Sunday, December 2, 2012

Massachusetts round-up

Backlash Conquest, 6
very yeasty, enough to remind me of a homebrew.

Berkley IPA, 4
i had not heard of this new nano-brewer until i saw it on the shelves. unfortunately it was watery and contained an off-note. i will give them another chance soon.

Blue Hills Bunker Buster IPA, 5
not as flavorful as had hoped. nice to see them rolling out another hoppy offering though.

Cape Ann Fisherman’s Ale, 5
i opt for fisherman's brew over the ale every time.

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet, 7
a little heavier than i would like but overall a solid american black ale.

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union, 7
sold to me as an ipa, but not an ale at all. not a bad hoppy lager though.

Portico Saison Charette, 7
another new boston brewer! very dry but good take on french farmhouse style.

Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA, 8
another great beer, but can't see myself shelling out $7 for this bomber too often.

Slumbrew My Better Half, 5
an "imperial cream ale." a unique attempt for sure, but too sweet for my liking.

Slumbrew Trekker Tripel, 8
an impressive tripel. authentic yet drinkable.

The Tap Three Graces, 4
a pretty unpolished tripel.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Latin Foods and Local Brews

In the Boston area at least, there seems to be some sort of beer festival taking place most every weekend. This is not a complaint.

One that caught my eye though was "Latin Foods and Local Brews" this past weekend. Taking place at the Somerville armory, the festival offered area brewers, Mexican food, live music, and all the proceeds went to a charity called Casa Connection! Now how can you beat that?

With a low key atmosphere, very cool venue, and some excellent food and drink, I can give this one my full endorsement. Here come the ratings!

Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero, 8
imperial stout with a beautiful pour. roasty chocolate does come through. was never blown away by clown shoes but i think a lot more of them after this one.

Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, 8
belgian ipa with burst of grapefruit flavor. another best in show nominee.

Enlightenment Illumination, 10
dubbed a "Farmhouse IPA," which is fitting since it is both Belgian and American... aggressive hops cut by yeast... even better than their Biere de Champagne.

High & Mighty XPA, 3
nothing to see here. again. 

John Harvard's Yellow Belly IPA, 6

not bad but a light ipa. 

John Harvard's Porter, 5


Rapscallion Concord Grape, 1

grape water. 

White Birch Farmhouse Red, 4
plenty of brewers are hopping on the farmhouse bandwagon. but calling a muddled red a farmhouse is going too far. 

White Birch Hop Session, 7

a hoppy red. and solid. the best white birch beer i have tried yet. 

White Birch Oude Timey, 6
a murky brown wild ale with decent sour bite up front. interesting.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Belgian Post, Part III

Obviously, we had more than 10 good beers on our trip. Next up is a rundown of the other new beers sampled (in chronological order) and a few more pictures taken along the way. Clearly, we enjoyed the trip and would recommend it thoroughly. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions if you are considering going yourself!

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, 9
bright color, sweet, with tangy wild yeast.

Cantillon Bruocsella 100% Grand Cru, 6
a straight lambic, the base for the other beers. more interesting than a well-composed beer.

Cantillon Faro, 7
amber, low-carbonation and watery, flavor of caramel apple.

Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, 5
cooked vegetables and sweet cherries battle in aroma and flavor. little off-putting, as you might imagine.

Tilquin Lambic Blend, 7

Kerkom Bink Bloesem, 7
well-hidden alcohol, potent yeast, flavorful.

Contreras Valeir Extra, 8
an intriguing mix of Brittish Bitter and Belgian Pale Ale. unique hop usage that I couldn't place but it worked.

Drie Fonteinen Lambik, 8
very tart yet quenching.

Drie Fonteinen Beersel Blond, 7
lightly hopped, nice grain profile, and refreshing.

Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, 8
served in bottle. wine-lambic qualities, mild cloroseptic, and tart cherries.

Corsendonk Agnus Abbey Pale Ale, 8
sweet and lively tripel.

Van Viven Imperial IPA, 6

La Rulles Blonde, 6

De Blaugies La Moneuse, 7 
earthy, barnyard yeast and hops play nice.

Louwaege Hapkin, 6
decent table beer.

Tilquin Oude Gueuze a L'Ancienne, 9
an excellent gueuze defined by sharp bitter note upfront.

De Halve Maan Brugse Zot, 6
frothy head, yeasty and grainy flavor, watery mouthfeel. served far too cold however.

