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Monday, June 28, 2010

Bridgeport Stumptown Tart

Bridgeport Brewing Co
Stumptown Tart
Raspberry Framboise
Purchased at Safeway

Aroma: Rich, bright, and slightly sour character of raspberries as well as a nearly equal blend of dark cherry pushing through the nose. While I’ve never smelled an actual “horse blanket”, this beer exhibits the sour aroma often found in beers spiked with Brettanomyces, and often described as horse blanket. No hop aroma. Little if any malt character here other than a hint of light biscuit.

Appearance: Golden amber with a translucent, unfiltered haze throughout. Moderate carbonation bubbles are seen rising to the top which form a low creamy-white head. Shortly after pouring the head fades to a light ring along the edge of the glass only. No lacing.

Flavor: Surprisingly “malty” upfront with quite a focus on wheat bread, or maybe even white bread. Not biscuity, but the malt dominates the palate. Sour character only slightly transcends the aroma into the flavor adding only a faint sour twang at the back of the throat. Very light raspberry with some lemon actually playing in. Finish is sweet white bread.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium carbonation. Bread character of the malt fills the mouth nicely and the sweetness holds the palate with a near chewy texture into the finish. Just enough sourness to bite the back of the throat and jaw muscles at first sip, but the palate quickly adapts. In the finish you’ll find the remnants of raspberries.

Overall: I loved the aroma of this beer. Sour, raspberries, and some cherry all present themselves very clearly in the nose. There is certainly a nice touch of a spontaneously fermented ale here, but there is little follow through into the flavor. Raspberries are hardly noticeable in the flavor, and the sourness is muted. The bread-like qualities of this beer are not off-putting by any means, it’s a nice drinking beer. With a Framboise I hope for a little more fruit sparkle and stinging sourness.

I rated this beer a “B” on Beer Advocate.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saison du Buff

A collaboration brew between Stone, Victory and Dogfish Head.

Saison du Buff
Style: Saison with Spices and Herbs added
Purchased at 99Bottles

Aroma: Heavy blend of herbal notes are forefront on the nose. Spices seem to lean toward Thyme and Rosemary, at least that's what I can pick up on the most. Some black pepper and hints of caramel and light malts, white bread, push through the herbs. No hop aroma.

Appearance: Pale yellow and slightly hazy with active carbonation bubbles seen rising to the top. Head holds low with a ring of white foam around the edge.

Flavor: Hops! A fresh blast of hops surprisingly hits the tongue at first sip. Grapefruit citrus comes out hard, but is quickly quelled by the herbal presence of Rosemary and thyme. There is a sweetness that seems to come not only from expected barley/caramel, but there is also an herbal sugar that seems blended in. Thin through the middle where the flavors all seem to fade for a moment, then the beer finishes with another visit from the hops and fresh grass herbs.

Mouthfeel: Light body with medium carbonation. The carbonation lifts the body somewhat but the beer still comes off light and refreshing in the mouth. Very dry finish with some lingering hop resin in the finish.

Overall: If you've never had a 'spice, herb, or vegetable' beer this is a very good place to start. The beer nicely demonstrates that herbs normally thought of solely for cooking, can be successfully applied in brewing. The hop bitterness and flavor are surprisingly high considering they're not recognizable in the aroma. In fact I wouldn't mind if the hops were backed off a little to let the spices come through even more.

I rated this beer a "B+" on BeerAdvocate.

Saison du Buff on BeerAdvocate

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Washington Brewers Festival 2010

I volunteered at the Washington Brewers Festival selling tokens from 1:30 to 5:30 on Saturday (6/19/10). Personally I don't think I could have had such a well rounded experience at a Beer Fest otherwise. I worked with some great people volunteering and had fun bantering with people as they entered the fest. A special thanks to Abby the Ticket Seller, Holly the Organizer, Anastasia the Manager, Neal the Brewer from Georgetown for talking about Cask conditioning, and the three Drunk Australians...

With the task of volunteering for 4 hours I was granted free parking, free access, and free tokens after my shift at the festival. I was also able to eat for free, and yes there's more, a free t-shirt! Why would you not volunteer? I didn't take the time to do a formal review on any of the beers there, but I can say I didn't have a single beer I didn't like. Yes there were some I liked more than others, but all beers were nicely done in their own way. My favorite had to be the Hale's Seattle Beer Week Double IPA on Cask. I also enjoyed taking the time talking to the brewers and operators of many of the smaller Seattle breweries.

I certainly look forward to volunteering at future beer festivals, it seems a nice way to see the action from both sides of the taps.

That's me.

Here are more pictures from the Washington Brewers Festival:

Ninkasi Kid

Odin Brewing Co.

Hale's Seattle Beer Week Double IPA on Cask.

