Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Zealand has Beer?

This one is for all you Kiwis that read the blog (I have no idea if you exist, but if you do, this is for you). 

About 5 years ago, my brother did a semester abroad in New Zealand. Somehow, my girlfriend, Lindsey, and I both managed to con our parents into sending us to go visit him. Since we were under 21, this provided us with two weeks of legally being able to drink. This also allowed us to try some of the local beer. Apart from all of the "export" beers which is apparently kiwi for "terrible", there were actually some very tasty beers. In the end, I would say that two different brands stuck out above the rest. The first was Monteith's. You could find this brand everywhere, and they actually made some great beers. My favorite was their black lager, shown below.   

It didn't hurt that those pitcher were something like 3 Kiwi dollars.

Where Monteith's was good and easy to find, Moa was better and very difficult to find. I came to really enjoy the brand, so whenever I see a new one, I snatch it up. Here are two that I recently found: Moa 5 Hop Ale, and Moa Breakfast Ale.

The 5 Hop Ale is brewed as an English IPA, but where the Americans overhop their IPAs, it appears the Kiwis like to over malt theirs. Not that it was bad. It was a very pleasant beer and very easy to drink. I also couldn't taste a bit of the alcohol in it (6.2% ABV). It was subtle and nice, but not something that will really impress you. The Breakfast Ale is a wheat beer that has a distinct fruitiness that complements the malt very well. In fact, it was a little too well. I felt like I was eating one of those cereals that has the freeze dried fruit in it. I preferred the 5 hop ale, but the breakfast beer was good for what it is intended, a light, refreshing, afternoon/morning beer.   


If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fermentation Without Representation

While it is starting to feel more like winter, it is still technically fall. Therefore, pumpkin beers are still free game! Not that this really has any impact on the way I drink beer, as pumpkin beer are generally very low on my list. I do pride myself on being a well-rounded drinker, however, so I will sample virtually any beer, provided it is new to me. This particular beer is an Imperial Pumpkin Porter made in collaboration by DC Brau and Epic Brewing. It is called Fermentation without Representation. Get it? No? Me neither. 


I have to be honest, on paper, this sounds like a beer that I would hate. I'm generally not an "imperial" kind of guy, particularly with darks. Also, pumpkin is a finicky ingredient to work with. Apparently, these guys know what they are doing. The beer drank like a porter. That's all I ever want from a flavored beer. I want it to taste like the style, but with a hint of the special ingredient. At 8% ABV, it isn't overwhelmingly strong, which is nice. This way, the beer doesn't have to fight with the alcohol for flavor. I was really impressed with how good this beer was, especially because I went in with negative thoughts. Well done DC Brau/Epic. I'm convinced. Looks like I will be trying more stuff from these two breweries. 

Glassware: Tulip Pint

Synonym Beer: Saranac Pumpkin (Similar subtle pumpkin flavors)

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This one goes to 11 Ale

Here is an interesting one for the day. This one was brewed by Bell's Brewery to commemorate their 11,000th batch. They appropriately called it: "This one goes to 11 Ale". Shockingly, it has 11% ABV. I am pretty sure this one will be somewhat hard to find, so if you do, it would be worth picking up a bottle (expensive though). Also, if you have never seen This is Spinal Tap, the name is a reference to This is Spinal Tap.


It is defined as a Red/Amber Ale, but I think that it is easily blurring the lines into becoming an Imperial Red/Amber Ale. It was immensely hoppy, but actually rounded out really well. At first whiff, I was convinced that I would hate it, but Bell's is probably my No.1 brewery choice for being able to produce a balanced, yet hop forward beer. It is strong, but drinkable and actually I really enjoyed it. It is definitely too expensive for my everyday tastes, but it was worth a try. 

P.S. I find it a little funny that I have consumed a few different beers and gone to a beer festival that reference Spinal Tap, yet I still haven't seen the movie. 

