Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Abita Wrought Iron IPA

Alright, time for a beer review, just me this time, so this isn't our Feature Beer, but Abita Brewing was nice enough to send me a 6-pack of their new IPA to try, so I bring you my thoughts on their latest effort, the Wrought Iron IPA. They claim that the IPA "embodies the resilient, indestructible nature of New Orleans" and I don't know about that, but I do like the name and feel like "wrought iron" is a great reference to the traditional architecture of New Orleans, and the label is nicely done with the details of the lettering.

I've always been a bit of an Abita critic, mostly because I feel like their flagship brews are all getting passed up by the flagship brews from the newer Louisiana breweries. I've also stated many times my dislike for Jockamo, but I also always try to give Abita a fair shake. Their Bourbon Street Stout is one of the better beers brewed in Louisiana, although I wasn't as impressed with the Imperator Black IPA. I thought it needed more hops, but I did think that the Spring IPA and Grapefruit Harvest IPA were steps in the right direction, so hopefully I feel the same about the Wrought Iron IPA.

Wrought Iron comes in at 6.9% abv, and 80 IBU, so of Abita's four main IPAs, this is the strongest and most bitter yet. It's brewed with pale ale malt, and a combination of Apollo, Equinox, and Mosaic hops. Mosaic is a pretty popular hop these days, it's a hybrid of Nugget and Simcoe, and is known for producing a "mosaic" of flavors, including floral, fruity, and earthy notes. Apollo is primarily a bittering hop with notes of grapefruit, and Equinox is another high alpha acid hop known for citrus, floral, and tropical fruit notes.  

The first thing to notice is that the Wrought Iron IPA has the appropriate color going on. It's probably a little darker red than typical, but that doesn't bother me. The head looks great and had lasting retention. The aroma is what you would expect from the hop combination, tropical, pineapple, grapefruit, with a little earthiness / dankness in there as well. 

The first sip isn't quite as pleasant, the hops are all there, but the bitterness is a little harsh at times. This mellows out pretty well throughout the 12 ounces though, until it reaches a very pleasant hop-forward flavor without the awkward bitterness that sometimes comes from an IPA. 

All in all, this definitely is the best IPA produced by Abita. It's not going to rival the best in the country, but it's looking pretty good compared to local competition. Another step forward for Abita.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - The Alchemist Heady Topper

Alright, time for a real treat, well, for the reviewers at least. The Alchemist is a small brewery in Vermont that specializes in one beer, Heady Topper. They do put out some other releases these days, but for the most part, it's all about the Heady, which has developed a cult-like following and a reputation as one of the best double IPAs in existence. Thanks a bunch to Gabe for bringing a handful back for all of his beer friends!

Heady is only available in the Vermont area, and it used to be only available in short bursts when a batch was ready, but I believe it's more readily available these days, but still limited to Vermont.  The beer checks in at around 8%, with something like 120 IBU. They say to drink from the can, but when sharing with friends, that's just not very hygenic is it?

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 16 oz. can.

Appearance: A murky deep gold, very hazy..

 Hoppy as fuck, lots of grapefruit and Jay picked up some papaya? Tropical fruit hop notes dominate, and it smells insanely fresh.

Taste: Super hoppy, with that grapefruit coming through strong again. Chuck said it was a, "hopsation on the senses" whatever that means! 

 Perfect, no lingering weird bitterness and extremely easy to drink despite the abv and IBU.

Overall: It lives up to the hype as one of the best DIPAs in the world. If you are ever in the area, grab some, and bring one back for me!

Overall Rating: 93.6
My Rating: 97

Friday, November 28, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Goose Island 2013 Bourbon County Coffee Stout

Last week featured the regular Bourbon County Stout in anticipation of today's release of the Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Stout, so today I'm going to take it up a notch. This is the same basic beer, but with coffee added. With the popularity of the original stout Goose Island took the opportunity to expand the "Bourbon County" portfolio with the Coffee, Barleywine, and Proprietor's versions. They have also done different variations in the past including vanilla, rye, cherry rye, and the rare versions.  

The coffee variant should make it to Baton Rouge, but it will likely be tough to find. Goose Island uses a different local coffee each year to create this brew, and it's usually in the same abv and IBU range as the original version. Which leaves the most important question... does the coffee improve or detract from the regular version? 

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, rich, and beautiful.

 Rich coffee, which dominates the vanilla, oak, and malt flavors expected from a bourbon barrel beer. Brenton said it was like sticking your face in a coffee bag.

Taste: The rich coffee flavor is up front, but then gives way to the malt sweetness and barrel aspects of the beer. It really has a nice complexity that blends all of the flavors together well.  

 Still rich, and the end of the sip finally gets to some chocolate notes from the roasted malt.

Overall: Phenomenal. The coffee takes this beer up a notch from the original version featured last week. All of us scored this one 2-3 points higher, making it the highest scoring beer featured to date.

If you see some, buy all you can, then call me to share!

Overall Rating: 97.5
My Rating: 96

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