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Archive for the ‘Beer Review’ Category

Bell’s Expedition Stout – 2007 & 2008

Posted by jwpiper on June 29, 2009

It’s a warm summer night (but the coolest all week), and I’ve got a taste for something rich, sweet, and complex. I’ve been wanting to do a side-by-side of some cellared Expedition with a fresher batch. The batches selected are 8183 and 8864, which Bell’s has so responsibly provided a webpage to decode: they were bottled on September 25, 2007 and December 8, 2008, about 21 and 7 months ago, respectively. Poured at cellar temp.

2008 Expedition Stout

Appearance
5
Pitch black and thick – not Dark Lord thick, but very heavy and viscous. The head is a light mocha color and pours to several cm over a 6 oz pour. It sticks around leaving a haze on top of the black liquid beneath.
Smell
4
As expected, a deep roasted flavor with hints of coffee. More raw and boozy. Elements of grassy hops, when sniffed after it’s older brother.
Taste
4
The roasted malts are so strong – without much booze and definite warmth. The hop finish is still present and a bit grassy as in the aroma. This truly is a complex beer which still hasn’t 100% come together yet. This just seems so raw and disjoint when next to the 2007. A real detriment to this beer since it is usually so delicious in its own right. Makes me hesitate to every do a real, side-by-side RIS tasting.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Exemplary thick smoothness with just enough carbonation prickle to clean it up in the finish. Not chewy or heavy.
Drinkability
4
Come on – in truth this is a sipper. But a delicious one. It might be tough to get through two of these.
Overall
4.25
A fine beverage. I would’ve listed it as on of my top beers, but having its year older counterpart is making this one a bit harder to enjoy. It may have ruined me to fresh Expedition!
Price
$2.50/12oz.

2007 Expedition Stout

Appearance
4.5
A darker, mocha colored head. The pour produces less than 1 cm of head which pretty quickly disappears leaving just a ring around the glass and a few islands here and there.
Smell
4.5
Richer and maltier with caramel and chocolate and devoid of any hint of the fresh grass. Some dark fruit aromas appear as well.
Taste
4.5
Wow, so rich and dark. Chocolate and roasted goodness. Sweeter, but not overly sweet and with a well balanced bitterness on finish. Some warmth with no booze. This has become a very special beer. The finish seems to last forever.
Mouthfeel
5
It has gotten thicker, smoother, and is just a bit creamy.
Drinkability
4.5
I could drink a couple of these with no real problem. Extremely tasty and complex – it entices me to keep sipping.
Overall
4.55
This beer, I think, still has a little while before it peaks. Its storage has been non-ideal (in a kitchen cabinet where temperatures vary quite a bit over the course of the year). I think I’ll be cellaring pretty much every bottle of this I buy for at least a year.
Price
$2.50/12oz.

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Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

Posted by jwpiper on April 14, 2009

I’m going into this beer with a bit of a negative lean. I’m not sure what I want to drink tonight, if anything. But, I want to try this while it’s fresh, so it might as well be tonight. I’ve been drinking a lot of RISs and RISs have been on my mind with the recent release of Struise Cuveé Delphine and the impending release of Three Floyds Darklord – to which I greatly look forward. Been a bit of time since I broke out a DIPA. So tonight’s the night. Poured at cellar temperature into Spaten Optimator 0.5L krug. I love these glasses. But I digress….
Appearance
4.5
Wonderfully clear, golden pour with some amber highlights and an off-white 5cm head when poured into my krug.
Smell
4.5
Sticky pine-sap, with grapefruit peel, soap and resin. Strong hop profile with some caramel hints – maybe even a bit of sweet biscuits.
Taste
4
Mmmmm. I’m pretty pleasantly surprised with this beer. There’s tons of pine in the hop profile, and some nice sweetness to go along with it. The flavors are incredibly light given the pine dominance and the intriguingly well-balanced and light sweetness is reminiscent of Hopslam. The finish is mildly bitter with grapefruit peels and sweet.
Mouthfeel
3.5
A bit sticky and under-carbonated. Medium- to light-bodied.
Drinkability
4.5
This is a really inviting and drinkable beer. I wouldn’t say as refreshing as Pliny, for example, but that’s probably not terribly fair. I’ve got no problem downing this beer tonight.
Overall
4.2
I’m rather surprised by this beer, I must admit. It’s pretty darn delicious. Stands out in the sea of DIPAs. Not quite Hopslam (and similar in balance), but closer than I would have expected.
Price
$6/22oz. I bit higher priced than Bell’s Hopslam, but in the right ballpark for what these delicious DIPAs seem to be going for these days.

