Friday, December 16, 2011

Barleywine Classics

I intended to post some reviews of my favorite Barleywines back in the fall, but never got around to it.  This weekend I've got a little extra time on my hands, so I figured I would share some reviews of brews from one of my favorite styles, a style that doesn't seem to get as much love as others, especially here in Oklahoma.   While I realize that the Barelywine is seen as a seasonal release from many brewers, thus doesn't lend itself to being as readily available as many other styles, the consistent paucity of Barleywines on Oklahoma Liquor store shelves never ceases to amaze me, and I always feel lucky if I can even find one (usually the Old Ruffian).  Inexcusable.

Rogue Old Crustacean

While the Barleywine is one of my favorite styles, I've put off getting to this one because of the price, and a bad experience with the XS IPA. That being said, Rogue is also one of my favorite breweries, and I just couldn't see passing this one up any longer. This is the 2007 Vintage. Pours a chocolaty brown into a snifter. A huge, bubbly dark tan and brown head sits atop and fades slowly leaving a thin, but consistent lace around the glass.

Smells of sweet and dark chocolates, dark fruits (prunes and plums) yeast, big sweet malts and bread. Tastes rich and creamy, chocolaty and sweet, with an unexpected but very welcome hop hit at the end. Alcohol is fairly well hidden by the complex tastes which also include the big malts and caramel candy finish.

Mouth-feel is full bodied, but goes down pretty easy. The carbonation explodes after a slight swirl. This is redemption in a glass, and I can't believe I waited this long to enjoy this first class Barleywine.

Great Divide Old Ruffian

The absolute first Barleywine I ever tried, and what a fucking home run of a beer to turn me on to the style.  I mean where the hell do you go from here?  It was like losing your virginity to a supermodel . . . well, not really, but. . .

Pours a dirty brown into a tulip. Nice fluffy two finger tan head with adequate retention and spotty lacing left behind. Smells of big citrus hops, caramel, raisins and some furtive alcohol in the background. Tastes sweet with a good balance of hops that aren't as huge as the smell would have you think, mixed in with malts and ends with some alcohol heat at the top. Has a piny aftertaste.

Being my first Barleywine Style Ale, I would have to say I'm a little surprised that it isn't as complex as I was anticipating, and that is not to say I don't greatly enjoy this beer. I will age my next one for a bit longer. All in all I am very satisfied with this brew and will return to the style, coming back to this one after I've tried a few others.

Nøgne ø 100

Here's what I had to say about this one back in June of 09.

My first Nogne brew, and highly anticipated. Very deep brown, bordering on black in color. A flurry of carbonation results in a bubbly, medium-sized tan head that has great retention. When it finally fades, a constellation of little dots surround the middle of the snifter, and a few clumps of bubbles are left on top of the brew.

Smells pleasant with deep chocolates and ripe red cherries easing into some piny hops. Subtle sweet malts and dark dried fruits flow across the palate and are followed by a big hit of more piny hops, distant dark chocolates and fairly sharp and lingering alcohol heat.

Mouth-feel is medium to heavy, and it initially goes down smooth and creamy, but a certain crispness forms around the edges after a few drinks, making things interesting. I can see where aging one of these would make a big difference in rounding off some of the sharp edges, but it's still good to go as is, and very satisfying.

Live Oak Old Tree Hugger.

Big bad bearded behemoth of a brew here, which suits me just fine, because I like a gnarly beer from time to time. 

March 10, 2011 review.  On tap at the Gingerman in Austin.

Ruby red in color with a slim tan head at the rim.  Has an aroma of black licorice, caramel malts and burnt hickory. Tastes of pine, bubblegum and sour cherries with a vein of sweet malts, a very faint spice and a medicinal tinge at the edges.

Medium to heavy and a bit syrupy with a lingering alcohol heat. Fair carbonation.

Nice and big drinkin' on a spring-like Austin eve.

Well I guess that wraps it all up for now.  I highly recommend you go out and support the plight of the Barleywine as soon as possible.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ommegang Aphrodite: Mission Accomplished?

Beer Advocate categorizes this as a Fruit/Vegetable Beer, and t is no secret that I have rarely met a Fruit/Vegetable beer that I've liked.  Furthermore, I've never ran across a pure "vegetable beer, and hope I never do, so for all intents and purposes, we're just going to call this a "fruit beer", and leave the vegetables for the dinner plate where they should stay.

Now fruit and beer are two words, when taken separately, evoke images of sweetness and sunshine, good times and fine living.  Place them together, and well, let's just say ring the warning bells loudly, because there is no telling what surprises may lay waiting for you.  You may say I have a bias against fruit beer, and that would be true, albeit oversimplified.  I prefer to think that I have a healthy sense of Pavlovian caution.  In the immortal words of the ever-eloquent George W. Bush " fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."

