Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beer Thoughts

Various condensed (some more than others) thoughts from this weekend's many enjoyable hours spent at DC's excellent craft beer bar, Churchkey

First, a case study in comparison... 

(Left) Ruination, and (Right) RuinTen

This requires a preface: RuinTen, Stone's reproduction of their 10th Anniversary Ruination is magnificent. But, then again, so was the original Ruination. 

Now, on to the fine business of comparing RuinTen with its predecessor. 

Of these two Stone hop-bombs, which were sampled side-by-side, Ruination actually offered the preferable aroma.  While the scents were similar, RuinTen's otherwise appealing fragrance was marked by a hardly noticeable scallion presence. Though too minor to be off-putting, this flaw was one that Ruination, on the other hand, did not commit. 

As anticipated, Ruination and RuinTen shared many aspects of their flavor profiles. And, in disclosure, this review may have been slightly compromised because of the proximity of the tastings; that is, the palate was never truly refreshed while sampling each. 

The thicker body definitely belonged to RuinTen.  It was much more resinous than Ruination which, of course, is noteworthy, as Ruination, itself, provides ample chewiness.  

An unanticipated result: Ruination was the more "bitter" beer of the two.  "Bitter" is used here with quotations because it may not be the most applicable adjective.  This "bitter" was not like that of, say, dark-roasted coffee, but of a spicy, hop "bite."  To profound surprise, this sort of bitterness was more prevalent in Ruination then in RuinTen (surprising, given the gargantuan five pounds of hops used in RuinTen's production). 

A unique characteristic of RuinTen not detected in Ruination was a complementary but agreeable tangy note.  

It seems a fool's game to attempt to judge these two Stone beers in terms of one over the other.  Both being excellent beers, determining which is "better" is probably best left to the preferences of the individual consumer.  

Ruination: Highest class of Recommendation. RuinTen: Same; Highest Recommendation

More from the weekend...

...Despite European creations increasingly becoming TheCraftBeerGuru's preference, a particular Belgian exclusive to Churchkey, "Paulus"  (Brouwerij Van Eecke / Brouwerij Het Sas) failed to meet expectations.  Paulus had attributes seemingly consistent of a sour beer, though not being quite sour enough.  Waves from the big vinous aroma hit the mark, but the lack of intensity in flavor left Paulus tasting, in a word, "bland." 

Paulus: Skip in favor of better versions of the Flemish Oud Bruin style. 

A beer experienced often, Flying Dog's Snake Dog, has never been as lively as it was at Churchkey, as there, it was served, slow-poured, from the cask.  The aroma benefited most from such conditioning.  That pungent aroma, the highlight of Snake Dog, was an absolute coniferous blast.  Unfortunately, the bold, welcoming pine trait was much more subdued in Snake Dog's flavor profile rendering the overall quality of the beer as merely adequate. 

Snake Dog: Mildly recommended. 

The Carlsberg Carnegie Stark Porter, also drawn from the cask (and upon a trusted server's recommendation) did, on the other hand, deliver.  A tremendous Baltic Porter here.  This was an absolutely tasty beverage ripe with the flavor of dark currants.  Hints of something mildly charred added to the body and character, increasing this beer's delicious, slightly smokey, but richly roasted nature.  

Carnegie Stark Porter: Highly Recommended.

The St. Idesbald Blond (Brouwerij Huyghe) may have overachieved due to the order in which it was drank relative to the other beers during the session.  This light, refreshing offering from the makers of the perhaps more familiar Delirium Tremens provided a welcomed alternative to the massively hopped and/or boldly malted brews that preceded it.  St. Idesbald's aroma was surprisingly vigorous with an earthiness that reminded of pleasing firewood.  The body was light, enhancing the beer's utterly enjoyable crispness. 

St. Idesbald Blond: Strong Recommendation.  

Of Saturday's fine libations, one of the most enjoyable (and certainly among the most memorable) was the ruby red Boon Kriek that exquisitely toed the threshold of tolerable sweetness. 

Boon Kriek: Recommended (but only for fans of the fruit Lambic style)

As for Churchkey itself, as with most experiences there, the beer list proved impressive but second in satisfaction to the remarkably welcoming nature of the staff. And no praise is too excessive for a watering hole that employs those familiar with the concept of the "shower beer."  

Churchkey: Highest class of recommendation. 

Thanks for soaking up the drippings of a beer-logged mind. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Boulevard 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat

Hidden away, there is a decent beer here.  Unfortunately, 80-Acre's best features are shrouded by others decidedly more mediocre.

80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer
5.5% ABV
20 IBUs

The color of Boulevard’s 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat is yellow… “ish.”  Yellowish; and, paradoxically, pale (as in more yellow than, say, brown) yet opaque due to its obvious unfiltered character.  As the beer sits, hazy particles continuously settle like so many gently falling snowflakes.

A white, not particularly thick head, tops the beer.  While the head fades rapidly, it leaves evidence of its presence with notable lacing lining the inner-glass.  Much less tracing is provided by the liquid portion of 80-Acre.

