Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Beers – a Brown and two Stouts

I sampled three beers over the Thanksgiving week holiday and I liked them all.  Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin (5.5% ABV and 30 IBU) is an Oatmeal Stout that pours black with a two-finger head.  Velvet Merlin has an wonderful aroma of coffee and dark chocolate.  This is an excellent beer with tastes of coffee, chocolate with a silky mouth feel that and would go great with an after dinner desert.  I liked this one the best.

Website description – “A decadent Oatmeal Stout brimming with cocoa and espresso aromas. Partially aged in bourbon barrels, this beer features a rich, dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish. The addition of U.S. grown fuggles hops contributes the perfect amount of bitterness to this exceptionally balanced beer”.

Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout (6% ABV) is an American Stout that pours black with a large head.  It smells and tastes of coffee, chocolate and just a hint of licorice.  I was happy it was just a hint of licorice because I am not a big fan.  I thought they had just the right touch.  A very nice stout, but I liked Velvet Merlin better.

Website description – “Kalamazoo Stout represents stouts in the Bell's year-round roster, offering a blend of dark chocolate and coffee flavors with just a hint of brewer's licorice. One of our oldest recipes, it balances a significant hop presence against the roast malt body.

Commonly asked trivia:

·        The brewer's licorice we use is gelatin-free, making it acceptable for vegetarians.
·        The label comes from a series of portraits by a local artist”.

Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown (5.0% ABV) is an American Brown Ale that pours a dark tan with reddish notes and has a nice head.  Downtown Brown is a nice brown ale that is easy to drink.  It is not as roasty as a porter or a stout and is not as hoppy as a stout or an amber.  Downtown Brown hits that fine line of a lightly hopped, caramel roasty flavor of an American Brown. 

Website description – “A smooth, full-bodied nut brown ale, lightly hopped with a hint of roasted and crystal malts.  This ale is dark in color without the heavy taste of porter or stout.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sierra Nevada - Celebration Ale 2011

Celebration Ale (6.8% ABV and 65 IBU) is a seasonal release from Sierra Nevada for the holidays and is a fresh hop ale.  Celebration pours an orange gold with a nice two-head that has a great citrus and pine aroma.  Celebration is a very solid holiday ale and I will probably purchase at least one 6 pack each season.  The focus is on the fresh hops and if you like stronger pale ales and IPAs this one would be tasty for your palette. 

Website description - "The long, cold nights of winter are a little brighter with Celebration® Ale. Wonderfully robust and rich, Celebration® Ale is dry-hopped for a lively, intense aroma. Brewed especially for the holidays, it is perfect for a festive gathering or for a quiet evening at home."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Odell - Mountain Standard

Odell started releasing 4-packs this year and each one has been very good.  First was Double Pilsner, then Myrcenary, and now Mountain Standard.  Mountain Standard (9.5% ABV) is a Double Black IPA and it pours black with a nice head.  Odell does a great job emphasizing aroma and I remember the first time I opened the IPA and was very impressed by the nose.  Mountain Standard tastes great - it is not too roasty and it is not too hoppy - it is just right.  It is one of the best Black IPAs I have every tried and I will warn you that these are easy to drink and high in alcohol.  If you like IPAs and / or Black IPAs, I highly recommend you try Odell's Mountain Standard.  I really liked it and I will need to purchase some more.  Luckily, it is available November through April - during Mountain Standard Time. 

Website description - "As the Colorado hop growers prove they can produce world class hops, we as a Colorado Craft Brewer want to showcase what our state can offer, not only with our hand crafted beers, but also with the ingredients used in creating them. Mountain Standard, Double Black IPA, features the homegrown hops our Brewers helped pick from farms along Colorado’s western slope. MST pours committingly dark with a light tan head and a slightly roasted hoppy nose. An ephemeral bitterness, the result of combining roasted malts with an assertive American hop profile, contributes to MST’s act of balance and harmony. As the season’s darkness sets in, why shouldn’t your beer become darker too?

