Tasting the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

October 5, 2010

The American India Pale Ale, or American-Style India Pale Ale has become one of the most popular, widespread, and brewed beers in North America. The rich pale malt backbone found in the depths of an aromatically bitter and hop-crisp beer has enchanted people all across the continent. There is only one problem with this – there are probably close to 1,800 breweries in NA, and there are probably about 2,000 different Pale Ales! The Pale Ale craze is becoming a bit overwhelming; whether it is an IPA, Pale Ale, American version or a hybrid, there are just too many pale ales out there.

So what’s a beer lover to do!? Well, obviously taste them all and find your favorites. Because that may take to long, I’m going to start you off in the right direction with one of the most well rounded and best constructed American IPA’s on the planet. The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Too many pales are either one sided, to aggressively hopped, not hopped enough, or are poorly built. The Two Hearted Ale is at the top of my list because it hits all the right notes in perfect harmony. It doesn’t get carried away with this or that, it is just plain good. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the BrewDog & Stone Bashah

September 23, 2010

The Bashah is a collaboration brew between two of the worlds most influential breweries, the Stone Brewing Co. in California, and BrewDog from Scotland. It barely even matters what the beer in the bottle is, if you put these two names on it I’ll buy it out of sheer faith in its quality and predictably fantastic flavor. Each of these breweries have embarked on an incredible beer journey on their own, each creating unique and no-holds-barred beers in their own style. Put them together then, and what do you get? A Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale.

Firstly, this is a Double IPA, so it should be robustly hoppy with fresh, earthy and citrus bitter flavors that pack a decent punch. It should be both higher in alcohol and in bitterness (IBUs). Next, it is a Belgian Style Double IPA. This could mean a few things, but most typically it means that it was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain rather then an Californian one, thus giving it bigger body, a fruiter, more malty character, and a more lively carbonation. And Finally, it is black. This indicates the color, and therefore usage of dark, chocolate, or roasted malts in the brew; those flavors should come through subtly in the beer finally creating a unique and exciting beer. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Birrifico Le Baladin Xyauyu; Reserva Teo Musso

September 21, 2010

There is a great deal of intrigue and excitement floating around this beer. First of all its shape, unique label dated 2005, unpronounceable name,  and its corrugated cardboard box are totally unfamiliar to me. There is no cap, but rather a cork. It is 13% abv. And it was also $40 for the small, but beautiful bottle. What is this Italian work of art? It is exactly that, and Italian work of art. Birrifico Baladin, an Italian Craft Brewery lead by Teo Musso had originally thought of creating an oxidized beer to resemble a Madeira in 1996, but finally made the dream come true in 2003.

This is one of my favorite types of beer, and I don’t mean the beer style. But rather this beer can show the world how wide and far the boundaries of beer can really stretch. There is no limit to your creative ability, just your imagination. Musso Named this beer Xyauyu after his daughter’s imaginary friend; he also describes the beer a an “Italian-style barlywine.” I would put it squarely in that category where it should remain the front runner and definition of the style. This beer is remarkable. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson

September 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I love San Diego. Not just for Ron Burgundy, but for its amazing breweries! There is a slew of big name craft brewers whose beers are flooding the U.S. market right now, but recently I got the chance to enjoy a smaller, more local brewery’s beer – the brewery is Alpine Beer Company – and the beer was Nelson. Yes, Nelson is a man, and a beer. A Rye India Pale Ale to be precise.

The name is representative of the hop variety primarily used in this brew; from New Zealand comes a citrusy and spicy hop called Nelson Sauvin. It is used in both the brewing and dry hopping for this beer, as well rye malt is used to add a smooth, uniquely malty character to the beer. I really had no clue what to expect; I had never heard of Alpine, nor was there much detail of the beer on the bottle. But I knew that this was a west coast IPA at 7% abv with 60 IBUs. How bad can it possibly be? Or better yet, how good could this be? Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Duvel

September 8, 2010

Duvel (pronounced Doo-vle) is a beers which is synonymous among beer aficionados. It is a reference point for brewers and a staple for beer drinkers. I’m very thankful that it is always available at the LCBO because about 8 or 9 times a year I develop a thirst that only the Duvel can quench – and it does quench oh so beautifully.

Literally though, without exaggeration, the Duvel has become the summit for Belgian Pale Ales and is mimicked all across the globe; especially in the United States where craft brewing has taken on new excitement and passion, breweries are creating beers witch will in many ways reflect the characteristics of a Duvel. Its golden straw color, majestic and massive pillow soft head, globally defined chalice, and irresistible flavor had been perfected for over 50 years from 1871 to 1923, and since then has remained unmodified.

