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Friday, September 23, 2016

Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter – Grand Teton Brewing


                For the third Cellar Reserve release of 2016, Grand Teton Brewing re-released a previously popular beer, the Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter.  I missed the 2011 release of Wake Up Call so, prior to tasting it, I was really looking forward to trying the beer for the first time.  Previous Cellar Reserve offerings from Grand Teton have been excellent, with brew master Rob Mullin and his team really flexing their brewing muscles for these quarterly releases.

                I am a firm believer in drinking seasonally, to match the weather and mood, with the possible exception of pumpkin beers, which I am not a big fan of in general even though I love pumpkin pie and pie spice.  With fall rolling around, it’s time for a cold weather beer, and an Imperial Coffee Porter certainly fits the bill.  Fall isn’t quite the time of year for big, 10+% barleywine with tons of alcohol warmth, nor is it the time for a light hefeweizen, pilsner, or Kölsch.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the styles, but they are best at the appropriate time of the year.  This is the time of the porters, non-barrel aged stouts, and Ambers.  There is just something about malty beers during the fall and winter months, almost like a comfort food.

                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter then, would seem to fit right in line with the full flavors that belong in a good fall beer without teetering too far into the alcohol warmth that is practically required in the cold months of December through February.  Be sure to check out the Brewmaster Rob Mullin’s insights into Wake Up Call just before my review!


They Say:

Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter has a distinct and robust coffee flavor that blends harmoniously with the roasted malts. Caramel, chocolate, and black malts give this ale its dark color and overtones of caramel and a cocoa-like sweetness. Only very gently hopped, the addition of coffee shines through, providing a delicious accent to this brew.

We used well over a pound per barrel of Moonshot Espresso beans from Cafe Ibis Coffee Roasting Company in Logan, Utah. This classic three bean blend has loads of caramel with a fine sugar sweetness and a smoky but smooth finish. While the focus has been on finding the perfect mate for this seasonal porter, it is no coincidence that the choice of beans also supports social justice and sustainable agriculture.

Cafe Ibis is a locally owned and operated 40-year-old award-winning Green Business. Sometimes viewed as being obsessively passionate about the coffees they roast, this custom coffee roasting house proudly offers organic, Fair Trade and Smithsonian Bird Friendly certified coffees, the industry’s highest standards. Reuter’s Triple Pundit called it “The World’s Most Sustainable Coffee.” Over the years, Newsweek Magazine, The Wine Spectator, and Sunset Magazine have all added to the chorus singing praises to the remarkable cup quality of Cafe Ibis Coffee.

Porter was the first industrial beer, brewed for the laborers of England’s Industrial Revolution. Technological advances of the 18th century—such as the thermometer and hydrometer—allowed brewers to refine the brewing process. These changes allowed for brewers to create consistent batches of beer, and the beer was nearly always porter.

The addition of coffee to porter is an even more recent creation, with craft brewers of the past 30 years embracing the enchantment that coffee makes to the flavor and body of dark ales.
The coffee flavors in this ale pair exceptionally well with meaty entrées: drink this Imperial Porter with grilled steak, barbecued spare ribs, or Portobello mushrooms sautéed with soy sauce. The toast and chocolate-like flavors of the dark malt complement sweet confections. Any dessert that you would take with coffee will be a fine accompaniment to this ale. We recommend tiramisu, hazelnut scones, and German chocolate cake.

If stored in a cool, dark location, this beer should stand up to the test of time. The roasted coffee and rich maltiness will mingle together and mellow with age.

Original Gravity (Plato): 20.0˚
International Bitterness Units: 40
Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 26.0º

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:

                Wake Up Call is another of my favorites, largely because of the addition of espresso from Caffe Ibis in Logan, Utah.  Sally Sears and her late husband, Randy Wirth, started Caffe Ibis in 1985, dedicated to roasting the best possible organic, fair-trade and bird-friendly coffee possible, in a sustainable and community-minded way. My bride sold Ibis coffee ten years ago when she was partner with three other women in a great little global-food restaurant in Driggs, our county seat. The brewery's had a wholesale account with Ibis ever since. It's the coffee we drink here and in most of our homes. One of my favorite ways to prepare coffee is as cold-brew, and that's how we made the espresso for Wake Up Call. I think the cold-brew gets all the flavor of the coffee without the bitterness, which is perfect for a beer addition. The last time we made Wake Up Call it aged very well. The cold-brew method probably helps in that regard. By the way, I've calculated the Wake Up Call has about a quarter of the caffeine of the same volume of strong coffee.


