Lagunitas Sucks

| 2 Comments

Well, no, but that's what they named their beer. Years ago, in a failed attempt to make a barleywine, Lagunitas attempted to save the batch by throwing in a bunch of brown sugar. The result... wasn't a barleywine, but it was apparently pretty great in its own right. It was called Brown Sugga, and it became their regular winter seasonal beer. Unfortunately, it apparently takes a long time to brew and it ties up brewery resources, so this year, when resources were at a premium and their brewery upgrade wasn't ready yet, Lagunitas decided to cancel the popular brew this year (they're installing extra capacity right now, so there should be no problems next year.)

Knowing that folks would want their Brown Sugga fix, Lagunitas took the self-deprecating route, made this beer and called it Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Brown Sugga Substitute:

Lagunitas Sucks

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale - Pours a nice clear golden orange color with about half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Tons of lacing though. Smell is sugary sweet, with lots of citrus (grapefruit), a little pine, and some sort of earthy floral aromas as well. Taste is very sweet, with that floral pine taste hitting immediately, followed by a well balanced bitterness in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium, really easy to drink. Maybe a hint of booze is detectable, but the dry finish does a good job hiding it. Overall, a wonderful beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.85% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/3/12.

I'm not an expert on Lagunitas, but they sure seem to know what they're doing with these hoppy beers (i.e. they don't suck!) As much as I enjoyed this one, I'm kinda looking forward to Brown Sugga next year...

Clown Shoes Lubrication

| No Comments

My brother gave me three beers for Christmas, all of which were picked out by my nieces (9 and 7 years old). I've already mentioned the other two on the blog a while back, but this one looked familiar. I couldn't quite place why I recognized it, but I finally figured it out. Apparently this beer's label art caused quite a weird stir last summer when the Beer Advocate Events Director, Candice Alström, who found the label offensive. I don't want to get into the details (check the linked article above for that), but I find that claim for this particular label to be absurd (other Clown Shoes beers may be another matter, but there are many labels out there that are horribly sexist, so perhaps a more comprehensive tact would be more appropriate).

In any case, my nieces thought the robot on the label was goofy, which reminded them of me (I'm apparently known in my brother's household as "Crazy Uncle Marky"). I was touched and honored by their choice:

Clown Shoes Lubrication

Clown Shoes Lubrication - Pours a deep black color with a ton of tan head. Aroma is filled with roasted malts and bready yeast, with maybe a hint of hop character (I was expecting more, though with all that head, who knows?) The first thing that hits in the taste is that roasted malt with maybe a little coffee. The flavor intensifies through the middle and finishes bitter and dry. There's hop bitterness here, but very little hop flavor. It's well carbonated but surprisingly light bodied (maybe into medium bodied). Overall, I feel like it's unbalanced and a little disappointing, though to be fair, that tends to be my feeling on the style in general (the only American Black Ale/Black IPA that I've thought was a real success was Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Otherwise, I'm usually left wanting a good stout or a good IPA.) Certainly not a bad beer and I'd rather have this than, say, a macro beer, but I was hoping for a bit more... B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/3/12.

I don't really see myself racing out to explore more from Clown Shoes, but I did appreciate the gift.

Hopslam

| 2 Comments

I don't know why, but last year, I underestimated how hard it would be to find some of this beer and ended up missing out on its hoppy goodness. Well, not so this year. I've been keeping my eye out, and last week, I spied some at a local establishment and finally made my acquaintance with this beloved beer. I would love to get my hands on some bottles of the stuff, but things are a little rough in PA, where you mostly have to buy beer by the case and thus this stuff sells out pretty quickly. Guy at the bar mentioned that he's been on the waiting list at his local distributor for two years... and he still wasn't sure if he'd get the case this year. But I hear rumors of more stuff coming later in February, so maybe I'll snag a few bottles then... But for now, I'll just have to deal with it on tap:

Bells Hopslam

(Apologies for the craptacular picture. It was dark!)

