Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quick Review: BrewDog Dogma

Here's another one from Scottish brewers BrewDog, that I happened to see and pick up at Spec's on a recent trip to Houston.  I'm pretty sure it can be found around Baton Rouge as well, chances are Calandro's and maybe a few other places have it.  They have other BrewDog beers for sure.  In fact, I recently featured their Tokyo* Stout as it was my first beer above 14% abv ever!  I also wrote about their Punk IPA toward the end of 2010, a very tasty IPA. This one is their Dogma ale... a spiced beer brewed with honey, kola nuts, poppy seeds, and guarana.  Obviously I know all about honey, and I know guarana is the stuff they use in a lot of energy drinks, but I'm not too familiar with kola nuts or poppy seeds as a spice.  Well... here goes nothing! 

I poured this one into an imperial pint glass... it's a slightly hazy brilliant amber color with a ridiculous beige head. Phenomenal retention and lacing... good looking brew.

It definitely smells spiced, with an amber ale base. It's hard to pick out the exact spices, but I can tell that there's definitely some honey in there.  It's tasty though, pretty good.

The nuttiness comes out strong in the taste, more than any other flavor. I'm not familiar with kola nuts but it's pretty obvious that's what's up. It's also very boozy, tasting way stronger than 7.8% to me. The other flavors are there as well, just mostly unfamiliar to me.

The booziness throws off the mouthfeel for me, but other than that I really like this one. It's certainly something interesting and new to me, and I'd definitely try it again to get a better handle on all the flavors.  A very different beer for me, but a good one.
My Rating: B

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bell's Brewery - Part 2

Last weekend I posted the first of two posts about a handful of new beers I tried from Bell's Brewery.  That one covered the Winter White Ale, the Porter, and the Pale Ale.  This installment will be all about the stouts.  Four of them, actually, all from Bell's and all beers I picked up in Gainesville a few months ago.

Numero uno... the Bell's Expedition Stout, a 10.5% abv Russian Imperial Stout.
Poured into a pint glass, it's dark like motor oil. There's not much head but what little there was retained well.

The aroma is chocolatey and rich. Caramel and toffee notes. Phenomenal. One of the best smelling beers I've put my nose to lately.

The flavor is rich as well and boozy. Caramel again, burnt chocolate notes and a little coffee bean bitterness at the end.  It reminds me a lot of the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout just without the vanilla bourbon notes.

The mouthfeel is thick, creamy, and boozy. Man, I'm still really blown away.  This one is one that found it's way on to my wall of fame as one of my favorite beers, and it might be the best one I've tried on the 365 in 2011 quest.
My Rating: A+

Second up, the Kalamazoo Stout, a lighter licorice stout coming in at 6% abv. 
This one pours dark with a really small head, it's not black but a dark brown.

The aroma is kinda weak really. I'm not picking up much licorice, just a standard stout aroma really. There's a little licorice on the tongue but nothing overwhelming.  Unfortunately just a middle of the road stout.

I've had better stouts. From Bell's. It's just decent to me.  Maybe it was a mistake to pick out the Expedition Stout first, but this one failed to live up to its precursor on this tasting.  (Side note, I did try all four of these stouts in one sitting...)

My Rating: C

Stout tour #3... Bell's Cherry Stout!  This one clocks in at 7% abv and is considered a fruit beer, although it clearly has a stout base. 

The appearance is dark brown with a pretty decent off-white head. This beer smells just like chocolate covered cherries. Yummy.

The flavor is dominated by stout flavors, again it's like chocolate and cherries. Not very dark or roasted, a little lighter flavor but still clearly based on a stout with the cherry flavors coming through as well.
It's a little thin for a stout... it's alright but doesn't impress.  I don't really feel the need for another one, again the Expedition Stout is way in the lead.

