Archive for December, 2011

Fun With Beer: Love Buzz Saison

 

Anchorage Brewing Company is a hot-shot new brewery from the icy north. Despite their remote location and literal underground status underneath the Snow Goose Restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, and their catalog of only three beers, they have gained quite a reputation for very high quality and well crafted brews. Their fourth, a Belgian Trippel, is going to have Sorachi Ace hops from Japan. I’ll be keeping my eye out for that one.

I’ve been having quite the taste for Brettanomyces, the curious little contaminant yeast that gives certain beers an unmistakable little ‘tang.” The Brett in this beer comes from being aged in pinot noir barrels after the initial brewing and fermentation. Their Love Buzz Saison was recommended to me on the selling points of its barrel-aging, Brett notes, and a respectable 8 percent alcohol by volume. However, the $13 price tag was a bit of a downer, but for a beer so universally lauded by those in the know, I shrugged it off. After getting to know this beer, I would be glad to make the leap again.

Like most fine bombers, this one is finished in cork and bail. While it does give a certain fancy air to it, the preparation and anticipation of removing the cork safely has always been more of an annoyance than anything. Once off and poured into a tulip glass, I was taken by the interesting body. It was somewhat murky orange, yet radiantly bright. The pale, sparse malt didn’t add to the color as much as the citra hops did. A nice white fluffy head on this warm orange body almost reminded me of a creamsicle.

The smell told plenty of what was to come: the nice woody flavors of the oak and the fresh citrus that followed. The idea of citrus taking a back seat for once was refreshing. The taste gave the whole picture the scent was leading to; a nice bit of the Brett giving its signature ‘funk’, the fruity dryness of the pinot noir, a nice sized hit semi-earthy hops, and just a little bit of pale hops to even the whole thing out. Grapefruit-tinged Brett was the main lingering flavor. The whole thing was very deliberate and masterfully crafted.

I wouldn’t call this an ‘entry-level’ beer, even if I could truly call anything with heavy Brettanomyces ‘entry-level’. I think it requires a certain understanding between the beer and yourself, going into it knowing full well that this is a funny flavor. However, if you can wrap your head around an well-aged cheese or enjoy a leathery cologne, you will probably enjoy beers with Brett. You don’t have to absolutely love that arena of taste to enjoy Love Buzz Saison. Even those who outright dislike strong yeasty flavors can still hope to somewhat enjoy it. It is still a very drinkable bottle, especially if splitting with a friend.

 

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Fun With Beer: Green Flash Double Stout

 

Ol’ Granny Wilburn used to say, “Don’t bother getting a stout to do a bock’s job!”, right before polishing off her fifth pint and nacho grande platter of the night. Boy, she sure was a classy lady. And, as they were my formative years, I was inclined to absorb that information. I mean, when you want a deep, full bodied dark beer, why look past Bavaria to England, a land where jellied eel pie is considered “food”. So, for the longest time, I’d curl up my mustache and put on my lederhosen when I wanted that black brew.

Well, in my defense, certain underwhelming macro-brewed stouts had kind of turned me off of the whole genre. I won’t name any names, but it starts with a “G” and rhymes with Tennis. But I knew Green Flash Brewery were a trustworthy bunch, so I gave it a shot. I was in the mood for something dark, and the rest of them were erring a bit too close to an IPA to qualify. So, after dropping just under a Xander Hambone (a ten dollar bill, to outside of the know), I had a nice little foursome to entertain over dinner. So, after cracking a couple of their little noggins like bad guys in a Steven Seagal movie, I was ready to begin.

This sucker is DARK. I shined a nice bright LED flashlight into its murky depths, barely a whisper on the other side of the glass. But, even stranger, that other side was noticeably red. Even the head looked almost as red as a semi-well known prop comedian’s ginger ‘fro. The head itself, noticeably light and lacy after it dissolves. A nice heady aroma, which was an accurate prelude to the taste.

This stout is thick. THIS is what I was hoping for, a nice, heavy, almost chewy texture. Rich, caramel flavors, but just enough bitterness to give it that complexity. Strong toasted and bitter chocolate flavors. Something about those naked golden oats really sets off the flavor profile of this beer, and I bet it’s not just the name. Very different from the usual hop bombs Green Flash usually drops, but if you look for it, you can still get a nice little herbal character from them at the end. All together a very fun experience. Of course, the 8.8% ABV doesn’t hurt the good times flowing from this little bottle.

