The Bottom Line

I love craft beer. Brewing it, drinking it, sharing it, and learning about it. There are some great websites out there that allow people to review craft beers, but I hate to rely on stranger's opinions of how good or bad a certain beer is! What I want to accomplish with this blog is to provide a constantly building stream of personal opinions, recommendations, and interesting information on various beer styles and breweries as I enjoy them. As the blog continues, I hope you will notice similarities and differences between our tastes and use this to help you in your exploration of the craft beer universe!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First Craft Beer Drinkers Club Meeting

Beth and I hosted a craft beer drinking night for a bunch of our friends on Saturday, September 3rd. She wrote a great blog about it, and I thought I'd just share hers because it probably blows anything I could write out of the water!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Drinking some Buffalo Sweat

Ahh, Buffalo Sweat, how refreshing!

No, not THAT buffalo sweat, THIS Buffalo Sweat...

I drank a bit of this Tallgrass Brewing Co. beverage on our East Coast trip both on tap and out of the 16oz cans!

She pours an insanely opaque shade of dark black (seriously, I'm talking Darth Vader's helmet status.) with a clean, light brown head. You can see both of these qualities for yourself in the picture I posted above, I just really wanted to use that Darth Vader line.

Ahhh, Smooooth. Buffalo Sweat sits fairly light in your mouth considering how rich and creamy the flavor is. I immediately taste a heavy dose of dark, toasty malts accented by the sweetness of lactose, the key ingredient in brewing a Milk Stout.

Basically, Buffalo Sweat has the sweetness of chocolate milk, the roastyness of coffee, and the thin consistency of beer. I'm always a little caught off guard by the thinness of Milk Stouts. There is such an impact of flavor and sweet tongue tingle going on that it's hard to believe this stuff is mostly water!

Unfortunately, Tallgrass's blades do not reach all the way to the West Coast, leaving me destined to go without this most triumphant beverage in my day to day life.

On that note, I'm not really sure why Milk Stouts are so hard to come by in my neighborhood. I've never talked to anyone who openly disliked them. Maybe the smooth, creamy body freaks out bitter hopoholics, or the roasty malt taste annoys crisp pilsner buffs. I just can't figure it out. Port Brewery does a pretty fantastic Milk Stout which is available on draft at Pizza Ports, but unfortunately not in can or bottle form. If you haven't ventured into this realm of darker beer, I fully encourage you to go in search of one. Make sure to report back!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I think it's been long enough...

Well, it's been 6 months since I've posted on this blog. Utter failure. I've decided to continue evolving this thing to make it more enjoyable for me to post on and you to read! I'd like to branch out more from just my tasting notes of craft beers(some of them being hard bottles to come by), and post about beer events, beer news, and my own brewing experiences. All things beer! That's the spirit I've wanted to channel all along, but it takes a bit of refinement. Thanks for hanging on for the ride.

Biggest news first, I got married last weekend! Beth and I finally tied the knot in Richmond VA with 200 of our family and close friends. We used the entire holiday(Memorial Day)weekend to celebrate and entertain out of town guests starting with a large rehearsal dinner on Friday night at Glave Kocen art gallery, catered by Olli's(formerly European Market).

We had some great beers there by the bottle, including a chicory stout that Andy Hannas brewed at my bachelor party on Afton Mountain in April. Here was the line up...

My parents and sister picked these six out after a tasting session with Jason from Ollio's. Lucky bastards! What a great variety though. I think there was something here for everyone, and I'm sure more than a few people got a chance to try some breweries and styles of beer that they hadn't ever tasted before, which is ALWAYS a good thing!

While in Richmond, we made a point to eat and drink at a few restaurants our friends work at, to include Six Burner, Black Sheep, Joe's Inn, Mekong, and Q.

At Six Burner, Beth and I got to try two beers from Southern Tier brewery which is actually located in New York state. We don't get them in San Diego, so it was our first taste of the brewery. On tap, they had the "2xIPA" and "Choklat Stout". Man, the first thing I can say about either of these beers is that they were heavy on the palate. Totally fucking delicious, but definitely not a chugging beer.

Bell's "Oberon" was in heavy rotation almost everywhere we went for a very good reason. Oberon is a crispily hopped wheat ale, quite refreshing in the midday heat of a Virginia summer. I would love to spend an afternoon in a hammock with a mini keg of this stuff.

