Double Feature: Yet More IPAs

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So now that I'm totally over 2010 movies, I've started hitting up 2011. This past weekend, I saw Hall Pass, which had a lot of funny moments amidst a rather trite plot and some unnecessarily scatalogical humor. Among the raunchy-movies-with-a-heart genre, it was actually decent and worth a watch if that's your thing. Far more interesting, though, was the movie I had some beers whilst watching - Rubber. You probably haven't heard of this, but it's a really profoundly weird film. It's about a tire. A killer tire. Named Bob. The grand majority of the film is just watching a tire roll around on screen, occasionally stopping to make people's head explode (my assumption is that Bob the Tire doesn't like that we have enslaved his brethren for use on our cars, but that is only implied). There's a lot more to it than that, of course. Bob seems to have fallen in love. And there's an audience watching everything. And some cops trying to catch Bob. Yeah, so really weird. It's a short film and kinda artsy-fartsy, but I loved it. It's available now on a lot of Cable On-Demand services (I saw it on Comcast), and my understanding is that there will be a short theatrical release in early April.

As for the beers I drank whilst watching, it was another night of IPAs (this is the 4th IPA double feature - more than any other style):

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA: Yet another "Big Beer" from Weyerbacher's variety pack, this one actually has the best rating on Beer Advocate. The name of the beer is referring to the liberal use Simcoe hops during brewing. Simcoe has high levels of alpha acid, but it also has a very fruity aroma and taste component that makes the bitterness a little less aggressive than you may think (so says my homebrew book here, though I think Weyerbacher's beer also kinda confirms that). If I ever end up homebrewing an IPA, I might try getting my hands on some of these. Anyway, the beer pours a cloudy darkish brown color with about a finger of head that dissapates rapidly and doesn't leave much in the way of lacing. Smells delicious! Mostly fruity citrus hops and an almost candi-sweetness in the nose, with maybe a hint of earthiness or pine present. Very sweet start (maybe a little fruitiness), with a bitter hops kick later in the taste and the finish. Some sticky booziness comes into the aftertaste as well, but it's reasonably well balanced with the rest of the flavors (though I think you could also argue that this is perhaps a bit too strong). Mouthfeel is smooth, with just enough carbonation to offset the booziness (though again, you may be able to argue that it's not entirely successful in hiding the booze). All in all, quite an enjoyable beer and well worth a try for fans of the style. It's probably my favorite of Weyerbacher's offerings (that I've tried). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA: I've enjoyed Flying Dog's beers without ever being particularly impressed, but then, I've only ever really had their "normal" brews. This particular beer is one of their bigger beers, and it's also got a spot in the BA top 100. It pours a clear, light reddish brown (copper!) color with a couple fingers of head. Smells sweet, spicy and citrusy with a little bit of bready Belgian yeast and not much in the way of hops. The taste starts sweet with some spiciness in the middle and a crisp, bitter finish. There are roasted flavors in the taste as well, but not like a roasty stout. Is that pepper? It's a familiar taste, something I normally associate with beers like Hoegaarden and Chimay Red, but it's not as overpowering here as it is in the other beers - perhaps due to the strong hoppy bitterness. It's really quite complex, I keep discovering new flavors. As I drink more, the bitterness becomes more prominent, the peppery flavors start to emerge more and the finish becomes more dry. Mouthfeel is a bit harsher than the Weyerbacher, but still pretty good. A really well crafted and interesting beer, though I'm not sure I actually like it. It's amazingly complex, but I have to admit that it's not really my thing. It's something I'd like to try again sometime, and I can see why it's rated so highly, but something about the way it's spiced just isn't working for me. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Well that just about covers it. Look for some more double features soon, neither of which will be IPAs (I promise!)

St. Bernardus Abt 12

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I'm only a week behind at this point... This one is another from the St. Bernardus variety pack I got a while back:

St Bernardus Abt 12

St. Bernardus Abt 12: According to Beer Advocate, this is the 10th best beer in the world. So far, I've found such high praise to lead to disappointment, but I'm hoping this will be an exception to that rule. It's a Belgian Quadruple, which is a style I generally enjoy for its rich and complex flavors. This one pours a dark brown color, tons of head right from the start of the pour. Dark fruit, bready Belgian yeast, and some spiciness (cloves) in the nose. Surprisingly even taste. Sweet and a little spicy, all the way from start to finish. The alcohol is hidden fairly well behind the malt backbone and ample carbonation, but it's obviously there. This is an excellent beer, but something isn't quite hitting me right with this one. I'm a little disappointed. For a quad, I expect a bit more of a full body and complex taste. Then again, I've been drinking pale ales and bar food all night, so perhaps my palate is shot to shit right now. I'll give it a provisional B+ with a note that I really need to try this again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

I still have four beers left in the St. Bernardus pack, and I'm seeing a couple double features in my future...

