Friday, November 21, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Goose Island 2013 Bourbon County Stout

I've been saving this review until just now, because as a lot of you know may know, next Friday will be the release of the Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Stout. I still have a few mixed feeling regarding Goose Island being taken over by AB-InBev, but for the most part it seems to have been a positive thing for both the brewery and consumers like me. Before the takeover Goose Island wasn't available in Louisiana and it would have taken some luck or trading to get some Bourbon County Stout. It's still not easy to find (it will likely sell out on black Friday) but at least it's possible. We also see their barrel aged sours and other great beers regularly and the quality doesn't seem to have dropped off at all. 

For the uninitiated, Bourbon County Stout is the grandfather of barrel-aged imperial stouts. It was one of my first tastes of craft beer back with friends at the Wrigleyville Goose Island location years ago, and it stuck with me. All batches tend to vary a bit in the abv, but the 2013 version was a ridiculous 14.9%... and yes you read that right. They age it for 8-10 months in first-use bourbon barrels, so there is nothing between the bourbon and the bourbon county stout. 

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge (Baton Rouge Adventures in Beer).

Serving: Poured from a 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Dark black with a tan head. Brenton said that it looked "perfect" and I can't really disagree.

 Dark, rich, and sexy. There are fantastic notes of bourbon, oak, and vanilla to compliment the roasted malt flavors of the stout.

Taste: Rich vanilla with a slight medicinal note at the front that quickly gives way to the roasted stout and bourbon flavors. That slight off flavor is probably coming from the strong alcohol content of the beer, but it was gone as fast as it was there.  

 Smooth, and the little tinge of off flavor didn't linger at all. Thick and rich, I could drink more of this than would be safe.

Overall: There's a reason this one is so sought after, it's a great beer. It has everything you would want in a barrel aged stout, and sets the bar high for all other attempts out there.

Try to find some next Friday, it'll be way more fun than fighting the crowds at Wal-Mart or Best Buy! And if you miss out on the bottles, we will almost certainly see a few kegs throughout town.

Overall Rating: 94.75
My Rating: 93

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Parish Grand Reserve Day! - Info and Sneak Preview

Alright, we are only one week away from the 2014 Parish Grand Reserve Day! If you already have your tickets (they can be purchased here) then you have made a great decision. If you're still unsure, I'm here to tell you that you don't want to miss this.

The tickets for the day are only $25, which doesn't include any bottles to take home, but it does include all sorts of good beer while you're there. You will get a commemorative snifter glass and 10 pours of all the special beers. They will have 2012, 2013, and 2014 batches of Grand Reserve, the new Imperial Reserve (more about that one later), the Milton Teagle Jr. Jr. sour ale, the new batch of Ghost In The Machine, plus some specialty casks. Just in case that's not enough, you can also have unlimited pours of the three flagship brews, Canebrake, Envie, and South Coast. Bottles of the Grand Reserve and Imperial Reserve will be available for sale as well, so let's get more into those.

First, the latest batch of Grand Reserve. It's packaged the same as before, in 750ml bottles with a wax seal over the cap. The label is the same other than the 2014 marking on the side, but why mess with a nice clean label anyway? 

The beer pours fairly dark as you can see with a large foamy head. The carbonation level is pretty high, but nothing like the Farmhouse IPA. 

The aroma is rich and flavorful, with sweet malty notes combining well with the strong hop presence. The easiest way to describe it is that it smells exactly how a barleywine should smell.

The taste is more of the same, an excellent blend of malt of hops in a robust flavorful package that threatens to overwhelm your taste buds. I think, at its freshest, this 2014 vintage is even better than the 2012 or 2013, and I see no reason why it shouldn't age with the best of them. 

I think Parish nailed it with this one, taking even another step forward. There will be a barrel aged version in the future as well... so that might even be a leap forward.

Also available in 5 oz. pours and for purchase will be the 2014 Imperial Reserve. This is an imperial stout in the 12% abv range, bottle conditioned and cellared in the same manor as the Grand Reserve. 