It is a unique ale which takes 90 days to craft, and only one second to enjoy on so many levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

August 24, 2010

The St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout by McAuslan Brewing is proof that beer does not have to be the stereotyped fizzy yellow drink that too many people assume that it is. This is an Oatmeal Stout. To some this may seem very appealing, and to others, not. This is  richly black beer with flavors of cocoa, espresso, roast and rich malt. But is is smooth, creamy, and surprisingly refreshing.

In 1994 at the World Beer Championship this Oatmeal Stout received the second highest rating of over 200 beers at the festival, it was awarded a platinum medal, and has been brewed with passion and expertise ever since. Today is has spread across all of Canada, and is making its way into the United States. It is at every well stocked LCBO in 6 packs of 341ml bottles, and is also available relatively widely on draught – and that is where this beer really shines. Or, maybe not shines, but you get the idea Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Schneider Weisse Aventinus

August 23, 2010

When I was first beginning to plunge into the world of real beer the Schneider Weisse Aventinus was among the first beers that proved to me that this would be a worthwhile adventure. George Schneider first brewed the Aventinus in 1907 in Germany as a wheat-doppelbock, and since then, it has achieved the highest accolades amongst its strong beer brethren.

First, let’s take a moment to define this unique style of beer. A wheat beer is typically brewed with a large proportion of wheat to malted barley. In the German case, as we are discussing, they are always top-fermented, and hence are always ales. Wheat beers generally are very effervescent, refreshing, lively, and show flavors of clove, spice, vanilla, banana, and light fruit. A doppelbock is a classic German Starkbier (“strong beer”). A doppelbock is a lager (bottom-fermented) brewed with a large amount of rich, and usually dark malted barley. They emerged in the late eighteenth century as a variation on the old monastic strong beer brewed by monks to help them get through theLenten season. Doppelbocks are generally very rich in malt sweetness, dark fruit, chocolate, and are rarely if ever bitter. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the La Trappe Isid’or

August 20, 2010

The La Trappe Isid’or was brewed in 2009 to honor, and commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the La Trappe Trappist Brewery by friar Isidorus Laaber. The beer was created for the entire world to enjoy, and bears La Tappe’s first Brewmaster’s name. Like all of La Trappe’s beers, the profits from the sale of Isid’or will go directly to charitable causes, this specifically to their co-friars in Uganda to help them set up a community and a self sufficient monastery.

La Trappe (Koningshoeven) has been one of my most favorite breweries since I began drinking real beer – I do consider it an honor to be drinking this beer in La Trappe’s original Brewmaster’s esteemed memory. The Isid’or is classified as a Belgian Pale Ale – I’m not really sure where it belongs though. It is definitely not pale, has rich fruity flavors, but isn’t a Dubbel or Quad. It is 7.5% abv, so its not quite a Belgian Strong Dark Ale either. I don’t really care what beer style this should fit into, because really, I am just happy to be enjoying it. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the McAuslan St. Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout

August 20, 2010

It finally happened! I walked into the SummerHill LCBO and they had the McAuslan St. Ambrois Russian Imperial Stout in stock! Not after tricking me though. There were none on the shelve where the display was, so I had to ask a very helpful employee to check the back for me. Eureka!

As per my last post praising the design of the bottle and packaging, I had been awaiting this beer for quite some time, and with much anticipation. The St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is among the best Oatmeal Stouts that I have ever had.  It is delectably creamy, filled with smooth roast, chocolate, and hop flavors, and really creates an exceptional balance in an appetizing beer. That being said, it is a standard 5% abv, and not supremely rich – so I was getting very excited for the 9.1% abv Russian Imperial Stout brewed by the same masterminds.

Beyond all of that, Russian Imperial Stouts have become among my most favorite beer styles due to their ability to carry complex and appetizing flavors in such a compelling balance of sweet and savory.  This new example by McAuslan may have also just set a new standard for excellence… Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Church-Key Black IPA

August 16, 2010

Do you know where Campbellford is? Chances are that unless you live in that area of rural Ontario, you don’t. But you may want to visit. Its the home of the Church-Key Brewery, one of Ontario’s most innovative craft breweries, but also one of the lesser known ones. Their beers rarely make it into the LCBO, and pub distribution is relatively limited. Their regular lineup of beers is great, but its their seasonal beers that I love. The first Church-Key I ever had must have been the Holy Smoke, a peat-smoked scotch ale, and it is still among my favorites.

