There are certain moments in a man's life that leave lasting impressions. The birth of a child, the purchase of a first car, and an adolescent's first kiss are examples of such weighty events. In that same vein, there are a handful of unique beers that leave an indelible mark on a taster's palate. Dogfish Head's 18% ABV World Wide Stout is one such beverage. I remember with great clarity my first experience: the wind was blowing from the East - he was a soft-spoken young lad named Angus - we were down by the lake... oh wait, wrong first experience. Back to the beer. With marigold tinctures cascading over a robust amber body, this hearty stout looks more like dark maple syrup than beer. However, one sip will lay to rest the skepticism of even the most critical beer drinker. Complex licorice, coffee, and chocolate flavors delight the tongue. The taste of alcohol is evident, but masked well considering the ABV. Full bodied and rich, Dogfish strikes a good balance with high ABV and chewy malt profile in their highest rated beer to date.
Now all you need is a parter in crime to enjoy these with because drinking one by yourself is a recipe for gratification that may be a little too instant! ...not that I'm opposed to that in all situations.
Many of you have expressed concern over the complexity and breadth of the brewers vernacular we so often put to print, and the utter confusion the extreme sophistication of our writing can cause. In an attempt to bring order to the jumbles upon jumbles of mixed-up thoughts that are your minds, we have compiled a list.
ABV: Alcohol By Volume. ABV is given in percentages and is the most common method of measuring the strength of a beer. A low-alcohol beer typically has 4-5% ABV or less, a medium alcohol beer 5-8% ABV, and a high-alcohol beer 8% ABV and up.
IBUs: International Bitterness Units. A system of indicating the hop bitterness in finished beer.
Palate: The sense of taste and sensation of the tongue without aroma. Typically sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, effervescent, slick, particulate, and smokey.
Lovibond: Color index on which malt, wort, and beer color are usually measured. The higher the number (in degrees), the darker the malt.
Plato: A measurement of beer's gravity in degrees common in central and eastern Europe.
Storm Kinged: When you choose to drink a beer without a friend you had arranged to share it with.
Peter & Kensy
I have a dream, and in it there is a glacier. It sits patiently above a meadow and tricklingly divulges drops of fragrant, hoppy nectar. That's right, it is a beer-glacier. Each spring its primaveral melt collects in pools in the meadow below. And there are nymphs, nubile nymphs. (I understand that nymphs most often gather in and around wooded springs, but these are glacier-nymphs, and they are a different sort-- and this is my over-eroticized beer dream, after all, not a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.) As you may have guessed, the magical beer that collects in these pools, and in which the glacier-nymphs frolick and sport, is Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale. I love this beer. If you could drink beer-flavored snow, this is what it might taste like: a zesty herbal nose and a striking yin-yang flavor profile of hops and tangerine, all elegantly post-scripted with an ultra-clean, ultra-crisp finish. Bottled purity, fermented freshness; in a hyphenated word, awe-inspiring.
PS. Die-hard followers of the Hairy Beast trilogy need not fret: the much-anticipated finale will be posted by the end of the week.
Since time immemorial, throughout the literature and cinema of countless cultures and epochs, no one theme has so taken hostage the human imagination as that of beauty emerging from the depths of unspeakable monstrosity. Consider "Shrek", "Beauty and the Beast", "Shrek II", and the canonical "Hunchback of Notre Dame" (the 1996 Disney version, not the Victor Hugo novel). The Sierra Nevada brewing company follows in this revered tradition with this smelly sasquatch of a beer, Bigfoot Ale. Indeed, there is ample beauty in this beast. It pours out as rich and crimson as unicorn's blood, with a head that can only reasonably be compared to the foam that gathers around the mouth of a rabid coyote. The flavor profile is hoppy, malty, and mildly spicy-sweet, with an extra-long, deliciously bitter finish. I mean really long. We all know, after all, what is said about man-apes with big feet-- big footprints. Compelling and beautiful as all this sounds, don't get over-zealous: at 9.6% ABV, this a not a beer to, in the words of esteemed orator-president George W. Bush, misunderestimate.