The labels are very similar, just with a blue tint to them and a star in place of the castle that we all associate with the Grand Reserve. Like the previous one, the Imperial Reserve bottles have a marking for the year of release. 

You can see the pour to the left... rich and dark, similar carbonation to the Grand Reserve above, and a massive bubble tan head. I think it looks like an imperial stout.

The aroma is what you would expect as well, rich malt with a good roasted bitterness and a hint of hops to balance it all out. 

On the taste buds, it's just as good... and excellent balance between sweet and bitter for such a big in your face stout. I had no problem finishing off most of the bottle by myself, so the 12% abv is sneaky and doesn't interrupt the other flavors at all.

You're going to want to bring a few of these home as well, and get excited for the barrel aged version coming in a few months.

Thanks again to Andrew for sending me a few advance bottles. As expected, they didn't disappoint at all. If you're on the fence, click on this link and buy a ticket, they won't be on sale at the door and you will not be sorry you did.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Great Raft Southern Drawl

Louisiana brewery time! I get to some of the local guys every now and then in this segment, so today will be the first review featuring Great Raft's Southern Drawl lager. Great Raft Brewing is just about a year old now, hailing from Shreveport. They really found a nice space up there with plenty of room for expansion and were able to build out a nice tap room. I highly recommend you stop by if you're ever in the area. Husband and wife team Andrew and Lindsay, along with head brewer Harvey, have quickly created one of Louisiana's best craft breweries. They aren't available in Baton Rouge yet, but it won't be too long.

Today's offering is their Southern Drawl Pale Lager. It's a 5.2% house lager intended to be a sessionable flavorful beer for the long Louisiana summers and anytime you're looking to drink something easy-going and local. Pale lager isn't a style that gets most people excited, but it can serve as an excellent bridge between drinking mostly BMC and really appreciating the full spectrum of what craft beer can offer. 

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge (Baton Rouge Adventures in Beer).

Serving: Poured from a 12 oz. can.

Appearance: Slightly hazy golden color, could be described as a "straw" color. Definitely hazier and deeper than the big boys.

 Bready sweetness, a little funk to it, not a whole lot of hops. Brenton thought it had a little bit of floral hoppiness, and we all agreed on the breadiness of the aroma.

Taste: Same as the aroma with a little more funk to it. And not funk in a bad way, just a good flavor coming from the yeast that makes it more than a boring beer. 

 Very easy to drink, the funk doesn't linger and each sip leaves you wanting a little more. Jay described it as a "good pizza beer" and I know he meant that as a compliment.

Overall: It's a good beer, very well done and we can tell that it nailed what they were going for, but it's a pale lager. I think even the best pale lager is going to score lower than mid-range IPAs or stouts, that's just the nature of the game. I think it's fantastic that Great Raft is putting out a beer like this one to help increase the footprint of craft beer in Louisiana. I think it's going to convert a lot of BMC drinkers out there.

Overall Rating: 60
My Rating: 60

Friday, October 31, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Saint Arnold Amber Dry-Hopped

Time for our first ever Feature Beer Friday! trip to the Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston, TX. I'm sure almost all of you have heard of Saint Arnold and probably tried several of their offerings, but this is one I hadn't seen before. I've had their regular amber ale before, it was their first ever beer and has been around for about 20 years now, but I'd never seen a bomber of the dry-hopped version.

The regular amber is 5.5% abv and only 31 IBU... dry-hopping a beer doesn't actually increase the IBU (or bitterness) but it will impart a lot of the hop flavors, typically more in the aroma than on the taste. This particular batch was dry-hopped with liberty hops, a variety I'm not super familiar with, but I'm willing to learn! There should also be a cascade version of this out there somewhere, and there are plans to release one with mosaic as well. I'll be on the lookout.

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge (Baton Rouge Adventures in Beer).

Serving: Poured from a 22 oz. bomber.

Appearance: Deep golden, lighter than last week's Radical RyePA which was surprising for an amber ale. All of us felt it was a little light for the style... but that's just the appearance, which is the smallest component of the overall score.

