Posts Tagged belgian

Bag Me A Beer!

Bagby Beer PanoSummer’s not over yet! Yes, I know that the calendar would have you believe that Fall officially began on September 23…but I refuse to recognize it! As should you, since there is a great town north of San Diego in the so-called “North County” section of the city called Oceanside. This is a pretty typical working-class beachside town that happens to house Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The beach is fronted by a collection of hotels and high-rises, followed by some quaint shops and bars. A few blocks away from all the glitz is a brewpub called Bagby Beer Company.

This place has much of the same beachy feel as the boardwalk, but is located in a decidedly industrial part of town. Even so, it has a nice open front like you would find at a beach restaurant, with beechwood tasting counters at the patio railing running the length of the place. Roll up glass doors reveal long tables of the same beechwood as outside, with both cushioned stools and hard benches for seating. Glazed brick backs the bar area and loud green paint adorns the walls to one side.

All of this beachiness made me thirsty, so I dove right into a flight of house brews. I started nice and light with a German-style Altbier called ALT In the Family (4.7% abv). It poured a rich amber color, with tiny bubbles and thin white head that dissipated quickly. I smelled wheaty and malty aromas, with a slight sourness underneath. It tasted smooth and mild. In fact, there was little in the way of flavor at the beginning, shifting to only a little maltiness toward the middle. Light- to medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, this beer finished mild and somewhat malty, with little else to distinguish it. Refreshing, but a little boring.

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Next, I moved to the Struggle Bus Extra Pale Nitro (4.8% abv). This beer poured pale, clear and yellow in color, with little carbonation and a cap of creamy white head. It smelled sour, tart and slightly skunky. The taste was smooth from the nitro and light. It was a little lemony, with some sourness at the start. The middle was light and tart, with little carbonation. It finished just as light, with some sourness and little else. I had high hopes for this one. It was good, but it just wasn’t very interesting.

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Bagby Beer Flight

Next up, I had a hope-inciting beer called Reconnoiter Porter Hoppy Porter (7.4%). Figuring this one was from their Department of Redundancy Department, I was intrigued. This one poured very dark brown, with thin, but creamy off white head. It smelled of coffee and little else. It had thick and creamy mouthfeel, with strong coffee flavor up front. Some bittersweet chocolate came through the middle, with medium body and light carbonation. It finished with more strong coffee that overpowered whatever other flavors might have been there. I like coffee, but this was yet another one-dimensional beer.

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I finished ‘strong’ with the Bruges Cruise Belgian-style Dark Strong (11.4%). This big beer poured dark amber in color, with small bubbles and medium off white head that did not last long. Malty, sweet and boozy aromas defined this one, with a little sourness and spice at the tail end. Smooth and medium-bodied, some spicy flavors came through at first, mellowing to a malty sweetness toward the middle, though the spiciness lingered. Medium carbonation helped to keep things lively, while it finished with malty flavors and that lingering spiciness. Despite the prominent spice, I liked how dynamic this beer tasted.

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It Was an OK Day At Sea

I recently found occasion to go back to Ballast Point to sample more of their ever-expanding list of experimental beers. As usual, they did not disappoint. Starting with the always good Sculpin on nitro (7% abv), this beer poured golden in color, with thick creamy white head. I detected sour and mild malty aromas with only some hoppiness. The taste was mild and light. Hoppy and creamy up front, it was light in body and carbonation, mostly due to the nitro. It finished smooth with some sourness and hoppiness. Not a lot going on with this beer, but a good everyday drinker.

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A little out of order, next up was Homework #5 Hoppy Belgian Ale (5.2% abv). This one poured rich golden-yellow as well, but with only a thin layer of white head. Sour smell at the front and somewhat sweet aromas at the back. It tasted malty sweet at first, then smooth into the middle. With light-medium body, it finished hoppy and mild. An adequate beer, but nothing really to hold my interest for very long.

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Ballast Flight

Then I tried the Sea Turtle Saison (abv not available, as they were too quick with the eraser after they ran out) made with green tea and mint: It poured a pale opaque golden color, with loose white head that did not stick around long. It smelled sour and tart, with some fruit aromas coming around the end. It tasted sour and effervescent up front, with a touch of hoppiness. The middle was light and smooth, finishing equally as light and smooth. There was not nearly the amount of dynamic, if delicate, flavor profile I expected from this one. Sure, I could blame it on the two prior tasters, but I thought this one was a little lacking. Points for effort, however.

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Lastly, I tried the one I was most afraid would taste like fruit juice, but had to try because it was from a cask: Tart Wahoo with hibiscus and lime (7% abv): It poured the color of cranberry juice, with lots of fizzy bright white head. Tart berry aromas dominated the smell, as expected. It tasted super tart from the start. With virtually no carbonation, despite the copious fizz on the pour, it was light. There was no real discernible taste through the middle of the drink, but finished a little sweet and tart. This was probably not one I would get again and, from the full glasses of folks around me who had already been there a while, I was not alone in this assessment.

