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Moving sucks

My wife and I are just about settled into our new place. After about two and a half weeks of being displaced, I can happy to be done this process. Now if our apartment complex could fix our AC everything would be ready to go. I probably will not get back to normal updates till this weekend, but they are coming. A few highlights on the new apartment:

  • Gas stove (hooray quicker boils for homebrewing)
  • A large walk-in hall closet that my wife has already designated as “the place were all of your stupid beer stuff is going.”
  • There is a brewpub down the street
  • A beer store exists in the same shopping center as the brewpub, I am going to check out their selection today
  • While not beer related, this place is super nice compared to our last place and has a lot more room

I am looking forward to having everything fully settled, but we are close. On another note I have a job, which is awesome. So far everything about the east is better than Texas. To make our move to Delaware official I think a trip to Dogfish Head is in order.

Importance of commerical beer to the homebrewer

My partner in brewing crime, Pete, made it down earlier this week to visit for a few days. Pete is an avid homebrewer and not only got me hooked on homebrewing, but also craft beer. As he is currently living in Fort Collins, Co, I think you can see that he is surrounded by some good beer people.

Within an hour of Pete arriving, we headed down to the beer store to stock up for the few days he was around for. We got all kinds of good stuff that will show up on the reviews here soon. Pete and I got to talking about how he homebrews so much (I believe he has 10+ cases of homebrew in his closet right now) that he hasn’t bought any new commercial beers in quite some time. His job requires that he is away from home for 3 weeks and then back at home for three. It is an ideal schedule for brewing. He brews furiously for three weeks, leaves, comes home, bottles what he made, and drinks the stuff from the last go around. Repeat.

Anyway, we were talking about how he doesn’t really try anything new, just beers from the Fort Collins breweries and his homebrew. While there is an impressive selection of great beer offered by the four or so breweries in Fort Collins, he is still only having beers from four breweries. He said how nice it was to have some other commercial brews to widen his taste buds and also to get a good sample of what a production beer of a certain style should taste like.

I fully agree with him. As a homebrewer I love drinking and making my own beers, but I am always searching for new beers to try. Part of it is because I love drinking new beers. But more than that, I think it is the fact that I want to have a solid palate and know what goes into a certain style of beer. I also like seeing a twist of a style and getting to experience something that I would never brew myself.

Interesting beer bottles

Whenever I got to the beer store I generally have an idea of what I am looking for. Be it a particular style, beer, or brewery, I usually know what I am going to get. The thing is, once I actually get to the store, it is anyone’s guess as to what I actually come out with. I am sure I am an advertisers dream because I get caught up in things that catch my eye. The other problem I have is that I might know exactly what I want, but that doesn’t stop me from taking a look around to get some ideas for next time.

One of the biggest things that can throw me off of a game plan is an interesting looking bottle. If there is a bottle in the display case that is different than your typical 12 or 22 oz bottle, chances are I am going to take a second look at it. If I know my brain properly, the reason behind this is two fold; if the bottle is special the beer must be as well and “that’s different, I like it, I have to own it.” There are plenty of great looking bottles out there from craft brewers and imports alike.

My first taste of Anchor Steam came becasue I thought the bottles were interesting looking. The same goes with Duvel and dozens of other beers. If a brewery has a unique bottle, chances are I will pick it up. I also tend to hold onto the interesting bottles. My partner in brewing crime, Pete, had a nice collection of bottles when we were in college. We kept one bottle of every kind of beer that we drank. The most prized bottles in the collection were those that were unique. I never had a big collection of bottles, I mainly just contributed to Pete’s but I do have a small collection of special bottles. Right now my favorite is the ceramic bottle that I have from Rogue Ales. I’ve never seen a ceramic beer bottle other than those from Rogue. Anyone else out there a sucker from something that looks special?

Beer Review #37 Mad Elf

While I may not be in PA anymore, that didn’t stop me from enjoying on of my favorite seasonal beers, Mad Elf. Made Elf is made by Tröegs Brewing Company in Harrisburg, PA. They only make it for two months of the year and it can even be tough to find when it is in production. Mad Elf is classified as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale and it is brewed with honey and cherries. It also rocks in at 11%, so that wonderful warming feeling is sure to help on a cold winter night. And if you noticed, or care, winter officially beings today, so our winter seasonals will be coming in on the site.

The beer pours a nice clear ruby color, with a thin head that fades pretty quickly. The head is fully white, with no off colors and is made of mostly tiny bubbles, with a few medium ones mixed in. The nose of the beer is decidedly Belgian. It smells a lot like a Tripel, with everything you would expect out of a Belgian Ale yeast. I did not pick up much of the honey notes from the nose, but the cherry component comes through very nicely. There is some malt in there is well, but minimal hops.

The taste is complex and rich. The Belgian yeast flavors are in there, and so are the cherries. The cherries are not as strong as the nose might suggest. The honey comes through a bit more in the taste. I can really only describe the flavor as rich and creamy. It finishes dry with a wonderful aftertaste. The esters from the yeast and a bit of the hop leave the pallet pleased. As the beer warms it gives way to some heat (alcohol), though you would never suspect that this beer is coming in at 11%.

Mad Elf is carbonated nicely and has a nice and full mouthfeel. I really enjoy this beer and it reminds me of home. I know last year at this time I enjoy more than my fair share of it to the point that the guy at the beer store would have me ready to check out before I even picked out my beer. Rarely do I do a repeat case of beer, but with seasonal beers I take a “get as much as I can” approach. I know some people will by two cases a year; one to drink and one to let sit for a year.

I have never had this beer when it was aged, but in general I am not a fan of aging beers. I feel like you get a fresher flavor and more accurate taste the newer a beer is. The one exception is when there are a lot of hot notes, as they tend to fade with age. Getting back on track, Mad Elf is a nice winter seasonal that will warm you. The 11% sneaks up on you and can throw you for a loop if you are not careful. But if you enjoy a Belgian beer with a more complex grouping of flavors, enjoy. It is going to be more sweet than a normal Belgian and also not as spicy, but a great balance overall. (more…)