America, the Hoppy!

Well it has been some time since I have been able to get a hold of a decent selection of American beers. Well, decent in the sense that they are somewhat fresh and are reasonably priced. Europe, specifically Belgium and the Netherlands have great selections of beer, including American craft beers, but the prices are reflective on the actual availability. For example; I could have bought a Dark Lord off the shelf in Europe – at HopDuvel in Ghent. It would have cost me 85€ though. Quite a bit more than what I could get it for in America after standing in line for hours with a bunch of drunken frat boys. But I could still have bought it off the shelf. Granted I did buy a few American craft beers over there. But they were beers I would never have been able to buy in the states. Let alone find.

All of this is why I am excited, albeit in a bittersweet tone, to be back to the land of the craft beer explosion. There is no end in sight for hoppy beers. Over the top experimentation is also an exciting aspect for craft brewers in the states. And for the people who enjoy drinking them. But I am most excited about the hops. It’s hard to find a hoppy beer in Germany. Save for Fritz Ale! and Hopfenstopfer. But those are anomalies. Hopefully, and I’m hearing it is actually in motion, young Germans begin to embrace craft made beer and start to appreciate flavor.

I’ve taken my enthusiasm a bit overboard the last month that I’ve been in the states. I’ve had over 120 different beers in the last four weeks. Some of them not so good, some of them my wife’s – which I taste and promptly hand back to her. I’ve rated each of them as I have been doing the past four years. Not to accumulate a tally of the most beers drunk in the world – I’ll never reach that apex. But more for the benefit of me knowing, via written confirmation, which beers I actually enjoy and would drink again.

One of those beers that I have actually enjoyed, via a trade whilst in Germany, is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Hoppy, smooth, some malt in the back. An all-around good IPA. I’m actually on my fourth one right now. Might sneak another one in before I start eating this Chicken Tagine. If not, I’ll definitely enjoy it with the Moroccan dish. As much as I miss, and will miss, Europe it’s good to be back in the land of great beer. Catch up world, don’t let us cultural inepts leave you behind in what you created.

hoppy

Two Hearted Ale

Sorry for the crappy picture. My mono-, and tripod are in transit from Europe. Also, sorry for being late to the party Brian. Won’t happen again. And prepare for hyperdrive on the articles- I hope. (still in the process of closing on a house)

Bonus: If you can tell me what’s on the paper beside the beer, there will be a surprise. *cough*Westvleteren 12*cough*

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by | July 27, 2013 · 5:14 pm

Seef Bier-Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie

securedownloadThe 2012 Zythos beer festival: it was here that I had my first Seef bier, and I have been in love ever since.  Seef (pronounced like safe) was a beer style found in Antwerpen before World War II.  In 1944 Hitler attempted to destroy the port of Antwerp after the British army liberated the city; the Germans succeeded only in ruining the city, while the port was left mainly intact and usable.   After the war and destruction of much of the city, the Seef bier recipes were lost and left undiscovered until Johan Van Dyck (former market director for Duvel) decided to begin searching for the once secret recipes.  With a bit of help he was able to recreate and perfect this beer from an old brewers hand written notes.  Seef launched in March of 2012 and has been getting a lot of attention since.  Later in 2012 the beer was submitted to the World Beer Cup and received a gold medal in the ‘other Belgian style ale’ category.  It is a bottle conditioned beer, and has a distinct cloudiness similar to what you would see in Hoegaarden.  Don’t let that fool you. I know most beer snobs hate on Hoegaarden, and I would hate to see Seef disliked because of that association. _DSC2453 This is a wonderfully drinkable beer that I loved to crack open on a warm weekend afternoon.  It’s my lawnmower beer.  It is brewed with 4 different grains: barley, buckwheat, oats and wheat.  It has an awesome scent that reminds me of oranges and bread, and has a light and refreshing flavor of orange peel and spices.  Whatever yeast they used for this really added a uniqueness to the beer that I haven’t found in many others.  I enjoy this beer so much that I brought a full case of it back with me to Washington.  Drinking a Seef-1

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Smart Phone Beer Apps-Which is the best?

