Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shipyard Brewing Company - XXXX IPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a tulip

The clear amber body of this double IPA from Shipyard reveals a tight, rising carbonation. The head is large and colored in a yellowy tan. The foam retention is solid and the lacing is sticky and clings to the glass in large swathes. Toffee-like toasted malts define the nose with cellary yeast, hints of vanilla and a mild booziness. There's a light fusel alcohol and the beer seems to have minimal hops on the nose, although those present have a pine edge.

The beer has a mouthfeel that seems immediately crisp and pairs with the very strong character. The beer's alcohol is prominent, but not off-putting. Toasted malts play well with the hops, which are higher on the aromatics and accenting flavors than on distinct bitterness. The character of the beer's Cascade hops seemingly take center stage. There are hints of sweet fruit on the mid-palate that subsides to a dry, boozy finish with light oak elements.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lagunitas Brewing Company - Wilco Tango Foxtrot (WTF) Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 750 mL bottle, poured into a snifter

This limited release from Lagunitas bills itself, quite humorously, as "A malty, robust jobless recovery ale." The beer pours a deep chestnut brown body. The beer's modest light tan head is light on retention and produces very little lacing. On a second, more vigorous pour, a fluffier head arose and left thin sticky lacing. The nose is spicy and strong with a lightly minerally water edge. The beer has a cellared feel with a musty yeast character and a slightly herbal character.

The beer's deep roasted malts have a rich toasted edge. The beer is strong, but not boozy. Dark fruits are mild, but provide a taste of latent sugar that underlies the beer's more robust elements. Additionally, moderately piney and quite resinous hops give the brew added depth and make this big beer quite enjoyable.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stoudts Brewing Company - Heifer-in-Wheat

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass posing as a weizen glass

As the name suggests, this German-style beer prominently features malted wheat. The beer pours a deeply hazy yellow with orangey tints. The sudsy, medium-sized head lightly crackles as it slowly recedes. With a big nose of wheat malts, the aroma is accented by mild citrus and big spice notes. As is common, the spice aroma features prominent clove with hints of coriander and a mild cinnamon.

The clove and cinnamon are big on the flavor with hints of banana phenols, which are strong, but not overpowering. There's a slight meatiness and biscuity malt flavor over the velvety carbonation and spicy body. The wheat malts are sweet and pack a satin texture. The finish is crisp and drinkable with a mild, yet pleasant aftertaste, despite a very mild astringency.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beerisms 23 - E. B. Foote

"Malt liquors may be considered wholesome, 
if used in moderation, 
by lean, nervous, cold, bloodless persons, 
but not by individuals of full habit."
-E. B. Foot, M.D.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Victory Brewing Co. - Victory Lager

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass

This Helles-style lager from Victory pours a light and pale body with a very yellowy hue with some almost-green tints. The beer is slightly hazy with a thin head that's light on retention but leaves bits of lace on the glass. The nose is sweet with floral notes and a huge clover honey component. The light waxy aroma is reminiscent of honeycomb.

Honey sweetness for days up front with mild malts backing. The beer is lightly hoppy with a Noble-type hop edge. Mild bitterness adds some depth to the beer, but is second to the malt character. There's a light, fresh grassiness and a slight herbal tinge. The crisp and velvety carbonation added with the accessible flavor makes this very drinkable and refreshing. Ideal for Summer drinking.

Final Verdict: B+

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Midas Touch Golden Elixir

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a chalice

Brewed with Muscat grapes and Saffron, Midas Touch is an ambitious and interesting offering from Dogfish Head. This Golden Elixir pours a brilliant apple juice golden hue with calm, slowly rising, carbonation. Its medium-sized white head is lightly frothy with an even surface. Retention and lacing are both light. The nose is slightly musty nose. Malts seem light and are seemingly overshadowed by the sweet Muscat aroma.

The beer is clearly strong, though not alcohol forward or necessarily boozy. A clear up front fruitiness comes from the grapes, but then seems to contribute to a clear sêche wine or Port character. There's a very mild hint of saffron. The lack of abundant saffron flavor is not surprising given the spice's high price, the its sparing use accents the beer, rather than taking it over. This strong beer wraps up leaving a slick mouthfeel and a mild, but present chest heat.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Festina Pêche

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a goblet

This flavored offering from Dogfish Head prominently features the brew addition of peach concentrate. If you don't want your juice from concentrate, do you want your beer that way? Festina Pêche pours a light straw with a hazy complexion and gentle rising carbonation. The moderately-sized creamy white head sticks around with modest retention and produces light lacing. There's an average maltiness to the nose. The peach aroma is initially subtle, but ultimately defines the nose. The added fruit is sweet, but not cloying or candied.

