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.