Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26: Troegs Perpetual IPA ends WIld Card Week with a hop punch

First post in a long time! I've been traveling from Delaware, to Orlando and Austin over the last 8 days and I'm happy to be back in New Jersey...yeah, I said it. Now that I'll be traveling only once a week for the next couple weeks, I'll try to back-date some posts and write new ones more promptly. Onward and upward. 

I'm even happier to report that I will join Trevor in the two tap home kegerator club! Hopefully it will be here next week. To celebrate this and the end of Wild Card week, tonight's beer has been stashed away for several weeks awaiting the right time. Troegs treats beer lovers well and this is no exception. 

Introducing Troegs Perpetual IPA
My Special Ladyfriend is turning my previous beer bottles, like Courage Russian Imperial Stout, into candles - cutting through them by lighting string on fire. That's my girl!
Here is what the brewery says:
"In our constant evolution as a brewery, we’ve developed an undying drive to meld the organic and the mechanical. Perpetual IPA utilizes our hopback and dry-hopping to engineer a bold Imperial Pale Ale. It features Bravo, Chinook and Mt. Hood hops in the boil, Mt. Hood and Nugget hops in the hopback, and is further dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade hops"
Starts out with a very thin but sweet malt reminiscent of honey. There is a tantalizing aroma of various tropical fruit. At 7.8%, it's an Imperial IPA but there's not trace of the moderately high alcohol and while you notice the high IBU's on the back end, it's still a smooth number. 

I'm impressed with the pervasiveness and varietals of hops during and after the boil, yet, they never really overpower the light malt. The Perpetual IPA is a refined IPA, complex but smooth and surprisingly refreshing - an attribute many Imperials throw to the wind in order to balance the high IBU's and booze. For this, A- 

Monday, February 25, 2013

January 25 Group Post: Orval Trappist is One of a Kind

Karl, Trevor and Walker toast the beginning of the week with a blue ribbon Trappist and David joins us in Utah - sans Orval - but makes up for it in antics. Probst!

All: A-

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24: Karl and the Tale of the Deschutes Jubelale

If you didn't come to party, don't bother knocking on Deschutes's door
Wild-Card Week is just about over, dear readers, and the good people from Deschutes would like to help us celebrate with Jubelale, their 25th anniversary brew. Deschutes rarely disappoints, and I would expect this winter warmer to continue the trend of quality beers hailing from Bend, Oregon. 25 years is quite an accomplishment, so I feel like it’s time to party like it’s 1999. It looks like the Revolution have already gathered on the label.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate this thing called beer"
The beer pours an opaque, dark brown color that glows red when held up to the light. It’s topped by a half-finger light tan head that lasts through the beer. I pick up brown sugar, dark malts and some slight spice on the nose, and the beer has a stout-like first impression when it hits the tongue. There are some very complex dark malts that leave a variety of subtle flavors, including tobacco, chocolate and dark fruits, and this is balanced out by some bitter yet floral hops. The intricate flavors make the beer seem spiced without being spiced. The medium-high carbonation suits the lighter body, and it finishes spicy and dry. At just under 7%, it’s weaker than most of the winter warmers I’ve had lately, but it is also the easiest to drink. I could easy go for another of this very well rounded beer right now, but it seems the party is over and we’re out of time. Pick this up if you still see it around (I believe my 12oz bottle was <$2), or wait patiently for its release next winter.

Rating: B+

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23: Trevor and a glorious accident...re-created

As an avid homebrewer, I can appreciate the fact that the creation of great beer involve many variables.  Temperature, water/grain ratios, % alpha, type of sugar, etc...  Even the best of brewers sometimes make mistakes along the way, and as we all eventually find out, it can be better to just see what happens than it is to pour out the whole batch.  Today's beer is an example of a mistake that went gloriously right, and we return to my cellar to find it.

Aventinus, hailed as the most intense and complex wheat doppelbock in the world, has been produced by Germany's G. Schneider & Sohn (easily my favorite German brewery.  They produce Schneider Weisse, my "gateway" beer) for nigh on a century.  Legend holds that at some point in the 1930's, an especially cold winter transport resulted in partial freezing of a few casks of Aventinus.  Not knowing what to , and having a deadline to meet, the intrepid distributors simply scooped out the ice, and delivered what beer remained unfrozen.  The result was a highly concentrated version of the beer, as much of the water had been removed in the form of ice.  Those lucky enough to have a taste quickly spread the word, and thus, a legend was born.

Fast forward to present-day, where the master brewer at G. Schneider & Sohn, has recreated the legendary mistake to bring us Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, weighing in at a very respectable 12%, I'm anxious to see how 4 years of aging has treated us.

