Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deschuttes Mirror Mirror

If you know this blog you know that I am a huge fan of barleywines and I am always on the look out for new ones to try. That includes looking for them when I am out traveling, which is how I came across this one, picked up while I was in Denver for the latest GABF. This barleywine is a souped up version of Deschuttes popular Mirror Pond ale. Also 35% of the beer is aged in oak barrels.
The Beer: This one weighs in at a hefty 11% and pours a brownish amber, almost red color with a thick tannish head. The nose is hoppy and very malty, almost syrupy. There are notes of oak, dark bread, vanilla, caramel. The mouth is thick and chewy. Citrusy hops, marmalade, apricot nectar, oak, vanilla, and caramel are all there in various declious quantities. As it warms it becomes an even more complex sipper with an almost bourbon or sherry like quality to it. Shockingly very little alcohol in this beer. Notes of oak help balance the swtrong flavors of malt and hops in this inbcredible beer. This is surely one of my favorites and gets a strong A from me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown

Everytime I am at a bookstore I was always head to the food and beverage section hoping to find some new book on beer. Some day's I'm lucky others I'm not. And sometimes the best books aren't even at a bookstore. For instance this one I was able to pick up at GABF as its not available in the US at this time. The book is written by British Beer writer (and British Guild of Beer Writer award winner) Pete Brown. It also happens to be one of the best books I've read in a long long time. The gist of the story is that Mr. Brown wants to re-create the journey that the original India Pale Ale's traveled from England to India, but the book is so much more than that.
I think most craft beer lovers are familiar with the story: The British Empire having settled India had a desire for good old British Beer, however by the time the beer arrived it had soured beyond drinkability. Enterprising brewers in London created a highly hopped beer and with the hops acting as a preservative, made the journey intact and was drank in large quantities by the British in India. As with most things this is only part of the story and even that is not the whole truth. Pete Brown's rather large novel takes us on two parallel journeys that help us discover the true story of India Pale Ale, a story that all of us Hopheads should read and enjoy. The book switches from Pete's struggle to recreate the journey (who knew how hard it is to book sea travel?) to the history of the British in India. It is this second story that makes this book much more than just one about beer. This book would do well on any History buff's book shelf and is it takes an unbiased extremely critical look at the British and the East India Company in particular. The corruption and death that they brought to India is quite eye opening and there in the middle of it all is one of the drinks that we love.
As with Pete Brown's other books, one of the fun things in Hops and Glory is the debunking of many myths, from how IPA got started to how it made its way back to the British Pub's (no there was no ship wreck). Its also a very humerus book due to Mr. Brown's self deprecating style of writing. Yes its a thick historical look at the creating of a beer and sociopolitical culture of India in the 1800's, but its also funny, enlightening and well written. I highly recommend this book to any history buff and any lover of craft beer.

While this book is not currently on sale in bookstores in the US there are a few places you can try to buy the book:
UK Amazon
The Book Depository
Abe Books

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boulevard Beers and NFL Football

Sunday is a perfect day when I can sit in front of the TV watch some football and drink great craft beer. This week since my team had a bye week I was able to watch a lot of teams I don't normally see. But enough about Football, the real treat was to sit down with two of the newest beers in Boulevard's Smokestack Series. With the new releases Boulevard brings us a Dopplebock and a Saison fermented with Brett.
Seeyoulator Dopplebock: A dopplebock aged on cedar this beer weighs in at 8.5% and pours an amber orange color with a thin slightly off white head. The nose is malty, nutty, bready, caramel, honey and spice. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and a bit chewy. Malty, yeasty, bready, caramel, spicey, notes of pepper. There are biscuity notes with a bit of honey on it, the cedar is there, but its more of sense of cedar versus a taste. Its very sweet, overly so up front, but it finishes with a competing dryness the helps to offset some of the sweetness. There is also some boozy notes. This is probably my least favorite of the Smokestack Series that I have had. This gets a B- from me. BA folks like it a little more than me.
Saison Brett: This beer started with the Saison I reviewed a whle ago and ended up as a dry hopped bottle conditioned with brett Saison. Sounds good to me. The beer weighs in at8.5% and pours a pale gold straw color with a thick dense bright white head of foam. Very aromatic beer, notes of lemon, yeast, pepper, honey, and hay. The mouthfeel is full and effervescent, hints of citrus fruits, white pepper, honey suckle, flowers, a touch of hay, and some good hop flavor in the finish. No alcohol flavor and finishes pretty dry. A wonderful food beer that I would serve with all sorts of salads, and grilled fish. This one gets an A from me. The folks at BA like it as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Odell's Bourbon Barrel Stout

