Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Know Your Beer - Belgian Tripel

This week we are going to look at the Belgian Tripel style of beer. This style has become more common in the US, but especially in Nuevo Mexico - we're really starting to see our local breweries exploring this type of beer and seeing what they can do with it.

The term "tripel" actually relates to the part of the brewing process where a brewer will use triple (aka 3x) the amount of malt that they would usually use for a brew. These beers tend to be on the fragrant end; having a bit of floral, fruity and sweet aroma to it. The brew tends to be lighter in color and body; the lighter body hides the fact that these beers are really strong - most of these start off at 8.0% abv (an average beer is 5.0% abv) and go up from there! So don't suck these down, unless you want to end up with a headache the next day.

I haven't had a lot of these, in fact, we've only featured three on the blog: the Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel, the Chama River Menege a Tripel and the Prescott Brewing Belgian Tripel.

Some others that you could try are the Rock Bottom Tremere Tripel and the Sierra Nevada Stricklander.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Brew

So sue me, Chama River doesn't have a whole lot of logos I can use. But the inspiration for Chama River's Dr. Strangehop Imperial IPA seemed highly appropriate. Did you realize that Russians have vodka running through their veins, rather than blood? I didn't either, but then I found out that true-blooded American drinkers have hops running through their veins.

The Dr. Strangehop was an extremely hoppy brew - but in a really good way. The cloudy and light amber look of the beer was nice, but it was the fragrant citrus aroma was what really sold me on the beer. Compared to another local Imperial IPA (from Marble), I feel like the Dr. Strangehop Imperial IPA was far more masterfully blended so that the bitterness was illustrated in the beer, but not so up-front that it overpowered the beer. The beer's aftertaste was nice in that it lingered for a little bit, but did not outright dissipate. For being at 120+ IBUs and 8.9% ABV, this was indeed a potent brew, but it was very drinkable and enjoyable over a nice crab cake and green chile stew.

Appearance - 3.5/5.0 - The cloudiness was semi-unique for an IPA and the color was very appealing.
Scent - 4.5/5.0 - The citrusly fragrance was really appealing and inticing to drink.
Taste - 4.5/5.0 - Hoppy, bitter, but well blended to make for a high quality taste.
Feel -4.0/5.0 - Strong taste that lingered, but not in a bad way.
Drinkability - 4.5/5.0 - If I was in the mood to drink potent Imperial IPAs all day, this would be a beer I would pick as part of the rotation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rogue Chocolate Stout - A Real Treat

When Tina and I were in San Francisco, she had the Chocolate Stout at the Rogue Public House. She loved it and I got a sip and wanted some more. We were putzing around the West Side of ABQ the other day and we swung into the new(er) Quarters over there. They have an awesome liquor store and unbeknownest to me (and knownest to the Quarters people), they have a great selection of bombers and six-packs inside the cooler. To their credit, there is a little sign on the door saying "LOOK INSIDE! MORE BOMBERS IN HERE!" Love being able to read.

The Rogue Chocolate Stout is probably one of the best beers I've ever had. From first glance, the beer has a dark, rich color and the head is a frothy, creamy light chocolate brown (see the picture). The head sticks around for a while too, so you don't have to worry about blinking and it's gone. The cocoa, coffee and malt smell is really appetizing and nothing overpowers any of the scents. The best part is the taste, which has a rich dark chocolate (not really sweet) and truffle flavor. The strongest taste hits in the middle of the tongue, but it's smooth and robust at the same time. The entire beer is extremely well balanced and versitile, as a number of different types of beer drinkers would enjoy this beer. The Chocolate Stout has 69 IBUs, which surprised me as the beer wasn't all that bitter.

Oh and this beer was only $4.99 for the bomber. I ended up seeing it at Whole Paycheck Market for $5.99 and Kelly's Liquors for $6.99 (yikes!). So, if you want this beer, check it out at Quarters and save yourself a few bucks.

Appearance - 5.0/5.0 - Rich, dark color with a tasty, frothy, creamy chocolate tan head.
Smell - 5.0/5.0 - Scents of cocoa, coffee, malt - rich aroma, with a little hint of alcohol
Taste - 5.0/5.0 - Wow! Rich, roasted chocolate, truffle flavor; Smooth but robust flavor; Aftertaste a little bitter, almost dark chocolate tasting, everything extremely well blended
Feel - 5.0/5.0 - smooth, hangs out with a nice mellow aftertaste
Drinkability 5.0/5.0 - Would drink this anytime and a number of different types of beer drinkers would enjoy it too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Know Your Beer: Stouts

If you are following along, we're going to hit the end of the "Beer Spectrum" before we start exploring some of the more speciality styles within the spectrum. After talking about hefeweizens, ambers and IPAs, I think a logical next step would be the Stout. This type of beer may intimidate a number of drinkers, who see its pitch blackness as a black hole of flavor or "taste" that they won't venture to get close to. I have to admit that I was one of those individuals. I don't think you could get me near a dark beer to save my life. In fact, a good friend of mine (Mr. Crow) challenged me to try some of the darker spectrum and I couldn't have been happier to expand my horizons to this type of beer.

