Archive for July, 2009

Chimay Red Label

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The Chimay Brewery, one of the seven surviving Trappist breweries, is located within the walls of Scourmont Abbey in the village of Chimay, Belgium. Their red label is officially called Première to reflect the fact that it was the first (and, for many years, the only) beer brewed by the monks of Chimay. Chimay PremiereIn addition to their great beers these monks make a variety of tasty cheeses. The red label is usually classified as a Belgian dubbel due to its dark color and malt character.

Première pours a very hazy cidery reddish-brown. The creamy off-white head doesn’t last nearly long enough. The nose is light and dry, with just a bit of malt caramel. A hint of fermentation fruitiness comes through as apricots and pears.

The flavor is dry and lively as well. The malt and yeast flavors are tantalizingly delicate. Toasty, lightly fruity, and a bit dusty. Very active carbonation. This is a remarkably smooth and light beer at 7% alcohol: drinkable yet complex.

+Chimay Première

3.5 (3-7-7-4-14)

Bell’s Oberon

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

OberonThe summer ale of Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan claims to have “the color and scent of a summer afternoon”. If any style can make a claim to this it would be an American wheat like Oberon.

Oberon is a golden poppy color with a generous haze. The head is bone white and creamy, leaves a great lacing, but falls a bit too quickly. The nose is delicate. All you get is hints of various aromas: hints of toast, hints of orange, hints of orange blossom. A gentle floral fruitiness.

The taste is somewhat more assertive, yet still mild. Great malt notes of toast and a bit of caramel. A perfectly balancing hop bitterness keeps this beer refreshing. The hops don’t stop there, though, contributing a spicy and fruity character that rounds out the flavor.

Light, balanced, refreshing, and flavorful. A great summer beer.

+Bell’s Oberon Ale

3.9 (4-7-8-5-15)

Great Lakes Glockenspiel

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Named after the Rathaus-Glockenspiel of Munich’s Neues Rathaus (“New Town Hall” – built in 1908), Glockenspiel is a weizenbock brewed by Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. It is much the same style as Aventinus, made by Schneider, whose beer hall is just down the street from Marienplatz where the Glockenspiel is located. Every day the life-size automatons there reenact the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V (complete with a joust) as well as the Schäfflerstanz commemorating the end of the black plague.

Great Lakes GlockenspielThe beer form of Glockenspiel is a mahogany red, quite clear, with tan head. The nose, subtle at first, opens up to a big malty sweetness. Toast, caramel, and bread are accompanied by the strong cloves and hint of banana of a weissbier. Drink this from a glass with a globe, or at least a wine glass that curves in at the top to collect and amplify this fine aroma.

The flavor, fortunately, is not nearly as sweet as the aroma would make you think. The banana comes out first as the beer hits your tongue, followed by spicy cloves moving back. The toasty malt flavor rounds it out with just enough caramel to hide the alcohol. This is an 8% beer that drinks like a 6% one: the palate is thick enough to be a real bock without being cloying.

Quite satisfying. I’m sad my four-pack is gone.

+Great Lakes Glockenspiel

3.6 (3-7-7-4-15)

Sprecher Tasting Notes!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Astute readers may remember that I said I had lost the notes I took on the Sprecher Brewery tour. Well guess what? Cleaning out my disc golf bag I found them! That’s certainly a strange place to put them, but that’s where both of my “lost” pages were squirreled away.

First up, the Mai Bock. This blonde beer has a slight amber tint. There is barely any haze below some creamy white head. The aroma is bright with malty caramel and bready notes. The taste is dry and the body thin, so immediately this seems almost flavorless. Upon inspection you may note the hint of a dirty, earthy hop flavor that reminds me somewhat of the hops in PBR.

Next I tried the IPA², their double India pale ale. This one is a pale caramel amber color and is almost clear. The head is creamy and off white. There is a slightly sweet, delicate floral hop nose that comes through as lilacs and roses. The flavor is rich with earthy hops. On the sides of the tongue a somewhat one-dimensional bitterness disappears quickly, leaving a lingering malty sweetness.

I went on to have the Abbey Triple. This golden yellow beer has some turbidity and some white head. The aroma is exactly that of one of Elvis’s favorite sandwiches, peanut butter and banana. I would hardly believe it transcribing these notes now if I hadn’t written, “No foolin. An Elvis sandwich. Weird.” The flavor is strongly of bananas with a bit of clean malt and clove character coming through. This one has a lot of unfermented sugars remaining giving it an over the top sweetness that turns cloying. I’m not really sure why all these breweries think that you make a Belgian-style tripel with hefeweizen yeast, but this is yet another one. (Brewers: go with Wyeast 1762 or White Labs 500, please!)

