Friday, April 26, 2013

Local Series: VT – Peak Organic Brewing Company

            It has been a while since I interviewed Jon Cadoux, co-founder of Peak Organic Brewing Company.  During the interview, he mentioned a local series that they run, highlighting ingredients from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, or New York.  The concept is a simple one, brew an American Pale Ale with the same recipe four times using the same malt and hop bills, but change the source of the ingredients for each beer.  Ideally, this could help identify which hop and grain producers can give you the flavors you are looking for in every beer you brew.  Terroir is everything in wine, coffee, chocolate and tea; the Local series is a subtle statement that it also impacts the flavors of the base ingredients in a beer, and therefore effects the final beer.

            Here in Wisconsin we are unable to get many of the Peak Organic beers, and are only rarely lucky to get a few of their special releases.  Fortunately, having family in Vermont has its perks and I was able to obtain a bottle of the Vermont Local Series beer.  Speaking with Jon about it last July, and drinking a few of his other beers really made me excited to try Vermont, so as soon as I got the bottle I chilled it and opened it.  On to the review!

On Beeradvocate, Vermont has a score of 82.  At ratebeer, it does not have enough reviews for a score.

They Say:
Website Description

            This series is a celebration of tasty local ingredients and distinctive terroir. We brewed four beers, each with barley and hops from one particular state (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York). Each beer in the series was brewed according to a similar recipe, to achieve an ale that is assertively-hopped and dry-hopped, but also bold in its malt character. Since the recipe is consistent, the flavor difference in each beer results from the distinctive local terroir. Working with skilled farmers to craft this series has been an exceptional experience for us. We hope you enjoy the result.
Abv:  6.9%  IBU 67

From the Bottle:

            This series is a celebration of tasty local ingredients. The Local VT is an assertively hopped ale, brewed with organic Vermont barley and Vermont hops. A generous dry hopping highlights the engaging aromas from these local hops. Each beer in the Local Series is brewed with ingredients from a different state. The recipe stays consistent, so the flavor differences in each beer in the series result directly from the local terroir. Working with the skilled local farmers to craft this series has been an exceptional experience for us. We hope you enoy the result.

From my Past Interview with Jon:

The big focus was on the hop side with Nugget hops.  We found that the Nugget hops from each state had a ton of variability.  The Maine hops for example had a robust citrus component; whereas the Vermont hops had a much more spicy character.

I Say:

            Vermont pours a very clear amber with a thick, creamy, white head that holds moderate retention and leaves thick lacing on the edges of the glass.  The aroma has caramel, and slightly bready malts with grapefruit and spicy hop notes, with a hint of raisins. 

The flavor is bready and slightly earthy with pronounced grapefruit and spicy hops.  The raisiny notes that present in the aroma are noticeably absent in the flavor.  The finish is smooth and mellow with a citrusy caramel aftertaste and a moderate, lingering hop bitterness.  Vermont is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level.

The Local Series Vermont is an interesting and complex beer that remains very approachable for most craft beer drinkers.  It is a good, solid American Pale Ale with a strong malt backbone, and an assertive, Nugget focused hop bill.  It was amazing to experience the usually floral and piney Nugget express a citrusy and spicy character due to the local growing conditions in Vermont.  Not having had the other Local Series beers, I am now more interested than ever in tasting the differences in each.

            This is an excellent beer, and I applaud Jon and everyone else at Peak Organic for showing how the terroir of the ingredients effects the final beer.  A word of warning though, Peak Organic beers are bottle conditioned, which means there will be a layer of yeast on the bottom.  When drinking a beer with yeast, it is important to try to pour the beer subtly enough to not stir up the yeast (at least for most styles).  That said, go out and buy a bottle of Peak Organic beer, just be careful when you pour it.

            That’s all for today, check back next week for another post!

            Happy Drinking!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Naughty Temple – Toppling Goliath

                NaughtyTemple, from Toppling Goliath, was released just over a month ago now.  When it was released, Naughty Temple was big news.   Sadly, only one liquor store in Eastern Wisconsin received a case of it.  Like many in the region, I lined up at Three Cellars in Franklin, WI for a chance to purchase Naughty Temple, at the price of $25 a bottle.  Somehow, the fates were in my favor and I ended it up a few bottles.  Having had the excellent ZeeLander, I was thrilled to have multiple bottles of what I was sure would be an excellent beer.  A barrel aged version of their Naughty 90 IPA, the Naughty temple is an interesting concept.  It harkens back to a time when IPAs were brewed in England, then loaded on a boat, shipped around Cape Horn at the Southern tip of Africa, and delivered to British ex-patriots in India.

 As I am sure many of you are aware, hops were originally used in beer because of their antibacterial properties.  Hops allowed breweries to put out a product that had a lesser chance of infection than the gruit ales that were more popular at the time.  Whereas unhopped beers had a high chance of going sour or spoiling due to other infections, hopped beers remained remarkably preserved over time.  It is only fitting then that the first beer shipped hundreds of miles from the brewery would be heavily hopped.  The original British IPA is the resulting beer, one that was hopped at what was then an extreme rate, then stored in barrels and loaded on ships for the long trip to India.  By the time the India Pale Ales arrived, the hops flavors and bitterness would have faded to the point where the beer was more like a Pale Ale or a British Bitter.  The history of the IPA is a pretty interesting story, but its not one that I feel comfortable to discuss in detail.  For more information, check out Mitch Steele’s book, IPA. 

