Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Lost Abbey | Judgment Day

The Lost Abbey's Judgment Day, a Belgian style Quadrupel ale brewed with raisins. 180 pounds of raisins per 30-barrel batch to be exact! It also has to be said that this beer has a pretty bad ass label.

Poured into a Chimay Chalice glass, Judgment Day, has a dark almost-opaque ruddy brown color, a fizzy tan head that recedes to spotty surface foam, and good chunks of lacing. The aroma is very boozy, lots of sweet alcohol, lots of sweet dark fruit like figs, raisins (it is brewed with raisins after all…), black cherries, some vanilla, spice, and a hint of bananas. This thing smells like a beast.

The taste starts with big malt sweetness, and a definite alcohol presence, but not nearly as boozy as the aroma hints at. Again, fruit flavors of figs, raisins, plums, etc. There's tons of rich maltiness in this thing; biscuity, chewy, and just really tasty. The finish gives a taste of some spicy yeast mixing with the sweetness that lingers for a while after each sip. Definite alcohol warmth with this one.

Speaking of sipping, Judgment Day is not a beer you want to drink fast. At 10.5% ABV, and the insane amounts of malt and fruit flavor, this beer is a monster. This would be an excellent beer to cellar for a while, as the bold malt and high ABV will lend to a smoother more rum-like product over time. If I had more self control I would age this one, but I know it wouldn't last more than a month. Sure would be nice to see what some time will do to this beast though.

Judgment Day was a little too over the top for my palate, but still an excellent beer. It almost seems like more of a dessert than just a beer. Maybe I should have paired this with some late night chocolate cake? If you think this will be a bit too boozy for your taste as well, but are still interested in the style, Lost Abbey's Lost & Found would be a great option. Lost & Found is sort of the kid brother to Judgment Day, still a Belgian strong ale (a Dubbel) and brewed with raisins, but toned down just a bit.

Back to Judgment Day:

Personal 7.5/10, for the style 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rodenbach | Grand Cru

Rodenbach Grand Cru

Yeah, it's time for another one of those unusual Belgian beers, this one being a Flanders Red Ale. Rodenbach Grand Cru sets itself apart from other ales because of the extensive maturing in oak vats that it undergoes. Then a blend of the older aged ale is mixed with younger ale (67%/33%) to create the "Grand Cru."

Poured into a tall fluted pilsner glass, Grand Cru has a transparent dark copper color and a soda-like fizzy tan head that disappears almost as quickly as it is poured. The aroma is quite pungent with powerful vinegar, sour cherries, apples, oak, hints of vanilla, and a touch of malt. Although this aroma is a bit odd for a beer, it honestly reminds me of smelling a magic marker. You know it smells like pure chemicals but for some reason it smells so good! Or maybe I'm just psychotic. Don't hold Eric to blame, it's only me (Pat) spewing this crazy talk.

The flavor is strong of tart cherries and grannysmith apples. The sourness is smoothed out a bit by sugary malt sweetness and woody notes before finishing crisp, earthy, and dry. Airy carbonation gives this ale a gentle mouthfeel despite it's rather full body. Not to mention the sourness adds that refreshing mouth watering effect that makes these beers so amazing. One of the most remarkable aspects of this beer is that all the sour fruit flavor you taste, is from the unique yeast and extensive aging; and no fruit ingredients or additives were used.

I'm going to quote Todd Alström from Beeradvocate here, since he puts it so eloquently, "Dear beergod, thank you. This is indeed one of the most refreshing beers on the planet. An absolute must try." I didn't think I was capable of being so poetic. Anyway, try this beer, you will not be disappointed. If you've never had a sour ale, Rodenbach Grand Cru is the one you want.

Personal 9.5/10, for a Flanders Red Ale 10/10.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Great Divide | Espresso Oak Aged Yeti

Espresso Oak Aged Yeti

Ahhh, the latest incarnation of Great Divide's famed creature, the YETI! Great Divide loves the Yeti, and rightfully so, has made the Yeti their claim to fame. There are currently six different versions of this beer, most being seasonal, and some being quite rare. Lets get a beanful of this one, the espresso oak aged variation. (yep, I really just said "beanful")

Poured into a pint glass from a 22oz bottle, this Yeti has got to be the thickest beer I've ever poured. It looks like melted chocolate flowing into my glass. Jet black in color with two fingers of brown foamy head. Excellent head retention, and lots of lacing are left after each sip.

The aroma is loaded with coffee/espresso, dark roasty malt, wet oak, and hints of alcohol. A good swirl releases moderate amounts of alcohol sweetness ranging from chocolate, dark fruit, and licorice.

