Archive for August, 2008
Unfortunately, tonight I ran into a case of the ‘bad 6-packs’. I bought a few tasty bottles of a local brew that I especially love, and I was psyched to crack open a couple. But, woe is me, it appears said brewery may be having some issues, as every beer in the 6-pack was undrinkable, forcing me to tumble them all down the drain. What better way to drown your sorrows than to open something so wild, so CRAZY, that I couldn’t possibly keep dwelling on some sour ales? Well, that’s what Le Freak promises to be. It’s a hybrid of a west coast IPA and a Belgian tripel. I don’t really know what to expect. Did I mention it’s called “Le Freak”?
So, this one pours a very cloudy medium golden color that seems just chock full of dense debris. The head on this is very thick and soapy, full of chunky big bubbles. In the nose, the aroma is interesting in that it contains lots of hop and that tripel candy sweetness. However, it isn’t TOO crazy, just a surprising combination. Most of what we get here is the hop, though, so you really need to look for that sweetness. In the mouth, this gets a little wild. Initially in the mouth, there really is a lot of hop. And, true to the west coast, it’s all fresh and floral and very aromatic. So, up to here it’s just a big IPA. However, about the middle of the tongue, that candi sugar kicks in, and we get a totally misplaced combination of very bitter and very sweet. It’s an interesting thing. It isn’t bad, it isn’t great, it’s just bizarre. These are two flavors that, even in other similar hybrid brews, I’ve never seen displayed with such individual strength that played in such contrast – it really tastes like you made an IPA/tripel suicide and took a big swig. This sweetness quickly is displaced again by that floral hop bitterness as it hits the aftertaste, travels up into the nose, and sticks around for quite some time after the swallow. Even in the aftertaste, though, there is still a vague interplay of the sweetness around the roof of the mouth, like a little doormouse running through the big house of hop. I am noticing, however, that, as the beer warms, the hop gains strength and the candi sugar loses oomph. So, while some sweetness sticks around, the hop definitely takes centerstage after the first 15 minutes has passed. So, for the real boxing match, tune in while this beer is still quite cold. Altogether, this is definitely worth a try. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a daily drinker, at least not for me. But, it’s the best job of such a hybrid I’ve yet tasted. It’s tasty and very interesting, and it is certainly enough to take my mind off of the aforementioned bad brews…
During these last months of summer, it is imperative that we, the beer-drinking community, drink as many white ales, hefeweizens, and summer ales as possible. Also probably some kolsches and a few saison ales. Better toss in a couple of lagers, too. And pilsners. Tonight, however, I’m focusing on the first, as I try out de Proef’s La Grande Blanch Belgian white ale.
This big bottle of goodness pours a pale and cloudy light golden color with a few chunks of large-ish debris floating around. The head on this is dense and uneven, but seems to persist for quite some time, also leaving lots of foam along the sides of the glass. The aroma of this is sweet and brisk – it has a citrus tint, some sweetish cake-like aromas, and a surprising candy sweetness. In the mouth, this beer is very sweet, light, and refreshing. There is a surprising effervescence on the tongue, considering that the cork slid out without so much as a pop. The beer is mostly brisk and citrusy on the tip of the tongue. However, about the middle of the mouth, we get an unexpected dose of candi sugar that gives this beer some impressive presence and gives it some flavors akin to a Belgian tripel. On through the mouth, this candi sugar sweetness diminishes, leaving us with a little bit of citric sourness in the aftertaste, but otherwise a rather clean and crisp finish in the mouth. I really really enjoy this witbier. Of course, I’m a huge fan of tripels, and this has some tripel characteristics that you wouldn’t typically find in a white. So, for me, this is an excellent hybrid. Sweet and rich, but refreshing and crisp. Tres bien!
Well, we all know that the real reason I drink beer is to help other people. So, when I see a beer like the Reunion ’08 that benefits bone cancer research, then of course I’m going to pick it up. Besides that, it sounds pretty good – Bison makes some decent beer, and a red ale with that rye twang could be a pretty tasty treat. So, let’s check it out, shall we?
