Monday, December 16, 2013

Jewbelation Reborn – Schmaltz Brewing

                Last year, I was fortunate enough to find a bottle of Jewbelation Sweet 16 in the back of a case at my local liquor store, months after it came out.  This year, I was more on top of it, and headed out to pick up a bottle of Jewbelation Reborn, Schmaltz’s 17th Anniversary beer as soon as I got word that it was in stock.  I was a big fan of Sweet 16 and my biggest regret is that I was only able to find the one bottle that I reviewed.  This year, I picked up a few bottles so that I would have another one on hand when I was craving it.  The 17th anniversary Jewbelation Reborn follows a similar theme to that of Sweet 16, upping the ante to 17 different malts, 17 different hops and increasing the strength up to 17% ABV.

                Schmaltz’s 17th Anniversary also marks a major transition for the brewery, opening up a new 50-barrel brewery in Clifton Park, New York.  They will now be able to brew beers in house, rather than contracting them out, allowing the Schmaltz to produce a wider range of beers, and many more one-offs for the tap room, or regional distribution.  In honor of the occasion, they released their Death of a Contract Brewer Black IPA, which was sadly only distributed in Up-state New York.  One of these days I am going to have to take a road trip out to check out the brewery and pick up some of their beers that only have regional distribution.  Expanding production, and having the freedom to brew what they want, when they want to brew it can only be a good sign for Schmaltz, and I look forward to the wider range of beers that is sure to result!

                He’Brew Dry Hopped Session Ale was my first exposure to the Schmaltz beers, but since then I have tried a few more in their lineup and posted a couple reviews (link at the bottom of this post).  I have enjoyed everything that I have had from them, and went into Jewbelation Reborn with high hopes.  Sweet 16 was so malty, silky, and luxuriant, like a decedent dessert.  I was eager to find out whether 17 would be equally amazing, or if the Sweet 16 was too good to be duplicated.  My expectations were high, then again Jewbelation Reborn was $16, rather than the unbelievable bargain I got when I found Sweet 16 for $5 last year.  On to the review

                Over at Beeradvocate, Jewbelation Reborn currently has a score of 87, with an 85 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it currently has a score of 57 for style and a score of 91 overall.  The 57 from ratebeer is particularly surprising, for a style that is pretty open to interpretation, especially since it scored so highly overall.

They Say:

I Say:

                Jewbelation Reborn pours an opaque black with a thick, creamy, light brown head that holds excellent retention and leaves moderately heavy lacing in the glass.  Roasted barley notes, and dark fruits come to the forefront in the aroma, with sweet alcohol notes, transitioning into subtle earthy and spicy hops.  The aroma is moderately complex, but not quite as complex as the 16th Anniversary.

                The flavor begins with roasted barley and earthy hops with a hint of rye, transitioning to dark baker’s chocolate, toffee, and grilled plums.  Slightly spicy alcohols come in at the back end, although they become sweeter as the beer warms.  The toffee and grilled plum flavors start to become more prevalent as the beer warms to room temperature.  Jewbelation Reborn is full-bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, there is just enough carbonation there to keep this from feeling heavy on the palate.  The 17% ABV is definitely present in Jewbelation Reborn, and prominent in both the aroma and the flavor.

                Jewbelation Reborn definitely has a strong alcohol presence, which might fade or become more complex as the beer ages.  The malt backbone in Jewbelation Reborn should definitely support cellaring, and develop into an excellent beer for vertical tasting when the inevitable Jewbelation 18 is released next year.   Great breweries are great because of the creative beers that they brew, and Schmaltz Brewing already has a long history of creative beers.  I definitely think that Schmaltz brewing will continue to produce excellent beers that represent everything that is good with the craft beer movement in America.  Opening up their own brew house in Clifton Park, NY is a sign of great things to come; I just wish more of it was coming out to Wisconsin. 

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for my next post!

                Happy Drinking!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coming Home 2013 Holiday Ale – Grand Teton Brewing

I have wanted to try a fresh Coming Home Holiday Ale release from Grand Teton Brewing for a while now, but only seem to find them on the shelves in mid-February.  The beers in the Cellar Reserve Series age very well, so there is nothing wrong with the 3 month old bottles that I have been finding, but beers change in the bottle, and the older they are the less they resemble the intended release from the brewery.  Many styles get better over time, in my opinion, but many people don’t agree with that opinion and want to drink a beer that is as fresh as possible.  Heck, that is the opinion of most breweries, and that is the correct position to take for most styles.

