After two weeks in the fermenter, I went ahead and bottled the Bavarian Hefeweizen yesterday. I probably could have bottled it a few days ago, but I decided to give it a little more time, especially since I don't really do secondary fermentation - that's a process where I would transfer the beer from the primary fermenter to a secondary, separating it from the majority of the yeast and giving it a chance to condition and clear. However, I only really have one fermenting bucket, and besides, transferring the beer opens it up to the air and the possibility of infection (by wild yeast strains, bacteria, etc...) I'm pretty good about sanitation, but still, the less chances for mistakes the better. Also, Hefeweizens are supposed to be cloudy - the name itself literally translates to "yeast wheat", or "wheat beer with yeast". The question of whether or not to use secondary fermentation seems to be a pretty contentious one, but for simplicity's sake, I'm going to stick with only using the primary for now.

The final gravity was 1.010. For some reason, Northern Brewer never mentions target gravity for any of their kits. Nevertheless, for a beer with a starting gravity of ~1.050, that final gravity was appropriate. My previous two batches came in a little lower than I was expecting, but this one was just what I was hoping for (in monitoring temperatures, it seems that conditions were ideal for this batch). Doing the math on this, I find that this will be a 5.25% ABV beer, which is just about perfect for the style.

As with my previous two attempts, the bottling process went smoothly. I did invest in an auto-siphon this time around, and yes, it was worth every penny. Not that getting a siphon to work was particularly difficult, just that it was a huge pain in the ass to get going. The auto-siphon makes that process very easy. Otherwise, nothing new to report - sanitizing bottles is a tedious chore, filling and capping the bottles is a little more fun, but also tedious and repetitive. I ended up just shy of two full cases of beer.

Like last time, the beer looked and smelled fantastic. It's a little brighter than I expected, but I expect it to darken up a bit as it conditions in the bottles (about 3-4 weeks after bottling the tripel, the color was significantly changed). The smell was really wonderful - all due to the yeast I used. It's a German yeast, but it has very distinct characteristics that I usually associate with Belgian yeasts. I really can't wait to try this beer!

Homebrew 3

If all goes well, this should be ready to drink in 1-2 weeks (definitely in time for my next beer club meeting)... Indeed, it should be reaching full maturity right as summer is hitting, which is perfect. That pretty much covers it for this beer, and I'm already attempting to work out a recipe for my next beer. I'm looking to make a Belgian style Saison (in the mold of Saison Dupont or Ommegang Hennepin). Most of the kits I've found haven't quite met my expectations, so I might actually have to try my hand at a more free-form recipe. In particular, I'm a little worried about what yeast to use. My understanding is that some saison yeasts require high temperatures (in the 80°F - 90°F range) and will often putter out early if conditions aren't just right. As such, I may end up using some sort of alternative, as I have little control over temperature (interestingly, the temp for the Hefeweizen was just about perfect).

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Victory V-Twelve

| No Comments

So I haven't actually reviewed my homebrewed tripel yet, but it's definitely good enough that I might want to give it a name. Unfortunately, I kinda suck at that. I always end up with informative, but ultimately bland names. Witness the name of this blog: Kaedrin Beer Blog. Boy, I really pushed the envelope on that one. This is mildly depressing. Lots of beers have fantastic names and crazy backstories and I'm going to end up with, what? "Mark's Tripel" won't cut it. "Tripel Play"? Yeah, no one's come up with that before. I just don't have a knack for it. I wish that I could come up with something like Johno's Trogdor The Burninator "Consummate V" Belgian Strongbad Ale, but even funny referential naming escapes me when I try to think of a name for my beer.

So when I see something like Victory V-Twelve, I'm somewhat relieved. It's such a pragmatic name. It's the sort of thing I would name a beer. I like to picture Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet sitting in a boardroom brainstorming names while drinking the beer, but because it's fucking 12% ABV, they quickly get shitfaced and say "Fuck it, we're Victory and it's 12% alcohol, we'll just call it V-Twelve!", then do the Go Team Venture symbol and pop the cork on another bottle. Incidentally, this was sitting in my fridge for a while. Not only is it 12%, but it only comes in 750ml bottles, so you either need to share it with someone or you need to be in the right mood.

