Saturday, May 31, 2014

Shiner Kosmos Reserve

Shiner beers come from the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070). This 5.0% ABV all malt lager that is then hopjacked is named after Kosmos Spoetzel, the founder of the brewery.

The beer pours a dark golden to light and gleaming amber in color. There is a tall head of thick, ragged off-white foam that is short-lived head. The aroma is bright and grassy, malty grain, lagerish, a bit of straw, with a fruity note. The taste follows the aromas adding in a bit more toasted malt. It is a nicely malty lager with a hit of hops on the end. The finish is dry and grassy, lightly to moderately bitter. It is an easy drinking and crisply refreshing beer. Not a lot to say about this, it is simply a tasty lager. 

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

The Goose Island Brewery is in Chicago, Illinois. This is one of their famous Bourbon County brand beers aged in bourbon barrels, usually stouts, but in this case, a rare barleywine ale. This one was bottled on September 24, 2013.

The beer pours an extremely dark brown, just a shade or two shy of black. There is a very short and short-lived head of light tan foam. The aroma is sweet malt, toffee, sherry, with a fruity tartness, almost a vinous quality of alcohol and tangy fruitiness. There is some oak in the nose, but any bourbon is subsumed by the massive malt. The taste is very sweet malts, some dark roasted notes, carmelized sugar, dark fruits, alcohol fills the sinuses, and warms the throat. There is just enough wood to keep the sweetness from flying out of control. Vanilla comes it as it warms up. It is full-bodied, nearing syrupy. Since they bothered to put it in bourbon barrels, I wish the bourbon was more noticeable (found out why its not, and where the dark roast came from, these are third use barrels, first bourbon, then BCBS, then this). 

Almost nine months in the bottle, it is still a bit “hot,” give this one time to mellow. Nice, but not the same caliber as the stouts. 

Tallgrass Halcyon Wheat

The Tallgrass Brewing Company is in Manhattan, Kansas. They make a great lineup of beers. This unfiltered beer uses white wheat and Citra and Nugget hops. The can thanks Bill Mai, the wheat farmer from Wallace County, Kansas who grows their wheat.

The beer pours a hazy dark golden in color. There is about an inch of pure white foamy head. The aroma is delicious tropical fruits over toasted wheat, amazing aroma. I’m unable to draw out any particular fruits, but the overall effect of its fruitiness is amazing. The taste follows the aromas directly. It has a smoothness in the mouth, very light bitterness, and nice carbonation.  I only wish the taste was as intense as the aroma. The aftertaste is pleasant and I start to get some mango and pineapple out of the general fruitiness, passion fruit without the bitterness. Great hopped up American wheat beer, all fruit, no bitterness. 

Back when the can was 12 ounces:

Widmer Hefe

This 4.9% ABV American-style hefeweizen is from Widmer Brothers Brewing of Portland, Oregon. 

The beer pours honey golden to apricot in color, a bit hazy. There is nearly an inch of pure white foam. The aroma is toasted wheat, lemony, lightly yeasted. The taste follows the aromas, with a strong toasted wheat that is moderated by some light lemony tang and earthy yeast. It finishes dry with light floral bitterness. It drinks easy with a crisp and refreshing carbonation. If you are looking for a German-style hefe with banana and clove, look elsewhere. If you want a refreshing American style wheat beer, pull up a bar stool.

Three Floyds Topless Wytch

The Three Floyds Brewing Company is in Munster, Indiana and makes several very sought after brews. This is a 9.0% ABV Baltic porter.

The beer pours black as coal, with just a hint of very dark brown and very dark ruby when held to the light. There is a tall, foamy head that is tan in color. The aroma is dark roasted malt, beautifully charred, with some coffee. The taste follows the aromas, lots of dark roasted flavors, perfect char, light coffee, dark chocolate in a very harmonious blend. It is medium bodied with some smoothness and a carbonation that is noticeable, but stays in the background. The finish is fairly dry with a moderate bitterness. This is one of the finest porters you’ll try.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leinenkugel's Red Lager

Leinenkugel's Brewing Company is from  Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  They began brewing in 1867. Leinenkugel's has been owned by Miller for some time now (who is now owned by MolsonCoors).

