Friday, May 28, 2010

Mead or Braggot or, well, It had Honey and it was Good

If you've ever had mead you are probably decidedly in the minority. Mead, or honey wine, as it is often called, is a fermented beverage of primarily honey(s) and water, and, though the guidelines are somewhat vague, a braggot is a mead with other fermentables such as barley in the mix.

At the Brewcommune Homebrew meeting I went to a week or so ago I was lucky enough to get to try my second honey beverage. The first being one brewed by my cousin. I don't remember much about that one but I do remember a LOT about the one I sampled recently.

This was described as an Imperial Cream Ale which meant it was a braggot since it had more than just honey as a fermentable. Made up of 6 pounds of two types of honey, Western Sumac and Orange Blossom. Six Pounds of honey was enough to make 10 gallons. This was then aged for six years in bottle and was kicking at 17.2% ABV.

Poured out into my HIGHLY classy clear plastic solo cup it smelled of, you guessed it, honey. Floral and very sweet, it even SMELLED sticky. At 17.2 ABV there was bound to be alcohol on the nose and there was definitely a burn.

My first taste floored me. You would think that something brewed nearly entirely with honey would be too sweet but this straddled that line so well. I felt like I was drinking a meadow. Floral, sweet, and refreshing I was running my tongue through wildflowers. Despite the alcohol on the nose there was no unpleasant alcohol burn on the tongue. Smooth and viscous and perfectly sweet. This was definitely my favorite of the night. I wish I could buy it easily somewhere

Monday, May 24, 2010

Deschutes The Abyss

Deschutes holds a special place in my heart as I have mentioned before(Here and Here). I grew up skiing at Mt. Bachelor and taking family trips down the brewery's namesake river. Black Butte is synonymous with porter as far as I'm concerned.

That's why I was stoked that "The Abyss," a much exhalted beer lived up to its reputation. Going head to head with another imperial stout that had been aged in barrel, The Bruery's "Coton," Deschutes' beer came out on top as far as I'm concerned. No bias here, the deciding factor for me was that I could actually drink and finish "The Abyss." I wanted to drink "Coton" I swear. It's one of the most complex beers I have had, probably, well ever. The problem was it was just TOO much bourbon. I mean it tasted more bourbony than straight Jim Beam. So much flavor though, but I had to fight it every teeny tiny sip of the way whereas "Abyss" was a pleasure to drink.

The aroma coming off "The Abyss" was sweet but not cloying. There was a lot of roasted sugar, toffee, and licorice but it wasn't overwhelming unlike the "coton." I wanted to keep smelling the "coton" because it smelled good but there is definitely a little too much of a good thing there. "Abyss" on the other hand strikes a great balance between overpowering and underwhelming. I could have my nose glued to the glass and be happy.

The only taste knock on "The Abyss" was that I felt like it had too much carbonation. I like my stouts smooth and it was a little too prickly on the tongue. It had wonderful roasted coffee, milk chocolate, vanilla, toffee, and licorice flavors that melded together beautifully. Each rolling into the next as the taste lingered. The coffee and chocolate flavors were not bitter and the toffee was not too sweet. There wasn't too much roast in the taste but enough to balance the sweet.

This definitely is my all time favorite stout.


Friday, May 21, 2010

The Bruery Coton

If you are from Southern California and follow the goings on of the beer world down here you probably heard that The Bruery in Placentia recently took home Gold at the World Beer Cup in two categories:

In Category 12: Experimental Beer for their "100% Brett Autumn Maple."
In Category 45: Belgian-Style Flanders/Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale for their "Oude Tarte."

The Bruery has some seriously experimental beers and they definitely are of a high quality.

I had the opportunity to try their most recent Anniversary brew that is going to be served at their 2 year anniversary celebration this weekend. Two of the brewers from Bruery were at the homebrew meeting I went to on Tuesday and they brought with them a bottle of "Coton" which is a 100% Bourbon Barrel aged version of their "Papier" which has been blended via the solera method ala Sherry.

As you can see the bottle itself is a work of art. Very classy in the 750ml bottle and wax sealed.

This one clocked in at a VERY healthy 14.5% ABV. I was surprised to learn that the barrel can add as much as 5% alcohol to the final brew.

When we cracked open the bottle it poured a deep black with a tan head. I could tell from across the room that this was a BIG beer. Thick and viscous I couldn't see through to the other side of my VERY classy clear plastic Solo Cup.