My Rating: B-

The last beer on the list...Bell's Special Double Cream Stout.  This is one of the flagships of the Bell's brand, and is a 6.1% abv stout using a blend of 10 different malts to give it a unique creamy profile.  The body of the beer is nearly black with a small lingering off-white head.

The aroma is a lot like coffee with creamer.  And I drink coffee almost every morning at work, so this is a good thing to me!

The flavor is a little more bitter than the smell but delicious. Malty and rich with a great flavor profile and dark chocolate bitterness. 

It's definitely a creamy stout... I would swear there is some lactose in there but apparently not. I can feel the creaminess on the tongue, it's very thick and very well done.

I'd definitely have another of these!

My Rating: B+

Alright, that makes 8 different beers from Bell's I've had the pleasure to try, with 7 of them coming as part of this New Year's Resolution.  My conclusion is that I'd definitely look for the Two Hearted Ale, Winter White Ale, Expedition Stout, and Special Double Cream Stout again.  The other four, while all decent, didn't impress me enough to pick them up again. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bell's Brewery - Part 1

The last batch of beers I had from that ridiculous beer run in Gainesville a while back was all from Bell's Brewery out of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I had previously tried one of Bell's most popular beers, the Two Hearted Ale, and loved it (and I'm almost positive I tried their Amber Ale on a trip to Chicago several years ago...) so I was pretty happy to see some more of their beers and grabbed a bunch of singles to give them a try.  They distribute to Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, but nowhere closer.

First up on this tasting was the Bell's Winter White Ale.  (And a reminder to myself to double-check my photography... sorry about that blurry mess.  Apparently I had been drinking.)

It's a lighter orange color, with ribbons of sediment in the beer and a bubbly white head. It really reminds me of breaking into an orange slice.

There is a lot of citrus on the nose too, but it's more lemon zest than orange. Some spices too which is not surprising for the style. Not bad but nothing TOO special.  The taste is very similar... lemon zest, spice, very mellowed out.

The mouthfeel is fine... nothing really good or bad happening here, bubbly and crisp.

The drinkability is off the charts, though. This one goes down like water... or orange juice! A great session beer.  
My Rating: B+

Second on this first round was the Bell's Porter, a flagship American Porter and one of the standards of the Bell's lineup.

As you can see from the picture, this one poured a dark brown with an immense head.  The aroma was very chocolatey, with hints of other malts.

The flavor was chocolate dominated again, with a little roasted note to it, and a slightly metallic finish.  The beer is a little thin, but at 5.6% it shouldn't be too thick.

This is an easy drinking classic example of a porter, which is one of my least favorite styles, but still a beer that I can enjoy.
My Rating: B

And now for the third Bell's beer... the Bell's Pale Ale.  I was pretty excited about this one as Pale Ales are becoming one of my favorite beer styles.  

The color is light, golden and lots of sediment. Kinda weird really, little chunks in there. About an inch of bubbly white head.

The aroma is hoppy with hints of citrus.   The flavor is also hoppy primarily. It's really pretty bitter with not a lot of malt presence.  It's not the usual balance I expect from a pale ale, and it's throwing me off.  It's not bad, just not what was expected.

I'd have another even like this but I think this one might be off.  Of all the Bell's beers, this is one I'd want to pick up again to give a revised opinion.  
My Rating: C+

And that's part 1 of my Bell's Brewery reviews... I'll have 4 more coming out shortly, all stouts in the second installment.  

As an update, as of writing this post I'm 89 beers through the 365 in 2011.  With this being the 26th (31+28+26=85) that puts me 4 ahead of pace!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Upcoming Beer Events In And Around Baton Rouge!

A few events coming up soon that any beer lover might want to check out:

Some of you might remember the Abita pub crawl dispute a while back that was quickly dropped... well this time Abita is actually sponsoring the pub crawl to benefit aid to Japan.  It starts at Happy's at 7, check out the website for the details and rules. 