On Victory's website (and the bottle itself), they say that it's a "vintage-dated, Belgian-style specialty ale". Alas, my bottle had no date on it (or perhaps it just got rubbed off or something). I know I bought it before the new year, so I'm guessing it's at least half a year old, and given the high alcohol and flavors involved, I'm sure it could stand up to some long-term aging.

Victory V-Twelve

Pours a relatively clear dark amber/orange color with a minimal white head. Smell is full of dark fruits (plum?) and spices, with just a hint of Belgian yeast. Sticky dark fruit in the taste as well. Very sweet, I worried that it might get a bit cloying after a while, but that annoyance thankfully never developed. Some warming alcohol character is present as well. It's got a full body but a smooth texture. Beer Advocate calls it a Quadrupel, but it seems more like a Barleywine than a Quad. Of course, Victory doesn't really call it a Quad either - they call it a Belgian Specialty Ale (or an Amber Ale), which is probably more accurate.

Whatever the designation, this is quite good. Again, I was a little worried that the sweetness would get cloying, but I never actually got there, and as it warms, it evens out a bit. There's no real bitterness at all, but its texture and alcohol keep it from getting too overwhelming. And speaking of that alcohol, it's clearly present, but not in a bad or overly boozy way. It's very well balanced with the rest of the brew. This is one of those beers whose quality has grown in my head as time goes on, making me want to get a few more bottles so that I have one on hand if the mood strikes. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/30/11.

Victory continues to be my local hero. Even when I'm disappointed by one of their beers, I'm glad I tried it (and they're usually still worth drinking anyway). I'm most definitely going to pick up a few more of these and age them, just to see what happens.

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

| No Comments

I love Ommegang, but even I have to pause at their presumption of "perfection" on the label of this beer. They even mention on the label that tripels are brewed "with simple ingredients and fierce attention to detail, there is little room for error - but lots of opportunity." Indeed. Belgian tripels are among my favorite styles, and Ommegang is among my favorite breweries, so I had high expectations here. Indeed, this was a hard one to find, raising expectations further. The only place I saw it was in a holiday package that also had a couple other Ommegang beers and some nice glassware (which, unfortunately, didn't show up particularly well in the image below).

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

Ommegang Tripel Perfection - Pours a cloudy orange/brown color with a couple fingers of head. Smell is full of fruity and spicy belgian yeast. The taste starts off sweet (some fruity character here), hits a spicy note (coriander?) in the middle and finishes dry. That dry finish may be partially because I waited so long to open the bottle - tripels tend to get more dry the longer they age. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's not out of place at all here. The bottle I have is marked as having been packaged on 6/29/10, so it isn't that old, but still. In any case, the beer is extremely well balanced, which is something I've come to expect from Ommegang. Mouthfeel is high in carbonation and a bit harsh, but those are welcome for the style. Just a hint of stickyness and some warming alcohol notes. Very complex for a tripel. Perhaps not the best in style, but certainly in the top tier. In general, I feel that Ommegang's seasonals and special releases aren't as good as their regular stable of beers, but in this case, I think they really have a winner. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 5/6/11.

There's an anonymous quotation on the bottle that says "One can not adequately explain perfection. One can only enjoy it." Indeed. I don't think the beer quite lives up to Perfection, but it's close!

Russian River Redemption

| No Comments

I've written about Trappist style beers before, mentioning their naming convention of dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. The styles are notoriously vague, but the idea is each numerical step up the ladder represents an increase in the strength of the beer. Furthermore, at many breweries, there is often what's called a House beer or a "Single" (aka "Enkel"). In a lot of cases, this terminology has yielded to the term "Blonde". In any case, it's generally the lightest and least alcoholic of the styles (again, with each successive step up getting stronger). So apparently the monks at Westmalle aren't constantly getting sloshed on their excellent tripel (9.5% ABV), instead preferring to pop open a single to enjoy with their meals. In some cases, these beers are not released to the public, earning the name Patersbier (which translates to "father's beer", meaning that it is reserved for use within the abbey). For instance, Westmalle's single, called Westmalle Extra, apparently has very limited availability.

