Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Sierra Nevada 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine

Okay, time for a quick review of the 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine from one of the craft brewing standard-bearers, Sierra Nevada.  Established in 1980, Sierra Nevada (@sierranevada) is one of the oldest and now largest craft breweries in the United States.  They typically brew very hop-forward beers which is typical of a California brewery.  I've mentioned them several times on here, including reviews of their 30th Anniversary Grand Cru and 30th Anniversary Barleywine. I picked up a 6-pack of these guys from Cuban Liquor on Perkins, but any good beer store should have it if it's still in stock.
For this review, I have the 2011 version of their Bigfoot Barleywine, poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a Homer Brewing goblet.  It's a reddish orange color, like a bright sunset with a small white head. Good retention and creamy pooling on top of the beer.

The aroma is pretty weak though, mostly faint hops with a little spice to it.  The taste is mostly hoppy, befitting a Sierra Nevada brew. It's primarily piney but there is a subtle sweet floral hint to it. The malts are pretty faint but there. Barely.

The mouthfeel is about as expected, with a bitter hoppy aftertaste. I like it, but it's too hoppy for my kind of barleywine. I'm excited to save a few for aging and see how the hop-forward brew ages.  I expect it to mellow out a good bit and only get better.
My Rating: B-

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reviews: Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 & 16

Now for a couple of Scottish beers from the Harviestoun Brewery in Alva, Scotland.  The "Ola Dubh" series is one of their most well known lines of beer and it's the product of a special relationship between the Harviestoun Brewery and the Highland Park distillery.  A few years ago I wrote about the Ola Dubh 30, which is aged in 30-year old Highland Park scotch barrels. The name "Ola Dubh" translates to "black oil" and as you'll see, they earn that name.

For this round, I picked up the Ola Dubh 12, and Ola Dubh 16, aged in Highland Park casks representing that particular length of aging.  I found these beers at the new (relatively) Cuban Liquor store on Perkins, and decided to give them a taste.

First for the 12... it's very dark, and impenetrable when held up to a light. It has a very small off-white head with a little retention but not excessive.  It really does live up to the "black oil" moniker when it comes to the appearance.

The aroma is very rich, dark fruit and caramel and booze, and a little chocolate in there as well. The taste has a lot more smoky scotch flavor than the aroma. There is not as much caramel or dark fruit, but it's still good. I like that it's different from the aroma.

I'm really a fan of this one, different, unique, delicious.  I'd drink it again, but let's see how the 16 compares...

My Rating: A-
Up next, the same series, just aged in the 16-year Highland Park barrels... for this one I poured it into a snifter from my friends at the Homer Brewery.

It's a really dark brown, on the verge of black with a minimal head.  It seems slightly lighter than the 12.

The aroma is strong with molasses and raisins and a little boozy burn riding on a hint of caramel and vanilla.  The scotchy smokiness comes out more in the flavor, covering up some of the sweetness of the aroma with a smoky, roasted overtone. Very nice!

It starts out kinda thin but then starts to feel a little sticky. An odd mouthfeel but not a bad one. I think I like it slightly better than the 12.  (Indeed I gave this one a 4.25 overall score compared to a 4.15 for the 12-year version!)

My Rating: A-

And going back and checking my score for the Special 30 Reserve... also an A-!  Although that review was from late 2009 and my palate has changed since then, I gave that one a 4.08 so slightly below the 12 and 16.  Very interesting, although what I really get a sense of is that it's the type of scotch in the barrel that makes the biggest difference, not how long the scotch was in the barrel prior to using for beer.

Very interesting beers, so check them out if you have the chance!

Monday, May 23, 2011

American Craft Beer Week - Recap

Alright, it's been a busy week of traveling and beer drinking for me, but I wanted to drop in and run down a few of the highlights from American Craft Beer Week!