Grandma, in all her wisdom, may have written off stouts just a bit too soon. Maybe she lost one of her famous bar brawls to one, or maybe it was her virulent rivalry with any and all England soccer teams (Granny was a virulent New Zealand fan). Whatever it was, I’m sorry Grandma, sell the Volkswagen and get me some crisps! Your boy is a stout drinker.

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Fun With Beer: Vertical Epic Ale

 

Stone’s line of yearly Vertical Epic Ales is going down the home stretch. Along with all the video games, movies, cell phones, and everything else released on 11-11-2011, Stone released the second to last of their 10 year run of sorta-kinda annual brews. Coming along with the rest of the seasonal beers, but with its signature Stone twist, it is a spicy Belgian ale, bottle conditioned with Anaheim chilies, cinnamon, and other interesting flavors. At the advice of another seasoned beer maven, I decided to pick up a bottle.
At first pour into my trusty ale glass (unfortunately, now taken before it’s time by a rogue cell phone cable and a tile floor), I almost made myself look like a world-class clown. This beer has quite the fast and foamy head, and anything above a dainty pour down the side causes a big reaction. A little tedious waiting and pouring later, I was ready to grab hold and try out the scent. Nice, no doubt. I knew it was a beer, but I was a underwhelmed after all the promises of chilies and spice. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “is this one of those beers that can talk the talk, but fail at its own very walk?” Well, I told that handsome devil that there’s only one way to find out.
The head itself was one of the more creamy ones I’ve had on a Belgian ale. I like to think that smoothed out the path for the mob of flavors thrown at you. First big one, a strong and smooth malt with just a bit of banana ester. Then the hops and chilies hit you. Really warm, powerful flavors. The chilies do not really lend their spiciness as they do the fruity, more earthy flavors. Right on cue, the taste ends out with clove, cinnamon, a slight bit of pepper, and just a hint of plum.
The main flavor groups are delivered less like a song, but more like a cd of sound effects. Group one BAM, group two POW, group three ZING. In this way, Vertical Epic is similar to an old Adam West Batman fight. You know what’s going on, but it’s just a bit too choppy.
While the complexity lends itself to being a very fun experience, it almost is too busy. In fact, I would say there is enough going on in this one bottle to make two good, well balanced beers. Maybe three slightly less complex ones. I would go into this one, not so much to parse through and take notes on, but more to just allow it to wash over you. A beer ‘goulash’ if you will. I know that this is one Stone brew that I’ll come back to, and will probably see something new each time.

 

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Fun With Beer: Lobotomy Bock

I have to admit, I almost passed this up.
Just the other day, I was cruising my local Mom and Pop fermented goods store, perusing the big fancy bottles. Champagne corks, twisted wire, all of them doing their best imitation of a Trappist monk’s prized brew. However, something big and red caught my eye. A no-frills six-pack, basic design, called “Lobotomy Bock”. I decided to take a chance on this one, and picked it up. Back at home, I was actually amused at the oddly pliable cap, almost as if they are re purposing antique tin!
When I went to pour into my favorite goblet, to further add to my amusement, it looked like someone switched my drink with a cola. It was a rich, dark brown, and but not even opaque in the slightest. Fizzy too, not as fizzy as a soft drink, but more than your average micro. The lacy tan head was reassuring, but then it hit me: the aroma. Warm, smoked, very appetizing. Personally, that smell is almost the best part. Someone get a candle company on the phone, there’s money to be made.
Despite its lackluster design and humble container, this was definitely a bock, as advertised. A bock packed full of strong, chocolaty, caramelized, malty goodness. It had a good amount of sweetness to it, but nothing that was obtrusive. I would like to say it had a good balance of malt to hops, but I was initially hard-pressed to find the hops to compare! You can get just a taste of that earthy flavor at the beginning, but it is swept away by the stronger smokier flavors. You could just barely tell that yes, these are good hops, and no, they didn’t use much. By the second bottle, you could almost chuck the pretense to hops at all and call this that disdainful moniker, “Malt-Beverage”.
However, to the Mr. Hyde of those gas station memory-erasers, this is the Dr. Jekyll. It is a more civilized and worthwhile drink, but if not only for the sake of it being a bit milquetoast. Not because of it’s alcohol content, at a hearty 10.5%, but the complexity of it. I guess Indian Brewing Company just didn’t want to offend anyone? Who knows.
        I would save this one for any “new” beer aficionados rapping at your door, wistfully dreaming of a world outside of macro-brews and national ad campaigns. In fact, the lackluster design and packaging will only serve to bolster the idea that they are in the “underground” beer drinking world now.

 

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