Thursday, September 18, 2014

Prairie Standard Review

Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales | Beer: Standard
Style: Saison | ABV: 5.6% | IBUs: 25
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Prairie Standard
Billed as their everyday beer, and a great beer to drink while noodling, Standard is another Saison in Prarie's Saison-rich lineup. With that in mind, this is one of the few Prairie offerings sold in four-packs of 12 oz. bottles. After a brief absence, Prairie recently brought Standard back.

Standard is dry-hopped with Motueka hops to the tune of one pound per barrel. Prairie's farmhouse yeast is employed for fermentation here. No official word on the malt bill.

Here's how Prairie describe Standard:
It's a light, crisp saison with a hoppy finish. A lovely New Zealand hop with a spicy lime like flavor and aroma.
The first four Prairie Saisons I've tried have all been great, so hopes are high here. Let's dig in.

Appearance: A lightly-hazy pale-golden body capped by three fingers of fluffy, white head that fade slowly with excellent retention and patchy lacing.

Aroma: A mix of grassy and citrusy hops, orchard fruit, white pepper, funk, and pale malt.

Taste: Up front, citrusy, grassy, and lightly hops along with mild funkiness. Underneath, a crackery malt backbone anchors everything nicely. Lemon-lime and leafy hops, mild funk, and husky malt in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: Goes back just a little faster than you'd expect given the alcohol content. This is just what I'd be looking for on a hot summer day.

Verdict: An amazing session choice, Standard has earned a place in my regular rotation. It's not terribly complex, but it is full of character, well-balanced, and highly drinkable. These guys are really impressing me.

Grade: A (4.5 out of 5 stars)


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Prairie 'Merica Review

Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales | Beer: 'Merica
Style: Saison | ABV: 6.5% | IBUs: 30
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Prairie 'Merica
'Merica, another of Prairie's many Saisons, is a single hop, single malt variation of the style. The malt used is old school floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner, the hop variety is Nelson Sauvin (three pounds per barrel and dry-hopped), and the yeasts used are the house strain, two strains of Brettanomyces and a wine yeast.

This is the last of the first four Prairie offerings that showed up here in Houston last year, all four of which were consumed over the course of a weekend where I sorta fell in love with this Oklahoma brewery.

Here's how Prairie describe 'Merica:
The Nelson hops provide white wine flavors while Brettanomyces add a juicy quality to the beer.
Sounds good to me, let's light the fireworks and enjoy some good old 'Merica!

Appearance: A hazy golden body capped by a little over a finger of white head that fades quickly, leaving no lacing.

Aroma: A mix of tropical and orchard fruit, grassy, dank, and floral hops, barnyardy funk, white pepper, and pale malt. Just a hint of booze once it's warmed.

Taste: Up front, grassy, tropical-fruity, and moderately bitter hops along with funk, dried orchard fruit and spices. Underneath, a crackery pale malt body grounds everything. Spice from the alcohol throughout. There's a lot of strong flavors here, but everything comes together nicely. Dry hops, pepper, and a hint of booze in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a dry finish. Slickness from the booze throughout.

Drinkability: This drinks much faster than the alcohol content would suggest, making this dangerously smooth.

Verdict: 'Merica is another thoroughly enjoyable funky Prairie Saison with its own character. I'm really impressed with these guys so far, and glad they serve shelves here in Houston.

Grade: A (4.3 out of 5 stars)


Note: While this review is being published in 2014, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2013.
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Prairie Funky Galaxy Review

Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales | Beer: Funky Galaxy
Style: Saison | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 30
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Prairie Funky Galaxy
Funky Galaxy is what Prairie describe as a "black farmhouse ale", which really equates to a "Dark Saison", a lesser known subcategory of the Saison family. While most of the time we think of Saisons as being lighter in color, Dark Saisons are (unsurprisingly) a little darker thanks to their darker malt bills.

While I can't find a list of exactly what the malt bill is here, Funky Galaxy is hopped with Galaxy hops as its name suggests, to the tune of three pounds per barrel. Fermentation is handled with two strains of Brettanomyces and a wine yeast.

I can't find any sort of official description from Prairie on how this bad boy tastes, so I guess we're going in dark here. Let's go!

Appearance: A dark brown, almost black body capped by two and a half fingers of bubbly tannish head that fades in average time, leaving excellent lacing.

Aroma: A mix of toasty malt, piney hops, and barnyardy funk. Plenty of booze emerges as it warms.