Elliot Bay Brewing

Black Raven

Friday, June 18, 2010

Deschutes Hop in the Dark

I'm trying something a little new here, since hyperlinks in the text can be distracting from the overall content. For the next few posts I will publish all links at the bottom of my beer reviews. That way you can read the review without distraction, but can still find helpful links at the end of the post. We'll see how it works.

Deschutes Brewery
Hop in the Dark
Cascadian Dark Ale
Purchased at 99 Bottles.

Aroma: Citrus. Grapefruit and orange peel in characteristic Northwest IPA style, with a touch of hay playing at the edges. Once you get past the hops there is a definite chocolate presence, that while quick to be pushed to the back by the hops, comes off quite sweet. A minor amount of roasted barley also lingers.

Appearance: Solid black. Not brown, no ruby highlights at the edges. Black. Light dusty-brown head forms easily with a moderate pour and has good retention. A few points of lacing stick to the edges of the glass.

Flavor: Surprisingly strong roasted malt upfront on the palate. Burnt coffee comes to mind. The roast holds your taste buds tightly, letting in some chocolate for a moment before the hops finally take over. Moderately strong hop bitterness through the middle comes off as tannic grapefruit rind, but also earthy when mixed with the strong roasted presence. Finish is drying and bitter with yes, more roast. Dark toast, dark chocolate, burnt coffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium light body with medium carbonation. The roasted character of this beer causes the palate to dry out quite quickly and even leaves your mouth feeling a little rough, or edgy. Hop bitterness hits the top and back of the throat in the finish with a desert dryness.

Overall: The incredible amount of roasted presence in the flavor is very surprising when you nearly can’t find it at all in the aroma. This is definitely a hop forward ale both in aroma and bitterness, but there is room left for the “dark” portion of this emerging style to show a presence. Sweet chocolate aromatics are a pleasing blend to the citrus hop in the nose. Roasted dryness is pushing the palate to be overly stimulated and causes a great deal of drying.

If you like dry stouts or imperial stouts, and you like IPA’s, you’ll love this beer.

I rated this beer an “A” on Beer Advocate.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fish Tale Brewing Co.

My wife and I visited the Fish Tale Brew Pub in Olympia, WA for dinner and beers. Though we've lived in the Seattle area for over a year now, it was our first visit to the pub. Part of the reason is because the establishment is 21 and over, so leave the kids at home. Ideally with someone to watch them...

The pub features Organic Ales and a wide selection of Organic food on the menu, though not all food is Organic. While I am not vegetarian I sometimes slant in that direction, (though not on this occasion) and thus can appreciate a restaurant that caters to Organic and Vegetarian choices. The menu also states that most items can be prepared Vegan and/or Gluten Free.

Since I am not vegetarian, and I have never eaten an Emu, I decided to try the Organic Free-Range Emu Burger. While Emu look like very friendly birds I have to say they are delicious and pair very well with a Mudshark Porter served on Cask. My wife and I finished with a Mudshark Chocolate Cheesecake paired with the "*Leviathan Barleywine". Outstanding!

*Leviathan: 1 a often capitalized : a sea monster defeated by Yahweh in various scriptural accounts b : a large sea animal
2 capitalized : the political state; especially : a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy
3 : something large or formidable

If you're in the Olympia area, the Fish Tale Brewpub is without question worth a visit. You really are missing out if you don't stop in. I bought a bottle of their Organic India Pale Ale to go. A detailed review follows.

Fish Tale Brewing Co
Organic India Pale Ale
Purchased at the Brewery

Aroma: Very high levels of citrus. Orange peel and orange juice primarily, with lingering grapefruit. Pale malted barley husk highlights the malt profile in the nose as well as an alcohol presence that I often find in Barleywine Style Ale’s, though here not nearly as strong.

Appearance: Light honey amber, nearly orange, with good clarity. The nearly pure white head forms low with a fairly aggressive pour. Moderately good retention with a few sticking points along the glass, though I wouldn’t quite call it “lacing”.

Flavor: The hops come forward as a grassy orange rind with a crisp, and nearly equal but not quite, blend of barley husk. Think unsalted crackers without the dryness and you’ll have the malt. Bitterness plays in very lightly through the middle and the malt fades away quickly in the end, leaving you with a tannic hop bite at the back of the throat and top of the mouth.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with medium carbonation. Hop bitterness causes a lightly drying effect as you swallow, but it is not predominant. Light malt sweetness balances well with the hops, and there is just a light alcohol warmth causing everything to be quite balanced, yet quite light all around. Crisp hops, dry malt.

Overall: I love the orange character in the aroma of this IPA. It’s bright, focused, and not the ever-present grapefruit so often found in Northwest IPA’s. The hop aroma doesn’t quite play through to the bitterness and flavor however. These area’s come off generally light all around, which does make for a very easy drinking IPA but will leave a big hop lover wanting more.

