Grumpess - Solemn Oath Brewery

Grumpness.jpgI recently got was given a Grumpess from Solemn Oath and given that it has been a while since I have posted anything I thought I would go ahead and review it. Highly over-carbonated it started flowing from the bottle before I could pour it. Aside from the over-carbonation the aroma was pleasing it had a nice piney hop nose with notes of chocolate and dark malts. It's dark, slightly sweet, and leaves a distinct hop bitterness on the tongue.

This is definitely an American Stout given it's clearly intentional hop profile. Typically I am not a fan of hops overpowering an Imperial Stout, but this is good. Medium bodied. Not too astringent. Not anywhere close to a Hoppin Frog BORIS, or Firestone Walker Parabola, but a very good stout none the less. The dark malts give it a distinct rich chocolateyness. 

Bois - The Bruery

BOIS.jpgThe Bruery is rather prolific when it comes to creating new and unique ales. I recently enjoyed a Rueuze, it is an excellent sour, and by far the best Bruery beer I have purchased off the shelf. Yesterday I decided to crack open my Bois. The inceptive whiff as my nose reached the glass was amazing. The color was rich dark oak, oak and bourbon meet the palate and so much more. This is one of the finest ales I have ever enjoyed. It posses that aged character, like Monster 29, Manny's Mead, or the homebrew Victor gave me. A big high gravity well aged heaven. Its near kinship with Utopias was evident. I did a quick side by side, next to Utopias it's a bit fruitier. This is by no means a fruity ale, until it's put in that context. It is the perfect combination of dark fruits, oak, vanilla - it just has that richness - sweetness, that only comes with aged sugars. While it is true that there is a lot of hype surrounding Bruery beers, the societies, this one lives up to the hype. Aptly named, it has a definitive woodiness, oakiness. So damn good. This is one of those ales you miss when it's gone.

  

Founders KBS - 2015

NCM_1498.JPGIt has been a while since I last reviewed a KBS, 2011 to be exact. For the past two years it has been pretty good, prior to that I think it may have taken a bit of a dip for a year or two. I was excited to try this years. I have heard that on tap last year, and this year, that it was a little off. However last years bottle was good, and that would be what I would be sampling from this year as well.

Moving to Georgia meant loosing years of beer buying status with my local beer guy. I had hoped that I had established a good enough relationship with Vince at Habersham to at least snag one four-pack. But two bottles it was. Hopefully my buddies back in Michigan will be able to hook me up with another bottle or two for the cellar.

On to the ale. Little has changed with the appearance, it still possesses a luminance robbing deep rich brown occupancy in the glass and a beautiful fading head. The nose is distinctly complex, with vanilla, chocolate, and coffee most prominent. Overall the aroma is the best aspect of this years KBS, it's world class. The flavor is excellent - but has a slight tannin bite I initially. Overall I think it has a bit less barrel influence than years past but it's hard to say without a side by side of last years, which technically is impossible as has it has already changed as a result of being cellared for a year. KBS never did have the bourbon barrel influence that BCBS has. Still an excellent product, but perhaps not as ecstasy inducing as the past two years.

 


All Things Brooklyn - Make Some Beer

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www.randomhouse.com.jpgBrooklyn - it seems a lot of great things come out of Brooklyn, brownstones, baseball teams, rock bands, restaurants, pubs, and breweries - who in some cases have turned out great books. The most interesting baking books I have read all come from Brooklyn or California. The ones from California always have some connection back to the city. Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, is by far one of my favorite books. Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson is another one that has caught my wandering eyes of fermentation. Both seem to give authoritative and educated advise on breads. I recently read Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood. He seems like a good guy. I wouldn't bother reading his book. It's ok, but it seems to lack science. Something that is pretty important with bread and beer.

With cooking you can do whatever the hell you please, and it always works, well almost always. Grain based fermentables offer no limits on experimentation, however their god is a bit stricter. Not unlike the action of the rider on the bicycle, or the delicate movement of a pilot in an aircraft, each action, no matter how subtle yields a change from the god of flow and aerodynamics, or in this case the god of fermentation. A bit more protein, sugar, moisture, time, or heat make sometimes significant changes. Perhaps the god of fermentation is the twin brother of the god of flow.

