Archive for December, 2009

Bottom Of The Belgian

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Butts

There are some beers that are supposed to be crystal clear with low yeast flavors, and there are others that should be be loaded with some strong funky yeast esthers. The problem is though that many great beers are bottled in 22oz bombers and the slightly larger 750ml bottles. While writing my review of Long strange tripel I was reminded of this problem. One of my complaints was not enough yeast flavor. By the time I hit the bottom of the bottle where the yeast was in suspension though the beer was fairly opaque and funky. The problem with this is that the first drink lacked a strong yeast flavor, and the last to much.

Therefor I hereby submit that contrary to the American fad of 22oz bombers, good beer should be bottled in 12oz bottles. This allows the drinker to swirl the yeast back into suspension before drinking if they choose, and also allows the drinker to taste multiple bottles in a single session. Another side effect of good beer being bottled in 12oz would be that a beer like a imperial stout or Belgian saison could easily be consumed during a lunch break without a worry. Sadly though more and more breweries are releasing their unique beers in only 750ml and 22oz. Can anyone explain why breweries do this??? It makes absolutley no sense to me other then a marketing standpoint.

My First Written Review

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

LongStrangeTripel

One thing I’ve been adamant about is that this blog won’t become another beer review blog. However the good Dr Wort (incidentally he has a review of this beer as well) has been waiting to critique an actual review from me. I figured it was about time, and with the closing of KCHopheads blog I figured a Boulevard review was in order. I chose Long Strange Tripel

Appearance

An  Orangish shade of yellow, held a 1/4″ head after initial pour. Very carbonated.

Aroma

Very fruity with a hint of citrus, subtle herbal aroma, and some strong yeast odors at play

Taste

A slightly bitter hit upfront followed by yeast. Some citrus and herbal flavors, especially near the back. Noticeable flavor similar to bitter orange peel. Neutral malt flavor. The malt definitely isn’t the star of this show. Alcohol isn’t very noticeablefor a 9% Belgian beer. My ability to detect the mouthfeel is a little off tonight I guess. Something I ate at work has coated the back of my throat making evertything feel strange going down.

Overall

Overall it’s not a bad Belgian. Belgian tripels aren’t generally my favorite, but I might consider buying it again. The yeast and herbal flavors are what really jump out at me and make this beer what it is. If you know what you like in a Belgian tripel then this probably won’t replace your favorite, but it’s much better then many American Balgians I’ve tried, meaning not overly sweet, heavy and bland. Neaded a little more funk and yeast to it with perhaps more upfront malt profile. Give it a try, just don’t expect to reach nirvana when you drink it.

Giving the Gift of Beer

Friday, December 18th, 2009

As a beer lover I have often received the gift of beer from friends and family. I’ve also been asked many times what beers to give as gifts. With the holidays upon us it seemed relevant to discuss what constitutes a good beer gift.

How to pick that special beer.

Most people look at any beer over $10 a bomber as overpriced. The sad part is sometimes they’re right. Not all beers are created equal and that’s something to keep in mind, especially if you want to find that perfect beer. First off consider what the person likes. Are they a fanboy of any particular brewery? If so you might consider  looking for rare beers from that brewery. Look for things like 1 or 2 year old beers, vertical set ups (different year releases pf the same beer), or just really hard to get limited editions. For example if they are a Deschutes Brewery fan you could consider a vertical set up of Jubelale, a hard to find bottle of their 20th anniversary wit, or a line up of the 2009 Bond St series. A good site is liquidsolutions.

What if they don’t have a favorite brewery? Then the next step up is style. My cousins husband is a big fan of IPA’s, especially Stones. When she wanted to get him a special beer  for his birthday I gave her a short list of IPA’s similar to Stones. Beeradvocate is very handy for figuring this out as well as a person with a good knowledge of beer. Verticals apply to style as well. Not every beer drinker understands what happens to their favorite beer as it ages. For many vertical tastings are an eye opening experience.

Lastly what if they’re pretty dead set in their beer drinking ways? My grandparents are Busch light drinkers and nothing but Busch light. In this case I’d refrain from buying them beer as a gift. If your adamant though then look at paraphernalia pertaining to that beer. If their not the kind that enjoys beer related decor then you could look at getting cases of their favorite. This is especially handy if they drink a higher priced beer.

