Beers I’ve wanted to try for awhile – Vol. 3 – Ommegang’s Three Philosopher’s Quadrupel Ale

I’m a huge baseball fan (go Braves!) and a huge beer fan (go beer!), yet I’ve never made the trip to Cooperstown, NY.  I don’t know what I’m waiting for.  If you’ve toured the brewery before, let me know what you thought.  It looks quite intriguing in the pictures on their website.  By the way, their website is quite sexy.   On to the beer….

Ommegang describes Three Philosophers as a “unique belgain style blend of quadrupel  ale and Liefman’s kriek.”  (98 % ale, 2% ale with cherries added). This is an American – Belgian hybrid.

Appearance:  This one pours a dark, burnt orange-brown color, with a modest, off-white head that dissipates rather quickly.  While there is some lacing, I was expecting more.

Aroma: Stick your honker in the glass, and you’re inviting black licorice, cherries and Belgian yeast, mixed with a pinch of smokiness into your nostrils.  The nose is complex, as expected.  Very appealing….

Taste: I’ve never sat down and tried to make an all-time top 10 beer list, but when I do, this one is likely to be on that list.  The taste picks up where the aroma leaves off.  It starts off a tad on the sweet side, then the alcohol hits you.  Next, the cherry flavor comes through, followed by just enough bitterness to let you know you’re drinking beer.  Mouthfeel is medium, not as thick as expected.  Because of this, the beer goes down quite quickly.  I needed to remind myself to slow down and enjoy each sip.

Overall: This beer is impressive, and it certainly lives up to the hype.  One of the best I’ve had in awhile.  For a quad at 9.8%, this beer is very smooth.  Dangerously smooth.  This is one to keep in the back of the beer fridge for any fall or winter night.  I realize that it’s summer, but it’s also 63 degrees right now, so this put me in the mood for fall.  Cheers….

Where did this brew get its name?    Three Philosophers is an oil painting on canvas attributed to the Italian High Renaissance artist Giorgione. It shows three philosophers — one young, one middle-aged, and one old.  It was completed in the early 16 century.  Here is a picture of the painting:

I wanted to know even more, and I found some interesting information on this blog.  The writers claim that the following information is from the brewery itself:

“Realistically, the only solution was to find out from the brewery itself. Luckily they were helpful. The answer: It’s a reference to a William Blake’s An Island in the Moon, a satire written in 1784 and published posthumously. In the novel, there are three main characters:

  • Quid the Cynic
  • Suction the Epicurean
  • Sipsop the Pythagorean

The brewers then extrapolated from the personalities of the characters to opine on the beer they had produced and was presumably nameless. The Three Philosophers, is a painting from early 16th century Italy, so the beer presumably takes its title from that, as if Blake’s characters were in the painting. If discussing the beer, Quid would question why the beer is necessary, Sipsop would question how it was possible to make such a beer, while Suction would simply enjoy the beer in all of its glory. Blake hated Suction and the materiality he represented. Obviously, the Ommegang brew squad feels differently. It gets kind of meta to think about how a beer was named for three fictional characters theoretically talking about it.”

This information makes me appreciate the beer even more.  Cheers….

Beers I’ve wanted to try for awhile Vol. 2 – Albita’s Strawberry Harvest Ale

From a complete hop bomb last night, to a nice light lager tonight. Weighing in at just 4.2% ABV, this one has summer written all over it.   Fruit beers were my gateway into craft beer and I still enjoy them today.  I’ll be honest though, this is the first and only commercially available strawberry beer I’ve ever tried.  I did have one or two that Jake brewed about 6 years ago, but that’s it.  On to the beer…

Appearance:  This one pours a very pale yellow.  I can see right through the glass.  The head  is very thin, as you would expect, with minimal lacing left in the glass.  It looks nice and light, as it should.

Aroma: The nose is also very light, and offers a slight strawberry jam-esque  scent.  Not much hop or malt presence to talk about.

Taste: Mouthfeel is very light, with just the right amount of carbonation for the style.  I’m picking up mostly sweet strawberry flavor. This one is brewed with “real Louisiana strawberry juice” and the flavor seems to reflect that. The finish is actually slightly bitter, which was unexpected.  The mix of sweetness and bitterness continue to play off of each other, which I find enjoyable.

