Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wild Beers, Winning Beers, Winter Beers

So I just finished reading Jeff Sparrow's Wild Brews: Beers Beyond the Influence of Brewer's Yeast, published by Brewers Publications.  I've had the book on my shelf for over a year, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it until now.  I wish I had read this one much sooner, as it was quite outstanding.  It goes into excellent detail on the complex processes that go into making lambics, Flanders Red, and Flanders Brown ales.  The section on barrel aging was fascinating, with implications far beyond just spontaneously fermented beers.  If you enjoy any of these beer styles or just want to expand your general knowledge on the subject of Belgian brewing, I can't recommend this book enough.

Since I was reading this book on wild beers, I was inspired to pull a bottle of Cantillon Brewery's Classic Gueuze from my beer cellar over the weekend.  Ever since my first visit to Belgium,  have been in love with the tart, sharp, highly carbonated flavors of this unique style of beer.  A fine gueuze is truly a work of art, given the complexity and care that has to go into blending its various component parts into a balance and coherent whole.  One-, two-, and three-year-old lambics, aged in several different barrels, each with its own unique characteristics, are married via the blender's skill to produce a gueuze.

When I opened this particular example of the style, the cork came out with a very loud pop, indicative of the high carbonation that you expect.  It poured a crystal clear gold in the glass with a small white head that dissipated to a collar.  The aroma had the tart, funky notes that you'd expect from a beer fermented with a mixture of wild yeasts and bacteria.  On the palate the carbonation was excellent, while the tartness was just short of pucker-inducing.  Extremely dry and with plenty of funky notes, thanks to brettanomyces devouring every trace of fermentable sugar, this beer certainly lived up to its name.  It is a classic gueuze in every way.  Gueuze is certainly an acquired taste, but if you got a taste for it, you'll love this example.

Speaking of Belgium, how would you like to win a free week-long trip, including visiting numerous breweries, like Cantillon? The Ultimate Belgian Brew Tour drawing is sponsored by The Weekly Pint, Visit Flanders, and Brussels Airlines.  To have a chance to win, just go to and sign up to receive The Weekly Pint newsletter.  You can also see the itinerary-- Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent are all on the list.  On second thought, don't sign up, as you'll just be cutting into my chance of winning...

Speaking of winning, Denali Brewing Company took the People's Choice Award at the Mighty Matanuska Brewfest for the third year in a row.  Last year their Mother Ale took home the prize, while this year their Purple Haze earned the honors.  This is a 5.5% ABV, 18 IBU American Wheat beer that's made with 10 pounds of wild Alaskan and Canadian blueberries per barrel. Kenai River Brewing's Peninsula Brewers Reserve (PBR) took the second place People's Choice Award on Friday night.

Also at Kenai River, I believe that their Winter Warlock Old Ale is now gone for another year.The last keg went on tap on Saturday, October 20th.  The word is that a double batch only lasted 20 days, which is a testament to just how good a beer that one is.  Worry not, however, as a brand new beer will be released this Friday: Citra Imperial Rye Pale Ale (CIRPA), with 9% ABV and a ton of citrusy hoppiness.

Speaking of winter, besides the single digit nighttime temps, the other sure sign that it's here is the return of Midnight Sun Brewing Company's winter seasonal, CoHoHo Imperial IPA.  I reviewed this beer way back on 10/20/2008 and it remains a favorite of mine.  It's not as hoppy as some of the newer Imperial IPAs around today, but that just makes it that much easier for me to drink a bomber all by myself!

This just in:  Seward Brewing Company will be offering $3.75 pints from Friday, 10/26 thru Thursday, 11/1.  If you haven't checked them out yet, this sounds like the perfect time to do so!

I was up in Anchorage for my job from noon on Sunday to noon on Monday.  Since I had to pick up some beers at La Bodega that they were holding for me (Thanks, Pam!), I took the opportunity to duck into Cafe Amsterdam before they closed at 3:00 pm on Sunday.  I only had time for one, so I looked over their chalkboard and settled on a Bonator Doppelbock from Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe, which is located in in the town of Weissenohe, about 15 miles NE of Nuremberg.  In the glass this was a pretty garnet color, translucent but deep, with a nice light tan head that was quite persistent.  The nose was of sweet syrup, chocolate, and toasted nuts overlying a strong, bready base from the malt.  On the palate, the same rich flavor profile is there, with flavors components ranging from toasted nuts to figs to syrup to bread.  There is a touch more hop bitterness than typical for the style, which helps keeps it from becoming too cloying, and the beer falls away to a long, slow, delicious finish.  Bonator is the real deal, one of the best dopplebocks I've ever gotten to experience.  If you like this style, I'd strongly recommend stopping by Cafe Amsterdam before it's gone.

On of the beers I picked up at La Bodega was Oskar Blues Brewing's Deviant Dale's IPA. This beer is sold in a four-pack of "tall-boy" 16 oz cans, similar to how Sierra Nevada Brewing sells their Torpedo Extra Pale AleDeviant Dale's took the silver medal in the American IPA category at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.  At 8% ABV and 85 IBUs, we are certainly well into the Double or Imperial IPA realm with this one.

It poured a light copper color with a a big, cream-colored head that left lots of good lacing on the glass.  The aroma was pure American hops: onion/garlic (Summits?) and piney resin notes.  Very nice.  On the tongue the first assault is citrus and resin flavors from the hops, but there's enough caramel malt backbone to keep things in balance.  The 8% ABV is well-concealed beneath the hop onslaught, making this brew surprisingly drinkable; I had no problem polishing off the entire can by myself.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I hope you all have a Happy Halloween and get lots of the adult candy known as craft beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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