Beer drinking venues: 5 (I know, slacking a bit for a full week!)
States I drank in: 2
Cities I drank in: 3
New beer drinking venues: 2
New beers tried:  24
Best Louisiana beer: Bayou Teche XXX Grenade
New brewery discovered: No Label Brewing
Best beer period: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
Best new place: The Petrol Station in Houston
Best brewery tour: Tin Roof Brewery
Best food truck fare: Kicker's BBQ Brisket Fries
Best craft beer in a can: Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA at The Ginger Man Pub
Most heavily rotated taps: The Petrol Station, they rotated three new beers in while we were there drinking... at lunchtime.
Best Canadian craft beer: Dieu Du Ciel Equinoxe Du Printemps
Best post-drinking steak night: St. Charles Tavern
Kickball games played during the week: 4
Biggest disappointment: Not having a time machine to be more places at once!
Biggest disappointment for real: Missing out on Parish Brewing at The Avenue Pub
Biggest anti-disappointment: Finally getting to check out The Petrol Station, very cool bar.

All in all it was a great week of craft beer and good friends.  My liver needs a few days off, but I'll be back at it before too long!

Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA at The Ginger Man Pub

The Petrol Station

Friday, May 20, 2011

American Craft Beer Week In Full Swing!

Hey everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying a fantastic American Craft Beer Week so far, and if you haven't partaken in any of the festivities it's certainly not too late.

As for me, I kicked off the week a little early with a guest appearance on Jay's Bite And Booze Radio Show.  I've also been to the Tin Roof Brewing Company for a couple of their open houses, plus spent last night trying new beers with good friends at The Avenue Pub in New Orleans while Jay and I interviewed The Beer Buddha for our upcoming radio show called "Raise A Glass."  Yeah, another radio show!  I added 5 new beers to my 365 in 2011 list while at The Avenue Pub, my favorite was almost certainly the Dieu Du Ciel Equinoxe Du Primtemps (which I'm pretty sure means Spring Equinox) although the coconut heavy Bayou Teche XXX Grenade was also awesome.  I also tried a Raftman from Unibroue, the Dieu Du Ciel Recousse, and the Brookyln EIPA.  All fine beers but the first two really stood out.
Bayou Teche XXX Grenade and Dieu Du Ciel Recousse Altbier
Tonight I'll be at The Gingerman Pub in Houston with Mandi and a few Houston friends checking out what's going on across the state line for this beer celebration.  No matter where you are though, there are sure to be lots of good beers on tap at the local watering hole.  I know Tin Roof in Baton Rouge will be having an open house tonight from 5-7 with free beer samples and a brewery tour.  And The Avenue Pub will be celebrating more tonight leading up to their huge tasting tomorrow afternoon.  I wish I could make it, but I can't be everywhere at once.  And for that, my liver thanks me.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Samuel Smith Beer Dinner At The Londoner

Recently I had the pleasure of an invite to the Samuel Smith beer dinner at The Londoner.  I had been there once before with my friend Carlye to check out the food and drink, but do I seem like the kind of guy that turns down an invite for even more food and drink?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

This time around it was a 5-course dinner, each paired with a different Samuel Smith beer.  I've written about Samuel Smith many times, and even added a new one to my 365 in 2011 quest at the Top Of The Hops Festival in Lafayette.  With that in mind, I wasn't expecting anything new in this tasting, but sure enough, the dessert course called for the Samuel Smith Organic Raspberry Ale... well alright alright alright.

After a drink appetizer of a Moylan's Kilt Lifter, their best beer on tap in my opinion, it was time for the real show to begin.  Our appetizer course was a plate of pan-seared crab cakes paired with a Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale... one of their classics.  The crab cakes were topped with a buerre blanc sauce made from the ale, so it paired nicely.

Up next, the salad course... nothing too special here except I enjoyed the fried crawfish tails.  can't really go wrong with those.  It was paired with the Samuel Smith regular lager.

The soup course was up third... a smoked gouda and Taddy Porter soup that was the highlight of the meal for me.  As expected it was paired with the Taddy Porter.