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Aventinus Weizen Eisbock

Posted by jwpiper on April 12, 2009

Was jonesing for something right and sweet tonight, and this was staring out at me from my beer cabinet. I bought it a while ago, and the label indicates it was bottled in 2008. Supposedly, a beer like this was originally a product of shipping through freezing weather. By the time arrived at its destination, it had been frozen and concentrated (thus the eis in eisbock). I suppose they must have been serving it immediately, before the ice melted, otherwise – what’s the difference once it warms up to proper serving temperatures? Nevertheless, G. Schneider & Sohn created this eisbock to mimic the concentrated beers that their customers received in the cold German winters. I poured mine into a 0.5L Aventinus glass at cellar temperature. I suppose I ought to have cooled it down to lagering temperatures – oh well.
Appearance
4
Pours a dark brown with some caramel and amber highlights. A 1.5cm off-white head forms, but quickly disappears. The beer is only enhanced by the glass into which it’s poured.
Smell
4.5
The aromas are powerful – filling the air once the bottle is emptied. I get concentrated dark fruit aromas: figs and prunes. There are also hints of acidity and a slight metallic aroma accompanied by a bit of alcohol warmth. Further into the bottle, a definite banana aroma emerges.
Taste
4
My tongue is first greeted with sweet caramel, which is immediately followed by the rich dark fruits in the aroma. The finish grows increasingly robust bready/yeasty with an alcohol warmth and mild hop bitterness at the end. The longevity of the whole grain bread flavor finish is impressive.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, smooth, and full-bodied.
Drinkability
4
The 12% ABV is impressively well masked in this beer’s rich profile. Not quite a sipper, but very big and rich.
Overall
4.1
This isn’t a clear dessert beer because of its bready flavors, but it is suitably sweet. A very interesting beer.
Price
$5/330ml. Fairly pricey, but I can’t think of another beer like it.

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Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I’ve been meaning to break this out for some time, as I figured it would be right about now that it would start balancing out some. Having just sampled the Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged BORIS, and giving my palate a chance to rest, I figured now was the time. Split a bottle straight from the cellar with my wife into two snifters.
Appearance
4.5
Nice thick, black pour with a 2cm tan head which sticks around as a thin layer for a little while.
Smell
4.5
This beer is all about the bourbon. Tons of bourbon on the nose. Some deep, rich smells including wonderful roasted malts. There’s a ton of richness here.
Taste
4.5
Bourbon up front, giving way to the nice Blackout malt profile. The hops have died down some as compared to fresh non-barrel-aged Blackout. Sweet, with some fruits, even some bright almost sour fruitiness. The finish is bourbon and vanilla and a little oak. The few months this has sat has allowed the beer to balance and mellow a bit. I like this quite a bit more than fresh, personally. But the bourbon may have died down just a bit, but the beer is still very bourbony. There’s a bit of heat, but the alcohol is remarkably well hidden.
Mouthfeel
4.5
This is incredibly smooth, but with a good amount of carbonation. Very thick and viscous, but it ends on a fairly clean note. This may be the remaining hop bitterness. A hint of chalkiness, which I like for a big RIS like this.
Drinkability
4.5
Tons of interest. The bourbon isn’t as overpowering as I often find it on tap at the brewery. Sipping this one, but I’m finding it easy to drink.
Overall
4.5
For me, this is better than at the pub. An excellent beer, heavy on the bourbon, but at this point, some 6 months after the release, very well balanced.
Price
$14/22oz. A pretty good price for a BA RIS.

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Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I took a long lunch to drive down with Matt G. to Hoppin’ Frog to grab a case of their Barrel-Aged BORIS Imperial Oatmeal Stout. I had to get my hands on the BA version of a beer I like as much as I do BORIS The Crusher.

It was my first trip to the brewery. A real nice group of folks – if a bit eager to sell you some beer. Seems they get quite a few randoms without much knowledge of beer since they were so surprised to see people who knew what the heck a Wee Heavy or DIPA were. Wish I could’ve stuck around to shoot the breeze, but we had to get back to work.

My understanding is that the beer was only barrel aged since January. They started bottling at 9am and were still bottling when we arrived. I’d guess that the bomber I’m sharing with my wife tonight is only about 7 hours old.

