Farsons Lacto Stout

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So I did some "research" last night. By which I mean, I went out and bought a bunch of beer and drank some of it. I'm trying to figure out what to homebrew next, and one of the candidates is a milk stout. Basically, I wanted to make a beer that was sweet and chocolately, with some roastiness thrown in and maybe some other complementary flavors (caramel!) Definitely not coffee, as that's one flavor I just can't get into. So looking around, there are a number of imperial stouts that might match my criteria, but I didn't want to go for a really high O.G. beer, so I kinda settled on Northern Brewer's Milk Chocolate Stout. It sounds pretty great, but I wanted to try out some milk stouts before I really committed to brewing a full batch of this stuff.

A trip to Pinocchio's later, I have a few milk stouts to try out. First up is this beer, bought on a whim:

Farsons Lacto Stout

Farsons Lacto Traditional Stout Beer - I didn't initially realize it, but this beer is made in Malta. The label looked very European, maybe British, so I kinda assumed that's what I was getting. Apparently the brewery's origins come out of a desire to serve a British Garrison stationed in Malta, so I guess the marketing department did it's job. Then again, the beer is named "Lacto", which ain't exactly a pleasing name... The beer itself pours a deep black color with a couple fingers of big-bubbled, quickly-disappearing head. Smells unexpectedly of raisins and not much else, though there is a strange mustiness that I could sometimes pick up. The sweet raisins are in the taste as well, and something chalky or tinny (hard to describe - not a pleasant flavor though), but none of the usual stout flavors - no roastiness, no chocolate, no caramel, no forward bitterness, though something is clearly balancing out the initial sweetness, making the finish dry. The raisins show up again in the aftertaste. The moutfeel is kinda weird too - it's not very well carbonated and it's also a relatively light bodied, almost watery beer. Now, it is a very low ABV beer, but that's usually why lactose is used - to add body to a low ABV beer. This whole thing is very strange to me. Even throwing out my expectations of a stout, this doesn't really work well as its own beer either. D

Beer Nerd Details: 3.4% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a pint glass on 8/7/11

Well, this is certainly not a beer that I'm looking to emulate, I can tell you that. Fortunately, I don't think the recipes I'm looking at are this bizarre. I had another milk stout this weekend that was much better though, so I think there's still hope. Hopefully that review will be up tomorrow.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

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So I've already mentioned that Oskar Blues is famous for using cans, but what I want to know is when we're going to start seeing specialty cans. It's pretty common to see fancy special editions of bottled beers, using expensive looking foil or wrapping it in paper or pouring wax over the top, sealing in the goodness. So how long until we see different treatments for cans*?

I did a quick spin around google looking at reviews for Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues' 10.5% ABV (get it? Ten FIDY! It's very hip.) imperial stout, and the general consensus seems to be that people are absolutely amazed that someone would put an imperial stout in a can. ZOMG! Lots of people mention the viscous, deep black, almost used-motor-oil appearance, which just makes me think that someday, we're going to see old-timey oil-can style packaging (complete with an independent spout that you have to jam into the can to open it) for a beer like this. There are tons of other creative cans that could be made as well. Of course, many of them negate some of the advantages of cans, but it would still be interesting.

But enough about packaging, let's look at what's in the can:

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy - The can says "One-eyed, Cyclopean, Concupiscent" and I don't really have any idea what that means except that perhaps it's, like, really big and powerful and that people really want it. Or something. Pours a deep black color with a finger of brown head. I know a lot of beers appear black, but this one is amazing - it absorbs all light, no highlights, full stop. It's like drinking a black hole. Smells of chocolate, caramel and just a little roasted malts. Tastes very sweet with rich flavors of chocolate and caramel present. The roastiness is more prominent in the taste than the nose, but not overpowering. Not super strongly carbonated, but still full bodied. It's actually pretty smooth. The alcohol is present, but pretty well hidden given the 10.5% ABV. Overall, a pretty great imperial stout. The bold flavors seem to hold up well with food and can even compete with a cigar... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/23/11. 98 IBUs

Apparently Oskar Blues makes hot sauces of their beers, and the one they make for Ten Fidy has some ridiculous amount of scovilles (like, in the millions) Not sure if I actually want to try that, though I do really like hot sauces, so if I ever see some, I might check it out...