I learned this through experience. I started out with some rather ignorant meanderings and recipes like this one. My bread was wet, flat, had no oven spring, in fact it fell in the oven. I got some help from those that had seemed to perfect bread. But in the end it was the good books that really helped, helped me to understand what nuances yielded what details in the final product. I recently read Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis. It's a great book. He partners up with Six Point Brewery using their malt to make blondies. I used some malt extract laying around for mine. They were amazing. Baked is of course - in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn BrewShop is another Brooklyn based business with a book. This book has meaning to me because I started brewing in Brooklyn, and when I did, there was no Brooklyn Brew Shop. The closest homebrew supply was a hobby store in New Paltz, NY, and it was crap. You'd drive up there to find they had pretty much nothing. Homebrewing wasn't what it is today. My first batch was a kit. Not the award winning partial mash kits of today with refined dry yeasts. No - this kit when followed closely - made alcohol water which seemed a distant cousin to beer, but close enough we got pretty damn excited about it. Well me and my roommate at least. I can't say the rest of the world tripped over their feet to try it.

The beginning of Make Some Beer by Erica Shea & Stephen Valand explains how Brooklyn Brewshop got started - how the idea originated in their heads -  when they realized there was nowhere in NYC to to buy homebrewing supplies. I was not the only one back in the late nineties making trips to New Paltz to buy homebrew supplies that were questionable at best. I suppose at the time it never hit me as that strange because NYC is a place, as odd as this may seem, where it's hard to find things. You would think that in a city of over eight million people you'd have everything you desired within walking distance. That is rarely the case. I can recall on one cold January morning when I was home sick and bored out of my mind buying a television (this was before the days of flat screens) on Atlantic avenue and dragging it home to Brooklyn Heights, knuckles bleeding from carrying the damn thing for blocks. Well I guess it was still technically walking distance. Anyhow I could relate to how they might have felt. There is of course far more to the story of Erica Shea and Stephen Valand starting Brooklyn Brewshop, and I assure you it's far better reading that TV's on Atlantic avenue, but you'll need to buy the book for that part.

Labeled 'how to brew refresher' the book gives the most concise guide to all grain brewing I have ever read. It introduces stove top all grain brewing, something that certainly would have come in handy back in my days of brewing out of a my little room in Brooklyn. It provides a hop guide, and many other great resources. I like the fact that their recipes are extra, more, creative. It recommends honey for bottling which I find a bit risky if not just pure insanity. Honey does not ferment at a consistent rate, and it is is a great way to introduce bad things into your beer you don't want. I like this book - it is a reminder that all grain brewing does not have to be an all day production and it pushes the average brewer out of his comfort zone with Dandelion Gruit, and Tapioca Ale. It inspired me to get off my ass an start brewing again.

While we are on the subject of Brooklyn. Last years Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery was a train wreck. After much pestering I finally got some response from the brewery. First a T-shirt and glass, which I couldn't care less about and finally a helpful rep, Michael Maraghy, that refunded my $50.00 for the case and assured me they do their best to maintain quality control. I was upset, I love BCS, and I have for a long, long time. I am however happy to report that this years does not suck. It seems to be pretty close to where it was in 2013. I will be doing a vertical sampling soon and will report back.

So anyhow Make Some Beer was a good book. Read it. It might inspire you too.

Oh yes and I am obligied to state that I received this book from Blogging for books for this review.

Also I am not obliged to state that the inspiration for this book review came from Hoppin' Frog D.O.R.I.S. which is totally amazing. Deep rich, minimal head, with notes of everything barrel aged even though it's not. Rich chocolate, vanilla, sweet, just too damn good to be true. Some people just know how to brew beer.



Aviator - October Beast

Aviator.jpgOne great adventure of moving is discovering new breweries. The Carolina's have several. Admittedly sometimes I am a bit hesitant to just buy something with little knowledge of the brewery. I have been eying several of Aviator's brews and with a recommendation from one of the local beer purveyors purchased some.

October Beast is a very true to style Oktoberfest. It pours a nice head, deep amber, a bit cloudy from sediment in the can, and has a great sweet aroma appropriate for the style.  The taste of Munich malt is present, hops are subdued as they should be. The roasted barley notes come forward as it warms up. All in all this was excellent, a great example of the style and next to Manny's homebrewed Pumpkin Ale, the best fall beer I've had this year.

So far I am impressed with Aviator I look forward to trying their other brews.


