Friday, November 7, 2014

Ballast Point Brewing Company: Indra Kunindra

Hello there guys, I do apologize for forgetting about you for two or three months. But the truth is, I never forgot about you! The plan to write a new entry has been floating around in my head for a long while now and I'm just now getting around to it. Anyway! The beer I'll be reviewing may or may not still be available on the market but I had to post it either way. I really appreciated the complexity of this very well-balanced and intriguing brew. It is none other than: Indra Kunindra from Ballast Point Brewing Company.

If you've never heard of this brew before that's highly unfortunate. It's a limited edition, limited release kind of beer and I'm not even sure if they will ever brew more. What's so interesting about this beer you might be asking yourself? It's an Export Stout spiced post-fermentation with Madras Curry, Cumin, Cayenne, Coconut, and Kaffir Lime Leaf! Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking exactly what everyone is thinking: It'll just be another over the top spice beer, especially with all those crazy strong flavours competing with one another! And what I say to that is: nope, think again, and don't judge before you've had a taste (which may or may not be possible now, ha!).

The backstory on Indra Kunindra goes as follows: this Export Stout was a collaboration with award-winning homebrewer Alex Tweet. And by collaboration I mean that the beer was one that he himself crafted and it was brewed full-scale on the Ballast Point premises. Another question some of you may be asking yourself right now: Export Stout? What the heck is that? Good question. Export Stout or Foreign Export Stout as it is sometimes known, is simply a more stout version of modern day stouts. Historically, it was brewed at higher gravities primarily for export to the tropics. There are a few examples floating around the US markets but this is the first spiced version I've seen and the only one I've truly cared for. Anywho, let's proceed to the tasting notes!

Name: Indra Kunindra
Category/Style: Foreign Export Stout
ABV: 7.00%
IBU: 50
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Madras Curry, Cumin, Cayenne, Coconut, and Kaffir Lime Leaf
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 22 oz.
Location Purchased: Complimentary

The Pour: Pours jet black with a tan head, dissipates slowly, nice lacing...

The Nose: Up front the aroma is toasted coconut, a little citrusy lime, vanilla, dark roasty notes, a hint of chocolate, a nice blend of spice notes and hints of curry...

The Taste: Initially the flavour is a little bitter chocolate, hints of spices, creamy coconut, toasty notes, body is lacking a little bit, a bit of spicy heat in the back of the throat, it builds, but it's all very well-balanced. There's a slight hint of something refreshing, finishes a little bitter, like bittersweet chocolate. All the flavour is midway through. Beginning and end is a bit flat, mostly bitter chocolate notes. Carbonation is low as per style but I really enjoyed this brew.

The Verdict: It's an interesting elixir of exotic flavours represented in a very pleasing manner that was not off putting by any means. I'd recommend this beer for the consumer looking for something different and far from the usual. I imagine this beer would pair extremely well with spicy foods and would be utilized well in the culinary arts. High five to Ballast Point, and thank you Jarred for the complimentary sample!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák

Welcome back for the second installment of my attempt to revive this old blog. I've got a lovely beer for you coming to us from Czech Republic, let me tell you now, this beer really surprised me and I'll tell you why a little bit later on. This is actually not the first time I've reviewed a beer from this brewery, some of you will remember the Russian Imperial Stout I reviewed a few years back (can be found here) and I can say that I was thoroughly impressed with that brew as well. So when my wife returned back to the US with a bottle of their "light lager" (more or less a Czech Pils) I was intrigued. First off, because while Czech Republic is renowned for producing some of the best Pilsners and light lagers in the world (this is definitively true) their flavour profiles are all very similar and finding anything truly distinctive is a difficult thing (I might actually rouse controversy with a comment like this but I feel its true!). I liken this to drinking German Weissbiers, side by side I am sure subtle differences would present themselves but to me a Weissbier is a hazy orange brew with hints of citrus, banana and clove, and every brewery makes one and they always exhibit these qualities; consistency in its truest sense here folks but nothing terribly distinctive! Anyway, getting back on track (or not) most beer drinkers in Czech Republic have a brand preference and standard practice is to only drink that one brand, all of the time. We do things a bit differently here in the US (at least I'd like to think so) and so when I was offered this bottle of light Czech lager from Břevnovský I was intrigued to see if they'd be able to produce a beer with that would distinguish itself from the rest of the Czech light lagers on the market (did I stay relatively on track there?).

Finding information about this particular beer proves difficult. The only interesting shred of information I could find is that the brewers use hops from very old bines. Now some might ask, what the heck is a bine? Well its hop lingo for vine, but it refers to a very specific type of vine. The hop plants have very sturdy stems with hairs that aid them during their climbing journey. As many of you know (or may not know) the hop plant is a climbing plant that can reach great heights, sometimes up to 50 feet and can grow up to 20 inches in a single week (head over to Prosser in Eastern Washington right now to see how tall these plants can grow). As far as utilizing hops from old bines is concerned, it is apparently an old tradition in Czech brewing history. As far as adding distinctive character is concerned I cannot for the life of me think of anything this would add to a beer. Are hop plants similar to grape vines in this regard? Will the roots grow deep enough and infuse the final product with terroir from whence it came? No one will ever know (unless you find someone who knows about hops or someone from the brewery cares to chime in or I conduct more research), in any case, this age old practice is said to add extra character to a beer. Ok, I'm sold, but what else done to this beer will help distinguish it from the swath of others already well-established in the Czech market? For one it's unfilitered, which goes a long way in saying that this is very different from any other light lager on the market. Standard practice says a filtered (or fined) crystal clear final product is a must. Crack open any bottle of Pilsner or other light lager and very rarely will you find any haze whatsoever left over. An unfiltered beer naturally has more character (ask me why if you really want to know) than a filtered one! Ok, so that's basically all the info I could find on my own. And these two tidbits were enough to entice me to open and sample: old hop bines and unfiltered, onto the tasting notes!

