Monthly Archives: January 2017

St. Bernardus–Watou Tripel

Last night I enjoyed a Belgian-inspired, Canadian Tripel.  Tonight, I just pulled the cork on the real thing.  Here we have another Trappist beer, brewed by monks in the western part of Belgium.  I still have not had a Trappist beer that wasn’t amazing, so if you ever see one, buy it, order it, whatever.  Just get it somehow.

This is the smaller brother of the World Class Abt 12.  Abt 12 is a quad, while this is obviously a Tripel, weighing it at 7.5% ABV.

A bit on the orange side of golden yellow, a cloudiness distorts the clarity and gives the beer some character.  The head is slightly less dense, a result of less carbonation than La Fin Du Monde from last night.  After a few minutes of only moderate retention, there are small patches of bubbles forming the head, while other bubbles surround the perimeter up top.

img_0381Yeast from the western part of Belgium fills the nose with the expected peppery scent.  It smells more floral than I remember and I’m picking up tiny notes of mint as well.  The mint works well with a bit of green apple and again, that’s the Abbey’s trademark Yeast strain that goes into most, if not all, of their beers.

The flavor–just wow.  Whereas many Belgian copies are a bit strong with the yeast making the beer slightly too peppery, this is sublime, especially with the smack of mint to keep the reins on the yeast.  Lemon and a splash of honey present themselves as the beer warms.  As it does warm, the malt and yeast give off cracker-like flavors.  Honestly, it tastes similar to many other Belgian beers and many other Belgian-style beers.  The difference, however, is that the monks simply nailed it.

In addition to taste, mouthfeel is where the monks win me over. The spiciness is just the perfect amount.  The citrus is just the perfect amount.  The sweet and bitterness is just the perfect amount.  This Tripel feels more light bodied than just about anything else registering 7.5% ABV.  Even the prickly finish provides just the perfect amount to clean your palate so you can enjoy the next sip.  The perfect amount of carbonation makes everything work.  Do you see a trend here?

Some Brewers have been making beer for a thousand years.  Some of the monks have been brewing beer for quite a while now.  St. Bernardus only dates back to 1946, so they have been brewing for ‘only’ 70ish years.  What separates the monks is the perfection with which they apply their craft.  They don’t actually match the style, they define the style.  So while many others may have read the book, the monks wrote the book and it shows up every time I sip one of their beers.

Unibroue–La Fin Du Monde

Here we have one of Canadia’s (if Americans are from America, Canadians are from Canadia) finest in its natural habitat…my glass.  Unibroue is my favorite Canadian brewery and this is one of their World Class beers, an homage to a Belgian triple.  La Fin Du Monde means ‘the end of the world.’  Each of their beers tells a story with the name.

This particular beer is Canadia’s most award winning beer.  On top of that, it’s one of the main reasons to visit the Canadian exhibit at Disney’s EPCOT center as they have this on tap.

La Din Du Monde pours a hazy, cloudy golden color.  Bubbles never stop rising from the depths of the glass as the carbonation is clearly visible.  The head is massive, more than two fingers thick, and has long legs.  Several minutes after popping the top and pouring, the head still breathes and those aforementioned bubbles continually rise from the bottom.  A bright white lid on top of a golden beer resembles those made in the Belgian motherland.

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This beer is an explosion of smell.  From the given scents of Belgium–a peppery yeast strain–to those not traditional–coriander, orange rind, lemon, Pilsner malt–the nose thanks you for this gift.

That said, this beer wins awards because of how it tastes; and it’s a masterpiece.  White pepper and green grape do most of the talking.  The peppery yeast turns cracker-like on the tongue.  Despite the light color, some dark fruits hide in the background, while a few citrus fruits are never far behind.

High carbonation makes the impact on the palate more extreme.  The fruitiness is more acidic.  The spiciness is more pronounced. The bitterness is more powerful and lingers longer.  Fortunately, the carbonation makes for a crisp and dry finish.  Medium bodied, the beer packs a punch with all the different flavors and spices, yet the 9% ABV is really well-hidden.

