Archive for March, 2009
This week finds me in the bustling metropolis of Houston, TX. As such, I deemed it prudent to pick up a sixer of a native Texas brew. Now, I know there are probably other more adventurous Texas beers out there. However, seeing as I’m stuck downtown without a car, I gotta take whatever the local bodega carries, and so that leaves me with the Saint Arnold Amber.
This beer pours a rather light amber color, super clear with a dense off-white head that sticks around only briefly, settling into a slim ring around the edge of the glass pretty quickly. In the nose, there are some medium malty sweet aromas and a bit of caramel. It isn’t overwhelming, but is mostly bready and sweet. In the mouth, the predominant presence here is malt. On the tip of the tongue, there is a blast of tasty sweetbread. This travels through the mouth becoming a bit deeper in flavor and introducing some richer caramel cream flavors. There is just a hint of hop here that presents a tad bit of metallic bitterness, but it doesn’t stick around long. Down the throat, this metallic bitterness actually rears it’s head again, leaving me with an aftertaste that is fairly bitter, considering how this beer performed through the mouth. All in all, it’s a medium amber that is flavorful but very drinkable. This could definitely be a session beer, but it’s pretty nice as a one-off, too!
I tried this beer a few weeks back, giving a good year and a half to cellar, which was a “bit” longer then my original prediction of a six months cellaring time. To be fair the beer’s label did say to cellar for six months, so this extra time was more for my personal experimentation. Lets see how my experiment with extra cellaring time has treated the beer.
The beer poured a golden color, with a very-light haze to its body. A tiny constant stream of bubbles cascaded up the tulip glass, giving the beer a thin white covering of tight bubbles. I noticed light hints of both yeast and “funk-sour” aromas, but nothing too intense or off putting. In the mouth the beer felt a bit syrupy on the tongue. The light “funk-sour” aroma came through in the taste, and so did a pronounced white grape flavoring, giving the beer a certain wine aspect. The beer ran smooth but light.
Not a bad outcome, but nothing to hold out for. I’ll have to try this experiment again, but actually follow the “directions”.
I wanted to mention that Jason over at The Brew Basement has started posting again, after a slight hiatus. If you enjoy reading about the cellaring of beer, and how a beer’s character changes over time, you definitely have to check his site out.
Original Post 8/12/2007:
Actually Ommegang Brewery‘s latest beer “Ommegeddon” should be hitting local craft brew store shelves in the coming weeks, if it has not already arrived. I learned my local craft brew store was going to be stocking it this past weekend, the first in the area to do so, and since I’ve enjoyed past Ommegang beers, I made sure to pick up some bottles. While giving the beer’s label a quick read, I happen to notice a nice little tidbit of information: “Cellar 6 months for maximum enjoyment of Brettanomyces funkiness. Cellar up to two years.” (Hence the post’s title.)
I will admit I am a cellaring novice, having only my first sampling of a cellared beer a couple of months ago. The sampling, which was put on by Drinkcraftbeer, was between a recently brewed Stone Imperial Russian Stout and one which had been cellared a year and three months. Though it was only a sample, and I was not taking notes, I do remember the cellared beer having a fuller body and less alcohol burn. I found the difference so impressive I decided to pick up two bottles of the Imperial Stout and give cellaring a shot myself.
Since I wanted to make sure I was properly cellaring my beer, I searched around the internet looking for some tips. Though there are numerous resources available, I found an article, written a few months ago in the The International Herald Tribune, which provided an excellent summary of all the points of cellaring, from what to do to the possible end results.
The first step to cellaring is choosing the correct beer to cellar. No, placing a 30 pack of Bud Light in your cellar will not magically change it into an amazing beer. Beers that cellar well are big in malt, body and alcohol (eight percent or higher), are non-pasteurized, because pasteurization would kill the beer’s yeast, and a plus would be yeast still visible in the bottle (means there is a bunch of yeast to continue the fermentation process, and the yeast will add its own flavor once dead). Beers which you should not cellar, along with macro-lagers, are wheat beers, German weisses, and American pale ales. Your favorite hop bomb beer is not a good candidate for cellaring either, because the hops break down to “an unpleasant tea like flavor” (which sounds like the next macro-brewer product… “Tea Beer”). One beer style which is an exception to the rules (there is always one) is the Lambic (dry and sour with five to six percent alcohol), which is made for aging and goes by the adage “The older, the better.”