Bell's Hopslam Ale - Nice clear golden color with about a finger of head. This might sound obvious, but it's quite hoppy. Tons of juicy citrus, a little pine, maybe some floral aromas too. Tastes fantastic - very sweet, nice citrus and pine hop flavors, with a well matched bitterness emerging in the middle, hitting full force in finsh. It's a sweet beer, but the finish is dry and bitter enough that it never feels cloying. It's apparently brewed with honey, which would help explain some of that dryness... Extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is smooth, maybe a little heavy, but still very easy to drink. The alcohol is well hidden too, though maybe just a hint of warming if you drink quickly (unsurprising given the ). Overall, fantastic beer. I can see what all the fuss is about... and I want more! A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap (10 ounces). Drank out of a goblet on 2/1/12.

I do hope I can get me a few bottles of the stuff, but I have to admit, the stories about people stalking this beer are a bit much. If I can find some, great, but I ain't going crazy trying to get my hands on the stuff. Ditto for Pliny the Younger, which

Older Viscosity

| No Comments

As I've made abundantly clear last week, I'm at a point in my beer obsession where I don't mind paying a little extra money to try something new and interesting. As a fledgling beer nerd, I had some initial hesitation on that front and I'm still a little suspicious whenever I see a single bottle going for more than $20. But for the most part, I've found those expensive beers worth the stretch. When I first pulled the trigger on a highly priced beer (The Bruery's Coton), the excuse I gave myself was that I was still relatively new to this whole good beer thing and that I was willing to spend a little extra to experiment with new and interesting beers. I suspected that I would grow out of that phase as I became a more seasoned beer nerd, but a couple years later, I'm not sure about that. I think I'm more willing to pull that trigger now than I ever have been before. It helps when the beer is as good as Coton was (I even went back and bought another bottle to age), though there have been times when I've paid through the nose for a beer I didn't particularly care for.

Now, beer pricing is apparently somewhat controversial. Some think that beer is too cheap, some think it too expensive, some think it's cheap because it's "just beer", others note how much effort goes into creating the beer, and yet others want to know more about why they have to pay a premium to get the latest super-duper beer. In the linked post, brewer Tomme Arthur (of The Lost Abby and Port Brewing) left a comment where he mentions:

It's true,our beers have become more expensive, and over the years, we have developed a reputation for beers outside the boundaries. These are what I refer to as flavor driven beers.

Are they expensive? Depends upon what value you place on them. Stephen is obviously a fan and feels compelled to say so. For me, they are not expensive, they are merely priced at a higher point than conventional beer. And I don't believe we make conventional beer.

He mentions a lot of things in his comment, including the cost of materials and ingredients and how barrel aging is a long and expensive process... but none of that really matters.

Look, we're not communists here. We don't determine value by the amount of effort that went into creating the beer. We pay what we're willing to pay to get a beer that tastes good. It's our decision. Some of us might take into account how the beer was brewed (or supporting their local brewer, etc...), but most of us are more interested in the experience of drinking the beer and not the process of brewing it. Now, doing a high gravity, barrel-aged beer represents a significant investment on the part of a brewer, and thus we're going to have to pay more to get our hands on a bottle. I'm not saying that a brewer should take a loss on selling that kind of beer. But the true value of the beer is ultimately determined by the paying customer, not by the brewery. If that value is less than it costs to brew the beer, well I'm betting that particular beer wouldn't likely be brewed again (unless the brewer's got money to burn). The market sorts these things out, and so far, I don't think we've really seen anything too excessive (with the possible exception of retailer gouging, which the brewery has little control over).

