Archive for April, 2009

DarkLord Day!

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

edit – Well somehow I missed that DLD has branched off to its own website, So the Internet confirms that it was this past weekend.

2009-04-25-meThe last Saturday in April is traditionally known as DarkLord Day. This is because the release date for and all sales of DarkLord occur on this day. I was informed that TODAY is the last Saturday in April, so I have to assume that today is DarkLord Day, though you’d never know by visiting the Three Floyds Brewery website – it hasn’t been updated in over a year. Well, as I couldn’t make it to Munster, I decided to open up a bottle of last year’s vintage.

DarkLord is a Russian imperial stout. This style classification does for stout what imperial IPA does for India pale ale: turns it up to eleven. More properly, it did for stout what India pale ale did for pale ale: gave the beer the legs needed to handle a long voyage out of England, this time to the court of Catherine the Great. As with all historically bigger styles craft brewers have taken it to an extreme. DarkLord, for instance, is around 13 percent alcohol, though you’d hardly notice it for all the flavor they have packed in there.

A big beer like this you must treat as you would a bottle of fine wine. Don’t drink it cold as you will lose all the flavor. Slightly chilled is best, at what we call ‘cellar temperature’. Pour yourself a snifter then give it a few minutes to breathe. Swirl it and appreciate the coating the beer leaves on the glass.

2009-04-25-lordDarkLord is nearly pitch black. Only a bit of caramel brown is visible around the few bubbles. The hint of sienna head that forms when pouring quickly dissipates. While carbonated, it is not too effervescent and the syrupy thickness does not abide head. The nose is rich with roast malt character: dark Columbian coffee is most prominent, mixing with the aroma of bitter chocolate, toffee, caramel, as well as a fruitiness of prunes and raisins. A beer like this I could sit here and smell all day. It’s been about a half hour so far and I’ve yet to take a sip. But in the name of journalism I must proceed.

As always my first reaction is surprise at how mild it is despite intense flavor. That’s the paradox of the DarkLord: full of woe and fury but never releasing too much at any one time.

The flavor as well is dominated by the roast malt. Coffee stands out at first, accompanied by chocolate, milk, dark, and bitter. The fruit note is perhaps more clear on the taste, with raisins, dates, prunes, and black caps. The Lord is a fountain of flavor: caramel, toast, toffee, vanilla, coffee, roast, maybe even a hint of bourbon (though I know there’s none in there). One thing melds into another on this diabolical ride.

Very thick and somewhat sweet, yet light-years from cloying. This beer is simply fantastic.

++Three Floyds DarkLord 2008

4.4 (4-9-8-5-18)

(P.S. if you were at DarkLord Day and have an extra bottle I will trade for one of last year’s and/or homebrew)

I Am A Craft Brewer

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Here is I Am A Craft Brewer, a short video made by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing. It is a heartfelt tribute to the American craft brewing industry (with a nod to the international movement), toasting the creativity, passion, and camaraderie of craft brewers. It was first shown to the brewers at this year’s Craft Brewers’ Conference, which ended today.


1337 Brewing

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Researchers at Boston University deserve some sort of award. They have perfected control over flocculation, the process wherein the yeast cells clump together and fall to the bottom of the fermenter. By varying when (and if) the yeast flocculates you can exercise precise control over the flavor of the beer. If the yeast clumps together early and falls to the bottom it may leave a good amount of residual sugar in the beer and give it a sweet taste. On the other hand, if it fails to flocculate at all the beer will remain hazy and have a bready yeast flavor.

Anyway, James Collins led a team of synthetic biology researchers that have developed a kind of library of genetic “routines”. They have deconstructed much of the biological machinery that drives activation of genes. By using this library and lots of computer modeling they are able to assemble these component parts into what they call a gene network and have them behave in predictable ways.

So anyway, this team has used their library to produce a system quite analogous to an electric circuit that precisely controls the timing of yeast flocculation.

I wonder if anyone could get away with synthetic-yeast fermented beer?

Session #26: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

The Session is a monthly beer-themed blog-off. This month is hosted by Lew Bryson of Seen Through a Glass. The theme is smoked beers. The roundup is hosted here. Lew writes, “Because I’m not going to tell you that you have to like them, how you have to drink them, or whether you can have an expensive one or where it has to be from. But I do insist that if you blog on this Session, that you drink a smoked beer that day.”

I can follow simple instructions. Today I am drinking a smoked beer.

2009-4-3-spezialAs Lew points out smoked beers are “not just rauchbier lagers from Franconia”, though that is the original and most venerated style. Nowadays these beers are centered around Bamberg, home of the Weyermann malt company, producers of fine beechwood-smoked (as well as smokeless) malts. The popular Brauerei Heller, producers of the famous Schelenkerla smoked beers, is found in Bamberg, with an unassuming pub on a street you’d call an ‘alley’ in the US. I imagine many people will be rating one of these, as they are pretty easy to get ahold of.

I somehow found a bottle of Spezial Rauchbier from the Brauerei Spezial, also located in Bamberg. I spent way too long trying to translate the phrase written at the bottom of the label: “Mindestens haltbar bis: siehe Datumsstempel”. I’ll give you a hint: you can find the same phrase on a can of Bud Light.

The Spezial pours a deep ruddy brown with a bit of off-white head. The aroma is strongly malty: with the usual suspects like strong caramel and toast notes, but a strange bread aspect as well. There is just a hint of smoke to the nose.

On the sip, you are initially overtaken by caramel flavor, but that quickly falls behind a mellow but significant smoke flavor. This beer is definitely smoky, but is not the bacon-wrapped smoke brick of some other rauchbiers. I would suggest this beer to anyone that, while interested in the style, is somewhat unsure of their desire to totally destroy their palate for the evening. A mild flavorful smoke is noticeable but not insistent, as it is effectively balanced by the malt sweetness.

+Spezial Rauchbier

3.4 (3-6-7-4-14)

edit: Somehow I repeatedly incorrectly spelled “Bamberg” as “Bamburg” and didn’t notice it until June. I sincerely apologize.