Continuing with the paradoxical nature that constitutes much of this beer, the aroma underwhelms while also pleasing.  Underwhelming is the mildness of the scent, while pleasing is the aroma's content which is a thin fragrance of fresh grasses.

Upon initial tasting, 80-Acre's most prominent flaw makes itself immediately evident: excessive carbonation.  The bubbly bite smacks the tongue at once, and continues to burst throughout the palate.

The carbonation is unfortunately overwhelming.  That carbonation masks what is otherwise appealing. Working past the overly-done peppery pop, one encounters a citrus flavor profile that offers orange upfront, followed by a touch of lemon.  Throughout there is a mellow, but farmhouse fresh (more paradox!) twist; perhaps a yeast derivative.  

Sadly, all that goodness is only revealed via the most dedicated of effort.  More casual drinking may render 80-Acre seemingly little more than a lightly alcoholic citrus soda.

Not unexpected of a wheat beer, the mouthfeel is thin, and absent is any trace of malts.  Perhaps some added stickiness or thickness to the body would work well to counter 80-Acre's carbonation flaw, but one shall never know. 

80-Acre is a sort of abstraction.  Or, as described throughout, a paradox.  It’s thin and light.  Even refreshing in a sense.  Yet, it is a wheat beer with an undeniable peppery spice.  While it doesn't taste bad, 80-Acre is much less appealing overall than Lagunitas’ Lil Sumpin’ Sumpin, a beer of a similar style.

Maybe most disappointing is that better is expected of Boulevard.  The Kansas City brewer makes delicious beers.  Grainstorm and Tank 7 are two examples greatly enjoyed by this reviewer.  80-Acre hardly matches that same level of magnificence. 

While 80-Acre is not necessarily to be avoided, it neither deserves a recommendation. rates it a total of 2 stars (maybe 2.5) out of five. 

Boulevard's 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer is a paradox.  Unfortunately, what's paradoxical is why such a potentially beautiful beer was prohibited from flourishing by a brewer much better than such an amateur error...


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Freigeist Geisterzug Gose

In the case of this blog, the status of Guru is self-proclaimed.  Even given that hubris, some modesty reveals that this site is more precisely that of the American Craft Beer Guru. 

Exposure to great beer surely has no need to be limited to one's domestic borders.  So, a joyous effort is being made to expand such horizons.  Thus, today's review is of Freigeist Geisterzug Gose from Gasthaus-Brauerei Braustelle.  

But, first, some education is order.  Mostly, my own.  Lesson of the day: Gose versus Gueuze.

Should we retain but one thing from today's shared learning, let it be this: Besides similarity in name (and, perhaps color), these two styles are markedly different. 

So, let us consider what the Freigeist Geisterzug Gose is not: Namely, a Gueuze.

A Gueuze is Belgian.  The beer of this review is German, and a niche German style at that.  

While the names of these styles may be easily confused, the flavor profiles of Gueuze and this particular Gose, at least, are not.  A Gueuze is a lambic of particular type; a combination of young and old lambics.  And, thus, boldly sour.  Gose is certainly not sour. And, frankly, far from bold. 

So what is a Gose? Well, a German beer featuring the surprising component of malted wheat.  This style's roots are firmly planted in Leipzig.

This particular Gose was brewed “with spruce tips,” and served to your reviewer in a tulip.

Gasthaus-Brauerei Braustelle
5.0% ABV

The Freigeist Geisterzug Gose, while hazy, was relatively light in color, though more orange than the hue of wheat.  It produced little to no head, and left an equally trivial amount of lacing.  

The aroma was elusive, but influenced most by the mineral quality of the Gose’s water content.  

Like the aroma, the taste, aftertaste, and mouthfeel of the Freigeist Geisterzug Gose were also very mild.  Truly, this beer was an exercise in subtlety.  Whereas this may serve to disappoint in other cases, it matched expectations well here.

This Gose should not be described as underwhelming.  Better would be refined

This beer, while light and airy, carried itself well.  It avoided the feeling of cheapness.  Contrasting this to the  American lite lager, the Gose has the esteem of royalty.   This is a beer worthy of respect amongst bigger, more audacious styles.    

Delicate aspects of the Freigeist Geisterzug Gose benefited from the beer opening.  As it sat, features of the flavor profile became more prevalent.  

The roof of the mouth was softly tingled by a dry vinous bite. Some brininess was balanced well by a satisfying lemony trait.  An appealing (but as in all aspects: mild) cereal character was present throughout.  

It wouldn't be wrong to categorize the Freigeist Geisterzug Gose as a bit watery.  With some research completed after, and retrospect applied, this attribute was hardly deserving of complaint.  On a sweltering day, as it was during the present review, this beer would be a wonderful, adequately refreshing choice.

And that very water, indigenous only to the place of this beer's birth, provided a slightly salty note that, like this beer in general, was delightfully restrained. 

The Freigeist Geisterzug Gose was, in a word, “pleasant.”  With no experience with others from the style to compare, however, cannot credibly rate nor recommend this beer.  But can say with honesty, that it was thoroughly enjoyed.

It certainly encourages continued exploration of great beers beyond this country's confines.  If all appeal as well as the Gose, what a wondrous journey this shall be!