La Fin Du Monde is Unibroue’s prized beer and it tastes the part. It’s fairly easy to drink, though your palate will grow weary from all the different sensations.  What makes this a winner for me is that you can find it just about anywhere and it’s borderline cheap.

Tin Man Brewing–Bourbon Barrel Aged Czar

Tin Man is a seasonal from a local brewery.  I’ve had Czar in the past, but this is the barrel aged version.  The price for aging the beer one year in bourbon barrels is approximately an arm and a leg.  While Czar comes in 16-ounce tall boys, the price for a 4-pack was almost $28.  Fuck me.

Czar is a gorgeous beer.  If it isn’t the darkest beer I’ve ever seen, it’s right up there.  Even the head is dark.  You don’t get much in the way of a head though, but what’s there is quite appealing on the eye.  Medium brown bubbles create a frothy, foamy icing on this strong beer.  What it lacks in retention it makes up for in looks.  Lacing is light and spotty before eventually falling into the beer as it must be too heavy to stick to the glass.

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The smell means business.  Dark chocolate and some sort of grain overwhelm, but the bourbon is everpresent.  I don’t have a list of all malts used, but the dark chocolate is easy to detect.  Whether the bourbon scent is throwing me off, I’m not sure, but I can’t tell if this is a base malt or a specialty.  I’m leaning toward specialty.  And at $7 a can, I hope it is.

The taste is spot on for the style.  Full of dark and roasted grains and other fillers, like in the nose, the bourbon character is always with you.  In addition to the dark chocolate, the woody Nugget hops give a kick to this imperial beer.  With everything thrown into one large can, you become confused as to whether this is a thick beer or a thin molasses.

Despite the chocolate, Czar starts off creamy but doesn’t give you much sweetness.  Coffee notes and the barrel aging provide plenty of bitterness.  However, the beer finishes slightly sweet, with a warming jolt to the gums and throat.  It coats everything it touches in a warming alcohol layer.  Very full bodied, the beer evolves and strengthens as it warms.

Tin Man made a great beer with this.  The regular beer without the barrel aging is probably a bit more drinkable as this feels a bit stronger than 12% and is more warming than I recall.  Regardless, it’s something everyone should try, if you can afford it.

A sucker for a cup

I’m a sucker for any beer that gives you a brewery glass for the purchase of their beer.  More and more breweries have little collector’s boxes that contain a bottle or three of their beers along with a company glass.  I know I’m getting hosed, but in my feeble mind, I’m getting a free glass.  And a beer geek can never have too many beer glasses.

The beer could probably be shitty and I’d still buy it if I got a free glass, but it’s a bonus when it’s a beer I like or want.  In this example, New Holland gave me a glass and a couple bottles of Dragon’s Milk.  I totally made out like a bandit.

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Dogfish Head–World Wide Stout

It’s been a while since I’ve had a whale, so here it is.  What was once the strongest beer in the world, World Wide Stout, this beer doesn’t tip the scales, it breaks the scales.  The ABV is now listed as a range, “15-20%.”  It has since been replaced as the top dog in terms of alcohol strength by beers exceeding 50%, but this was the bomb back in the day.

A very dark beer, what makes it a stunner is the glorious head.  It slowly forms from the depths of the drinking vessel.  Eventually it stands at roughly 3 fingers thick, so pouring into a snifter is probably the safest bet.  The head is khaki in color and has incredible retention.  Even after five minutes, you can’t see the beer from looking down in the glass.  Also, WWS produces what has to be the thickest, sloppiest lacing of any beer I’ve yet seen.

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You question things after popping the top and pouring WWS.  Can I really smell colors?  Yes, each whiff of this beast gives the sensation of smelling the color black.  Sure, it’s got roasty, toasty coffee notes, but it actually smells black.  God only knows how much barley went into this bottle, but the label tells the story, “…a ridiculous amount of barley.”  Amazingly, it doesn’t smell like alcohol.

