Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tour de IPA: Victory Hop Devil

Pours a medium amber with an understated head. Has a sweeter, maltier body compared to most West Coast IPAs. Ryan thinks it has a nice balance of malt and hops, with a nice sweet lingering aftertaste. Kyle didn't really like the aftertaste.

Ryan: 8
Kyle: 6

Tour de IPA: Ithaca Flower Power

Nice citrusy aroma, with a noticeable fruity sweetness/bitterness smell. Ginger detected hints of mango and pineapple. Yellow color with a nice lacing. Body has a really nice fruity complexity. Kyle thinks the bottle we opened was a bit older and he claims this beer is a lot better fresh and on tap. Ryan felt a little bit of a malt backbone, which felt just a tad out of place but was not overpowering.

Kyle: 8 (claims that it is a 9 on tap)
Ryan: 7
Dad: 6

Tour de IPA: Southern Tier IPA

Very little aroma, very weak. The finished kind of drags off into a syrupy mess. It leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste though. Kyle says body is not very full and the middle lacks a bit of flavor. Ryan says it has a bit of fruitiness possibly from the yeast. Maybe even a bit of honey.

Ryan: 6
Kyle: 5
Dad: 8

Tour de IPA: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Almost no aroma compared to the Stone IPA, especially considering that this has been "torpedo hopped". Amber color pours with a nice head. We noticed a little bit of acidity, especially in the aftertaste. Kyle thought it had perfect mouthfeel, and nice long bitterness throughout. Ryan was a bit disappointed in the hop profile. We completely disagreed on where this stands compared to the Stone IPA.

Kyle: 8
Ryan: 6
Dad: 7

Tour de IPA: Stone IPA

Stone IPA 6.9%

Citrus grapefruit, pine aroma. Delicate fruity finish. Tart aftertaste at the back of the tongue. Kyle wanted a little more fullness in the malt character, Ryan thought it was a nice balance and is a great hoppy west coast IPA.

Kyle: 7
Ryan: 9
Dad: 8

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rogue Shakespeare Stout

Oregon's Rogue Ales has never been one of my go-to breweries. When trying to figure out why, I thought of this: except for Dead Guy, I can't think of another beer they make that is available in a 6 pack. Since this is what I usually buy, I haven't had too many Rogue brews. That is a real shame, because they consistently put out outstanding ales at a reasonable cost compared to some of the more chic east coast breweries.

When I was searching for a commercial yeast to harvest for an upcoming homebrew, Rogue kept coming up. They use the same yeast in all their beers, a proprietary blend that supposedly is very hearty and produces great beer. I went to Wegmans to see what they had from Rogue, and held some bottles up against the light to see if I could identify some yeast residue at the bottom. I can't imagine what people thought I was doing. ("Mommy what is that man doing?" "Don't look hunny lets go down this aisle with the napkins!")

I ended up picking up the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. Rogue is unique in that it lists all of the ingredients in its beer right on the side of the bottle. As a homebrewer I appreciate this gesture, and in a way I feel like it should be required. When you buy wine you know what grapes were used in it, why shouldn't I know what kind of hops are in my favorite beer? I think it might make people more interested in what goes into the beer they drink and they might actually start exploring different kinds of microbrews.

Anyways, onto the beer. I poured out all but the last 2 inches of the 22oz bottle very slowly, so that the yeast sediment remained on the bottom. the beer pours with a giant head, the picture was taken after it fell about half way. Eventually it settles to a nice lacing that remains all the way through.

The smell is very roasty, with a noticeable alcohol aroma. I don't smell oatmeal(not sure what it even smells like), but maybe some milk chocolate and subtle cherry notes. It sits quite heavily on the tongue and has an earthy, almost oakey characteristic. It definitely has some chocolate flavor to it, but it is fairly subtle. It is very light on the smokiness, which I appreciate since I am not a huge fan. This has just the right amount of roastiness and actually has a great hoppy bitter profile as well.