Personally, I love that world class beer is generally available to everyone. Even people on a severely limited budget can save up and buy an amazing beer for a small fraction of the cost it would take to explore the world of, say, fine wine or Scotch. And I don't want to lose that either, but if I have to pay a premium to get my bourbon-barrel beer fix, so be it. Speaking of which:

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Port Brewing Older Viscosity - I actually reviewed the regular Old Viscosity a while back. I liked it, but was certainly not blown away. As it turns out, the regular version is a blend of 80% "young" beer with 20% bourbon barrel aged beer. That mixture clearly imparted some character to the beer, but I had noted that it seemed more about texture and body than flavor, and even then, it wasn't as full bodied as I would have liked. Well, Older Viscosity is 100% bourbon barrel aged goodness, and I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait...

Pours a deep black color. Seriously black. Like a black hole, no light can escape it. Also, practically no head at all. Smell is full of bourbon and wood, with some caramel and chocolate aromas making an appearance. Taste is seriously boozy, lots of rich bourbon and oak flavors along with that caramel and vanilla character. Maybe just a hint of bitter roasted malts in the finish. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, a little low on carbonation, but it works well with this. Overall, I'm enjoying this much more than I enjoyed the plain Old Viscosity... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12. Vintage 2011.

So there you have it. For me, definitely worth the premium, and I've got another bottle of the stuff in my cellar which I plan to check out sometime later this year. Or maybe next year. I also have a few Lost Abbey beers down there, at least one of which I plan to get to in the near future. And there's always the Mongo IPA and Shark Attack Red and probably a dozen other Lost Abbey beers I'd like to try.

After some post-holiday procrastination, I finally settled down to make myself a small batch of a Simcoe single-hopped IPA. Hops are one of the 4 key ingredients in beer, and there exists an amazing variety of hops. Most of the bitterness in beer comes from hops, but they also provide flavor and aroma characteristics. Some hop varieties are good for bittering, but not for flavor or aroma. Some are great for flavor or aroma, but not really for bittering. And then there are the utility players - hops that do everything. Simcoe is one such hop. Simcoe is actually a relatively new variety of hop, often referred to as Cascade on steroids (Cascade hops were the most revolutionary of American hops - most notably featured in Sierra Nevada's classic Pale Ale). They're a high alpha acid hop (around 12-13%), which makes them great for bittering, but they also impart a huge, distinctive citrus and pine flavor/aroma.

I patterned my recipe on Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA, though I have no idea how accurate the recipe I used matches that beer (I do know that my recipe wouldn't be as strong as 9% ABV though). The guy at the homebrew shop mentioned that my grains, at least, were similar to Bell's Two Hearted (which is another fantastic IPA), but that beer uses Centennial hops instead of Simcoe. Anywho, this is what I settled on (note: this is a small, 2.5 gallon batch, so there's much less malt than you might expect):

Beer #7: Simcoe Single-Hopped IPA
February 4, 2012

.25 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
.5 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)
.5 lb. Vienna Malt (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Briess Pilsen Light LME
1 lb. Golden DME
0.5 lb. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @12.2 AA)
1 oz. Simcoe (flavor, 2 additions)
1 oz. Simcoe (aroma)
1 oz. Simcoe (dry hop)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1056 - American Ale Yeast

Nothing too fancy here (although damn, Simcoe hops are expensive!) I suppose the Turbinado sugar isn't a typical ingredient, but simple sugars like that help dry out the beer (which would otherwise have been pretty heavy). Steeped the specialty grains in 2-2.5 gallons of 150° F - 160° F water for around 20 minutes, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, threw in the can of Light LME, and put the lid on to bring the wort to a boil. During the wait, I scooped out a small sample of wort and made myself a Hot Scotchie. It's a strange beast, this hot scotchie. I've heard many homebrewers talk about it, but details on exactly how to make one are a bit scarce. Near as I can tell, you take a sample of unhopped wort before it reaches boiling, then add a shot of Scotch to it. Jeff Alworth has a decent description:

Brewers would draw off a small amount of the mash as it issued from the grain bed, fresh and warm. To this they added a dollop of Scotch. What happens is nothing short of mystical. Mash runnings are very sweet and flabby--there's no definition to the flavors. The addition of Scotch somehow reverses all this. Like an electric current, the Scotch animates the grains so that you can taste them in HD. The Scotch is likewise a very clear note, but not sharp or aggressive. It has all the flavor of a straight shot, but it's floating amid Mom's comforting malted. Insanely beguiling.
So I took a sample of wort, and threw a shot of Ardmore (it's a cheap Scotch, but it's got a nice, distinctive peat smoke character to it that's not overpowering) in there.