The beer pours amber colored with some brick red. There is about an inch of off-white head that disappears fairly quickly. The aroma is toasted malt, a touch of nut, fruit and caramel. The taste is mild and follows the aromas. It is medium bodied with a moderate and tingling carbonation. Nothing wrong here, but not much going on either. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Brash Biggie Smalls

Brash Beers are brewed and bottled by Mercury Brewing of Ipswich, Massachusetts. This is an 11% ABV Imperial Brown Ale that is barrel aged, 50% in rum barrels and 50% in whiskey barrels. I am not sure why it has the same name as the Notorious B.I.G.'s nickname.

The beer pours mahogany in color, some very dark chestnut brown on the edges when held to the light. There is a tall and creamy head of light tan foam. The aroma is an intermingling of rum and whiskey, roasted malt, dark caramel, oaky, hint of vanilla, some dark fruit, very light dark cherries. The taste follows the aromas, with the rum, whiskey and wood of the barrels up front, followed by a wave of dark caramel malt, followed by the dark fruit. There is a tang on the finish, and it ends very dry, astringently woody, with a touch of bitterness. There is heat from the alcohol, and it is full-bodied and round in the mouth. I think this is the first barrel-aged beer I’ve had that incorporated rum barrels into the mix. 

(Not sure why this  picture came out so badly.)

Shiner Bock

Shiner beers come from the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070).

The famous Shiner Bock.  The beer pours chestnut brown in color, with a bit of dark copper gleam, crystal clear despite its darker color. There is a short head of off-white to very light tan head that bubbles away quickly. The beer is quite bubbly. The aroma is malty, nutty, with a fruit and mineral tang. The taste follows the aromas directly, a light roasted and toasted caramel maltiness with light nuttiness, with a pleasant mineral finish. It drinks dry, smooth, and refreshingly carbonated. There is not a thing wrong with this beer, in fact, I used to love it before and when I was first getting into “craft” beer. Alas, it now has very little flavor for me (although what there is happens to be entirely pleasant). If you like Newcastle Brown Ale, you will also really like this beer I think.

Excelsior Bitteschlappe Brown Ale

This 6.5% ABV beer is from the Excelsior Brewing Company of Excelsior, Minnesota. Excelsior is on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, and you'll see a lake activity theme on the bottles of their beer. 

The beer pours a dark chestnut brown. There is an inch of creamy head, very light tan in color. The aroma is nutty, malty, some caramel, with a tang of dark stone fruits. The flavor unfortunately is sour, vinegar with a touch of soap and vomit. This beer is infected. I got five bottles of Excelsior beer on a trip to Minnesota and two of the four I have tried were infected. It’s too bad, as the uninfected beers were really nice.  Their bottling process needs some quality control attention. 

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

The Goose Island Brewery is in Chicago, Illinois. This is one of their famous Bourbon County brand stouts aged in bourbon barrels. This one is brewed with local Intelligentsia brand coffee beans. This one was bottled on November 15, 2013. 

The beer pours a densely opaque black, with just a small translucent halo of very dark brown around the edges when held to the light. There is a very short head of brown foam. The aroma is coffee forward, bourbon, sweet, almost a maple syrup effect; like a very sweet, very strong coffee with cream, a splash of bourbon, and a touch of vanilla. The taste follows the aromas exactly, hitting all the beats of the aromas, adding some dark roasted malt notes, and a touch of oak, some rich nuttiness, almost hazelnut, but mostly being like that amazing boozy coffee drink. The mouth is full, round, thick, but not heavy. There is a bit of heat from the booze. Elegant, nay decadent, this is damn fine.