I Say:

                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter pours an opaque, deep inky black with a thick, creamy latte colored head with moderate rocky breakup. The head holds very good retention (~5 min.) and leaves behind large splotchy lacing on the glass.  Visually, Wake Up Call looks like a good imperial porter should, nice and dark.  Dark, charred malts waft out of the glass during the poor.  A low level of perceptible charred malt sharpness transitions nicely into an excellent dark roast coffee aroma, with notes of dark chocolate and caramel.  The dark chocolate notes from the espresso beans and malts round out the back end and present a very tempting beer.

                Slightly smoky charred malts lead in the flavor with the coffee adding the excellent dark roast characteristics of baker’s chocolate and light caramel.  The coffee, while present and enjoyable, lingers in the background in comparison to the full maltiness of Wake Up Call.  A charred malt and dark roast coffee back end rounds out to a lingering charred malt finish.  Oddly, and almost counterintuitively, the charred notes fade and become almost imperceptible as the beer warms with Wake Up Call taking on sweet, chocolatey, malt notes as the beer nears room temperature.  Full bodied, with a moderate level of carbonation, Wake Up Call has a great mouth-feel for the coming chilly nights.
               
                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter is a very good beer that is well suited for a release in the Cellar Reserve series.  While I enjoyed the beer, I would have preferred that the coffee be a little more prominent.  That might, however, have led to more astringency and a less enjoyable beer.  So, as with most beers it is best to enjoy Wake Up Call Imperial Porter for what it is rather than bringing in preconceived notions of what it should be.  Sometimes a great beer is just a great beer, and that’s something that I sometimes have to remind myself of when I start to nitpick.  If you are able to find Wake Up Call on a shelf near you, it’s definitely a beer to hunt down and buy.  Heck, buy a few, one for now and a couple for later; you surely won’t be disappointed!

                Thanks again to Grand Teton Brewing Brewmaster Rob Mullin for providing additional thoughts on Wakeup Call!  That’s all for today, check back soon for another review!


Happy Drinking!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gose – Grand Teton Brewing


                For three of the past four years the May release in the Grand Teton Brewing Cellar Reserve series has been a sour with 2012’s Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, 2013’s OudBruin, and 2015’s Sour Grand Saison.  This year’s May release is, once again, a sour beer, a Gose.  Gose, pronounced “Goes-uh” is in all respects an ancient beer style that is believed to be over 1,000 years old.  Only a few short years ago, the first Gose most people would think of when, or if, they thought of Gose was most likely Leipziger Gose, with its well-recognized bottle.  The premise behind a Gose is simple, it’s brewed with salted water, using light malts (pilsner or a light pale) and wheat, lightly hopped, and coriander is added during the brewing process; Lactobacillus is then added either during the primary or secondary fermentation to develop the style’s characteristic lemony tartness.  The premise seems simple, but as with any good beer style, there’s a vast difference between a delicious beer and a poorly thought out mess.  Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that Thrillist trashed Gose and declared it the style that killed craft beer.  Since then of course, the style has only become more popular.  I would say, “Take that Thrillist!” but honestly, aside from seeing the article pop up in random Facebook feeds, who cares, to each their own, drink what you like, and all that.

                Before getting to a review, let’s meander through the long, storied history of Gose, much of my discussion of which can be attributed to the wonderful German Beer Institute’s write-up on the style, because when in doubt, turn to the experts.  The style was originally brewed in Goslar, which lies on the river Gose, the river after which the style is named.  By the mid-11th century, Goslar had become one of the wealthiest and more important mining towns in the German Empire, producing copper, lead, zinc, salt, and silver.  The mineral rich runoff from the mines, and the local, mineral rich aquifers from which the water was drawn to brew beer in Goslar provided a rather saline rich water source.  At the time, medieval alchemists debated the health effects of the minerals and the “white salt crystals” that formed as the water evaporated, referring to them as blanc de Goslar, or vitriolum zinci Goslariense, literally the zinc salt of Goslar.  When the blanc de Goslar was dissolved in water, the resulting tincture took on an astringent, sour flavor commonly referred to as “copper water”.  The slightly salty water used to brew Gose makes it entirely unlike any other style of beer, and can be directly attributed (as is the case with many historic beer styles) to the local water source in the region or town that first brewed the style.  Water, as they say, is one of the most important ingredients in beer, one which can have a drastic impact on the finished product.

                While the town of Goslar had become one of the wealthiest towns in the German Empire by the mid-11th century, the Gose style was celebrated by Emperor Otto III who ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 996 – 1002 AD.  To already be a celebrated beverage by the Emperor during his reign towards the end of the 10th century, it would seem that the beer style was already relatively well established prior to the 11th century, although who’s to say for sure.  Heck, the Wikipedia page for the style claims the beer wasn’t brewed until the 16th century, which can’t possibly be true if the style was enjoyed by an Emperor who died in 1002 AD.

