Saturday, August 27, 2011

Life & Limb - Batch 2

Considering that I've mentioned it in my "Best of" posts for the past 2 years running, I feel like I've been remiss in never actually reviewing Life & Limb on here. For those of you not familiar with the beer, Life & Limb is a collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada that was originally brewed in 2009. It uses maple and birch syrup to add a unique flavor to an American Strong Ale.

The beer sits dark and nearly opaque in the glass, with a tan head that has almost a whipped-marshmallow appearance for thickness. The dense bubbles sit a finger thick and dissipate slowly, leaving a constant coating of foam on the beer. If held up to the light, you can just see a trace of brown around the edges.

The scent of maple syrup comes through prominently in the nose, combined with caramel, a touch of alcohol, and some light floral touches. Overall it's a dense and strong smell that overpowers other aromas.

The first sip highlights the woody and sweet flavor of the syrup, with a mild bitterness following up in the back. Some toasted/roast and a very light chocolate flavor make an appearance in the back and aftertaste as well. I feel like there are some dark fruit flavors like plum in there as well, but they are more muted. This beer has an earthy, wooden, and organic taste to it. There is some alcohol flavor just around the edges of the tongue, but they are well hidden for sure.

There's some definite substance to the beer as well, with a medium-thick body, and a moderate-high level of carbonation. It's got a creamy feel to it as well, so the carbonation seems more pleasant to me. I noted just a bit of warmth going down as well.

Overall, I'm still very impressed with this offering from Dogfish and Sierra Nevada. It's extremely flavorful, and the alcohol is well hidden for 10.2 %. Although the sweetness and syrup flavors are able to come through, even prominently, the beer is still fairly well balanced and not at all cloying. Although I'm sure it will not appear on this year's "Best of" list (there's too many epic quality beers this year), it's still a well done beer and easily worth having.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA: Revisited

A few years ago, I reviewed Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA here. It wasn't my first time having this beer, and my taste for the hoppier brews was just developing at that point. Recently a friend of mine came over with a 6-pack of this popular brew, and ended up leaving a bottle behind in my fridge. Now that my taste buds have developed even further, I wanted to see how my perception of the beer stacks up, especially considering the vast range of amazing beers I've had this year alone. That said, I'm also not going to try to be overly harsh to this brew as it is a beer available daily for a reasonable price and across a wide distribution range. This bottle is fairly fresh, having been bottled last month and left refrigerated for most of the time since then.

The first thing I noticed is that it doesn't smell all that hoppy to me now. I'm getting roast malt, bread, and caramel scents more than anything else. Perhaps there are some wood/spice smells, but I'm definitely not getting the citric qualities I noted a few years ago.

My first sip revealed a mild sweetness up front, followed by just a touch of citrus. In the back of the mouth I experienced a pleasantly substantial bitterness with a more peppery quality to it than I had expected. Considering that I have a copy of the recipe for 60 Minute found in Extreme Brewing, I don't see how this taste comes from the ingredients listed. Maybe I should try brewing it myself sometime.

I'll spare you all the boring details of mouthfeel and such, these remain largely unchanged from my previous review. What I will say is that even though I have had offerings from other breweries that I vastly prefer (see Evolution Lot 3 or Southern Tier 2XIPA), even brews that are just as easily had for about the same price, I still see a place for 60 Minute. There's a sense of balance to this beer that can be hard to match. It certainly isn't the overly malty, syrupy beer that some people make every Dogfish offering out to be. The flavor profile is pretty drastically different from your standard IPA, and I can easily see some people choosing it over some of the more citrus flavored offerings out there. At it certainly beats the pants of Sam Adam's Latitude 48 IPA.

- Adam

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

If you're a beer geek, you've probably had or at least heard of Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout. This is one of the quintessential barrel aged beers, with strong vanilla and oak flavors permeating the beer. For the purposes of this review, I'll skip a lot of the similarities and focus on the differences. I'm tasting them side by side for reference. To be fair to the coffee variant, it is a bit older at this point, so I expect that the coffee flavors and smells have gone down a bit.

The beers seem identical in appearance, both black with no head. The coffee variant has a sharper, more pungent aroma. The smell at this point doesn't really seem like coffee, but just a heavier smell overall. If I really concentrate I can tell that it's coffee, but it's a weak scent at best.

