Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What is strange?

Odd. How very, very odd. This is one of the most insane beers I have had in a long, long time. I'm talking about Brouwerij Stubbe's Ichtegem’s grand cru.

As you can tell from the beautiful pour, it has stunning ruby highlights around the edges, and darkens-but remains clear-through the center, eventually growing to a rich brown. My nose was then assaulted by a vinegary tone followed with some malt.

On taste, she plays the part of insane girlfriend well. Dry. Crazy. No hops. Funky (like she needs a shower). Tangy (like she needs a shower). This is clearly one wild brew; and goes well with macaroni and cheese, with a light balsamic dressing with it (don't knock it till you try it).

For my first Flemish red, she earns 8/10.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The best library is the one you can drink

So, I have a whole mess of beer that I have drunk and need to write about. All of this was really over the course of the past week, but I have just had so many other things to attend to, that I haven't been able to write. Well, who has the time now? And who has your attention? That's what I thought!

I will have to note, that I won't provide a tasting score for these. I remember them all, but without the beer in front of me it wouldn't be fair to rate them. However, I will provide my observations.

Quickly, what goes better with macaroni & cheese than a fine smoked porter from Stone Brewing? Answer: a whole lot of nothing! I encourage all to find this beer, as it is really quite smooth and the smoke doesn't make an appearance until the finish, where it is crisp and dry. I really prefer that in a dark style.

Ah, well, perfection can't last, and I have to say I found a Stone beer that simply isn't for me. That would be Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. It was a very nice pour, as evident by my Boston Beer Company glass filled with a very rich brown brew and dense tan head. My only qualm with this beer is it had too much. It was overly roasty, overly alcoholic and overly hopped. Which, for me, a crazy-ass IPA lover, is nuts. Stone got this bad boy to ferment out dry, I mean dry! For something like this, it just didn't work. Now, it could be that the beer had to enjoy a 2,700 mile trip across the country to find it's way into my fridge, but for a brewer of such high demand I would imagine the bottle I bought was a fresh representative of what they intended.

So, of course I had to cleanse my palatte. How better to do that, than opening up a lambic! Specifically, a faro!

I found a bottle of Lindemans Faro from The Perfect Pour, and was very giddy. (My purpose for that trip was to find some goofy, off the wall Belgians; while Lindemans may not be, necessarily that wild, it was the first time I found a faro.)

I'll tell you, there is nothing better to drink while you are washing the dishes. The beer is very sweet--a nice dessert beer--and crystal clear with an amazing funk and nil hops. This would make for a terrific gateway beer into funny Belgians.

I have been waiting for years to get a hold of something fresh from Fort Collins, Colorado. Yes, that's right, New Belgium is finally being shipped to the <sarcasm>The People's Republic of Maryland</sarcasm>.

If I were to brew an Oktoberfest, this would be my model. Hoptober is a homebrewing hop-lover's paradise ale, especially if you're limited in the ability to make lager beer. NB has you covered with this golden ale. I was shocked how tasty it was and I will most definitely attempt to clone this bad boy.

The following is the description right from NB's website, and I encourage you to a. visit their website, b. visit your local liquor store and buy this beer.
Five hops and four malts make Hoptober Golden Ale a veritable cornucopia of the earth. Pale and wheat malt are mashed with rye and oats to create a medium-bodied ale with a creamy mouthfeel.

Centennial, Cascade, Sterling, Willamette, and Glacier hops form a bonfire of citrus notes, fruity cheers and a bold finale.
...doesn't that make you thirsty?

Thank your Beer Ranger! Toasty and biscuity with a fresh floral nose, spicy and citrusy hop flavor, this is yet another beer to seek out. It is a good example of an American IPA (probably not the best representative of the style) that is a smooth talker and a very smooth drinker. It would be extraordinarily easy to drink 6 too many of these. Don't ask me how I know.

And, we close out the night with Westmalle Dubbel a dark, sticky ale that my pal, Sean Paxton, has a wonderful, wonderful marshmallow recipe for. I made it; they are wonderful! But back to the beer, I think I may have either drunk it too fast and experienced some cold shock on my tongue, or the bottle had taken a turn for the worse. The beer was good, but for Westmalle, I have most certainly had better. None the less, I was thirsty, and boy did it hit the spot. I only long to have had a nice piece of milk chocolate to go with it. Or chocolate cake with a nice light dusting of powdered sugar. Or a double dark chocolate, double chocolate stout pudding. Just let me say, that this is another fine dessert beer.

And that wraps up my essay for this evening. Thanks for popping in and reading. I hope I haven't bored you to death.

Let me ask a question of the masses: should I pursue becoming a BJCP judge? It may help me to better educate myself on the flavors and profiles of beer, and offer you some more accurate descriptions of what's going on inside of that bottle. Just a thought.

- Listening to Vanilla Ice

Monday, August 29, 2011

Little black dress

The makers of Guinness, in effort to appeal to the North American lager drinker, are rolling out with Guinness Black Lager (read, I think, Schwartzbier) in early September.

