Adventures in Brewing - Beer #9: Abbey Dubbel

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I think I've mentioned this style as a potential next batch after, well, most of my previous beers. Well, I've finally pulled the trigger. This one doesn't come from a kit or even a clone recipe, though I did look at clones for St. Bernardus 8 and Ommegang Abbey Ale (two of my favorite dubbels). The real key resource was Brew Like a Monk, by Stan Hieronymus. Abbey Dubbels are generally dark beers, though that color comes more from dark sugars (usually candi syrup or rocks) than from roasty malts, meaning that these beers usually surprise folks who think they "don't like dark beers." The dubbel has Trappist origins, and they generally keep things simple. As such, what I ended up with wasn't particularly complex from a recipe perspective. I don't think I'll be able to replicate Trappist attenuation rates (which reach into the mid or even high 80% range), but I'm better at temperature control than I used to be, so I guess we'll see what happens. Here's the recipe:

Beer #9: Abbey Dubbel
September 29, 2012

1 lb. Aromatic Malt (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. CaraMunich Malt (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Special B (specialty grain)
7 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
1 lb. Dark Belgian Candi Syrup (90° L)
1.5 oz. Hallertauer (4.3% AA, bittering)
0.5 oz. Hallertauer (flavor)
1 oz. Saaz (aroma)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast

Homebrew Ingredients

Again, nothing super complex here. Trappists apparently don't use quite as much in the way of specialty grains, but the ones I'm using are not uncommon (especially the Special B, which is a key component for a lot of commercial beers). I get the impression that they use more sugar as well, though they're careful about additions and temperature control, something I have little control over. But for the most part, this seems like a solid, middle of the road recipe.

I started by bringing 2 gallons of water to around 150°F - 155°F, then I steeped the specialty grains for about 25-30 minutes. Removed grains, sparged with another gaollon of warm water, bringing the amount in the pot to around 3 gallons. Added all of the malt extract and candi syrup. This is the first time I used candi syrup, and I have to say, it's much easier to work with than the typical candi "rocks". After that, I covered and settled in for the boil, which took about 40 minutes (stupid electric stovetop). Once at boiling, I added the bittering hops and started the timer. The Hallertauer hops I got came in at a lower alpha acid percentage than I had planned on, so I had to do a little audible here and add an extra half ounce. Hopefully this will be enough... According to my little calculator thingy, this beer will come out at around 23 IBU, which should be plenty...

With 15 minutes remaining, I add the flavor hops and Irish moss. I had originally planned a full 1 ounce addition of Hallertauer here, but I had repurposed some of that for bittering, and from what I can tell, a lot of recipes eschew flavor hop additions entirely, so this should be fine. With 5 minutes remaining, I hadd the Saaz aroma hops. When finished, I plop the pot in my little ice bath, and wait for the temperature to get down to the 80°-90° range. Strained the wort into the bucket, and topped off with about 2 gallons of cold water (bringing the temperature down to a more appropriate 70° or so).

For the yeast, I went with Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast (packaged 8/28/12), which is apparently derived from the Westmalle strain (and since they make some of my favorite Trappist beers, I think that'll work for me). This yeast also has a high attenuation range and is apparently more tolerant of higher temperatures (ideal range 64°-78°). Since it's fall, temperatures are dropping, but the ambient temperature inside my house is still around 70°-75°, so I wanted to make sure the yeast would tolerate that. I've managed to keep the ambient temperature on the lower end of that range for the start, so here's to hoping things go well.

Original Gravity: 1.079 (around 19°Bx). Yeah, so this came in a little higher than I was going for (which was 1.076), but I don't think it's a major cause for concern. The target ABV is now around 7.6% (assuming around 75% attenuation), though that could easily grow to be around 8% if I get more attenuation out of the yeast. My only real concern here is that I have enough bittering hops, though this is a malty style, so I think I should be fine.

