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!