REVIEW: Brother Adam Honey Bragget Ale from Atlantic Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Atlantic Brewing Co.
Location: Bar Harbor, ME
Style: Braggot
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: ?
Yeast: Nottingham, Champagne
Malt: Pale, Black, Munich
Hops: Pilgrim, Wye Goldings
Appearance: Dirty, Brown Amber Resembling Dark, Unfiltered Honey
Aroma: Sweet & Malty With a Vinous Stitch of Alcohol
Flavor: Robust Malt & Mouthcoating Sweetness
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Bleu Cheese, Dark Chocolate, Plums

Something new this week. A style I’ve never reviewed… come to think of it I’m not sure I’ve ever had a commercial offering of this style. So, a Bragget for your consideration. A quick note here: there is an older spelling of the name “Braggot,” and this is the more common spelling I believe, but the dictionary recognizes the spelling used by the Atlantic Brewing Company, so in the interest of keeping things consistent I will use “Bragget” in this review.

This is an interesting style of beer with a long, but mostly lost history. The fact that a bragget is actually a marriage of both mead and beer gives it a non-to-firm date of origin, but its roots can be traced back to a wild tribe of the European Isles known as the Picts. Not much of this people’s history is known today. They were enough of a thorn in the Romans side that they were part of the reason Hadrians Wall was built. Most of their beer brewing legacy is lost to history along with any definitive answer to their ultimate fate, but one of the few things that does seem to have matriculated down through the shadowed faults of the past is their truly renowned skills in brewing. Robert Lewis Stevenson even wrote an poem about it.

According to the label this beer’s fermentable sugars are equal parts malt and honey. Historically the bragget contained more mead then beer but using a 50/50 split allows the Brewery to classify this as a beer and not a mead.
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REVIEW: Rubaeus from Founders Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 15
Appearance: Deep Red with Pinkish Foam
Aroma: Raspberries; Fruity Sweetness; Hints of Sourness
Flavor: Sweet Raspberries With a Slight Souring Toward the Swallow
Availability: Seasonal (May-Aug)
Pairs With: BBQ & Smoked Meats, Gouda, Rich Chocolate Desserts

The other day I suddenly realized being up in the Northeast brought with it the good luck of making Founders Beers available to me. I immediately headed for the nearest bottle shop to see which of their beers might grace local shelves. It happened there was more than I expected and it took me a while to select which would have the honor of being my introduction to the brewery. But, finally after much hemming and hawing it made sense to try the seasonal first, pay homage to the time of year, try something that wouldn’t be available in a couple months. So, it was the Rübæus found its place in my basket and became next in line for this review.

Founders Brewing Company is probably the best known brewery in Michigan. The brewery was started by Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers in 1997 as the Canal Street Brewing Company. The name was tribute to an area of Grand Rapids where, back in the 1800’s, several breweries made their home. The company’s original label was a black and white view of canal street with the word “Founders” above it. And so, it wasn’t a big leap to a name change for the burgeoning brewery.

“In-tribed five times was the raspy berry to twine a song of summers merry.”

Starting the brewery required a leap of faith on Mike and Dave’s part. They both only had homebrewing experience and “real” jobs. They made the leap. Quit their jobs, took out loans to cover start-up expenses, and went for it.

It took them some time to find their legs, but they finally did. They turned their backs on brewing well-balanced but unremarkable beer and refocused on what had made them want to brew beer in the first place… beer that they themselves got excited about. And low and behold it made other people excited too.
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REVIEW: Mean Old Tom by Maine Beer Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Maine Beer Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American-Style Stout
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 40
Hops: US Magnum, Centennial
Malt: American 2-Row, Midnight Wheat, Roasted Barley, Caramel 40L, Chocolate, Flaked Oats
Appearance: Deep Mahogany, Smooth Tan Head
Aroma: Sweet Malt, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Molasses & Spiced Sweetness
Flavor: Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts
Availability: Rotating
Pairs With: BBQ & Smoked Meats, Gouda, Rich Chocolate Desserts

After a rather busy in-house week finishing up the American Brewers Guild brewing course I am back reviewing. I’ll be up here in Vermont for five weeks, which has made a whole new selection of beer suddenly available to review. Makes things fun and I get to try stuff I’d never get my hands on back home. So, with much excitement and some passing trepidation (where to start)… I dip my toes.

