Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brasserie Lefebvre Barbar Winter Bok

My more frequent readers, few in numbers though you might be, are probably raising an eyebrow or two at my selection this week, an ale that is decidedly NOT American or English. No, I somehow ended up with a few of these Winter Boks, not really my style, but I decided to review it nonetheless.

A big head with a light aroma on the nose giving hints of dark but not heavily roasted malts and traces of that oh so noticeable Belgian yeast. The front end hits with a lot of carbonation, evening out into a complex mixture of spices and sweetness. Hints of a mead like sweetness due apparently to a mixture of honey in the brew.

A bit of corriander adds an edge leaving for a well balanced, but rather sweetly spiced ale. Seems to be a little play on the German styled Dunkel, but while it espouses some of those qualities, it's drinkability appears to be more in part to it's overall muted flavors than its attributes. 8% alc.

Barbar Winter Bok: **1/2

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell IPA

Few folks are using cans these days, but Maui Brewing is a proponent. It would be interesting to try some of their brews in a bottle and see if there is a notable difference.

That being said, Big Swell is a tasty IPA with typical west coast hopping and perhaps a hint of the island flavor where it originates. The malts are a little sweeter than you'd usually find in an IPA of this nature, but it does not hinder the hopping, which is a light grapfruit pine. The hops are present without standing out significantly. They drop off into the sweet malts that for some reason make me think of pineapple. Not necessarily my favorite hop levels, but it pulls it off well and is an amazingly drinkable beer. I could also go for some stronger aroma and head. 6.2%

Big Swell IPA: ***1/2

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jackie Brown

This is the third Mikkeller beer from my Christmas giftpack that I've been savoring over the past month.  I'm not usually a huge fan of browns as they lack a lot of the spice and bitterness that I enjoy in my brews.  But in what is perhaps the most creative period for beer in the past 100 years it's always important to try everything as styles are fusing and tastes are reinvented.  Ms. Brown (please, Jackie) is no exception.  

There's a lot going on in here, so much so that I'm almost tempted to classify it as other than a brown.  Mikkeller's stated intent was to make the roasted grains roll off into chocolate in your tongue.  His achievement of this ideal is not only a testament to his creativity but his mastery of the craft.  But to leave the description at that would be in the words of Jackie herself: " A damn shame."  

There's a lot of hop presence in here that makes the otherwise flat nose come alive.  The hops give the beer a surprising bittersweet taste (think chocolate, not tears) and add an element of freshness that makes the drink more of a journey than a short lived experience.  While the bitterness is an excellent addition, I wish it could mesh better with the flat front end.  Mikkeller used pale, munich, cara-pils, cara-crystal, brown and chocolate grains, flaked oats, hops include nugget, simcoe and centennial.  Alc. 6%

Jackie Brown: ***1/2

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wild Boar Chili

While I probably haven't mentioned it much in any of my posts, I also like to cook.  Recently, I've been trying to cook more dishes that use beer as an ingredient.  Last week I found that Marcopa Meats in the Farmer's Market at the Grove carried Wild Boar.  Since the Superbowl was coming up, I decided to buy 10 lbs and make something.  I found this recipe by Marc Meyer, executive chef of New York’s Cookshop.  I was looking for something that used dark, earthy, and sweet flavors, and when I found this recipe that includes chocolate, aromatic chiles, blackstrap molasses, coffee, beer, and pineapple juice it was an easy sell.  Here's the ingredient list.
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
4 lbs wild boar shoulder, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
7 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup ancho chile powder
1/4 cup cumin
1 tsp chile de arbol
1 tbsp chile mulato
1 bottle dark beer
10-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup pineapple juice
4 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup brewed espresso

Here are some pictures from making the chili and the party that followed.

Because of the boar and the chocolate nature of the recipe, I chose Rogue Chocolate Stout for this recipe.

I had never used Blackstrap Molasses before and if you've never seen it, it's pretty intriguing stuff.  I'm gonna have to figure out a beer to use it in.

It really added a dark flavor and color to the chili.  I let it cook on low for 2 hours before adding Espresso and cocoa powder.
It ended up being somewhere between a chili and mole.

Jackie liked it... I think.

People react in shock and disgust to The Who.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pliny the Younger

For those that don't already know, it's that wonderful time of year when Russian River makes Pliny the Younger.  I have never been lucky enough to try this exalted brew, however, Pliny the Elder is one of my favorite beers, and I have high hopes for the Younger.

I exchanged emails with Vinnie from Russian River and found out that the beer was shipped down this way on Tuesday and should be on tap soon.  Apparently, at many bars for San Francisco Beer Week it sold out very fast; like in an under an hour fast.

I'll send some pictures to the blog when I get my glass, but in the meantime, here's where you can look for it in Los Angeles:

Verdugo: Tapped tonight at 7pm

Daily Pint: Taps tomorrow 2/12 at 7pm

Library Alehouse: Taps Tuesday, 2/16 at 4pm

Blue Palms: Just announced that they will tap Wednesday, 2/17 at 7pm

See you there.