Yet another beer that I picked up in Denver while there for the GABF. This one comes from a local brewery. Odell's is based out of Fort Collins and has been around since 1989. While their beers haven't always been cutting edge or even the most inspired, I've always liked them because their flagship beer was called 90 Shilling and is a Scottish Ale. There aren't many breweries that have that as their flagship. Over the years they've expanded their lines and are doing more things that push the envelop. At GABF I tasted a couple of brett beers by them that were wonderful, and they also have a woodcut series of beers that are rare and hard to find brews. This one of course is a barrel aged beer and while it seems that everyone is doing it, I am continually pleased to see even more breweries do this as I love the flavor that barrel aging imparts on a beer.
The Beer:b This imperial stout weighs in at 10.5% and pours a pitch black with a thick cafe colored head, it pours syrupy. Nose is vanilla, oak, bourbon, coffee. Mouthfeel is chewy, creamy, luscious, milky and all the other adjectives. There are notes of vanilla, and bourbon, chocolate, coffee, coco nibs. There is some woodyness to the taste as well. Its a sipper for sure, but still relatively easy drinking. We paired it with some Bourbon Chocolate pudding (made with Colorado's own Stranahan's Whiskey). It was a rich pairing to be sure, but they played off of eachother and intensified the flavors. A fun dessert. This beer gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ska Decadent IPA

Another beer from Ska Brewing, except this one isn't yet available in the Houston market. I picked this up while in Denver for GABF. This is Ska Brewing's Double IPA, comes in a big format bottle with the now familiar comic grafics and capped with a red wax seal.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 10.0% and pours a reddish amber color with a thick taupe colored head. The nose is hops, earthy spice, caramel, biscuity. The mouthfeel is creamy and bitter grapefruit peel, earthy spiciness, white pepper, biscuity, syrupy, tongue coating hoppy resins. In the mid palate there is this smoothness with slightly sweet caramel that evens out the intense hops. Very well done DIPA, with intense amounts of citrus and pine needles, biscuity marmalade, pale malts, and sweet caramel create a wonderful experience. This one gets a B+ from me. The folks at BA like it as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Schneider Aventinus

The Aventinus is Schneiders Weizenbock, which basically translates to a dunkel-weizen (dark wheat) brewed to doppelbock strength. This is traditionally a dark and rich, made with at least 50% wheat (some contain up to 70%) with very little hops. Its also a relatively new style of beer beer, the first Weizenbock was commercially available in 1907. That first one is what you hold in your hands Schnieder and Sons Aventinus.
The Beer: This Weizenbock weighs in at 8.2% and pours a rich deep brown with a taupe colored thick head of foam. Nose is bananas, cloves, chocolate malt, vanilla, and a slight sourness that tingles the nose. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of banana and cloves up front, subsiding into chocolate, rich malts, plum flavors. An incredible chewy beer that reminds of chocolate covered bananas and spice. Smooth beer, very smooth. This is a classic and its an amazing one at that. Gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA have to say.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Real Ale Coffee Porter

Real Ale out of Blanco, Texas is one of favorite Texas breweries. My only complaint has always been that they don't bottle enough of their beer's. They really shine in their seasonal's and for the most part those have always been draft only. Well no longer. As reported just a few weeks ago Real Ale has started to bottle their seasonal's, the first being their very popular Coffee Porter. A porter made with coffee roasted by Houston own's Katz Coffee. Made with Organic fair trade coffee and organic barley. Sounds good enough, and I know it tastes great on draft, but how does it taste from the bottle?
The Beer: This one weighs in at 5.6% and pours a dark rich black with bright red streaks when held up to the light. Capped by a foamy slightly off white head. The head quickly dissipates leaving a thin film behind. The nose is roasted malts, chocolatey, burnt roasted coffee beans. The beer provides a medium mouthfeel, smooth almost milky up front. Flowing into bitter chocolate and darkly roasted coffee beans. A tartness underlies the roasted coffee notes. Easy drinking, with a good mix of malts and coffee, with just a tinge of earthy hops. Very nice. Gets a B+ from me. The folks at BA like it as well.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Session Round up and Announcement

Yes I know I know I missed out on the last Session. I was looking forward to it, but work and personal life interfered and I didn't have time to post anything. Fear not though, the hosts Girl Likes Beer has posted the round up. Looks like it was a fun session with 19 different bloggers participating.
With the passing of one session, comes the announcement of the next one. This month's virtual beer tasting is being hosted by Andy Crouch at I'll have a beer. The theme? Well not sure I really understand it so I'll let the author do the talking:
For better or worse, in everyday situations beer comes with a label. This label very really ‘frames’ the beer inside. The fact that the beer comes commercially-produced signals the presence of investment (if not skill). A style name or tasting notes indicates the general characteristics to expect. If you know the brewery the beer is framed with your past experiences. Even the label art will affect your expectations for the beer.

What role does this framing play in beer tasting, especially for ‘professional evaluators’? Relate an amusing or optimistic anecdote about introducing someone to strange beer. Comment on the role a label plays in framing a beer or share a label-approval related story. I have not done much blind tasting, and I would be intrigued to hear about this ‘frameless’ evaluation of beer.