Appearance
4
Pours a rich deep black color with a 1.5cm light mocha head which rapidly turns into a ring around the top of the beer.
Smell
4
The nostrils are quickly filled with whisky aromas and a little must. This is also accompanied by the nice roasted aromas familiar to BORIS drinkers. A reasonably well balanced profile – not too dominated by the whiskey, but definitely boozy.
Taste
4
Similar on the tongue – some whisky but not at all dominating. A nice alcohol warmth, maybe just a bit too much in the finish. Nice, smooth, roasted flavors – some chocolate, more than I remember in the normal BORIS and just a hint of vanilla in the end. The vanilla and whisky play nicely together in the long finish.
Mouthfeel
5
Regular BORIS has the most incredible smooth palate and this follows suit. So silky smooth from the oatmeal. Definitely an interest beer for this alone.
Drinkability
4
This is a complete sipper. Plenty drinkable, but the alcohol is hitting me a bit too hot as I get through the beer. Also, you’ve got to drink it slow in order to get the vanilla and whiskey on the finish, which is the best part of the beer for me. Not a problem.
Overall
4.1
A worthy beer with plenty of its own unique character. By no means my favorite BA RIS, but again – it’s in its own category almost. I appreciate the balance and relative subtlety of the whiskey. An excellent beer. Not enough barrel character to let this age for an extended period, I don’t think.
Price
$14/22oz. A decent value for a BA RIS. From what I’ve gathered, it’s only aged for a couple of months, which may explain it. Also, the regular Hoppin’ Frog BORIS is a bit pricey for a RIS.

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Alesmith Speedway Stout

Posted by jwpiper on February 27, 2009

On my recent visit to San Diego, I had to stop into Alesmith. I ended up shooting the breeze with Peter, Jessica, and the rest of the folks for a couple of hours before they left to judge the homebrewer’s competition. Along the way, I picked up on what the new Decadence will be, their plans to release some cheeses in the future, and even some long term dreams they’re cooking up. Some pretty exciting stuff going on there – it seems my favorite brewery isn’t only thinking of brewing excellent beer: they’re stretching themselves and even coming up with some pretty original and exciting ideas.

While I was there, I grabbed the better part of a case of Speedway Stout. I’d recently cracked a bottle of Speedway from a previous trip which I guess is about 6-9 months old at this point: the first batch in their new digs. It proved it would be difficult to keep my hands off it, so I figured I’d better replenish my supply. Being brewed with coffee, I figured I’d better give it a try fresh (they didn’t have any on tap while I was there). I split it with my wife at cellar temp into a couple of snifters.

Appearance
5
It pours thick and black with a 3.5 cm mocha head which clings to the glass as it recedes. Just beautiful.
Smell
4.5
Smells of roasted malts with tons of coffee. A definite sour note, kind of like Black Albert. A bit of milk chocolate and some bittersweet aromas.
Taste
4.5
So smooth and so much coffee. This fresh example just has tons of coffee and roasted flavors. A ton of warmth, but mostly from the warm flavors and integrated sourness rather than high ABV. I prefer this with 6-12 months on it to dial back the coffee and meld the flavors together a little more. It’s definitely rich and sweet with coffee bitterness in the finish.
Mouthfeel
4
Crazy smooth. This batch may be less carbonated than most batches I’ve had.
Drinkability
4.5
This is an incredibly easy beer to drink. No alcohol bite or noticeable alcohol presence. It’s a sipper, but very sippable.
Overall
4.55
Easily one of my favorites. Similar in some ways to Black Albert, and not quite as good fresh. But with some age, this beer really comes into its own for me.
Price
$10/750ml fromt he brewery. $13 locally when they happen to have it. Jessica let me know that she finally put a good amount on a pallet headed our way.

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New Belgium Lips of Faith Dark Kriek

Posted by jwpiper on February 22, 2009

Ever since my last trip to Belgium, I’ve been craving sour beers almost on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, the good ones are expensive here in the US. My last experience tasting a sour from New Belgium was actually a very pleasant surprise, so I thought I’d give their Kriek a try as well. I picked this up from Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido, CA. Poured from a bomber at about 55 degrees into a Cantillon tulip glass.
Appearance
4
Nice dark ruby red color – reminiscent of bing cherries – with a 2cm dusty white head.
Smell
3.5
The aroma is sharp with sour impression. Some vinous qualities: with acidity and a woodsy character. A little bit of funk from the yeast.
Taste
2
The taste is substantially less sour than the aroma. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the beer, but the aroma got my hopes up a bit. This isn’t as complex as I had hoped and is clearly and ale and doesn’t have the funkiness of a good lambic kriek. The flavor of cherries is strong, too strong, and there’s isn’t the character which the pit adds to a good Belgian Kriek. The woodsy component is a bit musty and heavy and doesn’t seem to be well melded with the cherries. Some bready yeast on the finish.
Mouthfeel
4
A bit dry. Medium body.
Drinkability
2
The dryness helps, the alcohol isn’t strong, and there is plenty of complexity. Nonetheless this is starting to get a bit old partway through the first pour. I’d push through a 12oz, but the rest of this 22oz is going to make its way down the drain.
Overall
2.9
There is a good bit going on in this beer – the flavors just seem more competitive than cooperative. The dominant flat cherry flavor gets pretty old pretty fast. Not as good as I hoped based on a small sample of La Folie I had while at Alesmith one day.
Price
$8.50/22oz. I won’t be buying this again. There are much more pleasant sours out there which aren’t that much more expensive. I guess I can even think of some which are quite a bit better.

