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.

Marrón Acidifié

| No Comments

Collaboration beers are among the most weirdest things about the craft beer world. Rarely do you see competitors actively collaborate like this, but then I guess the fact that craft beer only really represents around 5% of the market generally means that they're not really competitors - their growth comes at the expense of the macros. Or something like that, I guess.

This one is a collaboration between The Bruery and Cigar City. If I'm not mistaken, both come from the craft beer class of 2008 and both enjoy a pretty solid reputation* amongst beer nerds. I've already sung the praises of The Bruery before, but Cigar City is new to me, and in a recent interview over at Beer Samizdat, I learn that their brewer has the awesomest name ever: Wayne Wambles. Amazing.

On The Bruery's website, they have a page for this beer that lists a lot of what I usually call the Beer Nerd Details in my reviews. Things like ABV, IBU, and SRM. But this one has an additional metric that I don't believe I've seen before. Apparently this beer has not 4, but 6 whole shizzles**.

The Bruery and Cigar City Marron Acidifie

The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié - Pours a very dark red color with minimal head. Smell is filled with sour aromas, some sweet fruitiness, and funk. Packed with rich flavors with a beautifully matched tart finish. Very sweet and fruity (cherries are most prominent to me, but other tropical fruits also seem present), and extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is nice and rich, almost chewy. Low on the carbonation, but it actually works well with this style. Overall, a fantastic beer, among my favorite sours (maybe even the best I've had). Indeed, I think it might be one of the most approachable sours I've had, which is saying something because this thing is a bit of a monster. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/14/12. IBU: 15, SRM: 20, Schizzles: 6.

This was released in the Spring, not making it's way to the East Coast until early Summer, though I didn't pick up my bottle until this past holiday season. It's bottle conditioned though, and the bottle sez it's suitable for aging up to 5 years. I guess what I'm saying is that I need to buy some more of these for my burgeoning beer cellar program. Also on my to-do list: get my hands on some more Cigar City beer.

* And by "pretty solid" I man astronomical.

** Apparently besting a previous beer called "Four Shizzles", though records on that one are a bit sparse.

Trappist Westvleteren 8

| No Comments

I've already written about this beer's bigger brother, the legendary Westy 12 - purported to be the best beer in the world (maybe second best) - and most of what I said goes for this beer as well. It's just as hard to obtain (I got my bottle along with the 12), it's got that same spare Trappist aesthetic (no labels, just some info crammed on the crowns to identify them), and while its ratings might not be quite as high as its brethren, it's still extremely well reviewed (it currently resides at #16 on Beer Advocate's list and #15 on RateBeer's list). So let's take a closer look, shall we:

Westy 8 Cap

Trappist Westvleteren 8 - Pours a dark brown color with some amberish highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. The aroma and taste have the same profile as the 12, but somewhat more subdued. Lots of dark fruit in the nose, plums, raisins and the like, and some of that musty Belgian yeast character. Taste is also very flavorful with that dark fruity sweetness and dry finish. Mouthfeel is a dream, just like the 12. Perfectly carbonated, dry (but not too dry), and just a hint of booze. It's definitely lighter bodied, and the flavors are slightly less rich. Overall, a fantastic beer, but not the equal of its big brother. A-

Westy 8

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 07.10.14.

Amazing stuff. I feel like I should have more to say about it, but nothing else is coming to mind. If you ever get the opportunity to try any Westvleteren beer, don't pass it up. I'm not going to go out of my way to try the Blonde, but perhaps I will luck into one at some point in my life. Or perhaps not. These are rare beers, after all!

Allies Win the War!

| 2 Comments

Earlier this week I reviewed a beer that I think had the best designed bottle (sorry, "ceramic crock") I've ever seen, but the packaging for the recent 21st Amendment collaboration with Ninkasi gives it a run for its money. Indeed, all of 21st Amendment's beers have great packaging, making excellent use of the larger canvas provided by cans (and I love that they put their cans in boxes, even with four- or six-packs).

