Archive for August, 2009

New Glarus Black Wheat

Monday, August 31st, 2009

From New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin, I have a bottle of Black Wheat. This weissbier is made with not only the traditional wheat and barley but also roasted malts, oats, and rye.2009-08-31-black-wheat The roasted malts make it dark, the oats make it chewy, and the rye makes it spicy.

Black Wheat is a deep dark chocolate color. The tan head is thick, creamy, and long-lasting. This wheat beer has a smooth malty nose with hints of complexity. Toast, wheat, roast, and chocolate malt aromas lead the way, with spices including cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper complimenting the grains. Just a hint of fruit, probably banana.

A creamy palate and rich and dry malt flavor greet the tip of your tongue. This beer is an ideal hybrid of English stout and German wheat: robust malt character with coffee and chocolate of a stout, rich wheat flavor and spiciness of a weizen. Toast and coffee with chicory balances the wheat and bread. Cloves, nutmeg, and rye add a new dimension. A slight banana flavor rounds out the taste. This beer is malty but also quite dry with a lively carbonation.

An interesting concept, well executed.

+New Glarus Black Wheat

3.9 (4-8-8-3-16)

Welcome to haveabeer.couchand.com!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The supercilious beer blog I’ll Have a Beer finds a new home. With the establishment of http://www.couchand.com as the personal website of the blog’s author, Andrew Couch, I’ll Have a Beer is given a subdomain located at http://haveabeer.couchand.com.

Said Andrew, “this change will give me a good deal more control over the operation and feel of the website and also allow greater freedom in a few other projects I’m working on.”

The blog was formerly hosted at wordpress.com. It will continue to be served with the WordPress content management system.

It would be wise to update links to the blog.

                                                                

                                                                

                                                                

Cheers!

Sour Week: Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The term “grand cru” refers to a brewery’s finest product, and it is no different at Cantillon. After three years of fermentation the very best casks at the brewery museum are selected for the Grand Cru Bruocsella. This organic lambic is unblended, so it is essentially without carbonation and has a rich, mature flavor profile. Cantillon says this beer is intended to be “not drunk but savoured”.

2009-08-18-bruocsellaThe Bruocsella is a lightly hazy golden poppy. Just a hint of activity puts a spindly thread of straw-colored head in a ring around the glass. The nose is quite funky and sour: horse blanket, vinegar, and sour laundry. There is a bit of peanut butter. The aroma is dry and dusty. Like many lambics it is woody, but taken to a new level: it reminds me of the smell of my recorder from elementary school. Notes of cheese and gym sock. Paired with all this pleasantness is a delicate fruit character of mango, papaya, and red delicious apple.

A noticeable acidity leads the flavor charge, turning more potent as it moves back in the mouth. A sharp lactic tart is augmented by a bit of acetic sour. A funky, sweaty barnyard character rides the top of the tongue. Grains come out on the sides with wheat, pale malt, and some huskiness. A bit of a jelly bean fruit character.

The flavor is rich, the sour pungent, and the carbonation nonexistent, but somehow this beer is still quite drinkable. Oh, I’m sorry Jean-Pierre, “savorable”.

++Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

4.0 (3-9-7-4-17)

What a long, strange week it’s been.

Sour Week: Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten and Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Collaboration beers are all the rage these days: Avery and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (a blend of beers both named “Salvation”), the Brooklyner-Schneider and Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisses (the latter of which I’ve rated), the new fruity and malty Van Twee from the minds of De Proef and Bell’s, as well as Flying Dog’s Collaborator Doppelbock, product of the Open Source Beer Project. I’m sure I’m missing scores of unique ones.

2009-08-17-moatenThe reason I mention this is that tonight the first beer I am trying is a collaboration brew from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, Illinois, and the Urthel Brewery in Ruiselede, Belgium. Named Moaten (after the Flemish word for “friends”), this oak aged sour is brewed in the style of a west Flanders red.

