Thursday, January 31, 2013

Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer

Yes, I am making fun of all the diagonal picture takers
 A couple weeks ago I got a phone call from a friend of mine in El Paso, wanted to know if I've tried any Jester King beers before. I let him know that I previously had Thrash Metal Farmhouse Ale and Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout (don't make the mistake of confusing Death Metal with KISS, trust me).

Anyway, a few days ago, I got a package with four new wine bottles of Jester King beers. I tell you the gift story because I don't want you to think I abandoned my "Bomber Boycott" of large format beers based on their relative prices to bottled 12 ouncers.

I picked out Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer to drink first. The artwork on the front label is awesome. The Little Prince is so life-like and three-dimensional and colorful and crisp. Contrast that to my opinion of the Thrash Metal art and it's night and day. I can't believe they came from the same brewery. And I'll fill you in that all four of my new bottles have great art!

There is a story on the side, a little literary verse ending with the thoughtful conclusion, "maybe bigger isn't always better after all." I think what they are referring to is the fact that this is a table beer and only contains 2.9% alcohol, a relief from all the mega-brews being pumped out today.

The third panel on the wrap-around label offers the ingredients and some other information about the beer, including their own tasting notes. Serve 50-55°F.

Nice head, and later lacing as well. Light, bright, lemony and tangy yeast aroma. Very pleasant. The flavors start out lemony and nicely hoppy with a sharp little citrus rind bite. Subtle yeast and faint hay come next along with some fruity apple and light tartness.

The body is on the low end, but this beer is anything but watery. Great carbonation and creamy texture. Leans perfectly bitter. Very refreshing, flavorful, enjoyable. Took me three pours to empty the bottle, the last being full of funky yeast. I didn't like that part, so I just skipped it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Trappist Westvleteren XII

12.12.12 Westvleteren XII arrived to my local Total Wine. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect: either nobody at the store when it opened at 8am or campers that spent the night. I dropped my son off at school and arrived 15 minutes early to crickets. Not a soul to be seen except Jason getting ready for the day inside.

So I took a few pictures of the display of Westy "bricks", which were $85 six packs with two novelty glasses. What a deal! However, this is supposed to be the best beer in the world, so what the hell. BTW, I am certainly open to trading away the other five bottles, so let me know.

The Line To Get Into Total Wine in Pembroke Pines

The 11.2 oz bottle is elegant with just the name of the beer on the front. The back was just as cool, with "Ad aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi." (Latin for "I helped to build the abbey.") painted there. That phrase I suppose is alluding to the fact that this first-time US delivery of these beers was done to fund restorations at the abbey. Below that painted phrase, though, was a slapped on sticker, surely required by some laws, yet poorly executed. Serve 12-16° C. Best before 10.02.15.

Of course I poured it into my Westvleteren XII shot chalice. Jeez! What a tiny glass! Nice mocha head took forever to recede. Aroma was nice with cinnamon and other spices dominating. Cocoa and vanilla and fruit also came across. Smelled like I was really in for a sweet beer.

Amazingly creamy mouthfeel, one of the best textures I can ever remember in a beer. Good booze from the 10.2% alcohol right up front too, warming and enhancing the other flavors. Carbonation is very fine and refined, so nice.

Prunes followed by lightly tart cherries. Sugary, yet not sweet and with great balance. Belgian yeast adds character. Brown sugar and cinnamon come toward the end. Excellent and super-complex. I will say that I felt a tinge of boozy cherry cough syrup in the flavors, but definitely a great beer. If you guys don't trade me for the rest, I'll probably save one for #QuadDay 2013!

Anyway, I wasn't disappointed by the hype. For me, there are dozens of other beers ahead of this one though. Best characteristics were creaminess and complexity.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Windowpane Peaches -- North Carolina Geoff Guest Post

A few days ago, I threw out an open invitation to do a guest post here, and one of my online acquaintances took me up on it. Geoff did a really nice job introducing himself, Mother Earth Brewery and their Windowpane Peaches beer. So I guess we can forgive the "Duke Basketball" fandom I gleaned from his Twitter profile. Check it out!

Mother Earth Windowpane Peaches

If you’ve never heard of Kinston, NC - that’s ok. A little bit off the beaten path in Eastern, NC, Kinston is one of many North Carolina towns experiencing a beer renaissance thanks to Mother Earth Brewing. Mother Earth is more than just a name. Mother Earth Brewery showcases their commitment to green and sustainable brewing as part of their brewery culture.

