It’s Wednesday, I’ve been a big lazy blogging bum lately, and I’m getting behind. What’s the solution? A double review of course! I’ll be unable to blog next week, so I’m trying to get a few extra in before my short hiatus. Although, with all the not blogging I’ve been doing I’m not sure anyone but my most die-hard of fans would call 5 days of no posts a “hiatus.” More like typical Beer Epiphany fare. So, I’ve chosen to do shorter reviews of two brews that I enjoyed (of course I enjoyed them, they’re beer!), but didn’t blow me away. The winners of this oh-so-prestigious designation are Southern Tier Raspberry Porter and Shiner Fröst.
Oddly enough, of the 30 beers listed on Southern Tier’s website Raspberry Porter is not one of them. They have a “Porter” and a “Raspberry Wheat Beer,” so perhaps these two year-rounders decided to get jiggy with it and Raspberry Porter was a drunken mistake of a forlorn beer affair. Well, according to Beeradvocate.com this brew weighs in at 4.8% ABV and is classified as an “American Porter.” Having had quite a few impressive Southern Tier brews already I can tell you that they lean towards “hoppy” beers, and they do them well, so I was surprised to find hardly a trace of hops in their fruit porter. Perhaps better judgement told them that raspberries, porter notes, and hops may not be such a good recipe.
Raspberry Porter pours a dark orange-red color with a small dissipating off-white head. Lots of bubbles are seen streaming through it. The aroma is reminiscent of chocolate covered raspberries with a hint of bluebery too. The aroma is pleasant and missing the common extract/fruit/soda aroma found in many fruit beers. Points for not smelling like raspberry soda. The flavor consists of strong bitter dark chocolate,raspberry, and lots of coffee. It reminds me of a raspberry chocolate square pulled from a Valentine’s Day Chocolate Box. The mouthfeel is very light, surprisingly light and watery with high amounts of carbonation. The finish is long with bitter chocolate notes remaining.
The more I drank this beer the more I enjoyed it, but I was never wowed. The fruit notes are far from artificial, which is a plus, but the body is too light for my liking. A bit more body would have done this one some good.
Score: 60/100 Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 55%
One look at this beer’s label art with it’s white and blue color scheme to the word “Frost” plastered across the front and “winter warmer” or “spiced christmas ale” come immediately to mind. However, this is a Dortmunder style beer, it’s only 5.5% ABV, and it’s a lager. So, we were all wrong. Anyway, dortmunder’s are named after the city of Dortmund, Germany and are a pale lager with a medium body, well-balanced, and IBU no greater than 30 (BJCP). Fröst weighs in at 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU, and an 8 on the SRM which is 2 points higher than the recommended color. According to Shiner, Fröst has the malt profile of a Helles, but the hop character of a pilsner.
Shiner Fröst pours a gorgeous light amber that balances between orange and amber. The head is fizzy, tall, and off-white with lots of visible carbonation. The aroma is a wonderful balance of sweet malt and noble hops. The flavor consists of sweetness and toasty malt in the beginning that fades into a faint hop bitterness. The finish is short and the tiniest bit drying, Overall this beer is lacking in flavor and is just too watery in body. Carbonation is medium and drinkability is average. A beer with such a great nose loses all those points in flavor. It’s not a bad beer just a letdown.
Score: 45/100 Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 52%
New Belgium Brewing Co. out of Fort Collins, CO has a lot going for it. Fat Tire tap handles adorn darn near every establishment within the 26 states that NB distributes to and that particular brew is often cited by those who have had a recent beer epiphany (although I’ve heard it mistakenly called Flat Tire countless times.) New Belgium also garners publicity for it environmental awareness and being listed as one of the best places to work in America. As if that wasn’t enough, the Brewer’s Association just listed New Belgium as No.3 on their list of top 50 Breweries of 2009 behind only the mighty Boston Beer Co. and Sierra Nevada. So, you could say things are looking up for this brewery already located in the thermosphere.
Although I do not consder myself a “fan” of New Belgium I do pay attention when they release a new brew. Where I’m from in Central Illinois we are mostly relegated to Fat Tire, 1554 (which is fantastic), Sunshine Wheat, Mothership Wit, and the rotation of seasonals. I always read press releases of the newest Lips of Faith or other star-studded brews being released, but they never seem to make it to Peoria, IL. It seems that even New Belgium’s latest year-round staple, Ranger India Pale Ale, is hard to come by in these parts. I managed to come across a 1 pint 6 fl oz. bottle of Ranger and I couldn’t pass it up.