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Struise Black Albert

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

After having a couple of delicious aged Trappist quads, I was ready for something different and even bigger. I had met up with some new friends and was singing the praises of Struise Black Albert which can be quite difficult to get in the US. With all my yapping, I worked myself up into a hankering for one myself. And since the brewery was sold out, I wasn’t expecting to run into it anywhere else. Struise doesn’t make their own glasses, so it was poured into a generic glass which couldn’t properly hold the beer and head. Served at cellar temperature like every beer is at Kulminator.
Appearance
5
Pours pitch black with a brown-tan bubbly head which sticks to the glass.
Smell
4
Roasted smells with some coffee, but a lot more going on as well.
Taste
5
A bit of sourness. Full-bodied, rich, roasted but not dominated by coffee or chocolate. There are coffee/chocolate flavors, but they’re balanced in with other roasted malts and plenty of sweetness and that sour hint. A little cigarette smoke in the finish.
Mouthfeel
5
So thick, creamy, and smooth. Not cloying despite the sweetness.
Drinkability
4.5
Alcohol incredibly well hidden. A sipper nonetheless.
Overall
4.75
This is easily one of my favorite Russian Imperial Stouts and I try to get it anytime I’m in Belgium. There’s a bar right next to the brewery which distributes Struise beers which always has Struise beers for sale. A strange place to visit, getting one of these makes it completely worthwhile.
Price
€3.50/33cl. Or that’s the price at the bar next to the distributor. Not sure what I paid at Kulminator but I don’t think it was much more than this.

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1999 Chimay Blue

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

The beer which I wasn’t going to leave Kulminator without trying was an aged Chimay Blue. I figured 1999 would be just about right – old enough to be one of the older beers I’ve had, but young enough that I shouldn’t tun too much of a risk of it being way over-oxidized. I was looking for something which would allow me to make some generalizations about aged Chimay’s which get some pretty high billing as extremely cellerable beers. As before, it was brought straight from the cellar and poured perfectly into the Chimay glass, leaving a finger of beer left in the bottom with most of the yeast.
Appearance
5
Basically black with a nice off white head which holds well through the session.
Smell
4
A little thin. Smells of cardboard. Some rich fruits. Sweet.
Taste
4.5
Again a little thin. Cardboard yeast dominates. Extremely well balanced flavors. Port flavors, but not too much. Rich fruits: prunes. There’s a lot going on in this beer.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Smooth and mildly tingly.
Drinkability
5
So smooth, well balanced, and alcohol completely hidden.
Overall
4.55
A fine beverage. Might have been a bit over-oxidized for my taste, but still quite good.
Price
€8/33cl or thereabouts. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly. I’d buy it again, but I prefer the

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2003 Rochefort 10

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

My original plan was to grab just a couple of beers at Kulminator before going for dinner and maybe return afterwards. So, I had to go for something special from the start. Since I’ve always thought Rochefort 10 should age well, I figured I’d give a bottle from 2003 a try. The numbering on the bottle was 281008, which means it was brewed at the end of September in 2003 – more than five years ago. It came to me straight from the cellar and was poured perfectly into an old school Rochefort glass, leaving the last 2 cm in the bottle with the balance of the yeast.
Appearance
4.5
Pours a dark brown with amber highlights, developing a nice tan head which quickly recedes.
Smell
5
Some port qualities – less than expected. Nice rich fruits, like dates. Caramelized sugars.
Taste
4.5
Still has the caramelized sugar backbone. A bit thinner than I expected, but very little alcohol bite. There was minor oxidation. Rich fruits on the palate as suggested by the smell. Some chocolate as well.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Much thinner than I usually prefer for this style, but it is so smooth and the thinness deceptive – as the flavor is by no means thin. Provides a tickle of carbonation.
Drinkability
5
So easy going. A sipper, but not because it couldn’t be consumed faster, but because it’s a precious treat. Very, very easy going down.
Overall
4.65
Delicious – again, not nearly as delicious as Westvleteren 12, particularly with a few years under its belt. Final pour is thick and sludgy. It adds some smoothness and bready notes – quite good. Don’t be worried about mixing this in unless you prefer the appearance of a clean pour.
Price
€6.50/33cl. A no brainer in my mind – or age your own. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever buy enough of this to hold onto for 5 years, so I’d likely go for this again if/when I’m back at Kulminator.

