Black. Very black. Impressive. I can't get light to penetrate it, even when backlit. Lovely brunette head, tightly compacted bubbles, at the apex the foam was a healthy two fingers tall. Head retention was excellent, the head slowly faded to a thin cap. Subsequent lacing was very impressive. Damn near solid sheets of lacing coated my glass. This is a great looking beer, rich color, healthy head and great lacing. This is everything I am looking for and more in a beer.
The nose is not as robust as I was expecting or hoping. I detect some roasted maltines, cookie dough, light spiciness, oak, smoke, coffee, chocolate, and some dried dark fruit notes. I do have to work at it a bit to pick up these aromas but it was rewarding looking for them. Low potency, not so chatty... the aromas I can pick up are lovely. However, what do I compare this to? Flying Dog Gonzo? Nøgne Ø Porter? Okocim Porter? This beer doesn't need to be the same as one of the aforementioned but I think those beers (which are similar style and ABV) have a better aroma. That was my only point.
I love the long roasted, coffee-charred-chocolate maltiness. Upfront, there is a soft, sweet, chocolate milk vibe which morphs into a fig, raisin, cookie dough, spicy, woody taste. The finish is drier, more mocha coffee like with some warm alcohol notes. The total package is excellent, it is robust with and edge and yet not overdone. It is quite complex and enjoyable; great aftertaste, big maltiness with wonderful alcohol heat. My only knock is I wish the maltiness was fuller, richer, and "fatter" if you will. Maybe I am asking too much, I often do. When I taste really good beers I think of a similar beer with an attribute that would make the current beer I am drinking even that much better. For State Pen Imperial Porter I can't help but envision a 3F Dark Lord-like malt fullness. I talk crazy talk.
Slightly fuller then medium in body, smooth and fairly rich mouthfeel; low but natural carbonation. I like the mouthfeel, it would be even better if it was fuller in body but by no mean is it thin or lacking.
For a beer this robust and high in alcohol I am impressed at the drinkability. It isn't easy to drink, per se. I am sipping and savoring but it is so tasty (and not too sluggish on the tongue) I keep going back for more. Damn good. I was hoping beyond hope that this was a "hidden" world class beer. It isn't. But very, very few beers are. I think this is an excellent beer and as good as many higher echelon beers. I am very happy this beer is available in Nebraska. Cheers to Santa Fe and happy 20th anniversary.
Slightly hazy, tawny-ruby in hue; off-white head, there is a tinge of pink in the foam like a white shirt would look if it was washed with a red sock. At the apex the head was two fingers tall, the foam quickly fell to a half finger cap. This smaller cap had good head retention, a thin collar lasted the entire consumption. Not much subsequent lacing, however. Still, overall, this is a good looking beer and quite fitting for the "style."
Sadly the nose isn't overly talkative; sure I get a suggestion of raspberry. Real raspberry... not artificial, not overly sweet; the raspberry smells like, well, the fruit. I notice some vague maltiness, light mustiness, oranges, and cherries with a soft Belgian-like funkiness. There are some characteristics of the nose that are so familiar to me, they remind of a Belgian ale I have had in the past (I'll be damned if I can remember the name). I like the nose but I wish it was chattier... I wish there was more bold aromas. Subtle can be good though. I can't smell the 12% ABV. So, overall, bouquet is nice but it lacks pizzazz.
It took a few sips before the flavors really resonated on my tongue. While the alcohol was hidden, aroma-wise, I can't say the same for the palate. This beer is hot. Musty raspberries, lightly woodiness, oranges, cherries, bread dough, vague spiciness... the finish is curt; it is interrupted by the arrival of the alcohol heat. My tongue feels slightly scorched. The finish is, frankly, disappointing. The first half of the beer is really well done, good flavor but it could use more maltiness and even more raspberry (dare I say!). Granted, I don't know what the intention of the brewer was and it is not like there are many beers of this ilk to compare it to. De Ranke Kriek and La Choulette Framboise are two similar beers which I'd prefer over this.
Light in body (surprisingly so), lively carbonation (which is nice), effervescent mouthfeel... pleasant if not a bit thin but the lack of body is not a deal breaker. This isn't really my kind of beer. I am not opposed to fruit beers; I've had some very good ones. If I age this beer will it get better? It should mellow if nothing else but will it improve? Maybe a tamer version would be an improvement. With all of this said, I am surprised (and pleased) this beer is available in Nebraska. Cheers to Santa Fe and happy 20th anniversary.
