Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Siebensternbräu Brauhaus: Austrian Brewpub

On a recent trip to Vienna, Austria I was once again on the hunt for delicious beer and after a short bit of research, the solution became clear: Siebensternbräu Brauhaus, located one block from my hotel and a short distance from one of the many Christmas markets Vienna is famous for. As the cold winter months descend upon much of the northern hemisphere, I was especially excited to sample the winter seasonal release and I was in luck as they were currently pouring their Weihnachtsbock.

The place was abuzz with lunchtime crowds and upon arrival we were greeted by a large, open floorplan, and a seemingly very modern brewing facility; nevermind the massive copper brewing vessels visible at various locations near the bar. The walls were adorned with beer memorabilia; both posters and a massive framed collection of old coasters.

The menu features classic Austrian favourites including weinerschnitzel and schweinbraten. The menu also features, soups, pasta, sausages, a few vegetarian options, and traditional desserts. I opted for the schweinbraten and wasn't disappointed with the large portion of roasted pork, sauerkraut and massive potato dumpling.

Moving along to the beers, it is an important thing to note here that while German is the language spoken in Austria and it doesn't take long to cross the border into Germany, Austria was never subjected to the strict set of laws outlined in the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. If you're unfamiliar with this, it was in 1516 when German authorities ordered that all beers must be brewed with only three ingredients: water, hops, and barley (they later amended the law to include yeast when it was discovered to be the magical organism responsible for fermentation). The offerings at 7Stern include beers you won't often find in Germany, and I was more than pleased with this. I ordered what I believed to be a sampler flight and wound up with eight .2 L mini-steins (in the photo it looks like I have eight half-liter steins). Before arriving to 7Stern I had researched the beers and was disappointed to find out they'd just run out of their Chilli beer. I was however, able to sample the rest of their beers, which ranged from their lighter Wiener helles, Prager dunkel, pale ale, IPA, hemp beer, marzen, Bamberger rauchbier, and their dark winter bock.

The lighter offerings were on par with their styles and presented crisp, light-bodied-easy-to-drink beers. The hemp beer was interesting and reminded me much of an American pale ale; a little sweet and spicy with a noticeable hop kick. One of the stand outs for me was the IPA (which screamed English-style). Perhaps I was just hard up for a nice hoppy bitter brew (and my palate was off) but I really enjoyed this one. Normally the English-style IPA is well-balanced and the hops are subdued by a complementary malty sweetness, but this one tended to feature more of the hops than other English-style IPA's I've had (perhaps we can chalk this up as a hybrid English/American-style IPA); my inner hop-head was more than pleased with this fact. The next beer to jump out at me was the Bamberger rauchbier. Now I do consider myself well-versed in the world of smoked biers and I would love to try this one side-by-side with the famous Aecht Schlenkerla because in my opinion the Schlenkerla rauchbier is over the top smoky and nothing comes close, but this one from 7stern comes close. I was pleasantly surprised with this fact and highly recommend this beer if you're in the market for a super smoky rauchbier punch in the face. The last beer which really grabbed my attention was the winter seasonal: Weihnachtsbock. Colorwise it was by far the darkest of the offerings (as it should be) and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. As German breweries traditionally release Doppelbocks during the winter months, I was expecting this beer to be similar in flavour. Typically they are high gravity, heavy-bodied, sticky malt bombs (not that this is a bad thing mind you) but my expectation was as such going into this. After the first few sips I was quite surprised to find that the beer was in fact lacking the higher-gravity of it's across-border German cousin: the Doppelbock. The beer was complex and featured a large amount of roasted malt flavour, something I had really been craving and been unable to satiate in the countries I'd travelled through prior to Austria. It reminded me of a slightly sweet porter and I really took my time to enjoy this one.

Should you find yourself in Vienna for the holiday's don't hesitate to stop in at Siebensternbräu Brauhaus, centrally located in the centre of the city, it makes for an excellent place to stop for a traditional Austrian lunch to fill up, warm up and take delicious drink; take your pick: light, dark, roasty, sweet, hoppy, or smoky, 7stern has you covered!

Thanks so much for reading and Happy Holidays from the Delicious Beer Blog!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Greek Craft Beer: Septem Pale Ale

Arriving to Greece, it would seem that the craft beer scene parallels that of its Italian counterpart just across the Adriatic Sea. Very much so in the sense that when you think of Greece, craft beer, let alone, good beer is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But the tide may be turning here in Greece. After visiting a couple of small wine shops (wine and Greece definitely go hand in hand) and speaking with their owners, it would seem that the craft beer scene is definitely alive here. There are a handful of small brewers creating interesting and delicious craft beers. After hearing about several different brewers, the selection laid out before me ranged from stouts, to IPA's, to honey ale's, light and dark lagers, as well as the always drinkable pale ale. In fact, the microbrewery Septem (the latin word for seven and the number of creation), brews a beer for every day of the week. It is from this brewer I was first able to get my feet wet in tasting Greek microbrews by tasting their pale ale (which is brewed specifically for Friday).

Two things about this beer caught my eye, one: the fact that Septem decided to hop this beer with Saaz and Nelson Sauvin (Saaz is the famous Bohemian noble hop and Nelson Sauvin is a relatively new hop coming from New Zealand contributing white grape and tropical fruit-like flavours). I think that fact reveals that Greek brewers are not behind in the brewing world by any means and people here in Greece have available beers similar to what we'd find in current U.S. markets. Secondly, the Septem brewmaster is a former winemaker who decided to take a leap of faith and try his hand at craft beer. A bold move if I do say so myself. And to be completely honest, this beer is really damn good (not to ruin anything of the upcoming review, but I thought you should know beforehand).

As far as other Greek craft beers go I've only just scratched the surface. I've sampled two brews from Septem, and I'm trying to procure a bottle of Crazy Donkey, a Greek IPA brewed in Santorini. From what I've read it's Greece's first IPA and it's pretty darn tasty. Now, onto the tasting notes!

Name: Septem Pale Ale
Category/Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.70%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Saaz & Nelson Sauvin
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 330 mL
Location Purchased: Wine Story, Athens, Greece

The Pour: Head is white and creamy. Good retention with moderate lacing. Color is clear golden yellow.

