Monday, June 30, 2008

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

The first sip of this ale sent me back to the kitchen, to examine the label on the bottle. Wow - 12 % alcohol. Dogfish Head has released a new high gravity ale, called Palo Santo Marron. The unique thing about this ale is that it was fermented in barrels made from exotic Palo Santo wood, which Sam Calagione got from Paraguay. Just looking at it in the glass tells you that it's a rich flavorful ale. It poured a deep brown, with black cherry colored highlights. The small head was also brown, and did not last long. This tasted like a port wine, with some vanilla coming through. The label referred to this beer as a brown ale, but this is more of an after-dinner beer, and could be a winter-warmer if it was winter. It definitely warmed me up inside. Dogfish Head must be committed to this beer, since they built a number of 10,000 gallon fermenting tanks to make it. Sam's new ale is a winner with me, although I'll drink it for dessert next time, instead of with pasta.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Foster's Lager at Outback

My family and I decided to do Sunday lunch at Outback, to try out some new menu items they were advertising. Since it also involved a $5.00 coupon, it made my decision to eat out easier. As luck would have it, they were in the middle of a 2 for 1 draft beer special too. Their beer choices went from mundane Coors, Bud Light and Miller all the way to the truly exotic - Foster's Lager (said with tongue firmly implanted in cheek). I've never been a huge fan of Foster's, but I felt like a beer, and I prefer draft when it's available. Well, I don't know if it was the food, or eating out, but the Foster's was a lot better than I remembered it. It was ice cold, which helped. It was very refreshing, and had a hoppier edge than I remembered. And their Bloomin' Burger was good too!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Shipyard Brown Ale

I'm preparing to bottle a brown ale that I just finished fermenting, so I decided to compare my brown to a commercial brown. While it's not really a fair comparison, given that my homemade brew is not carbonated yet, I thought it would give me an idea what it will be like. My last brown ale was a quasi-disaster because of some artificial hazelnut flavoring I added. My new batch is pure, no artificial colors or flavors added. But I digress. Back to the Shipyard brown: It poured a crystal clear brown color, with a 1 inch tan head that was gone very quickly. It smelled of sweet malt and brown sugar, and the taste had hints of chocolate and caramel. The finish was hoppier and more bitter than I expected - a nice surprise. Shipyard is another fine microbrewery in the Northeast quadrant of the US.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hacker Pschorr Weisse

Hacker-Pschorr is an established Munich, Germany brewery that makes a variety of different wheat beers. This one is simply called "Weisse", with the subtitle "Traditional Wheat". Since my wife and son both took several years of German in high school, I have learned that in the German language, when two vowels are together, the first one is silent. So the word "Weisse" rhymes with ice, rather than rhyming with geese. This was a revelation to me! I can at least sound intelligent when talking about German beers. This wheat beer is different from the traditional Bavarian Wheat beers I have tried, such as Weihenstephan, or Paulaner Hefe-Weizen. This does not have the pronounced banana/clove flavors of the Bavarian Hefe's. This has a smooth fruity flavor, almost like a sorbet. It poured a cloudy orange/amber color, with a huge fluffy head. I like my beer to have a head, so wheat beers rarely disappoint. Another refreshing beer for the summer!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Redhook Copper Hook Spring Ale

Whenever I read the words "Spring Ale" or "Summer Ale", I immediately think "Wheat Beer". Such is not the case with Redhook's Copper Hook Spring Ale. This is a very mild amber ale, light enough to be a thirst-quenching warmer-weather brew. It poured a light amber color, with a small white head, that dissipated pretty quickly. It has a lightly malty, slightly sweet character, with a little bit of citrus flavor and aroma. There are just enough hops to offset the sweet malt. This would be a good session beer, since it is also reasonably low in the alcohol department, at just 4.1%. Redhook seems to be a pretty solid microbrewery, although I can't rate it as a great microbrewery. Dogfish Head, Rogue, and Lagunitas don't have to sweat it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale

Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale is part of the "Historic Ales of Scotland" assortment I picked up a while back at Whole Foods. The 4 brews in the assortment were made by Heather Ales in Scotland. Black pretty well describes this ale, as you can see in the photo. When held up to the light, there were some ruby undertones to the beer. It had a small beige head that evaporated very quickly. The beer had a roasty flavor, and a soft creamy mouthfeel. I could smell the fruitiness of the elderberries more than I could taste them. This is another fine ale from Heather Ales. So far, the assortment is two for two - both of the bottles I have tried have been very enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Visit to Dunedin Brewery

Dunedin is a small town on the West coast of Florida, with a beautiful state park and beach, a Scottish heritage, and a great little brewery. My wife wanted to go to the beach, so we decided to include a brewery tour as part of the day. I guess I can't really call it a tour, because when we walked in the front door, I think we were able to see the entire brewery from the entrance. I had heard of the Dunedin Brewery because I had seen some of their beers at the local Whole Foods Market, packaged in 16 oz bottles, in 4 packs. I tried a couple of their beers, and decided I should pay them a visit. The brewery was really quiet, and we got there at lunch time, so we sat down at the bar and started a conversation with the bartender. The brewery is owned by a couple of guys who started it as a hobby, and it's not their full time job. We had some lunch, and tried their world-famous fish tacos. We tried a couple of their beers, which were excellent. One in particular stands out - their Apricot Wheat, which became the inspiration for my wife and I to brew our own Apricot brews. I also tried their Beach Tale Brown Ale, which was a lightly sweet malty beer, that was also very enjoyable. I was a little disappointed, because the brewery is not currently bottling beer for distribution, they only sell it at the brewery bar. So any hopes of bringing back some beer were dashed. Oh well, it was a great place to stop for lunch, and the beach was relaxing too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Saranac Belgian Style Ale from FX Matt

Here's another brew from my Saranac assortment pack. It's their Belgian Style Ale. Saranac is brewed by the FX Matt Brewery in Utica, NY. It poured a medium amber color, with a small white head that disappeared in minutes. It's a well-carbonated brew, like a lot of Belgians, but I would hesitate to say that this has a lot in common with Belgian brews. It's a good beer, with a nice dry finish, but I don't think Chimay has anything to worry about. I grew up in Upstate NY and we got to the FX Matt Brewery at least once each summer, so I have a lot of fond memories of the place. This was looong before Saranac was ever even thought of. Back then it was Utica Club and Maximus Super they were offering. The brewery offers a tour that is better than most, simply due to the history of the place. At the end of the tour, you're taken to their 1888 Tavern where you can sample their beers in a setting that looks like it's from the late 19th century. If you ever find yourself in Utica NY or its environs, check out the brewery.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brew Your Own Magazine

I received my July-August copy of Brew Your Own magazine a few days ago - an event I always look forward to. They always have some interesting technical articles on making beer, along with a bunch of recipes. One of the columns I like a lot is "The Replicator" in which readers write in about a beer they have discovered, and would like to re-create. The Replicator does the research on how the beer is made, and then reports the recipe for cloning said libation. This month, they have an article about brewing Melomels, or fruit meads, which is very appropriate in this household. My wife and I bought some fresh apricots at our local farmer's market, so she can create an apricot melomel, and I'll be working on an apricot wheat beer. They also have recipes for cloning some Belgian style beers made here in America, such as Ommegang Witte and Allagash Tripel. I've made a few beers using the recipes from Brew Your Own, including a clone of Celis White that turned out delicous. My only complaint about the magazine is that it's only published 8 times a year. I'd like it if they would publish one every month. If you're a homebrewer, this magazine can come in very handy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Terrapin Beer Company Rye Pale Ale

Terrapin Beer Company is based in Athens, Georgia, and this is the first beer I have tried from them. Since I recently brewed my own version of a Rye Pale Ale, I was compelled to give this a taste. Besides, the label was irresistible. The color was a medium amber, with a nice head that left plenty of lace on the glass. I was very impressed with this ale, it was malty and had a healthy dose of citrusy Cascade and Amarillo hops. It wasn't as hoppy as an IPA, but it was close. Terrapin has a beer they can be proud of, and I hope to find more of their varieties soon. I do have to say that my own Rye pale ale was not as hoppy as this one, but could definitely hold its own in a comparison.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Boston Beer Co's Samuel Adams Scotch Ale

