French Broad Rye Hopper Ale

March 13th, 2010 beckel

I know nothing of the French Broad Brewing Company other than the fact that they are located in Asheville, North Carolina and were founded in 2001. But I always enjoy trying new things and upon seeing their Rye Hopper on the shelves of The Four Firkins I saw no reason not to bring it home with me particularly as I am a big fan of hoppy brews and always love seeing rye used in brewing. Apparently this ale begun as a fall seasonal and is now part of their year round lineup. Sounds groovy to me, time to enjoy. Pours an attractive relatively dark amber hue that is translucent enough to see my fingers behind the glass. A fluffy two fingers of clean, tight, white head were produced and leave behind a modest amount of lacing and a solid few millimeters of residual foam after largely fading. Aroma is quite malty with a good deal of sweetness coming through, heavy on rye and assertively hoppy with a variety of earthy, floral and fruit esters as well as modest bitterness. Flavor is exactly what I was expecting. Heavy rye esters followed by serious hop bitterness. Modest malt sweetness does a decent job of complimenting the hop bitterness but certainly does not hide it. Hop notes are largely herbal and earthy and quite enjoyable with very gentle passion fruit like esters and some floral notes. Alcohol is noticeable but the bitterness does a good job of obscuring it. At 5.9% ABV it is not overly alcoholic but plenty strong and very full of flavor. I sincerely enjoy the assertiveness of the rye in this ale, similarly to the RIPA recently produced by our own local Summit Brewing. Which I should get around to reviewing one of these days…anyhow. If you enjoy hop filled bitter brews as well as rye there is no reason you shouldn’t give this ale a chance. I consumed this ale quite a bit warmer than I would typically consume an IPA and after taking a few sips of it colder I will note that this ale becomes more smooth and the flavors meld together better at below room temperature, as I find is often the case with IPAs. If your not into bitter ales, obviously leave this one alone, but I have enjoyed it and would like to see the other brews available from French Broad. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

French Broad Rye Hopper Ale

Trader Crap

March 11th, 2010 beckel

I do my damnedest to not waste my time writing about poor quality brews but this time around I just couldn’t help myself, even if I only spent just under $7. I had never entered a Trader Joe’s until last month but I was in the neighborhood and figured I may as well check them out. After perusing the shelves for a few minutes I decided I really didn’t need anything in particular and made my way over to their liquor portion of the store. Where nothing particularly grabbed my attention aside from the fact that they sold all of their contracted beverages in either 6-packs or individually for the exact same price per bottle ( less one cent). Inspired by a recent post by my friend Stu of Friday Night Beer I decided I may as well spend a few dollars, set my prejudices aside and grab a mixed six-pack. In full disclosure, typically when I do a review I make sure I have a clean palate and never review more than one beer in a day without at least waiting many hours in between. In this case I consumed the 6 beverages over 3 days, more or less back to back. However I am more than confident in saying it did little to change my opinions on these brews and further I’m not sure if I could have brought myself to the last brew had I waited any longer. Of the beverages I purchased two of them were Ciders, both made by Newtons Folly so we’ll start there.

Newtons Folly Authentic Draft Cider & Granny Smith Draft Cider: These two ciders are only getting one description as they barely differ. The Granny Smith tasted a bit more tart, crisp and perhaps a bit more natural…so I guess I preferred it a bit more, but it’s really hard to even care. Over all the flavor of both of these ciders is just about what you would expect from a contract cider produced by Woodchuck, because that’s exactly who makes it for Trader Joe’s. Tastes largely of apples and alcohol and is obviously mass a produced apple wine with very little character that is diluted and bottled. Body was light and mouthfeel was very carbonated. If you want your alcohol to taste like apples I guess you might dig it. But I would suggest some Crispin or Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider. $1 per bottle. 5% ABV.

Trader Crap Cider

The first Beer that I consumed was JB (Josephs Brau) Dunkelweizen and unfortunately it was probably the best of the bunch. Though it has a fancy name and location scribed on the label it appears to be a simple contract brewing front for Trader Joe’s (or beer marketing company as I believe they like to be called). Color was a reasonably nice, very cloudy molasses hue. Sugary aroma with a small amount of malt richness. Has an interesting after taste of wheat that is quite noticeable but mostly tastes of slightly burnt adjuncts (sugar). Over all flavor is indistinct and modestly sweet with some gentle citrus esters that seem a bit out of place. Body is medium. Relatively to style but I would like to see the wheat come through better. Would be decent for a home brew but not overly impressive for a commercial beverage particular with the obvious amount of adjuncts used. If you like sweet beer you might enjoy it, though I can’t see myself paying for it again. $1 per bottle. 5.2% ABV.

Mission St. Pale Ale: Produced by Steinhaus Brewing Company, another beer marketing company out of California. Completely translucent light copper hue. Surprisingly pungent hop aroma, very lemony and really no other dimensions; though over time I almost notice some orange esters. Almost no maltyness which is obviously out of style. Flavor is very lemon influenced with some uneventful pale malt notes that fail to add much. Lemon notes aren’t chemically but are overpowering and a bit artificial, seeming more like bottled lemon juice or perhaps lemon zest than hops. Very strange, very lemony. Not bad per se  but it was a bit difficult for me to drink as it was simply so lemony. If you really dig lemons I guess this is the beer for your. $1.17 per bottle. 4.6% ABV.

Mission St. India Pale Ale: I had consumed this ale once before at my uncles over last Thanksgiving and remembered not hating it, but also not really remembering much about it so I figured I’d give it another chance. Pours an attractive medium amber hue that is very translucent. Smells of hop notes similar to their Pale Ale with serious lemon notes though additional citrus hop esters are present and provide a much more well rounded aroma that is far more enjoyable, but still rather boring and a bit acidic with modest bitterness to somewhat round it off. Flavor is quite bitter which I rather enjoy but the citrus and floral esters are a bit muddled and not overly enjoyable. An OK ale provided you don’t mind bitterness. $1.17 per bottle. 6.1% ABV.

Kennebunkport IPA: This ale is apparently part of the Federal Jack’s “family” of beers and I will simply say I really hope it doesn’t reflect upon the quality of the other beers in their family because this brew was simply awful. Color is a slightly reddish copper hue that is completely translucent. Initially smelling almost only of malt with some odd esters that remind me of burnt caramel, though if you can get over that unpleasantness there are some flat citrus and floral notes that are also unenjoyable in my opinion. Flavor is mostly of unpleasant malt notes similar to the aroma and a modest amount of unpleasant citrus notes that are predominately lemony but at least more varied than the Mission St. Pale Ale. Some hop bitterness, a variety of off flavors and more alcohol than one would expect. Frankly I found this beer completely undesirable and very hard to drink, I almost poured it out. Unless you like torture don’t do it. $1 per bottle. 6% ABV.

Trader Crap Beer

I will admit that Trader Joe’s has some interesting and unique food products for sale, but I can not rightly encourage anyone to bother with their beer selection. Though I suppose I would take most of them over a bud, but only a couple over a Grain Belt Premium. They say they offer refunds on products you do not like so perhaps if they honor this I may try some more for the hell of it. Drink some better beer and ride your bike.

Boulevard Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner

March 10th, 2010 beckel

Collaboration, collaborative, collaborators. My friend, local beer blogger and Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew recently wrote a very nice article on the ever growing trend. So with his words in mind I will do my best not to allow my expectations to sway my opinions of what I’m sure will be a worthy brew (shit I’ve already failed). This Imperial Pilsner is the first collaborative brew from Boulevard Brewing and is labeled as part of their Smokestack Series with only one batch being produced. It was done in collaboration with Jean-Marie Rock of the Trappist brewery Orval and is inspired by a Pilsner that he brewed in the beginning of his career and will be crafted with traditional lagering methods. Brewed with 100% Pilsner Malt and Saaz hops it certainly fits the bill. Orval is one deliciously unique beer as well as the only brew they make (at least commercially) and I am excited to see what else Rock has up his sleeves. This 750ml bottle was one tough cookie to crack open, but it was no surprise once I started pouring as it was massively carbonated. Four fingers of bright white head are easily created and form tight bubbles that quickly open up and almost completely dissipate after a few minutes leaving very little lacing. Color is a very bright golden hue, some would say straw like. Smells of clean Pilsner malt as well as robust fruity and herbal Saaz hops. Gentle earthy yeast esters, some light notes often found in the style. Malt flavors are soft, modestly sweet and clean with gentle esters that remind me of a light caramel. Hops offer a small amount of bitterness and wonderful earthy and spicy esters that Saaz are so well known for, as well as some gentle citrus & fruit esters. Body is very light and mouthfeel is clean, well carbonated and reasonably crisp. At 8% ABV this brew is no joke but you will be stretched to tell as the flavor profile masterfully hides the solid alcohol present and simply adds a nice dry character. The combination of delightful aroma and clean, malty and beautifully hopped flavors makes this lager very enjoyable. Definitely a tasty beer and a fine example of what quality, patient brewing can produce. Light Lagers tend to get a bad rap, and I will be forthright in saying I am often not a proponent, but it is important to realize that even though yeast is one of the most relevant ingredients in beer both Lager and Ale yeast can produce spectacular brews with the right recipes and techniques. One of my favorite Pilsners yet, if only more breweries spent the time to create such wonderful brews on a regular basis I might just be hooked. Though it will be next to impossible to find at this point I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to sample this lager. But who knows perhaps with its success they will brew it again (please). Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Boulevard Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner

Founders Nemesis 2009

March 8th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a very exciting ale from the fine folk of Founders Brewing Company. Nemesis is their newest small batch series which aims to craft beers that are “diabolically brewed to decimate ordinary average run of the mill tasting beer” and release a unique product once a year. Out of sheer coincidence I was lucky enough to spot the last four pack on the shelves of The Four Firkins almost a month ago and there is no doubt it will be difficult to find, but surely worth your time and money even at about $5 a 12oz bottle. This years Nemesis is a Wheat Wine that was aged in the same bourbon barrels often used for their barrel aged Breakfast Stout [review] but with the addition of maple syrup and a very serious 12% ABV as well as 70 IBU. Nemesis pours a modestly dark hue that is a mix of red and an apricot hue that is very opaque but when brought to light becomes very bright and slightly translucent. Head is white and but a single finger of tight bubbles that last for a few minutes. Aroma is full of strong alcohol esters, a good dose of bourbon as well as sweet maple, toffee and caramel notes. A complex melody of flavors are present including bourbon, maple syrup, intense alcohol, sweet wheat esters and a variety of modest herbal and earthy notes. A few sips even reminded me of s’mores, minus the chocolate with creme esters being the primary attribute. This is one complex and highly alcoholic ale but I find the play between the maple and wheat to create very enjoyable flavor profile that helps balance and contrast the serious alcohol and bourbon esters nicely. Definitely not an ale for those unaccustomed to strong ales but a delicious brew that is certainly worthy if you stumble upon it. An intriguing contrast of stiff alcohol and bourbon with maple and sweet grains. As many of you know flavors are most detectable at around room temperature and this ale is a prime example of something to consume at proper serving temperature as the alcohol esters are much more assertive (and offensive to the palate) when served cold, yet delightfully complimented when served at near room temperature. Unquestionably a daring ale that I have sincerely enjoyed and would recommend to others, at least in small doses. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Founders Nemesis 2009