Sunday, December 28, 2008
I'm having a Brooklyn Local One at the moment, upstate at my in-laws' farm. I got the bottle in NYC at a supermarket, and it seemed cheap at $9 (as opposed to about 12 at my local). I was worried that it hadn't been handled well, and think this might be the case. I tried to do a proper BJCP score sheet, which is below. The beer is musty, sour and bitter. I am not a huge light Belgian fan, so this might be standard for the style. I'm saddened that the beer isn't named after IATSE local one, but am overall unimpressed. There is some metal in the finish and mustiness.
I'd like to mention that I also had a Stone Imperial Russian Stout last night. This was good, sweet and copmplex with a little alcohol. To take a break from thinking, I drank without thinking of a review, which I"m glad about. I also made my first Hot Buttered Rum, notes to follow. It was a 2007 release, and I am slowly learning the releases differ by year and are meant to be collected and cellared like wine. I'm not sure how I really feel about this, but have a definite opinion, which will be shared shortly.
Brooklyn Local One:
(10) Aroma- Citrus, yeast, some hops, and sweetness
(2) Appearance- Cloudy, orange, tiny bubbles with only ok retention.
(14) Flavor- Starts sweet, has some bitterness on the middle and sour on the end. Musty. Ends clean, but with a metallic finish.
(3) Mouthfeel- Medium to full, low carbonation, and not very (nearly) lively.
(3) Overall- This beer tastes off, it could be skunked or it could have soured. It was not well kept in the supermarket.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
First off, thanks to the dudes at Rattle 'N' Hum, who put on a great brew night. I think my bartender was Denny- I did not introduce myself, which was a faux paus. The bar was impressive in size and selection, if filled with the type of people who work in midtown. I liked the chalkboards that listed the beers, it really hammered home the idea that taps often change and the impermanace of craft brewing. While even the NYTimes has recently written about craft brewing, it is nice to see a bar drive the point home in the epicenter of tourism and bland corporate dronedom. The ability to drink halves (or flights) instead of getting entirely blitzed drinking full pints was a nice surprise.
Enough of my attitude, on to the beers, all from Bear Republic tonight.
I started with a Grandma's Harvest Ale, or Wet Hop. The aroma is odd, musty and somewhat mild on the hops. Please keep in mind I am extremely congested, so my nose might be off. There is some citrus in the aroma. The appearance is nice, with a hazy yellow/orange hue, low carbonation and little to no head. This is reminiscent of British beers after they have settled. The flavor starts out with some male, the middle of the flavor is extremely bitter and it finishes dry and with definite hints of grapefruit. The mouth feel is smooth with low to medium body and a nice dance of carbonation that does not impede the flavor. Overall a very good beer, even if the aroma is off putting(musty, or perhaps reminiscent of farts).
Next up was the Racer 5 on cask. I blogged previously about how not all beers work better in a cask. This is one case where the brewers made a great effort to match the beer with the medium. I only tried this thanks to the bartender (we tasted together) and was astounded by the results. The beer is a double IPA and presents as a golden beer capped with a dense, creamy white head. The head hangs out for a long time- one could say too long, but one would be sorely mistaken! The beer might have been too cold, but I did not mind, it being American and all. The aroma is citrus followed by malt. The appearance is very, very clear and golden, like a Pilsner or an American Lager. The flavor starts bitter, reminiscent of lemon zest. The middle is sweet malt and it finishes bitter but not dry with sweet flavors to follow. The mouth feel is dense with good head and a medium body, denser than the color suggests. My overall impression is that this beer is well crafted to excel in the cask beyond what it does in the bottle, and I feel privileged to have gotten a taste from cask.
I finished the night with a Hop Rod Rye on draft. This was different from the bottled version in being more bitter and far more carbonated. The aroma starts with the malt and some low levels of hops. The appearance is a lovely auburn, where red turns to brown. There was no head but a great deal of good carbonation. I'm always happy with little head on my beers, as it leaves more to drink. The flavor starts with a malt with rye spiciness floating through. Next is a bitterness with some rye left over. It finishes bitter with a sweet aftertaste. The bitterness is not citrusy as in the other Bear Republic offerings tonight, but is bordering on astringent. The mouthfeel is medium with a lot of carbonation which cuts the overall body down a bit. Overall it is a good beer that I'm glad to have had on tap but enjoy more in the bottle at a warmer temperature.
I also had some other samples, courtesy of the bartender. I did not enjoy the Bear Republic Barleywine. It was surely a well crafted beer, but it carried a sour flavor similar to that of a Belgian ale. I am not a huge fan of the Belgian beers, and was put off. Still, a lot of hops on the nose and finish, with some sweetness crammed in between.
I also tasted a Jack London ESB on my way out. I love Extra Special Bitters, and I love Jack London. The first real book I read was White Fang (with my father) and anything Jack London strikes a chord. I found the beer refreshingly fruity and not very bitter, especially after the walloping I inflicted on myself from the prior tasting choices. I only had about two ounces, but an interesting English yeast seemed to allow fruit notes through as well as some mild hopping, East Kent Goldings I imagine. A full report is not available, as I wanted to make it home in one piece.
