Alesmith Wee Heavy

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According to the collective wisdom of a bunch of (probably inexperienced, disinterested, hype-driven, haters-gonna-hate hipster1) strangers, this is the second-best Scotch Ale2 in the world. Score one for the home team. I'm sure no one in Scotland knows how to make these things. Incidentally, the number one beer is... a barrel aged version of Alesmith Wee Heavy. Of course it is!3

So it seems that Alesmith's got the style all locked up... though it's not like this is one of them trendy styles that every brewer is pouncing on. Or drinkers for that matter. I mean, I get a nice vibe from the style, but I've only reviewed 3 of them in the past two years (and one of those was a barrel aged version of another), though I will say that Dieu Du Ciel's Équinoxe Du Printemps was a superb beer, even if I probably wouldn't have pegged it as a Wee Heavy in a blind tasting. So let's see how Alesmith fares:

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith Wee Heavy - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of rich, sweet caramel along with some malty fruitiness. Taste is very sweet, less caramel and more toast than in the nose (but both are present here), maybe a hint of smoke (perhaps even peat?), and some booze in the finish. Less of that dark fruit than the nose as well, though it's still peeking through. It's not bitter, but it's got enough oomph to balance out the big malt character. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, creamy, full bodied, a bit boozy (nice warming sensation in my belly from that alcohol), very slight stickiness. Overall, this is a very nice, well balanced, traditional Scotch ale, on the upper end of a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/3/12.

So Dieu Du Ciel remains my standard bearer, but this one comes in a close second. Alesmith continues to impress, and while this doesn't make me want to explore every Wee Heavy I can get my hands on, it does make me want to explore more Alesmith beer. Go me.

1 - I am, of course, just kidding, but sometimes it's hard to take reviewers on these sites seriously. On the other hand, who am I kidding? I have a blog with hundreds of reviews of varying quality and I'd still consider myself inexperienced. So fiddlesticks. Wait, what? Am I still typing? Dammit, stop.

2 - Also known as Wee Heavy, a phrase I pedantically dissected a while back. You're welcome.

3 - This might sound sarcastic or snarky, but I'm so in the bag for barrel aged stuff that I wrote this with the utmost sincerity and didn't realize that the tone might be interpreted in another way until I reread the post, hence this footnote. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you have one of these things, we should set up a trade or something.

Ommegang Scythe & Sickle

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Unlike the harvest ales I've covered so far this year, Ommegang's take on the trend is decidedly less hop-based, instead focusing on a complex malt bill consisting of freshly picked barley, oats, wheat, and rye. This is pretty much in line with Ommegang's identity of Belgian brewing in America, as traditional Belgian styles aren't very hoppy, instead focusing on malt and yeast for their flavor profile (perhaps part of the reason for good Belgo-Scotch relations, but I digress). Clocking in at 5.8% ABV, it's also one of the lower-gravity offerings I've seen from Ommegang (the only thing lower that I can think of is Witte). Let's see how they fared with this harvest ale:

Ommegang Scythe and Sickle

Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Pours a darkish golden orange color with a few fingers of fluffy white head and plenty of lacing. Smells strongly of banana esters and a little clove, big Belgian yeast character. Taste pretty much follows along, big and bold bready, biscuity flavors along with a lot of assertive Belgian yeast spice, a light fruitiness, and even a little bitterness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but medium bodied and easy to drink. Spicy with a dry finish too, probably a good accompaniment with food. Overall, this is a really enjoyable beer, and it would make a fine go-to beer during this time of year. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 10/28/12.

So Ommegang recently redesigned their website and rebranded their entire lineup of beers. I have to say that I find most of this unnecessary, though not entirely unpleasant. I suppose their label designs were in a bit of a rut, and the only label I'll really miss is Hennepin, but the new labels with all the silhouettes. Their website certainly needed an update and the new design is pretty but... damn, it's pretty much unusable. It's like one of them horrible Flash sites from '02 or something. As usual, it's what's in the bottle that counts, so as long as Rare Vos, Hennepin, Abbey Ale, and Three Philosophers are the same beer, I don't really care about the labels... Next up on the Ommegang front is their 15th Anniversary ale, which appears to be another Belgian Strong Dark Ale...