The Nose: Lots of Nelson Sauvin present here. It's got a slight spicy kick to it but loads of mango, passion fruit, pineapple and a little pear. As it warms the nose takes on a slight white wine character. Overall quite sweet and fruity.

The Taste: Bitterness is smooth and dispersed equally throughout the brew. Fruity, sweet and spicy initially. Midway through the flavour takes a turn towards the tropical. On the finish I'm getting some exotic fruits, a little pineapple, mellowed passion fruit and a little bitter citrus peel. Definite white wine notes distributed throughout. Carbonation is medium and hits up front. Bitterness is not in your face but noticeable. Body is medium, but it's quite crisp on the palate. This brew is definitely sessionable, I reckon I could definitely drink more than one. Simple adjectives to describe this brew: spicy, fruity, sweet, exotic, bitter.

The Verdict: As the beer warms up the flavours become more noticeable and I really enjoyed the last half of the glass. At 4.70% it's very drinkable. The complexity really astounded me; it's a real pleasure to drink. I like the tropical fruit overtones and light bitterness. The beer was very well-balanced and I reckon it would make for a good entry level beer for someone looking to get into the world of hops. For my first Greek craft beer I was pleased and would definitely love to try others. As far as distribution goes, I have no idea, but I don't reckon it will be available in the US (never hurts to ask your local bottle shop though). Keeping my fingers crossed I can get that bottle of IPA! Until next time, happy hunting, and Happy Turkey Day!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bulgarian Beer: Zagorka Reserva 2012

After nearly two months without a new post I'm back and where am I now? I'm in Bulgaria! Why the long hiatus? Probably because I really haven't had anything amazing to write about. As I've been heading further and further east it seems that the options for delicious beer are becoming lesser and lesser. The further east you go, the more often people are consuming the light bodied mass produced lagers. And frankly for someone like me, that stinks. But there must be something else. There has to be something other than light bodied light and dark lagers out there. So I headed to a supermarket in search of something to satiate my thirst for something darker, heavier, roastier, and far more robust than what I was drinking; enter: Zagorka 2012 Reserva. I thought I'd found just the thing when I read on the bottle: "Full-bodied winter brew with rich fruity flavour." Holding the plastic 1L bottle (yes that's right, plastic bottle) up to the light I couldn't see anything passing through. Satisfied with my discovery I took it with me. And so here we are.

A little background on Zagorka: it's based in Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria and it was founded in 1902. In the mid-1990's Zagorka was purchased by Heineken and has ever since been brewing and distributing Heineken brands inside Bulgaria. Aside from brewing American style pale adjunct lagers, they've released a few other "special" releases. Most namely, this 2012 Reserva, which as I found out later is a blueberry fruit beer. They've also released a German style dunkel and bock and something they call Fusion, which is beer blended with white grapes. Most people just drink the normal Zagorka pale lager. I think that's about it. Shall we taste some beer?

Name: Zagorka Reserva 2012
Category/Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 6.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Blueberries?????
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 1 Liter
Location Purchased: Penny Market, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria

The Pour: Head is off-white with slight brown, red, and purple hues. Against the light the beer is clear and dark purplish red. Looks kind of like red wine or some kind of soft drink. Head retention is minimal and lacing in non-existent.

The Nose: Overly sweet and fruity. Smells a bit cough syrup-like with a twinge of artificial berry thrown in. Nose is quite candy-like. Wondering if the beer will live up to its promise of being rich and full-bodied.

The Taste: With the first taste something seems a bit off. Not quite as sweet as I would have expected but the body is a bit thin and I'm left with the cough syrup medicinal taste in my mouth afterwards. Carbonation is medium and I do in fact taste blueberry but the balance doesn't seem quite right. This brew is definitely missing something.

The Verdict: Well I will say that this is the first time I've ever reviewed a beer coming out of a 1L plastic bottle (and hopefully the last). Something was definitely missing from this beer. I think it would benefit from a much more complex malt backbone, showcasing some darker roasted malts for balancing out the sweetness. This is the second blueberry beer I've had and this is the second failure. But when I was looking for a dark beer at the Penny Market in Stara Zagora this one caught my eye. The bottle is dark brown and when I attempted to shine light through it, none passed, so I made the assumption it was just a really dark beer. Couple that with: "Full-bodied winter brew with rich fruity flavour..." typed on the label and I was sold. Little did I know that the "fruity flavour" was what they were really focused on. In any case it was a nice attempt to deviate from the boring assortment of fizzy yellow mass-produced light lagers that everyone drinks here. Even the dark lagers are disappointing. So this was a welcome deviation from the norm. Would I buy it again? No way. Did it satiate my desire for a rich winter brew? Hardly. But to hear that this is the second year in a row they've sold this beer is interesting enough. Will people ever desire something other than the standard assortment of mass-produced lagers here in Bulgaria? Probably not. But Zagorka is offering something else. And that's a good sign. Who knows, maybe in 20 years the craft beer tidal wave will wash over all of eastern Europe? It's already in Prague, perhaps it's just a matter of time before it heads further east? I guess only time will tell.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Břevnovský Pivovar: A Czech Microbrew Revolution?

Prague, Czech Republic: The birthplace of Pilsner and a brewing tradition dating back hundreds of years. But while Czech Republic is world renowned for producing some of the best light beers in the world, can they possibly bear to part ways with tradition and start producing other newer styles? My first search for pubs offering more than one or two beers proved unfruitful. That is until I was introduced to the P.I.V. Alliance.

The P.I.V Alliance (loosely translated means: Smarter Options for Beer) is a collection of certified Czech pubs primarily, but not entirely, located in Prague and dedicated to serving customers a refreshing new selection of beers produced by microbreweries throughout the country. P.I.V. was founded in 2010 by five Prague publicans and has since grown to nine member pubs located throughout Czech Republic. In order to be included in the alliance, pubs must undergo a six-month trial period and meet strict guidelines. The existence alone of the alliance is suggestive of the desire for more variety within Czech beer culture.