Mother Earth brews many outstanding beers, including two canned beers (Second Wind Pale Ale and Sunny Haze hefeweizen) and five bottled selections (Endless River Kolsch, Weeping Willow Wit, Dark Cloud Dunkel, Sisters of the Moon IPA, Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter). Mother Earth also features brewery only releases, as well as seasonal cork and caged Bourbon Barrel Aged Tripel Overhead and Silent Night, a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout.

In 2012, Mother Earth decided to release a limited series called Windowpane. The first, Blackberries (aged in pinot barrels) was a brewery only release. I was fortunate enough when the second in the series, Peaches, was released, to get two bottles.

From the bottle: Second in a series of four North Carolina inspired beers. Double American Wheat fermented with peach, then aged in Chardonnay barrels for three months.

ABV 8.2%

I poured “Peaches” into an Allagash tulip glass. “Peaches” pours a straw (peachy?) gold and is very hazy. The nose is super boozy with a slight hint of unidentifiable fresh fruit.

The first sip is very fruit forward peach. I found the mid palate is very smooth, and mildly bitter with a strong oak and booze finish. A peach schnapps like flavour lingers in between sips. I have had a different peach beer that tastes like bad peach schnapps. I do not care for that particular beer, but the lingering finish works for Windowpane Peaches.

“Peaches” only gets better and smoother as it warms up. In spite of the beer base being a double wheat style (wheat wine instead of barleywine?) there is little to no wheat character to this beer that I could discern. Any lip smacking straw character is well hidden by the peach and oak.

A mild tartness appears on the finish as the beer warms. I‘d contrast the “Peaches” finish with Dogfish Head Festina Peche, whose tart Berliner Weisse character is a summer favorite. “Peaches” tartness is not as sharp as Festina Peche, merely a note among the symphony of flavours of “Peaches”.

“Peaches” would be an outstanding standalone dessert beer. As you can imagine, pairing “Peaches” with any kind of peach cobbler, peach pie or even vanilla ice cream (beer float, anyone?) would make for an excellent end to an evening meal. Given the fall seasonal release, “Peaches” might offset a nice pecan pie also- a thought brought to mind by the excellent holiday beer from Shiner, Shiner Cheer. I also think “Peaches” would go well with brie or any mild, creamy cheese.

Mother Earth beers are limited in distribution to North Carolina and Georgia per their website, . I am in no way affiliated with Mother Earth, just a local beer supporter who holds the opinion that Mother Earth is brewing some of the finest beers around.

Thus ends my first guest post beer review- I hope you enjoyed it. I want to thank Beer Drinker Rob of the Daily Beer Review for the opportunity, and close with an amusing story unrelated to my review above of Mother Earth Windowpane Peaches.

Fullsteam Brewery had just opened in downtown Durham, and I was waiting at the bar for a growler of Fullsteam Summer Basil. While I waited, a guy walked up to the bar and ordered a pint of Fullsteam’s El Toro Cream Ale. My memories of Cream Ale are not generally fond and of products like Genessee Cream Ale. I’ve since had Fullsteam El Toro and it is an excellent beer. Out of curiosity, after he had finished about a third of his pint, I asked the guy what he thought of the Fullsteam Cream Ale. The gentleman enthusiastically told me, “It’s really good, I can really taste the cream!”

I froze up a bit, tried not to roll my eyes and laugh out loud. On the drive home, my sides hurt and there were tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. As I have told this story often, the two best comments I have received in kind were: “If Fullsteam had a milk stout, do you think you could have convinced him to try it since it would have less calories than a cream ale?” and “Do you think a guy like that would ever try a beer like Horse Piss Beer?”.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Palate Wrecker

Green Flash Brewing out of San Diego made a beer a few years ago called Hamilton's Ale to celebrate the second anniversary of Hamilton's Tavern. Today, they bottle and sell that beer as Palate Wrecker. I figured after a full morning of Wreck It Ralph on the Wii, this was a perfect afternoon pairing solution! The label is boring as usual, same thumbnail of a sunrise that's on all their bottles. There is a stray quote at the bottom. "Think About Me!" attributed to SB. Hmmm. Ed Roberts sent me something that said this has 149 IBU so we'll go with that. 9.5% alcohol.

Piney, spicy, peppery, citrusy, hoppy aroma. Flavors are hoppy in every way... tons of pine resin and citrus rind. Yet, the beer is nicely balanced by a malty backbone of fruity orange and light caramel that totally tones the bite. Spiciness is brought out by the alcohol, and that alcohol dries things out and puts some hair on your chest as well.

Carbonation is OK, but it's the chewy body you'll remember about this beer. Nice flavors though I could have used a little more hoppy kick and a little less balance. After all, I'm pretty sure the name advertised that would be the case. Enjoyable all around. However, again, my palate is safe. Check it out!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout

I grabbed Samuel Adams' Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout on sale last week. I guess that people can't appreciate a holiday themed beer after the holidays. Well, I'm here to help move those products!