Russian River Temptation

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Still catching up on some old tasting notes! One of the strength's and weaknesses of the whole craft beer thing is the emphasis on local breweries. In some ways, this is a very good thing (for the local economy, for the environment, etc...), but dammit, I want to try me some west coast beers from places like The Bruery and Russian River. It's rare to see their brews around here at all, but I've found a few places that regularly stock them, and have been snapping up whatever I could find from either of those breweries. A little while ago, I managed to get my hands on a couple Russian River beers and tried one of them right away.

Russian River Temptation

Russian River Temptation: Part of a series of beers by Russian River where they brew beers with Brettanomyces (a type of wild yeast that yields distinctive flavors and often matches up with sour flavors - to be honest, not something I'm tremendously familiar with), then age them in used wine barrels from local wineries. The beers are generally matched with complementary styles of wine to yield a complex flavor profile. Or something.

Temptation is a sour blond ale that is aged in French oak chardonnay barrels. It pours a clear golden color with a couple fingers of thick head that leaves ample lacing as I drink. Smells a little bready, earthy, and kinda tart, with some sweet citrus there as well... Tastes very sweet with a well balanced sour note in the finish. Some flavors are reminiscent of white wine and champagne, obviously a result of the barrel aging. There's some fruitiness coming through as well, perhaps sour apples and grapes. It's sour, but not overpowering like my last foray into the world of sours. This one is much more subtle in its flavors. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, making for an easy drink, though I like that this came in a 375 ml bottle and not something significantly bigger. A complex and well balanced beer, one of the more interesting things I've had lately. I will give it a tentative A-, and am looking forward to trying some others in the series.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.25% ABV bottled (375 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a tulip.

I've already got a bottle of Consecration in the fridge (I'm sure a review of that will be coming soon), and am kicking myself for not having picked up Supplication when I saw it a few months ago (with any luck, I will still be able to pick one up later).

Update: Ah, the glories of the internet. Since Russian River posts an absurd amount of details about the bottling of their beers, I'm able to tell you some more about my particular bottle. It was from batch 05x1F, brewed on 10/16/2009 and bottled on 7/6/2010. And I drank it on 2/12/11. Score.

Duvel

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So I'm catching up on a bunch of beers I've had recently. I usually jot down some notes whilst drinking, then polish them up later (and maybe throw in a movie review or write a screenplay or something), but I've been slacking on the polishing piece, so I've got about 5 more posts ready to go here. First up, one of the more common Belgian beers you'll find in the US:

Duvel

Duvel - My true gateway into the world of craft beers was Brewery Ommegang, which was sold to Duvel Moortgat in 2003. Back in the day, I got me a case of Duvel, expecting something... Ommegangy, but I remember being a bit disappointed. It was better than most of the swill I was used to, but it wasn't a revelation, like the Ommegang beers I'd had at the time. But that was a solid 6 or 7 years ago, so I figure it's worth giving them another shot.

It pours a light, clear yellow/gold color with a billowy head and lots of lacing as I drink. It's very aromatic and smells strongly of Belgian yeast, cloves, etc... Taste is very sweet with an unexpected tart finish. Hints of a lingering tart bitterness as well. Mouthfeel is a bit on the harsh side, lots of carbonation. It has a bit of a bite to it, no doubt due to the lemony tartness, but is otherwise not quite as complex as I was hoping for... It works well enough for one glass, but the entire 750ml bottle was a bit much for me and it was grating towards the end. It's a fine beer, certainly a step up from something like, say, Stella (and a mile up from typical macro junk), but I think my initial impression way back when was probably right on. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a tulip.

I didn't realize it, but I had another beer from Duvel Moortgat in my fridge (Maredsous 8, a dubbel), which I'll be reviewing sometime this week. I liked that one better than this, but it wasn't particularly mindblowing either.

Ben Franklin: Poon-Hound

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One of the two visitors to this blog today (a good day, traffic wise!) came from google; apparently a curious Gainesville, Florida resident wanted to know: "was benjamin franklin a poon hound?" As it turns out, my screenplay on General Washington's Tavern Porter (which featured Franklin as a character) comes up third on the list of google results for such a query. Score!

