Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Out of the Cellar: Middle Ages Tripel Crown

Brewer: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY
Date Cellared: Oct 2004
Poured: June 2007
ABV: 10%

One of the more unusual combinations you'll ever taste is Middle Ages Tripel Crown which they bill as a "British Style Tripel". Actually, you'll likely never taste this brew if you haven't already as they discontinued this beer in 2005.

This beer shines a luminescent hazy orange topped by a dense but thin ivory head. Fruity aromas, spiced apple, sweet spice and alcohol in the nose.

More toffee and vanilla than I remember from the fresh tasting and still quite a bit of alcohol flavor. Much less spiciness with the age on it and not quite as carbonated as I recall either.

Has it improved? Hmmmm. Not sure but it certainly has mellowed a bit. I'm not sure if I would want to age the alcohol flavors down any further but it has enough heat that I certainly could let it go another 6 months to a year. I have two left so I think I'll check back in a few more months.

Middle Ages Brewing

Monday, June 25, 2007

Brew + Baseball League Update

Every year, I play in a fantasy baseball league with some fellow beer enthusiasts. But the prize here is for more than bragging rights or cash, it's for beer! This year, we have 8 teams split between two division and the 7 losers will send the winner about $20 worth of beer.

Right now, my team, The Allagash Cru, has a record of 46-58-6 - good for last place in the Lager Division. I need to make it into second place in my division for a shot at the playoffs.

Fortunately, I got to play the second place team in my division, The Pataskala Isotopes, this week. After losing two of my last three, it was time to shake up the roster a bit. I dumped the slumping Melvin Mora for the suddenly hot rookie 3B Alex Gordon, cut 3B/OF Aubrey Huff for Shane Victorino in an attempt to add some speed, let 2B Ryan Theriot go for the now healthy 2B Ian Kinsler and finally gave up on SP Daniel Cabrera and picked up SP Rodrigo Lopez who is now off of the DL.

The result? Very good this weekend as I beat the Isotopes 6-4. That puts me solidly in 3rd place now and hopefully will be the beginning of a winning streak since I have a long way to go to capture second place.

Lots of beer on the line, hopefully this is the start of the winning streak.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tasting Notes: Samuel Adams Honey Porter

Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Poured: June 2007
ABV: 5.45%

Way back in the early 90's, Samuel Adams Honey Porter was one of my regulars. I picked it up whenever I could and thought it was one of the best beers in the world. And why not? It was flavorful enough to satisfy my burgeoning appetite for craft brew but not so strong that I couldn't down a sixer at a party without completely losing my senses. I could also be reasonably assured that it's strange appearance would put off the average partygoer enough that no one would drink my stash. It accompanied me everywhere a good beer was needed. It was my regular, man!

It started getting harder to find out in Chicago by '96 and by the time I got back from my first naval cruise (mid-'97), it was nowhere to be seen, at least not in Florida. Boston Beer discontinued it and I thought it was gone forever.

Surprisingly, Boston Beer brought back the Honey Porter for the latest "Drinker's Choice" promotion and it won the consumer vote. For the first time in ten years, I was going to get to taste one of my old favorites. It was out in mixed Brewmaster's Choice sixers but I recently found it in dedicated sixers and picked some up.

This porter is dark brown with a dense, frothy tan head. Lots of thick lacing on the glass. Sweet roasted malt and caramel aromas as well as hints of honey waft up from the glass. Sweet and roasty in the mouth. Light honey in the finish balanced well with the hops (East Kent Goldings according to the bottle). It's got a smooth mouth and a lightly roasty aftertaste.

It's back and as good as ever. It's gong to be one of my regulars again. Amen. Recommended.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beer Coaster: Bell's

I'm going to start posting items from my sizeable beer coaster collection. Here's the first:

Long before I knew what Two Hearted Ale or Expedition Stout was, a friend of mine brought me back this coaster on a trip back to Michigan. He told me all about this great beer they had in Kalamazoo but instead of bringing me back some of the actual beer, all I got was this lousy coaster.

This was in 1993 or 1994, before I joined the Navy. It would be over 10 years before I would finally taste the beer that the coaster advertised.

Bell's Brewery

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New England Trip, July 2005: Day 1, Boston

I flew into Logan Friday morning. I was originally going to meet my buddy Dave that morning for a quick Boston pub crawl before heading out to Jamaica Plain for the Beer Advocate Boston Beer Company Tour but work responsibilities prevented him from coming down from Maine that day. I was left to my own devices and with an afternoon to kill, I headed to the T to hit a couple brewpubs before the tour began that evening.