The Bruery Coton

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As a lowly beer neophyte reading raves about California's The Bruery on all the cool blogs, I made a pact with myself to hunt down some of their beer. This was the first thing I found, and I purchased it blind, price tag be damned. I had no idea what I was in for, but the label was pretty and it even had a fancy strip of tape covering the cap. The guy who sold it to me said "It's really good. Boozy, but good." Well, I drank it and my face melted. My original notes on this said it was very good but "maybe a bit too powerful". It was a real eye opener though. I'd never had anything like that beer before and it really pushed the boundaries of what I thought beer could be. It was a memorable experience and I can still recall the night vividly, right down the movies I was watching as I partook. I even saved up some shekels and bought another, with the thought that some of that booze would mellow out over time. And thus it's been burning a hole in my fridge for about 2 years now.

The Bruery Coton Label and Taped Cap

Coton was The Bruery's second anniversary ale, part of a series of beers named after traditional wedding anniversary gifts. The first anniversary beer was called Papier (French for "paper") and it was brewed in the style of an English Old Ale, but using The Bruery's house Belgian yeast strain. Coton uses the same recipe as Papier, but they blended a portion of Bourbon Barrel Aged Papier into the "young" beer to add complexity. The fancy shmancy term for this process is the Solera method. Each year, young beer is blended with previous batches, adding complexity and creating an older average age to the beer. The process is typically used in the production of wine and appears to be exceedingly rare in the world of beer. Aging beer is an expensive proposition for most breweries and a Solera project requires a great deal of foresight, ambition, and planning. Fortunately, The Bruery is clearly up to the task.

I've been purchasing these Anniversary beers every year, but truth be told, knocking back a 750 of 14.5% ABV beer takes something of a commitment. But it's been nearly two and a half years, I figured it was time to clear a few hours of the ol' schedule and bite the bullet on this thing. I've had beers that were rare or hard to get before, but this one weighed on me more than I expected, perhaps because it loomed so large in my mind. I know the general beer nerd consensus on this beer is mixed, but I have a personal connection with this beer that most don't share. It was a beer of firsts for me (first Bruery, among my first Barrel Aged brews, first time I broke the $20 barrier, and probably the highest ABV beer I'd had at the time, though I've long since surpassed that), and while I loved it the first time I had it, I'm always a little anxious about revisiting beers from that period.

Am I putting it on a pedestal? Will this hold up to my expectations? Well, I'm happy to report that it actually managed to exceed expectations... to the point where I'm even going to award it the vaunted Kaedrin A+ (only beer so far this year to earn that distinction).

The Bruery Coton

The Bruery Coton - Pours a deep dark amber (mahogany!) color with a sliver of light tan head. Smells strongly of brown sugar/molasses, dark fruits, and boozy bourbon with just a hint of oak and vanilla. Taste is very sweet, lots of that crystal malt character, rich caramel flavors, brown sugar/molasses, raisins and other dark fruits, even some spiced character, like cinnamon, and of course, that vanilla, oak, and bourbon killer combo. Big, complex flavors. Mouthfeel is full bodied, a little syrupy, but surprisingly drinkable. I don't want to call it thin, but it's not as thick and chewy as you'd expect for such a monster, and this is a very good thing in this beer, which has the potential to overwhelm, but never really does so. The carbonation is ample, which keeps this from feeling too syrupy and may help contribute to that drinkability too, keeping things smooth and almost creamy. It seems ridiculous to call a 14.5% ABV beer balanced, but it kinda is... The booze seems to have mellowed out with time as well, though I still get that warming alcohol feeling in my belly as I drink. This thing is drinking like a massive bourbon barrel, Belgian style barleywine, or something like that. It's exceptional, and it is kicking my ass tonight. A unique, complex, just all around superb beer, and it seems to have mellowed a little with time, which I think may have been for the better. I don't hand these out often, but this earns the coveted Kaedrin A+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and taped). Drank out of a goblet on 10/27/12. Bottled May 2010. Bottle Number 02592. 75% Ale, 25% Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels.