The Maine Beer Company started out small. I mean really small. David and Daniel Kleban started with just a one barrel system (a barrel is 31 gallons), and this was before the term “nanobrewery” was a common part of brewing language. They grew fast, pushed hard by an ever growing tailwind of outstanding small-batch recipes and word-of-mouth praise.

The Maine Beer Company label is what caught my eye first and probably part of the reason I picked it up. All their labels are classy, clean, and very understated when compared to the garish wash of color and artwork that confronts you when standing in front of your local beer selections. This one stands out because it is neither garish or colorful. It is simple.

Mean Old Tom has a cranky looking face drawn on a pristine white background and the name of the brewery and beer presented in simple font. The backside of the label gives a little note about how they came up with the name. That’s all there is to the label. Nothing else. And this simplicity makes their beers easy to recognize and find on the shelf.
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REVIEW: Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, OR
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 30
Hops: Cascade, Tettnang & Bravo
Malt: Carapils, Pale, Wheat, Chocolate & Crystal
Appearance: Pours Dark, Dark Brown with Glimmers of Red on the Edges
Aroma: Roasty Malt; Cocoa; Coffee; Chocolate; Hints of Pine
Flavor: Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Grilled/Smoked Meats; Robust Onion Soup; Coffee or Chocolate Cake

This is an interesting one. Not only is this an old beer, first brewed in 1988, but also this is Deschutes flagship beer, a position you will rarely find the porter style occupying. In 1988 Gary Fish opened Deschutes as a brewpub, the first in Bend, Oregon. He named his new business for both the county that Bend is in and the magnificent Deschutes River that flows through the town.

Deschutes, like any other brewery, has had its share of lows. In the winter of their first year they had to dump ten consecutive batches of beer due to bacteria contamination. They found the contamination was due to a flaw in their brewing design that had the grain mill directly above the mash tun, and airborne grain bacteria from the grain dust kept drifting down into the mash.

After they got this not-so-little hiccup remedied, people started to notice how good the beer coming out of this new little brewery was. They sold 310 barrels of beer in the first year.

Jump ahead three years and business was booming. Gary Fish likes to say they did so well, so fast because of their attention to detail, quality ingredients, and a sense of community that the brewery worked hard to foster from its very beginnings.
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A Beer Geek’s Guide to Beer Flights

Ever since my first introduction into the wonderful world of beer flights I’ve been hooked. In my opinion there is no better and easier way to cover a lot of tasting ground then through a beer flight or two.

At its core a beer flight is simply a sampling of several beers. This form of “taste presentation” is better known in winemaking, but is also used in the culinary industry, and is becoming prominent in craft brewing as well.

History

Reimagining an Origin

The history of beer flighting is obscured in the past and understandably vague. Wanting to sample a brewer’s fare probably became prominent along with the increased availability of different beer styles.

It’s easy to picture a discerning customer stepping into a brewpub, looking over what was available, and saying something like:   “My good man I have yet to taste of any of this finery you have listed. Be a good fellow and pour me a short draught of each that I might know which may be to my liking.”

Beer Flight Tasting

The proprietor, slightly dismayed, but savvy enough to see a new potential money maker, carefully pours four samples. “Today, my friend these are on the house. Tomorrow, it will cost… oh, as much as one ‘a me pints.”

He smiles broadly turns to the slate displaying prices and carefully chalks in a new service.

Though fictional, this account shows how easily beer flights could have come on scene, and likely did, again and again, in different places and different times. However, we can assume, safely I think, that the practice became commonplace sometime after the noun “flight” started to be used to describe it.

It’s all in a Word

It could have been called a bevy of beer, an army of ales, a leap of lagers, or a raft of brews (which would have been clever seeing as the tray a beer flight is commonly served on is called a paddle), but no, it became known as a beer “flight.” Why? A closer look at the word flight might give us some clues.

