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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

White Chocolate

For the most part I've been a little let down by the Bruery's recent sour beer offering.  While most are very enjoyable beers they haven't lived up to the level of past offering such as Oude Tart, Marrón Acidifié, the Wanderer or Batch 50, which are some of my all time favorite sours (these days it's a pretty big list). Their spirit (mostly bourbon and whiskey) aging program on the other hand continues to knock it out of the park with their latest release, White Chocolate, being no exception. 

4oz pour from the bottle at the Bruery Tasting room from the Reserve Society Exclusive menu (about time)

Thanks Tim for letting me borrow your
bottle for this great shot!
Appearance: Pours a wondrous coppery orange color.  Not a lot of head, merely a thin white ring, but considering they poured it from an already open bottle not surprising.  I rearly discuss labels in a review but this is by far one of the best labels I've seen on the beer.  The paper is textures and the Logo and White Chocolate is raised.

Aroma: The nose on the beer is incredible.  Lots of vanilla, chocolate and bourbon - pretty much dessert in a glass.  I can see how people have said it reminds them of tiramisu.

Mouthfeel: Pretty much what I've come to expect from a Bruery barrel aged beer, nicely thick and sticky.  The carbonation was nicely balanced and help to open up the beer.

Taste: Huge vanilla and bourbon notes right up front. As it warms you really start to get the chocolate, which is big and rich. This is a pretty sweet beer but the bourbon helps to keep it from being too cloying.

Overall: I thought this beer was fantastic and have referred to it as Black Tuesday Light/Clear because it tastes a lot like a blond Black Tuesday/Chocolate Rain. This is easily the best wheat wine I've ever had and only makes me want to try White Oak Sap (the base beer for White Chocolate and White Oak) even more. At this point they are really teasing us about Vanilla Black Tuesday as they proved with this beer the deliciousness that can come from a barrel aged Bruery beer made with french vanilla beans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Split Batch Sour Red

These starters are making me thirsty
As you may know a while back I got my hands on four vials of  East Coast Yeast (ECY01 BugFarm, ECY02 Flemish Ale, ECY04 Brett Blend #1 and ECY07 Scottish Heavy).  For my first forte in I used the ECY07 Scottish Heavy for my Project S.C.O.T.T. Strong Scotch Ale.  I have to say that so far I'm pretty happy with the results I'm seeing (In Progress Tasting).

I knew that I needed to the remaining vials soon than later so I put together a quick schedule for the next several brews.  The best way to work through them fast was to a couple of split batches, but which to use first?  

Initially I planned on doing a 10 gallon version of My Funky Brother Brett, using WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii in half and ECY04 Brett Blend #1 in the other.  I decided that it would be more purdent to come up with a recipe that would allow me to use more of what I had on hand.  I therefore decided to do a 10 gallon split batch of a red ale to make a Flemish Red and a red sour (BugFarm).

My other piece of new equipment
Mark II Keg Washer
At the beginning I was leaning toward doing all 10 gallons clean, like I did for Halvtreds, adding the bugs to secondary.  I had also planned on using my standard red ale grist modified for a lower gravity.  In the end I decided to do a more standard Rodenbach grist with a few SNB modifications. I also decided after researching Flemish Reds to add the ECY02 Flemish Ale for primary. Most of the recipes had called the sour yeast (mostly Wyeast's 3763 Roeselare Blend) in primary so I figured why not.

Brewday also gave me a chance to break in some new equipment I'd recently procured for myself, primarily in the forms of pumps.  I'd found a pump on Craigslist a while back and picked it up.  Not knowing the full history of what it was used for I decided that it would only touch cooling water.  The other was a Chugger Pump I'd convinced Eric to carry at The Shop that I planned to use initially just for recirculating but ended up using to fill the kettle as well.

So far I'm really digging the flavor I'm getting from the ECY02 Flemish Ale.  At first I was concerned given the not existent activity I'd seen.  Apparently it was in fact hard at work reducing the gravity into the 20s during it's first week.  I'd watched a Wyeast video about berliner wiesses where they found they got more sour results starting with the sour strain for the first week then adding a second clean strain to fermenting beer.  I decided to do something similar to the red by adding the remaining pack of US-05 I'd used to prime the single "barrel" bottles of Barrel Aged 33



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Barrel" Aged 33

The bottle cap design for
the main blend
Of all the art forms in brewing that have started to find their way into American Craft brewing one of the most exciting for me personally is blending. A lot of brewers today are doing barrel aged beers, be they sours or big thick stouts, tossing them into barrel and letting them sit for a few months. Few however are going the next step and precisely blending them together in a way that elevates the overall beer. Most often all of the barrels are simply dumped into a brite tank or other container for packaging. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this method better results can occur when they don't feel attached to use all the barrels.  You have to remember that the beer in each barrel matures at a different pace. Just because you put the same batch of beer in barrels from the same distillery at the same time does not mean they hit peak flavor in unison. In fact the range can be between 9-18 months for a barrel to develop the flavor the brewer is after. Some of the best blended beers out there tend to be blends of multiple years of beers, the upcoming 10th Anniversary of Utopias for example contains a batch of Triple Bock from 1993.