                The 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale is a Belgian-style Dubbel, and I would fill you out more on the style, but there is a strong explanation of Belgian Dubbels, and the difference between the different connotations that denote different Belgian beers in the “They Say” section below.  With that said, on to the review.  There aren’t any reviews of 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale on the major ratings sites, or anywhere else for that matter, although I am sure the reviews will start coming in from everyone else soon.

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 occasion.  Coming Home 2013 boasts aromas of dark cherries, mincemeat pie and celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins along with a spicy dry finish.  It was brewed with Idaho pale and Belgian specialty malts plus dark candi sugar from Belgium.  The sugar addition provides rich amber color, a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors.

                Coming Home 2013 was fermented with yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices.  At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends and family over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.  Brewed in the Belgian Bubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is boldly flavorful yet imminently drinkable.

                The monastic brewing tradition goes back centuries.  The sixth century Italian Saint Benedict is said to have laid down the rules of monastic life with an emphasis on obedience and self-sufficiency.  As monasteries spread to the north it was natural that they include breweries within their walls, as beer was often a safer alternative to water.  In the 17th century, monk Rancé established the strict Trappist order at the Abbaye de la Trappe in Normandy.

                As the order spread across northern Europe, each Trappist monastery brewed beer for its own sustenance and for sale.  Today, only beer produced under the strict supervision of one of eight Trappist monasteries-sic in Belgium, one in the Netherland and Austria- may officially be called a Trappist beer.  All Trappist beers are bottle-conditioned ales, but otherwise they can vary widely in style.

                Beer brewed at other monasteries, at commercial breweries under contract to a religious order, or just named with a religious connotation, are usually called Abbey beers.  As with the Trappist ales, Abbey beers can vary considerably, though there are two well defined sub styles: Dubbel and Tripel.  Contrary to popular belief, these names do not signify ales whicyh double and triple our “regular strength” beers.  Rather, brewers in the past often produced very light “table beers” or Singles in the 3-3.5% alcohol by weight range that could safely be consumed all day as alternatives to questionable water.  Seen relative to those, the names Dubbel (6-7.5%) and Tripel (7-10%) , make much more sense.

                Coming Homer 2013 will be available November 1st, 2013 in ½ and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750mL cases.

The web page for the release adds:

Brewed in the Belgian Dubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is big and bold yet imminently drinkable. Coming Home 2013 features celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins and a spicy, dry finish. It was brewed with pale and brown malts plus special dark candi sugar. The sugar addition provides a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors without the cloying thickness typical of all-malt brews. Coming Home 2013 was fermented with ale yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices. At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.

Original Gravity (Plato): 18 ̊
International Bitterness Units: 20
 Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 20 

I Say:

                Coming Home 2013 pours a very clear amber with a thick, creamy, yellow-tinged, off-white head that holds excellent retention, and leaves moderately heavy lacing in the glass.  It is a very good looking beer, although it is a couple shades lighter than I was expecting it to be, but it’s still well within the allowable range.  The aroma is moderately complex for a Belgian Dubbel.  The front end is dominated by caramel, raisin esters, and hints of dark cherry which blend into a more complex caramelized sugar aroma with notes of plum and fig with very enjoyable clove phenols, with a touch of nutmeg.  There is no discernable alcohol in the aroma when the beer is cold, but as it warms there is a slight note of soft, sweet alcohol.

                The flavor, similar to the aroma, moderately complex, rich, and malty.  It begins with notes of raisins and complex caramelized sugars before transitioning into plum, and figs, with mellow clove phenols.  The finish is dry and moderately spicy, with hints of figs, nutmeg, and cloves.  There are notes of sweet, and slightly spicy alcohols throughout that serve to enhance the complexity.  Coming Home 2013 is medium-light bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                This is an excellent Belgian Dubbel that is sweet and malty with complex fruity esters, and pleasant, mellow phenols.  I am confident that it will continue to evolve in the bottle, and should become more complex as it ages.  I have enjoyed every Grand Teton beer that I have had so far and this is definitely no exception.  This is likely a very limited release, so if you see it in stock somewhere pick up a bottle, it likely won’t last long on the liquor store shelf.  If by any chance you find any bottles from a previous Cellar Reserve release, then pick them up too while you are at it, I just saw a couple bottles of Oud Bruin on my last  beer run, and yes I did pick up a few more!  For more info on Grand Teton Brewing, click the Grand Teton brewing label at the bottom of this post!

                That’s all for today, have a great weekend!

