Dubbel Feature

See what I did there? Sorry, I can’t resist beer puns. The numeric Trappist beer style conventions are a bit odd as there really isn’t much consistency between them or a real, objective measure. In general a dubbel is stronger than your average beer, and a tripel is stronger than a dubbel, and a quadrupel is stronger than a tripel. But then, it’s easy to find examples of each that are stronger or lighter than expected. In any case, the dubbel is a really interesting style. It’s very strong, but not too strong. It’s usually a dark color beer, but it doesn’t usually feature the roasty flavors of stouts and porters. As such, it makes an excellent gateway beer for folks who don’t think they like “dark” beers. I’ve been making my way through a variety pack of St. Bernardus beers, and of course, there are two different dubbel style beers to be had. St. Bernardus isn’t technically a “Trappist” brewery since the beer isn’t brewed within the walls of their Trappist Monastery, but in general, their beers are every bit as good. So here are their two dubbels:

St. Bernardus Pater 6

St. Bernardus Pater 6 – The word “Pater” is latin for “father”, which seems rather appropriate (if not especially descriptive) for a beer directed by Trappist monks. It pours a dark red/brown color with a big head featuring lots of bigger bubbles and some lacing as I drink. Smells of dark fruit and bready Belgian yeast, with some spiciness and maybe even pepper as well. Taste is fruity, sweet, and spicy. Very well balanced and surprisingly easy to drink (perhaps due to the relatively low ABV). Lots of carbonation and a medium/full body. As dubbels go, this is a bit light, but still fantastic. Perhaps the Belgian version of a session beer! Of course, at 6.7% ABV, that’s way too high, but still manageable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

St. Bernardus Prior 8

St. Bernardus Prior 8 – A “Prior” is also a term meaning “father”, but it is generally considered to be just a step below Abbot in the hierarchy (which makes sense, considering that the next beer up in St. Bernardus’ lineup is the Abt 12, a Quadrupel that I actually didn’t like as much as either of the two beers in this post). Pours a deeper, darker brown color, with only a hint of red. Again, big head with lots of bubbles and some lacing as I drink. Smell is similar, but with a hint of additional caramel. Taste is also on the similar side, but this is more complex and intense. That being said, it’s still quite drinkable. Well balanced, lots of carbonation, maybe a bit of a fuller body. As it warms, the carbonation settles down a bit, making for a smoother, boozier feel. Definitely one of my favorite dubbels, though not quite at the very top of the list. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

Well, what do you know? It turns out that these are technically the first dubbel-style beers I’ve reviewed on this blog. More are certainly coming! I’ve also got two St. Bernardus beers left from my variety pack, both tripels, so look for another double feature post soon.

Russian River Temptation

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.

Brooklyn Local 1

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: Animated Stouts

Does TRON: Legacy count as an animated film? There is certainly a ton of animation in the film. Even some of the supposedly “human” characters are animated (notably the pre-disappearance Flynn and CLU), albeit sometimes poorly (you can see that uncanny valley effect quite clearly on a couple of occasions). Well anyway, I went in with very low expectations that were thus met. It was entertaining and pretty to look at, and the music was awesome, which is about all I could ask of it. This iRi post gets at one of the things I really like about TRON (the way the grid seems so alien), but I have to say that the effects described in that post are probably less pronounced in the sequel (in particular, I was disappointed by the light-bikes). The other film of my double-feature (and the only one I was actually drinking during) was Despicable Me, which had a few really funny moments (and I love the minions), but which is ultimately nothing too special. As kids animation goes, it’s no Pixar, but it’s probably a step above average.