Glassware: Tulip, Snifter, Pint

Synonym Beer: Ithaca Cascazilla

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut

If you are from the Pacific Northwest, specifically Portland, or if you have ever left the food network/travel channel on for more than an hour at a time, you have probably heard of Voodoo Doughnuts. They are a small chain of doughnut shops that make what I will call "premium" doughnuts. They are known for making big, delicious, interesting doughnuts. One of the flavors that they are most well known for is the Bacon Maple Doughnut. The minds at Rogue Ales (a well known Oregon brewery) decided to pay homage to Voodoo Doughnuts by immortalizing the Bacon Maple doughnut in a beer. The result: See below.


First of all, brilliant marketing. My initial reaction was somewhere along the lines of, "What? Well I guess I have to try it." I shrugged my shoulders somewhere in there. My brother actually cracked this one open while I was visiting. At the very least it would be interesting, right? Well, that turned out to be very accurate. Maybe some people like this. I don't know. Between my brothers and myself, the most favorable reaction was, "I think it is kind of growing on me." My personal opinion is that there is way too much going on. The first thing that you will notice is the potent, smokey nose. There is a hint of bacon, but overall, I was just getting smoke. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I love rauchbiers (German smoke beers). The flavor is what really got me. At first take, it was as if my beer had been used as an ashtray for the entire night. It really reminded me of cigarettes and I found it hard to drink. At second take, I noticed that there was also an overt sweetness that was not counteracted by the smoke. Instead, the two flavors did battle inside my mouth to see who would be dominant.


Even though this was split among three people. I barley even finished half of my portion. This was certainly a really interesting beer, but I also found that it had zero redeeming qualities. It would probably have been better in a little sample size. With that said, try it if you think it sounds interesting. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean that you won't either.

Glassware: Pint, Tumbler

Synonym Beer: Nope

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Boulevard Saison-Brett

Boulevard Brewing keeps on impressing me. I had no idea that there were even a handful of breweries that could make a decent saison in the States. I knew Boulevard made some good tart beers, so I decided to give the Saison Brett a shot. 


If you are confused by the name, Brett refers to Brettanomyces, a genus of yeast that is often used in brewing tart beers and wines. Sometimes Brett can be inadvertently allowed to contact the beer, infecting it and ruining the batch (or making it better, depending on what you like). However, if a bit of sour is desired, adding Brett to your batch can be exactly what you need. Since I like the sour, I'm at the point where if I see a beer label mention Brett, it is purchased. 

With the Saison Brett, Boulevard avoided all of the pitfalls that I generally see with American Saisons. They didn't get exotic with the ingredients. They let the yeast do the talking. It isn't extreme, it is just delicious. It is a little bit of a bigger beer than most Belgian Saisons and stronger, too, sitting at 8.5% ABV. This isn't necessarily a good thing, as one of my favorite saisons is 3.5% ABV, but the Saison Brett makes it work. It is maybe a tad less funky than I would have liked, but it is very tasty.


Boulevard is doing what it can to make Kansas City known for beer more so than that other city in Missouri. 

Glassware: Saison, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Mystic Saison Reynaud 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Founders Breakfast Stout

I took this guy out a couple weeks ago to celebrate Stout Day. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Founder's Breakfast Stout, it is the choice for celebrating Stout Day. In my opinion, it is the best American made stout. If you are thinking that I clarified American because the Irish make some damn good stouts, you are wrong. This kick ass in my opinion. I clarified American because I know the Belgians make great beer and I haven't tried too many of them.  


Look at the above bottle. If you see it, buy it. I don't have time to argue with you. Just do it. It is a "Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout". With a name like that, I would initially think that has some overwhelming flavor. Trust me, I am not normally an Imperial Stout kind of guy. My palate usually is overwhelmed. 

Founders knows what they are doing. 

It is 8.3% ABV, which is relatively low for an Imperial Stout. The flavors are delicious and smooth. Unbelievably smooth. It has all of the velvety body of an English stout, but with much more flavor. It isn't overly sweet, it isn't overly bitter. It is beautiful. Seriously. 

Glassware: Tulip, Snifter, Goblet, Pint

Synonym Beer: Keegan Joe Mama's Milk

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Session Black

I know several people that love dark beers, but do not want a heavy, strong beer. For those people, generally my go-to suggestion is Session Black, made by Full Sail Brewery.  


