Saturday, December 31, 2011

Horton’s Homebrew – Orion Stout

My first attempt at a stout was from a Williams Brewing Stout brew kit and it turned out well.  It has a great color and the carbonation was spot on with a nice two-finger head that took awhile to recede.  The beer tastes sweet with a nice roasty / toasty undertone from the dark malts.  It finished a bit under attenuated and I will focus on the wort aeration and use a yeast starter on the next batch.  It has a slight grainy finish and a little more aging should take care of this – a couple of weeks / months in some cold storage should even out the flavors.  I would also add a few more hops to increase the bitterness a touch.  In summary, the beer is easy to drink and it would be easy to drink a number of these with lower ABV (I estimate ~4% ABV and 35 IBU).  What I would do differently on the next batch – 1) use a yeast starter, 2) focus on wort aeration, 3) use a touch more hops to increase bitterness.  These three things and a little more time in storage should take this beer to the next level.  Next up – a pale ale using only Cascade hops.  I’ll be brewing this one later today, and yes, I made a yeast starter.
Website description of the Williams Stout Kit – “In England, stout has traditionally been a sweet black beer, often sweetened with lactose. In Ireland, stout has traditionally been dry. William's Stout is slightly sweeter than the famous Irish stout, yet drier than sweet English stouts. A potent stout with a creamy head, our stout derives its rich bittersweet flavor from a combination of a special dark extract, ale hops, and a liquid yeast with a somewhat dry character. A smooth black stout with a balanced character. Alcohol: 4.9%, IBU's 35.  Includes 8 lbs. of our blended malt extract, English fuggle and other hops, 125 ml of liquid ale yeast, and corn sugar for carbonation. Makes 5 gallons with a starting gravity of 1.050. Ease of Brewing: Beginner.”

Lazy Magnolia – Southern Pecan and Funkwerks – Saison

Another shout out to Dennis Wright for bringing this one back to CO on his recent trip to Georgia – Thank you very much – another nice one.  Lazy Magnolia is one of the few brewers in Mississippi and Southern Pecan (4.65% ABV and 22 IBU), is a Specialty Beer using Pecans in the brewing process.  Southern Pecan pours an amber / tan / brown with a one-finger head that recedes quickly.  Nice aroma of sweetness and nuts.  Southern Pecan is a very tasty beer and the pecans worked well with the brown ale.  There is very little hop bitterness and the emphasis is on malts and the pecans.  I think this is my first beer from Mississippi and Southern Pecan is a tasty one. 
Website description – “Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer in the world, to our knowledge, made with whole roasted pecans. The pecans are used just like grain and provide a nutty characteristic and a delightful depth to the flavor profile. This beer is very lightly hopped to allow the malty, caramel, and nutty flavors shine through. The color is dark mahogany. Southern Pecan won a Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup in the Specialty Beer category.”

Funkwerks is a small-Ft. Collins-based brewer and Saison (6.8% ABV and 25 IBU).  I opened this up for Christmas dinner.  The head on this beer was just crazy and it literally filled up the glass.  It took awhile and a number of small pours to obtain a decent glass of this Saison.  Saison pours an orange / yellow with a fruity and spicy aroma.  The beer has tastes undertones of the fruit one smells and the spice / pepper with a very dry finish.  This is a solid Saison and I can understand why Funkwerks has been receiving a lot of attention. 

Website description – “he beer you are holding is unique. A special strain of yeast and a warm fermentation produces a beer of exceptional flavor and aroma. An extended secondary maturation and bottle conditioning ensures all these unique qualities are preserved and evolve over time. Serve at 50°F in a tulip glass. “

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Georgia Beers – Terrapin and SweetWater

First, shout out to Dennis – thank you very much for bringing these back on your recent trip to Georgia and both of these were very good.  The only Terrapin beer I had before was via a collaboration with Left Hand Brewing.  Both Terrapin and SweetWater have previously won awards for various beers in their portfolios.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale (5.5% ABV and 35 IBU) is a pale ale with rye and it won the pale ale category the first year it was entered - 2002.  Terrapin is based in Athens, GA.  I heard an interview with the brewer on “Can you brew it?” on the Brewing Network and the brewer was looking to brew a well-balanced pale ale that had some spice from the rye, but not too much hop bitterness on the finish that is present in many pale ales.  Rye Pale Ale pours a light amber with a nice two-finger head that recedes quickly.  One can detect a spicy note on the nose and this is one tasty pale ale – I agree that the brewer hit the target with a well-balanced pale ale. 
Website description – “By using an exact amount of rye, a grain seldom found in other micro brewed beers, the Rye Pale Ale acquires its signature taste. Made with five varieties of hops and a generous amount of specialty malts, it offers a complex flavor and aroma that is both aggressive and well balanced – a rare find among beers.  The Terrapin Rye Pale Ale was released in Athens, GA in April of 2002 at the Classic City Brew Fest. Six months later this beer which was sold only in Athens was awarded the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival, the most prestigious competition in North America. We hope you will agree with our peers in the brewing industry that this is truly one of the best pale ales in the country.”

