Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lost Beers (continued)...Man Drinks Beer Firsts- Westmalle Dubbel- Trappist Ale

hexagonal logo of authentic trappist productI recently experienced a beer first- my first "Trappist Ale".

Just what is a Trappist Ale? These are beers made by actual monks, at actual monasteries. Pretty cool, eh? Monk made beer!

The proceeds from the sale of the beer supports the abbey- covering living expenses- and also goes toward their charitable work. All Trappist Ales must be certified as such by the International Trappist Association.

Out of all the beers in the world, only seven of them can use the name ‘Trappist’: Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren and Westmalle. You can recognize them by looking for the “Authentic Trappist Product” logo.

According to the International Trappist Association web site-

A Trappist beer is only given this name if it satisfies a number of strict criteria:
  1. The beer is brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be controlled by the monastery and have a business culture compatible with the monastic project.
  3. The purpose of the brewery is not to make a profit. The income takes care of the livelihood of the monks and the upkeep of the abbey site. What is left over is used for charitable purposes, social work and people in need.
My first Trappist was brewed by the monks at Westmalle, Belgium

Westmalle Dubble (Trappist Ale)
Antwerp, Belgium
7% ABV

The first thing that grabs my attention on the bottle is the cool "Authentic Trappist Product" logo. The second thing is the apparently handwritten note that the beer was bottled on 9/30/10. Not something you see everyday on a bottle of beer.

I eagerly pop the cork and pour it into a wide-mouth, stemmed glass as suggested by the abbey web site.

The beer pours a very dark and hazy reddish brown, with a huge, brown, puffy head. Head retention is short lived, collapsing quickly into a thin sheen of white on the surface. A few swirls of the glass easily brings back a healthy head.

Smell is floral and woody, maybe mildly boozy, and almost sweet. It is, appropriately, intoxicating.

Mouthfeel is moderate and soft, with little activity.

Initial taste is a bit....I'll say alcoholy, but only mildly, and then transitions into a bready malt profile, with mild but noticeable tartness, which is complemented nicely by notes of wood. Finish is floral and dry and very pleasing.

I found this to be an extremely interesting (and satisfying) beer and style. Its a substantial beer, full of flavor and body. Very complex and challenging to explain, to be honest. The flavors are great, but subtle, yet numerous. I highly recommend this beer.

Whats your favorite Trappist Ale? Let me know, leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter @mandrinksbeer.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Lost Beers...Confessions of a Lazy Beer Blogger

You've probably noticed that I haven't posted to this space in a long time. There is no particular reason other than life simply getting too busy.

This extended time off has created a back log of beer reviews- written in longhand, in a notebook- but not posted. Why you ask? Well, while writing a review is fairly easy- buy beer, open beer, pour beer into glass, write down observations, drink, write down more observations- posting it to this space requires a tad more effort. I like to include info on the brewery, links to their web site, and other relevant facts and figures about the beer in the glass in hopes of pleasing the beer enthusiast reading this humble blog. Just regurgitating notes about how it tastes isn't quite enough.

Accordingly, for the next few weeks I'll be catching you up on all the great brews I've drank- yet not reported back on- in the past few months. Sound good? Great, lets begin!

The first beer in the "lost beers" series is called Wheelmans Wheat, and its brewed by a local Massachusetts brew pub, The Peoples Pint. It was given to me by a co-worker of my wife. Her name is Nichole.

Thanks Nichole!

First, a little bit about the Peoples Pint. In their own words, from their web site:

"We brew our own beers at our brewery on Hope Street; we invest in delicious desserts from Ellen Durabi; and our bar and kitchen menu has a variety of meals and appetizers that we hope will satisfy you. Whenever possible, we serve organic foods supplied by local growers and producers. For example, our veggie burger is made by Lightlife in Turners Falls and our certified organic sprouts are raised at The Gill Greenery. Our dishes are oriented around seasonal New England fruits and vegetables supplied by local farmers. Diemand Farm in Wendell raises our eggs and our black beans, red beans, and rice are certified organic.

Our priority is not only to provide you with fresh drinks and tasty food but to do it with as little waste as possible. You might notice that no disposable plastic and a minimum of paper items will appear on your table. Also, you may be pleased to know that all kitchen and dining room food scraps are composted and all plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metal is recycled. Our brewery grain is composted. As a result, even on our busiest night, we have not disposed of more than one barrel of trash. We hope that the knowledge of your participation in this ongoing act of environmental goodwill enhances the time you spend at The People's Pint"

So, when you think "Peoples Pint", think locally produced food and beer, and socially and environmentally responsible practices. And they don't take debit or credit cards- so bring cash or personal checks.

Wheelman's Wheat
The Peoples PintGreenfield, MA
4.5% ABV

Wheelman's Wheat pours a dark straw yellow, with a thin, loose, white head. The head collapses almost immediately, leaving a thin ring on the glass and trace amounts of foam on the surface. Looking deeper into the glass, I note that there appears to be a lot of carbonation- lots of bubble activity.

At first sniff it presents surprisingly boozy. The alcohol in the nose is surprising, especially considering that its only 4.5% abv, and that I let this breath for about 10 minutes before sniffing. Aside from the alcohol, there is a sugary sweetness that compliments and balances it nicely. I detect notes of tropical fruit- pineapple, or perhaps apricot. Very fruity.

Mouthfeel is stagnant and soft. The bubbles present in the pour have calmed dramatically, yet it doesn't feel flat at all.

Taste is in stark contrast to the smell- very mild biscuit like notes at first, which transition to a more malty taste, followed by a very, very mild tang of wheat, and wet, slightly sour finish.

Not what I expected in a wheat beer- no banana or clove- but not bad at all. Very refreshing and very drinkable, and isn't that all that matters?

I highly recommend this beer. Anyone up for a trip to Greenfield? First round on me!