First on my list was Cambridge Brewing Company which enjoyed a very good reputation in Boston and deservedly so. I ordered the salmon chowder (which really hit the spot) and a draft of Three Threads. Three Threads is a porter made in the traditional way by blending three different beers together. In this case, they blended a brown ale, a sour Flemish-style ale and their Red God IPA. While this made for a porter that starts a bit sour, after a couple sips that sourness seems to fade and a roasted coffee bitterness takes over. Some persistent hoppiness too. The flavors were all very distinct at first but them began to mesh into a smooth drinking, amazing porter. If you ever have a chance to try a traditionally blended porter, I highly recommend it. It really gives you a new perspective on flavors and blending beers.

I hopped back on the T and headed down to the Fenway Park area, first to visit the Boston Beer Works location and second to tour Fenway Park. The Beer Works was nearly empty and I thought I had time for a couple drafts. Unfortunately the service was so slow, I barely had time to drink one in the 45 minutes I was there. It wasn't the bartender's fault as she was covering the bar area and a couple tables in the next room as well. Many taps were available; there were 10 house beers on tap. I had a Back Bay IPA from the tap which had a biting herbal bitterness and was really tasty but I had no time for another as the Green Monster was calling.

After the (very cool) tour of Fenway Park, I hopped on the T and headed over to Jamaica Plain where the Sam Adams Brewhouse is housed in the old Haffenreffer Brewery building. While most of Boston Brewing’s production takes place in Cincinnati and other breweries through contract, this is the test brewery and produces a lot of special releases especially in keg form for the Boston market.

It had been arranged by Beer Advocate to have Jim Koch give us the tour that day. While we waited for everyone to arrive, Jim sent some pitchers of Boston Lager and Summer Ale for everyone to enjoy.

From watching him on the Sam Adams commercials, you wouldn’t think that Jim Koch would be a dynamic public speaker but he is so passionate and so knowledgeable about his product that he is very entertaining to listen to.

He talked about the history of Boston Beer, the colorful characters that used to populate Jamaica Plain when they first bought the property, passed around a bunch of fresh hops and then showed off the brew kettles. “I could explain the intricacies of the brewing process but you guys know how that works. Would you rather just head to the tasting room?”, asked Jim. A cheer of approval from the crowd and we were on our way.

First up, Jim brought out glasses of the Boston Lager. He said that he doesn't believe that any of the beers that Boston Beer have brewed have ever surpassed the first beer they brewed. In a weird way, I think he really believes that.

Next were two beers that were soon to be unveiled in the first "Drinker's Choice" promotion for later that year. The first was a crisp and hoppy Bohemian style pilsener that I liked quite a bit. The second was a brown ale (that eventually won; it's now a regular product) that Jim kept tasting and saying "it's not ready yet" but he let us try anyway. I would have voted for the pilsener regardless.

Imagine this scene: Jim Koch carrying a tray with dozens of snifters containing Utopias and placing them on your table. I don't have to imagine this because that is exactly what happened next. Utopias famously sells for over $100 a bottle so this was indeed a rare treat. It drinks more like a sherry (Jim Koch described it in terms of a cognac but I've never had cognac...), it's rich and oaky with vanilla and toffee notes. No head whatsoever. Again, if I didn't know it was a beer, I would guess it's an aged sherry. I had my snifter and another given to me by a lady who did not want to try hers.

I met some pretty nice people, especially a gentleman from Denmark and his wife. I found the Alstrom Brothers and thanked them for the event. They asked if I wanted to continue the festivities over at Doyle's Cafe but I needed to go get some sleep and get on the road the next morning. I was on my way to Bangor the next day...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Change In Plans...

The countdown clock has changed as you may have noticed. My friend Dave and I had originally planned to travel to Belgium in March 2008 but conditions dictated that we push it back to August 2008. When that happened, I noticed that we would be in country for the Grande Choufferie and that became the centerpiece of our trip. However, conditions have now pushed our plans back to March 2008. The bad news is, no Grande Choufferie. The good news is, there will be more time in Gent and Brugge and the plane tickets will be cheaper. Cheaper plane tickets mean more money for beer! And I get to go sooner. Sweet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Boulevard Lunar Ale

Brewer: Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO
Poured: June 11th, 2007
ABV: 4.5%

This was part of a mixed sixer I got at Brewtopia in Omaha.

It's a hazy orangey-brown topped with a creamy ivory colored head. There's a wheaty aroma, clove and banana aromas are present as well. Fruity.

Flavor has prominent banana and sweet spice. Clove is quite evident. It's a lightly dry mouth, clean finish. As you make you way through the bottle, the aftertaste gets sweeter and stickier.

Wow, what a surprise. I certainly wasn't expecting this beer to be a dunkel weisse and I certainly didn't expect it to be so tasty. Well done.