Then, at the behest of the brewers, I tried Hop on Top, their new extra pale ale. They were soliciting comments, so presumably this was still in beta, and it showed. Brilliantly clear and the color of straw, this beer has only a hint of white head. The hop aroma is grassy, sharp, and green (the character of fresh, unkilned hops). The first thing I notice on the taste is that the body is pathetically thin and the beer entirely lacks malt flavor. There is a strong grassy hop taste, but this takes on the almost medicinal character of hop extract. Watery and thin, this beer is actually very unpleasant to drink.

To wash that taste out I had their Russian Imperial Stout. It is pitch black with a big pillow of tan head (that doesn’t quite last long enough). The nose is mild, earthy, and dry, with toast and a good amount of coffee. The roasty and robust flavor, strong with coffee (though not overpowering), is almost meaty. A light sweetness and plenty of carbonation activity keep this richly flavored beer from being oppressive. Sprightly, like Chris Farley.

+Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout

3.8 (4-7-8-4-15)

+Sprecher IPA²

3.3 (4-7-6-3-13)

+/-Sprecher Abbey Triple

2.8 (3-7-5-2-11)

+/-Sprecher Mai Bock

2.6 (3-7-4-2-10)

--Sprecher Hop on Top

1.5 (1-5-3-1-5)

I Am A Homebrewer

Monday, July 20th, 2009

In response to the video I Am A Craft Brewer that was released in April, a number of homebrewers from have produced their response, appropriately named I Am A Homebrewer. Sit down with a homebrew and enjoy.


Boulevard Two Jokers Double-Wit

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The latest release in the Smokestack Series from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City is a Belgian-style wit (meaning “white” or, alternatively, “wheat”) brewed to American-style strength. Reflecting this dual nature they have called it Two Jokers Double-Wit. This beer is loaded with weird stuff, and I don’t mean simply the coriander and orange peel typical of witbiers.Two Jokers Double-Wit They also threw in lavender, grains of paradise, and cardamom. For good measure they fermented it with a lactic-acid producing bacteria in addition to the usual wit yeast.

A huge pillowy head forms above the mildly hazy pale amber Two Jokers. The aroma is light, but much complexity is packed in. A swirl of spices is complimented by a delicate and refreshing acidic nose. Some fruit is noticeable (probably from the yeast) and a bit of wheat malt comes through.

In contrast to the nose, the taste is unabashed. The spices play a not-quite-too-agressive role, with especially the coriander and grains of paradise lending their unique flavors. There is but a hint of alcohol that is quickly covered by the acidity. A light citric fruitiness, of oranges and lemons, rounds out the flavor. The body is just a bit heavy despite the refreshing effect of the lactic acid.

The cornucopia of spices works wonders for the aroma but it might be a little too much on the taste. However, all in all a great wit.

+Boulevard Two Jokers Double-Wit

3.9 (4-9-7-3-16)

Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

This next beer is the result of a collaboration between Hans-Peter Drexler of Weissbierbrauerei Schneider and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. It comes in two forms, one brewed at each of the breweries, and the two have slightly different hopping regimes. Both are called Hopfen Weisse (“Hop Wheat Beer”); when made in Kelheim the full name is Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse.Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse This one is dry hopped with saphir (have I been in a rut recently?). In case you are curious, when made in Brooklyn it is called Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen Weisse and it’s dry hopped with amarillo and palisade.

The Hopfen Weisse is a very cloudy tangerine yellow. It has a bit of off-white head. The aroma is much like you would expect from a hefeweizen: strong clove and banana and some bready, wheaty, and toasty malt notes. In this one, however, there is a distinct citric hop aroma. The nose is delicate but remarkably complex. The already carefully balanced hefe character has found a hoppy companion.

The flavor delivers on what the nose promises. Likewise light and delicate, it is a dance of wheat breadiness, yeast clovitude, and hop citricity (that’s right). There is just a hint of alcohol warming, not enough to tell you that it’s over 8 percent by volume. A bit of sweetness keeps the alcohol at bay to let the cloves and exotic fruit flavors shine. That sweetness refrains from hanging around long enough to be cloying, maintaining the delicacy of this beer.

As my friend Jan says about this one, “Nom, nom, nom!”

++Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse

4.3 (3-8-9-5-18)

P.S. In case you were wondering, that is my saphir single hop homebrew in the backgroud waiting to get racked.

IPA Week: Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

While Mikkeller is officially located in København, Denmark, head brewer and co-creator Mikkel Borg Bjergs refers to himself as a “gipsy-brewer” for his habit of brewing in facilities located around Europe and the world. The Simcoe Single Hop IPA, for instance, was brewed at the De Proefbrouwerij in Lochristi, Belgium.

