Monday, August 31, 2009

Chama River Menege A Tripel & Amber

Tina and I like to go up to Pendaries, NM (it's a little past Las Vegas, NM) - it's peaceful and relaxing. Especially, when you pack a growler or two. So, one of the last go-arounds, we stopped off at Chama River Brewing to see what they had to offer. We ended up getting their Menege A Tripel & the Rio Chama Amber. One impressed, one did not.

The Menege A Tripel was a strong tripel representation from Chama River. The beer had a very "wheatish" look to it, making the brew seem more like a combination of a wheat beer and a belgium tripel. There is a lot of crisp banana & apricot flavors with a short fruity aftertaste. The beer isn't really that sweet - just enough to get that fruity flavor in there. With a 8.6% ABV, it was strong and fit with other tripels I've had lately (the Kerberes Tripel from Flying Dog was 8.5%).

Look - 4.0/5.0 - The unique blend of a wheat and tripel was intriguing.
Smell - 4.0/5.0 - The banana and apricot flavors are pleasant and not so overpowering that you feel like you snorted a line of sugar.
Taste - 4.0/5.0 - A pretty standard tripel - strong, flavorful and crisp.
Feel - 4.0/5.0 - The lack of being overly sweet was very nice
Drinkability - 3.5/5.0 - The premium charged to get this one counts against it - while the beer was enjoyable, the extra $3 to get the growler make my wallet a sad panda.

The Rio Chama Amber was the disappointment of the pair. The aroma from the beer was...unique, but in a bad way. It was bordering skunky and that prevented much of any good scents from being detected. The beer had a slightly bitter taste and mild, lingering aftertaste. I had to keep drinking it to avoid that aftertaste from sticking around. This beer had to be served cold cold cold, which is where it had the best taste (and that's saying something).

Look - 3.0/5.0 - A standard amber color, nothing to write home about.
Smell - 2.0/5.0 - Yikes, skunky.
Taste - 2.5/5.0 - The bitter taste was nice, but then had a lingering aftertaste that wasn't terribly enjoyable.
Feel - 2.5/5.0 - Lingering aftertaste...bleh.
Drinkability - 2.0 - Very disappointing - they have enough beer there that I can avoid this one.

On a side note - I'm part of the Albuquerque 20/30 Club and we put on an annual charity event called the Equestrian Cup. This is the first year we would get local breweries to add their beers to the tasting menus (normally just really good food and wine). We asked Chama River and they denied us saying "We have given enough this year."

All I wanted was 2-3 kegs to have to feature their beer and market themselves...didn't think I was asking for that much. Anyway, if you go there, talk to them and tell them you want to see Chama River beer at the Equestrian Cup!!! That, or if you know someone who can make something happen, I'll owe you a beer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Furry Four Legged Amphibian Cabeza

I had heard a lot about the Dogfish Head beers from Cap'n Bishop - but unfortunately for me, you can't get them here in ABQ all that often. So, I had to go to Durango to get it. My buddy G.I. Joe wasn't up for an IPA, so we opted for this Indian Brown Ale as a compromise. From what I knew about the 90 Minute IPA, this would be a potent beer.

And it was.... There is a very malty, tart alcohol flavor to the beer, and it offers up a strong aftertaste to boot. You can really taste the roasted, nutty oat flavor. And it was surprisingly hoppy, but not so much you'd assume you accidently poured a dirty IPA. I should have figured an IBA would have some hop in it. With a 7.2% ABV, it had a kick to it....

Beer Score version 2.0 is going to kick in with this beer, so any comments - very welcome. This will be a similar scoring system to Beer Advocate (so I can double post), but also will feature some other aspects of the beer that my lovely wife thought would be helpful.

Look - 4.0/5.0 - A really nice brown color for the beer, with an almond-esqe creamy head
Smell - 4.0/5.0 - You can really smell the oats and malt, but the alcohol aroma is a bit more than I would have liked.
Taste - 4.5/5.0 - A wonderful blend of hop with a brown ale that created a very unique taste
Feel - 4.0/5.0 - Robust flavor and strong aftertaste.
Drinkability - 4.0/5.0 - Would have this one again - the hybrid of the brown ale and IPA makes for an interesting flavor.