The Aphrodite does have a couple of things going for it though.  One being that it comes from Ommegang, a quite consistent brewery.  The second is that the flavors are touted to be natural, and it looks like we have a little added Belgian yeast touch that is promising.  As I've said before though, all the fancy naming, marketing bullshit and labeling amounts to jack, so I'm popping the cork to see for myself.

The tan head scrams quickly, as if it has done something wrong, and doesn't want to get caught.  It leaves no trace behind.  Pure brown in color, and the only characteristic that distinguished this brew from a cup of tea was the froth.  Sour fruits (soured fruits?), yeast and a little burnt sugar float languid from the goblet.  Tastes tangy and cloying up front with apricots, apples and white grapes.  Small amounts of spice and taffy come into play. Has a soured, vinegary aftertaste that does not suit me in any form or fashion.  A few sips in and things begging to calm down, but this one still has some serious issues with balance.  Medium bodied.

The Aprhrodite is not a drain pour, mostly due to the price, and I really don't have any inclination to write any more in regards to this one as it completely misses the deck.     

So call me biased or whatever, I'm just not a fruit/vegetable beer kinda guy, and I make no apologies.  As a matter of fact, I'm proud of it.  I think I'm going to need a Three Philosophers to fix this issue.   

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nøgne Ø Imperial IPA (#500)

What a cruddy day.  It's rainy and cold and I just can't get up the motivation to break out the road bike, so I guess I'll have to crack open the Nogne IIPA and throw on some tunes to keep me busy until Bedlam.  ...I must remind myself, things could be a helluva lot worse.

I haven't had a new (to me) IIPA in a while, so this one is highly anticipated.  A hazy dark brown pour is completed by a finely bubbled and abundant tan head that creeps down the glass slowly, leaving a thick collar of froth behind. 

Has a nose of piquant floral and oily hops that are followed by a caramel sweetness for centering.  On the palate the hops and sweet malts fight it out for a quick second before being broken up by some grapefruit and distant light fruity notes; then back at it again, with the sweet overpowering the bitter, albeit slightly. 

Mouth-feel lies on the lighter side of medium.  Alcohol becomes more apparent as the beer warms, but never knocks you out.    

A finely tuned IIPA whose sweetness might deter some hopheads, but works fairly well for me. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mikkeller It's Alive! And It's in Oklahoma!

Oklahoma saw two very exciting and highly respectable brewery additions to its beer lineup this week.

Nogne O hails from Grimstad, Norway, and not only will their beer surely give Oklahoma beer lovers a lot to talk about for months to come, it also promises to produce an abundance of laughable and embarrassing pronunciation gaffs.  I suggest you beef up on your Norwegian, or at least do a quick Google search so you can keep an aura of sophistication and not butcher the name too badly. 

Mikkeller is a one dude peripatetic beer making machine who creates at various breweries in Denmark, Europe and the United States.  This once home brewer turned international beer superstar didn't start producing his beers until the summer of 2007, and now it appears that he is about to take over the world with his genre pushing beer blitzkrieg.

Through trade and travel I've had the pleasure of drinking the Mikkeller Big Worse and Monk's Elixir, as well as the Nogne O #100 and Imperial Stout. I have not been disappointed. Today I am going to review the Mikkeller It's Alive, an American Wild Ale, a style that I haven't always seen eye to eye with.  I will get to some Nogne brews soon.

Sparkling reddish orange in color with a long lasting, thick, off-white head that bursts to the rim of the tulip.  I've witnessed few beers with a residual lacing as big and gnarly.

The aroma puts the "f" in funk; a virtual wild yeast orgy that flows freely and loudly throughout the room.  Notes of dark fruit, grain, straw and herbal mint are later realized.  Sweet and minty to the tongue with a phenomenal funk wrapping that goes on and on.  Lighter fruits, allspice, nougat and caramel eventually orchestrate to provide balance and complexity.

This one is quite easy to drink.  Mouth-feel is medium, and it has a pleasing creamy core.

A fantastic brew that goes a long way in repressing any Wild Ale issues I've had in the past.  

The fact that these two heralded breweries now distribute to our fine state is confirmation that Oklahoma beer lovers are turning some heads.  So keep raising the good pints and keep spreading the word my friends.  

I think I would be terribly remiss if I didn't take this golden opportunity to throw in a little knee spankin', toe tappin', down home Norwegian Black Metal for good measure.

Monday, November 21, 2011

2007 Deschutes Abyss

This is definitely becoming the season for the Russian Imperial Stout boys and girls, and I can think of no better way to toast, or flip the bird to (if your a summer person as is yours truly) the coming of the dark months, than with the legendary Deschutes Abyss.  This has been the week of popping the aged ones, as I've dug into a Boulevard Imperial Stout that's been down for a couple of years, now this one, and a couple more lined up for the holiday weekend. 

