Friday, March 29, 2013

Iron Throne Blonde Ale – Brewery Ommegang

                The first in the series of four Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) themed ales, Iron Throne Blonde was released by Brewery Ommegang earlier this month, just in time for the Game of Thrones Season 3 premier.  As a huge fan of the ASoIaF book series, an avid viewer of the show and a huge fan of Ommegang I was thrilled when this beer was announced earlier this year.  Joining excellent craft beer with a seriously epic fantasy series potentially leads to an even more epic pairing.

                According to Brewmaster Phil Leinhart, The Iron Throne Belgian Blonde is inspired by the Lannisters, the current occupants of the Iron Throne.  Known for being “decadent yet sophisticated, the Lannisters are perhaps the most complex of the families of Westeros with shades of glory, greed and wickedness.  Much like the ruling Lannister family a good Belgian Blonde should be smooth and complex, yet have moderate spicy notes to keep things interesting.  Those of you who have read the books or watched the series know that there is more going on with the Lannisters than meets the eye, from the noble intentions of Jaime and Tyrion, to the political infighting of Cersei, to the downright wickedness of Joffery, the Lannisters are quite possibly the most complex and interesting family in all of Westeros.  Being the most complex it is only fitting that they be represented by a subtle, yet complex style, the subtle political maneuvering of Tyrion paired with Jaime’s more brash nature.

                Rather than get too into the books and show, on to the Review.  

                Over at Beeradvocate, Iron Throne Blonde Ale currently has a score of 87.  At ratebeer, it has a score of 90 overall and a 94 for style.

They Say:

                Brewery Ommegang and HBO are partnering on a series of beers in support of the critically-acclaimed drama Game of Thrones. Launching in tandem with the season three debut, Iron Throne is the inaugural beer in the series.

                Iron Throne is a blonde ale at 6.5% ABV and brewed with a robust amount of pils, honey malt, aroma malts and red wheat. Gentle hopping includes Styrian Golding and Hallertau Spalter Select, appropriately noble hops. Spiced with grains of paradise and lemon peel. Hue is a slightly hazy golden amber. Head is full and fluffy. Finish is crisp, backed by a touch of spice and hops. Aroma is a bit grassy with a hint of lemon fruitiness from the lemon peel. Taste is lightly malty, rounded out by honey malt sweetness.

                Available in limited quantities in 750ml bottles and 1/6 BBL kegs starting in late March 2013.

From the Bottle

                Blonde ale with malty sweetness and a touch of fruity spiciness, noble hop aromas and notes of citrus, suitable to serve to kings, or pretenders to the Iron Thrown.

I Say:

                Iron Throne Blonde Ale pours a brilliantly clear blonde with subtle orange hues.  It has a thick, creamy, brilliant white rocky head that holds excellent retention through the entire glass and leaves behind intricate lacing.  The aroma is subtle and complex with sweet pilsner notes up front, supported by lemony and apricot fruity esters, with slightly spicy and earth hop notes.  Sweet alcohols and low level phenolics round out the aroma, providing additional complexity.

                Sweet pilsner malts, moderately spicy phenols are immediately apparent in the flavor.  Sweet throughout, lemony and apricot fruity esters balance nicely with floral honey notes.  Iron Throne Blonde is extremely smooth and sweet, yet finishes semi-dry and clean.  It is medium bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation.

                Iron Throne Blonde Ale is a very subtle yet complex beer.  The sweet malts are expertly tempered by earthy/spicy noble hops and moderate phenolics while the carbonation helps to dry out the sweetness of the beer in the finish.  So good, it makes me want to smack King Joffrey!

                If you are planning on watching the Season 3 premier of Game of Thrones like I am, then no other beer will pair as well with the experience.  There were still plenty of bottles at Ray’s Liquor in Wauwatosa, so if you are in the area stop by and pick up a few bottles!  If you don’t watch the Game of Thrones series yet, then you should definitely start, although you may want to read the books first.

