Saturday, December 31, 2011

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2007 (Matured in Sherry Casks) -- Beer Geek Joey Guest Post

Wow! Beer Geek Joey came right back the very next day with a review of the Sherry Matured version of the same beer from his cellar. Excellent!

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2007 Matured in Sherry Casks

Like the regular 2007 Harvest Ale, the version finished in sherry casks weighs in at 11.5% abv, and comes in a 275 ml brown glass bottle.

More fresh fruit than the regular, surprisingly. Apples and pears are prominent, but fade very quickly. Golden raisins, molasses and brown sugar take over. Vanilla and muscatelle are present, but caramel is rather less.  Malt is indistinct, without the noticeable biscuit character of the regular.

Pours clear gold-red, utterly devoid of head. Yeast cake in the bottom of the bottle stayed intact longer than the regular (or I got better at pouring carefully). Some very fine particles did come loose eventually.

Much less dark fruits in the flavor, with dried apples, golden raisins, and light brown sugar dominating. Touches of sherry and vinous alcohol. Good balance of bitterness and alcohol against the sweetness.

Almost no carbonation, but a touch does help balance the sweetness. Very viscous, heavy and creamy. Luscious mouthfeel overall.

Smoother and more balanced than the regular. Not a lot of noticeable character from the wood, but it probably led to the enhanced smoothness and balance. Simply superb.

Friday, December 30, 2011

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2007 -- Beer Geek Joey Guest Post

Beer Geek Joey, a friend of mine from Twitter, recently decided he'd like to step into the fray over here. Apparently, he has a beer collection that includes three versions of the 2007 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale--the original, one matured in sherry casks, and one matured in calvados casks. If you're really lucky, he might make this a trilogy (and we can also hope he curses like a sailor by the end, too). For now, the regular ale.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2007

The Harvest Ale is produced annually in "limited quantity" (though it never seems to be hard to find), and is intended to be "laid down like a fine wine." The 2007 was produced at 11.5% abv, and comes in a 275 ml brown glass bottle.

Aromas of raisins, fresh plums, port wine, molasses, demarara sugar, biscuit, muscatelle, and caramel. Sherry notes are prominent.

Pours a slightly hazy red-gold, with almost no head, just a tiny collar of thin bubbles. When I got near the bottom of the bottle, lots of red-brown chunkies could be observed - probably yeast from bottle conditioning. No impact to the flavor between before the chunkies came out and after.

Flavor mirrors the aroma, featuring dark stone fruit, dried fruit like golden raisins and apricots, sherry, port, molasses, biscuit malt and caramel. A bit on the sweet side still, but balanced enough to be drinkable.

Very low carbonation, very viscous, heavy and creamy. Luscious mouthfeel overall.

Very enjoyable sipper - not perfect, but a nice dram.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kasteel Rouge

So you guys know I did a Belgian week ending just a few days ago right? Of course you do! Never miss a post, right? Well, I found myself being given some more recommendations and wanting to throw in more Belgian beers than I traditionally have, basically because of how awesome they are. So here we go with Kasteel Rouge brewed by Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Ingelmunster, Belgium.

This beer is brewed with cherries and was bottled on 101027, which I'm guessing the year is the first number. The stubby three tiered 11.2 ounce bottle is cool; there is an "8°" marking on the front that I don't know what it means, and a building in the background of the label, which I assume is the brewery. Finally, serve around 43°F.

Cherry aroma, a lot, very fruity and a little yeasty. Oh, yeah! Sweet cherry. Oh, wait, hold up. Tart cherry. Now wait a second. Hmmm. Sweet and tart with a little zing, very nice. Spritzy carbonation makes both stand up and introduce themselves to your taste buds.

A little sugary, perhaps with some strawberry flavors on top of the initial cherry. This is very reminiscent of Cherry Coke, with alcohol, of course. That's a little boring, so maybe it's more like one of those craft fruity sodas from the end of the grocery aisle where no one shops. Yeah, I like that better, too. Sweet overall, but with enough relief and interest to work well. Some of the 8% alcohol is noticeable throughout, but more toward the end. I will say it also tastes a little like cherry medicine, but I don't find that to be unappealing because of that. I liked it.