The taste is a bit more distinct. While the standard version is dominated by warmth and vanilla, the coffee has more of a black chocolate and well, coffee flavor. It's not as sweet, which makes it slightly better balanced to my palate. The vanilla still comes through, but it's more muted and smoother. The heat of the beer doesn't stand out as much either.

The beers are about identical in the mouth. Other than the warmth in the standard version that doesn't show up in the coffee variant, they are the same. Both are full bodied, have light carbonation, and leave a smooth coating in the mouth.

As a whole, I definitely prefer the coffee version. It makes me wonder if the vanilla version could be as good as even the standard version as well, since I feel like the sweetness would be even more pronounced. It may unbalance the beer even more. In any case, the coffee version was well worth picking up (or in my case trading for), and I'll be sure to get it again if they do continue making it.

- Adam

Friday, July 8, 2011

Caldera IPA

It was a dark and stormy day off of work. At least that's how this glass started. I usually visit my parents on Fridays, and was just getting ready to leave their house today when the sky opened and began to pour down rain. This was the variety of storm that has you soaked even within the 20 foot dash from their door to my car, and of course I had to check on my newly planted Fuggles hops out in their back yard. Which was, consequently, currently taking the form of a lake. So when I had taken care of everything and finally managed to get home and inside, I thought what better way to leave the nastiness of the storm behind than with a fresh glass of IPA.

Caldera is a brewery from Oregon, which has just recently gotten distribution into Maryland. When I stopped by the liquor store yesterday I was in the mood for something flavorful but still appropriate for warmer weather, and an IPA fits that bill for sure. As a result, I have a fresh 6-pack of Caldera IPA cans.

Upon pouring, the beer supports a 1 finger rocky head. It's copper body remains crystal clear, a product of the filtration Caldera does on all its beers. The head dissipates within minutes to leave a mottled coating of thin bubbles floating on top. Around the top, a ring of foam clings to the glass.

The initial smell for me at least evokes memories of a dense forest. At first the hop and malt qualities mix to create a woody and leafy aroma. As the foam dissipated, this went away, being replaced by the more standard citric fruit scents often found in an American IPA. Grapefruit dominates with just a bit of toffee underneath.

The first sip has tangy citrus fruit flavors in abundance, a bit of toasted bread, and a substantial bitterness in the back of the mouth. This bitterness clings to the back of the throat for minutes after the beer has already made its way to the stomach. A light sweetness compliments the bitterness of the beer, making it palatable even if it is substantially skewed towards the bitter side. There is a little harshness to it, but that is somewhat expected in a west-coast IPA from my experience.

In the mouth, the brew is moderately carbonated and medium-light bodied. It's a bit dry, but quite smooth in going down. I'm a little surprised that it doesn't feel at all oily in the mouth considering the substantial hop content.

All in all, this is a great flavorful IPA that is bitter enough to satisfy all but the most substantial hop cravings. It still remains quite drinkable though, since I wouldn't mind having multiples of these in the same night. I enjoyed the beer thoroughly, although at $12.99 per 6/pack I imagine it won't make it into the regular rotation of hoppy beers for me, since Loose Cannon, 2XIPA, and Lot 3 can all be had for less. Still, it was worth picking up for sure, and has a more substantial bitterness than the others mentioned so if that's what you're looking for, this is the beer to get.

- Adam

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Homebrew project: Tap Handles

Homebrewing has been a passion of mine for a few years now, as those of you who have read this blog before probably know already. I have a DIY nature, so I'm frequently coming up with some sort of thing to make whether it be beer, equipment, an electric guitar, or even a microphone. I love being able to look back on something and say that I created that. It doesn't hurt that you end up spending a heck of a lot less money in most cases when you make something yourself, and that means more money for buying beer.