What is a Seasonal

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

It seems more and more that the seasonal lineup is no longer consisting of a fixed set of beers. For example spring used to be dominated by Mai Bocks and beers generally of a lighter nature. Not as thick and alcoholic as winter beers, but not as thin as a good lawnmower beer. Something slightly hoppy but loaded with some bright floral and herbal/pine notes. Now though you get IPA’s, stouts, imperials beers, and hefeweizens year around. With brewers releasing non typical seasonals seasonally how does one begin to define what a seasonal beer is?

Take winter seasonals. over the past 40ish years you’ve had a fairly standard roll out from brewers. Barlywines, spiced beers, winter warmers, milk stouts, and some herbals were the standard into the 90’s. An occasional brewers would release Russian stouts (Imperial stouts) nutty beers or chocolate porters. These last 10 years though the traditional winter beers are becoming rarer. More and more in the Northwest overhopped imperial reds and IPA’s are becoming a common winter release. These winter beers have a sweeter heavier malt base and loads of hops. Especially the more piney flavored hops. Much more in your face then their other seasonal cousins.

So the question becomes how do we determine the difference between a seasonal and a limited release now? Is the idea of seasonals outdated? If seasonals are an outdated idea then how do we define what makes a good winter/spring/summer/fall beer? Are we no longer looking for a gullet warming thick malty brew for those cold January evenings? What about a nice hoppy low alcohol beer for those hot August nights?

Hopping Rates For Burton IPA’s

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I spent yesterday searching for charts on hopping rates for various Burton brewers, but it all came to naught. The only one I’ve managed to dig up are IPA hop rates from Designing Great Beers. These figures were compiled into a book by Amsinck called Practical Brewings and put into a table in Designing Great Beers. I’ve spent a good two hours today trying to locate the original figures from Amsinck online since I know there is more info that Daniels left out of his book. Sadly Practical Brewings is not in any online archive yet and since it was published in 1868 and doesn’t seem to have been rereleased there seems to be no chance of snagging a copy.

The figures in this table are from 1868 (the year it was published) and also from Burton brewers. From the late 1700’s through the 1800’s strong ales and heavily hopped beers were more in vogue so these figures by no means represent the rates of original London IPA’s

OG Hops (lbs per bbl) Water Dry Hops Apparent Attenuation
         
1.052 8 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 68%
1.058 6.25 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 69%
1.064 7 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 78%
1.064 5.75 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 80%
1.067 8.5 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 78%
1.067 8.125 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 69%
1.067 7.5 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 65%
1.067 7.25 lbs hard water 1.5 lbs 73%
1.067 7 lbs soft water 1.5 lbs 63%

It’s worth noting that Amsinck narrows the field on what an IPA is apparently not on wether it was named IPA or exported to India, but rather on these 9 obscenely high hop rates. This skews the hop figures for IPA’s

Happy Lager Day

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

beer
Ok, raise your hand if you knew about this. Anyone?? Beuller??

I have no clue why there is a National Lager Day nor could I find out. In fact if it wasn’t for Rachel listening to the radio this morning I still wouldn’t know. Anyone have anymore on this obscure holiday? Regardless of why it exists it’s a good excuse to drain a couple pints of good lager. I recommend Friesian Pilsener from Leavenworth Biers. Ironically I think it still happens to be on tap at Venti’s.

The IPA Myth

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

india_flag

There was some discussion on my last myth post about the origin of IPA’s. Due to my lack of Internet at work I’m not able to pool all the resources I want for this article so there may be a further elaboration on this later in the week. Here in the US the origin seems to vary slightly depending on who your talking to, but here’s the basic rundown taken from the North American Brewers Association.

In the late 1700’s Hogdson was the most popular ale brewer in London. With easy access to shipping from the capital, Hogdson was in position to supply beer to homesick English colonists around the world. Of these, none felt so removed, nor thirsted more for the pleasures of English breweries, than the troops garrisoned on the sub-continent of India. Hogdson rightly believed it a huge market waiting to be tapped, but how could beer survive the trip around Africa?

