Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Santa Fe Chicken Killer

One of my favorite style of beers to have during the Holiday season is barley wine. Its actually one of my favorite style periods, but I sometimes have a hard time finding a really good one, some are either overtly hoppy or just completely unbalanced in another way. Therefore I'm always out searching for more, so imagine my excitement when at my local Central Market I see Santa Fe's barley wine Chicken killer staring back at me on the shelves.
The Brewery: As you would think this brewery is based in Santa Fe, and is New Mexico's oldest mirco-brewery, they distribute to only nearby states. They started brewing beer in 1988 using the former Boulder Brewing Companies equipment. In addition to the brewery they have a tap room and a pub right next to the brewery. While I've never had any of there other beers, Central Market does carry their pale ale and nut brown ale. After tasting this beer I may have to try them.
The Beer: This Chicken Killer weighs in at a robust 10% abv, pours a hazy cloudy amber with a quarter inch off white head. The head dissipates quickly but it leaves plenty of lacing on the glass. The nose is full of toasted malts, rich and complex, raisins and concentrated fruits. The mouth is full of pale toasted malts, raisins, with a lower hop profile than some. Extremely smooth, with little of the alcohol showing up. Caramel malts show up as the beer warms as does something that I could only compare to brown sugar, it wasn't but it had that same taste. Very good beer, one that I could drink all night next to a fire. In fact I did sip on it for a good forty-five minutes and it only got better. This one is a strong A-. A beer that 100% of the folks at BA enjoy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Collection of Christmas Beers from Ridgeway Brewing

In my effort to try as many new and different Christmas beers as possible I like trying to find sampler packs from brewery's. So imagine my delight when at my local Spec's I see a collection of four Christmas beers from Ridgeway Brewing. I posted about Ridgeway's elfish beers recently, but this collection was a different sort.
Santa's Butt Porter: This is the beer that got Ridgeway into all sorts of trouble as people thought that if children saw Santa on a beer they would rush to drink it. For a while it was even banned in certain states. Alas not Texas thankfully. This is a Winter Porter and weighs in at 6% abv. It pours a pitch black with a nice tan head, a nose full of raisins and roasted malts. The mouth full of bitter chocolate, coco powder, raisins and a bit of burnt coffee. Very good, smooth aftertaste and highly drinkable, I'll give it a B+. 90% of the folks at BA give it the old thumbs up.
Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale: Yet another offering with ole Santa on the label. Again this one weighs in at a mild 6&. It pours a golden amber color, which was definitely not as dark as I expected. Nice white head, malty and yeasty on the nose. The mouth was light, fruity with an underlying nuttiness, mild hops and smooth. Not as good as the previous and I'd give it a B-. Over at BA you still see 90% of the folks like it.
Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout: I love stouts so I was excited to see this one in the collection. It weighs in at a heftier 8%. Dark, very dark, with a small head on it that quickly dissipates. The nose is rich and chocolatey, with roasted malts, espresso, burnt coffee. The mouth is creamy, with very little alcohol and those same notes of espresso and burnt coffee. There is definitely that sense of chocolate covered espresso beans that I like so much in certain stouts. Very nice, this one gets an A- from me, however only 84% of the folks at BA give it the thumbs up.
Reindeer Revolt English Christmas Ale: The last of the bunch and boy was I sorry to see them go. This beer weighs in at 6% abv. It pours a golden amber with a quarter inch head. Hoppy, pale malts float on the nose. The mouth is almost buttery, with some earthy hoppy flavors, minerally maybe. Again a very smooth very drinkable beer. This one gets a B from me. Still waiting for enough folks at BA to weigh in on this one for the final outcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Update on Southern Star Brewing

I wrote about the Texas's newest brewery Souther Star Brewing out of Conroe, Texas a few months ago. Since that time, the brewery has made a couple of announcements:
The first is that they announced their first beer is Pine Belt Pale, and American Pale Ale. The bigger news is that it's going to be packaged in cans! Now I really like this idea. There is definitely not enough craft brewers packaging in this manor, in fact the only one that comes to mind is Oskar Blues out of Colorado.
They've also announced that their second beer will be a Dortmunder Style Lager, but will be available only in draft in select locations. Hopefully I'll be able to go over to Gingerman's or Houston's Flying Saucer to have a taste. So far I really like what this new brewery is doing. I can't wait to taste their beers. Be sure that as soon as I do, I'll post my thoughts on Texas's newest brewery.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sam Adams Winter Lager

In my search for the perfect beer I reached out for something widely available. A beer that one can find on most any grocery store shelf. Sam Adams Winter Lager, their regular seasonal beer, is also part of their winter seasonal variety pack.
The Beer: The beer wrapped in a wintery looking blue label, pours a nice deep dark brown with streaks of red and capped off by a huge frothy white head. Note that I used a chalice shaped glass instead of a pint glass. The beer was malty with notes of cinamon and hints of floral hops. The mouth is rich and chewy, roasty malty flavors, with notes of caramel, cinamon, and the slight astringency of hops. I really enjoyed this beer, probably my favorite seasonal from Sam Adams. I'll give it a B+. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A couple of no good Very Criminally Bad Elves

