Saturday, November 29, 2008

Carolina Blonde - from the can this time

Back in October when I was on vacation, my nephew gave me some Carolina Blonde to try - two bottles and two cans. I reviewed the bottled variety a short time ago here. My nephew made it clear that he preferred it from the bottle rather than the tall skinny can. Since we're having a Mexican style dish tonight (enchiladas made from turkey) I thought this light lager/pilsner might masquerade as a Mexican style beer. The first thing I noticed when I poured it from the can is that it had no head - none. It has plenty of carbonation, but none of it wanted to form a head. To be fair, I don't remember the bottled version very well, but I do know that it had a head for a short time. The canned version also seems a little fruitier than I remember. Once again, this is an easy-to-drink light colored beer that's very refreshing. I understand why my nephew likes it, although I don't think I have a preference between the bottle and the can.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kulmbacher Monchshof Schwarz

Today I was preparing to bottle my latest homebrew - my Imperial Stout, and discovered that I was a couple of bottles short of what I need for the batch. This posed a conundrum - do I get some more bottles? or do I empty some of the ones I already have filled with homebrew? Considering the magnitude of the decision, I decided to do both. With lunch, I drank one of my homebrewed brown ales which brought me one bottle closer to my goal. I then decided to add some more bottles to my collection, so off I went to one of my favorite beer stores to get some bottles. I always prefer to buy full bottles and empty them myself. Kulmbacher Monchshof in Germany uses some great bottles when packaging their Schwarzbier and Kellerbier. I picked up some of each, (along with 9 other beers) and decided on the Schwarz for tonight. Schwarz means black in German, and this beer is definitely black. So far, this is my favorite Schwarzbier. It's smooth, malty, a little bit roasty, and really easy to drink. It has a nice nutty flavor as well. Schwarzbiers are brewed with lager yeast, and Monchshof advertises this beer as "The Original Black Pilsner". IMHO, this is WAY better than a Pilsner. And I get a double benefit of being able to refill the bottle after enjoying its original contents!

Brewing Up Some Cyser

Today my wife and I created another version of mead - a cider and mead combination known as cyser. Basically, we took two gallons of apple cider, 4 lbs of honey, 1/2 lb of demerara sugar, and heated them up. Once the must cooled off, we poured it into the fermenter and added some yeast. Now we wait - probably until next Thanksgiving. Sure, it will have fermented long before then, but aging is important for mead. It helps mellow out the flavors. The yeast are busy doing their thing - eating sugar, making alcohol. What a perfect pet!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Leinenkugel Fireside Nut Brown Ale

I was in Publix this afternoon, getting some last minute 'stuff' for Turkey day and saw this beer in the cooler. Leinenkugel is not very well-represented in Florida - usually I can only find their wheat beers - so this was a pleasant surprise. I don't buy many six-packs, but since this was a seasonal beer, and I had never seen it before, I thought "Why not?". The description on the six-pack holder also intrigued me (which is what it's supposed to do). The beer poured a chestnut brown with a small whitish head. The aroma was of milk chocolate and malt, while the flavor was very unique. It tasted of milk chocolate and hazelnuts and was pleasantly sweet. My wife tasted it, to help me identify another flavor I was having trouble defining, and said "this tastes like Dr. Pepper". After another sip, I realized she was right. All in all, this was a very pleasant, easy-drinking beer that I don't mind having a six-pack of. It is modest in alcohol, so it could easily be a session beer. I hope that finding this new variety is a sign that I'll be able to find some more Leinie's in Florida in the future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

Tonight I tried a beer style I have not tasted before - an Imperial Porter. I'm not sure if Flying Dog invented this style, but their Gonzo Imperial Porter is the first one I have ever tried. I guess the 9.2% abv is what makes it Imperial. It poured an opaque black, with ruby highlights and a finger-tall brown head. The aroma is chocolate, while the flavor is chocolate, coffee, licorice and sweet highly-roasted malt. The finish is chocolate too, with some alcohol warming, and very little hop presence. This is a great beer for the colder months. Chalk up another excellent brew for Flying Dog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dogfish Head Red & White

