Saturday, July 30, 2011

Four from Cali – Alt, IPA, Smoked Porter and a Dubbel

Lagunitas – Lucky 13 Alt (8.9% ABV and 77 IBU) is what I would call an “Imperialized” version of an Alt-style beer.  I consider Alaskan Amber (5.3% ABV and 18 IBU) as the standard bearer for this German inspired old-style beer and Alaskan Amber is the flagship for Alaskan Brewing Co.  Lagunitas took the Alt-style and amped it up in both ABV and IBU.  Lucky 13 is an anniversary ale that pours orangey copper with a two-finger bubbly head.  This is a real treat and Lagunitas did a great job with taking a style and putting their own spin on it.  I have recommended it to a few friends and I look forward to hear their impressions.  I also appreciate that Lagunitas also thanks some of the initial craft brewers in the anniversary label thanking Anchor Steam and Rogue Ales. 

 Last night we had dinner with some friends and Randy had purchased some nice selections.  He picked Firestone Walker Union Jack (7.5% ABV) a really nice IPA for me and a Stone Smoked Porter ( ABV and IBU) for him along with a couple of bottles of Ovila Abbey Dubbel to enjoy with appetizers and dinner.  Union Jack is awesome and I am very happy that Firestone Walker is now being distributed in Colorado.  This is an excellent IPA and I will purchase it again.  I tasted a small sample of the Stone Smoked Porter (5.9% ABV and 53 IBU) and as I told Randy – I have liked everything I have tried from Stone.  Someday, I would like to do a side-by-side comparison of some of the noted smoked beers and pit Alaskan Smoked Porter vs. Stone Smoked Porter.  It was also very good to taste the Sierra Nevada – Ovila Abbey Dubbel (7.5% ABV) again (reviewed in the blog earlier) and it paired perfectly with marinated and grilled flank steak.  These four are very good beers from brewers in California and each did very well with four different styles.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sierra Nevada – Ovila Abbey Saison

In the Brewmaster’s Table by Garret Oliver, in the section covering Saisons, Mr. Oliver essentially writes that if he had to pick and drink one beer style the rest of his life, it would be Saison.  Saison is French for “season” and historically the name was originally given to low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Begium, for farm workers during harvest season.  Sierra Nevada is brewing three special editions this year as a fund raiser for the Abbey of New Clairvoux.  I tried the dubbel earlier and I really looked forward to the other offerings.  When I saw the Saison, I picked it up.  Ovila Saison pours cloudy gold / light tan with a large head and a fantastic aroma.  This is one very easy drinking beer and it went perfectly with Mu Shu Pork with Plum Sauce and Crab Rangoon.  I have not had a large number of Saisons, but I do know a great beer when I taste one.  This is a great beer and I highly recommend it.

Ovila Saison is described as, “For centuries, the monastic tradition has followed the Rule of St. Benedict – Ora et Labora (prayer and work.)  This Saison farmhouse ale is in honor of the noble labor in which the monks engage.  Hazy blonde in color, these rustic ales are designed to be complex and contemplative but also refreshing and drinkable after a day in the fields.  With earthy and spicy aromas this Saison has notes of green grass, and a faint citrus tang.  The body is light and layered with fruit and spice accents and dry, peppery, and refreshing finish.”

Summer Beers

I decided to obtain a few summer beers to try them out as the hot weather has hit Colorado.  I picked up Sierra Nevada – Summerfest (5.0% ABV and 28 IBU), Widmer – Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV and 30 IBU), Breckenridge – Summerbright (4.5% ABV and 15 IBU), and Left Hand – The Stranger (5.0% ABV and 36 IBU). 

I think it hard to beat a Hefeweizen or Belgian Wit in the summer and the Widmer Hefeweizen is very good.  It has your typical cloudy yellow color with a nice head.  I prefer ales to lagers and while Summerfest is a lager, it is not bad at all – I would probably select Kellerweis over Summerfest though.  It pours crystal clear with great carbonation and pours yellow / gold with a nice two finger head.  Summerbright is very refreshing and with the low ABV, one could literally drink this all day with no issue.  The addition of citrus, oranges and lemons, to this wheat beer is well done and this is a nice beer.  At first taste, I did not like The Stranger Pale Ale, but as the ale warmed up, I grew to appreciate it.  The taste difference is due to the use of rye malt and it is not a bad beer – just let it warm up a bit.  Below are pictures and web descriptions for each beer.

