Monday, November 13, 2006

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

With a tag line like "A unique marriage between the English tradition of IPAs, the American new revolution of Imperial IPAs and the classic Belgian way of brewing" I would have to be insane to pass this one up.


Brewery – Brasserie d'Achouffe in Achouffe, Belgium
Style – umm... I could agree with BA and call it a Belgian Tripel, even though it's really a Belgian interpretation of an IPA.
OG - 1.092
ABV – 9.0%
IBUs - 59
Malts - Pale & Pilsner
Hops - Tomahawk in the beginning and at the middle of the boil. Saaz added during the last 10 minutes of the boil. Amarillo hops used for dry-hopping.
Serving Type – 750 ml bottle

I guess domestic American brewing is starting to finally make a mark on the world. After decades looking down their noses at our beer, someone as world-renowned for their brewing prowess as the Belgians are looking at one of our beers and saying "I wouldn't mind a piece of that action." Of course they would be saying it with a French accent.

To understand this beer we need to look at its name. "Houblon" is easy, it's French for "hop". I'm guessing that it's not a coincidence that it's at the front of the name. Tomahawk is a "super" alpha hop that’s great for making a beer bitter. Saaz is normally used for Bohemian pilsners and contributes some spicy characteristics. Rounding things out we have the floral and citrus aspects of the Amarillo.

"Chouffe" is another name for the town that the brewery calls home, Achouffe. It also happens to be the Walloon word for gnome. Thus explaining the lawn ornament that graces the front of each of there bottles. The Walloon language is a French dialect spoken in Belgium, but is different from Belgian French, which is subtly different from French spoken in France.

"Dobbelen IPA" or Double IPA is the high alcohol, heavily hopped American style of beer that is the impetus for this beer. They did, however, try to incorporate some of the English IPA style. Definitely a move that I wouldn't have bothered with.

Finally, the Belgian "Tripel" is Christian Bauweraerts' (brewery owner) favorite stile of beer. Traditionally, Tripels are high alcohol (they are called Tripels because they use three times the malt of a standard "simple" beer) and, by Belgian standards, fairly bitter.

Mixing all these together should be...interesting.

Glass – Pint glass

Aroma – There is a definite Belgian earthy yeast aroma with this beer. The hops impart a floral and citrusy smell. The bouquet doesn’t really mach up with most double IPA that I’ve had, actually it seems to mach up most closely to that of a pale ale.

Appearance – Looks like I just pored myself a glass of foam. In the initial poor there was about half an inch of beer on the bottom. The crown is big fluffy, white, and very stable leaving big sticky laces. There are "chunks" of the head that never dissipated. The beer has a pale golden color, not crystal clear, but that’s to be expected from a bottle with so much yeast in the bottom.

Flavor – As with the aroma the Belgian yeast and hops take center stage. Up front I get a lot of banana and pear flavor. As the beer move back it gets more and more bitter. In the back of my mouth there is a grapefruit taste. Estery fruitiness follows the bee throughout my mouth. There is some slight alcohol warming and just a hint of grain as the beer goes down. There is a faint bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel – There is some moderate carbonation prickliness, but not as much as I would have expected from the size of the crown. It has a medium mouthfeel and the "Burtonization" of the brewing water gives it a dry finish.

Final Thoughts – Lets see: Not as intense as an American double IPA, but much more flavorful and complex than an English IPA. Not as sweet as a Triple, much hoppier but it does have a similar mouthfeel. This beer defies any attempt to categorize it, and that brings a smile to my face. This is what craft beer is all about, breaking rules and pushing the edge. The fact that they were able to do that and make a very tasty beer out of it just makes my smile that much bigger.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Otter Creek Oktoberfest

If I was really on top of things I would have reviewed this beer several weeks ago when Oktoberfest was still going on. Of course, if I flip it around, I could just be starting the countdown till the next Oktoberfest eleven months early.

Stats:Brewery – Otter Creek Brewing Company in Middlebury, Vermont
Style – 3B. Oktoberfest/Märzen
OG - 12.3° Plato
FG - 3.5° Plato
ABV – 4.7%
IBUs - 19.0Serving Type – 12 oz. bottle

Oktoberfest is that special two-week time of year (this year it was Sep. 16th - Oct. 3rd, in 2007 it begins on Sep. 22nd) when you can gather with over 6 million of your closest friends on the Theresienwiese (d'Wiesn for short) in Munich, Germany to share a Maß (a one-liter-tankard). Or, if you are not lucky enough to be able to get to Munich during that time, there are several smaller festivals held all over the world at this time. The history of Oktoberfest stretches back almost 200 years, so let’s just look at how it started.

On October 12th, 1810 Crown Prince Ludwig (the future King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen were married and in commemoration of this event they had a horse race. The race took place five days later on the 17th so there is some dispute as to the actual date of the first Oktoberfest. The whole of Munich was invited and about 40,000 people showed up. They had such a good time that they decided to do it again the next year, only they would do it in conjunction with the state agricultural show.

The particular German Maerzen lager I’m enjoying now is brought to us by Otter Creek’s founder and brewmaster Lawrence Miller who opened up shop March 12, 1991.

Glass – Pint glass

Aroma – After one whiff I can’t help but think about autumn. It has an earthy/yeasty smell. The hops impart both a pine and citrus (orange) aroma. Initially it had a mild corn scent, but that dissipated quickly and was replaced by a touch of honey.

Appearance – The crown starts off with a big, frothy and off-white, and then becomes thin and stable. It looks hazy with a light amber-orange hue. There is virtually no lace left on the glass.

Flavor – There is a light toastyness and citrusyness to the palate, a floral taste across the middle of my tongue with a light bitterness, slightly tart, in the back of my mouth. It finishes dry and clean.

Mouthfeel – It started off with a lot of carbonation that was very prickly in my mouth. I swirled much of that out and was left with a light to medium body.

Final Thoughts – Well it doesn’t seem to match up with the Oktoberfest BJCP style guidelines very well, seems to be more of an American Amber. Other than not being as malty as I like from this type of beer, I found it crisp, clean and enjoyable. I could definitely hang out and have a few of these. One of the best things, as I mentioned in the aroma section, this beer just seems to scream that autumn is here.