After visiting one of the member pubs in Prague, Restaurace Kulový blesk, and examining their various offerings, it's obvious that brewers and customers alike are hungry for more flavours than traditional lighter beers can offer. I was thinking about this situation and how it parallels the situation in 1980's era USA when the craft beer revolution began gaining momentum. The significant difference, however, is that formal beer production has taken place in Czech Republic since the 12th century and probably many hundreds of years before that. The long-standing tradition of beer production was well-established 500 years before America was even a dream. When Pilsner came about in Bohemia in the late 19th century it took the world by storm and in a way, the country has never looked back. The small percentage of craft breweries here are fighting a 170 year-old battle against this very thing. But small brewers are still trying. And the options available at this pub ranged from American Style Pale Ales to Russian Imperial Stouts, a far cry from the dark and light lagers so readily available. It will be interesting to see how the general public takes to these options, and whether or not they'll take hold. Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of something huge: the craft beer revolution in Czech Republic. Only time will tell.

The beer I elected to try was a Russian Imperial Stout from a small brewery in Prague operating since 2011: Břevnovský Pivovar. The space in which they currently brew was originally used by monks to brew beer in the 18th century but production ceased in 1889. The newly renovated space allows for an annual production of 3,000 hL or about 2,500 barrels/year. In addition to offering traditional light and dark lagers, Břevnovský Pivovar produces an Imperial Pilsner, an IPA, and this Russian Imperial Stout. Břevnovský has also revealed they have a barrel-aging program, with several beers already on wood. The Russian Imperial Stout sits at a very strong 8.5% and is the strongest beer I've seen thus far on my travels through Czech Republic. A microbrewed Russian Imperial Stout from Czech Republic is something I couldn't pass up. On to the beer!

Name: Břevnovský Benedict Russian Imperial Stout
Category/Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.50%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Unknown
Bottled: 08.07.2012
Bottle Size: 330 mL
Location Purchased: Restaurace Kulový blesk, Prague, Czech Republic

The Pour: Jet black, not much light penetrating this beer. Head is dark brown/tan and thick and creamy. Retention is excellent and lacing is decent.

The Nose: Lots of dark fruit and heavily roasted malt. A bit astringent. A little salty. Old coffee, toffee, smoke and dark chocolate. A bit of brown sugar and cocoa powder. Smells like an IRS.

The Taste: A bit thin bodywise. At 8.5% the alcohol is not noticeable at all. Definitely dominated by the roasty smoky malts. Flavour is a little bittersweet, a little salty, a hint of sweet toffee. A bit bready as well. A little spice in there. It's quite light on the palate, and the carbonation is low. As it warms the alcohol becomes more noticeable and I can detect some warming on the back of my throat. Finish is a lingering roasted bitterness.

The Verdict: Quite impressed actually. Finding something other than a light-bodied dark lager has proven difficult but it seems there is an underground culture of beer geeks in existence in Prague. In addition to bottled beers from Czech microbreweries, I saw bottles from Germany and Holland (more specifically from: Brouwerij de Molen) at pubs and bottle shops. The flavours in this beer were spot on for the style and was surprisingly easy to drink. After visiting their website and finding out they're brewing an IPA I might have to pop in and have a taste. If you're coming to Prague and tire of the standard smattering of light lagers, go to the P.I.V. Alliance website and seek out the five pubs located within the city. Their selection will not disappoint. Hopefully this is a small preview of things to come here in a beer culture dominated by light beers, cheers!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Cascade Brewing - 2009 Sang Royal

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of sharing a bottle of the 2009 vintage Sang Royal from Cascade Brewing. This is not my first Cascade experience. I've had several to be exact (go here and read about another Cascade experience), and knowing firsthand they produce amazing sour ales, I knew this one would be a real treat.

This beer is another prime example of the current barrel ageing craze currently taking place in the US. Most wild/sour ales are attempting to emulate the original versions traditionally produced in Belgium. But most modern brewers and blenders have been taking these styles to all new heights. Experimentation runs rampant and brewers are now experimenting with various fruits such as blueberries, apricots, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches and various grape varieties. In addition to experimentation with different fruits we are seeing experimentation in the various wooden vessels brewers use for ageing. These range from charred oak bourbon barrels, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, rum, whiskey, gin and even Port barrels. Indeed it is an interesting age for beer. Brewers are pushing the limits of what we thought possible and we consumers are grateful.

As for this beer in particular, the description tells us that it is an "ale made with various red ales that were aged in oak with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, then blended with red ales that were aged in Port and Pinot Noir barrels." Sounds mildly interesting ;) In any case, it comes in at a burly 9.345% and will almost certainly have any lover of sour ales feeling light-headed and weak in the knees. The only other bit of information that you might possibly want to know is where this place is located, and that my friend is in the beer mecca of Portland, Oregon. Cascade Barrel House is entirely separate from the Raccoon Lodge (the brewing facility) located just south and west of Portland in the Hillsdale/Beaverton area. Don't look now but they will actually ship their beer directly to your door (I've done it before). Their barrel house website can be found here and a link to the Raccoon Lodge site can be found here. Now, onto the tasting!

Name: Sang Royal 2009
Category/Style: American Sour/Wild Ale
ABV: 9.345%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast/Bacteria Type: Lactobacillus
Special Additives: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 750 mL
Location Purchased: Unknown

The Pour: Dark rusty red, mahogany around the edges. Head is cream coloured, decent retention, decent lacing.

The Nose: Sour fruit, cherry, oak, wood, vanilla, vinegar, very vinous. Red wine, funk, astringent; it smells incredible! Bright and sour! I wish I could bottle the aroma!

The Taste: Sour on the very tip of the tongue, lots of funk and sourness spreading out as the flavours work their way along the tastebuds. A bit bitter (perhaps from the grape peels as my friend suggested), definitely woody and oaky, lots of juicy red fruit and a hint of dark dried fruit, figs perhaps? Tart and bright, delicious and lots of astrigency. Super tart and finishes very dry. Leaves you wanting more.