The taste tells a different story.  Honestly, I should have aged this a couple years so the alcohol would outgrow its puppy stage and mature a bit.  15-20% ABV simply can’t hide and as much as it tries, the char and coffee flavors cower next to the booziness of this thing.  If you take a breath a little too close to the opening of the glass, you will burn your nose.  It makes me wonder if this would ignite if one cooked with it.

The palate screams complexity.  The beginning of this journey is innocent enough as sweet, smooth and creamy feelings fill the brain.  But there’s more.  As WWS works its way back, those happy feelings are exchanged with bitter and heat.  At 70 IBUs, the back of the mouth and throat take a pounding.  The bitterness never relents and the heat builds.  Each sip, and trust me, you will sip this, coats the tongue just a bit more and the dry finish makes the burn linger.

Dogfish Head has brewed an amazing liqueur, I mean beer.  This thing is beyond beer.  It really has escaped the beer category and is something else…like I said, it’s a liqueur.  It’s quite tasty and is a dessert all by itself.  All beer geeks need to try this.

 

Southern Tier–Salted Caramel

This is an Imperial stout with lots of craziness added.  Southern Tier brewed this with Himalayan Pink Sea Salt and Caramelized Sugar.

Salted Caramel is a stunner in the glass.  Solid black in color, ruddy hues at the edges.  Totally opaque.  It doesn’t so much have a head as it does a foam biscuit on the top.  Two fingers thick at the start, it has only medium legs, but leaves a beautiful foamy lacing behind.  Once you go black, you never go back…will be hard to drink any type of Pale Ale after seeing this.

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I could smell this as soon as I cracked the top open.  You’d think someone stuffed a fudge brownie inside the bottle.  Chocolate overwhelms everything and you can almost smell the Caramelized Sugar.  My mouth is watering already.

Yep, it tastes like a salty brownie as well.  Very fudgy flavor with that pink sea salt to enhance all other ingredients.  To call it one dimensional is usually a negative, but I’m digging the flavor.  The salt comes on strong as the beer washes across your tongue.

Not enough o’s in smooooth to describe this.  Extreme creaminess.  Possibly overboard on the sweetness, but the salt reigns it back in before cloying becomes the word of choice.  The salt and the 10% ABV produce a heat that gets stronger as you work your way through the bottle.  There might be a bit more salt than I care for, still undecided.

This is a great dessert beer, though I’m starting to think a bit less of the fancy pink salt would work better.

Avery–Rumpkin

Ridiculousness in a bottle.  17.5% ABV.  A pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels.  Avery Brewing is know for craziness in their beers and in the names of their beers.  Look them up.

Like every other pumpkin beer, Rumpkin is the color of pumpkin pie.  Kind of an orangey brown.  This one is thick in color, opaque, full of stuff to give it flavor and high alcohol.  If you look close, there are yummy floaties of goodness suspended in the liquid.  It’s a bit surprising for a beer this strong to have so much in the way of bubbles up top, but Rumpkin produces a nice yellowy, foamy head.  Moderate retention and minor lacing.

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It smells the part, full of the aforementioned pumpkin pie spices and rum.  Avery used a Belgian yeast strain and I think I’m picking up some candied sugar, though it could just be brown sugar.  Deep down I’m picking up scents of raisin.  Being so malt forward, I have no idea if they even bothered with hops.

Lots of spices and malted barley dominate the taste, while that 17.5% ABV is constantly lurking.  The rum aging is very noticeable, as is a brown sugar/caramel flavor.  It’s hard to say if there are layers of flavor because there’s so much going on at once and that crazy strong rum dominates every sip.

My lips burn with each sip from the rum.  Extreme sweetness starts the onslaught before spices and heat take over from mid sip.  This beer goes beyond full-bodied, you almost have to chew to get it down.  The finish is aggressive, hot, and bitter, with the heat both lingering and building.  So thick.  It feels more like a liqueur with the burning sweetness in the finish.

It’s actually a good beer, but it’s very in your face.  Everything about this beer is pronounced.  Rumpkin is fairly difficult to drink due to the strength and chewability.  Plan on spending some time finishing even a 12-ounce bottle.

