Archive for November, 2010

Boulevard Bully! Porter Reviewed

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I read an article on a site recently about how many American craft beers people drink in a typical year. I thought that some of the high numbers would be in the 500 beer range and that, since I was in that category, I would have something to boast about. Nay, nay. 500 beers this year is going to put me in the wuss category. It seems that the big sluggers are in the 1,500 range. That comes out to about 4 beers or so a day, everyday of the year. If I ever stepped it up to those levels I would be about 400 pounds to boot, so that is not a goal for me. But I do have to step it up a notch.

Bully! Porter by Boulevard Brewing Company was going to be just the tip of the ice burg this weekend but it ended up being the only. I am not saddened by that fact since this was a quality beer. A quality porter on top of that which tickles my fancy even more.

The taste of the beer is the best part as it gets nicely complex with chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, grains, molasses, sweet, etc but not all in equal doses. They are subtly interwoven to create a blanket of porter goodness. The aroma is on the opposite side of the spectrum: it let the beer down. If the aroma was a bit better, I think this would have rated near a nine. Enjoy! Aroma: 7, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 8, Overall: 8.2


Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Tuesday Night Beer Club (TNBC) this month was over at Rich’s house. Yes, he has officially been included in the group after pledging for six months ūüėČ As per the rules of the evening Rich provided dinner: homemade sloppy joe, some sweet potato fries, and cole slaw. The sloppy joe, my second or third taste of his homemade concoction, is probably some of the best I have ever had. The only other rule of the evening is that Rich also gets to choose the theme of the evening, if so desired. He chose IPAs and any iterations that are somewhat close.

Imperial IPAs, dry hopped IPAs, harvest ales, Belgian IPAs, wet hopped IPAs, cellared IPAs, like I said any type of IPA that you could think of made its way over to Rich’s last night.

Apart from Ed having to tickle our fancies with gibberish from this past summer, we had one of the largest tastings we have had in quite some time: nine beers.

The ratings:

Note: a ranking of one is the best, so the higher the number the lower in the pecking order the beer was. Also, this is a number that compares them to the others that were drank that evening and in no one is indicative of how the beer would actually be reviewed solo.
  Mark Shawn Ed Mike Scot Rich Average
Port 4th Anniversary 5 5 2 5 5 4.4
Surly Furious 8 3 4 5 2 2 4.0
Surly Wet 4 7 8 7 4 6 6.0
Russian River Pliny The Elder 2 1 1 8 1 1 2.3
Hoppin’ Frog Fresh Frog Raw Hop I.P.A. 9 9 7 9 9 7 8.3
Three Floyd’s BrooDoo 7 4 5 6 7 3 5.3
Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree I.P.A. 1 2 2 1 3 4 2.2
Russian River Blind Pig 3 6 3 4 6 8 5.0
Ballast Point Sculpin 6 8 6 3 8 9 6.7

Each beer was good to a point with no duds among the selected. The peanuts, that Ed brought, were probably the best thing on the table in terms of cleaning the palate for the evening. Next up: December at my house. Enjoy!

Thirsty Dog Old Leghumper Reviewed

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Having an American craft beer sitting in the cellar for a while sometimes isn’t done on purpose. There are those beers you get that you aren’t exactly sure you are going to be fond of and, in some cases, the beer style will allow it to sit on top of it. So it is more of an intentional/unintentional cellaring of a beer. Nothing against the beer personally, just that it doesn’t hit your fancy at a given point in time.

Old Leghumper by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company is one of those beers that has sat for a few months. Nothing drastic. The overall beer was really good: a quality, easy drinking porter but the nose was a little light. I think I found a diamond in the roughness of my cellar. It is always nice to find the unexpected. Aroma: 7, Taste: 9, Look: 10, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 8.7

Now it has me thinking on which beer I will be able to find in the basement next. What have I been storing that I really haven’t wanted to store? Will it measure up or am I asking too much? Time will tell. Enjoy!

#FoBAB 2010 Intitial Recap-

Monday, November 8th, 2010

This annual (8th) Chicago/Illinois Brewers Guild¬†brew fest¬†works so well on multiple levels that I am absolutely adding to my annual list, in the category “Absolutly Will Attend Events”. The overall vibe, venue, flow, cost, and oh…brew line-up is flat ass perfect.