The pour of the Reunion is a clear medium amber with a thin caramel head that maintains around the edges of the glass whilst dissipating in the center. The aroma is quite sweet, full of toffee and dark sweetbreads, and richer than most amber ales you’ll find. In the mouth, this beer is big and flavorful. The mouthfeel is thick and rich and coats all areas of the mouth. The first sensation is all toffee sweetness. This flavor continues and diminishes to the middle of the tongue where it becomes a bit sweeter, but more bready. About this same point in the mouth, a tangy rye sensation comes about, giving this beer a touch of sourness, a bit of tanginess, and a lot of goodness. This amalgamation of sweet and tangy continues through the mouth, leaving us with an aftertaste that surprisingly holds on to all of the above. There is a coating of rich sweetness around the front of the mouth, and that tanginess keeps holding on at the back of the throat. Long story short, I think this is a great beer. Amber ales, due to their sweet richness, are prime time for a rye addition, and this beer does it very well. It’s tasty in the way that most amber ales are, but the flavor is extra full, and it tosses in that rye craziness to set this beer apart. This is a great job by Bison, and it’ll hopefully do some good things for the good cause, as well.
I just finished reading about Dan Weirback’s new hop growing venture today in the newest Beer Advocate magazine. Seems he and his wife have decided to circumvent the hop shortage and just grow their own. Sounds like it may be rather lucrative, well depending on their harvest. I pitched this idea to Ben and he seems to think we could make close to $200 if were able to use the 0.7 acres he owns. I’m pumped about being a hundredeir so look for our new sevenpack hop line on shelves soon…
I believe I may have bitten off more than I can chew this evening. My job requires me to get up quite early and I didn’t realize this beer weighs in at 13.6% abv until after I opened it, but alas, it’s open so looks like I’m gonna have to drink it. It is a “Belgian inspired Imperial Stout” and thus has all of the characterisics associated with this genre. It pours pitch black with a fluffy caramel-colored head. This beer comes with a very delicious smell. Mild, dark chocolate and roasted nuts take center stage and there are soft, coffee undertones. Nothing surprising to this point. But then there’s the taste…The taste is much sweeter than I’m used to. There is a pronounced fruitiness to the flavor, a combination of cherry and purple grapes. Their bitter sweetness wraps around the chocolate and roasted malt flavors and creates a complex taste that engulfs the tongue. The apparent alcohol content rises in the mouth and then travels through the nasal cavity and out the nose. The size of this beer creates a large mouthfeel that lasts until the next sip. I look forward to every Weyerbacher beer I drink. They don’t always blow me away but they have yet to disappoint (only exception was the Triple IPA). Despite its size this beer is surprisingly drinkable and as per the usual very tasty. I’ll probably take the advice of the label and buy at least one more to cellar in the hopes that it gets even better with age.
You folks may have noticed that I reviewed the E.S. Bam a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who want to be privy to acronyms, that E.S. stands for “Extra Special” – in the case of the E.S. Bam, that meant more hops and more malt than the original Bam. So, tonight, I’m basically drinking the less ‘special’ version of that same farmhouse ale.
The pour of the Bam is a fairly light and medium cloudy golden color with a very persistent stark white head made up of tons of dense bubbles, leaving streaks of spiderwebbing all down the sides of the glass. The aroma of this beer is super sour with lots of citrus, giving us a nice burn in the nose. There is also a reasonable amount of malt presence here, lending this a slight sweetness in the scent. In the mouth, this beer is again super sour. It has some lemony tints and just a hint of sweetness, all the while making you pucker up from that sour blast. This has a lot in common with the flavor of one of those sour lemon candies, except that the sweetness isn’t nearly as pronounced. And, sadly, I kinda wish it was. To me, this beer leans a bit too strongly on the primary distinguishing feature of a saison – the sourness. This certainly has sourness in spades, but it forgets a bit about the drinkability and appeal of the beer. If one really wants to know what makes a saison a saison, then this beer would be a good lesson by virtue of it’s sheer sourness. However, if one is looking for a saison that will be tasty, refreshing, and make you want to keep drinking, then I don’t think this is the one. Just a bit more of a malt backbone would balance the citric sourness and perhaps make this a very drinkable beer. However, this omission instead makes this beer a bit harsh and a tough beer for me to recommend. I know that Jolly Pumpkin makes a great beer, and I don’t think they did something they didn’t mean to do here – they are consistently fastidious with their beers, and I’m sure this is just how Jolly Pumpkin wanted this to taste. However, to my tastebuds, it isn’t too high on my Farmhouse Ale Scale.