The beer's bright carbonation makes for a crisp body. Despite this, the beer's sweetness seems syrupy up front. Big peach cobbler flavor enters in early and briefly. A tart, almost grape-like mid-palate dismisses the peach and reveals a disappointingly thin malt showing. There's a lightly sugary toothfeel on the finish. The beer is sessionable and quite drinkable, but it's not substantial, nor is it anything too special.

Final Verdict: C+

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hacker-Pschorr Bräu - Hefe Weisse Natürtrub

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass, posing as a weizen glass

This traditional Bavarian wheat beer pours a muted orange-brown with long stringy suspensions of yeast. The massive, creamy, off-white head is stiff with massive peaks of foam. The retention of the head is excellent and leaves large, thick chunks of lacing. Spicy wheat malts on the nose are adorned with light hints of coriander and mild cinnamon. As is common, big clove notes play nicely with laid back banana phenols.

Creamy and full-bodies, the beer boasts a velvet carbonation that accentuates the big bready malt. Banana bread flavor is rich and satisfying with hints of vanilla and undertones of traditional wheat beer spices and minor cocoa notes. The finish produces a lasting and lightly fruity aftertaste. Vague cinnamon, mild all spice and hints of walnut linger.

This beer, like many Bavarian brews boasts that it is brewed under the Reinheitsgebot or "German Purity Laws." I've complained about this marketing tactic before, but I'll mention again, that according to the Reinheitsgebot, only barley could be used in the production of beer. Therefore, a wheat beer, such as this (and as good as it is) cannot possibly adhere to the long outmoded restrictions.

What's more, the Reinheitsgebot, now championed (for marketing purposes) as a beer quality standard, was actually instated to protect bread production. The law was designed to protect the best bread-making grains (wheat, rye, etc.) from being used in beer production, therefore adversely affecting food production.

Final Verdict: A-

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brasserie Dubuisson Frères - Bush Ambrée (Scaldis)

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 250 mL bottle, poured into a snifter

This Belgian Strong Pale Ale from Dubuisson comes in a diminutive bottle, with flavors to contrast its size. The beer pours an orange body with a slight brown tint and a fine suspension of yeast particulate. The thin white head provides a great contrast in color. The retention is modest, but expected for the ABV of the beer and produces very light wisps of lace. A very winey nose differentiates this beer from other Strong Pales. Sweet malts and piles of apricots contrast the slight woodiness of the aroma. The beer is clearly strong and carries light hints of banana.

The beer is strong and sweet, it calms down on the sweetness a bit as the beer warms. The heat from the alcohol develops with the warmth, but with seemingly less fusel alcohol the brew seems to mellow nicely. Light figs and candied fruits lend a sugariness that is never syrupy, thanks to a solid, velvety carbonation. The finish is strong with a light alcoholic edge and vague chest warming. Residual sugars rest on the palate after the finish.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brewery Ommegang - BPA - Belgian-style Pale Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass

The Belgian-style Pale Ale from Ommegang, the brewery that does everything 'Belgian-style' pours a hazy orange body with a warm golden glow. Rushing carbonation rises from the center of the glass. The head is massive, emphasized by the shape of the tulip glass. The foam is airy and cloud-like in off-white with large carbonation bubbles. The spicy nose is accentuated on the head of the beer and carries oily orange peel essence.

BPA comes off fresh, despite its huge spicy notes. Coriander is paired citrusy orange sweetness. Fresh malts provide a sweetness to balance the spice character to create an herbal and leafy characteristic to the beer. Meanwhile, dry hops add big aromatics. The mouthfeel is crisp with solid carbonation, but surprisingly leads to a slick finish that is slightly boozy with a bit of backend heat. The beer is very drinkable, but not exactly in the sessionable range.

Final Verdict: A-

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Narragansett Together At Last - Review Recap

Over the last year of Musings on Beer I've reviewed all of the beers offered by new (old) up and comer Narragansett Brewing Company. After collecting all of the seasonals and saving one tallboy each, I'm finally able to show them all together in their matching glory and think back at all of the reviews I've done.