Overall:  I kept this one simple, because that’s how I feel this beer portrays itself.  No fancy hops or malts..just a tart, light lager.  I could easily finish a six pack of these in one session.  With lime beer and shandies becoming increasingly popular, I wonder how long it is because fruity beers catch on.  They are definitely not there yet, but I have to think that their time is coming.  Check out all of the details of this beer here.

Beers I’ve wanted to try for awhile Vol. 1 – Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum

Note: This is the first of a series of beer reviews.  All of the reviews feature offerings that I have been  Along the way, styles will vary greatly, but my enthusiasm will remain high.

I’m a hop- head.  Not a pretentious, “if it ain’t hoppy I ain’t drinkin’ it” hop-head.  However, I continue to crave maximum IBUs. This brew has definitely been on my radar for awhile, and I finally picked up a bottle as part of a Wegmans create your own 6 pack.  (It was on the shelf, I swear).  I’ve never tasted a Sierra Nevada offering that I didn’t enjoy.  They do hoppy very, very well.  As a diehard Southern Tier fanboy,  I feel that most Sierra Nevada brews have the edge on STBCs hoppy brews.  This is a broad generalization, which needs to be discussed more thoroughly in a future post.  On to the beer….

Appearance: This one pours a pleasant golden-straw color.  (The color of the beer appears lighter in my hand than in the photo above).  The one finger creamy head was actually a nice surprise.  Head retention is high.  There are more streaks on this glass than in your favorite pair of tighty whities. (Note: I just google searched how to spell tighty whities and it turns out I knew how to spell it all along).

Aroma: Honestly, the nose is a little disappointing.  Yes, the floral and pine notes are there.  However, they are nicely balanced with sweet malts.  In a blind smell test, I’m probably not going to be able to pick this out against, let’s say SNs Torpedo.  I was expecting my nose to explode with hoppy goodness.  I’m over it.

Taste: Again, the balance is shocking.  I will admit, on first sip, I was blown away (in the best way possible) by the hop profile.  As I continue to drink it, and it warms up a bit, the malts and sweet alcohol flavor definitely shine through. Mouthfeel is medium, syrupy, and oily.  There is no hiding the fact that this weights in at 10.4 % ABV.  Only halfway through the glass, I can definitely feel what would normally be that slight two beer buzz. (Read: I’m a cheap date tonight).  However, I’m going to argue that the drinkability is higher than expected.  Two or three of these, drank at a reasonable pace, would be perfect.  The finish is very sweet at first, followed by a piney aftertaste.

Overall: Not the hop-bomb I was expecting, but very, very good.   The 10.4% hits you hard, but doesn’t over-take the excellent taste.  I’d like to see improved aroma for next year’s version.  I’ll most likely end up buying a few more bottles of this 2013 version before it disappears.

Overall:

Are you guilty of believing any of these myths?

I’d like to start off by mentioning that I blatantly stole this from the Beer Apostle, a beer blog out of Texas.  All of us have heard of these beer myths, now it’s time to debunk them.  So, while you’re drinking beer around the grill with Uncle John on this 4th of July, educate the man about cold filtering.    Or, feel free to print this out and give to your buddy who proudly tells you that dark beer is “heavier” than light beer:

[Note: This original graphic was created by Karl Strauss.  I have not had the pleasure of trying any of their beers].

Beer Myths Debunked, by Karl Strauss
by: Karl Strauss.

EBC West Summer Beer Pairing Dinner to be held June 13th

EBC West (the one in Fredonia) will once again host a seasonal beer pairing dinner.  The even will take place on Thursday, June 13th, at 6pm.  The price is $45, which is right on point, if not cheaper than most pairing dinners in the area.

If you’ve still never been to one of these dinners, think about going to this one.  If you tend to be picky about what you eat, you may be frustrated by the lack of food info.  I am sure that if you call  or email Jim (679-7939, jim@ebcwest.com), he could give you some idea of the courses.  If not, just be adventurous.

Go here to order your tickets, or stop into either EBC location.  Note: These dinners tend to sell out rather quickly.

Go here to check out our review from the Winter 2011 version of the dinner.