I plan to bottle in 3 weeks time (could probably go shorter, but I want to make sure the attenuation maxes out here, and my previous experience with Belgian yeast makes me want to make sure I don't bottle too early). I'm not sure what will be next in my brewing adventures. I've been thinking about some sort of highly hopped imperial red ale, but I'm also considering a big ol' American Barleywine (perhaps finally getting myself a secondary fermenter and doing some bourbon oak aging). I'm also out of the IPA I made last year, and I'm definitely going to make more of that stuff at some point. And I'm not sure what I want to do about a Christmas beer this year either. Should I replicate last year's recipe (which was perfect)? Or try something new? So many beers, so little time! Stay tuned.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Heretic Evil Twin

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Another beer from a tiny West Coast brewery, courtesy of Jay from the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog. I found out after drinking it that the guy behind the brewery is Jamil Zainasheff. Not exactly a household name, but definitely a big figure in the dorky world of homebrewing. He's got some well respected books on the subject and co-hosts the Brew Strong podcast. When listening to people give advice on homebrewing, there's always a part of my mind that's wondering whether or not I can trust what I'm hearing. I mean, these guys clearly have a lot of knowledge and brew a lot, but it's not like I've ever tasted their beer. So it's heartening to see someone like Jamil open his own brewery and put his stuff out there for all to consume. Good on him, and if this beer is any indication, I think Heresy will become acceptable:

Heretic Evil Twin

Heretic Evil Twin - Pours a dark amber ruby color with a finger of light head. Amazing nose on this thing. Tons of juicy citrus, pineapple, grapefruit, pine, the works. Unfortunately, I think that aroma may be writing checks the taste can't cash. Taste starts of with some big, sweet caramel and amber malts, coupled with a little citrus and pine hop character in the middle, and some hop bitterness finishing it off. This is in no way bad - it's actually really, really good, but it's a little more muted than the nose was leading me to believe. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, but easy to put down. Overall, a really nice hoppy red ale, certainly something I'd go out of my way for again. On the upper end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/22/12. Label sez: Bottled 05.14.12 X33

A nice first impression, and fortunately, Jay sent along another Heretical beer that I'm quite... Worried about (heh). Seriously though, super excited to try that other Heretic beer. In other news, I'm officially caught up on reviews (unless, uh, you consider the beer I drank tonight, which you'll be hearing about next week). Score. Also, it's getting cooler out, so that means homebrewing activities will resume en-force. First up: an Abbey Dubbel. Look for a recap on Sunday. After that... I'm thinking this imperial red ale style could be interesting. I'll have to start thinking up a recipe...

Green's Quest

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I admit, I've always been curious about these Green's beers. Never curious enough to pull the trigger, but one of the consequences of being a huge beer nerd is that when my birthday rolls around, people give me beer that I normally wouldn't buy (just to be clear, this is not something I'm complaining about). In this case, I got a rather awesome six-pack, picked out by my nieces and Brother (who had steered them towards the Belgian aisle, bless him). I got some Chimay and a Westmalle Tripel, and a few others, including this beer - a gluten free "Tripel Blonde Ale". Yep, no barley in this at all. In it's place, we've got Millet (whatever that is), Buckwheat (Ohhhh Tay!), Rice (I know what that is!), and Sorghum (does not sound like a foodstuff, but let's go with it). That doesn't sound too appetizing. On the other hand, it clocks in at 8.5% ABV, so maybe there's some hope? Ehh, not so much:

Greens Quest Tripel

Green's Quest Tripel Blonde Ale - Pours a golden yellow color with lots of fizzy, big bubbled head. Smells of sweet green apple and not a whole lot else. The taste kinda leans towards that green apple character too, with a light tartness and big, cloying sweetness. Mouthfeel is actually kinda heavy, highly carbonated (which does help cut the sweetness), but not quite what you want out of a tripel. Overall, it's not an outright abomination, but it's not really that good either. C-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 9/22/12. Label sez: "Best Before 05/01/17"

Yeah, so I can't say as though I'm going to run out to try more gluten-free beer. I'm just going to be thankful that I don't have a gluten problem. Let's just chalk this up as a loss in the great game of Belgian Beer Roulette. And such loses only make the wins that much sweeter.

