Wednesday, August 29, 2012

XX Bitch Creek Double ESB (2012) – Grand Teton Brewing

           No, not an Extra Special Bitter, XX Bitch Creek Double ESB is an Extra Special Brown.  What makes it extra special you might ask, tons of malts and generous helpings of Centennial and Chinook hops.  So, what makes it double, you may be asking yourself?  Oh, that part’s easy, they doubled everything.  That’s right, double the malts, double the hops, double the flavor and a nice boost in ABV.  This isn’t the first time that Grand Teton Brewing has released a Double Bitch Creek, the first was in 2008 in commemoration of their 20th Anniversary.  The beer was so highly regarded that they realized a one-time release just wouldn’t cut it.

           That’s where the 2012 Cellar Reserve program comes in, for 2012 Grand Teton is bringing back the beers with the best potential for aging.  My first introduction to the 2012 Cellar Reserve program was the amazing Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, the May 1st releases.  The most recent release is none other than the XX Bitch Creek Double ESB, the beer that was so popular at the 20th Anniversary release.

            If you are interested in reading about the history of Grand Teton Brewing, or how they practically invented the modern growler, check out my earlier post on Snarling Badge.  On to the review.

             The 2012 XX Bitch Creek doesn’t get released until Sept 1, so there are not any ratings up on either Beeradvocate or ratebeer yet.  I love being a blogger!!!

They say:
            XX Bitch Creek 2012
Double ESB Ale 

Twenty-four years ago Charlie Otto began making beer in Wyoming’s first modern brewery, a 210 square foot cabin in Jackson Hole. Since then, Grand Teton Brewing has grown into its present 11,000 square foot facility in Victor, Idaho, winning dozens of major awards and bringing innovations like the reusable glass growler to the brewing world. 
Bitch Creek ESB (Extra Special Brown) Ale was first brewed in 2003, and perfectly balances big malt sweetness and robust hop flavor to make a full-bodied mahogany ale. Southern Idaho 2-row malted barley and four German specialty malts provide massive body and flavor. Two hop varieties developed in Idaho, Galena and Chinook, balance the maltiness with clean bitterness and citrus flavors. Late additions of Centennial hops add piney, resinous flavors and aroma. 

              Bitch Creek ESB has quickly become one of our best selling and most critically acclaimed beers. At last count, it has won eleven gold medals at major national and international competitions.
XX Bitch Creek Double ESB is all that and more. To celebrate our twentieth anniversary in 2008 we took the Bitch Creek recipe and doubled everything: double the malt, double the hops, and twice the flavor. It was one of the most popular and best-reviewed Cellar Reserves we’ve brewed. It is also one of the most requested of our retired Cellar Reserves. 

               Over the years we’ve learned a lot about cellaring beers, and for 2012 we’ve refocused our Cellar Reserve program on beers that will taste great now and will lay down and mature over one or two years’ time. Now that we have a large catalog of previously brewed styles, we’ll bring back one or two of our best aging beers each year. It is fitting that XX Bitch Creek be the first to make a repeat appearance. This beer will change over time—the hops will mellow and the bitterness diminish, but the solid malt backbone will carry through, eventually taking on vinous, sherry-like notes. 

                This is a strongly flavorful beer, which should be paired with only the most flavorful of foods. Drink it alone as a nightcap, try it with the best steaks, game meats and hearty stews, or pair it with strong blue cheese or rich bread pudding. 

                XX Bitch Creek Double ESB Ale is a one time release available September 1st, 2012 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.  

Original Gravity (Plato): 18˚
International Bitterness Units: 60
Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 18˚   

I say:

                XX Bitch Creek pours dark, almost opaque, mahogany with a very thick, very creamy light brown head with excellent retention and excellent lacing in the glass.  The aroma is full of roasted malts, tons of pine and resin from the Centennial hops, and just a hint of nuttiness and coffee from the dark, roasted malts.  It was a pleasure to smell and was almost soothing, something to enjoy with a steak on a cold fall night.

                The flavor was very complex with hints of citrus, resin with a dark malt backbone.  It was robust and slightly sweet, with just the right amount of bitterness.  This is quite possible the best Brown Ale I have ever tasted, it is everything a Brown should be, perhaps that’s why it was an Extra Special Brown.  XX Bitch Creek is full bodied and creamy with a moderate level of carbonation.  It is an unbelievably amazing beer!!

