journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Beer Tasting

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Half Pints – Stir Stick Stout

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Brewery: Half Pints
Beer: Stir Stick Stout
Category: American Stout
ABV: 5.60%
Brewed in: Canada (Winnipeg, MB)

Stir Stick Stout poured a dark and murky black – almost no light was penetrating the beer. The head was one finger thick and a nice tan color. Pretty characteristic of stouts brewed with coffee. Head retention was moderate and left lots of impressive lacing on the pint.

The aroma will tell you that this beer was brewed with coffee (if you didn’t read the label and see that it was locally roasted Ethiopian beans). Coffee is prominent in the nose but is also accompanied by bitter chocolate and roasted malts.

The first sip brings initial flavors of coffee, chocolate, and faint smoke to the tongue. The faint smoke taste dissipates quickly and allows the roasted malts and other notes to really come through. I found that the carbonation – though not ridiculous – was high enough to subtract from your ability to really taste all the nuances of the beer. A very tasty stout though.

The mouthfeel was a little thin but acceptable for the ABV. Carbonation is on the high side for a stout but not so much that it wrecks the beer, it just masks some of the characteristics they have managed to instill in the beer.

As in interesting side note, this bottle cap was wax-dipped it seems. When I popped it off little pieces of white stuff fell onto the counter and upon closer examination – were wax!

Rating:



Chatoe Rogue – Dirtoir Black Lager

Date: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Brewery: Rogue (Chatoe line of brews)
Beer: Dirtoir Black Lager
Category: Schwarzbier
ABV: 6.20%
Brewed in: United States

You guessed it – the beer poured a dark and solid black. The head was a few fingers thick and brown – similar to chocolate milk though not as smooth. Head retention was impressively long and ample lacing was deposited in icicles around the glass.

The aroma is of roasted malts up front with a sweetness in the finish. There are notes of chocolate, coffee and molasses in the nose.

The taste elaborates on the the aroma with a good and strong dark roasted malt flavor with some hints of burnt – but not in a bad way. This would be from the black malts which are used as coloring more than strictly flavor. In the middle of the taste you get some coffee, chocolate, and molasses as well. The beer finishes bitter with a wave of hops that balances the beer out beautifully and clears your palate for the next sip. There is a lingering finish that seems to be split between the bitter hops and roasted malts.

Dirtoir is medium to full bodied and the carbonation is moderate. It drinks very smooth and doesn’t taste like an ABV of 6.2%.

I was extremely impressed with this beer because it delivered on the flavors I love in dark beer but kept the overall impression “light”. This was not a “meal in a glass” as some would say but a light and refreshing black beer.

This has put schwarzbier on the map for me – in a big way.

Rating:



Next Act Cask Night – Alley Kat Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen

Date: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Venue: Next Act
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen
Category: Dunkelweizen
ABV: estimated 5.00% (they didn’t tell us!)
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

The beer was given a lovely introduction by Jeff from Sherbrooke who was the brain behind the bananas foster idea.

It came straight from the cask tap to our table with a few potential stops on the way for it’s brethren to be delivered to their new homes. No more than a minute or two.

It arrived with a very thin layer of head so I can only assume that retention wasn’t very long. The beer was a hazy milk chocolate brown with tan head. I can see the color better in my picture as there was limited lighting at the pub.

I had a hard time identifying much in the aroma given the setting. I really just smelt some generic graininess. There is a sweet touch to it.

The taste was initially sweet up front with hints of banana. I presume this is the effect of the wheat and/or yeast used in the beer. The sweetness was balanced nicely by some bitter hops. The overall taste was quite sweet and I believe it is brown sugar I am picking up on. It is quite tasty and the hops do well to balance this out. Otherwise it might have been just too sweet.

Mouthfeel was smooth and carbonation was moderate. Even with agitation the carbonation wasn’t producing any head to speak of.

A tasty treat at cask night but I wouldn’t be drinking it regularly as I wouldn’t be able to handle the sweetness.

Rating:



Dogfish Head – 60 Minute IPA

Date: Monday, January 31, 2011
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Beer: 60 Minute IPA
Category: American IPA
ABV: 6.00%
Brewed in: United States

The flagship beer from Dogfish Head breweries, this beer has some expectations to live up to.

60 minute IPA means that Dogfish Head hops this beer continunally for 60 minutes. They have 90 minute and 120 minute offerings as well. So this is the baby of the bunch.

The beer poured a nice amber copper color with great clarity and a beautiful 1.5 finger bubbly white head. This was not an aggressive pour (learned that the hard way with a tulip glass). Very attractive glass of beer.