De Halve Maan Brugse Tripel Bier 9%, 8
far more complexity than Brugse Zot. nice malt profile, mild tang to yeast, and packs a punch at 11%.

Liefmans Goudenband, 8
nose of caramel, flavor of sour dark fruit. seemed closer to Quad than Flanders. unique.

Caracole Troublette, 6
perfumey, with floral note of lavender.

Westvleteren Blond, 7
striking appearance with billowy head and shimmering brightness. yeast still dominates this self-billed "hoppy beer."

Westvleteren 10, 9
murky pour and complex fruity, alcoholic nose. big flavor, spot on carbonation, and extremely creamy mouthfeel. a little more malty than i like but an excellent beer.

De Dolle Oerbier, 7

Urthel Hop-It, 7
raw hop flavor of English-style IPA.

Boon Geuze, 6
light, fruity, mild bite.

Bockor Bellegems Bruin, 5
tart but too watery.

Verhaeghe Vichtenaar, 5
too sweet with Robitussin-like flavor.

De Koninck, 5
amber color, sweetish, watery.

Bavik Wittekerke, 5
clovey, spiced bite, thin.

Boon Kriek, 4
conjures images of Cherry Life Savers. too sweet.

St. Bernardus Prior 8, 8
malty double. i remember it retained the head nicely.

Timmermans Kriek Lambicus, 6
loads of cherry. very sweet.

't IJ Plzen, 6

't IJ IJ Wit, 7
barnyard yeast flavor, crisp malt.

't IJ Zatte, 6
Hefeweizen-like mesh rather than polished beer.

't IJ Columbus, 8
excellent lacing, mild hops on nose, malt backbone. well balanced.

't IJ Natte, 7
weak dubbel.

De Bekeerde Suster De Manke Monnik, 6
standard tripel.

De Bekeerde Suster Witte Ros, 6

De Prael Johnny, 6
Belgian Pale Ale seemed to have German influence. little dull though.

De Molen Citra Single Hop, 5
tastes entirely of Citra hops but didn't seem to have especially high IBU's.

Emelisse Triple IPA, 9
imperial IPA that is quite sweet with plenty of hops and alcohol. nicely done.

Ramses Bier Hop, 7
winey nose, oakey finish. swirling yeast thoroughly adds depth to flavor but still watery.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Belgian Beer Trip, Part II

5) Verhaeghe Echte Kriekenbier, 10
Traveling throughout West Flanders, Kelly and I sampled a number of Flanders Red Ale's on our trip. My favorite came at Brugges' Cambrinus Restaurant. This was a classy place with very nice ambiance but unfortunately the staff were very pushy in an apparent effort to turn over tables. Both the beer and dinner menu were pretty classic and we went with a nice cheese board. Beautiful purple color to beer with light body. Fruity, sweet, sour -- bursting with flavor. Delicious and quenching.

4) Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic, 9
One of the activities I was most looking forward to was our tour of Cantillon. The world's highest rated Lambic brewer, to say Cantillon was a traditional brewer was a massive understatement. Our tour of the facility showed the lengths to which Cantillon would go to keep their beers wild -- ancient equipment, holes in the roof, spider webs throughout. This was a fascinating tour and equally cool, low-key setting to have a couple of beers. The Kriek is bright like Kool Aid and the cherries provide both sweet and sour elements. Wine-like base to beer is still present. As great a beer experience as you can have.

3) Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black Label), 10
't Brugs Bear is one of Belgium's truly elite beer bars alongside Brussels' Delerium Cafe (which we visited) and Antwerp's Kulminator (which we did not.) Best memorabilia we encountered and had that old pub feel I was looking for. Service was less impressive, but that was hardly unique. Sharp taste that is sour and tart. Most impressed with smooth feel and pitch perfect carbonation. This Gueuze managed to seem both aged and fresh. One of the best, no doubt.

2) Drie Fonteinen Kriek, 10
On day two of our trip we took public transportation out to beautiful Beersel on the outskirts of Brussels. It was a hike but well worth the trip considering we also got a chance to see the impressive Beersel Castle. Drie Fonteinen is a close second to Cantillon in Lambic quality and operates a popular upscale yet homey family restaurant adjacent to its brewery. The best meal of our trip, I ordered the mussels and was not disappointed. We tried several excellent beers but my favorite was the Kriek. A beautiful purple with tinged head, tart/sour element, and delicious sweet note. Having these world-class Lambics on tap was incredibly special.

