Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 35 (8/28/2011): Wild Undressed by Picobrouwerij Alvinne (at Brasserie Beck)

So, I'll be in DC for work until Tuesday and decided to head to Brasserie Beck for dinner and a beer or two. Brasserie Beck, as the name implies, focuses on Belgian food and beers. They had a great tap list and an even better bottle menu. I was going to get the Stillwater/Mikkeler collaboration, but that had apparently recently kicked, so I grabbed a glass of what took its place, Wild Undressed, a dark sour ale from a Belgian brewery that I had never heard of before. While I was at it, I ordered the Colorado Lamb Sandwich, which is lamb, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers.

The beer was great. I was a little concerned when it came out with no head whatsoever (see above), but on closer inspection small bubbles could be seem rising from the bottom of the glass to the surface of the dark brown beer. The nose was very funky, with a strong hint of the sour to come, with a strong earthiness and a slight vinous fruit/barrel smell.

The taste is sour, but there is a balancing malt backbone which tempers it a bit. Despite that, it does have a puckering funky tart flavor which puckers your mouth a bit and makes you salivate. The malts at the back end are of the caramel/toffee type, which makes sense considering the darkness of the beer. It's not terribly complex, but it is tasty.

The mouthfeel is about medium, though the tartness of it makes it seem far thinner. The carbonation is low-moderate, again unsurprising considering the lack of head.  This is a very refreshing beer, despite what you might think when it's set down on the table in front of you. Overall, quite tasty and a great choice. I'm glad I went with this instead of something else on the menu. Lord knows there was enough to choose from. I give Wild Undressed by Picobrouwerij Alvinne an A-.

The food, while decent enough, wasn't as large a hit as the beer. The frites were superb; hot and crispy, they came with a few different mayos. The curry was probably my favorite of the bunch. The sandwich was where things went wrong, though. I know lamb is a fatty meat, but I'm not sure how much more meat than fat was on the sandwich. The bread was great, as was the chewy, crusty bread, but having to pick out half of the meat in the sandwich was irritating. It certainly made the sandwich a sloppy mess.

I think the moral of the story is that next time I definitely will be getting mussels with my beer(s) when I head to Brasserie Beck. I almost did and I'm kicking myself for not doing so. Maybe I just got the bad end of a piece of meat, but I wouldn't order that sandwich again. I would, however, have no problem going back and trying something else.

Style: Sour/wild ale
ABV: 5.2%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 71/19

Bought on draft at Brasserie Beck (Washington, DC) for $14. I've never seen this before and have no idea as to its distribution.

Brasserie Beck on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 33 & 34 (8/26/2011 - 8/27/2011): Jackie O's Brewpub bottle release

Holy hangover, Batman! Yesterday my wife and I went to Athens, Ohio to visit Jackie O's Brewpub for a special bottle release. I'm not going to get detailed about it, because I'm saving that for an upcoming CincyVoices post, but suffice it to say that it was a blast. Thanks to a lot of generous folks at the release, not only did I get to try some great offerings from Jackie O's, but some of the most rare, amazing beers I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. Some of those included:

Jackie O's Brandy Barrel Superfly: The house amber fortified with extra hops and malts and then aged in brandy barrels. Didn't like this one a ton. The brandy was a bit too dominating and it was a bit sweet. (This was one of the bottles released this morning.)

Jackie O's Oil of Aphrodite: A very delicious imperial stout brewed with black walnuts. Only got a hint of the walnuts, but it was delicious regardless, especially when it warmed up. A little bit thin, supposedly because the old recipe was changed to make it less syrupy.

The Funky Buddha Lounge No Crust: This was easily one of the most amazing smelling beers I've ever experienced. It is a brown ale that is supposed to be like a peanut butter an jelly sandwich. I have no idea how they did it, but they nailed smell and, to a lesser degree, the taste of it. Definitely an experience, for sure.

Stone 2008 Imperial Russian Stout aged in bourbon barrels: This was from a growler since it has never been bottled before. It's on pretty much all top 100 beer lists and definitely deserves to be. Regular Stone IRS is probably one of my favorite beers to begin with and the barrel aging takes it to the next level. A substantial flavor without being overwhelming, the bourbon is integrated perfectly.

Russian River Perdition: A super, duper rare Bière de Garde. I have no idea why people pine for it other than the rarity, though. It's solid, but a little boring. Not close to the same level of some of the stuff I tasted last night.

Great Divide Belgian Style Yeti: Wasn't too memorable, but I had to drink it down quick to try something else that was opened. Would like to revisit.

Kern River Citra DIPA: This was one of the standouts of the night. An awesomely balanced DIPA that is still super hoppy, with a ton of pungency from the citra hops. This one was from a growler.

Half Acre Galactic Double Daisy Cutter: Sampled with the Kern River DIPA mentioned above. Didn't stack up to it in pretty much any way whatsoever, but I have a bottle of it that I would like to revisit. This was from a growler.

Bootlegger's Brewery Kuckle Sandwich DIPA: Not too memorable, but remember that it was better than the Galactic Double Daisy Cutter, but not quite as good as the Kern River.

Sun King Brewery Johan the Barleywine: This was one of my modest contributions to the epic tasting. It was a solid barleywine, but the smell was better than the taste. I could have used a little more of the caramel and breadiness of the smell to be in the flavor.

Sun King Brewery Timmie: Another beer that I brought. This was a pretty darn tasty imperial stout. It was pretty sweet, which is how I like my stouts so it definitely was appreciated. It wasn't at the level of some of these other beers opened, but it was cool to try a delicious brew that was never canned and sold publicly.

Trinity Brewing Company Old Growth: Literally the sourest beer I have ever tasted. It was so sour (not tart, but sour) that I didn't really enjoy it at all. The taster was definitely enough for me. Nothing but funky, overwhelming sour vinegar. Pretty nasty.

After this, it gets a bit hazy. It was late, I was inebriated thoroughly, and my record keeping on Untappd fell apart. I believe what is left was Territorial Reserve Oak Aged Imperial Stout, Westvleteren 12, Westvleteren 8, and Westvleteren Blonde. This morning I tried a couple of sips during the bottle release, but I was not feeling any more beer drinking.

I can not believe the generosity and kindness of everyone there who brought some amazing beers that I never had the chance to try before and probably never will again. The fact that someone sought me out to open Westvleteren 12 & 8 (two of the best beers in the world) just because I had never tried them before and he knew I wanted to is an amazing example of great beer advocacy. I probably overdid it a bit last night, but I wouldn't take it back at all. I can always get more sleep tonight, but I'd never got to have the fun I did if I didn't attend.

