Sunday, January 29, 2006

He'Brew Jewbelation 5766

I heard about this beer in 2004 (In its 8th incarnation) but didn’t have any luck finding it. When this year rolled around and I had a chance to go to Arizona on Intel’s dime during the Hanukah season, I knew I had to find it. However, this particular bottle was purchased at Bottleworks in Sattle.

Brewery – Shmaltz Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
Style – American Brown Ale
ABV – 9%Malt – 9 types: specialty 2-row, dark crystal, chocolate, victory, munich, carapils, wheat, oatmeal, rye
Hops – 9 types: warrior, northern brewer, Mt. hood, centennial, cascade, vanguard, tettnang, czech saaz, willamette
Serving Type – 22 oz. (bomber) bottle

I can't stop laughing at “He’Brew: The Chosen Beer”. That is some kick-ass marketing right there. This is my first Hanukah beer, and boy is it Jewish. According to the website their "...products are kosher certified to the strictest Orthodox standards by Kosher Supervision of America..." Anyway, as I’m sure you are all aware March 2005 to March 2006 corresponds to the year 5766 in the Jewish calendar. So not only can this beer be picked out by the big number nine on the front (indicating it is the 9th incarnation of this beer), but we know when it was brewed. Speaking of the number nine; the Shmaltz website goes nuts over other connections with the number 9 (some secular, some sacred). Some of my favorites are:

  • On 1/22, 1857, the 9 inning game was introduced
  • On cloud 9 came into use in the 1950s from a term used by the US Weather Bureau for a umulo-nimbus cloud
  • Seinfeld ran for 9 seasons
  • On Rosh Hashanah, 9 blasts of the shofar howl our annual psychic wake-up call

But the best one of all is:

  • Was it prophetic when George Burns quipped, “Sex is one of the 9 reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant.”

Glass – Thistle Glass

Aroma – I got hit with a strong Chocolate malt smell initially. As it warms up more of the caramel aromas start coming out. There is also a hint of some nutty aromas and some floral hops. I really was looking for the aroma contributions, but the malts really dominate the beer.

Appearance – It poors with a big fluffy stable tan crown. The beer has a dark brown color with ruby highlights, and has big sticky laces.

Flavor – The initial flavor is very heavy on the dark grains, yet still manages to be a little sweet. Flavors such as coffee, caramel and chocolate swirl around my tongue. The hops come out in the middle of the taste. There are far to many hops for me to pick out any individual hop or even an individual flavors, so I’m just going to label this flavor as a general “hop spiciness”. It finishes sort of dry and a acidic with some alcohol flavor, and a lingering coffee flavor.

Mouthfeel – This is a nice full body beer. It just seems to feel “thick” in my mouth, but doesn’t leave any type of residue in my mouth. It just feels, and goes down, very smooth.

Final Thoughts – A very interesting brew. It seems almost like a combination between a porter and a brown ale. The problem I have always had with brown ales is that they seem watered down. But let’s face it, with 9 malts there is no way this beer could be watered down. I thought it was a pleasant beer, but I do have one complaint. It seems like there was almost too much stuff it this beer. The flavors start to overlap, and even though it seems like it should be a very complex beer, what with all the ingredients, but the subtleties get stomped out by the dominant characteristics of the various malts. That being said, I really wish more brown ales tasted this good.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Olde School

I told you during the Punkin’ Ale tasting that I would get back to Dogfish Head. So buckle in, we’re going for a ride out East.

Brewery – Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware
Style – American Barleywine
ABV – 15%
Serving Type – 12 oz. bottle

In the small town of Rehoboth Beach, Sam Calagione first opened the doors of The Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in June of 1995. At that time it was both Delaware's first brewpub and the smallest commercial brewery in America brewing just 12-gallon batches at a time. Their first beer (Shelter Pale Ale) was made in essentially 3 kegs sitting on burners. In the first nine months Sam brewed 3 times a day, five days a week! I can't even find the time to brew once a month.

Based primarily on their unique and delicious beers, although the wood-grilled seafood and pizzas was also a draw, Dogfish Head became more and more popular and needed to expand. I guess I should also mention that aside from the food and beer the place was, in the words of the Washington Post, "Not only...a fine restaurant, but it has staked it's claim as the Eastern Shore's finest live music venue." Jason Kennedy became the head brewer (leaving Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge, MD) and worked with Sam to convert dairy and cannery stainless steel vats into a 300-gallon brewery. The upgrade also allowed them to start bottling and distributing the Shelter Pale Ale. By the way, this all happened within 10 months of opening the doors.

With the beer bottled and a thirsty public willing to pay good money for a Dogfish Head brew, there was just one problem; it was illegal for Delaware brewpubs to distribute their products. Drafting a bill and pushing it through the House and Senate, they were finally able to get the governor to sign it into law. This wasn't the last of the legal issues however. In 1997 they needed to expand again, this time into an empty warehouse in Lewes where they could have a separate brewery. But guess what, Delaware's laws did not let owners of a brewpub have a separate microbrewery. Once again Sam was back in front of the legislators and the new bill was unanimously approved. It was signed into law a mere 3 weeks after being introduced. In 2002 they outgrew the Lewes building and moved operations to its current location in Milton.

