Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Duvel Moortgat Acquires Liefmans

Duvel has acquired Liefmans! The transaction, including real estate that Duvel had bought earlier in the year, will total 4.5 million euros.

This is very good news. Not only will the Liefmans brands survive, they will be controlled by a brewer I quite respect. Good news. Goudenband lives on!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coaster: Boston Beer Works

This coaster was picked up during my New England trip in 2004. I went to the location near Fenway Park.
They made a nice IPA but I couldn't get served fast enough to try a second beer. They seemed quite understaffed and the place wasn't even crowded. It would be worth a second trip though.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Brick Store Pub: 11th Anniversary

I have not been out and about to drink beer in many months due to many different issues going on in my life but with things finally getting back to normal, I was looking for an excuse to get out and enjoy some good beer.

When you are out to enjoy good beer in the Atlanta metro area, the first place that springs to mind is the Brick Store Pub in Decatur. This Saturday kicked off the 11th anniversary celebrations at the Brick Store so I decided to be down there when they tapped the special kegs they brought in for the occasion.

The fact that a place like the Brick Store could survive 11 years in Georgia is amazing in itself. It's even more amazing considering that until 4 years ago, no beer over 6% ABV could be sold in the state. But they did survive and since the ABV cap was lifted in 2004, they have thrived. It is the best beer bar in the state and certainly one of the best on the East Coast.

I got there just after 3 PM and Dave was on the steps giving a speech and thanking everyone for coming out to celebrate and introduce the special kegs for that day. After he was done, I headed upstairs to the "Belgian Bar" and sample the beers.

The first beer was Guido by Brouwerij De Regenboog. Happily, I knew nothing of this beer before I tried it. Had I known in advance that it was brewed with honey and raisins, I may have passed it up.

Guido poured a hazy brownish orange with a frothy but thinnish head. Very sweet fruity smells, raisin and other assorted dark fruit. The flavor is really amazing. Very sweet and fruity, with raisins and dark plum but the noble hops are there too to provide a bit of balance. Lots of spicy, yeast flavors too with a touch of alcohol burn. It's sweet but not cloying. Very unique and very tasty.

The second beer was J.W. Lees Lagavulin vintage 2001. This particular beer is the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in a cask that once held Lagavulin whiskey. The Brick Store got a pin keg and I was lucky to get a glass. I have not been a huge fan of the Harvest Ale in the past but this one was fantastic.
It pours a lightly hazy dark amber with no head to speak of. I could have just smelled this beer and been satisfied. Peaty and earthy, sweet malt and whiskey from the cask. Beautiful. The taste matches the smell. Very boozy and quite sweet but always with that peaty, whisky flavor permeating throughout. Very fruity with hints of toffee and vanilla. Sweetish finish with the whisky flavor lingering.

Both beers are not ones that I would have normally tried but both were fantastic.

I went in by myself but had nice conversation with a couple of guys named Lee. One was the bartender and the other was a guy I had met at a Beer Advocate event late last year.

Normally, the beer menu would suck me in for the better part of an afternoon but I had places to go and people to meet. If you come within 100 miles of Atlanta, you have to get to the Brick Store.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Out of The Cellar: Cherish Kriek

Brewer: Brouwerij Van Steenberge
Date Cellared: October 2003
Date Sampled: June 2008
Style: Kriek Lambic
ABV: ???

This is one of those inadvertent cellarings. It's a beer I bought for my wife years ago but it has languished in the cellar for over 4 1/2 years. I'm not crazy about the more "commercial" examples of Kriek Lambic but I was curious to see what would happen to it after all this time. I was pretty sure this is a pasteurized beer but did any of the brettanomyces survive? Would there be any added funk or sourness imparted by the age?

Logically, I know the answer is probably not. But what's done is done. Let's check it out.

It pours a a deep copper color with a hint of red and is topped by wispy thin ivory head. Smells of tart cherry and just a slight hint of toffee.

There's a lot of tart cherry flavors with just a twinge of toffee. The body is much thinner. There's sweetness but it's not that sweet. It finishes with a light sticky aftertaste.

Firstly, there was no funky brett character at all. The pasteurization is complete and thorough! Second, the tart fruitiness does seem to be stronger in the flavor profile but I would imagine that is some of the fruity oxidation flavors blending with the cherries.

Chalk it up to experience. An interesting accident but nothing more.

Brouwerij Van Steenberge

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tasting Notes: Foret

Brewer: Brasserie Dupont
Style: Saison
ABV: 7.5%
Date Poured: June 2008

Foret is an amazing beer. I was at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia a couple of years ago and was in the mood to have a Saison Dupont on draft. They were out but they had just tapped some Foret and offered me that instead. I took it. How bad could it be? Turns out it was even better than Saison Dupont! But instead of reminiscing, I'll talk about the bottle of Foret I've got right in front of me.

It pours crystal clear. I mean, the clarity in quite dramatic on this beer. Clear copper with a dense creamy ivory head and sheeting lace on the sides of the glass.