Inspired by the tradition of "singles", Russian River brewer Vinnie Cilurzo created this beer, called Redemption. Apparently, like many of RR's other beers, Brettanomyces was added to the initial bottling to add a wild flavor to the beer. However, it appears that the Brett additions were not included in subsequent batches, and the alcohol content seems to be shrinking as well. Initial batches were in the area of 6-6.5% ABV, but the bottle I got (batch #8) is marked as 5.15% ABV (strangely, their website says 5.0%)

Russian River Redemption

Pours a very light, hazy straw yellow color with about a finger of head. Smells strongly of fruity belgian yeast. Taste has an almost wheat beer character to it... Very sweet and crisp, with just a hint of lingering dryness in the finish. There's maybe some citrus in there, perhaps lemon, but it's not particularly tart, though there is a bit of a sharpness to it. This isn't a beer that will blow you away, but it's light and refreshing and would make a fantastic summer beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.15% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet. Batch #8, bottled on 9/1/2010 and drank on 4/30/2011.

And on an ironic note, after all my blathing about singles and patersbiers, BeerAdvocate lists this as being a simple Belgian Pale Ale, which probably makes sense. Anyway, according to the bottle, this is the sister beer to Russian River's stronger pale ale, Damnation. I just happen to have a bottle of that sitting around here somewhere, so expect a review at some point (I've had it a few times before, and it's great).

Beer Club: May the 4th Be With You

| 3 Comments
Today is Star Wars day! And Beer Club! Due to schedules and various other factors, this month's beer club was a rather small gathering, but there were still some great beers to be had, as well as some wine and even homemade hard cider.

May Beer Club

The theme this month was local brews, but as you can see from the picture, there were really only 4 beers on the docket this month (again, this was due to the fact that less people came and not because of any difficulty finding local beers). For reference, here's what we had:

  • Dogfish Head ApriHop - A fellow beer clubber had visited Dogfish Head's brewpub earlier in the week and got themselves a growler of ApriHop. It survived the trip reasonably well, though the brew was a bit light on the carbonation. It was still quite good though. It was quite a pleasant IPA, with a ton of fruity citrus character (apparently from Apricots added during the brewing process). B+
  • Dogfish Head Hellhound On My Ale - A play on famed blues guitarist Robert Johnson (who, legend has it, sold his soul to the Devil to create the amazing music he did), this was actually the first beer of the evening, and I don't know if it was because I'd had a particularly long day, but this was amazing. It tasted like a very refreshing pale ale, along the lines of, say, Dale's Pale Ale. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that it was a 10% ABV double IPA with 100 IBUs. Astounding! The alcohol was incredibly well hidden, and despite the high IBUs, it wasn't overwhelmingly bitter (again, I thought of it more as a regular pale ale rather than an IPA and would never have guessed that it was a DIPA). Very sweet with lots of citrusy hop character and a nice bitter kick. There's something else here that I can't quite place, but in the end, it's a very complex and yet well balanced beer. As it warmed, the alcohol seemed to become a bit more prominent, but it was still a triumph of a beer. A-
  • Sly Fox Saison Vos - My contribution for the evening was a pretty well crafted saison from local Sly Fox brewery. Nice clear pour with lots of head, a spicy Belgian yeast aroma, and that sweet and spicy taste with a harsh mouthfeel that I've come to love about saisons. There's a bit of a bite to this beer that isn't particularly pronounced, but which adds a welcome bit of complexity. If my upcoming saison homebrew turns out this well, I'd be over the moon. B+
  • Yards Brawler - Labeled as a "Pugelist Style Ale", this one is probably more accurately described by the Beer Advocate style of English Dark Mild Ale. I've actually had this a few times before, and I've always thought of it as a solid if unremarkable beer. Tasting it after the above was a bit of a letdown though. It's a bit thin and subtle, but it would make a good session beer and would probably stand out better if it didn't have to compete with the likes of Dogfish Head or Sly Fox. A tentative B-
And that just about covers it for the beer. I had a couple of the wines (including a Chaddsford Spiced Apple Wine that sounded and smelled great, but the taste was quite off for me - would have wanted some sort of carbonation there) and the hard cider, but none of those really stood out as much as the beers.

Despite the small session, good times were had by all that managed to attend, and I'd count it as yet another success. As usual, I'm already looking forward to the next meeting!