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Rochefort 10

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

To accompany my Coq Spinnekopke at In ‘t Spinnekopke, I chose a bottle of Rochefort 10. Now here’s one beer which I just can’t bring myself to buy in the US. I know I’m in the minority on this, but in my experience this beer doesn’t travel well. I’m not sure how that could be with it being such a big beer, but at $6 a bottle at stores in Ohio, it’s not worth it for what you get. Fresh in Belgium is a completely different story. This is an exceptional beer which is pretty easy to find (and cheap), so I’ve had quite a few of these when I’m overseas.
Appearance
5
Thick, rich, dark brown color with perfectly lacing off white head.
Smell
4
The smell is caramel, candied sugar and dish soap (I suppose that means bright, fruity smells). It richens as it’s consumed – more caramel and some fruity smells.
Taste
4.5
Reminiscent of Gouden Carolus Noël or a La Trappe Quad without metallic or burnt sugar flavors. Very much caramelized sugars with some chocolate, rich fruits, and a nice bittersweet finish. To compare with another quad: not nearly as complex as Westvleteren 12.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Carbonated and smooth. Not cloying or heavy, but rich.
Drinkability
4
Perhaps too sweet to be extremely drinkable. Hides ABV very, very well, though. A sipper, largely because of the sweetness.
Overall
4.45
An excellent beer. Much better in near the source than in the US.
Price
Not sure what this ran at the restaurant, but in Ohio it’s usually $6/330ml.

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Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

I like to start my meals at In ‘t Spinnekopke with a lambic or gueuze and this night that would be a kriek from Drie Fonteinen, one of my favorite producers of sour beers. They also usually have the gueuze on tap, but I was in the mood for a kriek. It was poured from a 375ml bottle at about 40 degrees.
Appearance
4
Pours a rich burgundy red color, with a deep pink head which recedes leaving only a ring at the edge of the glass.
Smell
4.5
Mmmmm. an explosion in the room. So bright and sour. I can almost taste it and my mouth puckers even more than when I sip it. No surprise that sour cherries fill the nose.
Taste
4.5
Immediately lemony sour on the tongue. Then sour cherries. Som faint sour apple, maybe even hints of pears. Then cherries all over the middle with earthy, nutty notes coming in and floating through to a pleasant and surprisingly not overpowering sour finish. Another sip and the process continues all the way to the end of the bottle.
Mouthfeel
5
The dry mouthfeel with sufficient carbonation is perfectly paired with the flavor.
Drinkability
4.5
A brilliant apéritif as I’m using it tonight. This is a wonderfully drinkable, low ABV beer with more than enough intrigue to keep me going.
Overall
4.55
This is a wonderful beer, very light and playful. I’m not sure the Drie Fonteinen glasses do the beer justice, however.
Price
I don’t recall the price, unfortunately.

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La Trappe Quadrupel 2002

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

After my surprisingly pleasant experience with a fresh La Trappe Quad, when I saw an aged bottle at ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe, I had to give it a try. The bartender went through a door in the back of the bar and down some stairs for a few minutes, ascending with the bottle of La Trappe Quad bottled in late 2002 in hand. The 6.5 year old beer was poured at cellar temperature (about 55 to 60 degrees) into a La Trappe chalice leaving a couple of cm at the bottom of the bottle with most of the yeast.
Appearance
4.5
As compared to the fresh bottle, it’s thicker, cloudier, and richer in appearance. A nice head developed (it truly was a perfect pour complements of the bartender). Perfect lacing on the glass with each sip.
Smell
4.5
Port all over the place. Prunes and raisins. After tasting, an underpinning of cardboard emerged in the nose – in a good way.
Taste
4
Sweet prunes and raisins. Rich. Yeasty in that cardboardish way. Still a bit metallic. The apples have gone, which is something of a detractor, but I don’t miss the sourness much, just the extra layer of flavor. There are plenty of layers to replace it though. The finish falls a touch flat. Not as sugary sweet, there is a port sweetness instead. The finish is more attenuated. A yeasty finish with still some bitter notes. This becomes dominant about halfway through.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Smooth and rich without being cloying. Plenty of carbonation. Wonderful. A bit drier than the fresh bottle.
Drinkability
4.5
Goes down smoother because of the smoothness. The richness makes it more inviting.
Overall
4.3
I find this beer to be quite interesting. There was no difference except appearance between the first and second yeasty pour. I wonder if it was disturbed on the bartenders climb up the stairs or if the yeast doesn’t stick to the bottom even during a perfect pour. The beer was overall better than the fresh bottle, but I did miss the candied sugar and sour apples.
Price
€7/33cl, I believe. Definitely worth it to try from time to time.