This is a fantastic beer, and is perfect for the start of winter. I think if I let this sit in the basement for a few months the alcohol would probably fade into the background and the malt would come up, but with the hoppiness that is there I wouldn't want to let it sit too long. I highly recommend trying this beer if you are a fan of stouts. I haven't had enough oatmeal stouts to say how it compares to that genre, but as a stout it is one of the better ones I have tried. I will definitely be searching out Rogue bombers next time I look for something new. I give this 8/10 animated yeast cells.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kyle's Belgian Warriors, Steeplechase Brewery

So I decided that a mere week and 3 days after bottling the Belgian Warriors, I was going to pop one open. I didn't expect any carbonation, but I heard a nice "chhhahh" sound when I opened the bottle and immediately got excited. The beer poured beautifully with a thick head that held for a while. I took about 20 pictures until I got one that I was happy with and the head didn't change throughout. Usually with my homebrews, I have to be a bit more efficient with the camera phone. By the way, it did not mesh well a shrimp cocktail, but I never claimed to be good at food and beer pairing.

The color you can't really see is a nice brown. It matches a lot of Belgian Dubbels well, but shows some red when held up to the light.

The smell is very complex. There is some maltiness, there is a toastiness, and then there are the hops. The hops are the main character here, but due to the other notes, the cascades and saaz mix doesn't come off as very familiar. There is a cleanness to the hop smell that I dare say might come from the bittering hop: the Warriors. The liquor smell that was there before bottling has faded into the background.

The taste greets with a good balance of bitterness and malt. It stings just a little, and I am surprised at how well it carbonated already. I wasn't patient enough after putting it in the fridge and it's kind of lukewarm. I think it should definitely be served a bit colder. But I am not disappointed. The middle is full and satisfying. This is a pretty big beer after all. The end is bitter, a bit too bitter. A tart Warrior hop finish is not what I was going for, but that only makes me look forward to the next s
ip. Overall I am very happy with the result and would definitely brew something similar again. I think it would be cool if it ended with more of a roasty note instead of the bitterness.

I drank it fast and I only had those 7 shrimp in my belly, but at 9%, I can really feel it.

I am aware that as a brewer, I tend to appreciate my own brews more than other people. Because of that, I will limit myself to a max rating of 8 out of 10. That being said, I give this a 7 out of 8 out of 10 SHRIMP CONFUSIONS!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kasteel: Belgian Tripel

Monday night. Stopped at the local homebrew store on the way home to get some supplies and even though I was not going out to experience any of the inaugural Syracuse Beer Week events, I thought I should experience a good beer tonight anyway.

So I broke into my "beer cellar" that I only started about a month ago. There are a couple beers in the cellar that are not meant to be aged so I don't mind breaking them out before the cellar is more than a couple months old. One of the styles that can be enjoyed fresh is a Belgian Tripel, so I went with the Kasteel Tripel. Of course it wasn't cold so I brought it up to to the fridge upstairs and let it cool while I proceeded to boil up some DME for a yeast starter for the someday legendary Old Ale that I am going to brew on Thursday. My Thursday brewing is not a sanctioned Syracuse Beer Week event, but it probably should be.

Anyways, while the malt was boiling (about 1.33 pounds and 4 cups of water), I started sterilizing the growler and other equipment. I wasn't paying adequate attention to my antique stove and a boil over ensued. Bran flakes? No thanks. You can imagine the anger this awakened in me as I moved the pot off of the heat. However, instead of letting the rage engulf me, I decided to pop open a giant bottle of Belgium Tripel. Feeling the pressure of the cork pushing up as I eased it out of the bottle and seeing the icy steam pour out of the bottle was more calming than a back massage after a long flight. I knew this couldn't go wrong.

