Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Events: Stone Beer Tasting at Boston's Bistro

Next Thursday, at 8:00 PM, Boston's Bistro, a.k.a. America's Most Arrogant Pub, is hosting a Stone Brewing tasting. The draft list includes:
Sadly, I'll be en route from Chicago, so I'll miss the tasting. But there's no reason for anyone else to not go!

Recap: Founders Tasting at Jungle Jim

(File this one under "better late than never." Guess that's what happens when you have little ones at home . . . )

The last Friday of January, Jungle Jim's welcomed Dave Engbers of Founders Brewing to host a tasting of his brewery's beers, including several beers rarely or never seen outside of the Founders Taproom.

I chatted with Dave prior to the start of the tasting. What a great guy--warm, friendly, more than happy to talk about his brewery. He talked about the tap room being a proving ground for new beers, that they will try out a recipe for a new beer, gauge the response, then tweak the recipe again. They brew the experimental beers mainly in 20 barrel batches, which Dave explains lasts about 4 weeks. This time frame is long enough that they can see how many repeat orders they get for the beer, once the newness factor wears off. He noted that Red's Rye was formulated in this manner, expect that in the tap room it was dubbed RyePA.

During the tasting, Dave also talked a good bit about the company history. Not long after he graduated college, he and a buddy decided to change course and start a brewery. They began small and, at first, brewed the sorts of traditional brews typical of microbreweries. As they watched small breweries around them go under, and as they say America's tastes start to change, they adapted their business model, brewing big, more adventurous brews. Today, it is these brews for which they are known. (Their Kentucky Breakfast Stout is number 4 on BeerAdvocate's top beers, their regular Breakfast Stout is number 11).

Dave Engbers guards the Dry Hopped Pale Ale
The brewery is still
somewhat small, although they just doubled their capacity and will soon be brewing about 8000 barrels a year. Distribution is still relatively modest, too. I wouldn't expect that to change wildly, even with the enlarged capacity. Instead, they seem to be committing to quenching the desire locally--last year they were only able to fill about 60% of the orders that came in. Great news for those of us in the Great Lakes region!

The beer list was fantastic. A little shorter than the
usual Jungle Jim's tasting (they usually include 10 beers), but this one made up for any perceived shortcomings in uniqueness (two of the beers were small batch beers, served for the first time outside of the tasting room) and in punch (the beers started at 6.2% abv, with several between 8% and 10%).
  • Dry Hopped Pale Ale--round hop aroma that was floral and crisp; malty, but the citrus hop flavors upstage the malt; clean finish
  • Centennial Ale--bigger than the dry hopped, with a HUGE Centennial citrus hop aroma; overall taste is much more balanced than the aroma would suggest, with a bittersweet finish
  • Dirty Bastard (draft)--I was anxious about this beer, given the lackluster impression when I reviewed it several months ago. At the time, I wondered if the bottle I'd picked up hadn't gone bad. Now I'm certain that was the case. This version of the beer tasted nothing like the earlier beer I'd tried. It was huge, sweet, and well-rounded, with hints of plum and raisin. Lots of hop flavor, and not much peat, but very solid, well-rounded. I'll have to pick up another bottle at some point soon.
  • Red's Rye--I've had several rye beers before, but nothing quite like this. With 11% rye in the mash, the beer has a reddish coloring and a crisp, grainy taste. The Amarillo hops give it a huge grapefruit flavor.
  • Double Trouble Imperial IPA (draft)--Only a handful of kegs are available of this very limited release beer. Brewery Jeremy Kosmicki and his father brewed this IIPA one weekend. The hops give it a huge, hop-cheese nose, and the taste is bitter without being one-dimensional. Glad to have tried it.
  • Blushing Monk Belgian Razz (draft)--another tap room exclusive. This beer was loosely based on the Rubaeus, on overload. I'm not generally a fan of fruit beers, but this was something else. Nearly like a raspberry sorbet--clean, refreshing, a 10% abv palate cleanser.
  • Breakfast Stout (draft)--I was lucky enough to grab a 4-pack at an earlier tasting, so I'd had this legendary beer before. However, it was even better on tap--enough so that I grabbed a growler for a later date.
I hadn't had a lot of Founders beers before going to this tasting. I was really impressed both with Dave and with his beers. I'm starting to understand why so many of their beers are in such high demand. (The next batch of Kentucky Breakfast Stout is set for release on March 15th). Oh, and be sure to check out Founders on myspace.

Nathan, Jason, and Scott with Breakfast Stout

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Review: Highland Tasgall Ale

The Tasgall Ale was the second beer that Ben et al. from SevenPack.net sent over from the Highland Brewing Company (the first was the oatmeal porter).

Situated in Asheville, Highland is a mountain brewery, producing about 6500 barrels a year. They've been around since 1994, and still bottle their 22 oz. beers by hand. Looks like business for Highland has been good--they are now contract brewing in Maryland with Wild Goose Brewery (once Frederick Brewing Company, now under the ownership of Flying Dog).