Sierra Nevada Summerfest - "Our Summerfest® is a refreshing, pilsner-style lager. Its incredible smoothness comes from an extra-long lagering period. Lighter in body than our ales but just as complex in character, Summerfest® quenches your thirst with big aroma and a tangy hop bite."

Widmer Hefeweizen - "Meet the beer that started it all. Our naturally cloudy flagship brew starts with the highest quality wheat. It's bold, clean flavor and pronounced citrus and floral aromas are what define American-style Hefeweizen. So pour yourself a cool, cloudy glass, finish with a lemon and enjoy the original."

Breckenridge Summerbright - "The brewmaster's goal: the perfect ale for summertime quaffing, nothing more. Breck Brew's SummerBright is the result. The craftsman's touch combines white wheat, two row pale and munich malt with the pacific northwest's most intriguing hops to create a bright, clean ale ideal for picnicking, evenings on the screen porch and enjoying the whims of the summer breeze."

Left Hand The Stranger - "Sane or senseless? Harmless or harmful? Sometimes it takes awhile to get to know a stranger. Initial impressions are not always reality, so you must delve deeper. Beyond the initial floral hop aromas, malt sweetness is revealed, yet with a spicy undertone that exposes a very rye sense of humor. Take your time to get to know the Stranger. It’s strangely satisfying."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Latitude 48 IPA - Deconstructed

Sam Adams Latitude 48 (6.0% ABV) is an IPA brewed by Boston Beer Company and they recently began offering an interesting 12 pack called Sam Adams Latitude 48 Deconstructed.  This 12 pack offers 6 different blends of Latitude 48 – one is the original and the 5 others use only one of the five hops used in brewing this IPA.  For Latitude 48, the five hop varieties used in the brewing process are: 1) Ahtanum (U.S.), 2) East Kent Goldings (U.K.), 3) Hallertau Mittelfrueh (Germany), 4) Simcoe (U.S.), and 5) Zuess (U.S.).  Lattitude 48 is named because all these hops grow along the 48th line of latitude.  Hops serve as a natural preservative, provide aroma, and provide bitterness to balance the sweetness from the malts used in the brewing process.  This will provide the drinker with an interesting tasting experience to sample how each hop variety tastes and what it contributes to the overall aroma, taste and bitterness to Latitude 48.  I liked the Simcoe version the best.

From the Samuel Adams web site - Latitude 48 IPASamuel Adams® Latitude 48 IPA is a unique IPA brewed with a select blend of hops from top German, English, and American growing regions all located close to the 48th latitude within the “hop belt” of the Northern Hemisphere.  The combination of hops in this beer creates a distinctive but not overpowering hop character.  The beer is dry hopped with Ahtanum, Simcoe®*, and East Kent Goldings hops for a powerful citrus and earthy aroma.  The hop character is balanced by a slight sweetness and full body from the malt blend.  The Hop blend is described as, “The unique blend of hops in this beer creates a complex and distinctive hop character and aroma without being overpowering.  The Bavarian Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops add a floral note to the beer, the American Simcoe®, Zeus, and Ahtanum contribute a citrusy and piney hop flavor, and the English Goldings add an earthy character.  These flavors are balanced with the body from our proprietary pale malt blend and slight sweetness from Gambrinus Honey Malt.” 

The descriptions on each bottle with pictures are as follows:
Latitude 48 Ahtanum™ IPAAhtanum™ hops [Yakima Valley, WA] contribute a very balanced and typically “American” orange peel, piney and floral flavor and aroma to this brew, tempered by a slight sweetness and full body.

Latitude 48 East Kent Goldings IPAEast Kent Goldings [East Kent, UK] add a mellow bitterness with earthy, floral and apricot notes, offset by a slight sweetness and full body.

Latitude 48 Hallertau Mittelfrueh IPA Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops [Hallertau, Germany] create soft bitterness along with delicate lemony citrus and resinous pine notes, balanced by a slight sweetness and full body from the malt blend.