Keep an eye out for a more detailed post on the event itself on CincyVoices!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 32 (8/25/11): Gueuze Cuvée René by Brouwerij Lindemans

I had this while I was at the inlaws' place last night, so I didn't take notes. This review will be from memory and pictures and therefore will be pretty short.

Cuvée René pours a bright, clear golden color with a very large, bubbly white head that settles into a thin layer atop the surface of the beer. The smell is sharp lemon, with a good deal of funk and a bit of lactic acid. A relatively one dimensional smell compared to the Russian Rivers that I've tried.

It tastes a lot like it smells, sour lemons and a touch of vinegar up front leading to a somewhat lactic finish. It's not the most sour beer in the world, but it is definite quite tart. The carbonation is pretty high and the body thin, which makes this a quite refreshing drink. It has a very, very dry finish. I was hoping it would open up in complexity when it warmed up, but no dice.

Overall, this a solid gueze that is widely available. It's not the most complex or best tasting sour that I have ever had, but it might be an easier way for someone new to the style to try some of it. It certainly is cheaper and easier acquire than some of the heavier hitters like Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen. It's also a way to mix it up from the usual wheat beers and pilsners when you want something refreshing on a hot summer day. I give Gueuze Cuvée René by Brouwerij Lindemans a B+.

Style: Gueze
ABV: 5%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A-/A+
Ratebeer: 98/61

375ml bottle purchased from Cork 'N Bottle (Crescent Springs) for $6.49, I believe. Widely available throughout the region (and the rest of the US).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 31 (8/24/11) Smuttynose IPA "Finest Kind" by Smuttynose Brewing Company

Nothing much to see here today, folks. I had a Smuttynose IPA while I was out for dinner while enjoying a delicious burger from Gordo's up in Fairfied after a quick stop at Jungle Jim's. I definitely wasn't in the position for reviewing, but it was delicious. Based on my initial impression and its stellar rating, I'm going to have to revisit this soon!

A more proper review will be coming tonight for something else!

Day 30 (8/23/2011): CoCoNut Porter by Maui Brewing Co.

Definitely another one that I've been wanting to get my hands on for a while. I've never had a coconut porter (or any coconut beer), so I was intrigued when I first heard of it.

It pours a dark, dark brown with a mocha head. Definitely nice looking. The smell is largely chocolate, with roasted grains and a slight hoppiness also showing up. Sadly, I'm not getting any coconut from it at all.

The taste is a great balance between sweet milk chocolate and a little bitterness from the roast. I get a little hint of coffee and (sadly again) an even slighter hint of coconut. It is probably on the sweeter side on the sweet/roasty scale, which I actually prefer.

The mouthfeel is nothing to go wild about: smooth and creamy carbonation with a medium body. Good, but nothing notable.

This is a good tasting porter, and without the claim of being a coconut porter, I would probably rate it higher. Much like the issues I had with Stone's Japanese Green Tea IPA, if you're going to put an unsual addition in your beer, I want to be able to taste it. Otherwise, why wouldn't I just drink another porter such as Edmund Fitzgerald or Founders Porter? Oh well. I still enjoyed it; I just wanted an experience that was a little more out of the ordinary. I give CoCoNut Porter by Maui Brewing Co. a B+.

Style: American Porter
ABV: 5.7%
IBU: 30
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 98/99

Acquired via a generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. Not entirely sure where this is distributed, but I've never seen it around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 29 (8/22/2011) Kingpin Double Red Ale by Bridgeport Brewing Co.

I have to say that I was not particularly looking forward to this one.

For one, I'm not much of a fan of red ales. They always seem malt forward in a way I don't particularly care for: more candy sweetness than the complexity found in other malty styles that I do like. The second is that its reviews on both sites (and particularly on Ratebeer) are frankly just not very good.

The last factor had nothing to do with the beer itself. For the past couple of weeks, our big old home has been experiencing backups of its basement drains. Before this weekend it was just stormwater. To my delight, the backup this weekend was the type that carried toilet paper and other goodies with it. Gross, huh? I thought so. So, after spending some time in the basement with the plumber yesterday evening trying (unsuccessfully, I must add) to clear our drains, the last thing I wanted was a beer. I grabbed the one I wanted to drink the least in my fridge so something I was looking forward to wasn't wasted on my crappy attitude.

Not a good context for this beer to be reviewed, huh? I suppose in a perfect world it would have blown me away; changing my opinion on red ales forever while simultaneously all of my drains magically cleared themselves for free. Unfortunately not.

Kingpin pours a typical color for its style: a dark, almost copper, amber color with about an inch of creamish head. It leaves uneven splotchy lacing as it quickly recedes. The smell is what I expected as malty breadiness and sweet fruit scents meet my nose. It has a lot of the candy sweetness that I was worried about. For a supposedly super duper hopped beer, I'm sadly getting almost no hop notes.

Luckily the taste is a tiny bit more balanced than the smell, with it running from the familiar fruity sweetness to open up, followed by bready malts and finally a slight hop finish. Not bad, not good. Just sort of there. It isn't terribly complex at all.

It has a medium body and medium-low carbonation with no alcohol burn present.

If I had to throw one description of this beer out there, it would probably be 'meh'. It's not bad enough for a drainpour by any means, but it definitely would never inspire me to open another bottle of it. It is a very simple beer, overwhelming any hops that may be present with malty sweetness. The claim of being 'triple hopped' seems ridiculous after drinking this and it makes me think it might be the same marketing gimick used by many macro brewers. I give Kingpin Double Red Ale by Bridgeport Brewing Co. a C+.

Style: American amber/red ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 65
Beer Advocate: B-/B-
Ratebeer: 59/13

Acquired via a generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. Not distributed out this way.

Day 28 (8/21/2011): Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing Co.

I'm always down for trying new beers in cans. The concept of good beer being packaged in cans is still a novel enough idea to me that it's always exciting to try one that others recommend. Modus Hoperandi has well above-average scores on both Beer Advocate and Ratebeer, so I figured I was in for a treat when this was in a box I received a few weeks back.

It poured a golden orange with a just-barely-offwhite head that just didn't quit. It hung around for quite some time, leaving some nice sticky lacing on the glass as it settled down into a nice bibbly ring on the surface of the beer. The nose is actually quite balanced, with pine and citrus (lemon and grapefruit) hop notes and a slight breadiness and caramel maltiness.