The flavor is of smooth velvety chocolate and coffee with undertones of vanilla, oak, and sweet fruit. The finish has a lingering dark chocolate bitterness and perhaps a bitter hop character. It's baffling how smooth and rich this beer is. Definitely way too drinkable for it's own good; but I guess having the consistency of spent engine oil is only helping the cause. It's so sludgy that I bet it would cure a sore throat.

Granted, I haven't had KBS, CBS, or BCBS, regardless of that, this is definitely the best stout I've ever had. The regular Yeti is phenomenal on it's own, but the espresso and oak aging give it some serious oomph. Good lord is it delicious, and man is it squatchy.

Personal 10/10, for an Imperial Stout 10/10.

Great Divide | Nomad

Great Divide's Nomad Pilsner, in their words, "our spin on the classic Bohemian Pilsner style… with German malts and Saaz hops."

Poured into a pint glass, Nomad has an incredibly transparent, light straw color and a finger or so of fizzy white head that recedes to a ring around the glass. The color is so light if I didn't know any better I'd think I was drinking Coors light.

The aroma is of light grainy malt, grassy hop, slightly nutty, bits of lemon peel, and earth. This definitely smells like a European pilsner, with a very distinct Saaz hop profile, and a bit of that slight skunk.

The flavor is very similar to the nose, with a seriously pronounced grassy/herbal/vegetal taste: lots of flowers, grass, dandelion, etc. Spicy yeast and doughy malt also add a bit of backbone to this very crisp lager. The hop profile is definitely on the bitter side, which adds a bit of 'snap' to the beer, but can be a bit too assertive for some drinkers.

If you like Czech style pilsners then you will thoroughly enjoy this beer. It's really great to see American craft brewers making lighter lager styles, as it's still a bit of a rarity. Personally, I think it's the future of craft brewing, after the dust has settled from Imperial Stouts and Double IPA's of course. That's still a long ways off, but when you see Stone and Dogfish Head release year-round pilsners, it'll be a revolution. Anyway… Nomad is a fine example of a real pilsner, and would be a great way to work your way into the world of craft beer. It may look light and easy drinking, but this fizzy yellow beer has a hell of a lot more flavor than your 30 rack of Miller.

Personal 6.5/10, for a Pilsner 8.5/10.

Monday, February 13, 2012

West Coast IPA Throwdown | Stone vs Bear Republic

Thought we'd mix it up a bit here and do a West Coast IPA Throwdown. NorCal - Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA vs. SoCal - Stone IPA.

Both poured into equal sized pint glasses. Racer 5 has a golden pale amber color, the slightest amount of haze, and a minimal cm or so of white head that fell to a frothy ring. Stone has a very similar shade of golden amber, maybe a touch paler, and is crystal clear. The head on Stone IPA is large and white with big fluffy foam that leaves lots of sticky lacing as it falls to a finger thick of head. If you want to get nerdy about it, I'd say Racer 5 is about 7-8 SRM and Stone is around 6-7 SRM. For appearance - Stone wins that round.

The aroma on Racer 5 is strong and fresh citrus hops, light pine, sweet tropical fruit with slight hints of alcohol and lightly toasted grain. There is a mild sweetness on the nose. Stone IPA has a slightly more pungent fruity aroma; still very citrus driven, but a little more zesty and minty. It seems like Stone's dry hopping is a little more intense than Racer 5. This is tough, both smell incredibly good.... but I'd have to give the edge to Stone on aroma.

On to the best part, taste! Racer 5 kicks your taste buds with an explosion of crushing hop bitterness. Hops are citrusy, piney, fruity, and bitter. The malt comes into play to balance the middle with some bready flavors making it very savory and juicy before finishing with a grapefruit bitterness. The hops really shift into gear in the flavor more than the aroma leads you to believe. Stone IPA starts off a little easier on the tongue, but still quite bitter, with a good amount of spiciness. Lots of pine, citrus, tobacco, and minty flavors. Although the initial hop blast starts off slower than Racer 5, it gets more intense throughout each sip, and almost numbs your tongue with hop essence. This is a tough one to pick because it really depends on what your personal preference is. Therefore, for flavor, it is a tie. Both have equally distinguishable and delicious traits to them, and it is nearly impossible to say one is better than the other.