I’ve never really been a fan of Stouts and when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to do was better familiarize myself with the style. I took a bit of a detour into Belgian Strong Darks during the holidays, so I have a bunch of Stouts that I’ve been buying that have been sitting in my fridge or on my shelf waiting. They’re certainly good winter beers, though I wouldn’t recommend drinking a stout while watching an animated kids movie. Kinda weird, actually, but that’s what I did:

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Pours an opaque black color with a small, relatively light colored head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells a bit on the roasty side with some nice maltiness coming through, maybe even some caramel. There’s only a very light roastiness in the taste though, which is instead dominated by rich chocolaty flavors, some of that caramel, and a solid malty sweetness. There’s some bitterness there too, but it’s dry, like dark chocolate. Indeed, this is almost like drinking a good dark chocolate. It’s a full bodied brew with surprisingly good carbonation given the small head and high alcohol, which makes one heck of a smooth, drinkable beer (a bit dangerous when it comes in at 10% alcohol!) I get the feeling that lesser breweries would totally screw something like this up. All of the complex elements here are very well balanced. As I said, I’m not much of a stout drinker, but this one is probably the best I’ve ever had. I don’t think that will last, but it’s still an impressive effort from Brooklyn (and my new favorite beer from that brewery). A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout – Before I get into this one, a disclaimer: I don’t drink coffee. I wouldn’t say that I hate coffee, but I don’t particularly like it either. So while this beer is currently ranked on BA as the 7th best beer on the planet, I am not likely to enjoy it quite so much. So if one of my three readers happens to be a beer nerd, be forewarned, I’m gonna rate this one relatively low. Like the Brooklyn, it pours an opaque black color, with a bigger, darker colored but still light brown head. Some lacing apparent, but not as much as the Brooklyn. Smells much more roasty with some coffee thrown in for good measure. Now, I do usually like the smell of coffee, but this beer isn’t really doing much for me on that front, which I find odd. The taste is also dominated by roasty coffee flavors. There’s some malt sweetness there too, maybe chocolate, but it’s overpowered by the coffee. There’s a complexity in the taste, but I just can’t get past the coffee. As far as mouthfeel goes, it’s got good carbonation and a nice full body. A little less smooth than the Brooklyn stout, but still quite drinkable (assuming you like coffee). Really, this just ain’t my style of beer. I’m glad I tried it and it’s certainly not a poorly crafted beer, I just don’t like coffee… If you do, you’ll probably love it. B-

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

So there you have it. I loved one and didn’t care for the other. I’m looking forward to some of the other stouts I have waiting in the wings though, including one from Stone and, given my taste it should not be surprising that I have some Belgian-style darks that are kinda pretending to be stouts, like Allagash Black and Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (which says it’s a stout on the bottle, but is classified as a Belgian Dark on BA).

La Trappe Quadrupel

Trappist monks know how to live. At least, the ones that brew beer do. Of course, there are only 7 Trappist breweries (there are many other abbeys that put their name on beers brewed externally, but the Trappists are strict – their beer is brewed on the premises and lead by monks), but their beers are among the best in the world. So these guys spend all their time brewing and drinking world-class beer. On the other hand, I wonder if they ever drink beer from other breweries? Or do they only drink their own? Interestingly, most Trappist breweries have their own internal “House” beer that isn’t normally released publicly (and is usually toned down in terms of alcohol), so I get the impression that they don’t really seek out the novelty of other beers. Well, I’m certainly not bound by any restrictions, so I’ve had beers from 4 of the 7 Trappist breweries. They’re all fantastic, without exception (ironically, my least favorite might be the most popular – the Chimay Red – but then, even the worst Trappist beer is wonderful), so when I saw a bottle of the La Trappe Quadrupel at the store, I figured it was time to up that to 5 out of 7. I should be able to find some Achel around somewhere, but the real challenge will be Westvleteren, which is only officially sold at the brewery itself (i.e. in Belgium). Westvleteren 12 is currently the top rated beer in the world according to both Beer Advocate and Rate Beer, though I have to wonder if the hoops you have to go through to get your hands on the bottle have anything to do with the high ratings. But I digress.