                By all accounts the town of Goslar produced its popular Gose well into the late Middle Ages when the mines finally gave out.  The German Empire still needed its Gose however, and the style was picked up in Liepzig, which became the largest market for the style.  According to the German Beer Institute, the oldest preserved license for brewing Gose was issued to an innkeeper named Giesecke in 1738 by the Leipzig City Council.  As Gose took off in Leipzig, the brewers in Gosler no longer found Gose production to be economically viable and the city abolished the brewing of Gose in 1826.  Meanwhile in Leipzig, Gose had become the most popular beer style with over 80 licensed breweries in the city by 1900.  Production of Gose in Leipzig became so prevellant that the style is often colloquially referred to a Leipziger-style Gose when it’s brewed in the US.

                Sadly, as with many historic styles, Gose virtually disappeared in the 20th century as a result of the two World Wars, and the rise of Communism (Leipzig is in, what was Soviet East Germany).  Under communist rule, Eastern German beer styles began to disappear.  For some reason the Communist regime in East Germany decided that it was more important to devote the small amount of grain that was grown to food production rather than using it to brew beer.  So, unfortunately by the late 1950’s the last pre-unification (of Germany) Gose was brewed in Leipzig.

                The collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 led to the style making a comeback as breweries in and around Leipzif started to brew it again.  Leading the revitalization of the style was Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof which opened its  doors in 2000.  More recently American craft breweries have done their part to revitalize the style with many embracing the style and increasing its popularity with an American craft beer crowd that is always on the lookout for the newest style to tantalize its taste buds.  Gose is certainly a unique beer, and one which stands removed from the vast majority of craft beers and even the vast majority of sour beers in that it is brewed with salted water.  Perhaps the best way for craftbeer to move forward is to go backwards, exploring traditional styles that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.  If for no other reason, it will provide a new and unique beverage to a movement that is constantly searching for the next big beer style.

                On to the review:


They Say:

Grand Teton Gose is a light-bodied but flavorful quencher perfect for summer refreshment and wonderful with food. As is traditional, it was brewed with slightly salty water, soured with Lactobacillus, and spiced with coriander. Brettanomyces adds an additional layer of fruity complexity and ensures this beer will age gracefully for years to come. 

Our brewery water is Teton Mountain glacial runoff—clean, pure and slightly sweet. We’ve added Yellowstone Salt, naturally produced and hand-harvested from Salt Creek just outside the National Park, to provide a pleasant saltiness and rounded mouthfeel, while accentuating the other flavors in the beer and complementing most accompanying foods. Southern Idaho 2-Row Pale Malt contributes crisp, clean maltiness while German Pale Wheat Malt brings citric acidity and an attractive golden haze. The traditional addition of coriander completes the beer with an herbal lemony-citrus aroma and flavor. 

Gose enhances almost any meal. We particularly like it with full-flavored fish like salmon or trout, as the Gose supplies the lemon. Paired with roast beef or hamburger, Gose brings flavors reminiscent of the Western New York specialty sandwich Beef on Weck with its salt-crystal and caraway seed bun. Gose’s lactic acidity pairs well with pickled ginger or lemon custard.  

                Original Gravity (Plato): 15.0º
                International Bitterness Units: 9
                Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
                Color (Lovibond): 2.8º

                Grand Teton Gose will be available May 15th, 2016 in bottle-conditioned 6/750 mL cases and 1/6 and 1/2 bbl kegs
 






I Say:

                Grand Teton Gose pours a crystal clear golden straw with a thin, small bubbled white head that holds low retention (less than 30 seconds) before fading to a thin collar that leaves very little lacing behind in the glass.  Subtle salty lemons lead in the aroma with herbal notes adding slight complexity.  As the beer warms, the aroma takes on notes of rising sourdough, and the saltiness fades as the lemon notes become more prominent.

                The first sip is led by tart/sour lemons with an underlying saltiness.  The initial sip was thirst quenching, and quite refreshing, with a very subtle breadiness.  The lemon notes transition into a slightly puckering acidity that lingers into the finish.  The aftertaste takes on slightly herbal and salty notes with a hint of lemon.  With a medium-light body and a moderately high level of carbonation, there is still some room for the Lactobacillus to eat the more of the remaining sugars without Gose becoming too light bodied.

                Grand Teton Gose is a very good beer that should age well.  The combination of Lactobacillus and Brettnomyces should allow this beer to age well, becoming considerably tarter and more lemony as time goes by.  The Brettanomyces, depending on the strain, could add tropical fruit notes or add funky flavors to the beer, but the only way to find out is to sit on this bottle for at least a year or two to give the flavors time to develop.

                The Gose style is not for everyone, but it is definitely a style everyone should try at least once.  After all, even though Thrillist famously hates the style, it is still a great summer beer, one which I enjoy.  The only way to find out whether Gose is the style for you is to try it yourself.  If you enjoy a salted rim margarita, you just might find you love the style.  I’ll leave that up to you, but I wish I had another bottle or two to add to my cellar for later in the summer when I need access to a great, thirst quenching beer on a hot summer day.