I guess you could call it practice, or prepping, either way its fun. The topic for this month's Session is of course Winter Beer, so what better way to uhm, practice, then go out and try as many different winter beers as possible in prep for December 7th? I've been going out scouring the local beer stores for unique winter beer's so imagine my excitement when I saw two very special beers that I had heard so much about. What am I talking about? Shelton Brother's Very Bad Elf, and Criminally Bad Elf beers.
The Brewery: Shelton Bros. is not actually a brewery, they are importers based out of Massachusetts. They import from all over the world, importing from breweries that brew in small batches, and beer that is unpasteurized, and unfiltered. They are all craft beers. The imports come from Belgium, England, Scotland and even Brazil. These two are from England's Ridgeway Brewery, and they are pretty famous for their unique and controversial Christmas beers, most notably Santa's Butt.
Very Bad Elf: The beer is a Special Reserve ale that weighs in at 7.5%, and made with a unique malt and Fuggle hops. The beer pours a pale amber with about a quarter inch head. The nose is full of pale malts, spice, earthy hops. The mouth is toasty, smooth, spicey with a bit of bitterness. It has an unusual aftertaste that I just couldn't place. A solid beer that kept me guessing and attempting to decipher what that taste was. I'll give it a B. Here's what the folks over at BA have to say.
Criminally Bad Elf: This one is a Barleywine and weighs in at 10.5%. This is a bomb of a beer, pouring a pale golden with a quarter inch head. Floural hops, earthy, pale malts all on the nose. The mouth is syrupy, spicey, concentrated white grapeyness. Honey, and a bit of hops round out the taste. Much maltier than most American Barleywines which is exactly what I want. I really enjoyed this beer, I'd give it an A-. The folks over at BA don't necessarily agree as only 88% of the folks give it a thumbs up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quick Hits: Beer and Food

Just a quick post on some interesting happenings in the beer and food department.
The first comes from Houston's own Saint Arnold's and involves a new event that they are hosting.
On January 27th, Saint Arnold's will host the first annual One Pot Showdown. The basis of the competition is that everyone is invited to cook a dish, cooked in one pot (think stew, gumbo, soup, etc), and using a Saint Arnold's beer. The top three will receive a prize:
1st place: $500 and a super neat trophy
2nd place: $200 and a neat, but not as super trophy
3rd place: $50 and some other wacky prize
Now how cool is that?
The second cool thing is that the Brewers Association is hosting Savor: an American Craft Beer and Food Experience on May 16-17 in Washington D.C. The goal of this event is to show how well great beer goes with good food. Stan over at Appellation Beer posted about this, and posted the following on how the event will work:

Tickets for each of the three sessions (May 16-17) are limited to the first 700 ticket purchasers. The $85 ticket includes a commemorative tasting glass, souvenir program and Craft Beer Taster’s Commemorative Journal, fabulous food and craft beer pairings, seminars, and 2- ounce samples of specially selected craft beer.”

48 breweries from eight regions will participate.

I know I've said it once already, but how cool is that! It's a great thing that events are being held promoting how well craft beer goes with food. Not only on the local scale but the national scale as well.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Session #10: Let it snow ,let it snow, Winter Seasonal Beers

This month I have the pleasure of being the host of The Session. For the unitiated, the Session is a monthly virtual beer tasting. Hosted by a different blogger each month, and each month has a different theme chose by the host. Sometimes its more difficult than you think to come up with a theme. I’ve known for quite some time that I was going to be host for this month and I’ve been going back and forth on what this month’s theme should be. Then something happened. The weather became cooler, local markets started putting out their winter vegetables, local restaurants started coming out with their winter menu’s and of course one started to see winter seasonal beers on the shelf. From a food and beer perspective I love this time of the year. The food’s are rich, flavorful, robust if you will. The beer’s are the same way. Winter seasonal’s are usually rich, and darker, but they don't always fit one style. They can be spiced ales, like the Wassail Style, the English style Winter Warmer is usually more malty, with a less hop profile, then there are ales that breweries release as a Winter Seasonal, like Saint Arnold's Winter Stout. All of these beers are made to go with the rich, body warming food of the season. The next thing that kept me in the direction I’m headed was drinking the few seasonal beers that I posted about this week. I think that sealed the deal.