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De Molen Rasputin

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

It’s not often that you see Dutch craft beer outside of Holland, which is why I’m glad I took the opportunity to try at least a couple while I was in Amsterdam. When I sat down at the bar at ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe, looking over the tap handles didn’t reveal anything familiar. And the most intriguing handle sported a text label with only one thing legible from where I sat: “Rasputin”. It had to be a Russian Imperial Stout. When I asked the bartender to recommend a big, high gravity beer, he jumped straight to the Rasputin. Sounds good to me. It was poured from the tap at about 40 degrees.
Appearance
4.5
Pours pitch black with a tall dark tan head and god head retention, especially for an 11% ABV beer.
Smell
3.5
Roasted malts and bitter coffee.
Taste
4
Tons of roasted flavors, bitter chocolate, coffee. A bit boozy at the beginning of the session, but that impression goes away.
Mouthfeel
4
Very smooth texture. Drier than expected, but very full-bodied and heavy.
Drinkability
4
The glass wasn’t tough to get through. The bitterness is there, but it complements and doesn’t overpower the very strong roasted flavors. A sipper, no doubt.
Overall
4
A pleasant surprise. Quite good, but perhaps too singly-dimensioned roasted for me.
Price
I don’t recall the price on this, but I imagine it was less than or around €4.

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La Trappe Quadrupel

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

I’ve had and not really enjoyed La Trappe Quad in the US. From all the praise it gets and the fact that I was in the country in which it is produced, I figured I ought to give it a try. Not to mention that it was the cheapest beer on the menu at In de Wildeman. When I ordered it, I had the choice to get it from the cooler or the shelf at room temperature. I, of course, selected the latter which was about 65 degrees.
Appearance
4
A thinner looking, clear, amber quad with a tall white head after being poured from a 33cl bottle into the brewery glass.
Smell
4.5
Candied sugar, raisins, toffee, and green apples fill the nose.
Taste
4
All the smells are replicated in the flavor as well – jumping off the tongue from the get go. Just a tinge metallic. Lots of apples in the middle and heavy on the candied sugar. Also some burnt sugar from the middle through the finish. Minor bitterness in the finish for balance.
Mouthfeel
4
Smooth, but a bit thinner than I’d like in a quad. Not sticky or cloying despite the high level of sweetness.
Drinkability
4
A but to sweet and the the burnt and candied sugar flavors build more than anything else. Reminds me a bit of Gouden Carolus Noël in that way, but much more multi-faceted.
Overall
4.1
Much better than in the US. I’m actually rather impressed and will have to get this again when I’m in Belgium/Holland in the future. It is reminiscent of Westmalle Dubbel with lots of candied sugar.
Price
€3.50/33cl, I think. It was less than €4, unlike the Belgian beers on the menu which were generally €4 and up. It was the best deal on the bottle menu and very worth it at this price.

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Tripel Karmeliet (Session 24)

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009


I’m working at a substantial disadvantage here on this my first contribution to the Session. First, I’ve no one to share my tripel with. Ridiculous, you say, and you’re probably right, but the fact remains that my tripel was not shared. I am eager to begin participating in this beer blogging community, so I say psh to the rules. Instead my post will be: Two Tripels on Two Nights in Two Countries Enjoyed by One.

I find myself in this seemingly lonely predicament because I’m on a business trip in Holland and Belgium. Ok, I guess that’s where the “disadvantage” becomes a distinct advantage. Belgium is my hands-down favorite place to travel alone. And while it’s a very sharing culture, circumstances have caused me to drink these beers alone.

So, I turn my attention to the first in my pair of beers: Tripel Karmeliet. My first experience with this beer was at Jan’s house in Belgium. And my thoughts towards tripels have never quite been the same. It’s complex fruity, yeasty, biscuity flavors are what make it so special. Unfortunately, bottles and taps in the US have ranged from bad to decent, but never as good as every bottle I’ve had in or around Belgium which have been spot on delicious. This time, it’s served at 45 degrees at Wildeman Bier Bar in Amsterdam.