I could go on and on about Bell's Brewery right now. They're my favorite brewery of the moment, and I think they've been filling in a lot of gaps that Dogfish Head has been leaving out on their recent adventures with intense tasting beers. I'm going out on a limb here, but in my mind Bell's is an East Coast parallel to Sierra Nevada.

More on the trip tomorrow(or possibly Wednesday since I have school tomorrow and Tuesday)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Bernardus Prior 8

Label Art and Blurbs(to include ABV): If I haven't mentioned it before, I have a very strong affection for St. Bernardus ales. The label of Prior 8 is pretty similar to all the others with the old Saint himself (I mean, he doesn't have a name tag on, but I think it's a safe assumption that this guy is Bernie.) toasting a glass with an orange/red backdrop. We're looking at an 8% ABV, for the record.

Nasal Observations During Pour: Smells pretty standard for a Belgian. Tart and molassesy.

Visual Observations During Pour: This baby pours a deep burgundy with a trace amount of sediment towards the bottom. I swirled the bottle around for the last few seconds of the pour to get all that leftover mush

Head(Foam): Strange! There is a very light head on the beer and the bubbles are grouped together in a seemingly microscopic organism pattern. I snapped a picture of it.

First Taste: Right off the bat I find this beer very similar to Abt. 12 only a little less intense and with a champagne aftertaste. I definitely sense some apple cider notes and a spike of chocolate towards the end of my sip.

Second Taste: I'm going to keep building on the champagne track here. I'm getting a lot of tingly effervescence with each swig. The fruity malt flavor of Prior 8 is definitely more interesting to me than any sparkling wine I've tasted though. It doesn't have that dry feel of champagne either, so don't take my words TOO literally. This is definitely still a beer!

Aftertaste: The aftertaste from this beer is pretty smooth considering the Belgian style. Everything washes out fairly quickly and leaves just a little bit of sweetness on your throat to savor before your next sip.

Overall Opinion: I'm down with this beer for sure, but I have to say it is no match for Abt. 12 as far as St. B's beers go. I'd basically have to say it is just Abt. 12 "Light". Probably a really good introduction into the Belgian Ale world for someone newer to craft beer!

Last Taste: Yummmm, sweet, sweet yeast!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trappistes Rochefort 8

Label Art and Blurbs(to include ABV): The label art is pretty simple for Trappistes Rochefort beers. A buttery yellow background with Old English lettering states the brewery’s name and a billiard ball looking green circle with a large 8 in it expresses which “number” beer you’re holding. (NOTE: This brewery mass produces three beers; “6”, “8”, and “10”. Each number is accompanied by a color; red, green, and blue respectively. ) The hexagonal “Authentic Trappist Product” logo is stamped to the lower left side, along with your distributor’s information and Government Warning for all those expecting mothers and heavy equipment operators who didn’t get the memo. ABV is noted at 9.2%

Nasal Observations During Pour: This bottle was very well carbonated, and a sour aroma rushed out of the neck immediately after I opened it. That scent settled down during the pour, and I got the general “Belgian” smell of layered spices and sweet malts.

Visual Observations During Pour: I noticed some peppercorn sized sediment jumping down to my glass about halfway through the pour. This beer comes out a deep amber/almost brown hue and is virtually opaque.

Head(Foam): Fizz, fizz, fizz. This is an incredibly effervescent brew. Maybe I just got a randomly over-carbonated bottle, but I’d say this bad boy gave me about ¾ of an inch of head before settling down.

First Taste: Dry, mellow, Belgian. The use of “Belgian” as a descriptor for beer has bugged me for a long time since it can’t be used in terms of food or any other drink, but such an inclusive word for a beer is hard to get away from. If you handed me a beer I’d never tried before and only told me it was a Belgian ale, I would pretty much know what to expect. I’m using “dry” in the same terms as one might use it when discussing champagne. The beer feels a little bubbly in your mouth, especially sitting on your tongue, but almost cleans up after itself as you swallow. I’m saying that Number Eight is a mellow beer in comparison to other (here it comes again…) Belgian ales. If you’ve ingested any other Belgians, you’re already aware of the huge body, not to mention alcohol content, that these beers typically have to offer. Dad, if you’re out there, find a Trappist Ale to serve the next time you are planning on having Port wine.