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

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North Carolina's Duck-Rabbit Brewery fancies themselves "Dark Beer Specialists", an interesting move in an industry that practically requires IPAs (they don't even do a Cascadian Dark Black IPA or whatever it's called). They're a small brewery with a horrible but somehow charming website and a growing distribution. My experience with them has been limited, but someone brought a couple of their staple brews to the last beer club. Their porter was, well, a porter. Well crafted, but not particularly my thing. We didn't get to the Milk Stout that night, but I managed to wrangle it on the way out, and it's been waiting patiently in my fridge ever since. So here goes nothin:

Duck Rabbit Milk Stout

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tight tan head. Actually smells pretty sweet, with a sorta chalky aroma I associate with milk stouts and it's a little light on the typical roasted malt character. Taste is again heavy on the sweetness, with the roast character emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, which has a surprisingly dry bitterness that doesn't quite fully balance out the initial sweetness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated at the start, medium to full bodied, with a little sweet acidity. Overall, a solid entry in the style, but not something I'd go out of my way for... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/21.

While neither beer particularly wowed me, I also haven't really had any of their bigger beers that would have been more interesting anyway. I'd love to try their Baltic Porter, Wee Heavy, or Rabid Duck (imperial stout). Heck, even their Schwarzbier or Duck-Rabbator (doppelbock) sound like they could be fun. All of which is to say, you'll probably see some more from these folks here on the blog someday.

St. Bernardus Tokyo

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Hey, that St. Bernardus bottle looks weird. Oh God, what have they photoshopped onto that poor monk now? Is that a... kimono? What the hell? Tokyo? Did St. Bernardus make a new beer? Why was I not informed!?

Yeah, so while American breweries are pluralistic and ephemeral, engaging in limited-release arms-races and resurrecting dead styles, a lot of older breweries like St. Bernardus have a stable, tried-and-true lineup that doesn't change much, if ever. This isn't to badmouth St. Bernardus, a brewery we have the utmost respect for, as our archives demonstrate. For those keeping score, that's 3 A ratings, 2 A- ratings, and one each of B+ and B. Truly a brewery to be reckoned with, which is why I jumped when I saw the poor monk photoshopped into a kimono. Apparently St. Bernardus is opening a branded Belgian beer pub in Tokyo, and brewed this one-time batch of beer to commemorate the occasion (most went to Tokyo, but some was reserved for normal distribution avenues in Europe and the US).

As it turns out, I grabbed the bottle so quickly that I didn't pay attention to the price tag, which came in at a hefty $20+ for a 750. Now, lord knows I've pretty much broken down that $20 barrier, especially for the barrel aged monsters I'm addicted to, but this thing's a 6% ABV Wit beer? Ooooookkkkaay, well, maybe there was a ridiculous markup at the bottle shop and most places that get this one-time brew are more reasonable. Apparently this brew uses malted wheat whereas a lot of traditional wit beers use unmalted wheat. Or something. I don't really grok it, but perhaps that explains why this didn't feel that much like a wheat beer (though I kinda loved it):

St. Bernardus Tokyo

St. Bernardus Tokyo - Pours a very cloudy, darkish yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells of pure Belgian yeast, lots of spice (clove, coriander), bready aromas, and even a little light fruitiness. It seems like the nose of a Belgian Pale rather than a Wit (indeed, I get very little wheat character from this at all). Taste is again mostly defined by that bready, biscuity Belgian yeast which imparts lots of spicy flavors, along with some very light fruitiness and maybe even a hint of grassy, herbal hops (but maybe that's just my imagination). As it warms up, some complexity in the form of that trademark wheat character starts to emerge, though this still feels like a Belgian pale... Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, with a nice spicy feel. Finishes pretty dry too, making this a good beer to match with food. Overall, this is an excellent beer, much better than I was expecting... though I'm still not sure it justified the price tag. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 9/21/12. Label sez: "It is a unique, single batch brewed on February 3rd and 4th 2012". Hops: Golding and Magnum.