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

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Citra Bomb – Sprecher

            Sprecher is a Milwaukee landmark.  Founded in 1985 by Randy Sprecher, a former brewing supervisor at the Past Brewing Company, Sprecher was one of the first microbreweries in the state and Randy Sprecher took a huge step, especially in 1985, to show that the average Wisconsin beer drinker was ready to progress beyond Miller, Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee.  Like many of the early craft brewers, Randy Sprecher, was on a mission to bring full flavored European styles to America.

For Randy the turning point was a time he spent in Germany, enjoying excellent German beers.  Unfortunately, American breweries were not yet brewing traditional German styles, much less keeping to the German Purity Law, The Reinheitsgebot, which dictated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops (notably yeast is absent from that list because yeast was not discovered until the 1800s).  Therefore, taking an interest in German beer, it was only natural for Sprecher to brew beers that fell in line with German brewing laws.

Out of dedication to German brewing traditions, Sprecher Brewing developed a line of excellent German-style beers and over time produced equally good British and Belgian styles.  However, no discussion of Sprecher is complete without at least mentioning their line of sodas.  Sprecher Root Beer is quite possible the best root beer in commercial production and it pairs perfectly with frozen custard.  However, since this is a beer review on a beer blog I will refrain from proselytizing on the greatness of Sprecher Root Beer, for now at least.

With Sprecher’s dedication to traditional European beer styles I was surprised to find out that their latest beer release is an Imperial IPA, called Citra Bomb.  Imperial IPA’s, a decidedly American style are more a take on American excess than one of the traditional styles.  They are a product of the pursuit of increasingly hoppy and more extreme beers as the American craft beer drinker’s palate began to develop and craft beer drinkers began to demand beers that were more “extreme”.  As opposed to traditional German styles, with their subtly complex malty flavors and aromas with an intermingling of hops, the Imperial IPA is defined by its hops.  Citra hops are known for their intense grapefruit, peach, apricot, mango, papaya, lime, melon, pineapple and passion fruit flavors and aromas.  In some cases, I find the extreme fruitiness to be overwhelming, so I was not sure how to approach Citra Bomb when I found it on the shelf at my local Liquor Store.  That said, on to the review.

           On Beeradvocate, Citra Bomb has a score of 78.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 45 overall with a 4 for style.

They Say:

From the Press Release for Citra Bomb

           (Glendale, WI) – Just in time for the holidays, Sprecher Brewing Company is releasing its first Imperial IPA, CitraBomb. The Imperial IPA style was developed and made popular by West Coast (U.S.) brewers. This style is most often characterized by a gold or copper color, citrus hop character, big malt body and lingering bitterness. What makes Sprecher’s CitraBomb a rare treat is the addition of coveted Simcoe and Citra hop cones.

           The small 40 barrel batch was created using the recipe for Sprecher IPA2– a beer known for its balanced malt body and lingering hop finish—which was aged and dry hopped with a blend of hops. Brewmaster Craig Burge then transferred this brew onto 100 pounds each of Simcoe and Citra hop cones to age for an additional six weeks. According to Burge, “Dry hopping with fresh cones adds flavor and aroma. In addition to the big green, grapefruit, fresh resin nose and flavor, there is some nectarine in the nose.” Sprecher’s CitraBomb Imperial IPA is a hop head’s delight.

           CitraBomb is being packaged exclusively in 22 ounce bottles and draught. Due to the small batch size, most of this Imperial IPA will be distributed in Wisconsin. Until supplies run out it will be available at the Sprecher Gift Shop, 701 W. Glendale Ave, Glendale, WI.

           The Imperial IPA style was developed and made popular by west coast American brewers. This style is most often characterized by a gold or copper color, citrus hop character, big malt body and lingering bitterness.

From the Brewery (malts and hops)
           Malts: Pale,Caramel,Victory, and Carapils (Dextrin).