Boulevard Brewing Company

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Tasting Notes: Lagunitas Lucky 13

Brewer: Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA
Poured: May 2007
ABV%: 8.3%

This is the 13th anniversary release from Lagunitas and bills itself as "A Mondo Large Red Ale". Knowing Lagunitas, that means copius amounts of hops.

I guessed right as big citrusy hops hit the nose as it pours a lovely orangey copper. The hops dominate the tongue too but it's nicely balanced by a considerable malt backbone. The 8.3% ABV is nicely masked and it the malt is pleasantly sweet. Very smooth and drinkable for a big beer.

This is probably only the second "Double Red" type beer I've had and they both have been really nice. Go get it.

Lagunitas Brewing Company

Monday, June 4, 2007

Tasting Notes: Dominion Millenium

Brewer: Old Dominion Brewing Company, Ashburn, VA
Poured: May 2007
ABV%: 11.4%

This had been sitting around my fridge for several months so I decided to clean out the fridge. Here it is.

It pours an orangey-brown with a tan head. Smells of rich caramel malt and very bitter hops. It tastes of very bitter citrusy hops. Did I say tastes of? It's dominated by the hops. Underneath is a subdued malt profile (well, subdued compared to the hops profile) and a warming alcohol burn. Mouth is very sticky and a cloying sweetness dominates the finish.

This one is an ass-kicker to be sure. There isn't anything subtle about this brew and it's assaults the palate. It's over the top even for an American barleywine. But all in all it's just OK. A bit of balance may have made this one a lot tastier and some significant age (a year or more) may go a long way to achieve that balance. If you like your barleywines to be extreme, you need to check this one out.

Old Dominion Brewing Company

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Session #4: Local Brew

I'm a newbie to this beer blogging thing but I saw The Session post over at Lew Bryson's blog and became intrigued with the concept. I was wholly unprepared for this but did have a couple local beers in the fridge that met the criteria so I figured I'd pick up the flag for the Atlanta area.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale

Terrapin is based out of Athens, GA (even though all their bottles are contract brewed in Maryland) and since the ABV cap on beer was popped nearly three years ago have built a reputation on their seasonal "Monster Beer Tour" extreme beers. However, their flagship beer manages to be pretty innovative, if not extreme. Rye Pale Ale is made with (duh) rye, in addition to other specialty malts but at about 5% ABV makes a decent session beer as well.

The beer pours a slightly hazy copper with a billowy ivory head. The sweet, citrusy hops are evident immediately in the nose but the real payoff for this beer is when it hits your lips and the lightly grainy malt flavor melds with the orange rind flavored hops. The mouth is real creamy. Above all, this is just a really enjoyable and tasty brew. I was happy that one of my local favorites was in the fridge. I must be doing my job, supporting my local brewery and all that.

Sweetwater Road Trip

If you were to rank the best breweries in Georgia, Terrapin and Sweetwater would be ranked 1 and 1A and you couldn't go wrong with either in the top spot. (Some would argue that only Sweetwater is a true GA brewer since Terrapin contract brews elsewhere but I don't subscribe to that argument.) While Terrapin only offers two year-round offerings (their Golden Ale and the aforementioned Rye Pale Ale), Sweetwater offers five and has very recently put an emphasis of their seasonals by thinking outside the box (well, for them anyway). They bottled their Happy Ending imperial stout this winter and this spring have released Road Trip, a beer they bill as a double pilsner recipe in which they subbed ale yeast for the lager yeast.

Road Trip pours crystal clear with a bright golden hue. The head is snow-white and dense and the aroma is dominated by noble hops. The hops (Saaz?) dominate the tongue as you sip this beer but do not completely overwhelm the malt. The mouth is not crisp like a pilsner but softer and creamier (I'm guessing from the ale yeast...). To call this a double pilsner is incorrect; it's what may be the world's first Imperial Cream Ale! (The extreme beer movement's next logical step...) I have a soft spot for a good cream ale so this beer is right up my alley.

Well, I've enjoyed my first post for The Session and think this is a great idea. Support your local brewery!

Out of the Cellar: Orkney Skullsplitter

Brewer: Orkney Brewing, Orkney Scotland
Added to the Cellar: October 2004
Poured: May 2007
ABV%: 8.5%

I wish I could give you an in-depth and detailed analysis of how this beer has held up over the past (nearly) three years but there's not much to report. It's horribly oxidized and tastes of so much wet cardboard that little else can be detected. There's a faint fruitiness but even that tastes a bit sour and rotten. I can't finish this beer.

Orkney Skullsplitter is one of my favorite beers so I have experimented with it just to see what some age will do to it. My conclusion is that the beer holds up well for up to a year and half but never actually improves over that time. Drink it fresh.