* Ungh, it seems that the macros have experimented with this sort of thing already (the miller aluminum pint is nice looking, actually), though nothing quite as out-there as what I was suggesting...

(Not So) Recent Beer Recap

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As you may have noticed in my last review, I've got a number of reviews that have been sitting in the queue for a long time. I've been pretty good about keeping up with recent drinking, but I just haven't gotten around to some of those older reviews, so I figured I'd just do a quick recap now...

  • Leffe Blonde - I was surprised to see the relatively craptacular reviews on beer advocate (though apparently it's gone up to a more respectable and appropriate B rating since I've last looked at it... the Bros still have it at a C). I wasn't sure why the hate existed for this, then I found out that Leffe is owned by Inbev, the Belgian beer conglomerate that owns Anheuser-Busch and is famous for changing recipes for their acquired beers to save costs; even including long-standing Abbey breweries like Leffe which apparently now uses cheap adjuncts in their recipe (for all the beer nerd fury, I can't really find much detail around this - though the brewery does say that it uses rice, which is not typically a favored ingredient in beer). In any case, it certainly looks, smells, and tastes fine. Sweet and bready, typical Belgian yeast aromas and taste. It's not complex or subtle, but as a simple and straightforward brew, it's pretty good. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.2 oz bottle) Drank from a goblet on 4/16/11.)
  • Stone Double Bastard - It's like Arrogant Bastard, only moreso. Very hoppy in the nose which follows through in the taste along with that unique blend of hoppy flavors that Stone uses for this brew. A nice bitterness and slick alcohol character are also present. It's very good, but I don't get the high praise heaped on it, though it does seem to have fallen off the BA top 100 at this point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank from a goblet on 4/23/11.)
  • Trappist Achel 8° Bruin - This is the sixth of the seven Trappist breweries that I've sampled, though unfortunately, I was not particularly impressed with this brew (at least, compared with other dubbels). That's not to say it was bad - definitely a nice appearance, with typical dark fruits and spiciness in the nose and taste. Relatively dry finish, drinkable, but not particularly complex either. I typically expect richer flavors out of a dubbel, though perhaps I should have this again just to make sure. Even considering that, it's quite good. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz bottle) Drank from a goblet on 5/7/11.)
  • Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout - Another imperial stout that used to be in the BA top 100 but has since fallen out (no wonder I can never get a high percentage of completion on that list!) This one reminds me a lot of Victory's Storm King Stout - very roasty, giving way to a hoppy bitterness as it warms up. Very well crafted, but not especially my style. B (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (12 oz bottle) Drank from a tulip on 5/7/11.)
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - An old favorite of mine, I always worry about beers like this. Will it continue to live up to the expectations I've built up in my mind? I've spent the past year or two trying as many different, new beers as I could. Would this beer live up to memory? As it turns out, yes, it does. One of my first discoveries after Hennepin about a decade ago, I always come back to this one, a sweet and spicy Belgian amber. It is delicious and matches well with most meals. I daresay it's a candidate for the vaunted A+, though I'll just stick with an A for now. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked bottle) Drank from a tulip glass on 5/13/11.)
  • Tröegs Pale Ale - Ok, so this is a relatively recent drink, but I don't have a ton to say about it. It's a decent, straightforward pale ale. It actually made a really nice first impression (nice hoppy presense of pine and grapefruit), but it loses some of its punch as it warms. Certainly not among the best pale ales, but well worth a try... B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (12 oz bottle) Drank from a tulip on 7/16/11.)
Well, that just about covers it. I have more details about these tucked away somewhere, but for now, this will have to do. Of course, this doesn't completely catch me up on reviews, but now the unwritten ones are from the past couple weeks, which is certainly more manageable.

