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!

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!"

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Absolute Beer/Cheese Must

Last night I was treated to one of the best food and beer pairings of my proverbial career, Mikkeller's "Beer Geek Breakfast" and Rouge Et Noir's "Triple Creme Brie".

The setting was my apartment in San Diego. The breakfast nook of our kitchen area to be precise. Andy, Beth, and I had just finished an exceptional meal of tomato and red wine braised beef shanks with olives and raisins (all prepared by Andy). The palatable beauty of the meal itself could be better expressed by my wife-to-be, so I'll guide you straight to the dessert course of the evenings dine.

Oatmeal stouts happen to be one of my favorite styles of beer for their deep, chocolaty malt flavor which is further accented to a slight sweetness by adding oatmeal. Beer Geek Breakfast is unique in that it is not only an oatmeal stout, but also a coffee stout. The coffee is more of a second thought in my opinion though. I would definitely call this an oatmeal stout if someone put a gun to my head.

Brie happens to be one of my favorite styles of cheese for its smooth, buttery texture and mildly sweet, creamy taste. Triple cream brie is a style that requires a 75% butterfat content as opposed to the weight watching 60% required for the title of double cream.

Back to the story...

A gentle swig of oatmeal coffee stout awakens my tongue's sweetness receptors which have been dormant for the past hour while the savory side of the house participated in a salty orgy of beef shanks, Katamala olives, and the like. Now that the walls of my mouth have been amply primed with the robust intentions of Mikkeller's earthly potion, I slip a kitchen knife through the soft folds of cheese utopia. Mere seconds later would my pupils dilate with enthusiasm as I showered expletive enhanced praise on the dessert gods. Just looking at the duo in front of me was like admiring a masterpiece of renaissance art. The dull, off white flatness of the brie sitting contently next to its faithful husband, a strong, powerful, dark stout with an inner sweetness you could only appreciate once you had gotten to know him. The celebration of consumption continued on until the last swallows of stout and the last blobs of brie had been married inside the chapel of my cheeks.

I would like to apologize for this entry not following the guidelines I set up to review beer on this blog. During dinner, we were being fairly liberal with our pours of New Belgium's Hoptober Fest(I blame good conversation), and I wasn't in any position to properly review a Mikkeller beer. I hope this recollection of my experience has tempted you to try one, if not both the stout and the brie though. I will absolutely be doing a formal review of a Mikkeller beer soon, in any event. If you aren't already familiar with this brewery, you have no time to waste in getting to know them. They are an incredible beer making machine, with dozens of brews to offer in almost every popular style. I will touch on that more with the official review though!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Life and Limb!

I honestly can't think of a more currently epic way to tap this blog than to do so with a review of the Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head collaboration brew known as "Life and Limb".

Life and Limb was released in November 2009 in a limited run of 24 oz bottles and and even more limited run for draft. It was brewed with pure maple syrup from Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione's family farm in Massachusetts and "Estate" barley grown on the Sierra Nevada Brewery's property. The yeast used in this bottle conditioned beer(bottle conditioned meaning it is able to be aged for years while more complex flavors develop, just like a good wine) is also a mixture of both breweries house strains. As far as I know, this is a very unique practice because most breweries treasure their yeast strains as a signature of identity. Alaskan Birch syrup was used for carbonating the beer. I'm not sure if the birch really gives anything towards the flavor because it was only added in a small amount, but just to give you a reference point for how much dedication was brewed into this beer, most home brewers simply use granulated sugar for priming!

Now that you know the foundations for Life and Limb, let's get on to the review!

Label: The label on this beer stands for itself as artwork. Dogfish Head is selling t-shirts with the label printed on them and yes I ordered one yesterday. Here is a link to the print...Life And Limb Art. It is noted on the bottle that this beer is 10.2% ABV.

Nasal Observations During Pour: I sensed a strong and sweet aroma during the pour. Almost like an unlit cigar, but not as musty.

Visual Observations During Pour: Dark, dark amber.

Head: I split the bottle between two glasses for Beth and myself. The head didn't really develop until I got towards the end of the pour where the conditioning yeast remained. I noticed a few big bubbles among the quarter inch or so of medium brown head.

Visual Observations After Settling: The main body of the beer was completely opaque, though I could see a dark ruby glow in the very bottom of the glass where the edges were closer together.

Nasal Observations After Settling: The smell didn't really change after the pour, but was a little milder in intensity.

First Taste: The first thing I noticed when the beer hit my tongue was how fizzy it was. I believe that was the birch syrup giving a little introduction for what was to follow.

Second Taste: On my second taste, I felt more of the actual flavor come out. I'm pegging it as sharp raisin and dark cherry blend. I suggested that it was almost along the lines of a barely wine, but Beth pointed out that this wasn't quite as caustic as barley wine tends to be.

After Taste: The maple syrup finally introduces itself in the finish of this beer. It is subtle in texture as that it doesn't fill your mouth or feel at all thick or syrupy. The rich sugary flavor swims around the area where your tongue and throat meet, and is comparable to the lingering after taste of maple candy.

Overall Opinion: This is an excellent beer to split with a companion for multiple reasons. One, it does have a quite interesting taste that prompts more discussion than many beers. Two, it is a symbol of two very successful brewers coming together as a community to celebrate craft beer, and that symbol should be respected with every bottle. Three, well, it would be tough to drink 24 whole ounces of this stuff alone. Especially at 10.2% alcohol by volume!

Reminds Me Of: If I had to pick a close neighbor for Life and Limb I think I would have to go with Delirium Tremens Belgium Ale in taste, but a slightly thick brown ale in consistency.

Food Pairing: I think this beer would go well with a sharp cheddar atop sliced green apples. I could see it complimenting a dark turkey meat too, especially if touched up with a little cranberry sauce in Thanksgiving Dinner style.

Please leave any comments you have about your own experiences with this beer! Unfortunately I can't tell you where to find a bottle because they are few and far between due to their popularity and limited quantity. Happy hunting!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beyond Taste

While the bottom line of a good beer is naturally a good taste, there is a keg's worth of other aspects to consider in discussing a craft beer. As noted at the top of this page, there are some well known and somewhat respected review websites that anyone else can go to, fill in a few answers to generalized questions which we may or may not even understand, and have those go on to alter the site's overall rating of said beer.

Here, on the other hand, I will express my opinions of each beer in a less structured and hopefully easier to follow way. I'm going to be as inclusive as possible without completely over analyzing and striping the fun away from the main pint!

Homebrewing For Dummies suggests, in order, the five steps of beer evaluation to be Smell, Look, Taste, Aftertaste, and Reflect. I've used those steps as a guide, but branched out a bit to make this blog a little more informative.

Some of the categories I plan to touch on for each beer are as follows...

Label Art and Blurbs(to include ABV)
Nasal Observations During Pour
Visual Observations During Pour
Nasal Observations After Settling
Visual Observations After Settling
First Taste
Second Taste
Overall Opinion
Last Taste

I am also going to be suggesting pairing options for food, similar beers, and what serving size I would suggest (This could be anywhere from "just a taste" to "let's order a keg each".).

Interesting tid bits or trivia about the brewery will be supplied when appropriate.

Again, I hope this blog provides you with some decent information about the beer you are, or may soon be drinking, but if nothing else maybe you will find my sense of humor entertaining enough to keep coming back!