Now that you have picked the beer you want to cellar, make sure to purchase two so you can taste what the beer is like before cellaring, you need to store it properly. That “proper place” is dark and cool, which tends to be the cellar for most people (I bet you found that shocking). There should be no light in the area and the place should have a consistent temperature of ideally between 50 and 55 degrees (and definitely no more then 68 degrees). I personally store the bottles standing up, because standing works better for the space I have and I agreed with the points brought up in this beer advocate post, but the debate of storing bottles standing vs on the side still rages.
Beer, check. Storage space, check. Now comes the hardest part, overcoming the temptation to drink the beer while it ages. How long before you can cave to the temptation? Well, some beers can age for a year or two, before their flavors peak and start to fade, while others can age for decades (a British barley wine is capable of this according to the article). Since aging depends on ingredients, brewing process, and bottle size, the time period of aging can be variable. Search around and read what other people are cellaring and for how long, and go from there.
So you’ve overcome temptation for X amount of months or years, what is in store for you at the end? As long as the beer has not spoiled due to air penetration or an infected cork/cap (yes, unfortunately this could happen, and you would not know about it until after the cellaring) “… the tastes will evolve from brash to refined, as the alcohol flavor fades away. The beer’s aroma changes and the bitterness melts away, replaced by drier, sweeter flavors.” Besides that general description, I don’t know what is in store for you. This makes cellaring such a unique way to experiment with beer, the end result is such an unknown.
I typically do not review beers on sevenpack, but Ommegedon spurred on this cellaring article, so I am going to make an exception. The beer, poured into a tulip glass, gives a good finger or two of head, consisting of small tight bulbs. The head recedes at a medium pace, leaving fare stickage on the glass and a ring of bubbles along the glass wall. The beer is a cloudy honey color with very little debris, which happens to remain at the bottom of the bottle. Hints of citrus (lemon), spice (pepper), and grass (dried hay) greet the nose but all are subtle. The drink is smooth with a slight sourness up front, and a bread/yeast taste at the back. No immense flavors jump out at me but the beer is very drinkable and refreshing.
My guess on what will happen after six months of cellaring is the brettanomyces yeast, which there is quite a bit of at the bottom of the bottle, will continue to work its “funky” magic, and the beer’s sour characteristic will increase (as sour as Brise-BonBon, I am not sure). This however, will be balanced by an increase in the bread/yeast finish, as the brettanomyces dies. I enjoyed the beer before cellaring, so I’m looking forward to what will happen with the cellaring. After six months I will post a follow up review and we shall find out what really happens.
If you decide to try cellaring this or some other beer, definitely post a comment or trackback to this post, because we would enjoy hearing what you are trying out. Questions or comments on cellaring are also welcome. drink well.
When I walked into the local watering hole recently, I was not looking for a strong old ale or a beer with 10.5% abv. Being that there was a cask of Harviestoun Brewery Ola Dubh 30 Year sitting on the bar, all ready for some gravity pouring action, my viewpoint changed and I thought, “Yes Dave, you actually do want a strong old ale with 10.5% abv.” Funny how that worked out. The beer’s description on the menu was “Strong Old Ale aged in 30 year old Highland Park Scotch Casks”, so I prepared myself for something unique.
The beer poured a deep, rich brown with no real head to speak of. The few bubbles that did rise, stick to the side of the glass, and provided an interesting toffee colored ring around the beer. The nose only hinted at the abv involved in the beer, with slight wisps of alcohol touching the nose every so often. A musty-leathery smell took control of most of the aroma, which made me question my purchase of the beer. There was however an interspersing of light vanilla aromas, giving me hope that all was not lost.
All was certainly not lost. In the mouth was where this beer found its own. My first impression of the beer was I was drinking a bold Cabernet. I progressed past this wine thought when the beer progressed through my mouth. Flavors of oak and vanilla were first on my tongue. Not overpowering, but making themselves known. There was also a “wood chip” taste I could not narrow down any further. Not to say I have ever eaten a wood chip, there was just an added wood flavor in the front of the beer. The beer moved onto some great roasted characteristics towards the middle. Lightly-roasted grains, and a more pronounced smoked peat aspect provided a nice off-set to the earlier mentioned wood-vanilla flavoring. This roast/smoke also had a certain drying aspect to them. The beer finished with a light and enjoyable bitterness characteristic, which was mixed in with a pleasant, and surprising, juniper berries taste. All of these tastes flowed through the mouth smoothly and stuck around for quite some time, due to the beer’s thick, but pleasurable, viscosity.
