Friday, December 23, 2011

Beer Review: He'Brew Jewbelation Fifteen

Thanks to 2beerguys beer blog for the pic.
Happy Chanukah...Hannukah...Channuh ah forget it.  Happy Holidays!  After a delicious sushi dinner (a gift from my parents) I decided to open up a bottle of Jewbelation Fifteen to celebrate the season and the fact that my vacation started today.  For the uninitiated, He'Brew (Shmaltz Brewing Co) has put out an anniversary beer each year to celebrate their existence.  I ran into this series last year when they put out a holiday gift pack including Anniversary Ales 8-14 and a barrel-aged "Vertical" beer.  Each year, they add one more type of malt and hops and raise the ABV one percent.  So this year the beer is 15% ABV with 15 malts and 15 hops.

Appearance:  Pours a deep, dark brown with a thin tan head that dissipates quickly.  Looks a lot like Coke.

Aroma: This beer has a complex array of aromas that I need some help identifying.  I can get some brown sugar/molasses flavors, plus vanilla, raisins and a ton of malty character.

Taste:  Malt and brown sugar jump out at first with caramel notes and a bit of alcohol at the end.  There's also a bready character that must come from one of the fifteen malts. 

Mouthfeel:  Kind of heavy and syrupy with light carbonation.  The sweetness lingers and nicely balances out the small alcohol burn.

Overall:  Pretty solid beer considering the amount of ingredients at play.  The 15% ABV is hidden nicely and the sweetness doesn't become too cloying even after sitting out for a while.  I bet this beer would be great in two years when the sugar dies down a bit and some of the other qualities shine through.  B+

Beer Advocate has 19 reviews that average to an 89.  That's pretty good, right? enjoyed this one during their holiday beer extravaganza.  Better Beer Blog agrees with my assessment.  Seems like a solid beer to warm you up on these cold (60 degree) Washington DC evenings.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Below Decks Barleywine Style Ale Aged in Cabernet Barrels

Photo from

It's Sunday, football's on, the sky is overcast, and breakfast was a few hours ago. Nothing better than cozying up with a tasty interesting beer to make the Giants/Redskins game a little less painful to watch.

Heavy Seas' Mutiny Fleet is a showcase of unusual beers with 8%+ ABV. Their website indicates that these beers are designed for aging, and many are an extremely limited release in 22 oz bottles and some draft. This particular barleywine style was aged in cabernet barrels (the one I'm drinking) and bourbon barrels. Our local beer sherpa only got one or two cases of this little beauty, so we decided to pick up a $7.99 bottle.

Appearance: The beer has a rich, thick dark brown color that reminds me of molasses; this is definitely one of the unfiltered brews of the Mutiny Fleet. My glass doesn't have any head as the photo indicates.

Aroma: My first whiff of this beer had me saying, "Whoa." I get a delicious dark, chocolatey, fruity aroma, and I can already detect the presence of the cabernet just in the smell. I can definitely tell that this is a high alcohol beer, I even get a little bit of alcohol burn in my nose while smelling it.

Taste: As I drink this beer, I can't help thinking of chocolate covered cherries, the kind with the liqueur filling, because I do get a bit of alcohol burn at the end. However, the tasting experience is not too sweet, and it's a delightfully different and interesting beer drinking experience. I feel like I'm drinking a Christmas treat.

Mouthfeel: I'm usually a in favor of the notion that more carbonation is always better, but the carbonation on this beer is understated, and I still like it. It compliments the unique flavor without overshadowing, and it's a nice tasting experience overall.

Overall: This is a bad ass beer, but the fruity aroma and dessert-like flavor still make this beer accessible. It could probably get overwhelming in large quantities, but that's probably why this beer is relatively rare; it's not meant for large quantities. At $7.99 a bottle, I would say this is a great deal. I would not recommend pairing it with a meal; perhaps it might pair well with some goat cheese and crackers, but this beer is probably better when experienced by itself. A-

This beer scored an 86/100 on Beer Advocate, earning it a 'good' (80-89 points) rating (as opposed to 'world class' (95-100), 'exceptional' (90-94), 'average' (70-79), or 'poor' (<79)). Worth a try if you can find it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beer Review - La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado

We've hit a huge lull in brewing beer together lately.  Such is life.  Meg and I will be tasting Merry Krampus early this week to determine how the beer is aging.  Dan and I have discussed plans for our next beer - an IPA, which may or may not be brewed next week.