Originally established in 1890 Narragansett had a good run, over 90 years, of brewing and success in the New England market. Unfortunately, with the advent and subsequent domination of the mega-producers Narragansett Brewery was shuttered and the once popular (sponsor of the Boston Red Sox) Narragansett lager was no more. This is a fate shared by many of the once dominant brands, many of which have been resurrected by Stroh Brewing Company, later bought by Pabst Brewing Company (e.g. Schaefer, Schlitz, and Pabst itself). While the brands exist they exist more in a state of IP holding, produced only through contract brew.

Narragansett's story is similar, yet unique from many of the brands of yester-year. In 2005 the Narragansett brand was purchased and resurrected by one Mark Hellendrung. While each of the beers is contract brewed, the dream is to bring the brand to prominence in the New England market and earn enough to re-open an official Narragansett Brewery. Well-known Genesee Brewing Company of Rochester, NY currently brews the Lager and Light varieties while the limited run seasonals are brewed in Providence, RI and Pawcatuck, CT.

While I wouldn't label any of the brews 'World Class' each stands apart from the competition in their respective groups. The Lager and Light versions stack up favorably to other American Adjunct Lagers and similar Macrobrews. What's more, it is fairly rare for American macro producers to release a series of seasonal ales and lagers. It is even rarer for the beers to come out well-crafted and delicious. To cap it all off, my appreciation for Narragansett, the brand, the beers, and the plan is the storied past and the sheer affordability. Cheaper than most comparable offerings from macros and craft producers these beers are stand outs in their iconic can designs.

Check the individual reviews below for more information:
Narragansett Lager
Narragansett Light
Narragansett Bock (Spring Seasonal)
Narragansett Summer Ale (Summer Seasonal)
Narragansett Fest Lager (Fall Seasonal)
Narragansett Porter (Winter Seasonal)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cisco Brewers - Bailey's Blonde Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, marked "3/4 pint," poured into a pint glass

This brew from Nantucket pours a bleary golden blonde with diffuse wisps of floating yeast in the mellow glowing body. The slightly yellowed head is large and frothy with excellent retention. Dry citrus hops on the nose complement the fresh grainy malts. A hint of green grapes and a Champagne component keep this from being your 'every day' blonde ale.

For a blonde, the beer has a significant hop character. Some grapefruit citrus provides a moderate bitterness and plays with an almost-herbal pine. The malts are clear and clean with a fresh cracked grain character. A mild breadiness leads into the finish, which is arid with a mild, lingering, but mellow, sweetness.

Final Verdict: B

Friday, August 19, 2011

Abita - Jockamo IPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

The bright sparkling amber body from the Louisiana brewer, Abita, shines in the light. The medium sized head is a light tan with an almost soapy and sticky consistency. The head retention is moderate, but produces a consistent ring of lacing at the top of the glass. The biscuity malt nose is sweet with understated hops. It seems fragrant, but subdued.

The beer is very malty and shares the same base toasty malts found in the other beers from Abita. It seems the minerally water is also prominent here. It is floral with hints of hibiscus and a textured mouthfeel that departs with a grainy feel. The finish is sweet with a very light hop character. The beer is definitely on the lighter side of hops for a typical IPA, and it finishes with a dry, slightly unappealing, aftertaste.

Final Verdict: C

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boulder Beer Company - Sweaty Betty Blonde

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pilsner glass posing as a weizen glass

Sweaty Betty from Boulder Beer Company pours a light hazy blonde with silky streaks of floating yeast from a vigorous pour and swirl. The beer has a healthy head of fine carbonation speckled with dots of yeast. The solid retention subsides to large swathes of lacing. Spicy wheat malts define the nose with notes of coriander and light cinnamon. Banana phenols are plentiful, but don't overwhelm the nose.

The beer is sweet and crisp with a carbonation that keeps a constant texture throughout the length of the sip. The beer is very light and drinkable, owing partially to the blended wheat and barley malts. It seems quite sessionable and great for Summer drinking. Mild grassiness with plenty of ripe banana flavor give the brew a true hefeweizen taste that lasts right through the finish.

Final Verdict: B

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opa-Opa Brewing Company - Blueberry Lager

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Opa-Opa's Blueberry Lager ("with all natural flavor added") pours an extremely pale, almost diluted looking straw with a bluish/purple tint. The moderate white head also carries a slight tint, but musters disappointingly lousy retention. The nose is sweet and sugary with a canned blueberry pie filling aroma. Luckily it doesn't smack of either artificiality or cloying sweetness.

