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Brew Review: Chateau Jiahu

23 Jan

 

Brew: Chateau Jiahu

 

Brewed by: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton DE)

 

Style: Herb/Spiced Ale (10.0% ABV)

 

 

 

I don’t really know how to introduce this beer, its part of the Ancient Ales series where the Dogfish brewers do a ton of research into a beverage consumed in the past and then try to recreate it again, here is what they describe this one as, “Inspired by a beverage found in clay posts in China around 9000 years ago. In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers. The rice and barley malt were added together to make the mash for starch conversion and degradation. The resulting sweet wort was then run into the kettle. The honey, grapes, Hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers were then added. The entire mixture was boiled for 45 minutes, and then cooled. The resulting sweet liquid was pitched with a fresh culture of Sake yeast and allowed to ferment a month before the transfer into a chilled secondary tank.” So this brew has a ton of stuff in it. However, if they expect me to pick out the hawthorn fruit and Chrysanthemum flowers in that mix its just not going to happen.

 

The brew poured out a yellow straw color with a slight amber hue. Somewhat orange as well. A mix of a yellow, orange and red thrown together. There was also a huge thick white head that rose up. A very interesting look to a beer with so much history and ingredients in it.

 

The smell is somewhat lager-like. I can smell some bready grains in there which remind me of lager biers. The honey does come through as does some white wine characteristics which much be from the fermented grapes. There was a lot going on in this brew, both heavy lager smells to flowery wine like aromas as well.

 

The taste is definitely a sweet ale flavor. The grapes show up again in the taste. They lend a crisp easy drinking feel to the beer. It drinks somewhat like juice, more like wine than anything through the actual taste of the beer. It was very unlike any beer that I have had before. It might have been that this was a beer brewed in the Eastern style, meaning traditional Chinese ingredients which means a totally different take on the process itself. I don’t claim to know much about Eastern ways and the more I learn the less I understand so I think that might have happened on this brew and I sort of lost a lot of what the brewers were maybe trying to get at. However, if this was such a hard beer to drink/understand then maybe the brewers failed a little bit in their own right. Not a bad brew but tough to get a handle on.

 

 

 

Final Grade: B


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Brew Review: Pumking

23 Jan

Brew: Pumking

Brewed by: Southern Tier Brewing Co. (Lakewood NY)

Style: Pumpkin Ale (8.6% ABV)

Now I am not usually a fan of pumpkin beers, but I am not against trying things that I have not enjoyed all that much in the past just to see if I was in a bad mood that day or something. Thankfully I did try this brew as it turned out much better than any other pumpkin beer that I have had to date. Glad I worked up the courage to pick it off the shelf and go for it.

The Pumking poured out a clear reddish-orange color. Golden orange maybe? There was a loose, big bubbles, head that was quick to dissipate leaving just a white cap to the brew. A good looking brew, kind of looked like the color of a pumpkin, maybe a bit more red/ruby.

The smell was full of spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin flavorings. I think they used pureed pumpkin in the making of this brew so that doesn’t surprise me. This aroma is more like what I would expect/want from a pumpkin ale. Smells like pumpkin and spices. I did think the smell was strangely sweet and somewhat unbalanced however. I think it was more like smelling a pumpkin pie, which I do like but was not expecting and therefor didn’t know how to react to it. Overall, I liked the aroma quite a lot.

The taste was sweet and sugary, like a pie topped with whipped cream. It was lighter than I was thinking it was going to be as well, I figured since this was a pumpkin ale it was going to have some body to it but it was fairly light and airy on the tongue. The sweetness was pleasant after I got used to it and there wasn’t any funky soured/skunked lager taste that I have gotten in other pumpkin ales. There was just a good full rich pumpkin taste which was great.

This beer was unlike other pumpkin ales I have tried, it actually captured the essence of the pumpkin in it which I guess is a lot harder to do for some other breweries. Southern Tier did a darn good job at it.

Final Grade: A-

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Brew Review: Surly Darkness 2011 (10-28-2011)

23 Jan

Brew: Darkness (2011)

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center MN)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout (10.3% ABV)

 

One of the heaviest hitters in the American craft brewing scene. I acquired this bottle, plus 6 others, via Darkness day at the brewery on Oct. 22nd. I opened this bottle on Oct. 28th with some friends, one who is from out of town and now owes me big time for it. I will give you a little background on this one as well. I went to Darkness day and therefore got to try this one on tap as well as a barrel aged version. I will say that I liked the regular ‘on-tap’ version the best that day. After waiting 6 hours in the cold it was well worth the wait and the first sip was heavenly. I didn’t take any notes that day as I was busy enjoying myself but I opened this bottle about a week later so I got to take some notes, I was interested to see how this matched up to the tap version and the fact that it was pretty fresh in the bottle at that point.

