Monday, February 25, 2008

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

Beer: Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
Brewery Location: Healdsburg, CA
Beer Style: American IPA
Serving Style: Bomber
ABV: 7.0%

There are so many great breweries across the county, and I am doing my best to try and give each one a try. I've heard some great things about Bear Republic, and this is my first offering from them. I've been impressed with many California brewers interpretations on the IPA style, and I've also been quite let down by some hyped IPA's from there as well. I can't believe this beer is only 2.99 in California. I am not sure why west coast beers are significantly cheaper than here in the mid-west. I can't really think of any bombers that are available locally that are around that price point that I would purchase often. If you ever shop at Liquid Solutions you will notice how west coast brewers tend to have very attractive price points for very well respected beers. You can buy this beer right now for $3.48 a bomber over at Liquid Solutions.

Pours a hazy amber color with one finger of creamy white head that left sheets of lacing on the walls of my imperial pint glass. The smell of this beer hit me as I was pouring it. Big scents of citrus fruit and an earthy grassy scent that both equally vie for your attention. A slight bit of sweet malt is also trying to make itself known on the nose as well. The flavor profile is a duel battle between the sweet caramel malt and the citrus and pine flavor of the hops. Neither flavor dominates each other and this flavor profile is well crafted and well made. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, but overall it is medium bodied with lower than average carbonation. The drink ability on this beer is impressive, and it leaves me wanting Bear Republic in Indiana.

This is a quintessential IPA. This is a well made IPA that doesn't slap you in the face with over the top hop flavor, but instead it is a well crafted and well balanced IPA that is a pleasure to drink. This would be good on most any occasion and would pair itself nicely with spicier food. I will continue to buy this from Liquid Solutions or trade for it. This is well worth that minor trouble.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Growing Your Own Hops

I am going to take a shot at growing my owns hops this year.  I know my first year will not yeild big results, but I am hoping my second growing season will yield some good results. 

I've got to admit I am not much of a gardener, but I've been reading that hop plants will grow just about anywhere, and with just a little TLC, they will grown with minimal supervision.

I am going to order them from Northern Brewer, but does anyone else have suggestions or comments about growing your own hops? 

Thursday, February 21, 2008

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

Beer: J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
Brewery Location: Manchester, UK
Beer Style: Barleywine
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 11.5%

J.W. Lees is one of the oldest breweries around with distribution to America. 1828 is when the company started brewing beer. This beer is released every year in December and is perfect for vintage cellaring. If you see it at the stores (Kahn's and Party Pak have plenty) you will see each label always shows the year of vintage. Certain years are more prized than others just like fine wine vintages. If you are ever lucky enough to be in the cellar at the Heorot it has bottles from 1987 and 1988, and I am sure pretty much every other year, but those stand out in my mind. This bottle is the 1997 vintage.

It pours a dark brown body with ruby highlights at the edges. No head from an unaggressive pour that left minimal spotty lacing on my glass. The nose is really surprising. It has big scents of sweetened dark fruit, maple sugar, and a port-wine alcohol scent dominating the nose. I love having my nose in this beer. The flavor profile is amazingly complex with dark fruits (plums, figs, and raisins) brown sugar, and rich malt. The flavors meld to perfection on this 11 year old beer. The mouthfeel is sticky and still velvety on my palate. I can barely notice the alcohol on this, but the warmth from the alcohol is felt about halfway down the beer. I could get in trouble with the drink ability on this beer. The alcohol is not present on the mouthfeel, but the warmth feels really nice on this cold and snowy night.

Overall, this beer is a big winner in my book. After 11 years this beer is really something special. The flavor profile and mouthfeel were my two big winners for this beer. This is the type of beer that would hopefully turn a few wine lovers onto aged beer and really showcase what some age can do to a beer. Well done J.W. Lees.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tröegs Nugget Nectar

Beer: Tröegs Nugget Nectar
Brewery Location: Harrisburg, PA
Beer Style: Imperial Amber Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 7.5%

This is another beer I've been trying to get my hands on for a while. Troegs only releases this beer seasonally every year in February. After having this beer I am going to start my own beer distribution company and specialize only in beers from Troegs. (Just kidding, I am far too lazy for that, but I can talk a big game!)

Pours a beautiful amber-orange color with one finger of dense head. It left fantastic lacing on the walls of my pint glass. I can smell the glorious hops as I pour this beer. I get big scents of pink grapefruit, oily hops, and resinous pine. The flavor of bitter hops takes hold of your palate and smacks it around a bit before the sweet almost biscuity malt rounds the beer out very well. The bitterness is mostly of pine and citrus fruit. I can't get enough of the flavor on this beer. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium carbonation. The alcohol is well hidden and this leaves a fairly dry finish on the back of my palate. The drinkability is very good on this, but not quite session able at 7.5% ABV. An homage to hops is all I can say about this beer.

