Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Beer and Chocolate Tasting put on by Millstream Brewing Company. This event paired chocolates from the Chocolate Haus in Amana with eight radical one-off beers. Six of them were brewed by Millstream brewer Bill Heinrich, with one offering from Millstream’s sales guy Dan Carpenter as well as a coffee porter brewed by head brewer Chris Priebe. The event was coordinated by Nick Snavely. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of time and the place was packed the whole time. The impression I got from people is that everyone was very impressed with the beers, and the chocolate pairings were quite fun. I took tasting notes but forgot to write down process information so let’s see what I can remember.
The first beer I had was the Czech Pilsner. Made with loads of Czech Saaz hops, this one is a well executed Bohemian style pilsner. It’s a crystal clear straw with some white head. The hop aroma is very grassy and earthy, and behind it I notice just a bit of a corniness. The flavor is massively grassy, with a lingering bitterness on the middle of my tongue. It is deep, earthy, and herbal. There is a hint of sweetness, perhaps some dimethyl sulfide.
The pils was the only beer that seriously follows any style conventions. Most of them have a Belgian character; Belgian styles are pretty loosely defined as it is. Bill was not afraid to take liberties to ensure the brews were interesting, further complicating things. Many of the beers were made with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which develops different characteristics depending on how it is used. Most of these were fermented with usual brewing yeast Saccaromyces and then aged on the Brett, giving a berry-like fruity flavor and aroma as well as a noticeable funk.
Next up the Saisonnier Gran Cru. This was actually fermented with Brett only, except for a shot of ale yeast to help it along when it was being sluggish. When Brettanomyces is used for primary fermentation, it tends to behave alot more like the normal Saccaromyces. It does dry the beer out a little more, leaving a dry, dusty flavor accented by the funkiness.
The Saisonnier pours a milky straw color, with some creamy off-white head. The aroma is delicate and elusive, featuring light fruit (raspberries) as well as some funk (wet pavement?). The taste is dry, with a somewhat zoological funkiness. A bit of malt flavor breaks through. Despite being so dry there is a bit of a cloying sensation, as well as a lingering bitterness. The nose is fantastic but the flavor doesn’t quite match up.
The sign describing the beer officially named Dan’s Barleywine had a telltale note on the back. The reminder to the server read “Dan’s Awesomeness”, and that’s not too far off. Blended from two-year and three-year batches, the barleywine poured a deep dark sienna, lightly hazy, with persistent creamy head. It also leaves a little reminder on the inside of the glass. The rich, round aroma is a treat: chocolate caramels (so good), coffee, and hazelnuts. Despite the intensity of the aroma and alcohol, the flavor is light and balanced. Major coffee flavor dominates, with a roast and caramel malt character that reminds me of burnt cookies. Both malty and pleasantly bitter, “Awesomeness” is thick and coats your mouth. Do yourself a favor and ask Dan for a bottle.
Moving on to the Belgian-Style Tripel. This golden ale was made with the strain of yeast normally reserved for Bavarian hefes: generator of strong banana esters and clove phenols. This gives the Tripel a serious banana aroma, somewhat sweet, with hints of clove and black pepper. There is barely a tinge informing you of the level of alcohol. The flavor is very malty, with a big bready, biscuity taste. It is somewhat sweet with a rich, round alcohol warming sensation. Noticeable as well are banana and clove flavors. The thick coating feeling probably derives from the fact that this tripel is not as carbonated as many. Despite the use of wheat and Bavarian weizen yeast, this beer is most definitely a tripel, and a well executed one at that.
The Belgian Quad is a good example of the use of Brett to age. It is a cloudy deep dark brown with some tan head. The aroma is lightly sweet and strongly fruity of raspberries and mango, with just a bit of banana. The flavor is strongly alcoholic: somewhat sharp, almost medicinal berries. There is a bit of lingering bitterness and a thick, cloying sensation. A somewhat similar beer, the Wheat Wine is a cloudy unearthly red with almost no head. The aroma is lightly fruity, with a bit of wood and funk; the flavor roughly alcoholic, with some berries. A strong bitterness is simple and harsh.
Head brewer Chris Priebe brewed up a batch of Sumatra English Porter with real Sumatra coffee. It pours somewhat clear, a dark russet wtih some cheesy off-white head. The aroma is very light, with only a bit of roast malt and some caramel. The flavor is dry and roasty, with a strong rich roast coffee presence that lasts. Hint of an earthy hop flavor balance, and a coffee astringency lingers a bit.
By far the most impressive beer available was the so-called Wheat Stout. I can’t say enough good things about this beer. Made with Templeton Rye whiskey and plenty of roast and wheat malts and fermented with weizen yeast, this beer is simply impressive.
First off it is utterly black. There is just a hint of a creamy copper head. The nose is rich and playful, with a roast aroma that tickles the nose. The whiskey comes through quite well: malt, rye, and some notes of alcohols. There is also a serious banana and clove character. A taste is heaven. It is all too easy to overdo it on a whiskey addition, ruining the beer. Here the Templeton is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The roast comes through first, followed quickly by the rye. There is a bit of astringent bitterness. This beer is thick and chewy. It is delicious. A tour de force.
Millstream Wheat Stout
Millstream Czech Pilsner
Millstream Saisonnier Gran Cru
Millstream Dan’s Barleywine
Millstream Belgian-Style Tripel
Millstream Belgian Quadrupel
Millstream Wheat Wine
Millstream Sumatra English Porter