Darkness, what a great name for a beer of this magnitude. It poured out black, not much else. Dark and thick and black-hole like, not much light got away from this one. A very nice mocha-tan head rose up from the brew and stuck around perfectly. Couldn’t ask for a better looking RIS. Dark as night, darkness like Wesley Snipes.

The smell was good, raisins, dark fruits and some alcohol drifted up at me. The roasted grains had some play in there but it was a mostly sweet dominated smell.

The taste was thick, chewy, big. Think of a meal in a bottle and this one is the 3 course version of it. Syrupy with the big sweetness from the aroma translating into a sweet taste as well. Raisins, plumbs, and lots of chocolate came out at me. Once again a very light booze taste comes out at me. Its hard to mask a beer the clocks in at 8% so I would say they did a pretty darn good job seeing as how they were working with over 10% with this one. For some reason I also picked up a taste that reminded me of plastic. Don’t know why or where it came from but I detected it a couple times.

I think overall this is going to get much better after a while in the bottle so the flavors can mellow out and blend together. I liked the tap version better than the early bottle version but I think with some age this will be exceptional in the bottle as well. Still a great RIS and not a whole lot to complain about, maybe only having 6 bottles instead of 60, but I think I made out pretty well. And with all those bottles I will get to see how it ages here for the next couple of years…stay tuned for that.

 

Final Grade: A+

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Brew Review: 3 Floyds BrooDoo Harvest Ale

19 Jan

Brew: Broodoo Harvest Ale

Brewed by: 3 Floyds Brewing Co. (Munster IN)

Style: Fresh Hop/Harvest IPA

This was another import from the Chicagoland area, don’t remember if I picked it up while I was down there or if it was brought by one of the great residents from that area, either way I will thank them since I wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for them. This is 3 Floyds take on a wet or fresh hop brew. Once again I will put it up against Surly Wet or Brau Brothers 100 Yard Dash. 3 Floyds comes in with a high reputation but I haven’t had much experience with them as they don’t ship to MN and really the only place to get it is in Chicago as they can’t really supply an area outside a such large metropolis.

Broodoo poured out a pale amber color. It was very clear not a super interesting looking beer, sort of expected for an IPA, especially one that’s main focus is the fresh hop, so not much by way of crazy yeasts or weird malts or specialty grains. There was a slightly decent head with big loose bubbles that rose up about half an inch to an inch above the brew itself.

The brew smells like candy on the first whiff with fresh fruity hops that add a floral and tropical/citrus burst of aroma. The fresh hops are wonderfully present in this beer. Not much by the way of malts in the smell, the fresh hops dominated which was great, I loved the aroma of the beer.

The taste was piney, bitter and hoppy right away. A resinous hop profile came at me and once again the fresh hops were all around. The flavor was crisp, however it didn’t last long. The hops cleared the flavors out of the way fairly quickly and there wasn’t a hanging around of any of the flavors to speak of. There weren’t many malts to speak of, somewhat like the aroma. However as it warmed up a bit the malts did show up on the back end of it, but only faintly and still made way for the resinous hops to shine through.

A great take on the fresh hop style beer, though it didn’t quite turn me on like Surly Wet, maybe I’m just a guy who will always take the locals side but overall I was impressed and will probably try to seek this out again next year to see if it does still hold its mettle.

Final Grade: B+

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Brew Review: New Belgium Belgo

19 Jan

Brew: Belgo

Brewed by: New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins CO)

Style: Belgian IPA (7.0% ABV)

 

This brew had a fair amount of hype when it came out, so figured I would give it a go. New Belgium always puts out quality brews, none that have really blown me away but they are a solid company that is always present at parties and quality enough to sip on during a relaxing night. I wanted to see how this stacked up against one of my favorite Belgian IPA’s, Harriet Island’s West Side IPA. So I grabbed one at the store and headed home for a trial run.

Belgo poured out a clear orange yellow, somewhat like straw. A nice pillow of white head sat atop this brew but it died down fairly quickly leaving me with an orange concoction that I couldn’t wait to try.