Stone Matt's Burning Rosids

This is a 10.5% ABV Imperial Cherrywood-Smoked Saison from the Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, San Diego County, California. It uses the recipe of Matt Courtright, an employee who was killed in a forklift accident at their brewery.

I am a bit leery of any beer that says "smoked" on the label, they are almost always entirely too smoky for me. The beer pours an orange dark honey golden, glowing light amber and copper. There is a short head of off-white foam. The aroma is floral, tart and tangy, and lightly smoky. The taste follows the aromas, with a strong floral bitterness, less tartness than the aroma, and much more smoke than in the aroma. The alcohol shows as the beer is consumed, combining with the cherry wood to add sweet fruits like cherry and plum, that play off and compliment the tartness in the beer. The alcohol vapors bring all of the flavors together, off the palate, and up into the nose. The effect is pleasant and suddenly this beer becomes much more than it seemed at the first few sips. The more sips you take of this beer, the more all of its moving parts mesh together into something very nice and much less overwhelmingly smoky than it appeared it was going to be. The mouth is round and full, almost syrupy, but without being heavy and thick, seemingly contradictory, but then that is how it feels. Well done.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shiner Premium

This 4.4% ABV beer is based on their 1909 recipe. It is from the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas, maker of Shiner beers.

The beer pours a pale golden yellow, champagne-like in color, but not as bubbly. There is a short-lived head of white foam. The aroma is light grain, light straw, a touch of lager funk. The taste follows the aromas, this is a light lager, a touch sweet, grain and some light fruity notes, then a mildly grassy finish. It is relatively crisp, refreshing in the mouth. This is very akin to Miller High Life, but a tad less sweet, a tad more grassy on the finish.

Ballast Point Longfin Lager

This 4.5% ABV helles lager is from the Ballast Point Brewing Company of San Diego, California. 

The beer pours a pale, washed out golden yellow in color. There is a tall head of white foam. The aroma is straw, golden grain, grassy, with that classic German-style lager musky funk. The taste follows the aromas directly, hitting all the same notes. It is moderately bitter, crisp and refreshing. If you are a lager fan, definitely give this one a try, it is a classic in the German tradition.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Empyrean Burning Skye Scottish Ale

The Empyrean Brewing Company is in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is their 5.3% ABV Scottish ale. The name is a play on words, one may see a "burning sky" and the Isle of Skye is part of Scotland.

The beer pours an orange, amber and copper in color. There is over an inch of somewhat creamy off-white head. The aroma is relatively light, with malty, nutty, roasted, and some caramel. The taste follows the aromas and adds in a peat smoke note. The finish is very dry and lightly bitter. The beer is medium bodied and moderately carbonated. 

An older label:

Keweenaw Olde Ore Dock Scottish Ale

The Keweenaw Brewing Company is in South Range, Michigan, in the upper peninsula. This beer is aged with American Oak.

the beer pours a deep copper in color, burnt orange, dark iced tea. There is a short lived head of off-white, somewhat creamy, foam. The aroma is malty, caramel, sweet potatoes, lightly burnt sugar. The taste is malty, lots of caramel, a bit roasted and nutty, sweet at first, then the darker roasts and nut notes take over and bring the sweetness to a gentle finish. I think the oak helps this as well. It is easy to drink, refreshingly carbonated, medium bodied. If you like deeply malty beers, you will want to try this.

21st Amendment Sneak Attack Saison

This seasonal release is a 6.2% ABV farmhouse beer made with cardamom. It is from the 21st Amendment Brewery of San Francisco. Many of their beers are contract brewed in Cold Spring, Minnesota, but this one says it was canned in San Francisco. The 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment which had prohibited alcohol. As you can see, the label has George Washington and his men crossing the Delaware, but instead of the dead of winter, they are in swim suits, and yes, that is a big mug of beer in George's hand.