Session Black is pretty light in alcohol, at 5.4% ABV. It is a Schwarzbier style, or a black lager. I've previously mentioned that this is one of my favorite styles. In my opinion, this is one of the best black lagers, even including the German ones (very comparable). It is full of roasted flavors with a subtle chocolate undertone, but is so smooth. The alcohol isn't noticeable at all. My favorite part is the balance of the beer. It isn't overly bitter, nor is is very sweet. It sits perfectly in the middle. 


I also love the little snub nose bottles that they come in. To top it off, the caps all have a rock, paper, or scissors underneath, so if you want, you can play a game to see who has to get the next round. 

To sum up, Session Black is a great choice if you like your beer dark. You should be able to find it and I suggest that you do so. 

Glassware: Pilsner, pint glass, bottle

Synonym Beer: Baba Black Lager

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sazerac

I have been getting more and more into cocktails recently. One of my favorites is the Sazerac, a old fashioned New Orleans cocktail. Fun fact: the Sazerac is Louisiana's official state cocktail. 

It is named as such as a result of the the original cognac used in the drink, even though today rye whiskey is a more common primary ingredient. It is both a delicious cocktail and a small event to make.  


Ingredients:
2 oz. Rye Whiskey (I use Old Overholt, cheap and tasty)
3 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 tsp Sugar
1 splash Absinthe (or Herbsaint) 
Lemon (for garnish)

Instructions:

Start out by filling your old fashioned glass with ice and top off with water to get it nice and cold.

Take another glass and put in the sugar and Peychaud's. Muddle them together and add in the rye. Stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Pour out the ice and water from the glass. Add a splash of absinthe to the glass and swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass (you need less than you think). Pour the rye mixture into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Serve straight up. 

It is a delicious, yet strong cocktail. If you are feeling up to the task, you may well enjoy a Sazerac. Give one a shot. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mystic Saison Renaud

The Saison happens to be one of, if not my favorite style of beer. It is a little disappointing, then, that I don't find many saisons produced in the US to be up to snuff. Most of the producers will leave off some of the funk and add in American hops, which give the saison less of a farmy taste, and more of a hop bite. This is probably to give the saison their own little twist, but I think it hinders the flavor.  


Despite the shortcomings of American saisons, I am just a sucker for any unknown saison. Naturally, when I saw this Mystic Brewery Saison Renaud, I was intrigued and I bought a bottle. What I loved about this beer is that it let the yeast do the talking. The pilsner malts provide a nice, light backbone, the hops are subtle and pleasant. The yeast gives off a funky, barnyard kind of aroma and backs it up with taste. I realize that this might sound unappealing to some people, but trust me, it is exactly what you should look for in a saison. I was thoroughly impressed by the Saison Renaud and I will continue to try their products (whenever I can find them).


It has given me some validation for my reckless spending on beers that I don't know. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. This time I won.

Glassware: Saison, tulip, goblet

Synonym Beer: Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (That one is coming up soon)

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Double Stout and Taking Chances

Sometimes I like to live on the edge. I walk into my local beverage store and ask for a suggestion. I realize that some people might do this all the time, but I have a very good idea of the beers I like to drink and I also hate turning down suggestions, especially if I just asked for them. Sometimes I give ideas of other things that I like, sometimes I just go with any of their suggestions. This beer happened to be on of the fully random suggestions.


Green Flash Double Stout is an imperial stout, but not an overly strong one, coming in at 8.8% ABV. If I didn't read the label before hand, I would have thought it was around 6%. It is extremely smooth and doesn't have the oppressive, overwhelming flavors that I normally associate with imperial stouts. It was roasty, medium-heavy in body, and oh so very delicious. I will certainly be buying this one again. 

Glassware: Pint, Flagon, Goblet, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Allagash Black

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10 e lode

Today's beer is one that I picked up while in Italy. It didn't have any sort of label, but instead had a small tag around the neck that had some very basic information on it. Since it was all in Italian, here is what I was able to gather from the tag.