Stone - Double Bastard 2011

Stone provides some very interesting beers and they try to challenge the drinker's perception of what beer should taste like.  They waited one year to release Arrogant Bastard after they accidentally created it, because they did not think people would like it or "get it".  Arrogant Bastard proved to be very successful and helped put Stone on the map.  Double Bastard was first released on the one year anniversary of Arrogant Bastard.  Double Bastard (10.5% ABV and CLASSIFIED IBU) is a big beer that pours an orangery tan with a nice head.  It has very good malt tastes that is quickly overtaken by a hop wallop.  I have enjoyed the various Bastard releases by Stone and this year's release of Double Bastard is very good.  This is a "one and done" release for the year, so get it while the getting is good.  For those who really like Double Bastard, it is released in a 3-litre bottle - excellent.

Website description -  "This is one lacerative muther of an ale. It is unequivocally certain that your feeble palate is grossly inadequate and thus undeserving of this liquid glory...and those around you would have little desire to listen to your resultant whimpering. Instead, you slackjawed gaping gobemouche, slink away to that pedestrian product that lures agog the great unwashed with the shiny happy imagery of its silly broadcast propaganda. You know, the one that offers no challenge, yet works very, very hard to imbue the foolhardy with the absurd notion that they are exercising ‘independent’ thought, or attempts to convey the perception it is in some way ‘authentic’ or ‘original.’ It’s that one that makes you feel safe and delectates you into basking in the warm, fuzzy, and befuddled glow of your own nescience. Why so many allow themselves to be led by the nose lacks plausible explanation. Perhaps you have been so lulled by the siren song of ignorance that you don’t even notice your white-knuckle grip on it. You feel bold and unique, but alas are nothing but sheep, willingly being herded to and fro. If you think you are being piqued in this text, it is nothing when compared to the insults we are all asked to swallow streaming forth from our televisions and computers. Truth be told, you are being coddled into believing you are special or unique by ethically challenged “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” marketers who layer (upon layer) imagined attributes specifically engineered to lead you by the nose. Should you decide to abdicate your ability to make decisions for yourself, then you are perhaps deserving of the pabulum they serve. Double Bastard Ale calls out the garrulous caitiffs who perpetrate the aforementioned atrocities and demands retribution for their outrageously conniving, intentionally misleading, blatantly masturbatory and fallacious ad campaigns. We demand the unmitigated, transparent truth. We demand forthright honesty. We want justice! Call ‘em out and line ‘em up against the wall... NOW."

Deschutes - Fresh Hop Mirror Pond

When I saw a bottle of Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, hereafter referred to as FHMP, at the store, I had to buy it.  I had previously tried Hop Trip and really enjoyed it.  I was sure that FHMP would good.  FHMP (5.0% ABV and 40 IBU) is a Pale ale with limited release from Oct. - Dec.  To me, the best thing about fresh hop or wet hop beers are the aroma and the taste.  These need to be consumed soon after purchase to obtain the fullness of the beer that the brewer wished to impart with the beer.  FHMP pours an a golden orange with a large head and the aroma of fruity hops is easily detected.  The taste is Mirror Pond, but the hops seem to be much more discernible on the nose and the palate.  FHMP is very good and Deschutes does a great job showing how the addition of fresh hops provides changes to their very solid pale ale.  I suggest you try these two side-by-side for a good comparison between Mirror Pond and Fresh Hop Mirror Pond.

Website description - "This noble, fresh hop version of our classic American pale ale arose from a single plot of heirloom Cascade hops. Revived by our brewers from the original rootstock developed at Oregon State University, grown by Goshie Farms in Oregon, this very limited release is just for you".

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2 Winter Seasonal Ales

Winter is my favorite time for seasonal ales and there are several breweries that brew some good ones.  Two that I recently tried were Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale (7.4% ABV and 22 IBU) and Odell’s Isolation Ale (6.0% ABV and 29 IBU).  Both beers emphasize malt sweetness and each had a nice head that took a bit of time to recede.  There is very little bitterness with these ales and the Christmas Ale is sweeter than Isolation.  Isolation has just a hint of bitterness / hops on the finish.  Deschutes Jubelale and New Belgium Snow Day have a much bitter / hoppy finish.  The winter or Christmas ales are usually only available for two to three month and then they are gone.  I think these would go excellent with Thanksgiving dinner and I am sure the higher alcohol will put you in a festive mood.