Sweet Water Brewing is based in Atlanta, GA and Georgia Brown Ale (5% ABV and 24 IBU) is a brown ale.  Georgia Brown pours dark, not as dark as a porter or stout, but it is dark; with a two-finger lacy head.  It has a nice aroma of chocolate and caramel / toffee and just a hint of hops.  Georgia Brown is a nice brown ale and tastes just like it smells – some chocolate – some caramel – and just enough hop bitterness to balance it out.  These were a great delivery from Dennis and I appreciate it.  If you get down to Atlanta – I highly recommend Terrapin and SweetWater. 
Website description – “A river of deep caramel and chocolate malts meandering through undercut currents of hop additions. Georgia Brown is part of our year round lineup and is line priced with SweetWater’s other lip smackin’ core styles.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

December – Beer Tasting – Porters and Stouts

Tibor, Dennis, Chris and Chris came over to my humble abode for the next round of beer tasting a couple of weekends ago with a focus on Porters and Stouts.  Dennis had just returned from a trip to Georgia and brought back some regional offerings from the south.  We sampled a number of beers and there were some really good beers.  Chris brought over some BBQ that went wonderful with the beer.  We also had some Honey BBQ wings and chocolate pie.  One of the most interesting pairings of the evening was a side-by-side tasting of Belgian Yeti and Oak-aged Yeti.  By themselves, everyone liked the Belgian Yeti the best.  It was the first time that I had tasted this version of Yeti and it was very good.  The Oak-aged Yeti was an excellent pairing with the chocolate pie and everyone liked Oak-aged Yeti better when sampled with the chocolate pie.  We had some fantastic beers, good food, and good fellowship.  Below is a list of the beer sampled and pictures of the bottles.

Deschutes – Black Butte Porter – 5.2% ABV and 30 IBU
Lazy Magnolia – Southern Pecan – 4.39% ABV and 19 IBU - Nut Brown Ale
Stone – Smoked Porter – 5.9% ABV and 53 IBU
Alaskan – Smoked Porter – 6.5% ABV and 45 IBU

Great Divide – Belgian Yeti – 9.5% ABV – Imperial Stout
Great Divide – Oak-aged Yeti – 9.5% ABV – Imperial Stout
Left Hand – Wake Up Dead – 10.2% ABV and 45 IBU – Russian Imperial Stout

Alltech Lexington Brewing - Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale – 7 – 9% ABV
Terrapin – Rye Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV and 35 IBU – Pale Ale with Rye
SweetWater Brewing Co. – Georgia Brown Ale – 5% ABV and 24 IBU

Yuengling – Black and Tan – 4.7% ABV
Yuengling – Lager – 4.4% ABV

Next month we will sample Pilsners.

Bristol - Winter Warlock

Bristol is a small brewer based in Colorado Springs and their winter seasonal offering is Winter Warlock (6% ABV and 25 IBU).  Winter Warlock is an Oatmeal Stout that pours black with a small head.  The aromas are very nice and one can take in chocolate, coffee and some notes of caramel / toffee.  The oatmeal gives a creamy mouthfeel with a nice finish.  This is a very easy drinking beer and is very good for winter.  This would go great with rich foods and chocolate deserts.  Another nice offering from Bristol and I plan to visit this brewery next year. 
Website description – “Chock full of highly roasted barley malt and 100 lbs. of flaked oatmeal, the Warlock is a dark and satisfying winter elixir. Smooth, rich and exceptionally comforting. An annually-awaited winter seasonal, and one of our award winners.  Winner of the Silver Medal in the Foreign-style Stout category at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival®.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Firestone Walker – Double Jack

Double Jack is an Imperial IPA (9.5% ABV) from Firestone Walker and I have wanted to try it for some time.  Fortunately, Firestone Walker started distributing here in CO this summer and I picked up a bottle of Double Jack on my last visit.  Double Jack pours amber with a three-finger, small bubble head.  The aroma is incredible and you can pick up slight sweetness from the malt and huge citrus aroma of orange and grapefruit.  The taste is very good and it starts sweet and ends with a nice bitter finish that is just right.  This is a fantastic IPA and I have liked everything I have tried from Firestone Walker.  I can understand why they were awarded the Brewery of the Year at the 2011 GABF for the third time and Double Jack was awarded a Silver at the 2011 GABF.
Website description – “Double Jack IPA is our first ever Imperial IPA. It features a big malty middle to cloak the high alcohol and mouth puckering hop bitterness. Huge tangerine, grapefruit and juicy fruit aroma blossom over the herbal blue basil and malt earthiness of this aggressive beer. Best enjoyed in moderation.”

