Friday, December 28, 2007

Liefmans Brewery In Bankruptcy

I don't usually comment a lot on "the beer business" but I was saddened to see that Riva, the parent company of Liefmans, has declared bankruptcy. This has been talked about on several beer related sites and blogs but seems to be covered quite well on Stonch's blog.

Terribly sad news. We may be jumping the gun as the beer may still be made - during bankruptcy proceedings and perhaps after a restructuring of the business.

Still, there is always a chance that the brand won't survive. Goudenband is one of my favorite beers ever. I have always liked their fruit beers since they used an Oud Bruin as a base instead of lambic or, increasingly, a bland wheat beer.

It looks like I'll have to go find some Gluhkriek just in case.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 25: N'ice Chouffe 2004

One last entry in this series and for the last entries I picked one of my all-time favorites. According to the bottle, this winter ale is brewed with spring water, barley, hops, dried orange peel, thyme (?!?) and "a lot of candy sugar". Guess that candy sugar helps boost the alcohol content up to 10% ABV. The bottle also suggests that this beer may be aged up to 5 years. This version is from 2004, three years of age on it.

It pours an opaque nutty brown with a enormous, frothy head. Tons of thick lacing. A very spicy nose and not just sweet spice. There a bitterness and peppery quality to the aroma.

Although this is a big beer, there is nary a hint of alcohol in the mouth. Nor is this beer overly sweet like so many big ales from Belgium. The body is thinner than you might expect, though not too thin, and the spice and hops really shine through. It's a nice balance that makes this enormous beer quite the easy drinker. The spice and hops create an interesting bitterness, especially in the finish. Is it the thyme? I think so. The orange peel flavor is there to giving that dryness to the body. It's a really interesting beer and takes awhile to wrap your head around.

One thing for sure is that this one's a one of a kind ale. Go get some.

Brouwerij Achouffe

Monday, December 24, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 24: Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic

I had to scuttle the original beer scheduled for tonight. It was a 2004 version of SweetWater Festive Ale. When fresh, this beer is a bit heavy on the spice so I thought it might age well. I was wrong. It was completely spoiled. Undrinkable.

So I dipped into the Samuel Adams Winter Mix yet again and snagged a bottle of Cranberry Lambic. I don't have the loathing for this beer that many "beer geeks" do but it does usually linger and I end up using it for cooking more often than not. Although it is not a true lambic, the Sam Adams website states that they do use a strain of wild yeast in the brewing process. It's a sessionable beer at 4.6% ABV.

It a pleasant orangey copper in the glass with a frothy but quickly dissipating ivory head. The smell is the unusual part. It sour but sweet. But not too sweet as the sweetness imparts a bit of tartness. There's a sour, bready wheat malt. But overall it is sweet. It's not puckering at all. But still...there's a tad of sourness. It's odd but not nearly as complex as I'm making it out.

That hint of sourness disappears in the taste. It's sweetish but not overpoweringly so. There's some tartness but it's certainly not sour. A bit of graininess or cereal like flavors from the malt. It finishes surprisingly clean, not a lot of residual stickiness in the mouth.

It's really not so bad but it's certainly not my style. But adding it to your chili? It adds a nice flavor and some body...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 23: Anchor Old Foghorn

Anchor Brewing is taking over this list! Along with Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Old Foghorn was one of the first widely available American barleywines. It is listed at 8-10% ABV on their website, is hopped with Cascades and then dry hopped with more Cascade during aging.

It is a murky orangey brown in the glass with a wispy thin khaki head. Smells of big, rich, nutty caramel malt. Very sweet aromas. Citrusy hops aromas, grapefruit and orange rind.

The first thing that strikes me is how balanced this beer is. It has big flavors but the voluminous hops and malt balance each other very well. As much as I love Bigfoot, the hops dominate that beer unless you lay it down for a few years. Big cascades and big nutty malt. The finish is lightly sweet but, again, is then balanced by the hops in the aftertaste.

