Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beer tasting


Last night we hosted a beer tasting for a few friends at our house. We got a spread of cheese from St. James Cheese Company- a Mrs. Applebys Cheshire, a Lincolnshire Poacher, and a Lagiole from France. Also a wild boar salami and a goose, duck, and chicken pate.

Now, the beer! We started with a mellow Mana Wheat Ale from Maui Brewing Company - a Hefeweizen brewed with Maui Gold Pineapple. I actually didn't know about the pineapple until I just looked at the can right now. I think the fruity characteristics that are often present in Hefeweizens really lent itself to the inclusion of pineapple to a very smooth and delicious result.

Next up was a Goose Island special series beer called Fleur. It's a Belgian Style ale with steeped hibiscus flowers. Excellent. Goose Island produces some seriously high quality beers, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to try this one. Became more complex and flavorful as it warmed. Hibiscus seems to be somewhat of a trend these days- I recently tried a Canebreak ale brewed with hibiscus by Parish Brewing. Hibiscus is floral but bitter, an interesting comparison to similar characteristics of hops. It's not sweet or overly flowery- I think it's an interesting ingredient and I look forward to trying other examples of it.

Samuel Smith's Yorkshire Stingo was next- an aged English Strong Ale. This beer was amazing. Incredibly complex flavors- the bottle lists "fruit, raisin, treacle toffee, Christmas pudding, and slightly oaky flavours." Yes. And then some. Poured deep and dark, aroma was heavenly, and the taste was amazing. At 8% alcohol, this is pretty strong for an English beer, which is why it's labeled a strong ale, I suppose. Very warming and happy making for a December evening.

North Coast Brewing Twentieth Anniversary Ale: this was kind of a weird one. 12.5% alcohol, and 67% ale brewed with agave nectar aged in oak barrels, blended with 33% ale brewed with agave nectar. Poured a a straw yellow color, and had a sweetness, with vanilla and coconut notes. I was expecting more from North Coast, and this was a bit of a disappointment.

Next up was another highlight. Boulevard Brewing's Smokestack Series Special Limited Release Rye-on-Rye Ale. Now, I love rye beers more than almost any other style of beer, so I was looking forward to this one the most. Damn, it was good. Rye imparts a spicy, earthy flavor that I just love, and this beer was brewed with 2 kinds of malted rye as well as 3 different kinds of hops (Perle, Magnum, and Saphir.) It was also aged in Templeton Rye casks, which added another layer of rye flavor. Dan, who brought this beer (as well as the Fleur and Avery Hogshead Barleywine), also brought a bottle of the Templeton Rye Whiskey, which we sipped alongside the Rye on Rye Ale. We didn't actually detect the flavors of the whiskey in the beer, but I do think there was a subtle addition of sweet spiciness to the grain bill.

RYE BEER ROCKS THE HARDEST!

OK, after that was a bottle that Jeremy brought: Victory's Dark Intrigue. This is their Storm King Imperial Stout aged in Kentucky bourbon casks. Smooooooooth. Super flavorful and really drinkable. Interesting trying it after the rye casked ale, the subtle differences from the bourbon cask aging was pretty cool. 'Course, the two different styles of beer involved was much less subtle! I enjoyed it greatly.

Next was a clunker and major disappointment: Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek. It must have gone off because the aroma was gawd-awful. The reviews for this beers were stellar, and I was looking forward to trying it. But the aroma was pure cat poop. Seriously, gross. Tasted OK but was almost impossible to get over the smell. Would love to try it again to see if it was possible to enjoy a better bottle. Yikes!

We tried to erase the memory of it with a lovely fruity Raspberry Tart by the New Glarus Brewing Company. Not very beer tasting, but still nice to drink. Very light and delicious.

The last beer we opened before our guests left was Avery Brewing Company's Hog Heaven Barleywine-Style Ale. It was pretty good- a hoppiness that seems to have mellowed some, though it does go down a bit hot.

After everyone left, Tom and I shared a couple more small bottles. Big Swell IPA from Maui Brewing, New Glarus's Unplugged Berliner Weiss, and Maui Brewing's CoCoNut PorTeR. The IPA had a wonderful balanced hoppiness, the Berliner Weiss was crisp and refreshing, and the Porter was a wonderful way to end our evening.

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