Flight, meaning a sampling of a certain food or drink, doesn’t seem to be in use before the late 1970’s. There are two distinct and separate “flight” nouns. The older of the two means “the act of flying through the air.” The newer noun which has a different origin than the first is defined as “the act of running away.” The likeliest source of the word’s use, in the context of “a sample of something,” stems from a definition of the first usage, stated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a group of similar beings or objects flying through the air together.”

It’s interesting to note that a connection could also be made, especially in the case of beer, to another definition of the same flight noun, that of, “a series, resembling a flight of stairs.” A beer flight is usually drank from lightest to darkest (we will explore this more in a moment). As you work your way “up” the color spectrum in a beer flight it isn’t hard to imagine each sample as a step, and the whole as a flight of stairs.

Beer Flights

Beer Flight Basics

The Glassware

The glasses used in beer flights can range in size from 2 ounces to 6 ounces. Personally I prefer the lower end of this range because it allows me to try more samples without worrying about getting “three sheets to the wind,” just because I wanted to try a couple beers.

The glasses themselves can be several different shapes. In my own experience beer flights are often served in an economical, single shape, such a mini-sized pint or stange. But, as beer flighting has become a more common practice the variation of glass shape has also increased. I’ve seen mini mugs, snifters, and pilsners out there. And though I’ve never seen a brewpub do it, it would truly make my day to see a beer flight served with each beer style matched to a mini version of its appropriate glass. That would be pretty cool.

The Paddle

How the samples get from the taps to you is also wide open to creativity. I’ve seen flights simply delivered on a tray and lined up on the table. I’ve seen several variations of the classic wooden paddle. At one place I was served my flight on a two inch tall round cut from a stump, with shallow holes drilled to accommodate the glasses. I’ve also seen metal wire stands where the glasses are held in wire circles either in a horizontal display or a vertical display (in this case the steps become real).

The Price

The price of a beer flight is going range a bit. It will depend on the number of samples and the price of the beer you decide to sample. In most cases though, a four beer flight of 6 oz. pours and a six beer flight of 3 oz. pours will both cost around 5 dollars. Thus, the beauty of the beer flight, taste 4 to 6 beers for close to the price of a single pint.

One Rule to Rule Them All (Almost)

The one rule usually adhered to when enjoying a beer flight is sampling the beers lightest to darkest. Generally the lightest beers have a gentler character, lower ABV, and lower hop bitterness, then the darker beers. If a dark beer is sampled before a light “quieter” beer, it is likely that much of its character will be lost behind the forward charisma of the dark one.

The only place this rule doesn’t really apply is when tasting multiples of the same style. If they happen to have a wide enough variance in ABV arrange them from lowest to highest, if not… well, use your best judgment. If there is little difference between color, ABV, or IBU’s, don’t worry…just diving in is allowed.

Beer Flight Set

Purpose: It’s all in the Flight Formation

Unfamiliar Territory

Beer flights are a great way to widen your beer knowledge or help a friend broaden a narrowly focused viewpoint. I am often disappointed when I go into a place that has great beer selection but doesn’t offer flights. If the only option I have is regular pints I usually stop around two, maybe three on the outside. On the other hand, if flights are an option, I can try anywhere from 3 to 6 (depending on glass size) times the number of beers I could otherwise.

How you make your beer selections, in this case, is completely your own. You may pick beers from the far flung ends of the spectrum. Here you are searching for styles you have not tried, be ready to for the strange and wonderful.

What Beer Am I?

This formation is all about a search for the siren singing your name. You walk into a bar not sure what beer you’re in the mood for. It’s time to hunt. Whatever strikes a chord in you- add it. This is palate music for your mood and there is no right or wrong.

Are you torn between the mellow smokey feeling of a good porter, the coffee and dark chocolate of a robust stout, the biting bitter of that IPA, or is it the crisp cleanness of a summer Lager that calls to you? Find out. Sip them all, listen to the whispers, and you’ll know which deserves the space of a full pint and more attention.