Omaha has never been known as a beer destination let alone a craft beer friendly town. However, this perception is slowly changing...
While I admittedly harbor some bias I do believe "Beer Corner USA" is one of the beeriest spots in the country, let alone Omaha. On the corner of 36th & Farnam, in the heart of Midtown Omaha, resides the epicenter of all things beer in Nebraska. Three bars and a package beer store are the residents of Beer Corner USA, each is unique and yet they are all interrelated.
The anchor of Beer Corner USA is Crescent Moon Ale House. Since 1996 Crescent Moon has been home to Omaha’s best draft beer selection. With 31 taps, and the vast majority devoted to American craft beer, "the Moon" is one of the few bars in Omaha that does not offer one light beer on-tap or any Budweiser/Miller/Coors beers (ok, Blue Moon is on-tap).
Boulevard Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company provide the foundation of the draft selection but seasonal beers and Nebraska brewed beers add depth. A few of the newest draft beers include Odell IPA, North Coast Old Rasputin and Sierra Nevada Summerfest.
Crescent Moon is the type of bar that feels like home, it feels used and enjoyed. It is not sterile or stuffy but it isn’t rundown and dingy. Crescent Moon is like your favorite pair of jeans, comfortable and reliable. With a knowledgeable staff, tasty pub grub and delicious beers in a friendly environment, Crescent Moon is a suitable destination for causal beer drinkers and beer geeks alike.
Crescent Moon is only 1/4th of the equation. In the basement of Crescent Moon is another world or better yet another country. Huber-Haus German Beer Hall has become one of Omaha’s hottest beer drinking establishments since opening in April of 2005. The walls are covered in rock and wood paneling; decorations are minimal and consist of German bier signs, cans, and neon lights. With eight German beers on-tap the variety rotates readily, there is always at least one Hefeweizen, Helles Lager and Dopplebock but rare styles show up to like Keller Bier, Rauchbier, and Schwarzbeir. Fans of German beer flock to Huber-Haus (and often join the Mug Club) as there is no other place in town to drink Spaten, Weihenstephaner, and Ayinger on-tap (let alone in bottles).
The newest bar to the "Corner" is Max and Joe’s Belgian Beer Tavern. Max and Joe’s opened in November of 2006 and also doubles as Crescent Moon’s party room. When not booked for a private party, Max and Joe’s is opened Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The featured beers are Belgian, five on-tap and another 35 in bottles. The two heavy hitters on draft are St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Delirium Tremens.
The décor is "1950s neighborhood bar" with vintage signs of long past Nebraska breweries like Falstaff and Storz. Max and Joe’s provides a totally unique drinking experience, in comparison to its sister bars. It is more laidback and, often, quieter. The identity of the three bars remains different and yet they are all under the same roof.
All told, Beer Corner USA offers 44 different beers on-tap in three distinct bars. No other bar in Omaha can boast such a quality selection.
Likewise, no package store can boast the bottle selection of Beertopia. This is where I enter the picture. I am the resident beer specialist at Beertopia which is a nice way of calling me a beer geek. Beertopia is home to some 560 beers and as the name suggests there is no wine or spirits sold here (we do carry 6 ciders). Our clientele enjoys craft beer and more obscure imports as such the store carries no Budweiser, Miller or Coors. Inch for inch Beertopia is one of the best beer stores in the Midwest.
However, arguably, the most special aspect of Beer Corner USA are the major beer events. Huber-Haus hosts Omaha’s largest, most authentic Oktoberfest in the fall. The two day event boasts live polka music, German food and lots of German Oktoberfest beer. On a slightly cool fall night nothing tastes better than a malty Oktoberfest beer. Really, there is nothing else quite like it in Omaha. The closest competition is Bockfest in the spring, replace Oktoberfest beer with Bocks and subtract 20 degrees from the temperature add a few fire pits for warmth and welcome to Bockfest!
Beertopia / Crescent Moon co-sponsor three large beer festivals a year, the Holiday Beerfest in the winter which features Christmas and winter seasonals, the Extreme Beerfest in early spring which features beers all above 7% ABV. This summer Sunfest is in its second season. This year the event is being held outside on July 12. Some 36 breweries are participating featuring 125 beers. Those who are attending (and tickets do remain) get unlimited samples from 3pm-8pm.