The taste is what can be expected from the smell: a not quite balkanced beer, which is quite alright. I don't think this one is supposed to be balanced. The hops purposefully take the spotlight here, though the malts lead the pack. The slight sweetness is followed by fruity hops, and finishes with a dry pine flavor which is just a tad too bitter and long lasting for my tastes. I would have liked the fruitiness to be in the spotlight more than the pine finish, but I suppose not everyone likes their IPAs the way I do.

The body and carbonation are right about middle of the road. It is somewhat creamy, which is strange with the dry finish.

This is most assuredly a solid IPA, which if available here would be close to tops on the beach rotation. It is nice to see the offerings put forth in cans getting better and better. Let's hope it stays that way. I give Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing Co. a B+.

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 65
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 97/97

Acquired via a generous Beer Advocate from Oregon. I do not believe it is distributed in Ohio or Kentucky.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 27 (8/20/2011): Bloatarian Brewing League Beer and Sweat

On Saturday night, I volunteered at the annual Beer & Sweat homebrew competition put on by the Bloatarian Brewing League. This competition consisted of almost 300 keg submissions from brewers all throughout the Midwest. It was hosted at the Drawbridge Inn and Conference Center in Northern Kentucky.

I did the easy job of selling t-shirts from 3PM-5PM, in exchange receiving entry to taste the beers, a tasting glass, and they even fed me! I made out like a bandit, right?

When I started the shift, judging was still going on, so the hall was still pretty quiet. You can see the huge number of kegs in the tasting hall below. I couldn't wait to go explore once it was 5:00.

Right about when my shift ended, food was put out for the judges, stewards, and volunteers and things got a bit more busy as BBL members started to show up.

They even had a band to keep all of us merry drinkers entertained. During this time, I was perusing (and drinking) the offerings. Of course, in my truly negligent fashion, I took no pictures of any of them and almost no notes.

I do know that one beer stole my heart. I kept returning to it and bringing folks with me. It was a remarkably well-crafted unblended lambic brewed by Chris Meta of the Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers (T.R.A.S.H). Crisp and sour as you could ever want, this was by far my favorite beer of the night. It nailed everything from the funky and tart nose to the mouth-puckering finish. As a fledgling homebrewer, I have no idea what is necessary for making a lambic or wild at home, but he nailed this.

As the clock ticked towards the announcements of the style and overall awards, it got a little packed in there, but never too hot or uncomfortable.

Awards awaiting their rightful recipients

 Raffle board awaiting its winners (Including me!)

Between my buzzed chatting and just plain being buzzed, I didn't catch most of the awards, but two things stand out to me. The first is that Keith Cost won a number of awards, including runner up best of show, with his obnoxiously-named, yet delicious beers. The second, was that Chris Meta's lambic won best of show! In my opinion, it definitely deserved it. Chris: if you ever happen to read this, I'll gladly take any of that off your hands!
Overall, what a tremendous event. Kudos to those at the Bloatarian Brewing League who put this thing together, to those who entered beer which they painstakingly crafted into the competition, and to the volunteers (especially those who were busting their butts at the end of the night). It's hard to beat a night of good beer, but good beer and good company takes the cake every single time. It's was a pleasure to see and meet old  and new acquaintances, respectively. I even won a couple of pint glasses and some brewery swag in the raffle! See you next year!

More info on the Bloatarian Brewing League and Beer & Sweat!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 26 (8/19/2011): Pannepot by De Struise Brouwers

Pannepot has been a beer I have wanted to try for quite some time now. I've never actually seen it at the store, though, and never traded for it, so it's been sort of out of sight, out of mind. Being the #30 beer on the Ratebeer Top 100 of 2011, I definitely knew I had to try it.

In a stroke of luck, I found it and a few bottlers of Bell's Oracle at a bottle shop out in the 'burbs after a round of furniture shopping (fun, right?). I popped it open to enjoy that same night.

The 11.2oz bottle pours a inch of light brown head over a dark, dark brown body. The smell is everything you could ever want from a dark Belgian beer: a complex mix of raisins and figs, vanilla, and an almost spicy cider taste. You can smell the booze, which isn't surprising considering how young the beer is and the 10% ABV.

This is a powerful tasting beer. There is so much going on, all of it perfectly melded together. The dark fruits are the most obvious taste, with a molasses or brown sugar sweetness. You can also taste a mild bit of spices; maybe cinnamon and/or anise. There is a good bit of alcohol in the taste, as well.

This is both medium bodied and carbonated and has a bit of burn from the 10%.

This is an absolutely tremendous Belgian beer. I think it might be tied for my favorite dark Belgian ale with Rochefort 10, another which blew me away. I would love to try a bottle with a few more years of age on it to see if the booze mellowed out a bit. That would make it pretty much perfect.

I give Pannepot by De Struise Brouwers an A. Two thumbs up!

Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 10%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 100/100

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 25 (8/18/2011): Creme Brulee by Southern Tier Brewing Company

I've been waiting to try this one for quite some time. The summer seasonal for Southern Tier's Blackwater series, Creme Brulee (I'm not going to waste my time using all the symbols and whatnot) was supposed to be released in June, but was pushed back a couple months for whatever reason. Regardless, I got my hands on a bottle.

Creme Brulee definitely is not your typical summer seasonal. A big, imperial stout flavored to mimic, you guessed it, creme brulee is a far cry from your typical light colored, thin bodied, refreshing outdoor drinking beers.

It pours a brown just short of black with a finger or two of tan head. Leaves thin lacing, but not a ton of it. It smells tremendous: burnt sugar and cream, milky, with a good deal of vanilla and butterscotch. Definitely smells sweet. There is next to no roastiness evident in the nose, but the almost 10% shows up some with a little booze.

The taste surprised me. While you do get a lot of the vanilla and caramel that is in the nose, the taste is a bit more subdued and features the roasted malts a lot more. While I'm a little let down that the taste wasn't as bold as the smell, it's certainly no slouch in the taste category and it's probably much more drinkable this way.

The mouthfeel is thick and creamy; probably one of the smoother big stouts I've drank even with the lingering burn from the alcohol. The carbonation is a tad higher than I expected, but it helps counter some of the thickness.

While this certainly is not an everyday beer, it is a great "dessert beer" and I wouldn't mind trying this a few more times as the weather cools down. It easily is one of the most unique smelling beers I've ever had the pleasure of trying, but it's not a particular drinkable beer. It definitely has its place, though. I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the Blackwater series as I get the chance. I give Creme Brulee by Southern Tier Brewing Company a B+.