Consecration

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One of the frustrating things about reading beer blogs is that people often talk about rare or hard-to-find beers. This isn't really a slight against anyone - as I've grown in my beer nerdery, I've certainly been guilty of this from time to time, and it really is nice when you finally find a beer you've been looking for. So I'm used to seeing this from the beer bloggers out there, but when the brewery itself starts taunting you, well, that's a whole other story.

On the label for Russian River's Consecration, they mention a beer they made for the Toronado's 20th Anniversary (the Toronado is apparently a famous San Diego beer bar):

When we made the Toronado's 20th Anniversary Ale, we had no idea that it would turn out to be one of our favorite barrel aged beers we would ever make. With that said, we have always wanted to make a dark barrel aged beer using 100% cabernet sauvignon barrels, but we never were inspired. That is, until we blended five different beers to make the Tornado beer, the tobacco flavor from the dark malts blended nicely with the fruit character that developed in blending. So, with Consecration we set out to make a barrel aged beer using all Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Now, we are not saying this is a replica of the T-rooms anniversary beer, after all, a beer like that can never be duplicated, and, there was no fruit added to that beer as there is with this one. All we are saying is that it gave us great inspiration to brew Consecration.
Fortunately, Russian River knows what it's doing, so while I'll probably never get to try that Toronado beer, I do get to have some of the beer it inspired. Consecration is a wild ale brewed with Brettanomyces, then aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants added. Sounds pretty spectacular, no?

Russian River Consecration

Russian River Consecration - Pours a dark brown color with some hints of amber shining through in the light. Small head that subsided quickly and cleanly. The smell was full of red wine and sweet malts. Tastes starts sweet with an almost immediate sourness that continues through the entire taste and dominates the finish. That quick, puckering escalation in the finish makes for a kinda neat punctuation. The sourness is the most prominent element of the taste, but it's also reasonably well balanced. Unfortunately, I'm not getting a lot of that red wine character in the taste. Carbonation is a little lower than usual, and the body was in a medium-low range (I was kinda hoping for something a little richer in flavor, but that's clearly not what RR is going for here). I don't think this was quite as well executed as Russian River's Temptation, but it's certainly a worthy beer if you're looking for a sour... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 4/23/11*. According to the label, this bottle was from batch 004X1, brewed on 3/29/2009 and bottled on 2/2/10.

I think Brett beers are supposed to age reasonably well, but I have to wonder how this would have tasted if I got it fresh. In any case, sours still aren't my favorite style, but I'm beginning to come around a bit. I have a bottle of Russian River's famed Supplication in my fridge right now... something I'm hoping to pop open in the near future. I'm expecting a little more out of that beer than the Consecration.

* Yeah, I'm really, really behind on some of my reviews. Wanna fight about it? Expect some more old reviews in the near future as well.

Brewdog Tokyo*

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Scottish brewers Brewdog are no stranger to publicity. It seems they are almost always embroiled in one controversy or another. Right now, they're in hot water over a weird public dispute with CAMRA, a British beer advocacy group that campaigns for "real ale" or ale served from casks (their complicity in the issue is up to debate, but that's not a topic for this post - the linked aleheads article covers the situation well). But in the past, they've seemingly courted controversy with their high alcohol beers, engaging in a race to the highest alcohol beer in the world, which I believe still remains the 55% ABV End of History (and just to ensure publicity, they packaged the limited edition brew in a squirrel carcass).

