystal clear with an off-white colored head of foam.

Aroma - Focused on hoppy, with herbal and stone fruit hop aromatics.

Taste - European hops-herbal, floral, spicy, peppery and resiny, balanced by very clean, intensely bitter, beautiful subtle malt flavors, and just a hint of alcohol.

Palate - Crisp and bitter. A very refreshing beer; well suited for the summer!

Overall - A very fun beer for us to brew. Through a series of intense dry-hopping trials that we have been running over the past couple of years, we found several newer German hop varieties that we thought were unique and different from the citrusy American hops and fruity New Zealand hops that we have been using so much of this year. An interesting twist on a Double IPA (a German IPA, perhaps?), brewed with malts and hops traditionally used to brew German lagers and European pilsners. Some of the hops we included in this recipe include Strisselspalt, which has long been one of my favorite noble hops, with a delicate floral character and hints of citrus; Sterling, a US-bred hop with Saaz heritage, and is a hop we haven't used much before, but we just love the intense resiny and spicy pure hop flavor; Herkules, a newer high-alpha German hop variety with intense stone fruit and tropical fruit characteristics; and Hersbrucker, a classic German aroma hop with intense floral and stone fruit flavors.

Suggested Pairings by "Dr." Bill Sysak
Appetizers - Honey-ginger chicken skewers, crab cakes, grilled peaches with blue cheese, Marcona almonds

Salads - Citrus with goat cheese, summer fruit, Thai seafood, Waldorf

Main Courses - Rotisserie chicken, Cajun shrimp and grits, tofu stir fry, cedar plank salmon

Desserts - Peach cobbler, carrot cake, rhubarb pie, lemon squares

Cheeses - Grana Padrano, Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Green Mountain Blue Cheese, Point Reyes Blue

Cigars - Drew Estate Herrera Esteli, Montecristo Platinum Churchill, My Father Flor de las Antillas Toro, Illusione Epernay Le Martin

Youtube Video: 



I Say:

                 Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA pours a hazy golden amber with a thick, creamy, white head that holds excellent retention and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  The aroma is surprisingly strong and complex with a strong up front floral and almost peach-like hop aroma backed up with a subtle spiciness and a hint of herbal hops throughout.  The soft pilsner malts definitely come forward in the aroma, although there is no doubt that this is a west coast hopped IPA, regardless of the malt and hop combination used.  The strong hoppy aromas seem like they will lead to a strong hop bitterness, even though the two aren’t necessarily correspondent.

                The flavor has a considerable floral flavor up front that intermingles with clean, subtle pilsner malts throughout.  A slightly spicy, almost noble hop character is barely perceptible midway through the experience, although that could be my expectations fooling my perceptions than the other way around.  The floral hops are definitely the more dominant aspect of the experience, with the high hopping rates translating into a moderately high hop bitterness that is more than adequately balanced by a moderate malt presence.  There is no denying though, that this is distinctly a west coast hopped IPA.  It has all the qualities that I have come to expect out of a solid Stone west coast IPA, even having the lingering bitter hop finish that I have come to love.  Götterdämmerung IPA is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.  This is not a beer to be sipped lightly, it might even be a beer that the weaker among you are not worthy of receiving

                I went into this beer expecting most of the hop flavor to have faded, and maybe it did, but I still got an awesome German hopped West Coast-style IPA out of the 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA almost SIX months after the release!  This is an amazing beer, and if it still had this amazing hop presence this long after the release, I wish I would have tried it fresh!  This is definitely a beer that you should pick up if you find it.  Don’t worry that it is well past the release date, pick up a bottle and enjoy it.  I wish more hoppy beers still had this hop character after 6 months in the bottle!

               Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA is an amazing beer!  I wholeheartedly support this experimental beer put forward by Stone Brewing Co, it throws the traditional styles to the winds with the same arrogant attitude we have all come to expect from Stone Brewing.  I look forward to more experimental Imperial IPAs from Stone in the future, and only wish that they were still available in Wisconsin.
  
              That’s all for this week, check back soon for another review!

               Happy Drinking!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jewbelation Reborn – Schmaltz Brewing


                Last year, I was fortunate enough to find a bottle of Jewbelation Sweet 16 in the back of a case at my local liquor store, months after it came out.  This year, I was more on top of it, and headed out to pick up a bottle of Jewbelation Reborn, Schmaltz’s 17th Anniversary beer as soon as I got word that it was in stock.  I was a big fan of Sweet 16 and my biggest regret is that I was only able to find the one bottle that I reviewed.  This year, I picked up a few bottles so that I would have another one on hand when I was craving it.  The 17th anniversary Jewbelation Reborn follows a similar theme to that of Sweet 16, upping the ante to 17 different malts, 17 different hops and increasing the strength up to 17% ABV.

