Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eisenbahn S.A.P.A (South American Pale Ale)

Eisenbahn S.A.P.A. is brewed by Cervejeria Sudbrack Ltda. in Blumenau Brazil. They bill themselves as "South America's Craft Brewery". This is the 2nd beer I've had from this brewery, and I think their claim is justified. The first one was a smoked beer called "Defumada", which I reviewed earlier. Their S.A.P.A. poured a medium amber color with a small white head, which promptly dissipated. My first taste was surprising, since the first thing I noticed was a Belgian yeast type of flavor, which their web-site confirms. The aroma is of malt and grass. The beer is slightly sweet and a little spicy, probably from the yeast. It has a mild hop bitterness in the finish. I enjoyed this one, probably due to the unexpected Belgian profile. So far, Eisenbahn is 2 for 2.

Alba Scots Pine Ale

Alba Scot's Pine Ale is the fourth and final selection from the "Historic Ales from Scotland" collection that I bought a few months ago. This beer really surprised me. I was expecting a strong pine/spruce presence in a somewhat dry beer. What I discovered was a moderately sweet, very fruity, wine-like ale with only a small hint of pine. The bottle recommends drinking the ale at room temperature, which I didn't do initially. I allowed it to reach room temperature, which brought out the fruitiness of the ale even further. This ale is brewed without hops, which also contributed to its vinous character. I deliberately left this beer 'til last because of a bad experience I had brewing my own spruce ale. My fears were groundless. This was a delicious ale, just like the other 3 in the assortment. Check out the "Historic Ales from Scotland". There's not a bad beer in the bunch.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lost Coast Downtown Brown Ale

It's been a while since I've had any beers from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA, so tonight I selected their Downtown Brown Ale. I have to confess that the first thing that caught my eye was the crazy artwork on the bottle. In fact, most of their beers have super bright colorful and unique labels. Downtown Brown is a very solid brown ale. It poured a medium-dark brown with a pencil thin head. It tasted of sweet malt, slightly nutty, and with a coffee-like bitterness. It's nothing extraordinary, but it's still very enjoyable. Lost Coast makes a number of other good beers, such as their Indica IPA.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

St. Peter's Cream Stout

I generally like dark ales to go with beef, so I decided on St. Peter's Cream Stout to accompany my pot roast at dinner tonight. St. Peter's is a well-established brewery in Suffolk, England. The stout poured a deep brown, almost black, with a fluffy tan head that lasted longer than most. It's a rich malty roasty beer, with a creamy texture. It also tasted of alcohol and licorice. This was a very enjoyable stout. I'd love to try it from a cask!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Homebrewed Apricot Wheat Ale - First Taste

Well, as with all my homebrews, I couldn't wait to give this one a taste test. I put one in the fridge this afternoon so it would be ready for dinner. It's been carbonating for just shy of 2 weeks, and if the gunshot sound of the bottle opening was any indication, it's well carbonated! I think I better get the rest of them in the fridge before I have any bottle bombs.

This recipe was modified from a recipe in Sam Calagione's Extreme Brewing book. He called his beer Kiwit, since it was a Belgian style Wit beer with Kiwi fruit added. I substituted fresh frozen apricots for the Kiwi, to get a little bit different beer. My version is a little too dark to be a Witbier, but anyone who homebrews knows that it's difficult to brew a truly light-colored beer from extracts. After the afore-mentioned "gunshot" opening of the bottle, the beer poured a medium amber with a big fluffy white head. I'm proud of that head - I have had so many commercial beers that have no head, that it frustrates me.

The flavor of the beer was VERY tart - almost a lambic style. It had the typical flavor of the Belgian Witbier yeast, but I think there might have been some other wild yeasts adding their own personal influence. It also tasted like it could be aged a while longer, but that's normal for my homebrews. I enjoyed it a lot, the tartness made it quite refreshing.