Hard as it may be to believe, that whole race to 55% ABV started with a 12% stout brewed with jasmine and cranberries and aged on oak chips called Tokyo. That initial release was experimental and never made it to the US, but after some reformulating, a new-and-improved version, now dubbed Tokyo* (they say it's a star, not an asterisk, but it sure looks like an asterisk and it seemingly performs the function of an asterisk, so whatever) was released. This new brew came in at a hefty 18.2% ABV. Both beers seemed to cause controversy in the UK, where newspapers and government officials claimed the high alcohol beer was contributing to a culture of alcohol abuse (or something). Even the beer's tagline "Intergalactic Fantastic Oak Aged Stout" was singled out as an endorsement of psychadelic drugs(?!)

In response to all the kvetching about Tokyo*, Brewdog created a new beer called Nanny State, a 1.1% ABV brewed with massive amounts of hops. They called it an "imperial mild" and apparently it was so low in alcohol that it doesn't legally qualify as beer.

Lots of people see this sort of thing and assume that Brewdog is just a publicity whore that brews gimmicky beers and chases after the "strongest beer in the world" title and I can see how their constant courting of controversy could be grating to some... but ironically, the craftsmanship of their beer often doesn't come up in such discussions, and that's a shame, because I've had nothing but good (even great) experiences with Brewdog beers (granted, I've only had 3 of them before Tokyo* - but all were excellent). In any case, I cracked open a bottle of Tokyo* last Friday and was quite pleased:

Brewdog Tokyo*

Brewdog Tokyo* - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head. There are some pretty amber highlights when held up to the light. The smell is rich, chocolatey and boozy, with a lot of smaller notes floating around the nose that I assume are due to the cranberries, jasmine, and oak aging. Very complex and pleasant. Taste is full of rich flavors, incredibly sweet (some of that cranberry fruitiness present), with very little in the way of roastiness (though it's still there). The beer certainly has a kick to it, but the finish is very slick, leading into an aftertaste that is a bit strange (but not necessarily unpleasant). Full bodied, nice carbonation in the beginning that yields to that slickness in the finish. You get a very nice warming sensation from the alcohol, which is not really hidden at all, but which isn't entirely overpowering either. Clearly a sipping beer meant to be drank slowly, you may need to be in a certain mood to enjoy it, but I was apparently in such a mood. Despite the 11.2 ounce bottle, it would probably be a nice beer to share as well. I normally drink a few beers in a night, but in this case, I only had the one... Overall, a very interesting, complex beer. I wouldn't call it perfect for me, but don't let the controversy fool you - this isn't a gimmick, it's just a well crafted beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 7/22/11. The bottle says it's batch 007 and that it's best before 1/15/2021 (I guess that's what high ABV gets you!)

Additional Nerd Details: I searched around a lot to figure out what the deal was with the asterisk in the title. I'm pretty sure it's just used to distinguish between the original batch and the newer, stronger batch, but then I noticed that my bottle is actually labeled "Tokio*" (with an "i" instead of a "y"). It's clearly the same beer as Tokyo* (it's certainly got the same ABV and the label is consistent with everything I know about the beer), but that at some point they must've changed the name to Tokio* (perhaps it was just a batch 007 thing). Searching around the interwebs, I see various explanations for both the asterisk and the "i", but nothing definitive. One explanation that seems plausible to me is the notion that naming your beer after an actual place (Tokyo, Japan) is illegal in some places and required the name change. Or something. Funnily enough, this marks the second time I can't really figure out what the heck is going on with a Brewdog beer name, the other being "Devine Rebel", for which I still can't figure out why Divine is spelled that way. Perhaps an email full of pedantic questions is warranted.

So despite all their publicity stunts, I will continue to seek out and try more Brewdog beers, even the gimmicky ones. Indeed, I even have one of their Paradox stouts (a series of beers aged in various Scotch whiskey casks) sitting on my shelf right now.