                Happy Drinking!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Harvest Ale – Founders Brewing

                Very few things say fall like the annual hop harvest.  This time of year, breweries around the country are releasing their wet hopped, hop harvest ales and Founders is no exception.  Don’t worry too much about the terminology, all that wet hopped means is that they tossed freshly picked hops into the boil rather than dried whole hops, or hop pellets.  Theoretically, the drying process causes some of the hop oils to be lost, so tossing freshly picked hops in will provide a fuller flavor and aroma.

                Founders Brewing releases a lot of amazing beer, and when I found a 4-pack of their Harvest Ale in stock at my local liquor store I bought it on impulse.  A few years ago, I wouldn’t have claimed to be big IPA guy, but breweries like Founders, are turning me into a believer by producing excellent IPAs.  Sure, the ever increasing variety of hops play no small part in the increasing variety of IPAs on the market, but even the best hops can make unbelievably awful beers, as I have frequently discovered as a beer judge.  A truly excellent brewer can take the flavors and aromas inherent in a hop variety and create something amazing by utilizing the right malts, and fermenting at the right temperature with the right yeast.  Founders brews some amazing beers, and I had a strong feeling that their Harvest IPA would not disappoint.  With that in mind, on to the review.
                At Beeradvocate, Founders Harvest Ale currently has a score of 95, with a 96 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 99 overall and a 100 for style.

They Say:

                This liquid dream pours a hazy golden straw color with a white, two-finger head. Your first sip rewards you with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh citrus, then finishes to introduce toasted malt undertones.
ABV: 7.6%
IBUs: 70
Availability: October

I Say:
                Founders Harvest Ale pours a slightly hazy pale fold with a thick creamy white head that holds excellent retention and leaves considerable lacing behind in the glass.  The aroma is moderately complex and showcases the hops with grapefruit and mango on the front end, followed by a hint of orange, with biscuit malts and subtle pine notes in the finish.  As it warms, the grapefruit and orange become more prominent.

                The flavor is similar to the aroma, with biscuit notes on the front end with prominent grapefruit and mango hops, fading into orange and pine on the back end.  Harvest Ale is moderately malty with moderately high hop bitterness, and a clean, dry finish with lingering hop flavor.  It is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.  I know that was a lot of “moderates” and “mediums,” but this beer hit every attribute dead on.

                Personally, I love wet hopped beers, when they are done correctly.  I went into this beer hoping it would be good, but fearing that it would have grassy notes from the sheer volume of plant material from the hops.  Fortunately there was no discernible grassy aroma, or flavor.  In their Harvest Ale, Founders has produced an excellent IPA!  This is definitely a beer that will go into my yearly rotation.  If you are looking for a great IPA that will leave you satisfied, I highly recommend it.  Fresh hopped beers are not for everyone, but if you haven’t had on yet, this is one of the best I have had!

                That’s all for tonight, check back later this week for another post.  I am shooting to get the next review up by Friday at the latest.  For more Founders reviews, check out the "Founders" label at the bottom of this post.  Cheers!

                Happy Drinking!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale - Rogue Ales

                Pumpkin beers have been on the shelves since July, and it seems like they show up earlier every year.  Call me old fashioned, but I like to hold off on pumpkin beers till fall actually rolls around.  Sure it’s a smart business decision to be the first brewery to get a pumpkin beer on the shelf so customers see their product first, but it can be annoying to see them in the summer.  A Google search brings up dozens of articles if you are interested in finding out more about the phenomenon.  Fortunately Rogue Ales didn’t buy into the hype and released their Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale in mid-September.  I, for one, applaud the fall release.

Pumpkin Patch Ale is one of Rogue’s many GYO (grow-your-own) beers, brewed with ingredients grown at one of the two Rogue Farms.  Between the two farms, Rogue grows barley, rye, pumpkins, hazelnuts, hops, and jalapenos in addition to keeping honeybees and an assortment of more traditional farm animals.  By sourcing ingredients from their own farms, Rogue can keep costs down, continue to be successful, and mitigate the effects of fluctuations in hop prices.

                On to the review, at Beeradvocate, Rogue Farms Pumpkin patch Ale has a score of 86.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 91 overall and a 96 for style.

They Say:

The newest addition to the chatoe Rogue series is Pumpkin Patch Ale, a beer made using fresh pumpkins grown in a patch that borders Rogue’s 42 acre hop yard.  The pumpkins are picked, loaded into Rogue’s farm truck, driven immediately 77 miles to our brewery in Newport, quickly roasted, and pitched into the brew kettle to create a batch of Pumpkin Patch Ale

13 Ingredients:
Rogue Farms Pumpkins, Great Western 2-Row, Carawheat, Weyermann Carafe Malts, Rogue Micro Hopyard Rebel Hops, Ginger, Cloves, Vanilla bean, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, Free range coastal water and Pacman Yeast.