A Hot Scotchie

It was an interesting experience. My experience with the hot scotchie wasn't quite as revelatory as it seems to be for everyone else though. It was good, to be sure, but I'm not sure it's something I'd always do. Also, because this is a small batch, I probably shouldn't have taken that much malt out of the wort - I ended up with a lower OG than I'd like...

Anywho, once the boil begins, I add in 1 ounce of Simcoe hops and start the timer. 30 minutes into the boil, I add the Golden DME and Turbinado sugar. When I do this, the temperature of the pot seems to drop (makes sense because I'm adding room temp ingredients), so I pot the lid back on the pot and bring it back to a boil (I'm not counting these 5 minutes time as part of the boil). Once it's back boiling, I add a half ounce of hops (the first flavor hop addition). 10 minutes after that, I add another half ounce of Simcoe (second flavor hop addition) and the teaspoon of irish moss. Finally, with 5 minutes left to go, I add the aroma hops (actually sprinkling some throughout the last 5 minutes).

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 80° F, strained the wort (removing the hops) into the fermenter, and topped off with about 1/4 to 1/2 gallon of cold water, bringing the final temperature down below 70°.

Original Gravity: 1.068. Definitely lower than I was shooting for (my target was in the 1.070s), but assuming a 75% attenuation, this should work out to around 6.7% ABV, which will be a solid IPA. Add in that citrusy, piney goodness from the Simcoe, and I'll be a happy camper.

I did notice a lot of sediment in the wort, even after I strained it into the fermenter, which has me a bit worried, but what else can I do? I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.

I'm going to try something new with this batch - dry hopping! I talked to the guy at the homebrew shop and he said I could do it in primary, so I figure I'll wait a week or so (i.e. until fermentation ends), chuck in the last ounce of hops, give it another week, then rack to the bottling bucket and bottle the suckers. Exciting!

Not sure what my next batch will be. I've been toying with the idea of a Earl Grey beer - start with a british beer base (perhaps an ESB), then use some sort of bergamot oil for extra flavor. I have no idea if it will work, but I want to see how it turns out. It'll probably be another small batch, so even if it's bad, it won't be a big deal. After that, I've been thinking about a Belgian dubbel for a while now, and I think it'll be time...

The Session #60: Growlers Galore

| 2 Comments

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, Kendall from the Washington Beer Blog wants to talk about growlers:

Tell us about your growler collection. Tell us why you love growlers or why you hate them. What is the most ridiculous growler you've ever seen? Tell us about your local growler filling station. Ever suffer a messy growler mishap? Anything related to growlers is acceptable.
I have to admit that I'm not a big growler guy. They have their uses and I've certainly availed myself of the growler's services, but it's an elusive creature - not something I frequently use. I don't really have any crazy objections to it, nor do I have a strong opinion about tap versus bottle (I like some beers better on tap, and others from the bottle). To me, they're just another tool in the beer nerd's arsenal.

But I can still point you towards something interesting and growler related for this Session. So I'd like to introduce you to the growler-filler at Victory Brewing Company:

I mentioned this thing before in a previous post about a growler of Victory's Ranch S IPA, but damn, isn't that thing badass? When I go to Victory, I love watching it in action. Their fancy growlers themselves are pretty cool looking too, and the way they pressurize with CO2 seems to keep it fresh longer (at least, until you pour your first!)