March 26th (Tomorrow!): Zapp's International Beerfest
This has been a popular event for years now and tickets are limited to 1,500 only to prevent over-crowding.  So, buy them in advance (like, right now) if you want to attend.  The weather should be perfect, and be sure to check out the homebrewers, they are usually some of the best brews and the first to go.

This will be the third Top Of The Hops festival so far this spring, and the beer list (if it's close to the North Shore list) looks to be pretty outstanding.  There are a lot of great Belgian ales on tap and plenty of microbrews that we don't normally see around here.  I'll be attending this one, so find me and say hi!
Also... no specific date, but look for the NOLA Irish Channel Stout in bottles!  I saw some at Calandro's yesterday to I know they're around town.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smuttynose Brewing - 5 New Reviews

This is one of the last installments from the trip to Gainesville a couple of months ago... 5 different beers from Smuttynose Brewing out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Before this trip to Gainesville I had heard of Smuttynose but never had a chance to give them a try.  They aren't available in Louisiana unfortunately, and also aren't available in Houston which is my second most likely place to find new beers.  Fortunately for me, they had several different varieties in Florida!  

Up first, the Smuttynose "Finest Kind" IPA:

This is a fantastic example of a regular IPA, in my opinion.  The aroma is a little on the weaker side but the taste is bold and in your face.  More of a west-coast piney feel to me, and really easy to drink.  It's a 6.9% brew so you'd feel it after a few but it's not overwhelming.

My Rating: A-

Next up... the Shoals Pale Ale!

American Pale Ales are quickly becoming one of my favorite styles due to their intended blend of hoppiness and malt sweetness.  This example is high on the list when it comes to my favorites of the style.  It's a little hop forward for a pale ale, but still has a good caramel malt sweetness on the sip too.  Easy drinking and at only 5% this could be a fantastic session beer... if only I could get it in a pitcher at the Chimes.  Maybe some day...

My Rating: A-
BeerAdvocate: B+

The third Smuttynose brew I tried was the Big A IPA...

Mmmmmm, another IPA.  This time it's an imperial IPA originally created for Smuttynose's "Big Beer Series" and carried over into their regular rotation.  I wish Abita would take this approach with their select series... take the most popular and put them into regular rotation!  Anyway, back to this beer... it's a good looking bubbly beer with a great hop blend on the nose.  It wavers on the edge between floral and pine notes in my opinion.  The taste is a little more on the pine side and the 9.6% alcohol is hardly noticeable.  A fantastic IIPA and another I would love to have more readily accessible.

My Rating: A

Hitting clean-up for Smuttynose... the Old Brown Dog Ale!

Okay, back to a more tame style, the American Brown Ale.  This flagship brew clocks in at a strong 6.7% abv though so I expect a little more flavor than a more mundane example of the style!  The smell did not disappoint, with note of molasses and toffee and a little roasted note to it.  Even the alcohol comes through a little, which is strange for a brown ale.  The roasted notes come through more in the taste... it's a little thin though. I like the sweet malt flavor on the tip of the tongue as a compliment to the roasted flavors at the end.  It's insanely easy to drink... just a little thin on the mouthfeel.
My Rating:  A-

And last but not least... the Smuttynose Robust Porter!

This is another of the Smuttynose flagships... a dark porter with a couple fingers worth of off-white head.  The smell is as expected as well... notes of coffee, roasted malts, and a little dark chocolate come through.  The flavor is a little more substantial than the aroma... the coffee flavors come through the most to me, with a bitter roasted aftertaste. Good mouthfeel, pretty easy to drink for a porter.  I think the problem is that I'm just not really a fan of porters... this is a good example of the style, has good ratings overall but in my opinion it's just an above-average beer and not great. So I guess I lied... this actually is the "least" among these five Smuttynose beers.  It's not BAD, by means, just not quite as tastebud stimulating as the four before it. 

My Rating: B

And that's it for my foray into the world of Smuttynose Brewing Company... a few that I'd love to try again and a few that I would take a pass on.  Overall the beers were well above average though, so I'd definitely check out any new Smuttynose brews I came across and would highly recommend them to someone with the chance to drink a few.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slacking Over The Last Week...