So all's well that ends well, and I'm really glad I got to try this thing, but I find it hard to recommend due to the price. If you've got the cash or hey, if you find a cheap bottle, go for it. Otherwise, I'd say hit up the Watau Tripel, which is probably about 3 times cheaper and probably better...

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil

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I'm guessing that Hoppin' Frog's graphic artist was on vacation when they were bottling this stuff. Every single other label that Hoppin' Frog makes features that weirdly proportioned cartoon frog, so scrolling down their list of beers, this thing definitely stands out. Maybe that's the point. It certainly caught my eye in the store. I was a little wary of the odd description "Belgian-style Barley Wine-style Ale". I mean, huh? Maybe their copy writer was on vacation too. Reading the full description, it becomes a little more clear. This is a barleywine that's fermented with Belgian and English yeasts, then aged in whiskey barrels. Color me excited:

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil - Pours a bright, slightly hazy amber color with almost no head at all, just barely a little ring of light colored stuff around the edge of the glass. Smells strongly of fruity malts and booze, some caramel, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Taste starts with rich caramel, those fruity malts, and tons of boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is beautiful, surprisingly well carbonated (perhaps that Belgian yeast asserting itself), but still rich and creamy. As it warms, that tight carbonation winds down a bit into more traditional barleywine territory. Indeed, the fruity flavors and depth call to mind a port wine kinda character. Overall, a fantastic take on the style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 9/8/12. Batch 2 (black cap).

So at this point, I've had three beers from Hoppin' Frog, and they've all been pretty fantastic. B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher is a fantastic imperial stout, and some sort of IPA that I don't remember the name of (which was very good, though I wasn't really in a position to take notes or pay much attention - sue me). So I guess what I'm saying is, I need to try more stuff from these folks in Akron, Ohio. They might not have a great graphic artist team (though they're far from bad), but they seem to get the stuff inside the bottle right, which is the important part.

Ommegang Biere D'Hougoumont: A Screenplay

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1. INT. FRENCH BIVOUAC NEAR WATERLOO, DAY (CIRCA 1815)

EMPEROR NAPOLEON stands over a map of Waterloo, discussing strategy and tactics with three of his TRUSTED GENERALS. TRUSTED GENERAL 1 slices a block of cheese and sips wine.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: This has gone on for far too long. We must surrender!

An embarrassed silence descends upon the tent, though the mood lightens when everyone realizes that TRUSTED GENERAL 1 will be chosen to lead the attack and thus almost surely die a horrifying death.

TRUSTED GENERAL 2 (rolling his eyes): We must take Château d'Hougoumont! It's... strategically important.

NAPOLEON: Non! We will use Hougoumont to draw Wellington's reserve to our left flank, then attack through the center right!

TRUSTED GENERAL 2: But sir, our troops need wine! We will surely find ample stores at the Hougoumont farmhouse. We must secure it immediately.

NAPOLEON: This is Belgium, you fool, that farmhouse makes beer, not wine!

TRUSTED GENERAL 3: That's good enough for me.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: I concur. Once we have an ample supply of booze, we can surrender in style. I do not think any of you are considering the merits of a good, old fashioned surrender...

NAPOLEON: Non! Non! Non! Non! Who is the military genius here? Who amongst you has been summoned to the future for historical study, eh?!

TRUSTED GENERAL 2 (looking pained): Sir, with all due respect to Messieurs Bill and Ted, I do not think you can rely on your limited time with them. For all we know, you're famous for losing this battle!

NAPOLEON: Nonsense! I will take Waterloo and build an eighth wonder of the world based on my visions of the future, a water-park to inspire awe in all who witness its glory. Waterloo? Water park! This is no coincidence, it is fate!

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: You make a good point. I have been quite impressed by the visions you brought back from the future. I quite liked that... la glacé... what did you call it?

NAPOLEON: Ziggy Piggy.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: Yes, magnifique! Let us make a Ziggy Piggy and surrender!