Definitely not a beer for everyone. While enjoying mine, someone else purchased a glass of this beer, had two sips, put it aside and ordered a different beer. That being said, my wife, a wine drinker before I got her into beer, really enjoyed this beer. It would not become a daily drinker, or even a regular drinker, for me, but for a special occasion, or a cold evening, this beer would hit the spot. Impressive stuff!
Moylan’s is a brewery that, while not initially blown away by their bottle art or styles, has recently gotten my attention based on outstanding flavor, alone. I recently reviewed their Hopsickle ale, found it fantastic, and have since picked up a bottle of their Double IPA and the Kilt-Lifter. I’m hoping that this beer meets the high bar that has been set!
This ale pours a deep brown with hints of ruby and very little sediment. The head here is lightly caramel, but seems thin and light and dissipates rather quickly. In the nose, I’m sensing tons of rich dark malt, leaning towards a sweeter aroma reminiscent of toffee. The flavor of the Kilt-Lifter is super rich and layered with sweetness. Initially, there is a sharp sweetness on the tongue and an essence of decent alcohol content. On through the mouth, rich toffee flavors and light-chocolatey richness becomes evident in the malt component. In addition to the chocolate/toffee tones, I’m catching some nice fruit tones – mostly dark cherry – that float along in the background to keep the richer flavors from becoming too cloying. While this beer is quite decadent in flavor, the mouthfeel is actually quite light. It washes fairly clean from the mouth, leaving a slight reminiscence of dark fruit on the back of the tongue. All things considered, I’d say this is a pretty killer scotch ale. This is a genre that I’m fond of, and there are lots of good options out there in this genre, but this one certainly stands towards the top of the pack. So far, I’m very impressed with Moylan’s – I can’t wait to try the rest of their wares!
With this post I am going to diverge slightly from the regular sevenpack post. I am going to write about a “relative” to beer… mead. Why am I making this jump? Well, a long while back, we here at sevenpack reviewed a mead-esque beer in Magic Hat’s “Odd Notion” line of beers. From this review we learned one very important fact, Ben and Matt are not big mead fans. Now I will not qualify myself as a connesiour of mead, far from it, but I do not fear it as much as either Ben or Matt. This was not always the case however.
The first time I had mead is a memory I try to block from my mind. A local better beer store had erracted a rather large and eye catching shelf of mead products. Always being up for something new, and noticing said products were on sale, I decided to pick up a bottle of mead. I had vague ideas, sweet and middle ages popped into my head, of what mead was. I got home put the mead in the fridge and let it cool a little bit. Later that evening, I popped the cap and things start getting hazy from there. Not because I was so intoxicated by the aroma I downed the whole bottle and the memories are lost to alcoholic indulgences. Far from it, I remember pouring the mead into a glass, smelling it, taking a sip, taking another sip… and pouring the glass’s and bottle’s contents down the drain. Yeah, not a fan.
Months past and I thought I was done with mead for good. Then along comes my friend Jen, announcing she and her husband had brewed their own mead and asking if I wanted to give it a try. I manned up, and said “sure”, though not really looking forward to the outcome. I can paraphrase what I said after my first sip, “You have given me a new appreciation for mead.” With that, I no longer fear the mead.
Since Jen and Jesse did such a great job with their brew, I asked them a few mead related questions. They happily obligied in answering. Below is the dialogue we had.
1- First and foremost, what is mead?
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey, water and yeast. It is possibly the oldest form of alcohol produced by man. It can also have fruit and/or spices added in (these would technically be referred to as a melomel or a metheglin, respectively). Wikipedia actually has a pretty good description of the history and categorizations of mead.
2- What are the typical tastes associated with mead (what to taste for)?
Typical mead primarily tastes relatively sweet, with varying degrees of dryness, spiciness, tartness, and booziness. The end flavor will depend upon what the specific ingredients (yeast, fruit, spices, honey) are, how long the mead is brewed for, and (in some cases) what time of year you brew.
3- How did you get into brewing mead?