In the meantime, I've been buying up some interesting beers and I want to share my thoughts.  Although I usually drink my delicious beers and forget to write tasting notes, I happen to be drinking a beer and watching an unwatchable Bears-Broncos football game.

I decided to open up the Stone, Bruery, Elysian collaboration La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado (The Heavenly Pumpkin of Citracado) that's been sitting in my beer fridge for a couple of weeks.  The bottle bills it as an "ale brewed with pumpkin, yams, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena & birch bark".  Ok then. 

Appearance: Dark amber color that looks black when it's not held up to the light.  My delicious-looking pour included a thick, beige head that dissipated after a few minutes.

Aroma:  There's an overwhelming aroma of spicy pine needles with citrus undertones.  Pumpkin? Nope.  Yams?  Again, no.

Taste:  Lemon zest with a spicy hop presence hits me right away.  The spice follows through on the aftertaste and mixes with a woodsy feel.

Mouthfeel:  I could use a bit more carbonation in this one.  It might allow some of the other flavors to come through more.  The sweetness of this beer become cloying as it warms.  I like that the hop spice lingers but it doesn't quite balance out.

Overall:  This is not a pumpkin beer in any sense that I've ever seen or tasted.  I do wish that the yams and pumpkin would shine more in this one instead of the other spices.  I enjoy analyzing it more than I enjoy drinking it.  That can't be good, can it?  I wouldn't buy this one again.  C-

Beer Advocate has it at a B with 96 reviews.  One reviewer called the taste "lime mixed with a pine tree" and I tend to agree with that. liked it quite a bit, saying they were "wowed" by the first sip. had the same experience as I did - too many flavors that don't mix well.  This beer is one of those that are divisive, some think it's great, others hate it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Merry Krampus

The name of the holiday beer came down to Merry Krampus and Blitzen.  I think the Blitzen reference is obvious.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Krampus, this from Wikipedia:

"According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children."

He has the same face on the back of his head, since he sees all the bad children.  Meg had this doll from a white elephant party once upon a time.  Now that we have a mascot for our beer, the choice for a name became obvious.

The brew was a bit different than past beers.  For one, having a 7.5 gallon kettle presents a new possibility.  For the first time, I brewed a full 5 gallon batch instead of 2.5 gallons with 2.5 gallons of water at the end.  This is a great thing!  Except for the reality of brewing this much.  After steeping the grains, it took a full hour to bring everything to a boil.  An hour!  The kettle is big enough that I had it over two burners on the stove, but it still took forever.

The second change was using Beligian candi syrup in the wort.  That stuff tastes amazing, I'm not gonna lie.  It brought everything to a deep, dark color and I'm excited for the flavor possibilities.  I also covered some raisins in port wine a few days prior and then caramelized it on brew day.  The raisins were added to the wort towards the end of the boil for flavor.

Another first: taking yeast from Rochefort 10 and cultivating that instead of store-bought yeast.  I have to admit, I was nervous about fermentation even though the starter appeared to be working.  On brew day, I started a smack-pack of Wyeast just in case the Rochefort didn't work.  After two days, the gravity had fallen from 1.110 to 1.090 with the Rochefort yeast, but I pitched the Wyeast anyway.  I had already started it, it was ready, and I'm still worried about how the Rochefort yeast will act in the high alcohol environment.

Caramelized Raisins
Right now, the wort is fermenting in the refrigerator at 67 degrees.  Various Belgian recipes call for the fermentation to start at 64 degrees and slowly raising it up to 74-80 degrees.  I'm shooting for 74 degrees at day 10 and then another two weeks at 32 degrees.