Almost as good a mistake as my son.  What?!

The beer pours a deep, reddish brown, with nary a trace of head, save for a fine lacing on the surface that doesn't ever disappear.  Aromas of yeast and prunes strike first, backing off to toffee and a touch of apricot.

Intense doesn't even begin to approach what's happening with the taste.  Buckets of dark, jammy fruit flavors are pushed forward by a torrent of molasses, caramel, and bready malt.  

The mouthfeel is gorgeous, at once thick and light, with a surprising tingly sensation on the tongue that lifts the heavy body.  It's only at the very end that a bit of the alcohol warmth reminds you that this is, in fact, a 12% beer.  The finish is likewise impressive.  Sweet on the lips, without being cloying, just begging for another sip.

What a wonderful mistake this was!

Rating: A-

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 20: Karl and the Tale of the Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple

Sweet Gulden Draak... Ba Ba Ba!

And we’re back, dear reader, for round 2 of Wild Card Week. Today I’m excited to be unleashing the Draaken, or the Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple. If you read my bio located on this site, you will be familiar with the fact that the original Gulden Draak holds a special place in my heart as one of my gateway beers, a term used to describe those special beverages that make you see the light at the end of the Bud, Coors and Miller infested tunnel. I’ve never had the quad from these Belgians, and considering the already stated affinity for the brewers and the fact that Belgian Quads are one of my favorite styles, I’m slightly more pumped than usual to be drinking beer. In fact, my excitement leads me to choose not one, but two records to represent today’s brew: Neil Diamond "Gold" and the soundtrack to Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. Gold Dragon = Gulden Draak. Yeah, Neil!

I pour this beer into my Chimay goblet, and the four-fingered head tries to escape the glass. When the dust settles, this beer looks a musty amber-brown that, when combined with the lacing, gives off the effect that this is a brew from an older time period. It would look right at home in most of the chalices guarded by the Knights Templar. On the nose there is, in an ode to our musical representative Neil, “Cherry Cherry” along with some burnt sugar and booze. It’s not all that inviting, to be honest. The beer has flavors of dates and figs, but they are overshadowed by the heavy alcohol and carbonation. There is also a vinous quality to this beer, and it borders on being tart; not sour, but more like a glass of wine. As the beer warms, the carbonation retreats, but there is still some fire-breathing booze that is highlighted by the sherry and brandied cherries that are now present. It’s a thinner beer than I expected, and there is a honey sweetness that stays with you after the dragon has been slain. I had very high expectations for this beer, and it did not live up to them. The booziness and the lack of depth send this creature into the abyss of mediocre beers.  

Rating: C+

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19th: Trevor and an old Goose

As our Wild Card week continues, I feel it's only appropriate to venture into my cellar for a unique offering.  For those of you new to beer geekdom, you may be thinking "I know wine can be cellar-ed, but beer?!"  Well, as the world (specifically the U.S.A.) begins to develop a more refined beer palate, we have found that many beers, like fine wines, can be improved with extended aging .  Today's offering is a perfect example.  

For our first trip into my cellar, we select an offering from Chicago's very own Goose Island Brewing Company.  The 2009 Pere Jacques is a Belgian Style Dubbel, and pre-dates the AB InBev purchase of Goose Island in 2011, making it a highly desirable bottle because it was brewed by Greg Hall, who stepped down as Brewmaster following the InBev purchase.

Goose Island Pere Jacques
A thing of beauty, as yet untainted by InBev...

The beer pours a dark, yet luminous burnt orange, with a fast-fading finger of head.  The nose is subdued, which is normal for an aged beer, with yeast,  fruit, and a slight funk mixing with boozy warmth.

The taste follows suit, and here the aging shines through.  While a fresh bottle of Pere Jacques is very hot, the extra years have imparted a port-like warmth that melds beautifully with caramel malt, and apricot and peach sweetness..

The mouthfeel is unique as well, with a subdued carbonation that feels like it melts away into sticky, almost marmalade sweetness, balanced beautifully by  full, biscuity malt, and just the right amount of bitterness.

If you can get your hands on one of these, I highly recommend drinking it now.