Goose Island Beer Co - The Muddy

100_5140.jpgOnce upon a time Goose Island made a great Imperial Stout - Night Stalker - then of course they got purchased by AB InBev and turned out a disgusting version of something they called Night Stalker. They should have called it infected old pine tree. Because it was hard to decide what was worse, the little tree air freshener flavor or the nasty infection. But again this is the company that both post, and prior to purchase, have been turning out Bourbon County Stout. Which I am happy to report is still amazing this year. They dropped the abv a bit to expand their distribution footprint, or that's what it would appear. No complaints, I would not have picked some up so easy otherwise.

Expanding their lineup a bit they introduced The Muddy, an Imperial Stout with brewer's licorice, and Belgian dark rock candi sugar. It pours with minimal head, dark, yet transparent, and has a medium body. Initially it has a nose similar to Blackout Stout but much milder, still an aroma I am not crazy about. As it warms the aroma does improve greatly, lending itself to the some licorice sweetness but not much. Overall it's good, I liked it. Dark roasted malt notes are present, slight chocolate and sweetness as well - but not what I would expect from an ale claiming 'amplified sweetness'.

I would drink this again and thought it was a decent stout minus the $5.00 price tag at Hambersham, which is a bit too much. But they like to ride the pricey train anyhow. Unfortunately my computer just corrupted all the photos I took of a full glass, so you get the empty one, sorry. I guess you'll have to buy your own.


I Can't Believe I am going to miss 4Elf this year.

4elf.jpg

Hoppin' Frog - B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal - Imperial Stout

fu (480x640).jpgI was pretty excited to find out that Habersham got distribution from Hoppin' Frog. I knew that both barrel aged B.O.R.I.S. and D.O.R.I.S. got high ratings on Beer Advocate. Habersham had both B.O.R.I.S. and D.O.R.I.S. I was unsure of what to expect with the non barrel aged versions. With some ales like Sexual Chocolate, the barrel aged version is awesome, the regular one, is just regular. B.O.R.I.S was definitely on my list of ales that I wanted to try. Having been so close to Ohio I still had no chance at getting my hands on this brew. But moving 1,000 miles away gave me immediate access to it, go figure.

Not knowing what to expect, I cracked B.O.R.I.S - the Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout - to be welcomed by an enveloping aroma of chocolate. It poured an opaque deep brown with a moderate head. Chocolatey, smooth like one would expect from an oatmeal stout, and just a little bit sweet. This is a really good ale. I was expecting the standard big bad Imperial Stout - which don't get me wrong I love - but this ale really has something extra. It has this unique little character like a lactic acid sweetness, kind of like a doppelbock. To digress for a moment, I distinctly remember having Garret Oliver's Brooklyn doppelbock at Pete's Waterfront Alehouse in the late nineties. I just loved that sour character. B.O.R.I.S. is no where near that sour, but it just has a tiny bit of something, maybe German malt that I really like.

No level of disappointment here. I love this ale.

The Craft Beer Revolution

Craft Beer RevolutionToday is by far the nicest weather I have enjoyed in over a year. I endured Michigan's brutal winter only to be rewarded by Georgia's summer. Fall has finally arrived, my favorite time of year. When it comes to fall, Michigan does it best, the smell, the trees, the cold chill in the air. As much as I do miss it - according to the internet - at this very moment it is raining and 46 degrees in Michigan. Meanwhile I sit here on the back porch in breezy seventy-six degree temps with zero clouds in the sky.

I cracked open a bottle of 2011 Yeti. It's good. I have been burning through my cellar collection since arriving in the South. My next book review is a brewing recipe book. It will be hard to review if I don't brew, and it will be hard to brew if my Kegerator still has 100 bottles of beer inside. I also need to clean out the deep-freezer I am using for cellaring so I can court fermentation that is not beaten by the temperature waves of Georgia.

This seems like as good of time as any to share a few of my thoughts about my most recent read, The Craft Beer Revolution, by Steve Hindy. Shortly after my arrival in Georgia, Christine contacted me to find out if I wanted to review Steve's book. Having been a fan of Brooklyn for years I said why not. Unknown of course to Christine was that while time is a fascinating feature of the cosmos, and something I have studied a bit about, along with string theory, and physics, I don't really get any of those subjects that well. Case in point, mid sentence my son just woke up and ran outside to tell me that my loaves of bread were entombed in a beeping 460 degree oven. Judging from the crust I would say I have a long ways to go with this time thing. I just finished the book. I am pretty sure Christine was aiming for all reviews to be complete before the material went public domain.  My wife asked me how I could possibly remember what I read. I assured her I took good notes. The same notes that lie before me and slightly resemble hieroglyphics written by a drunk scribe.