It always delivers. A good beer when the weather turns chilly.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 22: Unibroue Quelque Chose

This is one of my favorite winter beers and one of the more unusual. Why? Because this is a beer that's designed to be served hot.

Quelque Chose is "ale brewed with cherries" and is 8% ABV. This particular bottle is a couple of years old but it holds up very well.

I warmed the beer up on the stove. This is how I typically do it: Uncork the beer, place a pan with some water on the stove, place the bottle in the pan and heat on low until the bottle is hot.

This one pours a ruby brown with very little froth. This beer is very still by nature. The aroma is sweet with cherry and fills the nose with sweet spices.

If you've ever had mulled wine then you know the sensation this beer delivers up front. Warm sweetness with sweet spice shining through. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove flavors. Faintly sour in the finish. The body is wicked smooth. It's just silky.

It's a good one and a unique beer experience. I've had this beer cold and warm now but I recommend it warmed up.

Friday, December 21, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 21: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Yet another winter tradition from the Sam Adam Holiday Mix Pack. It's a bock beer (single bocks are a rarity around these parts), seems to be spiced and weighs in at 5.8% ABV.

It pours deep amber with a lacy off-white head. It smells lightly spicy. Orange aromas perhaps? Also some lightly malty sweet aromas.

Taste is malty and sweet, much maltier than I remember this beer being before. Fruity undertones with hints of citrus and cloves. Medium bodied and sticky with a caramel and molasses aftertaste with a moderately hoppy finish to balance it out. Very drinkable with a suprisingly full body.

I may have sold this beer short in the past. This is damn good. Worth a second look.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 20: Anchor OSA 2003

The final edition of this mini-vertical within the greater Christmas beers focus.

No need to describe the appearance. It's the same as all the other editions! Plus, I have a picture posted right?

Smells of sweet dark malt, some nutmeg and clove aromas.

Fruity malt, some bituing spice, allspice and ginger flavors. Faint citrusy flavor, lemony. Odd oxidized finish. Some piney flavors especially in the aftertaste.

This one is still good but just a tad haphazard with the flavor profile. It shows signs of being just about ready to fall apart.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 19: Anchor OSA 2004

Yet another version of Anchor OSA, this time from 2004.

Like all the other versions, it pours opaque brown with a thin tan head. More pine in the nose for this version and a touch more of that sweet spice.

There's still lots of pine in the mouth and some clove and nutmeg spice as well. Sweet dark malt and a sticky and resiny finish and aftertaste. It's real good.
Of all the years sampled thus far, 2004 is holding up the best by far.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 18: Sierra Nevada Celebration 2003

Against my better judgement, I put a bottle of Celebration in the cellar for a number of years. I have heard of other people doing this and while I don't typically don't lay down IPA's, my curiosity outweighed my prudence. It does have nearly 7% ABV and is bottle conditioned so you never know. This bottle has been in my possession for 4 years.

It pours a reddish copper with a quickly dissipating head (from the age I presume). Still quite hoppy in the nose with slight fruity malt and some aromas from mild oxidation.
The hops have faded revealing some lightly fruity pale malt. The body is quite fizzy, perhaps from bottle conditioning creating more carbonation. Some light oxidation and lightly stale cascade hops. Lightly sticky finish.
It's not great but I was expecting a mess. It actually aged quite nicely for the style. Not recommended but an interesting experiment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 17: Samichlaus 2003

Perhaps one of the first Christmas beers, Samichlaus is only brewed once a year on December 6th and stored for more than 10 months at the Eggenberg brewery before release. It was at one time the strongest beer commercially available at 14% ABV. Originally the beer was brewed in Switzerland but after a disappearance and revival it is brewed in Austria. This beer was bottled in 2003 and has been in my cellar for three years.

It pours bright red with a bit of golden brown mixed in and topped by a thin tan head that quickly dissipates down to a wisp. The nose is filled with powerful fruity malt. It an enormous aroma of vanilla, oak, dark fruit, overripe plums, lightly sour cherries and big caramel flavors.

