Friday, July 31, 2009

Allagash Victoria Ale

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I posted my thoughts on Allagash's Victor Ale, well today I post on its sister ale, Victoria. The primary difference between the two beers is that Victor was made with red grapes, Victoria is made with white grapes, specifically Chardonnay. As with the Victor ale, a certain amount of the proceeds for this beer goes to a Charity. This ale honors the Victoria House in Maine. From Allagash's website:
Also known as the Morse-Libby House, it is one of the greatest 19th century houses in the United States. Designed by architect Henry Austin, the mansion was built between 1858 and 1860 and survives as a unique example of the princely palaces created for America’s wealthiest citizens in the pre-Civil War era. With superb architecture and well-preserved original interiors, the Victoria Mansion is an unparalleled document of America’s highest aspirations in architecture, interior design, and the decorative arts.
Its always cool to see beers that not only represent the local culture but supports it as well (one of the many reasons I love supporting craft beers).
The Beer: This one weighs in at 9% and using one of my trusty pours a light straw color with a very bright white head, lots of tiny little bubbles floating up from the bottom of thg glass like a glass of fine champagne. The nose is grapey, oaky, fruity, yeasty, honey dew melon. The mouth is effervescent bubbling across the tongue like so much pop rocks. Toasty, white winish (I know its not a word but bare with me), fruity, melon-y, yeasty, Apples, and pears. Crisp and slightly sweet, but not cloying. Flowery and a bit of honey at the finish. This is a fine beer, one that would go splendidly well with lighter fare. This gets an B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say about it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer in the News

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that my favorite adult beverage has been all over the news these last few days. It seems its become quite the popular beverage. Initially I wasn't going to post anything regarding President Obama's beer meeting with Harvard Professor Gates and Boston Police Office Crowly, mainly because I think its been all over the news too much as it is. However, the last couple of days have really changed my mind, and its due to one reason, call it a missed opportunity. Again you'd have to be living under a rock to not know this, but at a meeting to discuss race issues, the President has invited the professor and the officer to a discussion over beer. For a few days the beer blogosphere was a twitter with what beers would be served? Unfortunately we were all left extremely disappointed: Bud Light, Blue Moon, and Red Stripe (or Beck's). No American owned beer, and only one beer actually brewed in the states. How do you have a meeting in the White House and not serve an American Brewed Beer? I know that the primary focus of this meeting is race relations as it should be, but if you're going to tell the world what beer you and the company are drinking, don't you as the president have an obligation to drink American? What does it say when the President himself doesn't choose an American owned beer? I'm not naive enough to think that everyone should be drinking souped up, hopped up Imperial IPA Craft beers, but there are a lot of easy drinking good solid American owned beers. Yuengling for one or Sam Adams for another would have been perfect choices, both promoting American owned companies, which in this economic climate is important. I want to continue on my Sam Adams choice for a second, especially since the issue at hand took place in Boston, wouldn't that have been appropriate? it seems to me that the President's communications team was a bit asleep at the wheel. A tiny itsy bitty thing has blown up, all because the President chose poorly. Like I said at the beginning, huge missed opportunity here. Me, I'll be drinking American tonight and raising a glass of Saint Arnold's Lawnmower to my lips and toasting what I hope is a very beneficial meeting at the White House tonight.

The second news worthy beer story came out today and I'll call it a case of beer idiocy or maybe the dumbest most ignorant beer article of the year. I know I shouldn't look to financial news stories for solid beer reporting, but today's Money Blog on MSNBC takes the cake for beer ignorance. The story is about the financial repercussions of MillerCoors new package offering of beer in a box. The author James Dlugosch steps in deeply right off the bat with this gem of a statement:
Despite what the microbrewers will tell you, all beer is pretty much the same. Consumers who pay a premium do so more for the experience than the taste.
Really? There is no taste difference between Miller Light and a Stone Arrogant Bastard? Or for those more locally minded, a Lone Star and a Saint Arnold's Christmas ale? This guy is saying that those two beers taste exactly the same? Really? And he wants to be taken seriously from here on out? Oh but the yucks continue, and they aren't all beer related. Next up is this snobbish statement:

But there are some things I just won't do, including buying wine in a box.
Sorry bub, but we don't live in the world where the only boxed wine is Franzia. There are some actual good every day very approachable wines available in a box, so get your nose out of the air and try some. The last tidbit, is my favorite and again completely shows the ignorance of the author:

But for me, the issue is the bottle. I like drinking my suds from a cold bottle. Period.