Name: 10 e lode
Brewery: Opperbacco
ABV: 9%
Style: Strong Sour


As you can tell, it is a pretty substantially dark beer, a very dark red/brown. There was very little head retention, and the carbonation was on the lower side. I have had a few dark sour beers, so that is really what I was expecting when I poured this. Unfortunately, this was little sweeter. Not that it was necessarily bad, but it was just not what I was expecting. The malty flavor of the beer contrasted interestingly with the tart flavors. I wouldn't say that it was my favorite, but it was certainly a different beer and it was worth a taste. It would be good if you are interested in sours, but don't want to go into the really sour beers to start. Good luck finding it in the States though. 


Generally I really like to know why a beer is named what it is, so I turned to my good friend, Google. Apparently, 10 e lode is the highest grade you can receive in Italian schools. I guess they are just very confident about how the beer tastes.

Glassware: Goblet, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Panil Barriquee (just less tart)

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.





Thursday, October 18, 2012

Belge and the Ups and Downs of Collaborations

We live in a time of intense globalization. The world is smaller than ever, which allows people who live very far away from one another to still work together. Travel is quick and easy and communication is even better. It is a great time to be spreading ideas. 

Belge is a beer made in a collaboration between Brasserie Dupont, Monk's Cafe (Philadelphia) and Iron Hill Brewing in Pennsylvania. It was made exclusively for Philly Beer Week 2012 because Dupont is awesome like that.  


If you are unfamiliar with collaboration beers, they are exactly what they sound like: a product of cooperation between two or more breweries, each bringing their own distinctive character to the beer. The resulting beers can vary in quality. For instance, this particular beer: I liked it, but I think I prefer Saison Dupont and their other individual beers better. Maybe it is the style, maybe it is because I just like how Dupont does it, I'm not sure, but this one was just not exactly what I was expecting. 
This is a common problem with collaborations. I will give you a "for instance". Lets say you really like Russian River Brewing and you think that Sierra Nevada puts out some ok beer. You hear that they put out a collaboration in a style that you love, in this case, a wild ale. You see the beer, it is packaged really nicely. Now, take a sip.


Son of a bitch! Not what you wanted. The idea you had in your head was better. Now you know how I felt when I tried Brux. Sounded great on paper, but it only hinted at what I would have expected from Russian River and devolved back to what I would have expected from Sierra Nevada. Toned down, unexciting. Not the sour masterpiece I wanted. To top it all off, it was expensive! You have been warned about the dangers of collaborations. 

Don't get me wrong: Not all collaborations are disappointing. Some are fantastic. The danger is that you really don't know what the beer will be like when you get it. Will they tend more towards the style of one of the breweries? It isn't that the beer is going to taste bad. These breweries know how to make good beer. It is just that your expectations may get the best of you. Try to avoid it.



Ok, back to Belge. It is effectively a maltier version of a Dupont beer. It has the characteristic funk, moderated by the malt. It is a delightful beer to drink. One of the nicest parts is that it is reasonably priced. I bought this for about $12 a bottle. Higher than normal for Dupont, but in comparison to US collaborations (generally $15-$25 a bottle), it is a steal. Wonderful beer, absolutely beautiful color. Good buy. What more could you ask for? 

For all of the advice that I am giving, if I see a collaboration with a brewery that I like, I will always buy it. It might not be worth it, but I will still do it. I'm a sucker that way. 

Glassware: Saison glass, tulip, goblet

Synonym Beer: Dupont La Biere De Boeile

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.




Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tilted Smile

Today I'll cover Tilted Smile, an Imperial Pilsner by Unita Brewing. Unita Brewing produces a ton of different beer varieties, including the Crooked Line, their big bottle series. 


Tilted Smile, as an imperial pilsner, is a beefed up version of a pilsner. It is heavy on the malt and sits at about 9% ABV. While a pilsner can be fantastic, an imperial pilsner is a nice change of pace. It maintains some of the "drinkability" of a pilsner (as much as I hate using that term) while increasing the complexity of the beer. Tilted Smile does a pretty good job keeping the booze out of the flavor, despite the strength. It is good and malty, but has a subtle hoppiness (Saaz hops). I would certainly recommend it for something that is medium bodied, but easy drinking. 