When I first began my blog I was trying to find ways that would allow me to track the beers I have had as well as my general thoughts about them.  Our phones these days help us not only connect with friends and family by phone or over the internet but they can also help us connect with our hobbies and those who also enjoy them.  Our smart phones are usually glued to our hands these days so naturally it became my main tool for helping me organize my beers.  I contemplated using a notepad but figured I would forget to bring it along with me or leave it behind places.  With a phone app you always have it with you, are less likely to leave it behind and you have one less thing to bring with you or keep at your side.  The smart phone is the beer lovers dream tool.  I can find breweries, see what my local bottle shop recently got in stock, see where my buddies are drinking, read reviews of a beer I am interested in, rate and share beer reviews and even track my cellar.  You can’t go into a bottle shop these days without seeing someone browsing the selection with their phone out and beeradvocate.com open in their browser.  I do this from time to time myself but I try to stay away from it because it eliminates the mystery and often can over or under hype the beer your researching.  There have been several apps that I have used and one that stands out from the group; BrewGene, AleGrail, TapHunter and Untappd.  All but one of these apps attempts (TapHunter being the exception) to allow to track and rate beer.

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 I am not going to do a review of each app specifically because I lack the time and the patience.  I will go over why I think the others are inferior to Untappd by doing comparisons of the other apps best features.  As you can see in the photo above Untappd not only tracks what you have had but also the brewery, the style, ABV, IBU and ratings.  BrewGene (the other app pictured above) only shows the name and rating of your beer.  The overall look of BrewGene is childlike in comparison to the sleek design of Untappd.

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Adding a beer to your ‘had’ list isn’t hard to do on either app and they each have some of the same features (add to wish list, find it, etc) but there are major differences within that set them apart.  In Untappd it shows how many people have also had the same beer and you can scroll down and see how they rated it and view any comments they made.  One major issue I have with BrewGene is visible in the photo….there is no recommendation because not enough people have rated it.  A major plus for Untappd is the number of users and how easily connected they all are.

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Untappd allows you to view anyone that has checked in a beer in your area and even worldwide.  From the same screen you can easily click and view what your friends are getting drunk on.  BrewGene honestly sucks at this aspect.  You can’t find new friends but you probably wouldn’t anyway since it seems no one uses this app.

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Both apps track a wish list for you and there isn’t much different in either app other than their appearance.  What sets Untappd apart from BrewGene is being able to add a beer to your wish list by viewing a beer someone else has recently had.  I am sure you can probably do this on BrewGene (only with friends you have already made) but again I have no friends on there.

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TapHunter (featured on the right) is used specifically for locating beer.  It shows you nearby bars, breweries and shops and is set up to help you find a specific beer you are hunting.  this could be a very useful app especially when you are in an area of the states that you’re not familiar with.  Unfortunately, TapHunter is designed to only work with 13 different markets nationwide.  This means it is useless unless you live within a close proximity to one of them.  Seattle is one of the markets available but you can see that Untappd also has the ability to do this and does it in a way that I find easier to use.

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AleGrail is an app that I actually used quite a bit before I discovered Untappd.  It was very useful to help me keep notes on the beers I have had.  If reviewing beers was the only thing I wanted to do then I think I would have stuck with this one.  It’s a very well made app and sets itself apart from the others by giving you the opportunity to numerically rate your beer.  That type of review doesn’t really interest me so I have stuck with Untappd because it already has so many other functions that do interest me.

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Now on to my favorite functions of Untappd!  Right from my personal page I can see my kill count and get access to any area of the application.  Badges are awarded after you reach certain milestones such as drinking a specific number of a beer style, loyalty to a specific location and even for special events like Oktoberfest or the Super Bowl for example.  This feature really appeals to people’s sense of accomplishment and may drive you to try beers you might otherwise skip over.  When I am awarded a new badge it makes me feel like a beer scout….now if only I could have my wife make me a sash.  You can also connect Untappd to your Facebook or Twitter to let your other friends and family see how much of an alcoholic you are.