The beer pours golden yellow in color, a bit hazy. There is an inch of pure white whipped egg white foam. The aroma is highly spiced, a bit tart, somewhat floral. The taste follows the aromas directly, lots of cardamom, but well blended into the overall flavors, the end is dry, floral and quite bitter. It is medium-bodied and refreshingly carbonated. I’m not always into highly spiced beers, but this one is nicely done.

Bent Paddle 14 (degrees) ESB

This 5.6% ABV British-style extra special bitter is from the Bent Paddle Brewing Company of Duluth, Minnesota. (Anybody know how to insert the degree symbol when you are in the post title?) According to the can, the average temperature of Lake Superior is 42 degrees and that is the temperature at which they serve their beer, "Coincidence? We think not."

The beer pours a dark amber and copper in color, fairly brown. There is a lovely, tall head of thick off-white foam. The aroma is airily fruity and malty, plums, ice tea with lemon, light grape juice, a bit of sweet caramel in there, some nuttiness. There is a taste for each aroma, adding in some extra roastedness to the malt, this is both simple and complex at the same time. The mouthfeel is soft and round, smooth, subtly carbonated. The finish is moderately dry and bitter. Exquisitely crafted, not an off note anywhere, well rounded, and delicious!

I have tried several Bent Paddle beers now. Were they whales? No. Were they barrel aged? No. Were they hop bombs? No. Were they all delicious, perfectly crafted, with an elegant simplicity that indicates the result of fine craftmanship and quality? Yes! I think I want to make a trip to Duluth.

Bent Paddle Venture Pils

This 5.0% ABV pilsener is from the Bent Paddle Brewing Company of Duluth, Minnesota. 

The beer pours golden yellow in color with a tall white head, more thick than fizzy. The aroma is floral, a touch of sweet, golden grain, grassy. The taste is also floral, almost fruity, citrusy, with golden grain, grassy, and very bitter. The beer is easy drinking with a perfect crispness to the carbonation, very refreshing. It is hard to do justice in words to the simple, yet elegant, deliciousness of this beer. 

Warka Radler

This is a "radler" or beer mixed with citrus juice or soda, in this case, 60% lemonade. I see from the label they put a bit of lemongrass in it too. It is 2.0% ABV. Radler is apparently a German word for a bicyclist, as they needed a refreshing drink with less alcohol on their bike rides. This one is from Warka beers, made by Zywiec in Poland.

The beer pours the color of hazy lemonade with a touch of golden beer color. There is a fizzing head the color of whipped egg whites. The aroma is lemony, lemonade over light toast. The taste follows the aromas, it is very much like toasted white or wheat bread with lemon curd on it. The beer is smooth and round in the mouth, yet still with a crisp carbonation. Overall, this is an extremely tasty and refreshing radler.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spiegelau IPA Glass and Stout Glass, Does It Really Make a Difference?

Like me, you may have recently seen an article about some newly designed beer glasses by the German glass makers Spiegelau. Alternately, if you frequent a site like Untappd, you may have started seeing pictures of IPA's and stouts in some radically different looking beer glasses. It is my understanding they were designed in conjunction with several American craft brewers, and you can buy the glasses on the Sierra Nevada, Left Hand Brewing, and Rogue websites, among others.  So of course, the questions arises, do these fancy new glasses really make a difference? I was going to put off trying them, but at only $9.00 each on the brewery sties (more expensive elsewhere), I just couldn't wait. They are designed to increase aroma, head retention and flavor delivery by nuances to the shape of the glass.  

I tried the IPA glass first, and then the stout glass and did each one head to head against my regular tulip for the IPA and against my regular nonic type stout glass. So, do they work?  The answer is absolutely yes, they do heighten and improve the experience of the beer. 

IPA glass – The aromas and taste are magnified, sharper, clearer, and much brighter. The head retention is much better in the special glass. The mouthfeel retains the carbonation about the same, but the head retention makes the beer out of the special glass fuller, smoother and rounder in addition to the carbonation. There is more lacing in the special glass as well. The difference seems small at first, but if you go back and forth from glass to glass, the difference gets stronger and more noticeable as you go through the beers.  The special glass retains the initial intensity of the beer throughout, it does not fade.  