The Verdict: This is definitely one of the top 20 beers I've ever tasted. There is just something incredibly delicious and satisfying about a well-made sour beer. These are true sippers and must be enjoyed at a slow pace; to think of drinking them any other way is absurd. There are very few other beer styles that would even come close to matching the complexity of these beers. It is literally layer upon layer of flavour and each sip reveals something new. In my experience, these beers are in the upper tier of the beer world and literally redefines what it means to enjoy a beer. One can simply drink a beer, but to find a beer that during consumption literally wills you to involve all of your senses is something else entirely. This is really what we're all after. Anyhow, the beer can be purchased at the Barrel House in Portland or online, I'm not sure how my buddy came into possession of his but go do yourself a favour and find a way to acquire a bottle! Cheers!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brewery Review: Goodlife Brewing Company

On a recent trip to Bend, Oregon I had the privilege of stopping in at one of the up and coming beer spots in the beer Mecca: Goodlife Brewing Company. After spending just a short time there, it wasn't difficult to see why the line was nearly out the door and there wasn't an empty table to be had. The beer is brewed with skill and ingenuity; it's evident in the unique assortment of aromas and flavours. I had the privilege of watching Jeff Schauland, one of the brewers, in action. We spoke intermittently between his brewing duties and he explained that the demand for the beer is high and they often have difficulty keeping up with supply for the brewpub.

Left: Dry Hop Pale Right: 29'er India Brown Ale Back: Descender IPA
The range of brews available to me during my visit included the Mountain Rescue Dry Hop Pale, the Sweet As Pacific Ale, the 29'er India Brown Ale, Descender IPA, and the Comatose Imperial IPA. My favourite from the lot was the 29'er IBA, which to me presented the most unique assortment of flavours and aromas.
To say the aroma and flavours found within this beer is complex is an understatement. Your palate will be treated to three distinctly different flavours. On the nose one might assume you've a roasty brown ale sitting before you. But on the initial taste you soon discover that in fact it's not a brown ale at all but something else entirely; the roasty coffee, bitter chocolate notes rear their heads at this time and you're left grasping for an explanation. But just when you think it could not get any better the subtle hop bitterness shows up and it ends with an exceptionally hop-centric finish. At 40 IBU the hops won't blow your palate away, which is nice as it definitely leaves room for other flavours and aromas. This beer is so well balanced and complex it's ridiculous. It's a highly delicious, drinkable and a stand-out example of the India Brown Ale style.

Another example of Goodlife's ingenuity is their Sweet As Pacific Ale which is their single hop summer release. As the name suggests, the hop type is Pacifica and it's the low alpha acid content of this variety that makes it ideal for use as an aroma hop. The Pacifica is a cross breed of Hallertauer Mittlefrüh (the German Noble hop variety). It would also seem that the popularity and usage of New Zealand hop varieties in many american craft beers has led to a bit of a NZ hop craze. Many of these new hop types lend flavours not previously found and has really opened the door for more unique brews. In this case, the Pacifica hop lends tropical flavours (like passion fruit) and notes of citrus to beer. And in this case, the super low IBU suggests that the majority of this flavour will be subtle. Indeed, initially looking at the brew one might assume you've been poured a standard unfiltered wheat beer. But breathe deep and you will soon discover something else entirely. The aroma is not one commonly found. And the flavour is light, crisp, and refreshing; three very good qualities for a summer seasonal.

The 30 barrel, 4-vessel brew system
Having a tour through the facility I noticed there was a lot of empty space. Goodlife brewing has only just begun getting their feet wet within the brewing world, just having opened in 2011 they've grown quickly and their space allows for a bright future. It seems that growth is definitely on the horizon for this brewery, and for good reason too. In addition to beer, they offer food from a menu inspired by the Bavarian Brauhaus and beyond. Fresh grub and fresh beer; you really can't go wrong there. Next time you're in Bend, make sure you stop in at Goodlife Brewing, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Verdi Imperial Stout - Stout Brewed With Hot Chili

Trying to get back on the beer blogging bandwagon, I am serving up another Italian beer review. The purchase was impulsive and the "stout brewed with hot chili" typed on the label is what piqued my curiosity. Couple that with the fact that it was the only bottle I could find in the entire store, plus the label being extremely faded and worn made for a good enough reason to buy. In my mind the bottle had travelled a great distance before arriving here. Next thing I know I'm at the register, paying for it.

Verdi Imperial Stout was so named for renowned Italian Opera Composer: Giuseppe Verdi who grew up near the present day location of Birrificio Del Ducato in Le Roncale in North Central Italy. Continuing with the sampling of Italian beers it would seem that I've encountered some very excellent beers. And the scene there continues to explode and I wonder if it's not just a matter of time before the local populations catch onto the fact that they've copious amounts of delicious craft beer within the borders of their country. The Italian craft beer industry has garnered mass attention worldwide, but mostly due to the exportation of their products. Travelling through the country the price of beer is not cheap by any means (especially when compared to that of local wines). I wonder if this more than anything has been a major reason for the lack of interest. Who knows? But there is in fact good beer coming out of Italy. And if you're lucky enough to have a local market or bottle shop selling some of the goods, then drink up my friend. Alright, I'll keep this entry short. Onto the Imperial Chili Stout!

Name: Verdi Imperial Stout
Category/Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.20%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Chili Peppers
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 330 mL
Location Purchased: Di Laurenti, Seattle, Wa, USA

The Pour: Head is nice, dark, creamy and tan. Colour is wide and ranging; can see traces of reddish hues at the edges but it mostly looks to be dark chestnut brown. Retention is decent. Some lacing.

The Nose: Wow. This nose knocked me back. The aroma has a definite saltiness about it. I'm getting hints of worcestshire sauce and a definite smokey edge which lends an almost barbecue-sauce like characterstic to the aroma. There is a definite cocoa powder note and something else, almost piquant (quite possibly the peppers). Swirling the bowl of the snifter a heavy malt backbone rears its head and I'm also detecting a noticeable mustiness. A sharp spicy bite is detectable; it kind of reminds me of a dark chocolate with chili bar. I'm hoping the taste is on par with the nose...

The Taste: Incredibly dark roasted flavours present themselves from the get-go and there is a very noticeable spicyness on the tongue throughout the first sip. Initially the flavours and aroma pack a wallop on the palate while simultaneously travelling into your nose but those flavours only linger ever so slightly and it finishes with light notes of cocoa and a spicy warmth trickling down your throat. Carbonation is light and the body is medium. The maximum punch of spicy chili peppers peaks midway through and it lingers just on the tip of your tongue. A smokiness works its way to the forefront right at this point and you're left with the perfect amount of spicy and smokey. It really is a very nice beer. Incredibly well-balanced for such a strong, malty, rich brew and the flavour is only slightly salty. It is quite on par with the nose, which I am more than happy about.