                That’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Brett Saison – Grand Teton Brewing


            Over the past few years Grand Teton Brewing has developed a respectable sour beer program.  My first exposure to the Grand Teton sour program was the 2012 Cellar Reserve Release of Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, which is also the beer that led me to hunt down all Grand Teton releases.  To check out reviews of past releases, or to read my interview with Grand Teton’s Brewmaster Rob Mullin, click the tags at the bottom of this post.  Given the limited availability of Grand Teton beer in Wisconsin, I was particularly excited to be able to try the newest Grand Teton Sour, Brett Saison.

Released in February 2016, you might still be able to find a bottle or two lingering on liquor store shelves if you are lucky.  Brett Saison is a dry hopped, barrel aged saison that is 100% fermented with two strains of Brettanomyces, drie and bruxellensis, each of which provides different characteristics in the final beer, much the same way that different strains of Saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast) can.  The blending of different strains of Brettanomyces, or Brettanomyces and a strain of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, can produce remarkably complex beers that are often not for the faint of heart. 

The 2015 Cellar Reserve release of the delicious Sour Grand Saison was a similar blended fermentation which used Saison yeast, Brettanomyces drie, and Lactobacillus, so it’s fair to say the Grand Teton crew has experience with blended fermentations.    In the case of Brett Saison, the two strains of Brettanomyces used have their own unique legacies.  Brettanomyces drie is a pro-only strain that was supposedly isolated by the Belgian brewery Drie Fonteinen, a world-renowned Lambic brewer, the strain is known for producing tropical, fruity flavors that offer a more pleasant invitation to sour beers.  Brettanomyces bruxellensis is supposedly the strain that Orval uses for bottle conditioning, and it imparts notes of horse blanket and barnyard.

  The combination of the two can produce a wonderfully complex beer that should only get better with age, as any good cellar-able beer should.  I am far from an expert on sour beers, but fortunately, if you are interested in learning more about the different strains of Brettanomyces and bacteria used to ferment beers, The Mad Fermentationist, The Brettanomyces Project, Milk the Funk, Embrace the Funk, and Funk Factory all have tons of great information on wild fermentations.  Of the blogs mentioned above, Milk the Funk is a well-respected source of information, and the founders of the others release their product professionally.

            On to the review!


They Say:

Our second release in the Brewers’ Series is a Dry Hopped Brett Saison aged in Wine Barrels. We brewed a Saison using traditional malts and hops. However, we decided to stray from traditional yeast and pitched a very simple yet complex strain: Brettanomyces Drei (Brett). Brett was recently classified as a brewer’s yeast and not a true Brett. At Grand Teton Brewing we feel the aroma and flavor profile is like nothing any of our typical brewer’s yeast produces, which is why we used Brett for our primary fermentation.

Once the beer reached an incredibly low gravity resulting in a crisp, clean and dry beer, we transferred it to wine barrels that house a healthy culture of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. It was at this point we waited for the Brett in the barrels to transform an already great beer into a truly special and delicious beer.

As the beer aged it took on more traditional Brett characteristics, we knew it was time to package this beer. A few weeks before packaging we added a blend of hops at a rate of 5 pounds per wooden barrel. We chose Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand and Hallertau Blanc hops from Germany. Both of these varietals impart complex fruit flavors and aromas as well as earthy undertones: pineapple, white grapes, gooseberry and black pepper.

The live Brett in this beer, as well as generous amounts of unique and flavorful hops, make this a great beer to drink fresh. It may also be cellared to develop for years to come.

Cheers!

Tyler Nelson

On behalf of the Grand Teton Brewing Team


I Say:

            Brett Saison pours a crystal clear golden amber with a moderately thin small bubbled white head.  The head lasts only briefly in the glass before fading to a ½” thick bubbly collar that leaves intricate lacing behind in the glass.  Gooseberries and white grapes lead in the aroma with a hint of pineapple rounding out the fruitiness.  Subtle woody notes, white stone fruits, and a hint of dry white wine round out the aroma. The rich fruitiness in the aroma provides an excellent introduction to this beer prior to the first sip.

             Passion fruit and gooseberry flavors lead in the first sip, with a slight barnyard funkiness.  Lime zest, grapefruit and peach meld with black pepper, white grapes and tart, fresh gooseberries round out the flavor.  The finish is tart with notes grapefruit, lime, and peach.  Tart gooseberries and a subtle funkiness lingers long after the first sip with the funkiness becoming more pronounced as the beer warms.  With a medium body and a moderately high level of carbonation, this beer fits nicely in where a young sour should be, yet there is still enough carbonation to provide a slight effervescence, which serves to enhance the tartness of the finish.