Southern Tier Brewing Co. adds new varieties, continues to impress

What was the first offering from Southern Tier Brewing Company that you tried?  Mine was raspberry wheat, and it is a beer that is special to me.  One of the first fruit craft beers I ever tried (EBCs Blueberry Wheat was first), it certainly impressed me enough to check out more of their  beers and visit their brewery.  It was even an inspiration for the first beer I ever brewed.   A quick search on Beer Advocate shows that this beer only scores a 72 (average).  To me, that low score doesn’t matter.  It will always bring back some memories of when I first stared enjoying craft beer.  Although, I suppose there may be a reason why it is now retired.

While STBCs Raspberry Wheat is retired, the company itself seems to be right in the middle of a Golden Age.  At this point, it seems they can brew no wrong.  Clearly striking gold with their internationally acclaimed “Pumking”, the brewers at STBC are back to experimenting with different flavors and styles.  Here are some of their new offerings (all photos can be found here):

1) Live - a bottle conditioned pale ale.  Here is a description from the website: “Beer is made by creating a liquid rich with fermentable material.  This ‘wort’ is moved to a fermentation vessel where yeast, a living organism, is added. Yeast swims around the fermenter gobbling up the soluble sugar and converting that energy into alcohol. Imagine the feeding frenzy of millions of tiny yeast cells eating their way around a big fermenter.  It’s a volatile and active environment. During this time, the beer is literally alive.  Just prior to packaging, we add a little yeast to the clear beer for a secondary fermentation. This helps to add carbonation, remove oxygen, and prolong shelf life.”

I thoroughly enjoy this offering.  It is very sessionable, with just enough hop profile to keep this hop head happy.  I will have a formal review of this posted soon.

2xRye 6 pack 2013_web

2) 2X Rye – a double rye ale.  This is a new autumn seasonal, so I’m guessing you’ll be able to pick it up this August.  It is brewed with 3 hop varities and 5 types of malts.  By the way, I love the fact that STBC always prints this information on their packaging.  My mouth will have to keep watering until the end of summer.

3) Compass- a bottle conditioned, sparkling ale, with rose hips (uh, ok?).  This, in my opinion, tells us how well this brewery is doing.  They’re having fun brewing a wacky style, because they have the resources (and proven success) to do so. This will be sold in 22 oz bottles and draught, with spring/summer availability.  I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but my taste buds are looking forward to it.

2013 blackwater_plum noir_inland 25 mar

4) Plum Noir – an imperiral porter, brewed with Italian plums (seems normal). This is the newest addition to the Blackwater series.  It will be sold in 22 oz bottles and draught, with spring/summer availability.  The label is sexy, and the description of the beer (see above) is intriguing.  I have one of these in the fridge, and will be reviewing it soon.  I wonder if this beer will enjoy some of the “dessert” type appeal that Pumking has.

So there you have it.  4 new offerings for you to try.  With well-known and respected industry staples, ever-growing distribution, and international acclaim, STBC continues to impress this beer drinker.

Hamburg Brewing Company slated to open Summer 2013!

Last year (and the year before), I was excited about “Mainspring Brewery”, a brew-pub that was supposed to open a few blocks away from my residence in Hamburg.  Location #1 fell through, and then, as far as I know, funding fell through after the second location was decided upon.  (If this is not accurate, please let me know).  I once again gave up on the dream of having a beer-geek establishment within stumbling distance of my house.  Well, the dream is alive baby:

Hamburg Brewing Company is set to open this summer, according to their Facebook page.  Check out a few pictures, which can be found on that same page:

The location?  Boston St. Road, right across from the Hamburg Golf Course.  This is going to lead to many afternoons on the links, followed by nights at the brewery.  Spread the word!  I couldn’t be hoppier!

Great Lakes – Commodore Perry IPA..with labeling rant

IPAs have once again become a staple in my fridge. For my palette, the bite of fresh hops has overtaken the heavy malts and spices of the winter season.  I do wish that printing IBUs, at least on “hoppier” styles of beer was some sort of standard in the industry.    Along with that, I’d also like to see which hop varieties are on the brew I’m drinking.  These two pieces of  information just don’t show up on enough bottle labels.  Since I do most of my imbibing at home these days (bottles instead of pints) I enjoy reading labels and learning a bit about new beers that I’m trying.  Yes, I’m aware that there is this is thing called the internet, and you can use it to look up information.  I choose to look at this way: if you’re paying for a hooker but then going online to finish yourself off, what did you just pay for?