Troegs really has a tasty seasonal offering here. I really wish I could get my hands on more of this because I want to hoard this stuff like I do with Hopslam. If you know anyone in Pennsylvania and other east coast states have them send you some of this beer. I don't think you will be disappointed.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oaken Barrel

Beer: Brook's 2002 Special Reserve Barleywine
Brewery Location: Greenwood, IN
Beer Style: Barleywine
Serving Style: On-Tap
ABV: ???

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that I should have done more research on this beer before I stated that "It is named after one of the old brew masters." I just took the information that was on my menu at the restaurant, and didn't ask more information about it. This beer is named after the co-founder/co-owner/first brew master of Oaken Barrel: Brook Belli. I had no idea of the situation surrounding my comment and I offer my apologies to anyone that I may have offended. It was certainly not in my intentions, and I was only in the search of great beer. Again, my apologizes to anyone that I may have offended.

I've been slowing up on posting this month. I've been very busy, but I've had some great beer this month that I will get posted.

I was at Oaken Barrel this weekend and saw this beer as part of their special reserve series. There is a disclaimer when you order this beer though that you can only have one during your visit the brewery. I do love barleywines, so I figured I would give this a go.

This beer pours a deep amber-copper color approaching almost brown. A very thin swirl of head and no lacing. The malt hits you in the face and lasts the entire beer. It is more than assertive on the nose. There are secondary scents of sweet caramel and toffee with more than a hint of alcohol. I didn't get very much hop character out of the nose at all. The taste brings a few more things together. The malt is rather bitter but the sweet finish has flavors of caramel and toffee. The flavors meld together very well for how strong the nose was on this beer. The mouthfeel is big and chewy with the alcohol warmth very noticeable on the mouth. I wouldn't drink this very often, but if I was in the mood for a strong barleywine this would be it. If I had to guess though on the ABV I would say it's 9% or more.

Overall I really enjoyed this beer. I think you would need to enjoy big beers to like this one though. The alcohol content is high, but it doesn't get to "boozy" at all. I don't know how long they will have this on tap over there, but if you do find yourself at Oaken Barrel I would give it a try.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

An evening with Mr. Stout and Mr. Porter

I threw out an idea over at Hoosier Beer Geek for a tasting with nothing but stouts and porters, and it came together last night. I enjoy beer tastings for many reasons. Tasting the same style from multiple brewers is not only interesting, but you can taste subtle and major differences in a brewers take on a beer style, and you get a chance to taste multiple beers in a beer friendly environment.

I am not going to write a review on each thing that we tasted, so I am just going to write some highlights and disappointments from the evening.

We started the night off with Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter. I've said it before, but Sammy Smith can do no wrong in my book. Sweet toasted malt with roasted grain with a touch of smoke in the flavor profile with a silky smooth mouthfeel. This was one of my top three beers of the night that we sampled.

Another winner for me was the 2000 Sinebrychoff Porter. I've reviewed this beer before, but not the vintage bottle that Mike and Gina brought with them. I really enjoyed it when I reviewed it, but this beer with some age on it was well done. It was malty and chocolaty on the flavor profile and was big and chewy on the mouthfeel. The vintage bottle is worth the extra buck, and I plan on enjoying it again.

Another beer I was very surprised by was North Coast's Old #38. North Coast makes the famous Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, but that is the only beer I've ever reviewed from them until I had the Old #38. I really enjoyed the bitter cocoa and toasted grain in the flavor and how easy this beer was on the mouthfeel.

My personal favorite of the night was the Abyss from Deschutes. This beer was unlike any other Russian Imperial Stout I've ever encountered. It is a big beer, but it somehow is so soft and gentle on the palate and in the flavor profile. Big flavors of espresso, bourbon, smoke, and dark fruits. It somehow remind me of sitting around a campfire on a cold evening. I think it was deserving of the hype that the beer gets.

My dissapointments from the evening were the Left Hand Black Jack Porter and the Goose Island Oatmeal Stout. The Left Hand was very thin on the mouthfeel and had a bit of sour milk going on in the nose. The Goose Island wasn't bad per se, but wasn't really something I would drink again either.

The biggest disappointment for me though was Sam Adam's Triple Bock. The scent was very dominant of soy sauce and a flavor profile dominant of vinegar. I kept smelling it though over and over just to see if each smell would still be as putrid as the last, and yes, it was each and every time.

I had a great time last night and I want to thank the Hoosier Beer Geeks for coming out and bringing some great beers to share. Thank you to Mike and Gina for bringing some tasty cupcakes and thanks to Kelly for giving me my word of the week: cadamom!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

Beer: Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA
Brewery Location: Easton, PA
Beer Style: Double IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9.0%

I've been trying to get my hands on this beer for a little while now. It is found in Ohio, but as far as I know it is unavailable here in Indiana. I just received some in a trade.

Simcoe hops are a relative newcomer to the hop arena. It is a hybrid of hops that was made with a very high alpha-acid content, 12%+, and would impart strong bitterness without heavy harshness on the palate. According to Weyerbacher Brewing simcoe hops are a registered trademart of Select Botanicals. The bottle even shows that the word simcoe has been trademarked. I've heard so much hype about this beer, and I can't wait to give it a try.

