Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blue Sunday Sour – New Holland

So, I was super excited to see that the new New Holland sour blend beer was in my local liquor store, and a little less excited to see the $18 price tag on it.  However, I am a big fan of New Holland and the beers that they put out, and Blue Sunday Sour is a limited release, so both of those factors led to me picking up a bottle with the intentions of saving it for a special occasion.  As things like this often go though, I was unable to delay my gratification and just had to open the bottle and sample this year’s release to know if this was one beer worth snatching up to cellar.  Or, and potentially more likely, if the $18 price tag was too large an obstacle, and would in the end relegate this beer to a one time purchase.

As a blended beer, the Blue Sunday Sour is potentially different with each vintage, more like a wine than a beer.  However, the two beer rating sites don’t accurately reflect that, with ratebeer not listing any vintage after 2010 and BeerAdvocate only providing one listing for every vintage.  Regardless, over at ratebeer it currently has a 96 overall and a 69 for style, while on BeerAdvocate it has a score of 83.

They say:
This unique anniversary libation, heritage-blended from our library of barrel-soured beers, exhibits deeply layered flavors of malt and oak, with a tart finish.
Pairings: wild game, poultry & charcuterie.
17.1° Plato 8.7% A.B.V.

I say:
Blue Sunday pours dark reddish amber with a thin light tan head that has no retention.  The aroma is very malty with strong sour dark fruit esters and a light oaky finish.  It is a full bodied, high gravity beer with light to moderate carbonation that provides a nice balance.  Flavorwise, Blue Sunday has a nice oaky maltiness with a slight sour/tart finish.  I would have liked it to be a little more sour, or have a more pronounced oak flavor, but I can see how that would not sell well with the general public.  It has an excellent linger, and is slightly astringent.

All in all, it’s a pretty good beer.  However, the $18 price point is a little steep.  If you don’t mind parting with $18 to get a limited release beer then feel free, but if you just want a good beer for your money there are better choices.  Personally I am a bigger fan of New Holland’s other beers so the next time I have a strong desire for one of their barrel aged beers I will choose Dragon’s Milk or Envious.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ale Through the Ages at Discovery World!

Headed out to Discovery World tonight to learn about Ale Through the Ages: Power Drinking and Power Dressing in Iron Age Germany.  I will try to get a writeup on it posted some time tomorrow.  I hope they let me take notes and pictures.

Best of all, in two weeks I get to take home what we brew tonight!

This special brewing program will recreate the ancient beer of the Iron Age Celts who lived in southwest Germany more than 2,000 years ago. Featuring UWM professor of Anthropology, Dr. Bettina Arnold, who will discuss recent archaeological excavations in Germany that have yielded evidence of brewing beer; highlighting the important social and political role it played. German scholars on ancient textiles will also be on hand to display the intricate textiles from these pre-Roman sites as unique markers of status.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Devil Dancer Triple IPA - Founders Brewing Company

                So, they say that IPAs shouldn’t be drunk fresh from the brewery and should not be cellared, but I figured what the hell and held aside one bottle of Founders2011 Devil Dancer just to see how it would age.  I mean after all the style was developed so that the British could load beer onto boats and send it down to India.  The wonderful brewers at Founders put a bottling date of 6/17/11 on the bottle, and I am pretty sure that it has been down in my cellar since sometime in late July 2011.  So, that’s a reasonable amount of time to cellar, but certainly not nearly as long as I am cellaring some of my Founders KBS or Dogfish Head World Wide Stout.

                Devil dancer is brewed once a year, and should be available in the Founders distribution area sometime in July.  Although, be aware, this beer flies off the shelf, although not as fast as their KBS.  It weighs in at a surprising 12% ABV and 112 IBU’s, making it not only much higher in alcohol than most beers, but also much higher in IBUs than most of the Extreme IPAs out there,  with possibly only Pliny the Younger coming close.  I’m not sure how they made it all the way up to 112 IBU’s other than tons of hops and maybe some hop extract, but Devil Dancer is definitely a hop head beer!

                I guess technically Devil Dancer would fit into the BJCP’s 14C Imperial IPA category.  Just for the heck of it the style guidelines are posted at the end of this entry..  On BeerAdvocate it currently has an 89 from the users and an 84 from the bros, while on ratebeer it has a 99 overall, and a 98 for style.  I must say in this case I agree far more with the ratebeer crowd than the BA one.

                So, onto the beer:

They say:

                When you dance with the Devil, the Devil don't change. You do. Massive in complexity, the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alphas used to create it. At an incredible 112 IBUs, it's dry-hopped with ten hop varieties.

 I say:

                Damn this is a great beer! It pours reddish amber in color with an excellent reddish off-white head that has impressive retention (almost a minute).  Smelling it, I am floored by floral hops which is definitely from the 10 varieties of hops that they use for dry hopping. The aroma is excellent with only the slightest amount of malty sweetness hitting on the back end.   However, if you didn’t know dry hopping only really adds to the aroma of a beer, rather than providing any noticeable increase in IBU’s. 