Of course, there isn't much substance to my claim of poon-houndery in that post, so I figured it might be worth expanding on Franklin's love of women. For instance, he had at least one illegitimate child, William, who Franklin blames on his tendency to consort with "low women." I have a biography of Franklin on my shelf, and a quick look at the index shows no less than 12 references throughout the book that concern Franklin's "flirtatious relationships" with women. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that anything illicit was going on, but where there's smoke, there's fire... Perhaps the several sections on his "sexual appetites" are more indicative of his love of poon.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression. Franklin's attitude towards women was somewhat enlightened for his time (somewhat... for his time). He seemed to truly enjoy the company of women, and while it is true that he spent a lot of time flirting with them, he also took them seriously, often discussing important issues of the day with them. Speaking of which, Franklin was obviously also an instrumental Founding Father of the nation, and, of course, he brewed beer too! (Gee, I wonder what this post will do to the search terms that lead here?)

Update: It seems I'm not the only one having fun with our Founding Fathers and the beers they make/drink. This post is brilliant and funny, and features Franklin, Adams, Kennedy and Lincoln. Certainly more substantive and accurate than my original screenplay...

Febrewary Beer Club

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I'm a little behind on posting stuff here, so bear with me as I play catchup this week. At the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This particular meeting was a long time coming, as weather and a hectic holiday schedule conspired to delay this session multiple times. We went to a different BYOB this month... it's a legitimate restaurant, and thus the mood lighting wasn't quite conducive to picture taking, but here's what we brought (you can click for a larger version):

Febrewary Beer Club

The theme this month was beers with a picture of an animal on the label, though there were a couple of non-qualifying beers. Conditions weren't ideal, so no grades here, but I've included some thoughts on each beer:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière - My contribution to the theme went over pretty well, though it would probably make a better summer beer than a winter one. Still, it was quite refreshing, light colored ale with a little citrus. Again, would make a great summer beer.
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend - Technically, it's "beer and wine" club, but I don't really have a clue when it comes to wine. Still, this one was pretty good. Sweeter and less dry than I'm used to from a red wine, but whatever... Also, hard to see in the image, but the Ravenswood logo is awesome.
  • Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout - I'd call this one an above average stout, a little more on the oatmeal side of things, and a good counterpoint to the other stouts people brought. I didn't have enough to make a good judgement though, so it's something I want to revisit at some point...
  • Terrapin Hop Karma IPA - The first in a hoppy trio of beers from Terrapin, this one was interesting, but ultimately didn't blow me away. Again, didn't have a lot of this, so I should probably reserve judgement. Cool label though.
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale - Seemed like a pretty standard, but well executed, Americal Pale Ale. Another cool label.
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner: Pretty standared IPA territory here, though I love the label on this one. Little guy looks like a TMNT.
  • Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - I'm going to review this one in detail at some point in the near future, so I'll leave it at that. I'll just say that it seems like a pretty good European style barleywine.
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I've already written about these before. Coffee drinkers seemed to like the Founders one better than me, though I don't think anyone thought it was as good as BA says...
  • River Horse Tripel Horse - I was looking forward to this, as River Horse is one of the few semi-local breweries I'm not that familiar with, and the Tripel is one of my favorite styles. However, I found it quite disappointing. I didn't have a lot of it, but it didn't seem much like a Tripel at all, and it had this strange kick to it that I'm having trouble remembering.
  • Wintertraum Christkindles Gluhwein - Another wine. Sorta. Not sure how this is classified, but it was super-sweet tasting reddish wine. Not bad for what it is, I guess, but not really my thing either.
Another successful beer club! Like I said, not exactly ideal conditions for formal reviews, but a great time. The restaurant we went to was pretty good too. Not the best sushi in the area, but a welcome addition that didn't break that bank. As usual, I'm looking forward to next month!
I learned a lot during the course of my first homebrew attempt a few months ago, and after the hectic holiday season and beginning of the year, I resolved to put my learnings into practice this weekend. My first homebrew was a straightforward English Brown Ale. I don't think there was anything wrong with the beer, and it's certainly drinkable, but it's also a bit too simple and the taste ends up a bit thin. Again, not bad, but not very complex or interesting either. But then, that was kinda the plan. It was my first beer, so I wasn't expecting much out of it.

