Monday, November 17, 2014

Coming Home 2014 – Grand Teton Brewing

             It is that time of year again, when the fourth installment in the Cellar Reserve series from Grand Teton Brewing is released.  This year, the 2014 Coming Home beer is a Belgian-style Quadruple, which many of you may be more familiar with by its alternate name, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  What barleywines are to traditional English and American brewing, so a Belgian-style Quadruple is to Belgian and Trappist brewing; both are strong flavorful beers meant to be enjoyed when the weather is cold and the additional alcohol and flavor are most desirable.

As you may know if you’ve read my previous posts on Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases, many have been excellent (if you have not, check out the tags at the bottom of this post).  While I have enjoyed all of the Grand Teton beers that I have had, the brewery really shows off what it can do with the Cellar Reserve series.  As with all previous Cellar Reserve beers, the Coming Home 2014 should cellar well and take on added complexity as it ages.  Good luck finding a bottle however, as the Coming Home releases have historically been pretty rare.

I usually enter into the review with scores from the two major review sites, but it neither has reviews or a score at this point so, on with the review.  Previous Cellar Reserve posts have had additional information from the brewery; if any comes in I will edit this post.

They Say:


Our intent for our annual Holiday Ale series is to release a special beer each November to be enjoyed with special friends on special occasions. This Belgian-Style Quadrupel ale is full-bodied and robust, boldly showcasing flavors of sweet dried fruits delivered on a smooth, velvety palate.  Specialty malts and roasted barley give this beer a sweet malty aroma that complements its complex fruitiness. Brewed in the Belgian tradition with dark and clear candi sugars and a Trappist ale yeast, Coming Home 2014 is rich and flavorful.

The use of traditional Belgian candi sugars allows the alcohol content to be boosted without imparting too many other flavors or a heavy mouthfeel. At 10% alcohol by volume, this beer is warming and complex. Serving the beer at a slightly warmer temperature will help release even more complex aromas and flavors. This Belgian-Style Quadrupel has a dense, pillowy head and a gorgeous dark ruby color, thanks to the dark sugars and special malts.

The Belgian-Style Quadrupel is the biggest and darkest of traditional Belgian-Style ales. Historically brewed by Belgian monasteries as the highest strength beer, the Belgian-Style Quadrupel usually consists of the first runnings from a mash. This style of beer typically sports an ABV of 9% or higher. The high alcohol content, dark malts, and Belgian yeast make this beer a great addition to your cellar and will develop for years to come. The aromas are sweet and rummy, reminding us of delectable treats. Subtle hop flavor gives enough bitterness to balance the brown sugar and caramel flavors, mingling with figs, raisins, and dates. A robust beer on its own, this deceptively drinkable ale complements gamey meats, fruitcake, and pumpkin pie.

Belgian-Style Quadrupel
Original Gravity: 24˚                       
ABV: 10.0%
IBU: 27
Lovibond: 28˚

Coming Home 2014 will be available November 1, 2014 in bottle-conditioned 750mL cases and keg-conditioned 1/6 bbl & 1/2 bbl kegs.

Limited quantities, pre-order only

I Say:

             Coming Home 2014 pours a translucent mahogany with cherry and ruby red highlights.  It has a thick, creamy, khaki head with slight rocky breakup on top.  The head holds moderate retention, and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  Coming Home is a pretty good looking beer.  The aroma is interesting, but a little odd.  Slightly sour and metallic notes are evident when the beer is cold out of the bottle.  Fortunately, the sour and metallic notes fade and the aroma takes on the notes of a good Belgian Quad as the beer warms.  Slight roasted barley notes blend well with tart black plums, red grapes, and caramelized sugars, and a note of rum cake.  Sweet boozy notes round out the back end.

