Red Hook

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 08.15.11 under IPA, Tasting

Rather than run out of beer or more correctly, rather than drink all my lambic in a few short weeks, I decided to *gasp* buy some beer today.

Red Hook IPA was a good deal at $12.99 for a 12-pack and I felt it stood a good chance at tasting pretty good.

Apparently I’ve been living under a home-brewed rock for half the past decade or so. Because I’ve missed many iterations of Red Hook’s packaging. I should have known that the alliance with AB would have meant more than better distribution and regional brewing. There’s also the marketing power (e.g. selling packaging)

So I definitely recognize the first one. I have a vague sense that maybe one or two of the middle three existed. And I hold the final one in my hand. It’s cute. The bottle seems so small and light, but yet it is 12 ounces. The caps are fun and have different things under them, like a Magic Hat (but no words).

Oh and the beer. It’s actually pretty good. At first it smells (and therefore tastes) like perfume. That’s a flowery dry hop I guess. I wonder which one. Google is not an immediate help. Willamette? Cascade? I’m not sure either sounds right.

The bitterness is underwhelming, and the overall hop presence is soft and fragrant. I normally like a harsh/abrasive piney/fruity hop presence. Simcoe/Amarillo/Columbus. But this is still pretty good. At 6.5% ABV, it’s in the sweet spot for an IPA, IMO. I can see how this is a good compromise for a brewery that knows how to make great beer, and also needs to appeal to a rather wide audience. I would definitely get this again, should I nearly run out of beer some time in the future, or find myself out where this might be an offering on draft.

A good solid B+/A- in my unscientific book. Way better than $15.99 for 12 Sam Adams any day.

Party Time

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 04.01.11 under Brewing, Events, IPA, Oktoberfest, Stories, Tasting

I love getting ready for the Oktoberfest party!

This year, the party’s bigger than ever! I’m making and serving nine kegs!! This makes it so important to me to get the right recipe in those kegs. This year, it’s three Fisher Cats, three Yachtoberfests, and three IPAs.

Fisher Cat is easy. It barely changes from year to year, and it’s always just right. Half wheat, half base malt. Centennials to around 15 IBU. US-05. Done. That test batch is in the fermenter right now, looking cloudy as can be, and should be great!

IPA isn’t too tough, either, given that I make IPA so often. The difference is that I’m going for a kinder, gentler IPA for the masses. So I try to tone it down a bit. But overall, it’s still my IPA. Columbus for bittering and a mix of Columbus, Centennial, and Amarillo for flavor and aroma, favoring the Amarillo. A nice bitter, somewhat pungent, slightly piney and citrusy, very juicy hop treat. That tester is cold and nearly carbonated in the keg – a sample taken tonight is VERY promising.

Yachtoberfest is still the one that I’m not 100% on. For some reason I insist on doing it as a warm fermentation. First year I tried US-05, and it was fine, but not outstanding. Last year I tried WY1338 “German Ale” yeast and it was different but not totally to my liking. This year, I’ve tried WY1272 “American Ale II” yeast. It seems pretty much neutral, like I might as well save $5 and use US-05. I think for this year I’ll use the 1272, but I’m thinking that by next year I should man up and use a real Oktoberfest lager yeast. It’s not like I don’t have a fridge where I could ferment cold.

In the end, I know whatever I come up with will be well-received by the audience at Yachtoberfest. They seem to love whatever I throw their way. I’m especially pleased because the IPA was upgraded from one keg to three from last year. The Cat and Fest have always been popular, but I still keep thinking that normal people don’t like good IPA. Too many Harpoon IPA, I guess… But fortunately I keep being proven wrong. Which is good because I love making IPA. Almost as much as I love drinking IPA!

MaCallan 18 Year Old

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 12.19.10 under Free Booze, Tasting

Earlier I wrote of some free whisky I got from Master of Malt. As part of their new drinks by the dram program, they sent out free samples for review and publicity to people who write about this sort of thing. As a beer blogger, I made it onto their radar.

I’ve taken some time trying to get a handle on the correct vocabulary and taking plenty of time between tastings to make each as fresh as the first.

So this weekend I sampled the MaCallan 18  Year Old sample that they sent. You can read their description behind my link. Here’s what I wrote:

Smells dry, woody, and boozy. Leaves nice legs on the glass. The taste is dry and woody, with perhaps a touch of honey? It almost has a waxy bitterness or hints of licorice. The smell gives a touch of vanilla. It is so dry in my mouth (no surprise at 53.9% ABV). It’s almost papery as I sip. Am I imagining a peaty flavor? I get a waft of a dusty butterscotch smell.

Overall I’d say it’s pretty smooth, and I’d gladly take down a fifth over the course of a series of special occasions (like Mondays, Fridays, etc.)

Up next is the side-by-side between this 18 year old and the 12 year single barrel I tasted a few weeks ago. This should give me a good chance to really see the differences, and provide additional insight into the individual character of each one.

Free Scotch!

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 11.30.10 under Alcohol, Free Booze, Tasting

Running a beer blog, every now and then I get an offer for free beer for review. Sometimes it pans out and sometimes not.

So a few weeks ago, I got an email offer for some free booze to review. It’s Drinks by the Dram from the United Kingdom. They’ve got tons of awesome single malts and other incredible whiskies and whatnot for sale online. They have a new program where they will sell a 3cl dosage of a variety of their finest spirits as a sample.

Before you gotta spend $90 for a whole bottle, you can spend $5 for a single sample. (disclaimer: quality and accuracy of currency conversions could vary)

Samples for sale! Great idea! Read the rest of this entry…

Don’t Dump It!