25 IBU
75 AA
25º Lovibond

World Class Package:
750ml Bottle

Food Pairing: 
Pork, Dessert

I Say:
                Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale pours a very clear deep, burnished copper with a thick, creamy, white head that holds moderate retention and leaves a light lacing in the glass.  Sweet malts come to the forefront in the aroma, transitioning to nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and a hint of citrus before finishing with strong notes of vanilla, roasted pumpkins and roasted malts.

                The flavor begins with strong notes of pumpkin pie spices, with clove and nutmeg being the most prominent.  The pie spices transition to vanilla, toasted malts, and baked squash, with a strong, lasting clove and vanilla finish.  Pumpkin Patch is moderately malty with a low perceived hop bitterness, and a moderately dry finish.  It is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation.

                Rogue Ales has another excellent beer in Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale.  As I mentioned in a post last year it can be difficult to get the optimal pumpkin pie flavor in a beer, but Rogue hit this one out of the park!  The only downside with this beer is that it’s $10 at my local liquor store.  While it is an excellent beer and one of the best pumpkin beers that I have had it is considerably more expensive than many of the other pumpkin beers on the market.  If you don’t mind the high price then by all means, pick up a bottle, you won’t be disappointed.

                That’s all for tonight!  Have a great weekend!
                Happy Drinking!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer - Seefurth Family

                If you live in Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, chances are you have seen “Original Seefurth Family” pizza crust, beer bread, or dip mix in the grocery store.  You probably even have a vague recollection of someone telling you that they also made a pizza beer and probably wonder, “pizza beer,” what in the world is up with a pizza beer.  Beer with pizza, sure, who hasn’t heard of that; but a pizza beer, really?

You probably wonder whether a pizza beer would be drinkable, or what it would taste like if it were.  Surely, it would have to have tomato, garlic, basil, and oregano, perhaps even a bit of cheese in the flavor.  The question when approaching a pizza beer though is how much pizza flavor really belongs in a beer.  Surely a pizza beer would be a novelty, something to try at least once to say that you have had it and then move on.  Bottles of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer have been spotted around the world though, and CNBC wrote an article a while back about the unexpected success of the beer.

                At Beeradvocate, Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer has a score of 64.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 15 overall and an 18 for style.  Unsurprisingly both ratings sites give Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer a low score.  Novelty beers don’t seem to score very high on either site, and a common complaint seems to be that the beer tasted too much like pizza.  Faulting a pizza beer for tasting like pizza?  Really?

They Say:

                "Pizza Beer" was developed Labor Day, 2006 by Tom and Athena Seefurth in our home brewery in Campton Township, IL. It all started with a surplus of tomatoes, a bag of garlic & an idea that started early in the spring when we planted our garden herbs.

The goal was to create a beer that would pair with a wide variety of foods, especially our favorite, Pizza! In the end, we were pleasantly surprised that this "mess" turned out to be the best thing since the guy with chocolate that bumped into Ralph Mouth & mixed up the chocolate with the peanut butter! Indeed, the world will love "Pizza Beer".

Facing a difficult task, we immediately did an internet search to gather information on using the "oddball" ingredients in creating a beer. Certainly someone had published such a recipe! We found beer made with garlic, hemp seed, coriander, hot peppers, maple syrup, honey, citrus peels & more. But what about tomatoes & the possibility of combining all of our favorite flavors into this beer? We then grabbed our favorite book written by a fellow Chicago Beer Society member, Randy Mosher. He wrote a book called "Radical Brewing" which has been read cover to cover a few times. Randy mentions a lot weirder stuff than pizza spices. He talks about mushrooms, hot rocks & stuff that is really radical! In a quandary, we called one of our best friends & creative brewmasters in the world, Kris Kalav. We told him of our quest to make this really cool brew & wanted to know if he had any experience brewing with tomatoes. After he stopped laughing, we bounced a few ideas around and Voila! "Pizza Beer" was on it's way to fame. To our knowledge, our home brewed concoction is the "World's First Culinary Beer."

Now, being homebrewers, we enjoy the freedom to create whatever we want. We usually refer to a book by Ray Daniels called "Designing Great Beers" when creating a style of beer that we intend on submitting to a contest. We usually concoct the recipe by memory & measure ingredients the way your grandmother did, pinch of this, smidgen of that. Something happened that day. We figured if this really turned out like we want it to, we better be able to duplicate it! Lo and behold, the amazing "Pizza Beer" was born.