Tonight, my wife and I shared a bottle of Dogfish Head's Red & White. Since I've become a light-weight drinker now that I'm 50, there was no way I was going to drink this 10% abv, 25 ounce bottle myself. Dogfish Head advertises this as a cross between a Belgian Wit and a red wine - hence the name "Red & White". It poured a beautiful pinkish orange with a small white head. The head evaporated almost immediately, which didn't surprise me considering the higher gravity of the beer. This is an unfiltered beer, and there was a lot of sediment in our two glasses. Sediment doesn't bother me, as long as it doesn't feel like I'm drinking pulpy orange juice. This is a fine marriage of a wit and a red wine - they complement each other perfectly. It had the orange/coriander presence from the wit, and the grapes gave it the vinous quality I expected. It was quite sweet and refreshing. I'm glad I didn't attempt to finish the bottle on my own though; the alcohol content was quite obvious after drinking the first half of the glass. This is a teriffic specialty beer from my favorite Delaware brewery! Check it out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Homebrewed Vanilla Porter - 1st Taste Test

Tonight I celebrated being back home from my business trip by popping the top of my homebrewed Vanilla Porter. It's probably too early to drink it, but I'm impatient when it comes to my homebrew. It poured a ruby-tinged black color with a big chocolate-milk colored head. I tried this beer before I bottled it and was disappointed by the lack of vanilla flavor, so I added some vanilla extract to each bottle. It doesn't seem to have helped. I didn't discern any vanilla flavor in this bottle. The Porter turned out more fruity than it should be for the style, which doesn't surprise me because of the temperatures I was fighting at the time it was fermenting. All my homebrews improve over time, so I hope that this one will as well. It is definitely not my worst effort, but I have made better. I'll report on it again as I let it age some more.

A Week without blogging....

Well, my "real" job dragged me kicking and screaming out of Florida this past week, so I've been unable to do any blogging. Thankfully, I'm back home for the foreseeable future, so my entries should become more consistent again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saranac Hefeweizen

Saranac's Hefeweizen is a seasonal offering from F.X. Matt - part of their "12 Beers of Summer" collection. I was interested in comparing this to the Flying Dog Hefeweizen I reviewed a couple of months ago. Saranac's version poured a clear gold color, with a small white head. A true Bavarian Hefeweizen is usually cloudy, with a BIG fluffy head. As for taste, I was pleased to find the traditional banana-clove flavor that comes from Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast. This is definitely not an American style wheat beer. Saranac would have nailed it perfectly if there had been a nice big head to crown their Hefeweizen. I think the Flying Dog was closer to the style, but even so, this was a nice beer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Left Hand Brewing's Jackman's American Pale Ale

Today I selected anothe beer from Left Hand Brewing - Jackman's American Pale Ale. I'm not sure who Jackman is, but he or she has a pretty good APA. It poured a beautiful amber/orange color with a puffy white long-lasting head that left plenty of lacing. The nose was fruity and hoppy. The taste was also fruity, with plenty of malt and a nice bitter hoppy finish. This is another winner from Left Hand in Longmont, CO.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shipyard Blue Fin Stout

Shipyard Brewery is located in Portland, Maine and they produce a lot of different beer styles. Blue Fin Stout is an Irish Dry style Stout. It poured a deep brown - almost black, with a big fluffy brown head. It has plenty of roasted malt in the nose and in the palate as well. Carbonation was a bit higher than I anticipated, but was not a detriment. It had a pleasant coffee bitterness in the finish. Shipyard did a nice job with this stout!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tiger World Acclaimed Lager Beer

Brewed by Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd in Singapore, Tiger Lager is a golden lager in the European tradition. It poured a crystal clear gold color with a rapidly-diminishing white head. It follows in the tradition of most of the European lagers - pale, smooth, and lightly hopped. It's inoffensive but not interesting. It's got a touch of sweetness to it, but there's not much else to say about it. Fortunately it was in a brown bottle, so at least it wasn't skunked.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Day of Brewing

Things have been a bit lax around my home brewery lately. Jobs and life seem to have gotten in the way of conscientious brewing. Yesterday, my wife and I finally bottled my Vanilla Bean Porter, after a month in the fermenter. It should be ready just in time for Thanksgiving. I tasted the uncarbonated beer as we prepared to bottle it, and found that it didn't have the vanilla flavor I was looking for, so I added some vanilla extract to each bottle. Hopefully, I didn't go overboard. We also bottled our Florida Pyment, made from Muscadine grapes, which are native to the Sunshine State, and Orange Blossom honey. It's aging beautifully.

