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 RancĂ© 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!!