This beer has big soda-like qualities. It seems a bit like a soda, only the 'natural' side of things, without the overbearing sugar. It isn't very beer-like but it isn't bad either. The blueberry flavoring adds a sweetness, but isn't over blown or artificial seeming. The modest tea-like maltiness peaks near the finish and is accompanied by a moderate dryness and lacks the customary sugary toothsome feel.

Final Verdict: C

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harpoon Brewery - Harpoon's UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a flute

The raspberry version of Harpoon's "UnFiltered Offering" pours a thin straw with a pinkish hue. The coloring is reminiscent of a cranberry juice cocktail or grapefruit juice. The head is extremely light and airy with huge carbonation bubbles and a slightly-tinted off-white color. The candy raspberry nose is very sweet and tart.

The thin wheat malts seem sour under the excessive and toothsome sweetness. The tight and crisp carbonated mouthfeel gives the beer a soda-like edge. The finish has a slight adjunct lager taste to it along with a sugary tooth feel and a modest candy-like raspberry flavoring.

Final Verdict: D+

Monday, August 15, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company - Hop Sun

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

This mixed-malt Summer Seasonal from Southern Tier pours a pale golden straw with a slight chilled haziness. The head is a thin off-white foam with modest retention. The sweet wheat malt nose packs a dusting of tight hops with an orangey citrus edge. Minor pine notes compliment the bouquet.

Tight carbonation accents the very light biscuity malts. The added wheat gives a bit of extra sweet graininess that plays off the hops. The hops seem fresh and grassy, but not much in the way of bittering. There's a slight bitterness to the finish and the hopping lends a sturdy dryness to the mouthfeel.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cisco Brewers - Indie Pale Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, says "3/4 pint", poured into a pint glass

The new Indie Pale Ale from Cisco pours a striking ruby-orange-tinted full amber body with a hazy and deeply colorful complexion. The head is a massive, frothy light tan foam with a slightly yellowed edge. The head retention is stellar and the beer produces a moderate, but flowing, lace on the glass. The huge hop nose is not exactly piercing, but to call it pungent may be an understatement. The hops are fruity, sweet, and aromatic with a clear edge of grapefruit.

The coarse graininess of the beer gives the mouthfeel some texture. Full-bodied grains are toasty with a caramel sweetness that tones down the beer's hops a bit. The hopping is big and dry with moderate citrus notes. A slight resinous pine component adds an extra layer of complexity to the bittering. The hops are quite strong, but are never overbearing. This is a clear East Coast take on a West Coast-style American IPA.

Final Verdict: A-

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stoudts Brewing Company - Pils

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a fluted glass

This German-style Pilsner from Stoudts pours a shining crystal clear medium-gold straw body with a modest head of fine white foam. The head retention is moderate and produces thick, chunky lacing. The nose is malty with prominent Noble-type hops. A slight dustiness from the hops and a Belgian-like yeast aroma give the beer a classic Pilsner profile and at once signals a modern interpretation.

The sweet velvety malts up front hold well with an attack from dandelion-like hop bitterness. The hop profile comes into its own on the mid-palate. The crisp finish is very dry and producing a lasting, almost desert-like mouthfeel. The only solution is to quench the arid feel with another sip.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yuengling - Bock Beer

Donated By: Shane Angus
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a fluted glass

This relatively obscure seasonal offering from Pennsylvania's famous Yuengling pours a deep brownish and tawny amber body with a perpetual red glow. The healthy light tan head has a flat brown edge. The lightly creamy foam produces a light, thin lacing. Huge malts on the nose with the classic Yuengling Traditional Lager malt detectable. Considerable toastiness and caramel notes define the aroma.

The carbonation is crisp and vibrant. Earthy toasted malts are exuded with a damp wood-like component. Tinge from the carbonation and a lightly bitter and dusty hopping keeps the bold malts in check. This is a very drinkable and competent Bock seasonal. This is a beer all Yuengling fans should keep an eye out for.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Stone Brewing Company

Also on my way down to San Deigo, I stopped in for a tour at Stone Brewing Company. I stopped here first, only to find out that the next tour was booked and that I had two hours to kill. I spent that time enjoying life at The Lost Abbey. Walking down the path from the parking lot reveals a vibrant path lined by plenty of foliage and benches.
The facility was quite large, but unfortunately, I didn't take notes. I believe that Stone moved to this current location in the mid-00's, but I can't be sure. With a number of brew tanks and mash tuns, the output ability of Stone is impressive, for a craft brew operation.