The beer poured beautifully, Golden yellow and clear with a thin and quickly dissipating head. The shiny clearness of the beer is a surprise in a yeasty beer (believe me, the angelic reflections on the bottle and glass in the picture were not wasted on me). And yeasty it is. I am still sipping some as I type. The nose is all yeast with slight hints of malt. I opened it about 5 minutes after pouring a Wyeast smack pack into a starter. So the smell was either a 5 minute time machine, or it was very yeasty. The smell scared me off at first, since I wanted something more comforting and familiar. I am now realizing that Belgian Tripels are comforting and familiar to me. Who needs hops? Ok, I do, but not tonight. This beer was a bit much at first, a very full body and heavy yeasty taste and smell. It's not super refined, somewhat bready yeast character, but there are still some spicy, not fruity, yeasties. I was a bit overwhelmed by it at first, but it soon became enjoyable. Its a little different, a beer that is very focused on yeast, but not focused on the kind of yeast character that is usually spotlighted. I thought it was too heavy at first and it stood spectator as I engulfed a Korean barbecued pork chop with white rice, but I discovered a different beer after my meal. A very enjoyable mild tripel with a focus on yeast, but a mild yeast. A beautiful color and a perfect amount of carbonation. A nose that complemented the smell and didn't hide any surprises. Overall an extremely enjoyable beer that I could enjoy very often, but for the price, it's not something that makes me say "wow." It's a good time, but not a band that makes me go "how does he do that?"

7 Steve Martins playing bluegrass on Austin City Limits out of 10.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homebrew Journal: Kyle's Belgian Warriors

After homebrewing from kits for a while, Mark and I both decided to design our own recipes and try them out. I was going to write my notes about the recipe and the brewing in my brewing notebook, but since this is a new beer that has never been made before, I thought I would share. I'll write a little bit about mine here and I'll let Mark write his own entry about his if he wants. I have not tasted the beer yet so this isn't a review, but I will write a review in a few months when it is done.

I will go the whole thing here, but you can find more details about my recipe here. That is a great website and I highly reccomend it for designing your own recipes. This is an extract recipe.

Malts (all liquid):
6 lbs of Northern Brewer Light Pilsen Extract (75)
6 lbs of Northern Brewer Golden Extract (75)
1 lb. 3 oz. of Munton's Light Extract (60)

If you are a homebrewer you can probably tell that I decided to really go for it with my first recipe. I put in more than 12 pounds of malt, which ended up giving me an OG of 1.085. That is huge. If it drops nicely I should end up with about 9% ABV. Also you might notice that I decided to boil for 75 minutes. This is the first time I have done that and I will explain why in the Hops section. The malts I chose are common in Belgian style dubbels and tripels (even the Muntons which I just threw in cause Mark had it left over) and I wanted to stick to a Belgian style with malts and yeast, but really add a lot of kick with the hops.

1 oz. Warrior Hops, 17.2% Alpha (75)
1 oz. Warrior Hops, 17.2% Alpha (60)
1 oz. Cascade Hops, 5% Alpha (15)
1 oz. Czech Saaz Hops, 4% Alpha (15)
1 oz. Cascade Hops, 5% Alpha (5)
1 oz. Czech Saaz Hops, 4% Alpha (5)


The Warriors have a very high Alpha percentage which is basically a measure of how bitter they are. However, the amount of bitterness that actually comes out of the Lupulin is a factor of how long you boil it. I want the Warriors to really be the center point so I started an ounce of them at 75 to maximize their bitterness and also added an ounce at 60 where they should be very bitter as well. The massive amounts of maltose in this beer will downplay the bitterness and hopefully strike a nice balance. I don't expect the Terminal Gravity to be much lower than 1.025 so there will still be a good amount of sugar in the final product. It is a lot of both sugars and bittering hops so I don't know if one will dominate, but I hope the warriors only slightly win out over the sweetness. The Cascade-Czech Saaz 15-5 finishing combo is lifted straight from the Northern Brewer Houblonmonstre (Gewurztramonstre) kit that I loved so much. I thought for a long time that I was going to save an ounce of Warriors for either dry hopping or hop bursting (adding to boil at 0 minutes), but Mark and I decided that they might get lost among the Cascades and Saaz so it would be better to just use them for bittering.