I think that anything from Guinness may incur the same kind of "dark beer stigma" that always seems to follow it. Regardless, I will be trying it, as I like all styles of beer, the black pilsner, and stout, in particular.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

It's no bumper crop, part deux

First 2011 collection of Cascade hops.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011


Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit

Prost! Prost!

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Location:Meine Küche

Monday, August 22, 2011

A couple of nice articles

My aunt shared this article with me, regarding a quasi-local surge in the beer scene. It's practically a micro thesis on how to start a nano/micro brewery; though there's no guarantee of success, I still wish the best to everyone, because quality brewers can only help the cause. This is courtesy of WTOP.

Now, this I got from The Brewing Network's Facebook page. The secret, unknown organism, making up the missing half of the lager genome was found in the Patagonia region of Argentina. How did this funky thing mingle with ale yeasts? Who knows; however the case, I'll drink to that.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

When you need some help falling asleep...

Turn to a double IPA. This animal is Serum from DuClaw Brewing Company, and was in a growler given to me by The Flyin' Wop as thanks for helping him out with a move.

Even though he had the growler for two weeks before he saw me again, I'd say this style can take a lot of what time can dish out.

The growler popped when I opened it and held a wonderful orange colored, "thick" liquid, like a honey liqueur- with no head, really. The pour was nice, viscous like a liquor, sending up waves of aromatic lupulin straight into your sinuses.

At first sip, you get something different, though. It's really quite sweet, with a rounded hop finish that plays the line between astringent and bitter and is a sneaky beer where the alcohol lingers on the outside, never peeking in, but letting you know it's there.

For some of you who know me, for a very long time, I was unimpressed with the beers of DuClaw. I thought a few years ago the brews were watered down and lacking in body and flavor. But, a couple of weeks ago, we had a little gathering at DuClaw Arundel Mills and, this time around, I found the beer to be radically changed for the better. (That particular night I was drinking Venom.)

So, this all tallied up earns this beer an honest 7/10. Having it fresh well could see it earn more on my scale.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011


Oh, Nico and Sully, you crazy guys! What is this monster?!? It's the wrong beer to come home to, after a long day at the office, because you'll be asleep long before dinner.

I poured, without looking at any of the packaging, a 12 ounce can of 21A Hop Crisis, in anticipation of a delicious IPA.

Yeah, buyer beware.

Instead I unleashed a 9.7%, 94 IBU animal, which has this absolutely fan-freaking-tastic pineapple/star fruit aroma and just a ridiculous lacing that clings and sticks to the side of the glass like a spider web.

For being such a high gravity beer (read: high alcohol) it is incredibly pale. I mean I have had Weiss beers darker than this! And it's clear too! No nutso cloudiness that typically comes with the DIPA/Imperial IPA style.

A first sip, while still fairly cool, yields some of that tropical flavor and zippy bite from heavy use of bittering hops-my guesses: Amarillo, Tomahawk, Citra?

Letting it warm for 10 minutes allows a lot of the oak it was aged on to really come through and deliver a French vanilla note and a quite pleasant smoothness, rounding off that initial bitter edge.

Letting it sit for another 40 minutes while your pizza cooks unlocks something amazing too! A blinding smoothness that makes this simply irresistible.

9/10, and guaranteed not to disappoint!

(Must appreciate a disturbing use of hops and heavy-handed amount of alcohol.)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Night & Day

I wanted to show everyone two very excellent beers, that are delicious representatives of their styles.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A coworkers' first attempt

I enjoy the fine hobby of homebrewing and it is truly my dream that, one day, I will have the ability to take it to the level of professional brewery. In the meantime, I have been encouraging several of my coworkers to start or get back home brewing--at least 5. (It was several of those folks who got on my ass to restart brewing too, essentially putting my foot where my mouth is).

Tonight, a coworker of mine who is very new to the hobby, offered me two bottles of his inaugural brew: Brewer's Best Irish Stout. This is where I think everyone cuts their teeth. Get a few kits under your belt, then go bonkers. (At least, that's what I did.)

He expressed concern that his brew was under carbonated. When I got home, I immediately set forth to open a bottle that was the PERFECT temperature--just about 55 degrees.

Fzzt! Sounded about right to me.

The stout poured a thin black into my glass, and built a very fast tan head that quickly dissipated (see my previous post for similar conditions). I held it to the light and could clearly see through the beer--it wasn't easy but it was possible. So, at that point I'd call it a porter. It was just not opaque enough. I read the instructions and have some issues with their description, calling it deep brown. It should be black. Even the BJCP guidelines say "jet black (to deep brown)". Seems like BB is missing one whole part of the spectrum...oh well.

(I did look at the bottle and in the bottle afterward--I was shocked to see that there was only a trace amount of yeast on the bottom of this bottle. Somewhere in his process he was able to either get this yeast to drop out, and not transfer it between fermenters, or has some voodoo-like filtration skills.)