           Hops: Simcoe, Citra, Northern Brewer, Cascade, and Chinook.

I Say:

                Citra Bomb pours a slightly hazy reddish amber with a creamy, light tan head that holds excellent retention.  Caramel, bready malts dominate the aroma, which is surprising in an Imperial IPA.  There were certainly earthy, herbal, tropical, piney and citrus hop notes, but they remained more subdued.  Grapefruit, mango and passion fruit were all distinguishable but remained in the background compared to the malt and other hop flavors.

                The flavor is very similar to the aroma.  There is definitely a hop presence, but it takes a back seat to the caramel, bready malts.  There is a moderate level of hop bitterness and a noticeable amount of bitter, grassy notes from the hops.  The grapefruit, mango and passion fruit flavors were apparent, but as in the aroma they remained secondary to the earthy, herbal and piney notes of Simcoe and Chinook.  Citra Bomb is medium to full-bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation and it has a slight astringency in the mouth feel.

                I went into this beer expecting the Citra hops to dominate, in large part due to the name of the beer, “Citra Bomb”.  However, in that respect I was disappointed.  It is still a very drinkable, moderately hoppy beer, but judging by the bottle I bought, it falls short of being an Imperial IPA.  Hop flavor fades considerably over time and admittedly, I did pick up this bottle in March, long after the December release so that could have a lot to do with my perception of the beer.  However, I was disappointed to find that the malts and other hops had a decidedly stronger presence than the Citra.

                While “Citra Bomb” was a bit of a disappointment that in no way means that you should avoid other Sprecher beers.  Their German lagers, English ales and barrel-aged beers are excellent and are worth a try.  If you live in or around Milwaukee then you should definitely stop by the brewery for the tour, just be sure to book it well in advance because the tours have a tendency of selling out.

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

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sasquash – Milwaukee Brewing Company

                The MilwaukeeBrewing Company brews many excellent beers; their seasonal and one-off brews are some of the best in the state.  In 1997, after home brewing at his farmhouse in Cedarburg, north of Milwaukee, Jim McCabe founded the Milwaukee Ale House as a 15-barrel brewpub in the Third Ward area in downtown Milwaukee.  In October of 1997, the first beer was brewed for commercial release with the Milwaukee Ale House opening its doors in November.  One of his original home brew recipes, Louie’s Demise, became the flagship beer for the Milwaukee Ale House. 

As demand increased, the Milwaukee Ale House expanded to meet it.  In 2007, Jim McCabe opened the doors of the Milwaukee Brewing Company, a 50-barrel production brew house, allowing the Milwaukee Brewing Company to bottle their beer for distribution in the Milwaukee area.   In 2010, the Milwaukee Ale House became the first craft brewery in the state to can their beer, a process that requires a sizable commercial investment but becomes more cost effective and more environmentally friendly over the long term.  The Milwaukee Brewing Company continues to expand, installing three new fermentation tanks, in August of 2012, taking their capacity from 6,500 to over 10,000 barrels per year.

                The Milwaukee Brewing Company’s current line-up consists of 6 year round offerings: Love Rock, Hop Happy, Polish Moon, Booyah, Louie’s Demise and Pull Chain; 6 seasonal beers: Sasquash, Hoptoberfest, Weekend @ Louie’s, Outboard, Black Iron and “Admiral” Stache.  They currently also have a special beer called Louie’s Resurrection, a bourbon barrel aged release of Louie’s resurrection.