Anderson Valley - Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (6.9% ABV and 6 IBU) is a seasonal ale from Anderson Valley Brewer and I picked this up in a 12 oz. can.  Winter Solstice pours amber / garnet with a nice malt and spice aroma and a large head that subsides quickly.  This beer is malty and spicy that reminds one of a pumpkin beer without the pumpkins.  This beer would go great with holiday dinners and I think it would be a good beer to introduce to people who don’t normally drink craft beers. 
Website description – “The holidays are a special time in Anderson Valley. The days are darker, weather colder, and foods richer. And Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale is perfect for this time of year. Deep amber in color, with an inviting aroma of spice and nutmeg, it was made for the turkeys, cranberries, hams, and yams of the holidays. Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale evokes a crackling fire, drifting snow, and smells of home. A hint of spice and hop bite to balance out the creamy and smooth mouthfeel, and medium sweetness.”

Dupont – Saison and Avril

La Brasserie Dupont is a located in Belgium and Saison (6.5% ABV) is a classic among Belgian beers and some regard it as one of the best beers in the world.  Avril (3.5% ABV) is an USDA organic Saison or Farmhouse Ale that is described as a Biere de Table on the bottle label.  Both pour a cloudy yellow tan and the cloudiness is from the bottle conditioning.  Saison was incredibly effervescent and gushed out of the bottle when the cork was popped.  Avril was more restrained there was no gushing.  Both have an aroma of a Saison of bread, yeast, and spice.  Saison has a bit more kick and Avril is a session beer.  You could literally drink it all day with the low alcohol content.  Both these beers have a large lacy head that takes some time to subside.  There is a nice malt taste with a dry, and hoppy finish and Saison is a stonger beer – Avril is more restrained.  Both these beers are good ones and I enjoyed them both.
 Website description from the distributor – Dupont Saison – “Saison Dupont is a world classic beer and the yardstick for one of Belgium’s most important beer styles. It is the most admired AND imitated Saison in the world. The Saison style was pioneered by farms in Wallonie, the grain-growing region of Belgium. Traditionally beers were made during harvest to make use of excess grain. But before refrigeration, beers were hard to keep and the typical method of preservation was higher alcohol and sugar. This made for a heavy beer not very thirst quenching or suitable for hard labor. Golden, spritzy, quenching Saisons were the answer. They were strong enough to keep (4–6.5%) and very well attenuated so excess sugar could not go sour or create unwanted re-fermentations.
A strong, vital yeast is key to full attenuation and thus to the style and why Dupont’s role in its popularization has been central. Starting in the late 1800s and continuing till the present day, Dupont has helped neighboring farms and brewers by selling them yeast and providing lab services!
Saison Dupont is a wonderful straw color with a dense creamy head. The nose is alive, like fresh raised bread, estery with citrus and spice notes. Full-bodied and malty, it sparkles on the palate and finishes with a zesty hop and citrus attack. Incredibly compatible with food!”

Website description from the distributor – Dupont Avril – “Bières de table are not the heavy hitters Belgium is so famous for – but are central to Belgian beer culture because they are how Belgians learn to appreciate beer. They are typically enjoyed with home cooked meals at the family dining table. There is no finer example of the style than Avril. USDA-certified, organic Avril is aromatic like fresh bread, full in the mouth and light on the finish. Exceptionally flavorful given its low 3.5% alcohol by volume.” 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ska – Special ESB

Ska is a brewer that is located in Durango, Colorado and they are known for being an interesting group that likes to poke fun at the establishment.  They even made fun of Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, for his shows on the Discovery channel last year when they made a parody video.  Like the name, these guys enjoy Ska music and featured the Toasters in their parody video.  Not only do the boys from Ska like to have fun, they also brew some very beers.  I picked up Special ESB (5.7% ABV and 58 IBU) as part of a mixed six.  I have wanted to try this for some time and should have purchased some earlier.  Special ESB pours orange gold with a nice small-bubble, two-finger head.  This is a very nice beer with a firm malt background with notes of caramel and a little chocolate.  There is a good addition of hops that provide a well-balanced beer. This is another good beer from Ska.

Website description – “This English Special Bitter is our “Special Ale.”  Special because it was the second canned microbrew in the nation (after Dale’s Pale Ale).  Special because the Galena hops and pale ale malts create a crisp first sip, a hoppy tongue, and a malty sweet finish.  Though “bitter” is part of the name, “better” would be a more accurate term.  Fresh and lively, this canned beer suits the needs of any outdoor enthusiasts.  Like is says on the can: Fish, Luau, Golf, Raft, Toboggan.  Ska can!