Saturday, March 31, 2007

Okocim O.K. Beer

These guys do a porter that is hands down one of the best in the world. However, there's something about this beer that makes me think that it will be good, but not great. Just can't quite put my finger on it...

Brewery - Browar Okocim S.A. (Carlsberg) in Brzesko, Poland
Style - Polish Pils (according to the label)
ABV - 6.2%
Serving Type - 330ml bottle

The Okocim (pronounced: Oh-KOTCH-eem) brewery started in 1845 while the area was still controlled by the Austrian Empire. There have been some renovations over the past few years so it's a little bigger and more modern than it once was, but it does still have the original chimney from '45.

Try as I might, I was not able to find out what the deal with the name is. They didn't even respond to my e-mails. In fact, there isn't much original content on the web about this beer; all of it seems to have been written by the ad department. It uses "indigenous Polish hop varieties", but the specific varieties aren’t disclosed. The water, however, comes from a spring in the Tatra mountain range.

Everyone mentions that this beer helped to "defined the "Polish Pils" style", but once again we are left to wonder what exactly the means. How is that different from a German Pils? Also, "the O.K. label remains mostly unchanged from its original design from forty years ago, which is testimony to the spirit of this brewery’s vision." What is the brewery's vision and how does it relate to the label?

The distributor was able to come up with an interesting, if true, story. On the neck it reads "imported by Stawski Imports" with a big gold "Stawski" scrawled underneath it. As a result, the beer has become known as “Stawski’s Beer” in Poland. They also make a note that this was the first variety of Okocim imported to the US.

Glass – Kona Brewing pint glass

Aroma – Well it’s obvious that one of those indigenous Polish hops is of the Saaz variety. Their distinct floral aroma is predominant. It is also a slight sweet and malty. Unfortunately, I also get just a slight cidery aroma, probably due to its age.
Appearance – It pours with virtually no crown, which dissipates quickly. This obviously means there is no lace to speak of. The beer is pale straw colored and is bright and clear.

Flavor – This beer tastes a lot like it smells. The hoppieness is dominant all the way through. On the front of the tongue it’s sweet, and on the back it is a little bitter.

Mouthfeel – The beer is watery and moderately carbonated. It finishes slightly dry.

Final Thoughts – Talk about a beer that lives up to its name. It’s light and refreshing, good but not complex. It’s a little sweeter than most Pale Ales, but other than that there isn’t much to be said.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Big Horse Brew Pub - Horsefeathers & Co.

Originally we took the hour long drive to Hood River to visit the Full Sail Brewery. Unfortunately, their tasting room & pub were closed for renovations until some time in April. Hungry and disappointed I would not be getting an Old Boardhead fresh from the bright tank, Lk and I wandered the streets of the small town until we found the Big Horse Brew Pub.

The brewpub was converted from an old house located on the side of a steep hill above State Street. We climbed the stairs on the outside of the building up to the third floor to enter the restaurant. The view was incredible, the climb was worth it. Our table was next to the window and we could see the entire town, the Colombia Gorge below and the scenic hills above. The food was just ok, but I was here to see what Brewmaster Jason Kahler could do. Unfortunately they were out of Horsetail Pale Ale

1) Pale Rider IPA (5.8%) - Light floral hop aroma and flavor. Bitterness comes in the aftertaste. Almost astringent.

2) Willy's Liquid Courage (Wee Scottish) - Not really any aroma. Flavor of peat and a wheat malt (Simpsons?). Finishes very dry.

3) Snow Bunny Blonde - Smells of banana and clove and tastes the same. There is some floral hoppiness to it. Finishes wet, a nice change after Willy's.

4) Horse Thief ESB - Hop aroma flowery. Some malty aroma. Lightly malty and hopped. Get the distinct flavor of bubble gum.

5) Moped Rider English IPA - Typical of the style; mild in all respects except that it's 6.2% and the alcohol dominates the flavor.