Brewery: Highland Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Asheville (western North Carolina)
Tasgall Ale
BJCP Style: 9E. Strong Scotch Ale

Appearance: dark maple, with a beautiful caramel latte head

Smell: chocolate and hops in nos, a warm malty roast character; overall, reminiscent of frothy hot chocolate

Taste: creamy mouthfeel, not as malty as aroma would suggest; I had trouble pulling out individual flavors--not the pronounced malt bite, hops, or peat that I had expected (although, as it warms, some of these flavors start to peek out), but smooth, smooth, smooth and very drinkable--probably too drinkable for the 8% ABV

Mouthfeel: full, creamy

Drinkability: easy to drink (too easy, given ABV?); it's probably more of a porter than a scotch ale, but this beer goes down so easily, it's hard to quibble with; along with the Endo IPA and the Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy, one of my favorites from the group of NC beer

Review: The Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale

The guys over at SevenPack.net sent two Duck-Rabbit brews. The wee heavy was the second one I tried (the porter was the first, but it was obviously a bad bottle, so we're skipping over it for the time being). The Duck-Rabbit Brewery, founded by a one-time university philosophy professor, calls itself "the dark beer specialists" and produce nothing lighter in color than than an amber ale. The wee heavy is one of an arsenal of seasonals the brew produces, in addition to their four year-round brews.

Brewery: The Duck-Rabbit Brewery
Brewery Location: Farmville (eastern North Carolina)
Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale
BJCP Style:
9E. Strong Scotch Ale

Appearance: beautiful, frothy caramel head; held to light, brew is red-brown in coloring

Smell: Wow--great aroma! Lots of barley and peat, with some alcohol and caramel

Taste: the first sip is aggressive, with a fullness, a maltiness that teeters toward excess, but at the last minute, slides back to be well-balanced; hints of peat and brown sugar in caramelized malt--very dessert-like, but not cloying on the finish

Mouthfeel: Full, pleasant carbonation, with a mouthfeel similar to Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale

Drinkability: This beer would age extremely well, provided I could keep it in the fridge long enough. One of my favorites from the NC series.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Review: Carolina Nut Brown Ale

This nut brown ale is the 4th brew provided by Ben and company at SevenPack.net. Carolina Nut Brown Ale was the only beer of the seven that those guys sent up that I had had before, although it has admittedly been a while. I went to the company website, looking for more info, but the site doesn't offer much--only that they were founded in 1995 and make three year-long beers (the Nut Brown, a pale ale, and an IPA), as well as a revolving selection of seasonals.

Brewery: Carolina Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Holly Springs (eastern North Carolina)
Nut Brown Ale
BJCP Style:
10C. American Brown Ale

Appearance: pours mahogany, with red highlights, and a thin, white head

Smell: low hops, aroma dominated by crystal and chocolate malts

Taste: somewhat more aggressive than other browns I've tried--some hop bite upfront, then a mellow, malty flavor, with suggestions of coffee and hazelnut; nutty flavor extends through the finish

Mouthfeel: some slickness, suggesting diacetyl; some astringency pricks the tongue

Drinkability: smooth and easy to drink, while more assertive than other browns I've sampled (the Bell's Best Brown Ale, for instance); a tad bit heavy on residual sweetness in the finish

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Notes: Beer Blogging Friday

Stan over at Appellation Beer has proposed a beer blogging day--a monthly event that would take place on the first Friday of the month. The first event will take place on March 2, and the theme will be "Not Your Father's Irish Stout." Beer bloggers the world over (myself included) will pick a stout to try and comment on. The only rules are that the big three stouts--Guinness, Beamish, and Murphy's are verboten. All other stouts are fair game. Here's an except from Stan's blog:
All the best ideas end up with beer.

Food bloggers have their own cooking day once a month. Wine bloggers have Wine Blogging Wedesday.

It seems that beer bloggers around the world should have something similar. So let’s start one, an event that will occur on the first Friday of every month. It doesn’t have to have a name (yet) or a logo (like wine), just participants who want to have a little fun and don’t mind learning a little along the way.

Appellation Beer will host the first tasting March 2 (giving us time to get out the word), and the theme will be “Not your father’s Irish stout.”

There aren’t many rules. Simply pour yourself a stout (or stouts) and post on the topic March 2, looking ahead to St. Patrick’s Day or not and writing about any stout that isn’t Guinness, Murphy’s or Beamish (the Irish old guard - good beers but we’re writing about others). Should you worry about style? About getting the opinion of friends, about writing an official tasting note, about food? About the history of the beer or how its made? All optional.

I'll stick to my great lakes region theme and try something local. Lots of great options to choose from. Perhaps Bell's Expedition Stout? Or maybe Great Lakes Blackout Stout, which should be available by then.