journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Posts tagged “Tasting

Decisions, decisions

You may have read that I am trying to drink every beer I can out of a book I received that assigns a beer to every day of the year. I am still attempting that; however, my research on the beers is revealing that probably about 10% are available here. That means it would be about 36 beers over the year or 3 a month.

In the meantime I still want to have some other beers and try some new ones. The struggle I am having is that I will continue to buy the same good beer if I don’t have some other method of helping me choose.

I have been categorizing my beer tastings into the BJCP beer categories and have also listed those on a separate page of the blog. I am thinking I will try and get my hands on a beer from each of the styles. This will be a long-term goal as I think some will prove difficult to find.

I like this idea because if I didn’t do this I would likely have a far higher proportion of Stouts and Imperial Stouts (for the winter) and wheat beers (for the summer) on my list.

I started to search each category out on the web and find what the top rated beers in each category are. There are already some categories where it looks like there will be slim pickings.

For example, the Lite American Lager category houses such great (failures) as Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light etc. I actually managed to find some in this category that were rated decent on Ratebeer.com. For example, Bitburger Light got 17 / 100 overall and 95 / 100 in its category (low alocohol). Coors light got zero overall rating and 2 / 100 in its category.

The trouble is only the shitty ones are available here…

I refuse to put those “beverages” on my blog and take them seriously so the Lite American Lager category will have to wait until I find one of the decent ones.

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Struise – Pannepot

Date: Sunday, January 16, 2011
Brewery: Struise
Beer: Pannepot
Category: Belgian Specialty Ale
ABV:
10.00%
Brewed in: Belgium

Purchased 2007 vintage from Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton. Poured a dark hazy brown with a huge tan head. Head was enlarged due to an amateur poor by myself – came  in over two fingers. The beer was darker than I anticipated but is very appealing. Head retention was surprisingly short and virtually no lacing occurred.

The aroma is incredibly complex. There are dark fruits immediately present with cherries most noticeable and plums and raisins in the background. It took numerous sniffs to identify but the other prominent aroma I can detect is brown sugar. The aroma has numerous other treasures to discover but my nose was not feeling up to the task on this day.

The taste mimics the aroma and includes a lot of dark fruit, some brown sugar, and a bit of a bready taste. I also taste roasted malts and some chocolate that were not foreshadowed by the aroma. The finish almost has a faint coffee taste and betrays the presence of the 10% ABV.

The mouthfeel is not incredibly smooth or harsh – occupying that middle ground. Carbonation is moderate as well.

I have too many world-class beers lately. It is making me sound like I think every beer I try is the best I’ve ever had. Well not to go that far – but this beer is easily on the top 5 list. Ratebeer.com had it rated as the best beer available for purchase in Edmonton. It is pretty damn close to that.

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Mikkeller – Beer Geek Brunch (Weasel)

Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Brewery: Mikkeller
Beer: Beer Geek Brunch (Weasel)
Category: Imperial Stout
ABV:
10.90%
Brewed in: Norway

Pour is onyx with virtually no light penetrating the beer. The head developed about one finger thick and was a tan brown color. Head retention is short as it quickly fades back into the beer. Trace amounts of lacing occurred.

The aroma from this brew is absolutely mouth-watering for anyone who likes coffee (or chocolate or beer for that matter). The immediate and dominant smell is of potent coffee but the beautiful thing is that despite the potency a myriad of other aromas still break through. It took me near 20 sniffs to identify what individual notes I could but I believe I smell dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, molasses, dark fruits, licorice, and a light hoppiness.

Tasting the beer reveals an immensely complicated grouping of flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate, and dark malts are at the forefront. These three stick out and dominate the first touch of the beer to the tongue. It is very well-balanced. The initial tastes yield to more subdued notes of dark fruits, nuts, and oats. The finish is a touch acidic and the coffee aftertaste lingers long after the swallow. The quality of the world-class coffee used is evident.

This beer has the most impressive mouthfeel I have yet experienced. It is very smooth and almost creamy. It can only be described as thick as it feels as if your mouth is both filled and coated with beer simultaneously. The carbonation is very fine. The mouthfeel compliments the tasting but allows the tasting to shine – as it should.

The alcohol content of 10.9% is amazingly well hidden; however, I could feel its presence after having had to consume this beauty in a fairly short time. This isn’t a session beer but goes down easy enough.

This is the best beer I have tried to date. I feel privileged to have been able to even have a bottle. I am afraid this is a must-buy whenever I see it. The journey of flavors this beer took me on left me sitting on my couch with my empty glass in hand feeling content, relaxed, and sporting a goofy smile. If that isn’t a summary of what a brewer should be aiming for, I don’t know what is.

