Thursday, December 16, 2010

Special Finals Edition - Belgian Specialty Ale

Beer: Les Deux Brasseurs (A Collaboration between Allagash Brewery of Maine and De Proefbrouwerij of Belgium)
Category: Belgian and French Ale
Subcategory: Belgian Specialty Ale

I bought this bottle from the same fellow that sold me the bottle of Pliny, and thus I've been saving it for today when I finally finished my final exams. This is a strong Belgian pale ale fermented with two separate strains of Brettanomyces (wild yeast), one from each of the collaborating breweries. Pretty cool, huh? This should give the beer a more sour (but intentionally sour) flavor and some sublimely funky aromas and flavors in the mix. Let's see what we find!

Appearance: Gorgeous darker golden color, with more brown to it than red, so not really amber-colored. Wonderful clarity and a really nice white head that leaves great lacing.

Aroma: Sour apples and cherries with a slight vinous quality. Definite detectable yeasty character. Wild yeasts lend it that signature "horse blanket" quality for it. This is definitely some wonderfully funky stuff.

Flavor: Really nice oaky flavor up front, with almost a smoky and spicy quality to it. The brett yeasts add some really great funk to the flavor. There are lots of fruity tones...I detect apple, quince, and lemon. There is more hop bitterness than expected and a little bit of alcohol on the back of the tongue. The finish is also marvelously complex; very earthy yet surprisingly clean.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth, with medium-low carbonation and fine bubbles. Really enjoyable medium-bodied mouthfeel.

Overall: Man, this is a really interesting beer. I am still a rookie when it comes to wild beers, but this stuff is very complex yet very drinkable. It holds a lot of interest to the palate, especially offering up features that you might not get in other beers. I can't wait to try some more sour ales, because this has been an excellent experience.

Der Braumeister

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Category 14: India Pale Ale

Beer: Pliny the Elder (OMG!!!!!)
Category: India Pale Ale
Subcategory: Imperial/Double IPA

IPA is a very hoppy, high bitterness, high hop flavor, high hop aroma ale with a strong malt backbone to balance out all of that hoppiness. This style originated when English troops were stationed in India, and they wanted to have an ale that wouldn't spoil so easily. Hops act as a natural preservative in beer, thus a hoppier style of beer was born.

Imperial IPA is a bigger still version of IPA, bigger in pretty much every way, including ABV. Pliny the Elder is pretty much the definitive version of this beer, and is, according to, one of the best beers on the planet. This beer is brewed in California and is very sought after and rather difficult to find. I acquired a bottle by *somewhat* questionable means and had been looking forward to drinking it quite a bit. I celebrated my finishing of grad school applications by drinking this beautiful beer.

Appearance: a lightish, pretty golden color with a small but persistent head and EPIC lacing. EPIC.

Aroma: holy moley. I could just stop right here. Complex hop aromas with gorgeous American citrus and floral notes with a very prominent tropical fruit character, particularly pineapple-like in nature. what a treat to even just smell this beer.

Flavor: just like the aroma, with American citrus and pineapple flavors jumping out with amazing complexity, and huge hop bitterness that is beautifully balanced out by the malts in this high gravity beer. for a beer that is so big in flavor, it is amazingly balanced, and incredibly complex. I am officially blown away.

Mouthfeel: really not much like anything I've experienced before. Medium body and medium-high carbonation, but it seems that it is either the high gravity, the copious amount of (dry) hops, or some combination of the two, that gives the beer somewhat of an oily feel to it. Once again, I am pretty wowed.

Overall/Drinkability: not much that I can say that hasn't already been said. This is a truly amazing, world class beer and I am a huge fan. I can only say that I wish it was more easily available away from the west coast...and this beer definitely is PURE west coast stuff. The tropical fruit/pineapple flavor and aroma are what really blew me away here. Not like anything I've ever really tasted before. Can't wait for the day that I can have one again. I'll be sure to share it with my dad, Jeff Cutts, Sr. who is a huge fan of IPAs and other hoppy beers!

