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Beer Review #51 Allagash White

About two weeks ago I was talking about how I was in an English ale mood. That phase has come and passed, unlike these guys who have a whole month devoted to English beers. Right now I am back where I was around this time last year, Belgian beers. I don’t know what is going on with my taste buds but it seems every two weeks I am in the mood for something totally different. It makes it tough as a homebrewer because I generally like to brew beer styles I like. At this rate I have no idea what I want. What does that have to do with a beer review? Well nothing, so let’s get to it.

As part of my Belgian beer kick I was lucky enough to find a four pack of Allagash White from the Allagash Brewing Comapny in Portland, Maine. Allagash White is classified as a Belgian White ale and totally delivers on the promise in every way. It pours a brilliant cloudy, golden color and has a nice fluffy white head to boot. The yeast that stays in the beer at the time of bottling can easily been seen in suspension. The nose is light, but full of aromas. The first thing I noticed was the Belgian yeast spices (clove, banana, etc). There was also a light malt sweetness thrown in there.

On the tongue there is a light lemon flavor up front. The Belgian yeast follows soon after with the banana coming first, then followed by the clove. It finishes with a wonderful aftertaste, that leaves you wanting more. It is very crisp and refreshing as well. A Belgian White is supposed to be a light, delicate beer that is full of flavor, but is also so well balanced that the smallest mistake could throw that balance off. Allagash White is light and watery in the mouthfeel department, as you would expect for the style. This is an unmistakably drinkable beer. Great for a hot day or a warm spring day. It goes down easily and has enough of everything to make you want more.

When I first had this I was on a run of Belgian Tripels, so this seemed a bit watered down and unappealing. The more I drank it the more I found that I liked it. It was very subtle in it’s approach to a Belgian style beer. I really enjoyed it and I think you would too. The bottle is also a fun read because they should you how to pour the beer to get everything you can out of it. I always enjoy when breweries do the small extra things in helping educate the drinker. Again, this is a wonderful beer, try it if you get the chance. (more…)

5 Gallons

I love homebrewing. I love creating something of my own and possibly something that no one else have ever created. My only problem is that I hate making 5 gallon batches of homebrew purely because it is the standard. I think that I am going to start making some small batches in the range of 3 gallons. My reasons behind this are two fold. First is that I hate, hate, hate (did I mention I hate) bottling my homebrew. It is the most labor intensive part of the whole process and kegging would make everything so much simpler. Soon Nate, soon. 3 gallons is much quicker to bottle than what 5 gallons would be becasue when all is said an done, it is going to be half as much, or about a case worth of beer.

The second reason is that I get tired of drinking the same beer over and over. Maybe it is my beer review taste buds that crave something new, but I find that the two cases I get from 5 gallons sits around of a long time. Making smaller batches will help me clear stuff out and also give me the chance to brew more. The only real problem with brewing smaller batches is that it takes the same amount of work to brew a 20 gallon batch as it does a 3 gallon batch. I am ok with that since I am doing it for myself only. I’m not a competition brewery by any means and I still enjoy a good commercial beer on a normal basis.

Beer Review #44 Snow Cap Winter Warmer

Another seasonal beer found in Lubbock, I can’t believe it. I saw a review of this beer on Taste Buds awhile ago and, being that I’ve never had a Pyramid brew before, I decided this would be a good first offering. It comes in a short but stout bottle much like Sierra Nevada’s beers do. The label is pretty neat and has a whole heck of a lot going on. There are various winter sports on the label and they did a few little graphic design tricks to make it look interesting. When looking for the name of the brewery, I actually saw that it said Pyramid Breweries as there are locations in Seattle, Berkeley, and Portland. Somehow we didn’t make it to Pyramid during our honeymoon in Portland.

Snow Cap pours a nice dark ruby color with tinges of brown in it. It is perfectly clear and has a thick off-white head to go along with it. The nose of the beer is malty with some tones of dried fruit in there. I didn’t really get much in the way of hops, which for a Winter Warmer is a toss-up. There were also some roasty notes in there as well.

The taste of the beer is malty, which is to be expected seeing as how there was so much on the nose. There are some notes of chocolate in there as well which I was not expecting. There are some hop undertones but they are very restrained. And finally there is some alcohol in there as well. Snow Cap actually comes in at 7.0% ABV; just right for a winter warmer. It has a medium body on it as well. I think the biggest thing that I noticed is how dry this beer is. It seems more like an English style dark ale than a winter warmer. This beer is very drinkable as it is very subdued. All of the flavors mesh well with each other and it is excellently balanced. This is more what I was thinking when I want a winter warmer. (more…)

Me a beer judge!?!