Warsteiner Dunkel

One of the few styles I'll venture out of my comfort zone for is a good German brew. I spent a few weeks in Munich for the World Cup in 2006, and in addition to copius amounts of bratwurst and football, I enjoyed the local flavor and culture of Bavarian beer. While most of the beers you'll find at beerhalls and beer gardens are hefeweizens, altbiers, and pilsners, I love a well crafted dunkel.

Unfortuantely, while the origin of this beer is unquestionably German, it's not one of the finer ones. A Dunkel is similar to a Hefeweizen, wheat beer, but is brewed as darker version (Dunkel means "dark") with deliciously complex malts and a low balancing bitterness. Most are brown and murky (from the yeast). The usual clove and fruity (banana) characters will be present, some may even taste like banana bread.

Mr. Warsteiner has that nose of sweetness, but dies on the back end and the body leaves for a fairly malty uninspired beer. For me it's just too bland, but is definitely a step up from Becks dark or Heineken dark. Try a Leffe Dark instead.

Dunkel: **

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Avery Salvation Belgian-style Golden Ale

Salvation. A lofty name for this Belgian styled Golden Ale from the folks at Avery.

According to the bottle, "Salvation is about finding your true passion, purpose, and meaning in life." I applaud the interpretation, however, if I were to take the word by historical connotation alone, and in some act of Divine Providence, be granted eternal life, I'm not sure this is the beer I would take with me.

Not that this beer is bad, but of course I would bring an American style ale with me! Aromas are sweet honey and malts, reminds me of Midas Touch. The flavor is unmistakebly Belgian in its yeast and grain choices. This would qualify as simply a well made Belgian if it were not for the subtle use of hops that distinguises it from its Flemmish cousins.

I made sure to take a snap shot of their extra fancy foil label.

Avery has cleverly cradled a soft, fruity body in a thin hop shell that rounds out the flavor, keeping the sweet tones from expanding too far. At the same time, the smallest hint of hop bitterness that I've ever tasted seems to pierce the middle of the flavor, perhaps like Moses parting the Red Sea??? Apologies, but broad concepts like Salvation, are best described with broad comedy; so it is and so it shall be. Avery used Belgian candy sugar for flavoring and fermenting, it's a classy and tasty touch. Alc. 9%

Salvation: ***

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My top 5 Porters

To continue a little series I've been doing on different ale styles, I've decided to highlight my favorite porters.

When I speak about porters, it's assumed that I'm referring to American style porters. Quite frankly there isn't much difference between english porters and american porters other than american style porters tend to use more interesting ingredients like smoked flavor, coffee beans, bourbon, but the process of making and the basic tasting scheme is the same.

First a little history of the beer from Beer Advocate: "Porter is said to have been popular with transportation workers of Central London, hence the name. Most traditional British brewing documentation from the 1700’s state that Porter was a blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale), with various combinations of blending and staleness. The end result was also commonly known as "Entire Butt" or "Three Threads" and had a pleasing taste of neither new nor old. It was the first truly engineered beer, catering to the public's taste, playing a critical role in quenching the thirst of the UK’s Industrial Revolution and lending an arm in building the mega-breweries of today. Porter saw a comeback during the homebrewing and micro-brewery revolution of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, in the US. Modern-day Porters are typically brewed using a pale malt base with the addition of black malt, crystal, chocolate or smoked brown malt. The addition of roasted malt is uncommon, but used occasionally. Some brewers will also age their beers after inoculation with live bacteria to create an authentic taste. Hop bitterness is moderate on the whole and color ranges from brown to black. Overall they remain very complex and interesting beers."

These days with all the creative stouts being made, it can be tricky to distinguish a good porter as the two styles are very similar and often indistinguishable. But Porters are usually much lighter in flavor, alcohol content, and body. They are somewhere between a brown ale and stout, but tend to be much closer to a stout. Here are my favorites:

Deschutes Black Butte XXI - This is Deschutes anniversary batch of it's premiere and most popular brew. But those who have had the Black Butte will be pretty amazed by this creation. It's actually an Imperial Porter and it's amazing.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron - It's hard to classify Palo Santo as any traditional beer style, but probably closest to a Porter. It's a lot like drinking a thick wine, but it's really amazing. I have an older entry on this beer that you can read more about.

Rogue Mocha Porter - A mixture of chocolate and coffee tones from Rogue make up the third on my list, another well crafted beer worth trying.

Stone Smoked Porter - I sometimes shy away from smoked porters because they can be overly smokey, like putting out a cigar in your mouth. But Stone's version of this popular beer has it really nailed.

Stone Vanilla Bean Porter - This is a recent release that I just tried last week at the Daily Pint. Some might find it too sweet, but I think it mellows out as you drink it. A great mixture of chocolate and vanilla sweetness with just enough bitters to keep it worth drinking.

Others worth mentioning and trying: Deschuttes Black Butte Porter, Alaskan Smoked Porter, Anchor Porter, Ballast Point Victory at Sea Vanilla Imperial Porter, Russian River Porter,