Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Night "The Kids Are In Bed" Beer- Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada "Rhizing Bines"

It's Friday night, the kids are in bed! What beer are you celebrating with?

Tonight I'm going with an outstanding collaboration brew- Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada's "Rhizing Bines". This is described as an "east meets west imperial IPA" on the Dogfish web site.

Rhizing Bines
Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Collaboration 
8% ABV 70 IBU's

The bottle tells the tale of the beer-" Rhizing Bines is a collaborative IPA using the best of both coasts: Carolina-grown red fife wheat and Dogfish Head's continual-hopping from the East and Sierra Nevada's estate-grown caramel malt and Torpedo dry-hopping from the West"

Rhizing Bines pours an orange amber hue, with a HUGE, airy white head.

Immediately you're greeted with massive amounts of hoppy, sweet fruit aroma, wafting out of the glass with purpose. There are underlying hints of spice and sweet fresh baked bread.

Mouthfeel is moderate yet soft. It's very smooth, almost creamy.

Taste if pronounced, fruity sweet hops up front, just like the smell. (It's brewed with Bravo and an experimental hop so new it only has a number- 644). It's got that distinctive bitterness that you expect, reminiscent of Sierra Nevada's "Torpedo Extra IPA". And of course there is the subtle spice, which creates a dry, bitter, hot and spicy finish.

I love, love, love this beer. It's exceptional. The flavors are extraordinarily clean and distinct, and work absolutely perfectly together. I highly recommend this beer! A true "WOW" beer.

What beer are you enjoying on this Friday night, now that the kids have gone to bed?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Pumpkin Ale of the Season- Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale

I typically gravitate to Octoberfest beers this early in the fall. I love the style, the simplicity, the super smooth, mellow flavors, even the color. I find them an excellent transitional beverage from the brighter, hoppier summer ales that are enjoyed before their arrival.

But, oddly, I was in a pumpkin mood this week.

No idea why. Maybe seeing pumpkin beer on the shelves for the last TWO MONTHS finally wore me down. Maybe the pumpkin glitterati finally succeeded in turning me. Maybe its because my wife went to Syracuse and I've been programmed to love Orange. Whatever the reason, I caved and went pumpkin.

But which pumpkin to choose? There's, like, 10,000 different pumpkin beers on the shelves right now- pumpkin ale, pumpkin stout, pumpkin spiced, imperial pumpkins, pumpkin lagers! It's too overwhelming.

In times of trouble (or in this case- a time of wicked indecision)- stick with
what you know- I went with a Dogfish Head Punkin'. Dogfish rarely lets you down as a beer drinker. They brew outstanding beers in a wide variety of styles, and nine times out of ten I've loved the Dogfish beer in my glass.

So it was with eager anticipation that I poured my first pumpkin ale of the season.....

Punkin' Ale
Dogfish Head Brewery
Rehoboth Beach, DE

Punkin' Ale pours a brilliant reddish brown, clear, with a strong 3 fingers of puffy white head.

Punkin' Ale is a spiced pumpkin ale, which is abundantly clear from one cautious sniff.  I get a spicy nose full of nutmeg and allspice. Subtler notes of cinnamon and malts are brought out with a gentle swirl of the glass.

Body is on the moderate side, almost full. And bubbly.

Taste follows the nose- lots of nutmeg and allspice again, with the pumpkin worked in underneath in a surprisingly understated manner. Hops and malts are hard to find here, there is so much spice that it's a bit overwhelming.

Finish is mildly hop bitter- the first clear evidence of a hop presence in this brew, albeit awash in pie spices.

I want to love this beer. But I don't. It's a good beer. But I personally found it over spiced for my particular taste. Too much pumpkin spice and not enough of the pumpkin itself. A decent enough beer to be sure, but I prefer my pumpkin ales either sweet or savory. The spiced variety just doesn't do it for this drinker.

How do you like your pumpkin beer? Spiced? sweet? Tell me about it- leave a comment!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Beer- Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout

It's finally fall, and that means cold weather, baseball playoffs (God willing around Boston for the first time in 3 years), and football.

It also means break out the fall beers- Octoberfest, Pumpkins, and all kinds of stouts and porters. Thick, rich, flavorful beers, often higher in alcohol content, that can keep you warm on a cold Fall night.

Typically in fall I gravitate immediately to Octoberfest as my first beer, quickly followed by a pumpkin or two. But this fall a newcomer caught my eye- a barrel aged stout by Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Aged in Wild Turkey Barrels, this was just something I couldn't say "no" to, especially after a month of IPA's. I had finally tried Anderson Valleys IPA as part of IPA Month, and found it to be excellent, so I couldn't resist this barrel aged stout. Barrels often do great things to stouts and porters, and when the opportunity came to try a new one, well, I just couldn't pass it up. And boy an I glad I didn't..