"Pizza Beer" IS A DEBRIS FREE product. The Margarita pizza is put into the mash & steeped like a tea bag. A whole wheat crust made with water, flour & yeast is topped with tomato, oregano, basil & garlic. The essence of the pizza spices is washed off with hot water and filtered into a brewpot, where it is boiled for a long, long time. During the process, we add hops & spices in a cheesecloth type bag & filter the cooled liquid into a fermentation vessel. (big glass 6 gallon water jug). After a week or two, the beer is good to go. Keg it or bottle it.

I Say:

                Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer pours a slightly hazy golden orange with a thin, bright white head with low retention.  The lack of a well pronounced head was noticeable and a little disappointing.  The aroma is surprisingly pleasant and reminiscent of stepping inside a pizza parlor, or opening a box of hot, fresh pizza.  Fresh cut oregano, basil and garlic are immediately apparent, fading to a bready finish with subtle tomato notes on the back end.

                The flavor is very similar to the aroma with an enticing blend of basil, oregano, garlic, tomato and a firm, bready malt backbone.  There is even a hint of mozzarella cheese lingering with the strong herbal character in the aftertaste.  The flavors mingle, creating a complex combination of flavors that strongly resembles a well crafted pizza.  It is moderately malty with moderately low hop bitterness, just enough to round out the malts and prevent the beer from being sweet.  Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is surprisingly good!  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried it, but I was definitely happy with the beer.  I have had many novelty craft beers with random ingredients added “just because” and even more homebrew examples in the competitions that I have judged that have left me wondering what on earth were they thinking.  Fortunately when I drink Mamma Mia! Pizza beer, Tom and Athena Seefurth’s intentions are immediately apparent.  They hit the mark dead on.

                Is pizza beer for everyone?  Probably not.  I enjoyed it though and I will happily buy it again the next time it’s released.  Heck, I will probably buy at least a 6-pack the next time I see it.  If you find it near you and are curious, it’s definitely worth trying.  However, if the concept of a beer that tastes like pizza revolts you, do us all a favor and don’t try it.  The last thing the world needs is another person complaining that a beer tastes like what it claims to.

                That’s all for today!  Check back next week for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter & Banana Ale – Rogue Ales

            About a year ago I had a beer that was like no beer I had ever had before, the Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale.  It was everything that I hoped it would be and then some.  I have since had a few bottles, and it did not age well.  Fortunately, Rogue released the next beer in the Voodoo Doughnut lineup a couple months ago, the Chocolate, Peanut & Butter Banana Ale.  I picked up a bottle, and could not wait to try it, then life caught up with me and it was a couple weeks before I was able to open my bottle.

 The latest beer (yes I realize it was released back in July) is based upon the Memphis Mafia doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts, a fried doughnut with banana chunks and cinnamon, glazed and topped with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips.  While that certainly does not sound even remotely healthy, it does sound insanely delicious!  So, I guess the real question is, did Rogue pull off another Doughnut-inspired beer, or are there simply too many competing flavors?  Alternatively, does the banana taste like banana or banana extract?  Perhaps the beer would leave a lot to be desired, after all a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale is not for everyone and there was a very real possibility that I would not enjoy the latest Voodoo Doughnut Ale.  On to the review.

At Beeradvocate, Rogue Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale has a score of 65.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 29 overall with a 55 for style.  Neither of the ratings sites offers a very positive perspective.  Then again, they didn’t like the Bacon Maple Ale either… some people just don’t like odd beers.

They Say:

A Collision of Crazies

Rogue Ales has again collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale! This unique artisan creation contains a dozen ingredients including chocolate, banana and peanut butter to match Voodoo’s "Memphis Mafia" doughnut- a nod to Elvis' entourage.
Malts: 2-Row, C-150, C-175, Carafoam Special II & Chocolate
Hops: Rogue Farms Revolution & Independent
Adjuncts: Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana
Yeast: Pacman
& Free Range Coastal Water

Voodoo Doughnuts adds:
            Rogue Ales has once again brainstormed with Voodoo Doughnut to introduce to you... Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale!

This unique artisan creation contains a baker's dozen ingredients including chocolate, banana and peanut butter to match Voodoo Doughnut's "Memphis Mafia" doughnut- a nod to Elvis' entourage.

I Say:

            Rogue’s Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale pours an opaque brownish black with a thick, creamy tan head that holds excellent retention, lasting through almost the entire glass, leaving behind moderately heavy lacing.  There is a very strong, upfront note of banana in the aroma, backed up by milk chocolate, and slightly sweet malts with a sweet, nutty finish.