With 20 of us in the room and and everyone clamoring to get a taste from the one bottle we each got about a finger of beer in our cup. That was all I needed, seriously, I didn't want any more than that. I am a huge Scotch fan and I'm used to drinking my alcohol straight but that classy solo cup hit me hard.

The first whiff off the top was sweet and sticky. I have never smelled a beer so sweet. Caramel, toffee, roasted sugar and vanilla. It was almost cloying and with the alcohol ominously lingering in the background. I can honestly say I was a little scared of the first sip.

Now, I've had some big beers, and I've had some oak aged big beers, but I have never had a beer like this. This beer had the most robust flavor profile of anything I have ever tried. It is without a doubt the best bourbon aged beer I've had. That being said I didn't finish my ONE finger pour. It wasn't because it was bad, it was just hardcore. This is the first beer I've had where the bourbon actually enhanced the beer, and there was a LOT of bourbon. I could have done with less. This beer was not for the feint-hearted.Perfect carbonation mixing bourbon with sticky roasted sugar, raisins, and malty sweetness with a port like quality, quickly gave way to the burn of my nose hairs.

After drinking this I can't begin to imagine what "Tactical Nuclear Penguin"(32%ABV) and "Sink the Bismarck"(41%ABV) made by Brewdog tastes like. Scary. "Coton" was good, it was interesting, but there is no way I could ever drink more than a finger at a time of this one. This is a beer to be shared between 20 people. Perfect.

The next beer to be opened was my "Abyss" from Deschutes that I had brought. In roughly the same class as "Coton" I much preferred it to the "Coton." At 11% I could have actually drank the whole bottle by myself. Slowly, but I could have. I'll review this limited edition beer in the next post. Until then, find some Bruery beer like their "Hottenroth Berliner Weisse" that I reviewed previously or any of their many quality brews.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Home Brew Club!

So I’ve been wanting to try my hand at homebrewing for a long time now but aside from the fact that I don’t want to drink 5 GALLONS of the same type of beer the closest shop for supplies was in Long Beach with really odd hours.

That’s why I was really excited when I found a homebrew club in Orange County that wasn’t on the borders of LA or San Diego or out in the BFE of the IE. There is a new homebrew shop in Fullerton people! 10 minutes from my house! AND the shop was hosting the next meeting of BrewCommune, the club I found.

I showed up WAY early because there was no traffic which was totally weird but it was great because I got to meet the owner of the shop. Really nice guy. I didn’t have my own homebrew to bring but I wanted to bring something respectable so I brought a 22 of Deschutes Brewing “The Abyss” Imperial Stout. He offered the fridge, his knowledge, AND a fresh brewed Kolsch to me while we waited for others to arrive.
What could be better than this? A big group of people who like beer and want to share it? Not a whole lot. I got to try a lot of interesting brews over the course of the night that I will be reviewing in later postings. Including the latest anniversary brew from The Bruery in Placentia. These guys just won gold at the World Cup and two of their brewers were at the meeting. All I have to say is 14.5% ABV bourbon aged Imperial Stout insanity. Don’t tell though, I liked my Abyss better.

As an aside, since my bike buddy left for Minnesota and my beer buddy left for Germany I’ve been hard pressed for replacements and I was able to find one who does both AND lives a stone’s throw from where I work! We are going to split a share of home brew as he has all the equipment. 2.5 gallons I think I can deal with. Look for an update on what we come up with as well as the reviews of what I drank last night.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Victory Brewing Wild Devil

OK so I actually drank this one a LOOONG time ago, but She Who Shall Remain Nameless who was supposed to be guest reviewing for me is seriously slacking! lol! You know who you are!

I do have to give her HUGE props for bringing this one because I had really been wanting to try it since I had recently had Wild Devil's more tame NON-Bretanomyces brother Hop Devil which I was very happy with.

Wild Devil is an IPA that is entirely fermented with Bret yeast which gives it a sour, wet blanket, gamey, leathery smell. This sounds offputting I know but the affectation is very slight. This is nowhere near the sourness of a true sour. In actuality if I was given this blind I would have to really work at picking out the use of Bret because there wasn't a whole lot there.

Compared to Hop Devil the Wild had a lot less IPA character to it. There was some pineyness in there as well as some grapefruit but overall it was definitely a tame IPA. It tasted more like a good Belgian than an American IPA.

I enjoyed this bottle a lot. More so for the comparison in fermentation since everything was supposed to be the same but the yeast. It's always nice to stretch the boundaries and give myself a reference point for certain flavors and aromas.

