Austin's Jesterking is in my honest opinion one of the most exciting breweries in the country. From doing collaborations with gypsy brewer Mikkeller to taking on the man with a lawsuit against TABC, and of course making great beer, Jesterking does it all. From starting out bottling just a couple of beers, it seems they are now adding new bottled beer every week and sometimes two a week. To me the coolest thing they do is they are using all farmhouse yeasts, and not traditional ale yeasts. These yeasts which can be difficult to brew, add incredible complexity to a beer as well if handled properly. One of their latest is Thrash Metal a self proclaimed American Strong ale.
The Beer: Well its strong alright weighing in at 9.3% and it pours a hazy golden color with a thick dense head of white foam. The nose is full of white fruit, peaches, and pineapples. Yeasty bready notes. The first sip reveals mild carbonation, medium body, notes of honeysuckle, pineapple, breadyness. It finishes dry, which balances some of the up front sweet flavors. A slight funky barnyardness character comes out as the beer warms. This added complexity surely comes from the use of the farmhouse yeast. Some lemony and orange notes finish up this beer adding just a bit of acidic balance. Deceptively strong as I never really tasted the alcohol this one is a well balanced very food friendly winner of a beer.
I know I've said it before, but I am a huge fan of Odell Brewing out of Fort Collins, CO, and nothing makes me happier than a rumor going around that they may be coming to TX in 2013. One can hope. Not only does Odell have an outstanding regular line up of beers, but their line of barrel aged beers is some of the best in the country in my opinion. One brew in particular that I have been looking forward to trying is the Sabateur. Odell brewed an outstanding higher than normal ABV Brown Ale, then added Brett yeast and aged it in American Oak barrels. Got your attention yet?
The Beer: This souped up brown ale weighs in at a very unsession like 10.0% and pours a very carbonated dark rich nut brown color. In fact this beer poured so overly carbonated that I was very concerned that the beer was infected. The first whiff gave no indication though that anything was wrong. There were sour notes on the nose to be sure, but I chalked it up to the brett and oak aging. Some mild barnyard notes as well. Then the first sip confirmed that nope, this beer was not infected. The beer was surprisingly smooth, very much the character of a brown ale. Slightly sweet malts, but then undertones of vanilla, pineapple, before finishing extremely dry. There are some wine like qualities to this brew that add a level of complexity. There is a hint of barnyardiness that helps add to the complexity. Many different layers to Sabateur, that gives it a quite amazing character. Rich sweet brown ale up front, before finishing dry and almost wine like. Another top notch offering from this small Fort Collins Brewery.
While Texas has been getting many new brewery's crossing state lines to enter our fertile market, few have been more anticipated than one that is re-entering. After a multi-year absence, Belgian Trappist brewery Rochefort is back in Texas. Rochefort is a Benedictine monestary brewery in Namur, Belgium, and is one of the 7 Trappist breweries in the world. Rochefort makes 3 different beers, the 6, 8, and 10. Many folks think that these numbers correspond to the percent alcohol however that is incorrect. Instead these numbers corresponds to the Original gravity: 6 corresponds to 1.060, 8 to 1.080 and 10. 1.100. Originally these numbers were close to the percent alcohol, however that was no longer the case, and never the actual intent of the numbers.
When I first heard that Rochefort was back in Texas I went out and picked up two of the 3 available beers.
Rochefort 8: The beer weighs in at 9.2% abv and pours a copper reddish brown color with a thick dense head of taupe colored foam. Very malty nose with notes of candied sugar, caramel and fruit. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, dried figs, raisins and other dark fruits concentrated. Finishes dry. Notes of chocolate, spicey. There is an interesting flavor here, that took me some time to place. Its like burnt sugar, with some brown sugar notes and caramel as well. The best analogy I came up with is the burnt sugar crust on creme brulee. Its a chewy beer, notes of cherry as it warms, very effervescent. No alcohol notes. A great malt forward sipping beer.
Rochefort 10: This is the big brother beer weighing in at 11.3% and pours an almost black color with a thin taupe colored head that dissipates quickly leaving a thin film capping the beer itself. Very malty nose, fruit esters almost grapey. Thick chewy mouthfeel, figs, plums, tobacco, sweet rich. Red wine like quality. Raisins, chocolate, rich chewy malty goodness. I love the fruity tobacco notes of this beer. Its like sitting in a big comfy over stuffed leather chair smoking a pipe. Notes of cola as well as it warms. This is one amazing complex brew.