Good news about this one is that the brewmaster of the Russian River Brewing Company who brews this beer has actually published a homebrew-friendly recipe for a clone of the beer. I will definitely have to partake of that very soon (12 ounces of hops in five gallons!!!).

Category 13: Stout

Beer: St. Peter's Cream Stout
Category: Stout
Subcategory: Sweet/Milk/Cream Stout

Thanks to Arthur Guinness and sons, we all know about stout. However, people always seem to think that stout is an overbearing "heavy" beer. Folks, stout can actually be lower in OG (original specific gravity) than your basic American light lager! It is flavorful and delicious, and the weather now is such that it is perfectly in season. Sweet, cream, or milk stout is a specialty kind of stout, made with a lower bitterness and lactose (milk sugar) added to the beer. Milk sugar is unfermentable with brewers yeast, and thus it leaves a nice lingering residual sweetness in the beer. This can be a nice beer to sip for dessert. Pick it up if you find one, as it is a lesser made type of stout.

Appearance: wow, this stuff is dark! As far as I can see, it is pretty much opaque with a small, tan, very creamy head. PS interesting antique green bottle on this guy...didn't seem to light-damage the flavor/aroma, which is a good sign

Aroma: chocolate, a little hint of coffee, and an earthy hint of molasses, somewhat buttery in nature

Flavor: very nice chocolate character up front with lower amounts of bitterness. some definite sweetness and creaminess...some buttery diacetyl hangs out in there, too. finish is like a nice cup of sweet coffee...mmmm

Mouthfeel: fine bubbles and very creamy, this is a wonderful attribute of this beer

Overall: a very nice beer, and a great example of the style. would be a perfect after-dinner/dessert beer, wonderful to be enjoyed with chocolate chip cookies (who needs milk?), truffles, or a piece of chocolate cake.

Makes me excited for the Hot Chocolate Stout, which I will be tasting in t-minus two weeks!

Category 12: Porter

Beer: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
Category: Porter
Subcategory: Brown Porter

For those who don't know, there is one very distinct difference between porter and stout. Stout gets its color and flavor from an addition of roasted unmalted barley in the mash (with other dark malts often also contributing to this as well), while porter gets its color (and flavor) just from dark malts, such as chocolate malt, brown malt, or black patent malt. Brown porter is the most traditional example of the style.

Appearance: very dark brown, almost black, with a gorgeous khaki colored tan head with very nice lacing

Aroma: Beautiful. English toffee, dark chocolate/cocoa notes, and very good coffee with a little bit of sweetness.

Flavor: very much like the aroma, but better still...sweet caramel malt taste, and a little bit of bitterness coming both from the hops and the dark malts in the grist--gives the beer a nice hint of coffee/espresso flavor. combination of hops, yeast, and dark malts give the beer a nice little twang at the end

Mouthfeel: smooth, creamy, and wonderful, with a still present carbonation that compliments the flavor character very nicely

Overall/Drinkability: What a treat this was! Samuel Smith makes a lot of delicious beers, but I would have to put this one up front. This has to be one of my favorite porters that I have ever tasted. It's like a good cup of coffee, except with more complexity. Pretty much no flaws...wish I had more of it!

Category 11: English Brown Ale

Beer: Newcastle Brown Ale
Category: English Brown Ale
Subcategory: Northern English Brown

Ah, English brown ales. Tasty, low gravity, malty creatures that make for wonderful session beers and still never sacrifice flavor. They tend to be great for both cooking and pairing with food. When I found a mini keg of this in my local Publix in Naples, FL, I had to pick it up. Never did care for Newcastle in the clear bottles (skunkaroni!).

Appearance: Pretty, dark reddish-brown color. Nice cream colored head with decent lacing.

Aroma: Sweet caramel with some nuttiness and a dash of alcohol

Taste: A small amount of caramel sweetness develops into a nutty, slightly toasty, vaguely chocolatey flavor. Some bready maltiness and small kick of hop bitterness. Glad that the skunkiness is lost with the on-tap version, because the clear bottles pretty much ruin the whole beer otherwise. So much more pleasant this way. Great beer to drink with dinner!

