Sunday, February 19, 2012

Alaskan Brewing Co. – Black IPA

I am a big fan of Alaskan Brewing Co., I have sampled a number of there beers and I toured the brewery a few years ago.  I had tried their Imperial Black IPA about a year ago and thought it was exellent and it was also weel-received by beer reviewers.  When I saw they changed the spring release to a Black IPA (6.4% ABV and 65 IBU), I had to try it.

American Black Ale – “Also referred to as a Black IPA (India Pale Ale) or Cascadian DarkAle, ales of this style range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy generally with the use of American hops.  Alcholo can range from average to high depending on if the brewery is going for a “double/imperial” version. “ BeerAdvocate

Appearance – This is easy – pitch black with a two-finger dark tan head.
Aroma – Some roasty / toasy notes and citrusy hops – American NW hops.
Taste – Exactly like it’s aroma, there is a nice (but not over-the-top) roast / toast taste from the malt with perhaps just a hint of coffee and then firm citrus (grapefruit) bitterness from the hops.
Overall – B+ This is an excellent, well-balanced Black IPA.  One thing with Alaskan Brewing Co.’s beer is balance and they do a great job of combining the ingredients for a beer that does not emphasize one component.  Is this hop-forward, yes – but the hops play well with the malts. 

Website description – “Alaskan’s spring seasonal release is a new beer experience created from a combination of traditional beer styles. Alaskan Black IPA has the appearance of a porter or stout but combines the roasted malty characters with the refreshing flavor and bright aroma of an American IPA.  Alaskan Black IPA is made from glacier-fed water, generous additions of Cascade, Centennial and other Pacific Northwest hops, and an array of eight different pale, caramel and chocolate malts. 

Ridgeway Brewing Co. – Insanely Bad Elf

First, a shout out to Dennis Wright for bringing me a bottle of Insanely Bad Elf (11.2%) when we had the last beer pairing.  I have seen a few offerings from Ridgeway during the holiday season and they have a number of interesting named varieties – including, Santa’s Butt, Reindeer Droppings, Very Bad Elf, and a number of others.  I have never tried anything from Ridgeway before and there was not much information about the brewery on the net.

English Strong Ale – “Bigger than a Pale Ale yet smaller than a Barleywine the English Strong Ale is a rich and complex beer. Many are unfiltered and bottle conditioned. The color tends to land somewhere between amber and reddish copper. They usually have a bold fruity, estery and malty mix. Hops can vary from mild bitterness to a full blown hop character with a bold hop flavor and aroma. The alcohol can be quite noticeable, a hint of solvent is possible.”  BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Copper with a one-finger head that recedes quickly.
Aroma – Sweetness with some caramel / toffee notes. Some alcohol on the nose too.
Taste – This one is sweet with a sticky / syrupy mouth feel.  There is very little bitterness to balance this beer and from my perspective more hops are needed. 
Overall – B- This is not a bad beer and if you like sweet beers, this would be one to try.

Website description – “A dark flavo(u)r bomb of a beer.  It backs such a punch that it is only available in 330 ml bottles.
Country of origin: England
Brewery: Ridgeway
Beer Style: Winter / Holiday Beer
ABV: 12%
Format: 330 ml Bottles


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anchor – Christmas Ale 2011 or Our Special Ale

Anchor has been around since 1896 and one of the oldest craft breweries in America.  They offer a number of styles and are probably best known for Anchor Steam.  Since 1975 they have brewed a beer for the holidays that is named Christmas Ale or Our Special Ale.  The interesting thing with this beer is the recipe changes every year and the ingredients are kept secret.  Chris Ley, a friend of mine, brought over a bottle because he thought I would enjoy it – he was right. 

Winter Warmer – “These malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal.  Big malt presence, both in flavor and body.  The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black.  Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balance, but hop character can be pronounced.  Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.  Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap “Winter Warmer” on the label.  Those that are spiced, ten to follow the “wassail” tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spice, before hops became the chief “spice” in beer.  American varieties many have a larger presences of hops in bitterness and flavor.”  BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Dark brown with hints of red / mahogany and a light tan head.
Aroma – Spice (cinnamon, holiday spices, root beer), and sweetness (brown sugar, caramel a little chocolate), and citrus.
Taste – One gets a nice spicy taste that is not overpowering and you detect the holiday spices, then sweetness like brown sugar / caramel, bready / biscuity from the malt and some citrus / earthy / pine from the bitterness.  Very good. 
Overall – A – This is an excellent winter seasonal and I will purchase it next year. Thanks for brining one to me Chris.

Website description – “Each year since 1975, Anchor Brewing creates a distinctive Christmas Ale, available from early November to mid-January. A rich, dark spiced ale, our secret recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life.  Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. Our tree for 2011 is the bristlecone pine. Found high atop California's White Mountains, bristlecones are among the oldest living things on the planet. Some date back nearly 5,000 years, to the dawn of the ancient art of brewing. Each year our Christmas Ale gets a unique label and a unique recipe. Although our recipes must remain a secret, many save a few bottles from year to year. Properly refrigerated, the beer remains intriguing and drinkable for years. Different nuances emerge as the flavor mellows slightly, much like the memories of great holiday seasons past. Celebrate the holidays with Anchor Christmas Ale, an Anchor tradition since 1975.”