Untappd is by far the best choice of applications available out there.  Beeradvocate has being saying for a long time now that they are developing an app of their own and I am interested to see what they come up with.  Until then Untappd will be what my friends and I use.

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Late Night Party Time!!! Ale by Epic Ales

Epic Ales Late Night Party Time Ale-1

Picked this one up on a whim at Tacoma Boys in Puyallup because I liked the label.  I am still having a hard time digesting this beer….I am not sure if I don’t like it or hate it.  Epic Ales (based in Seattle) definitely brews some unique beers that include ingredients ranging from shiitake mushrooms to green tea and even have a beer that they say tastes like “Hawaiian pizza with rosemary and balsamic.” Each batch of Epic Ales beer is brewed one barrel at a time.  Each barrel is then its own unique creation that can differ from one to the next even if the ingredients are the same.  I managed to get a batch 1 of this beer.   Late Night Party Time!!! Ale is brewed with roasted, smoked and pilsner malts and is a sour beer.  I have a feeling there isn’t much appreciation for this beer because, honestly, a smoked sour beer sounds gross.

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The different malts create a pleasant aroma that is nice though.  It has a nice tart funk too it but also has too much lactic acid for me (much like some of Cascades beers).  Lactic acid is added to beer  to lower the pH of the wort to help reduce undesirable substances and off flavors.  Brewing with the ingredients that they (Epic Ales) do I imagine that this might be why the beers have such a high level of lactic acid.Epic Ales Late Night Party Time Ale-3 Acidic flavors aside this beer still had an off flavor that just didn’t sit right on my palate.  I can’t say I didn’t like it but I didn’t love it either.  Considering that now Epic Ales is now 0 and 2 with me now I may be reluctant to pick up anything else they offer.  I have also had their Solar Tran Amplifier that didn’t do much for me either.  I applaud Epic Ales determination to create something new and unique but so far I am not impressed.  I would be willing to try their OTTO-optimizer and The Fuj if I find them though.

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Cascade Brewing Blueberry Northwest Style Sour Ale

Cascade brewing Blueberry-2 My one great beer discovery in Belgium was sour beers.  Gueuze, lambics, flanders reds and oud bruins….it doesn’t matter, I love all things sour.  Leaving there I wasn’t sure if I would be able to ever find anything comparable to some of the great stuff I drank in Brussels.  Fortunately for me there has been a blossoming of love for sours in the states and fortunately for them I enjoy (some of) the beers they are putting out.  One of the breweries that has garnered some attention lately is Cascade Brewing out of Portland, Oregon.  Weeks after arriving in Washington I heard about these guys and I snatched up a bottle of their Blueberry ale.  I liked it so well that I bought a second bottle to keep until Cloe was here because I wanted her to try it and she also loved it.  This beer is tart, crisp, perfectly sour and has a nice funk to it.  When poured it forms a layer of tiny pink bubbles that dies quickly into the red/purple brew in the glass. Cascade brewing Blueberry-3 When I drank this the second time I let it warm on the counter as I sipped my glass.  the longer it sat the more I was able to notice the oak (dank and musty almost) and blueberry aromas.  The carbonation tingles your mouth but isn’t overly effervescent.  I found this to be a very light and refreshing beer with a great balance of the barnyard/horse blanket funk that I expect from a great sour beer.  I highly recommend this beer to anyone who loves a great sour beer or even for those looking to get their feet wet.  I am heading to Portland next weekend for the Wizard World Comic Con and hopefully I can stop in to their barrel room.  I can’t talk about Cascade without having to mention something about the recent release of their Vlad The Impaler.  They have priced their 750 ml bottles of Vlad $30 a piece.  Many people on beeradvocate.com and elsewhere have deemed this their “jumping the shark” moment and I have to agree.  I think that charging this kind of price for beer is ridiculous and borders on extortion.  An analogy I gave to users on beeradvocate.com was this:  The comic book market did the same thing in the 1990′s.  There was a huge ballooning effect in the market and comic companies were charging extra for foil editions, variant covers and a heap of other gimmicks to try and get you to purchase their comics.  Breweries these days have taken to doing the same thing.  They know they can purposely make less of a beer, create buzz and sell it for a higher price.  This gives them the incentive to not make as much beer on purpose.  Why would they want to spend more money making more beer  only to get the same return they do by using this tactic? Cascade brewing Blueberry-1 I don’t blame them but in my opinion this hurts the market.  Remember when everyone went ape shit over the death of Superman?  Yeah…look up how much those comics are worth nowadays.  The only difference I see is that they (comics) still retain more value than my beer after I have pissed it out.  I am not bashing the brewery and I am merely speculating based on how I see things.  I will still continue to enjoy the beers produced by Cascade Brewing but probably not as often as either I or they would prefer me to.