I (Jen) first got into brewing mead about 5 years ago, when my boyfriend (now husband) and I tried a batch that some friends from high school had made while away at college. We loved the historical relevance of it, not to mention that it was great to share some home-made booze with friends! Our first batch wasn’t very good, as I remember, but we have improved with every batch since. We have even given it away as wedding gifts recently, and received glowing feedback!
4- Have you ever brewed beer or wine?
I (Jen) have never tried brewing beer or wine myself. For my own satisfaction, I’ve determined that there are far too many great breweries and wineries for me to ever make something outstanding. The best I could ever hope to make in those genres would be mediocre simile of my favorite beer or wine. There are relatively few meaderies, and therefore more opportunity to make something new and different and exciting. I’m also able to brew without the concern of how it compares to hundreds of other drinks made the same way before mine.
5- What are the steps in brewing mead?
The basic steps in brewing mead are as follows:
1. Clean all equipment
2. Boil water
3. Add honey, stirring every few minutes until dissolved
4. Cool mixture down to roughly 100 degrees F
5. Funnel into clean carboy
6. Add activated yeast
7. Add any fruit or spices desired (Optional)
8. Cap carboy with a bubbler top
9. Allow to ferment for at least 6 weeks in a cool, dry place
10. Siphon into bottles
More in-depth instructions, and an actual mead recipe, can be found in this document.
6- Do you have any tips for first time mead brewers (either former beer brewers or new to brewing in general)?
Refer to the attached file for most tips. Additionally, if you are using fruit in your brew, be aware that the time of year may affect the end result. As with wine, the more in-season and sun-ripened the fruit is, the sweeter (and possibly stronger) your brew may be.
7- Do you have a particular recipe (or flavoring for mead) you enjoy and would like to share with people?
So far, we have made a strawberry-blackberry-vanilla mead and a banana-pear-chai spice mead that both got rave reviews. We brewed a plum/pomegranate mead recently, which is already nearly gone, so that tells you how good that was. I have also been contacted about making an herbal-botanical metheglin, based on a gruit-style beer. There are lots of greatrecipes out there, so just experiment with ones that sound good!
8- What are some good mead references (web sites and/or books)?
We haven’t had much luck with comprehensive resources, although we honestly haven’t done much research. Most of our knowledge comes from hand-me-down information or from first-hand experimentation. Most people who brew can be great resources, as they often love to share their own knowledge.
9- Are there any mead producers who stick out for their quality product and you would recommend to someone trying out mead for the first time? (Not all of us are privy to home brewed mead.)
As far as commercial mead goes, I would recommend that newcomers try Lurgashall’s Special Reserve (England) Bunratty (Ireland) or Apis Jadwiga (Poland). I (Jen) do not particularly recommend RedStone, but that is simply personal preference.
And unrelated to any question, in keeping with the history of mead and it being the origin of the term “honeymoon,” we brewed a batch to toast, in lieu of champagne, at our wedding.
Hope people found this mead diversion interesting. Maybe some of the homebrewers in the audience will be able to incorporate some mead characteristics into their next brew, or maybe go full hog and brew up a batch of mead.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming of beer reviews.
A while back I was perusing the beer isles of my local better beer store, and came across this saison from Brasserie de Blaugies. Saison is a favorite beer style of mine, and I am always on the look-out for one’s I have not had. This offering went directly into the basket with only a cursory glance at the label. Even though cursory, I did notice the “brewed with spelt” on the label. I did not actually know what spelt was at the time, but ironically enough we had a box of Trader Joe’s spelt in our kitchen cabinet (I do all the grocery shopping, so I have no idea how it got there). From the Trader Joe box:
One of the world’s ancient wheat grains, spelt has been cultivated for thousands of years. It’s similar to rice and couscous, but with some important differences. What makes it different? (Dave: I don’t know, please tell me Trader Joe box.) Its naturally nutty flavor, for one thing….
Interesting. Lets see what it does for the beer.
In the tulip glass the beer’s body was golden in color with a slight haze. Even though I decanted the beer, there were still lots of little debris floating around the beer, though there was even more left in the bottle. The beer had a ton of carbonation that produced a nice, frothy white head, but took a while to pour. The head produced the ever inviting bouquet one expects from a quality saison. Lemon, grass, hay, and even a slight nutiness were all present.
