Monthly Archives: February 2017

Taxman Brewing–Cherry Deduction

Taxman is a relatively new brewery in Indiana, maybe 25 minutes south of our capital, Indianapolis.  Most of their beers carry Nomenclature a tax person would understand–Deduction, Death & Taxes, Exemption, Frozen Assets.  Being a CPA, I get a kick out of it.

Deduction is their Belgian dubbel styled beer, and as you might guess, this particular spin off is made wit sweet and tart cherries.

It looks like one would expect of such a beer.  It’s mostly dark, with some ruddy features, particularly around the edges.  The inch thick head wants desperately to be khaki in color, but the addition of the fruit gives it a very faint pinkish hue.  It’s an attractive beer as the head ends up looking like the yumminess atop a cup of hot chocoate,  with low-ish lacing stuck to the glass.  The picture doesn’t show off the red in the beer or the pink in the head.

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This smells like a good cherry beer should.  It’s not overwhelmed by fake cherry juice; instead, it smells like a malty dubbel with real cherry added during the brewing process.  The fruity scent is hardly perceptible, like it should be.

The taste leaves me like perplexed.  On the one hand, I can almost taste the cherry juice, but not quite…like in the nose, it’s very subtle.  On the other hand, the fruit gives it a wine-like taste.  The subtleties of this beer cause me uncertainty about how the beer was brewed.  The brewery’s website doesn’t bring any closure, but based on the addition of Belgian candied sugar and the write up of their regular Deduction, I assume the cherry addition to be real and not artificial.

While the fruits give plenty of sweetness, this never crosses the line like some crappy versions will.  Again, this leads me to believe real cherries were used, because the tartness of the cherries help keep the reins in the sweetness.  Even with the addition of the candied sugar, this is never overly sweet.  The use of European hops is somewhat wasted because the hops never present themselves.  That tartness and carbonation give more of a medium bodied feel and the 8% ABV is not noticeable.  Each sip leaves the palate clean with a nice, slightly dry, crisp finish.

Cherry Deduction is very drinkable.  The addition of fruit is so subtle than even a drinker who doesn’t care for fruit beers could probably enjoy this.  Honestly, it wouldn’t hurt for more fruit to be added, but it seems Taxman went for subtlety.

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Unibroue–Terrible

Coming from Unibroue, this beer will be anything but terrible.  The best Canadian brewery comes out with another dark, strong Belgian…this time a quadruple.

While not as dark as the darkest stouts, it’s pretty close.  The color of a midnight sky with a single star in the distance.  There is an SRM scale for the color of beer, the lighter the beer the lower the SRM score (SRM stands for Standard Reference Method).  A stout registers 29 on the SRM scale while an imperial stout clocks in at 40+, the highest level.  Terrible scores a 45.  So, yeah, it’s got some color.

In contrast, the finger thick head is very pale.  Not white, but it appears very light in comparison.  Those bubbles are fine, small, and fairly persistent.  Said head does not last all that long, but it never fully goes away either.  Lacing it spotty at best.

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Smell is mostly standard issue.  Spices, spicy Belgian yeast strain, some dark fruits like figs and dates, but this one gives off a vegetal scent as well.  Not sure what to make of it.  The only thing that comes to mind is a hop with an earthy scent.  (I had to look online and read a bit more about the beer…it’s a Madeira wine scent, whatever the hell that is.)

Now to the good part, the taste.  That wine flavor comes through, along with those dark, ripe fruits.  Whereas many Belgian yeast strains give a green grape scent and taste, that’s not present here; instead we’ve got the red grape flavor.  It’s possible some cherries are hiding in here as well.  The 10.5% ABV  plays nicely with all the fruits.

The battle between the sweetness and tartness of the fruits produces a complexity that won’t bore your palate.  Each sip causes a faint pucker, but the two sensations never go away and act in harmony.  There’s no hop bitterness whatsoever, even the alcohol is masked well.  Full-bodied, a great dessert beer or night cap.

As expected, Unibroue created a beer that is amazing and doesn’t fit the beer’s name.  I don’t know where the name came from, but most of Unibroue’s beers follow some sort of legend.  Whatever it is, this beer is far from Terrible and extremely easy to drink.

Three Floyds–Blot Out The Sun

Three Floyds–the best brewery in Indiana (by far) and one of the best in the world, once voted the second best.  Blot Out The Sun is a high gravity, bourbon barrel-aged, imperial stout.  It spends 18 months in the barrels before being bottled.