A nice blend of malt and hops. Sweet, earthy, and a little funky were the notes from around the bar.

Taste: Earthy and funky come back on the taste big time, and it's not as hoppy as the aroma, which makes sense for a dry-hopped release.

This is one of the more drinkable beers I've tried in a while, very pleasant and light bodied.

Overall: We all enjoyed this one and it scored pretty similar to last week's offering from Gnarly Barley. The biggest knock was the light color and the biggest plus was the extreme "drinkability" of the brew. I don't really like that word, but it's true in this case.

I'll definitely be looking for the others in this series, I think this could be a pretty nice amber/pale hybrid, and they're pretty cheap as well.

Overall Rating: 68.2
My Rating: 72

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reviews: Abita Imperator Black IPA and Bourbon Street Stout

Not too long ago a box showed up at my place with a couple of Abita Brewing Company's newest bombers, their Bourbon Street Stout and their Imperator. These are both part of Abita's push to have a larger lineup of 22 oz. bottles, and I'm a huge fan of the idea. Abita has a long history of putting out quality select series beers, so seeing some of them make it to shelves in bottle form is a great thing for them and for the consumers. 

First off, the Imperator, this is the fifth in Abita's lineup of "big beers"  following the Abbey Ale, Andygator, SOS, and Strawgator. Imperator is a black IPA, listed on their site as 8% abv and 90 IBU. I remember enjoying this one when it was on draft as a select option, so hopefully the bottle release is just as good.

My first thought was that the color was spot on, a dark tone but not as rich and thick as a stout would be. The beer poured with a frothy head, more white than tan, and it lingered a good while. 

The aroma was roasty as expected, but lacking the real hop bite I would want in a black IPA. The characteristics to look for in the style are a roasted malt backbone with a hop-forward nose and taste, but this one really has more of a malt-forward presence. I'm not saying the hops didn't exist, but I would have liked them to be more pronounced. 

The taste was more of the same, this beer is a good start but it would really benefit from even more hops. I remember the draft version being a lot hoppier than this bottle, but there was no date listed that I saw, so I guess I might have been sent a bottle that had been sitting for a while. I hope that's the case, because it would explain the lack of hop profile expected out of the style.

Next, the Bourbon Street Stout, Abita's first release in their new Bourbon Street Series. This one was also a select not too long ago, and I loved it on draft. I would go so far as to say that the draft version that I tried was a top 10 Louisiana brewed beer, maybe even top 5. They cold crash it for 6 weeks after fermentation is complete, then transfer 100% to bourbon barrels for 8 weeks. I think that's on the shorter end of barrel aging, but in all honesty it's probably plenty long enough to get the right flavors. The beer clocks in at 10% abv and 20 IBU.

Like the Imperator, this had a great looking pour, dark and rich with more of a tan head. That's what you want a stout to look like, nothing to complain about so far!

While the Imperator lost some luster on the nose, the Bourbon Street Stout is fantastic. The barrel aging really gives a complex array of flavors, oak, vanilla, some roasted tones, and plenty of malty sweetness to balance out the alcohol notes. 

The taste follows through on this one strong, a complex delicious beer and a good example of a bourbon barrel aged stout. I don't know where it would rank in the pantheon of great bourbon barrel imperial stouts, certainly behind Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Founder's KBS, two others that can be occasionally found locally, but both of those are going to be a lot harder to get your hands on than the Abita Bourbon Street Stout. I think a blind tasting might be in order sometime soon!

For now though, I'd say pass on the Imperator unless you know you're getting a fresh bottle, and if you see the Bourbon Street Stout, grab a few. I plan on finding a few more to add to the cellar myself.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA

I hope you have all enjoyed the blind session beer tastings, but now it's time for a few known quantities... sort of. I recently got together with some beer blogger friends and recorded a beer review episode of Chuck P's Me And My Big Mouth podcast. None of the beer was reviewed blind, except for this first one.  Brenton brought it in a growler, so he was the only one that knew what he was drinking.  All he would tell us is that it was available locally.

