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Beer Review #310 Coffee Ale

11-05-05I’m not a coffee drinker in the slightest, but I love coffee beer. Odd right? Some say that coffee is an acquired tasted, like beer, but I often find it to be to harshly bitter and not suitable to my palate. When I saw Boulevard Brewing Company’s Coffee Ale on the shelves I knew that I had to try it. This beer is part of their Smokestack Series and the label proudly reads, “malt beverage brewed with coffee.” It also comes in at 9.3% for a bit of an extra kick.

The coffee ale pours a dark brown and has a nice tan head. I was expecting a black colored beer, but brown is okay with me. The beer pours very creamy and the head sits solid, but only goes to a medium thickness in the glass. The nose is rocked with strong coffee odors. I didn’t get any hops or heat in the aroma but a touch of sweetness can be found.

The taste, like the nose, is packed with coffee. It’s strong, in charge, and yells “Coffee BEER!” Outside of the dominating coffee there is a slight caramel sweetness but nothing else to make note of. Instead of hop bitterness, this beer relies on the coffee to do the job. And it does it well.

The mouthfeel is very light and not nearly as creamy as the pour suggested. As far as coffee beers go, this is one of the stronger coffee flavors that I have found. I still found it very drinkable and packed with flavor. I’m no coffee nut, but there is a nice bouquet of coffee flavors that really add interest to this one. I’m not versed in coffee enough to explain the flavors, but I found them enjoyable and not over the top. This is a good one to try if you like coffee beers. (more…)

Beer Review #285 Sam Adams Imperial Stout

04-16-03Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) released their Imperial Series of beers when I was in college. I tried a few on draft at the time and liked most of them. I’m still not sold on the Double Bock but that’s a review for a different time. I finally got around to buying all four of them again for another round of tasting. In the past I have reviewed their Imperial White, and today I’m going to knock out their Imperial Stout.

Sam Adams Imperial Stout pours a black (real shocked /sarcasm) with a thin, tan head that quickly fades. This beer comes in at 9.2% so head retention is not to be expected. The nose is deeply roasty with a “dark sweetness.” You can tell it is a big, thick beer from the smell. There is a little heat along with a good helping of anise rising out of this one. Finally I got just a hint of some aged hop bitterness at the end.

On the first taste you get a good smash of caramel and toffee. It then moves to a bitter roasty flavor, like a really strong coffee that has been cooled down. The anise is in there as well along with just a bit of heat. I didn’t notice any hops when tasting that one as the roasty flavors took away any ability to taste hops.

This beer is chewy, thick, and wonderful. It is a really nice Imperial Stout. The balance is great and the flavor components match and compliment each other. This would be a great benchmark for what an Imperial Stout (non-hoppy of course) should be. This is a perfect sipper in my house. (more…)

Beer Review #256 Indian Brown Ale

12-28-03The year is quickly coming to a close and I have yet another Dogfish Head beer to add to my list for the year. It’s been a long time since I had Indian Brown Ale as it’s not a super common one to see at the stores compared to some of their other beers, but a friend recently brought over a few to try (he’s new into craft beer!). This beer was actually one of my first Dogfish beers and my first introduction into high alcohol beers. It comes in at 7.2% which isn’t much compared to some other beers that I have on a regular basis, but when I first tried this on out, it was a real ass kicker.

Indian Brown Ale pours a nice clear brown and has a thin off-white head. It doesn’t leave any lacing while being consumed. The nose is nice and malty. There is a good helping a caramel and roasted malt. I didn’t really get any hops which leads me to believe that this bottle was a bit older. The label says, “a clean, well-hopped brown ale brewed with caramelized sugar and hopped liberally and often.” The hops from the nose of this beer did not match the description. FYI: Hop aroma is one of the first things to break down in a beer as it ages. If you have two of the same IPAs, one old and one new, the newer one will taste and smell hoppier.

On the first taste the roasted malt flavor was on full show. Some sweetness then clicks in and gets cleaned up by bits of coffee bitterness. The hops make their presence shown as the caramel sweetness amps up, but both the sweetness and hops and cleaned away by the roastiness in the beer.