Named after New Belgiums “Beer Rangers” who I guess go around drinking beer all the time (don’t we all?) Ranger IPA is the result of beer fans craving hoppy brews. Not that Mighty Arrow or Hoptober are lacking in the hops department, but New Belgium had never done an all out IPA. This is quite surprising coming from the nations third largest craft brewer, although, I’ve never run across a Samual Adams IPA either…odd. Anyway, my fellow beer law enforcers have spoken and New Belgium whipped up Ranger India Pale Ale using Cascade, Chinook, and Simcoe hops to deliver 70 IBUs and 6.5% ABV.
Into my standard pint glass goes this Ranger. What devours the emptiness is a clear and bright copper colored liquid. The head is tall, off-white, and standing strong. The lacing is chunky and clings to the side of the glass like the remains of a cicada; only this wont be near as much fun to torture an older sister with.
The aroma is above-standard IPA fare with a boquet of hops leading your nose down a path of different hop varieties. I’m picking up on herbs, spice, and flowers followed by musty blanket and a distinct fresh pine cone aroma. I’m not blown away, but with IPAs a dime a dozen nowadays who really is impressed by hops anymore? It smells good. And hoppy.
Pleasantly surprising is the strong malty backbone that presents itself before taking a bow and letting the humble hops take center stage. Act I is filled with toasted malt and bread notes. Act II is full of a light, fluffy, popcorn butteryness that seems oddly out of place. Oh wait, that was the handful of Act II popcorn I just ate. Act II of Ranger’s flavor profile is a slow rising bitterness full of resiny pine flavors. Well done! Bravo! Encore!
Ranger India Pale Ale is light in the mouth, slightly carbonated, and highly drinkable. I do not see a six pack of this in my near future, but this just might be the shining light atop a tap handle stage filled with “Light” brews.
Beer Epiphany Percent: 73%
Fat Tire is the spokesbrew for craft beer. It makes people feel warm and fuzzy inside when they choose it over Bud or Miller, but it’s not something I seek out or register among other quality micros. However, Ranger IPA is a bit more abrasive and flavorful than its older brother. With hops currently dominating the beer scene this would be a wonderful way to introduce your illigitimate beer friends to the hoppier side of life.
What happens when you don’t attend the nations most hyped beer festival? You get to attend one of craft beers most overlooked beer festival. Sure, Dark Lord Day is huge for a reason. Supposedly Dark Lord the brew is phenomenal, the atmosphere is eclectic, and you can only buy the stuff once a year (not counting ebay). I plan on attending this craft beer mecca sooner rather than later, but this year I wasn’t on my game. I didn’t plan ahead, suffer through server failures for Golden Tickets, or stand in line for hours waiting to purchase beer for $25 bucks a bottle. Instead, I bought tickets for $.75 a pop, never waited in line, and was able to sample from 335 different brews; All thanks to Peoria Jaycee’s and their 18th Annual Peoria International Beer Fest.
I arrived at 1:00 pm Saturday, waited in line for appoximately 5 minutes, was awarded my tasting glass, and was off. Beer fest took place indoors and outdoors with two large exhibit halls
holding the majority of the beers and a handful of tents outside in between buildings. Each table held anywhere from 4-8 brews. Most took one ticket to sample and more exotic brews took two tickets. Needless to say, $10 got you 8 tickets, people gave away tickets, and you could win tickets playing baggo and suplying an email address (which isn’t spam, it actually helps keep you informed as to next years PIBF). So, for no more than $10 (plus the $15 entry fee) you could sample anything you had your eyes on and never need to hit up an ATM.
Aside from the beer their was free beef jerky, just don’t take too much as they are only “samples,” as a colleague of mine did and suffered the wrath of the man sitting there. Also offered was a large selection of beer glasses for purchase, beer signs, mirrors, bottle openers, t-shir
ts, and free stuff all over. I myself snagged free coasters, stickers, and walked away with no less than four new beer glasses. Unfotunately I walked out without the one glass I wanted to purchase and that was a Kölsch glass. I love this style and as summer nears I have been looking forward to drinking a refreshing Kölsch out of it’s proper vessel. I guess after the commemorative Raging Bitch glass, the gorgeous Ommegang stemmed glass, and Jever Pilsner flute I just plain forgot.