Again, I have not been let down by Victory. Though it wasn't over the top, Wow!  It was a good sipper.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

I'm not sure why the label on "Hop Stoopid" looks nothing like any of Lagunitas' other labels. Especially when all of their other labels seem to be very cohesive. This was part of the reason I hadn't picked this one up earlier. I love Lagunitas and anything I haven't tried from them I make an effort to find.                                                                   As it so happens I asked little bro to pick up this one for Man's Night and he came through.                                                              At 102 IBU's I was waiting for a hop nuclear warhead but once again Lagunitas comes through. Perfectly balanced.                                                                               This was probably one of the LEAST fragrant IPA's that profess to be over the top hopped I have ever had. There was a tinge of pine and spice but nothing near what I expected for 102 IBU's. It also was a more golden yellow than the last few IPA's I have had. None of that orangey, coppery color.         There wasn't anything spectacular about this beer except for that at 8% ABV it was still very drinkable. I enjoyed it but I won't be buying more when there are so many other IPA's out there

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bear River Red Rocket Ale

Described as a bastardized Scotch Ale by brewer Bear Republic this one struck a chord with me.

It poured out a nice, clear, coppery red color with a large head. The title, "Red Rocket" had me expecting a red ale. My Brother brought this one with him for Man's Night this week so I didn't read the label until actually drinking the beer. The first sip had me thinking that this was one of the more odd red ales I've had. I've been loving Lagunitas' Censored and this tasted nothing like it. I was tasting a smoky flavor and an over done hops bitterness on the back end that for a red was odd. The normally sweet malty front end of a red was subdued as well. That was when I read the label and the description of a "bastardized Scotch ale" made total sense. It also made me like this beer a whole lot more.

IPA's and Scotch Ales are two of my favorite styles and Red Rocket seems to sort of blend the two successfully. The best parts of each style were one display in this Norcal brew. Smoky and not too sweet. Bitter, but not piny. I'll be trying some more from Bear Republic in the future I think. Maybe even their iconic Racer 5 IPA, though it seems like it's a cliche for some reason.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Firestone Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout at Whole Foods

I think I've mentioned how awesome our Whole Foods in Irvine is before. What could be better? Giant place full of really good food(sandwiches), a large bottled craft beer case, 3 taps, an Enomatic wine machine, and a secluded little seating area shared by usually well, just us. I feel like it's a secret or something.

The place is no joke either. They get beer that's no longer available like Firestone's Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout, put together tasting flights like a Unibroue tasting which I am really excited about, and have special events like next weekend when they are bringing Dr. Bill the guru at Stone Brewing(Link to Stone Blog is crazy how bona fide his bona fides are) and Anat Baron the former Sam Adams exec and current "Beer Wars" videographer together for a cheese pairing with Stone Brews. Amazing!

On to the Merkin. I am not a huge fan of Firestone in all honesty. Ever since the guy went on "The Bachelor" I've just had a low opinion. We pass by their brewery and winery when we go to Santa Ynez for wine tasting. We've been to the winery and it was just a cattle call place with just OK wine that was too expensive.

With all that said my opinion of the Merkin was meh. Meaning, it was ok. It was a stout, an oatmeal stout. It wasn't particularly creamy which I kind of expect from a good oatmeal but it was smooth. The smoothness definitely stemmed from the fact that despite coming off tap it was sans bubbles for the most part. The aroma was of raisin bread, slightly, raisiny, pruney, breadiness pervaded the nose but the taste was of coffee, roast, and bitter chocolate. I had heard how great this one was but honestly I was not too impressed. I wouldn't seek it out again.

Being at Wholefoods though everyone had their own different food and own different drink. D had heard trusty cava, Soydog(I really gotta come up with a permanent name for her even I get confused. Any suggestions? Shrub? Greenery? I don't know.) Any way she had a pale ale tasting flight from a brewery in LA somewhere I can't remember off the top of my head. It was semi forgettable save for an interesting IPL. Yes, India Pale LAGER. It wasn't great but interesting. Oh and the weirdest one was like an amped up Coors Light. I'm serious! It tasted exactly like a Coors Light squared.

Of course we were in Irvine, home to all things Asian so we had to stop off at Mochilato. If you've never had Mochi ice cream you are missing out, but if you've never had mochi GELATO, which is what this is you are REALLY missing out. Mochilato has some great flavors too. I had the Creme Brulee which was my favorite of all of them. D had mint chip and Shrub had cookies and cream and plum.