The Moaten pours a lightly hazy rust color with some creamy off-white head. The nose is light and somewhat flat. A bit of caramel malt is evident but a dry, somewhat metallic character intervenes. I can detect hints of fruit, perhaps raspberries and oranges.

The taste is also flat but not as much so, with a flavor really representative of an American amber ale. Malt character is the strongest, toast and bread with some caramel. Some fruit is present, and some oak. Just the slightest hint of an acetic tart. Slightly cloying.

Not a bad beer, just not at all what the label tells me it will be. Anyway I had high hopes but low expectations for this one: both breweries are generally great but neither brews sours regularly.

Moaten is a beer that talks big but doesn’t quite deliver. Next up is a beer that makes no claims to style other than “Swiss ale de garde … aged in oak barrels”. However just one whiff and you know it’s a Flanders-style red.

One of the best non-Belgian sours I know of, the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is brewed by Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Saignel├ęgier, Switzerland. This beer (named after the late brewery cat) is aged in wooden barrels that formerly held one of several wine varietals as well as a few used to age grappa, so the complexity should come naturally. My bottle is a vintage 2007.

2009-08-17-bon-chienA bit of creamy tan head sits atop the turbid, mahogany colored Bon-Chien. Not a lot of head but what is there lasts and leaves an artistic lacing. A rich aroma wafts out: fruit, wood, malt, funk, and sour. Cherries, raisins, and blackberries with a vanilla oak character. A light caramel malt sweetness balances an acidic, cider vinegar nose. Just a bit of sweat adds a funky interest. Great sweet and sour combination.

A dense and difficult flavor. This is a high compliment: the various tastes do not fight for attention, but they do alternately subdue and enhance each other. This beer requires contemplation. At first a sweet maltiness is paired with a significant bitterness. The bitterness is revealed to be an alcohol warming. The maltiness fades and is replaced by a cidery tart. The spicy and sour flavors bring out a strong fruitiness: red apples, cherries, and prunes and a hint of brandy and mulling spices. Some balsamic vinegar rounds out the sour taste. A lively carbonation, healthy tart, and restrained but definitive alcohol flavor.

A tour de force.

++Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

4.6 (4-9-10-4-19)

+/-Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten

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

P.S. Thank you Peggy Sue for knocking half my glass of the Bon-Chien all over the desk and keyboard. I literally tried lapping it up before I realized it wasn’t any good anymore. I had to get a new keyboard in the middle of writing my post. Seriously!

Sour Week: Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Mariage ParfaitBrouwerij Boon moved their brewing facilities in the 1980s from their original location where beer had been made since the 1680s. Frank Boon, who has been very helpful to “outsiders” wishing to learn the intricacies of lambic brewing, has owned and operated the brewery since 1978. They produce a faro, a framboise, a kriek, an oude kriek (old or aged kriek), a strong brown, and two gueuzes. Their Oude Gueze is a blend of six month and two year lambics. Their Mariage Parfait is the blend of the best individual casks and is intended as the brewery’s finest product.

As with a number of selections for Sour Week, I obtained this bottle at Lush on Halsted in Chicago. It is a vintage 2003, bottled, I believe, in 2007. In case you were curious, the best before date is 3 Feb 2027, totally beating my previous furthest-in-the-future best-before-date of sometime in 2013 (on a case of Unibroue Quelque Chose).

The Mariage Parfait pours a lightly hazy saffron. The head is a generous creamy long-lasting white.2009-08-16-date The nose is delicate, dry, and dusty, the aroma that of a farmhouse attic, with barnyard character drifting in through an open window. Grass and straw, dust and must, wood, horse, and goat. Subtle, complex, and elegant, the aroma on this beer seems light at first but will fill and tantalize your nose.

Initially fruity, the taste quickly turns strongly tart. A mostly clean lactic acidity is supplemented by shades of acetic. Tastes much like champagne on the middle of the tongue but with kiwi, pineapple, and grapefruit on the front and malt on the sides. Just a bit of horsey and sweaty funk. A hint of husky astringency and hop bitterness. The flavor is bold yet balanced and complex yet approachable. A quite active carbonation offsets the lingering acidity.