Here's the recipe for a 2.2 gallon batch:

3.3lbs Briess Bavarian Wheat LME
4 Oz 2-Row Malt
4 Oz Wheat Malt
2.5 lbs Fresh Apricots - frozen, then thawed
1/4 Oz Crushed Corriander Seed
1/2 Oz Tettnang Hops
1/4 Oz Willamette Hops
Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit Yeast

I used my standard procedure of crushing the grains and letting them heat up to 170 degrees in a gallon of water, and then pulling them out. I brought it to a boil and added the Tettnang Hops. After 45 minutes, I added the malt extract and corriander. At 55 minutes, I added the Willamette hops. At the hour mark, I put the pot in an ice-bath and when it cooled to 80 degrees I added the wort to my Mr Beer fermenter, which already contained a gallon of cold water, and the apricots in a nylon bag. I then topped it off to the 8.5 liter mark and added the yeast. It sat in the fermenter for nearly a month because I got sidetracked by other tasks. I bottled it and primed it with corn sugar, and it sat for 2 weeks, until today. I consider this recipe a success.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sierra Nevada Stout

I generally like Sierra Nevada's different brews, and their Stout is no exception. It poured nearly black with a tan colored head. It tasted mostly of roasted malt with some coffee and chocolate as well. It was not real hoppy, and had a dry finish. It went great with my burger. This is another fine ale from Sierra Nevada.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lagunitas Sirius Hi-Gravity Cream Ale

Lagunitas (say LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) has come out with another interesting ale. This one is a Special Release for spring (I guess I'm drinking it a little late) and it's called Sirius. They refer to it as a hi-gravity Cream Ale, and it is definitely hi-gravity. It has a very full body for a beer of this color. It reminds me of a Heller Bock, only hoppier. It poured a light amber color with a medium sized white head. It is quite sweet and malty, and the body borders on syrupy. The finish is hoppy and warming alcohol. I enjoyed this one, but I bet it would be a little much for some folks. Lagunitas scores another high score in my book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Dark English Ale

Tonight I chose an import to accompany my dinner - Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin Dark English Ale. Wychwood is in Witney, Oxfordshire, England, which has a brewing tradition dating back to the mid-1800's. Hobgoblin is approximately the same color as root beer, with a sizeable cream-colored head. The aroma is mostly toffee and malt. The beer is fruity, and malty with flavors of toffee and raisins. As it warmed up, the sweet toffee became even more evident. It had some hop bitterness and alcohol in the finish. I'm a big fan of malty beers like this, so Hobgoblin was a good choice tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Today is the beginning of Autumn, so what better beer than an Octoberfest? I had a bottle of Samuel Adams ready and waiting. The beer poured a deep copper color, with an off-white head. The head didn't last as long as I would have liked. The beer didn't disappoint though. It had a strong malt base, with some caramel sweetness. Hop level was low, as I would expect for this type of beer. This went perfectly with our roasted chicken, butternut squash and corn bread - an excellent way to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today's a Brew Day! Vanilla Bean Porter!

It's been too long since I last brewed, and I'm late for getting my Halloween beer done, but I think I'll be just in time for Thanksgiving with the beer I brewed today. It's a Vanilla Bean Porter using real vanilla beans rather than extract. I'll post the recipe when it's all finished - just in case it's undrinkable. I'd hate to have someone follow my recipe only to discover the beer is terrible. I don't expect that to happen, but I'm just being cautious. Here's a pic of it boiling away in the pot.

I decided to soak the vanilla beans in some Jim Beam bourbon, to help "extract" the vanilla flavor. I think the bourbon will give the beer an extra-interesting little kick too. I put the bourbon in with the vanilla beans, and it's amazing how powerful the vanilla aroma is after a couple of hours of soaking.

I'm really looking forward to this recipe. I originally planned to make a Butternut squash Porter for Thanksgiving, but I got lazy. Thinking about having to cut it up, boil it, and then adding it to the wort convinced me to re-think my plans. I've been wanting to make a vanilla-infused brew for a while, so this was the perfect time.