Hogdson used three brewing methods to ensure his ale weathered the journey. First, he knew hops were a natural preservative. Indeed, it was this property that first motivated brewers to use hops. Hogdson reckoned an increased hopping rate would help in transit. Next, he took advantage of another natural preservative in beer, and he brewed one with an exaggerated level of alcohol. Finally, he used abundant dry hopping as an additional preservative, and he rightly thought it wouldn’t harm the taste because it would mellow during the long voyage. He couldn’t have guessed better, the measures not only ensured Hogdson’s modified Pale Ale arrived intact, the recipients considered it an improvement.

This seems to be a summerization of the myth. Here’s the problem, there is no information from Hodgsons time showing that he was A) The only exporter to India B) That He invented a new beer style C) That anything he was doing was in any way new or unique D)and finally there’s no proof other beer couldn’t survive the trip to India.

Let’s go in order. I like order, it makes things….. orderly.

First off Hodgsons wasn’t the first brewer to export to India. At the time Hodgson broke into the India market (around 1790) the market was only 9-10 thousand bbl a year. Of this most people say Hodgson had only about half the market. That may seem staggering for someone to own half the market of an area that large until you think about the fact most of the market was imports. One thing for imports is you have to have people willing to export your product. The boats that exported to east India were generally docked at Blackwall and the Thames. This ruled out the famous Burton Brewers who were locked into the Russian Market. Bigger breweries probably wouldn’t have seen much incentive either to force a market that small. This left smaller concerns near the Blackwall and Thames areas to opt into filling the small demand.

My second contention is the idea that the IPA was created or invented specifically for the India market. Pale ale at the time referred to any beer brewed with pale malt which at the time hadn’t been around that long. IPA’s at the time also weren’t higher in alcohol then a normal beer. At the time an export IPA would rarely have an abv over 6-7%, and were most often lower. While even a high of 7% seems up there for a session beer it wasn’t unheard of for beer in that time. Finally we come to the dry hopping the basis of the idea the IPA’s were unique. I wish I could find my dry hopping statistics for some of the Burton Ales that I have somewhere. It’s an interesting glimpse at brewing history, and helps prove my point. If I find them I’ll put them up. What they prove is that it wasn’t unusual to liberally dry hop a beer. Also looking at IBU’s for IPA’s it becomes evident that they weren’t as dramatically over hopped as portrayed. An IPA could easily weigh in at 40 IBU’s, and it is not unheard of  to find porters with that IBU level either. More then likely Hodgsons IPA was in reality an evolution of the pale ale style over time and not specifically designed to voyage around the horn. Especially when one considers that porters were shipped to India as well.

The fact that there were other beers of similar or higher abv and similar or higher IBU’s exported around the world, and other beers besides Hodgsons exported to India shows that what Hodgsons did was not in and of itself unique. What is unique about what Hodgson did is that he brought the IPA to prominence. According to wikipedia (I know wiki isn’t always that accurate) Hodgsons liberal line of credit available is what helped him secure 50% of the export market to India and bring his beer to such prominence with sailors and those in India. When Hodgsons popularity dried up with the India merchants the Burton brewers were more then happy to step in to recapture some lost revenue caused by high tariffs in Russia. Burton brewers at the time were known for highly hopped highly alcoholic beers. It’s not much of a stretch to see where the IPA evolved into the hoppy alcoholic beer we love.

The final point I wanted to make was that other beers were shipped to India, and long voyages through warm climates. I already mentioned porters were. This is established in part by a journal entry from Joseph Banks on board the British ship the Endeavour

It was this day a twelvemonth since we left England, in consequence of which a peice of cheshire cheese was taken from a locker where it had been reservd for this occasion and a cask of Porter tappd which provd excellently good, so that we livd like English men and drank the healths of our freinds in England.

As soon as I get home I’m going to hit the books and see if I can find beer import figures from India at the time so I’ll have something more concrete then a journal entry to stand on, but I think it’s safe to say if the Endeavour sailed a full year in tropical climates equal to Indias before opening their porter that it supports the theory that the other beers going to India wouldn’t have been funky messes.