The tour guide hit all of the brewing basics, explaining the process and the ingredients. In each of the bottles are a selection of the malts used to produce the individual beer. The guide also passed around glasses containing the brewery's base malts, a toasted caramel malt, another specialty malt and a selection of whole hop flowers. He revealed, though, that Stone uses, almost exclusively, hop pellets, rather than whole cones.

The dented pipes here still do their job, but we found out that there was a forklift incident some time ago.

A look at the bottling line. Unfortunately, some of my other photos of it came out a bit too blurry for posting. We couldn't get too close because eye and ear protection are required.
A tower of cases ready for packaging.

After the tour we spent some time in the tap room/gift shop where we sampled four Stone brews. I can't remember which exactly they were, but there was at least one optional beer to rotate in. Most of the beers were standard fare. Stone's IPA, Levitation Pale Ale, Arrogant Bastard, and one more.

Also for sale were growlers and individual bottles. I bought a handful of bottles for the road. They hung in there for quite a long time (in a cooler, refreshed with ice at least daily). I enjoyed one in Arizona, and three in Texas. I didn't take many notes on them, and missed a photo of the ordinary Russian Imperial Stout.
Stone Brewing Company - Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout
Purchased From: Stone Brewing Company
Enjoyed At: The Cochise Stronghold
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into Lost Abbey stemware

This is the Stone Imperial Russian Stout, tricked out. The addition of Belgian yeast gives the beer an extra cellary component and a distinctive spiciness on the nose. The addition of anise is impressively strong. The licorice flavor elements of anise play nicely with the silky roasted malts of the Imperial Stout. The licorice nearly overwhelms the beer, but gives an interesting new perspective on a classic style.

Stone Brewing Company - Cali-Belgique IPA
Purchased From: Stone Brewing Company
Enjoyed At: Lake Nasworthy, San Angelo, TX
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into Lost Abbey stemware

Cali-Belgique is a Belgian-style IPA brewed in the West Coast tradition. The beer pours with a massive fluffy white head with excellent retention and layered elegant lacing. The golden glowing straw body has a mix of orange and red hues throughout. The nose is a classic Belgian yeastiness. It is spicy with big coriander and citrus notes. While there's a big orange component, the hops do not dominate the nose. The yeast is center stage.

The body of the flavor comes from coarsely cracked grainy malts with a honey-like (but not waxy) sweetness. The West Coast-style hopping is big and very dry, but not in the least overbearing. The mouthfeel is velvety and succumbs to a definitive spiciness on the finish that give the beer a slightly musty Belgian edge that plays well with the dry hoppiness.

Stone Brewing Company - Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
Purchased From: Stone Brewing Company
Enjoyed At: Austin, TX
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into Lost Abbey stemware

This American Black Ale pours a very dark mahogany with red and brown glows. A massive frothy creamy head in a flat tan tops the beer with great retention and lacing. The nose is grassy with a lightly sour edge and a slightly tart freshness. Big piney hops give the beer a slightly skunky 'pot-like' aroma. The beer is smokey, produced by the well-roasted malts, but is balanced nicely by an array of floral hops. The balancing act seems delicate, but is pulled off quite well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Company

On my way down to San Deigo from Los Angeles I could not miss stopping at the popular, but elusive Lost Abbey. The brewery, along with its "American side" Port Brewing Company are well known and popular among beer drinkers in the region, but has very sparse distribution. From Connecticut, the closest areas in Lost Abbey's distribution are the Boston and Philadelphia metro areas.
The brewery is hidden away in a commercial park, but clearly marked by its grain silo painted to look like a large barrel. After entering through the large garage door, the open taproom is directly ahead. I got lucky on my timing. I was in the area on a Wednesday, but the taproom is usually only open for bottle sales. I was more than happy to find out that because the Home Brewers Convention was in town, Lost Abbey modified their hours.
Lost Abbey has a large barrel program, giving their beers interesting, layered flavor profiles. The evidence of their barrel aging was all around the facility.
At the counter of the tap room I sampled six Lost Abbey beers. A number of them were also available in bottles, although I didn't buy any. I did, however, buy a glass as a souvenir.
The Lost Abbey - Avant Garde
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

At the Lost Abbey they insist that this beer is truly Avant Garde, and it should not be considered brewed in the style of the traditional French Bière de Garde style. While it may be true, or at least believable, this beer does share some similarities to the style, as well as the related Belgian Saison style. The beer pours a rich ruby amber with a moderate white Caramel and honey essence are present in the malt aroma as well as a mild booziness.