My Apricot Witbier is carbonating now, so I'll be reporting on that in the near future. I'll be popping the cap on the first one next weekend. Stay tuned.

Saranac Pomegranate Wheat

When my sister visited me last month, she was generous enough to bring me some beer that I'm unable to get here in Florida, namely Saranac and Otter Creek. Unfortunately, she was unable to find the Saranac summer beers collection, so she brought me their Trail Mix instead - which I have been enjoying immensely. Today, my wife and I made our monthly pilgrimage to Whole Foods to get some of their decaf coffee (which is the best decaf we have ever had) and to my amazement, the beer cooler had a 12 pack of Saranac's "12 Beers of Summer". Now, "12 Beers" is a bit of a misnomer, because there are actually 6 different varieties, 2 bottles of each. Needless to say, the 12 pack landed in the cart, along with a bottle each of Dogfish Head's "Black & Blue" and "Red & White". Those two will be saved for a special occasion - probably Christmas. We landed at Whole Foods just before lunch, which is the worst time to go there. We browsed their amazing meat cooler. and spied their freshly made sausages. They have a great selection of sausages, and we decided to try their English style bangers, some maple apple chicken sausage, and their jalapeno chicken sausage. With the sausages and Saranac in the cart, I could hardly wait to get home to make lunch. $115.00 later, and we were out the door, headed home. We decided on the maple apple sausages which we cooked on the grill, and I grabbed a bottle of Pomegranate Wheat from the 12 pack. Thankfully it was already cold. The sausages were to DIE for! They were just slightly sweet, a little spicy and extremely hot. We ate them on hot dog rolls with no mustard or anything to detract from the flavor of the sausage. The Saranac was a perfect choice to go with the sausage. It's an American style wheat beer, and it poured a slightly hazy gold color with a small white head. The Pomegranate added a tartness that was very refreshing. I know in one of my my last posts I said that I was over the summer beer thing, but this beer was much better than the Sunrye. Then again, maybe it was the combination of beer and sausage....

Friday, September 19, 2008

Redhook Sunrye Summer Ale

Since Autumn starts on Monday, I decided to have 1 last summer beer, namely Redhook Brewery's Sunrye Summer Ale. This is a very typical summer ale. It's light, and has a very lightly sweet, modestly malty taste, with a hint of citrus. It has very little in the way of hop bitterness. It poured a clear golden color with a head that lasted as long as it took to empty the bottle into the glass. I didn't taste a lot of rye in the brew, so when all is said and done, it's just a light summer ale. I guess I'm over the whole summer thing - it's Octoberfest time!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bloulder Beer Co. Hazed & Infused

Boulder Beer Company's "Hazed & Infused" is billed as a dry-hopped ale. It definitely falls into the category of a hoppy ale, somewhere in between an American Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale. Plenty of pine-flavored hops were used in brewing this beer. It's not as malty and sweet as many IPA's, so I would have to say it is closer to an APA. It poured a copper color with a healthy white head. The aroma was all hops. It has a medium body, plenty of carbonation, and just under 5% alcohol. I have had this beer in the past, and I remember it being more over-the-top hoppy. I don't know if this is a sign of the hop shortage, or just my aging tastebuds. It doesn't matter, it's still an excellent beer for hop-heads.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kasztelanski Polish Mead

I found an interesting Mead at the local liquor store, and decided to try it. It's particularly interesting to me because it's from Poland, which is a big part of my heritage. When my great grandfather came over from Poland, he Anglicized our last name to keep it from being obviously Polish.