The Stout will obviously be a dark beer - so expect this brew to be pretty opaque. Head will likely depend on the type of beer, as traditional stouts will lean to a lighter head and chocolate/mocha stouts will have a more tan/brown head. The scent profile will offer a lot of malty deliciousness, as well as coffee and some bitter chocolate aromas. There will be a distinct level of bitterness - not the high amount that you'd get in an IPA, but enough that you'd taste it.

When you see a stout beer, you can expect it to be called a number of different things: Stout, Porter, Oatmeal Stout, Coffee Stout, Chocolate Stout, Oyster Stout, Milk Stout. While all of a similar nature, the flavors will drastically differ based on the type of stouts, and by a function of the type, the ingredients used in the brewing process. Utilizing traditional carbination or more modern nitrous will change the flavor and texture of the beer, appealing to some and not to others.

Obviously, thanks to Mr. Crow's challenge, we have looked at a number of stouts on this blog: Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout, Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Shakespeare Stout and Rogue Chocolate Stout.

Other stouts that you may have heard about, but never had - Guinness, Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout, Marble Brewing Oatmeal Stout, Diamond Bear Paradise Porter and Rogue Mocha Porter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are there enough 9s in the name for ya?

The nines are very enticing - almost hypnotic. Like the Stone Gargoyle Dude is getting into your head and ordering you to buy Stone it! Anyway, the Vertical Epic series of beers are released annually according to dates when all of the numbers are the same (i.e. 09/09/09, 08/08/08, etc...). Each beer is a different Belgian take on a beer style. There have been some Belgian Witbiers, Pale Ales, IPAs, stouts, etc... The 9/9/09 Vertical Epic is a Belgian style Porter...not two types of beer I would ever think about fusing together.

At first glance, the brew looks pitch black with a big tan head. Good retention on the head, which was nice. The complex aroma had elements of spice, orange and vanilla. So, definitely a suprise on the scent side. The flavor hits it out of the park. You get the spicy, robust kick that is combined with orange, coffee, tanginess and a hint of bitterness. It tastes like a flavorful porter had a love child with a good spicy Belgian beer. Expect an extremely smooth taste that goes down easy and leaves the aftertaste of the variety of flavors for a bit.

Would definitely pick this one up again, presuming I could find it.
This was a remarkably tasty beer - I've had it twice. Once at Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, where I got it on draft. 2nd time was in one of the bombers that I purchased. While the draft was superior, you can expect that in whatever form you get the Vertical Epic, it's good.

Oh, a note - Stone recommends that you cellar this beer until 12/12/12. Fat chance in my house. If you can hold off enjoying this beer for another 3 years, you're a better person than I.

Appearance - 5.0 - big tan head; dark; good retention
Smell - 4.0 - spicy; orange, vanilla
Taste - 5.0 - a unique blend of spicy, fruit, orange, hint of bitterness, definitely a belgian beer but stout like a porter. Weird combo but excellent
Feel - 5.0 - very smooth; goes down easy
Drinkability - 5.0 hells yea - good

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lost Coast Downtown Brown

I've had some Lost Coast beers and they were pretty good, so figured I would most likely enjoy the Lost Coast Downtown Brown. That did not prove true with the Brown, which just not what I expected. The beer started off nice with a really oaty, malty aroma. It went downhill quickly though, as the head was pretty wimpy and the beer itself looked more like an amber or red, rather than a brown.

The flavor was malty at first, then ended sweet, which I didn't care for. I expect a more robust taste with a brown and this wasn't it. On a good note, this was a smooth beer, but unfortunately not one I would buy again.