             Smooth, sweet malts come to the forefront in the flavor, with moderately strong notes of dark fruits.  Figs, dates, tart black cherries, plums, and red raisins blend with a slight breadiness, adding to the complexity of Coming Home 2014.  Sweet alcohols and black plums round out the beer and lingers in the after taste.  The moderate maltiness pairs well with Coming Home’s low bitterness, leading to a semi-dry finish.  With a medium-light body, and a moderately high level of carbonation, Coming Home 2014 comes in right about where it should for the style.

             Coming Home 2014 is another solid release in the 2014 Cellar Reserve series from Grand Teton Brewing.  The slight metallic and sour notes in the aroma threw me for a while, although they were short lived.  Fortunately as Coming Home 2014 warmed, it took on the dark fruit notes that should be prominent in a Belgian Quad.  The warming, sweet alcohols were also welcome, although they did betray the alcohol content in this beverage.  I am usually a big fan of the Grand Teton Cellar Reserve beers, but while I did enjoy this year’s Coming Home, it only gained the complexity that I look for in Belgian Quad after it was in my glass for an extended period of time.  Perhaps I served it a little too cold, and had I waited I would not have been greeted by slight metallic notes.

             As with all previous Coming Home releases, this one is extremely limited and was available for pre-sale only.  If I am able to find another bottle somewhere, I will definitely pick it up as I am curious how this beer will age.  If you are able to find a bottle near you, remember to serve it around 50-54 degrees for the best experience and by all means serve it in a clean goblet, snifter, or tulip glass for best effect.

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

Happy Drinking!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Oktoberfest wrap-up

                This past Friday marked the final review in the 2014 Oktoberfest series of reviews. There were certainly a lot of great Wisconsin festbiers, a couple of which nailed the style dead on, and a couple that just barely missed it, one that fell way short, and one that turned the style on its ear, reimagining it as an ale. Each brought with it a unique experience with the fingerprint of the brewery that released it readily visible in both flavor and aroma. For those of you who might not have read the posts in this fall’s Oktoberfest series they were; Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest from Tyranena Brewing Company, Black Husky Brewing’s Jodlerkönig Ale, O’so Brewing’s O-toberfest, Central Waters Oktoberfest, Üfer Bier from Big Bay Brewing Company, Point Oktoberfest from Stevens Point Brewery, Capital Brewery Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery, and Bull Falls Oktoberfest.

                While that is not an exhaustive list of the festbiers released by Wisconsin breweries, they are the ones I covered this year. There are a few noticeably absent from the list, New Glarus Staghorn, Milwaukee Brewing’s Hop-toberfest, and Leinenkugel’s Über-Oktoberfest, just to name a few. It isn’t so much that I left them out on purpose, or that I don’t have a high opinion of each, they are all very good beers that I usually stock up on this time of year. Staghorn in particular is one of my favorite beers. For this year’s Oktoberfest series I wanted to highlight a few great local breweries which you might not be familiar with. With the exceptions of Black Husky Jodlerkönig and Bull Falls Oktoberfest, each of the beers reviewed have statewide distribution, which was another important factor in choosing the beers for the series. Obviously being based out of Milwaukee, I am going to choose beers that are readily available in my location, or that I can pick up on a trip to another part of the state. Out of the nine beers reviewed, Bull Falls is the only one not available in the Milwaukee market.

                So, now I will move on to the part of this that I really am not looking forward to, a ranking of the nine.  Whenever I attempt to rank my favorite beers, or favorite beers of a style I feel as though I am trying to pick my favorite child.  Sure, some favorites are easy...  Favorite football team? Packers!  Favorite state?  Wisconsin, obviously…  But favorite beer, that takes the discussion to a whole new level.  Regardless, here it goes…

                1)      Black Huskey Jodlerkönig – Call me a sell out who loves almost everything Black Husky releases, or mention that Jodlerkonig is not an Oktoberfest, but this ale interpretation on a traditional festbier is an excellent fall beer that will leave you wanting to try the rest of the Black Husky line-up.