It would seem as though Stone IPA has won this battle, with a much better appearance and a slight edge on aroma. However, like it was said in the taste, it's still up to personal preference. If you were to ask which one has a better mouthfeel and is more drinkable, then Racer 5 would win. But if you were looking for the 1 bottle quintessential hop-bomb IPA (as if both aren't hop-bombs), then Stone IPA is the choice. The easiest way to break down the difference, for me at least, is Racer 5 is like drinking "hop juice," while Stone IPA is more like "hop spice." Which is better? Tough call, it's up to you. The least that I can say is, if you love IPAs, you NEED to try both of these beers. You will not be disappointed.

Winner - Stone IPA

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jolly Pumpkin | La Roja

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, an "artisan amber ale brewed in the Flanders tradition," comes from Dexter, Michigan. Put simply, this is categorized by most as a wild ale, which means that it uses wild yeast strains in fermentation. Jolly Pumpkin, in particular, allows open air from outdoors to flow through the brewhouse, which inoculates their beers for secondary fermentation. Then a blend is created from multiple batches aged from 2-10 months in bourbon or red wine barrels. So, even though the initial brew is created to follow a Belgian Flanders Red Ale style (which is quite sour itself), Jolly Pumpkin puts their own twist on La Roja, making it more "wild."

Poured into a flute glass from a 750ml bottle (blend 11 - bottled July 7, 2011). La Roja has a slightly hazy deep burnt copper color with a creamy light tan head. Head retention sits somewhere around the 1cm mark and there is lots of frothy lacing sticking to the sides of my glass. The smell is pungent and tart. Strong aromas of red wine vinegar, sour cherries, with hints of oak, spice, and very funky yeast.

The flavor, much like the aroma hints at, is very tart and refreshingly mouthwatering. Bright fizzy carbonation injects flavors of red wine vinegar, citric and lactic acids, Maraschino cherries, pomegranate, woody oak, and musty barnyard funk. The initial blast of sourness fades to a sweeter flavor for a moment, creating a delicious tug-of-war between sweet and sour. La Roja finishes just slightly bitter, with lingering tannins. This beer has a lot going on!

These sour ales, with their wild yeast strains and extended barrel aging, create a cacophony of flavor and aroma that is sometimes hard to put into words. If you are new to the style, you will without a doubt question that this is even a beer. It's something that upon the first sip seems a little off putting, but by the time you get halfway through your glass, you won't be able get enough of the delicious mouthwatering sensation created by the sourness. Unfortunately sour ales are often hard to come by, as the style is only recently gaining popularity in the US, and most are created in small, hand blended batches. This means that only a handful of the sours made in our country make it to nationwide distribution. That being said, don't be scared off by the somewhat higher price of Jolly Pumpkin ales, as they are well worth every penny.

Getting back to the beer in the spotlight... I mean, pint glass. La Roja is a very well crafted beer, and it's one that I justify the $12.50 price to treat myself to every few months. It's easily passed by, but definitely one of the most complex and delicious beers in our store. Personal 10/10, for the style 9/10.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sierra Nevada | Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA, the new spring seasonal addition to Sierra Nevada's outstanding line of beers. This one boasts rye malt, chinook, citra, bravo, and "experimental" hops. Curious what those experimental hops are, but I'm sure they're delicious either way. As a side note before we pop the cap on this ale, Sierra Nevada recently announced the construction of their first east coast brewery! It will be located in Mills River, North Carolina, and should be up and running within 2 years. That is some exciting stuff.

Poured into a Chimay chalice glass, Ruthless Rye has a deep amber copper color. It is filtered and translucent, and it has a minimal light tan head with sudsy retention and very little bits of lacing. The nose is very hoppy and peppery. The hops smell sharp and fresh, very resinous pine hops with some bitter citrus shining through. The peppery spice of the rye malt comes into play without standing out enough to be overly spicy.

The taste is strong hop bitterness upfront, grapefruit, pine, and orange. The rye malt is more noticeable, adding peppery spice, as well as a dryness, which (combined with intense hop bitterness) add to its "ruthless" character. The caramel and chocolate malts become noticeable midway through, adding body and a smoothing, almost lager-like mouthfeel. The malts definitely help to smooth out the bitter bite from the hops, but they don't quell them altogether. The finish showcases a sweeter floral hop flavor and peppery spice, with just a hint at dry hop bitterness lingering after each sip.

Ruthless Rye IPA, is definitely a great addition to Sierra Nevada's lineup. Although some may disagree, I'm happy to see it replace Glissade for their spring offering. Despite the fact that Ruthless is an IPA, the rye, and other darker malts, add a great amount of body and complexity to a beer that's meant to carry us through the rest of the dark cold months, looking forward to warm weather, and good times ahead. And as an added bonus, the label artwork is really cool! For the style 8.5/10, personal 8.5/10.