Frankly, the landscape of the Omaha’s beer scene would be so remarkably different without Beer Corner USA it would be unfathomable. Yes, the Omaha metro area is lucky to have two excellent brewpubs (Nebraska Brewing Company and Upstream) and a handful of bars and restaurants provide a solid selection of beer but frankly, nothing in Omaha compares to Beer Corner USA.
Clearly Omaha residents are becoming more aware of good beer and are demanding a greater selection and better quality. A year from now I expect Omaha’s beer scene to be even better with Beertopia and Crescent Moon leading the way.
I have a very exciting announcement to make (at least exciting to me). We have finally moved one step closer to turning Gastronomic Fight Club into what it was originally meant to be: a collaborative blog.
There are lots of topics that fall under the gastronomic umbrella, and I could never hope to cover them all with the expertise they deserve. That's why I have asked several people to officially join the GFC team. The first of those joining us is Brent Udron, who will be our featured beer writer. Mostly this will mean beer reviews, though it may also cover other things because I've asked him to simply write about whatever he thinks is interesting. I did, however, twist his arm a bit for the first article - more on that later.
For those who don't recognize the name, Brent writes for the Omaha City Weekly and is a bit of a beer fanatic. How else do you describe someone with tasting notes for over 2,000 beers? The fact that he also works at Beertopia has probably helped that number, but it's impressive none-the-less. And that leads me to the arm twisting.
I'm sure there are more than a handful of readers out there who have never heard of Beertopia, let alone Beer Corner USA. Given that, the first article I've asked Brent to write is to profile Beer Corner USA, and tell us about the different locations and what makes them so special. He originally opposed this idea due to a potential conflict of interest, but thankfully I was eventually able to talk him into it. I can't think of anyone more qualified to do such a writeup. After that, he'll be doing a review on two limited edition beers from the Santa Fe Brewing Company. Brent's ability to accurately describe what his palate picks up in a beer is uncanny, so hopefully you'll get better insight into that limited edition beer beyond the "Mmmmm, good beer" and "bleach, icky beer" that I might give you.
With that, please join me in welcoming Brent Udron to Gastronomic Fight Club.
I love beer in the winter. A nice hearty beer with nutty malts goes perfect with a hot bowl of stew as you pack in to relax and let the snow outside do what it will. So this month's Beer Session, Winter Seasonal Releases, was a chance to find some new brews to hang in my refrigerator stocking.
I was really hoping to make it to Beertopia's Holiday Beer Tasting event, but inclement weather put the kabosh on that. Instead, I had to settle on what I already had in my fridge and a quick trip to the store to add something new to the mix. In all, we'll be reviewing 6 beers. For all of the beers I missed at Beertopia, be sure to check out Brent Udron's article, Holiday Beer, Holiday Cheer! : A guide to the season's 'winter warmers'.
Samuel Adams Black Lager Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) Style: Schwarzbier ABV: 4.90 %
Appearance: A nice dark brown appearance that borders on being black. Looks like a deep rich porter. The head is a nice pale caramel color. Decent lacing.
Smell: Nose of the typical dark malt blends. Coffee, chocolate, etc... There is a little hop or yeast that sets it apart from a porter.
Taste: Pretty much as one would expect, though the coffee profile seemed to grab for more attention than the other dark roasts. There is a nice spice from the hops to keep this from being overly sweet.
Mouthfeel: Body on the lighter side of medium or heavier side of light. Finishes pretty dry.
Drinkability: Not bad. I can't see myself drinking a lot of these at once, but I wouldn't turn one down.
Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) Style: Winter Warmer ABV: 5.60 %
Appearance: Like a copper nut brown ale. A thin tan head. Nothing much to really look at.
Smell: Christmas spices. The label says cinnamon, ginger and orange, though I'd never pick any of those out without reading the label first. Even the malt isn't very strong on the nose. Just smells like -- Christmas?
Taste: One of my favorites out of the winter sampler pack. A unique flavor simply because there aren't a lot of truly spiced beers mass marketed. Can definitely taste the orange and cinnamon, though the ginger is a bit harder to detect. The caramel malt is lightly roasted, so it has some additional vanilla character. Not cloying or over spiced.
Mouthfeel: Really not much to say. Good and matches expectations.
Drinkability: I could drink two, but probably not more. I would probably pick some up each year if I didn't have to buy a whole 6-pack or an entire winter sampler to get it.
Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Style: Winter Warmer ABV: 6.00 %
Appearance: Pretty to look at. Amber and apricot with jewel tones. The head is weak.
Smell: Not as intense as I would expect from a cask conditioned ale. Was looking for more wood, char and bourbon notes. Even the vanilla scents were very strong until I allowed it to get up to almost room temperature.