So there you have it. I've got bottles of Cuir and Fruet (3rd and 4th anniversaries, respectively) in the cellar, and some other Bruery whales are incoming, so stay frosty folks. This is looking like a Bruery-filled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening winter.

I've been kinda orbiting sour beers for the past couple years. Like the scared apes at the beginning of 2001, I'll cautiously approach the sour beer monolith and give it a tap every now and again. Sometimes I come away disappointed, but lately, I've been having more revelatory experiences than not. The first sour beer I ever had was Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, a beer that nearly puckered me into oblivion. As it turns out, gueuze is one of the more intense, harsh sour styles, so that beer set a strange reference point for me. It almost certainly should not have been my first sour beer, but I'm older and wiser now, and I thought it was time to revisit the style.

Gueuzerie Tilquin opened its doors a little over a year ago, when it became the first new Belgian lambic blendery in nearly 15 years. You might be tempted to ask: So what? But this is a pretty big occasion, as opening a brewery specializing in lambics is a very long, cost prohibitive venture. Tradtional lambics are spontaneously fermented (meaning none of them cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts are used, instead relying on wild yeasts and bacteria that live in the air all around us) and aged in oak barrels. And gueuze is an even trickier business, as it requires a blending of young lambic (about 1 year old) with old lambic (2 and/or 3 years old). So we've got a large initial investment, a tricky, uncertain process of fermentation, and no revenue for at least 2 years? This is pretty much a miracle.

So Pierre Tilqiun is a visionary. A patient one too. But he knows what he's doing, having done tours of duty at Drie Fonteinen and Cantillon (for the uninitiated: these are legendary lambic breweries). I'm a little unclear on the distinctions, but I'm guessing that the reason it's called a "Gueuzerie" is because Tilquin doesn't actually make any of the wort they use to make their lambic, instead buying it from Boon, Cantillon, Girardin, and Lindemans. Apparently Tilquin is the only gueuze blender that Cantillon will sell their wort too, so good on them. Anyways, this beer was fantastic, and I think I'm now a full born believer in sour beer.

Oude Gueuze Tilquin

Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Pours a golden color with half a finger of bubbly white head. Smells strongly of musty funk and twangy, sour fruit. Taste has a more sugary component than expected, though still lots of tart fruit flavors, a little earthy funk, and a well rounded sourness that intensifies through the finish (but never reaches the gargantuan puckering levels I feared). Definitely picking up an oak aged vibe, though that may be more of a mouthfeel thing. Speaking of which, mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth, not quite as effervescent as champagne and better for it, and there's a richness to it that I associate with oak aged beers. Overall, this is fantastic stuff and makes me want to go out and buy every damn sour beer I can find. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/26/12. Label sez: 2010/2011 Best before: 15/04/2021.

The lament of the sour beer nerd: doesn't it seem like it's much harder to find Cantillon these days that it was a few years ago? For crying out loud, I saw Cantillon at Total Wine a couple years ago, but I can't find any of it anywhere these days (except for $60 a pop for old bottles at a few local bars). But this is only a matter of time, expect to see some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen stuff reviewed, uh, as soon as I can find it. In the meantime I'll have to settle for some Rodenbach vintage and Bruery sours. I know, poor me.

Almanac Bière De Mars

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Made with real, 100% Heirloom Organic Martians from a small artisanal farm in Cydonia. Some people frown on using sentient beings as an ingredient in beer and those wacky brewers at Almanac may be starting a war of the worlds, but damn, this stuff tastes good!