This is a 2007 Vintage I obtained in a trade about three years ago (released January 2008 [approx 350 BBL]).  A bit hesitant to pop the cap, but here goes...

Splendid carbonation despite its age.  The dark mocha head stands proud, but eventually yields, leaving a choppy ring of froth around the glass.  Black through and through with no light penetration. 

Aromatically complex with profound sweet and dark chocolate notes that fuse with dark cherries, black licorice, peat, and a profound barrel-aged smokiness that has A+ stamped all over it.

Flavor is precise with more sweet chocolates, cocoa nibs, roasted coffee beans and a nice smack of smokiness.  As it warms a few plum and raisin notes appear, as well as the molasses (as noted on the label), that adds new and welcomed elements to the palate.

The Abyss is not as hefty as one might think; lying somewhere between medium and heavy.  Smooth as silk with that smoky edge that keeps everything interesting, and with a near total lack of alcohol heat that is astonishing because of the 11% of ABV hidden inside.

A stylistically perfect, flavorful, highly drinkable, and no worse for the wear beer for the ages.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Marshall El Cucuy No Estrellarse y Arder.

Once again the El Cucuy is haunting the land, and while slowly sipping this monster, I'm realizing that it tastes better than ever.  The Cucuy's fusion of bitter and sweet is worthy of the Wallendas highly entertaining balancing act, but also walks the death-defying fine line between excess and perfection ala' Philippe Petit. 

Here's my 12-11-10 review:

A medium pour results in a prolific and serried tan head. The froth melts slowly, leaving a thick and rolling covering with an almost unbroken sheet of lace. Black in color and impervious to light.

Sharp oily and resinous hops immediately to the nose. Very distant caramel malts and subtle pine notes exist. Not a lot going on aroma wise. After my first sip I can tell this is a Black IPA (ABA) of a different color. Smooth and creamy with a sweet malty and dark chocolate core which is wrapped nicely with hops. A little dark fruitiness appears for a second. Medium to full bodied and has a bit of lingering alcohol heat which is in no way a distraction.

It's easy to tell a lot of care and attention to detail went into the creation of this beer. The near perfect mix between sweet and bitter makes this, without a doubt, the best beer of this style I have had, and one of the best beers overall I've tried in quite a while. Congratulations to Marshall for upping the ante on excellent Oklahoma brews with this one.

....Ok, I will admit that life doesn't hang in the balance with this brew, although a few too many might cause you to crash and burn .  Nevertheless, it's really damn good, and like Mr. Petit, it gives the finger to convention with the utmost style.  Try one, but don't try this. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Boulevard Nommo Dubbel

I think it is fair to say that Boulevard is a brewing powerhouse.  With an ever expanding lineup that covers a lot of territory style-wise, a staple brew (Unfiltered Wheat) that approaches sales stats in the SA Boston Lager/ SN Pale Ale range, and with some fine experimental brews thrown in for good measure, it becomes hard to find fault with these Kansas City beer giants, and that is why my fridge is consistently stocked with a sixer of a year round standard, a Smokestack or two, and often a Limited release ready and waiting. 

The head on this one isn't as unruly as many of the other Smokestack brews, but still has a substantial and slowly disappearing, froth.  The dark brown body is penetrated by some red coming in from the edges.  The aroma floating from the goblet consists of banana, clove, licorice, a hint of rum booziness, and spice cake.   Tastes of sweet bread, grapes, banana, grain and a hint of hops with an aftershock of fusel alcohol.  Fairly satisfying, but a little thin in body.  Has a dry finish.

While I realize the Dubbel is often overshadowed by it's bigger brethren, due to no discernible stylistic faults of its own, I still have to say this is one of the weaker of the Belgian Smokestack brews.  However, you must keep in mind, even a status quo Smokestack runs right in the middle of the "craft" pack, always biting at the heels of the big dogs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jumping Jesus on a pogo's Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet!

Living in Oklahoma going on four decades has given me the opportunity to realize the best this state has to offer, as well as the worst this state has to offer.  The cost of living is so low that you could sink it in the middle of Lake Hefner and not see its peak, and the economic downturn has not been as disastrous here as in many other places.  On the other hand, the state of our health care system (mental health included) is abysmal, and despite being the buckle of the Bible belt, we have one of the highest divorce rates in the country.  We also suffer from an epidemic of political ignorance, a fact that is most apparent when you realize a majority of our population has been brainwashed into voting against its own interests (this political paradox and lack of education on issues only adds to the issue I am about to disccus regarding our archaic beer laws).