6) Nightmare Oatmeal Stout - Some coffee & almost bubblegum aroma. Creamy, chocolate & coffee taste. Lingering light bitterness.

7) MacStallion's Scotch Ale (7.5%) - Aroma of malt & alcohol. Full bodied, malty flavor some alcohol warming. Dry.

Overall I would have to say these beers were mediocre at best. The Scotch ale was probably my favorite, but with its alcohol level I don’t think I could enjoy it that long. The ESB would have been really good, but I don't like bubble gum flavor in my beer. I hate to say it, but the view was the best part about this pub.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sam Adams Utopias

I've actually been drinking from this bottle for over a year now, but now it's about ready to run dry and I want to save my impressions of this ground breaking beer for posterity.

Style - Extreme American Strong Ale (why not)
OG - 48º Plato (≈1.275)
ABV – 25.0%
Malts -Two Row Pale, Caramel 60º, Munich, 2 Row Moravian, Bavarian smoked malt
Hops - Spalt-Spalter, Tettnang Hallertauer, Hallertau Mittlefruh, Czech Saaz
Serving Type - 750ml copper plated porcelain bottle in the shape of an old brew kettle

For those that don't already know, this beer is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for being the "The Strongest Commercially Available Beer". It could probably make it as the most expensive beer as well, but with a 50 proof beer by my side I can afford to go without heat for a couple of months. Especially since this bottle is one of only 8,000 brewed.

From a general beer culture standpoint, this elixir pushes the concept of what a beer is. Even though made with the ingredients of beer (water, hops, barley and yeast) it's non-carbonated and is more characteristic of a port. In the November 2003 edition of Wine Enthusiast Magazine Utopias received a 96 out of 100 points.

From a technical standpoint, the most interesting thing about this beer is how Jim Koch found a way to get fermentation above 20 percent. It took a sixth generation brewer over a decade of experimentation to get the alcohol levels this high. Naturally, the entire process is shrouded in secrecy, but it is know that at least two different yeast strains are used: one is a specially designed proprietary strain, another is a strain normally used in Champaign.

To add to the complexity of the whole thing, the beer is aged in oak barrels that were previously used to store whiskey, bourbon, port and cognac. This process can take anything up to 12 years. For the aught 5 edition the bourbon casks came from Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Glass – I grabbed one of LKs Cordial glasses since it’s served in 2 oz. portions.

Aroma – The first thing that hits me is the alcohol, it actually makes my nasal membranes burn a little. It smells similar to Sherry and especially Port. There are definite notes of raisin, plum, maple syrup and brown sugar. I don’t know if something can actually smell “syrupy”, but that’s how I would describe this.

Appearance – It is a dark brown, similar to a dark amber beer, but instead of ruby highlights this has more golden brown highlights. It’s not carbonated (never was) so there is no crown or laces, but leave “fingers” on the side of the glass similar to wine.

Flavor – I’ve always described Lagunitas’ Brown Shugga as being like drinking liquefied brown sugar, and the initial taste of this is similar. This beer however is immensely more complex. For one thing the alcohol is very much present at every point in my mouth as is the sweetness. On the front of my tongue I get a lot of Sherry flavor. That transitions into raison and plume over the middle part. Port and a little cheery seem to dominate the back. Strange to drink a beer without any real hop characteristics.

Mouthfeel – It feels thick and oily sliding over my tongue and finishes wet with just a slight alcohol burning in the back of my throat.

Final Thoughts – I do remember that there was virtually no Sherry-ness to this beer when I first tired it. Apparently the beer became oxidized over time imparting this aspect. Normally, this would be considered a bad thing, but in this case I really like it and thing it adds another layer to an already complex beer. I have heard this beer described as a gimmick beer, and maybe in some ways it is. However, unlike other gimmick beers this one is truly brilliant and expands the universe of beer. What ever it is, this is one of my all-time favorites. The art world has Da Vinci's "Madonna of the Rocks", architecture has the Parthenon, literature has Joyce's Ulysses and beer has Utopias.