For the main course, braised pork shank and Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, one of their iconic beers.  It has nearly the came complexion as the Taddy Porter, but whereas the porter has more of a smoked flavor the oatmeal stout really retains some nice chocolate tones with a definitively oatmeal flavor.

Up last, the dessert, a chocolate lava cake with fresh raspberries, and the only new beer to me on the menu.  This of course was the Samuel Smith Organic Raspberry Ale.  The guys at the dinner said they were originally planning on going with the strawberry ale, but a few cases of the raspberry came available at the last minute.  Sounds good to me, we get enough strawberry beers down here between Abita and Covington.  The Raspberry Ale was very sweet, almost TOO sweet, but paired well with the chocolate and matching fruit flavors of the dessert.  Not bad, and hit the spot for a little post-meal sweet-tooth.

 And that concluded this dinner... and this blog post.  It was a tasty evening, lots of good food and good beer.  Not the best beer dinner I've ever attended but I certainly left satisfied and I can't ask for much more than that!

The Londoner on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's American Craft Beer Week!

Hello everyone, and a happy American Craft Beer Week to all of you!  The celebration officially kicks off today, although I know some bars started a little early. 

If you're looking for a good way to try some new craft beer in Baton Rouge, the first place I'd recommend is the Tin Roof Brewery.  They will be having an open house every day this week from 5 to 7, with free beer samples to anyone who wants to come by.  In addition, the Food Truck Roundup will be at the brewery on Wednesday for an even larger open house and tasty bites to compliment the beer.

The Londoner will also be hosting special tastings all week as they celebrate craft beer's best week of the year.  Tonight will feature Moylan's and Saint Arnold, on Tuesday they will have special taps of Sierra Nevada and Stone, Wednesday is all Lazy Magnolia and Covington, Thursday is Abita and Harpoon, Friday is Rogue and Magic Hat, Saturday is Flying Dog and Schmlatz Brewing, and they finish it off on Sunday with some NOLA, Sam Adams, and Brooklyn beers.  I'd be most excited about the Stone and Schmaltz offerings, but I'm afraid I'm not going to have time to swing by at all.

The best place to celebrate American Craft Beer Week is definitely The Avenue Pub in New Orleans.  I know it's not always easy to just head down there and drink a few, but if you have a chance this week or this weekend, it's the place to go.  They will have special releases every night and that's on top of an already outstanding craft beer lineup.  They have also put together a list of other locations hosting Craft Beer events, so check it out! 

And if all else fails, just buy some craft beers at the local store, and enjoy with some friends!


Friday, May 13, 2011

The BR Beer Scene - On The Radio!

Hey everyone!

I encourage you all to tune in to Talk 107.3 from 10-11 tomorrow morning for the Bite And Booze Radio Show.  The show this week will be all about American Craft Beer Week, and will feature Charles Caldwell and William McGehee from Tin Roof Brewing, Andrew Godley from Parish Brewing, Polly Watts from The Avenue Pub in New Orleans, and CJ Webre from Calandro's Supermarket.  Plus, I'll be in studio with Jay for a portion of show asking questions and talking about craft beers!  Thanks to Jay for having me on and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beer Travels: Brewery #4 - Saint Arnold Brewery, Houston, TX

As I'm sure my readers are aware, I've been spending a lot of time in Houston recently.  And I know this is the BR Beer Scene, but we share a lot in common with Houston.  I've even read that LSU makes up the 3rd largest alumni base in Houston?  On a recent trip, Mandi and I headed to the Saint Arnold Brewery, where we met up with my old roommate in BR Chris Perry and his wife Emily.  Thanks again to the guys at Mockler for getting us on to the guest list!

The first thing of note is that Saint Arnold has a relatively new home on Lyons Ave. in an industrial area on the Northwest side of downtown.  We plugged it into the GPS and it took us right there.  There is a small parking lot just adjacent to the building but unless you're the first person there or need the use of a handicap spot, you're going to be shit out of luck!  They do tours now on Monday through Saturday with I'm sure Saturday being the most popular.  Officially the doors open at 11 but we pulled up around 10:45 and made our way in.  And thankfully we were early because the place was already packed with people hanging out and waiting for the taps to open!  Fortunately we were able to find a small section of table unoccupied and as soon as the taps opened at 11 I went for an Elissa IPA and grabbed a Fancy Lawnmower for Mandi.