It's been a week since my last post, but I've been pretty busy with a work conference in San Antonio and then getting ready for the St. Patrick's Day parade in Baton Rouge.  In the meantime, thanks to a 9-beer night in San Antonio, I'm still on pace for 365 in 2011.  In fact, I'm five beers ahead of pace and I might add a few tonight.  The one problem with a 9-beer night is that I didn't get a chance to really review every one well.  I know which ones I liked best, which ones I don't need to try again, but it's tough to sit down and really rate and review a beer at a bar, especially after I had a few beers and wings in me.

Oh well... check back tomorrow for a new post about Smuttynose brews, and look for some NOLA Irish Channel Stout in bottles now!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: Lindemans Pêche Lambic

Time for a new style to these reviews... the Lambic.  A lambic is an interesting style because it's allowed to openly ferment, using wild yeast to spontaneously ferment.  For this reason lambics are only produced in a specific region of Belgium with the right natural yeasts to produce beer as opposed to total funk.  (I mean, some people might consider lambics to be total funk... but to each their own!)  The most popular style of lambic is the fruit lambic, and one of the most popular brewers of such fruit lambics is Lindemans.  

Lindemans is best known for their Framboise, a raspberry lambic that can be found in bottle all over and even on tap at a few places around town like the Chimes.  (They have had it before, not sure if it's in the current lineup...)  However, Lindemans also does many other fruit flavors, so the last time I was in Houston, I picked up a couple of the other flavors, and some Young's Double Chocolate Stout to go with them. 

First, a review of the Pêche Lambic by itself... it's clear, with sparkling orange color and not much head. Kinda has a champagne look to it. The aroma didn't blow me away... definitely peach, sweet, and a little grass note too. A little sour.

The taste is far better! Still sour and peach notes, but there's a nice malt beer flavor in there too. It's not overly sweet like some lambics and really has a tasty balance that makes this one far more drinkable than the raspberry lambic from Lindemans that really overpowers me.

I'm a fan, I like the peach flavors, and love the balance.  All in all this is a solid beer that stands well on its own, although a lot of people might find the peach flavors to be a big strong.

My Rating: B

The real treat to these lambics, though, is to blend them with a good chocolate beer.  I recommend a Young's Double Chocolate Stout or a Rogue Chocolate Stout, although other beers will do the trick just as well.  Blend about 2/3 chocolate stout to 1/3 lambic and you can really have a tasty desert beer. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zapps International Beer Festival - March 26th

Thought I'd help spread the word about this beer event... it'll be at the LSU Rural Life Museum on Essen Lane (right by I-10) on March 26th.  Here is the link to the homepage to buy tickets!  I went to one of the first occasions of this beerfest, and had a fantastic time.  The beers to definitely not miss are the home-brewers, as they tend to be fantastic and in limited quantities.  I went a few years after that and it was so packed it was tough to get a beer!   Since then, the organizers have started limiting tickets sold to 1,500 as they realized that that many patrons just didn't work.  I haven't been able to make it the last few years, and won't again this year due to the Hammond Blues & BBQ Festival, but I encourage any Baton Rouge beer lovers to check it out!  

There will definitely be some good beers that are new to you, and you might find something you really like.  Cheers!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: Abita Select Black IPA

I'm going to go a little out of order here... but this is for a reason.  The Abita Select series typically only run for a couple of months before they're on to the next one, so I want to get this review in before it's completely archaic.  Not much point in reviewing a beer no one can try, right?  And unlike a lot of the beers I've covered on this 365 in 2011 trip, this one is most definitely available in BR.