Alas, I don't find myself taking advantage of it all that often. Oh well, there are worse things in the world. Like, perhaps, the fact that I have way too much great beer sitting, undrunk, in my cellar. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should probably go drink some of that stuff...

Ultra Brune

| No Comments

It's time to play Belgian Beer Roulette! It's a game we can all win more often than not, and so this time around, yes, I won. Maybe not a blowout, but a win nonetheless.

Ultra Brune

Brasserie D'Ecaussinnes Ultra Brune - Pours a very dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. I was a little off-guard, and lots of yeast chunks ended up in the glass (though I have to say, sediment never seems to bother me). Smell is filled with bready Belgian yeast, with some dark fruitiness tucked in there too. Taste is very sweet, lots of dark fruit, a little booze but nothing overwhelming. Maybe a bit of a toasty milk chocolate thing going on too, but it's not a strong component. Mouthfeel is a little heavy, sticky sweet, but there's enough carbonation to make it work. Overall, quite good and another successful round of Belgian Beer Roulette... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/21/12.

Every time I play Belgian Beer Roulette, I feel like I should do it again soon, and this time is no exception. But I should probably drink down some of my cellar before I play again!

The Beer Cellar

| 2 Comments

As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my liver. I tend to buy more beer than I drink, so my cellar has been growing of late, and I've even started intentionally buying beers to age. In yesterday's post, I covered what kinds of beers are good for aging. Today, I'm going to list out the beers I'm currently excited to crack open... in a few years. Also some beers I wasn't intentionally aging, but which will probably have an extra year or so on the bottle before I actually get to it.

Not to mention 3-4 cases of homebrew and a bunch of other beer that's probably not suitable for aging. I didn't think I had this much beer sitting around. Yes, I need to get drinking. Hopefully a lot of the above won't be aged too long, if you know what I mean... I'd say only a handful of the above will really make it long term.

Aging Beer

| No Comments

At some point, it became clear to me that I was buying more beer than I was drinking. When I find myself in a liquor store with a great selection, I can't really help myself, and so I end up with a collection of beer that is growing faster than I can drink. And those 5 gallon batches of homebrew didn't help either!

Thus began my beer aging experiment! I don't have a ridiculous program here, but my beer cellar has been growing. Sometimes by default - I bought too much beer, so it has to sit in my basement (or my fridge) until I can get to it. I know, that's a good problem to have, and I'm not complaining. But I've even started doing some intentional aging, and my initial experiments came to fruition this past holiday season.

But this is a long process, so my experience isn't exactly comprehensive. Being a huge nerd, I've read a lot about the subject and I figured it'd be worth exploring my strategy on what beers to age and when to crack them open.

