Friday, February 26, 2010

Stone Skips Across the Pond

The guys over at Stone Brewing have finally posted the final part of their most excellent Stone Skips Across the Pond mini-documentary and the entire saga is now available for viewing in it's complete form.

For those who don't know, Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele from Stone made the trek over to Europe in July of 2009 to brew the latest edition of a collaborative Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne Ø Holiday Ale at the Nøgne Ø facilities in Norway. From there, they shot across to Scotland where they set out to brew Bashah, a Double Black Belgian IPA, in collaboration with BrewDog.

This isn't a technical look behind the scenes by any means, but rather a fun peek into the world of brewing and collaborations amongst friends and colleagues, and is definitely worth a look. Click below to watch or click on the image above to go direct to the Vimeo site for a larger, HD version.

Stone Skips Across the Pond | Full version from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Hopback, beer, Stone, Nogne O, Jolly Pumpkin, Norway, Scotland, Bashah

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thelonious Monk(shine)

Ah, Utah. I've never been, but it's a state that has always intrigued me for a variety of reasons. While my parents say it's far and away the most beautiful state they've ever visited, I've always seen it as the place that's chock full of bizarre laws: boxing matches that allow biting are not allowed (sorry, Iron Mike), no one may have sex in the back of an ambulance if it is responding to an emergency get the picture. More importantly, and for our purposes here, the liquor laws have always been odd as well, with alcohol by volume maxing out at 4.0% for beer and private club membership being required for full alcoholic beverage service.

Thankfully, things have loosened up a bit for Utah residents in recent years. While taverns, restaurants, brewpubs and grocery stores can still only sell 4.0% ABV beer, private clubs have morphed into non-membership bars with full alcohol service and state liquor stores can also sell beers that weigh in over that 4.0% ABV threshold. This has really allowed Utah breweries to get their creative juices flowing, and one such brewery is, ironically enough, Four + Brewing out of Salt Lake City, which is a division of Uinta Brewing Company.

Monkshine is their approach to the Belgian style Pale Ale, and I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at just how well this one came together. There's a lot of sweetness to the aroma from the Belgian yeast that gives off a nice candy-like vibe, and it mixes in with some banana and citrus notes and a good dose of grassiness/graininess. There is also a slight tick of corn in the aroma which I have found to come out in this particular style from time to time. Nothing offensive and nothing negative about it, but it is there.

The flavor continues on with the aromatic characteristics, and pulls off a more bitter than expected finish to compliment the sweetness that lingers throughout. General candy gives way to a slightly more specific bubble gum vibe. Again, there are some nice grassy qualities here. Refreshing.

There's a certain wispy farmhouse quality to this one that was really quite enjoyable from start to finish. It actually reminds me of a specific beer, but I can't put my finger on which beer that is. I'm sure it'll come to me eventually. I would certainly pick Monkshine up again and would say it is absolutely worth your time to try a few bottles. It's not a big beer that will knock your socks off, but rather something that holds truer to the style and is highly quaff-able.

Hopback, beer, Utah, Salt Lake City, Four +, Uinta, Monkshine, Belgian, Pale Ale

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let There Be Rock (Art)

The Double India Pale Ale has come a long way lately and it is finally starting to catch the attention of my palate. While the style is fairly young in comparison to most others in the beer world (it has really only been brewed for the past 15 to 20 years or so, and only truly became uber-popular and trendy in the early to mid 2000's), it arguably contains some of the most sought after products in the market within it's family, at least here in the United States. My problem with Double IPA's has been that in the past they've largely been something that was brewed to out do the previous guy in trying to create the hoppiest beer possible. Thankfully, this has started to change in recent years, and we're getting Double IPA's that are more balanced than ever, yet can still provide a palate shredding hop burst that standard IPA's just can't touch, and nor should they. A great example of what I think is a newer wave of the Double IPA is the IPA (II) from Vermont's own Rock Art Brewery.

It pours out of the bottle a murky amber/copper color with minimal head retention, but the real story here is the flavor and aroma. As noted above, a much more balanced attack is the key: there's a bit of citrus and also a peppery, slightly spicy bite and all of this blends quite nicely with a hint of caramel sweetness but more so a nice bread-like quality throughout. The aroma takes on a bit more of a biscuit quality while the flavor sticks more toward the traditional baked bread characteristics. Similar yes, but quite different at the same time. To add just a bit more complexity to the mix, a slight hint of pine comes through at times as well.

Balance is again the key in the mouthfeel, where there's a good bit of chewiness and a tongue-tingling bite from the hops meshing with the carbonation, but it's not as heavy handed as a typical Double IPA where often one's mouth can feel like it's being slashed with each sip.

