A Fitting Tribute to the Great Thelonious Monk

Beer

A Fitting Tribute to the Great Thelonious Monk

2 Comments By Paul December 19, 2009

Brother Thelonious: Belgian Style Abbey Ale

California’s North Coast Brewing came up with this this complex brown ale in conjunction with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and they’ll make a donation to the school for every case sold — and as a tribute to the man himself. That means, drink good beerwhile contributing to music education.

This very tasty ale has a rich dark raspberry like color tone.  It smells sweet and very strong with small hints of molasses and spice. It is a delicious ale but to me is about as complex as the great Thelonious was in his brilliant musicianship.

With one sip, I get delicious hints of chocolate, while with other sips I get the comforting taste of nutmeg. I also get a barbecue type of smokiness. A magically delicious tribute to a musical icon, the ale is unique and one-of-a-kind.

Its a very strong ale coming in at 9% ABV.
Enjoy it while listening to some Monks Mood by the Brother Thelonious

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Utopia: Lunch at the Yardhouse

Beer, Reviews

Utopia: Lunch at the Yardhouse

No Comments By Blake December 15, 2009

Last week I dropped by the Yardhouse for lunch and discovered that they had a few bottles of Samuel Adams Utopia 2009 available.

I’ve never tried the stuff and it’s one of those things you just have to experience. It’s Sam Adams Utopia, for crying out loud. A single bottle is going for $249 on eBay.

They get $20 for 2 oz, but I could say I’m saving $229. A few years back you were lucky if you had the opportunity to pay $300 for a bottle. It’s 27% ABV, so that’s about a drink and a half.

I couldn’t resist.

Samantha carefully measuring my 2 oz. of Utopia

Samantha carefully measuring 2 oz.

It smells like liquor on the nose, maybe a really peaty scotch. It’s so syrupy in the mouth it feels sticky. It burns like liquor. I’m not sure there is anything beer like in here. It tastes like a peaty cognac. Now that I have tasted it it smells like a holiday rum cake made especially for a booze party, sweet and potent. There are hops here, my palate is just too confused to find them.

This is more bad liquor than good beer, but then again its about 4 years too early to drink this year’s Utopia. I will reserve judgment for another time. Perhaps one day someone will offer me cellar aged Utopia with my work lunch….

Victory Wild Devil

Beer

Victory Wild Devil

1 Comment By Blake December 10, 2009

The Belgian IPA seems to be the cutting edge of craft brewing today. In a strange reversal of fate Belgian breweries started brewing hoppy pale ales with their traditional yeast strains that seem to have been inspired by the use of hops in progressive American microbreweries.

The style is not that old. It probably didn’t exist for more than a few months before the guys at Case and Keg talked me into an Urthel Hop-It a few years back. I have to tell you, I didn’t really like it. I can remember thinking the style would never catch on… it shows you what I know.

American craft brewers have picked up on the style.  Stone, Allagash and Great Divide all have beers in the style this year and Victory just released Wild Devil, their Hop Devil IPA fermented completely with brettanomyces, a belgian wild yeast strain.

It pours a cloudy amber into the pint glass… one of my problems with this beer is that I have no idea what glass to put it in. Do I put it in a pint glass like an IPA? A Goblet like a Belgian Golden ale? In the end I decided that the alcohol content should determine the glass. This one is 6.7% which classifies it as a pretty standard IPA so I decided on a pint glass. I generally upgrade to a snifter when an IPA breaks 10%.

The foam on this thing is out of control. Refills threaten to overflow the pint glass after its warmed a bit. Its hard to pour a glass that isn’t half foam. I’m wondering if this means I should have used the goblet… anyway, its not a problem. The head sticks to the glass and seems like it will last indefinitely, an impressive feat that only a brewer could love.

The nose has a sweetened citrus flavor along with a hop smell like pine trees. It’s sweet and malty and has a little more body than I anticipated. The fruit and spice notes in the yeast combine with the hops to make it almost tart in the finish. The finish is not nearly as dry as the Belgian breweries take on this style and I think it helps the beer. The yeast is there but the hops dominate the flavor that lingers after the sip has gone down.

