Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Stone

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, "Beers you've never heard of" for a review of the Stone 12th anniversary ale. First, why do breweries call these anniversary ales? Shouldn't it be a birthday ale? I guess we'll just agree to disagree. That issue aside, I picked up a bomber (aka deuce-deuce) of this years Stone anniversary ale at Norm's in Vienna for 6.99.

To start I really like almost every beer that Stone puts out. Every year I try to pick up a couple of the anniversary ales b/c they tend to do something a little different every year and its usually spectacular. The last couple of anniversary ales, if memory serves, have been Belgian-style ales. This year they decided to go in another direction and came out with Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. I heard a few months ago before this beer even came out that the intention was to highlight alternative bitter agents for beer, because of the current hop shortage. The idea was that unsweetened cocoa could be used in place of a lot of the hops. Kind of a cool idea, considering the times we are in.

Now lets get down to the tasting. Last night I decided not to have this beer during dinner b/c we were having chicken parmesan and I thought that would be a weird combination. When your talking about Imperial Stouts people usually advise that you pair it with some sort of sweet desert. I personally feel that Imperial Stouts are so big and viscous that usually they are desert enough by themselves, and that's what I did. I had this bad boy for desert. You'll notice from the picture up (sorry for the poor quality of the picture, I like to use my camera phone) above that this beer pours with little head. In fact the beer on the right was poured first and most of the head dissipated by the time I poured the second glass just seconds later. The aroma bursts of chocolate and roasted malts. The immediate impression upon imbibing is that your dealing with a big velvety beer here. I suspect this beer gets some of the big mouth feel from the oatmeal that is referenced in its name. The beer tastes quite chocolaty, but as the name states it finishes brutally bitter. The chocolate is so bitter that it was hard for me to pick up much in the way of hops. I know they are there b/c we are talking about a beer brewed by Stone, but the chocolate is the overwhelming bitter agent here. There are also lots of roasted, smoked, and burnt flavors throughout this beer. Last, topping the scales at over 9% ABV the beer is quite boozy, I was actually flush for about an hour after drinking this one.

All in all I'd have to give this imperial stout a blue-collar B (not a B-, not a B+). I give it style points because its uniquely different from other imperial stouts because of the massive chocolate flavor, but there are better American imperial stouts out there. My personal favorites include North Coast Old Rasputin and Victory Storm King Stout. If your not sure about buying this beer, try the chocolate stout brewed by Rogue, if you like that then this beer is that beer on steroids. Also worth mentioning, I appear to be in the minority in that the average rating for this beer on beeradvocate.com I believe is an A-.

Hopefully by the end of the week I'll be back and posting another entry in the "Beers you've Never Heard Of" series, but until then Cheers!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Doppelbock

Part 2 of 5, continues with the thrilling style of doppelbocks (or double bocks). I was recently drinking a doppelbock with my father in law and he asked me what exactly a dobbelbock was and I thought this might be a great topic for this series of posts. Seeing that this style is based on bock beer, it probably makes sense to discuss what a bock beer is first. Bock is a strong lager which has origins in the town of Einbeck, Germany. The name is some variation on the town's name Einbeck (you say beck, I say bock) and additionally the word literally means goat in German. Its common to see a goat on the label of a bock beer.

Bock was traditionally brewed for special occasions, usually religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent. Bocks have a long history of being brewed and consumed by Catholic monks in Germany. During the season of Lent, monks were required to fast. High-gravity Bock beers are higher in calories and nutrients than lighter lagers, thus providing sustenance during this period. Similar high-gravity Lenten beers of various styles were brewed by Monks in other areas of Europe (we are talking about Trappist beer here folks). It was rumored that Martin Luther drank this beer during the Diet of Worms (I am not going to pretend to be a specialist on the Diet of Worms, see the following link for more if you interested).

A doppelbock is essentially a big bock. The beer was first brewed by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. Alcohol content ranges from 6% to over 10% by volume. Historic versions had lower alcohol content and higher sweetness, and was considered "liquid bread" by the monks. Most versions are dark colored, but pale versions do exist. Doppelbocks are not usually known for being hop bombs, but rather malt monsters (its fun speaking beer geek). Personally I enjoy a dobbelbock with a smooth toasty-bready flavor. The Minim monks who originally brewed Doppelbock named their beer "Salvator", which today is trademarked by Paulaner. In homage to the original, it is traditional for breweries to give their Doppelbocks names that end in "-ator

Some great examples of German brewed doppelbocks are Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Paulaner Salvator, Spaten Optimator, and Weihenstephaner Korbinian (this brewery can trace their roots back to the year 1040, mind blowing). There are several great American brewed versions of this style that you can readily find locally: Victory St. Victorious, Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock, and Troegs Troegenator.

