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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BEER REVIEW: State Pen Imperial Porter

posted by beertopia_brent
State Pen Imperial Porter
By Santa Fe Brewing Company

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.

look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 4.5

State Pen Imperial Porter
By Santa Fe Brewing Company
Rating: 82

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Monday, August 11, 2008

BEER REVIEW: Sangre De Frambuesa

posted by beertopia_brent
Sangre De Frambuesa
By Santa Fe Brewing Company

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.

look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 3.5

Sangre De Frambuesa
By Santa Fe Brewing Company
Rating: 72

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Beer Corner USA

posted by beertopia_brent
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.

For more information about Beer Corner USA visit: www.beercornerusa.com

Introducing: Brent Udron - Beer Correspondent
Bockfest 2007 @ Beertopia
Oktoberfest 2007 @ Beertopia

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Introducing: Brent Udron - Beer Correspondent

posted by snekse
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.

Old-school brew: Beers of Bavaria State Brewery Weihenstephan
Beer Articles on GFC

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