Smell - 3.5/5.0 - nice oaty malt smell
Appearance - 2.5/5.0 - Wimpy head, more amber color than brown; head was gone quick
Flavor - 3.0/5.0 - there was some malt taste, with a sweeter finish - not what I would expect in a brown
Feel - 3.5/5.0 no aftertaste, pretty smooth
Drinkability - 2.5/5.0 - not my style of brown, so won't be picking this one up again

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Be or Not to Be, that is the Brewski

Apparently, Burt Reynolds is paying Shakespeare at a liquor store near you. We had about 30 minutes to kill before heading to the Oakland Airport, so ended up swinging into the Rogue Ale Public Room in San Francisco for a quick brew. They had a great selection on draft (probably 40% Rogue ales, 59% other microbrews, 1% the King of Beers). I ended up going with the Shakespeare Stout, as it sounded very dramatic.

I love nitrous beers - they have this amazing waterfall effect as the head settles. Just fun to watch and take in as the beer works its mojo. The beer's head was a nice creamy tan color and featured some light coffee/mocha scents. The beer itself was really smooth. The coffee and chocolate taste was light (just like the smell), but flavorful. No aftertaste on this one - just a great stout. WAY better than a Guiness, I'd get this one again. Too bad there isn't a Rogue place here in ABQ...curses.

Appearance - 5.0/5.0 - love the waterfall effect of the nitrous, tan creamy head - very full
Taste - 4.5/5.0 - silky smooth - coffee and light chocolate taste
Feel - 4.0/5.0 - no aftertaste, extremely smooth in mouth
Smell - 4.0/5.0 - very light with coffee/mocha accents
Drinkability - 4.5/5.0 - way better than a Guiness - very tasty, smooth - I will be repeating this beer.

I didn't get to have much of the Chocolate Stout that Tina had gotten, but damn, what a good beer. I will be on the look out for it and a review will be posted when I get my hands on it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Know Your Beer: India Pale Ale (IPA)

India Pale Ales (IPAs) are an acquired taste. They have a very strong flavor profile due to the concentration of hops utilized in the brewing process, which gives it a strong bitterness and fragrant aroma. I have grown particularily fond of these beers because I enjoy the real distinction of the smell, taste and feel of the beer. My lovely wife strongly disagrees with me and gets bitter beer face each time she takes a sip.

Hops are the primary driver of the flavor, aroma and bitterness of an IPA. The term IBU (International Bittering Unit) is based on the amount of hops you utilize to get a beer more bitter (malt will often offset the bitter flavor, so malty beers with a higher IBU may not be all that bitter). The higher the number, the more bitter the beer typically. Most IPAs run about 60 IBUs. To put it in perspective, I would say that most other beers run 20-35 IBUs. Double/Imperial IPAs will range in the 90+ IBU range. I've had one that is 120!

Lots of flowery, sometimes citrus-y scents due to the hops. The flavor will be somewhat different depending on what hops are utilized in the beer. Expect bitterness and don't complain if you have an IPA and don't like bitterness. Color will run from a light amber to a dark copper. The alcohol content on these beers run on the higher end, typically 6%+.

Past reviews of IPAs have included Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA, Marble Brewing IPA, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Four Peaks HopKnot IPA, Four Peaks RAJ IPA, Hales' Mongoose IPA, Alaskan Brewing IPA, Redhook Long Hammer IPA, Green Flash Imperial IPA, Marble Brewing Double IPA, Carver Cascade Canyon Cask IPA (say that three times fast), and the 21st Amendment Double Trouble Imperial IPA.

In terms of other IPAs to try out or that you may see around town, there's Chama River Brewing's Dr. Strange Hop, Turtle Mountain Brewing IPA, Stone IPA, Boulder Beer Mojo IPA and Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA and the Prescott Brewing Ponderosa IPA.

You'll find that almost any brewery will do an IPA - some get really into them, but I haven't gone to a brewery yet that didn't have at least one on tap.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Freaking least I had a decent beer to console me

The Pittsburgh Steelers can suck it. As a Seattle Seahawks fan, I have a strong disdain for the Steelers as they (though an obvious series of bribes and sexual favors) managed to win a Super Bowl against the Seahawks...then proceeded to do the same thing against the Cardinals. So, after being stuck in a day's worth of estate and trust CPE (definitely not the sexy-est topics of taxation), I needed manly sports and beer.

Since I was in Scottsdale, I wanted to swing into the Skeptical Chymist, watch the game and have some brew. Carlsberg, which is apparently a good sports beer, was on special and I had never had it before. The beer was a light golden color, with minimal head. No real smell to speak of - just a little hint of malt. The taste was where it hit home for me - really crisp, malty and refreshing. The flavor got shaper and crisper as it went down your throat. With no aftertaste, the beer was extremely smooth. I would have this beer again, especially if I was watching football and wanted a good beer to wash down my team's defeat....