Double Feature: Royal IPAs

| No Comments

So everyone was all excited by some sort of Royal Wedding last Friday? Sorry, us Americans don't really understand or care about that sort of thing, but there were a surprising number of beer-related stories to go along with the wedding (also, April 29 is apparently the anniversary of Hitler and Eva Braun's wedding). Beer nerds got deservedly uppity at the Royal pronouncement that Beer was not "an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen's presence at such an occasion." Scottish brewers Brewdog had already made light of the whole affair with their beer called Royal Virility Performance, a 7.5% ABV IPA containing, among other things, herbal Viagra, chocolate, horny goat weed, and "a healthy dose of sarcasm." (Apparently a few bottles were sent directly to the royals - I wonder if they consumed them behind closed doors...)

Yeah, Brewdog's beer smacks of a publicity stunt, but that didn't really bother me, and in light of the Royals' disrespect, I actually think it's pretty awesome. So in honor of the wedding, I cracked open a few beers made at the Brewdog brewery. Not that I was watching any wedding coverage. No, to match up with the two beers, I decided I'd catch up on the first two episodes of Game of Thrones (it's quite good so far!)

Mikkeller I Beat yoU

Mikkeller I Beat yoU - As previously mentioned, Mikkeller is a self-described "gypsy-brewer", meaning that he travels all around the world, brewing his beers on other brewery's systems. This one was brewed at Brewdog in Scotland, and according to their site, "the instruction for the Scotsmen was clear: we need shitloads of hops in this one!" And a shitload of hops, this has. According to Beer Advocate, it's also got quite a variety of hops as well: Herkules, Centennial, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus hops (maybe more). Indeed, the title of this beer is a nod towards the International Bitterness Unit (IBU), a unit of measurement used to quantify the bitterness of beer, though I don't really know how many IBUs this has.

It pours a nice dark orange color with a finger of head and some lacing as I drink. The smell is complex, with fruity citrus, some pine and resin notes and maybe even a little caramel. The taste is very sweet with that hoppy bitterness kicking in about midway through the taste and following through in the finish. This beer actually reminds me a lot of Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA (which makes a sort of sense, given the similar ABV and the use of Simcoe hops). Carbonation is a little low, but that leads to a smoother mouthfeel and a relatively easy drink for such a high ABV beer. It's a very complex beer, and some of that comes out even more as the beer warms. Excellent IPA, though perhaps not the best. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.75% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/29. Hops: Herkules, Centennial, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus (and maybe more). ?? IBU's

Brewdog Hardcore IPA

Brewdog Hardcore IPA - Pours a bit darker and maybe more amber than orange, it's still very similar. The nose is not quite as complex, but still quite solid, with a similar smell. Taste is not quite as sweet, and the bitterness is a little more front stage, but not by much. There's less complexity here, but it's still quite a good DIPA. It's perhaps suffering from the comparison to the Mikkeller beer, which is indeed quite similar. I'll give this a B+, but the difference between these two beers is perhaps less than the difference in ratings implies.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.2% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/29. Hops: Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe. 150 IBU's

Apparently there exists a collaboration beer between Mikkeller and Brewdog where they basically mix batches of the two above beers, and then do some extra dry hopping. It's called I Hardcore You and if I can find a bottle, I'd like to give it a shot!

I also have a few of Mikkeller's single hop beers, where they basically use the same IPA recipe, substituted different types of hops for each batch. This will be a very interesting experience. From single-hopped beers I've had in the past, I can say that the amount of difference between those beers can be quite astounding.

I had wanted to start this batch a little earlier, but compared to my first two attempts, this one is actually a lot simpler and should take less time to mature. It's a wheat beer (a Bavarian Hefeweizen to be exact), which is generally light and refreshing - a perfect beer for summer. Since I brewed this yesterday, it will take about a month for this to be ready to drink, which will be right around June, just in time for summer.

My last attempt was a Belgian style Tripel. It was a relatively ambitious attempt, but it came out reasonably well. I like it better than my first homebrew, though it's clearly not a perfect beer. Still, it was quite encouraging. This time around, I went with a kit from Northern Brewer and was surprised to learn how much simpler the Hefeweizen is to brew. No specialty grains and only one hop addition means that the time between each step is relatively long, letting me get some other stuff done while waiting to finish the boil (or whatever).