La Trappe is interesting in that they’re the only non-Belgian Trappist brewery in the world. The brewery is offically called Koningshoeven and is located in the Netherlands, and along with Chimay, their beers seem to be among the most widely available of the Trappists. The particular beer I picked up is a Quadrupel. The numeric Belgian beer system is mildly mystifying in that there doesn’t seem to be any real rules for what constitutes a Dubbel, a Tripel, or a Quadrupel, except that in terms of alcohol content, each style tends to be stronger than the next (though it’s not an exact multiplier – Dubbels tend to be around 8%, Tripels 9% and Quads 10-11+%, with lots of variation inbetween). Interestingly while Dubbels and Quads tend to be dark styles, the Tripel is light colored. I’ve had a few Quads before, starting with (of course) Ommegang’s excellent Three Philosophers (I haven’t reviewed this yet, but I have one waiting in the wings) several years ago. In the past year, I’ve tried a few others (including another Trappist Quad, the Rochefort 10) and I even have a few waiting in my fridge (including St. Bernardus Abt 12, which I’m also greatly looking forward to). For now, we’ll have to settle for this one though (and quite frankly, don’t expect any double features with Quadrupels, though I suppose the subsequent shenanigans could be amusing to you, if not particularly enjoyable for me).

La Trappe Quadrupel

La Trappe Quadrupel – Pours a gorgeous cloudy orange/brown color with a sizable head. Smells fantastic. It has a spicy belgian yeast character with some sweet, dark fruits and maltiness apparent. Taste is very malty and sweet with some dark fruits and spiciness present. A relatively clean finish. The booziness comes out a bit more as it warms up, but the sweetness seems to hide it well. It’s got plenty of carbonation and maybe a bit of a harsh mouthfeel, but that’s just about right for this beer. It’s not quite as full as other Quads I’ve had, but on the other hand, it’s exceptionally good! I had no problem putting down a 750 ml bottle, though I was obviously a bit tipsy by the end. Still, with beers like this, it’s not hard to see why Trappists have a great reputation for beer brewing. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a Goblet.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an Achel beer in any of the stores I frequent, but I’m going to keep my eye out. Westvleteren will be more of a challenge. But I will eventually try both, thus completing my sampling of Trappist brews. Oh yes.

Double Feature: Hoppyness is Happiness

I’m still catching up on 2010 movies, and this weekend’s double feature was the relatively interesting duo of Valhalla Rising and Triangle. Now, I have no idea what Valhalla Rising is supposed to be about, but it’s a beautiful, if surprisingly violent film featuring a one-eyed, mute Mads Mikkelsen. I’m not sure what to make of Nicolas Winding Refn, but the dude knows how to photograph stuff and and is always interesting, if perhaps a bit too artsy-fartsy (then again, this is a movie where someone armed only with an old arrowhead kills 5 people, in one case using the weapon to graphically disembowel an enemy that’s tied up – hardly the usual artsy-fartsy style). Triangle is more conventionally filmed, but in the end, it’s also pretty damn messed up. I will leave it at that for now, though I will say that fans of Nacho Vigalondo’s (second best director name ever) Timecrimes would probably enjoy this movie (it’s not quite a time-travel story, but there’s a sorta recursion going on that will be familiar to time-travel fans). I’m on the fence as to whether Triangle will make the top 10 (i.e. it might be nice to have a film on my top 10 that’s a little more obscure than the usual suspects), but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Speaking of enjoyment, I took the opportunity to check out two recent IPA purchases. Interestingly, this marks the third occasion that I’ve done an IPA double feature, which is interesting. I seem to like IPAs better when drinking different varieties together. Go figure.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Dogfish Head Burton Baton: There’s always a story behind the Dognfish Head beers, and this one is no exception, though the story isn’t on their website (at least, not in the obvious place for it). I had to resort to an interview with Sam Calagione to find the origins of this beer. It’s an homage to an old IPA beer brewed in the 1950s and 1960s by an east coast brewery called Ballantine which was called Burton Ale, itself a tribute to the English town of Burton (apparently a big brewing town – home of Bass ale, among others). The original Burton ale was a blend of different batches that was aged in wood for complexity, and thus so is Dogfish Head’s beer. The “baton” part of it’s name is not directly explained, but then, it probably doesn’t need to be – there are several meanings that fit here, so I’ll leave it at that.