Here’s a rundown of the brews I sampled…the ones I remember anyway. I must admit that by the end of the night it was a struggle to name what was currently in my 4 ounce taster. So, in no particular order:
Pyramid Curve Ball
Rhodell Whiskey Dick
Rhodell Honey Vanilla Pilsner
Hurry Hard Amber Ale
Beam Me Up Bourbon Brown
Boulder Hazed and Infused
Tommyknocker Oak Aged Butt Bock
O’Fallon Wheach Peach Wheat
Great Divide Samurai
Sierra Nevada Summerfest
Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Victory Wild Devil
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout
Left Hand Moo-Tooth
Left Hand Polestar Pilsner
Left Hand JuJu Ginger
Left Hand Sawtooth
Victory Storm King
Victory Hop Devil
Now, I’m sure there were others I sampled from a friend, or can’t remember, but this list should be a good estimate. Of all the beers I tried, I remember being most impressed by O’Fallon Wheach, Victory Wild Devil, and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. The two homebrews (Hurry Hard Amber and Beam Me Up Bourbon) were equally impressive.
The rain was off and on all day until about 7pm when it poured the remainder of the event. This wasn’t a huge deal as we were stuck inside buildings filled with BEER. Overall I must say that I feel this years event was a huge success. I feel I can safely estimate that thousands were in attendance and I encountered very few rude or overly drunk patrons. One Peoria Beer Fest staple is the wave of “oooooooohhhhhhhhhhh” that rolls across the event at the epicenter of a dropped tasting glass. One individual suffered this embarrassment and promptly put his head down and exited the room out of shame. I’m sure he returned, but nevertheless, it’s quite a sight to see and hear the roar move across a large exhibit hall packed with beer fans. My group of friends mad sure we never endured the same mockery by securing our glasses firmly.
I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but that okay because Im only forgetting things because I made sure to enjoy myself. There was tons of fantastic beer, great people, and cheerful atmnosphere. There isn’t much more one could want out of a beer fest. After hearing horror stories from this years DLD I feel very comfortable with my decision to attend the “other” April 24th, 2010 beer festival.
Check out pictures provided by myself and friends after the jump!
Peoria Interntional Beer Fest 2010 is just a few short days away. Once again I will be able to share my love of craft beer with hundreds of other Central Illinoisans 4 ounces at a time. Last year’s PIBF was actually the first time I had ever attended a big beer event (not “big beer” event) and I enjoyed every second of it. Tickets are affordable, hundreds of beers are available, and the atmosphere is fun and carefree.
This years event looks to have 335 brews available for sampling on Saturday (177 during Friday’s smaller event). Food vendor’s are on location, free swag is aplenty, and for all you beer glass freaks like myself-last year there was table after table filled with beer drinking vessels for purchase. I’ll be attending Saturday and tweeting my whole experience.
Browsing this years beer list I was pleased to see a wide variety of breweries on display. There were even a few I hadn’t even heard of (Cathedral Square Brewery and Pangaea Beer Company). Local homebrewers get a chance to showcase their talents as well. Six booths are reserved for homebrew clubs from around the area. With names like Morning Wood Oak Aged Breakfast Stout, That Dark Beer, Beam Me Up Bourbon, Misguided Angel, and Hoppy Beaver these local brews are not to be missed.
Big name breweries such as Left Hand, Breckenridge, Lagunitas, Tommyknocker, Erdinger, Cold Springs, Pyramid, Boulder, Great Divide, SKA, Fort Collins, Victory, Lost Coast, Flying Dog, plus tons more all have no less than 5-7 brews apiece.
Peoria’s only brewpub, John S. Rhodell Brewpub (where they still allow customers to brew their own beer using the breweries equipment) will have no less than 7 beers on draft. Being a frequent customer of Rhodell I can say one thing about their big beers, they are impressive. Rhodell’s lineup includes an Oak-Aged Imperial Stout cleverly named ‘Whiskey Dick,” Hop Warrior Double IPA, Honey Vanilla Pilsner, plus a Scotch Ale, Belgian Blonde, Red Ale, and Indian Brown Ale. I’ve personally sampled Whiskey Dick and it’s mighty fine. Rhodell is located on Water Street in Peoria, Illinois and is a must visit if you ever come to town. Their taps are always changing and the atmosphere is relaxed. Their beer fest line last year never slowed down.