First, is the fact that only 500 or so tic’s are sold at each session makes the thing managable on a scale that makes interaction with the brewers and follow attendee’s personal and approachable. In the afternoon session that I attended it seemed as though most of the brewers were actually in attendance. That partly is attributal to the event being organized by a Brwers Guild that’s still small and seminal enough to still ¬†be faternal and supportive. And, the competitive stuff seemed so much more¬†friendly than any ego, sports-dickhead beat me stuff. And I met the insurnace broker for the ewvent, who seemed new to the craft beer scene but was a very vocal advocate and added some interesting factoids that helped me get some insight into the organizational elements of pulling this thing off. Plus Chicago’s brewing community seemed totally respresented. Got to spend a little time with Annette May, Cicerone and beer mentor who always shares her great insight.

Then there’s the Journeymen Plumbers Hall. Aisde from the obvious advantage of holding a beer drinking event in a¬†building that should and did have perfect plumbing facilities. Being a big fan of architecture, the hall is retro and a pleasing place, kind of reminded me of a¬† upscale 1950’s high school gym and stage. Loved the place and the great West Loop neighborhood.

Again, the managable crowd size of 500 each session was really nice. I’m sure it’s partly due to nature of the brews at this fest. Think about the name of the event and the additional effort, time, and ingredants of the brews represented. And these categories tend to includes an inordinate amount of limited, special, and experimental brew batches that are inherantly on the low side of volume. But, I think there’s a design on the part of the organizers to keep this thing more intement. There’s no sense of making this some mega statement, it seems more like a celebration of skill and friends.

On the cost front, I am utterly and a completely statisfied participant. At $35 for 12¬† 3-oz pours, it appears on the surface to be a mediocre deal. But, when you consider available brews like Lost Abbey’s Angel’s Share that $16 for a 350 ml (11.8 oz) bottle (if you can get it), the tic price seems like a cheap date. So, let’s talk about the brew line-up. For the local hometown hero’s, these guys bring out the big guns. Goose Island had a whooping 12 entires and all rare, new, and/or unique executions that I’d never have imagined getting to taste at one place/time. Their Madame Rose and Lotita are anxiously awaited releases and I had both at FoBAB.¬†There¬†were¬†local brewpub stand-outs like¬†Revolution and Piece, that are normally only enjoyed at their locations. The best of¬† local and regional breweries like Two Brother, Three Floyds, Capital, New Holland, and Founders. And, finally special brews from big dogs from around the country like: Lost Abbey/Port, Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, Harpoon, New Belgium, and Stone. Almost sensory overload in terms of locking targets, but I mean that in the best way possible.

So with that preamble, what did I have and what did I like? My written records indicate (17) brews, which in full disclosure came not from additional tic purchases, but from friendly volunteers that either forgot or were overloaded. If there’s any disappointment from the day, it’s that is my list of brews that I didn’t get to try. But’s that mainly cause they were os many outstanding brews, the proverbila kind in a candy store. Anyway here’s my list in order of consumption:

1)Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Coffe Stout with Bosque Lya (El Salvador) coffee. Thick viscosity, signature BCS taste, and awesome coffee taste notes.

2)Goose Island – Madame Rose, Belgian inspired Kriek-style aged in french oak barrels with fresh Michigan cherries. Tart and wine-like, wasn’t what I expected.

3)Central Waters РBourbon Barrel Stout, American-style Stout. Chocolatey, medium mouthfeel, and shows how wide of a range that great BB Stouts can have.

4)Firestone Walker – Parabola, Russian Imperial Stout. Deep and complex and awesome.

5&6) Two Brothers РHeavier Handed, Imperial IPA aged in French Oak Foudres (big ass oak tanks). Like biting into a orchard fresh cross bred grapefruit/orange malt blast. I think this might have been my fav if pressed to pick one.

7)Lost Abbey – Deliverence, Blend of Brandy aged Barleywine and BBA Imperial Stout. Complex blend of alcohol induced molasses.

8)Flossmoor РHi-Fi Rye, Ryewine aged in Woodford Reserve barrel. OK, full disclosure is that my Louisville (born&raised) brother-in-law drinks Woodford. Need more word to build case why this is a great brew, but it is.

9)New Holland – Beerhive, Belgian Tripel with honey and ginger aged in BB. Turned me around on Tripels, I very much want to try this again in a more isolated tasting. Maybe number one on trying again, soon.