This is a very nice beer. It is full of flavor and well balanced. I’m glad that this was one of my first introductions to Dogfish Head beer. I think it is a prefect representation of what they do. If you have never had it before I suggest that you go back and try it and if you are like me and haven’t had it in awhile, it’s worth redrinking. (more…)

Coffee Amber Ale Recipe

I’ve been in the mood to test my homebrewing skills a creativity a bit and I decided that a coffee flavored beer that is amber in color was an excellent challenge. Most coffee beers are stouts or porters, which makes the color addition from coffee unnoticeable. What I wanted to do is make something similar to Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale. It’s an excellent beer and captures the espresso flavor and keeps the color not black.

My homebrew store recently started carrying coffee malt so I decided to give it a try. It comes in at 175 °L, which is pretty dark. After purchasing a one pound bag of it I did find that it has some coffee aroma, but not enough. My wife is a big coffee drinker and grinds her own beans. This lead me to take 4oz. of cold water and 10 whole coffee beans. I put the beans in the water and left them in the water for a week. I dumped the results before I realized that I should grab a picture, but the color addition from the whole bean was not very high. However, the aroma and taste were very noticeable. Better yet, the aroma and flavor additions happened after a day or so, and the color didn’t change until day three.

I then structured a recipe around what I wanted to the malt to taste like. I knew that I wanted a toasty, roasty flavor. I also needed some sweetness to balance out the harsh roasted flavors. I had some crystal malts on hand to give some sweetness and light color additions as well as half a pound of Carabrown to give a toasted flavor. Below is what I came up with.

  • 10 lbs. 2-row
  • 1/2 lb. Carabrown (60 °L)
  • 1/2 lb. Coffee malt
  • 1/4 lb. Crystal 80
  • 1/2 lb. Light brown sugar
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 60 mins
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 15 mins

The final beer is expected to have the following specs:

  • OG: 1.059
  • FG: 1.015
  • ABV: 5.83%
  • IBUs: 36.5
  • SRM: 17.37

According to Wikipedia and a number of other sources that I checked amber ales can fall in anywhere between 15-33 SRM. I went on the lighter side so that any color addition from the whole beans would still keep the beer in the proper range.

I plan on fermenting the beer in the primary for two weeks and then move it over to a secondary. Two days before kegging I will add a handful of whole coffee beans to the secondary that were sanitized by sitting in whiskey or vodka for a day. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. It’s a very non-typical beer for me as I generally don’t like adding extras to a beer. I’ve made one coffee beer before, a stout, and it turned out wonderfully. I hoping that I will like this one just as much and that I learn some things from it. It’s always fun to test yourself and take a bit of a chance.

Beer Review #249 Heart of Darkness

The good folks at Magic Hat Brewing Company just sent me a sampler of their Winter Variety pack. Before I get the reviews up I do want to mention that this is my favorite sampler set that they have sent me. Each beer is solid and worth getting. This isn’t me blowing smoke either, I really enjoyed this winter sampling and I’ll probably go out and pick up a case for my holiday parties.

When I saw the Heart of Darkness on the the label I immediately thought of an episode of The Wonder Years when Kevin, Paul, and a troubled friend go out on an illegal camping trip (they lied to their parents). Kevin smokes cigarettes, Paul gets drunk, and they both realize that those activities are not right for their lives. This Heart of Darkness is a bit different, but oddly enough, beer is part of both entities. This stout pours a dark black color has has a thin white head that fades away quickly. The nose is packed with chocolate and roasted flavors. I got a bit of coffee in there as well. There is a slight mention of hops in the background but the other odors really wash it out.

As far as stouts go, you generally have the roasty ones that kill you or the roasty ones that are more subtle. This beer goes more towards the killing range, but in a really nice way. The roasted dark malts and chocolate are really strong at the beginning, but unlike a lot of stouts with similar characteristics, this one get balanced with some nice caramels that come in halfway through the taste and wash away to roast.

I wouldn’t call this stout creamy, but the mouthfeel is full and pleasant. This beer is really nice and roasty but the balance is really, really nice. I’m surprised that this one only came in at 5.7%. Generally the strong chocolates and roasted malts in a beer like this mean that it comes with a with a higher ABV. The last line of my notes say “two thumbs up,” and I think that says everything you need to say about getting this beer. (more…)