Shades of a Single Style

If you really want to educate yourself about the nuances of a beer style try this formation. First, pick your subject of study. Do you want to explore the differences between several breweries’ year-around IPA’s or are you looking for a real challenge… how about the oh-so-subtle variances between a group of light lagers. Whatever you choose it is guaranteed to be an astonishing education, one that will help you work through what you like and don’t like in a style.

Brewer’s Showcase: Horizontal Flight

Most breweries and brewpubs offer flights of the beers brewed on premise. This is a good way to learn what a local brewer offers, whether their brewing practices are up to your discerning standards, and which of their family of beers is worth a pint.

You can even explore a given Brewery on your own, either at home, or at a quality taproom. Pick a brewery you’d like to know better, select four to six of their beers and create a flight. This formation will give you inordinate insight into the different flavors the brewery offers, which beers you’d spring to buy a six pack of, and which are better left on the shelf.

A Rare Gem: Vertical Flight

This flight is unusual and hard to find outside of wine tasting. A vertical flight is sampling different vintages of the same beer. You need a special ship to go vertical, something dark, secretive; a beer with a higher “fuel” load and the needed complexity to age well. Porters and many Belgian beers come to mind here. It is a great way to experience how a beer ages and how it might change from on brewing year to the next.

Imagine being given the singular opportunity to try Alaska Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter (The most award-winning beer in Great American Beer Festival history) from its first brewing in 1988 up to the present. Now, that would be a flight worthy of a new name – hum, I wonder… maybe a Pride of Porters.

At any rate the very fact a brewery or brewpub is willing to do a vertical means it’s a beer of worthy note, and an experience you won’t soon forget.

Homeschooling your palate

Don’t think you need the hullabaloo of a bar or taphouse to fly a formation. A good way to entertain a few friends at home is by putting together an “in-house” flight plan. Here you can share notes and ideas about different beers, take as much time as you like enjoying the flavors, and actually talk without having to yell. Most of the above flights can easily be put together at home; horizontal flights, shades of a single style, or a set of completely random, but new beers.

The fantastic thing about doing this at home is the amount of control you have. You can do a little research, learn more about the beers you select, and broaden your selection criteria.

You could choose a set of beers with the same general base malt, but fermented with different yeasts, or a set of single hop IPA’s that each use a different hop variety. This flight is only limited by what you want to explore.

Homebrewers Best

This one is much the same as “homeschooling you palate.” The difference? It’s your beer! That’s right, if you happen to brew your own beer, flighting offers a great way to present your beer and impress your friends.

It’s also the best way to learn from brewing experimentation. Being able to taste a brew over several recipe changes can help you understand how each addition or subtraction is affecting the flavor profile in the finished product.


The Business Side of Flighting

From a business prospective, beer flights are definitely an added draw for customers. I’ve been to more brewpubs, bars, and restaurants that don’t offer this service then do, and in most cases the ones that didn’t, did not get as much of my business as they might have. Most taphouses are more than willing to pour you free samples until you find a beer you want to pay for. This is great, but the establishment is missing out on an opportunity and the customer is missing out on an experience.

From the glassware used, to the “paddle,” to tasting notes, insider information about the beers, even suggested food pairings; a creative and well-presented beer flight can produce a very unique experience. No place can justly ask a customer to pay for one or two tap samples, but present them as something singular and it becomes a service the customer is happy to buy.

So, go out and log some beer flight miles. You’ll get the chance to broaden your palate, learn the nuances of a single style, and entertain friends. As for me, well I’ll keep searching for my ultimate beer flight experience, that grail where styles are matched to their appropriate mini-glass.

Maybe one day….

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REVIEW: G’Knight Double Red IPA from Oskar Blues Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewing Co.
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 60
Appearance: Subdued Orange-Red With a Little Murkiness Within
Aroma: Fruity & Clean, Minimal Hints of Pine & Malt
Flavor: Fresh Citrus & Pine, with Hints of Malts Trailing Behind
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Cajun cooking, Spicy sausages, Saucy BBQ, Sharp Cheddar, Strong Blue Cheese

Many times when I go looking for beer I have something in mind; a style, a brewery, something.