On to the review. 

At Beeradvocate, Naughty Temple has a score of 94.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 89 overall and a 73 for style.

They Say:

On the bottle:

                He ventures to the Naughty Temple, weaving through its intricate web of slithering sensations, while bitter loves dance playfully upon his tongue.  Slowly, slipping into madness, he surrenders himself to the sweet sip of seduction.  As he emerges in the wake of ecstasy, he is greeted with a warm, tender kiss.  A wave of bliss washes over him, and happiness is all that exists.

From the Owner

                The base beer is our Naughty 90, meant to remind folks of the beers that crossed the equator without refrigeration in oak barrels, survived the seas off Cape Horn, and arrived months later to quench the thirst of those that longed for the flavor of any beers, as was their geographical situation of isolation from beer! It showcases the oak as the predominant flavor influence, not anything like the IPAs of today. Instead of oaking the beer in virgin oak, the Naughty Temple is oaked in used whiskey barrels.

                We use a little lower than the usual ABV (under 8) for barrels, and are really selective about the barrels that make the final blend. Of the 6 barrels that made it the year and half through quarterly testing, only 3 made it for the final blend.

I Say:

                Naughty Temple pours a slightly hazy golden amber with a very thick, creamy, off white head that holds excellent retention through the entire glass and leaves behind considerable lacing in the glass.  The aroma is dominated by whiskey, vanilla, and oak from the Templeton Rye barrel.  Lingering around the oaky aromas, are subtle toffee and sweet caramel malts, complemented by earthy hops.
                The flavor is considerably more balanced than the aroma.  It has toffee and caramel notes from the malt that blend well, without being overwhelmed by the vanilla notes of toasted oak, whiskey, and a combination of earthy and spicy hop notes.  At first, Naughty Temple has a moderate alcohol bite that mellows considerably as the beer warms leaving a considerable amount of pleasant alcohol warmth.  Surprisingly, there is a lingering sour note on the back end.  Naughty Temple is full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                When poured into a goblet, most of the flavors were enhanced.  The alcohol notes, toffee, and more earthy hops, and sour notes were more prominent, while the oak and whiskey flavors were subdued.

                Naughty Temple is a good beer, I went into it with high hopes that were perhaps too high.  I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, after all its not every day that a brewery releases a barrel aged IPA.  If Naughty Temple were not so expensive, due to its rarity, then I would whole heartedly suggest that you all be on the lookout for it when it’s released again next year.  However, at the price point of $25, you should hold off.  Pick up some ZeeLander, or another of Toppling Goliath’s excellent beers instead, you will be happy you did.

                That’s all for today!  Have a great weekend!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Big Buck Brown Ale – Black Husky Brewing

                If you have been reading for a while now, you know that I enjoy Black Husky beers, and it’s hard not to if you have tried them.  All of the beers from Black Husky have a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle twist that elevates them from average to greatness.  At 8% ABV, Big Buck Brown Ale is definitely a big beer for Brown Ale standards (3.3-5%), but that’s Tim Eichinger, the Black Husky Brewmaster.  In addition to the higher than usual alcohol content, Big Buck Brown Ale has an additional twist on the usual Brown Ale beer, maple syrup.  The addition of the caramelized sugars in maple syrup is intriguing, and is an addition that many brewers do, but few do well.  Theoretically the syrup should impart at least a portion of the maple flavor and aroma while also drying the beer out as the readily available maple syrup sugars ferment away.

A few of beers that I have had that are brewed or bottle conditioned with maple syrup lack any of the aromas or flavors that I associate with quality maple syrup, so they build up expectations that are rarely if ever met.  Many achieved the higher alcohol percentage that adding sugar provides, but the final beer came out thin and watery as a result.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened my bottle of Big Buck Brown, would this be another failed attempt at maple beer, or would it be another in the long line of excellent Black Husky beers?

                On to the Review.  Big Buck Brown does not have a score on either Beeradvocate or ratebeer, although it is listed on both.

They Say:

This beer is our best effort to save the White-tailed Deer, providing all you hunter-types the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax in your cabin, put your feet up, tell tall tales, yet still save face and go back to your peoples with your head held high. In sincere honesty you can tell them “This year I got a Big Buck…” Nikki, our rescue dog, had a rough life before we met him, yet learned to trust us, even patiently posing with fake antlers while we shot the perfect pose (with our camera!). Certainly you too can sacrifice - have a Big Buck Brown when you’re supposed to be hunting in the cold, harsh woods. You’ll honor his memory by saving a deer. If you need more incentive, it’s brewed with maple syrup so you can consider it breakfast.