In all seriousness, Bière De Mars is brewed in March, which is actually what "Mars" translates to. It's a variation on the Bière de Garde style, which means "beer worth keeping" (or guarding, heh) and were historically brewed in Winter or Spring for consumption in Late Summer or Fall (due to the fact that brewing was difficult during the hot months of summer). In that sense, I feel like Bière De Mars shares a certain kinship with the German Märzen (aka Oktoberfest), and it feels like they both have a similar character of slightly toasted malts and noble hops, though Bière De Mars also uses a Belgian ale yeast strain which is what really distinguishes this from Märzens.

This particular beer is made by those tiny artisanal brewers at Almanac, and like most of their beers, it was a one-off batch that was brewed in collaboration with local farms, this time using Santa Clara Valley Fennel. This marks the last beer in my first beer trade, so extra special thanks to Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog for digging up such gems (seriously, all of the stuff he sent me was in the great to sublime range of quality)...

Almanac Biere de Mars

Almanac Spring 2012 Bière De Mars - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger of fluffy white head that shows pretty good retention and lacing. Smells of bready Belgian (apparently French) yeast along with sorta herbal spices (apparently fennel!) and even some of that caramelized malt. Tastes sweet, with assertive spicing and a sorta nutty, caramelly character in the start, maybe a hint of toasted malt flavor too. It's reminiscent of an Oktoberfest beer, but with more spicy Belgian character. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, medium carbonation, easily drinkable, with a drier finish than I'd expect. Overall, this is excellent, well balanced, flavorful stuff. So glad I got to try some! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/26/12. Label sez: 05540 March 2012.

So Almanac has definitely established a foothold in Kaedrin mindshare, which is a bit of a problem since they don't really distribute here, but I'm hoping I can beg, borrow, or steal some more at some point. Wish me luck.

Deschutes The Stoic

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Deschutes doesn't seem to officially distribute here... and yet, I see them pop up from time to time, and I felt pretty fortunate to snag a bottle of The Stoic at a local bottle shop. Truth be told, I didn't even realize it was a Deschutes beer until I looked at it a little closer, but that wax dipped cap and classy label caught my attention right away (seriously, that's just a gorgeous label). Now I just need to find a way to get ahold of some Abyss. But I digress.

The Stoic is a Belgian-style Quad, brewed using pomegranate molasses with 16.5% being aged in Pinot Noir oak barrels and 16.5% being aged in oak rye whiskey barrels. It's definitely a little too pale in color for a quadrupel style beer, though that alcohol and mouthfeel are on-point and nobody really knows what a quad is supposed to be anyway, so let's call that a wash. The truth is that this is a unique beer, and boy is it tasty.

Deschutes The Stoic

Deschutes The Stoic - Pours a clear, surprisingly light golden orange color with a finger of white head. Definitely not a traditional quad appearance, but then, quads are a style that's not really a style, so whatevers. Big, complex aromas. I get that peppery Belgian yeast strain in the nose, but I'm definitely picking up the whiskey and oak too, and maybe even a vinous character from the wine barrels too. The taste is very sweet, with a little of that richness that I typically associate with whiskey barrel aging, and plenty of booziness too. There's a lot of subtle flavor elements going on here that I can't exactly place, I'm sure some of it is coming from the pomegranate and/or wine barrel aging, but I'm not really picking that up explicitly. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with that richness from the whiskey barrel peeking out, but not quite taking over, making this a little lighter than expected. It's pretty well carbonated, but there's a hint of stickyness in the finish. I get some of that warming alcohol character too. Overall, this is a very good, complex, interesting brew. As a Quad, I don't think it make sense. It feels more like a tripel that's been kicked up a few notches and barrel aged (reminiscent of Curieux). Regardless, I like it! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz wax dipped bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/20/12. Label sez: Best By: 08/04/12 (so apparently a little past it's prime, my bad!)

I will, of course, be on the lookout for more Deschutes. Despite their stealth distribution in the area, I think I should be able to find some more, though I have no idea if anything as high profile as The Abyss will be available anytime soon.