But this week, amid a push to get a bunch of things done at home before I take off for six weeks, I went hunting with nothing concrete in mind. I wandered aimlessly for a while, like a ship with no rudder, stopping here and there, retracing my steps to stand in front of beer I’d just seen, hoping that something would pop out at me.

Well, nothing popped and after about ten minutes the practical side of my brain overrode the part seeking divine, beer muse, intervention. What had I not reviewed in a while?

Several styles ran through my mind, but something hoppy jumped and plastered itself all over my brain wall, like a jar of lobbed molasses. So, here I am reviewing something hoppy.

The Oskar Blues Grill and Restaurant opened in 1997 and their first beer was brewed in the basement the following year. Oskar Blues has won multiple awards, their first was in 1998, a bronze from the Great American Beer Festival. Some will claim they were the earliest craft brewery to start canning, but there’s some dispute on this point, so we’ll just say they were one of the first. Though, it is safe to say that canning great beer has become Oskar Blues “thing.”

They have proved that the same world class beer can be packaged in this eco-friendly and lighter container. A can protects the beer from the oxidative effects of any light, they offer a tighter seal than bottles, get cold faster than bottles, and are easier to take into the outdoors and public places.

“Sip from the red river and learn of the Hop Giver”

The one standing argument against cans is the metallic taste some claim the can imparts to beer. But, this is more a fault of the drinker and not the packaging. These days all cans have a liner inside that stops any direct contact between the aluminum and beer… that is until you drink. When you take a sip your lips are in contact with the can as is the beer. Guaranteed if you pour that beer into a glass or cup there will be no metallic taste. But, I digress…

This particular beer was first dubbed Gordon Ale, but the name had to be changed after a trade mark dispute with Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. It was brewed as a tribute to Gordon Knight, a Vietnam vet and early forerunner in the Colorado craft beer movement, who died in 2002 while fighting a wildfire.

G’Knight Double Red IPA from Oskar Blues Brewing

G’Knight has won multiple awards including World Beer Championships in 2008 and 2010. It’s a big beer in every sense of the word. From what I can gather four different malts and three different hop varieties are used, with a generous dose of Amarillo, dry hopped, just to round things out.

The Pour and Aroma

A whopping three and a half fingers of loosely packed, off-white foam builds through the pour. It retreats slowly over the next several minutes to a finger high stronghold of wet dense foam. Color is a subdued orange-red with a little murkiness to it, no doubt a consequence of the hop amounts within.

Aroma is fruity and clean, like standing in a meadow with a slight breeze pushing through a stand of citrus trees, mixing with the air above fresh grass and flower. Pine and minimal sweetness lurk here too. I catch very little malt character.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The body is big and thick with a warming mouthfeel that runs smooth at the front, but transitions into a viscous stickiness toward the back.

Fresh citrus and pine pervade with hops knocking bitter close behind. Malt comes through more here then in the aroma and it’s bigger than expected. Though, it feels a bit like the race is being run with the hops continually getting just faintly ahead of the malt. It balances on the very edge of being balanced and drinks like it might fall to the hop-side at any moment. Swallowing leaves some nice heat. The aftertaste is viscous, creating a cottonmouth-like gumminess that lasts a long time.

Finishing The Impression

This beer will certainly not be to everyone’s liking. It’s not gonna quench any thirsts and its high ABV and viscous-like mouthfeel make the thought of drinking more than one in a sitting a little, well… terrifying. It’s a beer worthy of its bigness, but G’Knight is definitely a sipper, one of those beers you reach for on a relaxing quiet evening; a beer to accompany a movie or good book.

Cheers!

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REVIEW: Sprӧcketbier Black Rye Kӧlsch from Stone Brewing Co.


Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Black Rye Kölsch
ABV: 5.4%
IBUs: 40
Appearance: Dense black with rich tan head
Aroma: Sweet Malts with Hints of Coffee, Damp Smoke & Earthiness
Flavor: Crisply Clean Character, Distinct Bitterness & Mix of Hops, Spicy Rye and Darker Malts
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Pork Roast, Chicken Wings, Aged Gouda

This interesting Frankenstein-like venture into the rethinking of a classic style is the first winner in a new line of beers brought to us by Stone Brewing Company. The line is dubbed the “Spot Light Series” and pits two-person teams against one-another in search of truly unique recipes. The company wide competition takes place over a year in which submitted recipes are brewed and judged.