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Alley Kat – Cascadian Dark Ale

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Cascadian Dark Ale
Category: Specialty Beer
ABV:
7.60%
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

Pours a dark red-amber brownish color with a thick tan head. The head seemed to grow forever. Retention is average and lacing was present but minimal.

The aroma is of roasted malts and coffee with some orange and grapefruit citrus notes.

Taste is initially heavy on the malts but yields to a citrusy sweetness. The flavors are very different – chocolate and grapefruit are noticeable – but very balanced. The beer is hoppier than other dark ales. The sweetness has an almost floral aspect to it.

The mouthfeel is smooth and moderately carbonated.

This was a very solid offering from Alley Kat for the 15th Anniversary. I wish I had tried some other “Black IPAs” or Cascadian Dark Ales for comparison purposes.

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Mikkeller – Beer Geek Breakfast

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Brewery: Mikkeller
Beer: Beer Geek Breakfast
Category: Oatmeal Stout
ABV:
7.50%
Brewed in: Norway

Beer Geek Breakfast pours a very deep dark black. The beer cascades a bit to develop a one finger tan head. I noticed the head looks a little lighter where it contacts the beer and slightly darker where it contacts the air on top. This reminds me of the crema in espresso. (Check the picture of the beer to the left and then click here to see some espresso I made recently).

Head retention was moderate and faded into a thin collar. Minimal lacing was left on the glass.

The smell is very appealing to a beer and coffee lover. You definitely smell some coffee but the dominating aroma is roasted malt. Other notes are of dark chocolate and perhaps a hint of licorice. This beer has been named appropriately.

First sip immediately reveals that the flavor profile of this brew is complex. Initially tastes of bitter dark chocolate which progresses to roasted malts and finishes with a definitive coffee aftertaste. I find that as this beer warms slightly the flavors really shine. I favor the coffee which comes out deliciously once the beer has sat a few minutes.

The beer is smooth and somewhat thick in the mouth with medium carbonation. I have tried (and reviewed here and here) several other coffee stouts or porters. This one just usurped the throne as my personal favorite.

I have another Mikkeller coffee based beverage in my fridge right now that may prove to be the true king. Check it out at the Mikkeller site. Should be interesting considering one of its ingredients is derived from weasel shit.

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Rochefort – Trappistes 10

Date: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Brewery: Rochefort
Beer: Trappistes 10
Category: Belgian Dark Strong Ale
ABV:
11.30%
Brewed in: Belgium

Pours a very murky dark brown with a fairly large fizzy head. Head retention is impressive but leaves minimal lacing.

Aroma is a veritable buffet of dark fruits including raisins, plums, figs and grapes. There are notes of caramel accompanied by yeast, molasses and some brown sugar. It is an incredibly complex aroma that took me several minutes and a dozen sniffs to dissect and I still think there are more notes to uncover.

The flavor is a rich combination of the same notes in the aroma. I taste some chocolate that didn’t stick out in the nose along with the raisin, plum, fig, grape, caramel, yeast, molasses, and brown sugar. You can barely taste the 11.3% ABV hidden amongst the flavors but you are reminded it is there with the pleasant warming feeling the brew brings as you swallow. I would describe the beers dominant flavor profile to be sweet rather than bitter. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth with medium carbonation.

I find the beer goes done smoother and smoother as it warms to room temperature. A stunning combination of flavors are found in this beer.

I would again highly recommend this beer to any beer nerds out there. I am creating quite a streak of amazing beers this past week. Probably because I just decided to do this blog and have been buying all the superstars.

One caveat to note – this is a big beer. I wouldn’t be serving this to any beer newbies. You need a developed appreciation for beer before you should tackle this giant.

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Unibroue – Maudite

Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Brewery: Unibroue
Beer: Maudite
Category: Belgian Specialty Ale
ABV:
8.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Chambly, QC)

Unibroue - MauditePurchased this beauty in a 750 ml bomber from Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton. Before I even give you the review I need to do a plug for this brewery. If you haven’t sampled the brews coming out of Unibroue – you need to do so as soon as you can. They are all quality. Check them out here.

Pours a deep cloudy ruby color with a thick two-finger near white head. Head retention was very respectable with noticeable lacing.

The nose for this brew is very sweet. I detect an earthy clove-like smell, some sweet fruitiness, some fairly potent yeast-funk, with a slightly bitter finish. This aroma is complex and inviting.