The smell burst out at me with Belgian aromas like the traditional clove and some banana, which would have been the yeast. The yeasts also added a funky aspect as well. There were also some hops mixed in there as well but not a ton, less than what I was expecting since this is an IPA, but the Belgian characteristics were definitely present.

The taste was sweet up front with a little bit of bitterness from the hops. Once again less bitterness than I was expecting/hoping for. After the initial taste the Belgian flavors came out to play. The bananas became more present along with a slightly earthy tone that I think was coming from the hops and the yeasts mixed together. The hops did add a bit of a grassy flavor that sort of floated underneath everything else.

I think I was expecting more flavor from this beer. More hops which would have then led to more floral and fruity aspects. Especially in Belgian style brew I was hoping for more fruits. The lack of bitterness was also somewhat disappointing. In no way was it a bad beer but I was hoping for more from it.

 

Final Grade: B

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Brew Review: Surly Wet

17 Jan

Brew: Wet

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: Fresh Hop IPA (7.5% ABV)

 

The seasonal from Surly that comes out in the fall or should I say harvest time. They ship fresh picked hops straight from the vine to the brewery and brew this IPA 3 days later. They try to capture the essence of the hops in their freshest form. Surly has a great track record with hoppy brews (see Furious and Abrasive) so this one is coming from a great family.

Wet poured out a clear amber color, something like a regular IPA might. There is obviously some malt to back up all the hops that were squeezed into this beer. There was plenty of visible carbonation that produced a half inch off-white head that stuck around for a little bit but in the end was gone.

This was an amazing smelling brew. Great hop profile right off the top. Pine, citrus, a bouquet of floral and juicy hop smells met my nose. As the brew warmed up a little the malts began to show but the freshness of the hops really strut their stuff in the aroma, you could tell that this beer was brewed only about a week before it was opened and the hops were pretty much straight off the truck.

The taste was a little bitter, but not as much as you would expect with so much hop aroma coming off of the brew. Apparently most of the hop additions came at the end of the boiling and only a few lent their bittering oils. It is a very floral/fruity beer with pronounced notes of grapefruit and citrus flavors. There were some malts there to counteract all the hops in the brew but they were just there to be the balance on this terrifically crafted beer. They played just a big enough role that they added everything in small amounts and didn’t detract from the main course of the beer, the fresh hops. The freshness of the hops is unmatched, ‘wet’ is a great terms since it seems like these hops didn’t even get a chance to dry even a little before they were pitched into the brew kettle.

 

Final Grade: A

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Brew Review: Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

29 Dec

Brew: Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

Brewed by: Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Style: Double/Imperial Stout (10.9% ABV)

Another brew shared on the holy weekend that contained Darkness Day. Shared once again with those same two special friend from Chicago. This was brought up from the Chi and was apparently a little older than I had thought, I believe that it was picked up early in 2011 like January or February if I remember right. With that being said the coffee aspect might have been a little past its best date but I wasn’t complaining in the least. You should probably just read Mikkeller’s website on it to see what its really made out of since that is one of the more interesting parts of this beer. On with the beer.

The Brunch poured out a thick deep oily black color. Not much light escapes from this black hole of a beer. It also has a thick brown head that is impressive in itself. A great looking stout that you can tell houses some interesting flavors and hidden gems.

The smell is full of coffee, apparently the age didn’t affect that part very much. There is also some chocolate in there as well. The stout bitterness also comes though as this is probably a dry stout that will offer some bitterness. I also get a faint wiff of some plastic smells as well. It sort of smelled a little like a brand new happy meal toy right from the packaging. I don’t know why I kept thinking that but I figured I would throw it out there since I kept thinking it. In the end that wasn’t much of the smell but I picked it up.

The first taste was full of chocolate, and dark chocolate at that. It was very smooth, coffee glides over the tongue and down. It was full and complex. There wasn’t a ton of coffee, which was surprising since the main attraction was it was brewed with what I’ve heard is the most expensive coffee in the world. Some story about how weasels eat these coffee beans and some fool goes around picking up the weasels poo and then puts it into coffee and then this beer. Don’t know how I feel about that, but hey it tasted good so I guess it was a good idea after all. It wasn’t as bitter as I was expecting either. I know that there were oats used in the brewing process so that probably added to the creamy body and the lessening of the bitterness, at least to my perception. There was a little bit of potable warming as it warmed up and as I drank more of it.