This is a very drinkable beer in general, and especially so for the style. Hops certainly still lead the way but never overshadow any of the other flavors. I'd call it a bit of a "tweener," straddling the line between a standard and Double IPA, but still leaning heavily toward the latter. It could be seen as a nice introductory beer into the world of Double IPA's, but by no means would I call it tame, and it's 8.0% ABV is actually hidden quite nicely. Nice stuff.

Hopback, beer, Rock Art, Vermont, Double India Pale Ale, IPA

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Like It Hottenroth

Who's in the mood for a low alcohol, sour ale that's made using a wild bacteria culture? I'm guessing there aren't too many hands raised, but the truth of the matter is that these are all elements of a rare style of beer from Germany called Berliner Weisse.

The Berliner Weisse, as you may have guessed from the name, has roots in the city of Berlin and it's surrounding area dating back to about the 16th century, and is brewed with a large proportion of wheat. The beer tends to stick to the lower end of the alcohol by volume (ABV) spectrum, typically coming in around 3.0% ABV (to compare, most macro beers like Budweiser, Coors, etc tend to fall in the 4-5% ABV range, while most "sessionable" craft beers come in around 5-6% ABV), with the sour flavor created either by secondary fermentation in the bottle or by adding lactobacillus during the brewing process.

While a Berliner Weisse can certainly be enjoyed on it's own, it is often paired with flavored syrups, with raspberry and woodruff being two of the most popular choices.

The style is still somewhat difficult to come by, yet a growing number of craft breweries in the United States have been diving into it to offer up their own take. One such stab at the style is Hottenroth from The Bruery, a less than two year old establishment out of Southern California that has been cranking out an array of incredibly solid and flavorful beers since day one.

Hottenroth pours a light golden color that is mostly clear but has a slight haze to it. The mid-sized head quickly dissolves leaving no residue on the glass. Interesting. This one looks very much like a beer, yet at the same time doesn't. Very difficult to explain.

The aroma is incredibly tart and sour, with a bit of a funk to it. Green apple, a touch of lemon and maybe a bit of grass and wheat are present. There's not a ton going on here, but the tartness is very cool, especially when mixed with the apple. This carries over into the flavor which I really enjoyed. There is a LOT more tartness, with the beer being sour to the point of puckering your lips after each sip. Green apple blends in well throughout. Lemon notes are kept on the backburner for the most part but are definitely there as citrus plays a part throughout. Wheat chimes in toward the finish of each sip, which gets a bit bready at times, especially as the beer warms up a bit. There is certainly a lot of funk here too, but it fits in well.

This is good stuff. I can't really compare it to much else as the only Berliner Weisse that I can recall sampling in the past is the Dogfish Head Festina Peche and the last time I had it was years ago in a small sample glass at a beer festival. As the Hottenroth stands, it does a lot with a little. I really loved the overall sourness throughout. Could I drink this one or this style in general often? Probably not, bit it is most definitely a nice treat to have every now and then. I urge you to seek this one out and in fact seek out any beers from The Bruery, as I've had the pleasure of trying four or five different styles from them thus far and they've all been top notch.

Hopback, beer, Berliner Weisse, Germany, lactobacillus, The Bruery, Hottenroth, California

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TTB Find of the Week: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Round One - Fritz and Ken's Ale

Fritz and Ken's Ale, The first of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Celebration beers, will be hitting shelves soon and here is a sneak peek at the label, which is quite similar to the 30th Anniversary web page logo posted here a few weeks ago:

This stout is a collaboration between Anchor Brewing Company owner Fritz Maytag and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company founder Ken Grossman. Fritz and Ken's Ale is a "nod to the dark ales and stouts that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years."

Per a recent post by Sierra Nevada's own Bill Manley on BeerAdvocate, the beer was to come in at 10%+ ABV, but as the label here clearly shows it settled in just below that at a still-hefty 9.5%ABV. Manley continued that Maytag was to be in Chico on the 29th of January and that the beer should be "ready to go" by mid-March. One final note is his post was that as of now there are three collaboration beers with other brewers planned for 2010, and a fourth that will be a collaboration of all brewers in the Sierra Nevada family.

Sierra has really gotten into a creative zone in the past year or two (yet has still very much kept these new beers tied to their traditionalist roots) and for their 30th Anniversary it sounds like they're going to raise the bar even higher...

Hopback, beer, Sierra Nevada, 30th Anniversary, Stout, Anchor Brewing, Fritz Maytag, collaboration, Chico, California