Mouthfeel: Pretty smooth, fine bubbles, medium body and medium-high carbonation.

Drinkability: Well, out of the mini keg, this guy is pretty damn drinkable. It's tasty and goes down easy. Not bad at all. I kind of prefer some of the better nut browns like Samuel Smith, but on tap, Newcastle is alright by me. I definitely think that the two milds I brewed this summer were better, but English brown ale is a great style of beer, and very versatile.

Sidenote: I made some EPIC fish tacos using some Newcastle in my beer batter. I highly recommend it.

Category 10: American Ales

Got to have this one on the beach!

Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Category: American Ale
Subcategory: American Pale Ale

For a category that originally started out as American versions of English Ales, the American ales of today really have found their own identity. Using very flavorful, citrusy American hops (particularly the ever-popular Cascade variety), these ales all tend to showcase delicious, refreshing hop flavor, and the subcategory is dictated by the varying types of malt backbone that these have. I decided to go totally definitive with this one, reviewing the classic example of the American pale ale, which is interestingly enough one that I had tasted but had never really drank critically before writing this review. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Appearance: a pretty, light golden amber, small white head with very nice lacing (even on my cheap plastic glass!)

Aroma: a bouquet of citrus. fresh American hops, a little earthy malt sweetness, and a little tang (perhaps from the hops themselves)

Flavor: Mmm mmm. Citrusy, fruity hops up front with a surprisingly nice malt background and a mall bit of complimentary sweetness. Moderate hop bitterness makes this a very balanced beer (this style can often be very unbalanced towards the hoppy side of things).

Mouthfeel: very smooth, medium body, and medium-high carbonation. not overcarbonated like other examples of this style can often be.

Overall: great example of the style, especially because it is not overdone on the hops. Honestly, I feel that this is what brewers should strive for when they brew American pale ales, because it is easy for this style to be too bitter with not enough malt support. Sierra Nevada did well with this one.

Category 9: Irish and Scottish Ale

Beer: Smithwick's Irish Ale
Category: Scottish and Irish Ale
Subcategory: Irish Red Ale

Scottish and Irish ales are characterized by a very solid malt character, moderate hop bitterness, and a distinctive baked cookie flavor exuding from the crystal malt-rich malt profile. They are very enjoyable, balanced ales when done well, so today I did a review of Smithwick's (pronounced smithix) Irish red ale.

Appearance: a deep reddish-brown with a healthy, creamy, off-white head that fades away at a moderate pace and leaves some nice lacing on the sides, dark but still quite clear

Aroma: definitely earthy, definitely somewhat caramel sweet, with subtle but detectable tones of scones or cookies

Flavor: very balanced, and very much like the aroma with a sweet, bready maltiness reminiscent of baked scones or cookies, but with a nice taste of earthy hop bitterness on the end. no hop flavor

Mouthfeel: wonderfully pleasant--deliciously smooth with medium-low carbonation and a medium body that complements the flavors perfectly...this is perhaps the best feature of the beer

Overall/Drinkability: incredibly drinkable ale because of the balanced flavor and the excellent mouthfeel. not earth-shatteringly exciting, but definitely enjoyable and a great session beer. I enjoy this quite a bit, but as I look back over all of my reviews of beers with comparable profiles, I would be likely to reach for an Oktoberfest or Schwarzbier first, which is funny because I consider myself more of an ale drinker, and those are of course lagers. That being said, I would definitely want to consider brewing this style because of its malt interest and excellent sessionability. I would strive to get a mouthfeel similar to that of Smithwicks, too!

Instant Gratification!

Dear Readers,

Today, you lucky folks can look forward to six BRAND NEW reviews that I have done over the last two weeks. The reason they are all being posted today is that they may or may not have been done, erm, out of order (GASP!). I wanted to post them in order, and now that I've filled in all the gaps, you get a bomb of delicious beer reviews today! And hey, it's only 4 pm on a Saturday, so you've got the rest of the weekend to taste these beauties. Good luck finding the last one, though (it's a special treat and surprise!).


Der Braumeister