Christmas Ale website description – “The chill of a Colorado high-country winter calls for a beer with extra flavor and warming characteristics. Here it is. Breck Brew's Christmas Ale. At over 7% alcohol, with a sturdy texture and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate, our holiday seasonal is the fermented equivalent of a good fire.”  Available November - December.

Isolation Ale website description – “A funny thing happens here around summer’s end – our eyes start searching the skies for those first fall flakes. As we welcome autumn’s first snow, we celebrate the return of Isolation Ale. A sweet caramel malty ale that is balanced by a subtle crisp hop finish. Whether you ski, shred, or shoe, Isolation Ale will inspire you to make first tracks.  Available October through December.”

A trip to Dry Dock Brewing Co.

Dry Dock Brewing Company is a small craft brewer that is located in Aurora, Colorado.  I met my friend Aaron and his mother-in-law’s friend Carl to taste a few samples from Dry Dock.  Dry Dock has a sampler that you can choose 6 – 3 oz. samples of the beer they brew and I had the following:

Coffee Milk Stout (5.3% ABV and 30 IBU) – incredible coffee aroma and a really nice sweet stout that had a solid coffee taste.
Two Tasks American Stout (6.5% ABV and 65 IBU) – a bigger stout than the previous stout, more alcohol, more hops, and most roast.
HMS Bounty Old Ale (6.9% ABV and 35 IBU) – a really nice old ale with a sold malt base tasting of toffee and caramel.
Three Heavy Wee Heavy (9.5% ABV and 30 IBU) – a very tasty Scottish Ale – I am fond of Scottish Ales and this is a good one.
USS Enterprise IPA (6.4% ABV and 63 IBU) – very drinkable IPA.
Double IPA (8.5% ABV and 90 IBU) – excellent double IPA with a citrus hops aroma and bitterness on the finish.
+ Vanilla Porter (5.5% ABV and 33 IBU) – very enjoyable and I would love to do a side-by-side with Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter.

I was impressed with all of these beers and I can easily understand why Dry Dock won the Small Brewer of the Year at the 2009 GABF.  Dry Dock has won awards for various beers and I think they won 5 in 2010.  If you are in the Denver area, take a trip to Dry Dock and enjoy a sampler.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Left Hand – Wake Up Dead

Left Hand is a local brewer based in Boulder and I have wanted to try their Russian Imperial Stout - Wake Up Dead (10.2% ABV and 45 IBU).  Wake Up Dead pours black with a very thick and brown head that takes some time to dissipate.  There is a great aroma of malt, coffee and chocolate.  The taste is just fantastic and this is probably my new favorite Russian Imperial Stout.  It is not over hopped and has a great taste of dark fruit, coffee, and chocolate with a nice hop finish that is just right. This is a very good Russian Imperial Stout.

Website Description – “Here’s a black ale to brighten your day. Wake Up Dead lurks in our cellars for over 4 months before being unleashed. Hints of raisins, black licorice, coffee and dark chocolate are followed by earthy, herbal hop notes. Any apprehensions about the rest of your day are quickly forgotten, for whatever the mind expects, it finds. Sometimes you’re not in the mood for what everyone else is having.”

Beer Pairings – Seasonal Beers and Mexican Cuisine

Tibor, Chris and I gathered at Dennis’s house for the next beer tasting and Gayle picked up some tasty tamales, green chili, queso, tacos, salsa, chips, veggie tray and some cupcakes.  The tamales and green chili were a highlight – they were excellent.  For the beer, we started off with Rockyard’s Plymouth Rock Pumpkin Ale (5.8% ABV) is a pumpkin beer and classified as a Fruit / Vegetable Beer.  It has an aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon and was a tasty beer. 

Milk Stout Nitro (6.0% ABV and 25 IBU).  I reviewed this beer earlier – (last month).  It is just an excellent stout and if you get a chance to try it after it is distributed beyond Colorado, pick it up.  This was everyone’s favorite of the evening.