The label on Big 22 is a sharp departure from other Sam Adams products. This has a beautiful illustration of three gingerbread men taking a toboggan ride down the slopes. Oops! One of the gingerbread men is crying as his foot got broken off. There is a story on the back setting the mood for this beer... Read below. This is Batch No. 1 in their experimental limited edition series.

Chocolaty cocoa powder aroma with light coffee and a spice basket. Chocolate flavors start but are crushed under an avalanche of cinnamon, which persists throughout. The 9.0% alcohol does it's best to temper that spiciness with some nice booziness. I can also taste a bit of ginger, like in ginger snaps.

The beer is sweet, a little too sweet. I do feel the holiday cookies theme, including everything all the way down to the cup of coffee to go with them. Creamy, medium carbonation, flavorful. In the end, the sweetness and spices really are a bit too dominant. If those could be scaled back just a bit, I'd have loved this one. Right now, I'm on the fence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Affligem 950 Cuvee

Today I'm drinking Affligem 950 Cuvee, a "quadruple hopped" Belgian Blond Ale brewed to celebrate the 950 years they've been brewing beers at this abbey. This was a Christmas gift from one of the agencies representing the brewery. I guess they really enjoyed my thorough review including the YouTube video I made for them a few months back.

The beer was presented in a corked and caged wine bottle with a classic words-only label design. I guess that's their shield or coat of arms or whatever you call it on the front, too. Alcohol 6.8%.

Of course I'm using an Affligem glass. This bottle came with two more of those glasses, so I'm working on a complete set. Frothy white head. Yeasty aroma with cloves, faint banana and a touch of sourness. That minor sour smell turned out to be a giant sour flavor, just wow and unexpected, shocking. Some apples and acidic white grapes mix with that sharp sourness.

Very yeasty texture and flavors, quite Belgian. There is a bit of spice but it's mostly muted. This is one heavily carbonated beer as well, not a bad thing. The one thing that I didn't find very prominent was hops, not even one nip in this "quadruple hopped" beer. The finish is dry and there is a funny aftertaste. You do get used to the initial sourness somewhat but it is still a little off-putting overall.

Not bad, not great. I'd never buy this when their terrific Affligem Blonde is on the shelf next to it. That's the way the ball bounces!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heart of Darkness

I took my one moment of peace today to grab Heart of Darkness, a stout brewed by Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont. Not only is it a stout. According to the label, it's a "diabolically delicious stout".  The art shows a mysterious eye surrounded by a pinkish purple swirl. This bottle is a sample from the brewery. Thanks, guys.

Big cocoa aroma with prunes and raisins underneath. You can also smell a light roast and a hint of smoke. Flavors are coffee and cocoa dominant at the beginning, everywhere in the mouth. Good roast with some smoke, even to the point of a light ashy char.

Creamy texture, good body, nicely carbonated too. Not sweet or bitter; rather, there is a different strange kind of tartness that infiltrates. As the beer warms up a little, the prunes and some cherry tartness show through even more. Finish is roasty and a little bitter. Pretty good. I'd check it out again.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Florida Cracker

Drinking a fresh Cigar City Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale as the can suggests. How do I know it's fresh? The bottom of the can says it was canned on 06 DEC 2012.

The can design shows a map of the state of Florida and offers a story on the back telling the origin of the word Cracker. Get out your microscope to be able to read the micro-print. I haven't checked yet, but perhaps my photo can be blown up to make it easier on your eyes. Basically, a cracker refers to the whips that cattle ranchers in Florida used back in the day when Spain gave up the land to the English. This beer was brewed to recognize their role in the history of Florida.

Yeast and pale malt aroma with plenty of coriander and sweet oranges. The flavors mirror that, with a big dose of coriander and juicy oranges to start. High carbonation is noticeable from the beginning as well. Wheaty texture and flavor along with some pale malt cracker flavors. Finish is again yeasty.

Flavorful and refreshing, perfect for an 85° December Florida day after a hard-core Wii Fit workout. Enjoyable. Drink Local.

MUCH LARGER than actual size

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fade to Black Volume 4: Rocky Mountain Black Ale

The familiar Left Hand Brewing Fade to Black label showed up on the shelves again recently. If you recall, you'll need to look closely to see if there is any difference at all from previous editions. In a tiny space on the neck label, you'll see this one says Volume 4: Rocky Mountain Black Ale. Last year's Pepper Porter and the 2010's Smoked Baltic Porter were great, so I expect nothing less from this beer.