Bring chairs, friends, money for beer goodies, and some food in your stomach because it’s going to be a great weekend!
One brewery I was drawn to after having my very own craft beer epiphany was Samuel Adams a.k.a. Boston Beer Company. Now, as they inch barrel by barrel closer to longer being *gasp* macro… I feel the need to spotlight their latest creation (not counting Longshot 2010). Back in summer of 2008 I was just dipping my toes in the shallow end of good beer. Beer by the late Michael Jackson was taking me county by county and introducing me to styles I’d never heard of and more breweries I than I could imagine.
For some unknown reason the very first style I began to seek out was that of the Pilsner, or Pilsener. The malt comes to us from a kilning process using warm air as opposed to direct heat, which allows affords the style it’s trademark bright, golden, clear body. According to the BJCP one can expect those floral, spicy Saaz hops, a clear golden body, moderate diacetyl (butter), slight bitterness, and a clean, quick finish. Pilsner is still considered to be the world’s most popular beer style.
Sam Adams decided for 2010 to replace their Spring seasonal White Ale with Noble Pils after it won in their 5th Annual “Beer Lovers Choice” Contest. The beer features all five Noble Hop varieties (Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Hersbrucker, and Saaz )and weighs in at 5.2% ABV. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the beer, and it currently ranks in the 89th percentile at Ratebeer.com in the Bohemian Pilsner style category. At Beeradvocate.com it garners a B+. Let’s see if it can live up to the hype.
Brewer: Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA
Style: Bohemian Pilsner
Serving: 12 oz. bottle pour into Pilsner glass.
As soon as I popped the cap off Noble Pils and began pouring it I was assured I was in for something special. As I mentioned before, Pilsner is one style I have sampled inside and out. Noble Pils pours a bright, clear, golden yellow and caps itself with a tall, creamy, white head. The head throws an after-party and refuses to go anywhere. Lacing is left down the glass after each quaff.
Sure, it looks good. Lots of beers look nice sitting in a clean glass, but how does it smell? One whiff and the letters P-I-L-S-N-E-R should smack you in the face. Perhaps two noble hops cones should wedge themselves in your sniffer if you mistake this for anything other than a Pils. Floral, herbal aromas drift inside and send electrical signals to the brain signaling the presence of Noble Hops. Also in the nose is a bit of spice and pale straw malt scents.
Two for two. Not bad for a brewery about to be in the same tax bracket as the big boys. The aroma begs Noble Pils to be enjoyed orally. “Stop smelling me and drink me dammit!” screams this beer. On a hot summer evening, such as tonight, Noble Pils tempts the patient beer blogging into considering skipping aroma all together and just going straight for flavor. The flavor here is lightest palemalt sweetness, a touch of diacetyl and spice up front blending into a delicate herbal hop finish. The flavors are well balanced and fit the style wonderfully.
The body is light, the carbonation quite high, and the finish quick, clean, and refreshing. Only the slightest hop bitterness is present during the finish and it only aides in helping to down a pint quickly. I’ve had quite a few wheat beers so far this summer, but I have no problem saying that Id reach for a six-pack of Sam Adams Noble Pils over any wheat beer Ive had thus far in order to fight of summer heat stroke. Drinkability is high, especially the warmer it is. This beer would be enjoyable no matter what the temperature, but it truly shines when the sun does likewise.
Mouthfeel. Check. Drinkability. Check.
Sam Adams seldom disappoints, rarely “wows” me, and mostly just does a good job of producing quality craft beer in a wide range of styles. However, with Noble Pils I feel they have gone above and beyond and taken a session beer of an overpopulated style, and nailed it. They really nailed it. Session beers with complexity are becoming the minority. Just recently Goose Island announced it was going to stop bottling it’s Nut Brown and Oatmeal Stout to make room for “…increasing popularity of hoppy, wheat, sour, and barrel aged beer styles.” Session ales, lagers, and others “plain-jane” styles just aren’t what brings people to the pubs anymore. It’s go extreme or go home. I’m glad to see a brewery who once held the “World’s Strongest Beer” title remain down to Earth and produce something of such high quality and sessionability.
Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 90%
Pilsners are everywhere. Pale lagers, light pale lagers, low-cal/carb/etc lagers can all be connected back to the Pilsner. Miller Lite uses “Pilsner” in it’s marketing, Budweiser is technically a Pilsner, and the surge of craft beer will only lead to more breweries adopting the term. The ubiquity of generic Pilsners sets up Noble Pils to make quite a splash if a keg of the stuff ever lands itself at a frat party. Nothing is too brash about this beer, and that’s where the magic lies. With that said, Boston Beer produces a true Pilsner, using Noble Hops, and does a dang fine job. I’ll never shy away from ordering a Noble Pils even when they do break into the higher tax bracket. This one has a strong chance of causing someone’s next beer epiphany.
Say it isn’t so, but I am about to publish not one, not two, but uno, dos, TRES Beer Epiphany posts in one evening! Granted, not one is a beer review, but thats okay. There is always something going on in the beer world that can be shared with my faithful readers. As mentioned previously my posting has declined recently thanks to starting a career and all the things that go along with it.
Basically I come home and want to drink a craft beer, but not necessarily write about it. Capiche?
Anyway, It’s been my goal to return to blogging regularly and here I am. If you didn’t miss me then kindly finish your Michelob Ultra and cry yourself to sleep. If you did, in fact, miss me, then crack open a proper-serving-temperature brew, pour it into style-specific glassware, and let’s roll. I’m only being facetious. You can drink your microbrew anyway you want. If you’re here you probably know more about craft beer than I do. But what do I want to do tonight? Same thing I do every night, Pinky – Try to take over the world! (One beer blog post at a time)
Actually I want to provide you all with some Beer Epiphany updates, upcoming reviews, and upcoming events.
Beer Epiphany Updates
1) Posting should be returning to normal schedule (3-4 times per week). As I settle into my new career I come home less mentally exhausted and ready for particpating in the online beer community again.
2) Beer Epiphany Facebook Page. I have created a page on Facebook for Beer Epiphany, but it is not yet publicly accessible. Here I will create an environment easy to access via facebook that will allow me to keep in better contact with readers and other bloggers. I will also be able to post beer links I find daily that are interesting and relevant. My Google Reader is bursting at the seams with beer articles worth reading. I’ll be sharing them at a high frequency via Beer Epiphany on Facebook.
3) Beer Epiphany Cellar. Look up. Not at the ceiling, at the top of the webpage. See that page entitled “Beer Epiphany Cellar?” That has been created so that my readers always know what I have sitting in my cellar (aka bedroom floor) awaiting consumption. The bolded beers have been consumed and notated, and are awaiting a blog post. Feel free to email or comment with beers you would like to see experienced here on Beer Epiphany.
4) Scores are now out of 100. I have chosen to abandon the 5-category review system in favor of a single 100-point method. I feel this will streamline my reviews and allow for a better feel for how I felt a beer performed.
-Peoria International Beer Fest 2010
I attended this event for the first time last year and was blown away by the support for craft, micro, and local beer here in Central Illinois. This years event is Friday April 23 and Saturday April 24. Tickets are $20. Check out the Peoria Jaycees Website for more information. I would recommend attending even though it falls on the same day as Dark Lord Day 2010. Hopefully they will resolve this conflict for next years event. I will be attending and chronicling the event right here on Beer Epiphany.
-Beer Epiphany’s Inaugural Big Beer Week 2010
This will be a week where for seven straight days I review big brews. By big I mean Hopslam, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Avery Mephistopheles , Hopslam, and others TBD. It’s gonna be big. Luckily after that it will be Beer Epiphany’s Inaugural Its-Summer-Lets-Drink-Low-ABV-Summer-Brews-Week 2010 in order to recover. Just kidding, but Summer brews are typically much lighter, so be looking for lots of them in the coming months. Please don’t crucify me when I get to Summer Shandy from Leinenkugal.
There you have it. Three posts in one night. As I finish off the last remaining ounces of Bells Hopslam bottle #3 (I’ve had the six pack since it was released a couple months ago) I just wanted to impart a special thank you on all my loyal readers. Without you I would find it hard to work up the energy to spend hours sharing my beer experiences with you all. To those of you who comment regularly, a very special thanks. I hope to run into some of you at beer events across the country, but until then keep drinking good beer and returning to Beer Epiphany!