            The flavor is bready, with a light milk chocolate note, hints of banana and nuttiness, rounded out by a lingering banana flavor that tastes more like banana extract than fresh fruit.  On the back end there is an odd, lingering carob flavor in the after taste, rather than the fuller chocolate flavor that came forward at first.  Fortunately the flavor did not linger long.  Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale is light-bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation.

            While being an interesting beer, the Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale falls short of being great.  The flavors seem a little muted on the back-end  and the aftertaste does little to round out the experience.  It also seems a little too light bodied to support the flavor profile of the beer.  Had this been a medium or full-bodied beer, it would have been far more enjoyable, in my opinion.  Sadly, this beer was not as enjoyable as the Bacon Maple Ale; I do however look forward to any upcoming Rogue/Voodoo Doughnut collaboration beers.

            Feel free to pick up a bottle of Rogue Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale if you find it near you, because it is interesting, it just falls short of what it could have been.

            That’s all for today! Check back soon for another post!

            Happy Drinking!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Red Poppy – The Lost Abbey

                I’m a big fan of sour beers.  I keep meaning to brew one myself, but am hesitant to because I don’t want to contaminate my fermentation vessels with all sorts of funky bugs.  So, when I really want a good sour beer I only have two options, make the trek out to my local liquor store and see what they have in stock, or peruse my beer cellar to see what I have down there.  Fortunately, this time I had a bottle of The Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale that I picked up on my most recent trip down to Illinois.

I have heard a lot of good things about Red Poppy Ale and was hoping that it would live up to the hype.  Heck, even Tomme Arthur, the director of Brewing Operations for The Lost Abbey, calls It “one of the more exceptional wild beers” that the brewery releases.  It is a bit pricy at $10 for a 12.7 oz bottle, but The Lost Abbey has a solid reputation for producing good beers so I hope it really is worth the $10 price tag.

                At Beeradvocate, Red Poppy Ale has a score of 95.  Over at Ratebeer, it has a score of 100 overall with a 97 for style.

They Say:

                Perhaps no country embraces the use of fruit in beers more so than Belgium. Numerous traditional as well as regional specialty ales are infused with every sort of fruit imaginable. In this way, the flavor of the fruit becomes especially prominent.

Red Poppy Ale is a veritable celebration of Sour Cherries in an explosion of aromas and tastes. Brewed from a brown ale base and aged in our oak barrels for over 6 months, this beer is not for the faint of heart.

The Golden Poppy is the state flower of California and the Red Poppy is found in Flanders Fields where our inspiration for this beer comes from. This beer is 5.5% ABV and is available in 375 and 750 ml bottles and on draft at inspired locations.

ABV: 5.5%

I Say:

                Red Poppy pours a moderately clear reddish amber with a thick creamy khaki head that holds moderate retention and leaves thin lacing in the glass.  The aroma is complex with notes of dark cherries and oak blending with figs, leather, balsamic vinegar, a hint of caramel and a definite wild funk.  Hints of an almost lime-like citric tartness rounds out the aroma.  This is definitely an interesting and extremely complex beer.

                The flavor has begins with dark cherries up front, followed by a moderate acetic and citric tartness and a mild earthy funkiness.  Oak mingles throughout the experience, and the finish is exceptionally pleasant with notes of fig, and light caramel malts.  Red Poppy is light bodied, but not thin, with a moderately high level of carbonation.

                This is an excellent Flanders Red Ale, and it’s easy to see why it has high scores at both Beeradvocate and ratebeer.  It is very complex, and is definitely a strong example of the style.  I really like the beers that come out of The Lost Abbey and this is no exception.  If you are looking for an insanely good, complex Flanders Red Ale there are few beers that come close to this one.  That said, the question remains of whether or not it lives up to the $10 price tag.  If you are looking for a very good Flanders Red and have the cash available then by all means, pick up a bottle.  If not, you can certainly find another good example of the style, for quite a bit less than $10.  However, if you are like me and pick up a bottle of beer from The Lost Abbey whenever you can find one, then this is definitely not a beer to be missed.

This is also a beer that should become considerably more complex with age, so you may want to pick up a few bottles if you can find it, to track the progression.  The good folks at The Lost Abbey are even kind enough to mark a vintage on the bottle so you don’t have to.

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for my next post!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bone Warmer (2013) – Grand Teton Brewing

                The third release in the 2013 25th Anniversary Cellar Reserve series is the Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale.  First brewed in 2006, it still holds the record selling out faster than any other beer that Grand Teton has brewed.  I have been impressed with the Grand Teton Cellar Reserve series since I took notice of it with the Snarling Badger release in 2012.  Since then, I called around Milwaukee looking for bottles of each release and buying what I could find in stock.  While there are a few limited releases that I miss for one reason or another, I try to ensure that I never miss one from Grand Teton.