Taste: I was just hoping for more from this beer. I wanted to give Anheuser the benefit of the doubt, but they just didn't pull through. You can tell it's a bud product. It has that rice beer taste that only a Bud product has. Not that it's a bad thing, just that it's there. Some basic winter spices, vanilla most prevalent on the finish. Missing that punch of a good winter beer.
Mouthfeel: Far too light to be a good "winter warmer".
Drinkability: Drinkable, but I wouldn't buy it again.
So there you have it. A selection of holiday brews to put in someone's stocking this winter. Hope you enjoyed. Oh, and don't forget to come back December 10th as we raffle off some Nebraska Wagyu Beef!
P.S. Feel free to Vote for GFC as a kick ass food, beer and wine blog Vote for GFC
Paul is a man after my own heart. An information technology professional with a thing for history and beer. And as I found out, a bit of an obsessive fanatic like myself. He doesn't just like beer; he's been home brewing for 15 years. In 1992, a co-worker introduced him to the craft and just a year later he entered his first competition with a Scotch Ale and won a People's Choice award. Paul was one of the original members of the OmaHops Homebrew Club and was the club Secretary for awhile. So this isn't just someone thinking a brew pub could make them a lot of money, this is someone who *really* loves beer.
This also isn't just someone who loves beer who happened to one day think "Man it would be cool to own a brewery". This has been a flame in the back of his mind for at least 10 years. As a matter of fact, Kavulak and some of his OmaHops friends were to be the owners of the Jones Street Brewery when it closed, only to be thwarted by a last minute change in the terms that didn't agree with his analytical mind [CORRECTION: The other people involved with the attempted purchase were Dean Dobmeier (the brewer at Jones Street Brewery) and Bill Baburek (Cresent Moon)] . That logic-over-passion thought process is yet another reason I am excited for this place to open. The research and planning that has gone into this opening is impressive to say the least. It won't guarantee success, but it certainly helps.
Finally, you may have asked yourself "Does Omaha need another brew pub?" While I've always thought there was room for another brewery in Omaha, I never really felt there was a need for one. After talking with Paul, I did realize that there are a few spots in Omaha the do NEED one, including Papillion. The next question is, how will NBC be different? I found the answer to this very interesting. One of the reasons Kavulak stopped competing was because he always brewed beer for his own tastes which meant that sometimes a Porter or Lager he brewed wouldn't fit within the "style guidelines" for that particular brew, thus big point deductions which kill your chances to really compete. A perfect example of that is when he entered the same Scotch Ale that won the People's Choice award into a different competition only to have it score poorly due to the 12% ABV - far outside the upper range of 10% for even the strongest Scotch Ales according to the judging guidelines. Showings like this took some of the fun out of competing, so he decided to stop and just brew what he loves. He will strive to keep that philosophy while trying to find that delicate balance with broad appeal. I also found it interesting that Kavulak, being the history buff he is, wants to bring back some of Nebraska's rich brewing tradition which was wiped out for the most part during the prohibition. I believe Omaha has room for a brewery like this.
So I bid an early welcome to the Nebraska Brewing Company.
There are so many great local beers that it would be a shame to miss trying some when you are out traveling this summer. With that, we present to you a field guide to local beers.
This guide was compiled as part of a blogging event where bloggers from around the world were invited to participate. The response was amazing. Far more than I was expecting, so sorry for the delay on the round-up.
If we missed your post or you just want to add to this guide, please
. To learn more about this event, read the announcement. Support your local breweries and brew pubs. Drink Local!