Name: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák
Category/Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: 07.01.14
Bottle Size: 1 Litre
Location Purchased: Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar, Praha 6, Czech Republic

The Pour: Into the glass it pours a hazy golden-orange. The head is fluffy and white and it lingers for a long time and leaves a nice amount of lacing on the glass.

The Nose: The nose is complex and first is a hint of pear and honey. Beyond that I'm picking up spicy clove, and fruity notes of peach and banana. It's a little yeasty and a little bready. The hops shine through with light floral notes, a little black pepper and a burst of citrus.

The Taste: The flavour remains on par with the aroma: huge fruit notes with a light malty bready character balanced well with grassy floral hops. It's a smooth medium bodied brew with a medium amount of carbonation. There are notes of banana and pepper as well as a slight hint of bubblegum. The bitterness is a bit resinous and in my opinion higher than average but this beer presents itself as a complete package: it's super crisp and finishes dry but is simultaneously refreshing.

The Verdict: I was really pleased with this beer. It's a super unique take on the traditional Czech Pils. I don't know of any other Czech Pilsner with even half the complexity of this beer! It was super fruity, well-balanced, slightly bitter, dry, crisp and incredibly refreshing. As I continued to drink, the flavour profile continued to evolve and by the end of the bottle it was reminiscent of beers from both Germany and Belgium. This is an unfiltered Czech Pilsner with lots of fruity overtones and a ton of depth for a light style, well done Břevnovský Pivovar! As far as worldwide availability is concerned, I'm not certain you can find this outside of Europe, let alone Prague but I might be wrong. I know there are few pubs in Prague pouring beers from Brevnovsky but I don't know how wide their distribution currently is. In any case, if you can find out about it or if you happen to see it in a bottle shop, don't hesitate to buy, it'll definitely be worth it!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Sea Dog Brewing: Wild Blueberry Ale

Well, yes indeed, I have returned. A few months shy of one year in fact. Last post I believe was in September of 2013: wow! To be honest the reasoning behind my unexpected leave of absence cannot be explained simply. Blogging for me has been a joy and a hobby and I think it's one of those things when you fall off the wagon it's difficult to get back on. As many of you know it was a struggle to keep this updated regularly and I don't know, I suppose the fact that I started brewing professionally for a new brewery in Redmond, WA (Hi-Fi Brewing Co) as well as getting hitched in December may have had an effect on my amount free time. Needless to say, things have been busier. Anyway, I am back, and trying again to jump onto the blogosphere bandwagon by posting up some more delicious beer blog entries to help guide you through the beer aisles (which I must say have been getting longer and much more numerous these days, especially if you're lucky enough to live on the West Coast). Ok enough chatter! Let's get to the beer!

As per usual I make an attempt to present you with a lovely back story on how I came to acquire this beer. My wife actually picked it up for me during a trip to Florida (such a good wife). The story goes that while walking out of the hotel on the search for refreshment she realized she was staying right across from a brewery. Fast forward and she's at the bar tasting all sorts of lovely concoctions. This wild blueberry ale was just one of many she sampled. And I must say: good choice!

A little background on the brewery: Sea Dog Brewing Company, they're actually based out of Topsham Maine and were founded in 1993. The brewery's namesake: Sea Dog is the nickname of their once loyal K9 companion when they first opened. In any case, enough about the brewery, lets see if their beer is any good!

Name: Sea Dog Wild Blueberry
Category/Style: Wheat/Fruit Beer
ABV: 4.70%
IBU: Unknown
OG: 1.048
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): 2-Row British Pale Ale, Malted Wheat & Light Munich
Hop Type(s): Willamette & Hallertau
Yeast Type: English ale
Special Additives: Wild blueberries
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 12 oz
Location Purchased: Sea Dog Brewing Company, Orlando, FL, USA

The Pour: A pale white head dissipates quickly to a light ring around the glass. The colour is golden yellow orange with a slight haze.

The Nose: Screams blueberry on the nose, a little funk, a little grape, minimal light biscuit and toast, I detect a little honey as well.

The Taste: Slightly sweet, fruity blueberry at the forefront, not tart by any means, malt profile is minimally expressed, mostly blueberry with a nice tingly carbonation. Body is light and the finish is clean.

The Verdict: Not a tremendous amount going on in this brew but it definitely delivers on its promise of blueberry flavour. I wasn't sure if it would be over the top sweet or if it would present itself as more tart but it wound up finding a nice balance between sweet and refreshing, which is something I quite liked. This is definitely a beer brewed for summertime imbibing, especially with the 4.70% abv. I'm still not certain if they used actual blueberries in the production of the beer or if it's simply flavouring dumped in. I would expect the colour to reflect the addition of blueberries and based on the aroma and flavour would expect a lot of blueberries to be required to achieve high amounts of both. Guess this would need to be investigated further as it only says on their website that they use wild Maine blueberries. Regardless it's a great summertime brew, so if you find some don't hesitate to try it!

Thanks for reading!