The beer has a pronounced spice spice element and a subtle depth of flavor and richness. It seems fairly dry and has a somewhat musty or dusty component, consistent with the cellared edge of the style. There's a slight mash feature as well as a seemingly charred flavor. It doesn't seem like the charred roasted flavor of a stout, there's a greater emphasis on the woodiness than the smokiness. A delicious, well-made beer.

The Lost Abbey - Red Barn Ale
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

Following up the Avante Garde, I had the Red Barn Ale. The order is very fitting considering the Red Barn Ale is a Saison-style beer, also known as a 'Farmhouse Ale,' which has a heritage very similar to the Bière de Garde. The beer poured a golden straw body with a healthy white head that carried a slightly creamy texture. The nose was spicy, with hints like a witbier. In fact, the beer is brewed with barley, wheat, and oats.

Very big on the spice, there are hints of ginger and black pepper that give the beer a drying edge. Pronounced citrusy orange peel is prominent blending with the spice notes and the semi-sweet malts of the beer. The carbonation is very crisp and lends itself to a crisp finish with a lasting spiciness.

The Lost Abbey - Serpent's Stout
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

Serpent's Stout, an American Imperial Stout pours a very dark brown with a thick, creamy medium tan head. Smokiness is pervasive on the nose with rich, deeply roasted, coffee notes and a hint of dark chocolate.

The body of the beer is strong with a smokiness, bold caramel and minor esters. The beer seems very thick, almost pudding like. In a 4 oz. sample it was difficult to determine how heavy the beer actually is, but it seems very strong and clearly alcoholic. Not a session beer, but an event. Dark roasted malts add sweetness of caramel and toffee that are tempered by the smoke finish.

The Lost Abbey - Framboise de Amorosa
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

Framboise de Amorosa is a famous, interesting, and unique play from the Lost Abbey. Although I can't confirm there is actually any spontaneous fermentation going on, I've seen it dubbed an 'American Wild Ale,' clearly taking after the Belgian Lambic ales that undergo spontaneous fermentation. Similarly, the Belgian Guezes have fruit added to them to produce a variety of interestingly and delicious fruit beers.

In this case, the beer is aged in fresh red wine barrels and sees three additions of raspberries during its year-plus aging period. The beer pours with a ruby accent to a light amber body. The glow is brightly red and the nose is a sweet, candy-like, raspberry.

The sweet raspberry flavor is akin to a Belgian Framboise, but with a much more sturdy malt body. The underlying malts aren't quite overshadowed in this case, and there's a clearly present alcohol component. There's a very familiar candy sugar feel toothsome feel on the finish.

The Lost Abbey - The Angel's Share (Aged in Brandy Barrels)
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

As I hear, the beer starts out a lot lighter, more of a burgundy than a brown, but after a year in a barrel, it comes out more of a deep brown mahogany with mixed ruby and golden glows. A year in a Brandy barrel adds a considerable boozy grape component to the beer as well as a mild oakiness on the nose.

The beer has big chocolatey notes and a velvety mouthfeel. It is boozy and strong with raisins for days and tons of sweet dark fruits, which play well with the depth of flavors imparted from the barrel aging. A slight evaporating carbonation adds a tingle to the finish of the beer. It is very different from the common understanding of what beer is. The Lost Abbey is not the first or the last brewery to delve into barrel aging, but this is a great example of what can result. I preferred the Brandy barrel-aged version of The Angel's Share to the Burbon barrel.

The Lost Abbey - The Angel's Share (Aged in Burbon Barrels)
Enjoyed At: The Lost Abbey Taproom, San Marcos, CA
Serving Type: 4 oz. sampler glass, poured from the tap

The Burbon barrel-aged version of The Angel's Share pours a very similar mahogany brown with competing glows from within. The nose carries a distinct smokey whiskey edge with clear vanilla characteristics. The oak from the barrel also asserts itself on the nose.

An unmistakable Burbon aroma manifests itself in the flavor giving this beer a strong whiskey influence. It almost overtakes the beer. The fired oak flavor is present throughout, as well. I preferred the Brandy barrel-aged version, but would gladly have either. Both were well worth trying, given the opportunity.