                Schmaltz’s 17th Anniversary also marks a major transition for the brewery, opening up a new 50-barrel brewery in Clifton Park, New York.  They will now be able to brew beers in house, rather than contracting them out, allowing the Schmaltz to produce a wider range of beers, and many more one-offs for the tap room, or regional distribution.  In honor of the occasion, they released their Death of a Contract Brewer Black IPA, which was sadly only distributed in Up-state New York.  One of these days I am going to have to take a road trip out to check out the brewery and pick up some of their beers that only have regional distribution.  Expanding production, and having the freedom to brew what they want, when they want to brew it can only be a good sign for Schmaltz, and I look forward to the wider range of beers that is sure to result!

                He’Brew Dry Hopped Session Ale was my first exposure to the Schmaltz beers, but since then I have tried a few more in their lineup and posted a couple reviews (link at the bottom of this post).  I have enjoyed everything that I have had from them, and went into Jewbelation Reborn with high hopes.  Sweet 16 was so malty, silky, and luxuriant, like a decedent dessert.  I was eager to find out whether 17 would be equally amazing, or if the Sweet 16 was too good to be duplicated.  My expectations were high, then again Jewbelation Reborn was $16, rather than the unbelievable bargain I got when I found Sweet 16 for $5 last year.  On to the review

                Over at Beeradvocate, Jewbelation Reborn currently has a score of 87, with an 85 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it currently has a score of 57 for style and a score of 91 overall.  The 57 from ratebeer is particularly surprising, for a style that is pretty open to interpretation, especially since it scored so highly overall.


They Say:
               



I Say:

                Jewbelation Reborn pours an opaque black with a thick, creamy, light brown head that holds excellent retention and leaves moderately heavy lacing in the glass.  Roasted barley notes, and dark fruits come to the forefront in the aroma, with sweet alcohol notes, transitioning into subtle earthy and spicy hops.  The aroma is moderately complex, but not quite as complex as the 16th Anniversary.

                The flavor begins with roasted barley and earthy hops with a hint of rye, transitioning to dark baker’s chocolate, toffee, and grilled plums.  Slightly spicy alcohols come in at the back end, although they become sweeter as the beer warms.  The toffee and grilled plum flavors start to become more prevalent as the beer warms to room temperature.  Jewbelation Reborn is full-bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, there is just enough carbonation there to keep this from feeling heavy on the palate.  The 17% ABV is definitely present in Jewbelation Reborn, and prominent in both the aroma and the flavor.

                Jewbelation Reborn definitely has a strong alcohol presence, which might fade or become more complex as the beer ages.  The malt backbone in Jewbelation Reborn should definitely support cellaring, and develop into an excellent beer for vertical tasting when the inevitable Jewbelation 18 is released next year.   Great breweries are great because of the creative beers that they brew, and Schmaltz Brewing already has a long history of creative beers.  I definitely think that Schmaltz brewing will continue to produce excellent beers that represent everything that is good with the craft beer movement in America.  Opening up their own brew house in Clifton Park, NY is a sign of great things to come; I just wish more of it was coming out to Wisconsin. 

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for my next post!


                Happy Drinking!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coming Home 2013 Holiday Ale – Grand Teton Brewing


I have wanted to try a fresh Coming Home Holiday Ale release from Grand Teton Brewing for a while now, but only seem to find them on the shelves in mid-February.  The beers in the Cellar Reserve Series age very well, so there is nothing wrong with the 3 month old bottles that I have been finding, but beers change in the bottle, and the older they are the less they resemble the intended release from the brewery.  Many styles get better over time, in my opinion, but many people don’t agree with that opinion and want to drink a beer that is as fresh as possible.  Heck, that is the opinion of most breweries, and that is the correct position to take for most styles.

                The 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale is a Belgian-style Dubbel, and I would fill you out more on the style, but there is a strong explanation of Belgian Dubbels, and the difference between the different connotations that denote different Belgian beers in the “They Say” section below.  With that said, on to the review.  There aren’t any reviews of 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale on the major ratings sites, or anywhere else for that matter, although I am sure the reviews will start coming in from everyone else soon.


They Say:

                Our intent for our annual Holiday Ale series is to release a special beer each November to be enjoyed with special friends on special occasion.  Coming Home 2013 boasts aromas of dark cherries, mincemeat pie and celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins along with a spicy dry finish.  It was brewed with Idaho pale and Belgian specialty malts plus dark candi sugar from Belgium.  The sugar addition provides rich amber color, a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors.

                Coming Home 2013 was fermented with yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices.  At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends and family over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.  Brewed in the Belgian Bubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is boldly flavorful yet imminently drinkable.

                The monastic brewing tradition goes back centuries.  The sixth century Italian Saint Benedict is said to have laid down the rules of monastic life with an emphasis on obedience and self-sufficiency.  As monasteries spread to the north it was natural that they include breweries within their walls, as beer was often a safer alternative to water.  In the 17th century, monk Rancé established the strict Trappist order at the Abbaye de la Trappe in Normandy.