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War 4-pack box

Seriously gorgeous stuff, and the can itself is also pretty great. I will make one complaint though, which is that, well, it's hard to tell which way is up on this thing. A minor quibble and totally worth the confusion because it's just an awesome package. But let's not get to carried away, it's what's in the packaging that counts, and this time around, it seems that the beer is worthy of its packaging:

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War

21st Amendment & Ninkasi Allies Win the War! - Pours a dark amber color, maybe a little brown, with a couple fingers of white head that leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Aroma is full of hoppy pine resin and sweet, almost sugary citrus fruitiness. Taste starts off sweet but that's balanced very well by the hop bitterness in the finish. Those pine resin and citrus flavors are present as well, leading to a nice rich flavor profile. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation, and a little bit of stickiness. No real booze to be had here and it's pretty damn easy to drink. Overall, an excellent beer, not quite the equal of YuleSmith (which seems to have become my yardstick for hoppy imperial reds), but damn close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12.

21st Amendment continues to impress, and even though Ninkasi doesn't really distribute here, I'm going to keep my eyes on them...


Corne Du Diable

| No Comments

Over at Beervana, there's a nice pedantic discussion over what constitutes an West Coast IPA (an offshoot of a debate with Stone's Greg Koch). Truthfully, I've never quite understood the distinction myself, but I always assumed it had something to do with big, juicy American hops with all their fruit and pine characteristics. But reading those posts and the comments, it occurs to me that no one really knows and who really cares? Styles are like genres in that they're fuzzy around the edges and often bleed into one another. Styles can give you a broad idea of what you're in for, but maybe they don't need to be quite so granular or locked-down.

Anyway, if you think west coast IPA's are causing a taxonomy problem, check out this beer. Beer Advocate calls it an American IPA. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel's description adds some confusion to the mix:

Corne du diable (French for "Horn of the devil") is a contemporary interpretation of the classic English India Pale Ale. This new style, born on the west coast of North America, is characterized by stronger and hoppier beers. The result is a red ale expressing caramel flavours coming from the malt, sharp bitterness and powerful hop aromas, thanks to dry hopping
Ok, everyone get that? It's an English IPA born on the West Coast of North America, resulting in a red ale?

Yeah, so now you know why I only have one IPA category on my site (of course, that was born more out of laziness than anything else, but I digress). And the red ale intersection with IPA is also a bit of a pitfall, but maybe we should just drink the stuff instead of parsing its style:

Dieu Du Ciel Corne Du Diable

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Corne Du Diable - Pours a cloudy brownish amber color with a small amount of head. The smell is unusual. There's definitely lots of hoppiness there - maybe a hint of citrus, but more herbal or floral aromas seem to be the most prominent. The taste has lots of caramel malt, very sweet, with that same hoppy citrus and herbal character, and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Maybe a little spice too, and I want to attribute that to the hops for some reason. In any case, big flavors for a 6.5% ABV IPA... Mouthfeel is fine, maybe just a tad light on the carbonation (but still fine for the style). Speaking of which, it's called an American Style IPA, but it actually feels more English. Maybe even a hint of that butterscotch flavor that I always find in English pale ales and usually don't like, but it really works here (perhaps because it's not an overwhelming flavor). Overall, a very interesting beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip on 1/21/12.

Apparently the only Canadian beers I drink are French Canadian. Yeesh. It's actually hard to believe this is my first Dieu Du Ciel beer though. I quite enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to checking out more of their brews. They're not quite as ubiquitous as Unibroue around here, but they seem to be pretty widely available. And I get the feeling they don't really care about style either - most of their beers seem to be quite unusual (at least, from reading about them!)

Yeast Hoist

| No Comments

Ron Regé Jr. is a cartoonist who has been putting out independent comics and zines since the 1990s. He somewhat recently began publishing a series of comics called "Yeast Hoist" which aren't really about beer, though there's some beer in the art and the phrase does seem to be slang for drinking a beer. But mostly it's just art. A large portion of it is available on the internets, but he was apparently approached by Belgian Brouwerij Sterkens to do some exclusive art for their St. Sebastiaan Golden Ale, and it resulted in one of the most gorgeous bottles (actually a half-liter ceramic crock) I've ever seen:

Yeast Hoist Closeup

Apologies for the lackluster quality of the shot, but that is quite awesome, isn't it? And while Regé's art is often somewhat abstract, it really fits well with a Belgian abbey tripel style beer. Unfortunately, the contents of the bottle didn't quite live up to the promise of the artwork...