The Verdict: I feel like I could drink a lot of this beer and I'm already disappointed I don't have more than this one bottle. The aroma is intoxicating and I feel this beer is more than an ideal pairing for chocolate and thick cuts of steak. The flavours in the beer would definitely hold up well. I've had a handful of chili pepper beers but rarely do they strike as fine a balance as this. The chocolate, roasty and smokey flavours balance perfectly well with the heat from the chili peppers. I'm not sure what else I can say about this beer. It is a prime example of a well-brewed beer. If you love Imperial Stouts, chocolate, chili peppers, or any combination of the aforementioned items don't hesitate to seek out a bottle for yourself. Availability-wise I have no idea. I bought this particular bottle from Di Laurenti at Pike Place Market in Seattle (an Italian specialty store). I spent $11 but it was worth every penny. This is just another prime example of why Italy has been labelled as one of the lesser known premier beer destinations in the world.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fuller's: Griffin Brewery

The journey to Fuller's Griffin Brewery has been a long one indeed. Not sure exactly when it began, but I've been drinking their beers for quite a long time and fell hard for their 2005 Vintage Ale after tasting it last year. Indeed, it was the perfect example of English beer in my mind and has remained so ever since. Fuller's has been in business for the better part of 350 years and they have been brewing at the current location for well over 150 years. Fuller's has undoubtedly grown into a commercial brewing enterprise and their beers can be found all-over the world, but this by no means dulls down the quality of their brews. I have come to appreciate a good many of them, but to find the more rare Fuller's brews one must hunt or in my case, journey to the brewery itself to find the prize of their selection: The Vintage Ale.

I tried my best to arrive at the brewery by 11 am but was unsuccessful in my bid to shoot across from North London to Southwest London in under an hour. Sprinting out of the tube stop at Stamford Brook in the grey morning drizzle, it was already half past 11. As in most cases, I could smell the working brewery before seeing it, as I always say: "All you have to do is follow your nose when there is a brewery in the vicinity." And follow it I did. Next thing I know I'm in the bottle shop perusing the selection. I found what I'd come for: The Vintage Ale. They were well-stocked with bottles from '99 to '11. For some odd reason picking up three individual bottles seemed like a good idea. I had no plan for how I'd get them home, but knew I'd figure out a way. They're here at my house, so indeed it all worked out: 1999, 2004, and 2009 all in their own personalized boxes. For the rest of the day I would be wandering around London, through tube stops, restaurants and city streets with a box full of beer; alas, the things we beer lovers do for the love of beer.

My plan was to take a Vintage Ale tour. It would cost an extra £5 from the normal tour price of £10 but I didn't make it in enough time and only had about 30 minutes to spare. I was the lone patron inside Mawson Arms (the attached and official pub of the Griffin Brewery) at 11:30. I grabbed a quick pint of Discovery Ale (their hoppy blonde ale) and snapped intermittent photos between sips. Some beers you might have seen in stores from Fuller's: 1845, London Pride, ESB, and London Porter. They brew many others, IPA's to Golden Ales, Strong Ales and Stouts, don't hesitate to pick one up. The 1845 Celebration Ale is another of my favourites. In any case, I may have missed the tour but that only gives me a reason to return. Drinking a pint of cask-aged English Ale at The Pub at Griffin Brewery on a rainy day in London, well, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cascade Barrel House: A Happenstance Tour

And so somehow it happened: I was caught unprepared for a truly amazing beer experience. Although now, looking back on it, perhaps it is best that I did not have my camera on hand for this. Instead, I was able to become completely absorbed in the experience. And I must say, it came absurdly fast, literally one after another. Despite this being a relatively photo-less post, I felt the need to write about it. First, let me take a step back and tell you when, where and what exactly I am talking about.

The when is simple: a mere two nights ago, Tuesday, the 6th of March 2012, in Portland, Oregon at the Cascade Brewing Barrel House. I suppose I had forgotten how close Portland was to Seattle, how much amazing beer there was in Portland, and how lucky I am to be living in such close proximity. I suppose it is similar to living in Amsterdam and never visiting Brussels (or Flanders for that matter) to experience the vast array of world class beer from the region. There are some 80+ breweries in the Portland Metro area and I have never made the trek south to experience them. Unfortunately I was only allowed one day for beer tasting, but my decision was quick and easy: the Cascade Barrel House. The Cascade Barrel House is the showcase for Cascade Brewing. It's where they do all of their souring, blending, and barrel-aging. Why Cascade? Fair question. There are plenty of other amazing Portland brewers but what drew me to Cascade ultimately is my love for sours. I had previously sampled their Kriek, Apricot, and Razberry Wheat and from these brews I was able to draw my conclusion: they brew great beer.

Taking a seat at the bar top, I was presented with a long list of interesting brews. Some were not sours, in fact Cascade brews many non-barrel aged brews. But let's face it, I was there for one reason and one reason only, so I dove right in and started with tasters of their live cask ales. The first: the Blueberry Bourbonic which sits at 11% abv. A blueberry sour aged in Bourbon barrels. Basically their Bourbonic Plague brew with blueberries. The second: L'agent Orange which was 10.78%. Off-hand I can't remember the exact specifications but I do remember it had a fair amount of fresh orange zest and it was aged in Makers Mark barrels for 16 months. Both of these brews were quite strong and super complex, but I was opting for something less burly and more lip-puckeringly sour. So I moved on and began reading the descriptions of all the various beers. I tried the 2011 Sang Noir. Then the Razberry Wheat. It was only at the end of my tasting experience that I realized what I should have been drinking all along: Pater and Noyeaux (tasting notes and details to come later in the post).