                2)      Bull Falls Oktoberfest – Coming from one of the newest breweries in the list, this festbier was dead on, with the right amount of bready maltiness combined with an appropriate amount of hop bitterness.  The malts refrained from coming across too sweet, while still being prominent and both the hop flavor and bitterness were pleasantly subdued.  It’s only a shame this beer has such a limited distribution.

                3)      Central Waters Oktoberfest - A solid all around festbier with strong bready malt notes in the flavor and aroma.  While it was lighter on the toasted malt notes than many of the other beers in this series, the malty sweetness was right where it should be, and the hop bitterness served to mellow out the malts but didn’t detract from the malty nature of the beer.  For a bready Oktoberfest with a low level of toasted malts you would be hard pressed to find a better festbier.

                4)      O’so O-toberfest  - A touch sweeter than the other beers in this series, O-toberfest has moderately strong biscuity malts, with moderate toasted notes.  The rich maltiness was well balanced by hop bitterness, but there was never any doubt that this was well-balanced, malty beer.

                5)      Capital Oktoberfest – At the time I reviewed it, I was close to calling this beer the best so far in the series if it weren’t for the buttery diacetyl in the beer that I had.  The beer was almost perfect, with an excellent maltiness and a nice restrained hop bitterness.  I would like to believe the bottle I had was the exception, but for this beer at this time, I was disappointed to find a fault in the aroma.

                6)      Tyranena Brewing’s Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest – Aside from the caramel notes in this beer, it was right where it needed to be for the style.  The strong malt backbone was balanced out by a moderate hop bitterness, causing the beer to dry out on the back end.  Toasted and nutty malts added malty complexity that went was on par with beers higher up in these rankings, however the caramel notes dropped it further down.  The floral hops were a little pronounced for my taste, but they lingered in the background in the aroma and did not follow through to the flavor, holding to style.

                7)      Lakefront Brewing Oktoberfest Lager – I am a big fan of Lakefront Brewery, and I am kicking myself for ranking their festbier this low, because most of the time they are one of my go to breweries.  The fact they fell so far in the rankings says more about the caliber of the other festbiers in the state than it does about their offering.  That said, I do like my festbiers to have less prominent floral notes, which this beer certainly had in spades.

                8)      Steven’s Point Brewing  Point Oktoberfest – Point Oktoberfest, like Lakefront above it was a very good festbier.  The fruity malts and floral hops in the flavor drop this one further down in the rankings than it otherwise would be.  I really enjoy floral hops and fruity malts in many beers, but they seem out of place in a festbier.

                9)      Big Bay Brewing Üfer bier – I really wanted to like this beer, because I would love to support a local Milwaukee business.  Unfortunately however, this was easily the least enjoyable festbier of the series.  It is not nearly rich enough to be in the festbier category, and while it might pass for a decent Vienna lager, it is so far removed from the festbier category that I was tempted to not even include it in this series.  Then again, the brewery claims it is an Oktoberfest, so there is that.

Okay, so there you have it.  What I really wanted to do was put places 6 through 8 tied at sixth, but I always hate when someone does that.  There is also a fairly large drop off between 8th and 9th places but that’s a bit hard to show in a straight ranking of nine beers because the lowest the last beer can go is last place.  Rankings aside however, the top 8 are all excellent beers and it took me a couple days to figure out how to rank them.  If I spent more time on it I might mix the rankings up a bit more, but eventually this post has to be posted.

                That’s all for tonight, check back again soon to read about some more great beers!

                Ein Prosit!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Knee Deep | Hoparillo

Knee Deep Brewing Company | Hoparillo Triple IPA. Ale brewed with Amarillo , Citra , and Mosaic hops . (11.1%) 122 IBU. Placer County , CA. 

Knee Deep makes some great year round IPAs and probably one of the only breweries that really focuses on year round triple IPAs . I am a fan of huge triple IPAs , but I have yet had there quadruple IPA . 