Dieu Du Ciel–Aphrodite

Dieu Du Ciel is a Canadian brewery. The name means “God in Heaven.”  Up Nort (sic), the beer goes by the name Aphrodisiaque.  Pretty cool.

You can probably read from the bottle that we’re looking at a stout brewed with real cocoa and vanilla.  The expected dark black color is present, though there are ruddy notes around the edges.  It looked like the head did not want to form, before that lovely cascading effect took place to show two fingers of brown bubbles.  However, retention is short and the beer is thin enough that the lacing slowly falls back into the beer as it isn’t sticky enough to stay on the glass.

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The nose picks up cocoa, vanilla, and a surprisingly strong scent of bourbon.  Roasted grains are ever present.  Whatever hops are used never show up.

Caramel malt normally isn’t dominant in a stout, but it makes quite an impression in this beer.  The addition of vanilla gives this a root beer taste early on.  Eventually the cocoa arrives and stays until well in the swallow.  There’s a token hop presence, as well, into the swallow.

A bit of sweetness comes first.  From mid sip on, the cocoa brings bitterness to the equation.  It feels thinner than I’d like, but the beer only register 6.5% ABV.  Medium bodied at best.  Faint carbonation in the finish.

With the malts and vanilla balancing the cocoa, Aphrodite is a pretty easy beer to drink.  Each different feeling plays well with the others.  A solid beer.

Three Floyds–Moloko

From the makers of Zombie Dust, here is a milk stout from Three Floyds out of Munster, IN.  A milk stout is a sweeter version of a stout due to the addition of lactose.

As you’ll soon see, it’s as dark as night, completely black.  A beautiful cascading head slowly forms.  Maybe 3 fingers thick, the head is frothy and foamy and brown.  It has long legs and never fully retreats.  The lacing is thin and sticky.

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Scents of chocolate and coffee dominate.  Clearly a malt forward beer, there isn’t even a hint of hops anywhere to be found.  The nose reminds me of a chocolate dessert.

Chocolate overwhelms the taste buds, almost like a liqueur, as the 8% ABV alcohol says ‘hello.’

Being a milk stout, it’s perfectly sweet.  The bitterness from the coffee nicely balances the lactose for an amazingly drinkable beer.  Full bodied.

Overall, Molokai screams perfection.  Aside from a splash more alcohol, there is nothing to change with this beer.

Clown Shoes–Hammer of the Beast

This is a strange concoction, an Imperial stout/Barleywine hybrid.  Both styles of beer are typically high in alcohol, so it’s not surprise this clocks in at 11.75% ABV.  It’s a weird hybrid in that stouts can be smooth and creamy while Barleywines generally destroy your palate with bitterness.  To further muddy the waters, this beer has been aged in rum barrels.  I’m actually a little scared of how brutal this beer could potentially be.

It pours like you would expect.  It comes out pitch black and even when held to a light, there’s just nothingness…completely devoid of any sort of light.  The head is the slowest forming I’ve ever seen, and even with that said, there is almost no head because carbonation with a beer this high in alcohol is generally non-existent.  What tries to be a head are little more than dark brown bubbles trying to work their way through the dark beer.  They are gone in no time, though each subsequent swirl provides a hint of brown foam that tries to stick to the glass, but just can’t.

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With its Barleywine DNA, I expected a bit more scent, but the nose doesn’t tip its hat, only letting you know that rum barrels were involved as a little fruitiness comes wafting from the glass. As the beer warms, it gives up more secrets…a hint of chocolate and coffee, some char, something earthy.

Each sip is a dream.  The chocolate gives way to the coffee, which gives ways to the hops and alcohol, with a spicy, fruity rum flavor present the whole time.

Surprisingly, the strange marriage of beer style works.  It begins with a creamy sweetness before finishing with a hot, lingering bitterness that almost feels spicy.  It’s very full bodied.  The complete lack of carbonation really helps keep this beer from getting out of control with the back end warmth and spicy feel.

I can’t tell if this is a stout amped up by the Barleywine or a Barleywine tempered by a stout.  Regardless, this hybrid really works.