There are few things in life I enjoy as much as beer, and I do not believe there is anything I enjoy more than beer. My iPhone comes close, and I’m a big movie/music/tv buff as well, but nothing really captures my attention quite like beer. Let’s face it, I didn’t start an iPhone app review blog or a blog reviewing movies. I wanted to share my beer experiences with an audience that was as eager to listen as I was to preach.
When I sit down to blog about a particular beer sometimes I have a theme in mind. Other times I just drink the beer and see where it takes me. So, right now I’m just gonna share a link and talk about whatever comes to mind
News broke just the other day that Apple is going to give a sneak peak of iPhone OS 4.0 this week. Owning an iPhone for about ten months now I can honestly say that it has completely changed the way I go about my daily business. This also entails how it has changed how I enjoy beer. As I peruse the long aisles containing hundreds of brews at my local beer store I now have instant access to a wealth of information regarding each beer. I can quickly browse to Beeradvocate.com to get a review consensus or I can pull up a variety of beer iPhone apps and get brewery info and suggested food pairings. In fact the free BJCP Style Guidelines app gives me instant access to a wealth of information for each and every style the BJCP recognizes, and best of all, there is no data connection required, it’s all saved locally on my iPhone. Try printing the 73 page PDF off the BJCP website, rolling it up, and sticking that in your pocket.
Going for a brisk walk through the park yesterday I was able to reply instantly to an email from Redhook asking if I had received their package containing 8-4-1 Expedition Ale+Signature Glass. My iPhone gives me access to beer blogs, beer styles, brewery facebook pages, and the wonderful Twitter community of beer lovers. In fact, each and every picture I upload to Beer Epiphany is taken via my iPhone and uploaded to Beer Epiphany via the Wordress iPhone app.
My iPhone has indeed heightened my beer experience.
This brings me to my next point. Where are all the good beer apps?! The iPhone has been around for quite a long time (the 4th generation is due out this summer) and it is largely responsible for ushering in Web 2.0 (apps, mobile websites, web apps, etc.). A good amount of companies have already created either a mobile-enhanced website or a downloadable applicatio. Well, it seems that web 2.0 is lost upon the beer community. Why is there no Ratebeer.com iPhone app? Can you imagine how nice it would be to seamlessly rate and review a beer via a mobile interface? Why does BeerAdvocate.com, by many standards the leader of the online beer community, not have an iPhone app by now for checking scores, reviewing beers, and checking stats? All this must be done by loading the standard Web 1.0 site via my iPhone’s browser. This is possible, but mobile sites and apps exist for a reason; they compliment and enhance the browsing experience for your mobile device. There are no good beer review apps out at the moment, and other than BJCP, there are not many other quality beer apps available.
Beer Cloud and BeerGuide are two apps I use, but only rarely. Beer Cloud has the interface right, but it’s lacking in content. BeerGuide has thousands of beers, but the interface is ancient, the graphics poor, and they don’t really give you a reason to trust the information being presented. Supposedly BeerAdvocate is working up an iPhone app, but not much new has come out since that press release in 2009.
The iPhone is a great tool for exploring beer and keeping up to date on all the latest beer happenings, but unfortunately the mobile web has neglected to produce any quality beer apps or mobile versions of great beer websites.
Well, for not knowing what I wanted to talk about I was able to sit down and blab about my two favorite pastimes and combine them as one. I’m excited to see what web developers will come up with as they too combine the iPhone and craft beer. Until then I shall pinch to zoom my way around BA and RB.
“Jinx. Shotgun. Dibs.” The mere whisper of any of those words should echo of the unwritten, but ruthlessly enforced rules of childhood. Imagine yourself, age 11, hanging out with a group of your buddies where seating is limited. Little Johnny gets up leaving a prime couch spot vacant, but just as you begin to sprint towards the couch the words “seat check” exit his mouth in bullet-time slow-mo. You have two options: A) adhere to the childhood code of conduct and remain on the pink plastic tea-party chair you’ve been holding down; or B) Take little Johnny’s seat in spite of “seat check” and brace for nothing short of a modern-day stoning.
Much to my delight on Friday afternoon I found an inconspicuous UPS package awaiting me on my front porch. Inside I found two artifacts that would have Nic Cage teary-eyed at the end of another National Treasure; 650 ML of Redhook Ale Brewery’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale and the accompanying “Limited Release” glassware.
