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.

Victory St. Boisterous

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Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where Reverend Lovejoy loses the faith and Marge becomes "The Listen Lady"? At one point, while Reverend Lovejoy sits alone and depressed in the church, the stained glass windows in the church come to life and chastise him for failing to inspire his congregation. The joke is that the circumstances of each window are rather gruesome:

Stained Glass Window from The Simpsons

The one on the far left features a man standing in a boiling cauldron, the second one is a man holding his own decapitated head, and the last one is a man being eaten by a lion. This is mean to be parody; making fun of the Christian fascination with martyrs and the violence they endured. And yet anyone who has spent their childhood in Church and other related areas will see that, like a lot of parodies, this one strikes home more than you might suspect. Witness saint Adrian:

Stained Glass Window of Saint Adrian

At first it looks kinda normal and then you notice... What's the deal with that sword? Wait, where are his hands? Is that... bone? Yes, apparently St. Adrian was a martyr who had his hands cut off at the wrist. In all honesty, that Simpsons parody isn't really that much of a parody.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Victory's Spring seasonal Maibock, St. Boisterous, does not feature any such macabre imagery on its label, and the beer itself is generally more uplifting.

Victory St. Boisterous

Victory St. Boisterous - Pours a clear golden/yellow color with a finger or two of head. Aroma is dry with a sweet malt character (maybe honey?) and some floral hops as well. There's just a hint of fruitiness apparent. Taste is surprisingly hoppy at the outset, but it doesn't last through the finish, which is sweet and sticky. Surprisingly rich and full bodied for such a light colored beer. The alcohol is more prominent than expected, all throughout the taste, which I guess means that this beer is living up to its boisterous name. Overall, it's still an interesting beer that's reasonably well done. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 7/2/11.

Victory also makes a Doppelbock called St. Victorious, which I'm pretty sure I've had before, but not recently. I'll have to try that one out (it's a Winter seasonal, so I'll have to wait a while).

Shipwrecked

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This bottle sez: "Double India Pale Ale. A style of beer curiously born on the foggy shores of Father Junipero Serra's first founding mission." I can't really find any historical evidence about DIPAs being born in old Spanish Missions, but it's easy to see why a brewery that calls itself "Mission" would use Serra as their inspiration. As near as I can tell, Serra was never actually shipwrecked either, but on the other hand, it was the 18th century. I'm sure anyone traveling on the high seas back then got into some pretty hairy situations.

Mission Shipwrecked Double IPA

Mission Shipwrecked Double IPA - Pours a nice amber color with a finger of head and some lacing as I drink. The smell is a nice combo of citrusy hops and caramel. Taste is very sweet with just enough bitterness to balance it out, but otherwise not much going on here, and given that it's a double IPA, I was expecting a bit more bitterness here. As it warms, the alcohol becomes more prominent, though never overpowering or anything. It's got a medium body and a relatively smooth and slick mouthfeel. Overall a decent entry in the overcrowded DIPA field, but it's got some balance issues. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.25% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/11. IBU: 75. Hops: Cascade, Magnum, Centennial and CTZ.

This beer is perhaps more interesting than a "B" implies, which is similar to my reaction to Mission's Blonde (which I gave a B-). So Mission is indeed an interesting brewery that shows a lot of promise... I'll be keeping an eye out for more of their brews.

Cockeyed Cooper

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A couple years ago, brewery Uinta started a new line of high-alcohol beers under the "Crooked Line" banner. The marketing fluff on their website includes stuff like "our crooked path has taken us to some unexpected places" and "brew outside the lines". All of this sounds suspiciously like Dogfish Head's slogan: "Off centered ales for off centered people" (which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing), but when I saw a couple of these bottles in the bottle store, I was quite taken in by the artwork and also the prospect of a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (both of which are things I enjoy greatly). Judging beer by the label is sometimes the order of the day (it's not quite Belgian beer roulette, but perhaps a distant cousin), so I picked up a bottle of this. I'm glad to report that it was well worth the stretch.

I don't know who Cooper is or why he's cockeyed, but I presume it's because this is an 11.1% ABV beer. I also assume Mr. Cooper is the bearded fellow on the label that's using a bourbon barrel as a flotation device:

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper - Pours a dark brown color with a minimal head. Smells very rich and boozy, with some of those bourbon-soaked oak flavors and a nicely matched hoppy character. There's a sugary aroma in the nose as well. Taste starts sweet, but then you're hit with the oak (bourbon and a little vanilla apparent), followed by some hoppy bitterness and booze. It's not overly bitter, like an IPA, but it's there, and it helps dry out the finish. The flavors linger a bit in an aftertaste. I think the oak aging really imparted a nice richness to the flavors here. Full bodied but relatively smooth, you still want to drink this slowly. Overall, it's pretty damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/25/11. IBUs: 65. Bottled on 6/1/10 (Not sure how long it was aged in the barrels, but according to the site, it's at least 5 months).