From their website: "Down in Kentucky and across the pond in Scotland, distillers who age their whiskeys for many years refer to the evaporation of the spirits from their barrels as "The Angel's Share." We couldn't agree more. Each time a barrel is filled, a measure of liquid seeps into the oak and is lost for good."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beerisms 22 - Cyril Pearl

"If you carry out a blindfold test...
you'll find that the beer snob 
is just as much a galah as the wine snob."
-Cyril Pearl

Musings On The Road (Again)

Despite the fact that I still haven't finished posting about my beer experiences from my trip to the American West and Southwest, more beer-related travels are in my future. Expect the rest of my trip experiences to appear on the blog this week (actually, unlike last time I said that).

What's in my future?

First up is the Belgian Beer Fest, put on by BeerAdvocate. Like my time at the American Craft Brew Fest I will be volunteering at the early Saturday session with the hops of tasting a bunch of beers during my breaks. Stay tuned for my coverage.

The BBF is being held at The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts Friday September 9 and Saturday September 10. There's an evening session Friday and two Saturday sessions. Friday's "Night of Funk" promises a more personal experience, with limited tickets. Saturday boasts over 125 beers for your sampling needs. For more information check out the official website.

Second, like last time again, I will be heading to the airport on the Monday following my Beer Fest adventure. This time, instead of heading West, I'll be heading East. I have two primary stops, Scotland, home of Scotch, and Munich, home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, which will be in full swing when I arrive.

Expect scenes from my travels, from the festival, and thoughts on beers and whiskeys. Your thoughts and recommendations for sights and sounds on my travels are appreciated. I'm especially looking for ideas in Scotland. I'll be primarily (if not exclusively) in Edinburgh. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Healthy Spirits and George Gale's Prize Old Ale

While exploring the various neighborhoods of San Francisco I came upon a little beer store called "Healthy Spirits." With a name like that and Chimay Trappist sign hanging over the doorway at this corner establishment, I couldn't stay away.
The ample decorations were a sign of the ample section to come. The spot had a wide selection of beers and an impressive selection of glassware. Thinking back, now, I am wondering if I could've purchased a beer (and maybe a glass too) and enjoyed it outside at one of those tables. That would've been a great way to enjoy the beautiful day, but I'm not sure about San Francisco's laws regarding drinking outside, or if Healthy Spirits is licensed for on-premises consumption.

Unfortunately, most of my photos from inside came out blurry. What's more, the one's that came out clear weren't great shots to begin with. Either way, the selection of single bottles (chilled and room temperature) was impressive. I got sold by the proprietor on an interesting selection of (very) Old Ales by George Gale & Co. I bought the series of five years 1996-2000 for $10 total.

Overall, I'd say the Old Ales were a bit too old for their good. These vintages have received very favorable reviews, but the reviews I've seen pegged them mostly between five and seven years old at the time they were consumed, where the youngest I tried was between ten and eleven years old.

George Gale & Co. - Prize Old Ale - 2000 Vintage
Purchased From: Healthy Spirits
Enjoyed At: The Nor Cal Coast
Serving Type: 9.3 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The corked bottle pours a dark murky brown that gives the appearance of a secluded murky lake. There no head of foam and very little carbonation, almost none perceptible to the tongue. A decade or so will do that to a beer sealed with a cork. The nose is slightly boozy and grainy with a hint of aromatic apples.

The body of the beer is smooth and slick. There's a slight bit of booziness, but no burn or much heat in the chest. A definite Port wine character defines the beer buttressed by apples with a slightly sour, but subdued edge. Minor dates and dried dark fruits lend some added depth and a sweetness to the beer. The finish is dry and sweet without any crispness.

George Gale & Co. - Prize Old Ale - 1999 Vintage
Purchased From: Healthy Spirits
Enjoyed At: 'The Shack'
Serving Type: 9.3 oz. bottle, poured into a juice glass

The 1999 Vintage of Gale's Prize Old Ale shares many of its characteristics with its younger sibling from 2000. The beer pours the same murky brown with almost no carbonation and absolutely no head. The crispness of a firm carbonation has long leaked from this cork-sealed bottle. The same boozy graininess and a hint of apples is present here as well.

Added to the Port wine character of this beer is a certain medicinal quality. It's not exactly off-putting (although it gets close), but changes the overall tone of the beer. Added to the more-sweet apples is a hint of spice and a distinct nuttiness. Overshadowing the dried dark fruits here is a powerful walnut character. My gracious hosts at 'The Shack' agreed (as I remember). The sweetness is more considerable than the younger vintage.

