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…

The Session and Ommegang Adoration Ale

The latest edition of The Sessions is today (this is my seccond post in the series), and it’s about unexpected discoveries. Mike over at Burgers and Brews once found great beer in the last place he expected to look, and he wants to here about everyone else’s unexpected discoveries:

Has this happened to you? Maybe you stumbled upon a no-name brewpub somewhere and found the perfect pale ale. Maybe, buried in the back of your local beer store, you found a dusty bottle of rare barleywine. Perhaps a friend turned you on to a beer that changed your mind about a brewery or a style. Write about a beer experience that took you by surprise.

Indeed, I’ve already hinted at my discovery… There was this bar/restaurant in the gleaming metropolis of Norristown, PA called the Moody Monkey. A bunch of friends and I went there for dinner one night and were pleasantly surprised to see a huge beer selection. We were just out of college at the time, and thus were used to the joys of Natty Light and the like, so when handed a gigantic beer menu, we were pretty much lost. Since we had no idea what to order, we opened the menu, closed our eyes, and randomly pointed at the menu. As it turns out, two of us, purely by chance, had selected Ommegang’s Hennepin. It came out in the 750 ml bottle, caged and corked, and pretty much blew our minds. I’d never seen anything like that at the time. When I poured it out, it looked kinda like a “regular” beer, but the taste blew my mind once again. It was a revelation, and while not really my first experience with craft beer, it was the most influential. From that point on, I was ready to explore the beer world, and went out of my way to find other Ommegang brews and I’d always try something new whenever I could. Alas, the Moody Monkey fell on hard times not long after my discovery of Ommegang. I don’t know why, but apparently the owner “forgot” to renew the liquor license, and all of the sudden that fantastic beer selection was gone and it wasn’t long after that that the place had to close down.

But I never forgot Ommegang, and have gone out of my way to find and try every Ommegang beer I could. This was several years ago, and in PA, it’s hard to find places that would sell single bottles of stuff, so I had to buy full cases. I remember paying through the nose, sight unseen (or tasted), for Three Philosophers when it first came out. And I’ve never been disappointed. While I’ve since come to expand my horizons and try all sorts of other beers from other brewers, Ommegang remains one of my favorites (if not my absolute favorite). There was a time, though, where it seemed like the brewery had stalled a bit. They had their usual stable of fantastic year-round brews, but their specialty/seasonal beers were somewhat rare. Lately, they’ve been doing more specialty/seasonal brews though, and tonight, in honor of my original discovery of Ommegang, I decided to try something new:

Ommegang Adoration

Ommegang Adoration Ale – Ommegang’s first holiday ale, a belgian strong dark ale with unusual holiday spices. Pours a deep, cloudy brown (maybe a little red), with a solid head. A little lacing, but not a lot. Smells fantastic. Sweet and spicy, with prominent coriander (apparently a favorite spice of mine) and maybe some yeasty aromas. Taste starts sweet and spicy (again with the coriander), with some fruitiness apparent. Suprisingly drinkable considering the high ABV. Solid carbonation, with a bit of a bite, but I enjoy that sort of thing. It’s a complex beer with lots of flavors, but for something that’s not very subtle, it’s pretty well balanced. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s in the top tier of Ommegang’s offerings, which is nothing to sneeze at… A-

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

So yet another well balanced Ommegang brew that I’m most likely going to fall back on every year (like I do with a bunch of other Ommegang brews). I’ve also recently come into possession of Ommegang’s Tripel Perfection, which I’ll probably get to soon (look for a post, probably in January).

Best Worst Double Feature

Well, I’m cheating here. Two nights, two beers, and three movies. Not quite a double feature, but close enough! Or maybe not. The point of the beer double feature is to compare two beers of similar style, and the two beers below couldn’t be more different. On the filmic side of things, it’s a weekend of Trolls. One of the documentaries released this year that I’ve been really interested in seeing was Best Worst Movie. It’s about the movie Troll 2, once crowned as the worst movie of all time, but which has somewhat recently undergone a resurgence as a cult classic (a “so bad it’s good” kinda thing). Best Worst Movie was recently released on DVD, so in addition to adding it to my Netflix queue, I wanted to check out the movie itself… and Troll 2 is only available on a double feature disc of its own (with the original Troll). Intriguing, as those two movies have nothing to do with each other. Well, let’s just say that the movies are all just about what you might expect .