When I bought this, there was another of the Crooked Line beers at the store - an American Black Ale called Labyrinth that I now very much want to try.

When I put my most recent homebrew, a saison style beer, in the fermenter, I started seeing bubbles in the airlock after only a few hours - a much quicker start than any of my previous brews. Indeed, this thing fermented vigorously for nearly 5 days. With all my previous attempts, bubbles didn't appear in the airlock until at least 12-24 hours after pitching the yeast, and once they had started, there was only 2-3 days of vigorous activity, after which things trail off. Usually by the end of 2 weeks, things have slowed down considerably. And that happened for the saison too, but I was surprised at how long that initial phase of activity lasted. Now, I'm not entirely sure what this means, but I suspect that perhaps my pitching/fermentation temperature was a bit high, leading to a more active fermentation than is normally desired.

Or I could be completely wrong. The beer seemed to come out ok. It smells wonderful. It looks a little darker than usual for the style, but that's kinda expected for extract brewing. I took a quick swig of it, and at first glance it seems to share a certain character with the Hefeweizen I brewed on my last attempt. Here's to hoping that this goes a little better than my last attempt.

The final gravity was really low though. Somewhere around 1.005 (target was more around the 1.010 area), maybe even less. I guess we'll see how that plays out. Doing the calculations, this means the beer should be somewhere around 7-7.5% ABV, which is certainly higher than I was shooting for, but not outside the realms of possibility.

I won't bore you with the details of the bottling process, which basically went the same as usual - it's a semi-tedious process, but the only really bad part is the sanitization of the bottles. Otherwise all went well and this stuff should be ready to drink in a few weeks. Wish me luck.

At this point, I'm looking to try something a little darker for my next batch. That's apparently more suitable for extract brewing, and besides, my last 3 batches have been lighter style beers. Also, since I've been doing so much in the way of belgian styles, I figured I should try something different. Perhaps a chocolate stout or maybe an American Black Ale (or whatever you call those things).

(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

Noblesse

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When playing Belgian Beer Roulette, it's advisable to pick a bottle that does not feature English text. That way, you have no idea what you're getting into. In this case, I didn't have much idea what I was getting into at all. "De Dochter van de Korenaar"? The doctor of the Korenaar? Was this brewed in honor of a fictional doctor from a fantasy novel? Perhaps a "noble" doctor (given the name of the beer)?

Yeah, of course not (my nerdiness knows no bounds). It turns out that the brewery name translates to "Daughter of the Ear of Corn" (presumably a reference to barley, though I'm not sure about the biological specifics here). Apparently they've only been open since 2007 (though I also get the impression that there was a brewery there in the past as well).

De Dochter van de Korenaar Noblesse

De Dochter van de Korenaar Noblesse - Pours a nice hazy golden color with a couple fingers of frothy head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of musty Belgian yeast with some fruitiness and spiciness apparent. Taste has a nice spicy kick to go along with the crisp malt backbone. There's a bit of an aftertaste here that's not really working for me. Mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, but it's light and crisp and very easy to drink. A nice summer beer, I guess, but it's not especially lighting the world on fire. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/11.

Not a huge success, but a worthy effort that won't dissuade me from playing Belgian beer roulette any time soon...

Double Feature: Wrong Turn Wheat

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So the Wrong Turn movies kinda suck. They're like a second-rate The Hills Have Eyes, which is, in itself, a third rate imitation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Oh, and the second movie? It stars Henry Rollins. Somehow, all of this is ok.

Beerwise, things were a little better. I picked up both of Victory's wheat beer offerings. Thematically, wheat beers don't really match with bad horror, but being able to say "Wrong Turn Wheat" was good enough for me.

Victory Sunrise Weiss

Victory Sunrise Weissbier - Pours a cloudy golden color with lots of white head. Nose is typical hefeweizen banana and clove. Taste is also quite straightforward, but well crafted. Light bodied, crisp and refreshing. I have to admit, I was expecting a bit more out of this. A solid example of the style, but not a front-runner. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

Victory Whirlwind Wit

Victory Whirlwind Wit - Pours a cloudy yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell is full of light spices and wheat. Taste is also quite spicy, anchored by a strong wheat flavor. Again, light bodied, crisp and refreshing. This one's more complex and interesting than the Sunrise, and it's tastier too! Ultimately not a face-melter, but very well balanced and one of my favorites in the style. It hits the spot on a hot day, or, as now, after a long day at work. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.0% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

I tend to like German-style wheat beers more than Belgian-style varieties, but of these two Victory varieties, I have to go with the Belgian Wit.