“Dibs.” Yupp, Redhook just called “Dibs” for the next open slot on the Beer Epiphany review waiting list by sending me the most awesome package I’ve ever received via the man in brown. Southern Tier’s Raspberry Porter and Schmaltz Jewbelation 13 are going to have to wait a few days to grace the Beer Epiphany homepage. Redhook has dibs. Free beer will do that, ya know.
Redhook’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is their latest “Limited Release” brew and came to my doorstep snuggly wrapped in foam. The bottle is a gorgeous 650 ML capped container with an all-business, no-artwork label. With only three (3) Ratebeer.com reviews and a no-show at Beer Advocate I feel quite privileged to be sharing my experience with my loyal readers before most others. According to Redhook, 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is:
Hand crafted by 8 brewers working in 4 teams, this Imperial Brown Ale was developed from their individual recipes carefully blended into one distinctive ale. Rich and flavorful, brewed with cherry-wood smoked malts and brown sugar.
Beer: 8-4-1 Expedition Ale
Brewer: Redhook Ale Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: American Strong Ale (American-Style Strong Brown, Imperial Brown)
Serving: 650ml bottle pour into Redhook “Limited Release” stemmed glass
Suggested Pairings: Smoked gouda, aged cheddar
Notes: Oak Aged, brewed with honey
8-4-1 enters my Redhook stemmed glass as a clear, bright, red. The head on top is off-white and rocky at first, but the settles into a thin layer protecting the aroma. Lacing is minimal. Speaking of appearance I must also note that this bottle is giving Brooklyn Local 1 a run in the “prettiest bottle” award category. The signature glass is nothing to scoff at either. This is coming from an avid bottle and glassware collector.
Into my nostrils comes a delicate bouquet of floral hops, candied fruit, brown sugar, and caramel malts. I’m also picking up on traces of caramelized sugar and apples. A strong alcohol character asserts itself proudly amongst it’s aromatic brethren. Both the malt and hops are quite emphatic as well. This is probably due to the multiple recipes blended into one brew.
Enough foreplay. It’s time to drink. Being marketed as an American-Style Strong Brown Ale I’m not quite sure what to expect. Upon first quaff a light malt sweetness breaks away into a steadily growing hop bitterness. The former is composed of a smokey, woody flavor (Redhook marketing suggests is there, but they are telling the truth) and the latter portion is quite more dry and bitter than the 55 IBUs would suggest. The lingering flavor does impart quite a bit of smoked wood flavor and a dash of alcohol. Supposedly there is honey in here somewhere, but I’m not picking up any traces of it.
8-4-1 Expedition Ale is medium bodied, with plenty of alcoholic warmth, and light carbonation. At 9.5% ABV I don’t recommend gulping one’s way through 8-4-1, but instead filling your glass half way a few times and truly savoring the experience. The alcohol will continue to warm your insides as you sip your way through. Also to note, don’t be afraid to let this one reach room temperature. It is quite comfortable there. The finish is very long, and comprised of an earthy, resiny, hop bitterness.
Redhook Ale Brewery’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is exactly what they claim it to be, an American-Style Strong Brown Ale. It has all of an American Brown’s qualities, just intensified. Had Redhook not been gracious enough to ship a bottle of this brew to my doorstep I still have no doubt that I would have jumped at the chance to purchase a bottle in-store or sample draft at a beer bar. This is a beer I would love to split amongst friends and let them experience what beer can be.
Limted Release, Special Edition, and all the other “hurry-up-and-get-it-now” monikers don’t always mean good beer awaits. However, I certainly won’t be sharing my last bottle of 2006 5-year aged Goose Island Bourbon County Stout with just anyone on July 12, 2011 (that’s a full 5 years to the day. I’m way excited). What I’m saying is it takes a special crowd to appreciate truly unique brews. Wits, browns, even IPAs nowadays are appealing to the masses, but there are still plenty of beers beers that don’t adhere to typical guidelines. They are too daring, unique, and brave to be subjected to rigid rules and regulation. These brews are ready to bust out and conquer the world. Not everyone will enjoy them, but they are just that much more enjoyable to those who can. Redhook’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is one of these brews. It’s bold bitterness and balancing smoked malt are just right for a more enlightened crowd. In short, if someone hasn’t heard of craft beer then they won’t be getting my share of 8-4-1, but I’ve got a few other micros to throw their way and open their eyes.
