Cervecería Colón

November 24th, 2012

This is the first of a three post series reflecting on my beer experiences from my recent trip to the Galápagos Islands.

During my layover at the Bogotá airport, I stopped at the only place serving beer: the Orleans Bar and Grill. They were out of the pilsner, but I was able to try the red and black lagers from Cervecería Colón.

Colón NegraI tried the black lager first. Colón Negra pours a crystal clear mahogany. The thick, off-white head is a little spongey, yet lasting. Malt leads the nose, dark caramel notes joined by hazelnuts and roasted almonds.

A taste of the Negra is light intially. The malt and roasted almond character fades quickly to a cloying sweetness. The lingering palate is somewhat characterless.

Colón Roja is likewise crystal clear, and is a bright copper color. There is some white head and almost no nose. A bit of clean bread-and-toast maltiness is intriguing, elusive, like gossamer.

Colón RojaThe flavor is also malty and clean, but seems a bit simpler. A hop bitterness appears, which I described in my notes as “sanded-down”, though I don’t know now exactly what I meant. It is accompanied by the faintest fruity herbal hop flavor. The Roja’s light and refreshing palate make it easy drinking, but don’t discount its character.

On the way back through I stopped by the Orleans again. This time they were out of not just the pilsner, but also the red.

+Colón Roja

3.5 (3-7-6-4-15)

+/-Colón Negra

2.9 (4-7-5-2-11)

Des Moines’s Newest Brewery

August 18th, 2012

Anchoring the end of Walnut, where it meets 16th Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, sits the Fitch soap company building. Like many structures around the western gateway, this building dates to the roaring twenties when industrial Des Moines was booming, but has sat empty for many decades. That is, until R.J. Tursi decided it was the perfect location to open his Exile Brewing Company.

Exile is cut from a slightly different cloth than Court Avenue or Raccoon River, Exile’s older siblings. While those well-established eateries have more of the traditional brewpub look, Exile meshes in modern design elements, though all three occupy rehabbed space. For more details as well as pictures of the dining areas, check out the coverage in the Reggie.

On the brewery side everything seems scaled to grow. A new four vessel 30 barrel Specific Mechanical brewhouse gives Exile the ability to brew multiple batches. Assuming they can get the staff and make the sales, they will be able to produce beer essentially continuously.Exile Brewhouse One bottleneck will be the cellar, as Exile currently has only three fermentation tanks, though at a 60 barrel capacity each they’re certainly nothing to sneeze at.

They also have six lager tanks in the massive cooler, as well as a brite tank. Another bottleneck will be serving. Since Exile has no dedicated serving tanks, every drop will be kegged. Much of it will be sold off-premise at bars and restaurants around town, in a similar strategy as CABCo has been adopting recently. However Exile has a much larger capacity, and plenty of room to grow.

Exile CellarAt the time of my visit they did not yet have their own beer available, with one exception: they had a Maibock which was contract brewed at the Gordon Biersch facility in Kansas City. However, they have been madly brewing the past week and a half, and they should have a few locally-produced beers available soon. Among those will be a Munich gold lager, a honey lager and a hefeweissen.

The head brewer is John Woodford, a recent Iowa State grad. Though he has a degree from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, he has no professional brewing experience, so he seems like a strange choice for head of a new brewery. But the proof is in the pudding, so I’ll have to wait to judge until they have beer on offer that was brewed under his supervision.

The Maibock is a pale coppery amber with an opalescent haze. There is a bit of off-white head, but not much. The nose is malty and sweet, with notes of biscuits, toast and nuts. I’d like there to be more pronounced hop character, as that is one of the defining characteristics of a maibock.

The flavor is likewise sweet and bready. A bit of noble hops come out early but quickly fade. The sweetness is cloying, lingering far too long. If the hops were more assertive, that might not be as much of an issue. As it stands it’s tasty, but it’s hard to drink more than one.

+/-Exile Maibock

3.2 (3-7-7-2-14)

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

March 21st, 2012

While in Twentynine Palms, California, my father and I had dinner at the wonderful Bistro Twenty Nine. The food was tasty and they had a wide draft beer selection, including Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon.

This opalescent golden gamboge ale has a lasting off-white head. The hop aroma is rich with citric fruit and sage. Floral hops and some caramel malt round out the moderately complex nose.

The hop bitterness is immediate, strong yet velvety. Floral and some fruity hop flavors are followed by not quite enough toasty malt flavor. The palate is initially substantial, but remains lively and lightens quickly.

I’ve never lived anywhere I could get Deschutes regularly, but if I did I could see having Mirror Pond in my fridge a lot of the time.

+Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

3.9 (4-7-7-5-16)

SOPA Blackout

January 18th, 2012

Hello, dear reader. While generally I do like to be political, I try to avoid all of that here. This is a beer blog. But on one particular issue I can no longer stay neutral.

Today, in support of the protest of SOPA and PIPA, I’ll Have a Beer will be blacked out for 24 hours.

Please contact your Senator or Congressman to ensure that this attack on civil liberties is put to a stop.

12 Beers of X-Mas: Upstream Horse Feathers Rye

January 13th, 2012

Matt and Juliet gave everyone a craft beer or wine or gourmet coffee or milk, along with the promise to make a meal pairing the beverage. Such an inspired, ideal gift. For me they chose bottle #154 of Horse Feathers Rye. This strong rye ale is brewed by Upstream Brewing Company in Omaha and aged in former Templeton Rye barrels.Upstream Horse Feathers Rye To pair with this spicy beer they appropriately made a spicy Indian lentil dish and fresh naan.

The Horse Feathers Rye is quite hazy, a ruby tinted hazelnut brown with a creamy, off-white head. The aroma is strong with ginger, to the point where you could confuse it for ginger ale. But there is plenty of rye spiciness and Templeton sweetness to it as well. There is also some caramel, and plenty of vanilla from the oak.