It was at this time my friends and I found ourselves poised in an excellent position to witness the tapping of Cascade's latest live ale, a cherry gose from 2011. If you have never been fortunate enough to witness the tapping of a cask (I have a video at the bottom, albeit horrible quality, but you will be able to see what happens when you attempt to drive a tap handle into something highly pressurized) you should inquire at your local brewpub and find out about cask nights. Many brewpubs will have these weekly. As we're waiting, we're watching them cover the bar with plastic, should anything go awry. Finally the time comes, and the countdown begins: 1, 2, 3! And the first swing of the hammer goes down, first to a nice explosion of cherry gose, and then a second time which sends a wide arc of beer into the air, covering everything within a 15 foot radius. The crowd cheered with delight, myself included. It was a really fun experience. And of course I had to have a sample of the beer that I was myself wearing. Out of curiosity, I asked the bartender who had done the honour of the tapping and he promptly informed me that it was the brewmaster and blender: Ron Gansberg and his brother Jeff. As we prepared to leave I noticed both were sitting behind us. I walked up and congratulated Ron and Jeff on a wonderful tap job. Conversation ensues, I find out it's Jeffs Birthday and the next thing I know, I'm being invited back to the barrel room for a tour and group tasting. This is where the experience takes a turn from great to incredible. The only requirement was our need to have safety glasses (and not the eye protection, the kind you drink out of). Rons humour was apparent throughout the duration of the tour.

The excitement builds as we proceed through the doors to the barrel room. The smell of wooden cask is thick in the air. If I remember correctly, Ron said there were roughly 600 barrels in the room. Also newly installed was their massive stainless steel holding tank. Full of Sang Noir waiting to be bottled. My apologies, but the details of the next hour are hazy at best. It was a lightning fast tour and I can't recall how many beers we were able to sample. But it was a true rollercoaster ride. The two standouts (if it's even possible to pick just two) was the Pater and the Noyeaux. The Pater is aged for 12 - 18 months on oak and cherries. The flavours of this brew blew my mind. It had the proper vinegar-like acidic edge I have come to know and love from the traditional Flemish reds and browns. But also had the sweet tartness and funky barrel-aged characteristics expected from this style. This was probably my favourite beer out of the lot. The Noyeaux is a blend of Belgian style strong blonde ales. The first has been sitting in white port barrels and aged on raspberries. The second portion has been sitting on the meat from the apricot seed (the Noyeaux). These two portions are blended together and what you are left with is something truly wonderful. The aroma will send you into a state of euphoria. The noyeaux lends an incredibly sweet almond-like aroma (you can experience a similar aroma by drinking Amaretto, a liqueur which takes its flavour from the same source). The nose is incredibly misleading. As you breathe deep, your senses are tempted to lead you into thinking you'll be enjoying something sweet and decadent. Instead, as you take your first sip, you are dealt a full-on-all-palate-encompassing-sourness that I have come to know and love. An incredible brew.

Cascade utilizes blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, currants and cherries (probably more) and will frequently use things like ginger, orange zest, noyeaux, cinnamon, nutmeg, and various other things to flavour their beer further. They will age beer in port, pinot noir, chardonnay, whiskey and bourbon barrels. And the genius behind all of this is Ron Gansberg. To see him at work and his mind running at a million miles an hour is an incredible thing; always stroking his beard, he runs from barrel to barrel with pliers in hand knowing exactly which one was where and at which state the beer inside was in. How he knows all of this is astounding. It is obvious he is passionate about what he does. The best way to enjoy is to hold on for dear life. It's amazing to be running through the barrel room drinking beer from Cascade Brewing with the blender and genius himself. I would equate it to sitting down to dinner with Wolfgang Puck or some other famous chef at his own restaurant. Like the world of cuisine, beer production and more importantly, barrel-aging is an art. And to have the creator guiding you through the entire experience is incredible. I was definitely an evening of sensory overload! Each sequential combination was so different, and so complex it was mind boggling. At the end of the tour, I found myself with Ron and a couple from California who was in Oregon for their 1 year anniversary. We were able to slow down a bit and just talk beer. It was a truly amazing evening and I honestly can't thank Ron enough. Oh and I might need to get back down to Portland ASAP! Thanks so much to everyone at Cascade Barrel House and especially Ron Gansberg for the incredible tour and tasting. Photo credits go to Justin Moulton.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rogue Ales - Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale

The first thing to note about this beer is that the name: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale and the logo, is taken straight from Voodoo Doughnut, a doughnut shop hailing from Portland, Oregon. They actually created a Bacon Maple Doughnut: the Bacon Maple Bar, sound crazy? How about a beer modelled after the doughnut? Sound even crazier? Well as is already apparent, it has been done. And the brewery responsible: Rogue Ales from Newport, Oregon. Looking back through my previous entries, it would seem that I have yet to review any beer from Rogue, and quite frankly I don't understand why. I can attribute my first "delicious beer" experiences to the Issaquah Brewhouse (owned by Rogue) back when I first started drinking higher quality brews. Since then I have been continually returning because quite simply, they brew good beer. I could rattle off the list of brewing accolades they've received over the years but instead I'll just list a few of my favourite Rogue beers. This includes: Chatoe Dirtoir (Black Lager), Mogul Madness (Winter Seasonal), Captain Sigs Northwestern Ale, Shakespeare Stout, Contraband IPA, and their I2PA. They started brewing back in 1988 and have since become one of the biggest names in the beer industry. In fact, you can find Rogue Ales in 50 States.

In addition to the production of beer, Rogue has expanded their repertoire into the production of spirits. They operate a distillery in which they produce their own Rum, Gin, and Whiskey. They also frequently age their beers in their own liquor barrels. These beers are part of the: John John Ale series. John John refers to the Rogue brewmaster: John Maier and the Rogue master distiller: John Couchot. Even more recently, Rogue has continued to expand their brand by introducing the Rogue Farms Micro Hopyard located in Independence, Oregon. There they operate a 42-acre site upon which they grow seven different aroma hop varieties. And in addition to growing their own hops, they also grow their own barley, which they then malt and use to produce beers featured in the Chatoe Rogue series (a series brewed with ingredients produced entirely on Rogue Farms). This year alone Rogue will brew over 30 different beers; selection and quality is what draws me back.