In the mouth these aromas continued. The beer starts with a nice lemon presence. It progresses to the aforementioned grassy/hay character, while producing a nice tingle on the tongue. Just before the sour finish of the beer, there is a slight raw nut character that sneaks in. It does not last long, and I had to search for it, but I did notice it.
Light, refreshing, and tasty… what I like in my saisons. This is a quality beer produced by Brasserie de Blaugies. Brasserie de Blaugies is a small brewery, run by two schoolteachers out of their tiny garage, so finding their beers might be a challenge. If I find this beer again however, I will definitely pick up a bottle.
Trying to catch up with all my reviews in my notebook, I reach this IPA. BrewDog beers seem to be a relatively new addition to the beer stocked on local store shelves. As mentioned before on sevenpack, I like to start a new brewery off with their IPA. I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the IPA style, so my senses are tuned to what should be present. Lets see how BrewDog pulls off their IPA.
The beer, poured into my pint glass, was golden in color and slightly hazy. The white head dissipated very quickly to a thin covering, not that there was much head to begin with. The collapse of the head left a light lacing along the glass walls. The nose of the beer was quite hoppy. Earth hops were predominate, with some herb hops and light citrus hops joining the show. This one-dimensional aspect (i.e. hops) continued into the taste. An earthy character was present, but the previous mentioned herb note takes president, with a pepper-spice tilt. An aspect of the beer that really stuck out in the mouth was its lightness. This light character allowed the beer to run quickly through the mouth, finish clean, and leave little after taste. When compared to other IPAs this was on the very light side of the scale.
I was not all that impressed with this beer. To me it was one dimensional, and quite light. Though this was not a good start for BrewDog, I have not given up on them. When I am ready for a hop bomb I might have to check out their Hardcore IPA (style: Imperial IPA). If their regular IPA is high on hops their imperial should be pretty insane.
Spring is finally upon us, so this beer review will fall under the “better late then never” category, since the beer is a Christmas Holiday beer. I had the beer back in the throws of winter, but, as is my “style”, I am just getting around to placing my review into post form. The first standout feature, and hopefully not the only one, of this beer is the brewers behind it. This is a collaboration beer between Stone, Nøgne-Ø, and Jolly Pumpkin. All three brewers have made exceptional beers in the past, so lets see what happens when they combine forces.
The beer poured a jet black into my snifter, with a head that was of the “small-white-bubble-islands” variety. A big pine aroma hit my nostrils first, reminding me of Stone’s Black IPA. Through this thick pine aroma I also gleamed some typical Christmas beer aromas of coriander and ginger. In the mouth the beer runs smooth, and the pine taste, unsurprisingly, was the bully of the bunch, beating back all the other flavors to near unnoticeable quality. One strange flavoring I did notice was something I noted as “pasta flavor”. Was this a gasp of malt trying to make itself known? I am not really sure. The beer finished big and bitter.
I was not overly impressed with the beer personally, and probably a reason I took so long to post my review. The Allstrom brothers reviewed this beer back in late February for their Volume 11 Issue 8 Weekly Dig beer article (page 14). I did not read the review at the time, having already had the beer and not wanting to “taint” my review with their thoughts. Having just finished writing my review however, I gave their review a read.
I am not even sure we are talking about the same beer! Maybe my nose was off the night I had this, or I got a bad bottle, or the fact everyone tastes things differently. Whatever the reason, they really enjoyed the beer (with qualities I never noticed). So if you find this beer lying on a shelf somewhere, I recommend giving it a shot. It might not have done anything for me, but I’m not going to completely disregard the beer either.
As an ending aside, I enjoy this collaboration trend in brewing. It keeps things very interesting for the beer drinker, and I hope to see its continuation along with its expansion.
This beer, along with a Corsendonk glass, was a Christmas gift from this past year. We sampled the beer a while back, but I never got around to posting my thoughts about it. Before I get to the beer however, let me say the glass itself is quite cool. What makes this glass stick out is the Corsendonk emblem on the glass’s stem. None of my other glasses have this feature, and it really adds a nice touch. Though glassware is important, what is more important is the beer that goes in it. Lets see how this one turns out.
Poured a big, pillowy head that stayed around for minutes. The head was kept aloft by a column of bubbles emanating from the dead bottom-center of the glass. Peering at this column through the beer’s hazy-golden-copper body proved to be quite captivating.
