Monday, December 26, 2005

Cave Creek Chili Beer

After one of my training classes down in Phoenix, AZ I took a long drive northeast of the city to visit a little town that goes by the name of Carefree in order to find one of the largest sundials in the world (accounts seem to very as to where it ranks). I got there just as the sun was setting so I couldn’t really tell what time it was, however I had this funny feeling inside that it was really close to “beer-thirty”. Fortunately Cave Creek is right next to Carefree and it just happens to be the home of The Original Crazy Ed’s Satisfied Frog Saloon and Restaurant. The restaurant is affiliated with the Black Mountain Brewing Company, and I could not resist trying their Chili Beer and attempting an “on the spot” review.

The beer was served in a clear 12 oz bottle. The label has a big chili pepper forming a “C” at the top with the name underneath, followed by “Cerveza con Chili”. Below that is the statement “This HOT seasoned Chili beer BEST served ICE COLD!” Finally, below that, we are told that this beer weighs in at 4.2% ABV.

The beer it self is a very clear yellow color, and doesn’t seem to have much, if any, carbonation. And the best part of its appearance is the fact that there is an actual chili in the beer bottle. The legend goes like this:

After moving to Cave Creek and having a hard time finding good craft brews, Crazy Ed decided to take maters into his own hands and create his own brewery. He had his brewing equipment delivered in crates by a Germen brewer. They started kicking out some German inspired brews and did well for them selves. One day someone asked for a lime in their beer, and just to spite the customer Crazy Ed put a chili in the beer. And just like that, Chili Beer was born.

Because I was drinking from a bottle, it was difficult to get much of an aroma, but what I could get was all chili. This seems like the place to tell you how the beer tasted, but the truth is after just a few sips my taste buds were shot. If I could describe it in one word it would be HOT! I could, however, still pick out some maltiness. Thank goodness for that, the sweetness from the malt helped to control the chili oils. Any sort of hop flavoring, aroma or bitterness was easily crushed under the chilies mighty heal.

Over all, I would have to say that it was a beer worth trying and even enjoyable to drink, but there is no way I could sit down and have a six pack of the stuff. If I ever find myself back in Cave Creak, I'm definitely going to stop in for another one (along with 3 glasses of water).

Holiday Ale Festival 2005

It is events such as this that make this truly the most wonderful time of the year. This, the Northwest’s only beer festival to be held outside in December, is held in the first part of December every year at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown Portland. This year they changed things up a little by adding a “Big Boy Bar” that was comprised of mostly Belgian beers that I can more cheaply get at Liquid Solutions. But the big change that I really liked was the fact that they opened on Thursday this year.

I thought I would try a little different format for this post and just use it to relay some notes I was able to take before my taste buds became too fatigued and my brain became too numb. I also end each review with a star rating that I used to describe my overall impressions:

2º Below Winter Ale (New Belgium Brewing Co) – The first beer of the day had a caramel color, and a very floral nose. It has a medium body with a sweet malty backbone. Very lightly hopped, despite the aroma, and finished with a light sweetness. 3 out of 5 stars.

Free Ride Winter Ale (Big Horn Brewing Co) – A very dark brown color. This one had a much more complex aroma. I got some of the same floral hop smells as the 2º, but to a lesser degree, but the malts came out much more. There were roasted malts, and I could pick out raisin and caramel smells. It had a light body with a toffee sweetness and a light coffee like bitterness in the finish. 4 out of 5 stars.

Fearless Strong Scotch Ale (Fearless Brewing Co) – There is a dark amber color to this beer. Another beer with a complex aroma, but very week at the same time; I got a bready/nutty malt nose, with a little spiciness and citrus notes. It had a wet mouthfeel without being watery and like the aroma it has kind of a week flavor. There is a definite caramel malt backbone with almost no hop bitterness. 2 out of 5 stars.

FestivAle (Rogue Ales) – This one had a haze to it. Since just about all the Rogue beers I’ve had are clear, I can only assume that it was from a chill haze. The color is a standard brown and it had a floral and yeasty aroma. It has a light body with moderate carbonation. I was able to pick out some spicyness in the flavor along with cloves, citrus, and apple flavors. It has a light malt sweetness and finished very dry. 3 out of 5 stars.

Blizzard of Ozz (Off the Rail Brewing) – This little Forest Grove brewery is moving up in the world, making it the HAF and all. It had a clear amber color. There was a very pleasant herbal hop and sweet malt aroma. Somehow I was also able to pick out coriander from it too. A very good beer with a full body and a sweet malty flavor, and there was the ever-present coriander. It finished dry and tart. 4 out of 5 stars.

Rudolph’s Revenge (McMenamins) – Here was a vary dark brown beer with a sweet caramel nose. Thanks to Anglia, I also got it stuck in my head that there was a “gum” aroma. It was probably more like a roasted malt aroma. This beer tasted pretty much like it smelled, caramel and roasted malty sweetness. 3 out of 5 stars.

N’Ice Chouffe (Brasserie d’Achouffe) – This was a very special beer. There was only one keg and it was tapped at 5:00 on Thursday. It was a deep mahogany color with a full body and was incredibly complex in both aroma and flavor. I got a nose full of herbal hops, sweetness from the malt, cloves and other spices, and that distinctive Belgian yeastyness. My taste buds were treated to a very sweet caramel flavor along with cloves and bananas. So very good. 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Red Menace Big Amber

Don't ask me what I was thinking, but I through this was an imperial amber. I think that the "Big" in the name is what screwed me up.

Brewery – Hale’s Ales Brewery & Pub in Seattle, Washington
Style – American Amber Ale
O.G. – 1.056
Malts - Pale malted barley, Caramel and Carastan malts, a handful of Black Malt.
Hops – All Centennial hops
Serving Type – 22 oz. (bomber) bottle

It turns out that Hale’s Ale is literally true and not just a cool sounding name. It was started by Mike Hale who was assisted by the Brewmaster J. Kipling. So, Hale does own the ale. Anyway, they released there first beer (Hale’s Pale American Ale) on July 4th 1983 from their original brewery in Corville, WA. Nine years later they moved to Spokane (just like my brother) and doubled their brewing capacity. However, in the mean time, they opened up a second brewery in Kirkland early in 1987. It was this brewery that got moved to the Fremont district of Seattle, and opened up a restaurant in 1995. The brewing got consolidated into the Fremont Brewery, and in 1998 they started bottling their beer.

Looking at the label, I can’t help but think I’ve seen that face before. Then it hits me, these guys are In the Fremont district, as is the cast bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin. Then I’m landed by the second blow; by drinking this beer am I condoning a radically left socialist ideology? Then I calm down and realize that I worked hard for the money that allowed me to randomly select this beer off the wall without any coercion from “Big Brother” and how good that made me feel. Once again I am secure in my Capitalist views.

Glass – Glass MugAroma – Smells good. It has a light sweet malty aroma, and it's a little bready. There is also a moderate flowery hop aroma. I think that there is a slight apple smell as well.

Appearance – It starts off with a large off-white creamy crown that reduces to a thin, but very stable crown. It has very nice sticky lacing on the glass. The color has (can you guess what it is?) a RED hue (bet you didn’t see that coming) and a crystal clear body.

Flavor – As the beer fills my mouth I can detect a sweet honey flavor down the middle of my tongue and a burst of citricy hoppyness on the sides and in the back. It finishes dry with a little linger bitterness.

Mouthfeel – It has a medium body with some moderate carbonation.

Final Thoughts – No real “razamataz” to this beer. Just a strait forward hoppy yet sweet beer that would be pleasurable to just kick back and watch some TV with.