Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The coming year and thoughts on 2009

2009 was a great year for many reasons:
- More collaboration between breweries(Sierra Nevada + Dogfish Head, Brewdog + Stone + Cambridge, etc)
- Unique styles composed by major breweries (Victory Brewing's Yakima Twilight, Port Brewing Hot Rocks Lager, etc). NOTE: More new beers from 2009 can be found here
- New business approaches were utilized abroad. Specifically, Brewdog's Equity for Punks campaign (that is still open for purchase until the 8th of January).
- Old brewing means utilized by current breweries (Brewdog's Atlantic IPA & Epic Brewing's Armageddon India Pale Ale).

I tried to think up some yin to the '2009 was a great year' stuff, but that is difficult because a) with beer, failures are still great things that have reason to be celebrated. B) Beer is something that does not seem capable of letting you down (depending on where on the beer euphoria journey you are).

While it is good to reflect on the year that is coming to a close, it is good to look to the year to come. In 2010, there will be new brewing schedules, breweries will come out with new beers for us all to try, and more people will get bitten by the homebrew bug. It was a great 2009 but it is going to be a better 2010!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Delilah's 11th Annual Xmas and winter beer recap

The Delilah's 11th annual xmas beer tasting continues to be one of my best annual expenditures. Every year it advertises itself as 'the largest tasting of Christmas and Winter beers held anywhere in North America' and while surprising, I am always glad that such an offering is available in my city.

There were numerous beers to try, different vintages for many of the beers (Samples of Anchor's xmas ale from 2000 to the current edition), loads of people and a friendly host (Mike) who genuinely enjoyed sharing what he had with strangers (albeit for $20 a head). Regardless, Mike is a great guy, Delilah's is a great place, and the holiday beer tasting is well worth the trip, $20, and the wait in line.

Highlights:
- A 2003 Mactarnahan's Mac Frost Ale (favorite of the tasting)
- A 1998 Fantome Winter (Hivers)
- A 2005 3 Floyds Alpha Klaus
- A beer from Italy called Birrificio Del Ducato Krampus, 2008 vintage

Should you be in town next year for the 12th annual run of this event I highly recommend it.

Before I forget, Mike announced that their annual vintage strong ale tasting will be on February 13 (or 12th, it was a fuzzy mic) in 2010. So, mark your calendars and plan on having a great time!

UPDATE:
I neglected to mention the beers I wanted to try but did not:
- Ridgeway's bad elf, very bad elf, seriously bad elf, and criminally bad elf.
- Samichlaus
- O'Fallon Happy Holidaze Winter Ale
- La Moneuse Special Winter

Friday, December 4, 2009

Beer review: Schwartz @ Half Acre & 4 of Allagash

Magnus – Half Acre
Schwartz beer


I have not had a Schwartz beer before this, so I looked up the style on beeradvocate.com. They had the following to say Schwarzbier [which I presume to be what Half-Acre is going for] is simply German for black beer. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily heavy or light in body, although they tend to lean towards light. Unlike other dark beers, like porters or stouts, they are not overly bitter with burnt and roasted malt characteristics that the others tend to depend on. Instead, hops are used for a good portion of the bitterness. Very refreshing and soul lifting beers, they also make a great alternative for the Winter. Especially when you are looking for a lighter beer, but one with depth of colour and taste.

This take on the style, presumably, is pretty loyal to Beer Advocates’ description.
The beer is rather dark, like dark mahogany, but is not opaque.
Pour = No head retention to speak of.
Aroma = not quite chocolate, but black malt. Cannot decipher the aroma hops.
Taste = light coffee, little bit of smoked malt.

It is a good beer from a very capable brewery. I am really looking forward to trying more from Half-Acre.


Four – Allagash Brewing Company
Quadrupel

Allagash’s info for this beer = Allagash Four is brewed with four malts, four hops, four sugars and four Belgian yeast strains. During the mashing process, we add Date Sugar to the mash tun. Later, during the boil, we add Light Candi, Dark Candi, and Light Golden Molasses. After primary fermentation with the first strain of yeast, we add more Candi Sugar, and referment the beer with a secondary strain of yeast... that process is then repeated with a third strain of yeast, and finally a fourth for bottle conditioning in the cellar.
After reading the description, I am intensely curious as to what malts, hops, sugars and yeast strains were used for this beer. Brown and/or cane sugar? Centennial/Fuggle hops? The unknown is tough, but we beer fans must power through aye?
This beer has the expected Belgian aromatic characteristics (light & fizzy), but there is also an aire of tartness. I figure this tartness is due to the intermingling of the yeast strains. It is not entirely unwanted, but not being a fan of tart beers has my opinion of this beer at a disadvantage.
The color of this beer is of light shining through a melted, dripping wad of unfiltered caramel.
The taste of the beer provides a nice sized stage for the molasses and malt. The hops used are not immediately evident (and only faintly so aromatically). Beyond that the candi sugar partners nicely with the caramel malt. Will need to experiment with this pairing in my own beer recipes.

In the end, this is an appreciated job but I am not so sure i'd purchase this beer again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The next stage in beer growth

Last week Brew Dog Brewery released the world's strongest beer. This beer, a 32% abv brew called 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin', beats their previous abv giant (Tokyo) by 13.8%.
After reading all of this, I asked myself: 'what is the next frontier for beer?' (assuming you consider Brew Dog's latest venture as beer related, which Roger Protz of beerpages.com does not). Will the IPA trend continue and provide us with more extreme IPAs? Will we get the chance to purchase more recreations of old beer styles (much like Dogfish head's Theobroma, Sah'tea, Chateau Jiahu? Will a Zima-esque beer get another look (i hope not)?
Personally, I'd like to see more beers with unorthodox ingredients such as sweet potatoes and black pepper (see Allagash's Fluxus '09 ). Perhaps pecans or paprika.
After thinking about where i'd like to see beer go, I was stopped in my tracks by asking 'when will the light be turned back to good beer that is free of trends/fads?' Don't get me wrong, I am all for the continued exploration and development of what beer can be. As well as the opportunity for beer fans to have the opportunity to try a myriad of takes on various beer styles. What I fear is the loss of enjoyment of a good, solid beer due to the pressure to continue to push the boundaries of beer.
A Bells stout, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Lagunitas IPA, etc are all great examples of the style and will not be going anywhere soon. It is the prevalence of solid beers such as these that keeps me from fearing that the pressure to come up with the next thing that continues to push the limits of beer will not hinder a homebrewer from taking the next step of making her/his beer available to the populace at large.