Elissa IPA, the standard tasting glass, and the Fancy Lawnmower.

For a little bit about how the tastings work, it's a $7 admission normally and you get a tasting glass (like pictured above) with 4 beer tokens.  If you bring in your own Saint Arnold glassware they will fill that up instead, although not necessarily a full pour on the big ass mug I brought in.  You can also purchase glassware there, with a discount for trading in your tasting glass.  The tours on Saturday run at 12, 1, and 2, so you can drink for a while then get in line for the noon tour... or just keep on drinking until the 1:00 tour... or just drink for a while and then bail out!  You are also more then welcome to bring whatever food you'd like or cards or games for entertainment, and as a result the scene really starts to resemble a lively beer hall!  

After the first beers I went for the one on the list that I'd never tried before... the Saint Arnold Texas Wheat, which I was told is also set to be discontinued so I guess I was just in time!  

To be honest, I can see why this one is being discontinued.  It's not a bad beer, but it's rather unremarkable.  An easy drinking summer thirst-quencher but the craft beer scene is moving away from these types of beers and I'm sure the fermenting space is needed for something more unique and interesting to catch the attention of the beer fanatics out there.

After a few more beer samplings, including the Brown Ale and Spring Bock, it was time to move on, but I really like the way the Saint Arnold crew does their tours and tastings.  No bullshit, they are there to serve some people some good beer and show them how the whole process works.  A highly recommended excursion to anyone making a trip to Houston.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: St. Bernardus Collection

A few months ago I happened across a St. Bernardus gift set at Martin Wine Cellar on Perkins Rd. in Baton Rouge.  Being a complete sucker for gift sets that include a glass, and seeing as how two of the four beers were new to me, I couldn't pass it up.  The gift pack included the St. Bernardus Pater 6, Prior 8, Tripel, and the fantastic Abt 12.  In fact, my old post about the St. Bernardus Witbier and Abt 12 is still one of the top 5 most-viewed blogposts.  I've previously had the Tripel on many occasions and it's world-class, but I'm going to focus on the two new beers in this post.

First up, some Prior 8, a "dubbel" style ale.  The choice of glassware for this one is about as obvious as they get... yeah, I went with the St. Bernardus chalice that came with the beers.  This dubbel clocks in at an appropriate 8% alcohol, although the Abt 12 isn't a full 12% and the 6 which comes next is closer to 7%.

It's a dark brown color with a bubbly white head. Great looking beer.  It smells of plums and raisins and a little chocolate too. The taste is very similar to the aroma. I really like the chocolate flavor on the aftertaste.  It might not be a perfect example of the style but it's still pretty damn tasty.

Very drinkable, super smooth and delicious.  As with the beers from St. Bernardus I've had before, this one is a winner.

My Rating: A

The second new one was the Pater 6 ale, also considered a dubbel, but this one clocks in at only 6.7% which is stronger than the average beer but a little on the low side for a dubbel. Just like the Prior 8, I took advantage of my new St. Bernardus glass.

It's a murky brown color, finger or so worth of creamy head. Good retention and decent lacing. It has a floral aroma, malty as well with a little dark fruit to it. The floral notes are the most noticeable flavor. There are several flavors that are similar to the Prior 8, but the floral notes are a change from the chocolate tones of the previous beer.

The floral hop notes are definitely the dominant flavor on the tongue. The malt flavors on the nose are much less obvious here. It had a good mouthfeel as expected, as it was very well carbonated and bubbly.

Not my favorite St. Bernardus beer but still good... I think this one is a little less appealing than the Prior 8, and neither stacks up to the phenomenal Abt 12.