This particular Mead is brewed by Kasztelanski, and it is very different from the mead brewed here in the US. This mead is very similar to a Port wine, or a brandy in texture. It's quite sweet and has a wine-like character. It also tastes like it may have aged in wood at some point. This is definitely not a dinner mead. It makes a great nightcap, and has a very warming finish. I guess the Poles know how to make mead!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saranac Black & Tan

I decided on another Saranac beer tonight, from the variety pack my sister brought to me a few weeks back. This time, it's their Black & Tan, which is billed as a combination of Stout and Lager. I like Black and Tans when they're poured in a pub, but they definitely lose something when they're poured from a bottle. Maybe it's that whole multi-layered thing you get at a bar, or the creamy texture that draft beer has, but I think it's more than that. A Black & Tan just doesn't translate very well into a bottled beer. Saranac's was OK, I could taste the roasted malt flavor from the stout, but it just seemed lackluster. This is not peculiar to Saranac either, because I felt the same way about the Yuengling version I tried a while back. I think I'm going to look for a black & tan spoon so I can make my own, and see if it would be better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout

I went looking for a rich dark beer to go with my burger tonight, and found Clipper City Brewing's Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout. Clipper City is based in Baltimore, MD. I haven't had an Imperial Stout in a while, so I was looking forward to it. It poured a deep dark oily black with a small tan head. It had a creamy smooth mouthfeel, and tasted of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and licorice. There was a lot of sweet roasty malt too. At 8% alcohol, it fits easily into the Imperial Stout category. This was exactly what I was looking for tonight.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

America's Original Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill's Brewery

A few days ago I tasted Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, and found it somewhat wanting. I decided to follow it up today with the other Pumpkin Ale I had in the fridge - "America's Original Pumpkin Ale" from Buffalo Bill's Brewery. It is actually brewed by Pyramid Breweries for Buffalo Bill's. It poured a pale amber color with a tall white head. It's a well-carbonated ale. This version of a Pumpkin beer makes up for what the Blue Moon lacked. It's maltier, spicier, and has more pumpkin flavor. It's also slightly sweet. I enjoyed this one more than the Blue Moon. I got this at World Market along with a few others that I'll be sampling soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat Hefe-Weizen Ale

Today I enjoyed another beer from the Flying Dog variety pack that my wife bought for my 50th birthday party. It's their Hefeweizen Ale - In-Heat Wheat. I didn't read the label before I tasted it, and was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting an American style wheat beer, but this is actually a Bavarian style Hefeweizen. In fact, this was the most authentic Hefeweizen I have tasted that wasn't from Germany. It had the classic bananas and clove flavor from the yeast and a huge white head that left a lot of lacing as the level went down. If I had read the label, I would have realized this was a German style beer. The label berates drinkers who "wing a lemon slice in it", since "Germans don't drink it that way". I prefer German-style wheat beers over the American style, so I was not guilty of this type of affront. This is definitely a winner from Flying Dog - no lemons or oranges needed!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter

Today I finished the other half of my Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica - a very spicy, creamy and smoky pasta dish. I had it a couple of nights ago at the restaurant, and the Yuengling Lager I ordered was totally overwhelmed - to the point of being nearly flavorless by the end of the meal. Today I tested my premise that a nice strong-flavored Porter would have been a better choice, had it been available. The only Porter I had in the fridge was Otter Creek's Stovepipe Porter, brewed in Vermont. This is a Porter in the Robust style, full of roasted malt, chocolaty aroma and flavor, and even a little smokiness. This was definitely the correct beer to stand up to my Penne dish. It tasted like a Porter from start to finish, and it complimented the wood-oven smoked flavor of the pasta perfectly. Now, if some of these chain restarants would start offering something other than Bud, Coors, or Miller, I would be happy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