Appearance
4
Pours a clear golden color with a nice thick white head and plenty of bubbling.
Smell
3.5
A little bit of sourness – sour apples. Some warm, yeasty, earthy notes, but the sour apples dominate. It’s not acidic, and a little sweet.
Taste
4.5
This is where this beer shines and what separates what I get in the states (even in its best form) from what this beer is in Belgium (er, Amsterdam). Quite sweet with hints of the apples from the aroma, but there’s a lot more complexity. The sweet honey and bready flavors dominate with the sour applies playing third chair.
Mouthfeel
4
Rather carbonated – perhaps a bit too much. It does serve to make the beer a little less serious.
Drinkability
4.5
The alcohol is well hidden and the flavor is delicious. It’s touch not to order.
Overall
4.15
A wonderful beer – certainly one of my favorite tripels, if not my favorite. It’s a shame it doesn’t travel well, the examples I’ve had in the US vary greatly. And nothing is quite like it is fresh in Belgium or surrounds. The one thing I’d change would be to dial back the sweetness just a bit.
Price
€3-3.50/33cl. The normal Belgium price for this in a bar. I’d say it’s worth it, or buy it in a store for closer to €1. It is usually about $9/750ml in my area in Ohio. Get a good example and it’s worth it, a bad example and definitely not.

My second tripel is Westmalle Tripel with 5 years behind it poured at Delerium Cafe in Brussels. My first encounter with this beer I had a substantial case of palate fatigue, but this beer still stood out. Enough to make it something of a ritual whenever I’m in Brussels. Each subsequent time it has been more of a treat. This time there were delicious port aromas and flavors, plenty of estery fruit flavors, balancing bitterness, but also some oxidation. Although this would likely rate in the high 3’s, I won’t rate the beer here since it’s the only one in 6 or so bottles I’ve had with this problem. Actually, it was something of an anti-climactic finish to the 2 on 2 in 2 by 1 session.

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Russian River Beatification

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

Perhaps it’s effective advertising. Perhaps it’s the length of the game. Whatever the reason, the Superbowl immediately makes you think of a lager. Gasp, it’s quite difficult to avoid images of some Anheuser-Busch product. But, in truth, why a lager? As a group, they are refreshing session beers. The ones I enjoy don’t necessarily fit that category very well with a couple of exceptions which in reality I don’t crave in the middle of winter.

So, what’s a refreshing session beer which can take me through the 4.5 hour extravaganza? Give me a sour – a gueuze, a lambic, or an wild ale. They’re dry, refreshing, and sessionable ABV. And given the complexity, particularly of the blended and aged on wood varieties, they won’t get old.

Fortuitously, Matt G. gifted me a bottle of Russian River Beatification (Batch 003). I’ve had a few of their sours, but never the Beatification. It is a 100% spontaneously fermented beer, blended between two vintages, and aged on oak wine barrels which have been sufficiently recycled to not maintain oak or wine flavors. It is then refermented in the bottle. Openning the bottle results in a fountain as expected, so as rapidly as possible, this was let into a snifter.

Appearance
4
Pours a hazy light orange. Given the force which which it opened and gushed out of the bottle, minimal white head which rapidly dissipates into a ring around the edge and light dusting on top.
Smell
4.5
The smell fills the room – perhaps that’s because of the half ounce which was spilled. But lifting it to the nose, sends a barrage of sour scents: sour apples, fresh lemons, a swirl brings out a funk with some earthy elements, but still warm. I could keep my nose buried in this.
Taste
4.5
Wow – that’s nice. Clearly acidic and tart with sour apples and lemons again. But there’s so much more to this beer. There is a sweetness, and I get oak notes – maybe similar a Chardonnay. The finish – well, a minute after the sip – there’s a hint of bitterness. To minutes later, there are warm, earthy, woodsy flavors. As I move the air around my closed mouth, I get a distinct oak impression at he back of my palate – not sure if that’s the taste or smell or the intersection of the two. Drinking this beer slowly allows the complexity of flavors to develop, rapid sips really build the lemon flavors in particular.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Palate cleansing, quite dry. Tiny bubbles and dryness are reminiscent of a champagne. Moderate level of carbonation.
Drinkability
4.5
I love a good sour like this as an aperitif, but a 750ml bottle is a bit excessive for this purpose. The acidity may be slowing, depending on what is paired with it or eaten before it. The low ABV and refreshing taste and palate are what caused me to think of this as a Super Bowl session beer. It fit the bill quite well, taking me from halftime through the end of the game, when it proved prophetic to have selected a sour given the outcome.
Overall
4.4
This is a fine beer. I probably wouldn’t reach for it as much as some beers which are clearly lower rated and less fine examples of craftsmanship. But a lot of that is due to the price and the fact so few people I drink with enjoy sours.
Price
$25/750ml. This stuff ain’t cheap. But you’re not buying it as a daily drinker anyway, and good, multi-vintage, oak aged sour beers aren’t cheap.