Potential Reasons Florida May Suck

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Last night I got a great email from Jack Box (aka jbx, jrbox) Jack is the father in law of Dino Venti and father of Leslie Venti, the owners of Venti’s in Salem Oregon. Many people here feal that the Venti’s are the best purveyors of craft beer in Salem. Jack has been self educating himself on great Northwest beer and contributes regularly to the Venti’s blog. He’s a great guy. Anyway, Jack sent me this and we got it tossed up on here. It’s funny until you realize Jack will be stuck in this black hole without great beers, especially the craft lagers he loves. If anyone has any suggestions for Jack on what to drink down there I’m sure he’d appreciate them.

This week we leave Oregon to winter in Southwest Florida in our modest condo in Englewood, Fla.

Since I am working on my MBA, Master of Beer Appreciation, I used map.google to search on |brewery| and |brew pub| in the Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myer, Naples, Florida region.

Bottom line:

There is a drought of ‘local / craft’ beer in Florida.

The nearest confirmed brewery is in Sarasota [26 miles]; the 2nd nearest, Ybor City [ 88 miles]; 3rd nearest, Dunedin [95 miles].

There are outposts of national brewpub chain sprinkled about the state.  A ‘Hops Grill and Brewery’ brewpub in Fort Myers, 60 miles distance, will likely become a way-point when we travel south on the I-95.

This dire situation spawned an attempt at comic relief, below:

You know your not in Beervana when
– the brewery’s signature beer is named ‘Gator Ale
– the brewery’s signature beer is named ‘Alligator Ale’
– it is never cool enough to produce clean lagers and/or to cold condition lager
– the brewery’s water source is Lake Okeechobee
– the bitterness value of the IPA is 45 IBUs
– the ‘I’ in IPA refers to Seminoles Indians not India in Southwest Asia
– ‘Old Ale’ refers to age not style
– brewpub reviews emphasize the ‘early bird special’
– the brewpub offers all 8 variant of Budweiser and 3 of the 12 variants of Michelob
– the gruit ale bitter agent is citrus juice and zest from the tree in the brewers back garden
– the brewpub offers ‘named’ blends / mixes of beers

Other indicators are welcome.

The Final Day of HAF

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

I knew going into the Holiday Ale Fest that I couldn’t make it till Sunday, and that many beers I wanted could be tapped out. Even though things were tapped out alot of my first choices were still around. The problem is they were disappointing and my backups were tapped out. I still used my 10 tickets, but stopped at 10 since I had only found one beer worth drinking. 1 in 10 is bad odds.

Ok, start off reviewing the fest itself.

What else is there to say other then what’s usually said? No rinse stations, servers who aren’t knowledgeable, beers too cold. You know, the usual. One thing that surprised me was the number of drunks. When we showed up around 3:30 pm at least half the people had had a few to many. I couldn’t believe the number of people getting full pours at every station. Maybe Portland’s beer drinkers are more amatuer alcoholics then connoisseurs like Docs been saying. The other thing is the amount of room and tables available. I’d brought a notebook so I’d have room to write detailed reviews of the beers, but there was no surface to write on and it’s hard to hold a beer and write at the same time. If the fest is going to be so full maybe they should think about a change in location. One more thing, the random cheering is fine, but every 15 min??? Really??

And the Beers……

Listed in alphabetical order by brewery

Papa Noel’s

I know this is available in bottles, but by the time I’d gotten down to the last four tickets I didn’t care. I thought since it said special reserve that it might be a vintage pouring and I was in the mood for some complex flavors. Turns out it wasn’t vintage. It was hoppy and green. Not fair to review a beer before its prime.

Oaked St Nick

Another one not on my list of beers to try, but I had just two tickets left and was next to the line for this one. Turned out that this was my favorite beer of the evening, and the one I didn’t take notes on. I remember that my first sip tasted slightly off, but then smoothed out alot and finished nicely. I wish I could say more, but I was tired of the fest by this time and had already put my notes away. Normally I don’t like “oaky” beers, but this one did really well trying to win me over. Amazing how much better oak aged beers taste when they don’t have that woody flavor to them.