Without doing a little research of my own, I’d be very tempted to compare GLBC’s Commodore Perry to Southern Tier‘s 2x IPA.  Don’t let the ABV fool you: although it weights in at 7.5%, Commodore Perry is not classified as a Double IPA.  It is also important to realize that this is an English IPA, so you really can’t accurately compare it to an American IPA, such as 2x.

Let’s get to the beer….

This one pours golden yellow/orange and very clear.  A 1 1/2 finger head dissipates after the first two sips.  While this is not impressive, the spider-web lacing on the glass comes as a pleasant surprise.  On the nose, there are strong citrus notes with a touch of sweet malt.   The taste is hop-heavy at first, then balanced with caramel malt.  The 7.5% ABV definitely lets you know that its there, without overpowering  the overall taste.  The finish is dry and bready.

While searching around on GLBC’s website, I found the origin of the style (English IPA), which I thought was interesting: “The Bow Brewery in London exported this particular version of pale ale to the multitude of British soldiers, colonial administrators, and settlers in India. Its high potency and high level of attenuation reduced chances for spoilage and made it a strong candidate for shipping.”  Call it your history lesson for the day.

Overall, this beer is a better than average IPA.  If you’re looking for a hop-bomb, you won’t find it here.  If you’re looking for a super easy to drink pale ale type IPA, you won’t find it here.  I haven’t had a ton of English IPA’s, but I’ll venture to say that GLBC’s Commodore Perry is a nice representative of the style.

Recommend this one to your buddy who just graduated from Coors’ Batch 19, but won’t yet be able to tackle a pint of Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum.

Ellicottville Brewing Co. Expansion Nearly Complete

Everyone’s favorite ski-country brewpub temporarily closed their doors beginning April 1st to complete a major update of their “East” location.  The expansion has been slowly underway throughout 2012 and early 2013, as chronicled on their Facebook page.

EBC pre-dates the recent craft beer boom in our blessed area, having enjoyed 18 years as an award-winning brewpub and favorite destination of skiers, summertime golfers, Fall Fest-goers and craft-beer enthusiasts in search of tasty eats and top-notch brews.  Their draft beer selection has crept its way into countless bars in our area and others, and their bottled output has slowly expanded in recent years to include not just classics like Blueberry Wheat and Pale Ale, but the always delicious summertime treat Mow Master, the gently-warming Winter Witte, never-disappointing Nut Brown Ale, powerhouse Pantius Droppus, and their tasty take on a traditional Oktoberfest lager.

They’ve even opened a succussful “West” branch in the village of Fredonia, pouring pints for Chautauqua County’s beer enthusiasts (…and mixed drinks for frat boys) and hosting some great beer-pairing dinners, the next of which takes place on Thursday, April 18th – click here to find out more.

If you’ve been to the Ellicottville location, you’ll surely remember it as a mid-sized pub with a nice bar, cozy ski-lodge decor, and a fantastic, spacious outdoor beer garden for your dining and drinking delights.  I’ve not been to Ellicottville in a coon’s age to see the progress, but I’m told the new building is absolutely massive in comparison, EBC having re-located neighboring buildings last fall in order to accommodate expansion from their current location to the end of the block they were located, and stretching back into what was formerly parking area.

Head brewer Dan Minner filled in guests at a beer-pairing dinner I attended at the end of 2011, however we were on about the fourth course and I had foregone my ability to retain all the glorious details.  My understanding is that they are expanding to increase their output and will be kegging all their own beers in-house, with Southern Tier Brewing Company continuing to handle the bulk of their bottled output. (If anyone knows further details, please share! I couldn’t find specifics around the internets.)

Check out the pictures below, and make sure to check out the remodeled brew pub in all its glory when they reopen in May!

Early blueprint of the project from EBC's website

Early days, from EBC's Facebook page

Inside view from this Feb.

Installing a new silo last week (from Facebook)

Flying Bison and KegWorks collaborate….

Do you love Buffalo?

Do you love beer?

Do you love wings?

Then the boys at Flying Bison and KegWorkds offer you Buffalo Wing Lager!

Check out the video of this one of a kind collaboration!

April Fools!