The aroma from this beer is intoxicating. I took a deep initial sniff and was very pleasantly surprised by the harmonious combination of crisp citrus hops, pine, and malts. The hops and grapefruit citrus are clearly dominant but not overpowering. The pine finished out the nose and balances out the fruity aspect nicely. This is like airfreshner for beer geeks.

I took my first sip and let it wash around in my mouth and linger before eventually swallowing in an attempt to glean as much information as possible out of my first impression. To summarize – spectacular. This is a delicious beer. You get a very good dose of bitter hops but the grapefruit citrus flavors play this bitterness off very positively. Pine again is present in the finish to balance off the experience. In the finish you can start to taste a bit of the malts.

The mouthfeel is smooth, if not a little thick, and carbonation is moderate. The finish is dry and refreshing.

This beer definitely lived up to expectations and I can agree with Dogfish Head’s assessment that this is THE session beer for hop heads (i.e. IPA lovers). So far, it would be my choice. If you haven’t and had the pleasure of trying this beer – get on it!

Now remember, ratings are subjective. This one may not be 5 pints to everyone – but it is to me. I could drink copious amounts of this.

Rating:


 


Dogfish Head – Chicory Stout

Date: Sunday, January 30, 2011
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Beer: Chicory Stout
Category: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer
ABV: 5.20%
Brewed in: United States

I am on a bit of a Dogfish Head kick here after watching some TV and documentaries that featured the brewery. I decided I should try some of their beers and support them as they seemed like a cool group. I decided to start with a stout – familiar territory.

Chicory Stout pours a very dark brown, almost black, color. I poured aggressive and barely 1 cm of head developed. I was actually quite unimpressed by the lack of head. What did develop was an appealing tan color. I could barely comment on the length of retention because I started with so little and it was gone by the time I finished taking a picture. Carbonation seems fine though.

The aroma is of loads of dark roasted malts followed by a distinct coffee (I guess Chicory) and some more understated dark chocolate. The aroma is extremely reminiscent of Russian Imperial Stouts (RIS) but toned down a few degrees. The smells have made some big promises…

The taste is dominated by dark malts and dark chocolate flavors. The coffee completes the combination and comes closer to the finish. The coffee fades quickly and the aftertaste is again of chocolate. Hops are present but hard to detect. They provide a good balance to the sweetness in the beer.

The body is moderate and the mouthfeel is smooth. This beer is extremely easy to drink.

To be brutally honest I find the beer a little watery and weak for my liking. I think I would appreciate the flavors more if they were a bit more bold. This is almost certainly my RIS bias coming through and not necessarily the fault of the beer.

This beer offers the closest flavor profile to a RIS stout I have yet seen from a Stout with the lower ABV. This makes for a very drinkable combination and could be valuable if you are looking for a sessionable Stout.

Rating:



Beck & Co (ABInBev) – Becks

Date: Saturday, January 29, 2011
Brewery: Beck & Co (ABInBev)
Beer: Becks
Category: Premium American Lager
ABV: 4.80%
Brewed in: Germany

The beer is a pale yellow that is quite light for what is assumed to be an all malt beer.

The head is pure white and developed two fingers thick in my pilsner glass. Head retention was lacking and no lacing was noted.

The aroma is, to be honest, boring and skunky. There is a grainy smell with a stale hop presence. The dominant smell here is skunk. Damn green bottles…

The taste is smooth and crisp but again the skunky odors are making it up the back of the mouth and influencing the taste. I can barely pick up on the malt and the hop presence is faded and stale. The beer just does not taste fresh.

The body and carbonation are moderate and the mouthfeel is the best part of the beer. It does go down quite easily but without much else to be impressed by.

Very reminiscent of other euro lagers or mass brewed beers of the style. When picking from that lot I wouldn’t judge this choice but there are better beers of the style to choose from at an equivalent price point. Check out your local producers.

Rating:



Alley Kat – Unity Brew (2010)

Date: Friday, January 28, 2011
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Unity Brew
Category: American Amber Ale
ABV:
5.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

Unity Brew is a collaborative project between several Alberta brewers to raise money for the Kidney Foundation and various smaller local charities. Eleven of the twelve brewers in the Province were a part of this brew. The brewing took place at Alley Kat but the recipe is cooperatively written by all eleven.

Unity Brew 2010 pours a deep copper color with a thick tan head. Retention was moderate and produced a large amount of lacing.

The aroma is predominantly of caramel and lots of hops. There is also a bit of fruity notes in it – dark fruit the malts are also apparent but overpowered by the other notes. There is definitely a nutty aspect to the smell.