In the mouth there is still some alcohol present and it is surrounded by the swirling flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, oakiness and big rich caramel malt. Also it is sugary and sweet. However the finish is relatively clean.
It's huge and a slow sipper for sure but a once a year treat.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 16: Samuel Adams Holiday Porter

The Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack is a tradition and has been in my house for about 14 years. The selection has changed over the years and three years ago Boston Beer added the Holiday Porter which at the time was the only porter in their lineup. (They have since revived their excellent Honey Porter.) It's an easy drinker clocking in at 5.9% ABV.
It pours a dark brown with a frothy and dense light brown head. Lots of fine lacing. A sweet malty smell but also some significant hops in the aroma as well. Smoky chocolate in the nose too.

Very creamy mocha taste takes over the palate. Bitter and roasty notes are prominent. Roasty bitter finish as well.
If you like your porters to deliver some of that roastiness from the malt (and I do) you'll like this porter. It does deliever some balancing creaminess too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 15: Ommegang Three Philosophers 2004

Not a winter seasonal per se but just seems to call to me in the winter. Three Philosophers is an unusual ale in that Ommegang brews a big quadrupel (9.8% ABV) and then blends with it a portion of Lindemans Kriek before bottling.
This ale pours a murky brown with a quickly dissipating head. Big fruity malt aromas. Quite bready and hints of sour dark fruit.

Big malty and fruity flavors in the mouth. Dark fruit and oak, hints of vanilla. If I search I can still pick out the cherry from the Lindemans Kriek in there but as opposed to when fresh all the flavors have melded together. Whereas it was easy to taste that this one beer was once two, it is nearly imperceptible now. There is still some light sour flavors but the overall body is big and rich now with a sticky fruity finish.

A gem at three years. Wonderful.

Friday, December 14, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 14: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 04-05

I am woefully behind in my 25 Beers posts. Let's try to catch up...

Another old winter favorite takes the stage next. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is an annual ritual and one of the better aging beers I've experimented with. Upon release it needs a good year in the cellar before it really shines. At 10%, it's sometimes a little hot right away. This bottle is three years old, the 04-05 version.

Pours like motor oil with a quickly dissipating light brown head. Smells chocolatey with hints of alcohol esters. There are aromas of dark fruit from oxidation and a hint of vanilla.

The taste is sweet and chocoaltey with almost no hint of alcohol. Lightly bitter with smooth mocha flavors. A big sweet sticky mouth. There's some light oaky and black currant flavors from oxidation. Sticky finish with some estery alcohol in the finish.

It's a good one. Throw a couple in the basement.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 13: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2004

One of the oldest stashes of beer in my collection is the several bottles of 2004 Bigfoot. Ah, a (nearly) four year old classic! This was the first barleywine I ever had (back in the mid-90's) and it ages wonderfully. Bigfoot clocks in at 9.6% and 90 IBU.

Pours the color of cherry wood with a thin tan head. Sparse lacing on the glass. The nose can still pick out some Cascade hops but mostly is big caramel malt and the oxidized flavors (sherry, vanilla, raisin) mixed in.

The bittering hops are still quite evident in the mouth although greatly muted from when the beer is fresh. The muted herbal hops are now in good balance with the big caramel malt. Fruity flavors from the malt, raisin and black currant. Big sticky mouth. Hops take over again in the finish. Nice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 12: St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel

Straight out of Belgium, next up is Cuvee de Noel from Brasserie St. Feuillien. It's an abbey ale brewed to 9.5% ABV.

Pours opaque ruby brown brimmed by a frothy and dense tan head.

The aroma... Rich maltiness and caramel malt, strident spiciness, perhaps from the yeast. Lightly fruity almost like tart apples.. Some hops seem to be present in the nose. Crazy.

Flavor is very malty, fruity malt and caramel malt, considerable spice, some bitterness, tastes like hops but may be a product of the spice as this style usually doesn't display hops lightly sticky sweet finish and aftertaste.