Rating: A

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Group Beer: Bell's Hopslam is a Home Run

Trevor, Karl and Walker enjoy a very limited and highly touted Bell's seasonal Imperial IPA - thanks to Trevor's generosity and the mail. At 10% and enough IBU's to match it and more, our enthusiasm for this big beer is contagious. Probst!
Trevor: A+
Karl and Walker: A

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15: Karl and the Tale of the Epic Brewing Double Skull Doppelbock

Time to Rock and Roll All Nite
It is a brisk 80 degrees here in LA, which I think is perfectly fitting as we start off our Wild Card Week! I have a habit of hoarding beers for consumption, and our theme weeks have not been too kind to some of the odder brews that I have picked up lately, and many of these beers have gotten too comfortable sitting in my fridge or closet. Well, like the claw from Toy Story, your time has come little aliens. Today’s victim is the Epic Brewing Double Skull Doppelbock. For all the best reasons, warm air and German beer go hand-in-hand for me, so I decided to pop the cap on this fella this evening. The Double Skull is represented musically by Kiss’s Double Platinum greatest hits collection. Here is an interesting article on how Kiss used the middle of the country where other "popular" bands wouldn’t venture, cities like Epic’s home of Salt Lake Rock City, to amass fortune, fame and floozies.

Does the Double Skull pull the trigger on my Love Gun?
This doppelbock pours a dark, rich mahogany that Ron Burgundy would be proud of. There is a single finger of off-white head and an aroma of bread, toffee, and a German beer garden. There’s just something unmistakable when it comes to German malts and yeast that triggers the happy parts of my brain. Molasses, raisin, biscuit, nuts and the malt are all prevalent on the tongue, and the beer is creamy and mildly carbonated, making for easy, smooth drinking. The 9.1% ABV definitely warms as it goes down, leaving me relaxed after a long, hard day of work. It’s a good beer for an uncharacteristically warm February evening that has cooled down significantly, but nothing to write home about. I haven’t had that many doppelbocks, but it represents the style well, I think; a little sweet, lots of complex malts and dark flavors, yet thin tasting. I would give it an 80%, which just barely pushes it to a…

Rating: B-

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14th: Trevor and Stone's 12.12.12 a Vertical Epic

As we get rolling on our "Wild Card" weeks, I have to admit this is something I look forward to with cautious optimism.  A beer that doesn't fit into the traditional style categories runs the risk of being wildly polarizing, so I find it only fitting to start off with a beer from a brewery that causes intense feelings of love and hate among those who imbibe its offerings.  Stone.  The Escondito brewery has drawn the ire of more than one beer geek for bringing obscene ibu's into the limelight.  A good number of their brews are veritable palate wreckers, and purists argue that the more delicate aspects of beer are unable to be appreciated after their hop onslaught.  Well, the good folks at Stone don't care.  In fact, if you feel that way, they'll tell you that they didn't brew that beer for you, and you're a pansy.  They're basically the Harrison Ford of the beer world.  Same expression, no matter what....

Yes, it's Valentine's day.  No, I do not care.

Stone advertises this beer as Belgian Abbey-ish with a laundry list of spices.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sweet orange peel, clove(only a little), and rose-hips   Poured into a LaTrappe goblet, the beer hold up to the claim.  Red-ish brown with a fine laced, one finger head.  The nose sends me reeling, as the aforementioned cacophony of spices punch my nostrils.  The taste is no less overwhelming, as the sweet orange and clove dominate, with the cinnamon and allspice serving to dry out any sweetness from the candi sugar.  As for the yeast, forget about it.  If it's there, it's buried under the avalanche of spice.

After this beer, I approach the remaining offerings in our "Wild Card" series with trepidation, as it was a massive disappointment.  Not one of Stone's better offerings.

Rating: D

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11: Karl and the Tale of the Beer Here Kremlin Crude

In the 1700's Catherine the Great felt the need to import stouts to Russia. In the late 80's, Soviets felt the need to import 80's Joel.
Privet, dear reader! For my theme-ending stout we head towards to the Motherland, but land in Koge, Denmark where the fantastically named brewery Beer Here produces its ode to the Iron Curtain, the Kremlin Crude. Quick history lesson on the Russian Imperial Stout: Catherine the Great, one of history’s great eccentrics, loved the stout beers she had on her diplomatic trips to England. Shipping being what is was back in those days (boats), the fairly weak ales were not able to hold up to the large distances traveled. To avoid flat(er), stale, terrible beer, the traditional ales had to be brewed bigger, badder and stronger to reach their destinations tasting anything like the beers back home. Because of this we not only have the Russian Imperial Stout, but also the India Pale Ale style as peoples in far-away lands desired to imbibe British pub ales. The record representing this day’s beverage is none other than Billy Joel’s Warsaw Pact-shattering Koheupt album, recorded live on Billy Joel’s 1987 tour of the Soviet Union. Thank God for 80's Joel, America's gold export of the era.