Tonight I decided to go local with my beer choice and picked up a six pack of Wachusett Brewing Green Monsta Ale. The name is taken off the fact a local sports team has a large green wall at their park and people are not known to pronounce their R’s around here. Enough with the name, on to the beer.
A clear, orange-red body filled the pint glass, with an ample top of two fingers white head. As the beer receded through the tasting a nice lace stickage was left on the glass walls. The aromas were quite subdued with some malt, which were sweet and ever so slightly burnt, and hops, which were of wood and earth. Neither overpowered the other and each had their time to shine. I did notice a slight alcohol note too, but everything else was what one might expect from a pale ale, though not necessarily “a big pale ale” as expressed on the label.
The taste is where this beer got interesting. A light to medium body met the tongue and so did the malt and hops. Once again neither overpowered each other. The malt had a chance to shine with some nice bread-sweetness, and the hops were able to have some face time with a nice bitterness strike. When I thought the beer was all done, a spice note hit the back of my mouth. Since I noticed no hint of spice in the beer’s aroma, this was completely unexpected. I know this sounds strange, but the spice was nutmeg, and it was good. I am not talking about “holiday beer” style nut meg flavoring, but definitely nut meg. Yeah, I’m still confused by it.
Everything about this beer was very general “pale ale” to me, until the end. The spice ending set this beer apart. My guess is the spice came from the Belgian yeast (As the beer warmed, it was originally coming out of a 50-ish degree beer fridge, I noticed some yeast flavoring in the finish) they used in the brewing process, and I salute them for using it. The ending might not be for everyone, but for me the beer warrants another purchase.
Hocus Pocus stands as the final beer in a mixed 12 pack from Magic Hat. The three other beers in this twelve pack were: Odd Notion Summer, Circus Boy, and #9. The beer cap read “Just Beyond The Whales Tails Await For You Exquisite Ales”. I am not sure where the “whales tails” is but lets hope this is an “exquisite ale”.
Poured into a pint glass the beer possessed a white pillowy head on top of a clear, very light golden body. Aromas were subtle but I got hints of white grape, sugar syrup and wheat. The wheat was tough to nail down because I was not expecting it, quite honestly. I was expecting a more cereal grain aroma to the beer. I think this was a case of trying to ‘judge a book by its cover’, and I failed miserably.
This wheat characteristic plays a rather predominant part of this beers aftertaste. The wheat sticks around for quite a while, which I found especially interesting for such a light in the mouth beer. Before all of this wheat however was a light sweetness and some hints of grape.
I think the best way to summarize this beer, for me, is a case of mistaken identity. I was not expecting a wheat beer, so this threw me off. The beer is subtle in all aspects, with a slight sweetness bent. I preferred the other three beers in the 12 pack over this one. Interesting, but there was something a little off about this beer for me.
I guess I did this a little backwards, but I’m just now getting to the flagship brew of the Coney Island Lager folks over at Shmaltz. This one isn’t some crazy lager witbier, and it isn’t uber-hopped (although it does use 6 different types of hops). Instead, it’s just a straight up lager, from folks who seem to be vying for the title of lager king of the hill – it’d better be good!
