Thursday, August 30, 2012

Westvleteren 8 and Why You Should Get Me Some While in Belgium

If you ever, EVER, find yourself in Belgium, I would like to implore you to visit the Westvleteren Monastery. I didn't, and I regret it still. If you happen to be a beer geek, you almost certainly have heard of Westvleteren (if you haven't, then you aren't a beer geek). I will give you a bit of a background in case you haven't.

The story is long and complicated, so I will do my best to give you an abbreviated version. The St. Sixtus Abbey has been well known for brewing the beers known as Trappist Westvleteren since about the mid 1800s. In the 1930s, the brewery began commercially producing and selling their beer to the general public. Up until that time, the beer was only for visitors and themselves. After WWII, the brewery and monastery were in disarray (as you might expect), so Westvleteren beers were contract brewed by the nearby St. Bernardus Brewery. St. Bernardus brewed these trappist beers all the way up until 1992, when their contract ended. The contract was not renewed for a couple reasons: 1) The Trappist monasteries agreed that a "Trappist" beer must be brewed inside the walls of a Trappist monastery. 2) They (Westvleteren) finally updated their brewery to a higher capacity. 

St. Bernardus continues to produce beers similar to Westvletern. What is funny about the whole thing is that St. Bernardus uses the original St. Sixtus yeast. Westvleteren changed yeasts to the Westmalle yeast. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. All I know is that these beers are delicious. 

This particular beer is the Westvleteren 8. It is the quintessential Belgian Dubbel in my opinion. It sits at a comfortable 8% ABV that will not be very noticable on the taste, but extremely noticeable if you drink several. On that note, please don't drink several in one sitting. Westvleterens are a gift from St. Sixtus. Seriously, all of their beers sit within the top 10 of beers I have ever tried. They are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family and sipped, not gulped. I aged this particular 8 for 2 years and it aged very nicely. It is malty, yet unbelievably smooth. This beer drinks like velvet. The flavor undertones are all dark fruits and spices. It is very complex, but drinkable, so you have to take your time and slow things down. This is a beer to be savored. 

This brings me to the availability point. Westveleteren might be one of the most difficult beers to obtain (from the US). The beers are legally sold year round in only two locations: the monastery and a cafe just outside of the monastery. If you are in Belgium, you can find bottles for resale in some beer stores, but at a huge markup. Since the monastery needs renovations again, the monks decided to do a mass release of their more-sought-after Westvleteren 12. They released some gift packs in Europe and they are doing a release in the US, although those might be harder to obtain that just going to the brewery yourself. To give you an idea of how much it costs, I picked up a 6-pack in Italy for a cool 90 Euro. 

I drank this beer with my family at Easter time and I am just getting around to talking about it. I was afraid that I wouldn't do it justice. I don't really think I did, but oh well. The 8 has a bigger, better big brother, the 12, which I already noted that I have. Stay tuned for that post at some point. 

Whenever you get the chance, I would strongly encourage you to try the Westvleteren beers. I hear they make a great gift for your local neighborhood beer blogger too. 

Glassware: Goblet, snifter

Synonym Beer: Westmalle Dubbel (close and much less expensive, so better for everyday drinking)

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dogfish 75 Minute IPA

There was a long time that I thought that the Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA was only available in their tap houses. Naturally, when I found a bottle of it, I had to buy it. 

You are most likely more familiar with the 60 Minute and the 90 Minute IPAs. They are the staples of the Dogfish Head line and sometimes I feel like they are the only non-experimental ones, just solid IPAs. The 75 Minute IPA is a blend of the 60 and the 90 with some maple syrup added. It is 7.5% ABV, so it is strong, but definitively not in the Imperial range. It is naturally carbonated in the bottle (using the yeast), which gives it a softer carbonation. You can actually see the fine carbonation in the above picture.

The 75 Minute is dry hopped with cascades, which is abundantly clear when you waft the aroma to your nose. It isn't as overwhelming of a hop nose as I would generally expect from a dry hopped beer, but it is still clear. The flavor is very complex, but very smooth. The hops are cut a bit by the maple syrup. In my opinion it still stays in the IPA category, but does tend in the direction of  a standard pale ale. It has a more balanced hop character than the 60 Minute does. I was expecting something a little heavier, considering the maple syrup, but I was pleasantly surprised by a medium body, pleasant, but not overwhelming IPA. It is a little sweeter than most IPAs, but still very good. If you want a different IPA experience, I would strongly suggest giving it a shot.  

No word on why they included Eugene Levy on the label, but I'm not too concerned about it. 

Glassware: Pint, Mug, Tulip

Synonym Beer: I have yet to have one that is like it.

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ofmonksandmalts). You can also buy my pictures here:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weihenstephaner Original!

If you take the hipster point of view with beer, you will have some distinct advantages and disadvantages. By looking for beers that no one has ever heard of, you will undoubtedly find some great ones to share, as long as you don't mind wading through some terrible beers. The downside of this "anti-mainstream" view is that you will miss out on the classics, the beers that people have been emulating for as long as they have been around. Effectively, what I mean is that there can be a reason why people all drink a certain beer.