Wyeast Belgian Ardennes 3522

I decided on the yeast because it works well against high gravities and it is described as having a complex spicy character and mild fruitiness. I hope that some of that comes through and it is not overpowered to much by the other flavors. Otherwise it won't be very much like a Belgian anything. A yeast starter was made from the smack pack 3 days prior to brewing.
I had originally called this a Belgian Tripel, but according to hopville, it has way too much of everything to be considered for that label. I think Imperial IPA might be a better label, but for now let's just stick with "Kyle's Belgian Warriors!"

The brew is taking off nicely, it is bubbling over like crazy after 24 hours and is making a mess for Mark in his closet.

Questions and comments welcome...

Friday, September 24, 2010

2007 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine; Eulogy

Oak barrel tables. An authentic, working, bright red English telephone booth. A worn out "no tipping" sign. $2.00 pints of Genessee Cream Ale. The faint aroma of freshly sliced roast beef. These are some of the familiar characteristics of Clark's Ale House, an English style pub seemingly frozen in time in an area of downtown Syracuse that features businesses, expensive condos, and weekend dance clubs.

Sadly, Clark's is being forced to close its doors today, due to the expansion of the nearby Landmark Theatre. There are no plans to reopen elsewhere, and apparently not enough funds. I understand the city's need to host productions of Cats, Annie, and other big Broadway shows, but this just seems wrong. The little old man slicing roast beef behind the bar was one of the most reliable and comforting scenes I can think of, and it will now dissapear, possibly forever, to be replaced by glamour and showtunes.

If there is anything positive that can be taken from this, it is that a place like this can survive in Syracuse, a city along with all the others in upstate New York that have struggled for the last 100 years or so to establish any sort of economic identity and stability. Clark's made it work by serving only roast beef sandwiches, along with a rotating selection of about 15 craft beers. You wouldn't find a Bud light behind the bar, or a martini, or even a shot of whiskey. It is a testament to what they stood for. They knew how to do one or two things, and they did them right, for 18 years without bowing to trends or shifts in the marketplace. It goes to show that if you provide a consistent quality service and do it with character, people will come. Maybe they will open elsewhere, maybe not. Maybe someone will take their place and fulfill Syracuse's need for a tasty pint and a hot beef sandwich. Either way, it will never be quite the same, and I am glad that I got to experience this truly authentic beer lover's paradise.

As Clark's gets ready to shut its doors for the final time, they are bringing out out all of the kegs they have been saving for a rainy day. Among them, a 2007 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. I have had this beer several times, and have even tried aging it myself, but usually ran out of patience after a few months. It is one of my favorite beers, so I was excited to review a 3 year old version on my final trip to Clark's.

The aroma was surprisingly hoppy for a barleywine, especially considering it had been aged. There was also some caramel in the smell, with an obvious deep malty backbone.

Taking the first sip, I was taken aback by the complexity of flavors. Vanilla, caramel, malt, nutiness, with some subtle hops. It all ended with a warm, comforting finish. If you were to go to the store and try a current version of this beer, you will find that the finish is a bit harsher, due to the approximately 10% alcohol content. After aging, that bite mellows out, leaving behind a pronounced sweetness.

This was a fantastic beer, and a fantastic, if bittersweet, environment to drink it in. In a nod to Clark's and all of the enjoyment it has given me over the last several years, I give this beer 10 guys slicing roast beef. Clark's, you will be missed. Thank you.

Dogfish Head - Red & White

welp, i figured id do a quick friday night post. tonight i cracked a large bottle of Dogfish head's Red & White. let me write what the description on the side of the bottle says..."Malt beverage brewed with coriander and orange peel with pinot noir juice concentrate added with 11% aged in Pinot noir barrels and 89% aged on oak barrel staves."....PHEW! Sounds half interesting and half disgusting if you ask me.....but i bought one a couple weeks ago without really looking at what it was. i just wanted to grab something that i havent tried yet. recently ive been picking up beer that ive never had. broadening my beer horizons, so to speak. instead of buying a 6 pack of sierra nevada pale ale every week, why not grab a random whatever and give it a shot.