That is one tasty abbey ale. Good stuff.

Brasserie St. Feuillien

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 11: Avery Old Jubilation 2007

I was knocked over by a two-year old version of Old Jubilation early in this little project which astonished me given that I wasn't that crazy about it when I had it fresh. Was this due to changing perceptions or was it really a beer that improves greatly with age? I decided to find out with a fresh sample.
Most of the initial impressions are the same. "Pours a nearly opaque reddish brown with a wispy thin tan head. No real lacing to speak of. Smells very malty. Sweet with some sweet spiciness some alcohol in the nose." These are all still valid observations.

The taste is another matter. While the hops are still present, the fruity malt with all it's blackcurrant and raisin has the upper hand on those hops. The earthy hops are still quite present but they do not shine like they did in the aged version. This seems counter intuitive as hops usually are one of the first things to fade when you age beer. There is a bit more alcohol evident in the flavor so maybe the hops come out when that fades. Or maybe the oxidation cancels out some other malt flavors and the hops win out again. Whatever the reason, this beer does improve with the age on the bottles. It's still quite good but the two-year old sample was better. Good to know...

Monday, December 10, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 10: Rogue Festive Ale 2006

Rogue Festive Ale is a Saison that goes clocks in at 8.5% alcohol. According to the website, it's brewed with a variety of spices including Grains of Paradise, ginger root and orange peel. This is a bomber I picked up last year. Let's see how it held up.

This pours a hazy bright orange topped with voluminous frothy khaki head that leaves light lacing. The aroma is filled with spice. There's coriander and pepper smells (I'm guessing from the Grains of Paradise) along with some lightly fruity malt.

The flavor is also dominated by the considerable spice. I can't pick out the ginger root but the orange peel is quite evident in the middle of the spice. Some sweet fruity malt. Quite big flavors. Not too sweet as the spice tend to dry the palate a bit. Spices dominate the finish and aftertaste.

This is clearly the best American brewed Saison I've ever tasted.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 9: Mendocino Winter Ale

There's a couple of firsts here with beer number 9 in the 25 beers of Christmas. First, it's the first Imperial IPA on this list (and the only winter seasonal I know that is made in this style). Second, I didn't remember seeing this one before and according to the website this is indeed the first year this beer has been offered. It weighs in at 7.5% ABV, so lets dive in.
This ale pours crystal clear copper with a creamy ivory head. The head leaves spotty lacing down the side of the glass. Sticking a nose into the glass reveals the most beautiful citrusy aroma from the hops. Copious amounts of grapefruit and tangerine with hints orange rind.

Bitter, bitter, bitter. This one hits you it the mouth. It's chewing on an orange rind bitter. The hops dominate but somehow a biscuity malt profile does manage to break through now and then. Mostly it's the bitterness, overpowering at times but that's what you drink an imperial IPA, right? It's hoppy in the finish and aftertaste. Full bodied.

Nice IPA. It's nice to break up the malty ones for once, right?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 8: JW Dundee's Festive Ale

The JW Dundee line is brewed by High Falls Brewing in Rochester. High Falls is probably most famous for brewing the Genesee line (sadly, this no longer includes the excellent 12 Horse Ale) but don't let that pedestrian lineup fool you. JW Dundee label has graced some fantastic beers including the unique and amazing Pale Bock. This is the first year I have seen the Festive Ale (6.2% ABV, 30 IBU) so I decided to check it out.

This one pours a clear dark mahogany and builds a frothy and persistent khaki head that leaves thick sheeting lace. There's the definitive smell of sweet spice. I'm getting nutmeg and coriander, along with other peppery spice aromas. There's a hint of lightly fruity malt.
In the mouth, this ale gives a nice balance of malt and spice. Although it's quite spicy up front, soon the fruity malt takes over and dominates the finish. The spice (nutmeg, cinnamon) lingers in the aftertaste as well.