Something fun. Click on the picture and look at the reflections in the glass and bottle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

Today I'm drinking A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California. I could not believe I've never had this beer before. Shocked. I did have the Belgian IPA version though, and loved every minute of it. This is an UN-Limited Release, available year round. The label shows the same hot chick as on another bottle or two, and as usual, a story around the label edge. 64.20 IBU. OG 1.076.

"So, we're all on collective disability. That's cool. Let's put some ice on it and keep ourselves elevated for a while. So, what's on the tube..? Honey..? Get me a beer from the fridge... Will ya..? Sweetie..? Pleeease..?"

Fruity peach and orange aroma yet with some nice citrus and pine contrast. The flavors burst in your mouth right away. Bitter citrus meets lots of fruity sweetness. Pine and grass and earthy flavors pair up with sweeter caramel. Definitely sweet and bitter, not really just the average "Even-Steven" muddle in the middle.

Some yeasty flavors add some interest, along with that characteristic Lagunitas flavor. Since the label doesn't really tell you what style of beer this IPA is, I checked online. Beer Advocate says it's an American Pale Wheat Ale. Could have fooled me. Perhaps now that you told me to look for wheat, perhaps I can imagine that for the yeast texture I just mentioned. As for Pale Ale, well, we already know that Lagunitas calls that New Dogtown a Pale Ale too and it's pretty damn hoppy. I guess I can understand why I don't give a shit about rigid style interpretations.

Anyway, this IPA has a nice sharp and spicy zip and twang to it. Great aftertaste. I could easily drink it on a regular basis. And you should check it out too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Stock Ale 2011

Today I'm drinking Old Stock Ale 2011 brewed by North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg, California. This is a beer that I've had for each of the past few years, starting with 2009, and yep, you guessed it, continuing with 2010. It's been a terrific beer each time I've tried it, and somewhere around this place I even have a few bottles in a box from past vintages. The label is similar to past years, but 2011 got an updated look and is signed by Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich.

I made a big point to name the years because I was recently called out on Mike Loves Beer's Airing of Grievances for the recent Festivus holiday. Apparently I've been doing better but am still repeating too many beers/reviews for Mike's taste. Anyway, even Mike I'm sure is OK with beers like this one in an annual repeat. Or maybe not.

Sweet caramel aroma with soft fruit, light pine bitterness and some sticky, boozy accents. Rich caramel flavors in the beginning yield to a nice rum-soaked raisin and plum deliciousness. Sugary sweet with vanilla and brown sugar, great flavors.

Now your 11.9% alcohol is warming and apparent, even to the point of a light burn. But the way it accentuates a little spiciness in the beer and the way it cuts down the sweetness is really terrific! Carbonation is good. Great big body is wonderful and not syrupy at all. Smooth and excellent. I totally recommend grabbing this beer!

Monday, December 26, 2011

José Martí American Porter

Today I'm drinking José Martí American Porter brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida. The label depicts Jose Marti, who was a writer and national hero in Cuba in the late 1800's, actually dying in a battle against Spanish troops in 1895.

The brewery went out of its way to say the beer is both "Generously Hoppy" and "Robustly Hopped", both phrases one on top of the other. So I'm guessing they are saying the beer is hoppy. There is a quote from Jose, "A grain of poetry suffices to season a century." And another passage from an 1894 poem titled A Morir (read below). Also stamped onto the label is NOV 2011 TWOTWO. Not sure what the second part of that means.

Rich roasted malty aroma and yeah, quite hoppy too. Some coffee and smoke and licorice accent a complex aroma. The flavors match the aroma almost to perfection. Roasted malts, coffee and light chocolate flavors are the initial flavors. And the beer is quite hoppy, lemony, at the same time. Very unique. Bitter but not accompanied by that hated roasty harshness many porters offer.

Smokey, licorice, citrus--all there. Some warmth from the 8% alcohol comes through toward the end. Good body. The feeling in the mouth is a little rough, moreso when swallowing. Finish is dry. Nice flavorful beer, complex and enjoyable.

One more comment. It's pretty awesome to get a history lesson with a brew, don't you think? I take these lessons, especially the ones about Cuban and Latino culture, with me to my Cuban neighbors' parties. Then I wow them over really poor domino play!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

St. Bernardus Abt 12 Abbey Ale

Merry Christmas! Remember that this is a celebration of Jesus' birthday. Ask if you'd like more details. I'm finishing off my Belgian Beer week with this review, so let me know how you think I did. 