Smells of lemon, sweet spice and banana of all things. Light peppery spice also fills the nose.

In the mouth, a strident noble hop character takes over, something I did not detect in the nose. Peppery flavors and yeastiness underneath. A driness in the finish, some bright citrusy fruitiness from the malt. It's lovely. A symphony of flavors in the tongue.

On top of all this, Foret is certified organic by Ecocert. (It goes by Moinette Bio in Europe)

Run, don't walk.

Brasserie Dupont

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Session # 16: Beer Festivals

Beer festivals. I've been to some great ones. I've been to some lousy ones. Now, in my mid-thirties, I've figured out two essential ingredients to knowing what will make a beer festival enjoyable for me.

1) There have to be beers at the festival that I would have difficulty sampling otherwise because of geography, cost or limited availability.

2) There either has to be an early session of the festival or the doors have to open early in the afternoon. If you go early, you tend to miss the drunken louts who show up after dark simply to get loaded.

Thus, my best beer festival experiences have been ones that I have travelled out of state to attend. Lots of new beer to sample in those cases and the festival format allows you to sample much in a limited amount of time.

But my favorite festival that I attended was one in Maine while I was living in that state. It was the Southwest Harbor Oktoberfest and the last one I attended was probably in 2003.

Maine had a lot of craft breweries per capita (at one point it was more per capita than any state in the union but that may have changed since) but some were draft only, brewpubs or a very limited availability. Some breweries literally serviced only a 45 mile radius from the brewery. So even if a brewery was in-state, you might not be able to find the beer. So this was a great chance to sample beers from all over the state and even meet many of the brewers.

Some highlights:

I got to meet Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing. It was my first chance to try beers from Sheepscot Valley Brewing and from the Narrow Gauge Brewpub (Narrow Gauge is gone now but had a great cream ale). The Liberal Cup, Gritty McDuff's and The Bear brewpubs were all there too.

It was outside at a campground and the weather was great. There was the beer tent and another tent with live music and still another for crafts and artists. You could bring the whole family if you wanted to.

If you find yourself near Mt. Desert Island in Maine this fall, you can check it out for yourself.

And if you remember those two rules, you'll probably find any beer festival that meets them worthwhile.

For more entries for this month's The Session, head over to Geistbear Brewing Blog where it's being hosted.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tasting Notes: Agave Wheat

Brewer: Breckenridge Brewery
Style: American Wheat\Agave Wheat ?
ABV: 4.2%
Date Poured: June 2008

Once I made the move to Georgia several years ago, I learned a new appreciation for wheat beers. It's hot down here and a good witbier or hefeweizen really hits the spot. I particularly dove into exploring German hefes and then, as I am prone to do, started looking for some good examples made by American brewers.

I was sorely disappointed. Beers that claimed to be "hefeweizens" turned out to have none of the characteristics of their German equivalents. Where was that banana/lemon/bubblegum flavor imparted by that typical hefe yeast? Nowhere, it seemed. American witbiers were better but most seemed flabby and lacking, even compared to industrial examples like Hoegaarden. And the ales labeled simply "wheat beer" were crisp but soulless. Little flavor and even less enjoyment.

I believe that American brewers can make great examples of any style in the world but with wheat beers they come up short. I can only think of two stellar examples: Allagash White from Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine and Gumballhead from Three Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana.

But that doesn't stop me from continuing to look. Colorado's Breckenridge Brewery has released a wheat beer flavored with the nectar of the Salmiana Agave. And since I have never heard of a brewery doing such a thing, I had to give it a shot.

It pours a very hazy pale gold (it is unfiltered) with a 1/4 inch snow white head. A pretty typical appearance for an American wheat beer. Sweet wheat malt aromas mixed with aromatics from some sort of lemony fruit. Maybe this is from the agave?

In the mouth, a lightly sweet wheat malt imparts a light crispness. It starts out quite dry in the mouth too. There's a lime-like flavor in there which I am assuming is the agave nectar. It still finishes clean and crisp but with just a hint of stickiness in the aftertaste.

The addition of agave is interesting to be sure and does save this beer from still being just another limp American wheat beer. But it doesn't make it great. Extra credit for trying something different. I wouldn't have thought of agave in a million years. I will say that this is a cut above your average American wheat beer.

Breckenridge Brewery

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tasting Notes: Highland Kashmir IPA

Brewer: Highland Brewing
Style: IPA
ABV: 5.6%
Date Poured: June 2008

Jumping back into the beer tasting, I was really wanting an IPA. I decided starting with an IPA from the southeast US (where I am) would be a good place to start. So, it's the Kashmir IPA from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina.

It's got a lightly hazy and very pale gold body with a frothy ivory head. Sheets of lace left on the glass. Light herbal hop aromas with a hint of citrus.

Herbal bitterness that builds as you drink it. No sweet citrus here. Lightly sweet pale malt and bitter finish, lightly sticky. Medium bodied with a biting bitter aftertaste.

Not bad. Quite a solid single IPA.

Highland Brewing Company