It pours a nice amber orange color with about a finger of head and some lacing as I drank. Smells fantastic. Clean and crisp, with some floral hops, maybe some pine, and a little bit of citrus. Taste starts of smooth and sweet, followed by a bite in the bready middle as the bitter hops and alcohol hit, and the finish is surprisingly sweet and sticky. There is some booziness here, which is to be expected from such a high ABV beer, but it’s not overpowering or cloying. The sticky finish makes this a good sipping beer, something you need to let linger a bit. Interestingly, some of that hoppy bitterness returns. As it warms, things seem to mellow a bit, which makes it even more drinkable. It reminds me a bit of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, but it’s a little looser and wilder than that (exceptional) beer. I’m rating it slightly lower than the 90 Minute, but perhaps another double feature is in order to really determine the winner… In any case, it’s another excellent brew from Dogfish Head. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Palate cleansed with some Buffalo wings. Yeah, I know, not exactly great for the palate, but wings and IPAs go together well.

Victory Hop Wallop

Victory Hop Wallop: Interestingly, the label on this one also features a story about the legend of Horace “hop” Wallop.

Horace ‘Hop’ Wallop headed west a broken man. For in the city of Blues a Miss LuLu Bell Lager had left him thirsting for more. Drawn by wild tales of riches to be had in the gold mines, Hop pressed on westward. His last nickel spent on a prospecting pan, Hop’s hunger got the best of him. Two fistfuls of barely and three of some wild and wayward hops tossed in a pan with some clear water was to be his meal. But sleep overcame him and he later awoke to a bubbling cacophonous concoction. Overjoyed with the beautiful ale he had made, Hop realized the secret of the green gold he had discovered in those fresh hops. Celebrated far and wide, Hop Wallop lives on this vivid ale with his words, “Hoppyness is Happiness”. Enjoy!

I have no idea if there really was a gold-prospector named Horace Wallop, nor do I know if he accidentally made some IPA wort with his prospecting pan (nor if he looks like the cartoon on the typically well designed label), but it’s a wonderful story nonetheless. It pours a lighter, hazy yellow/gold color. Not a lot of head on it. Smells very different. Some sweet malty smells with the floral hops almost buried, but a lot of citrus coming through (I initially got the impression of oranges). Very smooth mouthfeel, with a much smaller bite and a dry, bitter finish. Not as much carbonation as the Burton Baton, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad. A very different taste, maybe a bit less complex, but still very good. There’s something distinctive about it that I can’t quite place, but it’s enjoyable. Graprefruit, maybe? There is a tartness to it, and when combined with the citrus, I guess that does mean Grapefruit. (Looking at BA, it seems that my Grapefruit hypothesis is probably correct and is probably what I was smelling as well). It’s a really fantastic beer. Very different from the Burton Baton, but I think I enjoyed it just as much. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Another week, another IPA double feature. I expect another one soon as Nugget Nectar and some other hoppy seasonals hit the shelves.

Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont

Last week, I mentioned that I had lucked into a New Years themed beer, and this is the one. The name Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont translates to “With the best wishes of the Dupont Brewery” and was originally brewed in very small batches and given to select clients as a New Years gift. It has since become a regular Winter seasonal for Dupont, but it’s apparently still somewhat rare to find. Lucky for me, Wegmans (of all places) had a few of these available, and while I recognized the brewery, I didn’t realize at the time that it was somewhat rare – once I realized what it was, they were sold out.

This brewery is known mostly for Saison Dupont and this New Years brew is along similar lines, only stronger. The saison style of beer isn’t exactly winteriffic, but then, I suppose there’s a champagne-like quality to the beer that makes it appropriate for New Years (that might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s nowhere near the stretch of, say, Sierra Nevada Celebration).

Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont

For what it’s worth, the label has a big roman numeral “III” on it, but I don’t know what that means. I thought maybe it was a batch number or something, but apparently lots of people have seen that in years past, so either this is an old bottle (doubtful) or it signifies something else. Also, the cork had “2.010” on it, which I take to mean it was brewed in 2010. Anyway, it pours a light, yellowish brown, almost orange color, with a few fingers of light, fluffy head and plenty of lacing as I drink. An unfiltered beer, it’s very hazy, with lots of sediment and visible carbonation. The smell is musty and sweet, with some citrus and Belgian yeasty spiciness apparent. Taste is spicy (pepper and clove) and quite sweet, with a tiny bit of a dry, tart finish. The carbonation and spiciness lends an almost harsh mouthfeel, but I like that sort of thing. I was surprised to see how high the ABV was on this… there’s no real booziness apparent in the nose or taste – it’s quite well hidden by the powerful flavor profile. Actually, it gets smoother and almost velvety as it warms up, which is probably the alcohol’s doing and the chief difference between the traditional Saison Dupoint and this one. Saison Dupoint is one of my favorites and this is essentially a stronger version of that, so it gets the same grade. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

Affligem Noël

After the Christmas festivities, I just wanted to site down and relax with some good beer, so I popped open one of my favorites of the season:

Affligem Noel

Affligem Noël: It’s strange, I don’t see much about Affligem in the beer nerd community. Perhaps because they have a relatively steady lineup of 4 beers (including Noël, the one seasonal on their roster). That being said, according to the bottle, this Abbey has been brewing beers according to a recipe orginating in 1074, and damn, everything they make is great, including the Noël. It’s gorgeous color, a deep orange/brown with a finger of light-colored head. Smell is crisp and clear, a little yeasty and maybe some fruit. Taste starts sweet with some dark fruit flavors, then you get some spiciness and a crisp, but not very bitter finish. It’s a wonderful and well balanced beer. The carbonation is a bit high, but given the relatively high ABV, that actually makes it more drinkable. This carbonation subsides a bit as it warms, at which point it begins to take on a more boozy flavor, but nothing overwhelming or bad. It’s a little more different than Affligem’s standard Dubbel (one of my favorites) than I was expecting, but it’s a fantastic beer and among the best of the winter seasonals I’ve had this year. A

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

I believe this marks the end of this year’s formally holiday beer, though I do have a few stouts and other wintry seasonals waiting in the wings.

Double Feature: Christmas Ales (Again)

Last Saturday’s double feature was the unlikely pairing of The Kids Are All Right (a family drama featuring two moms, their half-sibling children, and the sperm donor father!) and Silent Night, Bloody Night (an escaped serial killer dredges up a past tragedy on Christmas Eve). Sometimes when I have a disparate pair of films like this, I’ll find some unexpected similarities, but that’s not really the case here, except perhaps that I think both films are a bit overrated (though both are still good, in their own way).

On the beer side of things, I’m still working my way through recent holiday purchases:

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – First things firs, I love the label on this. It’s hysterical. It looks like a bad photoshop of the trademark St. Bernardus monk with a Santa hat and some snow. Fortunately, the contents of the bottle are much better than the label. Pours a dark, hazy brown, with a big head. Smell is yeasty with some dark fruits coming through. Mouthfeel is full of carbonation, with lots of dark frutiy flavors. The finish is almost like caramel. Surprisingly drinkable for a 10% ABV beer, I had no problem downing a 750 ml of this… It’s a really fantastic beer, one of the best I’ve had this season. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

I was quite pleased with the St. Bernardus, but it set a high bar… apparently, too high for my next beer:

