BBQ Beer Club

| 2 Comments

Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB, and this time we hit up Jimmy's BBQ. It's not gonna blow away folks used to spectacular BBQ, but for us unwashed Yanks, it was solid stuff, and quite frankly, our options for good BBQ up here are somewhat limited. As usual, a good time was had by all, and we had quite a nice selection of beers available:

Beer Club Beers for August 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. Naturally, these were not ideal conditions, but then again, what were you expecting? It's not like this BBQ place had a sensory deprivation chamber that would allow us to truly evaluate the beers in an objective fashion. And even if it did, that would take all the fun out of it. Stop being such a Nazi, dude! In any case, here's some impressions of each beer (in order of drinking, not necessarily the order of the picture above):

  • Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager - Lager lover Paul brought a growler of this stuff, which made a nice starting beer for me. It's pretty standard golden lager stuff, perhaps a step above the typical BMC macro stuff. Not particularly my thing, but again, a nice start to the evening. B-
  • Sixpoint Righteous Ale - An interesting take on the Rye beer, one that actually emphasizes the rye (as opposed to a lot of hopped up versions, which certainly have their own allure). There is a healthy hop presence, to be sure, but it leans towards the more European earthy, pungent, almost spicy character that actually complements the rye quite nicely. Really quite nice. I'd like to try this under better conditions, but for now, let's leave it at a very solid B+
  • Kaedrin Simcoe IPA - My homebrewed IPA went over well, as usual, though I'm getting a little worried, as I only have a couple of these left. It is starting to show it's age a bit - much more piney than it's initial incarnation - though it's still quite nice. Definitely something I'm going to attempt to replicate sometime this winter. Solid B+ material here (maybe higher at it's peak).
  • Kaedrin Trappist Tripel - This was my second batch of homebrew, well over a year and a half old. A tripel style beer, it definitely came in a little higher than expected at 9.5 to 10% ABV, and that booze certainly takes on a too-prominent position in the taste. Definitely too much of that fusel alcohol flavor in this one, though it's not completely overpowering. That being said, it was an interesting beer to try in the beer club setting, and I actually think the age is doing it some favors. Perhaps another year will mellow this thing out a little more? I've got about a dozen of these things left, so I think we've got plenty of time to find out. For now, I'll say B- or B
  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - Full disclosure, this thing had been sitting in my fridge for well over a year, and whatever you may think, a 5.4% ABV wheat beer isn't exactly aging material. That being said, it was fine, though in the context of beer club, it was kinda overshadowed by other stuff we drank... When fresh, I gave it an A-, and I think it still remains one of my favorite Hefeweizens...
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer many of my fellow blogging travelers have been enjoying, and I have to say, I see what they're talking about! Of course, it's no Society and Solitude #2, but as Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark American Black whatevers you want to call it) go, it's a solid, perhaps even top tier entry. Very nice pine tree nose, with a taste that is more hops than roast, but with both elements present and prominent. Apparently also made with Rye, which adds something different to the mix, but which I wasn't really looking too strongly for... It's a beer I'd love to try again sometime, but for now, B+ it is! Thanks for bringing this one Danur!
  • Duck Rabbit Porter - Um, well, yeah, it's a porter! As the style goes, it's a solid entry, though it's not something that wowed me like, say, Everett. Still, I'm sure it could fill in for my go-to cigar beer, Founders Porter. Duck Rabbit is most certainly a brewery I need to familiarize myself with further though. B
  • Russian River Supplication - So I really enjoyed this the last time I had it, and I've been trying to experiment with sours at Beer Club, so I brought this one, and hoo boy... I absolutely adored this beer this time around. Not sure if it was because my palate had already been exercised by the BBQ and preceding beers, or if I just got a particularly good bottle (Batch 7) this time around, but man, this thing was spectacular. Fellow beer club peeps were also blown away by this beer, and I could hardly blame them. It really was quite eye opening, and it stood right up to the strong flavors we'd already been imbibing for a bit. I have to say, this time around, the sourness was less pronounced and better integrated into the beer, which took on more of an oak aged character. It's something I'm going to have to revisit again sometime soon. I give it an upgrade to an A right now, but honestly, if I get another bottle that's this good, it could vault itself up into the hallowed A+ pantheon.
  • DuClaw Soul Jacker - A blend of DuClaw's Black Jack stout and their most excellent Devil's Milk barleywine. Indeed, that barleywine character, full of hop flavors (but not a lot of hop bitterness), dominated the taste. There was a very light roastiness, which added some interesting complexity. I really enjoyed this, but it also sorta made me crave the regular old Devil's Milk barleywine. I'll give it a B+ and leave it at that.
Phew! I think this may be one of the best rated beer clubs evar! Only one real B-, and that's not a particularly poor rating. Usually, despite all the fun we have, there's at least something in the C or D range, if not an outright F (apparently someone forgot to bring a 3 year old San Miguel lager, smuggled from the Phillipines, that they've been meaning to get rid of - this surely would have opened some eyes in a bad way, but I guess we'll have to wait for next beer club for that... experience). Not that I'm complaining (about this gathering or, for that matter, previous gatherings with not so great beer - it's not like I have to drink a ton of bad beer or anything!). As always, I'm already anxiously awaiting the next beer club meeting!