Put it in a glass, and the experience just isn't the same.
Well I guess he's part right, put the beer in the glass and the experience isn't the same. Maybe this explains the author's initial comment. If all he is drinking is Bud, Miller, or Coors products freezing cold from the bottle, he's right there is no difference. But if here to take a finely crafted ale and pour it into its appropriate glass, I think his mind would be completely blown away by the complexity and nuances of the beer. Just imagine if I said I hate drinking wine out of a stemmed glass, its just not the same as drinking it out of a Dixie cup. Utter ignorance. So I challenge you Mr. Dlugosch, shoot me an email, I'll be happy to pour you a proper beer, and show you how good it can be out of the bottle, and how different beers are from each other.

Stone Russian Imperial Stout

Last night I was in the mood for something anti-seasonal. I've found myself for the most part drinking IPA's, or Belgian Golden Ale's of late. I needed something....darker, bigger. Well I found it when I picked up Stone's Russian Imperial Stout. This is about as far from a light summer beer as you're going to get.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 10.5% and pours a thick viscous pitch black capped by a dense tall head of latte colored foam. The nose has notes of currants, coffee beans, roasted burnt malts, licorice. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, creamy, coffee, but maybe more like esspresso, dusty coco nibs, roasted malts, licorice. The alcohol taste is low its there, but mild. This one is nice, its a sipper to be sure. Sitting in my chair, relaxing, even in the HOT HOT Texas summer this is one heck of a beer. It gets a strong A from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 7

Last night I decided to crack open one of my last bottles of Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 7. Most DR's are made to stand up over time, however this one being a wheat based beer had the potential to not age very well, so after almost 10 months I was curious to see what changes their were to this beer. As a reminder this is a Weizen bock and it weighs in at 8.7%. Here are my notes from last time. Just a note about how I age my beers. I use a temperature controlled wine fridge and keep it around 50-55 deg F.
The Beer: It pours a deep rich brown with a thick white taupe colored head. It still looks like a good beer. The nose is roasted malts, a slight banana and cloves, chocolate. The mouthfeel is full, with notes of chocolate, dried coco and again a hint of banana. A comparison I make is chocolate covered banana slices. Its not a lot, but the hint of it adds a nice complexity. Its very smooth, the rough edges that it had when young are gone, very enjoying. No alcohol burn. However, the beer seems to be fading, I may have missed a sweet spot here. The flavors are all there, but they seem to fade quickly leaving a very short finish on the palate. I'd say this one is still very good, but drink them now as I'm not sure how much longer they'll age properly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA

Lately, I have been craving something simply hoppy. Not an IPA aged in Scotch barrels, or an IPA aged in oak, just something simply, but deliciously hoppy. I found that beer yesterday when I went to my local Spec's. It sat there on the shelf, packaged in a black 4-pack, I had heard about it, but hadn't seen it until now, Harpoon's Levaithan Series Imperial IPA. Harpoon is that other Boston Brewery, much smaller then the other one. In my opinion Harpoon releases some solid if unspectacular beers for the most part, however their Leviathan series has been reported to be very good. These are all big, complex, and rarer than their main line. This particular one is of course the Imperial IPA, weighing in at 10.0% and 120 IBU's (not measured).
The Beer: The beer pours a bright orange with a thick dense head of white foam. My first whiff has me thinking WOW. Its all hops, citrus, a bit of pine, grapefruit, lemon, and along with a bit of pale malts. The mouthfeel is creamy hoppy, hoppy, hoppy, vibrant, shocking. Citrus, grapefruit peel, orange marmalade in the mouth. Its bitter, but yet at the same time almost smooth. As it warms some notes of alcohol show up along with more bready characteristics while keeping the amazing citrus hoppy bitterness. I enjoyed this one, alot. It gets a straight up A from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quick Hits

Its a Wednesday of Quick hits. File this one under what's happening?
- First is a quick note on a non-beer related event that comes from those cocktail and beer lovers over at Anvil. This Saturday is a Coffee and cocktails event with pastries provided from the pastry chef at Textile.