 The reserve lineup this year has been impressive so far, beginning with Double Vision Doppelbock in January, Oud Bruin in May, and now Bone Warmer Imperial Amber, which releases next week on September 2nd.  A somewhat big beer, at 8.2% ABV, Bone Warmer is sure to be a welcome treat on cold fall nights, and it has the potential to be a good addition to a beer cellar for some extended aging.  For more information on Grand Teton Brewing, click on the Grand Teton Brewing tag at the bottom of this post.  On to the review.

The 2013 release of Bone Warmer is not listed at either of the two ratings sites yet, since it doesn’t come out till next week, but they both have ratings for the original 2006 release.  At Beeradvocate, the first release has a score of 85.  Over at ratebeer it has a score of 90 overall with a 49 for style.

They Say:

2013 marks the 25th anniversary of Grand Teton Brewing. In celebration, we’re bringing back three of our favorite styles for this year’s Cellar Reserves. Bonewarmer Imperial Amber was first brewed in 2006 and sold out faster than any other beer we’ve made. Bone Warmer, brewed in the “strong ale” tradition, is a beer of great character, with exceptional malt flavor and warming alcohol content.

Historically, brewers often drew three different runs from the same barley mash. The first, used for strong ale or “best beer,” had the most flavor, color and fermentable sugars, and produced beer with the most alcohol. The second was used for a less strong “table beer,” and the third, a lighter and cheaper “small beer.”

Our Bone Warmer is brewed the same way, using only the first runnings from an extraordinarily thick, strong mash of Idaho 2-Row Metcalfe and Harrington barley malt, along with dark German Munich and caramel malts. We subtly spiced it with Idaho Chinook hops, fermented it at cool temperatures and cold-conditioned it for smoothness and drinkability.

The resulting ale is the color of roasting chestnuts. It is voluptuously malty and only slightly sweet- with a hint of toffee and a warming dry finish. It’s an ideal accompaniment to rich meaty stews, wild game, roasted fowl or root vegetables, and aged cheddars.

Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale is a one time release available September 1, 2013 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.
Original Gravity (Plato): 22˚
International Bitterness Units: 22
Alcohol by Volume: 8.2%
Color (Lovibond): 36˚

I Say:

                Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale pours a slightly hazy deep coppery, reddish amber with a moderately thick, creamy tan head that holds retention for well over a minute before fading to cling to the edges of the glass.  The aroma has a strong, slightly sweet malty profile with rich toffee notes a hint of honey and golden raisins on the backend with a moderately sweet alcohol finish.

                The flavor has a very rich, full malty profile with notes of toffee and sweet caramel counter balanced with a moderate level of hop bitterness and moderately sweet alcohol.  Bone Warmer finishes smooth, creamy and moderately sweet.  It has a moderately full body and a moderately low level of carbonation.

               Bone Warmer is another excellent beer from Grand Teton, one that I am definitely going to get a few more bottles of when it is released next week.  Bone Warmer should age very well over the next couple of years, so be sure to pick up a few bottles if you find it near you when it arrives in stores on September 1.  This is a cold weather beer though, so you might want to wait until the temperature drops a little before you contemplate drinking it.

                That’s all for today!  Check back soon for another post, I have a few in the works, and I am still working on typing up my interview with Kirby Nelson from the Wisconsin Brewing Company.

                Have a great three day weekend and Happy Drinking!

Friday, August 9, 2013

K4 - Good Beer Inspires Good Conversation

               Check out the latest post from Brian, below!

Since they opened at the end of last year Karben4 has been one of my favorite spots around Madison to talk beer.  I’ve heard good beer inspires good conversation and this tap room is not lacking when it comes to either one.  Ryan (the brew master) will stop by to say hello every time I’m sitting at his bar… normally with a sample of his newest batch.  As some of you may know from a post back before the first of the year, he tapped a sample of SamuRyePA directly from one of the fermenters into a measuring cup for me to sample… if I remember correctly they only had one or two beers on tap at that time because they technically weren’t even open yet.  They have come a long way in just over 8 months.