this isnt exactly a 'random whatever.' i usually like most of the stuff from dogfish that i try. although much like my last post, i havent had a whole lot of their stuff. the IPAs, brown ales, raison d'etra and a couple others. let get to the review!

pours beautifully, a darker brown ale with a a hefty amount of head. looks great

when taking a good wiff, you really get the 'pinot noir' aroma. i didnt smell much of the orange peels, and couldnt tell you want corander smells like but there was almost a rubbing alcohol type smell if you really got close.

the taste reminded me of some of the beers ive had from unibroue brewery out of chambly montreal. a very malty, Belgium style ale with a crisp finish. the only difference.....the pinot. it really comes through in this beer. a few sec after it goes down your throat, you get that stinging alcohol taste in the back of your throat. not something im a huge fan of, but to be honest this isnt my style of beer. one thing i will mention is that, after one glass of this, i was feeling it. it was a large bottle and i filled up a few times. might be an expensive bottle, but id rather drink one of these than 8 bud lights, if thats what your going for.

i got to give it to dogfish for being so experimental with their ales, there really isnt another well know brewery in this country quite as ballsy as them. this one might work really well for somebody else, but probably wont be shelling out the big bucks for the red and white again. if someone were to give me a bottle, id drink and enjoy.

im going to give this beer a "paris france" rating. its a place everyone should probably go to before you die, but your average baseball loving, cheeseburger eating american joe isnt going to go back. (i was going back an forth between Paris France and Fenway Park for this rating)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Southern Tier - HOPPE

This week ill be doing a review of Southern Tier Brewery's imperial extra pale ale called "hoppe." Now, i havent had a whole lot of Southern Tier's stuff, and i apparently have a lot of difficulty spelling the word 'tier' (thanks spell-check), but what i have had from them, i really like. Phin & Matt, IPA, unearthly. So when i saw an imperial extral pale ale by them, i had to pick up a tall boy. This bad boy weighs in at 8%, brewed with columbus and amarillo hops, and dry hopped with the same.

When poured into my pint glass, it looked pretty much exactly how you'd expect. An appetizing gold/dark yellow color. Very little head and little to no carbonation bubbles rising to the top. it was quite foggy. i couldn't see thorough the glass.

The smell was amazing! I dipped my nose into the glass and was punched in the face with amarillo hops and pale malt barley. It was a great mix of those 2 ingredients. The smell actually first reminded me of last Feb when Balczak sent me a couple bottles of Hopslam, one of the best beers ive had the opportunity to try. (for ryan's review, see Hopslam)

However, the taste left something to be desired. dont get me wrong, i enjoyed every last drop of this hop heavy ale, but after smelling it for a min or so, i had very high expectations. It was cold and crisp and the front of my tongue was groovin' on it. it was the taste buds in the back that weren't so sure. there was a very subtle taste, just a little unnatural, that i was picking up after swallowing.

That being said, i would recommend this to any hophead or Southern Tire...teir...tier fan for at least one try.

As for the "beerswetry" scale.....ill give this one an Eli Manning. He's good, he won the big one, but lets face it folks.....he's no Peyton.

Q - "Eli, what do you think of Hoppe?"
A - "ddeeeerrrrrrrrpp"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trappistes Rochefort 8

This is my first time trying a Rochefort (that i remember) but ive heard and read much about these trappist belgian ales and looked forward to trying this one. ive had it in my kitchen for about 3 weeks and put it in the fridge a couple days ago. before i start, ive never been a huge fan of the belgian ale style but tried not to let any previous experiences effect this tasting. to the review...

the first thing that caught me after i poured it was the color. it was much darker and foggier than i had anticipated. it had a very 'muddy' look to it. a whole lot of sediment came out at the end of the pour which i happily let fall into the glass. a small amount of foamy head, maybe 1 inch.

the smell was surprisingly subdued for a 9.2% ale. smelled very fruity with hints of raisin. very much enjoyed the smell

the beer was very very carbonated, almost like drinking a 7-up, which i think took away from the taste. not sure if this is how its supposed to be or just how the bottle i got was. i let the glass chill a bit. i think i had it a little bit too cold. this helped the carbonation. other than that, it went down pretty smooth.