8.0% ABV
16 IBUs
22 SRM

From the Brewmaster

Grain – 2-Row, a range of Carmel malts and Munich malt
Other Fermentables – Maple syrup

I Say:

                Big Buck Brown Ale pours a very clear, dark mahogany with a thick, creamy tan head that held moderate retention and left considerable lacing on the sides of the glass.  The aroma is reminiscent of warm maple syrup, not that cheap “maple flavored” knock-off trash, but real maple syrup.  Subtle caramel and bready notes supported the maple, lending the impression of a stack of pancakes straight from the griddle, topped with only the best maple syrup.

                The flavor began with hints of maple, followed up by complex caramel notes, a considerable malty sweetness, and a slight nutty quality that played well with the bready notes in the aroma.  There is a very slight hint of alcohol on the back end that complements the complex caramel malts.  Big Buck is a very well balanced beer with a medium-low hop bitterness, just enough to keep this from being cloyingly sweet.  It is however a malt-centric beer, with the caramel malts and maple syrup playing the dominant role.  Big Buck Brown is moderately full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                When compared to a traditional American Brown Ale, Big Buck is a little big and boozy, and lacks the more dominant American hop varieties that have come to define the style.  However, that is not to say this is a bad beer, in fact it is an excellent beer that utilizes the expected malt backbone of a good Brown Ale, adds the characteristic maple flavor and aroma, then bumps alcohol presence up even higher.  Everything is very well balanced, and this is an exceptionally drinkable beer at 8% ABV.

                Be on the lookout for Black Husky Bick Buck Brown Ale on tap or in a store near you.  If you live in Milwaukee, pick up a bottle at either Ray’s Wine in Wauwautosa or Three Cellars in Franklin.

                That’s all for tonight, check back again next week for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pale Ale – Black Husky Brewing

                I am slowly but surely working my way through Black Husky’s beer offerings.  From my first experience with Tim Eichinger’s brewing expertise in 12 Dog Imperial Stout through many of his more creative, category breaking offerings, Black Husky beers rarely disappoint and can be counted on time and again for an enjoyable experience.  With that in mind I knew that I shouldn’t have been too surprised that even in his Pale Ale, a mainstream style, there is that Black Husky twist.  Black Husky Pale Ale is a much bigger beer than the standard pale ale, coming in at 7.2% ABV rather than the 4.5-6.2% more common to the style.  Even the bitterness level is at the high end of the style and closer to the IPA (India Pale Ale) range.  Arguably this is more of an IPA of a different stripe, an Imperial Pale Ale.  By stats alone, this is an impressive beer. 

                For more information on my other Black Husky posts, check out my reviews on: 12 DogImperial Stout, Sproose Joose II IPA, Smoke Monster, Sparkly Eyes and Hefe Weisse.  On to the review:

                Over at Beeradvocate, Black Husky Pale Ale has a score of 89.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 78 overall and 72 for style.

They Say:

Black Husky Pale Ale, our flagship beer, is a beer worthy of THE Black Husky, Howler. Like Howler, our pale ale does not let others define its style, so while some say it’s an IPA we say, “whatever – just drink it already.” What it is is an excellent beer! With a straightforward grain bill and hop schedule it is dry-hopped with copious amounts of hops. Oh, and one more thing – DO NOT CELLAR; this is a hop forward beer and should be drank early and often. 

7.2% ABV
43 IBUs

From the Brewmaster

Grain – 2-row and Munich Malt
Hops – Simcoe

I Say:

                Black Husky Pale Ale pours a very clear amber with a thick creamy, brilliant white head that held excellent retention and left intricate lacing in the glass.  The aroma is defined by the hops with strong piney and grapefruit notes that accentuate slightly sweet, bready malts.  It is very crisp and clean, wafting off the top of the glass.

                The flavor, like the aroma has tons of hop flavor with fresh pine, grapefruit, and hints of orange up front with a solid malt backbone.  There is a sweet maltiness that lingers throughout followed by a slightly bitter, semi-dry, piney finish.  The aftertaste has plenty of piney hop notes and a clean, refined almost cereal graininess.  Black Husky Pale Ale is medium-full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation and a subtle alcohol warmth that lingers long after the last sip.

                This is an AMAZING beer that is more IPA or Imperial Pale Ale than a true American Pale Ale.  However, there is one lesson that you will quickly learn when you drink  any of Black Husky’s beers: Style is just a descriptive baseline.   Each of the beers that I have had from them has had a tweak that elevated it beyond the style, ensuring that it would stand out when compared to other beers of the style.

Many Pale Ales fall short in my opinion; too often, the hop aroma and flavor are subdued with the malts playing a more active role.  By hopping at the high end of the scale and bumping the ABV well outside of the Pale Ale range, Brewmaster Tim Eichinger has put forward a truly excellent beer!  Is it really, truly a Pale Ale?  Nope, but does it really have to be?  Beer should be about enjoyment rather than strict adherence to the style, and this is definitely an enjoyable beer.

If you enjoy excellent beer, Black Husky Pale Ale can be found by the bottle at Ray’s Liquors in Milwaukee or Three Cellars in Franklin.  It is also on tap at many of the high end craft beer bars around town.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to be in the Black Husky distribution area, drive out to Milwaukee and pick up whatever they have in stock!

                That’s all for today, have a great weekend!  Check back soon for another post!

                Happy Drinking!!