                I often like wheat beers, or funky beers, at times I go for a smoked or hoppy beer, but the XX Bitch Creek was truly an amazing brew, and an excellent choice for a fall night.  Heck, this beer is an excellent choice any night, if you can get your hands on it.

                Unfortunately the only bad thing about this beer is that it’s a limited release.  I would love to see this beer as a year round or even seasonal release by Grand Teton Brewing.  Unfortunately we are not that lucky, so be sure to pick up as many bottles as your local liquor store will allow.  This is certainly one beer purchase you will not regret!  I am already planning my 2 hr drive to pick up 4, 5, maybe 6 bottles of this wonderful beer so that I can age it in my cellar and periodically taste a bottle over the next few years.  You may not want to wait that long though so buy at least 2 bottles, one for now and one for later!  You will NOT be disappointed!!

                That’s all for today, check back on Friday for a review of, let’s say Frangelic Mountain Brown from Founders!

                Happy Hump Day!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oasis – Tallgrass Brewing Co.

                I have a tried and reviewed two of Tallgrass’ beers, 8-bit Pale Ale and Velvet Rooster; and was impressed by both.  It’s been a while since I had one of their beers so I decided it was about time that I picked up a 4-pack of Oasis.

                Before moving on to the review, how about a quick background on Tallgrass, if you want more you can check my earlier posts.  Founded in 2007 by Jeff and Tricia Gill, Tallgrass is located in Manhattan, KS.  Their current lineup of seven beers includes 8-Bit Pale Ale, Velvet Rooster Tripel, Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat, Oasis, Buffalo Sweat, Tallgrass IPA and Tallgrass Ale.  One of the seven, Halcyon took silver at the 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championships in the American Specialty Wheat category.   Recently Tallgrass also released a line of homebrew kits through Northern Brewer so that home brewers could try their hand at Buffalo Sweat, Halcyon or Oasis.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s pretty cool that Tallgrass was willing to adapt their recipes for homebrewers.

                On to the review, over at Beeradvocate it has an 86 with a 90 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it has a 93 overall and an 85 for style.  Beeradvocate has it listed as an Imperial IPA and ratebeer has it listed as an IPA; two moderately different styles with some overlap, although many of the commercial examples that I have had show a distinct difference.

They say:

ABV 7.2%
93 IBU

Oasis is a Double ESB/IPAish beer that came about from playing around with one of Jeff’s favorite homebrew recipes.  Here at Tallgrass we love malt and we love hops, and this beer has both of them in record quantities; well, at least records for our baby brewery.  

At a hefty 7.2% ABV and 93 IBU, Oasis is a big beer that has to be priced a bit higher than our regular line of beers.  We think that once you taste the over-the-top hops and surprisingly sturdy malt backbone you will realize why it’s worth it.  

Definitely not a fruit-extract seasonal shandy, this beer is meant to be enjoyed on the back porch, the front porch, or even on the stoop.  What's a stoop?  Well, it's a good place to drink beer, is what it is.

I say:

                Oasis pours reddish amber with a thick tan head with a yellowish tint to it.  The head holds great retention, falling back slightly but proving persistent through the entire pint and leaving a nice lacing in the glass.  The Aroma is malt forward, with a hint of sweet caramel, backed up by pleasant floral and citrus (grapefruit) hops throughout, tending towards a slight bitterness on the back end.

               The flavor begins sweet with sweet citrus (mineola orange and tangerine) from the hops with a nice sweet malty backbone, although there is a bitter finish.  In all, the flavor highlights the notes from the aroma with the hops coming to the forefront whereas they were slightly more subdued and took second to the malt in the aroma.  Oasis is medium to full-bodied with a moderate to high level of carbonation.  It had a full, round finish that was slightly bitter yet not overwhelmingly so.

                Oasis is another quality beer out of Tallgrass, one that I would happily drink again.  I am tempted to pick up an Oasis kit at Northern Brewer and try my hand at duplicating this excellent beer.  If you are fortunate enough to live in a state that Tallgrass distributes to, pick up a 4-pack of Oasis or any of the other fine beers they offer!

                That’s all for this week, check back on Monday for another review!!!