I live by ONE rule: Never drink beers with gimmicky ad campaigns. But I also live by another rule: Just do it. I advise taking the latter approach with this west coast brew. Sure I was suspicious when I read the label on the bottle, but I was also entertained: "This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of this quality". Sizing up this cocky beer was like watching a midget challenge Yao Ming to a height contest. I couldn't help but guffaw. However, my first glimpse of the actual beer quickly stifled my laughter. Its deep mahogany color highlighted with traces of pomegranate is so tantalizing, and its head so thick and creamy, that I found it difficult to keep from dropping my pants and making love to that Arrogant Bastard right there in the bar. My first sip unveiled a wonderful complexity. It was like taking big bites of grapefruit and pineapple (or just one small bite of pinefruit), and well balanced with piney hop flavor and a sweet malty finish. The palate is rich and smooth like a fine English ale. Unlike many "big beers", the bitterness is not overwhelming, but it let's you know it's there. It's not a kick in the groin, but more like a nudge in the arm -- as if to say, "Hey big guy. How’s the family? Good. Good... Why are you naked? What are you doing?! Stay away from me! Ah! Aaahhh"! The most important thing to remember when sampling this beverage is to maintain your composure. There's nothing more difficult than explaining to a bar full of strangers why your genitals are submerged in a pint glass.
ABV: 7.2% IBUs: undisclosed, but my palate tells me about 87
Yesterday, while plunging headlong into dark labyrinths of culinary uncertainty, I stumbled across this gastronomical treasure, which I thought it only decent of me to share with our readers:
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 small red onion (chopped)
1/2 red pepper (chopped)
2 Trader Joe's Burger Nouveau patties***
1 can (8 oz., or so) tomato paste
1 can (12 oz., or so) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tomato (chopped)
1 bottle (12 oz.) of beer
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon red pepper
3 tablesppons teriyaki sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute olive oil, garlic, onion, and red pepper in good-sized pot. Add "meat" and break up into small "meat"-like pieces.
2. As you are overseeing the saute, take a few long swigs out of the bottle of beer. I would specify a style of beer, but, frankly, I have only made this chili with Smuttynose Portsmouth Lager, so I have no basis for comparison. Anyway, you won't need the whole 12 ozs.-- 6 to 8 should be sufficient. When onions and garlic are browned, add beans, tomato, and the rest of the beer.
3. Add remaining spices and simmer covered, on medium heat, for upwards of an hour.
Makes 4-6 servings
***I don't usually aid and abet carnivory, but I suppose you could substitute approximately a 1/2 pound of ground beef in place of the veggie burgers, if inclined.
Are we going to hear anything about the brewery tour? Inside info? News on the Raison D'Extra? This is why we read, fellas. by the way, it's spelled "pilgrimage".
Jews have Jerusalem. Muslims have Mecca. Catholics have Vatican City. And in turn, we have the Dogfish Head Brewery. Upon entering the confines of this holiest of holy beer architects, we felt much like Charlie must have when he first set foot in the Chocolate Factory. Kensy likened us to two school girls anticipating how prom night might go. Would we get lucky? When the tour opened with the grizzled brew master's ceremonial tapping of fresh kegs of 60-Minute, Raison D'Etre, and 90-Minute and offering up free tastings, we knew that our proverbial brewery tour cherries had been officially popped. After 3 glasses of 90, and 2 each of 60 and Raison, the tour flew by. We got to witness "Sir Hops-A-Lot" in action as it added hops to a new batch of Midas Touch. We also saw the bottling process, and were told about some of the latest Dogfish creations (highlighted by a 20% version of Raison, appropriately named Raison D'Extra, debuting this Spring in NYC). All in all it was a solid sojourn. We appreciate the comment from an avid, albeit niggling (for the record, i blame Kensy for the mispelling... I mean misspelling), hopwatch fan.
Just before cracking into this mythic monstrosity of a stout, I felt the icy hand of fear take hold of my brainstem and give it a proper squeeze. With a name like yeti, which, incidentally, derives from the Tibetan sherpa word for "small man-like animal", can you blame me? After all, I was expecting an offensive-smelling, ferociously alcoholic brute. What I got instead was a remarkably civilized and utterly quaffable version of an imperial stout. Aside from the less-than-impressive nose, which I found disconcertingly olivey (kalamata), this beast boasts all the qualities I look for in a blue-ribbon stout: espresso-froth head, hearty mouthfeel, expertly triangulated malty/ nutty/ coffee flavor profile, and a smooth but assertive finish. Make no mistake, while the Yeti might not be as savage as myth suggests, at 10+ ABV and Cretaceous-sized 22 ounces, he's still all animal.