  • Alcohol Content: The higher the ABV, the better the beer is suited for aging (and the longer you can age it). In my experience, super high ABV beers (i.e. beers above 12%) taste very "hot" when they're young. As they age, they mellow out a bit. Lots of people will say that those uber-strong beers are undrinkable until they reach a certain age, though that's not usually something I've found to be true. That being said, my experience with the 14% ABV Samichlaus is that the extra time in the bottle really does make the beer more palatable. My tiny sample of a 2003 Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA had clearly matured and become more complex than the fresh stuff. I've also tried some lower-ABV stuff (notably Anchor Christmas), which seemed to go ok, though it didn't taste that much different to me (of course, I had no comparison in that case, so it's difficult to tell). That being said, the general rule seems to be that beers less than 5% aren't really suitable for long-term aging. What you want are big beers like imperial stouts, barleywines, and big Belgian beers... stuff that'll get you truly sloshed on a single bottle, basically.
  • Bottle Conditioned Beer: Beer that has been bottled with live yeast is much more likely to change over time. The yeast is still alive and processing the beer, so the beer will continue to evolve. A lot of Belgian beers are bottle conditioned, and some American brewers have experimented with this sort of thing. Dogfish Head's Squall was a bottle conditioned version of their 90 Minute IPA, and it was quite good! This is also why a lot of homebrewed beer gets better over time, as the yeast is still evening out the beer in the bottle. Anxious newbs like myself often post on homebrewing forums about how bad their beer turned out, but a lot of advice basically amounts to giving the beer some time (which personal experience shows is probably a good idea). I also see a lot of people noting that their best bottles of homebrew were the last few in the batch.
  • Dark Colored Beer: Everything I've read indicates that darker colored beers age better than pale beer. I've looked around for a scientific explanation for why this is so, but I haven't really found much (other than hops, which will get its own bullet below). My guess is that dark beer contains much more flavor elements, whether that be from various forms of toasted or roasted malt, or specialty adjuncts like caramelized sugars, etc... Anyways, dark colored beer like stouts, barleywines and Belgian strong dark, quads, etc... seem to be ideal.
  • Malt, not Hops: Beers that rely mainly on malt for their flavors age much better than hoppy beers. Hop flavors and aromas break down quickly over time (and since so many pale ales rely so strongly on hops for flavor, perhaps that's why pale beers don't age so well). Again, Belgian beers seem to do well here, as they're very malt-focused. As are most stouts and Scotch ales, and lots of other styles. IPAs... not so much. Anecdotal and accidentally discovered evidence seems to indicate that this is true. I had a bunch of Founders' Centennial IPA a while back, but I let one of them sit a bit too long in the fridge. It was fine and I had no problem drinking it, but it was definitely much better when it was fresh.
  • Barrel Aged Beers: These beers take on big extra flavors when aging in the barrel, and beers aged in a barrel tend to become a bit stronger (as some water evaporates or soaks into the wood - the "angel's share" if you will), which also helps out. With time, all that flavor starts to blend together and become more tempered with time. I haven't experimented with this very much, but I've definitely had some barrel aged beers that could have used some extra time to mellow out. Then again, some beers are almost perfect right out of the barrel. I've got a few of those aging in my basement though, so it's something I will certainly be experimenting with...
  • Smoke and Spice: I don't have a ton of experience with aging these, but I'm really curious to try some of these out after a while. I know I've read that smoke can act as a preservative in beer, and in my experience, that smoke character is usually overpowering in a young beer. My hope would be that putting some age on a smoked beer would let that smoke mellow out, while harmonizing it with the other flavors in the beer. Spiced beers are another question mark for me. I presume the spicy aromas and flavors will fade with time, but in some cases that could be a good thing (I'm thinking that overspiced pumpkin and holiday beers might benefit from that age). I've got a few spiced beers squirreled away for next year, so I guess we'll find out!
  • Wild Ales, Sours, and Lambics: These beers tend to be bottle conditioned and/or barrel aged, so it stands to reason that aging would work well with them. Apparently some of Cantillon's lambics will age well for over 20 years (despite being only 5-6% ABV). Beers with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast) and other bacterial bugs (like lactobacillus and pediococcus) will continue to evolve as those critters do their work in the bottle. SOur beers have never been my favorite, but there are certainly a few beers I'd like to try aging...
  • Storage Conditions: Basically, a dark, cool place. Light is the enemy of good beer (light breaks down the compounds contributed by hops, resulting in lightstruck or "skunked" beer), and high temperatures tend to speed degradation. In terms of temperature, 50 degrees F seems to be ideal, though everyone stresses the need for a constant temperature over anything else. Also worth noting is that storing beers upright is important, especially for bottle conditioned beers (as the yeast should be settled on the bottom of the bottle).
  • Maturation Waves: Martyn Cornell sez: "Experiments suggest that the maturation takes place in "waves", so that a beer which is in fine condition at, eg 30 months may have deteriorated at 36 months, be back on form at 42 months, deteriorated again at 48 months and so on." I have no real experience with this, but I will say that some of my homebrews seem to go like this. I'll have one and it's great. A few months later, I'm not so impressed. A few months after that, I'm amazed at how good it is. This one is a bit troubling, as it sorta means that I'm ruining some beers, but I guess I'm willing to take that risk...
  • Wildcard: And finally, I'll probably age some random beers just because I want to see what happens with them over time. Or because I forgot it was sitting in the back of my fridge. Or because it's hidden somewhere in my basement. Who knows, maybe aging a questionable beer will pay off.
  • How Long to Wait: The big question! It obviously depends on the beer, but my goal for purposefully aged beers is to buy multiples of the same beer and try them on a regular interval (once a year seems like a good idea, though the "waves" of maturation gives me pause for some beers). In other cases, it will be a bit more haphazard.
Aging beer is not a new practice, but it is something that seems to be gaining popularity these days, and lots of people are experimenting and learning. I'd hope for some more scholarly efforts in this area, but I'm having fun trying this stuff out myself. Tomorrow, I'll post the current contents of my cellar, along with some comments on why I want to age them and when I'm planning on cracking them open...