But I wanted to try something a little more ambitious for my second attempt and after browsing the recipes at High Gravity, I settled on a Belgian Style Tripel - one modeled after the Trappist Westmalle Tripel (one of my favorite beers).

Brew #2 - Belgian Style Tripel
February 13, 2011

10.5 lb. Montons Light LME
2 lb. Weyermann Pilsner Malt (grains)
4 oz. Melanoidin (grains)
1 lb. Belgian Light Candi Sugar
1.5 oz. Styrian Goldings pellet hops (bittering)
0.25 oz. Hallertau Herbrucker hops (flavor)
0.25 oz. Tettnanger German hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Czech Saaz pellet hops (Finishing)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast WLP500

Steeped Weyermann Pilsner Malt and Melanoidin in about 2.5 gallons filtered tap water at around 150°F for 20 minutes. Unlike last time, I started this batch with warm water, which saved a bunch of time in getting to 150°F (also, I wasn't afraid to crank the stovetop to it's highest setting). Removed grain bag slowly, letting letting whatever water was left in there drain out. Per instructions, I added a little more water, removed from heat, and added about half of the Light LME and all of the candi sugar. I stirred vigorously, as I was afraid the candi sugar would stick to the bottom. After a few minutes, all appeared well, at which point I threw it back on high heat, eventually bringing to a boil (in the future, I need to figure out a better way to do this - my stovetop is clearly not up to the challenge - it took around 45 minutes to bring the mixture to a boil). The ingredient kit I bought came with another muslin bag (i.e. a thin netting) for hops, so I put the hops in the bag, then put the bag in the boiling wort. Kept at a small rolling boil for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the hops didn't just float to one side of the pot. Added flavoring hops. Directions say to add to existing hop bag, but I just threw them in directly, along with the Irish Moss. 10 minutes of that, and I added the remaining LME. I also threw in the finishing hops, and removed from heat. A few minutes later, I removed the hop bag and placed pot in my sink (which was filled with some cold water and some ice) to quickly cool. I was a little more prepared with ice this time, but cooling the wort continues to be a bit of an issue. Got the wort down to manageable temperature and poured it into my fermentation bucket (attempting to remove sediment with a controlled pour through a sanitized strainer). Added some extra water to the bucket to bring up the 5 gallon mark, pouring from high up to aerate the wort. Stirred things around some more, again attempting to aerate the wort, and took an original gravity reading. For such a high OG, I probably should have done a yeast starter, but I didn't have any extra DME laying around, so I figured I could just use the yeast as packaged. The packaging says the yeast is best before April 15, 2011, so I'm definitely ok there, though I'm not sure when the yeast was packaged in the first place. Pitched yeast, stirred a bit, threw the cap on, and installed the airlock. Done!

Original Gravity: 1.085 (approximate). This is a little less than what the recipe says (1.088), but I also have a hard time reading the hydrometer, so I'm guessing it's good enough for the start.

Well, it looks like I cut off about 30-60 minutes from the process - it only took about 2.5-3 hours this time. Plus, I was a little more comfortable walking away from the stove and doing other stuff while (for example) the boil started, so it wasn't quite as draining of an experience. The only thing I'm worried about now is keeping the temperature of the fermenting wort at around 70°F (this is apparently the temperature at which the yeast works best). My house tends to be in the mid 60°s F during the winter though, so maybe I'll need to break out the space heater and make sure my closet is at a better temperature or something.

I'm already planning out my next batch, which If I start a couple weeks after I bottle this batch, should put me in a good timeframe to consider a summer brew. Perhaps a Saison or a wheat beer....

Update 3/6/11: Bottled!

(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

Adventures in Brewing - Part 3: The Tasting

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This is actually quite long overdue. I've already drank (or given away) more than a full case of my first attempt at homebrewing: an English Brown Ale. The general consensus is that it's pretty good! Or it's at least good enough that my friends don't feel the need to insult me. As for my own feelings, I think it was a fine first attempt, but I almost wish I had started with something a little more ambitious. Still, there's something really satisfying about enjoying the fruits of your own labor. I mean, I turned water into beer! How awesome is that? Here it is:

Homebrew #1

It's hard to tell from the picture, but it pours a nice dark brown color, with some shades of amber, especially when you hold it up to the light. Solid sized head, but only minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic. It's got a really sweet and bready smell. Taste starts off well enough. A little sweetness up front and the finish is actually rather dry. Unfortunately, it tastes a little thin to me. This is fine at the start of the glass (I think it makes a good first impression), but it's not as satisfying as you near the end. There's definitely no complexity at all in the taste... but then, there don't appear to be any off flavors either. Also, I was brewing from a rather ordinary kit recipe that wasn't really attempting any complexity, so there's that. All in all, I think it's probably a step up from the typical macro light lager, but it's not going to light the world on fire either. I'll give it a C+, which I think is probably fair.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I'm pretty happy with my first attempt here, but it's clear that there's a lot of room for improvement. I learned a lot in my first attempt though, and I'm confident that my next beer will at least be more interesting, if not exactly perfect...