This lager pours a medium golden-amber with a thin white head that floats as an island in the center of the glass with no contact on the sides of the glass. In the nose, this beer has a predominance of rich malt. There are notes of dark sweetbread and slight bits of caramel, and it’s overall a rich and warming aroma. In the mouth, this is again rich and full. This beer has a fairly complex, but very well balanced, combination of sweetness and bitterness. On the tip of the tongue, we are immediately met with a floral hop flavor. This hoppiness is soon met with the flavors of dark sweetbread and hints of licorice. On down the tongue, the hops again rear their head, but this time it’s more about a bitter blast than the floral freshness. Regardless, it’s a nice bit of pep around the back of the mouth. Down the throat, we’re left with some bitterness in the nose and a more sweet presence in the residue around the mouth and tongue. This is, without a doubt, a great lager. It’s a lot bigger than most lagers you’ll find on the shelf, but it’s certainly accessible. Personally, I’d choose the Coney Island Sword Swallower steel hop lager over this any day, but that’s not to say this is bad. Actually, this is really really good, and the Sword Swallower is just phenomenal. I’ll have both, please…
I’m finally getting around to the 2nd, and probably most hyped, of the new Coney Island Lager brews. This one is a weird one – it’s basically a witbier, but in lager form. So, we can basically expect a lager, but probably brewed with wheat, and it’ll have various spices, coriander, orange peel, etc. Could be crazy.
The pour of this looks just like any good witbier. It’s a pale luminescent white with lots of dense debris, a super thin white head, and ample carbonation bubbling up from the bottom of the glass. In the nose, you really get a lot of spice – it burns the nose slightly, which isn’t a bad thing. The predominant flavor is spicy warm citrus, and I’m definitely sensing some coriander. In the mouth, this instantly tingles on the tip of the tongue. This is certainly much bigger and ‘meatier’ than a typical witbier. The lager-ness of the beer is immediately apparent, giving this a much bolder, more pungent flavor. Again, spice takes over at the tip of the tongue, moving to a big meaty sensation that traverses and surrounds the tongue, giving this a huge mouthfeel (especially for a witbier). As the beer moves through the mouth, more pronounced citrus notes show up, along with bits of pepper and a decent bitter note. For sure, this beer doesn’t play around – it’s much more complex than most white beers, and the presence in the mouth is huge. Honestly, I’d have to adjust my expectations to really dig on this beer. When I crack a witbier, I look for something light, sweet, and refreshing. This beer isn’t exactly that – rather, it’s big, bold, and even a bit shocking in its scope. That being said, I think it’s a great experiment in just what a lager is capable of. I’m not sure if this could be a daily drinker for me. However, I’d recommend it to anyone who is into lagers. A friend, Scott, tried this out (he’s a big lager-head lately) and seemed to find it phenomenal, even though he isn’t quite the beer nerd that yours truly is. So, for sure, try it out. At this price, you can’t go wrong.
Unlike Ben I have never been across the pond and thus have never had the opportunity to enjoy a truly authentic German beer. Of course I have drank many international brews but not without the assistance of an American distributor. Well folks my girlfriend visited Deutschland last fall and she was kind enough to bring me this beauty. It’s probably not a big deal to most but given that this is the closest I am going to get to Germany any time in the near future I’m pretty excited. Also according to other websites The Rothaus brewery has develop quite the cult following in the recent past so I’m ready to see what all the fuss is about.
If I were to judge solely on appearance this might be the cleanest beer I have ever come across. It has a VERY light, straw-colored hue, similar to white wine. There is a flurry of activity in the glass as numerous bubbles race to the top. This may in part to the unique Sam Adams glassware, but also I think the effervescence is more apparent because this beer is so clear. The smell is rather subtle and uneventful. It smells like a typical pils, no defining aroma, just cool, crisp and mildly malty. The taste is refreshing and light. There is a breadiness that washes throughout the mouth and concludes with a slight lemony bitterness. When I say slight I mean extremely slight, there are times you have to search for it. The interesting thing about this beer is that a portion of the taste camps out on the tip of the tongue. This is a simple beer, nothing exciting but more tasty than our domestic light beers, no questions asked. When I finally visit my ancestors’ homeland I will certainly seek out this beer for a night of session drinking.
Everybody who’s anybody knows that I love a good weiss beer. Hacker-Pschorr is a weiss that I drank a fair amount of during my European travels, but not one that I see frequently in the States. However, when I see it, I’m inclined to have a sip.