The aromas were typical for a Belgian pale ale. Yeast, lemon and cracked white pepper all made their presence known. Nothing demanding about the beer’s nose, but still inviting. These aromas provided a nice backing for the beer’s tastes. Though the lemon aroma seemed to get lost in the shuffle, two new tastes stepped up to take its place. There was a slight buttery-ness in the middle of the mouth, and a banana taste made a showing in the beer’s finish. Couple these with yeast, and light peppery spice, and you have an enjoyable and slightly complex beer. One thing that threw me for a slight loop was the beer’s thickness. By no means did the beer qualify as “syrupy” or anything close, but it was definitely thicker then I thought it would be. This made the beer quite smooth, and allowed the tastes to stick around for a little bit, instead of washing completely clean at the beer’s end.
Overall a refreshing, enjoyable brew, with a great piece of glassware.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything new on the shelves from our friends at Schmaltz. I’m generally a big fan of the brews these guys produce, both in their He’Brew and Schmaltz lines. So, when I saw the newest Lager from Coney Island on the shelf, I had to pick it up…
This one pours a surprisingly dark hue for a lager. It is a deep woody brown with a slightly off-white head that dissipates fairly quickly. There is nearly no debris in the brew, giving it a deep but sparkling clear appearance. In the nose, there’s a decent amount of maple and a slightly sharp malt aroma, making it rich but crisp and biting as I would typically expect from a lighter lager. In the mouth, I’m initially surprised at the range and depth of flavor in this beer. Initially, I’m hit with a slightly cloying sweetness full of maple and brown sugar. The mouthfeel is rather thick, as the flavor travels through the mouth with some viscosity, coating the tongue. As the beer continues down the tongue, some rich malty notes appear, combined with a lightly bitter earthiness. In the aftertaste, we are left with a melange of maple and earthy flavors with a slight alcohol burn to remind us of the 10% abv that this brew carries. Truthfully, this is one of the biggest and darkest lagers I can remember drinking. It’s a big and rich beer, though it has some crisp elements, as those cloying flavors eventually wash pretty clean from the palate. I certainly recommend this to any fan of bigger dark brews like dubbels or barleywines. The Blockhead will give you something a bit different, though reminiscent of these types of ales.
Post Update: Oops, I did it again. I aged an IPA to lackluster results. This is another giant IPA that I decided had enough alcohol content and hop bite that I’d be interested to see what it should become after a couple of years. This one I happened to age for over 2 years, only to open it tonight. Much like the Hopslam of a couple of days ago, the hop bite on the 120 is nearly gone. There is just a hint of bitterness, but it is merely an afterthought. Instead, the hop has been replaced with a super-syrupy maple sweetness. There was a bit of this in the aged Hopslam, but NOTHING like what we have here. If you’ve had the Sam Adams Utopias, then you have a concept of what this aged 120 tastes like – it’s basically a Utopias, Jr. The mouthfeel is super thick, and the flavor is full of maple syrup with light hints of toffee and just the slightest hop bitterness in the background. And the aftertaste lasts FOREVER. Frankly, this aged better than the Hopslam, but it still pales in comparison to a fresh 120, in my opinion. Basically, don’t age a 120 if you’re a hop-head – you’re gonna end up with a sweet alcohol bomb. It’s delicious, for sure, but a beast of a different color. I’ll stick to fresh hoppy beers from here on out…
Original Post (5/21/06): Oh my goodness. I thought it was just a myth, or maybe an urban legend.
But no – it’s true – the Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA actually, exists, and I drank one. This little bottle of liquid gold sat hidden on the shelf amongst all of the other plebeian beers – the only standout characteristic was the absurd $10 price tag for 12 oz. But, hey, it’s a price you have to pay when you catch the jabberwocky. Also, this stuff isn’t cheap to make. The 120-minute is created over a 2-hour boil with hops continually added during the boil. During the first 30 days of fermentation, new whole-leaf hops are added every single day. Then, the beer is left to further ferment for another month in a closed container with even more whole-leaf hops. In other words, it takes some work to make this beer.