Brew #3 - Bavarian Hefeweizen
April 30, 2011

6 lb. Wheat LME
1 lb. Wheat DME
1 oz. Tettnang hops (bittering)
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Wheat Yeast

As you can tell from the relatively small recipe (compare that to the recipe for the tripel), there's not much to this one, and the process really was a lot simpler. This was, however, the first time I've ever used one of Wyeast's "Smack Packs", which come in a little packet containing yeast and a sealed nutrient packet. A few hours before you're ready to brew, you "smack" the nutrient packet, which gets the yeast started. It's a little weird, and I wasn't sure if I did it right at first, but after about a half hour or so, I could actually hear the yeast going, and about an hour later, the packet was starting to swell (which is how it's supposed to work). Comfortable that my yeast would be ready to pitch once I finished, I started the process proper.

Brought 2 gallons of tap water to a boil, after which I removed from heat and added the liquid and dry malt extracts (incidentally, I've heard that it's better to rehydrate the DME separately, though I've never done that - perhaps next time I use DME), stirring carefully. Put it back on the heat and returned it to a boil. Added the hops, stirring carefully to avoid any overflow, started my timer, then sat down with my book and read for about 50 minutes, stopping only once or twice to check on the boiling wort, stirring occasionally. I prepared my ice bath and started sanitizing the rest of the equipment. When the 60 minute mark was reached, I added the pot to my ice bath. This continues to be a bit of a challenge, but the temperature dropped quick enough. Once it was at about 100° F, I took it out of the bath and poured through a strainer into the fermenter. Topped off the fermenter with enough cold water to bring it down to about 68° F, which was just about perfect according to my yeast package. Pitched the yeast, sealed up the fermenter, and installed the airlock.

I was surprised that I could really smell the yeasty character while pitching, though it makes sense, given that the nutrient packet had already gotten the yeast started. Previous attempts were using dry yeast (which would have no odor) and a vial of White Labs yeast, which was more concentrated (though probably around the same volume as the Wyeast packet, it didn't have the whole nutrient pack to get things started). Temperature in my closet seems to be a pretty steady 70° F, which is about exactly what I was looking for. I just checked the fermenter, and the airlock is bubbling away happily.

Original Gravity: 1.048-1.050 (approximate). The recipe called for 1.049, so I'm almost dead on there. Strangely, the Northern Brewer site/directions make no mention of the expected Final Gravity (not that it really matters, fermentation ends when it ends).

Though the process was easier, I didn't really cut much time off of the session. It came in at around 2-2.5 hours, which isn't bad at all. The real advantage of the simple process was that there was enough unbroken periods of time that I could get other stuff done while waiting. The really time consuming part continues to be getting the pot to a boil. This is probably because I'm on a electric stove. Well, now that it's warmer out, I may be able to invest in some outdoor equipment, which might make things easier.

I'm already working on the recipe for my next beer, which will probably be a saison in the style of the excellent Saison Dupont, one of my favorite beers and another crisp and refreshing beer for summer. The recipe won't be an exact clone, as my understanding is that the Wyeast version of Dupont's yeast is infamously finicky with regard to temperatures (which is the part of the process I'm least able to control at this point). So unless global warming hits with a vengeance in late-May/early-June, I'll probably end up using the Wyeast 1214 Abbey Ale.

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

Where I Buy Beer

| No Comments

I've made some beer runs lately and thought this might be a good idea for a post. Pennsylvania is a really strange place to be a beer fan. Living in the Philly area (West Chester, PA, to be exact), there are certainly lots of great beer bars around (center city is a bit of a hike for me, but there are even some decent bars out here in the 'burbs) and a pretty amazing amount of actual local breweries (to name a few: Philadelphia Brewing Co, Yards, Victory, Weyerbacher, SlyFox, Iron Hill, among several others), but on the other hand, we have some really weird liquor laws. Liquor and wine are only sold at state stores and beer is mostly sold at separate distributors (and neither are generally sold at convenient locations like supermarkets, though there is an exception we'll get to). Up until recently, no alcohol at all was sold on Sundays. Furthermore, beer is generally only sold by the case, with one major exception: If you operate an eatery, you can sell loose bottles, six packs, etc...