Style: American double/imperial stout
ABV: 9.6%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 98/64

Purchased from Market Wines at Findlay Market for (I believe) $9.99. Available where Southern Tier products can be purchased, but it is a seasonal, so grab it while you can. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 24 (8/17/2011): Terminal Gravity Brewing Company Pale Ale and IPA

 I'm going to mix it up and do a side by side of two beers from the same brewery I tried the other night.

The first of these was the pale ale from Terminal Gravity Brewing. Surprisingly, as this is a West Coast offering, this is an English (as opposed to American) pale ale.

It pours a cloudy amber with a half inch cream head. This is bottle conditioned, so the yeast lends a lot of cloudiness to the color. The smell is a caramel sweetness, with a solid biscuit-y malt backbone. There are hops, but they seem the the tamer variety used in English ales than the bolder, resiny types found in American, and in particular, West Coast beers.

It is a very malt-forward, with a honey sweetness coupled with a slight tinge of citrus hops. Very tasty.

The mouthfeel is a tingly medium carbonation, with a medium-full body. It's thicken than your typical pale ale, but that thickness goes well with the maltiness.

The second offering from Terminal Gravity is an IPA. This is far more "American-style" than the pale ale, utilizing a more hop-forward smell and taste.

The beer pours a murky pale copper (again, the bottle conditioning) with one finger of khaki head. the color is a shade lighter than the pale ale, as is evident in the pictures. The smell is very complex; the hops have a very fruity and citrus scent and the malt brings a sugary honey and caramel smell.

The taste is very fruity hops up front with a bread-y malt finish. There is a slight bitterness, but unlike other IPAs, this one is balanced well with the malts. You can tell this one is a West Coast IPA, but it has far better balance than most in its class from that side of the country.

It has a relatively typical IPA mouthfeel: medium-high carbonation and medium body. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

These are very good beers from a small brewery who knows how to do it right. If this was my local brewery, I would be ecstatic. To throw off convention and brew a malt-forward pale ale in a part of the country that worships hops is a bold and brave statement, and they pull it off. Neither of them are the best beers I've ever tasted or even the best in their category, but I would definitely drink these again and I would pay for them.

I give Terminal Gravity Brewing Company's Pale Ale and IPA each a B+

Style: English pale ale
ABV: 6.1%
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: N/A (Too few reviews)

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.9%
Beer Advocate: B+/B+
Ratebeer: 96/93

Acquired via a generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. Not distributed out this way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 23 (8/16/2011): Radiant Summer Ale by Ninkasi Brewing Company

After the previous day's hop bomb, I definitely needed something a little sweeter and maltier. I decided to go with Ninkasi's summer seasonal, Radiant Ale.

Radiant pours a clear amber with a large, effervescent ivory head. The retention is great considering it was a minute or two before it even considered dying down. The smell is fruity and yeasty, almost like a wheat beer. It smells pretty malty with only a slight grassy hop scent.

The taste is pretty mild, which seems to be typical of summer seasonals that I have tried. It is only slightly sweet, with a bigger hop present than was evident in the scent. A lot of these hops seem to be the bittering variety, which shows up in the dry, bitter finish. It's not overwhelming, but I could have done with it dialed back a bit.

A solid medium carbonation delivers the thin body effectively, while the bitterness slightly puckers the mouth on the finish.

This was a strange beer. It is categorized as an American Pale Ale, but it drinks and smells almost like a hoppy wheat beer. It is very drinkable and would be even more so if it wasn't for the out of nowhere bitter finish. I'd rather drink this than Oberon, regardless, but I don't much care for Oberon. I give Ninkasi Brewing Company's Radiant Summer Ale a B.

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6%
IBU: 40
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: 86/87

Acquired via a generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. Not distributed out this way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 22 (8/15/2011): Japanese Green Tea IPA by Stone Brewing Co.

I was really, really looking forward to this beer. As soon as I heard of this Stone collaboration, I knew I had to get a bottle as soon as it was released (more details about the collaboration and the beer itself here). It has so many things going for it: a. it's an IPA, b. Stone is brewing it, c. it has green tea in it, and d. it's for a good cause. Can't go wrong, right? Let's see about that.

The first thing you'll notice is that they are some mega floaties in these bottles. I have no idea if it is the tea or hops, but proceed with caution when pouring. Even with a careful pour, the beer is a murky, unfiltered orangish. It has a pretty frothy, though not large, head.

The smell is a hop extravaganza. The first thing that hits you is the scent of tropical fruit, followed by a blast of pine. There is some malt present, but it takes a backseat to the pungency of the hops. Sadly, any green tea smell that may have meant to be there is overwhelmed by this same great odor.

The hops in the nose are all present in the flavor, but balanced a bit better with a substantial malt backbone. It's not balanced by any means, but it's enough to keep it from being one dimensional. It has a nice hoppy dry finish without being overly bitter. The only thing that hurts the flavor for me is a strong booziness that is not particularly well hidden and an almost complete lack of green tea flavor. It's there, but just barely.

The mouthfeel is about typical for an IPA: medium body and carbonation. There is some alcohol burn from the 9.2%.

So what is the verdict? It is definitely an above average double IPA, but it is disappointing that the green tea flavor and smell were so overwhelmed. This had an opportunity to be a very, very creative beer, but the concept just didn't work out in execution. If this beer were 6-7% ABV instead of 9% the green tea might have shined through a bit better, but 9% it is. I'll probably never buy it again, not because it's a bad beer, but because it's $4 for a 12oz bottle. That's not much bag for your buck. I give the Stone-Baird-Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA a B.

Style: American double/imperial IPA
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 70
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: 92/83

Picked up at Marty's Hops and Vines for $3.99 a 12oz bottle. Available pretty much everywhere Stone has distribution.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 21 (8/14/2011): Line Dry Rye by Oakshire Brewing

This guy is Oakshire Brewing's summer seasonal. From the horse's mouth:

"Line Dry Rye is a honey-orange colored pale ale. It is crafted with 10% rye malt and 10% flaked rye for a complex malt profile. American hops give Line Dry a crisp bitterness and a slight citrusy flavor. Clean and refreshing , it ends with just a small note of blackberry honey in the finish that brings all of the elements together.The name ‘Line Dry’ was chosen as the perfect fit for summer in the Willamette Valley. With only a small window of opportunity to practice this energy saving practice, we think it is time you sit back with a pint of Line Dry Rye and watch the clothes dry!"