I have a new favorite Scotch Ale, and it's from Samuel Adams. This is by far the richest, maltiest, and smokiest Scotch Ale I have tasted to date. The Boston Beer Co. simply knows how to make excellent beer. You can tell from the picture that this is a rich ale, from the deep amber color and the full tan-colored head. The head lasted a long time, and left lacing all the way from the top to the bottom. When I can brew a beer that tastes just like this one, I know I have become a successful homebrewer. Check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Wheat Beers

Today, I want to talk about two distinctly different wheat beers. The first is from Blue Moon Brewing, which is a branch of Coors. Blue Moon's Rising Moon Spring Ale is a member of their Seasonal Collection, and it's flavored with the zest and leaves of Kieffer limes. It poured a light amber color with a huge head. This is the kind of head a wheat beer should have! It's very refreshing, and I could taste the lime flavors from the additional ingredients. This is a very nice American Style wheat beer, great for the warmer months.

The second beer is from Belgium, and it's a traditional Belgian Witbier. It's Hoegaarden, and many folks consider it the best Belgian Wit available. This is the first time I have tried it, and it's excellent. The Belgians have their own special yeasts that impart a truly unique flavor. This one is also citrusy, and a little spicy. Witbier's are usually brewed with orange peel and coriander, and I believe that's true with this one.

Whether you pick the American, or the Belgian, you can't go wrong. Both are refreshing thirst-quenching beers for these warmer months.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sleeman Original Dark 50 Amber Ale

Sleeman's Original Dark 50 is actually an amber ale, and it's a pretty basic one at that. So far, that has been the theme of the Sleeman variety pack I bought a couple of months ago. This is a very drinkable amber ale, but it's nothing special. I've taken some grief about American beer from Canadian friends, but American microbrews have moved light years ahead of anything that I have tasted from Canada in recent years. The tides have turned - we no longer have to be embarassed by our lack of real flavorful beers, especially when compared to something like this.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Orlando Brewing Blackwater Dry Porter

Tonight, I tried another brew from Orlando Brewing Partners - their Blackwater Dry Porter. This beer is almost black, with a small tan colored head. The first thing I noticed about this beer was the rich creamy mouthfeel. This is a dry Porter, just as it's described. It has a lot of coffee flavor from the roasted malts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Orlando Brewing follows the German Reinheitsgebot, so this beer is made from malt, water, hops and yeast only. I'm impressed with this Porter, much more so than the Pale Ale I tried a while back. Some day, I need to get downtown to the brewery, to see what it's all about. In the mean time, I may just need to sample this beer again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Marathon - The Greek Lager Beer

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this beer up. It's the first Greek beer I've had, but it is a very typical European lager - not much different from Heineken, Peroni, or Beck's. It's made by the Athenian Brewery, which is owned by Heineken. It has a slightly spicy flavor, almost minty, then finishes with a typical noble hop character. It poured a golden yellow color with a short-lived white head. Nothing exciting here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Big Red Ale

Here's another brew from Lagunitas - Lucky 13. They bill it as a "Mondo Big Red Ale", and at 8.5% alcohol, I guess that's a fitting description. It poured a beautiful ruby red color, with a frothy white head. There's a lot of malt in this. It was a little sweet, with lots of west coast hop flavor. My only problem with these high gravity beers in 22 oz bottles is that I feel I need to share! I'm too old to enjoy getting drunk. Now I drink 'cause I like the taste of beer - and this is a good one. Lagunitas comes through again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sierra Nevada ESB (Early Spring Beer)

When I see "ESB", I normally think of Extra Special Bitter - the "normal" translation of that acronym. So, I was a little reluctant to buy this when I saw "ESB" translated as Early Spring Beer - but at the time, this was the only beer at the supermarket that I hadn't tried yet. My concern was unfounded. This really is an Extra Special Bitter; or at least Sierra Nevada's Americanized version of one. It uses Maris Otter, a British malt, as well as some British and American hops. This is a very tasty brew. It has a nice malt flavor, and a hop finish that I have come to expect from Sierra Nevada. It's labeled with the year 2008, so I don't know if this will become a standard offering. Get some while you can!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock

This is another beer I picked up from our local Wine and Ale specialty store. I really like this store, so I hope they stay in business! This heller bock was brewed by Einbecker in Germany. It poured a medium amber color, with a 3/4 inch white head, that left some lacing on the glass. The beer is pretty sweet, with caramel notes. It has enough hops to balance the sweetness, and has some alcohol in the finish. It is at 6.5 % alcohol. This is a fine example of a heller bock or Maibock.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Widmer Hefeweizen

Widmer Hefeweizen is an American wheat beer. I don't think I would call it a hefeweizen. Although it's made from wheat malt, and it has the yeast in the bottle, it just doesn't have the flavor of a true Bavarian hefeweizen. This is a good refreshing beer for the summer, with the fruity, citrusy flavor I would expect from an American wheat, but it doesn't taste like a hefe.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Belhaven Wee Heavy

My preference for malty brews was satisfied by Belhaven Brewery's Wee Heavy. Belhaven is a Scottish brewery, and they make a number of great ales. A Wee Heavy is a stronger version of a Scotch Ale - this one is 6.5% alcohol. The ale is a nice mahogany color, with a creamy tan head. The head lasted a while, and left nice lacing on the glass. This beer has a nutty, roasty, malty flavor, with a slight alcohol finish.

Friday, June 6, 2008

La Chouffe Spiced Golden Ale - from Belgium

Belgian brewers are the cowboys of the brewing universe. Where the Germans are proud of their brewing heritage and their Reinheitsgebot, the Belgians believe in "Anything Goes". They experiment with sugars, spices, and whatever else pops into their head. La Chouffe Spiced Golden Ale is an example of that. It is 8.2% alcohol, probably from added sugars, and has a decidedly peppery taste. It is very carbonated and had a decent sized head when first poured. Speaking of pouring, I did a pathetic job of it with this beer. Not thinking about it being bottle conditioned, my glass was full of floating debris. The particles don't bother me, as long as I don't have to chew it. The alcohol showed itself in the finish. This beer had a much more distinctive flavor than the French Jenlain that I reviewed a week or so ago.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sackets Harbor Brewing Co - War of 1812 Amber Ale

This is the first beer I have had from the Sackets Harbor Brewing Co, and I am impressed. It's a smooth malty brew with a good hop presence. It reminds me of an English bitter. This beer came from the new wine and ale store here in Clermont, FL. They have a great selection of beers that I have never heard of. That's the kind of beer store I look for.

Mr. Beer Homebrewed IPA - taste test

A couple of months ago, I was in CVS Pharmacy, and saw that they had a closeout bargain-basement price on their Mr Beer Premium kits. Since they were 1/3 of the usual price, I bought all they had - 3 for the price of 1. I only wanted the fermenters, since I had both of my current fermenters tied up with beer and mead. Mr Beer's cans of mix are kinda small, so I decided to use all 3 of them in 1 batch of beer. I'm an admitted hop-head, so I decided to brew my own version of a Mr Beer India Pale Ale. These ales, also known as IPA's, were originally created with higher alcohol and additional hopping to help preserve them when they were being shipped from England to India, back when India was a colony of Britain. I took all 3 cans of West Coast Pale Ale mix, and added 1 bag of booster. Here's the procedure I used:
I put 1 gallon of water in a pot and dissolved the bag of booster. I then brought it to a boil and added 1 ounce of Columbus hops. I boiled the hops for 45 minutes, then added the 3 cans of West Coast Pale Ale mix. Ten minutes later, I added 1/2 oz of Centennial hops, which I boiled for 5 more minutes. I then cooled it in an ice bath and added the wort to a gallon of cold water that I had poured into the fermenter. I topped the fermenter off to the 8.5 liter mark and added 2 packages of Mr Beer yeast. I had planned on using all 3, but one of them was leaking, so I decided it would be a bad idea to use it. I left it in the fermenter for 3 weeks, primed and bottled using corn sugar, and then left it to carbonate for 2 weeks.
Today was the 2 week mark, so I threw 1 in the fridge this morning, anxious to give it a taste. It is good! Many people who first use Mr Beer, mention a tangy flavor that they notice. This beer does not have that. I was a little concerned about using the booster and Mr Beer yeast, but my concern was unfounded. This is a very hoppy brew, with a little sweetness, and a slight hint of alcohol in the finish. I don't know what the alcohol percentage is, but it is enough to get a buzz after 16 oz. I am lousy at brewing lighter colored beers, but this one turned out lighter than I expected. This was a very worthwhile experiment!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Konig Ludwig Weissbier