"Start the Fire!" "We strictly do 80's Joel music, sir."- some NSFW language here, my apologies

This beer would make Catherine proud. It is a classic imperial stout in appearance: dark as Stalin’s soul, crowned with a half-finger light brown head.  On the nose you get some oak, some hops and, in a rare treat for my Scotch-tinged nostrils, the smell of peat. The peat continues as you taste and is what makes this beer stick out in comparison to many of its comrades. Burnt sugar and black tea are present with the hops and roasted malts, but it’s the peat flavor that sticks with you. The carbonation is a little heavier than I prefer, but it settles down as the beer warms and the flavors, including some prune and other dark fruits, open up. There is a medium, oily mouthfeel and I have no problems finishing off a half liter of this. The alcohol, at 10%, sticks it to you like you were a serf in the Crimean War, yet the peat keeps it pleasantly interesting. A solid beer.

Rating: B+

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10th: Trevor imbibes an "Ode to a Russian Shipwright"

You know what get's taken for granted sometimes?  Hops.  I know, crazy.  Believe it or not, there was a time when beer was brewed without any hops at all.  While that sinks in, I'll pour a hefty glass of today's offering, Olvade Farm's "Ode to a Russian Shipwright", an Imperial Stout Porter brewed with rye and spruce tips as a tribute to Peter the Great.

Positively Siberian...

As a beer geek, I always appreciate a brewer who goes out and makes something truly unique.  Olvade states on their website "We aim to craft fine ales that honor ancient brewing tradition and culture", and boy howdy, they do one hell of a job.  The "brewery" is literally one guy who grows his own barley, brews, and bottles the beers at his farm.  This one uses hand picked spruce tips as an homage to early brewers who used them instead of hops as a bittering agent and preservative in their beer.

The beer pours a dark brown (not quite black), with a fluffy white head that has no intentions of going anywhere.  The nose is vastly different from any RIS I've ever had.  Dominated by spruce and hops, the smell is layered with roasted malt and dark fruit, with just a touch of chocolate underneath.
The taste, like the smell, is a departure from convention, as the rye malt sets a less imposing stage for the roasted malt and spruce to make a name for themselves in the middle of a happy, chocolate sugarplum oasis.
The mouthfeel is...wait for it...not like a RIS.  More carbonated, and less ponderous than many of this style. It's something I appreciate.

Like any beer from Olvade, this is an adventure and a history lesson all at once.  I have a feeling this would be a great beer to cellar, as the spruce will likely fade away and allow the other flavors to come forward.

Rating: B

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6: Karl and the Tale of the Brouwerij De Molen "Disputin"

The Man/Beer in Black

Welcome back, dear reader, to another episode of Russian Imperial Stouts. Today I have a brew from Brouweij De Molen that is now known as “Disputin” or “Cease and Desist”. The artist formerly known as “Rasputin” is an 11% RIS that has been forced to take on a clever new moniker. According to the label, pictured below, the brewery finds us Americans to be foolish, and had to rename their beer to avoid confusion with a rather well know stout from NorCal. The legal quibbles surrounding this beer, as well as the appearance of the standard Russian Imperial Stout have inspired my vinyl choice for this post: Johnny Cash’s Live from Folsom Prison. Nothing can represent an Imperial Stout better than the Man in Black.

A label with a sense of humor. Too bad I don't find the beer to be as funny.
As for the beer, there may need to be some legal action taken here, as we have someone operating under a false identity. To the untrained eye, this beer pours dark and dank, but holding it up to the light reveals that it’s the darkest brown, not black, you can create. The lack of head is so pronounced you would think this beer was written by Washington Irving, which is odd for a stout like this. The nose is weak, with a little licorice and roasted malt surfing around. Once this hits your taste buds is when you want to phone a lawyer. This beer is not a stout, but rather tastes like a Belgian Strong Dark. There are hints of raisins, fig, roasted malt and coca-cola here, and combined with the mildly-heavy carbonation I don’t get stout at all. I feel like I’ve been robbed. It is not a bad tasting beer, but it is masquerading around as someone it is not. I would skip this moderately-pricey import, not because it is bad, but because it is just confusing and hanging around with it may drag you up on the witness stand someday.

Rating: C+

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5th: Trevor's Expedition........Stout

In 1804, Thomas Jefferson signed off on the Louisiana purchase.  The famous expedition of Lewis and Clark would commence the same year, officially for the purpose of finding a suitable water trading route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, but I have a sneaking suspicion Jefferson really wanted to find out if those rumors that El Dorado was actually made of thick sliced, hickory smoked bacon somewhere in the Rocky Mountains had any truth to them.

The bacon is that way!!!