Pour : A nice bright orange color , a slight haziness , but mostly clear . The head is around a finger worth , but dissipating to a nice rounded white lacing . Alcohol legs are strong with this beer and already I am getting a nose off this , so let's dive in . 

Aroma : A nice amount of grapefruit , citrus , and dankness . Citra hop is dominant in the front , then leading into caramel , cracker malt , and a pop of pine and mango . At 11.1% the alcohol is present in this beer as it should be. It smells great though . 

Taste : Huge amount of bitterness and alcohol . This reminds me of a "weaker" 120 min IPA from Dogfish . Not as much alcohol fumes like the 120 min , but still present . Lots of caramel notes , pine , citrus , grapefruit peel , bread crust from the malt , and a medium full body that coats the mouth with a nice warmed-hop bitterness . It would be great on a could winter day . Very smooth , not overly bitter , but a smack in the face with a bready, boozy note . Nicely done . 

Verdict : 90/100. One of my favorite Triple IPAs to date . It's very well balanced at a high alcohol and Founders Devil Dancer was to hoppy I think and too boozy , and also had a lower abv and IBU level , but I'm not grading by that . This beer is just more balanced then the other triple IPAs I've had. Cheers !

Sunday, November 2, 2014

BarrelHouse Brewing Company | Curly Wolf

Barrelhouse Brewing Co. | Curly Wolf / Barrel aged Maple Vanilla Imperial Stout, Paso Robles, California (9.4%). 

"Introducing the first beer to be released in our Reservado de Robles Series. This oak barrel aged, limited release series is the canvas for our beer artists. Creamy and complex, this Russian Imperial Stout was aged in 11 year old bourbon barrels for 6 months until the time was just right. We added fresh maple to the boil and whole vanilla beans into the barrels as it aged to impart sweetness and complexity. This beer is dangerously smooth, 100% barrel aged and 100% delicious! "

I hope all of you had a great and safe Halloween weekend . I am going to try a brewery not a lot of people are talking about , but are producing some great IPAs and barrel aged beers as well . This is Curly Wolf Russian Imperial Stout with maple and vanilla beans added into the bourbon barrels for extra complexity . No surprise to you guys that I love RIS and barrel aged stouts , so let's crack this bad boy open ! Also rated 92/100 on BA and an average of a 4.23 rating . 

Pour : Pitch black , no light coming through what so ever . I was expecting a darker head for being a RIS , but the head appears to be a mocha brown color , with a slight egg-white lacing. Also the head is dissipating quickly , fizzing like a soda almost which I don't get in an RIS pour . 

Aroma : Well the bourbon is present and I've smelt this type of barrel character before and not sure if it's my favorite barrel . When I reviewed the Prairie Noir variants I got this weird vanilla smell and an infected type quality . This beer doesn't smell infected , but the barrel character of smoked oak , and vanilla is the same as the barrels used in Noir and other cheaper barrel aged stouts, even though this is a $17.00 barrel , I do get a little maple , oats , vanilla , milk chocolate and powdered chocolate. . Smells alright so far , but nothing that's blowing my mind . 

Taste : Almost the exact same thing as the aroma . I get huge barrel character , vanilla , a little chocolate , but no way this is an RIS . To thin , and not enough chocolate notes or malt to me to be considered RIS . With this beer I wish the barrel character wasn't as dominant as it is because all I am getting is barrel , and really strong vanilla and a burn as well . Not a lot of sweetness , not a lot of maple , but I believe in barrel aged beers with maple it's going to be one of the hardest flavors to find and training the palate to get the flavor is challenging , but I think with this beer it's making it's challenge present with not just maple , but all the other flavors as well . It's good , but not what I expected at a $17.00 bottle . 

Verdict : 84/100 . It's just dominant over two flavors ; barrel and vanilla. I do love vanilla , but when it's completely by itself , it isn't as pleasant in my opinion . As it warms up to 60 degrees it's getting a little better with flavors , but it's still really boozy and charred like .