And, while this beer doesn’t disappoint, it is entirely different than I expected. This is claimed by Dogfish Head to be the “holy grail for hop-heads”. However, in practice, the hops take a back seat to the myriad other flavors of this beer. The beer pours a beautiful dark gold color with a white head. The aroma is heavy and quite sweet with some hop aroma. In the mouth, this beer is as complex as any I have yet had. There is a notable alcohol taste – and there should be, considering this beer is 22% abv. In addition to this, you are initially hit with a viscous sweet flavor that shocks the taste buds. Through the mouth a sweet maltiness builds and then subsides to be replaced by a hop bitterness in the back of the throat. The bitterness and sweetness mingle in the aftertaste, while the liquid continues to burn its way through your body – you can feel it well through the chest.
Overall, I’d say this is a great beer – a true party for the taste buds. However, due to the high price tag and comparable alcohol content, I wouldn’t recommend drinking it often or en masse. 6 oz. of this beer gave me a noticeable buzz, and I’m not an entirely amateur drinker.
Post Update: As is evidenced from the original review below, I’m a bit of a Hopslam fan. I know I’m not alone in this regard, as this beer has reached a following of nearly epic proportions, though some think that the lofty rep isn’t quite deserved. Regardless, it’s a big beer with hop character and flavor that is difficult to parallel. Upon getting my hands on my first six-pack of Hopslam, I elected to drink 5 of them and put away the sixth to see what would happen with age. Tonight, nearly 2 years after the fact, I opened that beer to see what has transpired over the past months.
Now, I know that an IPA doesn’t generally improve with age. However, due to the high alcohol content and monster hop bite of the Hopslam, I couldn’t help but be curious enough to cellar this one. Well, lemme tell you, it’s a very different beer now. While there still exists a considerable hop aroma, and even some hop notes in the flavor, the huge hop profile of the original beer has all but disappeared. Now, after 2 years, this beer tastes more like a malty pale ale than an IPA. The fresh floral effect is no longer here, leaving behind only a hint of bitterness that tells us some big hop used to live here but has since moved on. On the flip side, the malt flavor is thick and rich, giving pronounced sweetbread flavors that weren’t noticeable in the original. There also remain some grapefruit flavors here, but they have diluted far too much to be effective, entirely losing that acidic citrus burn that the original possesses. This is still a good beer, no doubt, and tastes extremely mellow for one of such high ABV, but it isn’t a Hopslam. So, while this has evolved into something quite tasty, my opinion is that it isn’t an equal to the original. My advice, save yourself the cellar space and drink your Hopslam fresh! I happen to have also saved a Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA that I plan to open later this week. Tune in then to see if the same fate has befallen it!
Original Post (1/6/07): When I first learned of this brew from Kevin over at Kevbrews, I was led to believe that it was “Un-f***ing-believable”. Now, I don’t have to tell you that this is a pretty bold statement about a beer, especially between two guys who are presumably serious beer geeks. So, while I was excited about trying this beer, I was also a bit wary of a letdown. Big expectations too often end in disappointment. However, after the first taste, I can proudly say that this beer is abso-f***ing-lutely incredible.
The beer pours, initially, a rather clear dark golden color. However, it has apparently also undergone a bit of bottle fermentation because, upon emptying the entire bottle into the glass, some trub at the bottom of the bottle cloudies the situation a bit. The aroma of the HopSlam is extremely fresh and aromatic – there is a heavy floral presence with a slight grapefruit sourness. In the mouth, this beer is big and complex. I’m not sure what hops go into the making of this beer, but I’d like to know, because I’d surely try to emulate it in a homebrew. The first sensation is of hop-burn on the tip of the tongue that leads right into a big flowery hop bitterness reminiscent of American northwestern varieties of hops. On across the tongue, a blast of grapefruit and citrus hits the tastebuds that, while still sour, lends a slight sweetness to the brew. In the back of the mouth, the grapefruit sticks around but is cut again by that hop bitterness. The aftertaste of this brew doesn’t squat at the throat but rather takes over the whole mouth and sticks around for many seconds after the drink. The hops pervade both the mouth and the nasal passage and anxiously await the next sip. This would have to be one of the best IPA-style beers that I’ve ever tasted and would probably rank in my top 5 or 10 beers of all time. And, apparently the folks at Beer Advocate agree with this assumption as this is the only beer I’ve yet noticed to have a rating of 99. The only down-side of this brew is that it was a single-batch release, and this 12 oz. of goodness is likely the last taste of this I’ll ever have. That’s down-right soul-crushing.
Post Update: Just heard from Dann, the brewer for Pretty Things, about their next beer release. The next beer is a quadruple, with dried plums, called “Baby Tree” and should be out just before Easter. He brewed it this past Thursday. Thanks for the update Dann.
