Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Mystic Brewery of Chelsea, MA seemed to be one of the first in what has become a wave of new breweries in the Boston area. I first heard about them about a year ago and became interested in what they had in the works.
I tried the first batch of their Saison in early September and was very pleased with the results.
It poured a turbid, orange-yellow with a fluffy head of white foam. Hints of peppery spiciness in the aroma, some citrusy, grassy hops and hints of mild banana-like fruitiness. The flavor exhibited more of the peppery spiciness found in the aroma with a very mild fruitiness (again, mild banana). Hops balance things out quite nicely with some minty, grassy hops. Semi-dry finish with a lingering of grain and yeast.
It was a perfect compliment to the late summer day.
Since then I’ve been as equally impressed with their other offerings including Descendant, what they call Suffolk Dark Ale and what I’ve deemed a Belgian Porter. A dark ale brewed with molasses and their house yeast strain, Descendant was light and drinkable with hints of cocoa and yeasty spiciness.
But my favorite has to be their Sauvignon Blanc barrel-aged Saison. With many of the same attributes as their standard Saison, this beer benefits wonderfully from aging in the barrel. Anyone who is familiar with Sauvignon Blanc will recognize the citrusy, grapefruit-like notes immediately as they mingle with hints of wood and the flavors of the beer. I guess it doesn’t hurt that the base beer used here was excellent to begin with, but there is something remarkable about the combination that just sets this beer apart.
I have yet to pick up Mystic’s most recent releases, a Cabernet barrel-aged and Bourbon barrel-aged version of Descendent, but here’s to hopping they’re as intriguing and delicious as their other creations.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Baltika No. 7
So, a few years ago a thrift shop opened up close to where I work. It is a Godsend when it comes to finding great beer glasses at discount prices. The only problem is the Russian women who always seems to be working when I go in to purchase my wares.
It seems that she makes it her job that I pay the most for my beer glasses, even though the sign in that section of the store clearly states the price of all glasses as no more than $1.15 for the very largest and a mere 65 cents for smaller ones.
"Is beer glass, is cost more," is her usual reply as I try in vain to haggle. I usually talk her down and receive the item for the posted price.
I've purchased some fantastic and sometimes obscure glasses from this shop over the past two years, sometimes with an argument from my Ruskie friend, sometimes not, I've come to view it as a kind of battle of wills between two Cold War-era operatives—mutual respect but complete animosity.
So, a few days ago I walk in to find a .5 liter Baltika No. 7 glass...
I really, really want this glass. It's different, I don't have a Russian beer glass in my collection and a quick internet search doesn't bring the glass up for sale as far as I could find.
But...I really, really don't want to spar against my adversary over a glass from her home turf. I just don't. So, I hide the glass in a corner of the shop and plan to arrive early tomorrow to purchase it while she is away. But when I return in the morning, after thinking about the glass all day and night (I'm a glass junkie, I know), she's still there. Damn.
I decide that this glass is worth it and that I'll suck it up and face my foe. You know what happened?
Nothing...she doesn't even bat an eye, she charges me $1.15 and says nothing, no argument, not even a mention that the glass is covered in Cyrilic writing (perhaps she could have translated for me). This is what it must have felt like at the end of the Cold War, a mild submission, no all-out battle, no rain of nuclear warheads, a gentle wave of the hand and that was that.
I think I'll miss our battles, that back-and-forth over how much a beer glass should cost at a thrift shop.
Anyway, now that I had the glass I needed to fill it. Luckily, I work near an area of Boston that has a bunch of Russian specialty shops (if you ever want Kvass, I know where you can find it, cheap!). I mosey over during lunch and find what I'm looking for. I thought I had seen Baltika No. 7 in cans at this shop a while back, but all I could find this time was a three month old green, pull tab bottle—I don't have high hopes...
1 Pint .9oz Green Bottle into .5l Baltika No. 7 Glass
Crisp, pale straw yellow with a quick off white head. It looks amazing in this glass, however :^)
Steely, sweet graininess with a mild grassy hop aroma. To my great surprise, this beer is not skunked (I did dig deep in the cold cooler at the shop).
Flavor is crisp with hints of that sweet graininess. Hops are subdued with just the faintest flavor of herbal hops. Maybe a whiff of sulfur in here and just a hint of...plastic tubing???
Okay, after all that, this beer isn't all THAT bad. Yes, it tastes mass-produced, but it actually tasted "okay" as it warmed up, unlike some other mass-produced lagers. I knew all that work wouldn't have paid off, I didn't expect it would, it was just fun to put all the pieces together.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
The story behind the Scottish brewery Innis & Gunn seemed kind of weird to me.
Apparently, a whisky distiller was looking to produce a whisky with an "ale finish" so they contacted brewer Dougal Sharp to brew beer to be placed in barrels that would then be used to age whisky. After many batches someone came up with the great idea to actually taste the beer that had been aging in the barrels. Prior to this the beer had simply been dumped! What?! If I were the brewer, the FIRST thing I would have done was taste the beer. Why on Earth would you simply dump it? Anyway, the beer tasted great and they began to brew beer, age it is barrels and then NOT dump the beer. Crazy, I know.
There have been many variations since the first batches back in 2003 including a particular favorite of mine, the Highland Cask aged version:
Innis & Gunn Highland Cask
11.2oz Bottle into Innis & Gunn Cervoise
Amber orange with a delicate off white head.
Maltiness in the aroma is toffee-like with hints of caramel. Vanilla from the oak with just some faint whispers of Scotch, merely a hint.