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

Corsendonk Christmas Ale – I picked up a 4 pack of this a while ago and I had a couple before last Saturday, but damn, drinking this back-to-back with the St. Bernardus was a bad idea, as St. Bernardus is clearly the superior beer. This isn’t to say that this one is bad, per say, but it simply cannot hold a candle to the St. Bernardus (nor, I suspect, to my other favorite holiday beers). Pours a dark, clear brown color, with a big head. Smells fantastic, citrusy, spicy, and yeasty. It’s a little lighter than the St. Bernardus, and a bit less flavorful. Lots of carbonation, with a lighter, fruity sweetness and a spicy kick at the end, maybe some coriander. The finish is crisp. It’s a decent beer, but not at the top of the holiday seasonals. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

A good night! Still have a few more holiday beers to get through, look for them soon…

Blood Into Beer: Three French Hens

I’ve been catching up with 2010 movies lately, and one that I’ve been looking forward to was Blood Into Wine, a documentary about Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s winery in Arizona. As a film, it tends to focus more on the personalities involved and their motivations rather than what they produce (though there’s some of that as well). This makes a certain sort of sense, as there’s something fascinating about an already mysterious rock star putting his music career on hold while he jaunts off to make wine.

It’s a very slickly produced film, and it looks fantastic. Some of the sequences are obviously staged (including one embarrassingly stupid scene in a bathroom), but they don’t pretend not to be and it does indicate something about the quirky personalities covered by the film. Keenan has always been a bit impenetrable, so the mixture of fact and fiction makes a certain sense. Arizona is clearly not a haven for wine-producers, and the winery shown in the film is absolutely tiny – kinda like a micro-winery. It’s still a young business, but early indications seem promising. It seems for a moment that the film is gearing up towards a Beer Wars-style (or maybe King of Kong-style) underdog versus monolithic corporation confrontation, but it doesn’t really go that way. The wine world certainly seems competitive, and there are big entities there, but it hasn’t quite reached the epic alcoholic-drink-as-commodity levels that the beer world deals with. As such, all we get are a few other wineries and wine critics who opine on the oddity of an Arizona winery. There are a number of other celebrities that make appearances, such as a hilarious, recurring Tim and Eric interview, Milla Jovovich (Keenan’s coconspirator in music with Puscifer) and Patton Oswalt. In the end, it’s quite entertaining. I don’t particularly love wine though, so I substituted beer for wine whilst watching:

The Bruery - 3 French Hens

The Bruery 3 French Hens: The Bruery is only a few years old at this point, but it’s gained quite a reputation in that time, and from what I’ve seen/tasted, it’s very deserving of all the attention it gets. This beer is the third in a planned 12 year series of beers based on the 12 Days (or should we say Years) of Christmas. You have to respect that sort of audacity, though as I understand it, there’s some controversy about the first couple of years of this (in particular, Partridge in a Pear Tree) being hard to find and thus fetching quite a price on eBay and the like. Regardless, when I saw a bottle of this at the local beer garden, I had to pick it up… It pours a very dark brown, almost black, color. You can only really see it when you hold it up to a light, but when you do, you can see through it (just barely). The head is well proportioned and surprisingly light colored. It also smells a bit lighter than it looks, which I have no problem with, as it smells great. The taste is sweet, a little fruity, and spicy (maybe a little clove), with a bit of a syrupy middle and a nice boozy kick at the end. Sometimes that sorta booziness can overpower a beer (as it did with last night’s Insanely Bad Elf), but in this case, it’s relatively well balanced, and you can get that sort of flavor without being overpowered by it. I think I can also get a bit of that oaked flavor as well, which just adds to the complexity. Overall, it’s an exceptional beer, and something I wish I had the foresight to buy a case of and the willpower to store it for the next ten years. As it is, I guess I should just be happy that this West Coast beer is even available here at all! Now I find myself greatly looking forward to Four Calling Birds. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, capped bottle). Drank from a goblet.

This is only the second beer I’ve had from The Bruery (the first being Coton, which I thought was amazing, if a bit powerful), but they seem every bit as excellent as their reputation implies, so I’m quite excited to seek out more from them…