Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Grand Cru Abbey Ale - New Belgium Brewing

            For a fuller background on New Belgium Brewing, check out my earlier posts on Brett Beer and Shift Pale Ale, for now though let’s focus on their Grand Cru Abbey Ale.

On the bottle, New Belgium says:

“For every 1,000 batches at New Belgium, we brew an Abbey Grand Cru as our brewed tribute to Abbey, our first and most decorated beer.  Being our 20th Anniversary we’re sharing this bottle-conditioned mahogany beauty.  To you and Abbey Grand Cru!”

                On Beeradvocate, Abbey Grand Cru currently has a score of 89 with a 94 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it has a 98 Overall and a 99 for style.

They say:

Before there was New Belgium Brewing, there was Abbey Ale. It was the first beer of home brewer and New Belgium co-founder, Jeff Lebesch. So the love brews deep for Abbey Grand Cru.

To date, Abbey Ale has garnered no less than 16 medals at the Great American Beer Festival 7 of those being Gold. Take that award-winning recipe, precisely increase the hops, malt and fermentation time, and the result is a Grand Cru worth collecting. And that s exactly what many of us at New Belgium, as well as a growing number of fans, have done.

By saving it for a few years, Abbey Grand Cru will continue to improve and age deliciously. Optimal storage is a cool (40-55°), dark place where the bottles can remain undisturbed. But lest we forget, it is a great beer and great beers deserve to be enjoyed. Best served at cellar temperature in a wide-mouthed glass. Toast to the monk s virtue and have a heavenly experience.
Just the facts Ma'am...

Birthdate -
November, 1991
Calories -
Hops -
Willamette, Target, Liberty
Malts -
Pale, Chocolate, Carapils, C-80, Munich
Body -
Medium - Full
Aroma -
Notes of dried dark fruits -raisin, plum, date, grape fig and cherry. Some woody notes and lots of banana. Some gentle red wine notes.
Mouthfeel -
Full mouthfeel, creamy and rounded but the additional alcohol gives it a nice spicy warm wine-like finish.
Flavor -
Strong alcoholic warmth, yeasty bread and caramel, candied sugar and red wine. Hints of chocolate, dark fruits, and some dry oaky aged biscuit malt notes.
Visual -
 Deep mahogany with hints of cranberry red, creamy dense head with strong lacing

I say:
                Grand Cru Abbey Ale pours dark mahogany with ruby red highlights and has a rocky off-white head with moderate retention (fades after a few minutes) and leaves, prominent off-white lacing in the glass.  It is a good looking beer.  The aromas coming off Abbey Grand Cru are extremely complex and decidedly Belgian in variety.  It starts with plum and raisin notes, a hint of banana, followed by sweet malts, dates, figs and caramelized sugar.  The aroma is amazing!

                Grand Cru begins smooth, with flavors that mirror the aroma.  Starting with dates, plums and caramelized candi sugar, it has hints of chocolate and breadiness on the back end.  There is a slight alcohol warmth, highlighting Grand Cru’s 9.5% ABV and a semi-dry finish.  It is medium to full-bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                Grand Cru Abbey Ale is an excellent beer and I am looking forward to finishing my remaining bottles.  If you can find it at a liquor store near you, pick up a bottle or two, or three; this is an excellent beer that should age well for years to come.

                That’s all for today, check back later this week, Wednesday or Thursday, for another review.

                Happy Drinking!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cherry Stout - Bell's Brewery

                Bell’s Cherry Stout is back in stores, and might just be a beer worth your hard earned money if you like stouts and tart cherries, check out my review below following some quick background information on Bell’s. 

In 1983, Larry Bell began brewing, later that year he founded the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, a homebrew supply store.  Two years later, in September of 1985 Larry Bell’s brewery served sold its first beer under the name Bell’s brewery.  Brewing in a 15 gallon soup kettle (yes, that’s right a 15 gallon kettle), Bell’s produced and sold 135 barrels (31 gallons per barrel) through the end of 1986.  It’s probably safe to say that he was brewing 10 gallon batches when he started, meaning that counting the first batch Larry Bell sold in September of 1985, he brewed another 419 batches in 17 months, or 24 batches per month on average.