This delicate masterpiece is the beer to give to your (crazy) friend who loves wine but thinks all beer is gross.

++Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

4.5 (4-9-9-4-19)

Note: Both gueuze and geuze are acceptable spellings for the style.

Sour Week: Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Tonight I will have three beers made by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. Verhaeghe is a great example of a west Flanders brewery, producing a number of what they call red-brown ales as well as a kriek, a pils, a few amber ales, and a Christmas beer. Tonight I will have the three sours they make that I can readily get a hold of: Echt Kriekenbier, Vichtenaar, and Duchesse de Bourgogne. Astute readers may remember that the Duchesse was the first sour I rated on this blog, as well as note that it is now the first beer I have tasted twice.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe

First up, the Echt Kriekenbier, which pours a ruby-tinted caramel amber with wisps of tan head. The nose has a delicate sweet and sour character. I notice cherries at first, then sweet malt and apple cider vinegar. A complex blend of wood, smoke, and blackberry jam makes this subtle aroma remarkably intriguing.

The sublime cherry flavor begins on the lips before the beer even enters the mouth. The balancing tart accentuates the fruit. Rich acidic and caramel malt body, a bit cidery. The cherry is supported and enhanced all the way back, remaining prominent even in the tart aftertaste. A serious kriek.

The Vichtenaar is an opalescent deep hazelnut brown with a thick and creamy tan head. It has a rich woody aroma with a strong vinegar character. The nose is also a little fruity (grapes or dates) and a little malty. Just a touch of bourbon.

This beer tastes like a strong brown aged in a balsamic vinegar cask. Rich malty toast and caramel is complimented by major woody and flavors and a mild acetic sour. Creamy and mouth filling but lively and with a lingering tart.

The Duchesse de Bourgogne is a lightly hazy dark ruby brown with a thin, long-lasting, layer of tan foam. A rich balsamic vinegar and acetic nose with significant fruit: raisins and dates but also kiwi and bubblegum. This beer has the thick aroma of an empty port barrel.

The Duchesse is relatively balanced but leans heavily towards sour. Some complexity comes from a rich oak character and fruit: raspberries, blackberries, and raisins. A robust cider vinegar sour and caramel malt sweet hold on for a bit before yielding to a fruity tart that lingers for quite a while.

+Echt Kriekenbier

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)

+Vichtenaar

4.0 (5-7-7-5-16)

+Duchesse de Bourgogne

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)

Sour Week: Hanssens Oudbeitje

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Among the most unique authentic fruit lambics is Oudbeitje. This strawberry lambic is brewed by Hanssens Artisanaal in Dworp, Belgium. Some of the oldest bottles I have tried taste wonderfully delicate and balanced with a subdued fruit flavor. This bottle (I got it at the Red Monk in Des Moines) was a bit more sharply sour.

The Oudbeitje pours a brilliant salmon. It is usually not too carbonated but this bottle is quite still (loose cork?). There is no head, just a few bubbles around the glass. A pungent barnyard aroma dominates, with a hidden strawberry character and hints of bubble gum and cattiness.

The taste is mouth-puckeringly sour. Very funky flavors come out: horse blanket and balsamic vinegar. There is also a definite strawberry taste. The sour fades into a long lingering tart.

+/-Hanssens Oudbeitje

3.2 (2-6-7-3-14)

Sour Week: Liefmans Frambozen Bier

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

From Brouwerij Liefmans in Oudenaarde, I’m having a bottle of Frambozen Bier.Liefmans Frambozen Bier The cork says this raspberry beer was bottled in 2004. Liefmans Frambozen is not a lambic. It, like other Flanders fruit beers, is made from a sour brown aged on raspberries.

The Frambozen Bier pours a hazy ruddy caramel. It has some creamy tan head but that dies relatively quickly. The nose is assertive and strong with raspberries. A bit of cherry and some cotton candy is present as well. If an odor can be syrupy then this one is. A light tart aroma and balsamic vinegar add complexity.

