Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The joys of fermentaton!

Brewed my first beer this past weekend and now it is happily fermenting.  Gotta love it!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stone Old Guardian Early 2010 Release

                I was looking in my beer cellar this afternoon and noticed a bottle of Old Guardian sitting down there, slightly dusty from not having been moved in over a year and a half.  One of the nifty things that I just found out about Old Guardian is that Stone tweaks the recipe for each batch, ensuring that each batch is unique (one of the nifty things which I suspected but learned the truth of in the Stone Brewery book).  So, if you miss one you will not achieve the same sensory sensation from a bottle of the next release.  Personally, I find that pretty awesome.  Unique flavor components from year to year reflects the unique alpha acid levels are found in different hops from year to year, and nicely mirrors the variance found on a yearly basis in California’s other main alcohol export, wine.

                So, this bottle is two years old which led me to wonder how it aged.  Having watched Hop Cast Episode 165: ADiscussion With Pete Crowley On Cellaring, I started to worry that maybe a few of my beers were starting to expire.  So, I decided to drink this two year old bottle and find out if it lived up to the legendary 2010 Barley Wine that I remember having a the brewery.  As most people reading this know, some beers like a great wine tend to mature with age.  Some flavors mellow, others come to the forefront, and a great aged beer often has something in common with the un-aged beer, but at times there can an extraordinary shift in the flavor profile.  So, after two years I was curious.

Over at ratebeer this was given a 99 overall and a 98 for style, while at Beeradvocate it was given a 92 and an 81.   I noticed an interesting thing tonight, BA tends to have individual year listings while ratebeer has date ranges.  For a Barley Wine like this, that changed on an almost yearly basis, it seems as though individual year reviews are more accurate.

                Unfortunately the standard description from Stone isn’t too elaborate, because they tend to have rants on their bottles, but they say:
A beautiful bold barley wine. Massive malt and hop notes. Silver Medal winner at the 2000 Great American Beer Festival in the Barley Wine category. Gold Medal winner at the 2002 World Beer Championships in the Barley Wine Category. Look for it in the first quarter of each new year. Can be cellared or enjoyed upon its release.

I say:
Old Guardian poured a wonderful golden color, with an excellent creamy white head with excellent lacing.  It has a strong malty aroma, with a pleasant bready, yeasty undertones, and just a hint of floral hops.  Aging the 2010 has resulted in a smooth, almost jam-like flavor with a very slight alcohol bite.  It certainly does not have the feel of its 11.1% ABV.  This is an extremely dangerous bottle, the first glass went down easy, and was surprisingly sweet.  Then came dinner, and part way through dinner, the alcohol bit back and I was definitely feeling it.  The remainder of the bottle had, by this time, a change to warm up closer to room temperature.  The increased temperature brought with it more hop bitterness and a stronger alcohol bite, although the jammy sweetness remained to balance out the increased hop perception.

                This is definitely an excellent Barley Wine, and it stood up to 2 years worth of aging.  I don’t know if the concerns raised by the guys at Hop Cast were relevant for this particular bottle, but I would much rather drink through my cellar than have another beer turn on me.  After all, I like to enjoy a good beer while it still resembles a good beer.
That’s all for tonight, good night and happy drinking!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hessen House - Des Moines, IA

So, tonight I went to Hessen House, one of the best German bars in the country, with one of the greatest German beer selections outside of Germany.  So, there certainly was a wide selection (over 200 beers) to choose from.  It was hard to pick as I browsed the beer menu, but in the end I went with what I thought were possibly the three most intriguing beers on the menu.

First I had the Kulmbacher Eisbock.  An Eisbock is a unique beer in that the brewery brews a bock and then freezes the fermented beer to remove 10-30% of the water, effectively increasing the ABV far above what could be achieved by normal fermentation.  This leads to a great bock with 2-3% more ABV than it would have been otherwise.  Michael Jackson once gave the Kulmbacker Eisbock his highest rating and it currently has a 99 overall and a 100 for style on ratebeer, and a 91 and 95 on BeerAdvocate.  My expectations were certainly set high but this beer.