It pours a hazy pale gold with a tiny, fizzy head that disappears pretty much immediately. Even without the head, though, it leaves pretty good lacing as you drink it.

Surprisingly, I don't get much, if any, rye on the nose. There is a malty bread-like smell that leads me to believe this is going to be a sweet one.

The taste is sweet, but not overly show. The rye that was absent in the nose shows up here, lending a moderate bit of spiciness that counteracts the sweetness. The fruitiness of the hops combines with the sweetness for a great refreshing combination. There is a slight hoppy finish, but it is not too noticeable.

The body of this is somewhat heavy, which is strange for a summer beer or any beer of this style. There is medium carbonation; just enough to mix with the spicy earthiness of the rye to deliver a slight jab to the tongue.

Overall I think this is a great summer beer. If I had it available here, I'd prefer this to Oberon or pretty much any summer seasonal any day of the week. I could go for a little more rye based on my personal preference on the nose and a little lighter body for those hot outdoor days, but there's not a whole lot to complain about here. It's not going to blow you away, but it is a  solid choice. I give Line Dry Rye by Oakshire Brewing a B+.

Style: Rye Beer
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 35
Beer Advocate: B-
Ratebeer: 59/58

Acquired from a generous BA in Oregon. I don't think this one gets out these ways at all, so you'll have to get it the same way I did: from someone who gets distribution.

Day 20 (8/12/2011): Caldera IPA by Caldera Brewing Company

I was really, really surprised I didn't care for this beer as much as I thought I would.. I've seen it on the shelves before around Cincinnati and I had been meaning to try it. After receiving it as a surprise in a box, I decided to give it a whirl.

It pours a nice crystal clear amber-red with a fluffy head. As it recedes, it leaves a nice lacing. The smell is fruity hops with a sweet, malty undertone.

The taste is what put me off this beer. It has all of the hoppiness of the smell with none of the sweetness. It doesn't seem particularly balanced to me, especially when the finish is so bitter.

The body and carbonation are about typical for an American IPA: medium and medium-light, respectively.

Over all, this beer is just not balanced enough, in my opinion. The very bitter finish is unappealing to me. I realize it is a West Coast American IPA, but the best beers of that style always have a strong malt backbone to even out the hop overload. Not in this case. I give Caldera IPA by Caldera Brewing a B-.

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.1%
IBU: 94
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: B+

Acquired via a box from a very generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. I believe I have seen this in Cincy/NKY before, though, so you should be in good shape if you would like to try it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 19 (8/12/11): Consecration by Russian River Brewing

Sadly, this is the last Russian River sour I have left from a box I received a while back. I really wanted to try the whole line up as an introduction to sours and I have to say: I really enjoyed them.

Consecration is another Ratebeer top 100 selection. It is brewed with Brett and other wild yeasts, so it has the sour funk that is shares with the rest of the line up. It is also aged in American oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants, so that is a change of pace from the rest. Barrel aged, yes, but in a different kind of barrel.

Consecration pours a relatively clear red-brown with a thin bubbly head. It leaves good lacing on the glass while dying down and being drank. The nose, like the rest of the Russian River sours, it a funky sour smell first, followed by a red vinegar, some red wine, and a bit of alcohol. This is the first time I could smell the booze on one of the sours, but at 10% it's no surprise.

The taste is first tart, funky, Brett-y vinegar. It has a sourness up front which is pretty balanced with a slight bit of sweetness. You do get some cherries, cranberries (I'm guessing this is the currants) and a tiny bit of oakiness. Not much of the wine flavors from the barrels shine through, though. There is a lot of flavor here, but not so much that it is over the top (aka: Supplication).

The mouthfeel is much like the others in the lineup: high, tingly carbonation, a medium (but bordering on light) body, and no burn from the booze. At 10%, the fact that you can't feel any of the alcohol is quite amazing.

I give Consecration by Russian River Brewing an A.

I have to say that I have been very impressed with every one of the sours from Russian River. All of them were outstanding, but if I had to rank them it would probably be (in ascending order of preference) Sanctification, Supplication, Consecration, and Temptation. I would drink any of them any day of the week, but boy would I love a few cases of Temptation. Definitely one of the best beers I have ever has the pleasure of trying.

Not only that, but they have really turned me on to sours. I thought the concept of them was weird at first, but I am slowly starting to understand the appeal. I even crave the sourness of them sometimes, which is strange considering what I usually crave is a nice, big alcohol stout on the sweet side. In fact, I just just picked up a sour ale the other day. Not that I'm giving up my old ways or anything; I picked up a bottle of Southern Tier Creme Brulee at the same time.

Style: American wild/sour ale
ABV: 10%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 100/99 

Acquired via a trade through a Beer Advocate in California. Sorry Cincinnati, none to be found here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 18 (8/11/2011): Unit 6 by Rivertown Brewing Company

I'm going to keep this one short a) because I don't have any pictures b) I don't have notes on this one because I was at a friend's birthday party when I drank it. I'm obnoxious, but I'm not obnoxious enough to take notes while I'm hanging out with friends at a party.

I picked up a six pack of Unit 6 by Rivertown because I figured it would be unoffensive to those at the party and because it is a local brewery. It certainly was unoffensive, to a fault, in fact.

It pours a blondish color with a finger of fizzy white head. I'm surprised at the clarity and transparency of the body, considering is is supposedly unfiltered. It also is a bit lighter in color than I expected. The nose isn't much of anything; a tiny bit of the yeast if anything at all.

The taste is pretty boring. Not much hops, not much sweetness or maltiness, and the slight bit of yeastiness in the nose is barely present. This isn't a bad beer by any means; just kinda 'meh'. The mouthfeel is smooth, despite the medium high carbonation. At 5.5%, there isn't any alcohol on the mouthfeel at all.

What can I say? I didn't care for it, but not because it was bad, but because it wasn't really anything at all. I don't want to compare Rivertown to a macrobrewery, but it sort of reminded me of Blue Moon. I would recommend this beer if you're having non-craft beer drinkers over and don't want to buy BMC, but at the price point, there are better, more flavorful hefeweizens and wheat beer out there. In fact, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier was only a buck more for a six pack.

I give Unit 6 by Rivertown Brewing Company a C.