Bourbon Barrel Stout
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, CA
6.9% ABV, 14 IBUs

Bourbon Barrel Stout pours like a great stout should- dark black, viscous, with two inches of thick, tight brown head.

Smell is Earthy, smokey peat and malt, with a touch of wood. There is no noticeable alcohol character in the nose, which is a surprise given where it was aged.

Mouthfeel is of moderate weight, creamy, with a luscious, super silky swallow.

Taste begins with lots of wood with hints of vanilla up front- Oak, I think- transitioning to a nice, alcohol bourbon warmth and taste, which is surprisingly restrained. A malty smokiness follows this, with note of burnt coffee and chocolate. It finishes with a subtle hop citrus bitter, which nicely complements and  balances out the complex elements of this beer.

There is a ton of complex and delicious flavor in this beer. Brewed with a huge malt bill- Pale Two-Row, Crystal (40L & 80L), Roasted Barley, Munich, Chocolate, Oats, and hopped with Columbus, Northern Brewer, and on top off all that aged in Wild Turkey Barrels. I expected a much more "in your face" alcohol burn, but its wonderfully modest in that regard. The alcohol warmth is there, but it's not a burn as you'd expect. This is what I love about barrel aging a beer- and this beer was aged for 3 months in the barrels- the wood mellows everything, and this allows the flavors of the bourbon to come through and incorporate so well with the malts and hops.

This is an excellent, excellent beer- a true "WOW" beer. Perfect for cold weather, sitting in the recliner by the fire, or sitting outside by the fire pit. I highly recommend it, if you can find it. It tends to fly off store shelves, be warned.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

King's Kolsch- Blue Hills Brewery

Welcome to September!

Yes indeed its Fall again, time for cool weather, baseball pennant races, football, and Octoberfest and Pumpkin Beers galore.

Having spent the month of August celebrating the art of the India Pale Ale (and denying the impending end of summer), I have to admit that I'm ready to move on to a different style. I love IPA's, but a whole month of them is rough on the palette.

Before diving into the predictable pumpkin/Octoberfest beers, I'm going to start the Fall Beer drinking season talking about a personal favorite style of mine- the "kolsch".

I first discovered the kolsch style in 1995 at the Kenmore location of the Boston Beer Works. I was celebrating a friends 21st birthday between classes at BU with lunch at the Beer Works. The beer was their "Kenmore Kolsch". I loved it. It was a lighter, super tasty, golden ale. I had never heard of the style, and the name stuck with me. Since that day, I've always associated the style with a simple, golden, super flavorful beer.

But what is a "kolsch"?

As defined in "The Oxford Companion to Beer" by Garrett Oliver,

"kolsch" is a top-fermented local beer style from Koln (Cologne), Germany. Kolsch beers are characterized by a lightly fruity yeast note in aroma and taste, as well as a pleasant hoppy bitterness.  The history of kolsch beer goes back to 874 AD..." 

It seems kolsch style beer was developed as a response to the pilsners being imported to Cologne from Bohemia. The Germans created a similar yet more flavorful style of beer. From what I've read, it worked.

The "Oxford Companion to Beer" also says of the Kolsch-

"In 1986, the brewers of Cologne renewed the convention that defines a true kolsch (a light-colored, highly fermented, strongly hopped, bright, top-fermented Vollbier) how it has to be served (in the famous 0.2-liter (6 oz), tall, straight kolsch-"Stangen" glass) and especially who is allowed to produce it- only the brewers of Cologne. A bright yellow Vollbier (beer with original gravity of 11%-12%), kolsch has a prominent hoppiness and is predominately brewed with barely malt..... The original gravity is 11.3% on average, while alcohol by volume is 4.8%"

King's Kolsch
Blue Hills Brewery
Canton, MA
7.2% ABV

King's Kolsch pours a clear golden yellow with a tight, frothy head of white.

Smell is wonderfully, mildly fruity. I get bananas, some citrus, and some mild, bready, yeast funk that I've come to expect form Blue Hills distinctive house yeast.

Mouthfeel is light and crisp. Very smooth.

Taste is mild bread and fruit upfront- similar to the nose, but more subdued- I do get some bright citrus hops, with an underying malt sweetness. Less yeast funk than normal from a Blue Hills brew, but it works for this beer and you don't miss it. Finish is mildly hoppy and bitter.

This is an excellent beer. Super smooth and flavorful. Flavors are at the same time distinct and moderately understated. Its everything you've always wanted in a beer. I highly recommend this beer.