As such, there are a few places that have been popping up in PA in recent years that have pretty great selections of loose bottles and make-your-own-sixpack deals, though I also often find myself in Delaware or even Maryland, trying to find that hard-to-get beer. Here's a quick list of where I frequently find myself buying beer:

  • Pinoccio's Beer Garden (Media, PA) - Probably the best combination of selection and convenience for me is this pizza joint. The food is pretty standard pizza place fare, but they've got a large selection both on tap and in coolers in back. It's a fantastic place, and probably my favorite PA bottle store (though there are a couple others that I need to check out).
  • Hockessin Liquors (Hockessin, DE) - Believe it or not, this is one of the first places I found that had a really great selection of 750 ml bottles and 22 oz bombers, and it's about half a mile from a family member's house, so whenever I go there, I make sure to stop by this store and marvel at the amazing beer selection and pick up as many bottles as I can.
  • State Line Liquors (Elkton, MD) - My most recent discovery, this place looks like a total dump from the outside, but it has the most amazing beer selection I've ever seen in one place (in particular, their selection of foreign beer is impressive). The majority of the beer from the below picture came from this place. I've only been here once, and it's a bit far, but it's not a horrible drive and I will most definitely be returning.
  • Total Wine (Claymont, DE) - This place is bigger than my usual supermarket. Unfortunately, most of that is dedicated to wine, but there's a nice, sizeable beer selection as well. It's probably not as extensive as some of the other places on this list, but it's a worthy location, and about 10 minutes from my parents' house, so it's still somewhat convenient.
  • Wegmans (Downingtown, PA) - Not too long ago, Wegmans started exploiting the whole eatery loophole for sale of single bottles. Their eatery is attached to their grocery store, so this place is doubly convenient (it's also right near a movie theater I frequent, which is nice). The selection varies, and you have to be a bit quick on the draw to get good seasonal stuff, but they've got a pretty good variety here, though not quite the religious experience some of the above places are...
  • Goshen Beverage (West Chester, PA) - This is the place closest to me, but it's also a beer distributer, so no loose bottles here. Still, if I want to get a case of something, this is where I go first, and they really do have a great selection.
  • The Beeryard (Wayne, PA) - This is also a beer distributer, but if I'm looking for a case of something and I can't find it at Goshen Beverage, this place will probably have it. Alas, I don't end up here very often.
  • Capone's Restaurant (Norristown, PA) - I've only been here once, but I get a very Pinocchio's vibe from this place. It's definitely a cool place, and I'd like to check it out again someday, but it's also a bit far. A friend in beer club often gets her beer here, so I certainly benefit from this place. I should probably give it more of a fair shake.
  • The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA) - It would be negligent to not mention this place, which is indeed quite awesome, but at the same time, both locations are in center city Philly, which is a bit of a hike (and when you add in traffic, parking, etc... , it can be a bit of a hassle and costly too). Still, if I lived in the city, I'd probably go here often.
Here's a quick picture of some recent purchases, mostly from State Line Liquors and Pinocchio's:


Recent Purchases
(Click for a larger version)

I'm pretty excited to try, well, all of these. And yes, per my friend Padraic's suggestion, I picked up two bottles of Ola Dubh, the 40 and 16 (which should be quite interesting). Not pictured are three of Mikkeller's single hop IPAs, which should be an interesting experience as well.

That about covers where I buy bottles (bars, brewpubs, and or breweries will have to be a separate post someday). Obviously I'm always on the lookout for new places, so I'll try to keep this post updated if I find anything new and interesting. Also, if you have any suggestions that would be convenient for this West Chester, PA native, feel free to leave a comment below!

Lost Abbey Avant Garde

| No Comments

Given my shameless love of Belgian-style beer, I'm surprised that this is the first Lost Abbey beer I've ever had. They're a West Coast brewery, but their stuff is still somewhat available out here, I've just never picked up anything from them. Until now! I didn't actually know much about the brewery, but I know I like the Bière de Garde style of beer (despite not having really drank many examples), so I picked this up. The style name basically means "beer worth keeping" and such beers were historically brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring for consumption in the summertime (i.e. they "kept" it until summertime because the yeast used for these beers didn't work well in the heat of summer). I find these to be very similar to saisons in a lot of ways (though, as always, the boundaries between styles are somewhat fuzzy).

Of course, the Lost Abbey claims that this beer demonstrates their commitment to "brewing beers to no particular style", but I don't really know who they're kidding with that. Styles are vague enough as it is, and this is pretty clearly a Bière de Garde.

Lost Abbey Avant Guarde

Lost Abbey Avant Garde - Pours a very pretty, hazy yellow/orange color with an ample head and some lacing as I drink. The head seemed to have larger than normal bubbles. Smells fruity and spicy, with that distinctive Belgian yeast coming through clearly. Taste is sweet and spicy with some fruity citrus notes to start, but a dry bitterness slowly establishes itself in the finish. Well carbonated and reasonably refreshing, it's an easy drink. Not particularly a world-beater, but a quality brew and a nice first impression for me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/9/11.