The competition has no restrictions or limits when it comes to style and creativity. A brewer’s paradise. Each submitted recipe is judged by co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, as well as brewmaster Mitch Steele (and by the sound of his name possibly a superhero).

The winners get the honor of having their beer brewed and distributed all across the country, to be enjoyed by all. But wait there’s more… the winners also get the opportunity to go on tour, sit, drink, and watch, as adoring fans swoon over their winning product.

So, Spröcketbier has passed the judges gauntlet and become the first. This creative recipe was brought to light by Stone’s Quality Production Assurance Lead Rick Blankemeier and Production Warehouse Lead Robbie Chandler. They won out, over 18, other what I can only guess, were extremely stiff competitors. I mean it’s Stone Brewing… everybody and their dog can brew a solid entry with their eyes closed.

“Surprise awaits in gathered dark of bottle with sprocket’s mark.”

Oh, one more thing before we get into the wet stuff. If you pay any attention to beer glassware you will know that a Kölsch has its one special, tall narrow cylinder of a glass, called a stange. It’s the first time I’ve used mine… seems like a good reason in itself to try this beer.

The Pour and Aroma

Sprӧcketbier Black Rye Kӧlsch

The Spröcketbier pours a dense black color and looks much like a porter. Even when held to direct light it’s only the very periphery of the opaque liquid that hints at a possible color lost in the black. A tan, almost Guinessian (that’s right I made up another word), head builds to a respectable two-finger height. This rich head drops slowly over the entire hour I’m drinking the beer and it’s only toward the very end that the beer peeks out from behind this protective and nicely resilient blanket.

Aroma has the “cleanness” expected of Kölsch yeast. Sweet malts pervade with hints at coffee brought on by roasted malts. There are whispers of dark stone fruit intermingled with a grassy quality, and damp smoke.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The front-end highlights the light Kölsch character. The fizz and snap of loaded carbonation lends a crisply clean character to the sweet malts that hit the beach first. A distinct bitterness washes the middle palate. A mix of hop, spicy rye, and darker malts, imparts a clean coffee-like character. In the transition there are hints of the darkest meat at the center of cherry and plum, close to the pit, where you get a whisper of nuttiness. It dry’s at the end leaving medium astringency and thoughts of the next sip.

The light mouthfeel is at odds with the color of this beer and runs pleasantly smooth with just the right amount of carbonic bite.

Finishing The Impression

Spröcketbier plays at confusion a bit. A game of tag is run across the palate, with the back-and-forth slap of a light Kölsch touch and the pervasive rumblings of a porter character suddenly gelded of its full robustness. In all it works magnificently. The sweet malts are well-balanced against rye spiciness and notes of hopped citrus.

It works well as a summer beer, being light, crisp, and easily sessionable, but to my mind a more intriguing place for this beer is in that place between seasons. Especially say, the winter/spring shift, or the summer/fall. As these places are transition zones in the year’s cycle… so this beer holds a zone between styles; working hard at bridging the gap between warm summer day thirst quencher and cool winter warmer.

If this beer is the standard of creativity and quality we can expect from this new series that shines a spotlight on the hard work of Stone employee’s, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next addition.

Cheers!

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REVIEW: Lips Of Faith Wild2 Dubbel from New Belgium Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8%
IBUs: 30
Hops: Liberty, Target, Goldinas
Malts: Carmel 80, Oats, Wheat, Pale, Special-B, Munich, Chpcolate Wheat
Fruits & Spices: Shisandra
Appearance: Hazy, Deep & Beautiful Mahogany
Aroma: Bubblegum with notes of Banana, Pepper & Earth
Flavor: Sweet Malt, Wild Yeast, Earthy Hops & Shisandra
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Hearty Meat Dishes, Beef Stew, Steak, French Morbier Cheese

This beer is one of the newest additions to New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series. It seems most craft breweries have that limited release series where brewers are allowed to stretch creative wings, reinvent styles, and generally do what every brewer dreams about.