New Belgium’s Snow Day (6.2% ABV & 55 IBU) is a winter seasonal ale that has a nice malt sweetness on the start and a hop bitter finish.  It reminded me of Deschutes Jubelale and I liked it.

Next up was a big one Twisted Pine’s 16 Anniversary Bough Breaker Barley wine (9.1% ABV and 120 IBU).  I think this is the bitterest beer I have ever had in terms of IBU and it was OK.  No one liked this beer and some just did not like it at all.  The only hop used in this beer is Amarillo and they use a lot of it.

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (8% ABV & 38 IBU) is from Boulevard Brewing Co. and it is a Saison / Farmhouse Ale.  This is a style that I really appreciate and it was one of my favorites of the evening.  Very effervescent and was just a pleasant drinking saison that one could easily discern the Belgian yeast influence.

Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout (4.95% ABV and 31 IBU) is an oatmeal stout and a really good one.  This has some coffee-like tastes and paired beautifully with the chocolate cupcakes.  Tibor picked two nice stouts for the evening.

Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest (9.3% ABV and 24 IBU) is one of my favorites from Avery and my wife really enjoys it too.  I think everyone liked this one for it’s clean malt sweetness and light bittering.  The Kaiser is a very nice Oktoberfest and it is brewed once a year in limited quantities.

Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout (15.83% ABV and 107 IBU) is one big stout that is brewed once a year and is only available in 12 oz. bottles.  This was a 2009 vintage and proves you can easily cellar beer given the right style, ABV, and conditions.  This beer was almost 2 years old and I bet you could easily cellar it for 10.  It is as dark as night and had an intense molasses aroma.  It is a sipper and I think everyone enjoyed it.  We split it four ways, so only 3 oz. pours – very nice way to end the evening. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Belgium – Hoptober

Hoptober (6.0% ABV & 40 IBU) is a seasonal Golden Ale from New Belgium based in Ft. Collins, CO.  I wanted to try this beer last year, but I could not find it in stores.  When I saw it this year, I immediately bought some.  Hoptober pours clear and gold / yellow with a large fluffy head.  The carbonation on this beer is great and the bubbles do not stop.  Hoptober has a pleasant aroma of spice and earthy hops.  The taste is very well-balanced and I thought the hop level was just right.  The spicy notes probably come from the rye.  This is probably my favorite American Blonde Ale to date.  I am not a big fan of the style, but Hoptober is very good and I will buy it again.  It was great to enjoy a few of these on Halloween evening while sitting out on the front porch doling out candy to the kids.

Website Description – “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.  Seasonal in August, September, October.”

International Stout Day – Tallgrass – Buffalo Sweat

International Stout Day was November 3rd and after I returned home from a long day, I was ready for a beer.  Tallgrass is a brewer based in Manhattan Kansas and I had tasted a few of their beers at a tasting at Lukas Liquor a few months ago.  Buffalo Sweat (5.0% ABV & 20 IBU) is a stout in a 16 oz. can that pours black with a nice two-finger head.  I personally prefer craft beer in cans because they are protected from light and oxygen and a bonus is they are better for the environment because of reduced shipping cost any can be recycled.  This is just a win – win.  Buffalo Sweat has a nice aroma and you can easily detect the dark and roasted barley used in the brewing process.  The taste is very good with a slight sweetness on the finish.  Buffalo Sweat is a very easy drinking stout and I would think the stout-drinker would enjoy it as well as people who normally do not drink stouts. 

Website Description – “We love this beer here at the brewery, and think you will have one of those “I’ve never-tasted-a-beer-like-that” kind of moments when you try it!  What we really like about this beer is the smoothness that brewing with cream sugar brings to the palate. This smoothness balances out the copious quantities of roasted barley used in the brewing process to create a rich, complex, and delicious beer. If you have not been a stout drinker in the past, give this beer a try. It might just change your mind about how dark beers should taste. It tastes so rich, but is surprisingly easy to drink!  Can’t find the sweat? Don’t sweat it. Just ask for Buffalo Sweat at your local liquor store or your favorite tavern”.