This particular beer was released in September of 2006 and "inspired by a tale of a cask doctor who brought sluggish ales back to life by suspending a fig in them." This beer is fermented with dates and figs.

Glass – Dogfish Head Pint Glass that reads “Off-centered ales for off-centered people”

Aroma – I detect the pleasant aroma of musky fruit. More specifically, it’s like smelling earthy herbs and plumbs. I’m fairly sure the plumb fruitiness comes from the malt, and the earthiness from the hops. I think I can also pick out some yeastiness from the nose.

Appearance – This pours sparkling clear with a small bubbly crown. This crown is to be expected, since there an inverse relationship between the amount of alcohol in the beer and the size of the crown (i.e. the more it f***s you up, the smaller the head). It was a pale orange color that allowed me to see the tinny little bubbles going up the center of the glass.

Flavor – The first thing I pick up is a molasses type of sweetness. Right behind that I can taste the alcohol and feel the alcohol warming in my mouth. I also get some breadiness and yeast flavors. Finally there is some fruitiness that is lingering in the background of the palate in the form of plum, raisons and just a hint of apple. In the finish there is a lingering alcohol sweetness that evaporates and then becomes even more apparent.

Mouthfeel – Full bodied and chewy, just like a good barleywine should be. It seams to leave a sweet film coating my mouth that is counter pointed by the moderate amount of carbonation that really shows it self after I swallow.

Final Thoughts – I do love a full flavored barley wine. I’ve read some reviews where they say the beer does a good job of hiding the alcohol, but I’m not sure I know what they are talking about. They might be trying to say that it’s not overpowering, which I would agree with, but for me the alcohol flavor profile is front and center. That being said, this is a very good beer and one that would probably age really well. I think I’ll grab some more of this, and if I’m still doing this blog in 3 years, I’ll let you know how it did.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hop Trip

I heard this was a “green” hopped beer, a style of beer that I had never had. Oh so exciting...

Brewery – Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon
Style – American Pale Ale
O.G. – 1.058
ABV – 5.5%
IBUs – 35
Hops - approximately 5.5 pounds of Crystal hops per barrel
Serving Type – 22 oz. (bomber) bottle

This particular beer is sort of a retro-brew. It is part of the "Bond Street Series". Deschutes Brewery started in 1988 in downtown Bend on (take a wild guess) Bond Street. Back then they were a just a little brewpub serving a small area. The Bond Street Series are beers that are "inspired" by the original pub. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but apparently these beers were unavailable after 1993, since they were only available at “the pub”. ‘93 was the year that Deschutes moved to its current location. There new facility was decked out with a 131-barrel Huppmann brew system from Germany, which allows them to have fun and experiment with specialty batches, such as this one, and still churn out the ones that they are better known for (such as Mirror Pond Pale Ale).

Enough with the history lesson, what the heck is up with green hop beer? This is a type of beer that can only be made for about 4 weeks out of the year. These are the weeks that directly follow the fall hop harvest. In this particular case 270 pounds of whole flower hops are cut from Doug Weathers' farm outside Salem, Oregon and driven directly to the brewery in Bend. They say that they want the hops to be as fresh as possible so one brewer starts the brewing process hours before the hops even arrive at the brewery. Normally whole hops are dried out and vacuum sealed in packages in order to preserve them. They can also be crushed into pellets and stored for use. Or, finally, the essential oils and resins can be removed from the yellow lupulin glands and then be directly added to the wort. All of these require the scarification of moisture from the hop cone, and beers like this are the only way to fully experience what a hop can do.

Glass – The über cool Thistle Glass so I can really smell the hopsAroma – The first whiff gives me a grassy hop smell that quickly gives way to a grapefruit citric and pine aroma. The malt gives it just a hint of breadiness. The one word that comes to mind while smelling this is “fresh”.

Appearance – It pores with a very stable, big fluffy off-white crown. There is a moderate amount of lacing and is a sparkling clear amber. The crown dissipated, after awhile, and a thin sheet remained throughout the entire tasting.

Flavor – Initially, the beer seemed a little cidery and slightly acidic. Just like the aroma, the initial flavors give way to other flavors such as the citrus and pine. The pale malts that were used contribute very little to the over all flavor, other than a light breadiness. However, they do a marvelous job of balancing this beer and letting the hops dominate the palate without letting them make it so bitter the beer can’t be enjoyably imbibed. It finishes with a lingering hop bitterness that I don’t think I’ve tasted before. It is definitely a hop bitterness, but more…resinous.

Mouthfeel – The body was fairly light, as you would expect from a pale ale, and almost slid over my tongue and down my throat. "Oily" is the term I think that is used for that feeling, but I don't like because it didn't leave any kind of "residue" behind. There was no carbonation either.

Final Thoughts – A mighty fine and very refreshing beverage. I loved the uniqueness of the aftertaste and its ease of drinking. I would hold pale ales in much higher regard if they all tasted like this. As it is, I will just have to content my self with seeking out more green hopped beers.