NORTHEAST Bostonbeerman covered beer from the great city of...Portsmouth, NH! He covers one of his favorite beers, theSmuttynose IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Company. From the description it sounds like a Belgian IPA; Is there such a thing? Either way, it sounds pretty good, even to a malt fan like myself. He also gives some brief mentions to other great beers in the Boston area, as if you might be interested in that :-) Smita has created a nice beer guide for Rochester, NY. He also features The Old Toad Nut Brown Ale brewed exclusively for The Old Toad Pub by Custom Brewcrafters' sounds like it follows the classic stylings. Ron over at the popular Hop Talk has a nice review up for the C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station A.K.A. "the Pump Station" in Albany,NY. It sounds as if you can't go wrong with any of their beers, so just order your favorite style. He also details several other breweries worth checking out within driving distance of Albany. Donavan Hall covers the Long Island, NY beer scene in the form of Podcasts. For this Session, he chose to review The Southampton Publick House's 10th Anniversary Old Ale which looks absolutely amazing in the picture posted. The taste description included something I've never heard before in a beer tasting - Port or Madeira profiles. That picture, port, a beer that's built for aging and they ship - that's a dangerous combination. Al, one of the contributor over at Hop Talk gets better acquainted with his new home in Washington, DC. Since he's already covered several brew pubs in the area, he tackles Wild Goose Brewery which was recently purchased by Flying Dog Ales. Of the beers he tried, Oatmeal Stout and IPA seemed to be the top picks. He also makes a good point that drinking locally is both good for the local economy as well as the environment. Beer Haiku Daily Spotlight on Baltimore brews With three Local Ales Lew Bryson gets really local and presses people in the Philadelphia, PA area to start supporting their local brewers. To help squelch the Philly summer heat, he popped open a one-batch draft-only special brew called Sexy Sister by Yards Brewing Company. From the sound of it, this was one among many great breweries in the city. Bryan & Adam at The Brew Lounge have put together a 3-part article about General Lafayette Inn & Brewery located in Lafayette Hill, PA (near Philadelphia). Though they seem to disagree on which beers they had were the best, you can read their tasting notes to decide for yourself what you think. General Lafayette has several interesting offerings including vintage cellar-aged beers! SOUTHEAST The always fun to read Barley Blog picked up 3 beers from Williamsburg AleWerks in Williamsburg, VA to determine which side of the mixed reviews they agree with. They picked up the Chesapeake Pale Ale, the Colonial Wheat Ale and Washington's Porter. The verdict? BarleyBlog says "their beers, especially the porter, are just too much of a temptation not to make the detour and visit." I'm not sure I'd detour for the first two, but the porter sounds intriguing with a taste profile shared with cigars. I had a very similar beer recently and loved that aspect of it. J. at brewvana covers two beers from Big Boss Brewing Company in Raleigh, NC. First he talks about their delicious sounding cask conditioned Double Tavern Ale, then also describes their fruity and spicy Hell's Belle Belgian Blond as being the perfect accompaniment with a slice of pumpkin pie. As an insider tip, he also recommends checking out the tour on the second Saturday of each month. Rick Lyke of Lyke 2 Drink covers Charlotte, NC by trying a classic Summer Wheat from RockBottom Brewery. Session first timer, Bottles of Barley represents Atlanta well by providing write-ups on two of the more intriguing beers of this Session. Both of these beers push the envelope and are along the lines of the "extreme beer" movement brews taking hold in some regions. The first of these beers is the Rye Pale Ale from Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens, GA. Rye is added to provide a light grainy malt flavor to pair with the orange rind flavored hops. The second beer is Road Trip from SweetWater Brewing Company. The beer is made from a double pilsner recipe, but the lager yeast is replaced with ale yeast. The result is something Bottles of Barley describes as the world's first Imperial Cream Ale! Dann Drinks Beer and is willing to share his insights with us by covering the Midnight Pass Porter from Sarasota Brewing Company, in Sarasota, FL. He admits the brewery doesn't have the best beer in the world, but believes the Porter is their best offering. Even at that, he only gives it a 3.5/5. Thanks for the honest review Dann. MIDWEST KevBrews points out the startling fact that Dayton, OH has zero breweries and has to look towards Cincinnati, OH to find Mt. Carmel Brewing Company's Blonde Ale. KevBrew indicates that both the Blonde Ale and the Copper Ale from this increasingly popular brewery would make great session beers. Beer aficionado Jack Farris from The Beer Tap provides coverage of an area with a rich brewing history - Milwaukee, WI. For this session he went with the award winning Wisconsin Belgian Red from New Glarus Brewing Company. With a dominant cheery presense, "you either love it or hate it". Also mentioned and previously posted about, is the Lakefront Brewery, who's Bock I recently sampled at the Beertopia Bockfest, which sounds to be like their other beers - good but not great. Snekse