pleasant taste. tasted alot like it smelled. also surprisingly light for it being a higher % ale. i didnt love the taste, but didnt hate it. i think i was just expecting a little too much because of what i had heard and read about it. what id really like to do is a taste test with the 6 8 and 10 to see how they differ. ill probably pick up another bottle at some point because it was enjoyable, but id like to try some of the other trappist abbey ales to see how they compare.

altogether i will rate this the beer equivalent of CJ Spiller. high expectations, a little disappointing the first time out, but could grow to love him.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

I recently came across Beer Advocate's Top 100 Beers On Planet Earth list (technically I believe this list is limited to brews that are available in most parts of the US). Scanning through the top ten, I noticed a beer that I had seen at the store many times but never tried. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Hefeweizen) was #8 on the list, the only beer in the top 10 or so that is available in NY State that I had never tried. I am not a very big fan of hefeweizen, so I don't exactly seek out particularly impressive versions. Since it is summer though and I am an equal opportunity beer trier, I decided to pick up a bottle.

A brief history of the brewery, just because it is pretty special: Weihenstephan was a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria, Germany, and there is evidence of a brewery existing at that location as early as the year 768! They have a legit claim to the world's oldest brewery, a claim that is contended by a few others. Weihenstephan is confident enough that they put the claim right on their bottles. They make two versions of the weissbier, a filtered version (Kristallweizen) as well as this unfiltered version (Hefeweizen).

I do not have any weizen glasses, which is the preferred way to enjoy hefeweizen, so I went with a curved pint glass to encourage the substantial head to develop. About half the glass is filled with foam upon first pouring. In fact, as soon as I cracked the cap it started forming a head. It pours with a nice cloudy-yellow gold color that is typical for hefes. The beer has a substantial aroma of sweet fruit, yeast, maybe a little citrus?

Perhaps the best part of this beer is the perfect mouthfeel and finish. This beer could be dangerous over the course of a long session. Very light and crisp, you can almost feel the microscopic bubbles rolling over your tongue. There is a delicous sweet (in a good way) aftertaste which is very strong banana with a subtle hopiness to it and maybe some baked apple. I feel like you could gulp half a pint of this beer and not feel any ill effects. It is incredibly smooth.

Not being a big fan of hefeweizens, I don't have much to compare this to. I'd say this is a great beer for a hot summer day. This is the kind of beer you could drink for a whole night, although it would be quite expensive at 3.50 for one 16oz bottle. I will definetely seek this beer out on tap, hopefully they serve it at J Ryan's or the Blue Tusk. Since I think this would be the perfect beer for when someone else cuts your lawn because you are too rich, I give it 8/10 little kid cutting your lawns.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer Beer Tour - Otter Summer/Dogfish Festina Peach

Its that time of the year, summer. It is my plan to spend my next 2 months off sampling a wide array of different beers. No better place to start than the seasonal brews that start pour out of breweries this time of year. Here I will discuss a couple Otter Creek Brewery's Otter Summer Ale and Dogfish Head Brewery's Festina Peach.

Otter Creek Summer Ale

Otter Creek Brewery, located in Middlebury VT, is in my opinion one of the more underrated breweries in the northeast. Known for their high quality small batch brew, I jumped at the chance to try there summer offering. Typical for summer beers, the Summer Ale, features a citrusy taste that melds well with the light wheat beer. It is definitely a light beer and taster better when served with a lemon wedge and pair with a meal (a nice pan seared tilapia, for example) than not. While not spectacular, the Otter Creek Summer Ale is a solid alternative to your typical beer of choice when the weather starts to warm. I think it would be a great pick to bring to a summer barbecue or a day at the beach.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10 possible Otters

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

The first time I tried this beer was on the beach at DogFish Heads brew pub in Delaware. Its was a refreshing beverage that was a nice alternative to the barbecue wings I was eating. When I saw it in the beer section at Wegmans I knew I needed that four pack. The Festina Peche is a BerlinerWeisse style beer. This style was developed in Berlin (go figure) and was noted for its tartness and sourness. It was really the original summer beer. Sadly not too many breweries create this style. Dogfish takes the original and updates it by fermenting the beer with peaches. The result is a light beer that is both tart and sweet - the peach flavor definitely works to cut down the tartness factor. The Festina Peche is a summer beer done right and I would be hard pressed to find a summer styled beer that is any better.