Now focusing more on the beer at hand tonight: the Bacon Maple Ale. It was in fact brewed in collaboration with Voodoo Doughnut. After looking into the beer, it would seem they had originally planned to use a porter for their base brew, but then decided to opt for the less dominant flavours of a brown ale. After reading the ingredients listed on the side of the bottle I knew I'd be in for a truly smoky surprise. Just how much maple and how much bacon we were in for still remained a mystery, but I knew I'd soon be finding out. So let's get on with the review...

Name: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale
Category/Style: Smoked Brown Ale
ABV: 5.60%
IBU: 30
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt, Weyermann Beechwood Smoked Malt, House-Smoked Hickory Malt, Great Western 2-Row, Munich, C15, C75
Hop Type(s): Perle & Sterling
Yeast Type: Pacman Yeast
Special Additives: Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Pure Maple Flavouring
Bottled: Fall 2011
Bottle Size: 750 mL
Location Purchased: Rogue Ales: Issaquah Brewhouse, Issaquah, Washington, USA

The Pour: Pours a murky golden orange; coppery rusty hues. Head is off-white and creamy. A little retention but not much lacing at all.

The Nose: Dominated by smokey maple. Nice sweet caramel notes. A little toffee character. The meaty beechwood smoke is there as well. Lots of meaty undertones on this one. Smells incredibly sweet, like straight maple syrup on pancakes with a side of smoked meat; is someone cooking breakfast?

The Taste: Flavour is a little malty. Lots of wood and smoke. Maple is all strewn throughout this one, but it's more like the imitation maple kind. I'd also say it's a bit buttery. Carbonation hits up front, but overall rather low on the carb. Body is light to medium. A maple-y residual sweetness lingers in the mouth. Hints of dry smoked meat. A definite campfire aspect to it. A little bitterness at the very end. The finish is definitely dry. Tastes like a liquid form of breakfast...

The Verdict: This is the second time I've had this beer. The first time was because someone else tried it and didn't like it (if that's any indication). The few people I've discussed this beer with have either liked it or thought it was just too far out there for their tastes. I for one rather enjoy the crazy flavour combo. When you crack the bottle you immediately liken the aroma to that of freshly cooked breakfast, whether that be in your own home or at IHOP, the striking smoky, meaty aroma, and maple syrup, will pique your curiosity and conjure images of the breakfast table. Flavourwise I didn't find too much bacon hidden in the depths and layer upon layer of smokiness lent to it by the three types of smoked malt used. The beechwood smoked malt stood out the most, but perhaps that's simply because I've had many other beers that have utilized the same kind. It is definitely meaty, but not necessarily in the bacon-y sense. It is definitely sweet and maple-y but not sticky or overly so. As expected, the smoke and maple are the dominant flavours. Just be careful not to get the beer on your hands, otherwise you'll be smelling like maple for quite some time. Noting that this is in fact a smoked ale and there is maple present in the beer, I'd say that this beer definitely presents us with a smoky maple flavoured beverage. On the other hand, if you're hoping to crack the bottle open and drink liquid bacon then you will be sorely disappointed. Fact of the matter is, brewing a beer with full-on bacon flavour may never be possible and we have the high fat content of bacon to thank for that. If you are however, into trying something far from the norm, or just like smoked ales and want to try something different, then this is probably the beer for you. If you're simply curious because the bottle is pink and you like pink things, then this beer is probably not for you. I also would not recommend this beer for people who might be wanting to sample their first smoked ale. Even friends who enjoy smoked ales did not enjoy this. So tread lightly with this beer and bear in mind it just might be worth it to have a friend around just in case you don't enjoy it as much as you first thought. I found this beer at the Issaquah Brewhouse available for purchase on a bottle-by-bottle basis, so if you've been hearing rumors about it only being available by the case, this not true (at least for this location). If you live near Issaquah, you're in luck! Happy hunting ;]

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nils Oscar Julöl - Vintage 2007 - Swedish Christmas Beer

Hey guys, I'm back (finally!) and just about two weeks from my last post. I really have been feeling the need to post more regularly and as we say goodbye to the first month of the new year, I've a mere two posts under my belt. Let's say that I'll make it my resolution to post more frequently. I would love to post once a week so I'll see what I can do about that. In any case, the review I am bringing to you tonight is a real treat. I plucked this bottle of Swedish borne beer from the shelves of the bottle shop of Brouwerij de Molen, in Bodegraven, Netherlands during my visit this past spring. It was the first time I'd seen available Swedish beer of any kind and knew immediately that I'd have to purchase a bottle. And so the story goes...I've had it in my possession for right around nine months and I'm well inside the drink by date of November of 2014. As I usually do, I've conducted a bit of research into the unheard of beer style of Julöl and found out some interesting facts...

Julöl is strictly a seasonally brewed beer. When translated, the word actually means: Christmas Beer. It is released in November/December in Sweden and is usually consumed on or near Christmas Day. Looking more into the Julöl style, it would seem that pinpointing an exact flavour profile is nearly impossible. I'd say one might be able to equate it to asking your bartender to define the term: winter warmer, and consequently for them to provide you a typical flavour profile. A winter warmer is surely an ambiguous case flavour-wise, but what defines it is the fact that it is usually a bit darker, stronger, and released and consumed in the winter months. I've seen Julöl beers placed in a wide range of categories, from Vienna Lagers, Dark Lagers, Belgian Style Dark Ales, and even English Style Strong Ales. This one in particular just so happens to be from the Nils Oscar Bryggeri and it also happens to be a Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale (what a mouthful!). Just like many other styles of beer on the market today, Nils Oscar Bryggeri will release a new one each year, printing on the side of the bottle, the vintage. The one in my possession just so happens to be of the 2007 variety. The specific recipe for the '07 vintage is retired but Nils Oscar continues to release a new vintage each year, and changing the recipe as they do.

Nils Oscar Bryggeri is located about 100 km south of Stockholm in Nyköping. It was founded in 1996 and has since moved locations several times. To this date this is the one and only Swedish brewed beer I have ever consumed. So I am super excited to crack this guy open and have a taste to see what I've been sitting on. Onto the tasting notes!