This one pours a hazy deep golden color with a fairly luscious white head, for a wheat beer. The aroma of this is considerably richer than most weiss beers – it contains small hints of sweet citrus, but also brings a notable aroma of warm banana. In the mouth, this is also a bit richer than you might expect from a weiss. When I think of most weiss beers, I think of sharp citrus, sweet wheat flavors, and a crisp refreshing finish. This, however, leaves the citrus flavors in the background and instead presents flavors of banana and butter. This, combined with a thicker mouthfeel and a texture that coats the mouth with it’s decadent rich sweetness, makes for what I would consider more of a dessert weiss than anything. It is fairly refreshing, but it’s thick mouthfeel and warmer flavors means that it won’t be quite so pleasant on a hot summer day. However, on a balmy Detroit night, it actually hits the spot pretty well. Definitely a good beer to try out if you’re looking for a weiss of a different breed.
Labatt Blue Pilsner
You Are A Kanuck’s Bud Light
Tastes A Little Sweet
As mentioned in my July 4th post, I picked up a Magic Hat variety 12 pack for the 4th festivities. Two of the beers present in the 12 pack had already been reviewed here at sevenpack: Circus Boy and #9. For the remaining two beers, Odd Notion and Hocus Pocus, I saved a bottle of each for ‘proper’ reviewing purposes. No time better then the present for those ‘proper’ reviews.
Three things tend to be a given when dealing with Magic Hat beers. First, original label artwork. I have always been impressed by the labels Magic Hat produces. They tend to be colorful and ‘interesting’. Second, bottle cap words of wisdom. OK ‘words of wisdom’ might be a slight stretch, but underneath each cap is a statement or saying, which I look forward to reading – “Don’t Eat with your feet”. Lastly, lack of style information, at least on the label. I never quite know what I am getting into when I first pop the cap of a Magic Hat beer. Sure it might be labeled as an “ale”, but that is a rather broad category of beverage. Nonetheless this seems to increase the ‘adventurous’ factor a bit.
The beer stands a clear brown with a slight red hue in my pint glass. A finger of white head graces the beer’s top, but it quickly fades to a paper thin layer, leaving no clues of its former presence on the glass walls. The first aroma to hit me is of fruit. Apricot to be precise. The more I sniff however, the more this aroma fades into a light presence of sweet caramel. I place the beer down for a minute or two and then start sniffing again. The same progression happens.
I take my first swallow and a completely unexpected taste hits my tongue. Smoke. Its not a strong smoke, more in the realm between toasted and smoked, but its sheer unexpectedness, seems to exaggerate its presence in my mouth. This flavor progresses to an enjoyable brown sugar and caramel sweetness as it traverses the rest of the mouth. This sweetness was a bit more expected due to the beer’s aromas. Though the beer is light in the mouth it leaves a rather pronounced after taste of sweet bread and malt. The aromas of fruit do not seem to amount to much within the taste.
This beer definitely struck me as odd. First, the starting taste of smoke came out of left field for me. Second, the aromas of apricot which faded during every session of sniffing, but would then resurface back to original strength at the start of the next, but amounted to nothing within the taste of the beer. Odd stuff.
I found the drink light and refreshing and was sad to have finished it. The beer has a pretty good chance at being a session beer, with its 4.2% ABV, but the sweetness might grow to be too much for some people. Even with the odd characteristics of the beer, I would definitely pick up Odd Notion again.
Typically most people do not think to pair beer with food, or at the most they pair them with burgers and hot dogs. As beer lovers however, we know beer can be paired with a lot of different foods. I know many sevenpack readers have tried and are on the look out for interesting beer and food pairings, since I have read their personal blog postings on the subject. I already posted about one less then obvious, but great, combination a while back: beer and ice cream. Now I have recently stumbled across another great combination: beer and “raw plate”.
First some people might be wondering what a “raw plate” actually is. A raw plate tends to consist of 8 to 10 clams/oysters of different varieties (typically two of each). There are a ton of different clam and oyster varieties and, much like beer and hops, they all have different tastes and subtleties based on their region and growing conditions.