                Recently, a good friend of mine who was concerned that I had not yet had one of their favorite beers gave me a bottle of Sasquash.  A porter brewed with pumpkin, sweet potato, and pumpkin pie spices, Sasquatch is the Milwaukee Brewing Company’s late fall seasonal.  Achieving the optimal pumpkin pie beer can be tricky, and many breweries fall short of brewing a solid example.  Roasting pumpkin, squash and/or sweet potato before adding it to either the mash or boil during the brewing process caramelizes some of the sugars, preventing them from being fully converted into alcohol during fermentation, allowing some of the pumpkin and squash flavors to carry over into the final beer.  However, pumpkin does not have much flavor on its own.  The flavors that people usually associate with pumpkin are the spices used in pumpkin pie: nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger.  With that in mind, many pumpkin beers either focus on spice additions but lack the caramelized sugars produced from roasting pumpkins, or add pumpkin while holding back on pumpkin pie spices.  Getting the right amount of caramelized pumpkin paired with the right spice addition is the key to brewing an excellent pumpkin beer.  With that in mind, on to the review:

                Over at Beeradvocate, Sasquash currently has a score of 84.  Oddly, it isn’t even listed on ratebeer.  I can understand a beer only having a limited number of reviews, but not having it even be posted seems a little strange to me.

They Say:

This recipe was created by our Brewer Kurt. Along with 400 pounds of pumpkin and 300 sweet potato he used a variety of specialty malts to keep your taste buds on an adventurous ride with each sip. You’ll find the roasty flavors are well balanced with pumpkin which gives it a very smooth character. Kurt also added pumpkin spice to this Porter to give it that amazing aroma and finish.

From The Brewer:

                Sasquash started as a homebrew. I really wanted to create something that wasn’t like the other pumpkin beers on the market. Sasquash has a big, malty body that backs up all the spices.

This year we used about 700 pounds of pumpkin and sweet potato and adding them to the wort has to be my favorite part of this brew. Along with the obvious pumpkin smells, we’ll also get the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg aromas from the spices. We added those spices because we really wanted it to taste like a pumpkin pie.

I love drinking this beer with spice cake, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies. 

  • Type: Seasonal
  • ABV - 5.0%
  • IBU - 12.5
  • Hops - Tettnang
  • Malts - Pale Ale, Special Roast, Victory, Honey, Chocolate
  • OG - 14.5ยบ Plato

I Say:

                Sasquash pours a slightly hazy very dark garnet, with ruby highlights.  It has a thick, foamy tan head that holds excellent retention and leaves behind considerable, intricate lacing on the glass.  The aroma is complex with dark roasted malts (reminiscent of a piecrust), nutmeg, allspice, caramelized pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and a slight nuttiness.

                The flavor is very close to the aroma with toasted, nutty and biscuit malts, again very reminiscent of piecrust.  Bitter chocolate and honey malt notes further enhance the illusion of piecrust.  To compliment the malt, Sasquash has pleasantly sweet carmelized sugars from the roasted pumpkin and sweet potatoes in addition to just the right amount of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger.  The aftertaste is well rounded and malty with plenty of nutmeg.  The finish is slightly sweet.  It is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation and a slightly creamy mouth feel.

Sasquash manages to balance roasted pumpkin and spice additions in a way that not many commercial pumpkin beers can manage.  It is definitely one of the best pumpkin beers that I have ever had, and that’s even considering that it was almost 5 months in the bottle by the time I enjoyed it.  At 5% ABV, I am surprised that it is this full flavored after so long in the bottle.  I am definitely going to be on the lookout for the 2013 release of Sasquash.

With as often as I drink Milwaukee Ale House beers, I am very surprised that I haven’t posted a review of one yet.  If you haven’t been to the Ale House for some food and a beer and you live within driving distance, or if you are planning on passing through Milwaukee the Milwaukee Ale House, is a must try.  The Ale House also has weekly special releases of cask-conditioned ale that are sure to impress.  If you have the time, stop by the Milwaukee Brewing Company, on 2nd Street in Walkers Point, for a tour of the production brewery.

            That is all for today, check back next week for another review!
Have a great weekend!
Happy Drinking!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout – Great Divide Brewing Co.

