Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wells - Banana Bread Beer

Yes it is true, I am in fact reviewing the beer known as: "Banana Bread Beer" brewed by Wells and Youngs based in Bedford, England, a small city about 50 miles north of London. I have to admit, this is the first beer I have tried from this brewer, although I have seen several other styles at the local QFC like their double chocolate stout. This beer was recommended to me by a good friend, so let's give it a shot.

Name: Banana Bread Beer
Category/Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 5.2%
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown
Bottled: Unknown

The Pour: Clear amber-orange, copper, filtered, looks a bit like apple juice. The head is white and quickly disappears. Probably won't be much lacing.

The Nose: Straight up Banana. Like peeling a Banana then inhaling the aroma. Almost smells artificial, like Banana flavored Laffy Taffy. I'm also detecting hints of bubblegum, the nose is very sweet, maybe a slight malt presence, caramel, bready, tough to detect much else behind the Banana aroma. It's a bit overpowering and dominant. Maybe some slight hints of spice?

The Taste: Carbonation is barely noticeable, slight up front, but not much longevity to it. Definite Banana flavor, but in my opinion, the nose leaves a lot to be desired. Surprisingly the flavor is lacking sweetness as the nose suggested, Banana flavor peaks midway through, then slowly fades to the back of the palette...leaves slowly, fades to a bit of bubblegum, spice, and a slight bitterness...kind of flat...was expecting more sweetness...dry finish, medium to light body...quite drinkable if you don't mind the Banana...

The Verdict: The aroma screams Banana, flavor involves Banana, caramel, and slight bitterness. I think it's lacking a bit of sweetness. Kind of reminiscent of a German Weissbier (flavorwise). I think it's intriguing and worth trying at least once, but probably not something I can see myself purchasing more than once...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Orval - Belgian Trappist Ale

And so tonight I have decided to finally crack open the bottle of Orval I've had sitting in my closet for the past month or so. As the title says, Orval is in fact a Belgian Trappist Ale. What is exactly a Trappist Ale? Good question. Here is the answer: A true Trappist Ale is a beer brewed by monks who live and work in Trappist Monasteries. There are some 171 Trappist Monasteries in existence today, but only 7 are known to produce beer; six in Belgium, and one in the Netherlands.

Orval Brewery (Brasserie d'Orval) is located in the deep south of Belgium and they have been brewing beer there since 1931. Trappist Breweries also follow strict guidlines (not very different from the German breweries of old with the Reinheitsgebot) set in place by the International Trappist Association. Other well known Trappist Ales include, Chimay and Westmalle. Orval however is distinct from these other ales. They dry hop their beer during the brewing process (drop in mesh bags full of hops) and use a strain of wild yeast known as Brettanomyces, which adds a distinctive sourness to the beer by producing acetic acid during the fermentation process. Now you're an expert on Orval. Now all that is left is to go to PCC and buy a bottle to drink for yourself. I however, have my very own bottle right here in front of me, so let's give it a taste...

Name: Orval
Category/Style: Belgian Trappist Ale
ABV: 5.2 - 7.2%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Pale and Caramel
Hop Types: Hallertau, Styrian Golding, Strisselspalt
Bottled: 02/20/2008

The Pour: Clear dark amber-orange, bubbly, foamy off-white head, nice retention, not very good lacing. Very fizzy carbonation...

The Nose: Straw, slight floral, sweet cotton candy and caramel notes. Swirling produces deeper aromas; yeasty and bready notes. Overall still very sweet, slight bubble gum presence. Notes of apple juice. Smells of old barns and stables other aromas I cannot quite place. Slightly musky and dusty; almost like Orval has captured and bottled air from Belgian farmhouses...

The Taste: Very fizzy carbonation up front, quickly dissipates. The sourness rears its' head, pleasantly sweet, dry finish, very drinkable. Definitely tastes of straw, hay, yeast and bread as the aroma suggests. Sour bubblegum midway through. The body is light to medium. And it has a nice bite to it, and a slight lingering bitterness near the end and on the finish.

The Verdict: Overall a very drinkable brew. I like the slight sourness and slight bitterness. I have yet to try other Trappist Ales, but I would be interested in comparing this to others. I also feel I didn't give this a good review (my nose is slightly plugged, and I just burnt off all my tastebuds by eating french fries that were waaay too hot) so I think I should give this brew another shot and perhaps another review down the road at some point. Overall a fine selection and a great choice if you want to try something new and different :]

Thanks for reading!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Le Merle (The Blackbird) - North Coast Brewing Company

Hello hello! How has everyone been? I know it has been a long time since my last post, but sometimes life just gets in the way. For instance the rest of my life, like photography, painting, traveling, skiing, relaxing, working, sleeping, eating, and brewing my own beer. Sometimes it is just tough to find and keep things balanced. From here on out, I am going to make a more concerted effort to keep things in balance and make more attempts to post regularly on this blog. So stay tuned; I'm making a comeback. Now for the beer!

Today I am reviewing a new brewery: North Coast Brewing Company, out of Fort Bragg, California. When I made attempts to view their website, nothing happened. The page wouldn't load. So A: they either went out of business, or B: forgot to pay the bill to keep their website up and running. I'm kind of thinking it's probably the latter. In any case North Coast Brewing Co is responsible for producing widely known beers such as: Old Rasputin, PranQster, Brother Thelonius, and Red Seal Organic Ale. The brew I am reviewing tonight happens to be a belgian style ale by the name of Le Merle (The Blackbird) Belgian Style Farmhouse (Saison) Ale.

Saison just so happens to be a french word and it means: "Season." Traditionally these beers were produced in Flanders (thus the reason for a Belgian/French combo name on the style) and only seasonally during the summer. Present day we can find and enjoy them year round. Saison ales are usually very fruity with overall good clarity, and big white fluffy heads. They contain lots of spice and herbs to create complex aromas and flavors. They are highly carbonated and typically are light to medium bodied. They are also usually of mid to high alcohol content. And so, without further adieu (adieu, another french word :P ) lets get to the good stuff...

Name: Le Merle
Category/Style: Saison (Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale)
ABV: 7.9%
IBU: 24
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown

The Pour: Cloudy hazy dark yellow-orange. Head is off-white; initially fluffy, but quickly fades, and the result is little to no head retention. No lacing whatsoever.

The Nose: Nose is spicy. Bursts of citrus. Orange peel. Spices. Pineapple. Really sweet. Slight muskiness. Butterscotch. Bubblegum. Bready yeast. Makes me want to take a bite.

The Taste: Fizzy carb, quickly dissipates. Yeasty as it spreads over the palette. Spicy notes. Dulled out flavors I can't quite place. Almost makes your mouth water as it hits the back of the mouth. Light to medium body. Definitely sweet and bready; overall I'd say pretty dry. Notes of citrus, orange, pineapple. Slight warming effect on the back of the throat well after the fact...

The Verdict: Overall I would have to say I was slightly disappointed with this brew. I thought the aroma was much nicer than the actual flavor. However, the drinkability is high, surprising for an abv of 7.9%. The alcohol is barely detectable and the body was on the light to medium side. It was quite refreshing and would certainly make a nice summertime brew. I say your best bet to enjoy this one is in the shade on a hot summers day.

Thanks for reading!