A small operation, Larry Bell and his nine employees self-distributed their beer for the first 4 years of operation.  In 1989, Bells produced 500 barrels of beer and began distribution through a wholesaler.  By 1990, Bell’s began distribution beer outside of Michigan.  The brewery quickly expanded and became the first brewery in Michigan to open an onsite pub.  In 2001, Bell’s began brewing 7 days a week to keep up with demand.  In response to ever increasing demand, Bell’s opened a new brewing facility only to add a 10,000 square foot expansion in 2005.  

In 2008, Bell’s purchased an 80-acre farm north of their brewery.  Sustainably managed, the farm produces, 100% non-GMO, 2-row barley utilizing a no-till farming and tiled draining on the land.  The no-till method, with a three-year crop rotation, sure it cuts down on annual production, but it preserves the land and maintains the ecosystem.  It’s pretty cool stuff.

In May of 2011, Bell’s became one of the Top 10 craft breweries in volume sold; they are currently ranked seventh as of the 2011 rankings released in April 2012.  On May 14, 2012 Bell’s opened a new 200 barrel brew house as well as expanding their production facility with fourteen additional 400 barrel fermentation tanks, so expect them to be ranked even higher next year.  Currently Bell’s is available in 18 states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC.  To find out if you can get Bell’s near you, be sure to check out their Beer Finder page.

On to the review!

At Beeradvocate, Bell’s Cherry Stout currently has a score of 80. Over at ratebeer it has a score of 91 overall and 83 for style.

They Say:

Tinted ruby-black, Cherry Stout gains its signature tartness from 100% Montmorency cherries grown in Michigan's Traverse City region. Rather than doubling up on sweetness, this tart cherry varietal serves as a counterpoint to the warm, dark chocolate notes from the malt bill. Lightly hopped for balance, this stout is one of the cornerstones of the Bell's stout portfolio. 

Alcohol by Volume:  7.0%
Original Gravity:  1.082
Shelf Life:  12 months
Dates Available:  Winter
Available Packages:  Bottle and draft

I Say:

                Bell’s Cherry Stout pours opaque black with a milk chocolate colored, thick, creamy head that dissipates quickly.  The aroma is of earthy roasted malts, slight breadiness and strong tart cherries giving it a strong cherry pie character.  It smelled like a homemade cherry pie baking in the oven.

                The flavor started off smooth, creamy and malty with a pleasant roasted character backed up with a very strong dose of nice, tart cherries.   As with the aroma, the flavor reminded me of a very good homemade cherry pie, with just a hint of dark chocolate on the back end.  Bell’s Cherry Stout is full-bodied with a low to moderate level of carbonation.

                The Cherry Stout is back on the shelves again (at least it is here), if you can find a bottle near you do not hesitate to try it!

                That’s all for today, check back on Tuesday for another update.  Have a great weekend!

                Happy Drinking!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sparkly Eyes – Black Husky Brewing

                Black Husky recently rolled out a new beer, Sparkly Eyes, the imperial version of their very popular beer, Sproose Joose.  As the imperial version of Sproose Joose, Sparkly Eyes is made with what else, an added dose of spruce, a larger dose of high alpha hops and of course, more malt bringing it to an astounding 10.2% ABV. Update: Courtesy of headbrewer, Tim Eichinger Sparkly Eyes is actually 10.9% ABV.
                Spruce tips work marvelously in Sproose Joose, so there is no reason they would not work just as well in Sparkly Eyes.   

                Sparkly Eyes is in reference to the Sparkly Eyes technique in the movie Men Who Stare at Goats, an excellent movie about secret CIA mind experiments.  Check after the review for the clip from "Men Who Stare at Goats" that inspired the naming.  Anyways, on to the review.

                Sparkly Eyes is too new to have a review or score on either Beeradvocate or ratebeer, but that should change as more bottles, and a kegs make it into the market.  It will surely score high though.
They say:

                The role of the New Earth Army is to resolve conflict worldwide.  One of the techniques utilized is Sparkly Eyes, which psychically gives the disinclination to attack others.  You can see Lothar practicing his technique which may be followed by non-lethal methods of conflict should Sparkly Eyes fail to be effective.  We have developed Sparkly Eyes Imperial Sproose so you too can adopt the peaceful ways of the Warrior Monk on your journet to be a Jedi of the New Earth Army.