Appearance - 3.5/5.0 - Light golden color with minimal head
Smell - 3.0/5.0 - Crisp malt smell, although very subdued
Taste - 3.5/5.0 - Nice malty hop flavor, crisp but medium body and crisper as it went down
Feel - 4.0/5.0 - No aftertaste and real smooth
Drinkability - 4.0/5.0 - Would have again; a really nice beer for a regular drinking need (sports, tailgating, etc...)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A near religious experience

I just got to Phoenix a few hours ago for a CPE that I'm going to manana. Knowing that I would have a large vehicle to schlep a lot of beer back in, I made a stop at BevMo....and what a stop it was.

They have a HUGE selection of American craft beer, as well as a big ol' area of imported beers. I ended up getting some Alaskan Amber, Dogfish Head Raison d'etre, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Nimbus Oatmeal Stout, Four Peaks Kilt Lifter and the Stone Vertical Epic for 2009 (they only release these beers once a year...last year 8-8-08, this year 9-9-09, etc...). This precious cargo will be on route to ABQ on Saturday, so expect some reviews in the near future!

Know Your Beer: Amber

For this week's episode of Know Your Beer, let's move down the Beer Spectrum to Ambers. You'll sometimes hear these beers called Reds, given the color similiarity. This type of beer has been known to become a catch-all given it's placement in the dead-center of light and dark beer. The color of the beer will range from a dark golden to a dark copper.

The flavor profile of a amber/red ale tends to focus on malt. You may get hints of the bitterness that accommanies hops, but this will depend on the brewery. Most of these beers are pretty well balanced, so you aren't going to end up with some really extreme flavors. However, this does make this beer generally acceptible for a diverse audience. It's enough of a stretch that folks who like lighter beers are ok with it, while dark beer fans are willing to "step down" the color spectrum a bit.

Expect some toasted malt, caramel, toffee and and nutty aromas, along with the occassional hint of sweetness. These are pretty smooth beers too, so it goes down nice. Alcohol content will be mid 5% to low 6%, with the exceptions that may lower or (ridiculously higher)

I've reviewed a number of Ambers/Reds on here - including Murphy's Prescott Red, Bridgeport Ropewalk Amber Ale, Maritime Pacific Nightwatch Dark Amber Ale, Grand Teton Brewing Teton Amber Ale, Alaskan Amber (one of my favorites), Chama River Rio Chama Amber and the Mendocino Red Tail Ale.

Others that you can find around the place and are good (and will be reviewed eventually) include Full Sail Amber, New Belgium Fat Tire, Breckenridge Avalanche Amber and Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale.

Mendocino Red Tail

California knows how to brew beer. I can't think of all that many bad beers I've had that have originated from a brewery from Cali, with one exception. This beer, the Mendocino Red Tail, was a pretty tasty brew. The slightly malty aroma hides the much sharper malty taste with a hint of honey. The beer is really crisp, hitting hard at the front of your tongue, then settling into a mildly sour aftertaste. The golden amber color was nice to look at and the beer didn't have any funkiness going on.

Taste - 4.0/5.0 really tasty, good balance of malt, bitterness, honey
Appearance - 4.0/5.0 - light golden amber color
Feel - 4.0/5.0 - really good flavor that doesn't have a funky aftertaste that spoils it
Smell - 3.5/5.0 - light malty aroma
Drinkability - 4.0/5.0 - Would definitely buy again - found it in ABQ at Trader Joes

Sunday, September 6, 2009

On the Road Again - 21st Amendment Brewery in San Fran

The one thing about my parents moving out to San Francisco is that going to visit them was WAY better than going to visit them in Los Alamos. San Francisco - you can see professional sporting events live, eat a lot of great food and hang out by real bodies of water. Los Alamos - you can watch professional sporting events on TV, maybe check out a movie and hang the house. This last trip, before heading to the airport, we stopped at the 21st Amendment Brewery right near Giants stadium.

The first brew I had was the Double Trouble Imperial IPA. Whenever I can find an IPA with over 100 IBUs, I gotta try it and this beer comes in at 120 IBUs and a 9.8% ABV. Yikes! Fortunately, this was a masterfully blended beer. The hops go extremely well with each other, providing an extremely smooth taste with that sharp bitterness one would expect from a potent double IPA. The hops were very fragrantly fruity and enjoyable to just smell. Of course, you want to drink the beer, so can't just smell it all day. The beer was really clean on your tongue, with the taste oddly on the upper palate.