Heretic Worry

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As it turns out, I'm in the path of a hurricane wrapped in a nor'easter topped with a smattering of kick ass. But this Frankenstorm doesn't have me worried. I've battened down the hatches, I've got plenty of potable liquids in the form of beer and whiskey, and I think I might even have a flashlight or something in case the power goes out. So maybe I'm being punished for all this heretical beer I've been drinking, but damn, it was worth it.

This beer is a Belgian-style golden pale ale that's been aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. The only other beer I've had with a similar treatment is Russian River's Temptation, which is setting the bar rather high. Fortunately, Worry is distinct enough that it carves out an identity all its own. Big thanks to Jay from Beer Samizdat for slinging this stuff my way, as fancy small-batch barrel-aged west coast beer like this usually doesn't make it's way out here:

Heretic Worry

Heretic Worry - Pours a bright golden color with a finger of quickly disappearing white head. Smells of musty, bready yeast along with just a slight twang of earthy funk and maybe some white wine. Taste is very sweet, with very little of that Belgian yeast character, but plenty of oak and that vinous grape and pear character emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. There might be some natural fruity tartness to this, but nothing like the lactic acidity of Temptation, which is what makes this beer so distinct. Mouthfeel starts off well carbonated, but that gives way to a more wine-like, cidery finish. Deceptively easy to drink for such a big beer. Overall, a solid, intriguing beer, not quite like anything I've tasted before. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 10/19/12.

So I'm no longer in the shadow of the serpent riders, but I have a feeling that Heritic will be returning to this blog again at some point (either via distribution or trading, who cares which?) In the meantime, I'll have to make my peace with other wine-barrel aged monsters (which seem to be more common these days). And in all seriousness, I'm pretty well set for the Frankenstorm. I even have water.

Second Anniversary

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If you'll permit some blogtastic navel-gazing, I passed the two year mark of the blog a couple weeks ago (being drunk at the time, I neglected to note said anniversary and kinda forgot about it). To celebrate, I've cracked open a homebrewed Earl Grey Bitter, and nerd that I am, compiled some statistics that you should totally read because I know you're all enraptured by such things:

  • 379 Total Posts, 227 in the past year (this represents a significant increase in posting rate, from about 3 posts a week to a little over 4 a week)
  • 303 Total Comments, not a metric I measured last year, but I get the impression that I've had a lot more this year than last year. It should also be noted that a significant number of comments are my responses, though none of this includes other forms of response (emails, tweets, etc...), which have been plentiful this year as well... Much of this interaction is due to certain other awesome bloggers, so thanks guys!
  • 70 posts about IPAs, 43 in the past year, making that the most talked-about style on the blog. Stouts come in second with 51 posts (30 in the past year). This is on par with last year, and it should be noted that I don't break out double/imperial varieties either (which inflates numbers a bit). Rounding out the top styles are Saison (28 posts), Belgian Strong Dark (25 posts), American Pale Ale (18 posts) and Tripel (18 posts).
  • 28 posts about Victory Brewing, which remains the most talked about brewery on the blog. Tied in a distant second place are Russian River, Mikkeller, Ommegang, and Weyerbacher, each clocking in at 14 posts. Rounding out the most talked about breweries, we've got: Dogfish Head (12), Founders (12), Tröegs (12), Stone (11), The Bruery (11), and Lagunitas (10).
  • 183 different breweries have posts. This is not a metric I measured last year, so I don't know how it really compares, but even after two years, I still find myself consistently adding new breweries to the list.
  • 242 posts about beer from US breweries, which is over 4 times as many posts as the runner up, Belgium (54). The UK comes in at 20 posts (though 10 are from Scotland), and Denmark puts in a strong showing (no doubt fueled by Mikkeller) at 17 posts. Scotland, Canada, and Germany get some love, but probably not enough, coming in at 10,9, and 8 posts respectively.
  • 129 posts featured a beer rated B+, which remains most common rating by a rather large margin. It is, perhaps, a little overused and a bunch of those beers should probably be a B, but whatever, it's not like I try to drink mediocre beer. Speaking of which, coming in second place is A- with 97 posts, followed by B with 84 posts, and A with 50 posts. Last year, there was a little more parity in that the B and B- ratings pretty neatly paralleled the A- and A ratings respectively, but now the distribution is a little top heavy. Again, I'm going out of my way for good beer, so this is probably a good thing.