NAPOLEON: Non! Non! Non! We are not taking Hougoumont, and that is final. Beer is not worth taking.

2. INT. ENGLISH BIVOUAC NEAR WATERLOO, DAY (CIRCA 1815)

FIELD MARSHAL WELLINGTON stands over a map of Waterloo as a FIELD SCOUT returns from his mission.

SCOUT: Château d'Hougoumont is filled with beer. Apparently something called a Bière de Garde.

WELLINGTON (perking up): Beer? We must commit all our troops to taking Hougoumont! It is... strategically important.

3. EXT. BATTLE OF WATERLOO

The camera slowly PANS across the famous painting Battle of Waterloo by William Sadler.

Battle of Waterloo 1815 by William Sadler

KEN BURNS: And thus the fate of Battle of Waterloo was decided. By beer.

4. INT. COMPUTER DESK, EVENING

MARK: What? I'm pretty sure this is how it really happened. I realize this is too late for instruction, but if you read the above with horribly stereotyped French accents, it's much funnier.

HYPOTHETICAL READER: Isn't this supposed to be a beer blog?

MARK: Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to that. This is Ommegang's take on a Bière de Garde, brewed with a rather complex malt bill (apparently eight different varieties), French Ale Yeast, French Strisselspalt hops, and aged on a combo of oak and maple staves. As Ommegang specialty brews go, it's actually rather expensive, but I'm a sucker for these guys (who were my first real introduction to the world of good beer), so let's get this party started:

Ommegang Biere d Hougoumont

Ommegang Biere D'Hougoumont - Pours a slightly hazy, burnt orange color with a finger of loosely bubbled off-white head. Smells of sweet fruits, maybe a little caramel, and musty Belgian yeast, with perhaps a hint of something else (maybe that's the wood coming through). Taste starts off with some rich caramel, followed by some spicy mustiness from the yeast, finishing surprisingly sweet and fruity. Mouthfeel is on the higher end of medium bodied, very well carbonated, dry at the start by yielding to sweetness in the finish (an unusual but pleasant reversal of the norm, which starts sweet and finishes dry). While very sweet, it never gets sticky or cloying, perhaps because of the strong (but not at all overwhelming) carbonation. This beer drinks big, but it goes down easy too. Not quite a summer thirst quencher, but a very nice fall beer. Overall, straightforward but very well crafted and balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 9/7/12.

Ommegang claims that this "malty French-style Farmhouse Ale is brewed to be aged" and that makes a certain sort of sense to me (and I'm not alone). I only bought the one bottle, but I may get another of these to add to the growing list of beers I'd like to cellar for a few years. Or not. I've established that I'm a weak, weak man when it comes to buying (er, hoarding) beer, but I'm also pretty lazy, so we'll see what wins out.

Lost Weekend

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No, I didn't get blackout drunk this weekend, but I did lose a bunch of reviews due to a hardware failure on my host. All is well now, but I lost last Thursday's review, and any notes I took over the weekend. Also, some comments were lost, so sorry about that (for what it's worth, they were about the recent and awesome trend of non-sour beers aged in wine barrels and other fancy non-bourbon barrels).

But I've got a steel trap for a brain, so here are some thoughts on recent drinkery. I'll include ratings, but I'm sure the nerdiest among you will be wary of their reliability or something. I suppose there's something to such claims, but that's no fun and you should probably get over yourself, so here goes (in order of consumption):