7 out of 10 Peaches

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dogfish Head: Burton Baton

Everyone has that brewery that never dissappoints, that go to brewery that you always go to when the stacks of beer in the beer section of your local beer purvayor has blurred and you cannot make sense of it all.

For me that brewery is Dogfish Head located in Milton, Delaware. During my spring break I was able to visit their brewery, their brew pub, and the overall area that supports the brewary. Once there I thought I had really tried or seen all that Dogfish Head had to offer, but I had never seen this before: Burton Baton.

Burton Baton is a blended beer brewed and released about three times a year. The beer features two "threads" an English Style Ale and Dogfish Head's famous 90 minute IPA. The two threads are brewed seperately and then combined and aged in the one of the companys three wood barrels (2 Oak and 1 Palo Santo [a Brazialan hardwood]) for about a month.

The mixture of an English Ale and an Imperial IPA makes for a strong beer at 10%abv, however, the beer is not brash or overpowering. It's taste is very hoppy like the 90 minute IPA yet has a smoothness from the English Ale that makes the beer almost delicate.

We have not even talked about the oak. Much like in wine making the folks at Dogfish Head have become experminting with aging beers in wood barrells to gain different flavor notes. In Burton Baton you get a distinct vanilla hint and some citrus notes that add complexity to the hoppy aroma. The beer is in no way heavy which, speaking from experience, can catch up with you quickly.

This beer grades out as one of the better (if not best) beer I have had the pleasure of trying and will be a staple in my beer fridge from now on.

9/10 Sam Calagiones

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alaskan Brewing Company 2008 Smoked Porter

Quick, name the 11th largest craft brewery in the US.


Well, you've probably never heard of it if you live in New York, which all of the 5 people who read this blog do. Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986 in Juneau, Alaska, and makes badass beers that unfortunately only make it to the western United States. A recent last minute business trip put me in Arizona, which is one of the ten states where ABC distributes. My misfortune was quickly turned into fortune when I saw this wonderful beer in a Phoenix health food store.

I first heard of the Alaskan Smoked Porter while reading Sam Caligione's book, Brewing Up A Business. Apparently this small brewery started across the street from a smoked salmon business. Alaskan smoked salmon is one of the most well known culinary exports of the area. The head brewer wandered over to where they do the smoking one day with a bunch of malt and asked to smoke it using the same process they use for salmon. The result was a wonderfully balanced smokey porter.

The aroma of the smoked porter is more complex than most smoke beers I have tried. Sometimes smoke beers are all smoke(gross), and sometimes the smoke is an afterthought. I remember a friend in college getting a smoke beer that literally smelled like burnt bacon. It was disgusting. In this case, the smoke is a strong supporting actor, very forward but not dominating. The malty aroma also comes through quite well, and I even get a hint of hops in the smell.

The smokiness is finely balanced with the sweet coffee like malt flavor. This being a vintage bottle from 2008, the smokiness has melted into the background somewhat compared to a newer edition. The creamy full bodied head that this beer pours with remains throughout, and provides a surprisingly delicate mouthfeel for such a big beer. The aftertaste is mostly sweet but the smoke is still there lingering in the background. Interestingly enough, ABC claims that after 5 years the smoky flavor comes back to the foreground. It would be nice to compare a few different years of this, but I think the likelihood of that happening is rather slim unless you make it to the brewery itself.

This is really a fantastic beer, and is certainly the best smoke beer I have ever tried, even though that list is rather short. I highly recommend trying this if you see it for sale on the west coast. It should also be high on your list of things to do while in Juneau, Alaska, along with going moose watching. I give this beer 9/10 "moose humping a buffalos".