Again, a nice first impression of Lost Abbey for me. Looking forward to trying some more of their beers at some point, though I'm not really sure where to go next. Any recommendations?

Double Feature: Saisons

| No Comments

So I've had these two beers for a while and I've been saving them for this weekend. I mean, how many Easter-themed beers are really out there? Of course, I had to pick probably the two least appropriate movies to watch whilst drinking.

First up was James Gunn's comic book spoof Super, which is basically a continuation of the filmic deconstruction of superheroes started a few years ago. As such, it has a lot of semi-derivative elements, but it sticks to its guns (or I should say, Gunns!) and never flinches at its target. It's extremely graphic and violent, and some of it is played for laughs, but there's at least one unforgivable moment in the film. One thing I will say is that there's going to be a lot of teenage nerds falling in love with Ellen Page because of her enthusiastic performance in this movie. The critical reception seems mixed, but I think I enjoyed it more than most. I wouldn't call it one of the year's best, but it's worth watching for superhero fans who can stomach gore.

The second film in my double feature was Hobo with a Shotgun. If Super represents a bit of a depraved outlook on life, Hobo makes it look like the Muppets. A few years ago, when Grindhouse was coming out, there was a contest for folks to create fake grindhouse-style trailers, and one of the winners was this fantastically titled Hobo With a Shotgun. Unfortunately what works in the short form of a trailer doesn't really extend well to a full-length feature. There are some interesting things about the film. Rutger Hauer is great as the hobo (look for an awesome monologue about a bear), the atmosphere is genuinely retro, it actually feels like a grindhouse movie (as opposed to Tarantino and Rodriguez's efforts), and the armored villains known as the Plague are entertaining, if a bit out of place. Ultimately the film doesn't really earn its bullshit. Like last year's Machete (another film built off of the popularity of a "fake" trailer), I'm not convinced that this film really should have been made. Again, devotees to the weird and disgusting might enjoy this, but it's a hard film to recommend.

In terms of beer, I was drinking some saisons. As a style, they're known for being spicy, crisp and refreshing - Spring or Summer beers. You could say that such beer would be inappropriate given the movies I was watching, and that's true, but perhaps a nicer way to put it was that I was contrasting the refreshing beer style with the depravity on screen. Yeah. That's the ticket.

The Bruery Saison de Lente

The Bruery Saison De Lente - I've only had two Bruery beers before, but both have been damn near perfect in execution. As such, I had high hopes for this, their Spring seasonal saison brewed with Brettanomyces to give it a wild kick. Pours a clear golden color with ample head that subsides quickly, leaving lots of lacing. Smell is dominated by Belgian yeast and a little of that Brett character. Taste starts sweet, gets a bit of a wild and zesty feeling in the middle that makes itself more prominent in the finish, which is a little dry as well. That zestiness is probably the Brett shining through, and it became more powerful as I reached the end of the bottle. High carbonation and a mildly harsh mouthfeel, typical of saisons. I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's a refreshing change of pace and extremely well crafted. Just what I was looking for... and I'm greatly looking forward to exploring some more Bruery beers in the near future... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Victory Helios Ale

Victory Helios Ale - Helios was the Greek god of the sun - an appropriate name for a summer beer, eh? Another clear golden colored beer here, very little head in my pour. Smells very spicy, lots of pepper, with a hint of citrus and some typical Belgian yeast. Taste starts sweet, with some zingy bitterness coming out in the middle and finish (I wouldn't call it super hoppy, but it does have a distinctly bitter feel). The finish also has an interesting spicy character that lingers a bit. Mouthfeel is full of carbonation and a little harsh, about on par with the Bruery's effort. This one has a bit of that zestiness, but nowhere near as much as the Bruery beer. While it made a good first impression, I have to admit that I was less enamored with it as I reached the end of the bottle. The other thing I found a bit strange about this was that I'm pretty sure I had this on tap once, and that it had a much stronger lemony zest to it than I'm getting out of this bottle. It's been sitting in my fridge for a while, so perhaps its undergone some sort of change. I guess, then, I'll give it a provisional B-, but it's something I think i should revisit sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

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