1) Westvleteren 12, 10
...Which leaves us with the world's number one beer: Westvleteren 12. Westvleteren is a Trappist abbey well off the beaten path, so much so we had to rent a car to get there. While the brewery isn't open to the public, I had read that you could enter by joining this silent order of monks for prayer. Our visit revealed a very simple, tranquil spot... and even allowed us to leave with chocolate truffles made with the mythical 12! Across the street at the brewery's surprisingly modern In De Verde cafe we sat on a patio overlooking the hop fields. A beautiful spot but for the exceptionally slow service, even for Belgium. We had panini's, salad, and ice cream with fresh strawberries. The 12 pours a dark brown and comes in a beautiful chalice glass. Aroma is rich and creamy and anchored by sweet malt. Tastes of raisin and toffee, malt lingers on pallet, and only perceive hint of alcohol at the back. Very smooth and you could read complexity in this beer if you wanted, but in actuality quite simple. Reputation is deserved and so good, I had to order another. The best beer, from the best brewer, on the best beer trip I have ever been on.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Belgium Beer Trip, Part I

This past August, Kelly and I took a vacation to Belgium and the Netherlands, a once in a lifetime trip. As a beer lover, there is no better place to find great beer than in Belgium. With eight days, three cities, and 59 beers sampled, we made the most of it.

It has taken a while to get this post up since I really didn't know where to begin. Ultimately, I opted for a top 10 list, not simply the 10 best beers of the trip, but the 10 best beer experiences of the trip. In a country where ambiance and glassware are as important as the quality of the beer, it only seemed right. Let's begin counting down with the first five:

10) 't IJ I.P.A., 9
't IJ was the best of the three brewpubs we visited in Amsterdam. Spectacular location with the outdoor patio's communal picnic tables spread out underneath a historic windmill. The brewery employs a seldom seen (but thoroughly practical) serve yourself counter, with heaping plates of local meats and cheeses available to nosh on. And as good as the beers were in Belgium, this hop head was definitely craving some IBU's. Hoppy nose, flavor, and very drinkable, this was the best IPA of the trip.

9) Jandrain-Jandrenouille IV, 8
Interestingly, my favorite of the ancient Saison-style came at Brussel's most modern beer bar, Moeder Lambic. Impressive bar and selection, and plenty of sidewalk seating (which is good since it was flipping hot inside...) We ordered the goat cheese plate which was one of the best appetizers of our trip. IV features a huge head with plenty of lacing, fresh nose, and the flavor of yeast and grassy hops.Very nice.

8) Timmermans Gueuze Lambic, 9
Perhaps the biggest surprise of our trip because we were stopping at La Becasse (hidden far down a Brussel's alleyway) more for the ambiance than anything else. And that didn't disappoint either as I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the bar hadn't changed a bit in the last couple of centuries. I imagine the beer was served just the same way too, in a pitcher called a "panache." This sweetened lambic was absolutely delicious: flavorful, quenching, and drinkable. A great total experience.

7) Evil Twin Russian Roulette, 9
I was going to skip Amsterdam's American beer bar, Beer Temple, since we didn't travel 3,500 miles for a Sierra Nevada. However, I am glad I didn't, because they even managed to get some American microbrews that I have not been able to find in Mass! Seating on the street was a wonderful spot for people watching. Kelly and I shared a bottle of Evil Twin from Denmark, thus named as the brewer is the brother of Mikkeller's head brewer. But here is the amazing part -- they actually copied the concept for my Naughty or Nice homebrew by making it either an IPA or Black IPA! We got the Black one, which is what we were hoping for. Burnt malt comes through first, then hops. Robust by BIPA standards with a medium body. Will buy another if I ever see it again in hopes of trying IPA counterpart.

6) Hanssens Oude Gueuze, 9
Maybe my favorite place of the trip was Brugge's Cafe Rose Red. It reminded me of Portland, Oregon in a way with a low-key, off-beat feel. We sat in a delightful enclosed patio, ensconced in ivy and classy Belgian beer memorabilia. The bottle list was very good, and the two nights we were there I focused on their lambic offerings, which were always served in the traditional basket. Gueuze itself comes in at 6%, with a sharp tang that conjures up images of Sweet Tarts. Keep an eye out for this at elite American bottle stores.