A nice surprise and one that I'll have to seek out again.

Friday, December 7, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 7: Stoudt's Winter

Stoudts Winter is a roasty porter from the brewery out of Adamstown, PA. The recipe tends to change every couple of years so there is little available on how this beer is made.

This beer is jet black with a light brown head. No real lacing. The aroma is equal parts roasty malt and sweet malt.
Again, sweetish malt in the mouth balanced by some light roastiness and metallic flavors. The roastiness builds the more you sip. Lightly sticky mouth and a roasty finish.
Pretty drinkable porter and a nice winter brew.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 6: Blue Moon Full Moon

The year was 1997 and I was still in the Navy. Money was tight and I was a newlywed making very little money on my E-5 salary. But I loved my beer.

Enter Blue Moon Brewing. I knew they were a subsidiary of Coors but the six-packs of Blue Moon were only $4.99 and they were often accompanied by $1.00 off coupons placed around the neck of the bottle. Thus, they were a go-to beer for my fridge.

Back then, there was Blue Moon Belgian White and their Pumpkin Beer seemed to be available year round. They also had Blue Moon Abbey Ale. I had already been to Belgium twice at this point and knew it wasn't truly authentic but it wasn't bad at all. It was a frequent purchase but disappeared from the shelves a couple of years later.

Tonight I had Blue Moon's Full Moon and I believe it is actually the same recipe for the Abbey Ale I enjoyed many years ago.

It pours a clear reddish-orange and is topped by a thin ivory head. Smells lightly spicy and fruity.

It tastes lightly metallic. Some candy sugar flavor, some estery flavors. Is a bit sticky in the mouth but finishes cleaner than you would expect.

Don't expect your typical Belgian abbey but it's pretty good stuff.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 5: Anchor OSA 2005

Still more Anchor "Our Special Ale", this version is from 2005.

An opaque brown with a creamy tan head. Sheeting lace on the glass. A quite piney smell under which is the aroma of rich roasty malt

The flavor is of roasty malt and lots of piney bitterness. Lightly sticky in the mouth with that piney taste all over the finish.
Lots more pine taste and a lot less spice than the 2006 recipe. Good stuff.

Anchor Brewing

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 4: Delirium Noel 2004

The next beer is a three year old sample of of Delirium Noel, the christmas beer in the Delirium line, brought to you by Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium. It's a big one at 10% ABV but there's not much more information about the beer to be found. So let's get to drinking!

This big ale is a hazy dark orange in the glass and topped by a voluminous tan head. Some light lacing is evident on the side of the glass. It smells very fruity, like sweet cherries and some tart raspberry. Raisins and spiced tart apple aromas are evident as well.

Taste is all that sweet fruitiness. Spiced apple and cherry, black currant and raisin. Still a bit boozy. Is there licorice in the finish? There's certainly something bitter but certainly doesn't taste like hops.

The age seems to have taken the stickiness out of the finish. It does seem to have improved but this one remains a once a year affair for me. But I will report that if you finish one of these by yourself, you may begin to see the pink elephants march right off the label.

Brouwerij Huyghe

Monday, December 3, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 3: Anchor "Our Special Ale" 2006

I've been drinking Anchor's OSA for so long it's nearly become a family tradition. So, of course, OSA will be prominently featured in the 25 Beers of Christmas. First up, the 2006 version (5.5% ABV) which was pretty understated compared to previous years in my opinion. There seemed to be a bit more spice but much less pine and malt flavors.

It's a dark mahoghany in the glass and sports a dense and frothy tan head. Nice thick lacing on the glass. Ginger and other sweet spice (perhaps nutmeg and clove) fill the nose, underpinned by a sweet, dark, almost biscuity malt. There's a hint of pine but its very subdued.

The mouth is filled by the flavors of the rich dark malt and it dominates the taste buds. Slowly, the sweet spice mentioned before becomes apparent. It finishes with some piney flavors, much more pine than in the mose, and woodier in the aftertaste. Its a very full mouth, a bit sticky but an offsetting piney aftertaste as the beer goes down.