My Rating: B+

Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale

Alright ladies and gentlemen... time for a quick one-beer review of the Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale.  This one comes to me from Southern Star Brewing in Conroe, Texas... I picked it up at Bet-R but just about place that has a good craft beer selection in BR will have it.  Most notably though, what we have here is craft beer in a can!
The canning of craft beer is a bit of a trend lately, with more and more breweries either going from kegging to canning, or adding a canning line in addition to their bottling lines.  Several breweries like New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Ska Brewing, and local guys Tin Roof are all in on the canning trend.  I can see some definite advantages... for one, cans don't allow any light in to skunk the beer, which is vulnerable in even the darkest color bottles.  Cans can also go places where bottles are illegal, like down the river or at the beach.  The primary concern seems to be the danger of a metallic taste coming from the aluminum... this beer had a bit of that but I've had many canned beers with no trace.

On to this beer... I poured it from the 16 oz. can into an imperial pint glass... yeah, it's a 16 oz. can.  Nice touch, if you ask me.  I know this kind of defeats the purposed of drinking a canned beer, but it's best to pour into a glass for a review.  If it's good in a glass, it'll still be pretty good straight from the can on a hot day with LSU football going on.

It's a nice copper color with a bubbly off-white head. It has an earthy hop aroma with a little metallic twinge... see, there's that little off-taste you get from an aluminum can sometimes.  I've gotten this from bottled beer stored on its side before as well, though.

The taste is mostly hoppy, piney as the name indicates. There is a little malt kick but mostly hops. It's tasty, but not one of the best APAs I've had recently. Great mouthfeel. Bubbly carbonation, no bad aftertastes. Feels good. Overall I'd say it's a notch above average.  Quite refreshing and one I'd definitely bring on a canoe trip or to the tailgate party.

My Rating: B-
BeerAdvocate: B+

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Avery DuganA IPA

Alright, time for a quick review of the DuganA IPA from Avery Brewing Company (@averybrewingco) out of Boulder, Colorado.  Like most Colorado beers I review here, I picked this one up at Spec's in Houston.  They can get beers from New Belgium, Avery, Great Divide, Ska, and others that aren't in Louisiana yet.  Hopefully someday they will be, but for now I'll just have to make the occasional beer run.

This particular IPA is actually an Imperial (or Double) IPA, brewed with around twice the malt and hops as a typical IPA would be.  They can range from 7% or so alcohol up to 14% for a really strong one.  At 8.5% this DuganA is on the lower end, but that's still a pretty stiff beer.  I'm not really sure what DuganA means... but whatever, I'll still drink it!

For this IIPA, I poured from a bomber into an imperial pint glass. It's a hazy faded orange color, with two fingers of frothy white head. Great retention and lacing.

The aroma is hoppy as expected, but it's tough to place the exact hop profile. There are floral notes, a little honey even. The taste is hoppy and bitter, a good match for the aroma. 

There's a little lingering bitter taste, but pretty good mouthfeel. I guess my overall impression is that it's a good but not great beer.  I'd drink it again, but I don't know that I'd seek it out... at least not until the next release.

My Rating: B+

Hmmmm, I noticed Blogger has added a "Location" option. Interesting... 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reviews: Green Flash Trippel & Grand Cru

Alright, two more beers from Green Flash Brewing (@greenflashbeer), a microbrewery out of Vista, California which is really close to San Diego.  I reviewed their barleywine as part of a trio of reviews recently and this time I have the Trippel and Grand Cru to check out.  Both are Belgian-style ales, which is a little bit of a departure for a West coast brewery, but the barleywine was great, so here's hoping these deliver as well.

First up, the tripel.  True to the style, I poured from a bottle into a Chimay goblet... and if lives up to the Chimay name then I'll be one happy camper. It's a bright orange color, hazy with a small white head.

This beer has a very floral aroma, with hints of honey and citrus. Not bad, and a typical flavor profile for the tripel style.

The taste is about the same but a little bitter with the floral hops coming through. The honey notes aren't as strong, but it's still a pretty good beer.