The final plan is to add more yeast with the priming sugar upon bottling along with a nice note explaining that this beer will taste really good in another few months.  If you can wait.  The Krampus will be watching you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trying Something New

I recently took the plunge and bought myself some more brewing equipment so I could brew on my own.  A decent amount of money later, I own a 7.5 gallon kettle and a wort chiller.  This was precipitated by the desire to brew a Christmas beer as a gift.  What says "I think you're awesome" like sending a great bottle of beer?  Now I can have an entire 5 gallon batch to myself!  That sounds greedy, and it is.  I promise, I still like brewing with Dan and Casey, but this time I'll need enough beer to bottle and send to many, many people.

I spent an entire off day researching recipes and techniques for this beer.  I wavered between some type of Belgian-style trippel and a darker, spiced Christmas beer.  Mostly for timing reasons, I settled on a Belgian strong dark ale.  Brewing this coming week should allow enough aging time to be drinkable by the end of December.  Now, would it be better after a couple of months aging?  Yes, definitely.  But what fun is a IPA in December or January? 

The one thing I'm going to try is cultivating yeast from a commercial beer.  Since I'm trying for a Belgian beer, I bought a bottle of Rochefort 10.  From everything I've read, this is as simple as saving the dregs of the beer and transferring it into a starter.  Definitely an experiment, but we shall see.  If not, I have a back up yeast to use.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Les Deux Brasseurs Belgian Ale - De Proef Brouwerij

Ahhh funktown. I love me some funky beer. Which is why Eric brought this one home from our awesome neighborhood beer shop to try it.

Appearance: The photo is indicative of what I see; the beer pours like a typical belgian ale. Also just like in the photo, the head is very foamy, but it quickly dissipates. Carbonation is continuously floating up from the bottom.

Aroma: I definitely get the typical funky aroma that comes with a wild beer: it reminds me of slightly rotten apples, but in a really good way (if that's possible). However, compared to other wild ales I've had, the aroma on this beer is much more subtle, and a fresher, sweet and fruity aroma accompanies it.

Taste: It's a smooth tasting experience from start to finish. Just the like the aroma is less intense funkwise, so is the taste of this ale: it's not very sour. I also get flavors of fruits like dried mango and crystallized pineapple.

Mouthfeel: Because I like to be overwhelmed with carbonation, this beer was a bit flat for me, but it might have been because I drank it at a slightly warmer temperature than intended. Otherwise, the beer has a nice, light mouthfeel, not syrupy or cloying at all.

Overall: This beer would be a great starter for someone who is new to funky beers. I definitely enjoyed drinking it, but I think I'd like to try it colder next time. I'd give it a B+.

Beer Advocate gives this beer an A-, so it seems that others have a strong liking for this beer as well. If you find it, give it a try, I think it'd be worth it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Baird/Ishii/Stone Collaboration - Japanese Green Tea IPA

Eric and I were psyched to spot the Japanese Green Tea beer at Whole Foods the other day, and proceeded to snatch up the last two bottles. Green Tea in a beer is unusual enough that I would be interested in it regardless of it's difficulty to find, but I'm even more gratified to know that this beer is money well-spent: this is Stone's first collaboration beer brewed as a fundraiser, and all proceeds go to the Japanese tsunami relief programs.

But on to the review.

Appearance: This IPA is a nice toasty looking orange, about the hue you would expect from a typical IPA, but what sets this brew apart is the fact that you can actually see the green tea floating in the beer. As a result, the beer looks a bit murky, and while a bit of the green tea sediment has settled to the bottom of the glass, most of it remains suspended throughout the beverage as I drink it. The head on this beer is minimal and quickly dissipates after pouring.

Aroma: The aroma on this beer is fairly subtle, but I get some floral notes, and the intensely citrusy hop scent I expect from an IPA is muted.

Taste: I get a distinct green tea flavor, but it's nicely balanced and it rounds out the hoppy astringent flavor of the IPA, particularly throughout the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation balance on this beer is nice: crisp at the front, doesn't fall flat on the end, and the green tea adds a nice soft undertone to make it go down smoothly.

Overall: The experience of tasting this beer is unique, smooth, crisp, and extremely flavorful: a great drinking experience overall.

Grade: A-

Beer advocate gives this beer a B+, and all the other reviews online look similarly positive. This is definitely a beer worth drinking if you run across it!