Second Taste: There is a very subtle bite that comes in each sip of this beer. It doesn’t hit you right when the liquid sloshes across your tongue, but it’s in that split second afterwards. Right when your taste buds think they know what’s going on, something just slaps the shit out of them and then walks away.

Aftertaste: The aftertaste from this beer is like that from a slightly buttered toast. I almost prefer the smoothness of the aftertaste to the actual feeling of having the actual beer frolicking around your mouth.

Overall Opinion: I’ll admit I’m partial to Belgian Ales, and even if I wasn’t I know enough about true Trappist beers that I have too much respect to ever turn one down. This beer is a legend. It is history, short and sweet. If a bunch of guys who have devoted their entire lives to doing right in God’s name are willing to put their name on a beer, I’m willing to give them the benefit of a doubt that it’s good enough to drink, and I’ll be damned if they’ve wronged me yet.

Last Taste: I’ll try to explain the meaning behind the “Beglian” thing again. It’s not quite sour, but it’s not quite sweet. There is a fine line between the two, and Belgian ales tip toe it with incredible balance. If I had to compare it to a food, I might say a caramelized green apple. Does that help at all?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Paulaner “Salvator” Double Bock

“What the fock is a bock?” you might be asking. For starters, bocks fall under the Lager family of beers because of the bottom fermenting lager yeast used in fermentation. Bocks are indigenous to Einbeck, Germany where they were originally brewed, like many a delicious beer, by Christian monks. What really separates bocks from other lager styles is how quote unquote big of a beer it is, meaning full flavor and high alcohol content. Bocks were traditionally brewed in the winter months (lager yeasts work best in cold temperatures) and consumed during the forty six days of fasting during Lent. The same properties that make this a big beer also give it substantial nutritional values, which, at least on the official record, was the purpose for brewing bocks.

Paulaner “Salvator” is the O.G.(that mean “original gangsta” mom) dopplebock. Dopplebock simply means “double bock”, and is a little bit richer than regular bock. For all practical purposes, the differences between dopplebocks and bocks aren’t worth mentioning. I’ll be awaiting lawsuits from any true beer snobs who read this, but fuck it. Salvator was first brewed in the mid 17th century by the Minimis monks in Bavaria and referred to as liquid bread for its aforementioned nutritional properties. The name of the brewery, Paulaner, is in reference to St. Francis of Paula whom the Minimis followed. Many dopplebocks brewed nowadays have names ending in “-ator” as shout outs to Salvator.

Label Art/ABV: The label art is pretty classic. It’s two men, one a monk and the other some sort of politician or respectable citizen as one can only guess by his fancy clothes, who are both visibly intoxicated over a shared stein. Beneath them is the Paulaner seal. This beer comes in at 7.9% ABV which is pretty hefty considering the typically low alcohol content of lagers.

Nasal Observations: I’m merging the “During” and “After” notes until I come across a beer that has any noticeable differences in them. Anyway, I found the scent to be earthy-sweet, kind of like a sharp cheese. Definitely malty.

Visual Observations: Salvator is exactly the shade I think of when I consider the term amber. It’s comparable to a dark iced tea. I can easily see the rush of bubbly carbonation ascending to the surface during and after the pour.

Head: The head on my pour is pretty small and off white. Not quite eggshell white, but close.

First Taste: I immediately taste butterscotch, but not as sweet as the grandmotherly hard candy that I would usually associate butterscotch taste with. More like a better tasting and less syrupy Newcastle. I can sense the higher alcohol content by the tingly bite on my tongue.

Second Taste: The next few sips start moving away from the butterscotch and more towards the nutty, toffee side of the spectrum. I love this beer.

After Taste: The tingle of high alcohol really shines through the flavor of this beer. Not to say that it has anything in common with a malt liquor or bourbon, but the tingle kind of plays along with the yeast on your taste buds in a way that most beers just don’t.

Overall Opinion: If you thought that being able to see light through a beer meant it wasn’t strong, this one will surely square you away. I’ve shot gunned and pounded more than my share of beers, but between respect and flat out strength of this beer, I promise you I have no intentions of doing either with Salvator.

