16 December 2008

December Pre-update

There are a few updates ready or near-ready to be posted...BUT, being an Organist in December ("AAAAGGGGHHHHH") AND having a computer death on my hands...I'll ask you indulge and excuse my lack of posting at the moment.

Time now for some wise words of Charlie Papazian, dean of Homebrewing:
"Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew."

28 November 2008

Hooray Beer!

An honorable mention from the annals of beer advertising:

04 November 2008

Homebrew Updates 4 Nov. 2008

I hope everybody is voting or has already voted. This month's All About Beer magazine had an interesting article about past US Presidents and beer, from Washington and Jefferson the homebrewers to Martin Van Buren the party animal to Rutherford B. Hayes the tee-totaller and his First Lady "Lemonade Lucy," to FDR who overturned Prohibition, and Jimmy Carter -- who signed into law the provision that makes homebrewing possible today.

Last month's William Billings Colonial Pumpkin Ale is in the bottle and conditioning.  Preliminary pre-carbonation taste tests hint that it's going to be nice. 
Here's the run-down, since I didn't include it in the last post:

1 lb Briess Caramel 20L specialty grains
6.3 lb NB Amber Malt Syrup
6 lb 9 oz fresh local pumpkin, oven-roasted and mashed into pulp
3 oz Cascade hops
7 oz wildflower honey and Grade B Vermont maple syrup
1/4 oz grated fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1/2 ts allspice (ground)
1/2 ts nutmeg (ground)
White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast

I soaked the grains and the pumpkin (in a mesh strain bag) in 1 gallon water @ 150F for 40 minutes, then rinsed both bags with another 1/2 gallon water.
Water brought to the boil: malt extract, honey/maple syrup, 1 oz hops, and 3 lb pumpkin (in bag) added to boil.  Boil for 60 minutes, adding 1 ts Irish Moss and 1/2 oz hops at 45 minutes.  Add final 1/2 oz hops and all spices at 60 minutes.
Topped up to 6 gallons (hence why a lower gravity) cold water and pitched yeast at 70F.

Original Gravity: 1043 (if I'd left it at 5 gallons, would have been closer to my target of 1065, but I also had significantly less honey/maple syrup to use than the source recipe called for, which also brought the gravity down).

Left in primary for 8 days, then racked to secondary, throwing in 4 oz brown sugar and 3.5 lb pumpkin pulp in a mesh bag.  In secondary for 13 days.

Final Gravity: 1007
Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%

Primed with cane sugar and bottled.  I'm going to leave it alone until Nov.24, for the first taste-test on Thanksgiving Eve.
I intentionally went light on the spice profile, following the recommendations of a few fellow brewers on beeradvocate.com, and also in order to let the natural flavors of the pumpkin have a chance to come through. I didn't want to make a pumpkin pie ale, which is what many end up being -- too much spice, and that's all you end up tasting.

And, the November homebrew is in the pot!  I took a detour from my original plan (Belgian Dubbel) and got inspired by a Pisgah Pale Ale clone kit from Hops & Vines of Asheville. Pisgah is an excellent brewery, and their Pale Ale is one of the best APAs I've had, local or otherwise.  And since Mrs. Perm always advocates for me to brew hoppy pale ales, it seemed like the thing to do.  The pumpkin ale has a longer waiting period than my standard brews, and a Dubbel would have had an even longer hibernation period.  

For nomenclature, I wanted to pay tribute to the source inspiration for this recipe (Pisgah Brewing in Black Mountain, NC).  I've decided to call it

Black Mountain Appalachian Pale Ale

Here's the photo for the label:

The tag line will read: "Our homage to one of the finest breweries (and one of the finest brews) of the Blue Ridge -- and the music that has echoed in these hills for centuries."

I'm quite fond of the play on the acronym at work here: APA, of course, being "American Pale Ale," but "Appalachian" works nicely in its tip-o-the-hat to Pisgah.  
In the interest of having the composer theme unbroken, I considered styling it "Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Ale," but that's all about Pennsylvania and is based on a poem about the Adirondacks.  Not the same.

I do confess a deep fondness for Appalachian folk music (Old Time, ballads, etc.) and it seems entirely appropriate to send one of my St. Cecilia tributes in that direction.  Plus, it gives me an excuse for more YouTube gems here:

Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus are two of the shining stars of the Old Time revival. And "Cumberland Gap" is one of my favorite Old Time numbers.

Profile and brew overview to come. 

30 October 2008

Sixpoint follow-up

On the heels of the New York Times article, the people at Metromix have created a very fine photo essay on the operations of Sixpoint Craft Ales. Worth the look for anyone (again: everyone) who loves good beer and the art of the brewer. In this instance, loving Brooklyn is helpful, but not necessary.

INSIDE: Sixpoint Craft Ales

29 October 2008

NYTimes: Brooklyn Returns to a Heady Time

This article in today's food section is well worth reading for anyone (that is: everyone) with an interest in the political economy of local breweries. Featured in this photo, as in the article, are some of the offerings of Sixpoint, a Brooklyn craft brewery responsible for some seriously tasty beer that doesn't have to rely on charity to score highly in all departments. Extra points are awarded for their brews' cool names, especially the Sixpoint Brownstone, the Sweet Action, and the Righteous Ale.

NY Times: Brooklyn Returns to a Heady Time
SEE ALSO: Sixpoint Craft Ales

20 October 2008

Beer a Better Investment than Newspapers

As readers of this fair blog probably suspected, it turns out that investing in beer over the past three years would have yielded a far more satisfying return than plunking down cash for newspaper stocks.

This intrepid blogger has done the math and determined that spending $10,000 on kegs of Bud (more on this in a minute) and re-investing your $75 returned deposit underneath your mattress would result in approximately $4,125 cash in hand. Newspapers? Not so much. The Grey Lady is the only stock currently above that $4,125 watermark and a $10,000 investment in McPaper would leave you with a paltry $1,833 as of the middle of last week.

Of course, my only issue with this post is - why Bud? Running the same numbers with a list price of $179 for 1/2 keg of Brooklyn Brown still leaves you with a tidy $2,925 under your mattress and you've spent the past three years drinking a brew that is, in fact, quite fine. Or, go for variety, as the Brooklyn Brown seems to be fairly representative in price of the better brews.

This even goes beyond quality versus quantity. Sure you could drink the equivalent of 6 Bud's per day for three years. But then what about the medical costs associated with alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver? And surely those who live near good local brewery's would better serve their local economy by buying local and rewarding the toils of their friendly local craftspeople.

This is not even to mention the amount of homebrew that $10,000 of supplies and materials could produce! So here's to beer, and not newspapers. Bottoms up to you all until the next time!

10 October 2008

Perm's Pick for October

I have not posted a true "Pick" in quite a while.

As it should be, methinks, since these Picks are not for the every-day, run-of-the-mill Good Beers, but for those that truly stand out from the crowd in their uniqueness.

I do think it's time to present another, this one from the well-respected Quebecois-Canadian brewery Dieu du Ciel. I've heard great things about Dieu du Ciel, but this particular brew was my first foray into their oeuvre. And, quite honestly, this one was a tangential, whim pick. I was stocking up for my October cellar stash at Ye Olde Bruisin' Ales, and happened to be telling Jason how much I appreciated his prior recommendation of Saison Pipaix. He then said, "Well, if you appreciated the peppery notes of the Pipaix, you should check this one out..." and fetched me a 12-ounce bottle of the present goodness. Brewed with green and black peppercorns, in fact.

Route des Épices

Rye Ale brewed with green and black peppercorns, 5% Alcohol by Volume

From the Brewery's own description...

"La Route des épices est une bière de seigle dégageant d'agréables arômes et saveurs de poivre provenant de l’incorporation de cette épice durant le brassage. En bouche, on retrouve aussi des saveurs de malt, de céréales fraîches, et des notes de fruits, de chocolat et de caramel. En arrière-goût, le poivre revient en force et laisse une agréable sensation épicée sur la langue et l'arrière du palais, permettant d'atteindre le juste équilibre entre le piquant et les autres saveurs..."

That is to say,

"Initially, the beer reveals flavours of fresh grain and malt, which give it notes of chocolate, caramel, and fruit. The pepper flavour and aroma is fully revealed in the finish, which leaves a pleasant, spicy, tingling sensation on the tongue."

Odd, I know. But you know what, it works.

Here's my review:

Appearance: Dark siena brown, similar to an American Brown or a dark Pumpkin ale. Lots of light-tan foamy head. 4.5 / 5

Aroma: Enticing! Dark, deep malt; black and white pepper leads into shades of cocoa, cardamom, salt, coriander, and rye, with an earthy-floral (is that basil?) finish. 4 / 5

Taste: Rich and complex: this is truly a caravan-journey across the Spice Road. Dark tones of rye and bourbon, with a flashy peppercorn showing and a spicy finish. Dandelion shows up, as well as (again) cardamom, with slight hints of white chocolate. 4.5 / 5

Palate: A strong pepper finish -- almost hot on the throat, and yet I want to sip again and again... 3.5 / 5

Overall: Very unusual! Very pleasant, too...Dark, mysterious, appropriately bitter. 4 / 5

Great with (I would imagine) a whole array of foods -- peppery steak for sure; smoked cheeses; anything grilled. I had it alongside a chicken-gorgonzola-walnut pasta: it was *almost* too strong for the dish, but in the end it did work well together, thanks to that gorgonzola-blue cheese. I'd try this one with mole sauce in a heartbeat. Or, for that matter, curry fries.

Final: 4.25 / 5 (A-)

My only advice: don't drink it too cold. You'll miss out.



October Homebrew News

I. It's Here and It's Good.

Just how good, I'll let Mrs. Perm post her tasting notes and say. Suffice to say, I'm damn proud of this one.

II. The Howells English Mild Ale continues to be a bit pedestrian and boring. Nothing wrong with it, and it goes great with a bowl of bison chili, just nothing to write home about. I've made much better brews than this. Perhaps it (like so many others before) just needs to sit in the bottle and age for a while yet. But I'm not holding out for greatness.

III. Gearing up for the next batch:
William Billings Colonial Pumpkin Ale

I spent the better part of the first half of today brewing this one. Look for a future post devoted to it (with photos). It's by far the most experimental brew I've worked on yet; I'm looking for it to be good -- but as all true experiments are wont to be, there's no real telling how the final product will pan out. Suffice to say at this point in the game, the color is lovely.

IV. Happy Birthday!!

St. Cecilia Brewery celebrated its One Year mark in September, and the crazy brewer forgot to mark the occasion with a note...however, I couldn't think of a finer brew to mark the occasion with than that Irish Stout. Man, it's good.

27 September 2008

Wisdom from our National Sage

"I doubt not that moderate Drinking has been improv'd for the Diffusion of Knowledge among the ingenious Part of Mankind...drinking does not improve our Faculties, but it enables us to use them."

Benjamin Franklin, Silence Dogood, No. 12, 1722.

(full text here)

23 September 2008


I have said it elsewhere before; I'll say it here loudly and clearly; I'll say it again I'm sure:
Brewgrass rocked my socks off.

I (and Mrs. Perm) have been a mostly-annual participant in the Durham, NC World Beer Festival since 2002.  We have come to love it dearly ("It's the best thing that Durham has to offer."), have very very fond memories of festivals past spent with friends, and were sorry to realize that we wouldn't be able to make the trek this year to attend.  I can credit the WBF with introducing me to any number of then-new, now-favorite brews.  I raise my glass to thee in Toast, World Beer Festival.

I can, however, unequivocally state that the Great Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass Festival blows the Durham fest out of the water.  Yes, it's quite smaller.  Yes, there are significantly fewer breweries -- and significantly fewer brews -- representing a smaller geographic spread than at the WBF.  Be as that may, Brewgrass for me has successfully captured the certain je ne sais quoi of Atmosphere that a "Beer Festival" should represent.  I firmly believe in the quality over quantity focus, and believe that BG has nailed that one on the head. 

Where Brewgrass got it right:

* Limiting the number of attendees.  Yes, it was crowded.  Certainly, it could easily have been much more crowded than it was.  The size of the crowd was manageable and reasonable.  I hope they continue this practice.  
* The Venue.  MLK Park is perfect for this thing.
* Having one 7-hour session rather than two 4-hour sessions (a la Durham).  Four hours is a long time to sample beers.  And yet there was much less of a sense of haste with the proceedings, having those additional three hours.  One could take a sample brew, return to one's chair, take some notes, relish in the beer, savor it, and return at one's leisure to the next brewery tent.  Here's a great example also of how fewer breweries to choose from works in your favor. 
* Having the space, ability, space, permission, expectation, and, yes, space to bring a chair and use it.  And sit down. Next year, we're definitely getting closer to the stage.     
* Being generally Chill about everything.  Laid-back, relaxed, happy.  Not that those things don't happen at Other Beer Festivals I've attended.  But Brewgrass really does capture that ambience beautifully.  (Can we credit Asheville with this fact?  Or the demeanor of those who come to this thing?  I can say, I did not miss the preponderance [being one myself] of that certain demographic of Duke (graduate-) students and Triangle Yuppies.) 
* Very nice souvenir tasting glasses.    

* Lest we forget or overlook it: The Music. The lineup of bands was stellar and the front-and-centeredness of the stage was entirely appropriate and enjoyable.

The weather was perfect. The people were nice.  And the beers were stupendous.

I began the day set to take detailed tasting notes and be all nerdy, BA-style. After about 3 or 4, though, the just-take-it-easy-and-have-fun mood got the best of me, and I decided to do just that.  Enjoy the day, make mental notes of outstanding samples, and simply soak it all in.

The bands: 
1. Brushfire Stankgrass.  We noticed how as the day went on, the bands successively got more and more "traditional" in style.  The first group was barely even "Newgrass," let alone Blue. They did have a banjo.  And they were quite good, in an Avett Brothers/Carbon Leaf sort of vein.
2. The Biscuit Burners.  These folks were probably my favorite.  Also flirting with a "Newgrass" sound, a few of their songs had a pronounced Indian influence (was that a sitar up there?) -- perfect for the Asheville-hippies.
3. Dixie Bee Liners.  Yeah, I was drinking.
5. Cadillac Sky -- these guys were fantastic, and really made me want to be closer to the stage.

What could have been better?  A cigar vendor.

The Calm Before the Storm.

The Brewery Lineup was Stellar. 42 by my count, 30 of which were from either North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or north Georgia. With a total of at least 175 beers or so (the guide booklet wasn't completely accurate in its listings). Of those 42, Mrs. Perm and I managed to make it to 22 breweries and sample about 45 brews.  Modest in the grand scheme, perhaps, but I, at least, have very few regrets about how I made out. 

There were two or three breweries that I missed on purpose (Foothills, Big Boss, Sam Adams), but only a couple that I wanted to hit up and didn't (Duck Rabbit, Heinzelmannchen).  

At first I was slightly bummed that there were not free water bottles (Durham does do this, or at least used to), but once we discovered the preponderance of jugs o' water at the brewery booths (ostensibly for cleaning out your tasting glass), my complaints washed away.  Plus, the $2 we did spend on water bottles went to Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Asheville.

Highlights of the brew tastings: 
* Dogfish Head and their Randall.  60-Minute IPA filtered through basil, mint, and coffee.  YOWZA!  Their Festina Peche was also a highlight.
* Highland's limited-release Imperial Black Mocha Stout.  Definitely in my Top 3 of the day.
* Pisgah Valdez -- another strong coffee stout, this one with organic, fair-trade coffee beans.
* French Broad's Saison. American breweries often struggle with making a successful farmhouse ale. French Broad nailed it.  The Altbier was also a winner.
* Green Man had their ESB in a hand-pump cask.  It was heavenly.
* Magic Hat Jinx. Strong ale brewed with peat-smoked whisky malt. 
* Outer Banks Slap Happy Abbey.
Thomas Creek's Vanilla Cream Ale -- surprising!
Great Divide Wild Berry. 

* Rogue (OR) Brewing's Old Crustacean Barleywine.  I don't know how they get off calling that a barleywine.  I also don't know the story behind the naming of this one, but "Old Crustacean" pretty much tastes like the name suggests that it might.
* Triangle Brewing (NC)'s Xtra Pale Ale.  As Homer Simpson might say, "Bo-ring!"

Here's a list of what we tried.  I'll have a review of a few of them forthcoming.  This posting is already long enough.  

Asheville Brewing Co. Old School Pale Ale, Ninja Porter.
Brooklyn Brewery. Post Road Pumpkin Ale.
Catawba Valley Brewing (NC). King Don Pumpkin Ale.
Coast Brewing (Charleston, SC). Hopart IPA, ALTerior Motive Altbier.
Dogfish Head Brewing. Festina Peche (a "Neo-Berliner Weisse"), 60-Minute IPA (Randallised!)
French Broad Brewing Co. (NC) Wee Heavier Scotch Ale, Altbier, Gateway Kolsch, 13 Rebels ESB, Saison.
Green Man Brewing (NC). Pale Ale, Cask-conditioned ESB, Porter.
Highland Brewing. Gaelic Ale, Imperial Black Mocha Stout.
Magic Hat. Lucky Kat IPA, Number 9, Jinx.
Moon River Brewing (GA). Wild Wacky Wit, Swamp Fox IPA, Captain's Porter.
Outer Banks Brewing (NC). Slap Happy Abbey.
Pisgah Brewing (NC). Valdez, Endless Summer.
Rogue Brewing. Old Crustacean Barleywine.
Sierra Nevada (CA). Anniversary Ale.
Terrapin Beer Co. (GA). India Style Brown Ale, Big Hoppy Monster Imperial Red Ale.
Tommyknocker Brewery (CO). English Style Pale Ale (dry hopped with Kent Goldings & Fuggles)
Thomas Creek Brewing (SC). Doppelbock, Vanilla Cream Ale.
Triangle Brewing (NC). Belgian Style Golden Ale, Xtra Pale Ale.
Victory Brewing (PA). Prima Pils, Hop Devil IPA
Yazoo Brewing (TN). Hefeweizen.
Great Divide (CO.) Wild Berry Ale.

A local brewing favorite.  Find the Hasid look-alike?

The scene of pure magic -- Imperial Black Mocha Stout.

And, lest we forget, the food was great -- Doc Chey's Noodle House (the fried gyoza dumplings were DELICIOUS), Barley's Taproom pizzas, and amazing organic bratwurst from Greenlife Grocery's deli (with equally amazing "Lusty Monk" mustard).

Running into old friends makes a good day into a Great one. 

'Tis the season...

I can't tell you how many comments I got from this shirt. I think I'll have to wear it again next year.

A final parting shot. There's that cute tasting glass again.  Filled with Moon River Wit, by the way.  That's a good wit.

19 September 2008

Beer in the Media roundup...

This might make a fun recurring feature: what's going on with brew news (and opinions!) across the globe, with appropriate snide remarks by yours truly.

First off, a potential tragedy in Scotland.
This is so ridiculous I must paste the entire article in-line.


The Orkney Brewery has mounted a vigorous defence of its award winning Skull Splitter ale, which could be withdrawn from sale in the UK following a report claiming its Viking branded bottles had an “aggressive” theme. The report, by management consultancy PIPC, was commissioned by controversial drinks marketing watchdog, the Portman Group, to investigate compliance with an industry code of practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcohol.
Skull Splitter, an 8.5% ale created over 20 years ago and sold internationally, was singled out in the PIPC report because “it’s name implies violence and also the impact the strength may have on the drinker”.
The report claimed that, potentially, Skull Splitter was in breach of the drinks industry’s code and the Portman Group will meet later in the year to consider what action, if any, it may take against the Orkney Brewery. That action could include an instruction to UK retailers not to stock the ale.
Fearing one of its longest established and most popular ales could be withdrawn from sale in the UK, the brewery has now launched a campaign to save Skull Splitter, a former Champion Winter Ale of Britain.
Already commended for leading the way with efforts to increase awareness of sensible drinking, the brewery – set to undergo a major redevelopment - has repeatedly stressed to the Portman Group that the ale is in fact named after Thorfinn Hausakluif, the Seventh Viking Earl of Orkney - nicknamed “Skull Splitter”.
Orkney Brewery’s parent company, Sinclair Breweries Ltd, is mustering support for its case ahead of the final decision by the Portman Group.
Norman Sinclair, managing director of Sinclair Breweries Ltd, said: “We’re completely stunned by the hard line the Portman Group has taken with Skullsplitter. When they first raised their concerns with us on the back of the PIPC report we fully explained the historical background to the name and, as responsible brewers, we were happy to try and work with them to find a solution. Indeed, we’ve cooperated with them every step of the way but it’s apparently got us nowhere.
“Again and again we have stressed to the Portman Group that Skull Splitter, like all our beers, is a high quality, hand crafted product designed to be savoured by adults who enjoy the real ale experience. We never target any of our beers at a young market, nor do we allow them to be sold cut price. In addition, Skull Splitter is not sold in supermarkets.”
Mr Sinclair said he had reminded the Portman Group that Sinclair Breweries Ltd, which also owns Kinlochleven’s Atlas Brewery, was the first small, independent brewer to incorporate new government alcohol consumption guidelines on all its labelling.
“We’ve always promoted a responsible attitude towards our products and, whilst we recognise that the Portman Group is trying to address a very real problem with under age drinking in this country, real ales are not the cause of these issues,” he said. “Sadly, the Portman Group does not appear to have grasped this fact. They have chosen to disregard everything we’ve said about the history of Orkney and the associated branding of what is a carefully crafted and well loved product, enjoyed the world over.”
He added: “We await their final decision with considerable concern. It’s almost inconceivable that a quality product such as Skull Splitter, one that has won numerous industry awards, could disappear from sale in the UK and I sincerely hope that common sense prevails.”

Two words: Namby-Pamby.

It seems the Bloody English are at it again! It is also apparent that the Portman Group has no sense for irony nor humour. I can only imagine that they would frown on such beer names as Duvel ( = Satan! Aaagh!), Weyerbacher Old Heathen ( = paganism!), Mt. Shasta's Weed Ales (marijuana use), and any number of Unibroue names (Maudite, Trois Pistoles...). And let's not forget Biere de Boucanier or Midnight Sun's Lust Ale.

Needless to say, the Skull Splitter is a fine, fine brew.

Second, some "fun things" from your friends and mine at Anheuser-Busch. Apparently they are unleashing an "American Ale" in the next week or two. Could it be that a corporate giant is quaking in the boots because of the Craft movement? Or is it a matter of saying, "hey, we can play this game, too!"

However you spin it, I think the immortal words of one Jesus Quintana are apt: "Bush-league psyche-out stuff: laughable, man!!"

By way of editorial, you can't do much better than my good friends at Bruisin' Ales:

The deluge of fake craft is upon us.

favorite quotes:
If you managed to make it through that Bud tutorial, they say 25 ibu's is 'hoppy.' Try telling that to a Double IPA-hophead and they'll likely spit it back in your face. Read this BeerAdvocate forum post where a Bud rep allegedly compares Bud American Ale to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 'but without all that nasty hoppy bite aftertaste.' Oh, my!"
"Will we try Budweiser American Ale? Maybe. Will we carry it? Absolutely not."

And three, for good measure:

Brewgrass is upon us!

Tomorrow, Mrs. Perm and I will be heading up to good ol' Asheville for the Twelfth Annual Greak Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass Festival. The weather looks to be perfect (high of 74 F, mild wind at 7-9 mph, few clouds...) and the Brewery lineup looks superb.

Come back soon for photos and reviews!

14 September 2008

It's good to be the Queen....

Queen mistakenly sent 2,000 pints of beer

'LONDON (AFP) — Queen Elizabeth II was mistakenly sent 2,000 pints of beer when one of her royal residences was confused with a nearby pub, it has emerged.

Royal staff had no record of any such order when a truck turned up at Windsor Castle on Wednesday with 12 barrels of lager ahead of England's football World Cup qualifying match with Croatia in Zagreb.

A quick telephone call revealed the mistake -- the booze had been destined for the Windsor Castle pub five miles away in Maidenhead in Berkshire county.

"We have received mail for the royal household here before but I think this is the first time they have received anything meant for us," said pub manager Misko Coric, who had ordered the beer for the football match.' 

It does not say whether Her Majesty used Royal Prerogative to keep the beer at her castle or not.  Seeing how it was an undisclosed brand of "lager," and not a cask ale, the temptation might not have been as grand.

10 September 2008

September Interlude...

I. Cellaring Pays Off.

Sara and I cracked into the final 4 remaining IPAs (from April).  Three words: At Their Peak.  I believe, over the entire course of my share of those bottles, I continually uttered the phrase, "Damn! I brewed THIS."  Brewing note to self:  4-5 months is apparently the moment d'or for IPA.  It's well known in cellaring circles that hops fade with cellaring, but apparently there's something of a bell curve at work, because the profile was hops all the way for these babies.  I have a renewed energy for homebrewing -- and letting my brews sit for a few months -- after tasting those luscious treats. Wow.

II. The Waiting Game.

The Howells English Mild Ale is in the bottle and waiting to mature.  I broke a couple out tonight to sample: very basic, very pleasant (read: almost boring in their straightforwardness).  They need to sit maybe a week or so more to get really good, but my preview-tasting at least tells me that they're not duds.  When I went to bottle them, I noticed a thin layer of hop/yeast trub on the surface of the brew, which is not really common -- it concerned me just a little bit (mold??  could mold have gotten in there???  Did it not ferment at all?) but after pouring into a glass and sampling, my fears were laid to rest.  
With this one weighing it at just over 3% ABV, I figured that the obligatory put-6-aside-in-the cellar habit might be suspended for this brew. After the glorious IPA discovery, though, I think I owe it to myself to keep some aside until midwinter.  I'm pretty sure they'll mature nicely.

III. Things to Come.

I've brewed my first Irish Stout (I'm very proud -- in my nerdy sort of way -- at the label I've devised for this one.  Coming soon to a blog near you.) and racked it into the secondary fermenter.  It's due to go into bottles this weekend and get broken out maybe on 1 October, as a reward to myself for surviving the dentist that day.

For this one, I've returned once again to my friends at Asheville Brewers' Supply for the ingredients and recipe:

6 lbs Northwestern Dark Malt Extract syrup
1 lb Briess Dark DME

1 lb crushed grain (.75 English black patent malt, .25 American roast barley)

1 oz Challenger hops (added @ 10 minutes)
1 oz Irish Moss (added @ 55 min.)
1 oz East Kent Goldings hops (added @ 60 min.)
Total boil = 70 minutes.
White Labs Irish Ale Yeast pitched @ 85 F.

OG = 1046, so we're looking at something in the 5.x% range, depending on the final gravity. So, it'll be stronger than Guinness, and one of the strongest ones I've brewed thus far...

06 September 2008

September Homebrew Tasting Notes

Lest ye think that Perm has vanished into church-work-stress oblivion, here's a new post.

August ended up being quite a nice month -- a birthday party for Sara, a birthday/vacation trip to the beach (complete with Orval and Chimay Blue), and a severe bout with Appalachian Trail Syndrome.    On top of that, I broke out the Organic Nut-Brown Ale and brewed a batch of English Mild. 

For starters: The Beach.

DeBordieu is always nice, but I felt this trip to be especially refreshing.  As we ended up being there on my birthday, I had some birthday treats to relish.  Sara surprised me with a bottle of Ardbeg (my current favorite Scotch), which went very well with my Lianos Dos Palmas!  
But I'm getting ahead of myself.  
Birthday dinner consisted of fettucine alfredo with grilled fresh bacon-wrapped, onions, and zucchini, served up with an Orval Trappiste Simply divine. 


For dessert, we tried our hands at a Chimay-based zabaglione, with mediocre results.  But the 
Chimay was transcendent, as always!

I took some alone time and did a 3-day stint on the AT in the Roan Mountain vicinity (NC/TN state line, between Mitchell and Yancey Counties [NC] and Carter County [TN]).  It was beautiful, inspiring, and exhausting, and I ended my sojourn with a swing through the Jack of the Wood pub in Asheville for a hot lunch (I hiked back to the car in fog and wet shoes) and a pint of their great Gold Ale.   Let me tell you what, there is nothing better after 3 nights in the woods and 20+ pounds on your back for 30 miles than a pint of that Gold Ale in the environs of a nearly-empty English-style pub in Asheville.  It was a moment nearly as transcendent as being atop a 6000' bald.

The reason I started this post, believe it or not, was to review my Byrd's Browning Ale (the organic nut-brown).  So, without further ado, here's the run-down.

Check out that sweet new Brooklyn Brewery glass, too...

Appearance: 4/5
A lovely brown color, like milk chocolate or dark nutmeg.  A bit cloudy (but hey! it's homebrew), a thin head that is nice and white.

Aroma: 3.5/5
Faint hops, "young-beer-sweet-funky" (I don't know what else to call it), walnuts, with a bit of earthiness.

Taste: 4.5/5
It's fairly complex. Caramel, roasted peanuts, honey, and a slight floral finish.  Nice job!

Palate: 4.5/5
Bubbly/dry/sharply-spritzy-yet-smooth.  It's easy and refreshing, with a warming finish.

Overall: 4/5
Not bad!  It's not my favorite of my homebrews (ESB still holds that title, I think), but it's certainly not my least favorite, either.  Highly drinkable -- my biggest complaint is in the nose. It's quite good with a peanut-sauce Asian dish (I had it with shrimp summer rolls, and it was a winner).

Combined score (out of 5): 4.15

11 August 2008

August Homebrew News

William Byrd's Browning Ale
is my latest creation. It is also the most original brew (in terms of recipe origin) I've attempted thus far. The inspiration for the recipe came from the Beer Captured (have I mentioned recently how much I love this book??) clone version of Samuel Smith's Nut-Brown Ale, but I decided to take some detours from the ingredient list of the recipe-as-published, most notably in the use of organic malts and priming sugar.

Here's the overview:

5 oz Organic Crystal Malt
5 oz Organic Chocolate Malt
Steeped in 1.5 gal water @ 150 F for 30 minutes, sparged with 1/2 gal.

Increase water to 3 gal. Water brought to the boil. Add:
6 lb Briess Extra-Light Organic Dry Malt Extract
1 oz East Kent Goldings (5.5% AA) hops
1/2 oz Fuggles (4.3% AA) hops

At 45 minutes add:
1/2 oz Fuggles
1 tsp Irish Moss

Boil for 15 minutes more. Chill, add to carboy with 2.6 gal cold water. Pitch yeast (White Labs British Ale) at 70 F.
Original Gravity: 1.050
Bottling ABV: 5.4%

It sat in the primary for 7 days, then got racked into secondary for another 7 days (was going to be 5 days, but I got lazy). Went into the bottles on the 28th, and I'm planning on breaking the tester out on August 16.

Browning refers to a (once) popular song from Elizabethan days ("The leaves be green/ The nuts be brown/ They hang so high/ They will not come down") used in a famous variation set for Viols by the great William Byrd. In the words of my former teacher, Dr. Silbiger, "The lyrics are probably naughty." As the comments from a few postings back show, another contender for the title of this one was Purcell's Nut Brown Lass. She'll have to wait for a later worthy brew.

I was unsuccessful in finding a video with a performance of Browning (at least one that's in-tune or well-played), but here's a delightful work of Byrd's, (another one with roots in a salaciously-worded song, The Carman's Whistle).

II. In the Hopper

I've just racked my next brew into the secondary. This one, an English Mild Ale kit from Northern Brewer, is destined to become Herbert Howells English Ale. The English Mild is actually a form of Brown Ale, once nearly ubiquitous in brewery-pubs across England but now mostly limited to the Midlands. Mild Ale is a session beer, usually with between 2.8 and 4.5% alcohol by volume. Mild is most commonly found as a cask ale, pointing to its origin as a local-brewed pub standard. This will not be one that I attempt to age for any significant amount of time.

It consists of:
0.125 lb Simpson's Chocolate Malt

0.25 lb Crisp Amber Malt
0.25 lb Crisp Brown Malt
Steeped in 1.5 gal water for 20 minutes.

At the boil, added:
1 lb Briess Sparkling Amber DME
3.15 lb NB Amber Malt Syrup

After 15 minutes, added:
0.5 oz Target (10 % AA) hops

After 45 minutes, added:
1 tsp Irish Moss

Cooled, added cold water, pitched yeast (White Labs Burton Ale).

The plan is to bottle on the 15th and break it out for a try on the 30th.

Northern Brewer's stock is rising pretty high in my book. They are very well-priced (even factoring shipping charges in!!), have a broad array of ingredients, kits, and supplies in their catalogue (both online and in print), and are constantly adding new kits and styles to their quiver. I expect I'll continue to do business with them. I don't want to neglect my local brew supply shops (Asheville Brewers and Hops & Vines), but until such a time as we live significantly closer to those shops (or travel to & fro much more regularly) it's hard to countenance paying (often) more for the same ingredients, on top of paying for gasoline to get there, when I can have UPS (who's already on the road anyway) drive it to me at competitive cost. This isn't quite following the party line on the buying-local scheme, but I justify it in a few ways:

1) This is homebrewing. I'm already making a political statement and doing my part to be off-the-grid.

2) The Local Brew Supply shops don't get their ingredients and supplies from their backyard garden (or factory). Odds are, they might order from NB as well.

07 August 2008

The Beer Chef Strikes Again

Doppelbock Thai Pork Balls with Peanut Sauce

First, the Doppelbock:
The recipe called for Troëgs Troeginator Double Bock, but failing to secure any I opted for a classic German expression of the style from a foolproof brewery (see the review of the beer at the bottom of this posting). As only 1/3 cup's worth is called for in the recipe, and I secured a 500 mL bottle for the occasion, plenty was left for our tasting enjoyment.

The Recipe (modified from All About Beer's Beer Lover's Cookbook):
I like pork! Can I have some pork?

1.5 pounds ground pork (the original was for chicken; I doubt we'll ever try it that way, the pork was so good, provided we can continue to find good free-range organic pork)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper (preferably red), diced
1 egg
Bread crumbs (maybe 1.5 Cups' worth, but have more on hand)
2 ts chili sauce (we didn't use any, substituting cayenne pepper instead -- but only about 1/8 - 1/4 ts!)
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1/3 C Doppelbock
1 diced jalapeno or other mildly hot pepper
2 or 3 ts soy sauce (I like Tamari)
1/3 C diced fresh basil
1-2 T fresh lime juice
Any other hot sauce or Asian sauce, to taste. Toasted sesame oil is always a hit.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, adding more breadcrumbs if you judge it too moist. The consistency should be just like homemade burgers. If you like, let the mixture stand, refrigerated, for a few hours. (We didn't do this.) Heat oven to 325 F. Form the mix into balls about 2 inches in diameter (if they're too big, they'll fall apart -- think Italian meatball-size). Sautee in oil (I like peanut or safflower for Asian cooking) on each side, until golden brown. Place on paper towels to soak up excess oil, then put them on a baking pan or cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with your favorite Southeast Asian-inspired dipping sauce. We whipped up a spicy ginger peanut sauce that was perfect , and served them alongside snap peas and rice noodles for a meal.

I can't express how delicious these things were. And the pairing with a glass of Korbinian was simply delightful. I don't know if I would have ventured a Thai-themed dish with sweet-strong-dark German Bock as an ingredient, without the prompting of a recipe to tell me to do so, but the result was perfect. This dish will be made again in our household.

Regarding the Beer:
Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock

Appearance: Dark brown, looks suspiciously like Coca-Cola in my pilsener glass. 4/5

Aroma: A tad (but just a tad) on the weak side in my book. Nicely malty and caramelly. 3/5

Taste: Very nice! Raisins, caramel, a subtle but solid Noble Hop presence, nutty and toasty. 4.2/5

Palate: Spritzy. 4.5/5

Overall: It's no Curator or Celebrator to be sure, but for the price (much cheaper than either of those!) it can't be beat. Perfect with the above meal; it would also pair nicely with an array of desserts. 4/5

Total overall score: 3.85.

03 August 2008

As the summer wanes....

I've got a few updates to post, including another installment in the cooking-with-beer department (Doppelbock Thai pork balls) and some homebrewing news, but as I enjoy posting photos along with my text, and I am a lazy man (quite possibly the laziest in Polk County, which does NOT put me in the running for laziest worldwide), those will just have to wait until I feel like dealing with photo uploads.

The mostly-organic Brown Ale is going in bottles this afternoon, and will be followed closely by the startup of an English Mild Ale.

In the meantime, here's a new (to me) beer-related blog I've stumbled across that looks fairly interesting.

11 July 2008

A Witty Tasting

I will never again shortchange the "wait 3 weeks before trying your homebrew" rule. I never cease to be amazed how such amazing transformations can take place in the span of just a few days.

I broke out one of the Wittes yesterday evening with dinner, but didn't feel like reviewing. I'm glad I did wait, because even in the space of 18 hours, it has improved even more. The early-sample off-putting nose has vanished, and the resulting brew is well-nuanced and quite tasty.

Here's the breakdown:

Appearance: Very cloudy, with thin white lacing. It looks somewhat like liquid peach in the glass. The photos keep coming out with a redder hue than it actually is -- a nice shade of orange tan. 3.5

Aroma: A fruity bouquet! I promise that no fruit flavorings were added past the organic peel (3/4 oz, added in the last 10 minutes of the boil). Banana, pomegranate, lemon, orange, peach, apple, strawberry -- they all make a cameo. Also, notes of honey, with a tinge of sweet-and-sour. 4.0

Taste: Not as strong as the nose, but let it breathe for a couple of minutes and it opens up very nicely. Refreshing for sure. The coriander (I used 2 teaspoons, added with the orange peel) comes right on through. There's a citrus edge, some floral action, and a nice mild and gentle hop finish. This is one well-balanced package. 3.7

Palate: Just a tiny bit syrupy on the way down; past that it's mostly great and definitely thirst-quenching. 3.0

Overall: I'm damn proud of this one and impressed with myself. In retrospect, I probably could have boosted that coriander on up to a Tablespoon, and next time I'll get a bit more creative with the spices (cardamom? chamomile? definitely.) I'm imagining all sorts of food pairings, not the least of which being some sweet-and-sour bird action (duck, anyone?), seafood (lemon-butter lobster or crayfish), and even fruit dessert (warm apple pie or peach custard with some vanilla ice cream). 3.7

Overall Score (out of 5): 3.8

10 July 2008

Inspiring words from my favorite Roman....

I just stumbled across this quote from Thomas Merton (1915-1968):

"I drink beer whenever I can lay my hands on any. I love beer, and by that very fact, the world."

It has that certain Mertonian straightforwardness about it that makes me very reluctant to doubt its authenticity. I'm sure it's straight from the source.
What a true sage.
Contemplating the Real Presence, or a Cold One?

Homebrewing: At Wit's End

I think there is something inherent in being a classically-trained musician that lends itself to a penchant for puns. I have known quite a number of conductors, theorists, composers, and church musicians over the years who all had something of a soft spot (if not an obsession) with the games of wordplay. And those of you who know me even a little realize that I am not immune to this disease (or is it a gift...?). In fact, one reason for my choice of Brewery nomenclature was the vast array of punning potential. (Just wait till I get my lagering fridge -- you know that Johann Sebastian Bock is on the way!!)

When one is handed the gift of a beer style most often called Wit, it seems indeed that the paronomasial gods are smiling. I finally decided on subtlety for this one -- Wit (also Witte), after all, is simply Flemish for "White." Hence, the little-known Robert White, of Lamentations of Jeremiah (should-be-) fame. Once I discovered, however, a 17th-century Flemish painter named Edouard Witte (a near-contemporary of White, and best-known for his perspective canvases of brightly-lit church interiors), I knew what was going on my label.

The beer itself? Well, I once again made the mistake of sampling the brew too early, before giving it ample time to set itself up in the bottle (the result: a hugely powerful and overwhelming nose of musty cellar, and something soapy. The same thing happened with my IPA, and the only thing it took to remove it was time). My plan is to do a genuine sample-tasting this evening. Hopefully the neonascent aromas will have dissipated themselves by this point (nearly 3 weeks since bottling).

Next up: a mostly-organic Nut Brown Ale.

26 June 2008

The new hobby: see? It's not just me.

A fantastic article appeared in the New York Times yesterday on beer cellaring.

Here is the article.

It is quite well-written and entertaining besides.

I would have loved to have been in on that 36-year vertical tasting of Thomas Hardy's. Wow!

And, I've got a new dream: buy an old gold mine in Colorado and convert the mine shaft into a beer cellar. Double-wow.

22 June 2008

Homebrewing and Home-cooking

I. The Silvius Leopold (Hefe) Weiss was unveiled at the Dillwyn Beer Festivus last month, but I thought it needed an official review here, since Sara and I have been almost exclusively drinking it over the past month (we're also finishing off the cellared Niel Gow Scots Ale from October). One thing this particular batch has revealed to me is the importance of mixing the priming sugar thoroughly before bottling: this batch has fallen prey to a very uneven carbonation rate from one bottle to the next, a flaw I can attribute to my adding the priming syrup to the top of the bottling bucket, rather than the bottom. The above photograph shows the best of the batch, while you can get a good example of another bottle's pour in the photo at the bottom of this post. I must say, it is a testament to the overall flavor profile of this brew that even the flat ones have been drinkable.

Appearance: Almost orange. Nice and cloudy. When it's present, the head is billowy and foamy white, and thins out fairly fast. 3.5
Aroma: Not strong enough for me. Malt and sugar predominate, with a faint banana and even fainter allspice trailing behind. 3
Taste: This is where it comes alive! Bananas and cloves throughout, with a mild hop backbone. There is the slightest hint of a metallic/mineral presence, undoubtedly a result of our hard tap water. 3.5
Palate: (when properly carbonated) spritzy, refreshing, and quenching. 4
Overall: The main problem, as stated above, is the inconsistency of the carbonation from one bottle to the next. When it's on, it's quite good, very good, if not quite great. 3

It is a champion with late spring/summery foods: see the review that follows. It's also a winner with tuna/pasta salad, which brings a not-unpleasant sulfurish edge to the flavor.

Plugging these numbers into the BeerAdvocate rating formula yields an overall rating score of 3.4 (B-). Suffice to say, I'm most assuredly stricter on my own brews than, say, Sara would be, but as the craftsman in question, I think that's only natural. I'm on a constant quest to tweak and perfect my creations. So, this B- reflects my opinion that this brew is not my favorite that I've made, but still quite good.

II. One of the tangential benefits of having a lot of homebrew around the house is its availability for use in the kitchen (yes, I do enjoy cooking with beer....occasionally I even put it in the food....yuk yuk yuk...)

Beer is a great addition to any number of recipes, from breads to reductions to glazes to stews. (See my earlier post about beer in bread)

Last week, I decided to try my hand at some grilled chicken, and, inspired by Michael Pollan, decided to brine the chicken breasts prior to grilling. Brining, essentially, means soaking the meat in a salt-water solution, much like a marinade. So what did I do, of course, but add some of the Silvius Leopold Hefe-Weiss in with the brine solution. It was a wonderful thing to do -- one of the great benefits of brining is that it keeps the chicken quite moist throughout the grilling process, so you don't end up with a dry bird on your plate. It also (somehow...hooray for salt...) reduces the cooking time needed.
The real genius, though, lay in my also creating a beer-based barbecue sauce for the breast, again with the hefe-weiss. The combination was divine.
The side dish, a springtime potato salad taken from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. contained no beer. What better food-beverage combination, though, than potato salad and German beer?

note the mostly flat beer in the glass.

I'm providing rough outlines of the recipes here, but do note that they are only approximations, not exacts. (The spring potato salad recipe can be found at the link above -- it is simple and delicious!)

1 C prepared barbecue sauce (I favor the local-made stuff, sans the evil High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
1/2 - 1 C ketchup (again, preferably without HFCS)
2/3 C Beer (the sky's the limit -- I used homebrew hefe-weiss)
1/4 C honey, molasses, or malt syrup (I used organic barley malt syrup)
2 T lemon juice
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T dijon mustard -- dark pub (beer!) mustard might be fun to try as well
1 T worcestershire sauce -- I left this out and it was not missed
1 t tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
1/2 t black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
(I was lazy so left both of these out)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Place in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Will also work well as a heavy marinade (before heating).


1) Pound the cuts of chicken to an even thickness (about 1/2 inch thick, depending on size). This will help in an even and quicker cooking. It also breaks up the meat a little, allowing the brine to permeate better.

2) Prepare the brine: dissolve 1 1/2 T of unionized table salt (or 1/4 C kosher salt) and 1/4 C coarse sugar (I like demerara or turbinado) in 6 C cold water + 1 C ligher-style beer (I used hefe-weiss; Wit, IPA or ESB would be fun to try, too) + 1 C boiling water. (The boiling water helps dissolve the salt & sugar faster.) Make sure the brine solution is cool (room temperature) before adding the chicken. You can brine in a large bowl, a shallow covered baking dish, or a large ziplock bag, so long as the pieces of chicken are completely immersed in the liquid. Brine for at least 30 minutes, but don't overdo it -- for 2 or 4 breasts, no more than an hour or an hour and a half.
The sugar is great because it helps caramelize the surface of the chicken as it grills.

3) Have your grill (either outdoor or stovetop -- I used our excellent Lodge cast-iron two-eye stovetop grill pan) completely heated when the brining is done. Take the chicken directly from the brine to the grill -- don't pat dry or anything. Place the chicken on the hottest part of the heating surface. Try to turn it only once (if grilling outdoors, leave the lid off), and cook over direct heat. Don't overcook -- depending on the heat of your grill or grill pan, it might take as little as 4 minutes (remember that brining speeds up the cooking time; you just want to make sure that it is cooked through and not pink anywhere).

11 June 2008

Beer and Food (NOT Coors and Peanuts) on Network TV!

The times they are a' changing, and anyone who wonders otherwise (cerevisially, anyway), should check out NBC at 10:00 tomorrow (Thursday, 12 June), which will feature an interview with Dogfish Head mastermind Sam Calagione and his business cohort, Marnie Old. Here's a good preview article via Todd Alstrom on BeerAdvocate. Please overlook the sophomoric misuse of its/it's. I am curious to check out the book they'll be discussing (He Said Beer, She Said Wine, pictured above).

06 June 2008

In honor of One Year...

Perm's Brew Picks' one-year anniversary came and went last week, but appropriately enough, we were out of town on a (partially) beer-related field trip.

That's right, kids, it's time to report back on the

Fourth Annual Dillwyn Beer Festivus!

After last year's deluge of brews, we decided to rein in a bit and tone the selections back to a manageable number, and also broke the tastings into two sessions. Here are Perm's notes:

PRE-SESSION (aka Lunch)

French Broad Altbier (growler) 4.2 (A-)
Appearance: 4.5 Aroma: 4 Taste: 4 Palate/Feel: 4.5 Overall drinkability: 4.5

This one is very nice!! The appearance is caramel bronze, a bit reddish, with a nice thin head.
The aroma is smoky, with notes of caramel, mild hops, and black pepper. The taste is nicely herbal, sweet (not too sweet!) and smoky. On the palate, VERY smooth with a pleasant crispness.
Overall, this is truly excellent. Perfect with an array of foods (had ours with venison and chicken soft tacos) but this one also would be great for easy-sipping summer evenings.
I'm not terribly familiar with the altbier style, but if they're all as good as this beer then I need to investigate much more thoroughly!

Legend Hefeweizen 3.25 (C+)
Appearance: Cloudy tan-yellow, with a poofy white head. 3.5
Aroma: Pretty standard -- banana, clove, cane sugar. 3.5
Taste: banana, clove, with a bit of sulfur and sweetness and something that is almost (for lack of a better word) fishy. James River water? 3
Palate: not bad, but a bit thin on the finish. 3
Overall: Not the best Legend brew, nor the best weizen, but it's really not bad. When I returned to it later in the evening, I had a more favorable impression of it. 3.5

Samuel Smith's Organic Ale 3.4 (B-)
I'm hoping that perhaps the bottle was a bit old. All in all, I was disappointed from a brewery I usually adore.
Appearance: golden-red, a bubbly head. Pretty. 4
Aroma: Basic. Malt and faint weak hops. The malt predominates. 3
Taste: Bitter and hoppy, but VERY subtle about those things. Minerally, with a slight pumpkin-spice thing. All in all, it tastes like malt extract to me! 3.5
Palate: sharp, spritzy, with a sweet finish. 3
Overall: It's not bad at all -- just rather boring, lacking a kick or some flair. Would be a good session-with-food beer when you want the food to be the star. 3

St. Cecilia Sir Charles IPA

See Sara's star review of this one in the previous entry. All in all, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. When next I brew an IPA, I'm going to tweak the recipe to allow for a bit more hop presence. I might even try a mild dry-hopping just for fun...who knows?

Highland St. Teresa Pale Ale 4 (B+)

Appearance: 4 Aroma: 4 Taste: 3.7 Palate: 4 Overall: 4

A great session beer, and a great American Pale Ale, from a great brewery.
The aroma is invitingly full of hops and toast. Lots of hops (without being West-Coast overdone) on the tongue, with a snappy palate on the finish. It might be slightly on the thin side, but it truly is excellent. Try it with good fresh Indian curry dishes and you'll be glad you did.

Black Toad Dark Ale 4.1 (A-)
No expectations whatsoever going into this one...Black Toad is an unknown brewery to me!
Appearance: Dr. Pepper. Cherry Coke. 3.5
Aroma: A smorgasbord! Chocolate, malt, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Cocoa Puffs 4
Taste: Smoky and deep. Not as rich as the nose, but quite nice! 4.5
Palate: Silky and chewy 4
Overall: Very nice, very drinkable. I'm impressed with these Illini. 4

Kennebunkport Porter 4.25 (A-)
What a nice porter from an unheard of (to me) brewery in Maine (one of my favorite microbrewery states!).
Appearance: Almost pitch, at least in a basement lounge under fluorescent lamps. A slight scarlet red keeping the colour interesting. 4.5
Aroma: Amazingly exceptional -- coffee, hazelnut, Frangelico. 5
Taste: Rich! Almost keeps pace with the nose. Nutty, Frangelico-like; sweetish, dark cherry, a good hop twist, and a bit of Worcestershire near the end. 4
Palate: The weakest link. Almost oily. 3.5
Overall: I give this one high marks for being unexpected. I'm not sure if I'd ever be up for having more than one at a time, but it's creatively great! Bravo. 4


Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
4.25 (A-)
Appearance: 4 Aroma: 4 Taste: 4.5 Palate: 4 Overall:4.5

God, I love this beer. There's a reason I based my first hefeweizen homebrew off of a clone recipe of this one. I can't say it's the greatest hefeweizen I've had, but it's a perennial winner in the all-around category for me.