So far I'm 3 for 3, every one of these beers has been fantastic. The cellar likes me. It really, really likes me!


I have been out of commission for awhile due to protracted illness, the worst part of which was I could not drink beer during this time! So, what did I do instead? I kept reading about beer on other beer related blogs. Here's a few of them I wish to highlight and I will add these to the existing links.

First, The Brew Site checked in and let me know that they too are doing a "Beer Advent Calendar" this month so that ensures I'll be checking in to see if our lists overlap!

Second is a site that is so excellent it is unmissable. The blog on The Belgian Beer Board is outstanding. It's full of information about new beers, new cafes, new breweries and beer festivals - all in Belgium and written by a very knowledgeable Belgian, Filip Geerts. Indispensible if you are planning a trip to the beery motherland and downright addicting even if you aren't.

Shut Up About Barclay Perkins is an entertaining read about an English ex-pat living in The Netherlands and his various pubs that he has the pleasure to visit. Even more interesting than that though is all the historical information about beer that he manages to dig up (including the Whitbread gravity book) that is quickly putting some myths about British beer styles soundly to bed.

Delving even further into the beery history (primarily) of Great Britain is Zythophile. Lots of great posts that are impossible to stop reading once you start.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 2: Avery Old Jubilation 2005

In my neverending cellaring experiments, I put down a couple bottles of Avery's Old Jubilation in December of 2005. This was not too difficult as I was underwhelmed with this beer upon my original sampling. This big ale clocks in at 8% ABV and, according to the Avery website, is a blend of 5 specialty malts. It also says, "Cellarable for two years". Perfect!

Pours a nearly opaque reddish brown with a wispy thin tan head. No real lacing to speak of. Smells very malty. Sweet with some sweet spiciness some alcohol in the nose
The hops in this are crazy. Even with the age on this beer, even with the big malt profile, these earthy bitter hops still come through. I imagine this hop is the source of the sweet spice I smelled. Underneath that, there's a sweet fruity malt, lots of dark fruit flavors, blackcurrant and maybe a little raisin too. Again, lots of hops in the aftertaste. The bitterness lingers on the cheeks and gums.

Wow. I was not real impressed with this beer when I had it fresh but it's outstanding now. Is that the aging or simply a different point of view two years later? I don't know but I'm sure a fresh sample will help solve that dilema.

Avery Brewing Company

Saturday, December 1, 2007

25 Beers of Christmas, Day 1: Smuttynose Barleywine 2004

F0r the Christmas season, I've decided to do a review of 25 different beers, one each day in December, just like a beery advent calendar. I will be focusing on Christmas and winter seasonals but there may be other special treats I pull out of my cellar.

The first beer is a bomber of Smutynose Barleywine from 2004. It was their winter seasonal and I picked up a few bottles on my way out of Maine during my move down to Georgia, fearing it would be a very long time before I laid my hands on it again. (It was.)

Smuttynose did something kind of unusual with their barleywine in that they used primarily Belgian malts and then used primarily Simcoe for bittering. It's bottle conditioned and clocks in at 10% ABV. Let's see how this one holds up after three and a half years.

It pours a kind of hazy burnt orange with a creamy and persistent tan head. Rich caramel malt in the nose and not much else to be detected.

Upon taking the first sip, I am shocked that there are still a ton of hops present in this beer, even after all this time. But while the hops overwhelm early, a substantial malt profile becomes apparent. Lots caramel, toffee and lightly fruity malt flavors. It's got thick and sticky body and while the hops dominate early, it's all malt in the finish and aftertaste.

Man, this one aged brilliantly. It's calmed down as far as the alcohol burn but all the other flavors have melded and maintained the intensity. I thought this one would be a nice candidate for aging but this has surpassed even my expectations. Excellent start to this exercise!

Smuttynose Brewing Company