The original Troll is actually a pretty interesting movie. Terrible, of course, but very watcheable. Plus, it’s got midgets, a troll-filled musical number, and, I shit you not, a boy named Harry Potter who learns magic in order to defeat the trolls (seriously, Harry fucking Potter!?). Troll 2 is… hard to explain. I don’t really think it deserves the title of worst movie ever, but it’s certainly in the running. There are so many nonsensical components to the movie that I don’t really know where to start. There are no trolls in the movie, only goblins (perhaps a pedantic distinction, but the lack of trolls is part of the movie’s charm), and they all live in a town called Nilbog (that’s goblin spelled backwards!). They lure people to their town, turn them into trees and plants, then eat them (you see, the goblins are vegetarians! Yes, the movie is an attack on vegetarians.) But it’s so earnest and completely ridiculous that it’s almost endearing (and most certainly funny), and so the cult that’s grown around the movie makes some sort of sense. Best Worst Movie chronicles that cult and it’s rise throughout the naughts. The documentary is made by Michael Stephenson, who played the little boy in Troll 2. There are some interesting parallels between the film’s popularity and the way the actors view the film – they are as aware as anyone of the inadequacies of the film, but even they come around as the cult grows. The film gets a bit repetitive as it goes on, but that’s also part of the point. Even the actors start to get sick of the screenings and repeating the lines over and over again (“You don’t piss on hospitality!”) and attending weird horror conventions and the like. It’s an interesting bit of filmic nostalgia and I greatly enjoyed it, along with some beers!

Saison Dupont

Saison Dupont – The saison style of beer has apparently been somewhat endangered, but in recent years it’s had a bit of a resurgence, led by the likes of Ommegang’s excellent Hennepin, and also Saison Dupont, which was named by Men’s Journal as “the Best Beer in the World” a few years ago. Pours a slightly hazy golden color, nice fluffy head with some lacing as I drink. Smells great. Perhaps a bit of fruit in the nose, lots of spices (coriander? clove?), but nothing overpowering. Taste is sweet, citrusy and a little tart, with a full body, lots of carbonation and a bit of a harsh mouthfeel (as I’ve already established, that sort of harshness isn’t necessarily a bad thing). There’s a bitterness, but it’s not hoppy. Is it the best beer in the world? I have a terrible time choosing favorites and picking bests, but I could certainly entertain the notion, which says a lot. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet (get it, goblin? goblet? Ha!).

Southern Tier Creme Brulee

Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) – Recommended to me by Kaedrin regular Sovawanea, I have to admit that part of the reason I wanted to try this was that it’s got such an evocative name. It just sounds like a perfect match. Pours a deep black color with a very thin, beige head. Smells very sweet, lots of vanilla and caramel. Usually the nose tapers off as I drink a beer, but not in this case – aromatic to the very end (even the empty glass gave off a strong scent). I didn’t notice it, but the bottle says to drink it chilled out of a snifter, and that makes sense given the great aroma this stuff gives off. That vanilla and caramel shows up pretty strongly in the taste as well, but it’s tempered by the roasty malt sweetness in a decidedly, well, creme brulee fashion. It’s not as roasty as other stouts I’ve had recently (either that, or the sweetness is overpowering the roasted flavors). I found myself drinking quite slowly (it lasted longer than the documentary), but that’s probably a good thing given the 10% ABV! Even so, it’s perhaps a bit too sweet for one person to drink an entire 22 oz bottle of this stuff. It gets a bit cloying towards the end… (apparently I’m not the only one who recently tried this and felt that way) Nevertheless, it’s an excellent and unique beer. It would make a nice after-dinner dessert to share with someone, and it’s also something that showcases the amazing variety of flavors that beer can have (it could be a decent gateway beer in the right scenario). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a pint glass (apparently shoulda been a snifter though)

So two pretty different beers, but both are pretty great.

Double Feature: Again IPA

Another duo of India Pale Ales. Sometimes IPAs can taste a bit… samey, but the beers in this post (and the previous double feature), are quite distinct and flavorful. I drank these as I watched a double feature of She’s Out of My League and Monsters, seemingly disparate movies that had some surprising similarities. Sure, one’s a dumb-fun comedy and the other is ostensibly a sci-fi horror film, but they both seem pretty narrowly focused on the romantic relationship at their core. This was expected for League, but surprising for Monsters, though ultimately the post-mumblecore improvisation yields some uninspired dialogue (but there’s a pretty great climax to the film). So while I found the movies surprisingly similar, it seems that IPAs are surprising me with how different they can be:

Victory Hopdevil Ale

Victory Hopdevil Ale – Another local favorite, I’ve had many a Hopdevil over the years. Pours a nice dark orange/amber, with a mostly clear appearance. A small finger of head. Smell is of floral hops, a delicious bitterness throughout the entire taste, from start to finish. Powerful, but not overpowering. Good carbonation and medium body… You wouldn’t think it would be so smooth, but it’s compulsively drinkable. I could (and have) drink these all night. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA – One of the great things about Dogfish Head is that every one of their beers has a story behind it. This beer was their first continually hopped ale, meaning that instead of adding bittering hops to the wort at the beginning of the boil (later adding taste and aromatic hops), they add hops continuously throughout the entire boil, a little bit at a time. To aid them in this, they used that stupid vibrating football game – they set it up above their boil, threw a bunch of hops on it, and as the field vibrated, the hops gradually fell off the board and into the pot. (This method was apparently abandoned for obvious safety reasons, and more specialized hardware created for their larger scale operations). A bit lighter in color than the Hopdevil, but a perfect head, and hoppy aroma with some more complex citrus and floral notes. A more roasty malt flavor, perhaps even a bit less bitter than the hopdevil. A more complex taste, with a nice lingering bitterness that cuts the alcohol well. Still, given that high alcohol content, I don’ t know that I’d want to drink a bunch of these at once (like I could with Hopdevil), but on the other hand, it’s a big flavorful hop bomb that’s tough to beat. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.0% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