For those wanting to try Trappist beers and see what all the fuss is about you must seek out Rochefort.
This past Saturday was Fight Night, which means its a good night to sit down and have a couple of beers. Unknowlingy there was a theme to the beers I had on Saturday.
Sam Adams Griffon's Bow: The second beer I've had from Sam Adams small batch series, this one is an oaked blonde barleywine. Notice that its oaked and not barrel aged. It weighs in at a hefty 11.5% and pours an orangish golden color with a quarter inch of just off white head. The nose is perfumey, notes of honeysuckle, pineapple, toasted malts, and maybe just a hint of oak. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, a good level of carbonation, slightly sweet up front, almost but not quite cloyingly so. Honeysuckle, melon, but finishes dry. Some alcohol, white grape juice flavors, an oaked white wine characteristic. There is a lack of depth to these flavors though that keep it from being really really good. Instead its ok, something worth picking up, but not one I would go out of my way for again.
North Coast Grand Cru: A new beer to the Texas market from a brewery that we've had in the state for a long time and one that makes some outstanding beers. This is a bourbon barrel aged beer made with agave nectar and weighs in at an even heftier 12.9%. It pours a hazy pale golden color with a thin white head. The nose again is perfumey with notes of honey, melon, pale malts, more oak on this one then the last. There are more phenolic notes of alcohol in this beer than the last as well. Great level of carbonation and again sweet up front, melons, honeysuckle. A rich beer, but its very bright, nothing is lost in its richness. Effervescent almost. This has an almost ice wine character to it. It finishes very dry. As it warms notes of peaches, vanilla, nectarines, even a slight tartness that rounds its character out. There is so much depth to this beer its unbelievable. I really enjoyed this one, and I think this is what the Sam Adams beer was trying to be. They are both very similar styles in certain respects, Sam Adams version was almost there, North Coast's was there and then some.
Sam Adams is an interesting brewery. They are a brewery that has done great things for the craft beer movement, but many craft beer nerds, turn their nose up at Sam Adams, and don't really consider them a craft brewery. Sure their flagship Boston Lager is not a mind blowingly complex beer, but is a great alternative in hotels and airports when there isn't much other options. Plus they make a great many other beers than just their Lager. Their Imperial Pilsner they brewed a few years back is one of the best beers I've ever had. They really helped create the whole extreme beer movement with Utopias and their Imperial series is damn solid (although I don't care of the Imp White at all). Sure they have their misses (Triple Bock I'm looking at you), but for the most part they make beers ranging from good and solid, to outstandingly complex.
They continue to release special beers, first it was their Barrel Room collection that we unfortunately don't get in Texas (damn label laws) and now its a collection of Small Batch beers, that luckily we do get. The first one I have had the opportunity to try is their Double IPA, Third Voyage. The beer is brewed with simcoe hops and Cascade hops from England, New Zealand, and the US which is where the name for the beer comes from. The name is based off of Captain James Cook third voyage that took him from England, to New Zealand before completing his journey in the Pacific Northwest of the US. But enough of the history lesson, how does the beer taste?
The Beer: The Beer weighs in at 8.0% (not sure of the IBU's) and pours a crystal clear ruby color capped with a dense foamy slightly off white head. The nose is full of hops, citrus, along with some earthy mustiness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a comforting level of carbonation. Massively hoppy, citrus peel, and pitch. Caramel malts, buttered bread, help give balance to the beer. There is a quality to the beer that I equate to hop marmalade on toast points. There is a slight sweetness to this brew that counters the over the top hops of the beer. However after the third or fourth sip, all I get is hops, hops and more hops. The tongue becomes saturated and its all I get. I like the white pepper spice impression that the resiny hops leave on my tongue. This is a fine beer, and makes me want to go out and try the other ones from this series. This one gets a strong B+ from me.