Absolute darkness from the pour, completely devoid of any sort of light.  Even the head is dark, a medium brown.  It looks great in a snifter.  The head retains well and is thick enough to provide a minimal lace.

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It smells a bit weird, at least for something this dark.  Flowers dominate the nose.  A little licorice comes wafting up from the glass and that isn’t unusual for a dark beer, but a floral smell takes you by surprise.  I don’t pick up any of the roasted malt scents, no chocolate or coffee, nothing to indicate I’m about to embark on a 10.4% barrel aged journey.

Confusion sets in after the first sip as well.  Again, more flowers, though now with a kiss of citrus fruits.  Early on it suggests you’re sipping on an imperial IPA.  Only in the finish does anything reminiscent of a barrel-aged dark beer come to life, as some dark malts finally register, along with the faintest note of bourbon.

Up front, sweet and creamy are the words that come to mind.  Then the flowers hit and bitterness gains momentum.  Along with the hoppy bitterness is a coffee bitterness.  This combination is good for 97 IBUs.  Fortunately, there’s enough malty sweetness that while it feels bitter, it never approaches a mouth-burning 97 IBUs.  Still, your palate will get a workout with a dry finish that never relents.  Very full bodied, each bottle should come with a spoon.

I had this some year ago and didn’t care for it.  I still have not developed a taste for a black IPA and this beer reminded me of that style.  However, I’m picking up more malty representations and I like it a bit more.

Ridgeway Brewing–Seriously Bad Elf

This beer is from an English brewery that makes a series of Christmas Ales, each with a differing level of alcohol, each with a slightly different adjective describing the bad elf…Ridiculously Bad Elf, Insanely Bad Elf, etc.  Seriously Bad Elf is toward the naughtiest of elves, pushing 9% ABV at the drinker.

Other than the bottle’s looks, nothing in the appearance of the beer makes me want to drink this.  An almost crystal clear, golden pour really lacks character.  The head is minimal at best and doesn’t stick around very long.  Only the smallest dots of lacing remain behind.

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While a Christmas Ale, it’s called a Bitter by the brewer and that’s what it smells like.  Bitter is more a feel than a taste or a smell, but I assume the scent is a precursor of things to come because I can almost smell bitterness.  It smells a combination of pale and Pilsner maltts, while there is a very floral note, which I presume to be an English hop variety.

I am extremely surprised by the taste.  There is lots of flavor and it tastes like a flower garden must taste.  It’s full of flowery hop flavors, with some cracker-like malts giving it a backbone.  English beers are more known for malts and flowery hops and this is a perfect example of that.  American beers like to showcase extremes of alcohol and bitterness, while English Brewers prefer balance.  This hits the nail on the head with perfect balance.

The punch of bitterness I expected never arrives.  There is only enough bitterness to keep the malt sweetness in check.  The alcohol is present, but again, well-balanced.  It does evolve and provides a bit of warmth in the finish.  Despite the look, it’s a heavy, full-bodied, almost chewy beer.

Seriously Bad Elf screams flavor and it’s very easy to drink.  I cannot wait until next Christmas season so I can pick up more of this and maybe a few of the other elves as well.

Sierra Nevada–Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada is one of my favorite brewers and one of the most influential.  For those getting a start into what craft beer is all about, this is the brewery for you.  They make hundreds of different beers in all kinds of styles.  In general, their beers are pretty tame.  However, they do make some extreme beers and Bigfoot is one of them, a barleywine style beer with 9.6% ABV and a palate-wrecking 90 IBUs.

The beer looks glorious in a snifter (and a snifter is a must for a barleywine).  The burgundy brown color and dirty white head let you know it means business.  That head is to die for.  A finger and a half thick, it sets the standard for stronger ales.  Foamy and frothy, never relenting, it stays with you throughout the experience.  Rings of lace remain as your Bigfoot journey continues.

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While the smell is a bit subdued, it still defines this type of Ale with a noseful of oak, vanilla, and caramel scents.  It’s an unmistakable smell, which is why you drink out of a snifter to rein in all those smells that try to escape a normal glass.