On to the flavor.  For 121 IBU’s Devil Dancer is surpisingly balanced.  Sure there is a noticeable hop bitterness, but there is also a malty sweetness to back it up.  There is an extremely complex hop flavor to this with a noticeable sweet, caramel, malty finish.  It is also has very high bodied, almost to the point of being syrupy, but not in a bad way.  This would go great with a warm gooey cinnamon roll, or maybe some pecan pie.

                Bottom line, this beer is awesome!  And, it aged extremely well!!  I wish that I still had a bottle waiting for me, because it is going to be a very long wait until I can find this again in July..

If you are interested, the official guidelines for Imperial IPA’s are after the sign off.

That’s all for tonight!  Happy Drinking!!


Aroma: A prominent to intense hop aroma that can be derived from American, English and/or noble varieties (although a citrusy hop character is almost always present). Most versions are dry hopped and can have an additional resinous or grassy aroma, although this is not absolutely required. Some clean malty sweetness may be found in the background. Fruitiness, either from esters or hops, may also be detected in some versions, although a neutral fermentation character is typical. Some alcohol can usually be noted, but it should not have a “hot” character.

Appearance: Color ranges from golden amber to medium reddish copper; some versions can have an orange-ish tint. Should be clear, although unfiltered dry-hopped versions may be a bit hazy. Good head stand with off-white color should persist.

Flavor: Hop flavor is strong and complex, and can reflect the use of American, English and/or noble hop varieties. High to absurdly high hop bitterness, although the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character and provide the best balance. Malt flavor should be low to medium, and is generally clean and malty although some caramel or toasty flavors are acceptable at low levels. No diacetyl. Low fruitiness is acceptable but not required. A long, lingering bitterness is usually present in the aftertaste but should not be harsh. Medium-dry to dry finish. A clean, smooth alcohol flavor is usually present. Oak is inappropriate in this style. May be slightly sulfury, but most examples do not exhibit this character.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium-light to medium body. No harsh hop-derived astringency, although moderate to medium-high carbonation can combine to render an overall dry sensation in the presence of malt sweetness. Smooth alcohol warming.

Overall Impression:An intensely hoppy, very strong pale ale without the big maltiness and/or deeper malt flavors of an American barleywine. Strongly hopped, but clean, lacking harshness, and a tribute to historical IPAs. Drinkability is an important characteristic; this should not be a heavy, sipping beer. It should also not have much residual sweetness or a heavy character grain profile.

Comments: Bigger than either an English or American IPA in both alcohol strength and overall hop level (bittering and finish). Less malty, lower body, less rich and a greater overall hop intensity than an American Barleywine. Typically not as high in gravity/alcohol as a barleywine, since high alcohol and malt tend to limit drinkability. A showcase for hops.

History: A recent American innovation reflecting the trend of American craft brewers “pushing the envelope” to satisfy the need of hop aficionados for increasingly intense products. The adjective “Imperial” is arbitrary and simply implies a stronger version of an IPA; “double,” “extra,” “extreme,” or any other variety of adjectives would be equally valid.

Ingredients: Pale ale malt (well-modified and suitable for single-temperature infusion mashing); can use a complex variety of hops (English, American, noble). American yeast that can give a clean or slightly fruity profile. Generally all-malt, but mashed at lower temperatures for high attenuation. Water character varies from soft to moderately sulfate.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.070 – 1.090
IBUs: 60 – 120
FG: 1.010 – 1.020
SRM: 8 – 15
ABV: 7.5 – 10%

Commercial Examples: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, Avery Majaraja, Bell’s Hop Slam, Stone Ruination IPA, Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Surly Furious, Rogue I2PA, Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale, Stoudt’s Double IPA, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA, Victory Hop Wallop

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Silver Creek Brewing

                Today my wife and I went out for a drive.  We decided to head up to a new brewery and the closest one that we haven’t been to yet was Silver Greek Brewing in Cedarburg, WI.  Cedarburg is about 15 minutes north of Milwaukee and about 5 miles off Hwy 43.

The brewery is a little hard to find however because it is hidden behind a feed store, and the sign for it is fairly easy to miss.

Fortunately there were a few people that we met up with who were headed back to the brewery for what I had assumed at the time was beer, but when we got there all they ordered were two cans of Diet Coke…  I was floored.  The brewery was definitely picturesque although at the time it didn’t occur to me to actually take pictures of it.  The brewery has a rather large beer garden on the banks of a small creek (Silver Creek?) just downstream from a spillway.  I had my wife hold a table in the crowded beer garden and walked in to try the current sample tray.  Walking into the brewery I first walked past an overlook of the original mill race that was used when the building Silver Creek Brewery is in used to be a grist mill (pretty awesome).

