Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bret's Excellent European Adventure

Bret is back from Europe. Here's his recounting of it. It's not truly about beer, but he did visit Munich and Prague, so that factors in.

Portland International Beer Festival reviewed

Another guest reviewer: Bill C, who lives in Portland (see photo below). This is completely unedited, so I hope it's readable. Todd M (the other guy in the pic) is supposed to send his own review sometime. And I'm happy to say I'll join both of them on vacation soon for some northwest beer imbibing.

The Lagavulin-aged barleywine was what I was most excited to try, but it
was disappointing. The big surprise for me was how good the dark
Norwegian beers were.

The best:

#1 Eel River Triple Exultation (Old Ale)
#2 De Proef La Grande Blanche (Imperial Wit)
#3 Haand Bryggeri Dark Force (Imperial Stout)

Other excellent beers:
Walking Man Mystery #2 -- Good, chocolaty and hoppy
Walking Man Mystery #1 -- IIPA, very good
Ninkasi Double IPA -- Hell yeah
Allagash Curieux -- very very good
Nogne-O Imperial Stout -- very very good

Still really good:
Terminal Gravity Triple -- very nice
Cascade Brewing Temptor -- good stuff
Haand Bryggeri Norwegian Wood -- very good, like a rauchbier
Eisenbahn Lust -- very good
Blaugies Saison d'Epeautre -- really good like Trippel Karmelit
Spezial Rauchbier -- mild and good
Speakeasy Double Daddy -- good stuff
Aecht Schlenkerla Helles -- quite good, smoky
Glazen Toren Jan de Lichte -- not as good as La Grande Blanche
Big Sky Ivan the Terrible -- very good

Still good:
De Proef K-O -- very nice
De La Senne Stouterik -- good, Guinness-like
Harviestouns Old Engine Oil -- not bad
Lindemans Pomme -- good green apple, better than Zoetzuur
De Proef Saison Imperial -- very nice
De Proef Brewer's Reserve -- pretty good
Mahr's Weissbock -- esthery, OK
Allagash Reserve Tripel -- good

JW Lees Harvest Lagavulin -- sweet, flat
Super Baladin -- better than French beer
Uerige Doppelsticke -- sweet, not long
EKU 28 -- sweet
De Ranke Kriek -- sweet, tart
JW Lees Harvest (draft) -- less good than the aged one
Isle of Skye Wee Beast -- not heavy enough
De Proef Zoetzuur -- too sour, green apple
Flyer Tuck -- eh
Sick Duck -- nah
Alvinne Gaspar -- not very long for so bitter

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another Fireman's 4 fan

The Texpatriate is back for a visit from Norway; she is pleased to be drinking in Austin bars again, and raves about Fireman's 4.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Portland International Beer Festival

Bill C and Todd M, both residents of Portland, Ore., these past few years, have been drinking might tasty beers brewed by furriners this past weekend. Todd sent me a review of sorts, but it's in graph form, so I'll need some time to figure out how to get it onto Blogger, or else I'll have to do some transcribing. In the meantime, here's a pic of the two of them drunkenly proclaiming their love for one another:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Guest review: Central Market 'Big Beers' tasting

At some point I'll get up off my lazy butt and do my own write-up of the Central Market "Big Beers" tasting that Nosregref, Lance and I attended a couple of Thursdays ago. But Nosergref — being the very industrious and driven person that he is — has already done his write-up, so I'll just post that here. Or maybe I'll just add some comments to what he wrote and leave it at that. But for now, here is guest beer blogger Nosregref:

Beer #0 - Malheur Brut Reserve. 10.5% alcohol. What a fine way to start the class, with a big wallop of alcohol in a beer reminiscent of champagne. The instructor mentioned it was brewed as a beer first, but then aged as a champagne to give it the unique taste it had. I personally found the light citrus taste to be similar to the Blue Moon White, except with more kick. Class notes: "Aged 1.5 years" and "Hooray pre-class beer!"

Beer #1 - Anchor Steam. Food pairing was with salty Beer Chips. I think nearly everyone that could possibly read this has had Anchor Steam, so we'll move along. It was the instructors idea to have a 4th of July themed tasting, so he chose one of the oldest beers still brewed in the US. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Independence Brewing represented here instead, especially because they are local.

Beer #2 - North Coast Pranqster. 7.6% alcohol. Food pairing was a cold peach soup. The food choice was odd, but strangely very good. The beer itself was a straight ahead golden ale, and quite good, similar to Duvel. I will be looking out for more North Coast beers in the future. About this time the instructor mentioned something about people getting a little too happy from the strong beers at the last tasting, and that his goal this time was to simply get us to "mirth," and not laugh-out-loud drunks. Spoil sport.

Beer #3 - Dogfish Red and White. 8-10% range. Food pairing was a soft cheese, a brie I believe. I'm a sucker for cheese, so I couldn't help but like it. Why cheese with this beer you might ask? It's because the red in the name refers to the fact that part of the batch of beer was aged in Pinot Noir barrels before being combined back into the main batch. The result is that this Wit beer takes on a reddish color from the wine barrels, and adds a small amount of the taste as well. As usual, Dogfish has outdone themselves yet again. If I'm ever in Delaware, this is a must-visit brewery. Class notes: "Mirth has set in."

Beer #4 - Liefmans Goudenband. 8%. Food pairing was a nice blue Stilton cheese and crackers. This beer was a Belgian lambic, and you will either love or hate lambics. I'm in the former category, while the head chef doing our food absolutely despised it. There was no fruit added to this beer, so you got the full brunt of the sourness without worrying about the cherry or peach flavors found in many similar beers.