George Gale & Co. - Prize Old Ale - 1998 Vintage
Purchased From: Healthy Spirits
Enjoyed At: 'The Shack'
Serving Type: 9.3 oz. bottle, poured into a juice glass

The only big difference between the 1998 and the two I reviewed so far is the sweetness. If the 1999 was sweeter than the 2000, the 1998 is much sweeter than both. At this point I found the sweetness completely off-putting. To the point that the beer was almost undrinkable (in my opinion) the sweetness was cloying and overbearing. One additional difference that I noted was a further development of the nutty flavor. Beyond the distinct walnut there was a modest addition of a dank, earthy, woodiness.

Alas, my stay at 'The Shack' came to an end before I could sample the final two vintages (1996 and 1997). As a result, I'll be relying on my friend and host, Alix, (a homebrewer) for her opinion. Little does she know she's been tasked with this, but she has.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Beers from California via Mobile Phone Camera

New Belgium Brewing - Fat Tire
Enjoyed at: Khana Penna
Serving Type: From the tap, in a 16 oz. pint glass

Moderate amber body, slight foamy white head from the tap. Malty, mash-like grain nose. Very malty, fairly sweet with a crispness from that carbonation that cuts the sweetness a bit. A true malt-bomb with very little distinguishable hopping.

Brouwerij Bavik - Petrus Aged Pale Brewing
Enjoyed at: The Trappist
Serving Type: From the tap, in a chalice

Sorry for the poor (poor) lighting, but a candle-lit Trappist bar cannot go undocumented, no matter how poor the photo comes out. The beer is a light straw body with a slight haze. The small foam head is white in color with tiny carbonation bubbles. The nose is tight with a sweetness and distinct sour edge and a somewhat spicy finish. The beer is tart with interesting grape-like qualities. It's quite winey and carries elements of spice. The finish is slightly sugary, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Lost Abbey - Red Barn Ale
Enjoyed at: Lost Abbey
Serving Type: From the tap, in a sampler glass

One of many more to come (soon) from the Lost Abbey. Clear golden straw body with a healthy white head that is slightly creamy in texture. Big spicy witbier nose. The beer itself is incredibly spicy as well, with hints of ginger and black pepper that lend a drying edge. It carries pronounced citrusy orange peel notes. The very crisp carbonation produces a clean finish with lasting spice.

The Stone Brewing Company Tap Room

Pizza Port Brewing Company - Gold Member
Serving Type: From the tap, in a tulip glass

Gold member is a Belgian Strong Ale with a hazy golden straw glow that is bright and vibrant. The minimal fine white head from the tap is refreshed slightly by a constantly rising carbonation. The nose is classically Belgian with a sweet malt character matched by a dry spiciness. The beer is sweet and refreshing with tinges of crisp carbonation. The spice notes add depth while the strength of the beer shows through, but never seems boozy.

Pizza Port Brewing Company - O.G. Chronic
Serving Type: From the tap, in a 16 oz. pint glass

O.G. Chronic is a well-carbonated amber with a ruby glow throughout its body, topped by a small white head of foam. Extremely floral grass hops define the nose with a mild piney stickiness. Light toasted malts give the aroma a solid backdrop. There's a surprisingly grainy malt component to the beer. The hops are very piney and dry, but seem almost second to the sour graininess. This isn't an IPA in the West Coast tradition, but it is very drinkable and sessionable. 

Coronado Brewing Company - Scotch Ale

Serving Type: From the tap, in a 16 oz. Coronado pint glass

The beer pours a deep mahogany with ruby highlights and a thin light tan head. The nose has a mild charcoal mixed with the definitive malty aroma. A sourish mash graininess gives this beer a nose classic to the style. The beer is dark and sweet with lightly roasty malts. The grain profile here is huge, but I wouldn't call it a malt-bomb like many others in the same territory.

Coronado Brewing Company - Saison by the Sea
Serving Type: From the tap, in a 16 oz. Coronado pint glass

This saison from Cononado pours a hazy glowing orange with golden hues. The beer came with minimal head from the tap that was a thin wispy white. The nose is high on citrus with a minor astringency. The carbonation here is big and is matched with an almost soda-like sweetness. The astringency persists with a mild spicy dryness on the finish.

Bonus - From Austin, TX
Draught House - Trophy Bitter
Serving Type: From the tap, in a 16 oz. nonic pint glass

The beer pours a darkish amber body with a yellowy glow and a creamy yellowed head. The body of the beer is velvety and almost creamy. Sweet caramel and toffee notes are present with the malt body. The beer has a classic ESB-type bittering profile. The aftertaste has a subtle hop element that seems almost floral.