                Surprisingly in addition to the 6 house brews on tap, Silver Creek had a wide variety of import and craft beers.  However, since I was visiting the brewery I decided it was more important to taste the beers that were crafted in house.  Service was quick, and I was able to have a brief conversation with the brewer, although I did not catch his name.  It was pretty neat to see the brewer hanging out at the brew house on a Sunday though, like everyone else who was there he was just relaxing and enjoying some of his craft brew.

                The current line-up consisted of: Silver Creek Hefe-Weiss, Silver Creek IPA, Silver Creek Harvest Lager, Silver Creek Vintage Ale, Silver Creek ESBlack, and Silver Creek Porter.

So, on to the beers:
Silver Creek Hefe-Weiss
                The Hefe-Weiss comes in at 5.3% ABV.  It poured yellow in color, the brewery says it's an unfiltered wheat, but it looked filtered to me.  It had a thin white head, although that may had had more to do with the pour that I got from the bartender rather than any quality of the beer.  So many bartenders seek to emphasize quantity over a good pour, probably because that’s what most Americans seem to want and they don’t want to start an argument.  The beer had very mild banana fruity esters, with slight wheat undertones.  Surprisingly, given the lack of a head the hefe-weiss was very carbonated.  It had a strong wheat flavor, followed up by an even stronger banana finish.
                This hefeweizen was better than some, but not as good as others that I have had.  However, on a hot day it was enjoyable and refreshing.

Silver Creek IPA
                Next up was the Silver Creek IPA, at 6.2% ABV.  The IPA was a hazy orange in color with a thin white head.  It had a pleasant floral hoppy aroma, potentially from dry hopping.  It was smooth with a low level hop bitterness and a much light hop flavor than I was expecting after the aroma.  The finish was slightly herbal and floral.  I was not very impressed with this IPA, it might have been passable as a bitter with a few minor modifications, but it was far too lightly hopped to for the IPA designation.

Silver Creek Harvest Lager
                The Harvest lager came in at 5.8% ABV.  It was amber in color with no noticeable head even when agitated.  There was a strong resiny hop aroma, however there was very little else to the aroma.  The harvest lager was bitter and hop forward with very little sweet maltiness to balance it out.  It was almost bitter to the point of being astringent, and was not especially pleasant to drink.

The Silver Creek Vintage Ale
I am glad that I pushed through the Harvest Lager to reach the next beer in the flight, the Vintage Ale.  The Silver Creek Vintage Ale, 9.7% ABV, was hazy dark amber in color with a very thin light tan head.  It had a very pleasant butterscotch and light floral hop aroma.  It was exceptionally full bodied, very smooth and almost chewy.  I was greeted by an excellent caramel, malty, and dark fruit flavor.  It was exceptionally well balanced and easily the best beer that I had tasted up to that point.  It was a definite turn around in what started out as a decent tasting and began to turn south.
Silver Creek ESBlack
                The ESBlack was mahogany in color with a tan head.  It had a strong roasted malt and floral hop aroma.  The aroma was followed up by a nice smooth roasted flavor with noticeable background hop flavor and bitterness.  The ESBlack was very well balance and was a great beer.  If it wasn’t for the final beer in the flight, this one easily would have been my favorite of the day.

Silver Creek Porter
                On to the porter.  The Silver Creek Porter came in at 7.7% ABV.  It poured an opaque dark brown to black with a nice light brown head that had excellent retention.  The Baltic porter had an exceptional chocolate aroma, almost like walking into an artisan chocolate shop, followed up with dark fruity esters.  The flavor did not disappoint, being very chocolate forward and smooth, with slight alcohol warmth.  This was definitely a big bodied beer, and was easily my favorite of the day.  If you love Porters like I do, and you are in the Milwaukee area it is definitely worth the trip to Silver Creek Brewery in Cedarburg for this beer alone.

                The Silver Creek Brewery trip was a fun one with 1 good beer (the hefe-weiss), 2 great beers (Vintage and ESBlack), and one extraordinary beer (Porter).  Would I go back again?  Most definitely!  However on future trips I know which beers I will be having more of, assuming there isn’t a new seasonal on tap the next time I head up there.
                If you live in the Milwaukee area you really have no excuse to not drive up to the Silver Creek Brewery and sample some of their beer, and if you are especially lucky and head there soon they may still have some of the Vintage Ale left, and might also still have their Porter.

That’s all for tonight, Happy Drinking!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Small beer selections

So, I am down in a small town in Oklahoma this week and I went out to this little restaurant for dinner.  The food was good, but the beer selection appeared to be tiny looking at the selection of taps and the bottles over the bar.  The waitress came over and asked what we wanted to drink so I asked her what beers they had, as I often do when going out for dinner on a business trip.  She cracked a large smile, and with a southern twang she said "We have everything!"