G'Knight Gordon

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According to Oskar Blues website, Gordon Knight was a "Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of our Lyons hometown." By all accounts, this guy was a saint, and Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis felt honored to know the man, so he brewed a beer in Gordon's name to honor his memory. It was called, simply enough, "Gordon" (read more details about the man and the beer)

Enter Gordon Biersch, a chain of brewpubs that had their own thoughts on honoring Mr. Knight's memory: The sent Oskar Blues a cease and desist order! This was probably the correct thing to do from a legal standpoint - trademark holders must defend their trademark or else they might lose it - but I'll be damned if it isn't the dumbest PR move they could have possibly made. Of course no one knows what went on behind closed doors (neither Oskar Blues or Gordon Biersch have said anything beyond the obvious), but it sure seems like there could have been a better way to handle this sort of thing. It's one thing when two brewers have conflicting interests (though even then, better brewers seem to be able to work things out well enough), but in the case of a beer dedicated to all-American hero Gordon Knight, it just seems silly.

Fortunately, the creative folks at Oskar Blues came up with a clever solution: their new name for the brew is G'Knight. I hate to admit it, but it's almost an improvement. This was all happening at the beginning of the year, and lucky me, I had picked up a couple 4 packs of the beer that still had the Gordon branding:

Oskar Blues Gordon

Oskar Blues Gordon - Interestingly, the can calls this an "Imperial Red" ale, while Beer Advocate calls it a Double IPA. After tasting it, I have to say that it certainly feels a lot like something from the IPA family, but then again, I don't know much about Reds... Well, whatever the classification, onto the beer itself: Pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of head that leave lacing as I drink. Smells strongly of citrus and pine, very sweet. There could be what beer nerds call "resin" in the aroma as well. It's a really nice aroma. Taste is very sweet as well, with a well matched bitterness in the finish. It's a very smooth drink. Well carbonated, but as it says on the can, it's "sticky". Not sure if that's the alcohol or residual sugars (or both), but it actually makes for quite an interesting beer. Overall, this might actually be my favorite Oskar Blues beer yet... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/19/11. 60 IBUs.

Oskar Blues continues to impress. I've only had a few of their beers, but they're all excellent examples of whatever style they're tackling. Next up, the monster stout, Ten Fidy (I've already had a few of these, and they're great). Actually, I forgot until now, but I've mentioned both Gordon and Ten Fidy before in a Beer Club post. In any case, here's to Gordon Knight. I wish every beer had a story as noble as his... (hat tip to the Aleheads for the whole legal history background)

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

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Before tonight, I have a vague inkling of what Sierra Nevada Beer Camp was - a sorta Willy Wonka-esque contest with the prize being a tour of their brewery, along with a chance to brew your own beer (collaborating with the other winners and the Sierra Nevada staff). Apparently you win by entering a creative video explaining why Sierra Nevada should pick you to attend - so I would never win! And until now, I was pretty sure I'd never actually get to taste any of these beers either, but imagine my luck: on the same night I got my hands on Pliny the Elder, I spied several Beer Camp beers on tap. Most excellent:

Sierra Nevada Exportation

Sierra Nevada ExPortation - So Beer Camp #25 was a Baltic Porter style beer brewed in honor of Philly Beer week by some Philly beer geeks who won a spot a Beer Camp. It was called Philadelphia ExPorter. Now I'm not sure what genius (not being sarcastic here, whoever had this idea is genius) is responsible, but someone had a brilliant idea: Hey, let's take this Baltic Porter over to Russian River and have them age it in some Pinot Noir barrels. Fuck. Yes. It pours a nice opaque black color with a finger of tan head. The smell is outright twangy. The funk almost, but not quite, overwhelms the typical roasty aromas. In other words, it's fantastic. The taste has a similar profile: funky sourness almost, but not quite, overwhelming roasty Porter flavors. Relatively full bodied, but a smooth and easy to drink mouthfeel. The thing that's most amazing here is that, well, I'm not a huge fan of porters, nor have I truly acquired a taste for sour beers. And yet, this beer is almost perfect for me. It's like the two styles cancel out the things I don't like, and amplify the things I do. Amazing. And keep in mind that I had just drank a glass of Pliny the Elder, so the bar was set pretty high here. The only bad thing about this beer is that I will most likely never get the chance to drink it again (unless I head back over to that bar in the next couple days - certainly a possibility). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass on 6/23/11.