Name: Julöl
Category/Style: Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 8.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Six different varieties
Hop Type(s): Amarillo, Saaz, Pacific Gem and Cascade
Yeast Type: Belgian
Special Additives: None
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Brouwerij de Molen Bottleshop, Bodegraven, Netherlands

The Pour: Dark chestnut brown, reddish dark copper hue. Head is light cream colored, dissipates quickly to a ring around the edge. Lacing is non-existent.

The Nose: Wow. To say malt forward here would be an understatement! Massive amount of malt up front. Syrupy caramelly toasty and nutty, full-on sweetness on the nose! Heaps of dark fruit, lots of dried fig and raisin; very vinous. Very slight roasted coffee character in the back, some chocolate notes as well. It's very port-like and there's a detectable amount of spice, definitely some cinnamon there, a little bready pumpernickel character as well. Smells well-aged; a little dusty/musty, it is from 2007 after all. Oh man, this smells amazing! I have to go in for a taste...

The Taste: Carb is low to medium. Not as sweet as one might expect. Lots of other things going on in there. Initially it has a very sharp bite, almost astrigent as the other flavours attempt to vie for control over the palate. It is malty sweet, a little toast and spice. Body is a little watery initially but the caramel, dark roasted coffee and pumpernickel swoop in near the end and make this one a real pleasure to drink. A little sweetness and roasted bitterness on the finish. Maybe a very slight trace of smoke? The alcohol only shows up near the very end when a little bit trickles up into your nose and you can feel a hint of warmth on the back of the throat. Despite the fact that this one is a bit thin body-wise, the complexity was astounding.

The Verdict: Aroma-wise I was amazed when I took my first whiff. It reminds me so much of high quality English Old Ales (most namely the Fullers Vintage I recently reviewed) as well as the hefty German Doppelbocks. It's almost like some sort of hybrid of the two, so titled Julöl (Christmas Beer). These Julöl are only available in Sweden during the month of December, but it's no shock why this was found sitting on the shelf of the bottle shop of Brouwerij de Molen, it's incredibly complex and not to mention, delicious. It combines the bready, malty sweetness of a Doppelbock with the dark fruit characteristics of the Old Style Ales and the roasty, toasty and chocolate characteristics of a Porter to create one heck of a brew. Like I said, a bit thin body-wise, but it more than makes up for it with the rest of the flavours you will be attempting to pick out while you work your way through the bottle. Don't forget that it's 8.00%! It is the perfect thing to consume with a friend or loved one on a winters night by the fire. As for availability I have no idea. I bought this bottle all the way over in the Netherlands in April and it has survived the long trek with me back to Seattle. If you're looking for a winter warmer, nice holiday brew, or just something different, Nils Oscar Julöl is the answer. Look it up, find it, buy it, drink it and enjoy it, you will not be disappointed.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Stone Brewing Company: 11.11.11

After nearly a month in hibernation, I am back with another Stone release. This time I am sampling a bottle from their annual Vertical Epic Ale Series which was released on 11.11.11 this year. This is the fourth beer from Stone I've reviewed on my blog and was rather excited when I heard this brew would contain cinnamon and Anaheim Chilies. But before we get into the details of this beer, let me back track quickly to provide you with some basic background on the Vertical Epic Ale Series...

Stone released the first beer of the series on Feburary 2nd, 2002, and every year they release a brand spankin new brew exactly one year and one month from the last (ie 03.03.03, 04.04.04, etc etc). Each beer is designed, as stated on each bottle: "to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012." The series will be continued until 12.12.12 when production will cease and all previously brewed beers are to be sampled in one vertically epic tasting. Since I have only just caught on to the collection of beers, I've only the 10.10.10 and 11.11.11 in my possession, but I am sure there are plenty of collectors out there who will have all 12 in their possession. It would be one heck of a tasting to try each one to see how the flavours have developed over the years.

For 2011, the 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale started life as an amber hued, Belgian Strong Pale Ale fermented with Flanders Golden Ale yeast, which imparts some lovely characteristics of its own: a little banana and clove anyone? The brewers then added Anaheim Chilies and whole cinnamon sticks for an added twist. Sitting at 9.40% this brew is indeed a force to be reckoned with, and a tasty one at that. Speaking of which, shall we move on to the tasting notes?

Name: Vertical Epic Ale 11.11.11
Category/Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 9.40%
IBU: 65
OG: 20.5°P
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Pale, Crystal, Munich, CaraBohemian and Special B
Hop Type(s): Warrior, Target, Perle and Pacific Jade
Yeast Type: Belgian Flanders Golden Ale
Special Additives: Anaheim Chilies & cinnamon sticks
Bottled: 27th of October, 2011
Bottle Size: 22 oz
Location Purchased: PCC, Issaquah, WA, USA

The Pour: Very dark copper, deep amber-orange. Head is off-white, slight light yellow hue to it. Head retention is good, lacing is virtually non-existent.

The Nose: Banana, clove and alcohol strike me first. Swirling and wafting deeper reveals the green chili and I notice something slightly spicy, probably the cinnamon. Malty sweet, a little caramel, a little toastiness. Belgian yeast notes are detectable: little bubblegum, bread and yeast. Perhaps a little citrus way in the back...

The Taste: Spicy. Green chilies and clove. A little banana. It is caramely sweet. The cinnamon is a bit difficult to discern. A little citrus? Medium to full-bodied, carbonation is medium. I'm detecting a moderate bitterness. Noticeably dry finish with a nice amount of lingering bitterness. The flavour is almost exactly on par with the nose.

The Verdict: This brew earns points for being unique. A cinnamon chili beer, who would have thought? The usage of the Belgian yeast strain also added a level of complexity and what we end up with a spicy mix of cinnamon and clove and green chili and banana. The beer was in no way dominated by any one flavour. I thought I had to work rather hard to pick out the cinnamon. Serving temperature was not cold by any means so we can rule out subdued flavours due to that. I was actually hoping for a bit more cinnamon but that's really the only thing I was disappointed with. It's well-balanced, a little citrusy hop character and quite drinkable for being 9.40%. It will be interesting to see how the flavours of this one develop in a years time, good thing I picked up two ;] As for availability, I'm not certain whether you're likely to find these at your local supermarket. Places like Whole Foods or other Organic/Specialty markets may still have some but otherwise your best bet will probably be at your local specialty bottleshop. Happy hunting!

Thanks for reading!