10) Central Waters – Exodus, Sour Red Ale aged with cherries in BB. Appropriate tartness, fruit was low level. I’m not schooled enoughy in Wild Acidic beers to judge.

11)Metropolitan – Lagered Baltic Porter, brewed with a small portion of cherry wood smoked malt. Another full disclosure, is that I’ll always root¬†for this local and small operation. This husband and wife team make only lagers, staying true to the punk rock principle of fierce independance and style. But, this is no charity case, they make great beers and I’d very much like to be able to have this brew on a more frequant basis.

12)Goose Island – BCS Ancho, BCS Stout with Ancho chillies. Interesting and puzzling about bright context in which it’s best represented.

13)Goose Island – King Henry, Barleywine. Small portion, didn’t get a full appreciation.

14)Firestone Walker – Lil Opal, Belgian Saison aged f/ 17 months in medium toasted American Oak. Most wine like, and lowest alcohol at 4.1%c ABV at event. Not sure it was right for the FoBAB.

15)Lost Abbey – Amazing Grace, Blende Ale aged in French Oal wine barrels with Bretts. I had a small sample, seemed a little average for a superior brewer.

16)Two Brothers – Askew, Ale brewed with cpmplex yeast strains and other stuff. Tart and very clean, but I had a small sampleso I’m can’t make a full report.

17)Harpoon – Leviathan, Imperial IPA aged in Jim Beam barrels. I only had a small taste, but three of my co-consiratores liked this brew very much. They taled about a cool citrus blast in a big Imperial.

The brews I most wished I had tried are from Three Floyds, only because of how great their brews can be. But, I’m disappointed in their sparse showing at FoBAV, and they are members of ICBG, and most of the FFFs crew seemed to be in attendance.

So, I’ll wrap up this summary cause it’s late , and it’s Sunday night. But, more to come on FoBAB cause it deserves the3 coverage and I think the event is way under appreciated for what the convergence of super great brews. And, I know Bourbon barrel aged in widely appreciated, but there’s a case to be made for the midwest rightfull claim to being the epic center of the style. However¬†I’m also reluctant to contribute to a greater awareness of FoBAB as¬†some of the coolest happenings get wreaked¬†by their own success.¬†

Next up is recap of Top/Gold winners in each of the gten judged categories.

Thoughts On FoBAB

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB) for 2010 is history. I was there, so now it is time to put down my thoughts for my first FoBAB. I went with my wife, as an anniversary gift, and met Rich and a few of his friends there. We set up base camp towards the back of the hall and shared our thoughts about the beers we were partaking. The best part of going with your wife: being able to share each of her beers, which easily doubles the amount of beers you could otherwise taste.

A few statistics: 158 beers, 53 brewers, from 23 states. Yep, almost half of the United States was represented.

My ugly mug with Bryan Shimkos of Flossmoor shorly after winning his first of two awards.

The Festival was probably one of the coolest I have been to but it does have its’ short comings. All the beers are listed/grouped by style. I guess you could easily view that as a nice way to present similar beers together, but what about a brewery in which you want to try multiple of their beers. You have to look at the flier they gave you, find the numbers (all beers are grouped on a numbering system) for each beer, then come up with a plan for how you want to attach that particular breweries beers. Not the way I am used to getting at beers. As I said, I can also see their side of this so that if you go and get one bourbon aged beer, you are in the land of bourbon aged beers or the land of sours.

Now, my second and final beef. There are two sessions kept to approximately 500 people per session. This is actually a good amount of people as the hall has just enough space to allow one to move around without knocking into others. You receive 15 or so tickets, which I decided I would ration and make sure I had them up to the end, which was 5:00pm for the afternoon session (1:00pm – 5:00pm).

Matt Yohe from Upland Brewing posing after a talk about some of their lambics

That’s all good but by 3:30pm some taps were already getting shut down; it might have even been earlier. I personally think that is horse shit. How can you shut it down with over 90 minutes left? It made me have to choose beers that I would have never tried if not for this fact. No, most of the beers I felt forced to try, were not that good. This was really disappointing for me. I guess you actually have to burn through your tickets as quickly as possible in order to get everything you might have wanted to try up front. I would have to say this is probably the thing that really kept me from raving about this festival. It was good, just not great.