- If you've checked out the right hand side of the blog you'll see a list of events, but there are a few I wanted to point out. First this Saturday is a Wine v. Beer event at Gingerman's. I went to their last event that was a Belgian Beer tasting and it was wonderful, so I encourage everyone that can to go. Second is that Cullens an upscale restaurant down in the CLC area is hosting a Texas Beer Dinner on August 21st. It will be a 5 course meal, featuring different Texas Beers. Featured beers from Saint Arnold, Southern Star, and Real Ale among others. Lastly the 16th of August is Houston's Flying Saucers 9th Anniversary. They'll be tapping 9 different beers throughout the day. Now that's going to be a party.

- More Stone Beers. The Stone Rep for the southwest has reported that Stone 13th Anniversary Beer will be here in the next couple of months. This ale is supposed to be a wonderfully hoppy ale to celebrate the San Diego Breweries anniversary.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beer Dinner: Otter Creek Dubbel

Time does indeed fly. Without even meaning too I've realized how long it has been since I've posted on the blog. Not due to lack of things to write about (I have plenty) but just lack of time. Hopefully this will be a great week to get caught up. This post is about a beer/food pairing I cooked up about a week ago. I paired the food with an Otter Creek Dubbel, so first a little on the beer.
The Beer: Poured the beer into my Maredsous glass which I think was appropriate. It poured a chestnut brown with a thin head. The nose is caramel, malty, fruity, yeasty. It has a medium mouthfeel a little on the week side. Not a lot of effervescence, it slides and slithers along the tongue. Rich and malty with yeasty and rye bread notes. Some dark figs and raisins, but not much. Its a simple beer with a little but not a lot of character. This one gets a B- from me.
The Food: I cooked up some lamb with a jalapeno jelly marinade, sat it on top of some sauteed spinach (the lamb was again topped with a dab of the jalapeno jelly) and served with what was supposed to be corn pudding pie, but ended up just corn pudding. The pie crust didn't turn out how I wanted it (lessons learned). I thought it was a nice pairing with the beer. The rich malty bready, and slight sweetness of the beer complimented the slight heat of the jalapeno jelly and the richness of the lamb. I think if the Dubbel had just a bit more of the figs and raisins it would have been an even better pairing, but this was pretty solid as the beer complimented but didn't overpower the food.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brew Dog Storm

I know I have said this a lot lately, but I am constantly amazed at all the new beers that are arriving in Houston, not just from around the country, but around the world. One of the latest is this brewery, Brew Dog, from Scotland. The brewery has a great story. The two founders, sick and tired of the industrial lagers that have become so ubiquitous to the UK beer market wanted something better. So in April 2007 they started brewing commercially and now 2 years later they are the largest independent brewery in Scotland. They make a pretty wide range of beers some aged in Scotch casks. I've heard quite a bit about them so was extremely excited to see their beers in my local Spec's. I'd even had their Hardcore IPA previously and it was outstanding. This beer Storm, is their IPA aged in Isly Scotch Whisky Barrels.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 8% abv and pours a light orangish color with very little head, more of a whitish film. The first whiff of the nose is of hops, but then smokey peat, woody, oaky, and scotch. Lots of Scotch. The mouthfeel is very scothcy, peaty, smoky, even some notes of bacon. Pale malts come out a little bit, but no hops and really no other beer flavors. There's very little to no carbonation almost flat. Its strongly scotch, which unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of. Its scotch with just a hint of beer (if you can call it even a hint). Its not a beer with a hint of scotch which is what I expected based on my other experiences with Bourbon barrel beers. I loved what they tried to do, but in this case I don't believe it was very successful. This one gets a D from me as I really couldn't stand this beer. Maybe it was bad? Maybe it didn't travel well? I dont know and if I get my hands on another one to try and I find it better then this time I'll post an update. The folks at BA didn't think that much more of the beer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fight Night and Beer