Every year I brew a special holiday beer, something with lots of alcohol and lots of body. Last year it was my Winter Warmer, brewed with dates and lots of spices. This year, I decided to brew a Spiced Bourbon Imperial Stout. It started fermenting within hours of pitching the yeast, and it's still going strong. I created the recipe by combining a couple of recipes from two different books I have, and then tweaked it some more. I expect that it will be black as ink, with a full body and about 10% alcohol. I hope it's ready for Christmas, but I have my doubts. I'll be reporting on it when I'm finally able to crack the top on the first one. In the mean time, my Porter should be ready in about 2 weeks. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shiner Bock

Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX brews one of the most popular beers in Texas - Shiner Bock. They also make a number of other brews, but until recently, their bock was the only variety available here in Florida. This afternoon, I saw Shiner Hefeweizen at the grocery store, so I'll have to give it a taste some time soon. Shiner Bock is a deep amber color with a small white head. It's similar in body to a lager, but is slightly sweeter and more malty than a "normal" American lager. There's a touch of caramel as well, and a mildly bitter finish. This is a decent beer, but not something that will stand out in my memory.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saranac Winter Wassail

I still have some beers left from last year's Saranac "12 Beers of Winter" assortment, and Winter Wassail is one of them. It poured a deep amber-brown color with a small off-white head. It's brewed with traditional holiday spices and orange peel, and they give it a subtle spicy fruitiness. Mouthfeel is a little thin for a winter beer. I would have preferred something a little bit heavier in body, and higher in alcohol. The spices were well-balanced, not over-the-top. This was pretty tasty, but I think it could have benefitted if it was more of a "Winter Warmer". F.X. Matt has a new Winter assortment this year, with 4 new beers in it. I hope I can find it here in Orlando!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Forza Azzurri Italian Export Lager

I haven't had a lot of Italian beers, but the last one I had was very good - Moretti La Rossa. I found this beer hiding in the back of the fridge, so I decided to try it tonight. I'm always a little suspicious of European Lagers in green bottles, but I needed to drink it at some point. This is Forza Azzurri from CASTELLO di UDINE Spa, in San Giorgio, Italy. It poured a deep gold color with a small white head. It looked pretty good - better than I expected. The first taste was a surprise - hey, this actually has some malt in it! It was sweeter than most lagers, and hop presence was pretty low, but it was pretty good! It went well with my chicken, and I enjoyed it just fine. A pleasant surprise - not your run-of-the-mill European lager.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Petrus Winterbeer

Tonight's beer is from Belgium, brewed at Brouwerij Bavik in Bavikhove. It's called Petrus Winterbeer, and it's my first winter seasonal this year. It poured a medium brown color with a large fluffy white head that diminished rapidly. It's pretty well-carbonated as many Belgian ales are, and is light to medium in body. It's fruity and spicy, with some sweet malt and raisins coming through at the end. I know it's a little early for winter (even though Wal-Mart is already playing Christmas music!) but I have a weak spot for beer bottles with Santa on them. This was a good warmup for the season, and I'll be looking forward to the rich, malty, spicy, syrupy beers to come!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout

Milk stout (sometimes called sweet stout) is an interesting variation on the stout theme - a stout brewed with lactose to make it sweeter. Lactose is unfermentable by the types of yeast used in beer, so it remains in its sugar form, rather than being processed into alcohol. I attempted to brew a milk stout a couple of years ago, and failed miserably. I'll stick to buying the commercial varieties for now, until I get brave enough to try it again.
Left Hand Brewing Company is located in Longmont, CO, and they produce a lot of different varieties of beer. In fact, when I looked in the fridge tonight, I had 3 different Left Hand brews waiting to be tasted. I had burgers for dinner, so I decided on a dark beer to go along with my red meat. Left Hand's Milk Stout poured a deep brown that was nearly black, with a small tan colored head. Mouthfeel was lighter than I expected, and also more carbonated. The aroma is mostly roasted malt, and the flavor is roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and a hint of licorice. It had the expected sweetness from the lactose. Some brewers add additional sugar after pasteurizing, to increase the sweetness, but I don't believe that's the case with Left Hand's version. This was a very nice milk stout, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Saranac Kolsch

Kolsch is a German style of beer, essentially a golden ale that is top fermented and then aged cold - very similar to another German style - Altbier. Kolsch originated in Cologne Germany, and is very prevalent there. I got a couple of bottles of Saranac's Kolsch in their "Beers of Summer" variety pack. It poured a pale gold color with a smallish white head. This is a very light beer. It has a light maltiness, and almost no hop presence. This is a good summer beer, but not much different from a pale lager. This is the first Kolsch I have ever tried, so I don't know how close it is to the traditional Kolsch from Cologne.