Style: American style hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 16
Beer Advocate: N/A (No reviews)
Ratebeer: N/A (No reviews)

Purchase from Marty's Hops and Vines for $8.99 a six pack. Easily attainable in the Cincinnati/NKY area. Not sure outside of the region, though.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 17 (8/10/11): Vortex IPA by Fort George Brewery

It seems that craft beer is kindling a growing love affair with cans. Their merits of canning instead of bottling has already been discussed ad nauseam, so I'm going to leave that alone and just deal with the beer inside this can. I have never even heard of Fort George Brewing, but I know I like West Coast IPAs, so I figured I would be pleased.

Vortext pours a murky amber with a billowing, off-white head. I had to let it die down a bit before I could pour most of the pint-sized can. It looks like there is a great deal of sediment in the beer itself, judging by the floaties that are suspended. They never really sank down the the bottom of the glass so I just went ahead and drank the beer, floaties and all.

The smell of this is fantastic. It is pretty much all hops, with a mix of citrus fruitiness and pine. It's not a balanced smell, but it is great regardless. This smells like a hop lover's dream.

The taste is surprisingly balanced. The big and bold hop flavors are tempered partially by some pale malt sweetness. It's definitely not completely balanced, as the hops leave a somewhat unpleasant bitter finish on the tongue, but much more so than I would have expected from the nose. The hops here steal the show with not just floral, pine, or fruity notes, but all of them together. They definitely mixed their hops well when putting this one together.

The mouthfeel is pretty typical for an IPA. The carbonation is medium, but smooth, and the body is medium if not medium-low.

I was on the fence between an A- and a B+ for Vortex, but leaned for the lower score. This is a really good smelling and tasting beer, but between the sediment (that you aren't warned about on the can) and the bitter finish, I just can't justify an A or A- when there are so many great IPAs out there. If they filtered this one and managed to reduce the bitterness while not compromising the great flavors, Vortex would be up there with some of the best IPAs I've ever drank. Despite that, I'd still drink this if I ever had the chance. I give Vortex IPA by Fort George Brewery a B+.

Style: American IPA
ABV: 7.4%
IBU: 97
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 94/87

Received in a box from a very, very generous Beer Advocate in Oregon. I have no idea what its distribution is, but it's not here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 16 (8/9/11) Siberian Night Imperial Stout by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company

I've always seen this on the shelves, but never grabbed on before. Price discrepancy aside (see below), the are a pretty darn good deal for a single bottle of such a high ABV beer, so I decided to give it a try.

Siberian Night, as the name implies, pours a deep, deep color. It's an almost black body, but not quite, with a finger of tannish-mocha head. The smell is of heavily roasted, almost to the point of charred grains, with a backing of coffee, chocolate, and dark fruits. The magnitude of the roastiness is a bit odd and almost threatens to overwhelm all of the other scents.

The first thing I notice in the flavor is the earthy, roasted malts. It tastes like I would expect charred wood to. Not particularly pleasant, as it imparts a bitter flavor to the beer. In addition to the roast, there is also some coffee, a little chocolate, and the tiniest bit of hops. All of the bitterness I get in this beer is from the roasted malts, not the hops.

The carbonation is medium-low; pretty much spot on for an imperial stout. It has a medium body and a smooth feel. There is a little burn from the booziness, but not much from almost 10%.

There's not much that really separates itself from the pack other than its earthy, charred taste/smell (bad) and its smooth mouthfeel (good). It is a good value, especially in the imperial stout style, but I wouldn't put it higher than other reasonable priced beers of the same style like Old Rasputin. If you're a fan of big, not particularly sweet stouts, this might be up your alley, but it didn't really do it for me. I give Siberian Night by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company a B-.

Style: Russian Imperial stout
ABV: 9.7%
IBU: 58
Beer Advocate: A-/B
Ratebee: 100/98

Purchased at Party Source for $2.05 a single. Four packs are also available, strangely enough, for $11.49. Somehow it is significantly cheaper to buy singles than a four pack? That doesn't make much sense. This beer is available in both Ohio and Kentucky.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 15 (8/8/2011): Supplication by Russian River Brewing

Supplication is the third of four Russian River sours I received in a trade. This ale is fermented with wild yeast and aged with cherries in pinot noir barrels. It is them refermented in the bottle. Definitely sounds interesting, huh?

The body of this beer is a rusty-brown mahogany color with a fizzy off white head that settles to the surface of the beer, where it stays for most of the time I'm drinking it. Like the other RR offerings, the funkiness of the yeast is right up front, here combined with tart cherries and a slight whiff of oak. This beer smells very fruity.

There is a ton going on in the flavor. Very tart cherries are the most obvious player, with the affect of the barrel being the next most present flavor. The oak/wine flavor isn't as obvious to me as with Temptation, possibly because of the strong flavors of the cherries. This is probably the sourest of the Russian Rivers I've tried so far, but it is still pretty balanced due to the slight sweetness and the other big flavors involved. In my opinion, there is almost a little too much going on.

The carbonation is medium-high, with a somewhat thin body. The alcohol doesn't show up at all, which seems to be a theme with these beers.

Surprisingly, I actually like Sanctification and Temptation better than this beer. Perhaps my palette isn't established enough to get everything that is going on in this beer, but it just seems overwhelming. Despite the high carbonation and thin body, it also doesn't seem as refreshing as the prior two. Considering that I despise white wine and really enjoy reds, I am pretty surprised by my preference. Anyways, it's still a great beer; just not my favorite. I give Supplication by Russian River Brewing an A-.

Style: American wild/sour ale
ABV: 7%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A/A+
Ratebeer: 100/99

Acquired via trade from Beer Advocate in California. Available where Russian River is distributed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 14 (8/7/2011): Indian Brown Ale by Dogfish Head

(Sorry folks; no pictures today. Got too preoccupied and drank the bottle without snapping a shot!)

When you get a Dogfish Head beer, you can pretty much guarantee you're not going to get a traditional, beer following typical style qualities. Though sometimes this is a disaster, often it leads to a great beer that you never would have thought was possible. If nothing else, you certainly can't say they lack innovation or ingenuity. Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale shows this innovative approach, but does it lead to a good beer?

This brown ale pours very, very dark; almost black. You get a couple fingers of sand-colored head, which dissipates quickly. The smell is of espresso, a nice roastiness, caramel sweetness, and a slight hint of hops. It should be noted that this bottle was three months old, so the hops may have faded some during that time. The smell isn't much different than most other brown ales I've tried before, other than the bit of hops.

The taste is delicious. Definitely more of a fall/winter beer than a 90+ degree day beer, but delicious nonetheless. The roasted malts is the first thing you taste, followed by a bit of coffee and chocolate. There is a malty sweetness that is perfectly balanced by an undertone of floral hops. The fact that this beer manages to stay balanced despite the plethora of flavors is astounding. There is a lot going on here, but it never seems unmanaged or overwhelming.