Belgian Independence Day

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So this past week marked the 180th anniversary of Belgian independence from those nasty Dutch folk, and to celebrate, Brewery Ommegang decided to brew up a limited edition saison. Of course, they already make one of my favorite saisons, Hennepin, but this one is different in terms of the spices added (Coriander, Grains Of Paradise, Lemon Peel, White Pepper) and the yeast used during fermentation (a Wallonia saison strain). It's a keg-only release, and Ommegang sent them out to restaurants throughout the country last week. The Philly area was lucky enough to feature several participants, and so I found myself among the lucky:

Ommegang 2011 Belgian Independence Day Saison

Ommegang 2011 Belgian Independence Day Saison - Pours a slightly darker and cloudier color than their traditional Hennepin, with a nice fluffy head and some lacing as I drank. The smell has lots of spiciness to it along with the typical Belgian yeastiness. The taste starts sweet with lots of spiciness, maybe a touch of citrus, and a very dry finish (this is something I associate with the white pepper, though I could be making that up). High carbonation but a light body, making for a smoother, more delicate example of the style. It's definitely distinct from Hennepin, but I think I may prefer Hennepin to this one. That said, this was good for what it was and I'm definitely glad I got to try some. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/23/11 (yeah, two days after the actual independence day - sue me).

This actually reminded me of Stillwater's various saisons, especially the pepper characteristic from Cellar Door... In any case, Ommegang is also apparently releasing a new fruit beer brewed with brettanomyces called Aphrodite. Brett beers have never been my favorite, but I'll try anything Ommegang releases...

Double Feature: Saisons

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Summer saison season continues! I've been drinking a lot of saisons this summer1 and even tried my hand at brewing a batch, and some things are becoming clear about the style. Or rather, not clear, as there doesn't seem to be a single unifying element of the style, except perhaps a light color. If I had to describe the style to someone, I'd break it up into two main groups: the sweet and spicy kind, exemplified by Saison Dupont and Hennepin, and the funky2 tart kind that are brewed with Brett, of which Fantôme seems to be the standard bearer. I tend to be more of a fan of the former rather than the latter, though I'm starting to get a bit of a taste for funky beers3. Anyway, I'm catching up on a bunch of old beer reviews that have been sitting, unfinished, in my queue. Here are two saisons of the funky variety:

The Bruery Saison Rue

The Bruery Saison Rue - I've only had a few beers from The Bruery before, but they've been uniformly excellent. Pours a cloudy yellowish orange color with an ample white head. Smells of Belgian yeast, some sweet candi, and... is that brett? (Yes, it's apparently brettanomyces. I was not aware of this when I opened it, but it's printed right there on the bottle.) Taste is sweet with a little spice. The slightly tart brett flavor comes out in the finish. It has a kick to it, but not in an overpowering or particularly sour way. Bigger body than I was expecting, but still appropriate for the style . I had no idea this was a Brett beer when I opened the bottle, but it works very well. It's definitely something I'd like to try again sometime, as I hear it has different characteristics when it's fresh. B+ but maybe slightly better than The Bruery's Saison de Lente, which is similar in style (In fact, it's almost too similar - I'd love to see The Bruery's take on a more Dupont-style saison, but C'est la vie).

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 6/17/11.

De Ranke Saison De Dottignies

De Ranke Saison De Dottignies - Pours a light golden color with a finger of white head. Smells very funky and twangy. I also got the impression of dark fruits out of the nose, maybe raisins? Taste is again funky and wild with some lingering bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is very dry throughout. Light body and relatively low carbonation. This is probably due to the relatively low ABV of 5.5%, which is actually closer to the historical saison style, but it still didn't do much for me. Really, despite the funkiness, not much is going on with this beer. It's certainly not even close to Saison Rue, and it seems to be missing something that would tie it all together. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/17/11.

I've had one other De Ranke beer, called Guldenberg, which seems like it could be a really great beer. I say "seems like" because I've had two bottles of the stuff, and both were so super-carbonated that the cap practically popped off the beer along with a jet of foaminess, leading to a beer that ultimately tasted a bit on the flat side. Ultimately, I'd like to find a non-exploding bottle of that to try again, but I don't think I'll be trying their saison again. As for the Bruery, this is not my favorite of their beers, but it's damn good and I will continue to seek out their beers, wherever I can find them!

1 - Actually, looking at my archives, it seems like saisons are a staple of my beer diet, no matter what time of the year. Given that a saison was my real entrance into the world of great beer, I guess that makes sense.

2 - Believe it or not, "funk" is actually an almost technical term for this kind of taste. It's one of the words typically used to describe beers brewed with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain often used in sour beers (though I guess it doesn't always equate with sourness, it often accompanies it).

3 - I suppose my two broad categories could be considered too broad. There does seem to be a more historically relevant version of the style which is actually very low ABV, while more modern takes on the style tend to be in the 5-9% range. It's probably possible to break the style down further, or to just say "screw it" and proclaim the style styleless, but I kinda have that instinct for most Belgian beer styles, which all tend to be rather broad ("Belgian Strong Dark" can be used to describe a huge variety of beer).

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

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You know how no one knows what to call American Black Ales (aka India Dark Ale, Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, etc...)? Well just imagine if this beer became a common style. of course, it's Dogfish Head, so no one else will be trying this style - a mix between a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, and an IPA - anytime soon (BA calls it an American Brown Ale, which is probably the dominant element, so I guess that makes sense).

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale - Pours a very dark brown color with plenty of head. Nose is filled with roasted malt aromas and maybe even some coffee. Taste features that same roastiness coupled with a nice, bracing bitterness throughout the taste and in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is surprisingly light (though still a medium body), with ample carbonation and a nice smooth feel. Very well crafted, but also not really in my wheelhouse. I'm giving it a B, but I have a feeling there are some folks out there who would go bonkers for this.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/8/11. IBU: 50

Despite the odd mish-mash of styles here, this is one of Dogfish Head's "normal" year-round brews. There are actually a few of those that I haven't had before, so you may see a few more in the near future. And probably some extreme brews, because the first batch of 120 Minute IPA in a few years is coming out soon. And I think I have a bottle of Squall IPA around somewhere too...

Julytful Beer Club

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Get it? Julytful, like delightful! Eh, so yeah, good beer puns are sometimes hard to come by. Consider yourselves lucky, as a British attendee to this month's beer club contributed this one, which superceded my initial thought of Brewly Beer Club (which isn't the worst possible beer pun, but still pretty terrible). For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together... along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. A relatively small group of people this month, but lots of beer (thanks mostly to a club member who was just on vacation in Ohio recently, and thus was able to bring a bunch of beers we've never seen or heard of before!). Here's what we had:

July Beer Club Beers
(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on each. As usual, this isn't exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt, but still... From left to right in the picture:

  • Troegs Dead Reckoning - Very nice porter. Roasty and smooth, but not overpowering. I'm not normally a huge fan of porters, but this one's pretty decent. Not something that's lighting the world on fire, but good in it's own way. Unfortunately, it was probably overshadowed by a couple of stouts we had later in the tasting... I'll give it a B
  • Ohio Brewing Verich Gold - A kolsch style ale that's not particularly good. It reminded me of a typical Bud/Miller/Coors style beer, with a bit of a twang. It's a beer that might be ok on its own, but when drank side-by-side with a bunch of other good beers, it just pales in comparison. I suppose it just ain't my style of beer.. but then, it was also pretty much the unanimous worst beer of the night among beer club peeps. D
  • Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale - Probably the worst time of the year to drink a winter warmer style beer, but I quite enjoyed this spicy beer. It's relatively dark, but not roasty. Very spicy with a full malt backbone. Some folks thought it was almost too spicy ,but I quite enjoyed this beer. B+
  • Great Lakes Holy Moses White Ale - Seriously one of the best Belgian wit beers I've ever had, rivaling the likes of Victory's Whirlwind Wit and Ommegange's Witte. Very effervescent, almost lemony, but with lots of balancing spiciness of the light variety (coriander, orange peel, etc..) Right up there at the top of the list for wheat beers. B+
  • Thirsty Dog Cerberus Belgian Tripel - Nice fancy foil packaging, with a beer to match. Extremely sweet and boozy, it's a bit hot for the style, but very good. There was a bit of a twang to it that I could place, but which differentiated it from other examples of the style. Quite good. B+
  • Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA - I've had this beer a few times before... and have never really enjoyed it. It's not particularly bad, but it's definitely a victim of circumstances, as I always find myself trying one when I've already had much better beers. By the time I got to this tonight, it just wasn't doing it for me. Again, not a bad IPA, but not particularly accomplished either. C+
  • Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout - We tried to drink the beers listed here from lightest to darkest, and this one ended up being the last beer of the night... and the best! Dark as night and seemingly thick, with a nice brownish head. Very sweet, chocolaty, and roasty, with a nice booziness apparent. A wonderful imperial stout. The name of the bear stands for "Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout", and it's well worth the moniker. A-
  • Hoppin' Frog Turbo Shandy - A shandy is normally a beer mixed with a citrus flavored soda like 7up or Sprite. Usually this is something that happens after the fact - a beer coctail, as it were. But some breweries release shandies right in the bottle... and in this case, the beer really does taste like a 7up/Sprite... Extremely sweet and crispt, maybe some lemony/lime feeling to it, and you can't really even detect the relatively strong 7% ABV. Would perhaps make a good lawnmower beer, but not particularly something I'm all that interested in... C+
  • Rogue Shakespeare Stout - Another oatmeal stout, this one was second to last in the drinking order, and quite a solid example of the stile. Very chocolately, but with a surprising earthy feel to it. This is quite good, but not great. B+
  • Red's Rye Pale Ale - I know next to nothing about Rye beer, but I have a few more of these in the fridge, so expect a full review in the nearish future. Initial impressions are quite positive.
  • My Homebrewed Saison - This actually turned out far better than I was expecting. It seemed to be a general success with the folks of beer club, and it's the first beer I've made so far that I really enjoy drinking from start to finish. It's very light in its way, but it makes up for that with some Belgian yeast spiciness and a nice hoppy aproma/taste character (though it's not particularly bitter). My favorite batch so far. Makes me want to pour my last batch down the drain!

And that covers all the beer we had... Someone did bring a bottle of Australian wine, but they said they were a bit disappointed by it (no idea what it was called). Good times, as always, and I'm already looking forward to the next meetup.

Anchor Steam

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So, what happens when you take a lager yeast and brew it at ale temperatures? In general, lager yeasts like to ferment at relatively low temperatures (somewhere around 50° or so), while ales favor warmer temperatures (let's call it 70°, though there's actually a pretty broad range). 19th century Californians, lacking refrigeration or even natural sources of cool water, didn't really have much choice in the matter. The result is called Steam beer, aka California Common.

There's no clear record on how the style gained the "Steam" moniker, but there's plenty of speculation. The higher temperatures seem to create more carbon dioxide during the fermentation process, leading to high pressures in the various brewing vessels. One school of thought says that this buildup of pressure necessitated a release of steam before the process could complete. Another theory is that brewers, having no easy way to cool the wort after the boil, would pump the hot, steaming liquid into a series of shallow, open top bins outside the brewery, thus cooling the wort and ensconcing the brewery in a cloud of steam. Whatever the case, there is one beer that pretty much exemplifies the style:

Anchor Steam

Anchor Steam - Anchor is one of the founding pillars of the American craft beer movement, and this steam beer has long been their flagship. Pours a nice, clear amber color with tons of head. Smell is sweet and fruity. Taste has a nice earthy malt backbone with a surprisingly dry finish. The body is light, crisp and easy to drink. Overall, an excellent session beer, one I could drink all night... B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 7/8/11.

Anchor will, of course, be making more appearances on the blog in the near future, and as always, I look forward to the next iteration of Anchor's Christmas Ale.

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

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