This Bavarian Hefeweizen, or Weissbier was brewed at the Konig Ludwig Schlossbrauerei in Kaltenberg, Bavaria, Germany. Bavarian Weissbiers are unique in character, due to the yeast that they use. It gives the beer a flavor of banana and cloves, which is very distinctive. This beer poured with a huge head, that lasted a good long time. That glass in the photo is a 22 oz glass, with less than 10 oz of beer in it. I had to wait for the head to subside to get the rest of the beer in the glass. This is a very light and refreshing beer, which is typical of wheat beers. It is also cloudy due to the yeast in the bottle. This is a very true-to-style Bavarian Hefeweizen.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Flying Dog Tire Bite Golden Ale

The Flying Dog Brewery was originally based in Colorado, but it appears to be a Maryland brewery now. This golden ale was crystal clear, with a small white head. There's not a lot to write about here, it's a pretty basic light ale. It would be a good lawnmower beer. I think the best part about this beer is the Ralph Steadman artwork on the label.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spiced Mead - aka Metheglin

My wife and I broke open a bottle of our spiced Mead - just to see how it's doing as it ages. It's a little early for this particular batch. We brewed it in September 2007 and split it into two 2.5 gallon batches. One batch we spiced, the other batch is natural. A spiced Mead is also known as a metheglin. We brewed this one and then spiced it to be ready for Christmas 2008. This is one very smooth metheglin! As you can see it is a beautiful golden color, and very clear. We brewed the 5 gallon batch using the following recipe:
16.5 lbs clover honey
1 cup Demerrara sugar
1 package Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast
We heated 2 gallons of water up so that it was just under boiling - about 180 degrees, and added the honey and sugar. We "cooked" it at this temp for about 15 minutes, then cooled it off in an ice bath. We then poured the must into a fermenter and added the yeast. It sat in the primary for about 2 months, and then we racked it to a secondary. It sat in the secondary until May 5, and then we separated it into two 2.5 gallon batches and spiced 1 batch. We wanted a holiday mead, so we picked some holiday spices. In a nylon hop bag, we put 2 crushed cinnamon sticks, a crushed nutmeg nut, 21 crushed allspice seeds, and a crushed vanilla bean. We pulled the spice bag after about 3 weeks, and then bottled it. It's been bottled since May26, so we couldn't wait any longer and had to try it. This is a very sweet mead (which is how we like it) and has just the right amount of spices. As smooth and tasty as it is now, I can't imagine it could get any better by Christmas - but I know it will. If you have any questions about how we made this, just post a comment, and I will respond. Mead is truly the nectar of the Gods!

Orlando Brewing Pale Ale

Orlando Brewing Partners is a relatively new microbrewery here in Orlando, and their bottled beer is starting to show up at some local stores. I got this one at Whole Foods. The brewery is dedicated to making organic brews, and they're proud of their adherence to the Reinheitsgebot - the German Purity law of 1487. This law required beer to be made from 3 basic ingredients - water, malt and hops. Yeast was not understood at the time, so it was not included in the law. This is a beautifully clear amber ale, and is very mild in flavor. It has very little hop presence. I think the brewers were more concerned about it being organic and pure, than they were about making it interesting. This is not a "bad" beer at all, and would make a good session beer - but it's not an interesting beer. One thing I liked about it was its nice full head, and subsequent lacing on the glass. I have several other beers from this company, including a stout, so I hope their other offerings are more exciting.