2009-07-05-mikkellerThe Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop has a rich hoppy aroma that draws your attention from across the table. A thick citrus and delicate floral hop nose dominates, rich and round and full. Just a hint of toasty pale malt comes through as well. A generous pillow of creamy beige head sits atop a very hazy caramel-colored beer with plenty of chunks of yeast at the bottom.

A bitterness that is quite strong but not at all sharp hides the delicate hop flavor to some extent. Light citric and flowery hops meet the tip and sides of the tongue while the pervasive bitterness rides up the middle. Just sweet enough to give a solid creamy palate, this beer avoids being overpowered by the hop bitterness or the active carbonation. The problem with beers that have amazing aromas is that no matter how good the flavor is it will always be just a little bit disappointing. Likewise with the Simcoe Single Hop: the wonderful flavor is overshadowed by the near-perfect aroma.

Overall an incredible IPA. Despite being almost 7% alcohol this beer has a great delicate character that makes it way too sessionable. If I had several around I’d easily get myself in trouble.

++Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

4.3 (4-9-8-5-17)

IPA Week: Saphir Single-Hop Organic Homebrew

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Today I finally brewed the beer that has been several months in the making. It is an all-organic single-hop saphir India pale ale. Saphir hops have this other-worldly fruity character to them that I was hoping to capture in full with this brew.

It started out with Northern Brewer‘s organic light malt extract to provide most of the fermentables. To that I added a pound each of Briess’s organic cara-pils, caramel 20L, and caramel 60L malts. These adjunct malts will provide body and solid malt flavor to balance the hops.2009-07-03-homebrew Caramel (also known as crystal) malts are roasted while still wet, allowing the enzymes to work breaking down the starches into sugar which then crystallizes within the kernel. Cara-pils (also called dextrin malt due to its high dextrin content) is the lightest variety of caramel malt. It is roasted just long enough to crystallize without allowing the sugars to caramelize. The 20L and 60L malts are left longer, converting more of the sugars to an unfermentable form and darkening the malt (creating Maillard by-products), in this case increasing the color to 20 or 60 degrees Lovibond, respectively. I did what’s called a mini-mash with the three pounds of grain, steeping them in the water as I waited for it to raise to boiling.

I used only one type of hop for bittering as well as flavor and aroma: saphir. This is a relatively new variety coming out of Germany, intended to replace the hallowed Hallertauer Mittelfruh (the variety used in classic Bavarian Oktoberfestbier). Saphir has a wonderfully delicate herbal and citric aroma (great for brewers) and an incredible resistance to disease and pests (great for growers). I added three ounces at the start of the boil to give a solid bitter foundation. After half an hour I threw in another ounce, and again after another fifteen minutes. These should allow the flavor of the hops to come through significantly. Just before stopping the boil I threw in half an ounce and I’ll dry hop with the last half ounce to ensure the presence of the intoxicating aroma of the saphir.

Like all good American IPAs I used Sierra Nevada’s yeast. Beer Calculus predicts it will end up being around 6.4% alcohol and somewhat leaning towards bitter and hoppy. I can’t wait to see how this turns out…

Saphir Single-Hop Organic IPA
6 lbs. Organic Light Malt Extract Syrup
1 lb. Organic Cara-pils
1 lb. Organic Caramel 20L
1 lb. Organic Caramel 60L
3 oz. Organic Saphir 60 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 30 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 15 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir 1 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir dry-hopped
Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

IPA Week: Dogfish Head 90 Minute

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Dogfish Head, from Milton, Delaware, is a strange brewery (if you couldn’t tell by the name). They make some of the strongest and strangest of American craft brewing. They make forties of “Liquor de Malt” and have a beer called “Golden Shower”. They put strange ingredients in beer and make historic replica brews. They also have perhaps the most acclaimed series of India pale ales in the United States (East of the Rockies, at least), their 60- 90- and 120-Minute IPAs, so named because they are “continuously hopped” each minute for 60, 90, or 120 minutes.

2009-07-02-90-minuteThe story goes that when Dogfish Head started making these so-called continuously hopped beers they rigged up a machine that would shake a coffee can with a hole in the bottom just enough to empty the can after an hour. Nowadays I imagine their system is fancier.

The 90-Minute Imperial IPA is a barely hazy amber with a thick straw head. The nose is strong but delicate. Initially sweet with toasty pale malt, it grows into a serious flowery aroma. Daffodil and lavender are followed by a light peach character.

The peach and toasty sweetness continue on to the first taste. A smooth bitterness tries its hardest to take over but the malt obstinately balances it out. Floral and herbal hop flavor dominate as it moves to the back of the tongue and into the aftertaste. The bitterness lingers a little longer, but a hint of mouth coating holds it just at bay.

A playful and delicate beer, remarkable for one at 9 percent alcohol.

++Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA

4.1 (4-8-8-4-17)