The taste can only be defined as manly.  To get alcohol at 9.6%, you must use an excessive amount of malt and to get 90 IBUs, you need ridiculous amounts of hops…check the boxes because this has both.  For only a second do you pick up the caramel malt, and after that, it’s nothing but Pacific Northwest hops.  The malt clearly becomes alcohol and the hops are so plenticular that the taste is somewhat muddled.  Mostly you gets notes of oak and other earthy flavors.

Bigfoot tries to be sweet on the palate but the bitter hops simply don’t allow it.  It’s exceptionally bitter from beginning to end.  Very full bodied, you’ll want to sip this beast.  As the beer warms, it becomes more drinkable, but there’s no denying this will put hair on your chest.  The bitterness and alcohol hit hard.

This is a beer that needs to sit in a snifter and warm for a few minutes before sipping.  It’s almost undrinkable right after the pour.  However, it’s still an amazing beer, just drink it slowly.  Also, the snack factor for this is very high.  Be prepared to have some salty snacks to give your palate a break during the onslaught.

 

Leffe–Blonde

Here we have an abbey Ale, but not a Trappist beer.  It’s made in an abbey, but not by monks.  Also, this beer is the Blue Moon of Belgium.  Blue Moon is an amazingly good wit-style beer but because it’s made by Coors, everyone hates it.  This beer, while made in Belgium, is owned by Budweiser.  So, everyone thinks it sucks despite the fact that Bud doesn’t brew it, they simply own it.

It comes out a very clear orangey gold.  Honestly, it’s a bit too clear and that too rubs people the wrong way.  However, the chill puts a little haze into the beer making it an ok beer to look at.  That said, the head is amazing, as you’ll see from the picture.  Really thick and fluffy, it retains for days and leaves a huge sticky lace in its wake.

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I dig the nose.  It smells like Belgium to me.  A foreign spicy yeast, some spices like cloves and coriander, a hint of white pepper and green apple peel, and a whisper of honey in the background.

The cloves and yeast stand out in the taste, along with what I guess to be a little Pilsner malt.  I pick up a bit of lemon as the beer warms, which goes well with the honey.  While there are some assertive flavors, they combine into one cohesive taste.

At 6.6% ABV, it’s borderline light bodied.  Leffe pushes the limits of sweetness, but stops just shy of cloying.  The spices help keep the sweetness in check.  The yeast, lemon, and apple skin give a dry, crisp finish.

This is a much better beer than people give it credit for.  If you didn’t know the brewery was owned by Bud, you’d not guess it from the scent, taste, or feel.

Heavy Seas–The Great’er Pumpkin

This is one of the beers from Heavy Seas Uncharted Waters series.  They did this to see the effects of aging some of their beers in wood barrels.  In this case, they chose oak barrels that previously held bourbon.

Not the best looking beer as the head falls pretty flat.  It’s not uncommon for a high gravity beer to lack good carbonation up top, but it can be done.  Anyway, it pours an orangey Amber color that appears somewhat clear, at least until the chill haze grabs ahold of it, at which point the color deepens so there is no clarity in the beer.  Subsequent swirls of the glass bring the had back to life, but only momentarily.  The bubbles are a dingy white color and never stick around long, nor do they produce any lacing.

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The nose collects notes of caramel malts and all the spices of a pumpkin pie.  Cinnamon, cloves, all spice, brown sugar, nutmeg; they’re all accounted for.  Sadly, I don’t detect the bourbon or any other whiff of alcohol.  A bit surprising for 10% ABV.  Scratch that last remark…another swirl to resuscitate the head and faint bourbon notes release.

Like many/most pumpkin beers, The Great’er Pumpkin throws waves of spice at you in the taste.  Few beers show the restraint to present simply a pumpkin forward beer, and this is no exception.  However, they did keep the nutmeg in check, instead loading up on cloves and all spice.  The caramel malts play nicely with the spices and deep in the finish, some flavors imparted by the oak barrels finely present.

This is certainly not a light-bodied beer, but for something with so much alcohol and deep, rich colors, it’s not a full meal like you might expect.  Plenty of sweetness starts the ball rolling before the spices take over.  With each sip, the alcohol becomes more and more noticeable, as does the spiciness of the beer.  Like I mentioned before, they kept a light hand with the nutmeg and your palate will appreciate it.

Heavy Seas is a brewery I’ve come to enjoy and this beer does nothing to make me change my mind.  This is a good pumpkin beer, with subtle flavors and a lot of alcohol.