Saturday was a huge fight night and as I usually do, I enjoyed some beers. However since this wasn't just any fight night, I couldn't choose just any beer. The first one I had, was from Anderson Valley, a brewery from California that just entered into our market. The second beer is one that my wife had brought back from LA a couple of months back.
Anderson Valley Brother David Tripel: This one just arrived in our fair market. It weighs in at 10.0% and pours a an orangish honey color with a thin white head. Whit fruit, peaches, honey, yeast all on the nose. The mouthfeel is crisp and clean, a little toastiness, a lot of candied sugar, peaches, yeast, honey, white pepper. A little sweet for me, I like my Tripels a little drier. A little alcohol showed up on the finish as it warmed. An OK Tripel, but not one that I would actively seek out compared to what else is available. B- from me. The folks at BA tend to agree.
Alesmith Speedway Stout: This is one that my wife picked up for me. Its made with Brothers Coffee. It weighs in at hefty 12.0%. The beer pours a pitch dark dark black with a THICK cafe colored head. The nose is espresso, roasted malts, dark chocolate, bready grains. The mouthfeel is thick and luxurious, bitter chocolate, mocha, espresso. Its like drinking a wonderful Imperial Stout with a side of espresso. There is even a bit of citrus acidity, almost a hint of lemon. There is so much great smooth, slightly bitter coffee flavor to this one. There is some burnt notes, but I feel that its from the malts necessary to get this beast so dark and black. The aftertaste of this beer is pure espresso to me. Very rich, very good. A sipping beer to be sure, but there isn't a lot of alcohol in the mouth, its hidden extremely well. This is one amazing beer and gets the hard sought after A+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

Everywhere I turn it seems Great Divide Brewing is releasing another new beer. They've gotten so many new ones it is hard to keep track. Fortunately some of them are making their way to our market. A couple of weeks ago I tried their outstanding 15th Anniversary beer, this week I turn to a new version of their popular Yeti Imperial Stout. However this one doesn't just have chocolate, its got a dash of cayenne pepper.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 9.58% and pours a pitch black with at hick cafe colored head. The nose is of chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, oak, maybe some spice, but its just a hint. The mouthfeel is thick, chewy and wonderful. Chocolate up front with woody, oaky and vanilla notes and on the finish you feel just this hint of spice. Its luscsious and creamy, dusty coco nibs. Then you drink some more and you feel the spice just a bit more. As it warms and you drink the cayenne builds up and I find that it doesn't have a place is this great creamy chocolatey beer. I love spicey things, growing up on cajun and tex-mex foods, but not sure that I want it in my beer. The spice is not overpowering, but its definitely there, and I think it takes away from a great beer instead of adding to it. This one gets a C+ from me. Most other folks on BA disagree.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Yet another brewer that is relatively new to the Texas market. This one is based out of Vermont. We've been getting some of their beers here for around 6 months or so, but this was the first time I picked up any. Of course the reason was a good one. I was at a Whole Foods and they had a mix pack of 3 of their beers in 750mL along with a special Otter Creek glass. What a deal. It came with their Copper Ale, Porter, and Dubbel. The Copper Ale is their take on a traditional German Alt beer. Whats an Alt beer you ask?
Beer Style: From the wonderful Beer Judges Certification Program website here are the stats: Aroma should be of rich malts, noble hops and low on the fruity esters. The color should be light amber to bronze with an off white head. A medium bodied mouthfeel with a good amount of hop bitterness balanced with a crisp clean maltiness. Alt Beers have an interesting history behind them as well. This is a top fermented beer that is usually brewed along the Rhine River in Germany specifically in the town of Dusseldorf. When I was living over there, it was quite interesting to see the combative nature of those that were Dusseldorf Alt drinkers vs those that were Cologne Koslch drinkers. Its a long standing rivalry each thinking their beer reigns supreme. Alt is German of Old, but this is no old ale in the sense of the English style. Instead Old refers to the way its in made its defiance against change. The style gained popularity in the mid 1800's when everyone else was going crazy for lagers. As brewers and cities in Germany started to lighten their beer, Dusseldorf stayed true to their roots with this darker ale.
The Beer: This ale pours a copper color capped by a thick dense off white head of foam. The nose is of caramel and toasted malts, a bit of a hoppy presence but its subdued. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with caramel malts at the forefront and maybe what I think I taste is some Munich and Vienna malts in there as well. Good level of carbonation, and a solid amount of floral hop bitterness almost spicy a bit tinny, not citrusy like our American hops. An easily drinkable beer on a hot Texas summer day. We served this with a nice dish of summer squash stuffed with okra, corn, tomatoes and ground beef. It paired wonderfully well with the flavors. A nice beer that gets a B from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quick Hits Tuesday Edition