When I first put my kegerator together, my wife took advantage of the chalkboard paint I coated the door with and drew on the tree from the Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada collaboration, Life and Limb. It stands to reason then that I wanted some matching tap handles, and what better to use than some old,
messed up tree branches? The process was pretty straight forward. I headed over to my parent's house and found quite a lot of dead branches in the wooded area behind their yard. I was specifically looking for branches without bark on them, were a comfortable thickness, and that looked interestingly damaged. I then took them back, cut them down, sanded them lightly an
d drilled holes for the taps to screw into. Using a thread tapping set my dad has, I was able to add the threads directly to the wood, although I'm still considering buying some metal ferrules to install. I then burned our fake brewery name, "Phrygian" into the handles, added some stain, and coated them with polyurethane. I think they turned out great.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brasserie de Blaugies Saison d'Epeautre

Wow, it's been entirely too long since I made a post. Sorry for that. Anyway, every once in a while I like to get a beer that Julia wants. Both of us are big fans of the saison style, so it tends to be what she picks out. This time she chose Saison d'Epeautre, a belgian saison brewed with spelt. I'm not terribly familiar with it, but apparently it's a type of grain that's a wheat and wild grass hybrid. To me that just screams saison, so I'm excited for a taste of it.

The cork exploded out of the bottle with excessive force when I opened it. Hopefully it didn't dent my ceiling when it hit it, so be forewarned if you pick up a bottle. Immediately on opening I was greeted with a wave of grassy funk. Unsurprisingly, the beer grew a substantial pillowy white head floating on top of its staw-colored body. This beer really has a sort of bitter grass aroma that you only find in a Belgian saison, but with a little sweetness that comes through around the edges.

The first taste was strangely clean. A touch of grass, and some wheat. If this is what spelt tastes like consider me very intrigued. In the back of the mouth is a not quite peppery mild spice sensation. There isn't a lot of the funk, horse blanket, or similar flavors that I was expecting from the aroma. In fact this beer is extremely mild and clean. Perhaps there are some delicate fruit flavors, like peach or apricot, but they are hard to pick out.

In the mouth the beer is light bodied, and very highly carbonated. It's also quite dry. There is a little feeling of warmth in the throat, but I feel like it's more from the prickly carbonation than from the alcohol content.

All in all, this was an interesting brew. It's extremely drinkable and refreshing despite its lack of the expected saison flavors. It's hard to determine if there's any brett influence in this beer although I can only assume there is. I probably will not come back to this beer again, but it was worth a try, and more importantly makes me want to look into spelt. The intensity of the grassy funk aroma must come from that since it doesn't come through nearly as much in the flavor.

- Adam

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Three Floyds Robert the Bruce

After a long day of working through editing a song I'm mixing at work, my ears are tired, my head is in a fog, and I've probably gone at least slightly insane from listening to the same musical phrases over and over again. I don't do editing this in-depth normally, but this project really calls for it. Needless to say, my reward for a particularly long and annoying day is treating myself to a rather special beer. This is one of the beers I received from a guy in Indiana as part of a Beer It Forward on Beer Advocate.

Not being much of a history buff, I know Robert the Bruce mostly as that slightly wimpy future king of Scotland from Braveheart. This offering from Three Floyds is expectedly a Scottish Ale, and promises to be malt-forward, sweet, and fairly easy to drink.

As one could imagine, the aroma is decidedly malty, with very present caramel and fruit scents. At first I believe I detected caramel, apple, raisin, bread, possibly fig, and a mix of other less distinguishable additions blending together to make a complex and fairly forward blend. It has a deep brown color with hints of ruby around the glass, and a thin off-white head of about one finger that dissipated to a dusting within minutes.

The flavors of the beer match the nose. A round sweetness is present up front, developing into a smooth caramel explosion. In the back of the mouth the fruit flavors become more pronounced, with a slightly apple-like finish. There's a decent amount of substance to the beer as well, with the flavors coming through strongly. The hops are mostly muted, with just a touch of bitterness in the back of the mouth that you almost have to concentrate on to detect. The malt flavors linger for minutes after swallowing as well, allowing you to continue enjoying the brew between sips.

The beer is well carbonated, with just a slightly forward prickling sensation, and a body that's on the heavier side of medium. It coats the mouth thoroughly, and leaves just a touch of warmth as it goes down.

This beer really hit the spot for me today, and allowed me to unwind as I drank it. Something about the blend of malty flavors and smoothness just made it easy to relax. As I continued through the glass, I felt like I was noticing a bit of an alcohol flavor right when swallowing that could have been hidden a bit better, but overall it was very easy to drink. I don't know that this is something I would want most days, but it was certainly worth having once.

- Adam