The aroma seemed spot-on: heavy coffee/roasted notes. Not any hops presence, and no detectable grains (boo). I sniffed and sniffed and sniffed. There was something else going on in here. And I can't pin point it, yet. When I open the other bottle, I'll post a comment to this one to identify what it was I smelled.

Tasting the beer was fun, because it's someone who is new to the hobby, eager to learn and willing to try their hand at being a janitor. I found the flavor to be really thin and found a note of fusel alcohol--probably from fermenting in the mid to high 70's (F).

I'm going to pass judgement on this beer, given it a first try, and these kits aren't exact. This stage of the game is familiarizing yourself with the concept of brewing. Getting your equipment together. Finding kits that interest you. Then dialing it in.

The first thing I learned about brewing with a kit is to not trust the yeast that comes with the kit, as you really don't know the age of the packet; I would go with a vial of While Labs or pack of Wyeast instead.

When I post tomorrow's comment, perhaps I will have enough information to give some additional suggestions.

Until then, dial it in!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I miss Clay Pipe...

At work, I participate in a semiannual baking competition that happens after lunch, every payday. It's tiered like the NCAA Basketball Championship, and is quite fun. This iteration of the game, I decided to make Kriek marshmallows, Witbier cookies and a dark chocolate-stout drizzle sauce. As part of the potential "ingredients" for my chocolate sauce, I bought a series of stouts: Dragonhead, Bourbon Barrel Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Indulgence, Cappuccino Stout and Double Chocolate Stout. Per Rachel's suggestion, I went with Orkney Brewery's Dragonhead Stout given the lower alcohol content, 4% ABV.

That left me with a quandary of what to drink, after I made the sauce. (Because the Dragonhead was long gone...) I decided that Pub Dog would be my first stop.

At the local beer festivals, I have never been impressed with their stuff; but I saw the "artisanal limited" release part and thought what the hell, perhaps they have made improvements?

Well, what the hell?!?

I poured it into my pint glass, because I was not going to go anywhere last night. It came out black and imparted a pretty dense tan head with absolutely no retention. I held it up to the light and was able to catch ruby notes around the edges of the beer--not good for this style (which I would call a foreign extra on oak), in my book.

I took a quick few sniffs and caught some roast, some vanilla and not much else. What comes after sniffing? Tasting!

The beer is overwhelming; strictly by flavor. Putting beer in a bourbon barrel imparts a ton of flavor on its own; adding vanilla, cocoa nibs and spices are unnecessary, let the beer speak for itself. Well, this one was screaming at me in a very unpleasant way. It really shocked my palette with this crazy acidic burn, which I think would come from too much roasted grain. I didn't get any off flavors from it, which is why I am discounting it being infected. The beer was also very thin in the mouthfeel, and not creamy at all, which I would have most certainly hoped for in this ale.

You may ask, what on Earth does the title of this post have to do with the text I've written? Well, Clay Pipe was my favorite local brewery (as I do live in Maryland); and I lived for some Backfin Pale Ale and Hopocalypse. Those were my guaranteed go-to locals. When the owner of Clay Pipe decided to start contract brewing out of a Flying Dog, in Frederick, Md, he sold the Clay Pipe facility to Pub Dog, so they could provide beer to their two brewpubs. And truth be told, they do not hold a candle to the beer that Clay Pipe put on the market: Backfin, Blue Tractor, Hopocalypse and Pursuit of Happiness (which I have one of the last 6-packs of!).

So, Pub Dog still rides in the bed of the truck.

Overall: 3/10.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back in the saddle!

Tis the season for Saison!

After a nearly 3 year hiatus, I fired up the stove, threw a bunch of grain in a sack, mashed it up, started a boil, tossed in some Hallertau and some Saaz, and buttoned it all up to the tune of 1.062 (1.065 target).

I found the most simple recipe from Briess' website: Create-a-Brew.

I want to thank the following people for riding my tail to get out and do this again:
  • my wife
  • my parents, especially Papi
  • my friends Jeff, Jon, Ron and Steve
  • my neighbors Darrell and Jeff
  • and Don, my coworker/cobrewer.
I want to give a special thanks to the crew at The Brewing Network, Jamil Zainasheff and Sean Z. Paxton.

Without their encouragement who knows how long I would have gone without brewing.

...begs the question, who's going to be here for bottling day? :)

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy IPA Day!

Go on out and celebrate this great day with a great beer style!

Photos courtesy of Stone Brewing & United Nations of Beer

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A beautiful summer match

When it's hot as Hell outside, and your family is driving home from visiting friends, and you're hungry, what do you do? You fire up the frying pan, whip out the tortillas, get the shredded cheddar, pull a bottle of Hennepin, kick back and enjoy!

I love Saison. It's spicy, tangy, funky and clean. It's such a wonderful beer, and Brewery Ommegang's Henne is a great example of the style.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this beer for years- and can completely understand why Duvel went forward and bought the brewery; Ommegang is a class-act, all the way around.

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