Yeast Hoist

St. Sebastiaan Golden (Yeast Hoist) - Pours a surprisingly light golden color with an almost nonexistent head. Aroma is sweet, fruity, and spicy. Taste is very sweet, with a little fruit and spice. There's a sorta bitterish aftertaste, but not quite enough to counter the sweetness. Mouthfeel is light, under-carbonated, and a little sticky. Overall, quite disappointing. A little more carbonation may have done wonders, but as it is, it's underwhelming. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (500 ml ceramic crock). Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12.

I'm pretty sure the Yeast Hoist bottles were a limited run, but the standard St. Sebastiaan Golden bottle is the same style ceramic crock thing, just with different artwork. It's apparently somewhat popular, so perhaps I just got a bad, under-carbonated bottle or something.

SOPA Blues

| No Comments

I was going to write a beer review tonight, but since the web has apparently gone on strike, I figured I'd spend a little time talking about that instead. Many sites, including the likes of Wikipedia and Reddit, have instituted a complete blackout as part of a protest against two ill-conceived pieces of censorship legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Congress (these laws are called the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, henceforth to be referred to as SOPA and PIPA). I can't even begin to pretend that blacking out my humble little site would accomplish anything, but since a lot of my personal and professional livelihood depends on the internet, I suppose I can't ignore this either.

For the uninitiated, if the bills known as SOPA and PIPA become law, many websites could be taken offline involuntarily, without warning, and without due process of law, based on little more than an alleged copyright owner's unproven and uncontested allegations of infringement1. The reason Wikipedia is blacked out today is that they depend solely on user-contributed content, which means they would be a ripe target for overzealous copyright holders. Sites like Google haven't blacked themselves out, but have staged a bit of a protest as well, because under the provisions of the bill, even just linking to a site that infringes upon copyright is grounds for action (and thus search engines have a vested interest in defeating these bills).

I won't belabor the point much further, but I will link to Kaedrin's official stance on Intellectual Property, Copyright and DRM, a post I wrote a few years ago on my generalist blog that I think is still relevant. An expanded version of this post you're reading right now is also up at my generalist blog, along with some other links and thoughts on the matter. Feel free to stop on by.

And if you're so inclined, perhaps your form of protest could be represented by a different kind of blackout. Regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.

1 - Thanks to James for the concise description. There are lots of much longer longer and better sourced descriptions of the shortcomings of this bill and the issues surrounding it, so I won't belabor the point here.

Victory Smokin' Oats

| 3 Comments

I know, it's unfair. This beer is only available at the Victory brewpub (and maybe a few local beer bars). I promise, tomorrow I'll review a beer that's more widely available*. Anyways, Victory seems to like smoked beer. They've got their roots in German brewing, so perhaps that's not a surprise, but they do a lot of smoked beers at their brewpub (though mostly not for wide release - one exception to this is Otto, a smoked Belgian Dubbel). But if they wanted to, I think this smoked porter (presumably brewed with oats) would actually work pretty well:

Victory Smokin Oats

Victory Smokin' Oats - Pours a very dark brown color with amber highlights and finger of tan head. Smell is smoky with a solid amount of roasted malt character. Those roasted malts take on more prominence in the taste, along with some coffee flavors and a rather well matched smokiness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with solid carbonation and a nice crisp finish. It actually went really well with the brisket taco things I was eating at the time. A very good beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 0.3L glass on 1/7/11.

* Technically, the next beer on my list is Trappist Westvleteren 8, which is one of the least accessible beers in existence, but I'll skip it for a day or two, I think.

Pannepot

| No Comments

A "pannepot" was a fishing boat based in the small Belgian village of De Panne. As the story goes, the men would go out fishing and their wives would stay home and brew up a strong, dark beer. I don't know how closely De Struise Brewery is following those historical recipes, but they call this beer their Fisherman's Ale, an ale brewed with spices.