The beers that I tried with some brief notes:

  • Blackberry Whiskey Barrel Love – New Belgium: sour w/ whiskey tart heat carbonated really good (I had two of these)
  • Rosie Pom – Flossmoor: subtle Brett tart on nose brown Lil pucker (won a medal)
  • Sumpin’ Fruity – Rock Bottom: light on the nose but a acidic and overwelmingly sour not for me
  • Barrel Aged Bad Man – Revolution: ruby brown not much on nose with lots of sweet toffee but that about it
  • Angel Share – Lost Abbey: is damn yummy with loads of bourbon and heat that lasts. Vanilla brown sugar. Probably one of my favorite beers of the day
  • Kaiser Curmudgeon – Founders: tough to make out after the big Angel Share. Sweet and light come to mind but I know the beer isn’t. Viscous.
  • Heavier Handed – Two Brothers: citrus pine hop bomb fantastic on tap
  • Barrel Aged Big Hugs – Half Acre: some type of Brett possibly white grapes. Expected more, was a little disappointed.
  • Deliverance – Lost Abbey: this is huge bourbon drying heat and just outstanding, probably my favorite of the show.
  • Lil; Opal – Firestone Walker: piece brewmaster told my wife to get some he was jealous white wine grapes. Something different and not for everyone.
  • BA Hi-Fi Rye – Flossmoor: true sign of aging smooth clean finish for such a big beer. Bourbon adds nice notes but is only an aside not overly done. Great. Still has some heat.
  • Russian Imperial Stout BA 2008 – Stone: wow good bourbon, this was darn tasty.
  • Bourbon King Henry – Goose Island: subtle, expected more from this beer
  • Dantalion – Upland: brown cloudy sediment sour, the reason I want to get their sours
  • Strawberry – Upland: acidic in taste belies from tart to farm house, not as solid a beer as Dantalion and I don’t know if I would ever have this again
  • Jockey Full Of Bourbon – Piece: smokey, won an award, not first, for style and you could definitely see why
  • Sweet Home Stout – Goose Island: bourbon goodness, won award for style, and right up there with Deliverance for the best of the evening.
  • BA Norte de Garde – Bluegrass Brewing
  • BA Turk – Flossmoor: first beer of the evening from Flossmoor I was a huge fan of

Overall the festival was run well, fun, and a way to meet up with a few brewers I have talked to before but never met. It also was a great opportunity to try some really rare beers that you might not get to try any other way. I will be back for 2011. Enjoy!

Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer is tomorrow, Saturday, November 06 and I will be there, for the first time, to soak up some of the rarities that will be on tap. Does it get much better than a festival in which all the American craft beer has to be aged on wood or in a barrel? I think not.

The list of breweries is quite impressive. Most of them have published a list of what they are bringing or Rich has contacted them to find out. In either case, some of the beers tomorrow will be one-timers and sound flat out delicious.

Instead of listing all the breweries here, just head on over to the Illinois craft beer site. They have them all linked to the original sites. I am looking forward to some Hi-Fi Rye Bourbon Barrel Aged from Flossmoor. That is my number one priority.

I will write something up Sunday detailing the day. It should be outstanding. Enjoy!

Firestone Anniversary Vertical – 10, 11, 12, and 13

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Firestone Walker makes some pretty outstanding American craft beers. Just like many other craft brewers, their sought after beers are their annual releases of their bourbon aged beers. Even tougher to get, it seems, are their anniversary beers, which are a blend of several other beers into one tasty liquid behemoth.

Via the Tuesday Night Beer Club (TNBC) the group put together a vertical of 10, 11, 12, and 13 of the anniversary series. One of the cool parts of this series is that Firestone includes a list of the beers that were blended and the percentage. And, from what I understand, at least the last few years they have invited local wine tasters to come and taste the different blends to help in deciding which blend will be the final for that year.

Unfortunately I didn’t take notes; I wanted to enjoy the beers for what they were, uninterrupted. Just pure indulgence. I will have to say that 11 and 12 were the boldest of the group and, for me, that is a good thing. 10 and 11 were tasted together. I thought 11 was the better of the two on the first night. The second round was 12 and 13. 13 was damn smooth for its age, but 12 was bold and bourbon abounded, making me likey. ūüôā Overall I would rate as follows: 12, 11, 10, then 13.

The only regret of the four beers: we had them over two different get together’s that spanned 30 days in between. I would definitely recommend these fine beers to anyone that enjoys bourbon aged beer/blends. Enjoy!