I had my first chance to do a beer judging last weekend and boy was that a trip. My local homebrew club sponsor a competition every year for the past 11 years now. I believe the entries were limited to IPAs and Pale Ales this year becasue our club is just not big enough to have hundreds of beers to sample. In fact one year they had over 300 entries, with five people judging, which prompted the limiting of categories.

My tasting table was in charge of the IPA style number 14 A-C. Being my first judging I was a little nervous about making sure I did a good job and that my taste buds agreed with the style guidelines. It is amazing to see what people submit to the contest. We had one guy who sent in three bottles that said save for final round on them. Some balls.

09-22-01
Picture not from our judging, just there to give an example

I used to be a much bigger fan of IPAs than what I current am. I am just hopped out, but I do have a good background in IPAs because I used to drink them like crazy. My table was made up of 3 people, one of which was extremely skilled in brewing and judging. Surprisingly all three of us came out around the same scores consistently. It is funny how you can pick out the things that take a beer down a few points. Half of the beers I tasted I would of been happy with if I brewed them, but according to the style guidelines they didn’t quite fit.

Being judge is easier than being a brewer. So is running a beer review website. A few things I noticed with almost all of the IPAs we tried. The first was that people often gave too much malt backbone, particularly in 14C the Imperial IPA. The malt should support the hops, but no be equal. The second thing I noticed is how tough it is to properly hop a IPA. Most of them were very harsh and just smashed down on your tongue and left a lingering harsh flavor. Some people like this, I do not, and neither do the style guidelines. The final thing is that you can see the knowledge of the brewer when tasting. We had one contaminated beer so it couldn’t be fairly judged but the differences in the beer came down to slight variations that had huge impacts.

It might be unfair to judge the brewer on the beer they make as I’ve made plenty of great and terrible beers. It just seems like a beer that is more technically correct shows a better skill level by the brewer than his competitors. That skill might not translate into a winning beer but, as a homebrewer, I appreciate it.

09-01-06

Tommyknocker Butt Head Beer Review

09-01-06It is getting close to fall and that means Bock season. Here in Lubbock we had a dip in temperatures over the past week from the high 90s to the high 80s to low 90s, and yes, you can feel the difference here. So I went down to the six pack store and decided I wanted something drinkable and had a lot of flavor. I saw Tommyknockers Butt Head Dopple Bock and grabbed it. First off, I’m a big fan of Bocks, Dopple Bocks, and the one Triple Bock I had I also enjoyed. Secondly, the name of the beer is Butt Head. Why wouldn’t I buy it?

09-01-02When I got home I chilled it down in the fridge overnight and I had it last night after dinner. Upon opening a sweet caramel smell leaked out all over. It was wonderful. After closer inspection, there was a bit of alcohol on the nose behind all of that sweet malt.

It pours a brown to ruby color and had a brownish head with it as well. I usually expect a bock to be crystal clear, being that lagers generally are, but this was slightly hazy. There was also some sediment which I can only assume was some yeast. Being a homebrewer that doesn’t bother me at all, but you generally don’t see sediment on a commercially brewed lager.

09-01-04On my first taste I noticed the malt all over the place. It was sweet, with a slight hop flavor on the back end, but not much. As a bock should be, it was very crisp and had those lovely bubble on the front of the tongue.  As the beer warms up the heat in it becomes more and more noticeable, but that’s not a bad thing. It left a pleasant aftertaste in my mouth that made me want more.

The mouthfeel was a bit thick, almost creamy. It was very smooth and went down easily. For beer that comes in at 8.2% ABV I would expect it to be a bit thicker in the mouthfeel. But man, did I enjoy this beer. It was super drinkable and just a wonderful addition to my taste buds.

A few other notes I jotted down. There is a lot of heat on this, so you really can’t drink too many of them. There is a nice layer of head that last through the whole drink. I don’t know why but I like that quality in a beer. The sediment I talked about earilier was a bit strange. Strange enough to have me comment about it twice. And my final note is that this beer gets more and more enjoyable as it warms up. I would suggest getting a sixer of this if you have the chance. I think most would enjoy it.

09-01-05

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