            At this stage in its development, the flavor and aroma of Brett Saison still retain the tropical fruitiness that Brettanomyces drie and the combined Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc dry hopping provides.  As the beer ages, the fruitiness from the dry hop additions will fade while the horse blanket character of Brett b. should become more dominant.  This beer has remarkable aging potential, but if you aren’t a fan of barnyard flavors in your beer you might not want to let this sit around too long.

            With Brett Saison, Grand Teton Brewing has released another excellent beer.  I can only hope that like Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, Brett Saison, or a similar beer, will become an annual seasonal offering.  I wish I had a few extra bottles on hand to track the progression of this excellent beer as it ages, but it is proving quite difficult to track down.  If you do find a bottle or two on a shelf in your favorite liquor store, this is definitely a release worth picking up.

            Be sure to check back early next week when I post my review of the latest Grand Teton Cellar Release beer, Gose.  Until then, Happy Drinking!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Eighteen – Central Waters Brewing Co.


                Since 2012, Central Waters Brewing has released a Barrel Aged Stout as an anniversary release.  Beginning with 1414, the annual releases, Fifteen, 16, and 17 had represented the epitome of barrel aged stouts, and each has sold out quickly at the brewery release party.  This year Eighteen sold out in three minutes to those lucky enough to make it to the anniversary party.  I was unable to make it to Amherst myself, but I fortunately had a friend who was heading up and didn’t want to purchase his whole 8 bottle allotment, so I was able to get a couple of his bottles, one to enjoy now and one to age.  I love it when everything works out.

                As with all barrel aged releases, it is both the type of barrel used and the spirit that is aged in it that impact what we think of as the barrel character in a barrel aged beer.  One of the great trends in the craft spirits community is the move to aging alcohol in wood that would have otherwise not touched the inside of a barrel.  Barrel aged gin and barrel aged vodka releases are capitalizing on the note of oak, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee, notes that come from barrel aging.  The spirit, of course, contributes notes to the barrel from the herbal notes of gin, to the grape notes of port, or from the peaty notes of scotch to the notes of leather and tobacco from bourbon.  The combination of the two with a solid, well brewed craft beer can become a masterpiece if done right.  Sure, there are stories of barrel aged beers gone bad, even here in Wisconsin where, at least in my opinion, some of the best barrel aged beers are brewed and released.  I’m sure if you are reading this you have had a barrel aged beer at both ends of the spectrum, but fortunately for us all a vast majority capitalize on the greatness of the base beer style as well as the best aspects of the barrel and the spirit that was aged within it.

                With bigger releases like Central Waters Eighteen, multiple barrels are blended to obtain the final commercially released product.  The blending in itself can have a huge impact on the finished product because even the beer aged in two barrels that are sitting side by side can taste different.  The devil as they say is in the details, or in this case in the artistry of blending barrels together to be able to release a spectacular product.  Central Waters has never let me down, so I was definitely looking forward to my first taste of Eighteen, but I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.


They Say:

                With each passing year, we refine our art and showcase our efforts in our anniversary release.  Eighteen is a blend of stouts that gain more depth and complexity from the bourbon barrels they call home for years.  Cheers!
 

I Say:

                Eighteen pours an opaque black with slight walnut highlights when held to the light.  It is capped with a creamy, light brown head with a light rocky break up.  The head holds excellent retention before fading to a thick collar around the edges of the glass and leaving a moderate amount of complex lacing behind.  Strong, boozy vanilla and bourbon notes lead in the aroma amply backed up by coffee and chocolate.  The chocolate character in the aroma becomes richer and more complex as Eighteen warms taking on notes of cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, and even a hint of milk chocolate courtesy of the vanilla notes.  The finish has subtle notes of light caramel, and bourbon-y sweet alcohol.

                With the rich bourbon in the complex aroma, the flavor did not disappoint.  Bourbon, toffee, and an underlying note of roasted barley lead in the first sip.  The boozy bourbon flavor picks up additional complexity with vanilla, cocoa powder, and subtle caramel notes with an underlying oakiness.  Semi-sweet bourbon, vanilla, and toffee linger into the drying, smooth finish and aftertaste.  Full bodied and silky smooth with a moderate level of carbonation, Central Waters Eighteen has a full, almost viscous maltiness with just enough hops added to offset the malty sweetness that can tend to dominate other big Imperial Stouts.

                Central Waters Eighteen is a remarkable barrel aged imperial stout with its notes of bourbon, complex chocolate, toffee, and vanilla.  With Eighteen, Central Waters has once again shown that they are one of, if not the best brewery in the country for barrel aged releases.  This is definitely a beer worth tracking down, but be sure to get your hands on at least two - one for now, and one to savor in a year or three, preferably as part of a vertical tasting.