On to the beer!  It was Monday night... Lundi Gras for those who know what I'm talking about, and I didn't have to go to work on Tuesday!  One of the perks of living in South Louisiana... we don't work on Fat Tuesday.  The Chimes does trivia every Monday night, so I figured it was a good chance to go drink a few new beers, play some trivia, have some cheese fries, and not worry about waking up early the next day!  Jeremy Wells and James Lawson decided to join in... and it was off to the bar.  
The main beer I wanted to try was the Abita Select Black IPA.  I had read good things about it from other beer bloggers, so it was time to try it for myself.  As usual, it came in an imperial pint glass, filled nearly to the top. James ordered a Guinness and the color was about the same through the bulk of the beer but the Abita was a little thinner on the edges, and a much smaller head.

The aroma was definitely a piney hop-forward hit, but there were roasted malt notes as well, and subtle hints of caramel.  The flavor was a lot like the aroma... piney hops and roasted malts with a very nice balance. I'm impressed with this one... really stays true to the style. It's not overly hoppy, but that's to be expected with Abita.

It's got a good mouthfeel, nothing real special here, but nothing bad either. The hops aren't overpowering, rendering a very drinkable brew that's not lacking in flavor either. 

Well done, Abita... it would be nice if these select brews that seem to usually impress could find their way into the regular lineup. Might help people forget that pub crawl mess??  Unless you're still boycotting, check this one out before it's too late!  And Abita, if you're reading, think about bottling some of these select brews... maybe as part of the "big beer" series?
My Rating: A-
BeerAdvocate: A- (through 4 reviews...)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Lenten Beer Diet... No, Not Me!

I came across this link earlier today... about a guy who, for lent, is going to spend 46 days fasting from solid food and attempting to survive on beer alone.  The guy's blog is called "Diary of a Part-time Monk" and this is in reference to when monks would survive off of doppelbock alone for a 46-day period.  Apparently it's 46 instead of 40 because now we don't "fast" on Sundays during lent or something?  Seems a little extreme to me, but hey, I'm looking forward to checking in on the guy's progress.  Maybe I'll consider trying this next year?  Okay... very doubtful.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reviews: Saint Somewhere Brewing Company

While in Florida a couple of months ago I had the chance to pick up some beers from the Saint Somewhere Brewing Company.  Saint Somewhere is a small brewery in Tarpon Springs, FL that specializes in traditional Belgian-style ales.  Since Belgian-style ales are my favorite I picked up the three bottles that I saw at Tipple's bottle shop in Gainesville! 

Up first was the "Saison Athene"... which I poured from a 750ml bottle into a Chimay goblet.

This one had a nice pop to the cork, one of the easier to pop off I've experienced. It's a pale yellow color with a fizzy head that dissipates quickly. There is some nice pooling on the surface of the beer but no lacing on the sides at all.

The spices dominate the nose... cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and a little orange peel to it. It's delicious, but missing a little base or hop balance.

The taste is more of the same, except with a sour kick... kinda like a winter warmer meets an American wild ale. The sour notes provide a nice balance to the spices that was missing on the nose. I really like this one a lot as far as the palate is concerned.

It's easy to drink, and the alcohol content of 7.5% is barely noticeable.
My Rating: A

I followed up the Saison Athene with their "Pays Du Soleil," again a saison or farmhouse ale.  It's a cloudy amber color with pretty much no head at all. Just a few bubble on top... very interesting to note the lack of head on this one.

It smells like an amber ale... with just a hint of sour funk. Mostly I'm getting the malt sweetness and just a slight bit of fruit sour. It's not bad, but it's nothing too special.

There are much stronger sour notes on the tongue than on the nose, and the malt is a little in the background. It's tart, has that sour fruit flavor to it and hardly any aftertaste. Much better than the build up to the taste.

All in all it's a good beer... it's not flat so I'm not sure what's up with the lack of head, but it still tastes fresh. I'd go for another for sure. 
My Rating: B

The final Saint Somewhere beer I tried was the "Lectio Divina" which is a saison the same as the first two.  Served the same way as the first two, it's a cloudy red-amber color with a LOT of bubbles and small white head that dissipates quickly. Still a lot of bubbles coming up a few minutes later.