Last year, I was a little taken aback by how much beer I'd drank/reviewed. Little did I know that I would significantly outpace myself this year. However, I should note that I think I've curtailed drinking overall a bit, despite the increase in posting. In my first year, I was still drinking a fair amount of six packs/cases/duplicate beers (only one of which would be reviewed), but it's pretty rare for me to drink the same beer twice these days (the grand majority of which are reviewed), and even more rare to put down a full six pack. The one exception to this is probably homebrew, though I tend to give a lot of that away too.

The blog is definitely still focused mainly on beer reviews, though I do try to use the review as an excuse to wax philosophic about style, history, or issues of the day, and I do try to liven things up from time to time with screenplays or even adventure! I'd like to do some more brewery visits to up and coming stars in the future as well. I was pretty good about non-review posts for a portion of the year, but I've since fallen out of that habit. Mayhap I can return to that sometime too. I've been at this long enough that I should really put together a best posts category, so if you have any favorites, feel free to let me know.

So yeah, it's been a good year, tons of great beer and a lot of fun. I don't see myself slowing down anytime soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Some spectacular stuff coming in the near future, if I can manage it. Cheers!

Double Feature: Itchin For Some Tröegs

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Continuing on the theme of wet hopped beers, this past weekend, I cracked open a couple of Tröegs Scratch beers (cause, you know, I had an itch for such local exclusives). It's funny, while my past experience with Tröegs has certainly been cromulent, the only offering of theirs that I've grown to love is Nugget Nectar (a beer that I was initially unimpressed with, but which has grown considerably in my mindshare over the past couple years) and Flying Mouflan. Their Scratch series has always been interesting, but none have really pushed my buttons (though it should be noted that Flying Mouflan was apparently derived from a Scratch series beer at some point). I even sampled their Fresh Hop beer last year, but I came away underwhelmed. However, much like the Victory Harvest beers I mentioned in a recent post, Tröegs seems to have greatly improved their Fresh Hop offering (and for good measure, I also checked out another hoppy Tröegs brew). I cracked these open last weekend whilst taking in a couple of nonsensical (but gloriously fun) Italian Horror movies...

Troegs Scratch 78 (Fresh Hop Ale)

Tröegs Scratch Beer 78 - 2012 (Fresh Hop Ale) - The main wet hop component of this beer comes from Citra hops quickly imported from Yakima valley in Washington state. In addition to the wet Citra hops, they also apparently use some Amarillo and Nugget hops to round out the flavor/aroma profile. Near as I can tell, this is similar to what they did last year, though this is a slightly bigger beer in terms of alcohol. Pours a golden color with a finger of tight white head. Smells utterly fantastic, with a ton of citrus and pine, but also some grassy floral notes. Taste hits all the same notes; big fruity citrus and resiny pine flavors with some grassy floral hops along for the ride. Not a lot of bitterness in the finish, but there's enough to balance the sweetness of the malts, and it actually finishes with a sweet sorta resin character that I'm really enjoying. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, crisp, suprisingly light, and refreshing. This stuff goes down way too easy, downright quaffable. Overall, a big improvement over last year's Fresh Hop Scratch Beer and one of my favorite harvest ales yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 10/19/12.