                That’s all for tonight, be sure to check back soon for another review!


                Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Double Vision Doppelbock – Grand Teton Brewing



It’s that time of the year again, when the next round of Grand Teton Cellar Reserve beers is released.  Leading the pack this year is Double Vision, first brewed in 2009 and re-released as part of the 2013 Cellar Reserve series and now re-released as part of the 2016 Cellar Reserve series.  The 2016 series has some great beers on the horizon with a return of Double Vision Doppelbock as the first release on February 15th, a Gose on May 15th, and the return of Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter in April, followed by a barleywine brewed with rye in December.  It will certainly be an interesting Cellar Reserve release year!

                Doppelbock, literally a double bock is a traditional German Strong beer (Starkbier), also commonly referred to as a Fastenbier (Lenten beer).  The double bock originally started as a bock brewed in the 1630s by the monks of order of Saint Francis of Paola in Neuhauser Straße in Munich, doppelbock was a stronger version of the traditional bock the monks brewed and relied upon for sustenance as “liquid bread” during Lenten fasting.  During lent, the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday the monks believed that the beer they brewed would cleanse their body and soulm and because it was a holy rite, imbibing the beer brought them closer to God.  Even the monks grew concerned that their strong beer was taking the holy rite a little too far so they sought and obtained papal sanction and continued to brew the beer in greater quantities.  Over time the strength of the Fastenbier brewed by the Paulaner monks gradually increased in alcohol content and the beer was first illegally then legally served to the surrounding populace.  The beer style has a checkered and interesting past since the first release was apply named Salvator, for the Savior the monks honored when they brewed and consumed it.  While I won’t go into the intricacies of the history of doppelbock here, the German Beer Institute has a great write-up on the style, and the Paulaner monastery that created it: http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/Doppelbock.html

                I first reviewed Double Vision with the 2009 Cellar Reserve release.  The 2013 release was a great beer, and I picked up a few bottles that I enjoyed during the spring and early summer, so it was a great throwback to try the beer again three years later.


They Say:

                Double Vision Doppelbock was first brewed in 2009 to highlight our brewery’s wonderful water. Like all the great traditional brewing towns, our home, Victor, Idaho, is in or near some of the world’s best barley- and hop-growing regions, and is distinguished by an ample supply of top- quality water.

Our Double Vision Doppelbock is brewed with Idaho 2-Row Pale and German Munich, Cara- Aroma, CaraMunich and de-husked Carafa malts to an original gravity of 22˚ Plato. The malts provide a dark leather color with ruby notes, a luxurious tan head, and a bready aroma with a hint of smoke. It is lightly spiced with German Hallertau Tradition hops and fermented with lager yeast from a monastery brewery near Munich. In the traditional manner, Double Vision is fermented cold (48˚F) and lagered a full 12 weeks for smoothness. At 8.0% alcohol by volume, it is a deceptively drinkable springtime warmer.

The 17th century Paulist monks of Munich were allowed no solid food during their twice-yearly fasts. They brewed an especially nourishing strong dark lager they called “liquid bread” and named “Holy Father” to help them through the Lenten and Advent fasts. The beer was known as a doppelbock, which signifies a strong lager. Since “bock” also means “billy goat” in German, these beers are often decorated with images of gallivanting goats.

Double Vision’s slightly burnt caramel flavor and malt sweetness make it an incredible match for game—venison, moose, duck, goose, and wild boar—especially when prepared with fruity sauces or reductions. Try it with pork and sautéed apples, roasted root vegetables, sweet sausages, ham or prosciutto. It’s wonderful with cheese and dessert, too. Pair it with an aged gruyère, a caramel flan, or a crème brûlée.

Original Gravity (Plato): 22.0˚
International Bitterness Units: 40
Alcohol by Volume: 8.0% 
Color (Lovibond): 47.0˚

Double Vision Doppelbock will be available February 15th, 2016 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 6/750 mL cases.


I Say:

                Double Vision Doppelbock pours a translucent deep walnut with mahogany and garnet highlights when held to the light.  It’s capped with a thick, small bubbled khaki head with a light rocky breakup.  The head holds excellent retention and leaves moderate lacing behind in the glass.  Bready and caramel malts lead in the aroma with notes light chocolate, and a finish reminiscent of fresh baked whole grain bread crust.  Slight notes of alcohol and plum arise as the beer warms to room temperature.