Our night was capped off with a long soak in the Jacuzz(Canadian accent implied) cava, a couple Lagunitas Kroniks from the six I bought walking out of Wholefoods and a cigar. All in all this was one of the best nights I have spent in a while. So relaxing and I couldn't have spent it with more beautiful people.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lagunitas Censored AKA The Kronik

Ok so I don't have a picture that I took of this one because I had it at The Haven with my best friend from up NorCal way.

He's a K-9 cop in every sense of the word. Think cop, no I mean like RoboCop, only with a dog and no armor. Devoted to the job, loves the job, not sure what he would do without the job. The other thing he is devoted to is Red Ale. I introduced it to him way back when and he is nothing if not boringly set in his ways and I say this with a LOT of love because I would take a bullet for him(somewhere non-vital of course)

He likes slightly sweet, malty, NON bitter beers which is exactly what "Censored" is. Is it a problem if a cop is drinking something AKA"The Kronik." Maybe his superiors should know about this.

I think the only thing this beer has in common with weed though is it's addictive quality. This beer was GOOD.

It had a slightly bitter aftertaste on a very creamy malty sweet front end. The aroma wasn't much to speak of but I've never bought a beer to sit around and smell all night.

I've been really impressed with the Lagunitas beers I've had of late and I've been waiting to try "The Hairy Eyeball" that's been sitting in my fridge.

Update: Picked up a 6 of this at our beer/wine/food tasting at Wholefoods on Saturday night. Pictures will be up for that one soon. Just me, D, and Soydog. Mmmm.... Wholefood sandwiches, pretzel bread, mmmmmm...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shipyard XXXX IPA (Pugsley's Signature Series)

Once again, Girl formerly known as The Jew came through with an IPA, this time a DIPA at 9.25% ABV.

Though it's becoming a compulsion for her to bring an IPA it's hard to complain, but they do have a name for this type of thing, I think Freud might call it an oral fixation. ;) I think her goal for next time is to bring the craziest weirdest beer she can find.

That being said, the bottle she brought is absolutely beautiful. I don't know what it is about it but I really like it. Classy, sophisticated, almost like a good bottle of Scotch. You can't tell from the crappy Iphone pic but the gold lettering was all foiled.

This one poured a very hazy creamy looking copper orange color with a decent amount of head that stuck around for a LONG time.

It smelled of banana, and nuts, grapefruit and pine.

I loved the body on this one. It looked creamy pouring and it tasted creamy too. This was a Double IPA in alcohol only as the hops were not over the top at all. Quite refreshing actually but aside from the banana breadiness of this one it was not anything earth shattering. Good, but not a buy again.

Thanks GFKATJ(Girl Formerly Known As The Jew) for the beer and the always great company.

Line of the night?

"If the animal was treated with respect in life and death I would have no problem eating it." 

"So if the pig died of happiness you would eat it"? What if it loved it's owners SOO much that it layed down it's life for them? Would that be an acceptable death?"

I think I am going to kill a pig with kindness and serve it to GFKATJ on a platter with an apple in it's mouth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speakeasy White Lightning Wit

This was one of the beers D picked out on our inaugural trip to Total Wine in Tustin. Higher class than Bev-Mo, more loose 12 oz which is nice, but not as much selection in the beer aisle. I like it though.

This one was interesting. It's hard to tell but this is the PALEST beer I have ever had, and yes I have had Natty Ice, Bud Ice, etc. etc.

Thank goodness that was the ONLY thing that this beer had in common with that wizzwater stuff.

It poured out with a really large head that stuck around and then all of a sudden, GONE.

It smelled of wheat, and bread, and grain, and yeast. I mean, it is a wheat beer so I wasn't expecting anything different.

The taste is where it got a little odd. Not bad odd, just odd. It had a pretty pronounced lime taste to it. I'm used to lemon in my Hef's but D agreed with me that there was defintiely a pronounced lime flavor. What was even weirder was that it worked.

We both liked it. This was one of the more grainy tasting wheats I've had too. I liked it quite a bit actually. Refreshing, low ABV. D is definitely into the wheat beers now. Saison's and wheats that's her gig. I can't complain since I like them all.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Avery Out of Bounds Stout

I've been liking the low ABV stouts of late and this one clocked in at just over 5. As you can see it poured a huge dark tan head that stuck around and the beer was pretty much opaque(Can't see through it). There was a bit of dark chocolate and a lot of roasty toasty coffee on the nose. It was pretty much what I expect(though don't always get) from a well made stout. I enjoyed it, and it got better as it warmed as any good stout should. Medium body that got more syrupy as time went on. All in all a good brew, and cheap too. Avery still has not failed me, even with their more pedestrian offerings like this stout here.