Sang Noir

I tried this after drinking some La Foile. That turned out to be a mistake because the beers ended up getting compared and Sang Noirlost. So much acidity that it overpowers the malts. This is sour for the sake of sour with no complexity. There was a nice cherry note, but it was drowned by the pucker power. No barnyard, no muskiness. Where are the typical sour off flavors? Smell was hard to get out of all the beers, but this one was especially hard. Sinus issues and ice cold beer don’t work well for tastings. I still find it amazing so many people seemed to like this one. Give me more La Foile any day.

North III

Not what I expected. With the sugar plums I was hoping for something slightly fruity and alcoholic. While not watery, this beer didn’t taste as alcoholic or heavy as I would have liked, and I got almost no plum flavor. Flavors were fairly muddied in the 3 or 4 sips I had (we were sharing beers earlier on). Had a nice bread like almost nutty finish. Other then the finish this beer didnt have a ton going for it.

Jim 2009

I was reading Dr Worts reviews before I headed up today to get an idea of what I was getting into. When I tired this beer I was eagerly expecting some heavy cascade/citrusy hop flavors. Instead I got pinesol and pine. To be fair to Doc he did mention the pinesol. I think I got a hint of some malt in there somewhere, but this was just one big piney hop bomb to me. My notes just say the word pinesol though followed by multiple exclamation points.

Kronan

Reading reviews I thought picking Kronan as my baltic porter was a mistake that I would rectify. When we arrived though Eel River and Lauralwood were tapped out. Resigning myself to what lay ahead I got in line for Kronan. All I can say is watery, bitter, and burnt. There was absolutely no redeeming qualities in this one. Maybe if the beer was served at the proper temp some malts would have showed up to balance things, but that bitter burnt grain taste overan my palate.

La Foile

My second favorite beer, and only number 2 because I knew I’d enjoy it going in so it lacked that pleasant surprise factor. First beer where the smell upped my expectations. very musty, sour odor. I loved this beer at first smell. This beer is much more balanced in terms of sourness then I remember. Just sour enough to temporarily overun your palate and give you a mild pucker. After that it finishes slightly sweet. All those great complex bacterial off flavors are there. The other great part is it doesn’t leave you straining to un contort your face after you drink it like the Sang Noir did. I love sour beers, I just want them more balanced is all. If I just wanted to pucker without flavor I’d suck on a lemon.

Unconventionale

I had high hopes for this one, but those hopes were dashed. A fairly generic stout though perhaps a little heavy on the burnt grain flavor. The herbs were pretty much undetectable in my opinion as well. There were some muddied flavors that I’d periodically catch on to, but not enough to say I tasted the herbs, let alone call this an herbal beer. Not as overhopped as I’d thought after reading some reviews. If they’d put more effort into making this a good stout and had some lavender aromatics I would have loved it. I’d put it in the not quite there yet but good try category.

Drunkel

I wish I’d kept up the note taking, but by the time I got to drunkel I was just about ready to bail. All I wrote for this one was not what I expected and I didn’t like what I got. I know, lame review.

For my 10thticket I went and got a 1oz pour of wildflower mead to clean my palate and end on a positive note. This was my dad’s first time at a beer festival withme and I think that experience alone saved the day. My dad really enjoyed himself, and I think we may be going to another beer fest together in the near future. If next years is like this years though I may pass. I’d much rather drop $50 at the bottle shop and taste some great beers at home with my friends and family then drive up to Portland for something of this caliber. Heck, the $40 for my dad and I alone could’ve gotten us several bottles of great world class beers.

Prost to the 21st!

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

In case you’ve forgotten today is the 76th year that liquor has been legal in the US. The Volstead Act was passed on October 28 1919. By January of 1933 the Cullen-Harrison Act had actually made sessionable beers legal in the us, so the 21st wasn’t actually what made beer legal. So today raise a glass to the complete end of prohibition and remember Roosevelt’s words still ring true, “What America needs now is a drink.”

CapitolTaps has a good writeup about the 21st.
sorry about that. I did plan on linking, but I only had a few minutes to write something and spaced it