Taste: Up front, citrusy, tropical-fruity, piney, and moderately bitter hops along with subtle, but consistent funky character. Underneath, a backbone of chocolatey and roasty malt balances everything out. Roasty malt, light funk, and lots of green hops in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little creamy with smooth medium carbonation and a drying finish. A little heat and slickness from the alcohol throughout.

Drinkability: As with all Prairie beers I've tried thus far, the moderately-high alcohol content is masked so that everything drinks faster than you'd expect.

Verdict: While it doesn't quite come together as well as the other beers I've tried from these guys, Funky Galaxy is still a great beer. It ends up being reminiscent of a slightly less intense Black IPA with a mild funky twist. With the malt intensity turned up a little, in my mind this potentially could be something special.

Grade: A- (4.1 out of 5 stars)


Note: While this review is being published in 2014, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2013.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Prairie Hop Review

Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales | Beer: Prairie Hop
Style: Saison | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: ~50
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Prairie Hop
In a portfolio rich with Saisons, Prairie describe Prairie Hop as their hoppy Saison. This was one of the first Prairie beers that made it down here to Texas, but it's been unavailable for a while. Earlier this year, Prairie got to brewing and have brought it back.

The hop kick comes from Simcoe and Citra hops, with one pound per barrel used for dry-hopping. Strangely enough, this is one of the only beers Prairie fail to list an official IBU count for, so we're estimating about 50 here. Farmhouse yeast is used, unsurprisingly, with wine yeast used for bottle conditioning.

Here's how they describe the beer:
Notes of peach, mango, and tangerine can be found in the flavor and aroma of this beer. The beer finishes dry which helps the hops jump out of the glass flavor wise.
Let's hop to it, shall we?

Appearance: A thoroughly hazy golden-copper body capped by over three fingers of very bubbly off-white head that fades in average time, leaving great lacing.

Aroma: Lots of piney and citrusy hops over a pretty pale malt body with a funky undertone. Maybe a whiff of alcohol once it has warmed.

Taste: Up front, citrusy, tropical-fruity, perfumey, floral, and piney hops with medium bitterness. Subtle funkiness around the edges. Underneath, biscuity malt that grounds everything nicely. The alcohol is masked well. Lingering grassy hops, funk, and pale grain in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little creamy with medium carbonation and a dry finish. Perhaps a little slickness from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Drinks faster than the alcohol content suggests, so watch out.

Verdict: Prairie Hop is hop-forward Belgian-style beer with a nice funky undertone and a sophisticated overall profile and a hidden punch. Another solid offering from Prairie; these guys are two-for-two with me so far.

Grade: A (4.3 out of 5 stars)


Note: While this review is being published in 2014, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2013.
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Prairie Ale Review

Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales | Beer: Prairie Ale
Style: Saison | ABV: 8.2% | IBUs: 25
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Prairie Ale
Started by brothers Chase and Colin Healey in Oklahoma in 2012, Prairie is one one of the most exciting new breweries in the country right now. With an already wide portfolio of beers, a lot of the focus is on farmhouse and sour styles, though there are some big-hitter barrel-aged Stouts in there, too.

Here in Texas, we get a lot of Prairie's releases, which is awesome. Along with what Jester King is doing up in Austin, there are a lot of innovate new beers on the shelves here for farmhouse lovers such as myself.

I'm starting with Prairie Ale, what they describe as their classic Saison. The malt bill consists of pilsner, wheat, flaked wheat, along with some cane sugar. On the hop side, it's all Saaz. Yeast is where it gets really fun, with a mix of ale and wine yeasts along with good old Brettanomyces.

Here's how Prairie describe the resulting profile:
A healthy dose of saaz hops are used to add a spicy element to the beer. Notes of black pepper and pineapple can be found in this beer.
Finally getting Prairie on here has been a goal for a while now, so let's get to it, shall we?

Appearance: Big pop of the cork on opening. Pours thoroughly hazy golden-straw body buried under an out of control thick, white head. Initially, it pours five fingers of foam, but it settles down a little after a few seconds. After the initial burn-off, the retention is good, and there's excellent lacing.

Aroma: A mix of mild lemony and grassy hops, pale malt, and a good dose of barnyardy funk. Maybe a whiff of alcohol once it's warmed.

Taste: Spicy and grassy hops, lemon, white pepper, and plenty of classic brettanomyces character over a pale and wheat-like body. Each element meshes with the others nicely. The alcohol is masked perfectly, adding a little spice and hiding under the rest. Grainy pale malt, grassy hops, and a hint of funk in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little creamy with medium-high carbonation and a dry finish. Perhaps a hint of heat from the booze as it warms.