The taste of the beer is strong and very rich, in other words, it is what you expect from the nose. Flavors are malty with evident citrus notes. Hints of berries or fruitiness come through with a dry partially bitter finish.

The mouthfeel is more assertive than I was anticipating for the style. It goes down very smooth given the ABV and gives your tongue a nice tickle.

The Belgian characteristics of this beer are up front and center and come through the bountiful aroma and flavor profile. None of this comes across as over the top though.

Overall, this is an absolutely exceptional product. I am proud of Unibroue and the fact I can say this beer was brewed in Canada.

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Innis & Gunn – Original

Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Brewery: Innis & Gunn
Beer: Original Oak Aged Beer
Category: Wood-Aged Beer
ABV:
6.60%
Brewed in: Scotland

Innis & Gunn OriginalTypical beer pour yielded a quick dissipating one-finger coarse white head. Minimal lacing occurred.

The aroma offered is unappealing giving me the impression the brewer has tried to mask the overpowering skunk smell with copious amounts of vanilla. There are faint smells of oak but the aromas expected from beer (i.e. where are the malts and hops?) are noticeably absent.

My tongue immediately picks up a skunky flavor paired with some bitterness from the hops. Gradually the vanilla hits but is undermined by a metallic aftertaste. The tastes that have the potential to impress are impaired by what tastes like a skunk sprayed some tinfoil. These flavors have no place in a beer.

The beer is light to medium bodied with moderate carbonation in the mouth.

The beer is dangerously close to being undrinkable for my palate; however, I have the distinct impression that the brewer has taken a very sub-standard beer and tried to turn it into a premium brew by dumping it in oak barrels.

History lesson: In fact, that is precisely what has happened. Originally a Scottish company intended to make a scotch whiskey that had a beer finish. To achieve this the distiller filled the oak barrels with beer in order for the barrels to soak up the beer flavors in the wood. The beer was then discarded and the barrel was filled with scotch whiskey.

Some workers of the distillery braved up enough to sample the discarded beer and discovered it was both drinkable and very unique. Innis & Gunn was spun-off to exploit this discovery.

Now Innis & Gunn has the beer brewed by an “unnamed” brewery which is then put in white Bourbon barrels from the United States to age.

Conclusion: An interesting beer to try but I won’t be seeking it out again. I would sample other Innis & Gunn varieties but I would not entertain the thought of buying the Original again unless I found information stating that they have significantly improved their initial beer.

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Achouffe – La Chouffe

Date: Monday, January 10, 2011
Brewery: Achouffe
Beer: La Chouffe
Category: Belgian Specialty Ale
ABV: 8.00%
Brewed in: Belgium

Achouffe - La ChouffeThe beer pours a cloudy honey color. The head development was rapid and fluffy. Head of about 1.5 inches developed and retention was very good – it seemed to last forever and displayed nice lacing. I have no idea how much pouring this into my new tulip glass affected any of this. I do love unfiltered and unpasteurized beers so I was excited by the appearance.

The aroma was very subtle and I had difficulty actually picking out anything specific to comment on. This may also be a function of my somewhat congested nose but nothing demands your attention in the aroma. There is a faint sugary smell.

The first taste imparted by the beer to me was an understated hint of banana mixed with much more prominent citrus notes. For spices the only one I could easily detect was coriander which strongly influences the taste of this beer.

I would say this beer has medium carbonation – but not on the lighter side. It was very refreshing. As the you drink the beer the fruity citrus notes tend to give way to more of the spice. You taste surprisingly little alcohol in the beer despite that it is 8%.

Be aware – this goes down so smooth you can land yourself in trouble if you have more than one on hand.

In conclusion, I was impressed beyond my expectations with this beer and I would strongly recommend it to anyone – especially if you know you like wheat beer or any unfiltered or unpasteurized beers.

Sidenote: this beer (or brewery) even has it’s own music! Listen to the Chouffe’s music.

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Steam Whistle – Steam Whistle Pilsner

Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Brewery: Steam Whistle
Beer: Steam Whistle Pilsner
Category: German Pilsner (Pils)
ABV: 5.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Toronto, ON)

Steam Whistle PilsnerPours a clear golden color with an average white foamy head.

There is a distinct aroma of hops. The smell is slightly grassy, bready, and a little bit skunky.

The taste is very crisp and clean. There is that pilsner bitterness which is mixed with average to high carbonation. The result is pleasing and very refreshing. The beer goes down very smoothly.

The beer is not complex which is not a negative comment. It delivers an enjoyable but fairly simple pilsner. This create a beer perfect for those times where you know one isn’t going to be enough.

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