Let's take a deeper look at the blending that went into the 10th / 2012 batch of Utopias
The 2012 Utopias brew was aged in hand selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award winning Buffalo Trace Distillery to enhance the beer’s distinct vanilla and maple notes. In fact, this year’s brew including some of our original Triple Bock from 1993. Our 10th Anniversary batch also spent time in a variety of finishing casks: Tawny Port casks and Vintage Ruby Port casks from Portugal, which contribute slightly more elegant, dark fruit aromas, and Rum barrels from Nicaragua, which add flavors of fig, chocolate, raisin, vanilla, and a slight spice. 
Blend 521
I've been wanting to create my own blended beer for a while, in fact I started soaking some of the oak way back in July of 2011.  At the time I had planned on creating my own Firestone Anniversary type blend (which is made up of several types of beer instead of a single style).  That plan never got off the ground but later in that year when I brewed up 33 I knew I'd found the prefect beer to give blending a shot.  Unfortunately due to it's close vicinity to Halvtreds it caught a brett infection that somewhat diminished the final flavor of the beer.  Still I decided to press on with my plan and give blending a shot.

My plan for the blend was to take divide up 33 into four gallon jugs with a 1/2 gallon growler.  In each I would add some of the spirit soaked wood and set it aside for a couple of months.  To fill the jugs I decided to keg up the 33 so that I could use my BeerGun to purge the jugs with CO2 before filling them so that I could reduce any oxygen exposure.  Once filled I wrapped them with electrical tape.  When all was said and done I ended up with five "barrels".
"Barrel" 1 - Korbel Port / American French Oak
"Barrel" 2 - Pusser's Rum / Medium French Oak
"Barrel" 3 - Hecker Pass Ruby Port / Medium Oak Cubes
"Barrel" 4 - Maker's Mark Bourbon / Oak Chips
"Barrel" 5 - Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon / Medium American Oak
A little sample of "Barrel" 5 -
Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon
After two months I decided to try "barrels" 1 & 2.  While they weren't quite as spirity as I was hoping for they tasted solid so I decide to blend them together.  I figured given my success with Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 (2012 coming soon...) in holding carbonation after being beer gunned, I'd blend it in the keg and serve it on draft for a while (I'd been really wanting an Imperial Stout on that I could sip on) and BeerGun the rest later.

In addition to the main blend I decided to do up five 12oz bottles, one from each of the "barrel", and a special 521 blend from "barrels" 5, 2 and 1 which happens to be the first three digits to my home phone number growing up in the SLC.  To prime the bottles I used some carb tabs and re-hydrated some dry yeast which I added to each bottle using a medicine dropper. I've made special caps for each of the blends to tell them apart; 33 - Korbel Port, 33 - Pusser's Rum, 33 - Hecker Pass Ruby Port, 33 - Maker's Mark Bourbon, 33 - Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon and 33 - 521 Blend. I'll probably do a variant tasting with all the bottles in December.

Overall I think the blend is just ok, it's definitely better than it had been but not as good as I was hoping it would be. Given how much I enjoyed Kate the Great and 33 before it caught a brett infection I plan on doing it again with 34 and leaving it on the wood for several additional months before I blend it.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gang Bang BIF 2 - Cali-style

There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable drinkers, so when we needed them, they could drink the beers that we never could.

From Brett (that's me in the middle minus my van dyke)
A few months back on BeerAdvocate yaknowbrady decided it was time to bring back the Gang Bang style BIF.  I've talked about BIFs in the past. The basic premise of this shotgun style BIF was to get a group of BAs together and plan a tasting for another group.

I got pulled in when my buddy Ryan (corregidore), from my regular tasting group, stepped up as team captain and asked if I wanted to join him. Having seen the thread I was already interested and told him I was in. He assembled a veritable "Dream Team" of eight of California's "greatest" BAs; Brett (BdubleEdubleRUN), Steve (Callmecoon), Eric (ehammond1, James (FosterJM), Scott (smarcoly), Scott (Xzsanchozx) and myself (Scott #3 StarRaptor).

Packing party
LtoR- Steve, Me, James, Scott and Scott
We started a spreadsheet to keep track of everything we were sending and who was sending what.  We did this to make sure there weren't any duplicates (except in the case of small format bottles which was to ensure duplicates) and to make sure we hit the oz rules.  Brandy had set a cap of about 500oz (minimum of 400oz but you'd really have to be an ass to only send 400oz) which came out to be about 2 large format bottle and 1 small format each.  We also decided that everyone would send a shirt and glass.  Even though it was capped at 8 people the team we were sending to had an extra member so Ryan decided to step up big time and send an extra shirt and glass so that the 9th guy could feel included.

As we started to assemble the list it was noticed that a great percentage of the purposed beers were from California.  Eventually it was decided that we would make it a California Breweries Exclusive box, sort of a love letter to California beer. To that end I sent The Bruery's 100% Brett Autumn Maple, The Bruery's Tart of Darkness b1 (paired nicely with the batch 2 Scott M sent) and Russian River Beatification b5 (Steve sent one as well to make the oz even). For swag I sent an XL Firestone Double Jack IBU shirt, one of my favorite glasses the Stone Double Bastard glass and a fucking California State Flag!

We got together in Mid-June to pack up all the beers (as well as consume a beer here and there) and sent our beers across the country to Ohio.  Here's the tally:

We sent to Cleveland (535oz)
750 ml/22 oz
Alpine Nelson
Alpine BA Odins Raven
Bruery Autumn Maple with Brett
Bruery Wanderer!!!
Bruery Filmishmish
Bruery Sans Pagaie
Bruery Tart of Darkness (2011, 2012)
Bruery 100% BA Cuir
Bruery White Oak
Hangar 24 Hammerhead
Alesmith Decadence Maple Smoked BW
50/50 Eclipse EC 12 year
FW Double Jack
FW Sucaba
FW Parabola
FW 13th Anniversary!

375 ml
Lost Abbey Deliverance (x2)
Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme (x2)
Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa (x2)
Russian River Beatification (x2)!!
Pliney the Elder (x2)

Various brewery T-shirts and glassware for all 9 Cleveland BAs
Anchorman DVD
Beer Brittle
LA dodgers peanuts
CA poppyseed plant seeds
various brewery stickers and bottle openers
Angels Pennant
Bruery pins
CA Flag (represent!)
and the grand finale.... A personalized greeting card from the lovely Laker girls

Now enjoy the killer video team Cleveland put together of their bang

We ended up getting 4 boxes from Team Pitt. The hardest part of this BIF was finding a time to do it when everyone was available.  It actually took about 6 weeks from when we started to receive beers to when we got to drink them.During this time all the beer was stored in my deep freeze to keep it cold heat wave after heat wave. We finally found a time that worked for the group in August.  We started off with a little beer dinner at Brü Grill & Market opening up a couple of the beers in the  Bang. Bonnie even helped out by making a Bourbon Imperial Stout Boob cake.  How does one make a Bourbon Imperial Stout cake? Simple, replace the liquid in the recipe with imperial stout and bourbon.  In the Boob Cake the double recipe called for 16 oz of liquid so I added 15oz of beer and 1.5oz of Makers Mark.

What we got from Pittsburgh (517oz)
750 ml
NEBC Imperial Stout Trooper
Ithaca White Gold
New Glarus Belgian Red
New Glarus Raspberry Tart

22 oz
Smuttynose Imperial Stout
Jackie O's Dynamo Hum
FFF Behemoth
FFF Blackheart
Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy
Troeg's Flying Mouflan
Williamsburg Bitter Valentine
Hoppin' Frog BA Frosted Frog

12 oz
Bells Expedition Stout
Fat Head Headhunter IPA x 2
Weyerbacher Insanity x 2
Troegs Perpetual IPA x 2
Great Lakes BA Blackout Stout x 2
Central Waters Satin Solstice x 2
Brew Kettle White Rajah x 2
Voodoo Black Magic Stout
Columbus IPA x 2
Full Pint Rye Rebellion x 2
Cellarats Black Rat Imp Stout x 2

7 Great Lakes snifters.
1 Herradura tequila snifter.
8 La Chouffe mini gnome keychains

I'll post my pictures below but here is a link to pictures Marcoly took.  Really the best thing about this BIF was hanging out with friends and meeting new ones.  While I'd met Eric and James in passing and knew them online this tasting really allowed me to get to know Brett, Eric and James in real life which was pretty damn awesome.



Most of Team Cali!
LtoR - Ryan, James, Eric, Me, Brett, Steve, Scott M

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