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Posts Tagged ‘Russian River Brewing’

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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Pliny the Elder vs Dreadnaught

Posted by jwpiper on January 10, 2009

Lately, I’ve relished the opportunity to taste excellent examples of a style side-by-side. While it is fun to compare two beers which have long been favorites, it’s also a way to emphasize potentially subtle flavors and really distill what makes a particular beer special.

Given their limited and non-overlapping distribution, such a comparison between Russian River Pliny the Elder and Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA would be quite difficult. Fortunatley, I’ve been to both breweries recently, so I have on hand reasonably fresh examples of both. Both rated among the best DIPA/IIPA’s in the world (and indeed among the best beers in the world), this tasting was greatness in the making. Each bottle was poured at about 50 degrees and split between two 500ml krugs.

In the end, Dreadnaught had a much fuller, richer, heavier malt profile. Pliny was much more floral and citrus on the nose and palate. Pliny was cleaner, drier, and more refreshing. When going from Pliny to Dreadnaught, the offering from Three Floyds felt sticky and and didn’t have nearly the strength or aroma or hop flavor. It emphasized the malt profile and even brought out a little roasted and nutty flavors. The transfer from Dreadnaught to Pliny made the piney and grapefruit peel notes dance on the tongue and tickle the nostrils.

Another worthy comparison was suggested by the impressions of these two beers: Dreadnaught vs Buckeye ’76. That tasting will be forthcoming – just as soon as I can get my hands on some more fresh ’76.

Matt C. and I both found the Pliny to be a much more satisfying IPA. Pliny the Elder just continues to amaze.

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Appearance
5
Pours a wonderful orangish-yellow with a thick head which is retained for quite some time. Pillowy off-white head which leaves foamy rings as the beer is enjoyed.
Smell
5
The aroma is amazing – so much floral hops, with citrus and pine. Some fruit, but its dominated by the hop profile.
Taste
4.5
The flavor too is very hoppy and floral with just enough malt backbone which is in no way sweet… seems to be there just to balance. As the flavor dissipates, the bitterness catches up – it’s there, but not dominant. There is citrus fruit on the palate as well it lasts all the way through. It makes the bitter end taste like grapefruit rind/pith. A very clean, balanced flavor.
Mouthfeel
4.5
The beer is well carbonated and very clean feeling. Clean, dry, and light on the palate.
Drinkability
5
This is an incredibly drinkable beer. It’s quite enjoyable after a day’s work in the yard, and it’s perfect for an introspective evening of beer enjoyment.
Overall
4.75
Truly one of the finest of one of my favorite styles.
Price
$4.50/500ml. An excellent value for this quality beer. If you can get it, do.

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

Appearance
4
A darker beer than Pliny the Elder, also with a nice thick head on the pour.
Smell
4
A lesser floral and citrus profile. The citrus is better described as lemon than grapefruit. The aroma is much more subdued. A definite East Coast (er, I suppose non-West Coast) IPA.
Taste
4
Much sweeter, but still in the IPA range. The bittering hops don’t bring as pleasant a flavor, but perhaps it’s not fair to review this beer while comparing to Pliny the Elder. It does have a nice and much stronger malt backbone.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, creamy, and smooth without being chewy. Medium bodied, and not dry.
Drinkability
4
The malts are thick and the taste is heavy, which forces a sipping approach. Not a thirst-quencher.
Overall
4
Overall, this is a very good beer. It does not fare well against Pliny, but in its own right is quite good.
Price
$12/22oz. This turns out to be a very expensive beer, and it’s tough to think of it as worth it, especially side-by-side with a better beer which is half the price. It’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against Buckeye ’76 which is more in the same style and even less expensive than the Pliny.

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