So... by now you've seen the title and know that he brought us a growler of the Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA.  It's a 7% IPA with 75 IBU and a strong presence of rye malt. Gnarly Barley is one of the new Louisiana breweries, located just down I-12 in Hammond, LA. Their beers can be found in several bars around town, but nothing but draft as of yet.

On to the review... keep in mind that all of us but Brenton didn't know which beer we were drinking until after the comments/scores were compiled.

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge (Baton Rouge Adventures in Beer).

Serving: Poured from a 32 oz. growlito.

Appearance: I described it as a slightly hazy amber, Jay wrote that it was "copper like a shiny penny."

Hoppy, but a little faint, I figured this was likely from the growler. Buddy picked up piney and earthy hop notes.

Taste: Hoppy, and far more powerful than the nose, the hops really come through strong on the palate. Jay wrote that it was "like rye sourdough bread" and Buddy picked up a light spice. Turns out Jay should have stuck with his first instinct!

A little bitter on the back end, we all thought it had a long lingering finish.

Overall: I thought it was a pretty good IPA, with a little work still to be done. We all scored it relatively high, Jay said "I dig it" and Chuck just wrote "very tasty" as far as the overall impressions. And that was before we knew we had a local brew on our hands.

Once Brenton revealed that this was the Radical RyePA I was thrilled. I can tell that they have been improving on their recipe from batch to batch and this is the best this beer has ever tasted. It's a great local addition to the scene.

Overall Rating: 72.6
My Rating: 71

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blind Tasting Reveal Time!

For the last five Fridays I've been featuring unnamed blind taste tested session beers, and now it's time to reveal which one was which. Did I guess any correct? And more importantly, which one did I and the rest of the group think was the best?

Beer #1 - We all enjoyed this one, it had a good grapefruit note to it and a solid amount of bitterness. I scored it a 71, compared to the group score of 67.25, and I took a guess, based on the grapefruity profile and high IBU level that this was the Stone Go-To IPA... it turns out that beer #1 was... the Founders All Day IPA! I'm 0/1 so far, but I've been drinking a lot of All Day IPA this football season, so I'm glad to know I scored it well even drinking blind.

Beer #2 - Another good one, but we all scored this one a little lower than Beer #1. I had it at a 67, compared to the group score of 64.5. My guess for this one was the Terrapin RecreationAle, being the only "pale ale" in the group of IPAs... and I was right! That makes 1/2 so far, but three more to go.

Beer #3 - This was the first of two that we didn't enjoy much, with a pungent and funky flavor that didn't hold up to the hops in the first two brews.  I scored it a 50, and it had a group average of 53.75.  I guessed at the Southern Tier Farmer's Tan, mostly because it was one that I didn't know much about and hadn't tried before. Beer #3 actually was... the Sierra Nevada Nooner. This was a bit of a surprise, I really expected better from the good people at Sierra Nevada.

Beer #4 - This is the one we all agreed was the best of the 5, with powerful grapefruit hop bitterness throughout. I scored it a 77, and it had a group average of 71.25. My guess was that this was the Founders All Day IPA, but we now know that that beer was #1, so I'm down to 1/4, and Beer #4, the winner of the day, was actually the Stone Go-To IPA. So, congrats to Stone Brewing! 

Beer #5 - And that leaves Beer #5, one that I thought was a little on the sweet side and a little boring.  It scored a 55 on my sheet, and a 57.5 with the group.  Process of elimination leads to the Southern Tier Farmer's Tan, but I had incorrectly guessed that this was the Sierra Nevada, leaving me 1/5 on the day.  

Most important though, our blind taste test ranks:
1. Stone Go-To IPA (71.25)
2. Founders All Day IPA (67.25)
3. Terrapin RecreationAle (64.5) 
4. Southern Tier Farmer's Tan (57.5)
5. Sierra Nevada Nooner (53.75) 

I'm not surprised that we picked Stone #1, but I am a little surprised at Sierra Nevada bringing up the rear. That's why we tasted them blind though, to eliminate that prejudice and judge solely on the beer.