In his book, "The Brewmaster's Table" Garret Oliver says that the perfect pairing for a doppelbock is venison. Additionally, he says that the sweet maltiness of the beer pairs well with classic fruit sauces like a sour cherry reduction to top the venison. He additionally lists duck, goose, and pork as other great pairings. I personally enjoy a rare steak paired with a doppelbock.

Drink your bock,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Baltic Porter

I personally find beer styles to be an incredibly interesting subject. Beer more so than any other fermented beverage covers a vast spectrum of flavors. Don't believe me? Try a german pilsner, followed by a flanders red ale, and then jump into the world of american hop bomb IPA's. Chances are you'll soon realize that beer is a incredibly diverse beverage.

I thought it might be fun to write a series of posts on beer styles that aren't mainstream, in that, you won't find these types of beers at Champps or Outback Steakhouse. Recently, I brewed a Baltic Porter and several people have asked me what exactly is a Baltic porter.

According to the BJCP ("Beer Judge Certificate Program", that's right there is a certificate program to judge beer) style guidelines a baltic porter "often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English brown porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered flavors."

Baltic porter was first brewed in Britain during the 18th century as a top-fermenting (ale yeast) beer. It remained an ale when local breweries - such as Carnegie in Sweden - began to produce it in the early 1800s. When breweries around the Baltic converted to bottom-fermentation in the second half of the 19th century, many began to brew their Porter with a lager yeast. Today only a few remain top-fermented.

Some great examples of baltic porters around the world are Sinebrychoff Porter made in Finland, Zywiec Porter made in Poland, and D. Carnegie & Co. Stark Porter from Sweden. A lot of these international baltic porters are difficult to find in the US, but definitely worth looking for. Easier to find are US versions. Ones that you can readily find in the DC area are Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter and Victory Baltic Thunder. Both of these can be found at Total Wine, Chevy Chase Liquors, and Norms in Vienna. Victory Baltic Thunder was originally a beer made by Heavyweight Brewing in New Jersey and when the brewing unfortunately went out of business Victory owners Ron and Bill worked with the Heavyweight ownership to keep their baltic porter alive.

IF you'd like to try to pairing a baltic porter with food the smokiness of the porter pairs well with BBQ and earthy cheeses such as Camembert and Fontina.

Drink your porter,


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

AB/InBev Deal

I saw this bit last night on the Colbert Report. Freakin' hilarious!

Monday, July 7, 2008

End of Session Oppression

For the last couple of weeks I haven't had more than a beer or two on any given day. Whereas its good for your liver to drink in moderation (blah, blah, blah), its always nice to get together with family and/or friends and drain the stockpiles from time to time. This past Fourth of July weekends was one of those times. The wife and I headed out to Columbus, OH for the long weekend to see her folks. One of the great things about going to see the in-laws is that my father-in-law shares the same passion that I do for things fermented. He managed to save up a nice selection of beers for our visit. Well here goes a few notes on some of things we sampled:

Three Floyds "Dreadnaught IPA"

Anytime you get the opportunity to drink anything from Three Floyds take it. This is one serious double IPA. As I was once told many many years ago from an old man I worked with at a moving company "Richard's don't play" when he was describing to me his favorite types of malt liquors, well "Dreadnaught don't play." This beer is the epitome of an American Hop-Bomb, the beer literally finishes with a wall of bitterness. To some that might not sound good, but I absolutely loved it.

Avery/Russian River "Collaboration Not Lititgation"

The back story on this beer is kind of interesting. Adam Avery (of Avery Brewing) and Vinnie Cilurzo (of Russian River) both realized that they offered a belgian beer called Salvation. Instead of suing one another to decide who could keep the rights to the name of those delicious brews, they got together and created a beer by mixing those two beers together and realsing it under the above stated name. This beer is viscous with a spicy clove and banana flavor upfront which is followed up by some floral hop flavor that really helps balance out the maltiness. The viscousity of the beer and its maltiness reminded somewhat of molasses. Anyone who likes belgian beers needs to try this one.

Brasserie de Rochefort "Trapisstes Rochefort 10"

All in all I think I had great expectations for this beer. Not bad, but definitely not earth-shattering. It had a very smooth creamy flavor and it hinted at a banana smoothie. Deceptively smooth so much so that its hard to believe that it is in excess of 11% ABV, scary.

Unibroue "La Fin Du Monde"

Loved it. A fantastic tripel with a peppery and clove spiciness and a nice dry finish. Buy some of this!

Unibroue "Trois Pistoles"

I remember liking this, but I can't recall any specifics about it. I think I had already had a couple of beers at that point.

De Proefbrouwerij "Saison Imperiale"

I did not enjoy this one. Enough said.

Elevator "Doppelbock"

Really good, but I think it is miscategorized. It tasted a lot like a porter or maybe a stout. It lacked that german smoothness that you usually expect from a doppelbock.

Until next time,