Now that we're finished with the background the theme for this month is Winter Seasonal Beers. This can be any style you want as long as it’s a Winter Seasonal. Don’t limit yourself to just the big heavy beers as so many breweries put out so many different styles there something for everyone. With that, here are the rules:

  • Pick any Winter Seasonal beer you want. Or a sampler if you’d like (think the Sam Adam’s one I picked up earlier this week).
  • If you select a single beer, let us know why you choose this beer.
  • Extra credit for paring your winter seasonal beer with a winter meal, or better yet a recipe based on the beer of your choice.
  • Post your contribution to The Session on Friday December 7th. Send me the links to your post and a few short days later I'll post a round up of everyone's contributions.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Now that I'm getting into the winter beers, I picked up the Sam Adams Winter Pack. This is variety pack of 12 bottles containing two each of Sam Adam's Holiday Porter, Boston Ale, Cream Stout, Cranberry Lambic, Winter Lager, and Old Fezziwig, named for a Dicken's character.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 5.9%, pours a nice rich brown with a thin white head. Sweet rich malty, caramel-y on the nose along with hints of chocolate and raisins. The mouth has the same rich flavors. Not sweet, but malty and smooth. A bit of the ginger and cinnamon that the label says it contains, but I didn't really get the orange. A very nice winter beer, and exactly what I wanted. I'd give it a nice A-. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Call it a self imposed restriction, but I just can't start having Winter Ales until after Halloween. To me the start of Winter and all that that means is November 1 (even if its not all that cold in Houston). So once November came around I eagerly went to my local Central Market to see what was on the shelves and low and behold I see something that I'd never tried, and from Sierra Nevada no less. This will be the first winter seasonal of many I'm sure as over the next few weeks I'll be trying as many winter beers as I possibly can.
The Beer: Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada's Holiday beer weighs in at a potent 6.8% alcohol. It pours a nice brownish amber with a thin creamy white head. Its dry hopped and its IBU's are around 68. The nose is rich, malty, some caramel and a bit of floural hops. However the mouth is BIG on the hops and I guess this is where my disappointment is. When I think of winter ales, I want something rich and malty, not hoppy. While this is a very fine beer full of citrus and piney-ness, its just not what I was expecting, and frankly not what I wanted. As a beer I'd rank it as a solid B +, as a Winter style ale which is what I wanted it would be, I'd give it a C. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Session #9: Roundup

Over the weekend, Tomme posted the roundup of the last Session. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this months theme. I initially wasn't sure how well it would turn out, but I think everyone had a good time with it, and there were 29 entries, which is pretty dang nice.
As for next month? I'm honored to be the host of the next Session. I'll post by the end of the week the theme.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Session #9: Beer and Music

Its the first Friday of the month so it must be time to open up another Session. This month's session is hosted by Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey Brewery. The theme this month is Beer and Music. Tomme just wants to see how others experience beer and music.
For myself I initially struggled mightily with this topic as its a departure from a typical tasting session. I mean beer and music do go together and not just in the jingolistic '99 bottles of beer on the wall..' but I wasn't quite sure what direction I wanted to go in. I looked for inspiration, thinking it shouldn't be that hard. So I started to think about Tomme's original post, about how you can walk into any brewery and you'll hear some sort of music playing in various styles and various sound levels. My local brewery even has multiple Polka Music Videos posted on their site. Oskar Blues out of Colorado not only brews great beers, have a fine restaurant, they also are home to some killer live blues music. These are just a few ways of how beer and music pair so well with eachother. Both are incredibly artistic endeavors and when a true artist gets involved its a wonderous thing. I'm in the process of reading Eric Clapton's Autobiography, a true artist in music if there ever was one. One of the really interesting things in the book is his discussion about who influenced his playing, from the great Robert Johnson, to J.J. Cale, to Howlin Wolf, he has a passion for the history of music especially blues. He listened to these early masters and it influenced the way he played. How is this any different than the master brewer? Its not. Most brewers of craft beer started by tasting, and experiencing old world beers, whether they be German, British or Belgian it opened up a world of influence. Just as Clapton took what the masters did and improved on it in his own way, so have the master brewer's improved or stepped up the efforts of old. From making extremly hoppy beers, to barrel aging the beers, to any number of things craft brewer's do today, its the artist putting their own stamp on beer making. As much fun as it is to hear an amazing musician like Clapton play, its just as much of a pleasure to sit down at pub and savour the flavors of a finely craft brew, appreciating the artistic energy that went into it.
While I don't have a specific Beer and Music memory or story, these past few days after work, you'll usually find me in my chair reading Clapton's biography, a beer in my hand, listening to music, which is more often then not old blues like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Howlin Wolf, and Robert Johnson. As its fall, I've been reaching for a nice autumn beer, the latest of which was the Abita Pecan Harvest Beer.
The Beer: This is a fun little beer from the Louisiana Brewery. A ale made with Louisiana grown pecans and it pours a nice amber color with a quarter inch head. Not as strong a nose as I expected, but hints of a malty nuttiness make it through along with some floral scents from the hops. The mouth is smooth, very pecan-y, some caramel malty sweetness, a bit of pecan pie here, pretty nice if not a little mild. I'd have preferred it to be a little less subtle, but still a very good beer that I'd give a B-. It was a good beer to have reading the Clapton Book, listening to the blues on an unexpectedly cool Texas night.
Now, head over to Tomme's blog and checkout his story and see how others incorporate Beer and Music.