Struise is something of an anomaly in Belgium - they're relatively young! In a country where some abbeys have a brewing tradition going back almost a thousand years, Struise began operations in 2003. They seem to be part of a crew of European brewers that are taking their cue from US craft beer, creating non-traditional Belgian beers. Apparently this wasn't so successful at first, but as recounted in a recent article in The Atlantic (reproduced at theBeerAuthority):

Struise's reputation is almost entirely a consequence of the Internet. "In the early days, it was impossible for us to sell beer in Belgium," Grootaert said. But after a RateBeer.com user in Denmark contacted Grootaert and tried his beer, Pannepot began circulating within the Danish beer-geek community, and its Web-savvy fans broadcast their approval to the rest of the world.
Yet another thing to thank the Danish for, I guess. Cause this beer is pretty fantastic:

De Struise Pannepot

De Struise Pannepot - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. The smell is very strange. Spicy, but not the typical Belgian spice. Also very fruity sweet, maybe even some brown sugar. Taste starts off sweet with a spicy kick. Fruity sweetness emerges in the middle (again maybe some brown sugar) and lingers through the aftertaste, though it does finish pretty dry (with just a hint of bitterness). Complex flavors keep evolving as it warms up. Mouthfeel is great. Highly carbonated, but not overpowering. Nice full body. A really interesting beer, and something I'd love to try again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 1/7/11. 2010 vintage bottle.

Recommended if you're looking for a good Quad/Belgian Strong Dark. Good stuff and I'm sure I'll be crossing paths with De Struise again soon enough (heck, I didn't even realize it, but this is my third post about De Struise without even really trying to focus on trying their beers...)

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale

| No Comments

Back in aught two, Stone started what they call a Vertical Epic. Each year, they put out a one-time brew that is meant to be aged until December 12, 2012. Assuming you're patient enough, you can then enjoy a vertical tasting of all the brews (it's not strictly a "vertical" tasting, as each year's beer has a different recipe, but you get the idea.) Each beer is released on one of them funny numerological dates, like 2/2/02, and 3/3/03, and so on, with the culmination being on 12/12/12 later this year (after which, such numerical games are not possible). This year has the added benefit of being binary (for the last time this century!)

I've actually never had any of these beers until now, but they generally seem to be a Belgian Strong Ale with some sort of twist. This year's installment was brewed with Anaheim chiles and cinnamon. Yeah, I think we're all thinking the same thing here:

Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale - Pours a dark amber color with a finger of light head and some lacing as I drink. Smell is filled with bready, musty Belgian yeast and some spiciness. The taste starts out surprisingly bland, with some sweet flavors emerging in the middle and a big bang of spice (chile and cinnamon are both there, though I'm not sure how well I'd be able to pick them out if I didn't already know about it) hitting in the finish and plowing through the aftertaste. It's most unusual. The chiles are definitely there and you even get a bit of heat from them (and it seems to build as you drink), but they're nowhere near overwhelming (the way they've been in other chile beers I've had). Overall, this is an interesting beer with a unique character. It's not a beer I'll be pining after for years to come or anything, but I'm really glad I got to try some. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/12.

An epic idea, for sure, but it seems I've come on board a little too late in the process! Still, I'll check out that 12/12/12 beer for sure.

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.

Follow me on Twitter

Like me on Facebook

Toast me on Untappd

Recent Comments

  • Mark: I think I remember you posting something about that back read more
  • Jay Hinman: Cool that you got to go to this, Mark. I read more
  • Mark: No, I obtained this through... methods. Glad I did, as read more
  • Jay Hinman: I don't think I sent this one to you, did read more
  • Mark: Apparently the popularity of single malt and the rise of read more
  • Padraic Hagan: I've had some real winners from the independants. A few read more
  • Mark: You know what the funny thing is? Upton no longer read more
  • Padraic Hagan: I don't...uh...none of my tea is certified, uh, poop free. read more
  • Mark: I've never disliked the bubblegum note (as evidenced by ratings), read more
  • Mark: Padraic will be here all week. 2 drink minimum, tip read more