                As the order spread across northern Europe, each Trappist monastery brewed beer for its own sustenance and for sale.  Today, only beer produced under the strict supervision of one of eight Trappist monasteries-sic in Belgium, one in the Netherland and Austria- may officially be called a Trappist beer.  All Trappist beers are bottle-conditioned ales, but otherwise they can vary widely in style.

                Beer brewed at other monasteries, at commercial breweries under contract to a religious order, or just named with a religious connotation, are usually called Abbey beers.  As with the Trappist ales, Abbey beers can vary considerably, though there are two well defined sub styles: Dubbel and Tripel.  Contrary to popular belief, these names do not signify ales whicyh double and triple our “regular strength” beers.  Rather, brewers in the past often produced very light “table beers” or Singles in the 3-3.5% alcohol by weight range that could safely be consumed all day as alternatives to questionable water.  Seen relative to those, the names Dubbel (6-7.5%) and Tripel (7-10%) , make much more sense.

                Coming Homer 2013 will be available November 1st, 2013 in ½ and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750mL cases.

The web page for the release adds:

Brewed in the Belgian Dubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is big and bold yet imminently drinkable. Coming Home 2013 features celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins and a spicy, dry finish. It was brewed with pale and brown malts plus special dark candi sugar. The sugar addition provides a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors without the cloying thickness typical of all-malt brews. Coming Home 2013 was fermented with ale yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices. At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.

Original Gravity (Plato): 18 ̊
International Bitterness Units: 20
 Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 20 



I Say:

                Coming Home 2013 pours a very clear amber with a thick, creamy, yellow-tinged, off-white head that holds excellent retention, and leaves moderately heavy lacing in the glass.  It is a very good looking beer, although it is a couple shades lighter than I was expecting it to be, but it’s still well within the allowable range.  The aroma is moderately complex for a Belgian Dubbel.  The front end is dominated by caramel, raisin esters, and hints of dark cherry which blend into a more complex caramelized sugar aroma with notes of plum and fig with very enjoyable clove phenols, with a touch of nutmeg.  There is no discernable alcohol in the aroma when the beer is cold, but as it warms there is a slight note of soft, sweet alcohol.

                The flavor, similar to the aroma, moderately complex, rich, and malty.  It begins with notes of raisins and complex caramelized sugars before transitioning into plum, and figs, with mellow clove phenols.  The finish is dry and moderately spicy, with hints of figs, nutmeg, and cloves.  There are notes of sweet, and slightly spicy alcohols throughout that serve to enhance the complexity.  Coming Home 2013 is medium-light bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                This is an excellent Belgian Dubbel that is sweet and malty with complex fruity esters, and pleasant, mellow phenols.  I am confident that it will continue to evolve in the bottle, and should become more complex as it ages.  I have enjoyed every Grand Teton beer that I have had so far and this is definitely no exception.  This is likely a very limited release, so if you see it in stock somewhere pick up a bottle, it likely won’t last long on the liquor store shelf.  If by any chance you find any bottles from a previous Cellar Reserve release, then pick them up too while you are at it, I just saw a couple bottles of Oud Bruin on my last  beer run, and yes I did pick up a few more!  For more info on Grand Teton Brewing, click the Grand Teton brewing label at the bottom of this post!

                That’s all for today, have a great weekend!


                Happy Drinking!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Harvest Ale – Founders Brewing


                Very few things say fall like the annual hop harvest.  This time of year, breweries around the country are releasing their wet hopped, hop harvest ales and Founders is no exception.  Don’t worry too much about the terminology, all that wet hopped means is that they tossed freshly picked hops into the boil rather than dried whole hops, or hop pellets.  Theoretically, the drying process causes some of the hop oils to be lost, so tossing freshly picked hops in will provide a fuller flavor and aroma.

                Founders Brewing releases a lot of amazing beer, and when I found a 4-pack of their Harvest Ale in stock at my local liquor store I bought it on impulse.  A few years ago, I wouldn’t have claimed to be big IPA guy, but breweries like Founders, are turning me into a believer by producing excellent IPAs.  Sure, the ever increasing variety of hops play no small part in the increasing variety of IPAs on the market, but even the best hops can make unbelievably awful beers, as I have frequently discovered as a beer judge.  A truly excellent brewer can take the flavors and aromas inherent in a hop variety and create something amazing by utilizing the right malts, and fermenting at the right temperature with the right yeast.  Founders brews some amazing beers, and I had a strong feeling that their Harvest IPA would not disappoint.  With that in mind, on to the review.
                At Beeradvocate, Founders Harvest Ale currently has a score of 95, with a 96 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 99 overall and a 100 for style.