The mouthfeel is pretty full and robust with carbonation a bit higher than usual for a brown ale, but it is a Dogfish Head beer, after all. The body never seems thick or syrupy, but 'thin' would never enter your mind when you're drinking it.

This is a great beer. I have no idea how I haven't tried this before, especially considering how widely available it is. It's tasty, pretty affordable, and at 7%, both sessionable or a night-ender, depending on your motives and pace. I can't wait to drink this guy more once the weather cools down. I give Indian Brown Ale by Dogfish Head an A-.

Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 50
Beer Advocate: A-/A
Ratebeer: 98/99

Purchased from Party Source for $2.05 a single. Six packs are also available for just over $10. This is a pretty commonly year-round brew, so you should have no problem buying it if you can get any other Dogfish Head beers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 13 (8/6/2011): Glen's Hop Vice Imperial IPA by Oakshire Brewing

 In the massive haul I received yesterday (picture of which was in the last post), one of the goodies was a swingtop bottled filled with a single batch imperial IPA  named Glen's Hop Vice from Oakshire Brewing in Oregon. I threw it in the fridge right when I opened the box and this was the first bottle I got to enjoy.

Glen's Hop Vice pours a golden body with a fluffy, milky head. It leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass as it dies down. The nose is very hop forward, with a background of caramel sweetness. The hops are fruity, citrusy, resinous deliciousness. The hop flavors are so strong and fresh that they almost seem dank. Very good.

The taste is pretty much the same. Very complex hop flavors, with a good sweet finish. The hops bring a grapefruit flavor, which is one of my favorite tastes in an IPA. The taste is maltier than the nose, but this brings it to balance

I thought the body was really thick, but I forgot this was an imperial IPA, not a regular one. For the former, it still might still be a bit thick, but not by much. The carbonation is medium and about perfect. The booze feel is a little upfront, but the burn is only small.

I give Glen's Hop Vice Imperial IPA by Oakshire Brewing a B+. It is a very good imperial IPA, but in a very tough style, it doesn't live up to some of the heavy hitters. It's still a very good selection, though, and I would definitely recommend it and would grab a pint of it if I ever saw it on tap.

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.8%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A (Only three reviews)
Ratebeer: Not available due to too few reviews

Acquired via a special box from Oregon. If you're not in Oregon right now, you probably won't be able to get ahold of it, considering that it's a one off batch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 12 (8/5/2011): Temptation by Russian River Brewing Company

After my previous two Russian River reviews, I was really, really looking forward to the next one. Like Sanctification, Temptation is a sour blonde ale brewed with wild yeast. Unlike Sanctification, however, Temptation is barrel aged. Specifically, they are aged in chardonnay barrels. I have never had a wine aged beer, so this one will be a new experience to me.

Temptation pours a beautiful almost-transparent golden color, with a fluffy white head that leaves a pretty much good lacing as it slowly dissipates. The smell the funky citrus smell that is shared with Sanctification, but that's where the similarities end. The effects of the barrel aging is obvious here, with heavy scents of white grapes and oak. A wonderful combination overall.

The taste. Oh, the taste. I could drink this all day if I had the availability and the money. The refreshing tartness brought on by the Brett is paired with the slight fruitiness and oakiness of the barrels, creating an almost perfect taste.  Russian River has pretty much mastered the balance of being tart without having to take an antacid right after having a bottle.

The carbonation is medium; seems a little higher than Sanctification. It is pretty dry throughout, but does have a touch of sweetness. The alcohol is pretty much nonexistent here. There is a lot going on, but none of it is booziness.

Another hit by Russian River. I complained about the lack of complexity of Sanctification and then Temptation hits it out of the park by upping up the game with the chardonnay barrel aging. I wasn't sure what to expect with this beer, particularly because I don't care for chardonnay (or white wine in general), but Temptation got it right. I give Temptation by Russian River Brewing Company an A.

In other awesome news, I got a bunch of new beer to review today! Coming soon...

Style: American wild/sour ale
ABV: 7.25%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A/A
Ratebeer: 100/99 

Acquired in a trade from a Beer Advocate from California. Sorry Cincinnati folks, not distributed here!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 11 (8/4/2011): Hopknocker Imperial IPA by Schmohz Brewing Company

Classy, right?

When I was up in Michigan last month, I picked up a bunch of singles from obscure Michigan breweries and this was one of them. I know absolutely nothing about the beer except that it is brewed in Grand Rapids. I had never heard of the beer or the brewery. 

A search over the brewery's website yields, about Hopknocker:

"After many nights of requests for something for a more serious Hop Heads, the brew staff pooled opinions and ideas. When a consensus could not be made they decided to throw it all in the pot. The resulting construance of hops and barley fermented violently for several weeks, and produced an exceptional aromatic beer." 

So, in lieu of a recipe, the haphazardly through a number of ingredients in the pot and hoped for the best? Luckily this description is clearly nonsense, or I would be concerned from the get go.

If someone poured this beer for you, you would have absolutely no idea it was an IPA. It pours dark like a barley wine, with a tan head. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of sediment from the bottle that was also poured into my glass, so there are floaties. It would have been nice to be warned about sediment so I could have left it in the bottom of the bottle. Sort of irritating.

The smell has a lot going on. You get a combination of slight pine hops, a brown sugar/caramel sweetness, and quite a bit of booze. The smell is somewhat dominated by a malty earthiness that, like the appearance, seems a lot like a barley wine.

The taste is a pretty decent amount of hops with a good deal of sweetness. The roasted malts factor in here with a good amount of charred sweetness and dark fruit. Not particularly complex or groundbreaking. Again, not an IPA.

The beer has moderate carbonation and a thick, almost syrupy body. There is a little bit of tingle from the carbonation and the pretty high ABV.

This beer isn't terrible, but I wouldn't say it is great or even really good. One thing is for certain; it is misclassified. I have no idea how a brewery could screw something like this up, but it is certain amateurish. I definitely wouldn't buy one of these again. There was at least one thing in each facet of the beer which irritated me.

I give Hopknocker Imperial IPA by Schmohz Brewing Company a C. It's not disgusting, but it's not worth buying when there are so many other options out there.