As far as entertainment goes, my beloved home OKC now has the Thunder, and an exciting restaurant scene is beginning to thrive (despite the efforts of ABLE) along with a growing entertainment district.  We have a number of good beer bars in the metro that really try to keep local beer geeks happy, but the more discerning and educated that group of geeks become, and the more that group grows, the more challenging it is going to be to keep them satiated, because let's just face the facts folks, Oklahoma's beer selection is abominable, bordering on embarrassing.  If it weren't for the local breweries that have come to the rescue in the last few years, this would definitley be a beer wasteland.   

You are probably wondering where I am going with all of this, and what got me on this soap box.  Well, today I am reviewing the last beer of my most recent Texas haul, and lamenting the fact that it is back to the waiting game for a new brewery to come in-state or an existing brewery to expand its offerings here if I want to experience something different.  Sometimes I think it could be worse, (can you say Alabama or Mississippi), but when I travel out of state it really brings home the fact of how Oklahoma's beer selection is stagnating, and one could easily argue, diminishing.  With those thoughts in mind I'm going to pop the cap on this ABA, hopefully thoroughly enjoy it, and leave all the BS behind for a bit.

Hoppy Feet has a big fluffy and airy tan head that dissipates slightly then chills in place with one finger of froth on top and a thick swath of lace left clinging.  Black in color with thin crimson edges at the light.  Smells of malts, some melon, herbal hops, and a distant mintiness.  Tastes a bit grainy and sweet with more melon goodnees (quite subdued), distant black licorice sweetness, and oily hops.  Mouth-feel is medium and thinner than expected but not to the point of weakness.  Dry and slightly rough going down but drinkability does not suffer.  Not the best ABA I've tried, but a damn fine example that I would revisit often if it were readily available. 

Well I guess it could all be worse. I could be content to sit back, maybe watch a little Mork and Mindy on channel 57, maybe kick back a cool Coors 16-ouncer, but I'm stoked that I've developed a taste for the good stuff and this one is making me realize how a good brew can really change perceptions to the positive.

The El Cucuy is back on the scene and chilling in the fridge, keeping a magnum of Boulevard Nommo company... but not for long, and I'm realizing that just because the beer selection here sucks, it could always be worse, and we should be thankful for what we have.

....That being said, don't become overly content because trouble is just around the bend as I'm getting word that Sally Kern has found the true reason behind this weekend's earthquakes.  There is definitely something wrong with the soil, and it sure ain't fracking!  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Redbud Arbor Imperial Stout

Over the past year or so Chase Healey has been kicking it unique with his nano-brewery approach, and by offering his brews exclusively via magnum, he's set himself further apart from the pack.  He's brought to Oklahoma the rarely experienced barrel aging Cuvee style, and has been bucking the trend of the keg to sixer/bomber business model that we see most often.  It is hard to argue with the success he is having with this strategy, as evidenced by the loyal following he has gathered in-state.

It is also evident, with each successive offering, that Chase is getting better and better at his craft.  So if that trend holds true, what I have in my hand here will be a truly fabulous beer.  A trusted clerk at the store where I grabbed this one said it's better than last years Coop Barrel Aged offering, and while taste is obviously subjective, (and I am in no way trying to start a war, and yes I know the history here) that is one helluva statement and compliment.

Now that I've hyped this brew beyond reproach, thus setting it up for complete failure, let us get to it.

Gunmetal black in color with a proud, airy and resilient dark tan head.  The froth clings in a layered pattern all around the glass. 

Deep, rich malts give off the aroma of fresh baked chocolate cake; all bready and sweet.  An underlying dark fruitiness leaves notes of mincemeat and an accompanying tartness.  A bit of licorice and a fleeting hoppiness result in a complexly fragrant background.

Dark chocolaty malts, some vinegar, more licorice sweetness and subdued herbal notes greet the tongue; playing off plums, grapes and raisins, and ending in a noticeable, but not detracting tartness.  There exists a certain metallic aftertaste that becomes slightly off-putting. 

Arbor has a medium to heavy mouth-feel, and is drier than expected, but soft at the edges with no alcohol to speak of, a fact that makes me wonder if we need a little recalibration of our testing apparatus.  I'm completely joking about that of course. 

I must say the trend of exceptional beer from Redbud continues with the Arbor RIS, and I hope some of this batch made it into some oak or whiskey barrels, because that is about the only thing that could make this brew much better.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

The American Black Ale has seriously grown on me over the past year.  I absolutely love the unique marriage of malts and hops this particular style has.

This one pours a deep black with dark brown edges.  A near fill to the rim leaves a tan head that only jets after its had a few of it's own.  Has a striking earthy, oily hop aroma that is held in place by some sweet malts and sweet dark fruits.  Earthy, piny and sweet to the tongue with some plums and raisins also being noticed.    Aftertaste has an initial welcomed charred woodiness to it and a lingering tartness. Medium to heavy bodied and a definite sipper. 

A superbly well-balanced brew that not only demands respect, but gives it in return, and that sounds like a recipe for a long lasting relationship.