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

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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). 

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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.

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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 

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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 

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