The taste is sweet and malty and there is something that makes me want to say “dark fruits” here but I’m not sure that is exactly what it is. There is hint of citrus and spices present. You can taste something nutty – I say hazelnuts there. Overall the taste is great but it is difficult to pinpoint which may be a result of the collaborative effort on the recipe. Tough to pigeonhole this one but easy to enjoy it.

It is medium bodied and light to medium carbonation. It has a smooth feel going down and is very easy to drink. Tastes quite fresh. I was so busy sipping it to try and isolate the flavors that it was gone in no time.

Rating:



Les Trois Mousqetaires – S.S. Rauchbier

Date: Thursday, January 27, 2011
Brewery: Les Trois Mousqetaires
Beer: S.S. Rauchbier
Category: Classic Rauchbier
ABV:
6.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Brossard, QC)

Rauchbier (smoked beer) is apparently a very difficult style of beer to find in Edmonton. This was one of the few examples I could locate. It is brewed out of Quebec and is quite highly rated. I was excited to try this one.

As a quick background and side note, many people think of Rauchbier as an interesting novelty or specialty brew these days. The history behind the style of beer though is much richer. It may have been the only style of beer brewed in Germany at one point as they traditionally dried out their malts over a fire. This inevitably imparted smoky characteristics to the beer. Since other methods were developed the Rauchbier only lives on through brewers who choose to maintain the process.

On to the tasting.

It pours almost as dark as a Stout but when held to the light reveals a deep chestnut color. I poured aggressively and a thick and appealing two finger head developed in my 1 liter dimpled stein. The head endured for minutes and left some sticky and stringy lacing on the glass.

The aroma, obviously, was quite smoky. If you could liquefy the experience around a campfire this is likely what you would get. The smoke aroma reminds me specifically of smoked bacon or wood chips. Despite the strength and uniqueness of the smoke you can still easily identify the malts in the nose. The more subtle presence I can pick out is dark fruits.

The taste is very bold and flavorful. It is very rich and malty and reminds me a bit of ales brewed Belgian style. The finish is all smoke. The taste of smoked wood and smoked meat lingers satisfyingly after the swallow. You can still pick out the dark fruits along with a new touch of caramel and dark chocolate.

The beer is medium bodied with noticeable but light carbonation. It has a smooth mouthfeel and is bit thicket in the mouth that a straight lager or ale.

Some say you get accustomed to the smokiness by the end; however, I must have sipped it slow enough as I was accustomed to nothing by the end. It was very enjoyable and a pleasing first foray into rauchbier.

Rating:



Coopers – Sparkling Ale

Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Brewery: Coopers
Beer: Sparkling Ale
Category: Specialty Beer (Australian Sparkling Ale) 
ABV:
5.80%
Brewed in: Australia

Coopers Sparkling Ale is technically an “Australian Sparkling Ale” which is not a specifically recognized style of beer by the BJCP. We would hope the next official release of  BJCP guidelines would include this style. For the time being it is specifically referenced as falling under “Specialty Beer”.

In terms of what type of beer it is similar to? I have seen others refer to it as an “English Pale Ale” or EPA.

The beer pours a attractive golden and is cloudy which is a result of the beer being unfiltered and bottle conditioned. In fact, the yeast in the bottle has another distinct effect.

If you are wondering why it is called “Sparkling Ale” – check this out:

The head developed one finger thick and an almost pure white. Retention was very average and minimal lacing occurred.

The aroma I get it sweet malts, some bready yeast, and subtle hints of hops and citrus notes. I think it kind of smells like how it looks if that makes sense.

The taste begins a smooth with a crisp maltiness that gives way to the hops and a more bitter finish. There are definite fruits notes here with citrus being obvious. The other influence is harder to identify – maybe apples or pears. Again, the finish is hoppy. Very balanced overall.

The mouthfeel is light to medium. It is smooth but at the same time quite carbonated.

Overall, I found this beer to be extremely refreshing and thirst quenching possessing some very subtle complexities to keep me interested. I would have never tried this beer if I hadn’t been given that “Beer a Day” book. I am glad I did. This will surely be a staple of my warmer-season beer roster.

I would also add that this beer has the complexities and subtleness to it’s character that most beer geeks would enjoy it but, at the same time, it has the perfect blend of qualities (and price) to give to your non-beer geek friends to get the started on quality beer.

Last comment: next time you want to toast to Australia, put down the damn Foster’s and grab a Cooper’s. Aussie’s will notice and thank you.

Rating: