Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Homebrewed FML IPA Review

Brewery: My Kitchen | Beer: FML IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: ~6.4% | IBUs: ~50
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Homebrewed FML IPA
You can read FML's Phase One (Brewing) here and Phase Two (Bottling) here

The joyous day is here, time to finally rip off the cap and see how my second homebrewed creation, FML IPA, has turned out.

Given the mistake I made with sanitation during brewing, I'm happy enough just to confirm there is indeed no noticeable infection. Anything else positive about the beer at this point is somewhat of a bonus, honestly.

Relax, have a homebrew indeed.

Appearance: A thoroughly hazy orange-amber body capped by just under a finger of creamy cream-colored head that fades in average time, leaving little lacing.

Aroma: Aromatic green hops over biscuity malt. There's a homebrewed quality that's hard to nail down.

Taste: Green and lightly citrusy hops over a toasty and biscuity malt body. Perhaps it's just my hopeful imagination, but I feel like the malt has made a big impact over a 100% extract formulation. I will be using the steeping bag moving forward. Overall, it reminds me of a very amateur, oddly watered down version of Southern Star's Pine Belt Pale Ale.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with medium carbonation. No sign of the alcohol.

Drinkability: It actually drinks about expected for the style if you're not put off by the flavor profile.

Verdict: I'd be kidding myself if I gave this beer anything other than a failing grade. It has a clear rough homebrewed quality, and the elements don't quite mesh correctly. It's certianly the work of a rank amateur. That said, I kinda love it. Next time I brew, I think it would be worthwhile to give this another shot to see if I can get a little closer to the target.

Grade: F+ (But still a success in my eyes!)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saint Arnold Oktoberfest Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Oktoberfest
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest | ABV: 6.0% | IBUs: 24
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Saint Arnold Oktoberfest

First brewed back in 1997, Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest is the company's popular fall offering. While a somewhat traditional Oktoberfest beer, it has a bit of a trick up its sleeve. Initially planned to be a lager (standard for the style), a test batched brewed with the company's proprietary ale yeast was such a hit that the recipe was switched to an ale.

As for the rest of the ingredients, the backbone is built from three types of Munich malt, while Czech Saaz and Hallertauer hop varieties provide flavor and bitterness. Here's the brewery's description of the finished product:
A full bodied, malty, slightly sweet beer celebrating the Autumn harvest. This rich beer has a round malt flavor and an above average alcohol content perfect for a cool fall evening.
Believe it or not, but this is the last remaining Saint Arnold year-round or seasonal beer to be reviewed here on PintLog. Until they release something new, the only Saint Arnold reviews left to post are Divine Reserve releases. Let's see if they can go out on a high note.

Appearance: A barely hazy, reddish-orange body capped by a little less than a finger of bubbly and tannish head that recedes quickly and leaves little lacing.

Aroma: Lots of rich caramel malt accompanied by fruit, mild spice, nuts, and a hint of smoke.

Taste: A mix of dark fruit, mildly bitter and earthy hops, nuttiness, and just a hint of dark chocolate over a solid caramel malt backbone. The aftertaste features rich cereal grains and a hint of earthy hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: Very drinkable, this would be a great choice for the dinner table or the beer garden.

Verdict: A solid Märzen, Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest is a tasty and drinkable taste of fall. Something to look forward to each year, like most of this brewery's seasonal releases.

Grade: B+

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saint Arnold Amber Ale Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Amber Ale
Style: American Amber Ale | ABV: 5.5% | IBUs: 31
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Saint Arnold Amber AleWell, it took a few years, but I'm finally getting around to reviewing Saint Arnold's flagship brew. First brewed way back in 1994 as the company's first official offering, Saint Arnold Amber Ale has been the top dog ever since.

Released after just six test batches were brewed, the initial version of Amber Ale was actually closer to an India Pale Ale. While that wouldn't be the end of the world in today's beer climate, back in the bleak days of the mid-nineties it was a bit of an obstacle for an uninitiated public. After just three months on the market, the brewers made some changes, and the recipe has stayed the same for the last 15 years.

Cascade hops are employed for bittering, while hop flavoring comes from both Cascade and Liberty varieties.
The backbone is built from 2-row pale and Belgian Caravienne malts. Here's how Saint Arnold describe the finished product:

A well balanced, full flavored, amber ale. It has a rich, malty body with a pleasant caramel character derived from a specialty Caravienne malt. A complex hop aroma, with a hint of floral and citrus comes from a combination of Cascades and Liberty hops.
This is a beer I've enjoyed while out and about many times, but I don't think I've ever actually brought a six-pack home. I'm looking forward to taking some time to really see what makes this beer tick, so let's get to it.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, golden-amber body with a bubbly whitish head that recedes quickly and leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Citrusy and herbal hops over a toasty caramel malt base. Much hoppier than the average Amber.

Taste: Lots of juicy fruit and hop flavors. Not quite as hoppy in the mouth, but still probably hoppier than average for the style. Underneath, a sweet and toasty malt backbone. The aftertaste is toasty with a hint of juicy fruit.

Mouthfeel: A smooth, medium body with moderate carbonation. Dries a little in the finish.

Drinkability: Excellent; this would make for a great session beer.

Verdict: Saint Arnold's Amber Ale is a very solid example of the style, and really fits the bill of a brilliant session beer. All of the juicy fruit and hop notes make this a more attractive proposition than most of the Ambers I've tried.

Grade: A-

Saint Arnold Texas Wheat Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Texas Wheat
Style: Kristalweizen | ABV: 4.9% | IBUs: 18
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass

Saint Arnold Texas WheatFirst brewed back in the 1994, Saint Arnold Texas Wheat was only the brewery's second official offering. Developed in front of a local homebrew shop, it was initially known as "Kristall Weizen"—a reference to the beer's style. Kristalweizen is a German style of wheat beer that is essentially a filtered version of Hefeweizen.

While most American wheat beers contain less than 30 percent wheat, Texas Wheat is built with half malted wheat and half 2-row barley. Perle hops are employed for bittering, while Liberty hops are used for flavoring. The beer now uses the same Kölsch yeast as the company's Fancy Lawnmower, but used the brewery's proprietary ale strain for its first ten years.

Here's how Saint Arnold describe the beer:

A refreshing, flavorful filtered wheat beer [and] the perfect beer to accompany a meal or for a summer's day. The wheat contributes a lighter flavor while maintaining a rich body. The beer has a light hop profile -- just enough to give the beer balance and complexity.
It may not be the perfect time of year for this beer, but let's just close our eyes and pretend its 100 degrees outside.

Appearance: A slightly hazy pale straw body with a huge white head that features brilliant retention and spotty lacing.

Aroma: Sweet, grainy wheat accompanied with apple, citrus, and a slight hint of floral hops

Taste: Sharp lemon and apple over a tasty and grainy wheat backbone. Towards the end, there's enough of a bitter hop dimension to add more complexity. Clean. The aftertaste is grainy with the barest hint of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied and velvety with smooth carbonation. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: Excellent, as you'd expect from any wheat beer worth a damn.

Verdict: Saint Arnold has created a solid Wheat beer, perfect for a Summer's day here in Texas. While it may not the most complex beer in the world, it does its job well.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Saint Arnold Brown Ale Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Brown Ale
Style: English Brown Ale | ABV: 5.3% | IBUs: 24
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Saint Arnold Brown AleSaint Arnold's Brown Ale made it's debut back in 1995, and was originally brewed to celebrate the brewery's first anniversary. It went over so well that it became one of the cornerstones of the lineup and has been brewed ever since. Saint Arnold promise the beer will be sticking around for quite some time, as it's the favorite of brewery owner Brock Wagner's wife.

Designed as an English style Brown Ale, it took a little tweaking to get the recipe just right. Apparently, the key to the flavor profile the brewers were after was a splash (0.5% percent of the overall malt bill) of chocolate malt. The full ingredient list is composed of five varieties of malt, three types of Pacific Northwest hops, and a proprietary yeast strain.

Saint Arnold describe the beer as "A beautiful, deep copper brown ale [with] a full, malty body with hints of chocolate, a touch of sweetness and a light hop flavor" and are particularly fond of pairing it with food. Their highest pairing recommendation is pecan crusted snapper, which sounds pretty awesome.

Regrettably, I have no snapper on hand, so I'll just have to review the beer as is.

Appearance: Crystal clear, but not the color you initially expect from a Brown Ale. This is a somewhat lighter and more orange interpretation of "brown." Up top, an off-white colored head that splits quickly and leaves little lacing.

Aroma: Sweet, roasty malt with plenty of fruity, nutty, slightly chocolaty qualities. It smells darker than you would expect looking at it. Perhaps some light alcohol notes as it warms.

Taste: Sweet, slightly bitter, roasted biscuity malt accented with chocolate, nut, and fruit notes. Despite not having much hop character, this still has good balance. The aftertaste is roasty and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and smooth with moderate carbonation. Nicely dry.

Drinkability: Lighter in intensity and body than many Brown Ales, this is above average.

Verdict: Saint Arnold Brown Ale is just a little thin for me, I'd love to see a little more oomph in the malt backbone. But, that being said, this is still a tasty and sessionable little brew well worth a try.

Grade: B

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BrewDog Release Tactical Nuclear Penguin, The World's New "Strongest Beer"

Those crazy punks from BrewDog have been in the lab creating something truly wicked, and the result is Tactical Nuclear Penguin. It's a 32% ABV beer that can lay claim to the two key titles: strongest beer on the planet and the best named beer on the planet.

Most people believe the previous record for strongest beer belongs to the 27% ABV Sam Adams Utopias, but it was actually set by Schorschbräu Schorschbock at 31%. This beer may eek past Schorschbock, but it crushes the legendary Utopias by 5 full percentage points. Wow.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin started life as 10% ABV Imperial Stout, was aged for eight months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask, and then aged a further eight months in an Islay cask. It's quirky name is actually a reference to the process that boosted the alcohol content—for three weeks the beer was subjected to sub-zero temperatures, which allowed much of the water to freeze out and left the remaining beer more potent. Similar techniques are used in traditional German Eisbocks and terrible American "Ice Beers" like Bud Ice.

Here's the label text that will great those lucky enough to get their hands on this mad brew:
This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.
As you might expect, such a time and labor intensive experimental beer is not exactly cheap. But, at the equivalent of just under $60 per 300ml bottle, Tactical Nuclear Penguin is a relative bargain in this territory. Sure, it may not come in a gorgeous bottle like Utopias, but it does come wrapped in a paper bag featuring a hand-drawn penguin.

500 bottles will be released, half of them sold as part of a package with one share of the company as part of the company's Equity for Punks program. The price for the 250 bottles bundled with the share will be about $400, which isn't too bad considering it comes with a 20 percent lifetime discount at BrewDog's site (which sells their beer).

For more info, check this video of the boys wearing their finest suits:

Widmer Brothers 84/09 Double Alt Review

Brewery: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. | Beer: 84/09 Double Alt
Style: Altbier | ABV: 9.8% | IBUs: ~70
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Widmer 84/09 Double AltThis year represents 25 years since the Widmer brothers founded their pioneering Portland brewery. The beer that really catapulted the company into prominence was their Hefeweizen, but the beer that really got them going in the first place was their Altbier. Altbier is a German style, whose name means "old beer." In this case, "old" refers to the fact that this beer represents traditional, pre-Lager takeover German brewing, not that the beer is aged or stale.

In honor of this year's anniversary, Widmer decided to brew up a tribute to their original Altbier, this time with the volume turned up to 11. The result is 84/09 Double Alt, which is essentially a Sticke, or "Double Altbier." With an alcohol level just shy of double-digits and this being my first Altbier of any description, this should be a rather interesting introduction.

Enough babble, let's crack a bottle in honor of a quarter-century of Widmer!

Appearance: A dark and murky mahogany body with stunning ruby highlights. Up top, two fingers of off-white, creamy head that sticks around a while and leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Lots of rich malt with spices and dark fruit. Reminiscent of a Doppelbock.

Taste: Similar to the aroma. Spices, raisins, and bananas over a rich and mildly bitter malt backbone. That nearly ten percent alcohol content is present throughout, but never oversteps its bounds. The aftertaste is peppery and somewhat boozy. Once again, a very similar profile to that of a Doppelbock.

Mouthfeel: A slightly fuller than medium body with moderate carbonation and a dry finish. You can detect alcohol on the tongue, especially as the beer warms.

Drinkability: Not quite a sipper, but it's close.

Verdict: Honestly, I would have pegged this as a Doppelbock, but that's probably due to my inexperience with Alts and Stickes. Regardless, 84/09 is a tasty brew and a worthy marker for this milestone. Congratulations on 25 years Widmer!

Grade: B+

Note: While this review is being published in December, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh this past June.

Dogfish Head Fort Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Fort
Style: Fruit Beer | ABV: 18.0% | IBUs: 49
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head FortDogfish Head is known for experimental high-alcohol beers, and Fort is a terrific example of their special brand of madness. Brewed to a strength of 18 percent alcohol, it would have been the strongest beer on the planet just a few years ago. Though there are a handful of stronger brews out there, Fort is the strongest fruit beer on the planet according to Dogfish.

Fort is raspberry-focused and brewed with a "ridiculous amount" of pureed raspberries. That's not just marketing gibberish—the brewers add about 20 pounds of raspberries per barrel during fermentation. Fruit beers are typically lighter fare, but this is anything but. The name is an appropriate reference to the beer's staying power, as it can age for quite a while.

While I bought one bottle to age, this one is fated to be drunk fresh—so let's pop it open and try to make it to the bottom, shall we?

Appearance: To be honest, I was really expecting this to be a deep shade of red. In fact, it's a hazy, deep reddish-pumpkin body with a decent off-white head that recedes rapidly and leaves only minimal lacing (with this level of alcohol, retention and lacing is virtually out of the question).

Aroma: Sweet, berry-like, boozy, and at times almost vinegary. Complex and uniquewhat on earth is this going to taste like?

Taste: Wow! Intense as hell! There is no question whatsoever that the alcohol content here is almost off the charts, it's in the forefront from the beginning to the end and almost spicy in its intensity. Once the booze-shock subsides, you find a lot of complexity underneath. There's lots of fruit, including berries, banana and pineapple. As for malt, the backbone is relatively light and basically stays the hell out of the way. The aftertaste is very boozy with some hints of berry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, slick, and nicely velvety. There's enough carbonation here to make it more drinkable than a liqueur. Lots of boozy burn for the tongue, the cheeks, and the throat. Dry as hell.

Drinkability: This one is going to take some time... I'd much prefer a regular 12 oz. bottle over this monster.

Verdict: This is a thoroughly unique beer - and because of this, it's hard to rate. Style is pretty much out the window here, so there's nothing much as far as guidelines go. Looks like we're in uncharted territory here folks... This big bastard of a beer tends to blur the lines between an ultra-strong beer and a weaker liqueur. It's mad as hell, but I like it. The only thing I can offer as far as a comparison goes is an Imperial Imperial Framboise. I can't wait to see how this ages.

Grade: B+

Note: While this review is being published in December, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh this past April.