One thing I will say is that these are better unaged. The fresher this bottle, the better the Tilted Smile.

Glassware: Tulip, Pilsner Glass

Synonym Beer: Dogfish Head My Antonia

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mort Subite Gueuze!

Mort Subite (Sudden Death) is a Cafe Brasserie is Brussels. It is a wonderful little place with a lovely selection of Lambics and a not-so-friendly staff. Still, it is a perfect place to go for a bite to eat and to try some of the beer that is only really available in Belgium. Mort Subite also holds the distinction of being the first place that I tried a Gueuze and sparked my love affair with sour beer. 


This one I found in Rome, but it is not the same as the one I had in Brussels. Well, it is and it isn't. It might technically be the same, but the flavors of the gueuze undoubtedly change in the bottle versus on tap. On tap or in the bottle, if you want to get into gueuzes, but are a little scared of the sour, first work your way in to lighter sour beers. Farmhouse ales are a good place to start. When you have the taste for funk and want to start the geuze train, Mort Subite might be your best first shot. It isn't quite as "gets you behind the jaw" sour as some of the other gueuzes (at least out of the bottle). For most of them, it is kind of like liquifying a Warhead and sipping on it. I mean that in the best way possible. The Mort Subite is a little softer of a flavor. Don't get me wrong, it is still sour, but there was a little more of a balancing sweetness in the beer. It isn't very strong, sitting at 4.5% ABV, but you will still probably have to drink it slow if it is your first one. You might think it is weird at first, but you will get the craving, trust me. 


Just because I am a bit of a sucker for them, I consider the gueuze to be an all weather beer. The best time for a gueuze would probably be on a warm spring day, in Brussels, with your girlfriend. You can drink it elsewhere and at different times, but it won't be the same.

Glassware: Lambic glass, Goblet, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Lindeman's Gueuze

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yeast Hoist and Hoisting Yeast

Yeast Hoist is a limited edition beer put out by St. Sebastiaan Brewery. Well, actually that is a little off. It is a limited edition ceramic bottle with designed artwork on it. The beer inside is supposed to be St. Sebastiaan Golden Ale, although I know a few people that think it tastes different. Whatever the case may be, Yeast Hoist is certainly worth picking up if you happen to see it. 


You might be thinking, "What the hell does yeast hoist mean? Sounds weird..."

That's why I'm here. Yeast Hoist is another term for making a toast (or raising a glass of beer). The etymology comes from English "hoist" which means to lift and the English "yeast" which is a microorganism that is a major component of the brewing process. It is effectively a celebration of beer.  

The beer itself is 7.7% ABV, so you might not want to hoist too many in an evening. The taste, however, does a lot of work to cover up the taste of the booze. It is a very smooth and delicious Belgian tripel. The flavor is a blend of maltiness and fruity esters from the yeast itself. I haven't done my due diligence yet by purchasing a Yeast Hoist and a St. Sebastiaan Golden and drinking them side by side. If I can find Yeast Hoist again, I can guaranty that is what I will do.


One of the cool parts about Yeast Hoist is that after you are done drinking it, the bottle is still perfectly good to use. The low thermal conductivity of of the ceramic makes it able to hold cold liquids cold or hot liquids hot for longer. I'm using it as my water bottle. Bet you didn't think that you could save the environment by drinking beer. Well, you can't, but you can at least pretend. 

Glassware: Tulip, Goblet

Synonym Beer: Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale

 If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weizen Bam!

If you have managed to read this blog consistently without realizing just how much I love the work being done over at Jolly Pumpkin, then you can't possibly be reading it all that closely. That hurts. I put a lot of effort into this. Don't be a jerk. 


Anywho, today I will be covering another one of my personal favorites by Jolly Pumpkin, Weizen Bam. Just to be clear, I have yet to have a beer by Jolly Pumpkin that has fallen short of my expectations. They are a brewery that I will gladly try anything from, at any time, anywhere.

Weizen Bam, as the name implies, is a wheat beer (weizen), but not a wheat beer that you might expect. It is a blend between a wheat beer and a saison. The thing that makes the Weizen Bam so different from other wheat beers is the funk. Jolly Pumpkin always brings the funk. It has all of the characteristics that are expected from a wheat beer, clove, esters, spicy yeastiness, but with the added delight of sour. If you aren't a fan of sour, come drink a few with me and we will see if we can change your mind. There is something about these beers that I just can't get enough of. As you can see from the photos, the WB is actually really light in color. The body mimics this and the taste won't weigh you down either. It is certainly complex, as one might expect from a hybrid style, but dangerously easy to drink. At 4.5% ABV though, it leaves you the option of drinking a few without getting too messed up. Not a bad option if I do say so. 


I would like to point out that Bam (the dog on the label) is wearing a german Alpine hat and what appears to be lederhosen. Could this brewery get any better than it already is? I don't know, maybe if they had a sweet beer blogger working for them or something. 

Glassware: Saison glass, tulip

Synonym Beer: I wish I could find another, but for now, I will just keep drinking Weizen Bam. If you do know of a similar beer, please let me know.

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baltika Line!

Let me tell you a short story. I was in my local beverage store looking for a new beer to drink. I didn't feel like spending too much money, but I wanted to stray from the norm. Just then, I saw a line of Baltika beers. I'd seen them before, but always assumed that they weren't good (for no particular reason). Feeling adventurous I decided to buy a bottle, but after finding out that they were only $2.50 apiece, I decided to buy the whole line. Here they all are, in order. There are a lot, so I will try to be succinct. 


Baltika 3
Classic Lager
4.8% ABV
Taste: Eh, it is basically like all of the other pale European lagers. Not offensive, just not particularly memorable.


Baltika 4
(Original) Dark Lager
5.6% ABV
Taste: Certainly better than the 3. It has some roasted flavor, but not overwhelming in the slightest. Easy to drink. I would try it again.


Baltika 5
Golden Lager
5.3% ABV
Taste: Very slight skunkiness (surprisingly), very grainy. Overall, fairly similar to the 3. 




Baltika 6 
Baltic Porter
7.0% ABV
Taste: Roasted and toasted. A little sweet, notably boozy. Much of the flavor comes from the booze, sadly.


Baltika 7
Export Lager
5.4% ABV
Taste: I expected a little skunkier, resulting from the green bottle. A little sweeter than expected. Light and easy to drink.
Note the pop-top style cap, versus our standard crown. 


Baltika 9
Extra Lager
8% ABV
Taste: Best of the bunch. Still easy to drink, but stronger than it seems. Honey and light hops. I would drink this again, certainly.

I only missed a couple of the line, 0 (Non alcoholic), 2 (another pale lager), and 8 (wheat). I can't say that I am overwhelmed by how good this brewery is. I would say they are a group of ok, but not spectacular beers. The final one is the best. I will certainly try it again. I couldn't tell much of a difference between the lighter beers, but the darker ones had some redeeming qualities. So, if you are looking to try a Russian beer that is pretty easy to find, try Baltika 9. I certainly won't break the bank, but careful, it could easily mess you up. 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Extraomnes Tripel

Here is another one by  Extraomnes. The first one I talked about was basically an American IPA. This one is more of a Belgian Tripel. 


I was a little less impressed by this one, probably because I care about the Tripel style more than the American IPA style. Not that it was bad, but it just wasn't a tripel that I would be looking for. To start off, it was a bit too dark. I can deal with this, because while color most of the time can show some of the flavors of a beer, it doesn't necessarily have to. It is more of an aesthetics thing. I prefer my tripels to be straw-amber. Not a big deal, just a personal preference thing. 

The nose was very pleasant, marked by some fruity esters and malt undertones. The flavor is where it lost me a bit. For a tripel, it was a little flat. Not that it was under carbonated, but it just seemed like something was missing from the taste. At 8.8% ABV, it certainly was not missing alcohol and the booziness of the beer made itself quite known. It was a hot day, so the beer warmed up a bit quicker than expected. This didn't do the tripel any favors. It stayed a little dull and boozy the entire time. Sad, because I was impressed by the Extraomnes Zest. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.  


Glassware: Tulip, Goblet

Synonym Beer: Like a "meh" version of any Belgian Tripel

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Highland Park 18 Year

Here we find one of my personal favorite Scotch whiskies: Highland Park 18 year. Highland Park is one of the more readily available Scotch whiskies in the US, which is awesome, because they happen to be a great brand. 


Highland Park produces whiskies in the Highland region, naturally. I would put the Highland region somewhere in between Islay and Speyside in terms of flavor. They have a decidedly smokey flavor, but with a nice balanced sweet finish. They aren't overwhelmingly smokey, like Islay, but still noticeable smoke. They have some of the same maltiness as Speyside, just counteracted a bit by the smoke. The result is a smooth, complex whisky that exhibits the best of both worlds (in my opinon). 

Obviously, Highland Park has a variety of ages that release their whiskies. The Highland Park 18 just happens to be my favorite. Since I haven't covered whisky in all that much depth, I will explain a little. Each distillery will make their own single malt whisky. These whiskies will be aged in used oak barrels (often bourbon, sherry, port, etc.) for a minimum of 3 years. However, you will be hard pressed to find a single malt whisky that is aged under 10 years. Most of the younger whiskies will be used for making blends. After 10 years, you will be able to technically find single malts of any age, but the most common are 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, and 30. As a whisky ages, it becomes smoother, more complex, and more expensive. The flavors from the oak barrels impart their flavors more the longer the whisky stays in the cask. However, as a result of "the angel's share", some whisky evaporates each year. This, combined with the time value of money and the cost of storage make the older whiskies that much more expensive than the younger ones. I am at a point where I can enjoy an 18 year old whisky more than most 10 or 12 years, but it is difficult to tell the difference between most 18 and 21 years. Why pay the extra if you can't tell the difference? 


Apart from the general buzz words of "peaty", "smokey", "malty", and "sweet", I won't delve much into the flavor, as different people can pick out very different things from a particular whisky. What I will say is that if you want a balanced whisky, with very little burn, but lots of flavor, go with the Highland Park 18 year (provided you are about $100 to spend on whisky). It has a moderately hefty price tag, but if you are a beginner/intermediate Scotch drinker, it is a great gift to give yourself (or your favorite beer/liquor blogger). 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lagavulin 16 Year and Enjoying Peat

Oddly enough, this particular Scotch whisky happens to be the top choice for my mother. This may have to do with the fact that we drank it in a small B&B on the Isle of Skye in Scotland called the Sconser Lodge. Next time I go back to Skye, I am staying here again. The whole place has something like 8 rooms, but they have a dining room and a full bar. We ate and relaxed in the bar (which was heated by coal). There is just something about a freezing cold Scottish day and the smell of a coal fire that just really makes you appreciate a peaty whisky. 


There is no denying, Lagavulin is a peaty Scotch whisky. It hails from Islay, an island off the western coast of southern Scotland. This island happens to be known for producing very peaty Scotch whiskies.  Most of their fellow Islay malts are also very good, but for my palate, Lagavulin 16 takes the cake. This very well could be the fact that most of the other Islay malts that I have tried are 10 or 12 year malts. The Lagavulin is just much smoother than the others, giving some salvation from what many people would consider to be an unrelenting assault of smoke on the tastebuds. I happen to like the peat in a whisky, but it is both an acquired taste and something that you should be expecting in order to enjoy it. Maybe you shouldn't start your excursion into peat with one of the big boys. Ease your way in. Scotch whisky has never been about speed. Take your time and enjoy what you can. It is like with beer. Your first beer isn't going to be an Eisbock. It takes time to develop tastes for such overwhelming flavors.