Latitude 48 Simcoe® IPASimcoe® hops [Yakima Valley, WA] add bitterness and dramatic grapefruit peel and pine resin notes, with the slight sweetness and full malt body to round out the concentrated hop character.

Latitude 48 Zeus IPAZeus hops [Yakima Valley, WA] contribute bitterness and an intense, pungent resinous pine flavor.  The balance of the brew leans strongly toward the hop character, but is softened by the malt sweetness and body.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bristol – Red Rocket, Yellow Kite & Compass

The next beers I tried from Bristol over the past weekend were Red Rocket (5.1 ABV and 21 IBU) an Amber Ale, Yellow Kite (5.3 ABV & 25 IBU) a summer seasonal Pilsener, and Compass (6.5 ABV and 55 IBU) an IPA.  I did not capture photos of Yellow Kite or Compass, a photo of Red Rocket is below.  I really enjoyed Red Rocket and Compass and it just reinforces my favorite styles – American versions of the ales of the British Isles.  I like and enjoy the UK versions, I just like the hoppier U.S. versions a bit more.  Red Rocket is dark for a pale ale and has a nice balance.  Compass is a very good tasting IPA and I enjoyed it.  Yellow Kite was a fine pilsener too.  I am spoiled after Odell’s Double Pilsner that is one of my favorites for a pilsener.  Bristol makes some good beer and they are a small brewer is CO Springs.  I need to stop by the establishment sometime. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bristol Brewing - Mass Transit & Beehive

Bristol Brewing is based in Colorado Springs and I have tried and liked Laughing Lab – Scottish Ale and Old No. 23 Barley wine.  I think both of these have won awards over the years.  Bristol is a small brewer and they offer a variety pack of six different styles or two each.  Mass Transit Ale (5.1% ABV and 21 IBU) is an American Amber / Red Ale that pours a cloudy reddish tan with a two-finger head.  Bristol describes Mass Transit Ale as, “Based on the amber style, this is a dependable session beer that simply delivers superb flavor. Crystal, Carapils, Victory and Vienna specialty malts give this ale its rich auburn color and easygoing nature.”  Mass Transit is easy to drink and would go great with BBQ and Hamburgers.

Beehive (4.06% ABV and 16 IBU) is an American-Style Wheat Beer and pours cloudy orange yellow with a small head.  Follow the pouring instructions on the bottle to pour the beer with the yeast as the brewer intends for this beer to be tasted.  Bristol describes Beehive as, “Definitely sunshine in a glass. Beehive is a joy to drink, with its beautiful honey-gold color and refreshing, full-flavored body. For our version of the classic American Wheat, we use less two-row and more Munich malt for depth, and soften the edges with the lightness of wheat. Local Black Forest honey adds character without sweetness.”  For comparison, my wife enjoyed a glass of Chocolate Wine with an ABV of 14%.  I would need to drink 3.5 glasses of Beehive to equal one glass of that particular wine.  Beehive is a nice beer and you could literally drink these all night with the low ABV.  I was thinking it might be too sweet with the honey, but this was not the case.  This is definitely a “session” beer and I think would be a good beer for the non-beer drinker.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Deschutes – Hop in the Dark

Deschutes is a fantastic brewer and I have wanted to try their Cascadian Dark Ale called Hop in the Dark (6.5% ABV and 70 IBU) that is seasonal and only available May – September.  Hop in the Dark fits in one of the newer styles recognized by the BJCP named “American-style India Black Ale” and the brewers in the Pacific NW were not too happy about this as they prefer the name Cascadian Dark Ale.  To further complicate matters, some call this style Black IPA.  Regardless, Hop in the Dark is fantastic.  It pours dark with a large head and has a nice hop aroma.  The web site describes Hop in the Dark as, “Can an IPA be black?  Semantics aside, this noir version has subtle coffee undertones born of a blend of oats with dark, Munich and crystal malts. What emerges is something deeper, less orthodox, and all its own. After 22 trial runs in our Bend and Portland pubs, we got it right.  This is a really nice beer and after 22 trial runs, I would say Deschutes definitely got it right.