And drink a beer. Ideally drink something that you don’t think you will like. Try to pick out what it is about that brew that other people enjoy (make sure to properly frame the beer!).
Now this theme seems pretty interesting, but its also extremely frustrating. To join a rant that Alan over at Good Beer Blog had a few months back, wheres the beer theme's? Why can't the them just be beer? Why can't we discuss great Porter's, Stout's, Sour's, Oak Aged, beers from California, Beers from Belgium, etc. Why not make a beer or beer type the focus instead of just an appendix of the session? I support the session, but I want it to be something that focus's on beer and it seems that it meanders all over the place and rarely is the session's focus on the beer itself but instead some sort of background event. Will I participate this month? I'll sure try, my frame for the theme? Not sure yet. Come back on November 6th to find out.

Texas Hill Country Beer

Its been a few days since my last post, but trust me there was a reason. This past Tuesday was my wife and mine's second anniversary. To celebrate I surprised her with a 5 day get away up in the Texas Hill Country, just outside of Fredericksburg to be exact. We've always wanted to spend some time up there and decided this was the perfect chance to do it. The bad news is the weather was horrible, but that didn't stop us from having a great time. Most folks think of the Texas Hill Country as our state's version of Napa, wine, wine everywhere. And for the most part it is, we found some good Texas wine actually. But just like Napa there are some places to get good beer. First off is Blanco's Real Ale which we of course get here in Houston. Didn't make it to the brewery there, but almost every place in the hill country, from the smallest to the biggest had something on tap. I got to try their Octoberfest for the first time in this small wine store that had 5 beers on tap. A delicious slightly sweet caramelly beer that may just may be my favorite Octoberfest I've had so far this year.
When talking about beer in the Texas Hill Country and you are staying in Fredericksburg you have to stop by the award winning Fredericksburg Brewing Co. Located on Main St its a brew pub specializing in German food (doesn't everything in Fredericksburg) along with the usual burgers, sandwiches and salads). They have 6 beers on tap, with a Porter, Red and Pale Ale being their standard beers and 2 to 3 rotating taps. When we were there they had their Octoberfest, Hopnoxious IPA, and a Mexican Lager (Can you guess which one I went for?).
If you guess Hopnoxious you would be correct. An amazingly hoppy beer weighing in at 7.4% and 100 IBU's this was one fine hoptastic beer. A coppery brown ale with good malt balance that was quickly dominated by an over abundance of hops. Quite a good beer.
We also sampled a couple of other ones:
Peace Pipe Pale Ale - A fine fine Pale Ale, with great hop character and balance.
Mexican Lager - Surprisingly good, clean crisp, with a slightly sweet cereal grain finish
Octoberfest - A very good Octoberfest beer that had some surprising hop bitterness to contrast the malty caramel sweetness typical of the style.

Overall Fredericksburg Brewing Co is definitely something to make your way to as they have a very solid line up of beers and are starting to try some new things. The Hill country while known for its wines doesn't ignore good beer. As stated earlier most every place has good Texas beer on tap or by the bottle. Lots of support of Blanco Real Ale. As much as local breweries support the community (see all the great community service Saint Arnold does) its nice to see the community business support a brewery as strongly as the Hill country does.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

Besides going to GABF, one of the nice things about visiting Denver is the opportunity to pick up beers that we don't get here in Texas. Lucky for us we get a lot of Colorado beers here, but there are others from around the country and around the world that Denver has that we don't. So whenever I go into a liquor store in Denver I'm always on the look out for new brews. I was excited when I saw this brew on the shelves. Yes we do get Mikkeller beers here (finally) but not this one, so I eagerly picked it up and the other day my wife and I sat down to try it out. Before my notes though a few words on the brewery itself.
The Brewery: Mikkeller started in 2006 by two Danish Homebrewer's. In 2007 one left and now Mikkel Borg is the sole brewer. One of the more interesting things about this Danish brewery is that they don't have a brewery per se. Instead they travel all over the world and brew their beers at other brewery's. Some of the brewery's they have brewed at include De Proef in Belgium, Brewdog from Scotland, Three Floyds from Indiana, Nogne from Norway, and Gourmetbryggeriet in Denmark. The ones Texas gets are brewed at De Proef brewery, this one in particular was brewed at Nogne.
The Beer: This brew is a strong stout made with oats and coffee and weighs in at 7.5%. The beer pours a pitch jet black with a dense head of caramel colored foam that grabs the sides of the glass. The nose is oaty, coffee, licorice, chocolate, raisins, figs, coco. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy notes of coffee and cereal, espresso, grainy mouthfeel. Citrusy notes, almost slightly lemony. Bitter and rich, multi-layered, vanilla notes, dark dried fruits. An outstanding beer and great introduction to this brewery can't wait to pick up the ones we have here. This one gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.