                Great Divide Brewing Co., with their lineup of excellent beers, is a Denver favorite.  They currently release 24 beers with more in the planning stages, five of which are versions of their Yeti Imperial Stout.  For those who enjoy their already exquisitely brewed  Yeti Imperial Stout they also offer the Oak Aged Yeti, the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, the Chocolate Oak AgedYeti, Barrel Aged Yeti (aged in whiskey barrels), and an upcoming secret Yeti project that currently goes by the name TBD Yeti which will be released later this year.  Every Yeti variant has received a positive review from almost everyone who has enjoyed it, so when I had the chance to pick up a couple bottles of Oak Aged Yeti I jumped at the chance.  Before getting to the review though, how about some quick background on Great Divide?

                The story of Great Divide begins with its founder, Brian Dunn.  After graduating from college in the 80s with a degree in Environmental Policy and Management, Brian worked overseas helping to create farms in developing countries.  While overseas he discovered that there was more to beer than the Pale Lagers popular back in the US and was quick to learn more about the excellent, wide range of beers and beer styles that were available.  Returning home after 5 years overseas, Brian started home brewing and went to graduate school.  However, upon graduation in 1993, he determined that brewing was more interesting and set out to start the first non-brewpub microbrewery in Denver.
                In 1993 he did a market study and wrote a business plan.  Utilizing his business plan, Great Divide opened in 1994 with the help of his family, friends and the city of Denver.  It likely helped that Colorado is one of the few states that is even more craft beer friendly than Wisconsin.  Upon opening, Great Divide had two beers, Whitewater Wheat and Arapahoe Amber, unfortunately neither of the two is still in production.  Since 1994, the popularity of Great Divide has grown considerably, along with its critical acclaim, with the brewery winning 17 medals at the Great American Beer Festival and 5 World Beer Cup awards.

                Great Divide moved into their current building, an old dairy processing plant, in 2001.   In 2007,  Great Divide expanded to meet demand, and in 2008 they opened a new production brewery.  Earlier this month Great Divide announced that they are installing another five, 300-barrel fermentation tanks in the middle of the month.

On to the review:

                On Beeradvocate, Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout has a score of 95, with the Bros. giving it a 96.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 100 overall and a 99 for style. 

They Say:

                OAK AGED YETI IMPERIAL STOUT is Yeti Imperial Stout’s sophisticated sibling. They may be from the same clan, but they have entirely different personalities. Oak aging gives a subtle vanilla character, rounding out Yeti’s intense roastiness and huge hoppy nature. Who says you can’t tame a Yeti?
ABV: 9.5%

2007 European Beer Star, Nuremberg, Silver Medal, Stout
2007 Australian International Beer Awards, Bronze Medal, Wood-Aged Beers
2008 Australian International Beer Awards, Silver Medal, Wood-Aged Beer
2009 Australian International Beer Awards, Silver Medal, Wood-Aged Beer
2010 BeerAdvocate “Top 100 Beers On Planet Earth,” #29

Grilled flank steak with chimichurri, herb crusted pork tenderloin, roasted asparagus, Cashel blue cheese, pistachio fudge brownies.

I Say:
                Oak Aged Yeti pours opaque black with a moderate, creamy tan head that held excellent retention and left intricate lacing in the glass.  The aroma is complex with dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee and oak.  There are definite alcohol notes on the back end that neither fade nor increase as the beer warms.

                It is slightly sweet with flavors of vanilla, cocoa, molasses, oak, and booze.  There is a moderate level of hop bitterness to balance out the massive malt bill.  Oak Aged Yeti is creamy with a slightly sweet finish and a pleasant, soothing alcohol warmth.  It is full-bodied with a low to moderate amount of carbonation.

                This is an excellent beer, the alcohol and oak notes blend wonderfully with the dark malts.  If you can get a hold of a bottle of the Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout or any of the variants pick up as many bottles as the liquor store will allow you to buy.  You will not be disappointed!

                That’s all for today, check back soon for another post.

                Happy Drinking!