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Dreadnaught IPA

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

I’ve had this several times since the side-by-side with Pliny the Elder. I’ve since decided that my original impressions of this beer were not fair. This has taught me not to taste a beer for the first time side-by-side with another excellent beer. Back-to-back perhaps, but all by itself is best. While I have a leaning towards dry, minimally sweet IPAs, this beer is an excellent example of the other style, often referred to as East Coast, though some of the best examples are brewed in the Midwest. I would never call this beer a good value, because in all honesty, the price is pretty ridiculous. But it is delicious. This will be the intersection of several tasting notes in each case the beer was poured at cellar temperature (~55 degrees) or just cooler into a snifter.
Appearance
4.5
Pours a medium orange-amber color and clear. Nice 3cm white head.
Smell
4.5
The citrus is better described as lemon and oranges than grapefruit. Not orange peels, like some hopped beers, but oranges. Malt sweetness.
Taste
4.5
Very nice orangy sweet flavor. Not overly bitter, and the bitterness on the finish is carried and accompanied well by the sweetness.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, creamy, and smooth without being chewy. Medium bodied, and not dry. Not as clean or dry as I prefer in a big IPA.
Drinkability
4
Very much a sipper. Mouthfeel slows you down. ABV not as well hidden as
Founders Double Trouble or Bell’s Hopslam. Not a refreshing thirst quencher.
Overall
4.4
The Dreadnaught is right on par with the excellence of Bell’s Hopslam. An excellent beer which actually serves to show one of the ways that Hopslam is so excellent – the light honey sweetness rather than the heaver malt sweetness. Definitely among my favorite big IPAs. Though, in reality, this is no more available to me than is Pliny the Elder.
Price
$12/22oz. Come on, this is still ridiculous. A good beer, but not that good.

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Founders Double Trouble

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

Ahhh, yet another new DIPA release in the Midwest. What a season. The beat on the street is that Founders brewed the Double Trouble to fill the deep void for West Coast style dry über-hopped IPA in the Midwest instead of compete with the likes of Hopslam brewed not 60 miles away. A good idea as far as I’m concerned. This first bottle was split between two snifters at 50-55 degrees.
Appearance
4
Clear pale orange… almost glowing. Small white head.
Smell
4.5
There we go. Nice citrus, but still a bit sweet. Pine again. Nothing off or compromised about this.
Taste
4
It’s all about the hops here, like a West Coast DIPA. Citrus,
pine, and some bitterness. Some sweet malt, but not too sweet. Pretty well balanced.
Mouthfeel
4
Clean and light. Pretty dry, which is nice.
Drinkability
4.5
Refreshing. Clean. Nicely hides ABV without being too sweet.
Not too bitter either.
Overall
4.15
Nice to have a something approaching a West Coast DIPA in the midwest.
Price
$14/4pk ($3.50/12oz). Whoa, didn’t realize I paid this much until now. Just enforces my wish for having Pliny available in the Midwest. Alas, it is not. I like Hopslam more than this beer, and even as expensive it is, it ends up being less expensive per bottle.

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Nugget Nectar

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

It’s nice to see Tröegs expanding to Ohio. I’ve not yet had many of their beers, so I’ll be checking them out as these show up more in the stores. I recently tried Tröegs Nugget Nectar, though, and while it’s not technically in the IPA family, I thought it was hoppy and good enough to make its way into the Hop Mess. Split between two snifters at about 50-55 degrees.
Appearance
4.5
Pours amber and clear with a short white head.
Smell
4
Smells of citrus: grapefruit and grass. Quite pleasant and inviting.
Taste
4
This is a high 4. Nice citrusy hop taste. A good sweet malt backbone, but not overpowering – well balanced. Short but clean finish with some floral hints at the end.
Mouthfeel
4
A little thinner than anticipated based on the malt flavor.
Drinkability
4.5
An easy drinker. Bitterness is not obtrusive. Medium mouthfeel
with malt sweetness makes it easy going.
Overall
4.15
A wonderfully hoppy Amber. Not too much to improve on this beer for the style.
Price
$13/6pk ($2.17/12oz). For a beer with this much hop goodness, this is a very good price. Wish this were available year-round or during a time which is a bit more bereft of good hoppy beers.

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