  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - Yeah, it's that season again. I know there are lots of folks that freakout about early availability of these brews, and in July, they might have a point, but it's mid-September at this point, so I think it's time to start easing into the seasonals. This is my favorite time of year, when it's socially acceptable to watch bad horror movies, mutilate pumpkins, and decorate your house with faux-corpses. Oh, and we start to get seasonal beers that are actually distinctive... like this beer. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster example of the style. It's got the typical elements - pumpkin and assorted pumpkin pie spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...) - but it came off flabby and limp. It's a relatively low-ABV beer, which I think lent to the more watery feeling (not that low-ABV automatically means bad or anything - there are beers that do that well). It's not the worst beer ever or anything and I'd totally favor this over any macro offerings, but I found it disappointing. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.84% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/12.)
  • Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps - Probably my favorite beer of the weekend, a Scotch Ale made by those wacky French Canadians at Dieu Du Ciel. I've previously enjoyed their pale ale, but this thing makes me want to stock up on everything of theirs I can find. It's a Spring seasonal and apparently not much makes its way down here, but I lucked into a bottle:

    Dieu Du Ciel Equinox Du Printemps

    Thick and chewy, with a burst of delicious fruity malts and rich, syrupy caramel. It's got a richness that I normally associate with barrel aged beers, though there's obviously no bourbon flavors or anything like that. Apparently this is made with Maple Syrup, which probably explains some things (maybe the syrup was oak aged?) A big, eye opening beer, but well balanced, complex flavors make it something to seek out, especially for malt lovers. Right up my alley, and a good way to follow up with that pumpkin beer. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.5 oz twist off) Drank out of a snifter on 9/14/12.)
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest - As near as I can tell, this is the best reviewed Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate (at least, of beers with more than 50 ratings), even beating out the Germans. It's not really my favorite style, but I always like to sample a few during the season, just to keep sharp. I actually really enjoyed this one. Not sure how close to authentic style it is, but whatever, it's really solid. Maybe a little sweeter than expected, but it's got that trademark toasty, nutty malt flavor, along with some atypical (to me, at least) caramel malts. It goes down quite smoothly, and I'd certainly put this towards the top of my rankings for the style (along with Live Oak and Ayinger). B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a big ass mug on 9/15/12.)
  • Boulevard Brewing The Sixth Glass - I found myself relatively unimpressed with my previous exposure to Boulevard's celebrated Smokestack series, a double IPA that just wasn't doing it for me. Fortunately this one, a Belgian-style quadrupel, fared better. Perhaps not a top tier example of the style, but it's a respectable and welcome redemption for Boulevard. Lots of Belgian yeast, musty and spicy, along with some fruity malt character. Perhaps a little too much sweetness, leading to a slight stickiness that's not really characteristic of the best of the style. Still, this was a really nice beer, a fitting nightcap to a late Saturday night. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/15/12.)
  • Emelisse Barley Wine Ale - Bonus review! I had actually written up and published a full blown post for this one, and it was witty and brilliant stuff, but it got lost in the ether. Fortunately, my tasting notes were still available, so you get more detail here: Pours a deep, cloudy amber brown color with minimal head. Smells of ripe fruit, caramel, and maybe some booze. Taste is filled with rich, fruity malts, caramel flavors, a little booze, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, minimal carbonation, very smooth, a little boozy warming going on, some slickness in the finish before it dries out. Overall, this is a very well crafted, if pretty straightforward English barleywine. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/1/12.)
So there you have it. A solid weekend, and I'm excited to enter Halloween season. I've got a couple unusual pumpkin ales coming up, as well as an accidentally aged Autumn Maple that's just calling my name. Harvest beers are starting to show up too, though I get the impression that West Coasters benefit from such practices moreso than we do, though I'm sure I'll get my hands on some local harvest stuff from Victory and the like. Stay tuned...

Stone Saison du BUFF

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Back in 2003, the beer brewing trio of Sam Caligone (of Dogfish Head fame), Bill Covaleski (of Victory Brewing fame) and Greg Koch (of Stone Brewing fame), got together and formed some crazy organization called BUFF, which stands for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor. It sounded like PR fluff, and naturally, nearly no one showed up to their press release. So Brewdog these guys are not, but that's part of their charm! Back in 2010, they finally realized that they could garner some attention for BUFF by brewing a collaboration beer. So they developed a saison recipe that was spiced with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I see what they did there), each went back to their respective breweries, and made up a batch.