Stout glass - The special stout glass has all of the same effects. It magnifies everything, clarifies everything, the aroma and taste are both brighter, cleaner, bolder, more intense. Again, better head retention, the head “refills” itself after each drink, and the beer drinks more creamy and smooth out of the special glass. This glass is also surprisingly light, it still surprises me each time I pick it up when it is empty.

Well designed, well done, these really do make a difference!

Ommegang Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Red Ale

This 6.8% ABV ale brewed with ancho chilies is from the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. Ommegang is part of the Duvel family, and is essentially a Belgian brewery plopped down in New York State. It is one of their special releases tied to the HBO television series Game of Thrones. This is the third release and features the three dragons of Daenerys Targaryen on the labels. 

The beer pours a deep and dark amber in color, burnt umber, heading to ruby. There is a very tall, thick, foamy head that is off-white to very, very light tan in color. The aroma is yeast esters, lots of banana, floral, herbal, caramel malt, with earthy and spicy chilies, and earthy, leather, horse blanket yeast notes. The taste hits all the notes found in the aroma, with a very, very dry finish that has moderate to strong bitterness, a floral bitterness. The chilies are present but subtle, the beer itself is spicy and the chilies provide spice without much, if any, heat. It is intensely and finely carbonated in the bottle-conditioned style. There is a lot going on in this beer, some will love it, it left me wanting a more coherent whole. 

Drogon is believed to be the reincarnation of Balerion the Black Dread, but Daenerys decides to give him a new name for his new life. The largest and most aggressive of Daenerys's three dragons, Daenerys has problems reining him in.

The majority of Viserion's scales are cream, but his horns, wing bones and spinal crest are gold colored. His teeth are shining black daggers. His eyes are two pools of molten gold and his flame is pale gold shot through with red and orange. Viserion has a roar that would send a hundred lions running. Although his true color is cream he is often referred to as the white dragon. He knows his name.

Rhaegal is one of the dragons born on the Dothraki Sea, along with Drogon and Viserion. Commanded by Daenerys Targaryen, he was named for her brother, Rhaegar Targaryen. He is distinguishable by his green and bronze colored scales, and his yellow-orange colored wings.

Bent Paddle Black Ale

This is a 6.0% ABV black ale from the Bent Paddle Brewing Company of Duluth, Minnesota. According to their can this beer bridges the islands of porter and stout. The factoid from this can is that Lake Superior is about 1,300 feet deep. The tie in to the beer? "At that depth, it is about as dark as our stout, er, porter."

The beer pours pure black in color, even when held to the light. There is over an inch of thick and somewhat creamy light brown foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, a bit of char, tangy, some metallic and mineral (but in a good way), very light coffee and dark chocolate. The taste is a creamy and rich dark roasted malt, mostly char and dark chocolate. It is medium-bodied and softly carbonated. The finish is quite dry and moderately bitter. This is one very nice black ale, that, as the can says, bridges the islands of porter and stout. 

West O Smoked Red Ale

This 6.5% ABV beer uses malts roasted over an open flame and is from the West O Beer Company of West Okoboji, Iowa. They invest part of their sales in the preservation and improvement of the Iowa Great Lakes Region.

The beer pours a dark amber and copper in color, dark brown and burnt orange, burnt umber, nearing ruby and garnet. There is a very short head of light tan foam. The aroma is deeply malty, cooked sweet potato, dark cherries, touch of herbal and peat. The taste follows the aromas, even more malty, deep and rich, roasted, tangy, with a touch of peat like smoke on the finish, very subtle. The finish is dry, somewhat woody. The beer is medium bodied, with a nice, soft carbonation. This is not a “smoke” beer, much to my great relief, as I have never found one that was anything but too smoky for me.