Affligem Dubbel

| No Comments

Affligem Abbey was founded in the middle of the 11th century by a group of six "pillaging knights" who had reformed themselves into Benedictine monks. Brewing activities began as early as 1074 and the abbey was apparently intimately involved in the hop trade (apparently hops still grow near the monastery). History being what it is, the abbey's buildings were sacked several times over the centuries, and always rebuilt, though after it was destroyed during World War II, the monks decided to contract a local brewery to make their beer. That brewery was eventually bought out by Heineken, but the monks retain the Affligem brand name and certain controls over their beer (and like the Trappists, they use their proceeds for charitable purposes).

They claim their current recipes are a modernized version of the same beers being brewed nearly a thousand years ago. The modernization was apparently lead by a monk named Tobias, who called the result "Formula Antiqua Renovata". I assume that this is all marketing fluff and that "modernization" consisted of completely redesigning the beers or that the original recipe went something like: water, barley, hops. Anyway, Affligem appears to be most famous for their Tripel or perhaps their Noël, but they first came to my attention because of their most excellent Dubbel (which people rarely talk about for some reason):

Affligem Dubbel

Affligem Dubbel - Pours a cloudy brown/amber color with a couple fingers of white head. As you get towards the bottom of the bottle, you can see yeast sediment as well. Smell is filled with dark fruits (raisins, plums) and Belgian yeast character (spicy). Flavor is rich, sweet and fruity with a well matched spiciness and nice dry finish. There's something else here that's contributing to that richness - almost like molasses or brown sugar. Sometimes I'm even getting a note of chocolate in there. It gives the beer a most welcome distinctive quality. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied and it's got those rich flavors, but this is definitely easy to put down. At 7%ABV, it's not going to kill you either. Overall, one of my favorite dubbels! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 1/20/12.

This beer does share a certain character with Ommegang's Abbey Ale, though this isn't quite as heavy. I remember picking up a bottle of this stuff in my fledgling beer nerd days when I knew nothing about beer. I picked it because it had a tasteful design and I knew I liked dubbels - not quite Belgian beer roulette, but pretty close. I remember being somewhat disappointed by their Tripel when I circled back on it, but it's something I'm going to need to revisit at some point.

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

  • phagan55: Upton is easily the best tea company I ordered from, read more
  • Mark: Whoa, thank you sir! Just placed my order on Upton read more
  • phagan55: Stupid kindle incorrect, Ali-San jade oolong. I think that's what read more
  • phagan55: Continuing, Upton Teas is top notch for blends and single read more
  • phagan55: Apologies, I've been meaning to write up some recommendations, but read more
  • Mark: Thanks Ryan! I wouldn't get too excited, as there will read more
  • rymould: Excellent write-up, Mark. I think I'm going to like this read more
  • Mark: Cotton candy sweetness actually does capture something I can find read more
  • phagan55: I sampled the whole range at a tasting last month, read more
  • Mark: I look forward to your recommendations (if I can buy read more