They say:
The ice bock, also known as "Bayrisch Gefrorns", owes its discovery to a coincidence. According to the chronicles of the Kulmbacher brewery, some time around 1900 an apprentice forgot on a cold winter day to carry two barrels of bock beer into the brewery cellar. The barrels stayed outside, were covered by ice and snow and weren’t discovered until the following spring. The barrels had burst and the apprentice was reprimanded. But the carelessness was a stroke of luck because under the thick ice coat, a bock beer extract remained, strong tasting and high in alcoholic content.
Even if the dark, tasty speciality is not produced in this spectacular way anymore, the chance that gave birth to this beer became a tradition. Today this beer rarity is brewed in a modern brewing and freezing process, but the incomparable taste is still the same and can always be enjoyed in winter months.
I say:
            Kulmbacher Eisbock was a brilliant eisbock.  It poured a nice dark brownish red with a thick tan head.  It had a great clean malty scent with an excellent sweet, malty flavor.  It was definitely a strong beer, but had absolutely no alcohol flavors.  It was definitely an excellent beer that I would happily have again if only I could find it somewhere other than the Hessen House.

Next I had the Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier 2009, brewed once yearly on December 6, it is aged for 10 months and continues to mature in the bottle for years.  It was Michal Jackson’s beer of the month for December 1991 and then again in October 1997.  It received a 94 for style and an 84 overall on ratebeer; and an 89 and 100 on Beeradvocate.  At 14% it was and might still be the highest alcohol lager in production,  and it has repeatedly been rated extremely high.  Since it was aged for just over 2 years, it seemed like a second excellent selection.

 They say:
The once strongest beer in the world is back ! Brewed only once a year on December 6. Samichlaus is aged for 10 months before bottling. This beer is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichlaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more complex with a creamy warming finish. Serve with hardy robust dishes and desserts, particularly with chocolates, or as an after dinner drink by itself. Brewed under the exclusive licence of Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann-Holding, Switzerland.

I say:

Samichlaus was a great strong lager.  It poured a nice amber color with a thin white head.  It had a sweet, barley malt scent and was unbelievably smooth for a high alcohol beer.  It was medium bodied, with a sweet, smooth carmely flavor.  Like an excellent, fine dessert, it left me wanting for more, and hopefully someday I will find it again.  Great beer, be sure to pick it up if you can find it anywhere!

My final beer for the night was Lindemans Faro.  Faro is a lambic brewed with unmalted wheat and wild yeast, with candi sugar added for bottle fermentation.  I had expected it to be cloyingly sweet, and less sour than most lambics.  On ratebeer it received an 83 for style and a 68 overall; on Beeradvocate it received an 81.

They say:
A version of Belgium's "wild-fermented" wheat beer, which is the result of blending Lambic of "one summer" with old Lambic and chaptalized with candy sugar.
Faro is an intriguing balance of wineyness and sweetness. This was probably the beer being served in Breugel's paintings of Flemish Village Life.
Faro is a delicious accompaniment of a whole assortment of desserts.
It’s made from malt, wheat, hops, water, yeast. Candy sugar is added before the bottling takes place. It is a clear, light red colored faro lambic with a small, creamy head.

I say:

Faro was definitely an interesting lambic.  It poured a nice clean amber color with a full white head.  It had a sweet, sour apple scent.  Flavor wise, it was almost cloyingly sweet, with a slight sour finish.  It was interesting and complex, however without the fruit components in many lambics, it was lacking.  It was sweet and sour, but there wasn’t much else going on.  IF you want an interesting lambic, try it out, but if sour beers aren’t your thing, steer clear.

All in all, it was a great night at Hessen House.  If you are in Des Moines and want to find the best German beer selection outside of Germany, head to Hessen House for a beer and some great, authentic German food.

That’s all for tonight, Happy Drinking!!