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St. Bernardus Abt 12

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I have been drinking St. Bernardus Abt 12 for a couple of years now and it is my favorite beer.  This beer was originally a Trappist beer until 1992 when the 7 Trappist monasteries came to the decision that only beer brewed within an actual monastery would receive the official trappistenbier logo.  St Bernardus beer basically was commissioned by the monks at St. Sixtus, makers of the world famous Westvleteren beers.  It’s said that St. Sixtus now obtains their yeast fresh every year and that St. Bernardus is actually much closer in taste to the way Westvleteren used to be.

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At Delirium in Brussels

After being declassified, the label of the beers was also redone.  The man on the bottle is no longer a monk and he now wears a ‘medieval robe’ although the Abt (short for abbot) in the title suggests it is still ‘priestly’.  Even though St. Bernardus 12 could have used its kinship to beer nobility to sell itself they earned a reputation all their own and a place among the best in the world.  This beer is considered a ‘quad’ which suggests its strength or abv; 6%-dubbel, 9% -tripel and 12%-quad.  This abbey ale has a wonderful sweet boozy smell and flavor.  This beer has an awesome scent and flavor and is wonderfully malty, complex and balanced.  When I breath in the aroma I catch hints of figs, raisins, bread and bakers cocoa.

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It has pretty heavy carbonation but it lacks the bite most really carbonated brews have.  I could try to break down the taste and scent more  myself but I enjoy the almost magical aura of this beer.  I want this to just be an awesome beer without having to think about it too much.

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This is honestly my favorite beer and the best representation of the quadrupel style.  If you find any of the beers brewed by the St. Bernardus brewery and you haven’t tried them I suggest buying them.  Although they can be pricey they are still generally cheaper than most of the whales people tend to be in search of these days. Another bonus is that this beer is said to age very well in the right conditions.  I brought back a full case of this from Belgium so I should be able to afford putting a few of them aside to find out!

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Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout

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While I was home and still in my Michigan beerphoria I picked this one up at the famous Sicilianos Market solely on name alone.  I needed to fill a spot in my six pack and it caught my eye. Tres Blue is brewed by Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, Michigan and it is one of their holiday beers released in December, just before I purchased my bottle.  The moment I popped the cap on this beer I  could instantly smell the blueberries which, honestly, worried me a little bit.  Of course I realize that a blueberry beer should in fact taste like blueberries but the smell gave me the impression that it might be overly flavored.  As you can see in the photo it poured with a thick foam and it never faded and eventually settled to a nice creamy head that added to the overall creaminess of the beer.  The head reminded me of pancake batter cooking on a skillet.

Dark Horse tres blueberry stout-1The smell was just awesome!  Tart blueberries and roasty malt that gives it a lovely muffin or waffle aroma.  I even got a whiff of weed from this beer. Yes, weed.  It is now known as the weed beer in my house.  The taste was of unsweetened or bitter chocolate, moderate maltiness and a slight flavor of coffee; just as an American stout should be.  I really enjoyed the blueberry flavor in this beer.  Its like they brewed this beer with Eggo blueberry waffles.  Great as this is I can’t imagine drinking more than two of these in a sitting.  I do recommend this beer to anyone who likes stouts and likes to experiment with new flavors.  The uniqueness and balance of this brew would give me the confidence needed to pick up some of the other varieties they have to offer. Dark Horse tres blueberry stout-3

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