They Say:

                This liquid dream pours a hazy golden straw color with a white, two-finger head. Your first sip rewards you with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh citrus, then finishes to introduce toasted malt undertones.
ABV: 7.6%
IBUs: 70
Availability: October


I Say:
                Founders Harvest Ale pours a slightly hazy pale fold with a thick creamy white head that holds excellent retention and leaves considerable lacing behind in the glass.  The aroma is moderately complex and showcases the hops with grapefruit and mango on the front end, followed by a hint of orange, with biscuit malts and subtle pine notes in the finish.  As it warms, the grapefruit and orange become more prominent.

                The flavor is similar to the aroma, with biscuit notes on the front end with prominent grapefruit and mango hops, fading into orange and pine on the back end.  Harvest Ale is moderately malty with moderately high hop bitterness, and a clean, dry finish with lingering hop flavor.  It is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.  I know that was a lot of “moderates” and “mediums,” but this beer hit every attribute dead on.

                Personally, I love wet hopped beers, when they are done correctly.  I went into this beer hoping it would be good, but fearing that it would have grassy notes from the sheer volume of plant material from the hops.  Fortunately there was no discernible grassy aroma, or flavor.  In their Harvest Ale, Founders has produced an excellent IPA!  This is definitely a beer that will go into my yearly rotation.  If you are looking for a great IPA that will leave you satisfied, I highly recommend it.  Fresh hopped beers are not for everyone, but if you haven’t had on yet, this is one of the best I have had!

                That’s all for tonight, check back later this week for another post.  I am shooting to get the next review up by Friday at the latest.  For more Founders reviews, check out the "Founders" label at the bottom of this post.  Cheers!


                Happy Drinking!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale - Rogue Ales


                Pumpkin beers have been on the shelves since July, and it seems like they show up earlier every year.  Call me old fashioned, but I like to hold off on pumpkin beers till fall actually rolls around.  Sure it’s a smart business decision to be the first brewery to get a pumpkin beer on the shelf so customers see their product first, but it can be annoying to see them in the summer.  A Google search brings up dozens of articles if you are interested in finding out more about the phenomenon.  Fortunately Rogue Ales didn’t buy into the hype and released their Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale in mid-September.  I, for one, applaud the fall release.

Pumpkin Patch Ale is one of Rogue’s many GYO (grow-your-own) beers, brewed with ingredients grown at one of the two Rogue Farms.  Between the two farms, Rogue grows barley, rye, pumpkins, hazelnuts, hops, and jalapenos in addition to keeping honeybees and an assortment of more traditional farm animals.  By sourcing ingredients from their own farms, Rogue can keep costs down, continue to be successful, and mitigate the effects of fluctuations in hop prices.

                On to the review, at Beeradvocate, Rogue Farms Pumpkin patch Ale has a score of 86.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 91 overall and a 96 for style.

They Say:

The newest addition to the chatoe Rogue series is Pumpkin Patch Ale, a beer made using fresh pumpkins grown in a patch that borders Rogue’s 42 acre hop yard.  The pumpkins are picked, loaded into Rogue’s farm truck, driven immediately 77 miles to our brewery in Newport, quickly roasted, and pitched into the brew kettle to create a batch of Pumpkin Patch Ale

13 Ingredients:
Rogue Farms Pumpkins, Great Western 2-Row, Carawheat, Weyermann Carafe Malts, Rogue Micro Hopyard Rebel Hops, Ginger, Cloves, Vanilla bean, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, Free range coastal water and Pacman Yeast.

Specs:
14º PLATO
25 IBU
75 AA
25º Lovibond

World Class Package:
750ml Bottle

Food Pairing: 
Pork, Dessert



I Say:
                Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale pours a very clear deep, burnished copper with a thick, creamy, white head that holds moderate retention and leaves a light lacing in the glass.  Sweet malts come to the forefront in the aroma, transitioning to nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and a hint of citrus before finishing with strong notes of vanilla, roasted pumpkins and roasted malts.

                The flavor begins with strong notes of pumpkin pie spices, with clove and nutmeg being the most prominent.  The pie spices transition to vanilla, toasted malts, and baked squash, with a strong, lasting clove and vanilla finish.  Pumpkin Patch is moderately malty with a low perceived hop bitterness, and a moderately dry finish.  It is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation.

                Rogue Ales has another excellent beer in Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale.  As I mentioned in a post last year it can be difficult to get the optimal pumpkin pie flavor in a beer, but Rogue hit this one out of the park!  The only downside with this beer is that it’s $10 at my local liquor store.  While it is an excellent beer and one of the best pumpkin beers that I have had it is considerably more expensive than many of the other pumpkin beers on the market.  If you don’t mind the high price then by all means, pick up a bottle, you won’t be disappointed.


                That’s all for tonight!  Have a great weekend!
                Happy Drinking!