All in all a decent tripel. Not the best American version and not as good as the Belgians but I like it and would have another.  

My rating: B

Second beer on the menu... the Green Flash Grand Cru.  "Grand Cru" is a non-technical beer term typically used with Belgian-style ales, indicating a more elaborate and usually stronger version of a beer.  Oddly enough, in this case the Tripel was 9.7% abv while the Grand Cru weighs in at 9.00% abv.  Still though, both are pretty strong beers, so watch out!  This one is listed as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale (BSDA) which is a very similar style to the quadrupel ales. 

Just like the tripel, this one was poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a goblet. It's a dark Brown, a little hazy with minimal head.  A very typical color for a BSDA and such a high alcohol content lends itself to less head.

The aroma is faint but what I pick up is good. A little chocolate, followed by some plum notes.  The taste also has a bit of chocolate in there. A little odd for a BSDA but it's not bad. Theres even a little roasted note on the end. Double checking... yep this is the grand cru.

It's very drinkable and I like it but it's just a little out of character.  The chocolate and roasted notes were a little odd for me, and I see a lot of BA reviewers were getting similarly odd flavors.  Despite all that, it's not a bad beer, just different.

My Rating: B-

In conclusion, neither of these are bad beers, but for my money there are much better Belgian style ales out there, including the real things from across the pond.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reviews: Great Divide, Avery, & Green Flash Barleywines

Alright, time to run through a few quick reviews of a trio of barleywines I picked up at Spec's in Houston not too long ago.  American barleywines are quickly becoming one of my favorite styles, easily in my top 5.  I'm not sure they are above a good Belgian strong ale, but they're getting up there.  On to the reviews...
The first one comes from Great Divide (@greatdividebrew), which is currently one of my favorite breweries and one I try to pick up as much as possible when traveling to Houston or elsewhere.  This one is their Old Ruffian Barleywine.  I poured it from a bomber into an imperial pint glass... it's a copper color, clear with a large off-white head. A pretty decent looking beer.

The aroma is boozy and malty, with hints of molasses and caramel. The flavor is insanely rich... boozy as well but so strong with the caramel and molasses flavors... it's a little overwhelming, but so delicious. Like a food that has so much flavor it's hard to concentrate on just one. It's tasty and exciting.

I like this one a lot... not sure if it's going to be an A+ beer but it's an A at the worst.
My Rating: A 

Second up, the Hog Heaven Barleywine from Avery Brewing (@averybrewingco), a second straight Colorado brewery.  Just like the Old Ruffian, I poured the brew from a 22 oz. bottle into an imperial pint glass.  It's a dark copper color with a frothy white head.  It has great lacing and good retention... a solid looking beer!

The smell is malty with a metallic hint to it... caramel and molasses dominate.  The taste is a lot better than the smell... rich with the malt/hop flavors and boozy sweetness.  I like the mouthfeel a lot, but that's pretty typical of barleywine or similarly high-gravity beers.

Easy to drink... a solid beer but not quite as good as the Old Ruffian.  
My Rating: B+
Finally, a California barleywine, the Green Flash (@greenflashbeer) Barleywine Style Ale.  I decided to mix it up for this one, and poured from a bomber into a Corsendonk goblet as opposed to a pint glass. It's a murky brown color with an inch worth of bubbly slightly off-white head. Good retention and lacing on this one.

It's a great smell, rich and malty. There is definitely a boozy note to it and lots of caramel and spice. The taste is way more bitter with the hops up front then a boozy kick followed by a warm caramel hint and the back to the hops on the aftertaste. Not bad, I guess the California thing is to add a little more hops, I know I've had the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine before and it's extremely hoppy for the style. 

I really like the layering of flavor in this one. Feels good on the mouth for sure. My overall impression, a strongly above average barleywine but not the best I've had.  Better than the Avery offering but falling a little short of the Great Divide brew. 
My Rating: A-  

In summary, all three were fantastic beers that I'd drink again.  Now I just need to find a few more barleywines to try and keep expanding my knowledge of the style.