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 04.29.10 under Rants, Tasting

Excuse me for a moment.

WTF is it with people that dump relatively high quality beers, calling them “undrinkable”?

OK So you might not prefer that particular offering. But there’s no way you’re telling me that this particular beer is “undrinkable”. I’d say that so many years of history demonstrates that the beer in question is totally drinkable. Maybe you are just too jaded to appreciate its subtleties, or maybe the bottle you got hadn’t been treated as well as possible, but I assure you that beer is not undrinkable.

Next time before you take to the keyboard, log onto BeerAdvocate, and decry a beer you don’t like as undrinkable and a complete drain pour…stop. Maybe I have low beer standards (I don’t think that I do) but there are so few beers that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many) that I actually had to dump because I couldn’t finish it.

Actually I can think of one. Consider this: the first Rodenbach Grand Cru I ever had, I dumped the latter half of the bottle because I found it “undrinkable”. Which obviously just meant I couldn’t handle it, or in other words the mouth-puckering sour tartness was not for me at the time. I found it undrinkable in the moment I was trying to drink it. But even so, I gave it a fair chance, nursing it for nearly an hour, waiting for my tastes to magically acclimate to this new form of “beer”.

These days, a Rodenbach Grand Cru would be welcome here any time. Turns out it isn’t “undrinkable” – it was just not in favor at the time I originally tasted it.

Look, even Natty Ice, Nasty as it may sound, is not “undrinkable”. Even the most “undrinkable” beer you could think of (for me it’s Rolling Rock) is someone’s favorite beer. So save your irrational discarding for something that’s actually inedible, like spoiled milk or moldy vegetables, but for Christ’s sake just drink the Goddamned beer!

Questioning the Wisdom

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 02.14.10 under Brewing, Tasting

My Glass of Anchor Christmas 2007Maybe I have become too confident. Maybe it’s boredom… I just don’t know what inspired me to try to copy a beer that I don’t even really like all that much. I mean Anchor’s Our Special Ale is a true American classic, released once a year in time for the holidays, and somewhat different each year. Time after time it’s basically a black beer with trees added to it. I’ve written about it before, and I’ve liked it, but these days, this is not exactly my kind of thing. However, it is a classic, so I always get at least one sixer, just to have it.

One time, I think it was December of 2008, approaching the start of my third year of brewing, I got the idea that OSA was really pretty similar to what you’d get if you took a porter and used a Bavarian wheat beer yeast to ferment it.

Read the rest of this entry…

Dundee Mix Pack

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.22.10 under Tasting

When you’re value shopping, you come across tough choices.

I ended up with a Dundee mixer 12-pack for $10.99. One dollar cheaper than the Red Hoook $11.99 special (I already used the $5 rebate, so that doesn’t count any more). Worth a shot for the Dundee.

Plus it’s a mix pack, two each of six different beer styles. IPA, Pale Ale, Porter, Wheat, Pale Bock, and the immortal Honey Brown. At least it’s a variety, and if one is terrible, little is lost. Besides, who could predict which would be the best? Mix packs like this satisfy the ticker in me.

Read the rest of this entry…

Bison Honey Basil

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 12.28.09 under Free Beer, Tasting

I have to admit that I have had some guilt over this one for a while.

One day, I got an email from a brewery seeking a media outlet for their beer. And I was it. I love that kind of thing. I don’t get it every day. Or really every month. Or even quarterly. So I had in the mail a pair of bottles of beer and some marketing info. I’d given the expectation to the brewery that I’d review the beer online. But yet I never found that “right time” to “formally review” the beer. I drank one of them right away, and formed my initial impressions, and then the second has sat in my fridge since then. It’s been probably about six months since I first tried this summer special from the certified organic Bison brewery from California.

Now, finally, I have got the guts up to write up this one.

Read the rest of this entry…

What Kind of Beer is That?

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 12.02.09 under Alcohol, Barley Wine, Brewing, IPA, Style Profile, Tasting

IIPA or Barley WineI pull a half-pint of my latest monster – a 10% ABV beer, pale in color, with a moderately high bitterness and lots of late hops. A huge nose of Amarillo and Centennial hits me right away – floral citrus notes assault me like Coltrane’s Sun Ship. Then I take a sip. Bitterness is not that strong, and alcohol dominates the flavor. This beer was meant to be an IIPA. But now I am not so sure.

Read the rest of this entry…

My Favorite Part

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 11.02.09 under Brewing, IPA, Kegging, Stout, Tasting

Kegging has got to be my favorite part of the whole brewing process. Or bottling for that matter, if that’s all you got.

The punch line is that this is the time when I first taste what has transformed from wort to beer. I learn the alcohol content, and I get to do rudimentary quality checks on the finished product.

At kegging, I can tell if it has basically come out OK. Plus I get very close to cold homemade beer. And somewhat close to cold carbonated homemade beer. These are the reasons for the pursuit of the passion. Cold carbonated homemade beer is what it’s all about.

When you strip away the chemistry, creativity, and process, what is left is beer. That’s what’s so great about it all. Not only do you get a great activity to while away a Saturday afternoon, but you also get a whole ton of beer to drink.

For what it’s worth, the IIPA came out 10.1% ABV (FG 1.013), still has a hot alcohol aroma and flavor, that I’m sure will mellow with cold and carbonation. I also expect the hop aroma and flavor to emerge in the next week or so.

The RIS came out at 10.5% ABV (FG 1.020), and good solid stout all around. A bit hot, too, at room temp. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t guess it got any oak if I didn’t know it, but it still looks to finish in a very satisfactory state that’s sure to ensure its demise way before its’ time.

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