Friday, October 23, 2009

Cali-Belgique India Pale Ale

It has been awhile since I've reviewed a beer but I'm back! Hopefully you didn't miss me too much :P This time I am reviewing for the first time, a brew from Stone Brewing Company (one of my favorite Brewing Co's).

Stone Brewing Co comes to us from Escondido, California (just north of San Diego for a quick geographical reference), and is a very large distributor of beers up and down the west coast of the US. Now the question you may be asking is whether or not Stone Brewing Co is considered a microbrewery. The technical definition of a microbrewery is a brewery that produces small batches of beer and typically only distributes them locally, or regionally, but never cross-country or internationally. I suppose Stone Brewing Company can be considered a craftbrewery, which defines the approach to making the beer rather than the distribution or amount. And so now that we have clearly defined Stone as a craftbrewery, let's continue on here.

Stone Brewing Co brews great beer. That much is apparent. The tastes are unique and despite the broad distribution one can find its brews (from Safeway to World Market and QFC to PCC and Haggen), it still retains the uniqueness and most importantly, the deliciousness. Just to name afew of its popular brews: Stone IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale (yes, this is a beer), Ruination IPA (one of my all-time faves), Smoked Porter, and Old Guardian Barley Wine. They also have a selection of limited and special release brews, which includes my friend here: The Cali-Belgique IPA, Double Arrogant Bastard Ale, and an Imperial Russian Stout. Typically we find them sold in 22 oz bottles, but I have seen them sold in 6 packs as well (I just so happened to find this beer in a 22 oz bottle at the Haggen in Burlington). Chances are good that if you see Stone Brewing Co on the side of a bottle, it's good and you won't disappoint yourself by purchasing it. So go for it! Reach for something new, and if it just so happens to be from Stone, be ready for a good ride! Now onto the beer!

Name: Cali-Belgique IPA
Category: California Style India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Columbus, Centennial, Dry-hopped with Chinook

The Pour: Pale golden yellow, clear, definitely filtered. The head is white and fluffy, good amount of lacing, and good retention.

The Nose: Sweet and syrupy, hints of belgian yeast, hints of canned dole pineapple and pine trees as well as citrus (oranges and grapefuit). I'm getting some hints of bubblegum? I'm detecting also a slight mustiness. Overall, it is very sweet (a sweetness typical of many belgian ales), and appealing. I'm excited to try this unique IPA.

The Taste: Initially spicy, medium carb, sweet on the palette. Definite sweet pine notes traveling up into my nose. Light sweetness in the middle and the finish is mellow, ending with a nice amount of lingering bitterness. Really well balanced.

The Verdict: A very traditional IPA here. As the back of the bottle states, the aroma is a bit funky and different from regular Stone IPA, mostly due to the fact they used belgian yeast strains rather than their standard ones. The flavor is very well-balanced and I definitely would not say it is overly bitter. For someone testing the waters of the IPA, this might not be a bad one to try out. And for everyone out there already a fan of the IPA, then this provides you with a twist on the average IPA. Go pick up a 22 ouncer of this, and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier means: "Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer" in german. And Schlenkerla is the historic brewery located in Bamberg, Germany in the northern region of Bavaria. Now looking more into this brewery, it would seem that it was first opened in 1405 and has been brewing smokebeer since 1678. Now that's a long time. Bamberg germany specializes in this unique style of beer known as smokebeer and as german law mandates, this brewery follows the Reinheitsgebot (german purity laws).

But what exactly is smokebeer? And what is the Reinheitsgebot? Good questions. In a nutshell, Smokebeer is a lager (bottom fermented beer) which contains smoked malt. The brewery achieves this by smoking the barley with beechwood logs at the time of malting and the result is the smokey flavor found in the beer.

Now, what is this Reinheitsgebot? The Reinheitsgebot is a set of laws first enacted in 1516 by King Ludwig. The law stated that the brewers of beer were only allowed to use barley, water, and hops. The law is no longer in use, but many breweries still claim to follow these purity laws. It is definitely a matter of pride. Look for this on the bottles of many german (bavarian more specifically) beers.

This will be my first taste of a true german brewed rauchbier so as you can guess, I am pretty excited! So let's do it!

Category: Rauchbier
ABV: 5.1%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: Very dark amber, a slight orange-crimson hue. The head is off-white, minimal retention, and so far the lacing is weak.