Last week we took a break from the chaotic, materialistic rat-race of our worldly lives and went on a pilgrimage to the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. The exact motivation of the pilgrim is always hard to pin down. In our case, it was a kind of existential indigestion: we had been greedily wolfing down the greasy cheese-steak of modernity for far too long, and we needed something simple yet profound (i.e. 90-Minute IPA on draught) to get recentered. We have composed a haiku:
Brewpub at twilight,
Oysters, french fries, and ale, a
Peter and Kensy
Hop Watch is now considering submissions for the forthcoming guest-commentary section of our site. We hope that this section will enliven the weblog by occasionally spotlighting armchair hopwatchers like yourself who offer both a distinct ale-sthetic perspective and ample critical talents.
Submissions fo the guest-commentary section should be sent via email to both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to the above-mentioned critical talents, submissions should demonstrate a knowledge of the stylistic conventions of Hop Watch and should duly honor its long-standing tradition of razor-sharp wit and penetrating commentary. Due to the high level of interest already expressed to us, we expect the process will be rigorous and the competition cut-throat. Submitters should be prepared to confront the glowering specter of rejection.
It is with distinct pleasure that we kick off this guest commentary section, and it is our sincere hope that thereby we will better serve the needs of our diverse, discerning, and astronomically-expanding readership.
Kensy and Peter
Kensy's right. In the "genre" of tasteless pushover beers, Seahorse Pale Ale is unequalled. So if you're a plant eater (see Kensy's complete profile) looking for an adulterated beverage to complement your tofurkey and legume grubfest, this beer is definitely for you.
Reading Peter's diatribe (see Part I) against this beer is kind of like reading a movie critic's attempt to lambaste "The Little Mermaid" because of its lack of gratuitous gore and explicit sex. That kind of critique just misses the mark. After all, just as one must judge a movie according to its intended genre, so one must judge a beer based on its genre. In this case, the genre is Pale Ale and Rogue's version is, as advertised on the bottle, a "light" one. So insipid? Uncomplex? Come now, we're reviewing a "light Pale Ale" not a Belgian quadruple. That said, the most impressive component of this brew is its first ingredient: water. That's right, as readers of my water-tasting blog (www.H2Oface.com) well-know, good water is not easy to come by these days. The H2O underlying this ale tastes raw, muscular, and happily chemical-free, which all makes sense given that, as the bottle explains, it's "free-range coastal". As for the flavor profile, it's somewhat simplistic but nonetheless well-rounded, with mildly-peppery currents of Apache hops and oregano and a welcome hazelnut aftertaste. Longtime fans of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may even consider this a smoother, less bitter, alternative. In the end, an accomplished if somewhat understated match for a grilled veggie burger or barbecue 'fu satay.
This beer is bad; like it's not good at all. I found it boring almost to the point of offensive, offering about as much complexity as a monkey picking dingleberries from his backside. And at a pathetic 13 degrees plato and 3.2 lovibond who can argue? If not for the 43 IBUs, I might've mistaken this insipid liquid for unsweetened ginger ale. Rogue produces a number of fine beverages, evident in the award winning Morimoto Soba and Bullfrog Ales, but this is not one of them. Is it Drinkable? Yes. But then again so is hippopotamus semen (don't ask -- you spend a summer in Sierra Leone and these things happen...). Okay, I exaggerate a little - because that's just my thing - but those who want a beer that makes them ponder should steer clear of this brewhaha. Still, it's tough to ignore Rogue's philanthropic efforts. Seahorse Pale Ale is the latest edition to Rogue's Fish Series Brews, a collection of suds devoting a portion of their proceeds to supporting the Oregon Coast Aquarium and their "mission to expand our understanding of the Oceans". So I guess they've got that going for them...
Ever snorted lines of freshly ground Sumatran espresso beans? I don't recommend it. Fortunately, you will no longer be tempted to. This oatmeal stout from Wolaver's, the Certified Organic wing of Otter Creek, actually smells more like coffee than most coffee. Between the nose and the color-- which I would liken to that of a melted-down bar of Belgian dark chocolate miscegenated with a dollop of freshly skimmed cream-- this beer makes a memorable first impression. However, the richly layered flavors of smoky espresso, chocolate, and oatmeal are a tad off balance, and the head hardly impressed me. All things considered, a solid but not impeccable dessert beer.
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