Saturday, February 11, 2012

January Beer Tasting – Pilsners and Thai

Last night, Tibor, Chris, and Dennis came over for a night of tasting Pilsners and Thai food.  The Thai food was obtained from one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Colorado, Wild Ginger in Littleton, CO.  I picked up Pad Thai Chicken, Panang Curry with Pork, Pad Prik Khing, egg rolls, and peanut sauce.  Chris also brought over some veal brats in sauerkraut and I had some hot wings too.  We had a number of Pilsners from various brewers and the pairing of Pilsners and Thai food was excellent.  I had earlier read the food pairing section for Pilsners in Garret Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table and he suggested spicy ethnic food (Thai, Indian, and Mexican) and any variety of sausage.  Mr. Oliver’s recommendations were perfect and I highly recommend Pilsners with Thai food.

The beers sampled in order were as follows:
Pilsner Urquell (4.4% ABV) – This is the one that started the Pilsner style in 1842 from the Czech town of Pilsen.

Pug Ryan’s – Pali Pilsner – Is named after a ski run in the Arapahoe basin and is a Bohemian style Pilsner.  Pug Ryan’s is based in Dillon, CO.

Left Hand – Polestar Pilsner (5.5% ABV and 33 IBU) – From Left Hand Brewing in Boulder – I enjoyed one of these after a long bike ride last year and it is tasty.

Bristol – Yellow Kite (5.25% ABV and 25 IBU) – Bristol is located in Colorado Springs and Yellow Kit is a European-style Pilsner.

Lagunitas – Pils (6.2% ABV and 38 IBU) – Lagunitas is a very good brewer from California and Pils is a Czech-style Pils.

Oskar Blues – Mama’s Little Yella Pils (5.3% ABV and 35 IBU) – Oskar Blues is based in Lyons, CO and is one of my favorite brewers.

Unita – Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsners (9% ABV and 35 IBU) – Don’t let anyone tell you they do not brew beer in Utah.  This was everyone’s favorite of the evening.  It was just a tad sweeter than the others and was very easy to drink.  One cannot taste the higher alcohol in Tilted Smile.

The evening was great and it is always great to be able to spend time with good friends, food, and tasty brew.  Next month, we will be going to Tibor’s for a trip to Belgium. 

Boulder Beer – Cold Hop

Boulder Beer Company is the oldest microbrewery in Colorado and they were established in 1979.  I had not tried Cold Hop (6.3% ABV and 46 IBU) that is an English-Style IPA and when I saw it at the local store, I picked up a bottle to add to a mixed 6-pack.  

English IPA – ">First brewed in England and exported for the British troops in India during the late 1700s. To withstand the voyage, IPA's were basically tweaked Pale Ales that were, in comparison, much more malty, boasted a higher alcohol content and were well-hopped, as hops are a natural preservative. Historians believe that an IPA was then watered down for the troops, while officers and the elite would savor the beer at full strength. The English IPA has a lower alcohol due to taxation over the decades. The leaner the brew the less amount of malt there is and less need for a strong hop presence which would easily put the brew out of balance. Some brewers have tried to recreate the original IPA with strengths close to 8-9% abv.”  BeerAdvocate
Appearance – Orange/gold with a lacy two-finger head and it is cloudy.
Aroma – You smell malt sweetness and grassy and citrus from the hops.
Taste – One can easily taste the sweetness from the British Malt and then the citrus/grass notes from the hops.  This beer has a firm bitterness, but it is not over the top bitter.  A nice English-style IPA. 
Overall – B – A nice English-style IPA.  Boulder Beer Co. brews solid beers and Cold Hop is another nice one from them. 

Website description – “A unique beer with a rich golden hue.  It’s pleasantly fruity.  Floral hop aroma perfectly balance the mile sweetness of the British grains, for a refreshing yet high-gravity British-style ale.  Limited release available July through fall.
Grains: Maris Otter Pale Malt, Honey Malt, 10-15 Crystal Malt
Kettle Hops: Willamette, Czech Saaz, Hallertau, and Hercules
Dry Hop: Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand”

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sierra Nevada – Ruthless Rye

When I see a new offering by a one of my favorite brewers, I make a purchase.  A few weeks ago, I saw a new offering from Sierra Nevada – Ruthless Rye (6.6% ABV and 55 IBU) that is an IPA brewed with rye as a component of the grain bill.  This is a spring seasonal offering from Sierra Nevada and I hope it becomes a regular offering.  This is an excellent beer and I will pick up some more on the next trip to the store.  For Sierra Nevada, I always pick up some Tumbler in the autumn and Celebration in the winter and Bigfoot this time of year.  I will add Ruthless Rye to that list of annual purchases.  Sierra Nevada is one of the larger craft brewers and I appreciate them trying new beers and always – I mean always – producing great beers that are a pleasure to taste.

Rye Beer – “Not to be confused with a German Roggenbier, beers that fall into this category contain a notable amount of rye grain in the grist bill. Bitterness tends to be moderate, to allow the often spicy and sour-like rye characteristics to pull through”.  Beer Advocate
Appearance – Copper / amber with a frothy two-finger head.  If you pour this quickly, you will get a large head. It is clear with good carbonation.
Aroma – You smell hops and a really nice citrus smell of grapefruit and lemons with some hints of pine.
Taste – I first was hit by the citrus / grapefruit by the hops then a bit of bread from the malt and then a nice spicy dry finish from the rye. 
Overall – A – this one is easy to grade and is just a wonderful beer, the appearance, aroma and taste make for a great sensory experience. 

Website description – “Rye has been a staple grain for millennia—sought after for its stubborn resilience in the field and revered for its unique flavor. Ruthless Rye IPA is brewed with rustic grains for refined flavors—combining the peppery spice of rye and the bright citrusy flavors of whole-cone hops to create a complex ale for the tumultuous transition to spring”.

alcohol content 6.6% by volume
beginning gravity 15.2 Plato
ending gravity 3.1 Plato
bittering hops BRAVO
bitterness units 55