I am supposed to go out this evening, and gather I'll be drinking PBR or Brooklyn Pennant Ale to try and calm my taste buds from the orgiastic experience they have just had. Sometimes after a day of rough trade some vanilla is necessary to the old tongue. If I change my mind, it will be posted.
I am in NYC for the holidays vising my in-laws. I lived here for a while, before moving to the UK and then to Chicago. Not much has changed, though I know less people with normal jobs can live here, though the bankers, girls looking for husbands and the European tourists are running like rats from the ship, so maybe there will be a creative resurgence, or at least a reemergence of people doing an honest day's work of honest work raising families.
But back to drinking and after that I need a drink, badly. I decided to take some beer to my mother in law tonight to have with dinner. I chose a personal favorite- Southern Tier's Unearthly Harvest. I've had this before thanks to the sale rack at my local liquor store and it is fantastic. I'm sad to see them move to a plastic label, peeling the poorly applied paint off was a great activity after 650ml of 11% beer. As is getting donked on good beer for less than a 10 spot. The beer smells of citrus and malt, is surprisingly sweet for an IIPA/Double IPA/ Imperial IPA. I like the middle term best, as I think it is what thirsty storm troopers are drinking instead of defending the mother ship during the many, many attacks. The middle is sweet and smooth, medium body and a nice layer of tiny bubbles to carbonate. Little alcohol flavor is there, but as warned on the label one should take care to respect the beer, as an entire bottle clocks in just south of a whole bottle of wine on strength. My mom-in-law wanted to know what the sweetness was and I said light caramel, which should be true. The beer has a nice golden/amber color, especially nice in the recommended tulip wine glass. The body and head retention (both low to medium) are courtesy the cara-pils and red wheat, the latter of which also contributes to the color. The finish was good, somewhat dry and lingering hops. Overall an excellent beer, though it was less hoppy than I remembered. I hoped to pair it nicely with some pesto (homemade from home grown plants upstate) and the beer did the job. But not as well as the Ska Decadent Double IPA, which I had confused this beer with. Southern Tier remains a better mom-in-law beer, especially the lack of dancing skeletons on the label.
I was going to start with a beer which piqued my interest, an organic red rye which is the current Reunion Beer. Now, this beer supports charity, so I won't be too harsh. I'm not impressed though, it tastes too much like medicine. There is a nice malt taste, but its so powerful it ends up feeling like you are drinking watered down DME. The color is interesting, but the body is so heavy even the liquid seemed to shift less than slosh. I didn't pick up much rye or caraway, but did get a hint of hops (German?). All in all, good if you like Lambics or sweet beers, and a great starter beer for the not a minor not quite an adult in your life who might be in college. (NB: We in no way actually condone breaking the drinking age laws in any state for any reason).
I picked both of these up at New Beer Distributor, on Chrystie just off of Rivington. I used to live near here and walked by it on my way to work every day, never noticing. Its a warehouse, a freezing cold dimly lit warehouse. Full of beer. No mess, no nonsense, just a few informative posters about beer from beertown.org. There is a scrawled sheet of poster board with the 4 tap selections (3 xmas beers and a pale ale from Chelsea Brewing ). Oh, and tons of interesting beers priced cheap. I bought 650ml bottles of 10% beer for less than a pint (16oz, of 5% or less beer) would cost at any bar on the island of Manhattan. I'll go back when I can browse without losing feeling in my hands and having to squint. There will be an x-mas stockup for the party on the eve and the long weekend deep in the country.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I am a huge fan of cask ales. For the uninitated, cask ales undergo a secondary fermentation in the serving vessel (once a proper cask) and upon delivery to the site of dispensing are allowed to settle for a day, opened to the air and consumed within 5 days. Over the five days the beer oxidizes and rots, allowing for wierd complex flavors to develop. It is very much in the vein of some of humanity's finest foods and treats. As a wise man once said, "toeing the line between discoloration and dysentery is where real flavor lies." While he was talking about sourdough it is clear this occurs in beer as well.
So why do I bring this up? For a few reasons. The first is that I became acustomed to these beers while at what I'll call Stuffy University One in the UK. I was bemused at first by the hand pulled pints, but began to really enjoy them, once I got over the beer being stronger and larger than what I was used to drinking in the US. A longing for this kind of beer is why I started brewing, and something I hope to approach some day. There are a number of bars near me serving cask ales, but I'm left unfulfilled, which is what I'm going to go on about below.
A cask ale is not just any ale pulled by hand. Sure, its a great gimmick and a nice way, when done improperly, to sell me 2" of head on a beer. But cask ale is meant to be low carbonation with the addition of some air and life into the beer on the journey. True, in the North of England they use a sparkler and sometimes a swans neck, but never both. It makes a foamy mess. If I wanted a foamy mess I'd order a Schlitz (and the fridge is always well stocked). I want a beer with a little carbonation, that was designed for that and to age (or rot) well in the air. Too often I have what are fine beers on tap rendered lifelike by the gimick of the hand pull. For shame.
I wanted to get that off my chest. The best cask ale isn't even hand pulled, it is tossed out of a keg at around 55F. The next project here is to get some sort of cask system working in the apartment. We'll need to cheat and use some CO2 and possibly a cask breather. It will bring back many memories until I'm drooling into my sofa whilst the cat boxes my drunken ears.