The flavor is a remarkable balance between the competing forces of the rye, rye whiskey, and ginger. The malt adds a significant presence, so there is an overall sensation of licorice, caramel, and even cola. Lingering spice and sweetness are light enough to reveal a hint of the alcohol. The body is light and active, but full and rich.

Brewing a beer with the strong flavors from either rye or barrel-aging is an exercise in delicate balance, but both together, not to mention the heavy ginger addition, takes the challenge to a whole new level. Upstream delivers admirably.

++Upstream Horse Feathers Rye

4.4 (3-9-8-5-19)

12 Beers of X-Mas: Smuttynose Winter Ale

January 12th, 2012

Smuttynose Winter AleThe winter offering from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is called simply Winter Ale. This milk chocolate colored beer has a nice pillow of tan head. The aroma is delicate. Toffee, chocolate, and caramel character predominate the moderately sweet nose. A faint spiciness almost eludes detection.

The flavor is also somewhat sweet, caramel and chocolate mostly, but there is also some nuttiness and a significant spiciness. Earthy noble hops and a bit of alcohol accent this spicy yeast character. Overall a very intriguing flavor. The palate is big, almost chewy. It doesn’t seem cloying because of the significant spice and a fair addition of hops, but I’m still left licking sticky lips.

+Smuttynose Winter Ale

3.7 (4-7-8-3-15)

12 Beers of X-Mas: Lucky Bucket Black & Tan

January 11th, 2012

Lucky Bucket Black & TanMatt took me to Lucky Bucket Brewing while I was in Omaha. Their lager and IPA see a pretty wide distribution in at least Nebraska and Iowa, and they brew a number of other beers of varying availability. The distillery arm Sòlas makes a vodka from Nebraska wheat and they have their first single-malt whisky aging in barrels now.

The bartender was making a Black & Tan with an unnamed barleywine and Certified Evil, their Belgian strong ale. A creamy dark tan head atop an almost black layer of barleywine, itself surmounting, perhaps precariously, the ruby copper, barely hazy Evil. The barleywine is predictably most of the aroma: a rich dry burnt character, roasty and toasty.

The flavors present a great combination. The barleywine has a strong roasted flavor that balances the caramel sweetness of the Evil. A bit of alcohol is apparent, adding a little spiciness. The body is rich and full, but it is not thick. This is a very complex, flavorful, and drinkable combination.

++Lucky Bucket Black & Tan

4.3 (4-8-9-4-18)

I also tasted their Joss vodka. They run it through their giant pot stills and then into a 23 plate column still that’s probably as many feet tall.

It is perfectly clear and colorless. The aroma is neutral alcohol. There is a clean, gentle warming to the flavor. There is also a sweetness perhaps due to the wheat.

Sòlas Whisky Countdown

Sòlas Whisky Countdown

12 Beers of X-Mas: Magic Hat Howl

January 9th, 2012

Magic Hat HowlThe winter seasonal from Magic Hat Brewing Company in Burlington, Vermont, is a black lager called Howl.

Howl is an intensely dark black beer with just a hint of caramel brown at the thinnest part of the glass. The creamy head is a dark buff color. Some roast malt and a little caramel are all I get from the mild aroma. Inviting, but not revealing.

The flavor is clean, dry, and malty. Roast malt character like burnt toast is key, with just a hint of sweetness and plenty of robust lager character. Finishes dry and drinkable. The roast character is restrained, the malt flavor dry, and there is no detectable sulfur: this is pretty much the ideal execution of a black lager.

++Magic Hat Howl

4.0 (4-8-7-4-17)

12 Beers of X-Mas: Chimay Grande Réserve

January 4th, 2012

The blue cap Chimay was first brewed as a Christmas beer, but due to popular demand it is now available year-round. The Grande Réserve is a fine example of an abbey quad, one of few brewed by actual monks.Chimay Blue Before my recent move to New York I had a beautiful Chimay glass, tuned to ring at the pitch of the Scourmont Abbey bells (see it here and here).

The Grande Réserve pours a hazy deep chestnut brown. The straw-colored head is creamy and thick, but doesn’t last long enough. The nose is round, sweet, and almost vinous. Dark fruit like prunes and brandy compliment the caramel and chocolate notes. There is a faint hint of hazelnut.

The flavor is rich. Alcoholic warming supports caramel, dates, prunes, and walnuts. A bit of a spiciness, probably also from the alcohol, might be described as pepper halfway to anise. The body is significant, but remains dry, and the lively carbonation and alcohol keep this beer remarkably drinkable. Have it today, or cellar it for years.

+Chimay Grande Réserve

4.2 (4-8-8-4-18)

12 Beers of X-Mas: New Belgium Super Cru

January 3rd, 2012

In honor of their 20th Anniversary, New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado has released a mash-up beer loosely based on their wildly popular Fat Tire.New Belgium Super Cru This is part of the Lips of Faith series, which represents most of the worthwhile New Belgium beers.

The Super Cru pours a copper tinted golden yellow with the faintest of haze. The head is off-white, and while there isn’t much, what’s there sticks around. The nose is light and fruity: the Asian pears they’ve brewed this with really stand out. There is also a bit of an earthy spiciness and a fair amount of pale malt character.

The flavor is sweet, dominated by bready malt and fruity pear. A bit of spice follows, unfortunately timidly. The black pepper from the yeast and the alcoholic bite join forces here, but don’t quite measure up. The alcohol grows stronger and its sharpness lingers much too long, yet this fails to allay the cloying palate.

+/-New Belgium Super Cru

3.2 (3-7-6-3-13)