I would buy this beer again because it is such a nice drinking IPA and I love that aroma. It’s extremely well balanced, but for one seeking hops the balance is nearly to a fault. Throw some more bitterness in here to tip the scales.

I rated this beer at “B+” on BeerAdvocate.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kettle House Belgian Imperial Porter

Brick & Mortar Belgian Imperial Porter
Served at the brewery Missoula, MT

Aroma: Phenolic clove and banana notes highlight a dominant chocolate character. Honey and light raisin. Sweet Caramel and light black pepper. Despite the 10.5% ABV there is no alcohol aroma. No hop aroma.

Appearance: Ink black with but a trace of light brown head along the edge of the glass. No lacing. Dark, nearly brown Ruby red high light the top end edge of the glass.

Flavor: Spicy alcohol upfront. Clove and pepper contributing to a very prominent spice without the heat. Initially anyway, we'll get to that... Light chocolate malt and an earthy hop character push through the ever present black pepper and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with light carbonation. Alcohol presence warms the palate and back of the throat with a strength that just misses the 'too hot' mark. Carbonation and alcohol sting the back of the throat and sides of the mouth. You know you're drinking a big beer here.

Overall: This beer has the presence of a spicy Holiday Ale that only lacks the identity of the more predominant spices of fig and nutmeg. Add those and you've got a winter warmer to beat the band. As it stands there is a lacking to the malt profile because the alcohol dominates nearly every aspect of the palate. That's not to say this isn't an interesting beer. But it does lack some depth.

Kettle House is brewing some very tasty beers and I would welcome their presence in the Seattle market.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kettle House Scotch Ale

Cold Smoke Scotch Ale
Missoula, MT

Aroma: Light Peated malt notes up front, which I look for in a Scotch Ale, though it is not greatly defined here. Grainy with some dark bread, biscuit, and some subtle dark cherry. Alcohol notes linger throughout.

Appearance: Dirty brown with ruby highlights at the edges. Head holds well with half a finger of peanut brown coating the top of the beer. Moderate lacing follows the beer down the glass.

Flavor: Sweet dark cherry baked into dark bread make for a smooth combination. There is a notable alcohol presence that spices up the flavor a bit, though it is certainly not hot. Peated malt holds a presence through the middle, and the beer finishes with a reminder of the dark fruit you found at the beginning.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium carbonation. Sweet malt holds a stickyness throughout that the alcohol warmth tries to overpower, but doesn't quite get there. Finish is sweet and warming.

Overall: Very well rounded and smooth with a constant reminder that your drinking a Scotch Ale with the Alcohol and peat character. Because I love it so much I could ask for a little more peat character to further push this beer, but as it is the beer comes off nicely balanced.

I could not review this beer on BeerAdvocate since the location hasn’t been added to their site as of this post. I have added it to the Approval Queue however, and would probably rate it in the "B+" to "A-" range. Definitely worthy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stone Vertical Epic 09

Vertical Epic 09
Purchased at Bottleworks.

Aroma: Grainy and slightly roasted barley malt with some herbal wood character as well. Alcohol spices float around the glass with some dark fruit, though these lean mostly toward dark cherry. No hop aroma. Oddly there seems to be a phenolic yeast presence that comes off as dark bread. While the aroma’s are complex, they are generally light all around.

Appearance: Pours a thick black with a prominent nut brown head. Excellent head retention, holding well with about half a finger width. Light lacing.

Flavor: Heavy dark chocolate melted into molasses. Alcohol pulls the malt sweetness back and bites the top of the mouth with more spice than I expected from an 8.9% ABV brew. Dark cherries back again, bitter chocolate nibs accompanied by an earthy and drying hop bitterness toward the finish. Finish is drying at the back of the throat with a lingering heavy roast throughout the palate.

Mouthfeel: Full body with light carbonation. You can practically chew on the malt in this beer, and while the sweetness lingers somewhat there’s enough alcohol and hop bitterness to clean the palate out in the finish. Carbonation is quite light, but no more is needed because the malt speaks for itself.

Overall: Given the complexity of the flavor profile in this beer I am a little surprised at the faintness in aroma. Yes there is a lot going on in the nose as well, but you really have to look for it. Nothing jumps out overall there. Beer snobbery aside on the aroma, this is a fantastic demonstration of a full bodied beer with complexity in flavor so deep I feel it exceeds my vocabulary. Everything balanced, nothing over powering. Where many “Big” beers seem to fall short on mouthfeel, this one exceeds expectations.

I rated this beer an “A” on BeerAdvocate.

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Beer enthusiast and advocate. Recognized beer judge and traveler of west coast beer destinations.