                Rich whole grain bread crust leads in the flavor with notes of burnt caramel and notes of dark stone fruit.  Burnt caramel ad dark plum notes become increasingly prominent as the Double Vision warms.  Just shy of being full bodied with a moderately low level of carbonation, Double Vision is slightly viscous, a perception which was further enhanced for me by the brews full maltiness, and just the right amount of hop bitterness to balance the malty sweetness without the beer being perceptively bitter.  It’s fair to say that I really enjoyed this beer and I hope that Grand Teton Brewing doesn’t take another 3 years to re-release it.  Perhaps it could enter a seasonal rotation like Snarling Badger did a while back, so I guess if I had one request for Rob Mullin and the brewing staff, it would be that.
               
                Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases have not disappointed me in the past, and Double Vision is yet another example of the high quality product the brewery releases on a daily basis.  Unfortunately Grand Teton beers are becoming increasingly hard to find in Wisconsin, but hopefully that will change sometime soon and the full lineup, along with every special release will once again be available.  If you do happen to find a bottle of Double Vision Doppelbock, by all means pick it up, heck pick up as many as you can get your hands on because it is a great beer that should age extremely well, if the 2013 release is any indication.

                That's all for tonight, check back soon...  I am trying to get more reviews out more often...

Happy Drinking!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sippin’ on G&J - Mobcraft Beer Co


                On those very rare occasions when I’m not drinking beer, I am partial to gin.  So when I found out about theMobcraft Sippin’ on G&J release I was, to put it lightly, intrigued.  A few years back I tried a gin and tonic beer released by Shorts Brewing at the Great American Beerfest, and other than the rare gin barrel aged beer from Vintage Brewing I haven’t seen a gin beer since.  Fortunately Mobcraft was there with a gin beer for my enjoyment.

                If you are unfamiliar with Mobcraft Beer, they have a unique business model, leaving a majority of their beer releases up to the beer buying public.  Almost every new Mobcraft batch begins as a recipe concept submitted to the Mobcraft Beer website.  This beer, batch 22 was submitted by Taylor Rucks of Madison, WI.  The submitted recipes are then pitted against each other in a competition to find out which beer will receive the most pre-orders through the Mobcraft website.  Because Mobcraft is reliant upon customer feedback for the creation of its next release, there have been quite a few interesting one-off beers in their short history, a trend that is sure to continue.
On to the review.


They Say:

                A beer that brings you back to 1994 where you can be laid back while sipping on gin and juice. Mosaic, Citra, Cascade and Galaxy hops provide the juice while juniper berries bring on the gin.
RECIPE DETAILS
Scaled down so you can brew your own 5 gallon batch.

SPECIAL INGREDIENTS
·         4oz Crushed Juniper Berries –Secondary

YEAST
·         Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale
MALT BILL

·         11.5lbs Two Row Malt
·         1.5lbs Munich Malt
·         1.5lbs Crystal 20L

BOIL TIME – 60 minutes

HOP REGIMEN
·         1oz Cascade @ 60
·         .25oz Citra @ 30
·         .25oz Mosaic @ 30
·         .5oz Cascade @ 30
·         1oz Citra @ 15
·         1oz Mosaic @ 15
·         1oz Cascade @ 15
·         1oz Galaxy @ 15

GRAVITY - 1.076/1.012

IBU - 82

ABV - 8.5%


I Say:

                Sippin’ on G&J pours a hazy orange-ish copper.  A thick, creamy white head with a rocky cap sits atop the glass holding excellent retention (5+ minutes), and leaves heavy lacing behind in the glass with each sip.  Strong juniper notes lead in the aroma, wonderfully representing gin, with citrusy hops standing in for the juice.  With the diverse hops used for the 15 min addition in the homebrew version of the recipe, you would probably be expecting a complex hop aroma and you would be right.  Orange and ruby red grapefruit hop aromas bound out of the glass and go from being overshadowed by the juniper berries to moving to the forefront as the brew warms.

                As in the aroma, juniper leads in the flavor when the beer is still cold from the fridge.  While it warms, the red grapefruit and orange notes become increasingly prominent.  The juniper and citrus fruit flavors mingle remarkably well, creating a complex flavor that even the Snoop D-O-double-G would love to sip on as he rolled down the street with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.  As the G&J continues to warm to room temperature the citrus hop flavors are dominant although the underlying piney juniper notes remain.  The citrusy hops take on a note of grapefruit peel on the back end, although the lingering aftertaste is almost exclusively a deliciously gin-like juniper berry flavor.  Sippin’ on G&J has a moderately high hop bitterness which aids in the perception of citric tartness and a low level of maltiness combined with juniper berries which enhance the perception of gin.  With a moderately light body and a moderately high carbonation, the mouthfeel is similar to a gin with the mouth cleansing carbonation of a gin and tonic.