The usual cloves and bananas are present, for sure, but its solid taste and well-balanced craftbeership must be given full marks for steady quality.

Sehr gut.

St. Cecilia Silvius Leopold (hefe) Weiss
So it's definitely not up to the Weihenstephaner as far as I'm concerned, but I'm pleased. Although I do have to say, it was somewhat miraculous that the two pint bottles that I took along for the tasting were perfectly carbonated. The first three I had upon returning home had not yet spritzed up!

St. Sylvestre 3 Monts Biere de Garde 4.65 (A+)
I have found a new favorite Biere de Garde, for sure!

Appearance: yellow with a white head. When I say yellow, I mean Miller-Lite-yellow. Mountain Dew yellow. Chamomile beer, really. 4
Aroma: Grass, hay, yeast (Flemish yeast! ahhhh), hops. Wonderful without overpowering 4.5
Taste: Spring water, clover, hay, candi sugar-sweetness, pears, boxwoods. Delectably intoxicating to the tastebuds. 5
Palate: Spritzy with a sour finish, leaving you craving for more. 5
Overall: A truly excellent craft farmhouse ale. 4.5

I've about decided to stop trying American craft "Farmhouse ales" because they simply can't compete with the real thing (exception: Hennepin and anything out of Quebec). This would be amazing with French cooking -- rabbit, quail, coq au vin, anything you'd serve with Champagne. I can't wait to buy a case and stick it in my cellar!

Big Boss Bad Penny Brown Ale 3.85 (B+)

Finally, a decent brew from Big Boss. I know it was largely only a name-change situation, but it seems to me that quality suffered QUITE a bit when Edenton Street became Big Boss. I long for the days of Horniblow's Ale. Sigh. This one, however, ain't half bad!

Appearance: like coffee with a head 4
Aroma: Coffee, nuts, dark chocolate, chicory 3.5
Taste: Coffee, toffee 4
Palate: Very smooth! Bravo! 4
Overall: A bit watery on the end (what I call the "American curse"), much like a cold Irish Coffee -- rather dark for a brown ale, almost a light porter. Nice work, really. 3.5

Petrus Gouden Tripel 4.65 (A+)
A nice subdued label with a jolly monastic and a slogan that says, "The key to Heaven." It was absolutely incredibly delicious.

Appearance: Gold in liquid form. A lovely Belgian head. 5
Aroma: Graham crackers, straw, apples, bananas 4.5
Taste: Citrus tartness. Solid and excellent. Leaves me craving more. 4.5
Palate: Refreshing. Quenching. Alcohol content is WELL hidden. 5
Overall: What can I say? Wonderful. Great with lemon coconut macaroons. Great with anything at anytime (not really, but I find this stuff incredibly satisfying.) 4.5

Unibroue Maudite 4.65 (A+)
Unibroue consistently brews a high-quality product. And by high, I mean Himalayan. Maudite for me is no exception, possibly even my current favourite of their year-round offerings.

Appearance: A cloudy copper-red. 4
Aroma: A bouquet of sugar, cloves, and dark cherries. 4.5
Taste: Wheat, perhaps something akin to a faint peanut brittle...I can't resist simply calling it, "ambrosia." 5
Palate: spritzy and quenching. As the Unibroue people describe it themselves, a cognac-like finish. 5
Overall: What a brew! This one is great all by itself. Also try it with hearty foods that otherwise might get the chianti or merlot treatments: pasta, tomato-based dishes, red meat (beef stew!), or artisanal pizza. A clear winner all-around. 4.5

Lagunitas Lucky 13 4 (B+)
Interestingly good. (Or goodly interesting?)
Appearance: Like a dark bourbon with head 4
Aroma: Hops (Cascade? Mt. Hood?), bitter tobacco 4
Taste: Earthy! hops, leather, tobacco, strong alcohol notes -- almost whisky-like. 4
Palate: Nice and spritzy. 4
Overall: Don't know if I'd commit to buying a 4-or 6-pack of this, but I would definitely revisit it, given the opportunity. Nice. 4

Stone Smoked Porter 3.3 (B-)
As Stone is as of yet unavailable in my state (NC), I must continue to seek it out when visiting friends abroad (VA). As this particular offering I found to be averagish-good, I'm not sorely lamenting its absence at my LBS...yet it was still worth trying to be sure.
Appearance: Coca-cola, pure and simple 3.5
Aroma: Weak smoke permeates all else. 3
Taste: Smoky porter! An American take on an English style mixed with Rauchbier. 3.5
Palate: Average 3
Overall, it's a one-trick pony, not especially smoky (but then again I love Rauchbier). 3

I kinda dig it -- one caveat, though, if you're not into the smoky beer thing, don't bother with this one!

New Holland "The Poet" Oatmeal Stout 4.4 (A)
This was the surprise of the night for me -- VERY well brewed! This one inspires me to seek out New Holland more thoroughly.
Appearance: Black, black, black. Imposing in the glass. 4
Aroma: Oatmeal, for sure. Sweet and malty with a fine balance between the two. 4.5
Taste: Nice! Chocolate predominates, with a nice slight-hop presence. I take another sip. And another... 4.5
Palate: Smooth and spritzy, just the way I like it. 4.5
Overall: This is an excellent stout! Bravo, good friends at New Holland. Here's one to revisit time and again. I'd love this with vanilla ice cream, or scallops for that matter. Or with my favorite movie. 4.5

Duck-Rabbit Barleywine
4.75 (A+)
Of course Barleywine belongs at the end of a progressive tasting, due to its strong and heady nature. But, that's a shame in some ways, because if the tasting waxes long, you just won't have the patience or the palate to truly appreciate the work of art that a fine barleywine can be. And the Duck-Rabbit is high art, for sure.
This one is a real treat. The Duck-Rabbit folks consistently brew top-of-the-line products. I can only surmise that living and working in Farmville, NC inspires the brewers to spend long, long hours at their work indoors (where it is presumably air conditioned and has more interesting landscapes..).
Appearance: Russet-copper color. Mahogany, really. And as one would expect, no appreciable head to speak of. 4.5
Aroma: A real treasure-trove here: leather, tobacco, hops, cloves, allspice, and even a hint of oregano. 5
Taste: Banana, clove, caramel, allspice, grapes, brown sugar, and hops. Oy vey pass me another snifter! 5
Palate: A dry and warming finish. 4
Overall: Well-rounded for sure. This is one to cellar in bulk! 4.5

Drinking this makes me long for winter -- seated in front of a roaring fire with my D-R Barleywine in one hand and a nice cavendish pipe in the other. Wearing a wool waistcoat, to be sure.