The moral of the story however has nothing to do with time or poor handwriting. It is simply this, never judge a book by its cover. The Jacket of Steve's book is something straight out of 1990's internet wallpaper. This combined with my recent disappointment in this past winters Black Chocolate Stout - any favoritism toward Brooklyn Brewery was long since gone when I cracked these pages. Books, like people, are not all made alike. Some of us can run four minute miles, some of us made it into the US Coast Guard and rescue people in ice cold seas suspended on a thin cable strung from a rotor craft tossed by the winds of the sea. Then some of us Joe's are pretty pleased that we make a killer apple pie, or a juicy BBQ chicken on the grill. This book is the Ironman of beer books. 

I really felt schooled about beer history by this book. Maybe you know the feeling, you think you understand a subject well, maybe hold some very strong views, and someone much more experienced than you bursts your bubble and you feel a bit humbled. No book I have ever read has had this effect on me, it is without question one of the best books I have ever read, and clearly the best beer book I have ever read.

Steve starts at the beginning with the pioneers. The guys who struggled and told everyone whatever you do don't start a brewery. Many of these guys did fail but they laid a foundation for something better. Steve gives them their due credit and he gives a balanced view of the role of the big brewers in helping the little guys get started. Something that until reading the book I had no knowledge of what so ever. I thought I knew a lot about Brooklyn Brewery but I learned tons of things I never knew, and I gained a much greater appreciation of breweries I am familiar with like Great Lakes Brewing.

Having spent a fair amount of my life at Brooklyn Brewery I had no idea that their brewery in Williamsburg opened in 1996, just one year prior to my moving to Brooklyn. I did not know that Tom Potter was bought out. Other events that are discussed in the book I remember well. While the focus of the book is by no means Brooklyn Brewery, it does paint a nice picture of the brewery's story. The bottom line is that this is the Bible of craft beer. No other book even comes remotely close. He details the origins electronic and printed beer media, like Celebrator All About Beer, Ale Street News, and others. He discusses the origins of all the brewers associations, current and past. You need to read this book. It's just that simple. Ever want to know the history of any of the major players in the craft beer world today? Just read the book.

Granted the book is told from Steve's point of view. But I strongly think that he does his best to tell the honest to goodness truth of all the players. He covers the shenanigans of Jim Koch and his contract brewed empire. He talks about his experiences with everyone from Charlie Papazian to August Busch IV. He also discusses some very interesting political aspects of beer that I think anyone that gives a crap about craft beer needs to read and seriously think about. I am not sure how I feel about what he says, or if I just don't want to fully accept it, but he makes some really good points. 

So back to this time thing, my bottle of Yeti is about empty and my family would like to know where I have been for the past three hours. As a side note, as a general rule aging imperial stouts two to three years does wonders for them.

Thanks to Christine and the staff at Palgrave Macmillan for allowing me to savor such a great book for the past six months. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It's not just a good book. It is a must read for anyone that wants to fully understand craft beer, its roots, and its future.




 

Stream of consciousness

My speech has been termed a stream of consciousness, incidentally also a literary device. A lot has happened since May. I moved, the kegerator arrived, I have purchased an artificial cellar made up of a freezer from Lowes and a STC-1000 temperature controller, also a fermentation chamber once the ale is gone. I have drank a number of ales - of which Westbrook Gose is by far the best ale I have enjoyed since arriving in Georgia. I have driven a ridiculous distance to go mountain biking because it is flat as a board on the Georgia coast and I am ridiculously slow at reviewing books. Good books, of which will be revealed in my next post. The World of beer in Savannah has great service, no food, and pretty much no beer worth drinking unless you enjoy European imitations of Budweiser products. Then there is the Distillery which has great service, great food, and great ales.

So there is the last six months. Also I have already missed Dark Horse 4Elf ale distribution and I will be missing this years 4 Elf party. However now is the time to plot a plan to catch up with old friends at Hunahpu Day.

How is that for being concise. I am normally not so good at that.

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