Food Pairing: I would love to pair this beer with gouda because of the slightly sweet caramel flavors they both share. I could also see this going well with a creamy sour cream based dip.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Bitches Brew", The Beer

While "Bitches Brew" sounds like a cheeky name some home brewer came up with while combing his beard one night out in his bike shed/brewery, it's actually the name of a popular studio album by jazz musician Miles Davis. Bitches Brew is widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz/progressive jazz albums ever recorded and I have to recommend picking up the re-released box set of these sessions if you have any interest in jazz. Certain tracks are also available for free streaming on youtube!

Back to the story you came here to read though...

Dogfish Head has brewed a special dark ale for the 40th anniversary of the original release of Bitches Brew. The gist of the thing is that it's got like, three different imperial stouts coming together in one bottle, man. Then, to top the whole thing off, that crazy cat Sam Calagione threw in some honey beer and a little gesho root for some really far out flavor.
(NOTE: I'm only 23 so I have to refer to Marlon Brando's character in A Street Car Named Desire for most of my jazz slang. Don't act like you're not impressed.)

Label Art and Blurbs(to include ABV): This label art may even be cooler than the last beer I reviewed. It's the actual cover from the record and was created by Mati Klarwein. ABV is listed as 9.0%

Nasal Observations During Pour:
This beer has one smell and one smell alone, Chocolate cake with chocolate icing.

Visual Observations During Pour:
You could hide more bodies in a pint of this stuff than the entire New Jersey waterfront. Wow, talk about the closest shade brown can get to jet black. The yeast sediment at the end of the pour had been stained close to black as well. It looked more like chocolate sprinkles than yeast, reinforcing my theory that this might actually be a milkshake.

The head on my pour was about a half of an inch thick. It settled down fairly quickly to about an eighth of an inch, but whose measuring? The brackish brown color reminded me of water pollution, which I now consider extremely appetizing.

Nasal Observations After Settling:
I'm serious about that one smell only.

Visual Observations After Settling:
I can only assume the yeast ended up settling down, but for all I know there is a wild party happening in the center of this glass. I can't even see a shade of luminescence. I think this is the color that the ocean is at two miles deep where crazy alien lightening bug-like fish are darting in and out of your submarine's one spotlight while you shit yourself silly.

First Taste:
The beginning of my first taste was a vividly sweet, chocolatey, roasted malt. Almost immediately, the sweetness started leveling out while a more creamy flavor found its way through. I wouldn't assume there was honey in here if you hadn't told me, but when I really feel for it I can taste the golden sauce lingering after the creamy malts start to lose their footing, sliding down my throat.

Second Taste:
I'm really starting to explore the honey side of this beer. After a quick google, I found out that Gesho Root is basically to mead what hops are to beer. It grows wildly in Africa and is popular in beer brewing there because hops aren't readily available.

The aftertaste of Bitches Brew is really only unique from other imperial stouts because of that ultimately mellow buffer the honey lends after each swallow. I've never tasted Gesho Root by itself, but this beer is given an IBU rating of 38 which is definitely tolerable by my moderately hop enjoying standards.

Overall Opinion:
Love it. I'm quite fond of dark beers, but I'll draw the line from time to time on Imperial Stouts. Sometimes I find them just a bit too harsh at the end of the taste. I would really love to see more dark beers experiment with the soothing effects of honey. As far as the three different stouts combined in the final product of this beer go, I couldn't tell one from the other in any way.

Last Taste:
As I approach toward the last few gulps of my pint, I still get the rich, roasted, chocolate malt flavor that constitutes an Imperial Stout. Actually, I've started eating sharp cheddar cheese, further calming the raw beer flavors on my tongue. It's worth mentioning that dark beers are generally more appreciated as they warm up, and Bitches Brew is no different in this.

As far as food pairing goes, Dogfish Head suggests chili or spicy curry. I haven't ever paired an imperial stout with curry, but they really do go well with a hearty bowl of chili on a crisp, late autumn night. I'm enjoying this sharp cheddar as paired right now. It seems to negate some of the flavor, but brings out the light smokey flavor of the roasted malts.

Bitches Brew is a bottle conditioned beer, so my only question I have is, "Does bottle conditioned mean this juice will stay hip for another 40 years like my man Miles' tunes!? Skibiteebeat Skibiteebat!"