at Gastronomic Fight Club covered Upstream Brewing Company and the Omaha brew pub scene. Besides the entire beer flight being sampled, the highly rated Grand Cru was also tasted. NORTHWEST What brew pub guide would be complete without at least one entry from Oregon? Brewerman of brewerman.com covers this region for us and gives us two award winning breweries. On his not-to-miss recommendations list, you'll find Inversion IPA, Cask Bachelor Bitter, Nitro Obsidian Stout and Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery and Elk Lake India Pale Ale and Outback Old Ale from Bend Brewing Company. Reading the descriptions, it's easy to understand why Oregon is one of the meccas of the craft brewing world. He also has good things to say about The Abyss and Mirror Mirror barley wine from Deschutes. Both breweries are in Bend, OR, about 3 hours Southeast of Portland. Jon at The Brew Site is also located in Bend, OR and also has great things to say about Deschutes Brewery. His favorite beers list includes the Black Butte Porter, the Obsidian Stout, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and their seasonal offering, Jubelale. If you're making your way out to Portland, be sure to ask Jon for some other recommendations as well since we surprisingly didn't have any participants from the heart of mecca. Jay Brooks via Brookston Beer Bulletin has an awesome writeup of several beers tried at Moylan's in Novato, CA. He had a chance to try the Pomegranate Wheat, Ryan O’Sullvan’s Imperial Stout and a side-by-side tasting of their ESB poured through 3 different delivery systems (Cask, Nitro, CO2)! Sounds like a cool place. Might have to check it out the next time I'm in the Bay Area. SOUTHWEST Those visiting the Los Angeles, CA area, may want to seek out the Triple White Sage by Craftsman Brewing Company which is available only on tap in the LA area. This beer sounds insanely good with fragrances of sage complementing a Belgian style triple white. Thanks to Dave at HAIR OF THE DOG DAVE for sharing his notes. Late to the party, Beer Sage visits Port Brewing Company in San Marcos, CA which is about 40 miles outside of San Diego. While there he samples the Lost Abbey ales which he describes as "Belgian-style ales with a California twist". With the only true Southwestern entry, Stan at Appellation Beer, waxes about the beauty of an IPA on those first days for summer, contending that if New Mexico has a state beer adjective, it would be "hoppy". Though he was unable to get an IPA on the day in question, he did get a chance to try the Summer Farm Ale at Corrales Bistro Brewery. And for those of you who didn't already know, Stan was the one who first proposed a Beer Blogging Day. Tedo from Barley Vine is a big fan of Saint Arnold's Brewery in Houston, TX. For this session, he reviewed the Saint Arnold's Elissa Cask ale, a version of their Elissa IPA. Reading about all these cask conditioned IPAs makes me want to rethink my hop aversion.
Though boakandbailey is located in London, things prevented them from reviewing the places they had originally planned. Instead, they bring us a great review of Lion Stout by Ceylon Brewery from Sri Lanka. Described as "dessert and coffee in one sweet decadent glass", it sounds to be right up my alley. The Beer Nut had things a little rough this month. Being based out of Dublin, Ireland, and living next to Guinness at St. James's Gate, he had to look a little harder for a brewery with a little less mass distribution. He took one for the team and tried the Porter and the Bock from Messrs Maguire brewpub. Neither were spectacular, though the Porter was good enough to order again. Stephen Beaumont double fists it with two separate blogs. On thatsthespirit.com he focuses on the Steamwhistle Pilsner from Steamwhistle Brewing Company in Toronto which sounds like nice summer brew for those really hot days. For his other local brew, he took advantage of being on the Scottish island of Islay by reviewing the hoppy Single Malt Ale from Islay Ales for On The House. I wasn't aware that highly hopped ales were hard to find in Scottland. Hop heads out there will likely enjoy this beer, though the Angus Og Ale sounds more to my style.
As the host of this month's Session, I thought pretty long about which brew pub I wanted to feature for our Drink Local theme. A quick search shows at least 5 qualified candidates that I could have chosen from here in Omaha.
Omaha Breweries and Brew Pubs
For me, the first one that jumped into my head was Upstream Brewing Company. It's probably the biggest and most well known in the city with two locations, one in the historic Old Market downtown and the other on the complete opposite side of the city in West Omaha. But was this really the best choice?
Well, after weighing my options it seems so. Granite City Food & Brewery is based out of St. Louis Park, MN; That disqualified it as did the fact that they mix the wort off site. Jaipur Brewing Company makes a jalapeño beer that I've always wanted to try, but they're really more known for their food than their beer. The Nebraska Brewing Co. just plain isn't open yet and Aksarben Brewing Co. is no longer open. Then there's Jobber's Canyon Restaurant & Brewery. To be honest I really don't know much about them, but I've heard from others that it seems as if the owners just decided to open a brew pub because they're trendy and attract tourists (which is perfect given their Old Market location). And since they are no where near my house, I didn't feel bad for not picking them.
And finally we have Lazlo's Brewery and Grill, which is actually the closest to my house, but since they are really out of Lincoln, that's strike one. Strike two is that they don't brew the beer on the premises and strike three is that they don't even brew their own beer! How do you not brew your own beer and get to use the word "brewery" in your name? They used to brew their own beer, but split the brewing part off into a separate company - Empyrean Brewing Company. Sadly, it is also the oldest brewery currently in operation in the state of Nebraska, founded all the way back in 1990. Yes, you read that right. That's not to say Empyrean doesn't make a decent beer, just that Lazlo's is disqualified from being a "brewery" in my book.
So now we have our brew pub - now what beer should we have? Well, I've recently discovered that I don't have the vocabulary and/or palate and/or knowledge to describe a beer beyond it's standard style profile. To accurately describe the differences between two Nut Brown Ales that I'm not tasting side-by-side is something I've not yet worked up to. So I decided to try them all and just take some basic quick notes. The larger take away will be just what I thought in general of the beers. In addition to the flight I ordered at their Legacy location, I also picked up a special 750ml bottling of their August 2005 Belgian Style Grand Cru which is being distributed by the local Whole Foods.
To preface my notes, you should be aware that I have a bias towards darker beers. I tend to enjoy porters, bocks and stouts. I do drink almost any style, though I shy away from bitter beers such as IPA's and ESB's. Also, the flight was tasted with Upstream's Fish & Chips, while the Grand Cru was drank at home with (leftover) Blonde Pizza. Now on with the notes (or just check out my cheat sheet).
O! Gold Light Beer - Basic Bud Light, just a little creamier.
Honey Raspberry Ale - I've never understood why people mix fruit flavorings in beer. I have yet to have one I liked. This tasted like raspberry soda mixed with beer. Like a Mike's Hard Raspberry or something.
Gold Coast Blonde - Heavier in style. Reminds me of Michelob. Would rather have a Budweiser than this. Maybe I just need a bratwurst to go with this.
American Wheat - Initially hard to taste beyond the lemon in the glass. Very easy to drink and better than most wheat beers I've had. Great summer beer.
Capitol Premium Pale Ale - Very nice. Interesting spice blend. Very distinctive taste. And for some reason I had a note about fish water. Why, I don't know.
Firehouse ESB - Didn't mind it, but it's still not something I'd order.
Double India Pale Ale - Actually really nice! Smells (and kind of tastes) like bug spray, but I guess for some reason that's okay to me... It has an almost floral character to it. Some minor honey notes as well. This has convinced me that I need to try a dry-hopped beer. If I can get the same aromas and tastes without as much bitterness, I'm all on board.
Dundee Export Scotch Ale - This has always been one of my favorite beers. It's like candy. The scotch flavor is subtle, but definitely there. It didn't quite appeal to me the same way after drinking through 70% of the flight, but I know this beer well enough to recommend it.
Blackstone Stout - Weak in body, but lots of coffee upfront, chocolate on the finish. Very drinkable. You could tell just from the mouth feel that this was a very low alcohol beer. Just 4.4% ABV. A session stout.
Sunshine Lager (Seasonal Brew) - Opps, I drank this last. Probably a mistake. My only note is "Blah. Better with food. Basic."
Cask Conditioned Ales - No cask conditioned ale for me. It's only served in their downtown location. BOOOOOOOO.
Upstream Grand Cru (Brewed Aug 2005)This beer is nothing like I expected. It's far better. The color was much different than I was expecting. I was told this is the same as their Belgian-Style Tripel with some additional yeasts, so I was expecting something a little darker. The brewers notes ("Earth, Honey, Citrus, Oak") are almost dead on, though I'd say the fruit is more of a stone fruit, like peach or apricot. What's so unusual is the fact that the fruit is obviously there, but it's so subdued that it doesn't get in the way of the other complexities playing tag with your taste buds. The thing that struck me most was the oak. Just the aromas of this beer immediately made me think of a wine tasting we did at a where the tasting itself was done next to mountains of oak barrels filled with wine. It was the exact same smell. This easily makes my top 25 list. (For more information about this beer, see the update below)
Oh, and if there's a spirits blogging event, Upstream will be starting to make their own distilled spirits in the very near future. How cool is that?