Happy Drinking!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dark Depths Baltic IPA – Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams, or rather The Boston Beer Company is the largest craft brewery in the country and the 5th largest brewery in the US once the major commercial breweries are included.  They have brewed a wide range of beers, ensuring that they have something for everyone.  In that spirit they brewed their Dark Depths Baltic IPA, a Baltic porter with overt hoppy character of an American IPA.  Before going onto the review, how about a bit of background on the brewery?

Jim Koch, one of the three founders of the Boston Beer company, comes from a long line of brewers.  For five generations beginning in the 1800’s the first born son’s of the Koch family were brewmasters, including his father.  The orginal recipe for Samuel Adams Boston Lager was developed in 1860 in St. Louis, Missouri by Louis Koch and was sold as Louis Koch Lager prior to prohibition and after until the early 1950s.  As Maureen Ogle points out in her excellent book Ambitious Brews, American tastes had taken a turn towards the bland post-Prohibition with even big breweries finding that they could no longer sell a full flavored lager to the American public.  As the big breweries switched to lighter flavored lagers the breweries that produced hoppier brews went under.

By the time Jim Koch was deciding on a career path, his families brewery was long closed and the American demand for a bland product had overtaken the market (not that I blame the big three for it, they were merely responding to American demand).  The original 1860 recipe was all but lost until Jim Koch found it in his parent’s attic.  Prior to starting the Boston Beer Company, Jim Koch was a homebrewer. 

In the early 80’s, armed with his secret family recipe, he realized that he could brew a high quality, full-flavored beer that the American public would enjoy.  Sure, in the early 80’s it was a small niche but he believed it still existed; and the rise of craft breweries during the period proves that at least a subsection of the American public was ready to return to a more flavorful brew.  At the time Jim Koch was a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, and along with two other Harvard graduates, Harry Rubin and Lorenzo Lamadrid decided there really was a future in craft beer.  By December 1984 they had founded Samuel Adams, which would become the Boston Beer Company.  In April 1985 they officially rolled out Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  At the Great American Beer Festival that year it was voted “Best Beer in America”.  By the end of 1985 they had sold 500 barrels of Boston Lager and expanded distribution across Massachusetts, into Connecticut, and exported to West Germany.

In 1995 The Boston Beer Company went public, selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange.  Fast forward to 2012 and Sam Adams Boston Lager is on tap or available in bottle at almost every bar in the country, even the bars that only have products from the big three as alternatives.  Their current lineup is 56 beers including the original line, seasonals, the brew master’s collection, the barrel collection, specialty beers and limited release beers.

The philanthropy of the Boston Beer company is legendary.  They have a history of selling excess ingredients at cost to other craft breweries.  In 1996 they began the LongShot brewing competition which ran again in 1997.  However, beer drinkers weren’t ready and the program was put off until it resurfaced in 2006.  In 2008 they rolled out their Brewing the American Dream program focused on providing the financial backing and training required for aspiring individuals to start and sustain their own small business.  The strong support that they show for brewing and fostering the growth of small business is a sign of their commitment to corporate stewardship and they deserve a lot of credit for it.

I could go on, but you are here for a beer review so lets move on to that.  On Beeradvocate, Dark Depths has a score of 85 with an 82 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it has a 95 overall and an 81 for style.

They say:

Dark, and fierce, this English porter was transformed, from a mild ale to a dark and complex lager that confounds definition.   Immersed in dark, roasted malts and a bold citrus hop character, these big and contrasting flavors are brought together with the smoothness of a lager for a brew that’s rugged, mysterious, and full of flavor.

Baltic Porters date back to 18th century when the English style was exported along the trade routes of the Baltic Sea.  However, the beer that took hold there was different than its English original.  The new Baltic Porter retained the dark roasted malts but was higher in alcohol and used a lager yeast, common to the region from other beer styles.  India Pale Ales have a similar history as they took the basis of an English Pale Ale and were strengthened and fortified for the journey to India.

In creating Dark Depths we began with the idea of the Baltic Porter, using dark roasted malts like Munich and Carafa that added a deep espresso character.  To this base we added the bold and citrusy hop character of an IPA.  The combination of American, Australian, English, and German hops give the beer a layered hop complexity with notes of grapefruit, orange, floral, and earthy pine.  The lager yeast and cold fermentation brings together the rich malt and spicy hop flavors and adds a smoothness and balance to the brew.