I decided the other half of my Macaroni Grill dinner could wait another day, so the Porter experiment will wait until then. With the Autunmal Equinox just around the corner, the beer selections in the stores are transitioning from lemony wheat beers to more malty styles, like Octoberfest Marzens, dopplebocks, and seasonal beers like pumpkin ales. I picked up Blue Moon's version of a pumpkin ale about a week ago, and decided to try it with my chicken tonight. The ale poured a coppery color, with a small white head. I expect pumpkin ales to be malty and spicy, like pumpkin pie in a bottle. This was not like that. It had a small amount of pumpkin flavor, a smaller amount of spices, and not much malt flavor. It was somewhat mediocre in general, and had a bitter finish that didn't taste like hop bitterness. I've brewed a number of pumpkin beers myself, and I tend to be over the top the other direction - lots of malt, and lots of spices. This beer from Blue Moon/Coors was basically a disappointment. Not terrible, but not what I was expecting. I have another pumpkin ale from Buffalo Bill's Brewery waiting in the wings. Maybe that one will be better.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dinner at Macaroni Grill

Tonight, my wife and I had to deliver some necessities to our son in college, and we decided to take him out to dinner while we were there. Macaroni Grill is one of our favorite eateries and there is one near the college, so it was an obvious choice. I inquired about their draft beer options, and there were only 2 non-Anheuser Busch offerings - Coors Light and Yuengling Traditional Lager. What is it with chain restaurants having crappy beer menus? I know that they would sell more beer if they had a little variety. It's a pretty sad situation when Yuengling is their most adventurous beer. The problem is that Macaroni Grill isn't alone - Red Lobster, Long Horn, Chili's, and all the other ones are just as pathetic. The only chain that had a semi-decent selection of beers was Bennigan's, which is mostly shut down. Oh well, enough of my complaining.
I ordered the Yuengling, because it was the only choice I had. I also ordered the Penne Rustica, which is a smoky spicy pasta dish with a creamy sauce, shrimp, chicken and prosciutto - all topped with parmesan cheese and baked in their wood-fired oven. This is a wonderful dish, and about a million calories! Needless to say, after a couple of bites of Penne, the Yuengling tasted less and less like beer, and more like water. The beer actually tasted pretty good at first, a bit maltier than most lagers. It also had a fresh taste since it was draft. Unfortunately, it never stood a chance against the Penne Rustica. A nice hoppy Sam Adams would have been better, or an IPA. Actually, the best beer for this meal would have been a nice smoky Robust Porter. THAT would have still tasted like a beer, even at the end of the meal. I still have half of my dinner left, so tomorrow I'll be giving that combination a try.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Urthel Hop-It Belgian Superior Hoppy Blond Ale

This is a very interesting beer - a Belgian style ale with lots of hops. I hesitate to call it an IPA, but it has some of those characteristics - lots of hops, high alcohol level. Accoding to the website www.urthel.com, this beer was created after the brewer made a trip to the US Northwest and tried some of our IPA's. It was actually brewed in the Netherlands by De Koningshoeven. It poured a golden color with a big fluffy head, typical of a Belgian ale. It also had plenty of carbonation, and an alcohol level of 9.5% - all characteristic of a Belgian strong ale. The one difference was the level of hops, which was much higher than most Belgian golden ales I've tasted. The finish was dry. I really enjoyed this one. If the price was a little more attractive, I could handle a six-pack of it - but then I wouldn't have anything new to write about for 5 days.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Virgin Islands Tropical Mango Pale Ale

Another interesting beer I picked up at the local wine and ale store, Virgin Islands Tropical Mango Pale Ale is contract brewed for St. John Brewers by Shipyard in Portland, ME. The beer poured a crystal clear golden color with a medium white head. The aroma is almost all mango, with a little bit of malt underneath. The flavor is definitely mango - much stronger than I expected. I'm assuming that they have added some sort of mango extract to make it stand out like it does. This is not a wheat beer, like most fruit beers tend to be. Underneath the mango, there was a little bit of malt, a very light body, and a slightly bitter finish. This is another nice warm weather beer.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Flying Dog Road Dog Porter