Oh yeah, I should mention, we actually didn't get to all the beers in the pic above because we're not all total alcoholics, you know? I did manage to take home the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout though, so I'm sure you'll get to hear about that at some point...

The Bruery White Oak

| 2 Comments

I've been at this blogging thing for a little while now (almost two years), and I've obviously been drinking beer for a long time before that... but this appears to be my first wheatwine. It's basically like a barleywine, but with a large proportion of wheat in the malt bill. I suppose the closest thing I've had to this style is Great Divide's Double Wit, a beer that didn't quite work for me. It was fine for what it was, but it felt overly boozy and unbalanced. Will The Bruery be able to tame those issues in this decidedly stronger brew?

To be fair, this stuff is also quite a bit more complex than any of the big wheat beers I've had before. It's a blend of the Bruery's excellent hoppy Belgian pale ale, Mischief, and a wheatwine that's been aged in Bourbon barrels (apparently they did release some of this barrel aged wheatwine all by itself, called White Oak Sap). So yeah, sign me up for this thing.

The Bruery White Oak

The Bruery White Oak - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a few fingers of fluffy white head. Smells strongly of wheat and musty Belgian (or perhaps weizen) yeast, a little of that banana and clove character you'd expect in a Hefeweizen. The taste is sweet and very spicy, with some interesting vanilla and light caramel notes emerging in the middle, and a low intensity bourbon oak character (maybe some vanilla too) coming towards the finish. Not getting a lot of wheat in the taste, though perhaps it contributes to the mouthfeel. The bourbon barrel character adds complexity here without dominating the flavor, and I'm realizing that I don't often have barrel aged light colored beers... (I'd like to compare this to Allagash's Curieux). The mouthfeel starts off highly carbonated and spicy, eventually yielding to a small but mostly pleasant sticky sensation in the finish. It's a little heavy and drinking a whole 750 is a bit much, but overall, I'm actually quite pleased with this. It's very complex and tasty. I wouldn't quite call it well balanced (which keeps this from mind-blowing territory), but it's unbalanced in just the right way to make it interesting and delicious. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/27/12.

Not long after having this, a local bar did a Founders event, and at the behest of the cute girl sitting next to me, I got a taste of their Wheatwine. It was interesting, though I ultimately didn't get me a full glass (there were other interesting rarities available, including KBS and another beer you'll be hearing about, er, at some point on the blog). Anywho, The Bruery never fails to impress. I wouldn't put this at the top of their lineup, but it's a solid entry worth trying (but, you know, split the bottle with someone). I've got a few big Bruery beers in my cellar that I should break out at some point, but it's always tough to pull the trigger on a 750 of high ABV beer...

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

| No Comments

Also known as: that beer made with weasel poop coffee. Yes, this beer is made with civet coffee, one of the world's most expensive varieties. Apparently, coffee berries are fed to weasel-like civets and are thus passed through their digestive tract. The idea here is that the coffee beans are exposed to various enzymes in the process, helping break them down. But not too much, as the beans retain their coffee-like properties, just with a different, supposedly less bitter character. There's apparently a lot of controversy surrounding the coffee due to the novelty factor and also the ease with which "fake" civet beans are put on the market. Oh, and the fact that people are drinking coffee made from poo. Ok, fine, the coffee is apparently washed and roasted, but still. Weasel poo.

