Archive for October, 2012

Fun With Beer: Faust Brewing Co. – Altered States

Just around the corner from the historical district of New Braunsfeld, there is a four-story hotel called the Faust.  Below the four stories of vintage-decor rooms is a brewpub that fills up every night with locals looking for a good place to unwind and have a pint or two.  Among their taps of imported German, domestic craft, and the usual suspects, there are a few that are brewed on-premises by brewmaster Ray Mitteldorf.  One of the styles he is brewing in the “Character Series” is called Altered States, the tap handle showing a fiendish devil staring you down.  However, if you look closely and take the hints from the cryptic styling, flipping the portrait of Old Scratch makes the image appear as a kindly German Opa with a big curled mustache.  That’s a good thing to keep in mind with this beer; it all depends on the angle at which you look.

The Altbier style is an interesting one because it developed in a place that was not effected by the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516, so in the cooler Rhineland they were able to experiment with storing fermented beers in cool places over long periods. Thus, the Altbier or “Old Beer” was born.  It is generally characterized by a dark brown or amber coloring with a lager-style dryness and a bit of a fruity characteristic to it.
With a recommendation at my request of something “interesting”, the bartender poured out a pint of this interesting brew.  It had a healthy white, soft head that left a good level of lacing.  The color wasn’t exactly black, but it sure wasn’t light.  It was a very super-dark brown, still fairly clear upon inspection.  Something that surprised me a bit was the viscosity to it.  It wasn’t super thick like a stout or syrupy like some Belgian old ales.  It truly did seem like a much darker lager, not thickened out by too much.  I gave it a good smell, and boy I was taken aback.  This beer has quite a good aroma to it, very malty and enticing.  I got a good sweet, almost on the verge of a toffee note, and a touch of a fruity yeast.  I must admit, this beer was lining up to have a bit of a unique palate to it.
The first taste was very malt-forward, but not in the way I anticipated it.  Sure, there was a strong portion of the sweet brown sugar toffee malt, but the overall characteristic of it was extremely refreshing and crisp, just as crisp as a beer a mile down in shades of color.  There was a bit of a hop characteristic to it, a great balance.  It provided that little hoppy bitter that we have all come to love.  Upon deeper tastes, I noticed some good stone fruit and bready yeast coming out in the after tastes.  I finished my pint in short order, simply from the excitement of going in and enjoying this unique blend.
Microbrews and Brewpubs are always a terrific place to try a thoughtful individual’s take on a style.  Whether it is a strict way to perfecting a centuries old recipe or a unique brew incorporating ground-breaking flavors, it’s always great to be this close to where “the magic happens”.  There’s something to be said about being right in the thick of it, and the Faust is a great place to enjoy that feeling and one heck of a great Altbier.

Fun With Beer: Coronado Brewing CO. – Mermaid’s Red Ale

I think it’s unfortunate that one of the beer varieties being somewhat passed by in development is the Red Ale.  IPAs are getting straight up nuts, stouts have had every other flavor under the sun in there, but what of the humble red?  Dang it all, a red ale is more than its colorful malt blend, it’s a canvas for experimentation like any other.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with Coronado Brewing Company’s version, Mermaid’s Red Ale.  I tried their coffee stout and their Imperial IPA, and was admittedly quite content with them.  They weren’t super crazy, but they had some character to them, enough at least to take them away from being too “defined by the style”.  And what’s better was that they had some stuff going on that I wasn’t expecting.  Their IIPA was wonderfully complex and had some neat herbal notes, and the stout had more dark fruit than any other I can remember.  Will their red follow in the same vein?  Let’s find out together, friends.
Now, despite the homogeneous nature of the style, I still think the soul of a Red is in its malt profile.  Those sweet, fruity notes have to just jut out, and it don’t mean butt if it ain’t got that jut.  However, we all know it’s just not as easy for it to really POP without disregarding the idea of having a hop balance.  In light of this, I simply couldn’t hold it against Coronado if they went down that road.  Readers, if you did recommend me a Red ale that really focused on having a good malt blend and remained well balanced, I would most definitely appreciate it.
I actually ordered this one on tap.  I got the pint glass at a very proper temperature; not too cold, not body-temperature warm.  There was a good finger of bubbly head, but it wasn’t retained very well.  There was a good level of lace, the sticky kind that leaves a byte of memory recording your gulp sizes down the side of the glass.  The color was, of course, amber-red.  Maybe even a Rosewood red.  It wasn’t super clear, but far from cloudy.  The aroma was the real surprise though, very resinous and piney, almost a bit like fresh (and I mean STICKY fresh) rosemary.  There is still plenty of sweet bread malt scents, but very strongly contrasted with hops.  Could this be a sign of some interesting complexity?  One hopes…
The first taste was, yet another surprise, not hop-forward!  I noted a distinct sweet toffee malt flavor before the piney, sticky hops scrunched me up.  Yes, this one is a bit of a palate painter.  It may have been the shock or the actual staying power of the hop bitter, but it took a while to get some proper tasting done with this beer.
The hop profile may not have been exactly one-note, but it was definitely played in the key of PINE.  Some citrus-y notes may have worked their way in, but were playing second fiddle.  Getting past that, the malts revealed themselves to  be a good harmonic chord of burnt sugar, toffee, and roasted malt.  Once this beer gets into its rhythm, it’s quite the crescendo of flavor!