                Sippin’ on G&J is not your typical beer but it never claims to be.  With the combination of juniper berries and citrusy hops, this beer goes a long way towards simulating a well-mixed gin and juice.   In replicating a gin and juice this beer hits the mark.  Mobcraft Beer often goes out on a limb to replicate flavors or takes a random winning recipe to brew the next release.  The downside of releasing beers based on recipe concepts is that the beers will sometimes be a weird mashup of flavors that may or may not mesh.  Fortunately with Sippin’ on G&J, Mobcraft Beer has knocked one out of the park.  I can only hope that a couple bottles were sent out to Snoop so that he could try the beer that was inspired by one of his best raps.

                That’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review!


                Happy Drinking, and Remember to Always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Barrel Aged Witchcraft (2015) - Brenner Brewing Company



The Brenner Brewing Grand Opening took place the weekend of November 21, 2014.  One of the featured beers the first Friday of the Grand Opening weekend was Witchcraft, a 13.1% Russian Imperial stout brewed with 43lbs of Anodyne Coffee, 144lbs of Kallas Honey, 70lbs of Molasses, and 9 malt varieties.  At $10 a glass it was easily the most expensive beer on tap, coming in $2 higher than the $8 taster flight containing samples of every other Brenner Beer.  Even at this price the half barrel went fast and it was widely regarded as an excellent Russian Imperial Stout.  When Witchcraft was released, Mike promised the world that he would be releasing an oak aged version of the beer within 6-12 months; now, 11 months later Mike is fulfilling that promise with a Halloween Day release of Barrel Aged Witchcraft.

The beer, which is selling for $10 per 12-oz bottle, will likely sell out at the release party unless secret backroom deals are made to stash bottles away for a local liquor store (not that I believe any such deal is in the works, but you never know).  Fortunately I was able to snag a bottle at a press event last night for a pre-release review.


They Say:

 With the warmth behind us, and cold ahead, the inaugural batch of Witchcraft was Brewer under the harvest moon of 2014. This beer prepares you for the annual descent into darkness. Nine malt varieties, molasses, honey, and Anodyne coffee. Aged for one year in bourbon barrels and virgin Missouri oak barrels. The result is nothing short of perfection.

 
I Say:

                Witchcraft pours a deep, opaque, oily black and is capped by a moderately thick small bubbled mocha brown head that holds moderately low retention (less than 2 min) before fading to a thick collar around the edges of the glass and leaving a fair amount of lacing behind.  Not quite leggy, the viscosity of Barrel Aged Witchcraft is immediately apparent as the unfermentable sugars in the beer cling to the edges of the glass with a slight swirl.  The aroma is led with coffee and rich dark chocolate with subtle notes of caramel adding depth and complexity to the nose.  Slight dark malts and woody oak ease in, lingering in the background to be replaced by a touch of honeyed bourbon and a slight charred aroma reminiscent of toasting marshmallows.  A semi-sweet boozy back end betrays Witchcraft’s 13.5% ABV.  I always like picking up alcohol in a high ABV beer and fortunately the alcohol in Witchcraft adds to the experience rather than detracting from it, as is often the case in young high ABV beers.

                Milk and dark chocolate lead in the flavor, blending effortlessly with notes of a high end medium roast coffee.  Bourbon and caramelized vanilla beans rounds out the experience with semi-sweet chocolate and caramel in the back end and a lingering semi-sweet bourbon-y praline chocolate finish.  As the beer warms in the glass it becomes increasingly sweet, without the sweetness ever reaching the point at which it detracts from the beer.  Witchcraft is full bodied, viscous, and as smooth as silk with a moderately low level of carbonation.  The 13.5% is pleasantly numbing which, of course, is a good thing.

                Witchcraft is an excellent beer that is by far one of the best Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stouts that I have had the privilege of drinking.  The malty sweetness is perfectly complemented by the coffee and bourbon barrels, with the virgin oak making an appearance as well.  For those of you showing up to the release tomorrow, there is a distinct difference in both aroma and flavor between the draft and bottled versions.  Both are exquisite, but I strongly prefer the bottled version if only because it’s easier to control the serving temperature.  This is definitely a beer that improves as it warms with a good serving range in the mid to high 50’s, although by the time I finished my bottle to write this review I was drinking it at room temperature and it was still excellent.  Cheers to Mike Brenner on this one!  The non-barrel aged release of Witchcraft was a great beer and the extended aging in barrels really turned the dial up to 11.  I for one will be picking up my full allotment at the 10/31 release and highly recommend you do the same - if barrel aged stouts are your thing.

As a side note, I’m currently on a mission to make the hashtag #BetterThanDarkLord become a thing, because yes, this is a RIS that is better than that fabled limited release down south.  Here’s to hoping that in another couple years Mike Brenner will throw Witchcraft Day and the lines will wind around the block.

That’s all for tonight, be sure to swing by Brenner tomorrow morning (10/31/15) for your bottles of Witchcraft or by Anodyne Coffee tomorrow night to enjoy a couple bottles during the Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound show!


Happy Drinking and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!