The story on the side goes, "Fade to Black. That time of year when the light fades away. Brewed for the darkness, Fade to Black speaks in volumes." Enjoy at 50 - 55°F in a goblet.

Nice head! Roasted malt aroma with plenty of cocoa and coffee. Very roasty flavors kick things off, to the point of leaving ashy and charred flavors left in the mouth. Quite dry from the start too. Big coffee flavors pretty much dominate, but a hefty hoppy bitterness aggressively attacks as well.

Burnt malt, more charred wood. Both build a bit unpleasantly and in a harsh way. Not creamy or smooth in any way. Body and carbonation are decent. Not my favorite style and not a favorite by any stretch. The worst of the 3 Volumes that I've tasted. If you like that heavily roasted/burnt malt flavor, this, Bud, is for you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

'B-Hoppy' the ORIGINAL Hop Candy

Here's a little treat for you today. Literally. I was searching the internets a few weeks ago and came across a candy made from hop oils. Of course I tweeted about it, duh. The next day, the guy who makes the candy sent me an email and told me some of the history behind the candy and what flavors I might expect, should I accept his offer of samples.

Well, a few days later, a box of candy arrived: B-Hoppy candy in three different hop varieties, each distinguished by a distinct color.

I started with the Cascade hop variety because I thought I might like it best. Sweet and not bitter in the slightest, yet you still feel like you're tasting that hoppy flavor you know so well from beer. Because you are! But the complete lack of bitterness was notable. The flavors are flowery and oily, perhaps lightly citric. There are many flavor subtleties that come together to make one really interesting and enjoyable whole. The aftertaste is pleasant and lasting.

Bob from B-Hoppy said he originally got the idea for making these while drying some of his home-grown hops. Something about the linalool aroma being a lightbulb above his head.

I moved on to the East Kent Golding hop candy next. Perhaps it was fruitier or juicier but basically seemed the same. And finally, I tried the Saaz variety. Also very similar with just a hint of herbal flavors and a touch more spice.

The uniqueness factor is high. They are probably not the candy of choice for the PTA meeting or your child custody hearing, but you won't get drunk sucking on them even while you're working.

Finally, for you people that care about nutrition... In each serving (3 pieces): 70 calories, 0g fat; 0mg sodium 17g carbohydrates; 12g sugars; 0g protein. So if you're doing the math, I consumed 140 calories for this post. And I'd do it again too!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Black Xantus Imperial Stout

Lots of beer geek hype on Black Xantus. So fuck it! I closed my eyes and bought a 22 ouncer for $14, ignoring my terribly-self-enforced Bomber Boycott. While looking around for more info about the beer, I came across this very informative article about the brewery. Go ahead and read it yourself, but it's really interesting and ends with the sale of Nectar Ales.

To find out more about this beer in particular, I found this old post at the seemingly abandoned brewery website. Latest post 2009? Buzz happenings 2011? Well, I guess I better grab the info now before the site disappears too.

Black Xantus (pronounced Zantis) is truly a unique bird. An Imperial Stout aged in American oak barrels, infused with fresh organic/ fair-trade coffee from our local coffee roaster, Jobella Coffee Roasters. This special, limited release beer bursts with bourbon and espresso aromas leading into chocolate and black cherry flavor. It’s 11% ABV is softened by time in barrels which also contributes to the beer’s appeal. We are very proud of this new addition to the Nectar Ales family.  
Only 400 cases produced (22oz bottles/very limited draft) - TAKING FLIGHT September 2011  
Russian Imperial Stout
Aged in Bourbon Barrels
Alcohol By Volume - 11%
Color - Black
IBU - 50.0  

Bomber bottle has a very nice depiction of a Black Xantus, a hummingbird that is found throughout Southern California. The cap was covered with a plastic cover. My cap was a little rusty when I took away that cover. I wasn't really concerned, though rusty caps are not a favorite sign.

GREAT aroma! Rich creamy chocolate. Sweet with a hint of awesome coffee, licorice hints bob in and out. The flavors followed with rich, luscious chocolate. So far, this beer is all it was hyped up to be! The bourbon-barrel aging is just right, not overdone like is usually the case. The bourbon sweetness blends perfectly with the chocolate and the espresso flavors.

The 11% alcohol is noticeable but well-disguised. It also helps to cut through the thick, sweet, chewy flavors and offers some relief from that, while also providing a good dose of heat in the throat and chest. Creamy, milky texture. Nicely boozy. Medium carbonation and not flat which I liked. Enough bitterness that there is some balance. And a dry finish.

Kicks ass! Better than almost all the $14 bottles I can remember buying. You know who you are! Buy it if you find it!