Just two quick notes today.
- As promised yesterday additional details on the next session. The hosts Beer 47 will be hosting the next session themed Beer Desserts:
Beer 47 will hosting a discussion about Beer Desserts. What beer desserts have you tried and liked? Disliked? What beer styles work well with dessert and which ones do not? Do you have any beer dessert recipes that you enjoyed and would like to share?
- Second quick hit has to do with Houston's own Saint Arnold's Brewery and the next Divine Reserve. As I've posted before DR 8 will be a Wee Heavy, brewed by the winner of the Big Batch Brew Bash. Well yesterday they started brewing the beer, and Houston Chronicle Beer Blogger Ronnie Crocker had a very nice post and interview with the winner of the BBBB who got to go to Saint Arnold's to help brew the beer.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Session Round up and Announcement

Fresh off of last my post last Friday celebrating the 29th Session, Beer By Bart has posted his round up of the event. There were over 20 participants this month, so a good showing. As one month leaves, another approaches, which means a new Session announcement.
The hosts of this month's virtual beer tasting is Beer 47. The theme for the month will be Beer Desserts. Beer 47 hasn't released any more details on what that means, but when they do, I'll post. Due date is the first Friday of August, the 7th.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Session # 29: Will Travel for Beer

Its the first Friday of the month, which means its Session Time! The month's virtual beer tasting is hosted by Beer by Bart and the theme is Will Travel for beer. The goal is to talk about how we beer lover's travel when it comes to beers, how do we plan for brewery tours, do we do things at the drop of a hat, or do we spend weeks and weeks planning? Well for me, I must say I do both, however, my favorite "Beercation" was completely last minute.
My unplanned beercation all started last September. My wife and I were getting ready to fly out to San Diego and drive to Palm Desert for a vacation with her family. We had thoughts of sitting by a pool drinking cocktails, nothing in our minds were focused on beer. Maybe I could get to a store to checkout the local selection but that was about it. Then a hurricane popped up on the radar and looked to be headed straight towards Houston, Ike! It was forcasted to land before we were to leave Houston, so now we weren't sure we'd be going anywhere, luckily Southwest let us fly out two days early to San Diego. As we hurried to the airport and then finally got on the flight, we talked about what we should do for those two extra days. Well I knew there were quite a few breweries that I've admired and wanted to check out so we decided to spend one day doing brewer tours. As I've written about, we ended up heading to Solana BeachPizza Port, then over to Lost Abbey, before finally stopping at Stone Brewery. This last minute tour and beercation was by far one of my favorites, plus I was able to bring some beer home with me, to help me deal with all the issues that Post-Ike Houston brought. I also kept a couple of bottles around and decided that this month's session was the perfect reason to break one out. As my wife and I drank the bottle from our Hurricane beercation it brought back a lot of fun memories.
Lost Abbey Judgement Day: This is a dark Belgian Quad ale, made with Raisins and weighs in at 10.5%. It pours a rich black with a tan colored head. The nose is fruity, raisins, sour cherry, figs, roasted coco, malts. The mouth is creamy, with bitter coco and roasted malts, oaky vanilla. Its got some carbonation, but not a lot so it slides like velvet over the tongue. Figs and raisins and other dark fruit show up on the tongue. Dark chocolate and sour cherries, dusty coco nibs. A very tasty complex beer that hides its alcohol well. This was a good beer to drive the the thoughts of stormy times away from us, and help us remember the great time we had in San Diego.