Today I'm drinking another famous Belgian beer, St. Bernardus Abt 12 Abbey Ale brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernard in Watou, Belgium. This is a well-known Trappist Quadrupel, and I'm pretty sure that is supposed to be St. Bernard on the front label with his glass of this beer.  Best Before 05/31/16. Serve 52-56°F. 330 mL. Heck, if I'm going to do a Belgian beer week, I may as well pick the most famous and acclaimed ones, right?

Dark ruby-brown color, caught me off guard a little mainly because I was going through the pre-drinking picture-taking motions. Caramel and figs and raisins, enjoyable aroma. Excellent flavors and an exceptionally creamy texture. Figs and raisins and cherries, nice depth and richness while also letting you know they've been sipping the 10% alcohol. Molasses, caramel and brown sugar add more interest, this time a bit sweet.

The Belgian yeast is prominent. Spicy nibbles follow and interact well with the high level of carbonation. The alcohol is well incorporated yet offers a bit of a burn in the throat and chest. Nice balance between sweet and bitter, with a little bit of each. Really complex, terrific flavors. Slightly hot but whatever... the alcohol brings out the best each flavorful sip has to offer. If you haven't you must!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Duvel Belgian Golden Ale

Today I'm drinking Duvel Belgian Golden Ale brewed by Duvel Moortgat in Puurs, Belgium. I didn't even remember, but apparently I reviewed this one back in May, 2009. It's not like it isn't available. It's even on the beer shelves at the grocery store. I just never seem to get over to the foreign beer aisle. Except of course when in the midst of Belgian Beer Week!

The 330 mL bottle is stubby and has a very simple label. You will find out that they've been around since 1871 and apparently have a copywriter with a big vocabulary and sense of humor. The front label begs you to "Pour Unhurriedly" while the back label suggests you drink this "Beguiling Ale... with discerning friends or good-looking strangers." Best Before 03/2014.

Fluffy head. Yeasty aroma with plenty of fruity apples and peaches. Spicy smell, too. Fruity tart apple flavors are most prominent in the beginning. The yeastiness is very apparent, even a little funky on top of that tartness. Some spicy black pepper and coriander and lemon peel nibble at the palate as well.

The 8.5% alcohol is warming and cleansing, a complement to the fruitiness. Carbonation is big, yet smooth and quite creamy. A dry finish and tangy zing for an aftertaste round out each and every sip. Really nice beer. Quite enjoyable. I will have to check this out more often.

Friday, December 23, 2011

By The Glass: Barrel Aged Beer Show

Tonight I was filmed for my first internet video. Well, there are others, but this one I am proud of. I was invited to the very cool By The Glass Show for their Barrel Aged Beer Feature Show. I arrived early. Arriving early is so totally underrated, especially here in South Florida. I got to rap with the crew for a bit before starting. Host Brett Hubbard, co-host Jason and Santa at the controls. Of course, Ed Roberts set the whole thing up, including the amazing call-in guests, while also providing some kick-ass provisions, which I'll get to in a bit!

Big Show. All Barrel Aged! Innis & Gunn Original Oak, Crispin Stagger Lee Hard Cider, Russian River Supplication, and Sam Adams Utopias! Are you fucking kidding me? NOPE! A lot to do in an hour, so we got started drinking right away. This may seem a little long but it includes 4 beer reviews and commentary about phone calls from two spectacular guests. So deal with it!

Innis & Gunn Original. I had their Rum Cask prior, but after much discussion we figured out this one was a bourbon oak aged beer. Muted aroma, malty. Vanilla is strong, a little buttery, a pretty light Scotch Ale. Very smooth, and I heard the extremely accurate "Cream Soda" description. Everyone enjoyed it, though I know there are richer examples that are more interesting.

Hurry Up! Joe Heron, owner of Crispin Ciders, is on the line. Let's get that cider poured! Yes, we're drinking Stagger Lee, named after the famous song. I listened to about 800 renditions of it on YouTube today, but think the Grateful Dead (Jerry has hair) version was the best. Not the easiest to understand, but the best, LOL. Joe told us there is lots of Rock n Roll at Crispin and that they like to have fun. A very entertaining guy, extremely passionate and knowledgeable. Juicy apples, sweet cake, and a whiskey that lasts. Pretty interesting. Spicy with obvious spirits and a nip at the palate not to forget. DRY! Very nice.