Taste - 5.0/5.0 - Wonderfully blended hops, deliciously smooth, lingering flavor, clean but sharp hop bitter taste
Smell - 4.5/5.0 - Fragrant fruity hops
Appearance - 4.5/5.0 - Nice solid head, amberesqe color
Feel - 4.5/5.0 - Smooth in mouth, lingers to back of mouth, clean on tongue (more on upper palate)
Drinkability - 5.0/5.0 - This beer was delicious - just dangerous to have a lot of.

The Monks Blood was the follow up to the Imperial IPA. This brew was extremely tasty, offering a nice blend of caramel, coffee and malt flavors with a medium body. With 35 IBUs, this beer has a hint of bitterness, but not much. The head was lacking on this one (sad face), but the color was a rich brown. You can smell the malt on this one, but it lack any alcohol scent, which was nice. No aftertaste on this one, you can expect the taste to be sharpest on the tip of your tongue, then fading as it goes down your throat. Be careful with this one, as it weighs in at 8.5% abv.

Taste - 4.5/5.0 - caramel, coffee, malt, oat - very tasty, medium body
Appearance - 3.5/5.0 - no head, but nice rich brown color
Smell - 3.5 - malty with oats - no alcohol scent
Feel - 4.0 - no aftertaste, taste sharpest on tip and middle of tongue
Drinkability - 4.0 - good beer, would definitely get again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just let Mr. Moylan lift your kilt....

I really enjoy Scotch Ales...very robust, very tasty. Anyway, I saw this one at Kelly's Liquors and figured I'd give it a try. Since it was a bomber and I didn't want to be greedy, I invited over Blake to see what he thought of it (as a man who appreciates his Scottish heritage). The beer was quite good. The cloudy, rusty brown color was different than I had seen in other scotch ales, which tended to be a similar color, but definitely not cloudy. The scent was a little fruity with some caramel and malt. You can get a hint of the 8% ABV at the end of each taste, where there is a slight taste of alcohol and bitterness.

Look - 4.50/5.0 - The unique haziness of the beer was cool and made it stand apart from other scotch ales I've had.
Smell - 4.0/5.0 - Slightly sweet with a nice touch of caramel and malt.
Taste - 4.0/5.0 - Smooth, malty with just a hint of sweetness to ease on the touch of bitterness. An extremely well blended beer.
Feel - 4.5/5.0 - The smoothness of the beer paired with the excellent mix of sweet and bitter made it really fresh.
Drinkability - 4.5/5.0 - Would definitely get this one again - makes for a great bomber to share with a friend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Know Your Beer - Hefeweizen & Wheat Beer

Know Your Beer will be a new feature on From the Beer Fridge. There are a ton of different types of beer and not everyone is exquisitely knowledgable about what they are, what to expect, etc... So, every week, we'll feature a different type of beer and make this a bit of an educational moment.

We'll start of with the Hefeweizen, a beer most often recognized for its cloudy unfiltered appearance. The name comes from German - "hefe" translating to yeast and "weizen" translating to wheat. So, these beers have a high concentrate of wheat in them (if you're allergic - be aware!). Hefeweizens use at least a 50:50 mix of wheat and malt, with some breweries going as high as 70% wheat.

The flavor tends to be on the sweet and fruity side, with a bit of clove, banana and vanilla. Lots of aroma, so get a nice whiff of the beer before you start slugging it down. These beers are very refreshing, especially when it's hot, so you're likely to see them a whole bunch during the summer months. Most Hefeweizen/wheat beers tend to be on the mid to high 5% range in terms of alcohol content.

Americans have popularized tossing in a lemon or orange wedge into the beer to add some more citrus flavor into it. Some folks like this, others don't, as the citrus changes the flavor of the beer. So, if the brewer wanted the beer to have citrus in it, they would have added into the mix from the get go. Don't even think about asking for this treatment in any true German establishment, as you'll probably get das boot in your face. As my Beer Buddy Larry has informed me, the lemon messed up the "schaum" (head) of the beer. In fact, the beer should take about 7 minutes from pour to your table, in order for the head to settle properly. You can expect to see these beers served in a tall weizen glass to best release the flavors and scents and let you experience them.

We've taken a look at some of these type of beers before on From The Beer Fridge, including: the Four Peaks Brewing Hefeweizen, Carver's Raspberry Wheat Beer, Breckenridge Brewing Agave Wheat, Santa Fe Brewing Hefeweizen, and the Prescott Brewing Alpine Wheat.

Other suggestions that haven't been reviewed yet, but are quality beers include: the Flying Dog In Heat Wheat, Paulaner Hefeweizen, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen, Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen and Gordon Bierish Hefeweizen (which goes really well in OJ).