And of course, leave it to Mikkeller to make an exceptional beer with this stuff. He's got a whole series of Beer Geek stouts, mostly brewed with various coffees. Not being a big coffee person (poo or no poo), the beer never really made it past my radar, but I eventually broke down and got a couple bottles from the series to see what all the fuss is about. Well, I'm glad I got over my hesitation, because this stuff is great:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light brown head. Smells fantastic, very rich dark malt aromas, caramel, booze, maybe a little roast (but not much). Taste also features those rich dark malt flavors, much more coffee and roast character than the nose would indicate (but not overpowering or anything), plenty of caramel and chocolate, and maybe a hint of booze. The finish has some balancing bitterness, some of which is coming from that coffee (rather than all hops - though if wikipedia is to be believed, the bitterness is less pronounced than regular coffee). Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, full bodied, low but appropriate carbonation and just a little stickiness in the finish. Alcohol is very well hidden here. Towards the end of the bottle, the yeast got a little clumpy, which wasn't great, but only really impacted a small portion of the bottle. Overall, this is expertly crafted stuff and while I don't normally go in for coffee in my beer, this one is fantastic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/20/12.

Up next on the wallet-lightening train of Mikkeller beers is Beer Hop Breakfast - basically a similar beer, sans poo, plus tons of hops. All aboard!

DuClaw Double Naked Fish

| No Comments

I had a sample of DuClaw's regular Naked Fish beer at a beer club outing a while back. It was a solid beer to have in such a setting, as it's got a unique profile and an interesting concept. It's a raspberry stout, and while the aroma really sold that fact, I found the taste to be a little too thin (which wasn't surprising once we realized it was only 4.6% ABV). It was a fine beer, to be sure, but I would have loved it if it had a fuller body with more richness in flavor. So when I saw Double Naked Fish (a souped up version of the brew with 7.6% ABV) on the shelf during a recent beer hunting expedition, it seemed that fate had interceded. This seemed like a good idea, so let's see how it all turned out:

DuClaw Double Naked Fish

DuClaw Double Naked Fish - Pours a clear and very dark brown color with a finger of big bubbled tan head. Smells of roasted malts, with some raspberry fruitiness and maybe caramel and chocolate coming through as well. Taste has that roasty component, but it's quickly taken over by a bright raspberry fruitiness, followed by a dry bitterness from hops, chocolate, and roastiness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, but somehow thinner and more dry than I'd expect. I'd think this souped up version would have richer, fuller bodied flavors, but this is light and dry. It feels like an amped up Irish Dry Stout, rather than any sort of imperial stout. This may be more of a personal preference thing, as Irish Dry Stouts aren't my favorites, though they certainly hit the spot from time to time. Overall, it's an interesting beer, a slight improvement over the single Naked Fish, but still not quite transcendent. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/28/12.

DuClaw is still an interesting regional brewery. Not sure if they even distribute to PA yet, but I picked up a few bottles from them during a trip to Maryland (their home state). My cellar has once again grown into something of an unwieldy state, so I'm not sure when I'll get to these, but I'm sure they'll be on the blog soon enough...

Maine MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale

| 2 Comments

Eco-hippies versus pale ale! This is named after the recently hatched twins of co-owner Daniel Kleban, Madeline & Oliver, shortened to just MO, because syllables suck. It looks like this will be an addition to their regular lineup, a nice complement to their other pale ale, Peeper:

Maine MO

Maine Brewing Co. MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale - Pours a clear, dark golden color with a finger of white had and lots of lacing as I drink. Holy pine resin aromas, Batman! As I sit here just continually sniffing the glass, the piney smells seem to be rounded out a bit with some citrus. The taste is lightly sweet with a big piney flavor and a very light bitterness in the dry finish. Mouthfeel isn't as light bodied as I'd expect out of something like this, but it goes down pretty easy. Overall, a fantastic pale ale. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/21/12. Bottle sez: 062612 (presumably the bottling date). Hops: Warrior, Falconer's Flight, Simcoe.

Maine continues to be a solid, interesting choice. I'll probably pick up anything new that I see from them... I don't have one right now, but up next will most likely be Lunch, their IPA.