Due to the clams/oysters rather delicate tastes, one could be inclined to stick with a lighter style of beer in the pairing. Lighter, however, is not always better. Consider the fact there is a style of stout called “Oyster Stout”. This style was originally created because the beers were either made or went well with oysters. I would not go pairing clams/oysters with everything, the delicate and subtle nature of the food definitely has to come into play with the pairing -and the fact clams/oysters are not the cheapest things on the menu, I would not want their tastes to go to waste- but I think there is enough room for experimentation to surprise oneself.
Being summer, I have gone with lighter beers -La Rulles Estivale, and Dupont Foret- and been very pleased with my selections. As a little something extra I tend to add a dash of hot sauce and lemon to the clams/oysters. The intermingling of flavors is excellent and the meal is a wonderful light fare for a summer afternoon or evening.
Unfortunately the raw plate is not a typical menu item at a bar, or if it is on the menu the beer list is rather lacking at the establishment. The beer bars that care about both menus (food and beverage) are your best bet on finding the combination. Fortunately my local bar qualifies as caring about both menus, though the raw plate sells out early most nights. If you can not find a raw plate at any local establishment, you could always try shucking a few clams/oysters, purchased from a local sea food market, at home.
However the combination happens, either out at a restaurant or at home, the beer and raw plate is a great combo, with great room for experimentation.
So, if you don’t know the story of Hoegaarden, then this review will probably mean little to you. Also, if you don’t know the story of Hoegaarden, I’m about to summarize it for you.
The Belgian Witbier variety was one that experienced some fame way back in the early 1900′s. However, at some point shortly beyond the olden days (1950′s), it fell out of favor with the locals and nearly disappeared. Some time (around 1965) after this ambrosial variety of beer fell from grace, a saint (not a real saint, but to me…) by the name of Pierre Celis decided to bring it on back. He did so with a recipe of his devising, and he made it happen in the town of Hoegaarden in Belgium. Needless to say, the beer took off and over the years saw international distribution. As such, Inbev thought it’d be a good business move to purchase, and it worked out pretty well for Pierre, too (who can blame the fellow?). So, InBev picked it up; it’s the Hoegaarden you know today, except that purists argue that the recipe has been altered from the original. Later on, Pierre wished to re-brew his original variety of witbier, but he’d already sold off Hoegaarden. So, long story short, he moved to Austin, Texas, started the Celis Brewery, and started brewing Celis White. But, woe is us, Miller bought Celis Brewery, screwed it all up, and the brewery was shut down in 2000. Pierre was bummed and moved back to Belgium. But, don’t fret! Michigan Brewing Company then stepped up to the mic, took on Pierre’s recipe and began to re-brew Celis White. In theory, this was the original recipe and, as far as I know, you can still buy this beer currently. However, it isn’t brewed by the hands of Pierre himself. Fast forward a bit further, and now Pierre himself is back in a small town called Ertvelds in Belgium, and he has begun brewing again according to his first legendary witbier recipe. It is available here and there in some small batches, thanks to the Van Steenberge brewery, and a few kegs happened to find their way to the Raleigh Times down I-40 from my home. Matty and I stopped in to have a couple pints and see what we think.
Frankly, I was disappointed by the fact that the bar didn’t carry the original Hoegaarden, because I think that comparing Hoegaarden and Ertvelds side-by-side would be a very interesting experiment. As they didn’t, I have to shoot from the hip. Now, I never had the Celis White from Celis Brewing Company. However, I have now had Hoegaarden, the Celis White from Michigan Brewing Company, and Ertvelds and, according to what I can recall, the Ertvelds maintains a citrus note that is considerably higher than any of the others. The first thing that struck me about the Ertvelds is that, despite not having the customary lemon or orange tossed in at the bar, it still had an exceptionally strong and fresh lemon zing. This characteristic makes it very fresh and extremely refreshing, and it was super quenching on a hot summer afternoon. In addition to this, it’s difficult to pick out other differentiators without a side-by-side comparison. For sure, it is delicious, has a smooth wheat texture to it, and a lovely stark white head. It is, by all means, a beer I could drink several of in a sitting – it’s freshness and refreshingness would be hard to parallel, but it’s $7.25/glass price tag is quite short of refreshing. So, delicious beer, grandiose pricetag! Nevertheless, this is something any true beer nerd should seek out…