***UPDATE*** I got the following information from brewmaster Zac regarding the Grand Cru.
The Grand Cru is essentially the same beer as the Belgian Specialty Ale (BSA). In 2004 we brewed the BSA, oak aged it for one year, bottled it and it was a good beer. In 2005 we did the same thing and used the same barrels. However, when we bottled it in 2006, I noticed that the beer was amazing; the best we had ever produced. So I decided that the beer was worthy of the wine nomenclature, Grand Cru – meaning the best of the best. The reason it was better than the year before is due to the yeast that have taken up residence in the oak barrel from the first year. I am very excited to see how this year’s vintage turns out. It will be bottled in July 2007 and available no later than November 2007.
Since I have this bizarre need to be different, I decided this month's Session theme would not focus on a particular style, region or time of year. Instead, I'd like to create a guide book of tasting notes to drinking local.
The idea here is to be as helpful as possible for visitors to your area. What is the beer/brewery/brewpub that you feel is quintessential to your city? What do the locals drink? What could a tourist drink that would make them feel like they've found something special; something that they're going to miss when they go home?
Here are the rules:
You can pick anything commercially made within 150 miles of your house, but try to pick the brewery or brewpub closest to your house (NOTE: the average American lives within 10 miles of a craft brewery).
You can select any beer or even a sampler if you want.
If you select a single beer, let us know why you choose this beer (e.g. favorite,seasonal,limited edition, best seller).
Preferably you'll shy away from beers with wide distribution outside your immediate area.
So if you'd like to join us, post your tasting notes on Friday, June 1st, 2007. After your post is up, shoot me an
with the words "Session #4" in the subject line. Include your name, the name of your blog, the URL to your post, the name of the brewery or brew pub that made the beer(s) you drank, where the place is located, the name and style of the beer(s) you drank and lastly, a general description of the availability of the beer(s). If you don't have a blog, email me your notes and I'll include them in the round up.
It's interesting how the same great idea can form at the same time from two different people who have no contact with each other. Back in about mid-January I was wondering why there wasn't a blogging event for beer that was similar to Wine Blogging Wednesday. I was not the only one.
Granted I think I had with a better name in mind and could have promoted the event a little better, but never the less, it's easier to join and help, than compete. So with that, I throw my hat into The Session.
Unfortunately I missed the first Session (Stouts), but I'll make up for it by covering double the Dubbels. A Dubbel is a style of beer popularized in Belgium that is characterized by a balance of malt and hops with a spiciness, mild fruit aromas and a slightly higher alcohol level. You can read more about this style on BeerAdvocate.com
The first beer I reviewed was a dubbel I just happened to pick up from Beertopia a couple of weeks earlier knowing nothing about the theme for this month's Session. The second beer I chose because it's very popular and available at most well stocked stores. It turns out picking blind was the way to go.
On with the beer!
Abbey Belgian Style Ale
From: New Belgium Brewing Inc. Location: Colorado, United States Style: Dubbel
appearance: 4 A nice range of colors starting from a deep golden honey running to a dark amber of goldish-red. Slightly cloudy from the remaining yeast. The head consisted of a nice layer of dense foam that had respectable retention and lacing.
smell: 3.5 Mostly just a blend of spice, malt and yeast with underpinnings of hops and a bit of an apple cider fruitiness. I have to agree with others that there is a faint smell of fermented bananas in here.
taste: 3.5 Good balance between malts and hops. Complexity brought with clove like spice. Fruit wasn't as present as it was on the nose.
mouthfeel: 4 Definitely drink out of a wide mouth glass at the recommended temperature. Doing so accentuates the creaminess. Otherwise the mouthfeel is closer to a Bud Light. I thought the carbonation was completely inline with the dubbel style.
drinkability: 3.5 Not something I'd want to drink more than 2 of. Would probably go quite well with food, especially beef stew or some goulash.
overall: 3.65 Not a bad beer at all, but not an outstanding beer either. In general, I'd say I'm just not a dubbel person, but I could drink this occasionally.
Chimay Première (Red)
From: Bières de Chimay (Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont) Location: Belgium Style: Dubbel
Okay, I'm copping out on this one a bit, but only because I want to be fair. I think I got a bad bottle or something. This beer smelled and tasted skunky like a bad home brew. Maybe it was because I stored the bottle on it's side which the back label expressly dissuades. My theory is storing it up right allows the remaining yeast to settle to the bottom which would allow you to pour carefully and prevent basically decant your beer. If anyone knows the reason for not storing on it's side, please let me know.
That’s right, you. And we’re not talking about that stuff your neighbor made in his garage, we’re talking about fantastic micro-brewed beer made from the highest quality hops and barley of your choosing.