Founders Curmudgeon

| No Comments

The Old Ale style is a somewhat nebulous one, and there's a lot of overlap with stuff like Strong Ale and Stock Ale (which are terms sometimes used interchangeably with Old Ale), but near as I can tell, there actually are a few distinguishing characteristics. They're generally pretty high in starting gravity and relatively low in IBUs (sorta like an English Barleywine or a Scotch Ale), but they display a lower degree of apparent attenuation (meaning that there still a lot of residual sugars (dextrin) in the finished product). As the style name implies, these beers are also aged for a long period of time before distribution. This aging develops some interesting flavors along the lines of a lightly acidic, fruity malt character. Historically, given the challenges with sanitation in olden times, there was almost certainly some of that funky Brettanomyces character that came through... however, I don't think most modern examples have that feature (unless specifically designated as such). I certainly didn't detect any funk in Founders' typically solid take on the style:

Founders Curmudgeon

Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale - Pours a hazy amber brown (copper?) color with a minimum of light tan head. Smells of bready malts with a dark fruity kick (perhaps from that aging and booze). Taste is very sweet, featuring lots of rich malt flavors of caramel (maybe a little vanilla) along with a pronounced fruitiness and some booze. Mouthfeel is rich and smooth, creamy, but with plenty of tight bubbled carbonation. This feels very much like a scotch ale, though it's also similar to the recently reviewed Otter Creek Anniversary strong ale... I didn't realize it, but apparently this was aged on new oak of some kind (details are a little sparse), which I think may have tempered some of the flavors, which could easily have been unruly or overpowering, but really weren't. Overall, it's pretty darn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/21/12. 50 IBUs. Bottled 4/19/12.

As usual, Founders delivers. And of course I'd love to try Curmudgeon's Better Half, one of those impossible to find Founders Backstage series beers that was aged in Bourbon Barrels that were also used to age maple syrup (yum). Alas, I missed out on the release earlier this year... here's to hoping that they get around to making some more next year...

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA

| 2 Comments

One of the beers I didn't get to try during the Hill Farmstead event during Philly Beer Week was the Citra Single Hop Pale Ale. As luck would have it, Hill Farmstead had another event at the same bar a few weeks later. This time, things were far less hectic, and one of the beers available was the Double Citra IPA... which has to be, like, twice as good as the regular ol' Citra Pale, right?

Funny thing about this beer: I've had it before. I didn't realize it until I started drinking, but something in the depths of my brain flashed recognition or something, so I looked in one of my old-fangled notes on my phone, and sure enough, I'd hastily tapped in some notes from that initial tasting. The freaky thing is that it appears that my previous tasting occurred exactly 1 year prior to this tasting (maybe a few hours difference, if the timestamp on my image is to be trusted). Now, one might be tempted to think that forgetting to post about this first tasting means that it was a lackluster beer (i.e. forgettable). But I had rated it an A- back then, and I'm pleased to see that the old tasting notes pretty closely matched these new ones. I won't claim to have a particularly attuned palate, but I'm apparently somewhat consistent.

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA - Pours a cloudy yellowish color with a finger of white head... Smell is pure pine and citrus, very... Sniffable. I feel kinda dumb doing so in public, but it seems worth it. Taste is very sweet, lots of that pine flavor giving way to light citrusy fruit hops as the taste moves into a light, well balanced bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tightly carbonated, and goes down real easy. Ok, this is superb. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/30/12.

Hill Farmstead has quickly ascended to the highest possible level of respect here at Kaedrin. I've pretty much resolved to buy as much of their beer as possible whenever I see it. Alas, I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of the stuff, and even kegs don't make their way down here that often. Hopefully that will change soon. Otherwise, I'll have to make the 9 hour trek to Vermont. Might even be worth it.

There's been a lot of talk in the beer dorkosphere lately about the secondary beer market. In particular, it seems that Ebay has finally started cracking down on folks who auction off rare beers for ungodly sums of money (the loophole sellers attempted to use was to say that these were "collectible bottles" that just happened to be unopened). Some brewers are overjoyed at this prospect (for reasons we'll get into later), notably Hill Farmstead, Cantillon, and the brewer of today's reviewed beer, Russian River (said review is, uh, pretty far down in the post though). Some beer dorks don't seem to have any issue with the practice, others think this development is a good thing.