Flavor: This beer has a lot of hop complexity with notes of orange citrus as well as earthy, herbal, and floral flavors and a big spicy character.

Color: Dark mahogany, 60 SRM
Original Gravity: 18.5° Plato
Alcohol by Vol/Wt: 7.6%ABV – 5.9%ABW
Calories/12 oz.: 254
IBUs: 55
Malt Varieties: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, Munich, Carafa I
Hop Variety: Zeus, Ahtanum, Saaz, East Kent Goldings, Topaz, and Simcoe hops
Yeast Strain: Samuel Adams lager yeast
Availability: Year round
First Brewed: 2012

I say:

                Dark Depths poured a translucent dark mahogany with a thick creamy tan head that held terrific retention and left excellent lacing in the glass.  The aroma coming off the glass and out of it during the pour were overwhelmingly citrus.  This “Baltic IPA” was bursting with orange, tangerine, and floral hop aromas.  However, this is definitely not a beer to confuse with a Black IPA, sometimes called a Cascadian Dark IPA.  The Baltic IPA also has the strong roasted, caramel and coffee malt backbone of a Baltic Porter.  The aromas are extremely well balanced and slightly confusing because they contain the best of both an IPA and a Baltic Porter.

                The flavor was equally complex.  It had equal parts orange citrus notes from the hops and roasted/coffee notes from the malt.  It was surprisingly smooth with hints of spice and bitterness from the hops.  It finishes smooth, full and almost velvety.

                Dark Depths is an excellent beer!  It does not fit into any of the current BJCP or AHA styles, but in the end is that really a requirement for a beer to be exquisitely brewed and delicious?  Shouldn’t beer be an art form where creative expression is rewarded?  I may not be a fan of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager, their flagship beer (although to be fair, I haven’t had a pint of it in almost 8 years), but Dark Depths is truly a great beer and if you can find it near you, you should definitely pick up a bottle!

 While you are at it, check out this great interview with Boston Beer founder Jim Koch:

                That’s all for today, check back on Friday for another review, likely on either Founders Frangelic Mountain Brown or Oasis from Tallgrass Brewing.

                Happy Drinking!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ruinaton 10th Anniversary – Stone Brewing

                Ruination was quite possibly the first year round Imperial IPA, now 10 years later Stone released a special 10thAnniversary brew, so if you are counting backwards that means the first Ruination came out in 2002, which is quickly confirmed on the back of the bottle, a full 6 years after Stone was founded.  Their first beer, Stone Pale Ale; and their first keg was sold on July 26, 1996 to Vince Marsaglia at Pizza Port.

Since 1996 Stone Brewery has grown to be one of the largest craft breweries in the country, from 400 barrels in 1996 to a projected 180,000 barrels in 2012.  Back in 2005 they topped out at the maximum capacity for their original brewery, and moved into a considerably larger brewery in Escondido; opening the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in 2006.  In 2008 and 2009 Stone was named the “Most popular and highest rated brewery – ever!” by BeerAdvocatemagazine.  In December of 2009 they announced the intention of opening a brewhouse in Europe and have since narrowed the new location to Berlin or Bruges, down from an initial list of 79 locations.

Stone’s explosive growth is expected to continue with plans to open a second Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station later this year and break ground on the Stone Hotel in early 2013.

                Stone’s founders Steve Wagner and Greg Koch met in 1989 when Steve’s band rehearsed at Greg’s music studios; then met a few years later in a “Sensory Evaluation of Beer” class at US-Davis.  Over the next three years the two kept in touch until they came to a revelation that they had to open a brewery.  With Steve brewing and Greg focused on the business aspects the two obtained the support of private investors, found a building and moved in on February 1st, 1996; built a stainless steel brewhouse; and officially opened on July 26th.

                I had been moderately aware of Stone after I graduated with my undergraduate degree and picked up my first bottle of Stone beer probably in the early-mid 2000s when I noticed an interesting new beer with a gargoyle for a label on the shelves at my local liquor store.  To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan back then because I had yet to develop a taste for super hoppy IPAs.  It wasn’t until I visited the Stone World Bistro and Gardens during a business trip to the San Diego area in 2008 that I started to fully appreciate Stone Brewing.  If you have never been and find yourself in Escondido, it is well worth the trip.  The food is fantastic, the beer list is unbelievable and the gardens are gorgeous.