Light (1) - Dark (10) - 7...This is a brown ale, so it's not as bitch black as a stout or porter, but it's a pretty dark beer.
Clear (1) - Cloudy (10) - 3...while this beer is not transparent (b/c it's dark), it isn't cloudy/unfiltered.
Sweet (1) - Bitter (10) - 7....due to the hybrid nature of this beer, the brew is higher than you'd expect in a brown, but still not as bitter as you'd expect in an IPA.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'll Believe it When Dogs Fly

I have actually seen a dog fly. Once Sarah (our hyperactive terrier) somehow went from the coach in our living room to the dining room table. And for a dog that is only 12 lbs, 10 feet is a long way to jump. But the Flying Dogs that I prefer are the ones that come in glass bottles. I got the Tire Bite Golden Ale and Kerberos Tripel as part of the recent Beer o' the Month Club. I had seen the Golden Ale in stores before, but the Kerberos was an unknown quantity.

The Tire Bite stood out from first whif...the aroma was pungently sour. I didn't think you could smell sour, but this beer managed to do it. The taste was pretty light, offering some hints of hops. Not hop like you'd expect from an IPA, but enough to warrant that sour smell (only 16 IBUs). I had this when I was really hot after working in the yard and it went down really quick. I had another one when I wasn't hot and I wasn't terribly impressed. This is definitely a summer beer, so if you're going to be sitting on the patio getting some rays, not a bad pick. If you're going to sit inside in the A/C, go for something else. While this was a good enough beer, it's lack of "versitility" brings down its score a bit. 78% - better than your average beer, but not quite there.

Flying Dog has a select group of beers that are a bit more...rowdy than their normal fare. These, called Canis Major, include the Kerberos Tripel, a Belgian style tripel that offers a real sneaky kick. Like most tripels, you can expect the Kerberos to have a light fruity aroma and taste. The malty aftertaste is crisp and refreshing. The ABV is what is sneaky - 8.5%, which means you can have a few of these things and really feel it afterward. Even though it features a higher IBU rating (26) to the Tire Bite, the bitter taste is really short at the beginning of each taste.

I really enjoyed the Kerberos and I do give it a few extra style points for the nice reference to the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades. So, 88% on this beer. If you can find it here in ABQ, let me know where, as I haven't been able to locate it at Quarters, Kelly's or Sunflower.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Heart Breckenridge Beer

I think the first Breckenridge beer that I had was a case of the Christmas Ale that I got at Costco...To clarify, I didn't pour the whole case into a bucket and drink it all at once. I just enjoyed them individually. Although, that does give me an idea...

Anyway, I was really pleased when Tina and I ventured over to Costco on the West Side (the one that magically appeared across from Cottonwood Mall one day) and found a Breckenridge variety pack that included 12 Avalanche Ambers and 12 of a mix of beers. One of the cool things about the 12 packs is that they have these Breckenbucks on the inside (don't miss 'em!) that you can take to one of the Breckenridge Breweries and trade them for a free beer, food, hat, shirt, etc... All it takes is 1 (that's ONE) Breckenbuck to get a free beer...and you get TWO in this sampler!

I don't recall every having a vanilla porter before and if this one is an example of other vanilla porters, I think I will really enjoy them. This beer has a really nice stout flavor to it with enough vanilla to taste it, but not enough to make it taste like you've been eating whole vanilla beans. The vanilla flavor really hits in the aftertaste. A smooth and tasty brew with a light scent with a hint of malt. Only 16 IBUs and 4.7% ABV, which was surprising. Tina really enjoyed this one and she's not much of a porter fan.

The Oatmeal Stout has got a real strong oat and malt aroma...real strong. Which is a contrast to the not-as-strong, medium body taste. A sharp taste hits on the back of your tongue with a light lingering aftertaste. The flavor of the beer is crisp and is all over the tongue. More bitter than the vanilla porter (31 IBUs) but about the same alcohol content (4.98% ABV). I still enjoyed the Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout better, but this one was good enough.

The name for this beer is clever. When Pandora opened her bock, she actually released into the world all of the Evils of Beer. Skunky beer, Bud Light Lime, Zima, Smirnoff Ice, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat...The list goes on and on. The only thing left in the Bock was the hope that microbreweries would rise up and provide humanity with alternatives to the crap that emerged from the Bock. This beer has a really spicy scent to it - you can pick up a bit of hop in the aroma, but this is not a bitter beer (only 16 IBUs). The medium body of the beer has a complexity to it, that is so complex I can't adequately describe without my head blowing up. Pandora is a bit of an intense lady anyway - her Bock is too - 7.5% ABV. Sneaky Pandora.

Well, that was a lot of blah-blah. Let's do a quick summary:

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter - Oat, malt taste with a hint of vanilla. Lower ABV and bitterness makes it a beer almost anyone can enjoy. I give this a Beer Score of 87%.

Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout - A strong smell paired with a medium taste and a light aftertaste. Ok beer, but I've had better oatmeal stouts. Beer Score - 64%.