Last week, Saint Arnold did something they've never done before, re-release a Divine Reserve (well sorta, but more than that in a minute). Last Thursday, marked the release of a new seasonal, released only in Bombers and on draft of Pumpkinator. It ended up being a lot harder to find than many expected. Most folks thought that Pumpkinator would be no different than any other Saint Arnold's seasonal, but that wasn't the case, as it turned out to be kind of a Divine Reserve type day with folks tweeting about where to find a bottle or two. Folks have been calling this a re-release of Divine Reserve 9, which in a way it is, but it also isn't an entirely correct statement either. Yes both are Imperial Pumpkin stouts, made with lots of pumpkin and spices, but DR9 weighed in at 11%, Pumpkinator weighs in at 9.5%, so there is a difference and abv can affect a lot about a beer. So how different are these beers? I have had DR9 at different stages of its life, read about my thoughts here, and here. However, in honor of Pumpkinator's release, I wanted to know how DR9 was tasting now, about 2 years after its release, so I did a tasting of both beers and here are my thoughts:
Pumpkinator: It pours very dark, with a little taupe colored head. A ton of spices on the nose with just a hint of pumpkin and some roasted malts. Medium bodies, maybe a little light, but not bad. Lots of carbonation which was surprising, very spicy, lots of cinnamon, cloves, and that same hint of pumpkin. Its liquid pumpkin pie. Really spicy, but I don't believe its as harsh as I remember fresh DR9 being. The beer is almost chewy its pie-like qualities. As it warms, it gets really good, some chocolatey coco notes come out that play really well with the pumpkin. There is some boozy notes, but again not nearly as much as DR9. A very good beer.
Divine Reserve 9: It pours a very dark chocolate black with a quarter inch head of taupe colored foam that quickly dissipates into a thin cap around the surface of the beer. The nose is of dark fruits, sweet malts and fruitiness. Some canned pumpkin and just a hint of those pumpkin pie spices. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of roasted malts, figs, raisins, dark chewy malts. Cake like, I compare it to a chocolate pumpkin fudge brownie. Most of the spices are gone now, but there is still some light alcohol notes, but its not unpleasant. A great beer that has aged wonderfully and has some more years to go.
The Verdict: Two good beers. I think I might like Pumpkinator a little more fresh than I did DR9. There is a smoothness and a roundness that wasn't there on the DR release. However, I also don't think Pumpkinator will age as well as DR9 has. DR9 was so powerful when first released that it needed time, Pumpkinator is good now. Yes it will age and do so very well I think, just not as well as DR9. Both are good beers, and its a step in the right direction for Saint Arnold to start a special seasonal release of bomber beers. The next one to be released will be in the spring and will be a version of Divine Reserve 11, definitely one to look out for.
Anniversary ales are becoming more and more popular these days. Each year brewery's release a special beer celebrating their birthday. Even Texas breweries are getting in on the fun, Real Ale released their own 15th Anniversary ale, an Imperial stout earlier this year. Stone, though is different, they've been doing anniversary beers for a long time and were probably ahead of the curve on this one, as they are on many other trends in beer. When I see their anniversary beer, I'm always a little surprised at how relatively young they are. The same age as Real Ale brewing, but younger than Saint Arnold's, Avery, and some others. I guess I've always just thought of Stone as being around much longer.
For Stone's 15th they made what they are calling an Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. Now if your saying, hmmm that sounds familiar, its because it is. They have a black IPA called Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, itself based off of their 11th anniversary beer, and a beer that I enjoyed. So whats the difference?
The Beer: This Black DIPA weighs in at 10.6% far heftier than SSR's 8.7%. It pours a dark rich chocolate brown with a cafe colored head. Hoppy hop hops on the nose. Citrus peel, pith, fruit all of it. Hints of coco and roasted malts struggle to make their voices heard through the din of hops. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, some astringency either from the booze or from the hops. Roasted malts, grapefruit, citrus peel, chocolate malts. Very very resiny, course, harsh. Much more so than SSR. This is not a gentle beer. There is no balance here, its harshness and hops. Warming it helps some as it gets fruitier, but there is still that harshness that distracts from everything else. Its an interesting brew, and I love hops, but give me an SSR any day over this. I'll give it a C.
Another beer from one of the newer breweries in the Texas Market, this one is an infamous Black Pale Ale. How can something be black and pale at the same time? A question for another day perhaps. This beer as all that are labeled as such are dark heavily hopped beers, this one especially so, weighing in at 80 IBU's.
The Beer: At 7% this is not overly high, nor is it a session ale, somewhere in the middle it pours a dark black with ruby streaks when held up to the light, capped with a taupe colored head of foam. The nose is chocolate, burnt coffee beans, roasted malts, and a whiff of citrus peel on the nose. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, lots of black patent malts here. Burnt malts before being walloped with hops. Citrus pith bitterness abounds on the tongue, but I keep going back to the malts that don't hide behind the hops. There is a chalky quality to it, a burnt malt taste to it as it warms up. This overly roasted quality gives some balance to the hops, however I could do without the chalky taste. This one gets a C+ from me.