I sat there thinking, "everything," you've got to be kidding me, you have 5 taps and 8 bottles over the bar.  So I told her, "Well, will you let me know what you do have so that I don't order something that you don't carry."  She huffed a little and again told me they had everything..  I shrugged and she rattled off the list....
"Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, Shiner Bock, Shock Top, Dos Equis and Guinness.. You know, Everything!"

Defeated, I ordered a Shock Top, review will be posted later this week.

I just find it a little sad that in some parts of the country "Everything" means mass market beers.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good Shiner Bock from time to time, and have been known to drink Guinness...  But I was hoping for a nice Porter or Pale Ale...

This is going to be a long week....

Hope you are drinking better beers than I am this week!  Happy Drinking!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brew Day!

                It was a wonderful day in Wisconsin!  Few days hold as much excitement as a brew day, and the excellent weather also allowed me to finally take the cover off my grill and BBQ some chicken for the first time this year!  Yesterday was a great day.

                Having freed up my primary fermentation bucket on Friday, I was eager to get more experience and brew another batch.  We usually keep our house on the cool side in the winter and early fall (just under 60), so I wanted to find something that I could reasonably ferment right around 60 degrees.  One of my favorite styles is a British bitter, unfortunately British bitters do not travel well so they are hard to find outside of the UK or Australia.  Although I have had excellent British Bitters in Bangkok and Hong Kong, so I suppose they are often brewed in or imported fresh to any area that has a large population of British or Australian ex-pats.

Standard bitters often have a caramel malt aroma accentuated by fruity esters and a hoppy aroma reminiscent of British hop varieties.  They tend to be yellow to copper in color with a low to moderate off-white head, due to low carbonation. Flavor-wise, they often have a medium level of bitterness, with high fruity esters and a moderate earthy/resiny/floral British hop flavor.  As is expected, English bitters tend to be more bitter than sweet, however unlike some IPAs the hoppy bitterness does not overpower the other flavors.  BYO magazine has a great write-up on the style.

On to the brewing..  In order to keep things simple and work off a quality recipe I was interested in Northern Brewer’s BrokenSpear Bitter, which utilizes a yeast strain from the Wyeast private collection,   Wyeast 1882-PC Thames Valley II Yeast.
Here is the profile according to Wyeast:

Beer Styles: Ordinary and Special Bitters, ESB, Northern English Brown, Robust Porter, Dry Stout, Foreign Extra Stout

Profile: This strain was originally sourced from a now defunct brewery on the banks of the river Thames outside of Oxford, England. Thames Valley II produces crisp, dry beers with a rich malt profile and moderate stone fruit esters. This attenuative strain is also highly flocculent resulting in bright beers not requiring filtration. A thorough diacetyl rest is recommended after fermentation is complete.
Alc. Tolerance  10% ABV  
Flocculation      high
Attenuation      72-78%              
Temp. Range   60-70°F (15-21°C)

 Northern Brewer offers the following description for the Broken Spear Bitter:

 With a bantamweight ABV of only 3.4%, Broken Spear is modeled on a world-class standard bitter from the town of Oxfordshire in the Thames Valley. It arrives in the pint glass with a tawny color and fine, short-lived bead (because we don’t want to waste that volume on foam, now, do we?). A true session beer that showcases fat, juicy malt ahead of snappy bitterness, and subtle tropical fruit behind a blend of fragrant, resiny hops. Dry hopping adds layers of earth and new-mown hay to the restrained fruitiness of the nose. Low alcohol? Yes. Bland? Oh heavens no. Serve at cellar temperature with fish and chips or a nice chunk of Stilton or Cheddar.  

The recipe is:

--0.25 lbs English Dark Crystal
--0.125 lbs English Black Malt

--4 lbs Munton’s Light DME (60 min)

--1 oz UK Fuggle (60 min)
--0.5 oz UK Kent Goldings (60 min)
--0.5 oz UK Kent Goldings (15 min)
--0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (15 min)
--0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (dry hop - 7 days)


Now, on to the pictures, although I only have pictures from the steps that only required one set of hands because my wife was the one taking the pictures...

Adding and boiling the water

 Crushing the specialty grains
 Pouring the specialty grains into the grain sock
 Tying the bag...
 Beginning to steep the bag.
Wonderful extraction from steeping the specialty grains..
 Water is finally boiling.. Time to add the dry malt extract
 Cutting the bag...
 And pouring in.. Damn, dry extract sure does love to turn into dough.  It just sucks up all the moisture from the boiling water..
 Yay for boiling wort...

Unfortunately, that's the last picture, forgot to take shots of the hop additions.  There might be more shots come bottling day..

Now you have come to the end, reward yourself with a well-earned craft beer!

Happy Drinking!