I say:

                Sparkly Eyes pours a very hazy deep gold, with thick, creamy white head that held retention through the entire glass, and left exquisite lacing.  This was a gorgeous beer, far cloudier than Spruce Joose, perhaps due to the combined hop and spruce resins.  As with Sproose Joose, the aroma wafting from the top of Sparkly Eyes is full of spruce with a pleasant grapefruit hoppiness and a bready, slightly sweet malt character on the back end.  The combination of aromas worked in perfect harmony, almost begging me to taste this exquisite, artisanally brewed beer

                Upon my fisrst sip I was amazed how mellow the beer was.  Each of the flavors worked together to create a beer fare superior its component flavors.  It started off mellow and sweet, with pine and grapefruit notes (both the fruit and peel), balanced out by a bready, slightly sweet maltiness.  The flavor was remarkably balanced, slightly on the bitter side but not too terribly so.  The finish was crisp, piney and delicious.  Sparkly Eyes is very smooth and creamy with a medium to full body and a moderate level of carbonation that seemingly hides behind the resiny goodness of the spruce.

                This is an amazing beer, that definitely showcases the genius of adding spruce tips to a brew.  I look forward to more creativity from Tim Eichinger!

                That’s all for today, but before I sign out, check out the clip that is the namesake of this beer.

                 Check back on Friday for another new review!

                 Happy Drinking!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sproose Joose II IPA - Black Husky Brewing

Black Husky Brewing, for those of you who remember from my earlier review of their Hefe Weiss is a small nano-brewery in Pembine, Wisconsin that produces a variety of well-brewed beers.  In fact, since I posted my previous Black Husky review, they have expanded their presence in the Milwaukee area, and all over Wisconsin for that matter.  So now, if you live in Wisconsin, you should be able to find a selection of Black Husky beers at a bar near you!

One of their most popular ales is the Sproose Joose II IPA, brewed with high alpha hops and local spruce tips.  In fact, it was so popular that Tim Eichinger, the head brewer, rolled out an “Imperial” version of Sproose Joose this past Friday (I will have a review up on it this Wednesday).

             So, a beer popular enough to inspire an Imperial version of itself must be good, right?  The Spruce tips in it sound like an interesting addition, to push the envelope a little, while remaining in the IPA and Double IPA wheelhouse.  So, without further ado, on to the review.

             On Beeradvocate, Sproose Joose has an 89.  Over at ratebeer it has an 86 overall and a 36 for style.  As usual, ratebeer comes in a little low and offers a rock bottom 36 for style.  Ratebeer often comes in low, and as always the scores at the beer rating sites should be taken with a grain of salt and should never drive your beer buying or beer drinking decisions.

They say:

A Black Husky innovation, this double IPA is brewed with high alpha hops and locally harvested spruce tips. Like Lothar the Biter, this beer has an aggressive biting flavor with a pungent yet citrusy aroma.

I say:

             Sproose Joose pours a slightly hazy gold with a thick, creamy, white head that holds remarkable retention, throughout the entire glass.  The aroma is a massive spruce bomb, with equal parts sweet caramel malt, and grapefruit hop notes blended throughout.  The caramel notes fade as the beer warms, and the grapefruit becomes more prominent, almost but not quite dominating the spruce.

             The flavor begins with tons of spruce up front, with sweet caramel malts and a great backdrop of grapefruit, resin and hints of juniper hoppiness.  As with the aroma, the caramel notes fade as it warms allowing the spruce, resin, grapefruit and juniper to pop.

             Spruce Joose is very creamy and smooth with a slightly bitter finish that fades as it warms, which seems odd since the hop flavors become more prominent as the bitterness fades.  It is medium to full bodied with a moderate to high level of carbonation.  Perhaps the high level of carbonation leads to a bit of carbonic bite, which could explain why the perceived bitterness seems to fade as the carbonation level decreased in the glass (carbonic acid enhances the perception of bitterness).

             Well, that’s all today.  Check back on Wednesday for a review of the Imperial version of Sproose Joose, Sparkly Eyes!

             Happy Drinking!