This though is one of Ontario’s first attempts at the Black IPA, or Cascadian Dark Ale – however you want to classify it. And really, I couldn’t be happier with it. Not only is this a great example of a Black IPA from Canada, but I think it better suits the style than most of the American versions I have had! The Black IPA is supposed to be exactly that, a dark, roasty IPA. So it should still have hoppy fresh flavors, but exhibit roast, toast, dark malt and nut or cocoa flavors. Most of the American black IPAs are a Black American Pale Ales – very hop focused, black, but medium to soft on the roast, with almost no creamy nut flavors. This though strikes a better balance in my mind, and should set the precedent for the style. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Monchshof Schwarzbier

August 12, 2010

What do you know about dark beers? Do you believe that they are all heavy and rich? That they should be be thick and creamy with a huge density that you could relate to a roast beef sandwich? Before you read on, let me assure you that this does not have to be the case. The world of beer is filled with stereotypes, misconceptions, and myths – this happens to be one of them. The idea that all dark beer is rich and robust proves how little the general public really knows about real beer. But the best way to fix a lack of understanding is a touch of experience, and thats where the fun begins.

There is also no better place to begin that the Monchshof Schwarzbier, a German Schwarzbier of unparalleled quality and heritage. This Schwarzbier defines the style – it comes in a 500ml German swing-top bottle, is 4.9% avb, has clean and moderately light malt and roast flavors, shows cocoa a touch of bitter chocolate at the end, and looks magnificent in a glass mug. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Schneider Weisse Hopfen Weisse

August 11, 2010

Garret Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery, and Hans-Peter Drexler of the Schneider Weisse Brewery could be two of the most infamous brewmasters on this planet. They could also be two of the best. Each of their brewery’s exemplify what craft beer is all about. Their products reek of tradition, passion and expertise. Honestly, I love what these guys do. So how can you improve on their beers? Put these two geniuses in the same room and let them collaborate a beer taking traditional brewing styles from both countries (the US and Germany).

So what does this mean? Taking the love of hops from the United States and combining that with the weissbier prowess of Germany. Awesome. The concept that came to fruition was that together they would brew the same beer, but at both breweries – thus releasing two different versions, one in a classic 750ml Brooklyn Bottle from the Brooklyn Brewery, and the other, this, in a 500ml classic Schneider Weisse bottle. This is really the stuff that dreams are made of. Or, mine at least.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Unibroue 15

August 9, 2010

For 4 years this beer has sat eagerly in my cellar. It was pushed to the back a long time ago, and had only seen the light of day a few days ago when I brought it forth, out of exile. Although I would hardly consider it exile, more like thoughtful maturation. It is the Unibroue 15, a Belgian-Style Tripel which Unibroue crafted to celebrate their 15th anniversary in 2006.

This beer was designed by one of the best brewers of Belgian style beers this side of Belgium, and beer after beer they always blow my mind. I have had a few of the anniversary Unibroue Vintages before, so I was very excited to try this one; it would be the oldest I have ever be able to enjoy. I didn’t really know how long I would save it for, and really, it probably would have enjoyed its rest for a few more years. But with my brother and some good friends over I decided that the time was right, and I would let this magical beer shine.   Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting Schloss Eggenberg’s Samichlaus 2006

August 7, 2010

Its claim to fame is that it is the world’s strongest lager beer at 14% abv. Really though that does this magnificent beer no justice, for truly it is among the most remarkable flavors to exist on the planet. The late Michael Jackson (Beer Hunter), in a 1991 article he wrote for The Independent, confers with New York Times food and wine writer Florence Fabricant, that no spirited beverage could accompany a dense chocolate desert so well as the Samichlaus did.

Samichlaus is of course brewed by the same Austrian gentlemen who brewed the Samichlaus Helles which I wrote about  in a beer dinner preparation article earlier. In the same manner as the Helles, the original is brewed once every year on December the 6th, Saint Nichola’s Eve, and then left to lager (age in cold cellars) for ten months; longer than any other lager in the world.

Few beers, or even spirits can rival the complexity and sublime flavors and aromas in the Smaichlaus which all work in amazing harmony. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Ommegang Three Philosophers

August 6, 2010

In Cooperstown NY lie two very amazing spectacles; the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Brewery Ommegang. Since 1997 Ommegang has been brewing award-winning Belgian-style ales which are truly unique. Over the weekend I revisited one of my favorite beers; the Ommegang Three Philosophers.

The Three Philosophers is 98% a Belgian-Style Quadrupel and 2% a Belgian Kreik (Cheery Ale), comes in a corked 750ml bottle at 9.8% abv, and to me it is truly a perfect pairing of flavors; Brewery Ommegang was able to create a beer which is magnificently delicious.  It has a perfect balance of sweet and savory (a balance whose line is very thin) making it an amazing beer choice for so many occasions.

The Three Philosophers pours smooth and creamy raising a dense and richly tan to brown head almost one inch off the surface of the beer. With a close look you can see that the the bubbles are so tightly packed together that you could probably spoon the head alone. The beer is an opaque deep purple, showing a lot of mahogany and brown tones. There is an amber hue that glows in the beer every time light catches a glimpse of it, probably due to the small amount of Kriek in the beer. Read the rest of this entry »