Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spaten Optimator

                Prior to the American Craft brew revolution in the 90’s the only decent German-style beers came out of Germany.  Quite possibly the best dopplebock available in the US was Spaten Optimator.  In the past few years the selection of dopplebock, and other German styles in the US has exploded with a both a wider selection of imports being made available as well as a huge selection of German style beers being produced in the US.

                Spaten –Fransikaner-Bräu is a brewery in Munich that is currently owned by the Spaten-Löwenbräu-Gruppe division of Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Opened in Munich in 1397, Welser Prew was renamed Spaten-Brauerei in 1622.  In 1867, it became the largest brewery in Munich and began to export beer to the US in 1909.  In 1922, Spaten-Brauerei and Franziskaner-Leist-Bräu merged to form Spaten –Fransikaner-Bräu.  In 1992, Spaten-Fransikaner produced 1 million hectoliters (852,168 barrels).  In 1997, Spaten-Franskaner merged with Löwenbräu AG to form the Spaten-Löwenbräu-Gruppe.  The Spaten- Löwenbräu-Gruppe was sold to Interbrew in 2003.  In 2004, Interbrew merged with AmBev, the two companies becoming InBev.

                On to the review, on Beeradvocate, Spaten Optimator has an 88 with an 89 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it has a 97 overall and a 97 for style.

They say: 

Bottom-fermented Dark Beer “Doppel Bock” with a deep dark color and a rich roasted malt flavor.

Alcohol by volume: 7.5%
Original gravity: 18.2%
Bitterness (IBU’s): 25
Calories: 250
Carbohydrates: 50g

I say:

Spaten Optimator pours deep mahogany with a creamy light tan head that holds moderate retention and provides excellent lacing in the glass.  Sweet, roasted caramel malts with a hint of toffee and very slight hints of plum and cherry primarily define the aromas that bound out of the glass.

The flavor represents everything that a good dopplebock should be.  It is very rich, malty, smooth  and chock full of melonoidans (the wonderful carmalization of sugars that comes from the Maillard reaction during decoction mashing).  The melanoidins lead to sweet, toasty caramel flavors and add additional body.  Spaten Optimator is full bodied with a low to moderate level of carbonation.

Optimator is an excellent German Dopplebock.  If you are looking for a quality German beer to enjoy during the fall and winter months, be sure to pick up a 6-pack of Optimator.

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

Happy Drinking!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Frangelic Mountain Brown – Founders Brewery

                So, a while back I did a review on a cellared bottle of Founders Cerise and looking back I realized that I didn’t have any background on the brewery in my post, so before diving into a review of Frangelic Mountain Brown, how about a little back tracking.

                Back in 1997, having recently graduated from college and already holding good jobs, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers did what every home brewer wishes they could do.  They quit their jobs and followed their passion, opening Founders Brewing.  They took out loans to help with the initial capital investment and got to work.  Unfortunately, and by their own account the first beers were in their own words “unremarkable” and led them to almost declare bankruptcy.  It’s certainly good for the craft beer industry that they didn’t, because they would go on to produce some of the best beer in the country.

                After coming close to bankruptcy, Mike and Dave realized they had to make a change.  If they wanted their brewery to be successful they would have to develop complex, more flavorful beers to help them stand out.  The new strategy worked with Founders being ranked the 4th best brewery in the world in 2010, the second best in 2011, and in the fall of 2011 they moved into a very cool new brew house capable of producing 50,000-barrels a year.  Check out the nifty youtube video below.

                The year round offerings from Founders are very good beers, but the seasonal and specialty beers  are the real treat, and are often hard to find.

                Well, on to the review:

                On Beeradvocate, Frangelic Mountain Brown has a score of 88. Over at ratebeer it has a 99 overall and a 96 for style.

They say:

                Frangelic Mountain Brown is the quintessential taproom “one-off” beer: Founders’ brewers created the Mountain Brown series for their taproom in Grand Rapids in 2007. Frangelic Mountain Brown is the 16th iteration in the series of popular brown ales—and it likely won’t be the last. The singular characteristic of this beer comes from the use of hazelnut coffees in the brewing process. The beer has distinct aromatics with sweet and nutty flavors beautifully balanced. Founders is known for its beers made with coffee (i.e., the Breakfast Stout series), but this is both the brewery’s first brown ale and its first beer brewed with hazelnut coffees to be bottled. It clocks in at 9% ABV.


I say:

                Frangelic Mountain Brown pours mahogany with an excellent kahki head that holds great retention and provides good lacing in the glass. It is a very nice looking beer. The aroma is dominated by medium roast coffee, with vanilla, caramel and hazelnut notes, if you have ever gotten a whiff of Hazelnut coffee; you have a good idea of what Frangelic Mountain Brown smells like.