The taste is at first a rich tart fruitiness, much like a jam. The raspberries soon give way to a hearty balsamic sour. This fades to a slightly astringent malt character with notes of raspberry as well as kiwi and mango. There is a lingering sweet and sour character with hints of raspberry.

+Liefmans Frambozen Bier

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

Sour Week: Berliner Weisse

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Style WeisseBecause of the delicate citric character and low alcohol content, Berliner weisse is the only sour beer that is best fresh. Unfortunately, I can’t get a hold of fresh Berliner weisse (at the moment at least), so I’ll have to put up with what I found on the shelf. Don’t fret, it ages well too. I don’t have any woodruff syrup so I’ll be tasting these straight.

First off I’ll have Berliner Style Weisse from Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany, producers of another northern German sour style, gose.

The Berliner Style Weisse pours a very pale straw color, quite hazy, with a bit of creamy white head. The nose is very light. Somewhat tart, there is a citric character of lemons and grapefruit as well as a hint of flowery aroma.

The taste is very delicate as well. The predominant flavor is lemon, but not so sour: much like a Meyer lemon. Wheat notes, tart, and somewhat sweet. There is also a lingering light bitterness. Lightly carbonated.

Next up is 1809. This is brewed by Dr. Fritz Briem, Technology Director of (my alma mater) Doemens Academy. It is my understanding that it is produced at Brauerei Weihenstephan, widely considered the oldest operating brewery in the world.1809 1809 is named for the year in which Napoleon’s troops are supposed to have named Berliner weisse the “Champagne of the North”.

The 1809 pours an opal straw that is not quite as pale as the Berliner Style. The head, a bit thicker and creamier, lasts a while but eventually fades to nothing. The nose is very delicate, milder even than the Bayerischer. I can barely detect whiffs of lemon, lime, and apple blossom. As it opens up wheat malt notes comes out.

The taste as well is milder than the above. A gentle and aimless tart gives way to an ethereal wheat flavor, backed up by a bit of green apple and cider. This cidery character and a hint of sweetness linger, but the 1809 is very effervescent so it is quite refreshing.

+Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse

3.4 (3-7-7-3-14)

+1809

3.4 (4-6-6-4-14)

Sour Week: Cantillon Iris

Monday, August 10th, 2009

To kick things off I’m having a bottle of Iris from the Brussels brewery-museum Cantillon. This is a spontaneously fermented beer in the style of lambic. However it is not a lambic because it uses fresh hops (lambic uses aged hops to avoid hop bitterness and aroma) and all barley malt (lambic uses a good percentage of unmalted wheat).Cantillon Iris Iris is dry hopped just before bottling as well. It is for these reasons brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy calls it his ‘extreme’ beer. I brought this bottle (brewed 2005, bottled 22 March 2007) back from my visit to the Cantillon brewery, and it’s the last one I have from there.

As soon as I popped the cap the cork started inching its way out of the bottle. The pour formed a generous head for such a still beer, proof of the high levels of proteins and tannins present; however, without lively carbonation it was doomed to fall quickly. Iris is a wonderfully hazy goldenrod with head the color of cream. The nose is quite strong: very fruity, with a persistent earthiness and notes of barnyard. The fruit is a little citric with some apple, and the barnyard is hay and horse blanket. A clean and spicy noble hop aroma abounds (I won’t say that again for a week). This complexity makes me wonder why there aren’t more hoppy sours. As a rule I don’t give perfect scores but this nose is worth ten points.

The taste is at once tart and bitter, with hints of fruit, all in all reminding me of rhubarb. The tip of my tongue is almost knocked out, but the intensity quickly subsides. There are but moments of spicy and herbal hop flavor before the barn doors open. A collection of horse and goat finds the middle and back of my tongue. Some malt character is present. There is just a hint of sweetness, perhaps from the fruit flavor.

++Cantillon Iris

4.5 (4-10-8-4-19)