Russian River Supplication. Ed sent this one. It was my #1 beer for the entire year of 2010, so of course I was totally psyched to try it again, considering its total unavailability in South Florida. Sour cherries, wine-like from the aging on Pinot Noir barrels, tart, awesome. Very dry start to finish. Vinnie, if you're reading, send me a few for Christmas!

While we were still drinking Supplication, Boston Beer Brewmaster Bob Cannon called in, one minute early. Again, as suggested above, that's the way to make shit happen. Don't arrive late! We finished our Supplication and got out the prize of the evening: Sam Adams Utopias. The store manager at Total Wine offered me a bottle around 6 months ago, for $200-ish for a 750 mL bottle. I can't remember the total damage, but that is way the hell out of my budget. I do accept gifts though, so keep that in mind.

Bob was awesome, from the unmistakable Boston accent to his terrific story about progressing from operations to keg washing to master brewer. When he heard I had a beer blog that reviewed a craft beer daily, he wanted in, though I'm not sure suggesting it as a volunteer role closed him. I did mention The Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock was a favorite. Brett had Bob speak about the barrel aging program at Boston Beer, which has been going on for decades. Very interesting. He's probably gonna get in trouble from Jim tomorrow for telling us about the special program scheduled for the next Utopias release. Sorry to spill the beans, dude. LOL.

Wow! That's about all I can say about Utopias. This bottle belongs to Ed, so we handled with care, meaning a small sample each. But that was all that we needed. Let me tell you how intoxicating the aroma is. You could probably sit there for an entire afternoon and just smell this beer.

Rich toffee flavors and a unique nuttiness are overtaken by some superb raisiny flavors. So spectacular and awesome. Vanilla, sherry and nuances from the wood barrels that made up this blend. Honey with heat but not burn from the 27% alcohol. This is one of the best baskets of flavors I've ever tasted. Forget about pairing this beer with food. Take a few ounces and sip for an hour. So luscious. $200 for 25 ounces? Well, I'm waiting for that raise just like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. Or a generous endowment from viewers like you!

I would go back to the show anytime. It was a lot of fun. Here is the entire video. Joe called in at around the 15 minute mark and Bob around the 39 minute mark if that's helpful. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Under The Tuscan Gun: Gabriele's Dishes Paired With Beer!

Scorze di Arancia al Cioccolato
Yesterday, Gabriele published my most recent article on his website. Even Michelangelo and da Vinci were psyched to see the results! Basically, I suggested some awesome beers to go with the last half dozen recipes published. Go check it out now and be sure to leave a comment, perhaps alternate beers for each dish. Come on, guys. It's a Christmas gift!

The first dish in my article is Gabriele's Scorze di Arancia al Cioccolato, pictured above. How's that for a teaser?

Chimay Tripel Ale

Today I'm drinking Chimay Tripel Ale, one of the most famous Belgian beers around. It is brewed at Scourmont Abbey and Bottled by Bieres de Chimay in Baileux, Belgium. The story on the back lets you know this is a Trappist ale and gives you a little insight as to what that means. You can read the story below. The 330 mL bottle is stubby with the name of the Abbey stamped into the glass. The label is yellow and brown which distinguishes it from its Red and Blue brothers. I think they call this one White. Pretty cool they used the American Flag colors.

"So you've done 1100 or more beer reviews and never had Chimay?" That's correct. Just never got around to it. Could you try to act a little less superior and condescending? Cool. 

Fluffy head. Yeasty aroma with plenty of fruity peach and orange and spice as well. Creamy start. Much more bitter and hoppy than I anticipated. Some fruity pear, apple and orange flavors come next, though they are not so powerful. Yeast is apparent; spicy black pepper too.

The carbonation is big and along with the 8% alcohol, you will get quick the little tag-team kick in the palate. Lemony, citric finish and dry aftertaste. A good beer. I'd have liked a little sweeter balance. Enjoyable though I will stick my neck out and say I felt a bit let down by my expectations.