I met Mr. Koch at the GABF last year and found that he was very nice and extremely approachable (picture to come, if i can find it).  The book that he wrote with Steve Wagner and Randy Clemens, “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.” is a great read with recipes for 18 Stone beers and a handful of the dishes on the menu at the Stone World Bistro.  I would go on, but you are here for a review of Ruination 10th Anniversary, so on to the review.

                On Beeradvocate the Ruination 10th Anniversary has a score of 96 and an 87 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it has a score of 100 Overall and 99 for style.

They Say:

10.8% ABV
110 IBUs

On the bottle –
                In June 2002, we released Stone Ruination IPA.  Bigger, hoppier, & much much much more bitter than the popular beers of the day.  In fact, back then it was on the outer fringe of craft brewing.  So, in a bid to warn folks of the bitter impact of our “Liquid Poem to the Glory of the Hop,” we named it Stone Ruination IPA, for its extraordinary bitter, “ruinous effect” on the pallet.  People thought we were nuts.  Nobody would want such a bitter beer.  You see, in June 2002, only a tiny handful of breweries either had bottled a double IPA as a limited release or had one on tap at their brewpub.  Without realizing it, we’d made a bit of history, as our new beer proved to be the first full-time brewed & bottled double IPA on the planet.  How things have changed.  Today’s double IPAs are brewed by literally hundreds of craft breweries all over the world.  Incredible.  Delicious. And incredibly delicious.

                No, we didn’t create the double IPA style.  That honor’s been attributed to our old friend Vinnie Cilurzo, who produced his Blind Pig 1st Anniversary IPA in 1996 in nearby Temecula, CA (the same year Stone opened).  We then picked up the double IPA baton with our successively-ever-bigger-and-hoppier Stone 2nd thru 5th Anniversary IPAs (1998-2001).  Ultimately, in 2002 we blended those recipes to create Stone Ruination IPA, if for no other reason than we simply wanted that big, hoppy character available to us all year ‘round.  Turned out you did, too!  Today Stone Ruination IPA is one of the best selling double IPAs in the world, thanks to you, so we brewed this special version to celebrate.

On the website –

                Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA was created as an homage to the almighty hop. As the celebrated Stone Ruination IPA approached its 10th birthday this June, we knew we had to do something special, so we cranked it up from 7.7% to 10.8% and used twice as much hops–a whopping 5 pounds per barrel, including a pound each of Citra and Centennial in the dry hop. The results were GLORIOUS, but don't take our word for it. The only people more bitter than those who don't get any... will be those who do.

Suggested Pairings by "Dr." Bill Sysak

Appetizers: Kimchee, ceviche, bacon-wrapped jalapeƱos (or habaneros)

Main Courses: Salt and pepper shrimp, jambalaya, roasted pork chops with apple sauce, pineapple curry

Desserts: Apple pie with caramel sauce, toffee bars, spiced carrot cake

Cheeses: Aged Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort, Mimolette

Cigars: Ashton Classic Majesty, Litto Gomez Diez, Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label Invictos Corojo Robusto

I say:

                Stone Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA pours a brilliant reddish amber.  It has a thick, creamy off-white head that holds excellent retention with great lacing in the glass.  The aromas popped as I was pouring, filling the room with pine and tangerine notes.  In the glass the aromas were piney and resiny, with tons of citrus (tangerine and pineapple).  The aromas were amazing, and characteristic of the great hop characteristics I have come to expect from a Stone IPA.

                The flavor was surprisingly crisp and full of strong tangerine and piney character, a forceful push of hop bitterness, with caramel notes as part of a strong malt backbone.  The hops were like a punch to the face, and the malt a nice soft pillow to fall back onto.  The finish was unbelievably smooth with just a hint of bitterness.  There was little to no noticeable alcohol in the flavor, surprising given its 10.5% ABV.  Ruination 10th Anniversary was medium to full-bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                Stone certainly pulled no punches in the release of the 10th Anniversary, it was everything that I love about Ruination and then some.  It had way more hops, and way more malt producing an excellent beer that was a pleasure to drink.  My only regret is that I was only able to find one bottle of this exquisite elixir, because I would have happily bought a case worth.  Hopefully this is a recipe that Stone will brew again soon.

                That’s all for today, check back tomorrow for a review on the Dark Depths Baltic IPA from Samuel Adams.

                Happy Drinking!!