Now, before I proceed, I should acknowledge that reselling beer is illegal. It's also ridiculous that it's illegal. Alcohol laws are the result of post-prohibition era governmental power grabbing and regulated profiteering. Transporting beer across state lines also illegal (along with a host of other ridiculous things, depending on where you live) - but that's something I'd wager most drinkers have done at one time or another (and something I doubt anyone but the IRS has a problem with). Regardless, my guess is that these legal reasons are really what broke Ebay down, and not the quality control or artistic integrity reasons that brewers are concerned with.

Speaking of which, I have no idea what's up with brewers. There are valid reasons to dislike this practice, but they're treating Ebay sellers like they've invented some new form of puppy mutilation or something. Granted, it must be difficult for brewers to work long and hard producing great beer, then be forced to turn away valued local customers when you exhaust your supply, only to find out that some douchebag bought a case of the stuff and immediately put it up on ebay with a huge markup. Similarly, there's a worry that shipping this stuff cross-country (via consumer grade ground shipping) can result in degraded beer that will negatively impact the reputation of the brewer. These are understandable reasons to be opposed to the secondary beer market... but, you know, it's not puppy mutilation.

Why does this secondary market exist? Markets represent information, and in this case, demand is clearly outstripping supply by a huge margin, hence inflated prices on ebay. Are these beers actually worth $400 or whatever astronomical price they're going for? Definitely not. This is just a demonstration of how distorted the market really is (said distortion coming from a variety of governmental and brewery factors). This is just basic economics. What's more, these brewers seem to be counting on this effect.

I can't imagine that these rare specialty beers are the most profitable things a brewery makes (by themselves). But there's clearly a big halo effect that surrounds the entire brewery when one of their beers gains a reputation as being heavenly mana from the gods. The whole point of making these prestige beers is to generate buzz for your brewery and produce a bump in overall sales. Unfortunately, the exclusivity of these special releases also creates fanatics, people who will go on Ebay and pay $500 for a single bottle, thus drawing the attention of people interested in arbitrage (and, no doubt, increasing the halo effect of such a release).

This is all entirely predictable, even to someone with only a rudimentary knowledge of economics. I have to admit, it seems a little disingenuous for breweries to implement a strategy like this, then complain that people are reselling stuff for high prices on Ebay. This is pretty straightforward stuff. No one is forcing people to pay exorbitant amounts of money for rare beer online. No one is stealing the beer from brewers either. Breweries are still making a tidy profit on their beer, it's just that some of the consumers are turning around and reselling it for their own profit. What's more, the people buying these beers are no doubt true lovers of beer who are willing to shell out big bucks to get ahold of beers they would never otherwise be able to try (and also probably aware of the aforementioned potential for degradation). To me, it seems like everyone wins here.

I don't know what the solution is. Having the brewer raise prices significantly may help limit the secondary market, but it will probably result in a big backlash from beer nerds. Making more of the rare beer seems like a good idea at first, but from a brewer's perspective, this makes the beer less prestigious and thus results in less of a halo effect. Also, it's probably easier said than done. For instance, beers with huge hop charges, especially when it comes to trendy, supply-limited hops like Simcoe, Citra, and Amarillo, are going to be costly and unprofitable on a large scale. Increasing production in general is a non-trivial task in itself, and it requires a massive capital investment on the part of brewers that are, in the grand scheme of things, really quite small businesses.

As an aside, I do wonder if part of the reason beers like Pliny the Younger and Hopslam and some of the Hill Farmstead beers are so well regarded is that people are almost always drinking very fresh beer. I doubt bottles of Pliny the Elder sit on the shelves for a few months, and the bottle itself practically orders the consumer to drink the beer as soon as possible (so I've heard, I've never actually seen a bottle myself). Hoppy beers in particular have a propensity to degrade quickly, especially when not refrigerated, so this perhaps represents another reason a brewery doesn't want to increase production too much.