Brooklyn Local 1

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I'm still making my way through 2010 movie releases, hoping to find a final gem in the rough so that I can complete a top 10, and the process is, of course, made much more fun by the imbibing of good beer! I recently caught up with The Last Exorcism and was quite pleasantly surprised. It's not really a top 10 kinda movie, but it's a lot better than the marketing for the film would have you believe. I don't really want to ruin anything, but it takes the form of a mock documentary with an effective setup and conflict, though I think the resolution isn't as satisfying as it wants to be. Still, well worth checking out for fans of horror (it's certainly better than most recent exorcism-themed film). Perhaps it helped that I was drinking some great beer whilst watching:

Brooklyn Local 1

Brooklyn Local 1 - Pours a light, cloudy yellow/orange color with a big head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic - bready belgian yeast, some candi-sweetness, and lots of citrus in the nose. Sweet and spicy with a bit of a kick in the middle and a nice dry finish. A little bitterness lingers... Mouthfeel is strongly carbonated and a bit harsh, but in a good way. A lot of this reminds me of a good Belgian tripel style beer, though BA classifies it as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I suppose there's a good reason for the classification that has to do with ingredients and brewing methods, but in terms of tasting this is certainly more like a tripel than the last two tripels I've had (Incubus and Weyerbacher Merry Monks (not reviewed yet)). All of which is to say, this is a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a tulip glass.

I guess this means I should try Local 2 (apparently a strong dark ale), eh?

Double Feature: Stouts

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This weekend's double feature was a pair of Australian crime flicks: Animal Kingdom and Red Hill. Both are good and well worth a watch, though for different reasons. Animal Kingdom is a better made film, perhaps more realistic, though also a bit too deliberate in its pacing. Excellent performance by Jacki Weaver as the Matriarch of a family of bank robbers (who happen to be in a feud with overzealous coppers). Also notable for featuring a teenager that actually acts like a teenager (i.e. he's generally an idiot) and not a precocious mastermind who outsmarts everyone. Again, good movie, maybe moving a bit too slow. Also covers some unpleasant subject matter. Red Hill, by comparison, moves quicker and features quite the badass villain (would have certainly given the other nominees a run for their money in my movie awards). The only recognizable star in the movie is Ryan Kwanten, who you might recognize from True Blood. He's not as moronic in this role as a cop who moves out to a small town, only to find it under siege from an escaped prisoner. Things proceed in a somewhat cliched manner, but again, well worth a watch.

On the beer side of things, I threw back a few stouts, starting with one I've been meaning to drink for a while:

Samuel Smith Oatmal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a medium beige head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. It doesn't appear to be as thick as some of the other stouts I've been having recently. Smells bready and roasty. That roastiness comes out in the taste as well. It's got a smooth, medium body with just the right amount of carbonation. It's perhaps not as complex as some of the other stuff I've been having lately, but it's very well balanced and something you could drink all night. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (550 ml). Drank out of a pint glass.

From there, I kicked things up a notch with one of Weyerbacher's "big" beers:

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout - It's perhaps a bit unfair to compare a standard style with an imperial style beer, but this is what I had in my fridge. It also pours an opaque black color with a bit of a darker head than the Sam Smith. Lacing too, but not as much. The nose is full of roastiness, as is the taste. There's more of a chocolateyness to the taste, both in terms of sweetness and bitterness. As expected, it's a bit more intense than the Sam Smith, and it's got a fuller body and heavier feel (even the appearance of the pour makes this beer look thicker). More intense and more complex, but perhaps not quite as well balanced. A well crafted beer nonetheless and well worth a try, even for stout amateurs like me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the stout style. I've never really been a big fan, but I'm starting to see why everyone seems to like them so much, even if it's still not my favorite style. I've got several more sitting on my shelf or in my fridge, so expect some more reviews soon.

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