I would say if you are interested in a region by region progression of enjoying Scotch whisky, I would do as follows:
1) Start off with a Lowland malt, like Glenkinche. These whiskies are generally a little bit lighter in flavor, and may help to ease you into a whisky palate. 
2) Move yourself north into a Speyside malt. These are generally a bit sweeter, but with a good deal more complexity than a lowland. These are very easy to find, examples being Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. 
3) Jump over to a Highland malt. Highland malts also technically include the islands (other than Islay). These will give you a blend of sweetness and smoke, in varying degrees, allowing for a sort of "wading in" to the world of peat. I would suggest a Highland Park or a Talisker. 
4) Arrive at your Islay malt when you are comfortable with the amount of peat in Highland. Add a dash of water at first to cut some of the burn. Now you are at a point when you can decide if you like the flavor, or if you don't. If you don't there is no sense drinking something that you don't appreciate/like, so just stick to what you do. Leave the fire water to those of us that enjoy it. 


Lagavulin 16 is generally in the range of about $80 a bottle, so it is by no means cheap. There are certainly less expensive Islay malts out there if you are curious, but not sold. I would suggest trying a friend's Islay before you invest. I can all but guarantee you that even if you don't enjoy it, the whisky will not go to waste. 

Fun Fact: This is the whisky of choice for Ron Swanson.

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Poperings Hommel Ale

Want a slightly hoppier Belgian beer? You have a few choices, but here is a really good one. 


Poperings Hommel ale is a Belgian IPA style ale. The name Hommel is a sort of local slang term for hops in the region (Poperinge). Oddly enough, hommel also means bumblebee in both Dutch and Flemish. I'm going to go ahead and assume that they didn't substitute bumblebees for hops and continue on with my drinking. Poperings Hommel is 7.5% ABV, so it packs a punch, but this actually isn't all that bad in terms of Belgian IPAs. La Chouffe Houblon is 9% ABV and they are the same style. As you can see by the photos, the beer pours a wonderful hazy amber color with a fluffy, pure white head. At this point, if you didn't know anything about the beer, it might just look like an unfiltered pale ale, a hefeweizen, or maybe a white IPA, but naturally you would be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. 


The Belgian IPA, in my opinion, is the well rounded, kind, under-appreciated brother, while the American IPA is the obnoxious brother that is fun, but gets drunk and tries to fight people at parties. In this allegory, the English IPA is the oldest brother, who is handsome and polite, but ultimately boring, so he is over shadowed by his younger brothers. Obviously these are a bit of a hyperbole, but you get the point. One of my friends likes to say that he likes American IPAs because he likes a drink that fights back. True fact. The Belgian IPA takes a more subtle route. They are strong, yes. They have a lot of flavor, yes. They are balanced, yes. This is the major difference. They are a Belgian IPA. For Belgium, they have a lot of hops. For Belgium. It is a decidedly malty beer with hops, not a hoppy beer with malt. It may sound like the same thing, but trust me, it isn't. 


It isn't too heavy of a beer, despite the malt and ABV. It goes down smooth and was perfect for watching the Summer sunset over the Catskills. Give it a shot if you like hops, Belgian beer, or both.

Glassware: Tulip, Goblet

Synonym Beer: Piraat 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Peroni Gran Riserva

Peroni might be the most well known beer in Italy, but they also have another, in my opinion, better version: Peroni Gran Riserva. 

Ta Da! 

First things first, they are smarter with this one. The bottles of Gran Riserva are brown, not green, which kind of kills the Nastro Azzuro. It is basically a stronger version of their standard Pale Euro lager. It is 6.6% ABV, so it is indeed a bit stronger than your average beer, but still won't break you. 


It is light and refreshing. The alcohol content doesn't really shine through much at all, which is surprising for a pale lager. I happened to have this one on tap, so I actually can't vouch for it out of a bottle. The draught version of it was quite pleasant. It has a subtle malty flavor, but will a balanced hop bitterness. The flavor was definitely a little grainy, but I like that, so it was ok. If you are looking for a light lager with some flavor, I would certainly say to give this one a shot. Unfortunately, I doubt you will be able to find it anywhere in the states. 


If you notice the two pictures above, Lindsey was skeptical at first, but then surprised by the taste!

Glassware: Mug, Pilsner Glass, Pint

Synonym Beer: Moretti 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at monksandmalts@gmail.com. Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/robert-rizzolo.html.