Original Post (3/5/2009): Fast on the heels of my slow to come review of Pretty Things’ Jack D’Or is a review of Pretty Things’ second release, Saint Botolph’s Town. I rated Jack D’Or real high, writing, “This is the reason I drink beer, to find amazing gems like this.” Can Pretty Things pull off a repeat? Lets find out.
Poured into a pint glass the beer’s body is a chocolate-brown with an amber hue around the glass edge. Upon this impressive colored body sits a creme colored head a finger thick. Holding the beer up to the light, I note a lack of any debris and a smattering of small light bubbles rising through the beer. The aroma is a bit tough for me to peg down. I pick up roasted characteristics of nuts and bitter chocolate, with a smattering of sugar notes. In the mouth the beer is leaning to the lighter side of the scale, and very smooth. First off, my mouth seems to be enveloped with a pleasurable taste of freshly toasted bread. This toasted character is mixed with a sweet toffee note that is slight on the tongue. The beer seems to finish with the toasted character becoming stronger, more in the vein of toasted/roasted nuts. Then in sneaks a nice addition of bitterness with a flavoring of oats.
One thing about taking my time with the Jack D’Or review was the fact I was able to have it numerous times, in many different situations. This allowed me to have a better appreciation for the beer’s complexity and enjoyability. With this review I have not had that luxury (the beer only came out a few weeks back). With that said however, I found Saint Botolph’s Town complex, but very drinkable. I like that combination, so I see good things in this beer’s future sessions.
Once again, a great beer from Pretty Things (with interesting label artwork, and a little sticker that went over the cap!). I am already looking forward to their third release. No pressure though.
NB: Saint Botolph’s Town is in tribute to Boston, MA. The full explanation for the name is at the bottom of the Saint Botolph’s Town page on Pretty Things’ website.
I got distracted by the SA Imperial White the other night and never got around to reviewing the last beer from the BMOC. This one is a porter, definitely not my forte’ but I’ll do my best.
It pours pitch black with a small caramel-colored head. The nose is bold and rich, consisting mainly of vanilla with a subtle hint of caramel. The taste is thinner than the smell but it’s pretty appetizing nonetheless. The added vanilla flavoring creates a sweetness that rushes through the mouth and collects in the back of throat to create a thick mouthfeel. This beer definitely isn’t as smokey as most porters but as far as I’m concerned that’s not at all a bad thing. As far as darker style beers go this is quite drinkable and delicious. I could see myself sessioning this beer during the colder, winter months. If I lived in Detroit I would seek out this beer on at least a semi-regular basis and that’s saying a lot seeing as how I’m not a big porter fan. I realize this is a pretty short review but there ‘s not too much to say about it other than it’s sweet and tastes good.
Normally I am not a big barleywine drinker, but when a barleywine from Three Floyds comes my way, I am going to step up to the plate (or glass, which is probably more apt), and give the beer a go.
Poured into a snifter, the beer was a dark-fiery-amber, with a head I completely forgot to take note of. How did I forget to note the head? Because as I sat jotting down the beer’s color, the amazing smell of hop aroma hit me. Mind you I did not have my nose up to the glass or, quite frankly, anywhere near the glass. This smell of citrus-grapefruit aroma grabbed my nostrils, completely distracting me from the task at hand. When I got close enough for a proper inhale, the beer became quite complex. Aromas of sweetness, caramel and brown sugar, and dark fruit, plums and dark cherries, danced with the initial hop wallop of grapefruit.
The first sips of this beer were on the harsh side, due to the bitter hit my mouth experienced. However, as the session progressed the beer smoothed out (or my mouth became numb). This great bitterness kick (just because it is harsh does not mean it is ‘bad’) was matched with a menagerie of flavors. Along with the previously mentioned aromas of caramel, plums, and dark cherries the taste included a sugary-sticky-bun-esque flavoring. Since the beer was quite rich and thick, these flavors left an aftertaste in my mouth for a good period of time. Through out the whole entire session there was one thing missing from the beer. The remotest hint that the beer was 12.5% ABV.
This was one helluva barleywine, and I am sad to see it gone. If you can get your hands on this beer, even if you are not a barleywine drinker, definitely do so. This beer opened my taste buds up to what I have been missing with the barleywine style.