Maybe the main difference between this series and others like it is the extreme and exotic (perhaps strange) ingredients New Belgium brewers are willing to put in their explorations. Many say that this series is extremely hit or miss, that some have been great, others have been downright awful. With only one (here in a few minutes that will be two) under my belt I’m in no position to judge.

I don’t remember what the other one I tried was, but I remember liking it. And even if one didn’t sound that great to me I’d still give it a shot. Each is unexplored territory. Offering the chance of something good, but not just good, something beyond the norm. Getting one, or two, or six that you don’t much care for shouldn’t stop you from delving back into uncharted waters. The next one could be the one you’ve been waiting for all along. Maybe this one is it.

The unexplored territory in this one comes in the form of Shisandra fruit and a Trappist yeast with wild brettanomyces. The brettanomyces puts the funk and tartness many Belgian beers are known for (though usually not Dubbels). Shisandra is a woody vine native to China, Russia, and parts of Korea. It is highly valued for its medicinal properties which are believed to help with liver disease and normalizing blood sugar to treating asthma, insomnia, nerve pain, depression, and memory loss.
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REVIEW: Ovila Saison from Sierra Nevada Brewing


Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 24
Hops: Summit, El Dorado, Styrian Golding, Mandarina Bavaria
Malts: Two-Row Pale (Estate Grown), Wheat, Caramel
Appearance: Light Amber-Orange, Blemished Gold, Creamy Head
Aroma: Fruit & Spice, Pepper, Subtle Hoppy-Hay
Flavor: Farmhouse Funk with Bready Notes; Apple & Citrus
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Fish, Curried Dishes, Poultry, Camembert Cheese

I’m pretty excited about this one. It is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing and the Trappist monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California. These efforts first started in 2011 and the first release was an Abbey Dubbel.

Part of the proceeds from these shared brewing endeavors goes to fund an ongoing building project on the monastery grounds. In 1931 the monks’ old chapter house was dismantled by the Hearst family, stone-by-stone and shipped from Spain to America to be used in the construction of a mansion.

These plans fell through and the sacred stones remained unused and scattered until ownership was returned to the Abbey. Slowly but surely the old chapter house is being rebuilt, funded by contributions and joint undertakings.

This recipe is a slight reworking of an earlier Ovila Saison and boasts mandarin oranges and peppercorns. A pound of mandarin oranges are used per barrel of beer (barrel equals 31 gallons). All the oranges are locally grown including a portion from the Abbey orchards, handpicked by the monks.
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REVIEW: Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Smoked Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.8%
IBUs: 55
Hops: Mt. Hood, CTZ
Malts: Smoked Munich, Roasted Barley, Pale 2-Row, Chocolate, Wheat, Rauch, Special W,
Appearance: Dark as a moonless night with mocha-colored foam
Aroma: Mix of Sweet Molasses, Warming Alcohol & Not-so-Subtle Smoke
Flavor: Rich Smoke; Dark Malts, Molasses & Chocolate-Espresso
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Meat dishes, BBQ, Smoked Salmon, Sharp Cheddar Cheese

With a forest fire burning in the Gila, about 15 miles away from Silver City, this beer just sorta seemed right. A time to sit, drink in some smoke, and reminisce, for a moment, about those times when I ate smoke trying to catch wildfire. I’ve worked with the men and women this beer is a tribute too. They deserve the honor.

Left Hand brews this beer as a tribute to Smokejumpers, the courageous souls of the wildland firefighter community that parachute into rough country, risking their lives to save national resources and property from fire. It is widely considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the US.

It is a no brainer that the official beer of the National Smokejumper Association needs… well, smoke. But how to get the right smoke?

The brewers at Left Hand realized that to get a close rendering of the smoky sense of a wood fire they would have to smoke their own malt. After many trials, a wood combination was found that seemed to best signify the smoky character they were searching for.

This beer was first brewed in 2006 and won gold in the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the smoked beer category. It was brewed again to great acclaim in 2012 and now for a third time, this year.
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