It smells of malt and sour notes... a little caramel hint in there and some sour fruit smells. Not bad.  The flavor is a lot more sour than the aroma... with a little woody note at the end of the sip.

Okay... this is a lot more sour than the typical Belgian-style Ales that I've had before, which is also typical of the other two Saint Somewhere brews I tried.

My Rating: B-
I've been wanting to get more into sours, so it's nice to try these but they're a little rough to start out with.  The Fifth Element Farmhouse Ale I had way back in January was one of my introductions to sour ales, and these three from Saint Somewhere provided another learning step along the way.  Part of the goal of this 365 in 2011 resolution was to learn about new styles and new breweries, and I'm certainly doing that!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Abita "Pub Crawl" Update

Word on the street (er... internet...) is that Abita is dropping their claims against Pub Crawl BR.  I guess a lot of bad publicity and lots of negative attention was enough to change their minds in a hurry.  I know there was a lot of negative feedback on their facebook page and probably many e-mails and calls.  So... way to stand up beer lovers!  And way to come to your senses Abita and support the cause instead of fighting against it.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Abita: The Good And The Bad

I guess I'll actually start off with the "bad" as far as this is concerned.  I'm sure this isn't news to all but might be news to some... a blurb popped up in the Baton Rouge Business Report : Daily PM Edition,  about Abita issuing a cease and desist letter over the use of the phrase "pub crawl."  Huh?  This has to be a mistake right?  Nope.  Apparently Abita filed for the trade name "pub crawl" with the state and have kept that filing up to date.  Really?  Since when can you "trademark" a damn generic term that was around long before your brewery even existed?  They even go one to say "...Blossman says that Abita made the term "pub crawl" known across Louisiana and that the term is now synonymous with the brewery."  HAHAHAHAHA... what a load of horseshit!  Seems to me like a case of Abita trying to throw their weight around and bully a little guy.  (In this case, Manu Kamat, who has organized a few pub crawls in downtown Baton Rouge...

Pretty lame... pretty fucking lame.  Even if they do have the legal trademark on the term.

On to the good... Abita has announced their 25th Anniversary Brew, which will be bottled!  It's going to be called the "Vanilla Doubledog" and I assume it's a stronger version of their limited Vanilla Turbodog which I missed out on trying.  I found a bit of info here about it, it should be out sometime in the early Summer, and despite the above news I look forward to giving it a try!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Mikkeller All Others Pale

I'm going to skip over the Saint Somewhere beers I tried before this one and save some time to cover all three in one post... which means I'm on to the Mikkeller All Other Pale, a pale ale from the guys over in Denmark.  I picked this one up at Martin Wine Cellar over on Perkins Road.  One of the odd things about Mikkeller is that they don't have their own brewery!  All of the beers are created by the now single-man operation and contract brewed by different breweries and collaborators around the world.  Even on the website they refer to themselves as a "gypsy brewer" which is a pretty interesting concept to me.  Enough about that... on to the beer!

First off, this is a good looking beer! I poured it from a half-liter long-neck bottle into an imperial pint glass. It's a cloudy amber color, bubbly white head with great retention and lacing. Attractive brew that makes me want to dive in.

It has a delicious malt aroma with a honey caramel smell... not too bold on the hops but there are a little there. The sweet honey smell is what really grabs you.

The taste is more of the same except that the hops come out a little more. Wow... a potpourri of malt flavors and hop hits and roasted flavors. What really stands out here is the burnt malt flavor on the aftertaste. The honey malt is first, then the bitter hops, then a burnt caramel flavor. Really a nice complexity to it.

I only wish I'd bought a few more of these... APAs are quickly becoming one of my favorite styles and this is a top notch example.  Next time I see them I'll grab several, as this is now my favorite new beer of 2011!
My Rating: A+