Troegs Scratch 76 (Special Hops Ale)

Tröegs Scratch Beer 76 - 2012 (Special HOPS) - Not strictly a wet hopped beer, but it does retain such qualities. It's a highly hopped imperial red ale brewed for charity to benefit injured soldiers. Pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of creamy off white head. Smells of citrusy, piney hops and some caramel malt too. Taste also has that rich caramel malt character fused with citrus and resiny pine hop flavors and a well balanced resinous finish. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbonated, smooth, heavier and more intense than the Fresh Hop Ale. Not quite as quaffable but that's fine by me. Overall, this is actually an exceptional beer, well balanced, complex interactions between malt and hops, downright delicious stuff. I'd probably put it above the Fresh Hop Ale, though I'll still rate it an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 10/19/12.

I really enjoyed both of these beers, but I was so taken with the Special HOPS beer that I sent off an email to Tröegs asking them for some help with the recipe, as I'd really like to brew something along those lines for my next batch... Fingers crossed that they'll get back to me with some interesting info. In the meantime, it appears that Tröegs has earned their recent wins at the GABF. I will certainly be on the lookout for more of these Scratch beers, and here's to hoping they make the Special Hops beer a regular option for us...

Double Feature: Victory's Harvest

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Fall is home to some of the beer nerd's most distinctive seasonal styles. The most popular are, of course, pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest beers. Very different styles, but both represent the season well. In recent years, a third seasonal brew has been charging ahead as well, albeit a somewhat less defined one: the harvest beer. Usually, this involves freshly harvested hops, used within a couple days of being picked off the vine, but there's also the occasional barley harvest beer too. Still, the hoppy harvest seems to be the thing that inflames beer geeks' passions. Using fresh hops gives a slightly different flavor profile to a beer than you would get from dried or pelletized hops, and this is basically the only time of the year to get such beers.

I imagine that west-coasters get the better end of the deal here, as the majority of hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, so they'll probably have the easiest access to fresh hops... whereas us east-coasters have to make due with tiny local hop farms. I had a few Harvest Ales last year, but for whatever reason, none really blew me away, including Victory's offering. Fortunately, this year has gone much better:

Victory Harvest Ale

Victory Harvest Ale - Brewed with fresh Cascade hops harvested just hours earlier from the Catskills in New York state, near as I can tell, this is the same recipe they made last year, but I'll be darned if I didn't fall in love with it this year. Pours a clear, bright orange color with a couple fingers of frothy white head and tons of lacing (this seems to be typical when drinking beers at Victory's brewpub). Smells of bright citrus and big pine aromas, really nice. Taste is also underpinned by that citrus and pine hop character, but some earthy and maybe even spicy notes too, and a well matched malt backbone keeps it balanced. Mouthfeel is excellent, well carbonated but smooth, light to medium bodied, quaffable. Overall, this is an excellent beer. Victory calls it "highly aromatic and sensual"... sensual? Ok, sure. I call it delicious, complex, balanced, and quaffable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 10/12/12.

Victory Harvest Pils

Victory Braumeister Harvest Pils - Braumeister Pils is Victory's draft-only pilsener that they seem to use as a playground for playing with various hop varietals (for instance, earlier this year they played with a bunch of experimental and new German hops, even going so far as to do a series of batches, each using the same hop varietal, but from different hop fields, which apparently yielded subtle differences between the batches). So it makes sense for them to make a harvest version using freshly picked Mt. Hood hops, again picked straight from New York. Pours a clear yellowish gold color, with a finger of fluffy white head (and again, tons of lacing). Smell has a surprisingly bright citrus character, along with some of those more common, Pilsnery spicy/earthy notes. Taste emphasizes the typical earthy and spicy Pilsner profile, but that bright citrus lightens things up a bit. Mouthfeel is light and smooth, a little lighter on carbonation than the regular harvest, but still appropriate. Overall, this is a good pilsner, and I appreciate the fresh, bright character... but Pils just isn't my style. I'm sure Pilsner fanatics would love this take on the style, but I'll give it a solid B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of of Victory's 0.3L glass on 10/12/12.

There you have it. Lots of exciting Victory stuff coming up, so stay tuned for that. And check back in tomorrow for a look at Tröegs' Fresh Hop Ale (and something else called Special HOPS Ale).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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