Another hard to beat pair of IPAs, though somehow, I’m doubting that this will be the last of the great IPAs I review on this blog.

Grindhouse Double Feature: Tripels

One of the crimes of modern cinematic history is the failure of Grindhouse at the box office and the subsequent lack of proper DVD/BD distribution (which was, in itself, a result of the bad box office). Grindhouse was one of my favorite movies of 2007, so this was most distressing to me. Sure, the two feature films that made up the total experience were available individually, but they were different cuts of the films and they were missing one of the key features of the Grindhouse experience: the trailers. Amazingly enough, this egregious oversight was recently corrected with the Blu-Ray release of Grindhouse (in it’s full cinematic glory). Tonight, I watched that movie, and took the opportunity to retry two of my favorite beers. As I write this post, I’m watching the movie with the Audience Reaction Track on. It’s kinda lame. Just a lot of hooting, cheering, and hollaring. But the movie is awesome, so there’s that.

Westmalle Tripel

Westmalle Abby Tripel: Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle is a Belgian Trappist Brewery, one of only 7 in the world. Yes, this beer is brewed by Monks, and as it turns out, they’re among the best brewers in the world (and have been for a long time). Some reading around on Wikipedia indicates that this brewery in particular is responsible for inventing (or at least popularizing) two key Belgian beer styles: the Dubbel and the Tripel (which I’m drinking tonight). Pours a hazy golden color with an impressively huge head. Lots of bubbly activity in the head, good retention and a smell of sweet malty goodness with a little bit of fruit and some spiciness added in for good effect. Taste of fruity malts and a yeasty kick, with a nice warming booziness. Good carbonation and medium body, a near perfect taste. It’s not hard to see why this beer is considered the standard for the style. A

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

As Planet Terror ends and the glorious fake trailers begin, I pop the cork off what could be my all time favorite beer:

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde: The perfect beer. Pours that same hazy gold color, with that same large, active head. There’s a bit less retention here, and the smell is more spicy. Taste has a similar malty goodness, and the spiciness is more pronounced – lots of coriander and orange peel detectable here, and maybe a little clove (these spices are seemingly favored by Unibroue, as a lot of their paler ales have that sort of mixture). Spicy sweet, this beer is perfectly balanced. Medium body and good carbonation, with perfect taste and like the Westmalle, the strong alcohol content gives it a nice, warming, boozy kick. The name translates to “The End of the World”, and given that name and the high alcohol content, this makes for a great last beer of the night (or, you know, if you ever think the world is going to end)! A+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.0% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

Whew, drinking two 750 ml tripels in one night is perhaps not entirely advisable, but if you ever cross paths with either of these, give them a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Double Feature: IPA

During lat night’s end of the Phillies season (sob), I was drowning my sorrows in a couple of India Pale Ales. I love a good IPA, but sometimes I feel like IPAs taste a bit… samey. However, the two I had last night were both exceptional and distinct.

Stone IPA

Stone IPA: Stone is known for being very aggressive in their marketing and their beers. This is one of their more “normal” brews, but damn if it isn’t one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had. It pours a light, clear golden/orange color with a decent sized head. Smells floral and citrusy. The taste starts sweet, with a crisp, bitter finish. Refreshing, tasty and superbly balanced mixture of sweet and bitter. I actually had this on tap earlier this week and loved it then too (honestly, it seemed even better on draft, though that could have been because of all the drinking done before I got to this one). Not sure how many of these I had on that occasion, but it’s definitely something I could drink all night. It’s a solid A, and one of my favorite discoveries of late.

Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA: Dogfish Head is a brewery known for its mad scientist stylings, producing flavor and alcohol bombs that are best consumed in relatively small quantities. This one, though, is very drinkable. Pours a little darker than the Stone and the smell is less citrusy and more bitter. Not as refreshing as the Stone either, but there’s a more flavorful bitter finish. Bitterness is definitely the center of attention here. It lingers a bit longer and is more complex than most IPAs. I guess not as well-balanced as the Stone, but it’s hard to really find any fault here, especially if you’re a hophead. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.0% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

There we have it. It’s hard to beet this duo, though I’ve got another double feature planned with a few more aggressive IPA style.