During that initial release, I managed to get my hands on Victory and Dogfish Head versions of the beer, but I missed out on the Stone version. Such is the way of collaboration beers, and I thought this would have been lost to the annals of time, but lo and behold, Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head rebrewed the same beer this year. Score. I've had a couple of the Victory brewed batch (in non-notes-taking social mode, sorry!) this year, but I also managed to find the Stone version to complete the trifecta. Kinda. I mean, I'm trying them over two years, so I'm sure some nerds think that doesn't count, but who can ever satisfy those people? They all tasted pretty comparable to me.

On the other hand, despite the fact that they're ostensibly using the same recipes, the Stone version clocks in at 7.7% ABV, while both the Victory and Dogfish Head beers are a mere 6.8%. As such, I'd expect this to be significantly dryer than than the other versions, but it still felt comparable. In short, they're all good, and despite the suspicious difference here, this one is no exception:

Stone Saison du Buff

Stone Saison du Buff - Pours a light golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of aromatic herbs and spices, partly from the actual spicing, but also from the yeast. The taste starts sweet, with those herbs and spices coming into play again, drying out a bit in the finish, which also has a slight bitter note. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little spicy bite. Overall, a solid, interesting take on the saison. It's distinct from the other varieties I've had, but just as good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/1/12.

I think this may be the first time I've ever seen a craft beer collaboration beer brewed again (unless you count Mikkeller, but I don't think that counts due to his Gypsy ways), so perhaps they'll do it again, and I can save up three bottles and try them next to one another and see the differences close up. Could be interesting...

In other news, my server has apparently been acting up lately, so things have been a little futzy of late. All is well right now, but apparently my hosting service is replacing hardware and whatnot, so there may be some more downtime later this week. I actually wrote this entry last night, but couldn't publish until now. I'm actually doing pretty well with the backlog of reviews at this point - I only drank this, like, a week and a half ago. Score.

Red Thunder Is Coming

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So I don't normally resort to press release bloggery, but this one interests me:

Victory Brewing Company is known for melding traditional styles and unique concepts to produce the highest quality, full flavored beers. Red Thunder does just that. By aging their popular Baltic Thunder in once-used red wine barrels from Wente Vineyards, Victory Brewing Company created Red Thunder. The burnished cocoa creaminess of the Baltic-style porter is accented by the tannic dryness of the wood to produce a rich, fruity final product.

Yessss. It looks like this one will be taking the pre-Thanksgiving release-day slot that was previously owned by Dark Intrigue. That became known as "Dark Wednesday", so I don't know what this will be... "Red Wednesday" or "Wednesday Thunder" or perhaps just "Cattle Call". In all seriousness, I don't know that I'll be attending. They say the beer will get a limited distribution in the Northeast (and, uh, Illinois), so I'm sure I'll be able to get my hands on a few bottles in any case (at least, if other Victory rarities are any indication). But who knows. I think I've already established that I'm a weak, weak man when it comes to stuff like this.

Victory Red Thunder Logo

Anywho, kudos to Victory for actually announcing this, rather than just letting a few of them slip into distribution without telling anyone the way they did with Otto in Oak (though I managed to pick up a few extras of that, thankfully). I'm not all that familiar with red wine barrel aging (at least, with respect to non-sour beer, and this one doesn't sound like it would be swimming with wild bacteria or anything), so I'm really curious to see how this turns out.

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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: I didn't check the dates on Dark Penance or Wookey read more
  • beerbecue: We just had Dark Penance. I was wondering how would read more
  • Mark: I most certainly did. Thank you again for muling, you read more
  • danadillon: Glad you enjoyed. :D Heehaw. read more
  • Mark: I figured it had something to do with that, but read more
  • rymould: Apparently a brewery from Texas holds the trademark for "Punkel" read more
  • rich.on.beer: Pretty sure Neshaminy Creek got a cease and desist letter read more
  • Mark: It is pretty darn sweet and quite good, though not read more
  • beerbecue: This blows my mind. Why have we never seen this read more
  • beerbecue: They ran out of BA Everett right before the mule read more