Again, the malt comes off a bit toffeeish with hints of vanilla and caramel. You really get the character of the Scotch in the finish with a lingering bitterness.
I've enjoyed all of the Innis & Gunn beers that I've tried thus far. Really just differing degrees of oakiness and hints of what was left (or not) in the barrel. I'd be interested to try the beer before it goes into the casks, actually. I think this may be my favorite of the bunch. The Scotch gives it a bitterness in the finish that the others lack. Very well done.
Nothing could go better with Scottish beer than Scottish Whisky, right? The blending of the flavors just seems to work. I have a bottle of their Scottish Stout aged in Irish Whiskey casks sitting in the fridge—can't wait to give that one a try soon.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
For some, the taste of smoke in their beer can be an acquired tasted. Historically speaking, most beer at one time would have had at least some smokiness in the flavor and aroma. Before the use of fossil fuels, the grains used in making beer would have been dried over some type of wood (or peat if we’re talking Scottish beers). That smoke would have permeated the flavor of the barley and inevitably the beer.
Today, most maltsters use modern means to dry their grains, but a few continue to create a variety of smoked malts for beers in which that touch of char layers on another dimension of flavor.
I love smoked beers done right. The flavors are intense and you might never find a more perfect pairing for smoked meats and barbeque. For a long time I have been a fan of the Schlenkerla beers, a particular brewery in Bamberg, Germany specializing in smoked beers, or Rauchbier.
Almost any beer style can beer a Rauchbier. Schlenkerla produces a Smoked Lager, Weizen, Bock, Märzen and a few other specialties.
For me, I love a Rauchbier with a big malty backbone. I find that the flavor of the smoke is better supported by the sweetness of the malt and the overall flavor reminds me a lot like smoked, honey-glazed ham—not even kidding.
I recently came back to the beer that was the very first smoked beer I tried: Schlenkerla Urbock.
The beer pours a dark cola-like color with a tan head.
Deep smoky aromas, woodsy, hints of smoked bacon or beef jerky. Malty sweetness pulls from the depths for balance.
The flavor is reminiscent of smoked ham with a sweet glaze, hints of wood throughout with a long lingering smokiness. Some mild hints of cocoa are present to fill in the gaps, but this beer is really all about the smoke.
If you like big bold flavors I highly recommend drinking these beers. A number of craft brewers play around with smoked malts and Rauchbier, but they are sometimes a bit hesitant to give the beers the full treatment. One exception that I tried recently was a beer from the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams). Their Cinder Bock is very similar in flavor to Schlenkerla’s Urbock with a higher ABV. The same sweet smokiness is present and they aren’t afraid to make it the centerpiece of the beer. With domestic Rauchbier few and far between, it’s nice to see a brewery as large as Boston Beer Company produce a Rauchbier as unflinchingly bold as this one. Find it. Get it. Drink it. Enjoy!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
22 oz. Bottle into Portsmouth Balloon Tulip
Opaque. Just, opaque inky darkness. I poured this into two glasses to share with Reilly—the first glass had a bit more of a cascading head than the second but some swirling quickly brought around a smallish mocha cap.
Aroma is a combination of sweet fruitiness and roasted grain. Hints of molasses, bittersweet chocolate, and a biscuity nuttiness. Not crazy nutty, but almost a shortbread-like buttery nuttiness. Faint almond, perhaps. There's definitely a hint of the oak peaking through with a sort of gummy dried pluminess.
Flavor is similar to aroma--sweet molasses, a bit vinous with hints if bittersweet cocoa, raisins, dried plums. The roasted character is present but doesn't end too dry--fine and even.
A fantastic beer—while the mouthfeel may not be super thick like many Russian Imperial Stouts the flavor and especially the aroma make this beer something special. Drinkability is definitely up there for a beer of this stature—letting this one open up a bit reveals some nice oakiness. Fantastic.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
REVIEW FROM 5/19/200911.2 oz. Bottle into Gold-Rimmed Trappist Westvleteren GobletPours a dark mahogany brown with a one finger off white head that settles into a splotchy hazy cap.
Earthy grassy-like qualities in the aroma with a peppery spice kick. Sweet malt aromas and mild dark fruits are released from some swirling.
Flavor is very well balanced between sweet malt, earthy hop bitterness and alcohol are definitely what make this beer one of the best in the world.Mild sweetness lingering on the palate with hints of hop bitterness as well. Balance is definitely the key to this beers greatness.
REVIEW FROM 2/19/2011Today I found out I'm having a daughter.
The cap doesn't have a date stamp which leads me to believe it was produced when the Abbey's stamper was broken (sometime in 2008, I believe).
The long rest in the cellar has done this beer very well. Without disturbing the layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle I managed to pour almost the entirety of the 11.2oz bottle into my Westvleteren goblet producing a clear mahogany red body with a smallish off white head. The carbonation has greatly reduced since last I tasted this vintage.
Deep plummy raisin-like aromas float out of the glass, candi sugar, hint of vanilla, honey. Port-like in the best way.
The flavor is...amazing. Sweet fruitiness comes skimming across the palate as dark fruits, dates, raisins, figs. The figgy quality is full and rich with hints of the candi sugar intermingling. The hops that were present two years ago have mellowed into a fleeting bitterness that simply compliments the entire presentation. Not a lick of alcohol can be found on the palate but the warming in my stomach and the flushness in my cheeks tells me that it's there.
What else can I say? Yes, this is probably the best beer in the world. Fresh it was amazing, but with a couple years on it...CANNOT be beat. What a wonderful day.
I've decided to re-imagine The Tippling House blog.