Sierra Nevada Hop Smack

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #48: Hop Smack - This one has a less clear provenance. It's not even listed on the Beer Camp site, nor does it appear on Beer Advocate. I did find the RateBeer page, but it only has one review! Basically, it's one of them American Black Ales (or whatever the hell you call them)... actually, it said it was a Double American Black Ale. My experience with the style is limited, but since ExPortation was so awesome, and since I was unlikely to ever even see this again, I gave it a shot. It pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of head. Smells surprisingly hoppy - almost no roastiness getting through to the nose. The taste is almost wholly like a DIPA. Sweet, hoppy, and bitter. At first, no roastiness at all was apparent - if you blindfolded me and made me taste, I probably would not have guessed that it was an American black ale. As it warmed up and I got to the bottom of the glass, I got the faintest hint of roastiness out of the beer, but it wasn't much. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible beer or anything, it just doesn't seem like a particularly good take on the style. That, or my palate was obliterated by the likes of Pliny and ExPortation (both very strongly flavored beers). I'll give it a B-, as I was disappointed, but I suppose others might find more to like.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass on 6/23/11.

There was another Beer Camp beer on tap, but it seemed like a plain old Pale Ale. Don't get me wrong, I would have tried it, but after having a DIPA, a strong sour beer, and a Double ABA, I think that would have paled in comparison (pun intended!)

Dubhel Feature: Ola Dubh

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A while ago, in a post about Scottish Wee Heavy beer, friend and fellow beer nerd Padraic recommended another Scottish beer called Ola Dubh. The name translates literally as "Black Oil", presumably a reference to the color and goopy consistency of the porter-like beer. This is a series of beers based on the recipe for brewer Harviestoun's more traditional offering, Old Engine Oil, an English Porter. They take a higher gravity version of that beer, then age it in used Highland Park oak casks. This is apparently pretty notable, as most barrel-aged beers aren't aged in traceable casks from a named distillery like this. Their website says it's the first barrel-aged beer with "genuine provenance". This is probably pure marketing fluff, but hell, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

As of right now, there appear to be 5 different varieties, based on the age of the scotch casks (not based on the age of the beer itself, which we originally thought). On a recent visit to beer Mecca State Line Liquors, I picked up a couple of bottles, and this past Monday, I cracked them open whilst taking in a double feature of How To Train Your Dragon and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I'd seen both movies before, but they seemed better this time around. I have to wonder how rewatchability can and should color my reaction to movies. It's a subject I've mused on before, but as I drink these beers, I'm now wondering how redrinkability should color my reaction to a beer. Most of the reviews on this blog are based on a single tasting, but a really full appreciation should probably require multiple tastings. As such, I'd really like to revisit the below brews. As hard as that's likely to be on my wallet (these are not cheap beers), it would probably be worth it in this case.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 - Pours a semi-thick, opaque black color with a surprisingly light tan head. Smell is dominated by chocolate aromas and you can definitely feel the Scotch peeking through. Just a hint of roastiness in the nose. It smells really quite fantastic. The Scotch hits right away in the taste, quickly fading to highlight some chocolate flavors, but then reappearing a bit in the dry finish. Just a hint of bitterness appears in the finish too, lingering a bit on the palate. It's got a full body with medium carbonation... it's surprisingly smooth and easy to drink. As it warms, some additional flavors come out, maybe a little more on the roasty side. This a wonderfully complex beer. I'm really enjoying it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 6/20/11. Bottled July 2009, bottle number 37471.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 - Pours a little thicker, but with that same opaque black color. The head is a bit darker this time. Smell features a bit more of the Scotch this time around, maybe even a little peat smoke, but that chocolate aroma is still clearly there. Again, smells fantastic - a little more complex this time, but certainly along similar lines. Taste has a similar profile, but the flavors are much richer here. The Scotch flavors mix with the roasty chocolate in a more balanced way, and it's just as compulsively drinkable as the 16. Fuller bodied, even. This is an amazing beer. Rich and complex, powerful and subtle, all at the same time. Rating this is weird. I have a pathological inability to give out the highest rating possible (I've only given it once, and that's partially because that beer also has sentimental value and partially because I've had it so many times), but I've only had this once (right now!) Yeah, it's rocking my world, but will it always do so. I'll give it a provisional A+. It's perfect, but given my above musings about redrinkability and the fact that I'm a sucker for the marketing fluff behind this, I'd like to try this again!

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 6/20/11. Bottled January 2009, bottle number 54570. Whisky casks are from 1968!

Well then, I now want to pick up the 12, 18, and 30 varieties of this beer. I'd also like to try and compare the 40 vs some other sort of barrel aged imperial stout. As mentioned before, these are quite expensive. The 40 was $20 for a single bottle, which is astronomical, but for me, it was worth it (and there've definitely been times when spending a lot on a single beer has disappointed me, despite the beer being really good - i.e. Allagash).

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

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