So I've got some mixed feelings about this. Looking at it from a small brewery's perspective, I can see the valid concerns. Looking at it from a consumer's perspective, it's hard to see why this is such a big deal to the brewers. I imagine there's a large contingent of folks who have poor access to good beer who really value something like Ebay. Personally, I feel like this is a good problem to have. It means we've got a thriving community of people who value good beer. I also think it's not a problem that will be solved anytime soon. As human beings, we don't so much solve problems as we exchange one set for another, with the hope that our new issues are more favorable than the old ones. I've only ever bought one thing off of Ebay, and I don't plan to ever sell anything there, so I'm not hugely impacted. On the other hand, it would be nice to know that I could get me a bottle of Dark Lord if I really wanted one...

Um, yeah, so I wrote a lot more than I expected when I started this post. This beer isn't something you would have seen going for $400 on Ebay, but it is something that wouldn't be available to the grand majority of the country, which is a shame, because it's really nice and I bet that if it were available on Ebay for $30, it would make someone very happy (I'd be curious if anyone has ever done a rigorous analysis of the beer-related auctions on Ebay to see just how rampant the overpricing is... but I digress.)

Russian River Salvation

Russian River Salvation - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. Smells of bready, spicy Belgian yeast, with perhaps a hint of fruitiness apparent. Taste is sweet, lots of spice from the yeast, a little bit of dark fruit, perhaps even some rich dark chocolate (it doesn't quite have a roasty note, but some sort of dark malts seem involved here). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry. The alcohol is very well hidden, perhaps because of that dryness. It's something to savor, but it's also quite easy to drink for such a big beer. Overall, this is an excellent, well balanced Belgian style brew, exactly what I've come to expect from Russian River. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 7/14/12.

As usual, stellar stuff from Russian River. At this point, I've had most of their beers that have been made available in this area. I think I have a line on something new and interesting from them though, so stay tuned.

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Craig wants to know what my perfect beer would be:

We all have our favorite brews--even if you say you don't; deep,deep down we all do. From IPAs to Pilsners, Steam Beers to Steinbiers, something out there floats your boat. What if we look that to another level? What if you were to design the perfect brew--a Tolkien-esque One Beer to Rule Them All. The perfect beer for you, personally. Would it be hoppy and dark or strong and light? Is it augmented with exotic ingredients or traditionally crafted? Would your One Beer be a historic recreation or something never before dreamt of? The sky is the limit on this one.
Well that's not a tall order at all! Or rather, it's impossible. I have a hard time choosing favorites, and when it comes to beer, what really attracts me is variety. All the different styles and possible flavors are wide ranging and fun to explore. At this point, it's rare that I drink the same beer more than once... That being said, I suppose there are things that I'm a total sucker for, so perhaps we can create something I know I'll love. Of course, I could probably come up with a dozen beers to rule them all, but here's what I came up with when I tried to limit myself to creating a single beer that I'd be happy with drinking.

So here are the characteristics of my brew:

  • General Style/Malt Bill - This is tough, but I'm going relatively dark. Something in the Imperial Stout, Old Ale, or Barleywine family. It's killing me that this excludes IPAs, so let's say this beer will be a Barleywine, as that will allow a huge range of possible expression when it comes to hops without excluding the darker crystal malts (and other specialty malts) that give those rich caramel flavors I love in a darker beers so much. Then again, a light roastiness or chocolate character is also quite nice, so Imperial Stout/Old Ale isn't entirely out of the running either. But that's a light roastiness, and not coffee.
  • Hops - As mentioned above, I would want this beer to prominently feature hops. Neither Imperial Stouts nor Barleywines exclude this, so it doesn't completely help narrow the field, but since we're talking about hops, I'm thinking about those big, high Alpha Acid American citrus and pine bombs like Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra (classics like Chinook and Cascade might also make an appearance). No Centennial. It's a fine hop, to be sure, but I often don't connect with that as much as I'd like.
  • Yeast - Thinking about yeast makes me realize how difficult this exercise is, because I'm kinda disappointed that I won't get to base this on a Belgian yeast (I suppose a Belgian Strong Dark or Quadrupel could fit here, but that would preclude heavy hopping, so that's out). So what I'm looking for, though, would be something that ferments with relatively high attenuation. Obviously the beer won't be super dry because it'll be huge, but I also don't want to make it undrinkable. So I'd tend towards a straightforward American Ale yeast, or maybe a highly attenuating British variety. Definitely no Brett or bacterial beasties - this won't be a funky or sour ale.
  • Barrel Aging - Regular readers probably knew this was coming. This beer absolutely has to spend time in a barrel of some kind. Bourbon Barrels are, of course, the classic choice, but I could also be talked into Scotch or maybe even stuff like Cognac or Brandy barrels. Not so much plain oak or old wine barrels, though who knows... The point is to impart that oak and vanilla character that will accentuate the richness of the malt bill (i.e. caramel and maybe chocolate). The one thing about this aspect that gives me pause is that barrel aging tends to tame beers with a big hop presence (i.e. Dark Intrigue)... but then, it also tends to tame roasty and coffee characteristics, and I think it probably adds more than it takes away. Let's say Bourbon Barrel Aged. Or, if it doesn't break the rules, let's do an entire series of beers, starting with a "regular" version, then do a bunch of variants aging that beer in all sorts of barrels.
  • Packaging - This thing will most certainly be packaged fancily. It will probably involve a cage and cork treatment, packaged in a box. And not a wimpy box either, one of them industrial strength boxes they use for bottles of Scotch. Heck, make it a wooden box or some other space age material or something. Also, the label will have a tasteful design, but also feature a hand written component. Perhaps make it a numbered bottle. Lots of information about the brew, and signed by the brewmaster or something like that. Perhaps something like Firestone Walker's Proprietor's Reserve series beers. Ultimately, this aspect of the beer don't matter too much - it's what's inside the bottle that counts - but I'm a sucker for fancy packaging.
So what we end up with here is either an Imperial Stout or a Barley Wine (with an off chance of a Belgian Strong Dark/Quadrupel or that nebulous "Old Ale" style), heavily hopped with trendy American varieties, aged in a Bourbon Barrel (or perhaps a bunch of variants aged in different types of barrels), with a fancy package.

There are some commercial beers I've had in the past couple years that might help give you an idea of what I'm looking for: The Bruery Coton (and presumably the later iterations), Firestone Walker §ucaba, Parabola, or Anniversary Ale, Uinta Cockeyed Cooper, Ola Dubh series beers, Devine Rebel, and perhaps a dozen or so others. I suppose it's fortunate that my One Beer to Rule Them All is a fairly common style, even if it's not quite as common to really hit a superb example.

The final task in concocting my imaginary super beer is to give it a name. I've mentioned before that naming things is not a strongpoint for me, but I'll do my best. The hope is that the above described beer would be almost mystical, transcendent, so I'll go with the name "Societas Eruditorium Ale" (mostly because I made a similar reference in a recent post and thus the source is fresh in my mind). This is a name that would probably prove impossible to market, but since this is an imaginary beer, I'm free to make all the obscure references I want. In all honesty, this beer sounds kinda awesome. My powers as a homebrewer are probably not up to snuff, but I'd like to try making this someday. I might have some trouble with the barrel aging part, but apparently you can approximate that character using oak chips/cubes soaked in bourbon (or whatever spirit you want). I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Gone Fishin'

| No Comments

I would say that posting will be light, except that I'm already pretty far along this week, and I was able to publish something today that I wrote earlier using the magic of my mobile telemaphone. If I can get that to work again, there might be another post on Friday for The Session. In any case, I'm spending time up at Kaedrin North. Alas, beer options appear limited. I thought perhaps I could swing by New Hampshire or Cooperstown and hit a brewery or two, but alas, it appears that I'm in the middle of nowhere (a solid 4 hours from the breweries I'd like to visit). But whatever, I'm on vacation. Check it:

Kaedrin North

Have a good week everyone...

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

Recent Comments

  • Mark: That's what I figured after the last release (which was read more
  • rich.on.beer: Also, freaking Lansdale is only kind of sort of a read more
  • rich.on.beer: I wouldn't expect a Philly release of bottles this time. read more
  • Mark: Yeah, that's a big leap in ABV, but it's still read more
  • beerbecue: Nice. I was shocked when I saw the ABV. It's read more
  • Mark: I shouldn't complain, as I suspect my homebrewed barleywine will read more
  • rich.on.beer: Carbonation issues are pretty common with Hair of the Dog. read more
  • Mark: Good to know that I was not alone in my read more
  • beerbecue: I don't know what batch I had, but it had read more
  • Mark: I really enjoyed this one, just as much if not read more