Drinkability: Drinks much more like a regular Saison than the bigger beer the alcohol content suggests.

Verdict: Prairie Ale is a solid funky Saison with a hidden punch that I could easily drink all day long and get into plenty of trouble with. As good as this is, I can't wait to see what else these guys are brewing up.

Grade: A (4.4 out of 5 stars)


Note: While this review is being published in 2014, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2013.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dogfish Head Rosabi Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Rosabi
Style: American Strong Ale | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: ~50
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head Rosabi
Another of Dogfish's musical collaboration brews, Rosabi (a portmanteau from the beer's rose color and the inclusion of wasabi) was created with Julianna Barwick. Accompanying the beer is a five song EP.

Rosabi is an "Imperial Pale Ale" with Lousiana red rice and a touch of wasabi, one of Julianna's favorite ingredients. They've classified it as an Imperial Pale Ale to distinguish that it is moderately hopped, rather than being as bitterly hopped as your typical IPA. I'm throwing this in the American Strong Ale category here, because Imperial Pale Ale isn't a real style. At least not yet.

Here's how Dogfish Head describe it:
What’s hoppy? Wasabi. The Japanese root adds bittering and herbal notes similar to hops, with its subtle heat creeping in after the kick of carbonation.
I don't have any sashimi or ginger on hand, but I think we'll be okay. Let's dive in!

Appearance: A crystal-clear reddish-amber-brown body capped by two fingers of bubbly off-white head that fades slowly, leaving brilliant lacing.

Aroma: Resinous and grapefruit peel-like hops along with sharp and hot wasabi over big sticky caramel malt.

Taste: Up front, resinous, syrupy, citrusy, herbal, and moderately bitter hops and a nice flourish of wasabi. The wasabi is more flavorful and less angry than a usual encounter with wasabi, as the chemical burn character is diminished. Underneath, a big rich almost burnt caramel malt body balances everything nicely. Mild spicy alcohol throughout. All of the elements mesh rather well. Green and herbal hops, a hint of wasabi, and sticky toffee pudding malt in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a drying finish. Heat from the wasabi and booze throughout.

Drinkability: Drinks about as expected given the alcohol content and imperial tag.

Verdict: Rosabi is really a syrupy and resinous IPA or mild Double IPA with an interesting touch of wasabi. To be honest, I was hoping for a bit more aggressive/crazy wasabi attack here.

Grade: B+ (3.8 out of 5 stars)


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Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: 75 Minute IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 7.5% | IBUs: 75
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into pint glass

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
One of the core offerings from Dogfish Head is their "Minute" series of IPAs. Consisting of an IPA (60 Minute IPA), a Double IPA (90 Minute IPA), and a monster that could be described as a Triple IPA (120 Minute IPA), it's a pretty full lineup. However, there's a sweet spot right between 60 and 90 occupied by this beer, 75 Minute IPA. Available for a long time at the brewpub, 75 Minute is now an occasional bottled release.

Rather than just straight blend, to add something new to the mix it's bottled conditioned, deriving it's naturally carbonation from maple syrup, That seems like a pretty slick way to do it.

Here's How Dogfish Head describe the resulting brew:
The carbon dioxide trapped during bottle conditioning gives 75 Minute IPA a soft and velvety mouthfeel. Dry-hopped with whole-leaf Cascades, this complex IPA has been known to inspire pilgrimages to our brewpub.
60 and 90 were both good to me, so let's see what happens when you split the difference and throw in a dash of Canadia, shall we?

Appearance: A hazy orange-bronze body capped by about three fingers of dense off-white head with excellent retention and lacing.

Aroma: Juicy and leafy hops over sweet brown sugar caramel malt. Simple but enticing.

Taste: Up front, a wave of herbal, green, piney, and bitter hops. Underneath, an assertive caramel malt backbone with lots of syrupy brown sugar around the edges. The booze is well-hidden. Everything is balanced perfectly and it all straddles the line between a bold IPA and mild Double IPA pretty nicely. Leafy bitter hops and chocolatey malt in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a dry finish. Hints of warmth from the booze.

Drinkability: Drinks much faster than the big alcohol content would suggest, so be careful.

Verdict: I'm a fan of the other "minute IPAs" Dogfish puts out, but I have to say 75 is my new favorite. It's straightforward, very drinkable, balanced perfectly, full of great flavors, and has plenty of character. It might not be the biggest or most unique beer on the planet, but I just simply can't find a fault here. I wish this was available in packs right between 60 Minute and 90 Minute, I'd be buying a lot.

Grade: A+ (4.7 out of 5 stars)


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