Gypsy brewery Mikkeller is one of the more unique breweries in the world. No real place to call a home they travel around the world (mostly in Europe) brewing at different breweries. They also make some really good beers. One of the neat things they did a year or so ago was create a Single Hop series of beers. 10 different beers brewed exactly the same way with the exception of the hops used. This method allowed one to see the impact hops made on all aspects of a beer. I was lucky enough to try a few of these single hopped beers at a Camp Beer earlier this year. Mikkeller has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other with this beer. They have taken the 10 hops used in their single hop series, and blended them into 1 beer.
The Beer: This American IPA labeled beer weighs in at 6.9% and pours a cloudy orangish copper color with a thick dense head of off white foam. Spicy, citrusy, fruity, earthy nose with a hint of toasted malts. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a good level of carbonation. Resiny, floral, notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits. Marmalade with toasted biscuits comes to mind. Resiny finish. Its an OK beer, but as with the single hop series, I think it highlights why most beers use a blend of hops, and why certain hops blend better with some than others. A mishmash of hops thrown together will be hoppy of course, but many nuances are missing that leaves a good beer feeling muddled. This one gets a B- from me. A good beer worth checking out.
I say this a lot in the blog, but it is a great time to be a craft beer lover in the state of Texas. Craft breweries are popping up everywhere, and more and more breweries are coming into this state (of course I wish there were more coming, but that's a whole other issue). One such brewery is Clown Shoes from Ipswich, Mass. They've been here for a little over a month or so, and for whatever reason I haven't gotten around to trying any of there beers before now. They are known for controversy as much as they are for how their beer tastes which is unfortunate. There are folks out there that seem to me to be a little to easily offended when it comes to Clown Shoes labels. If that gets your dander up, then I can't imagine how one would make it through a day in this world. Frankly I don't care what the label looks like, its whats inside that matters.
The Beer: Labeled an Imperial Amber Ale this one weighs in at 8% abv. The beer pours a ruby amber with a taupe colored head. Very malty on the nose, caramel, toffee, and then you get hints of citrus fruit and hoppy oils. The mouthfeel is full bodied, creamy, very small bubbles of carbonation that lead to this creaminess. Very hoppy, far hoppier on the tongue than the nose indicated. Caramel and Vienna malts in the flavor profile. Very resiny on the finish. Initially I felt the flavors were muddled, there wasn't a vibrancy to the beer. I had just bought the beer and had put it in the fridge to cool down, and maybe I hadn't waited long enough, because when I went back to have a second one, the vibrancy was there, and the flavors were all the same, but they stood out more and this was when I realized I liked the beer thank you very much. This one gets a B + from me.
Deschutes is one of those breweries that has a good line up of regular beers and seasonals that are available in six packs. Then, however, they take things up a whole other level with their special releases. Their Abyss Stout is top notch and one that is considered a "must have" for beer nerds. We are lucky in Houston in that we not only get their six-pack line up but we are starting to get most of their special beers as well. We've been getting their Bond Street (named for the street where their original brew pub was on) series of beer (you may have seen Hop In The Dark, Hope Henge among others). Now we are getting their really special beers like Abyss, Black Butte anniversary, and the subject of my post today, The Stoic.
This one is an usual beer to be sure, before my tasting notes, here are the stats: A quadruple style (which really isn't a true style so call it an American Strong Ale if you want), fermented with pomegranate juice and then portions of the beer are aged in used oak wine barrels, and used oak rye whiskey barrels. Oh yeah it weighs in at 11% abv.
The Beer: The beer pours a light orange color with a thin white head. There is notes of oak, pomegranate, vanilla, fruity esters. The mouth is medium bodied, very fruity, notes of white wine, oaky, spicey, very small hints of pomegranate flavors. Some alcohol burn is present as well. A tartness starts to show up as the beer warms. I keep going back to sweet, almost cloyingly so, with no counter. Sure there is a hint of oak, and some alcohol flavors, but its just a little sweet. If it was dialed back just a bit, and maybe some more oak or even whiskey (which I didn't get at all) it would be a balanced better beer. Its a beer to try as it's not ridiculously expensive, but one I don't know if I'd go out of my way for. This one gets a C from me.
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