Whatever the case, today's offering comes from Comstock, Michigan's Bell's Brewing Company.  I have a particular affinity for Bell's, and have yet to discover a single sub-par beer bearing their seal.  Expedition Stout is one of their more critically acclaimed offerings, and I have a feeling I won't need a Native American guide to show me the route to enjoyment...

The camel makes no sense in this context.  But he wanted to know what all of the excitement was about.

The pour is what you'd expect.  Intense black with a toffee colored head and the aroma of coffee, raisins and roasted malt.
The taste is everything it's supposed to be.  Dark chocolate and figs swimming in a bath of brown sugary, roasted malt decadence.  Unlike many representatives of this style, Expedition stays away from an overly thick texture, and is remarkably drinkable for the style.  There's a lingering warmth on the tail end that reminds me it's not a session beer by any means though.  The aftertaste is sweet, dark brilliance that doesn't overstay the welcome, but makes sure the experience isn't quickly forgotten.

Rating A-

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2nd: Trevor's Worthy Adversary

6 am.  My clock radio goes off as usual, Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" is playing softly, and I have an unsettling feeling of deja vu...

Luckily, I woke up for real a few minutes later, my "Groundhog Day" nightmare having been short lived.  Unlike Bill Murray, I have options other than suicide attempts with a giant rodent to brighten my day, and one of them in Fulton Brewing Company's "Worthy Adversary".  Fulton is one of my favorite local breweries, mainly because of they way they built their business.  A few friends literally built their own brewing system in a garage, and brewed there for a few years before peddling their polished recipes to local bar owners.  They built a small but dedicated local following, and in a few short years had saved up enough capital to start up full scale operations in Minneapolis.  Talk about dreams coming true!!

What's the matter?  Can't see your shadow?!!

Fulton describes this beer as follows: "An unchecked aggression of dark flavors, this rich stout is about drawing a line in the sand."  Well then.  In the words of the venerable Barney Stinson, "Challenge....ACCEPTED!".

The pour is black, with a languid, halfhearted tan head that rises briefly, then recedes back into the darkness from whence it came.  On the nose, dark, roasted malt is backed up by licorice and leather with cacao underpinnings.  The taste is a bitter beatdown of the tongue.  Bitter dark chocolate, bitter roasted malt, bitter hops, and sweet, warm booze.  Very little if any dark fruit is present, though I suspect a little cellaring would help things along in that regard.  This is a beer that no doubt would have survived the oceanic voyage from England to St. Petersburg and back again before mellowing out.

The mouthfeel is incredibly full.  Chewy doesn't begin to describe what's going on.  Alcohol warmth is immediately present, and builds to the last sip, which finishes dry, but sweet.  I wouldn't call this a smooth beer, but again, a little cellaring would likely change that.

Overall, I think this is a solid offering from a company I very much respect, but it needs to age before realizing it's full potential.

Rating: B-

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1: Karl and the Tale of the Ladyface Russian Lullaby

A flight of tasters at Ladyface is always an interesting endeavor (Russian Lullaby pictured on the far left)
February is upon us, and to celebrate the coldest month of the year we are attacking some Russian Imperial Stouts. I happen to be out and about for today’s post, and I snag some brew from a local joint, Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie. Ladyface has just celebrated its 3rd year of delivering its brews to the suburbs on the northwestern edge of the Los Angeles area, and tonight I get a series of tasters to help them celebrate. I feel that Ladyface takes the carpet bombing approach to brewing: Lay a whole lot of bombs and hope one hits the target. They brew a wide variety of styles, from respected IPAs to Belgian-style trappist beers to sours to cask ales, and everything in between.  While I applaud their efforts, there aren’t usually many of their beers that convince me to devote my pint dollars towards instead of their usually great guest taps (Russian River is a regular house guest here).

No you can't read my Ladyface
The Russian Lullaby is an exception. This 10.6% imperial stout is well crafted and pretty delicious, if something of this fierce nature is what you are seeking out. Pouring black like a Siberian winter’s night with a roasty tan head, the nose gives of an aroma of coffee and raisins, with a slight hint of sourness, a little peculiar for the style. The taste continues to break from the mold with some heavy sweetness from the aforementioned raisins and a touch of stone fruits, with heavy charred wood, roasted malt and coffee complimenting it. It is both sweet and bitter, much like Russian playwright Chekhov’s the Cherry Orchard. Continuing the obscure but fitting  analogy, the finish is more bitter than sweet, with a slight hint of licorice. All in all, it’s a good beer, and one to sing you to sleep on a cold night.
Chekhov originally wrote the Cherry Orchard as a comedy. It seems that history has lost its sense of humor when it comes to the plight of the Russians.

Rating: B-