                The flavor has an upfront dark, malty sweetness with smooth coffee and hazelnut notes throughout and a hint of cream. The aftertaste is more of the same and the coffee flavor intensifies as the beer warms. It tastes very much like a cup of high end hazelnut coffee. Frangelic Mountain Brown is medium-bodied with a moderate to low level of carbonation.

                Frangelic Mountain Brown was a very good beer. Heading into it I knew that it was a hazelnut coffee brown ale, but I was not prepared for the complete dominance of the coffee. There were hints of the base style, with the caramel notes but they remained very much in the background. Don’t get me wrong, I love hazelnut coffee and have it almost every morning with breakfast, but in a beer… A more toned back coffee flavor would have taken this beer from very good to excellent.

                That’s all for tonight! Check back in again soon for another review. Have a great night!

                Happy Drinking!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Apocalypse Cow – 3 Floyds

                My most recent beer was Apocalypse Cow from Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, IN.  3 Floyds is probably better known for their Dark Lord Imperial Stout, a special release beer that is only released one day out of the year, Dark Lord Day.  As good as Dark Lord may be; 3 Floyds has 19 other beers that are quite a bit more accessible; 8 year-round and 11 seasonal beers.  So, not being able to make it to the Dark Lord Day celebration is no excuse for not trying one of the many beers from 3 Floyds.

                Personally, I didn’t know much about 3 Floyds prior to reading the interview with Nick Floyd in Greg Koch’s book, “The Brewer’s Apprentice”.  Sure I had tried their beers and knew that they existed somewhere down in Indiana, but other than that my knowledge of the brewery was limited to Dark Lord Day, an event that I have never been to.  Heck, for the longest time I didn’t realize that they were located in Munster, IN just across the border from Chicago.  Anyways, enough rambling on my part, on to a background on 3 Floyds then a review of Apocalypse Cow.

                Three Floyds was founded in 1996 by two brothers, Nick and Simon, and their father Mike Floyd (see what they did there).  Originally based out of a warehouse in Hammond, IN the brothers built a 5 barrel brew house with repurposed Swiss cheese tanks used as fermentation vessels.  Through the wonders of open fermentation, the 3 Floyds produced full flavored, intense beers.  Open fermentation is great when it works, but it’s not nearly as consistent as a closed fermenter.  So, in 2000, after four years of impressive growth Three Floyds moved to a larger, 15 barrel brewhouse in Munster Indiana with three brand new, closed, temperature controlled, 30 barrel fermentation vessels. Then in 2002 they purchased a reconditioned Italian bottling line and released 12 and 22oz bottles in house (they had previously contract brewed the beer they distributed in bottles).

                More recently Three Floyds upgraded to a 35 barrel brewhouse, brought in a new bottling line, and greatly increased the number of fermentation and conditioning vessels in house, enabling future growth. I know above I had indicated that you would still be able to try Three Floyd’s brews if you weren’t able to make it to Dark Lord Day, but unfortunately being a fairly small brewery with an unbelievable following, Three Floyds currently only distributes to Wisconsin, Ohio, Chicago and of course their home state of Indiana. Then again, there are plenty of other ways to find a bottle of one of their beers if you know where to look. Although, if you have the option available to you, be sure to stop by the Three Floyds Brew Pub for a beer or two.

                On to the review! At Beeradvocate Apocalypse Cow currently has a 93. Over at ratebeer it has a 99 overall and a 97 for style. Very high ranks at both sites, this should be an excellent beer.

They say:

                This complex double India pale ale has an intense citrus and floral hop aroma balanced by a velvety malt body which has been augmented with lactose milk sugar. With this different take on an IPA we have brewed an ale that is both pleasing to drink and, once again, “not normal.” Cheers! June release.

                11% ABV
                100 IBUs

I say:

                Apocalypse Cow pours golden with a nice, creamy white head that holds excellent retention.  The aroma is dominated by pine, with hints of citrus throughout and slight floral and earthy notes.  The orange became more prominent as it warmed, overpowering the pine.  However, the floral and earthy notes remained.  This beer had an amazing aroma, and my wife who is usually not an IPA fan loved it (the aroma that is).

                The flavor started sweet and orangey, and it was extremely smooth with plenty of floral hop flavors throughout.  Cold, right after the poor it finished moderately bitter, but the bitterness smoothed out and the beer took on a more rounded, malty finish as it warmed.  The smoothness is most likely a byproduct of the addition of lactose, an additive utilized to make beers seem creamier (think milk stout vs. dry stout; Left Hand Milk Stout or Sam Adams Cream Stout vs. Guinness).  The addition of lactose will help to make it a beer sweeter and creamier.

                Apocalypse Cow is a great beer and was the June release so I am a little late on getting this out.  Good news though, it is still available in some liquor stores and will be back in stores again in 9 months!

                That’s all for today, check back soon for my next post!!

                Happy Drinking!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Week off

Since its already Wednesday you probably have already figured it out, but I am taking this week off to judge and steward for The Schooner Homebrew Competition.  Check back next week for more posts on #craftbeer goodness!