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Beer Review #313 Chardonnay Barrel Belgian Style Ale

01-20-03Since I haven’t been posting too much in the past few months thanks to life, I have a solid backlog of beer reviews to get up. This beer goes back to the early fall, while the leaves were still on the trees and I remembered what warmth felt like. Seriously, this winter is brutal. Today’s beer review comes from my favorite up and coming (although they may have arrived at this point) brewery, Evolution Craft Brewing Company. They have a Migration Series of beers that are always interesting. When I saw a year old bottle of Chardonnay Barrel Belgian Style Ale at the beer store, I grabbed it up. I was lucky too, because before I left the store they were out. Such is the life and luck of a beer drinker.

This beer pours a nice burnt orange color with a slightly off-white head. Despite what my pictures show, this beer is clear. The nose is full of wine aromas. It is dry and “wine-grapy.” There is a slight heat to it which caught me off guard as this beer comes in at only 7.2%. I didn’t get a lot of barrel character on the nose nor did I get any bugs. The bottle says “a Belgian style ale aged in oak chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces.” I did get a few muted Belgian spices on the last whiff.

On the first taste I was hit by lots of Belgian flavors. There are some nice peppery notes along with the typical helping of Belgian spices. There is a great sweetness to this beer. It’s sweet, almost candy-like, in how it presents itself. As the sweetness comes in the wine character from the barrels comes in. It has a strong chardonnay flavor that dries out things nicely. The beer ends on a mix of Belgian spices and white wine.

This is a really interesting beer that I’m not sure if I dig or dislike. It reminds me a bit of my initial feelings on White Monkey. I only had one 750 ml of this beer and I feel that I would really begin to appreciate it after a second bottle. Looking back at my notes, it’s clear that I enjoyed this beer, but was caught off guard with it. I’m not a wine guy by any means and this beer strongly features something that I’m not familiar with. I’m a big fan of the Migration Series from Evo and I will continue to enjoy their experiments. (more…)

Beer Review #212 Saison Rue

I wish I had more money, because I have fallen in love with The Bruery and their wonderful beers. I’ve only had three of their beers to date (including today’s), but I have really enjoyed what I have had. They all have a unique and distinct taste that I have really enjoyed. The only problem I have is that their beers only come in 750 ml bottles in my area (not sure if they do anything else) and they are a tad bit on the expensive side compared to my normal purchases.

Saison Rue is a “Belgian style ale” that is “brewed with rye and brettanomyces.” Brettanomyces or Brett as it is often called is known to cause some “funk” in beers. Basically it is a wild yeast that has been “used” in Belgian brewing and often can sour or add a farmhouse quality to a beer. The reason I put used in quotes in the previous sentence is because the yeast occurs naturally in the air in parts of Belgium, and traditional Belgian brewing dictates that the wort is cooled on shallow copper tables which are exposed to the air. The yeast in the air gets into the wort and you have spontaneous fermentation happening. With modern brewing we know exactly what is going on, but hundreds of years this little nugget was all a mystery.

On to the beer review! Saison Rue pours a clear golden-orange color with a fluffy white head. The nose is slightly sour with some heavy wet straw odors. There are some farmhouse spice smells in there as well. I didn’t get any hops which is not surprising considering the style of beer.

On the first sip I was really happy to find that there was a nice malt flavor. The flavors were clean and earthy at the same time. A slight sour taste then comes in but it is not an overwhelming sweetness; just a light touch. The malt is mildly sweet but it gets cut right at the end of the beer as the Belgian spices kick in. There is a really nice balance of farmhouse and sour notes in this beer.

I really dig this beer. It is simple while being complex. There is a lot going on in this beer but it doesn’t seem like it as first. As this beer warmed, the flavors and odors really came to life and took this beer to another level. I highly suggest this beer to anyone looking for something special. This one will be on my repeat list for sure. (more…)

Beer Review #194 Mischief

I received this beer as a Christmas present from my in-laws. I’ve been meaning to get some beers from The Bruery of¬†Placentia, CA for some time, but something else always caught my eye first. I really like the style that this brewery bring to its bottles. Everything is clean and classic looking but has a sense of sophistication to it. According to the bottle, Mischief is a “Belgian style ale, golden and hoppy.” It also comes in at 8.5% which means this one is a sipper. From a marketing prospective, Mischief is a great name for a beer. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time you will know that I am a sucker for good marketing, and this beer has all of its bases covered in that department.

Mischief pours a nice golden color and has a soapy white head. This beer is naturally carbonated in the bottle, and the back label specifically mentions to leave the yeast out of the beer. My first two pours were clear, but the last bit came out hazy thanks to the agitation. The nose is very dry smelling. There are some dull and/or aged hops present along with some Belgian spices. The hops are citrusy, but understated. I also got a bit of a tart aroma that faded into a wet hay smell. Overall I would describe this one as earthy with a kick of hops.

On the first taste I noticed some slight lemon-like sourness that was quickly followed by a nice punch of hops. The hops were grapefruity and ended in a light pine flavor. The Belgian spices came through wonderfully on this beer. They¬† were perfectly balanced and really added some nice depth of flavor to the beer. So often Belgian-style beers are over the top spicy, this one has the perfect touch. This beer is dangerously drinkable. It goes down easy and doesn’t have a single harsh component to it. Everything compliments each other nicely leading to a great balance. I’m going to have to try some more beers from The Bruery as this beer was a treat. (more…)

Beer Review #117 Merry Monks

Seeing that this is my first day in Belgium I figured that a review of a Belgian style Golden Ale is fully appropriate. This brew comes from Weyerbacher Brewing Company out of Easton, Pa. Weyerbacher makes a lot of great brews and Merry Monks was one of my first Belgian style beers. I honestly don’t know what the difference between a golden ale and a Tripel is, but for this beer the stats seems very similar. Merry Monks rocks in at a wonderful 9.3% ABV.

This Belgian style ale pours a nice straw color and has a slight haze. An abundant white head floats on top of the ale. The nose promises some heat, along with a nice sweetness. The typical Belgian spices are in there as well, but this particular yeast stain really features a banana aroma.

On the first taste I noticed a slight sweetness on the front part which is quickly followed by the Belgian spices. The banana that was on the nose follows through in the flavor as well. The only thing that I didn’t detect was the heat. I got no heat on this beer, even after letting it warm for a bit. This beer is devilishly drinkable. I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend this beer to anyone. (more…)

Beer Review #98 Grand Cru Winter Reserve

I have three winter beers to review before Spring hits and till the March Brewness starts. Today’s review comes from Flying Fish Brewing Company of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This beer has one heck of a name with it, and the packaging offers little explanation. The bottle hints at what is sure to be inside, saying, “bottle conditioned Belgian style ale.” Sounds wonderful to me.

The ale pours a nice cloudy straw color and has a nice wispy white head sitting on top of it. The nose is full of the normal Belgian spices and also is pretty yeasty. There are some slightly sweet aromas coming from there as well, but nothing overpowering.

The taste is very yeasty. The spices are there but I was surprised but the yeast character to this beer. There is a slight sweetness to it along with some biscuit flavors, but neither are very strong. The mouthfeel is pretty creamy, which I found a bit surprising. Grand Cru Winter Reserve rocks in at 7.2% ABV, but you would never know it from the taste or smell. I found this beer to be very un-winter like. I would love to drink it on a warm spring day, but not the winter. It was a good beer, but another winter beer that lives in the wrong season. (more…)