Style: Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.5%
Beer Advocate: C
Ratebeer: 47/3

Purchased at Siciliano's Market in Grand Rapids, MI for $1.99 a single. It's a pretty small brewery, so I'm not sure if it is distributed outside of Michigan.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 10 (8/3/2011): Hop Flood by Quaf Bros. (Brewed at Rivertown Brewing Company)

The idea behind Quaff Bros. is very, very unique and cool. A bunch of guys who work at the Party Source across the river in Kentucky have been crafting small batch, barrel aged beers and having them contract brewed at local breweries around these parts. The two breweries used so far have been Mt. Carmel and Rivertown, with the latter being responsible for the brewing of this beer.

I haven't tried any of these before, but saw a bunch of these singles the last time I was in the store and decided to give it a whirl. They only put out a few hundred bottles of each release, so I didn't want to miss out on something I probably would never get to try again.

I've read conflicting information about what this beer actually is: either a strong ale aged in rye whiskey barrels or Rivertown's Hop Bomber double IPA aged in bourbon barrels. Unfortunately this beer isn't listed on Quaff Bros. website yet, so a little clarification is needed. Regardless, it is a barrel aged beer.

The pour isn't really much to look at. Even a pretty aggressive pour yielded only half a finger's worth of white head that disappeared pretty quickly after the picture was snapped, leaving no lacing. The beer itself is a coppery-amber color, on the darker end of the IPA scale, but still almost transparent.

The smell, oddly enough, was very reminiscent of candy. The sweetness and caramelization of the malts blends seamlessly with the rich vanilla flavor of whatever barrel it was aged in. The hops are way in the back seat here; you can smell them if you try, but you really have to try. Does it smell like an IPA? Nope, but it does smell great.

The real kicker: how does it taste? May barrel aged beers have a tendency to have the beer flavor overwhelmed by the flavor of what was previously in the barrel.

I have to say, for a recipe drawn up by a handful of guys and then crafted in a small brewery, the flavors of the rye whiskey/bourbon are remarkably balanced with the taste of the beer. It is primarily sweet and malty, with the hops on the finish. A great deal of the complexity of the barrels is apparent in the form of the same vanilla and caramel as in the nose. Just like the nose, this isn't really your typical IPA taste, but it is delicious.

The carbonation is low on this, which is pretty typical for most barrel aged beers. There is a slight astringency and a little alcohol burn, but nothing major.

So what do I do with this? It is labeled as an IPA, but it surely doesn't taste like one. Then again, I don't know what a barrel-aged IPA tastes like and maybe this is it. All I know is that, other than a few moderate qualms I have (more hops! less astringency!), this is a really nice beer. I'll cave to subjectivity and give it an absolutely fly by the seat of my pants mix of how it keeps to the style and how much I enjoyed it. Based on that bit of calculation I give Hop Flood by Quaff Bros. a B+. I will definitely be buying every other beer these guys make, if for no reason other than the delicious barrels they use to age their beer in. I hear there's a porter coming out soon (feel free to email me if you need a review!)...

Style: Barrel-aged Double IPA (?)
ABV: 9%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A- (4 reviews)
Ratebeer: Rating not available due to too few reviews

Single bottle purchased at Party Source for $2.99. You can only buy these at Party source and only a few hundred bottles were created, so don't miss out!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 9 (8/2/2011): Sanctification by Russian River Brewing Company

In the world of craft beer, there are always fads. Craft beer enthusiast love their beers bigger, stronger, rarer (especially rarer), and now, more sour. Breweries like Jolly Pumpkin, Russian River, Lost Abbey, Cantillon, and Drie Fonteinen have all cashed in on the popularity of the popularity our sour and funk.

For the longest time, I have been afraid to jump into this style of beer. As I've noted before, some of my favorite beers are sweet stouts. There's very little that could be as completely difference to that as a mouth puckering drink that has been aged with wild yeast. Luckily I am curious enough to not be able to resist anything that I haven't tried before. In a recent trade I acquired four wild/sour ales from Russian River Brewing Company, the same brewery which makes the previously reviewed, delicious Blind Pig IPA.

After soliciting a little advice as to in what order I should try them, I was told that Sanctification is the least complex, and therefore should be my first stop. Sanctification is a blonde ale that uses only Brettanomyces during fermentation. What exactly is Brettanomyces?

From Russian River:

"Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) is feared by most brewers and winemakers alike. In fact, there are some local winemakers who will not set foot in our brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa due to our use of Brettanomyces. Brettanomyces is actually yeast, it ferments and acts the same as every other "conventional" yeast, it just has the propensity to continue fermenting through almost any type of sugar, including those natural sugars found in the wood in an oak barrel. Brett is very invasive and if not handled properly can become out of control in a winery or brewery, but, if used properly with care, it can add rich aromas and flavors of earthiness, leather, smoke, barnyard, & our favorite descriptor-wet dog in a phone booth." 

Sounds strange, huh? Now you know part of the reason I was hesitant to dive into this style. Regardless, I have the bottles and now it's time to see what I got myself into.

Sanctification is definitely a beautiful beer. It pours a pale, translucent yellow with an inch high head that is so bright white that if I were prone to painful comparisons based on beer names, I would evoke angelic descriptions. The smell is when I know that I'm getting into foreign territory. It has a yeasty funk, like the funk found in many saisons, but much stronger. It actually smells sour, kind of like a Lemon Head; definitely a very citrusy sour.

The taste, to my surprised is not quite as shockingly sour as I expected. Sure, it is definitely sour. There is, however, a slight sweetness that starts off the progression to the tart finish of the beer. Perhaps the hesitation was for nothing? I get the citrus from the nose in the taste, along with a little grassy notes. Maybe I haven't been exposed to the style enough, but while this beer is tasty, I don't get much complexity from it.

The carbonation is relatively low, which I didn't expect, but doesn't detract at all. The creaminess and medium body works perfectly with the tartness to create a crisp, very refreshing beer. It's not your typical summer beer for hot days, but I'd put it up there with any good pilsners or IPAs.

I think it's obvious from my review so far that my hesitation was in no way warranted. This is a great beer and one which others who are interested in getting into sours should definitely give a try. My only knock on it would be its relative lack of complexity. While it was delicious, I could have gone for more nuance and variety in the flavor department. I give Sanctification by Russian River Brewing Company a good, solid A-.

I have three more different bottles of Russian River sours in the fridge, so more of these will definitely be reviewed in the near future. Stayed tuned!

Style: American sour/wild ale
ABV: 6.75%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 100/96

Acquired in a trade from a generous Beer Advocate from California. Russian River products are not distributed in Ohio, so if you want some, you're going to have to work hard to get it!