I think Victory made a wise choice converting Hop Devil and not Hop Wallop to this style. I think it’s better than the others of this style for the very reason that the hops and yeast don’t step all over each other as with most I have tried.

4/5 I’m still not sold that this style is the next big thing in craft beer, but Victory has done a nice job here. I think it might go nicely with a good blue cheese.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Beer

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

No Comments By Blake December 8, 2009

For our second Belgian seasonal review we’ve selected St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. If you don’t already know, I’m pretty much cheating by reviewing this beer. I knew what I was pulling from the case at BX, ”reviewing” it is just an excuse to savor a big bottle of delicious on a Tuesday night.

This is the youngest of the St. Bernardus beers. I don’t know how long they’ve been making it, the brewery doesn’t list it amongst it’s beers on their website, but I have managed to get my hands on one for at least the last five years.

It pours murky chocolate brown into the goblet. The head is white and frothy but dissipates fast leaving a ring of white lace around the rim of the glass. It has a wonderful yeasty nose with a smell of dried fruits and a hint of mulling spice. The mouthfeel of this beer is just fantastic. Its full and the carbonation is just right, leaving a velvety tickle at the back of the mouth.

As it warms the fruit comes out in the flavor and the spice comes out in the nose. This beer is 10% abv, but you’d never know it. I know its there, I can smell it and feel the warmth in the finish, but there is so much good going on in this one you just don’t notice.

I love the St. Bernardus yeast. They can do no wrong with this strain, the fruit notes are there but they are enveloped in a velvety malty goodness that I am not good enough to put into words. Its just a little spicier in the finish than the abt 12, a hint of pepper and cloves is there but is very subdued. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this is just the 12 plus a spice blend.

I really was trying to avoid giving out a perfect rating, but this beer is ridiculously good. I can’t recommend it enough.

5/5  If your palate has developed a taste for Belgian strong ale, you too will love this beer.

Ommegang Adoration

Beer

Ommegang Adoration

2 Comments By Blake December 4, 2009

It’s a wonderful time of year to be a beer lover. In early November every year the Belgian Christmas Ales begin arriving in droves. There isn’t much better than  slowly sipping a strong spicy 750ml of beer on a long cool evening in December. I’m sure it would be even better if by cool, I could be referring to temperatures below 70, but we work with what we have.

The first I picked up this year is Ommegang Adoration from Brewery Ommegang in Coopersown, New York. The brewery is one of the premier Belgian-style breweries in the states with highly regarded Belgian ales like Three Philosophers and Hennepin.

Ommegang Adoration is a “Belgian-style dark, strong winter beer, brewed with five spices: Coriander, cardamom, mace, sweet orange peel, and grains of paradise.” It comes in at 10% ABV and pours a murky reddish brown with a half  inch of off-white head. The head didn’t last more than a minute or two leaving just a swirl of bubbles on the surface.

It smells of allspice and orange peel, definitely spicy but with very little alcohol on the nose.  I have trouble discerning the spice flavors on the first few sips, I just taste spice, but I think it was a little too cold. After it warms it gets a little maltier and tastes of clove and maybe cinnamon, the orange peel doesn’t reveal itself until the exceptionally dry finish where it hides the alcohol nicely. I’m left with the lingering taste of clove. I know its not listed on the ingredient list, but that’s what I taste. That and maybe a bit of coriander.

I feel like the spices are a still a little overwhelming. They linger longer than I would like and they hide the yeast profile I really like in the best of the Strong Dark Belgian Ales.  While I don’t think this one is going down in the pantheon of Ommegang greats, its a solid effort and well worth a taste this holiday season.

3.5/5

Solid but unspectacular in my book. Maybe if it was colder outside I would appreciate the lingering spice, as it is it’s just frustrating me from tasting the very good beer underneath.

North Coast Old Rasputin vs. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Style Challenge

North Coast Old Rasputin vs. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

3 Comments By Blake November 24, 2009

To be the best you gotta beat the best. – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair

Old Rasputin is the quintessential American take on the Russian Imperial Stout, the standard by which all others are judged. We thought it would be fun to see how other acclaimed Imperial Stouts stood up to a taste test with Rasputin. Ten Fidy is a new beer in the area from Oskar Blues, the quirky Colorado brewery that distributes great craft beer – in a can.

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