I stopped in for some lunch last Friday, hoping to shake off the mild IPA Day hangover from the previous evening.  Full disclosure… I sat at the Tipsy Cow with Ryan and his crew the night before and went pint for pint mixing it up between (his own) Fantasy Factory, One Barrel Brewing Co.’s Hopticity Jones and Founders’ All-day IPA, with a NightCall Smoked Porter (also from Karben4) mixed in to balance things off and clear my palate a bit.  For lunch that day I went with the chicken salad sandwich on a pretzel roll and another pint of Fantasy Factory.  Props to Chef Jeff back in the kitchen because the food over there is every bit up to par with Ryan’s brewing and the two work very well together.  I could go into much more detail about how Chef Jeff has rocked my world on more than one occasion but, this a beer blog- so I’m going to stick to my guns.  Fantasy Factory… a beautifully hoppy brew that has the perfect malt back to balance the hops, it’s a BIG IPA that leave you with a very clean finish.  Put it on a Nitro tap and I’m in heaven! As I was finishing up my sandwich Ryan came strolling out of the back and sat down next to me.  I told him “it was you beer that provided me with this hangover so I’m going to make you guys feed me to get rid of it”.  He laughed and joked about how we were really putting them away the night before. 

Then out of nowhere, Ryan gets a big grin on his face and asks… “Do you wanna smell something?!” Now normally, when someone randomly asks me a question like that my answer is ‘no’ straight away- maybe it was just the group of friends I used to hang out with.  But I took my chances and followed Ryan back into the brewery.  Fortunately for me it was a couple casks that he wanted me to get a wiff of (… and not something else).  The big one he had me stick my nose in first was a Chardonnay barrel full of UnderCover, their session ale.  He also encouraged me to check out the smaller gin barrel that they got from Few in Chicago.  He said it was oozing with aroma when he got it in the mail.  It showed up in a couple layers of bubble wrap and the postal info was on a sticker that was just slapped on one end.  He will be, or already has (depending on when this post goes live) kegged the contents this week and it will be making its debut appearance in the tap room on Friday evening.  I certainly recommend trying this one, I had the first round of this “gin barrel experiment” a couple months back when they had it on in the tap room.  It was a complex balancing act and the subtle gin flavors played off the ‘almost piney’ flavors from the hops.  They are also featuring Fantasy Factory on a Nitro Tap.  Karben4 will definitely be one of my stops on Friday, just have to decide where it will fall into my schedule.  If you are trying to decide the best time to check out Karben4 I recommend you go when you’re hungry!

It turns out that when I dropped in on him (last week Friday) it was almost a full year since he packed up his life into a moving truck and made the 10 hour drive back to his home state of Wisconsin (from Montana).  If you ask me they have been kickin’ ass and taking’ names ever since!  But enough about their history, I want to talk about their plans for The Great Taste of the Midwest!

I started off with the easy question… “What are you guys pouring at the Great Taste?” Ryan and the crew will be pouring Fantasy Factory, UnderCover Session Ale, NightCall Smoked Porter and Lady Luck (their Irish Red).  I asked him a few more questions about the big event and furiously jotted down not as he gave his answers.  Please note that I have paraphrased his words in some places.  (Hope I can do you justice Ryan!)

BR: What are you most looking forward to at the Taste this year?

“The experience!”  This will be Ryan’s first Great Taste of the Midwest but he knows it’s a big deal.  “This is one of the biggest beer festivals in the country and it takes place right here in Madison.”  He looks forward to seeing all the craft beer fans out and about in Madison the week leading up to the Taste and all of the people who come in from out of town, not only from the Midwest, but from across the country and even internationally. 

BR: What’s one thing you want to take away from the event as a brewer?

“Well… not a hangover… But really, I just want to absorb it.”  He hopes to ensure that he and the rest of his servers don’t get overwhelmed with pouring beer and putting out fires the day of the event.  “The customer… well, the beer geek (at the festival) obviously comes first because that’s the whole reason we’re there.”  He alluded to the fact that he and his partners have been sinking their whole lives into this project called Karben4 and that it will be really great to get feedback from the crowd and bask in the glow that the Great Taste of the Midwest provides Madison on that magical Saturday in August.  “This whole thing is coming full circle for me… I moved back here almost one full year ago and this dream we had is real!”
BR: Any Brewery/Brewers you are hoping to mix it up with or meet for the first time?

“Some of my favorite beers come from western Michigan like Founders, Bells and New Holland.”  Ryan is looking forward to start matching names and personalities (of the brewers) with the brews they make and he has grown to love.  He also mentioned that the move back to his home state of Wisconsin has provided the opportunity for him and his wife to visit her home state of Michigan more often.  He would love to start building relationships with these brewers, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level too.  “…So when we go visit family in my wife’s hometown… I can just drop in on them!”

               That's all for today!  IF you are going to Great Taste over the weekend, enjoy and stay safe!
Check back next week for another post!

Happy Drinking!!