Beer #5 - Lagunitas Maximus. 7.5%. Food pairing was brisket with a spicy barbecue sauce. At first this beer seemed quite similar to the Dogfish 60 minute IPA, since it's a double IPA, but it really wasn't quite as hoppy. Either way, beer and barbecue (bbq, cue, bar-b-q or however you spell it) is always a good combination.

Beer #6 - Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. 6.37%. Woooo, can you taste that Hazelnut? That's about all you can taste at first, and second, and so on … It falls under the category of a beer you can drink one of every few months or so, like a pumpkin ale. Lee said "it tastes like candy!" Either way, I thought it was good, but not great. However, my opinion rose after a few people around me didn't feel like finishing theirs because of the strong hazelnut quality to it, and in the interest of not wasting beer, I helped them all finish it. Mirth is going really good about now.

Beer #7 - Schneider Aventinus Eisbock. About 12%. Food pairing was a banana bread pudding. This "ice bock" beer was a great way to finish off the class. It was a dark wheat, but quite strong in the alcohol department, so strong you could smell and taste it. Normally that's not such a good thing, but when combined with a dark wheat it works well. The bread pudding was real good, made with beer during the baking process as well. If the chef saw a way he could slip some beer into the recipes all night, he did.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Report from Munich

Bret is in Europe right now, and had this to say:

Munich in one word: Beer
Munich in two words: Beer beer
Three words: Lots of beer

Seriously, I now realize that any serious beer drinker's life isn't complete without a visit here (except the Haufbrauhaus, which is German for "tourist trap"). How could it have taken me 40 years to figure that out?

And check out the retarded things I can do on this keyboard: öÖäÄߧµ

Off to Prague in the morning. Take care out there.

Prague is also an incredible beer town, with the advantage that half a liter of aweseome beer costs about $1.50. A little cheaper than Oslo. [Ed. note from Lee: Bret and I visited Oslo together back in 2003, and while it's a beautiful city, it's also ungodly expensive. A puny glass of beer there will cost you $7-$10. One glass! And not even a full pint! The Texpatriate can tell you all about it.]

Friday, July 06, 2007

Saint Arnold Elissa IPA

Oh my god, I just realized that I have never yet written about how freaking much I love Saint Arnold's Elissa IPA. Please let me correct that oversight now.

I guess I've failed to write it up thus far because I've only developed my addiction to it this year. The first few times I tried it, I wasn't knocked out by it. I think that's because I'd been accustomed to the punch-you-in-the-mouth overload of hops that you get with some other IPAs, most notably the Dogfish Head takes on the India Pale Ale style. For this same reason, I had also dismissed Sierra Nevada's seasonal IPA as well. But as I worked my way through a six-pack of the Sierra, I began to appreciate the more subtle hop approach. I then took this frame of mind into a reassessment of the Elissa, and I dare say this is becoming my very favorite beer right now.

Now, that doesn't mean Saint Arnold is shy with the hops. If heavy hops give you the "bitter beer face" from the Keystone Light commercials, then Elissa still won't be the beer for you. Saying Saint Arnold uses less hops than Dogfish Head is like saying something is less hot than the sun. There is indeed a wonderful snap of bitterness in the Elissa that lingers on your tongue long after the beer has left your mouth. There's a bit of spiciness in there, a cinnamon taste. And maybe a faint hint of … what … some kind of fruit. Peaches? Plums? The Saint Arnold website says that comes from Cascade hops, "a distinctive American hop noted for its citrusy flavor." That flavor, which manages to not be overwhelmed by the hops, makes this beer very drinkable – indeed, I can put away way too many of these in a single sitting. (Compare this to Dogfish Head's 90-Minute IPA – although it's an utterly magnificent IPA that more than one reviewer has rated the best in America, its huge strength and high alcohol content usually limit me to only one in a sitting.)

And if you're in one of Texas' finer beer bars (such as the Gingerman), seek out this special treat: A select few places get special shipments of a cask-conditioned version of Elissa, which I've had, and now that I've developed a love for this brew, I need to try it again.

Now, you're surely curious about the Elissa name and the sailing ship on the bottle. Here's Saint Arnold's explanation:

"This beer is named after ELISSA, a tall ship now moored in Galveston. Ships like ELISSA were used in transporting IPAs to India. Saint Arnold Brewing Company donates a portion of the proceeds of this beer to the Galveston Historical District for preservation of this ship."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Sensible Solution

The world could use more stories like this:

I went into Grape Vine Market yesterday looking for something Belgian-y, and of course they had a big stack of such right up front. And the very first thing I laid eyes on bore the odd name of Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. The short version of the story is this: Avery Brewing Co. had a Belgian-style beer named Salvation Ale. Russian River Brewing also had a Belgian named Salvation. But rather than go at each other with lawyers, the brewmasters sat down together and decided to combine the beers! That's right, they mixed the two together in the same bottle.

I bought one, but then decided I'd better taste the original Salvations to have a point of comparison (hey, it's important to do these things right). Unfortunately, Russian River doesn't distribute to Texas, but Avery does. Their Salvation is a delicious golden ale, crisp and clean and exactly what I like in Belgian beer.

So obviously the Russian River Salvation is a brown ale, because the combined product is much darker. As is usual for my taste in Belgians, I preferred the golden straight up, but nonetheless, the mixed Collaboration was still might tasty, especially after I let it warm up a bit. Both are highly recommended, and if I ever get out to California again, I'll definitely sample the Russian River.

And since it taste so good, go buy a bottle and reward these guys for having the good sense to work together instead of whipping out the lawyers. Microbrewers need to stick together.