Weihenstephaner is one of the classic German light lagers. The name is derived from the Weihenstephan Benedictine monastery, where the monks brewed the beer. If you find yourself in Germany, particularly in Bayern (Bavaria), you will be able to find this beer all over the place. You will notice, though, in many of the bars, that they will only have beer from a particular brewery. This is still a prevalent thing. Most bars will have a kind-of allegiance to a certain brewery and only serve their product. This is unfortunate if you are a sedentary-style drinker, but actually kind of fun if you are looking to explore more of the city (and you should). Getting back to my original point, just because you can find it everywhere doesn't make it a bad beer. The Germans know what they like and those beers have thrived. Weihenstephaner is one of those.  

Now, what if you throw the Budweiser card at me? Tons of people drink that. Does it make that a good beer? First things first, I will always trust the German public over the US public when it comes to beer. They were making and drinking beer when that was safer than drinking the water. I think they had enough time to perfect it. Second, not to be very harsh, but Budweiser is a bastardized version of a Czech (Bohemian) Pilsner. It was changed in a few ways (like adding rice to make it lighter) to make a beer that was "offensive to no one". They were trying to sell beer to the US market, a market unfamiliar with beer. Beer is certainly an acquired taste, so the best way to sell a lot is to give it a lighter flavor. Today, the American palate is changing. Craft beers are becoming a bigger market. Still, notice that each brewery has a flagship beer that makes them most of their money. Usually, drinking a brewery's flagship is a good way to see what that particular brewery is all about.  

I have strayed drastically from the Weihenstephaner. For that, I apologize. It is a delicious, crisp, light lager. It is practically perfect for any and all beer drinking situations. It has a grainy, malty flavor, with just a hint of bitter hops to keep it from being too sweet. It is a standard 5.1% ABV, so it is light in color, average in ABV, and medium in taste. It is great if you want a beer that tastes good, yet you can still drink it by the liter, which you absolutely should. 

Glassware: Stein, Mug

Synonym Beer: Spaten Lager

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at Buy my pictures here: You can send me cool photos too, if you like and I will make a post up for you. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Simple Beer Bread

You know how some people say that beer is liquid bread? I tend to agree. It has much of the same nutrients and actually kind of similar ingredients. So, why not use liquid bread to make solid bread? Only makes sense, right? 

Required ingredients are shown above and the amounts are detailed below:

3 cups of flour (either sifted, or lightly spooned into the measuring cup)
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of ground malt (each variety will add some different characteristics to the beer) 
1 bottle of beer at room temperature (again, different beers will create different breads)
1/4 cup of butter (melted)

The recipe is very easy. First, you have to preheat the oven to 375 F. As it is preheating, mix together all of the dry ingredients in a medium/large bowl. Only put 1/2 cup of the ground malt into the mixture here. The rest of the malt will be used later. I also can't understate the importance of sifting the flour. If the flour is compacted, then the result will be a very dense bread. If you actually do sift the flour, the bread will be able to stay lighter. 

 After all of the dry ingredients are mixed, pour in the bottle of beer. It will certainly foam up a lot as a result of being at room temp, but as long as you don't let it overflow, you have nothing to worry about. I chose to use one of my home brews, a black saison. Not that it is a bad beer (I actually do like to drink it), but it is not my favorite of my home brews. This makes it great for cooking, because it adds a distinctive beer taste, but the flavors are made subtle by the inclusion in the bread. Note: If you make a batch of  home brew that doesn't carbonate properly, don't throw it out! Use it for cooking! That's what I do. 

Once you have mixed the dough thoroughly, it is time to put it into a loaf pan. I didn't have one, so I wound up using a small pot that I had. Grease the pan and sprinkle about half of the remaining malt on the bottom of the pan before you pour in the dough. Once the dough is in the pan, sprinkle the rest of the malt on top and pour the butter over the dough. 

The cooking time is about an hour, but depending on how crisp you want the crust, you will have to adjust the time. The result is a really interesting bread with a thick, buttery crust. The malt adds a little bit of sweetness to the bread, but a very mild sweetness. Give it a shot. Use different malts. Use different beers. Let me know how everything goes! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fuller's ESB

In celebration of the London Olympics, I will talk about the first English beer on the list: Fuller's ESB. ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, although sometimes the S can stand for Strong as well. If you have ever had an English bitter before, you know that they are subtle, easy drinking beers. I think of the ESB as the more aggressive older brother that greets the younger brother bitter by punching it in the stomach. It is higher in alcohol content, as well as hop character. Still, keep in mind that this is high in the English beer sense. It is rare to see an ESB break 6% ABV and while the hops are noticeable, they usually won't even reach American pale ale levels. 

Personally I found Fuller's ESB to be an enjoyable beer. It isn't in-your-face at all, but very pleasant, typical of English beers. Most of what I tasted from the ESB was malt. There is a nice, simple hop bitterness, but my taste buds have been dulled to hops from all the American IPAs that I have tried. It is a very stereotypical English beer, with a smooth, almost velvet-like mouthfeel and very low carbonation. Since the flavors of the ESB are more pronounced than other English ales, the ESB can be consumed slightly colder (although cellar temp. is perfect) without missing too much. If you are ever in the mood for a more reserved, less intense beer, with lower alcohol content, give English ales a shot. They have been brewing for a long time, so they must be doing something right, right? Just bear in mind that the English ale styles aren't for everyone. 

Glassware: Pint, Mug

Synonym Beer: Hobgoblin

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at Buy my pictures here: You can send me cool photos too, if you like and I will make a post up for you.