The numbers are in. The pressure is on. Beer sales overall are down, but craft beer sales are up. While craft beer still only holds a 5% market share sales by volume are up 7.2%. It’s time for the majors to take notice if they haven’t already. It seems as though AMC has seen this coming. So far they have attempted to thwart off microbreweries with various tactics. Miller Lite uses the two keywords “pilsner and hops” in an attempt to sound like more than a Pale Light Lager. Blue Moon is being marketed on TV for the first time and references the “Blue Moon Brewing Co.” Anhueser has released numerous brews under creative names and bottles.
Most significant is Michelob’s attempt to appear as a craft brewery by pumping out a wide range of beers encompassing many styles. I recently gave in and decided to purchase their Wheat Beer Sampler featuring four distinct wheat ales.
-Witbier, 5.2% ABV, 10 IBU
-Cascade and Willamette Hops, 2-row and wheat malt
Shock top pours with large floaties a hazy yellow with a fizzy, thin, white head into my .5L Hoegaarden witbier glass. The aroma is full of citrus, orange peel, lemon, and lime. It is quite a pleasant citrus aroma with what I thought was a faint hint of hops, but I find that hard to believe at 10 IBUs. The flavor is orange, wheat, citrus, and coriander. I can see what they are going for and all the flavors are there, but they just aren’t doing it for me. The taste seems a bit off. To compare with another macro’s take on a Wit, Blue Moon is much better in my own opinion. Mouthfeel is light, smooth, and full of carbonation.
-American Pale Wheat Ale, 5.3% ABV, 25 IBU
-Cascade, Willamette, and Hallertau hops, Wheat, Caramel, Carapils, and Two-row malt
Hop Hound pours a very hazy orange with a short white head that dissipates fast and leaves no lace. With a name like Hop Hound you expect this to have hops in the aroma. At 25 IBUs I’m not picking up much of any aroma, especially hops. The flavor is surprisingly bitter with an earthy,noble hop flavor. Hop Hound also has a nice caramel malt backbone to balance out the hops. There isn’t a whole lot of flavor, but there’s more than I was expecting. I was way too hard on this beer the first few times I had it. The bottle is past it’s prime, but I think this one might have a chance when drunk fresh. It leaves a dusty mouth coating for the finish and is light bodied.
-American Pale Wheat Ale, 5.6% ABV, 13 IBU
-Cascade, Willamette, and Hallertau hops, Two-row and wheat malt
Pours very clear golden orange with a very tall white frothy head. It leaves zero lacing. The aroma is wheat, wheat, and more wheat with an artificial honey smell as well. The aroma is good except the honey is just a bit too artificial. Honey Wheat tastes of watered-down wheat flavor, honey, and no much else. The sweetness from the honey coats the mouth leaving a nasty artificial sweetness flavor lingering. I’m not sure if the honey is real or artificial, but either way it comes across as too cloying. A more subtle use of honey would make Michelob Honey Wheat much more enjoyable. The mouth feel is prickly and the body is quite light and watery. Honey Wheat is quite one-dimensional and I don’t recommend letting this one warm up too much.
-Dunkelweizen, 5.5% ABV, 17 IBU
-Hallertau and Tettnang hops, Two-row, chocolate, caramel, and wheat malt
Up to this point Michelob hasn’t been able to brew an attractive beer. All these Michelob wheat ales have no legs and no lace. Sexy right? Let’s see if their Dunkelweizen can sway my opinion. If I was counting on any of these brews to be impressive it was this one. Dunkel Weisse pours a dark ruby with surprisingly little head. Lots of carbonation bubbles rising to the top of the glass. This brew is actually quite gorgeous. The best was I can describe it is saying it has all the colors of the sunset. Maroon, purple, red, orange, yellow are visible throughout this brew. The head is off-white, creamy, and thin. The aroma reminds me of mashed banana with some wheat malt and ginger spice. A little orange also shows through in the nose. As far as Dunkels go the aroma is average, but the color is superb. The flavor of Dunkel Weisse is malt, wheat, dark malt, banana and earthy notes. These flavors come across as weak as opposed to subtle. If I were to close my eyes and drink this I would know I were drinking a wheat beer, but not necessarily a dark wheat ale. It is highly carbonated, light-medium bodied, and has a drying finish. I was expecting more, but Dunkel Weisse is by far the best of the four wheat beers in the Michelob Craft pack.