Breckenridge Pandora's Bock - A complex brew with a spicy scent, medium body and mild, but unique taste. Beer Score - 82%.

Beer Scores

So, I'm going to be utilizing a new system to more quantitatively measure what I think of a beer. Blah-blahing about it is wonderful, but I think it would be helpful to put a number of it.

Version 1.0 of The Beer Score System is a 100 point scale. Think of it like your spelling test: 0-59 is a F, 60-69 is a D, 70-79 is a C, 80-89 is a B, 90+ is an A. A beer that gets a 85 is a good, strong beer; one that I would purchase again, but maybe not travel to a remote location if it was the only place that had it.

The score is based on a number of qualities - taste, color, aroma, unique characteristics of the beer itself, memorability (so, maybe a component of the beer itself, perhaps it's the name/packaging). I'm not going to break it down presently, but V2.0 will have more of a breakdown. But let me get through my back reviews...then we'll get V2.0 off the ground.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Road Trippin' - Carver Brewing in Durango, CO

Gah, I love Carver Brewing. The food is tasty, the beer is cold, the patio is great and the place has a chill atmosphere. And when I go to Durango, that's exactly what I want. So, as we wished G.I. Joe Lay good luck on his tour to Iraq, we figured this would be a fun place to go. Obviously, I partook of a few of Carver's beers.

I first got the La Plata Pilsner, as recommended by our server. We had just got done walking the main drag of Durango with a bunch of dogs, so I was hot and thirsty. A nice light beer sounded good, so glad the server suggested it. It was just that - light, little malty with a little spice. It went down quick. And that's all she wrote.

The second beer was the Cascade Canyon Cask IPA. I hadn't had a cask IPA before - no co2, no nitro, just hand pumped goodness. There was a great hoppy head on this beer...which got the best of me, when I went in for a smell and got it up the nose. Nothing like having hops in your sinuses... But a fine hop smell none the less. Even with the characteristic bitterness of an IPA, this beer was almost milky smooth with a mild sour aftertaste. Definitely a first for me and very enjoyable.

And before there is a chorus of "I'm Super! Thanks for Asking!!", this was a beer of Tina's that I took a few sips of. Carver Brewing has a Raspberry Wheat beer that is pink...really pink. They recommended that you add lemon to this brew, so it ended up adding a lot of lemon aroma to the beer. The raspberry wasn't overpowering, just adding a bit of that tart fruit flavor. The server said this was like 6.5% ABV, so he warned everyone that they go down smooth, but can creep up on ya.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Duel of Wit/White

Last month's Beer of the Month Club came with two white ale/witbiers (I lump them together and I'm sure I will get crap for that, but they are really...really similar and makes my life easier): the John's Grocery Generations White Ale and the Joseph James Brewing Alpine Wit. Armed with a cold glass, I tackled the two beers.

The Alpine Wit from Joseph James (or Red Fox Brewing, apparently...) was really tasty. It featured a much sharper malt and spice taste than other white ales, such as Sam Adams, Mothership Wit or the other beer in this duel. It was also a darker beer than I would have expected, being more golden than other white/witbiers. There is a hint of sweetness, but it's contrasted by that sharp spice taste mentioned above. 5.1% ABV and a low low 15 IBUs.

The Generations White Ale was a bit more of the standard, with a few subtle differences from a Sam Adams type white ale. This beer was slightly sweet, but finished with a hit of spice on the back of your tongue. Like you would expect from a white ale, it's got that spicy aroma of coriander, citrus, etc... No aftertaste, so very clean.

But if I were to pick a victor of this duel, it would be the unique flavor of the Alpine Wit!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Call in the Substitute - Sam Adams Blackberry Witbier

The Sam Adams Summer Pack is a summer staple at the Deshayes household. It has enough of a variety that if I buy it, nearly anyone who comes over will find something they will drink. However, I always had a beef with one "beer" that was in the pack - the Cherry Wheat. I can't think of a more disgusting concoction that was forced down your throat with every purchase. I think the Cherry Wheats of Summer Packs Past (say that three times fast) have gone to the back of the fridge never to be seen again or passed on to some idiot who was too drunk to notice what they were drinking.

Imagine my joy when Sam Adams dumped the Cherry Wheat and called in the rookie Blackberry Witbier to fill the vacancy in the summer pack! Now, given it's a blackberry beer, there is some blackberry in it, but it's subtle enough where it's not overwhelming. The blackberries offer some tartness to the beer - definitely not fruity or sweetesy. There's some great malt in there too. The Witbier is a great summer beer as it's light and refreshing, especially on a hot day. Definitely an excellent substitute for the crap beer that was in there before....