I don’t really know how I want to grade this one. On one hand it was a good solid stout but the plastic flavor was weird and it wasn’t as chocolaty or coffee-like as I had expected after reading about it and hearing people talk about it. I wasn’t unhappy with it, maybe it would have been a little better if it was a little younger. I don’t know.

Final Grade: B+/A- (I don’t really know)

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Brew Review: Black Butte XXIII

29 Dec

Brew: Black Butte XXIII

Brewed by: Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)

Style: Porter (10.8% ABV)

 

I was excited the second I saw this at the liquor store, the only regret I have about it is that I didn’t get more than 1 bottle, mistake on my part. Enjoyed it during a great beer weekend with a couple friends from Chicago. I didn’t let it age as long as the label had prescribed, it told me to let this sit for at least a year. One of better things about the label is that it mentioned a best “after” date. Which is different because usually beers have a best “before” date which means this was supposed to sit for a while, but I couldn’t hold back and had to bring it out.

Chipped at the wax seal and poured this black beauty into a little tulip glass. It poured out a deep dark brown. Almost black but there were some red hints around the edges that gave this a great overall look. There was a big frothy mocha tan head that stuck around for a while and laced the glass perfectly. Wow I couldn’t ask for a better looking beer.

The smell was rushed since I was so excited to taste it but it was sweet with chocolate and rich roasted malts. There was some whiskey hints in there mixed with deep rich fruity smells. It says its brewed with oranges and chilies but I can’t really smell either of those, maybe they will show up in the taste. This is a good smelling brew, since only 25% was aged in bourbon barrels there is a good balance with the bourbon not overpowering anything.

The taste was amazing to say the least. The bourbon is once again well balanced and doesn’t mess it up at all, the 25% mark was a good one to go with. With the booze there is some vanilla. The brew is thick and sweet, there is tons of chocolate and a little hint of the oranges at the end. A well crafted beer that hides the alcohol content very well, though its not one that is drank in any way but sipping as its big and powerful. At the very end there is a little alcohol detected as it goes down but that’s about it.

Wow, this was a treat, even without letting it sit for the prescribed year it was still magnificent. So much going on and so much to appreciate. I was glad I was able to share this with people as it was a perfect brew to sit around and talk about as everyone in the room liked it a lot. Its a big beer with plenty to offer, the flavors are all balanced so well that there is really nothing negative to mention about it. Once again my only mistake was to not get more than one, shame on me.

 

Final Grade: A

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Brew Review: Tasty Waves

29 Dec

Brew: Tasty Waves Pale Ale

Brewed by: Half Acre Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL)

Style: American Pale Ale (5.0% ABV)

 

My other acquisition on my trip to the Half Acre brewery in Chicago. I got the growler of Mr. Ouroboros and then a 22 ounce bomber of this brew. After finishing off the growler I was hoping that this one was better than the other. Too bad there were only 22oz of these ones and only growlers of the other.

The Tasty Waves poured a clear orange tangerine color. Tasty looking indeed. Like marmalade skies in fact. Just seeing the labeling on this makes me think of some psychedelic ’60’s pop/rock song so I’m running with that. The one shortfall was that there wasn’t a ton of head on my pour. I don’t know if it was just under-carbonated or what but it didn’t bring much out. Not much lacing down the glass either, I was hoping for a little more, but I guess I can’t have everything.

The aroma is also tasty, its hoppy with fruity hop aromas bursting out. Sweet fruits that bring up thoughts of tropical starbursts. Mangoes, tangerines, citrus and some piney scents on the end. This great hop aroma is balanced by some bitterness and some grassy hop smells as well as a faint malt background.

The taste is bitter to start, the hops are definitely present. I don’t really get anything more than that after the initial bitter touch. There isn’t a great balance by the malts, I could have used a couple more to complement the hop profile. The beer is a little bit lighter, which I think was what the brewers were going for. It is supposed to be a more session-type beer, meaning you can enjoy more than one and still be coherent enough to carry a conversation. That must be why they are only putting it in 22oz bombers.

For the most part the look and smell of the beer were the highlights, which is a little disappointing since I had to drink 22 ounces of it after all. For its purpose, a session beer, this was spot on. It was definitely one I could enjoy a few of and have a good time with some good friends. I think this would be a great beer to utilize with a good burger or other pub foods. It wouldn’t dominate the food and if you could find the right combination could complement something quite nicely. Couldn’t tell you what that meal would be since I’m not a food expert but I am going out on a limb and saying it has potential. A solid beer but not one I would search out with a passion again.

 

Final Grade: B