Pours a deep amber hue with slight rustic orange highlights. A decent sized creamy head showed itself very briefly and settled into a thin blanket of head that stayed for the whole beer. This beer leaves big sheets of lacing on the walls of my pint glass. The floral notes in the nose are intense for this offering. Heavy scents of wooded pine, grapefruit rind, a certain earthiness that is associated with Amsterdam. The first flavors bring on a dry pine bitterness offset with a sweet caramel malt base and secondary flavors of citrus and orange rind. This is unlike, in a good way, any other DIPA I've tasted as of yet. This beer is medium bodied with medium carbonation on the mouthfeel, and does leave a very dry sensation on the finish. The alcohol is only slightly noticeable. The drinkability is very nice on this beer, and I would gladly purchase again.

If you like IPA's, but do not like the harshness of most DIPA's, this is the beer for you. The pine flavor is very heavy but is in no way cloying. I do have to say though that the bark of this beer is bigger than its bite. The nose outperforms the flavor on this beer, but having said that, overall it is a great offering. If this were available here in Indiana I would drink this often.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

Beer: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
Brewery Location: Chico, CA
Beer Style: Barleywine
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9.6%

Sierra Nevada's seasonal Bigfoot just came out in Indiana a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to stop at Party Pak and pick some up, but just haven't made it. I was afraid that there wouldn't be any left when I got there, but there was plenty left on the shelves, and for a pretty good price. I really enjoy Sierra Nevada's beers and the company itself. Their beers are an extremely reasonable price, always consistent quality, and are one of the most visible craft brewers in America. You can find their pale ale in about any liquor store or grocery store you walk into, and I've found it to be a great gateway beer for people looking to convert.

A barleywine was traditionally the heaviest alcoholic beer that a brewery offered. It gets the name from being highly alcoholic close to that of wine, but since it is made from grain it must carry the moniker of "barley-wine style ale." I am not sure what person was bored enough to draft some type of legislation for that, but I need their job. Double IPA's and barleywines are somewhat similar, but a barleywine will usually be more balanced with a bigger malt presence and a more complex flavor profile. That is not always the case, but those are some of the usual differences.

This beer pours a dark reddish/garnet hue with one finger of white head. The head dissipated very quickly on this, but at 9.6% that can be expected. The nose is classic for Sierra Nevada. Bold hop characteristics showing signs of all of the C-hops with citrus and pine making themselves known on the nose. The taste brings a blast of powerful malt with the bitter hop flavoring right behind it. I taste big flavors of resinous pine, grapefruit, and sweet caramel. The sweet malt and bitter hops are very well done on this brew. At 9.6% the alcohol is present as well, but is in no way cloying at all in the flavor profile. The mouthfeel is big, chewy, and sticky with the alcohol warmth only slightly making itself known. The drinkability is very good on this brew, and I would gladly purchase again.

This is a damn fine example of a barleywine style ale. I bought several from Party Pak, and I am going to cellar a few and see that does to the beer. I have a feeling that more time on this will greatly enhance the flavor profile when the hops mellow out a bit more. This is a good starter beer for people wanting to try the barleywine style ales. It is rather bitter, but this hop-head doesn't mind that at all. Good effort from Sierra Nevada on this one.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Founder's Centennial IPA

Beer: Founder's Centennial IPA
Brewery Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Beer Style: India Pale Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 7.2%

Do you love your C-hops (Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus)? I know that I sure do. It will be a tough 2008 for them though. I know you have all heard of the hop shortage that is happening as we speak. I've seen prices on my of my favorite beers stating to creep up. I was just at the Three Floyd's brewpub this weekend and they have increased their six pack prices from seven dollars to ten dollars a six pack. Stone brewing just announced that their prices would be going up $1 to $1.50 per sixpack. Other brewers have announced they would not be making their extreme DIPA's this year. It will be a tough year for us hop-heads. The market for hops will correct itself in due time, but it will be a hard wait for this beer lover.

The reason I wrote that bit of information is because the name of this beer is taken from one of those "C" hops. This beer is still a good price, and as far as I can tell is still going to be brewed year round. I can honestly say that I've never had a bad beer from Founders. They are creating some amazing beer up in Grand Rapids, MI. Their world famous "Kentucky Breakfast Stout" should be coming out in late February or early March.

Pours a beautiful hazy amber hue with a rather thin off-white head. I can smell as I pour. I get huge scents of citrus, pine, sweet caramel malt. There is no doubt this beer had been dry-hopped. This is one of the better IPAs I've smelled. The first taste brings on big tastes of grapefruit and resinous pine, and then it backs off and then the sweet malt rounds everything out. In terms of style, this is a quintessential IPA. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium carbonation. I do not detect any alcohol in the mouthfeel. The drinkability on this beer is very good. Not quite a sessionable beer at 7.2%, but it still holds up well.

This is a style defining IPA. I can't really find any faults on it according to style guidelines. This might replace one of my go-to beers in my fridge. I've had it before, but coming back to it really gave me new found appreciation for this beer. I do hope that Founder's has their hop contracts in place for 2008 and this beer can be enjoyed all year long.