The Nose: As expected, the nose in bombarded immediately with a smokiness reminscent of campfires. Smoked meat aromas arise when the glass is swirled. I am also getting some dark roasted coffee hints as well. It will be interesting to taste this.

The Taste: The carbonation is initially strong but recedes and is of medium-to-low carb. Perhaps this bottle is abit flat? Smoke is everywhere in this...initially, midway through, and on the finish. Definite hints of smokey campfires, and smoked meats, perhaps bacon or bologna. Lingering on the palette the beer is slightly sweet and smokey. The roasted malts and coffee are apparent near the finish. The mouthfeel is not heavy and it's very drinkable. A lovely beer and much better than my first rauchbier experience!

The Verdict: This beer is definitely unique. I have had several other kinds of smoked beers (smoked porters, a chipotle ale, and an american brewed rauchbier) and my experience with them has been intriguing. It definitely is something you should try at least once. I picked this bottle up at the Cost Plus World Market in Bellevue across from Bellevue Square. If you weren't already aware of it, the World Market has a very nice beer selection offering many different types from all over the world. Now go out and buy a bottle of this. I don't think you'll be disappointed if you're looking for something different than the average everyday beer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Alaskan Brewing Co - Baltic Porter Ale

And so after a weeklong hiatus, I am back to review yet another beer. This time however, I decided I'd like to try something darker, heavier, more robust. While browsing through the beer section at the Red Apple Market in Issaquah, I discovered this bottle of Alaskan Brewing Co's Baltic Porter Ale. Apparently, this beer has been brewed with Cherries, Brown Sugar, Vanilla Beans, and Oak Chips. I am hoping this will be a good recipe for one heck of a sensation on my palette.

But before we dive in, let's pause for a moment to recognize Alaskan Brewing Company. Alaskan Brewing Co is probably most well known for its amber ale. Alaskan Amber is very popular in the pacific northwest. In addition to the amber, Alaskan Brewing Co also brews a pale ale, white ale, a stout, an ipa, two seasonals, a smoked porter and also a handful of rare hard to find if not in alaska special brews (like the one I have here tonight).

And so taking this a step further, what exactly is a Porter? And even better, what is a Baltic Porter? Two very good questions. As the name suggests, a Porter is an Ale. During the brewing process the yeast used to convert sugars into CO2 and alcohol floats on the top, this is what defines an ale as an ale.
Porters are usually very dark and are often confused with stouts. Porters get their dark coloration from the black or chocolate malts typically used in the production of these beers. Typical flavors on the palette will be roasty and chocolatey.
But this is where we draw the distinction between your standard Porter, and your Baltic Porter. Baltic Porters are considered to be Imperial Porters. Imperial Porters typically contain a much higher alcohol percentage than that of a regular porter, usually in upwards of 7.5%. The main difference being that the Imperial Porters tend to lack the roasted flavor of stouts and regular porters, with dark malts being the most prevalent flavor. The Baltic Porter are all that remain of a 19th century Baltic Trade in Imperial Stouts. Baltic Porters are typically bottom fermented, but in the case of the Alaskan Baltic, it is an example of a top fermented Baltic. Usually, Baltic Porters range in alcohol content from 7 - 9.5%. They are usually very sweet, and strong. So here we go, let's give it a shot...

Category: Baltic Porter Ale
ABV: 9.8%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: The Baltic Porter pours a thick very dark red, nearly black, and leaves a lovely tan head with poor retention. Slight lacing on the glass.

The Nose: Very malty, lots of cereal, notable amount of sweetness and a high alcohol content is easily detected. Smells rich, full of malt, and body. I can also detect slight oaky nuttiness, and a faint cherry vanilla aroma. Now it's time for the taste!

The Taste: Initially the mouthfeel is not heavy at all, the low carbonation character of higher alcohol brews, makes this very smooth. Cherry and vanilla on the tip of the tongue which fades to a noticeable darker roastiness on the back of the palette. Lots of cereal and dark malts throughout and slight hints of cola in there as well. I'm picking up hints of coffee and bittersweet chocolate notes at the very end.

The Verdict: Tough for me to dislike this one, but it might be very easy for someone who does not like dark beer and higher alcohol beers to enjoy it. The flavors presented in this one are very unique. Cherry Vanilla, oak, coffee and chocolate...all combine to create something very smooth, intriguing, unique and in my opinion, very delicious. If you don't already have an affinity for dark beers, most namely porters, stouts, or imperials of the same name, you might want to steer clear of this one. It just might be too much to handle.