Here's another beer left over from my birthday party - Flying Dog's Road Dog Porter. At one time, this beer was described as Scottish Porter, but the "Scottish" seems to have been dropped from the name. I think it's the same beer. It's been a while since I've had this, and I'd forgotten what it tasted like. I was anticipating a deep rich chocolatey roasty porter, but this is not that beer. It was very subdued, with very little roasted malt flavor. The body was a bit thin for a Porter. It poured a deep ruby-brown color, and had a rapidly disappearing head. Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed. It wasn't "bad", just so-so.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lukaya Beers Two Tail Pale Ale

I saw this beer in the local wine and ale shop and was immediately drawn to the picture. Not many beers have photos of dogs on the label, so it caught my attention. I had also never heard of Lukaya Beers before. The name is drawn from the names of the two dogs, Lucy and Kaya. What's interesting is that the bottle says that the beer is "Bottled for the Hmieliewski family by Florida Beer Company, Melbourne, FL". Is this a family of homebrewers that designed this beer? I don't know, but I think it's a pretty good beer. It poured an amber-orange color with a good-sized cream-colored head. It had a piney-citrusy smell from the hops. It's a pretty hoppy American Pale Ale. It had a medium body with a little bit of caramel and malt sweetness. All in all, a very enjoyable beer. According to their web-site - lukayabeers.com, they are bringing out some additional seasonal beers soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Young's Oatmeal Stout

Young's is a well-established (since 1831) British brewery that makes a wide variety of ales. Tonight's beer is their Oatmeal Stout, which poured almost black, with ruby highlights, and a tan-colored head. The head was not as large or as long-lasting as I expected from an oatmeal stout. In fact, oatmeal is frequently used by brewers for head retention. This was a very roasty-flavored stout, and was pretty dry. It had a lot of coffee and some dark chocolate in the flavor. I have had this same beer in a 16 oz can with a "widget", and the canned beer has a much creamier texture. I guess that's due to it's nitrogen-injected goodness. Young's also makes a Double Chocolate Stout that actually has chocolate bars in the mix. It's an excellent stout, which I'd recommend buying it in the "widgetized" can, for the reason mentioned above.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Orange Blossom Honey Mead

Almost exactly 6 months ago, my wife and I brewed up a Mead made from 100% Orange Blossom honey. We love the flowery aroma of the honey, and felt it would make for a wonderful mead. Well, we were right! We sampled some today, and the mead is aging very well. The aroma is like standing in a flowering orange grove. With this particular mead, we decided to try to be as historically accurate as possible, with no extra additives such as yeast nutrient. This is made from Orange blossom honey, water, yeast, and a little bit of organic sugar to help the yeast get started. It's a really sweet mead, made from 9 lbs of honey in a 2.5 gallon batch. The photo does not do it justice - it is much clearer than it appears. The condensation on the glass is misleading. This mead is very smooth, and I can only imagine how it will be in another 6 months - if it lasts that long. The hardest part about making mead is the patience that's required!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale

I'm a big fan of maple syrup, so I couldn't resist this beer when I saw it on the store shelf. Brewed by Tommyknocker Brewery in Colorado, it's a Maple Nut Brown Ale. It poured a typical brown ale color with a miniscule white head. It had a very subtle maple flavor, or else I imagined it. It was a bit roasty, slightly sweet, and had a finish bitter enough to offset the sweet malt. I like brown ales, and this one was pretty good. Just a little more maple flavor would have made it perfect.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Saranac India Pale Ale

I decided to drink from my cheerful 50th birthday mug today. The beer is F.X. Matt's Saranac India Pale Ale, which was part of the Trail Mix assortment my sister brought me. She won't touch the India Pale Ale, so they just sit in her fridge. This is actually a pretty mild IPA, somewhere in between the Fiddler's Green and the Flying Dog Snake Dog. It's not as citrusy as some IPA's, although the bottle says that the hops are Cascades. It's more malty than the Fiddler's Green. and a bit higher in alcohol. It poured an orange-amber color, like most IPA's. This is a nice IPA, without being over the top.