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Art in Brewing

cellar3_inside_collageCellar 3 is a new brewery that Green Flash Brewing opened up in Poway. It struck me as Green Flash gussied up. Lots of canvases adorned the walls featuring works by local painters and moody accent lighting helped with the overall art studio look of the place. Walking in, visitors have to head to the left past the brewing area which featured giant wooden barrel brew tanks. That lead to the hallway-like expanse that is the tasting room. On the right is the tasting bar and the left is a the back wall that awkwardly features only one door to a good size outside patio area, complete with a food truck. The whole brewery was brand new when I visited, having opened only 3 weeks earlier, so it still had a bit of an unfishished feel to it.

Unfortunately, so too did the beers I cellar3_inside_arttried. I decided to try a sampler, as this is the best way to taste as many of a brewery’s offerings as possible and still be able to walk out under my own power (I’m usually a lightweight). I started with Natura Morta with Cranberry. It poured like juice: bright red and almost no head, except for the slightest hint of bubbles. Very tart aromas of cranberry were all I could get from the smell. The taste was very tart and sour. It was like a kick in the teeth it was so strong. “Astringent” is a good word to describe some beers and I think it is definitely appropriate here. The acidity in this beer was WAY up there, making it borderline unpleasant. The middle was none too smooth, either, with an unpleasant sticky sweetness that followed the overpowering sweetness. It finished very tart and sticky, which I think was my mouth’s way of rejecting this concoction. Sorry, Green Flash…this one did not do it for me:

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Hoping to recover from this last assault on my taste buds, I tried an interesting, incredibly complex-sounding one: Fresco Sauvage with Brett, a Belgian-style saison, aged in red wine barrels. Looking back, this may not have been the best choice following such as palate-killer as the cranberry one, but, alas… This one poured a light hazy yellow color, with cellar3_beersamplersmooth head that streaked around the glass. It had a bright, slightly sour aroma that seemed refreshing. There was little else to distinguish in the smell. The taste was indeed sour, but light mouthfeel and the bright flavor of citrus helped keep it at bay. Lemons and grassiness defined the middle of the drink and the light body and smooth carbonation helped move mostly just the lemon flavor through the finish. Interesting, but just ok:

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Last, I tried the Noir Sauvage Dark Lager, a black IPA also brewed with brettanomyces. These are what give so-called ‘wild ales’ their wildness. This beer poured black with a lovely cap of tan sticky head. It smelled very rich, like chocolate, bourbon and sugar. The taste was every bit as rich, with a huge sugary rush at the outset, followed by bourbon and malts. Medium-thick mouthfeel with little carbonation made it feel rather heavy. The middle is bourbony with notes of dark fruits. It finished rich, with a touch of bourbon. An interesting beer here, but still mostly unremarkable:

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Although I enjoyed my trip to this new spot, the beers I tried left something to be desired. I will be back and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do when they are a little more settled in.

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Expose THIS to Your Taste Buds

Ninkasi Expo 58I started seeing this beer from Ninkasi a few months ago and I thought, “Hmm, I love the brewery…I haven’t had this one from them…” Then I came to the realization, “I should try this!” And so it was that Ninkasi Expo 58 Belgian-Style Golden Pale Ale came into my possession.

It poured a fizzy clear pale yellow color with foamy head that left loose lace that slid down the sides of the glass easily. Yeasty and sour aromas mark this beer as definitely a member of the Belgian family. There was also some malty sweetness at the end. It tasted very yeasty and bright, with light body and mouthfeel. The Ninkasi Expo 58 topcarbonation was refreshing and light. Some sourness came on toward the middle, with some tangy lemon flavors afterward. It finished with the same yeastiness.

This was a refreshing, tasty beer to start the spring season.

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Area 51.5

ABQ Brew Pub, Albuquerque, NMI recently took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico and let me tell you, they love their chiles down there! It was a work trip and I was being chauffeured around by my boss, so I did not have as much time to explore the beer scene as I might have liked. Though, to be honest, NM is not exactly known for their craft beer focus. Even so, I got to try some local stuff, so let’s get into it.

Just down the street from my hotel was a pub aptly named ABQ Brew Pub. This was a small place that just popped up on my Yelp app on my phone that was within easy walking distance and seemed like a place to get a real local brew. It was connected to another sports bar place, so at least I knew they were economical about their operation. Walking in, it was just like any other nondescript local bar you might otherwise walk into in Anytown, USA: a tiny waiting area by the door that led to a cocktail seating area around a small bar. There were some dining tables surrounding the bar/cocktail area behind a low wall. It was very dark inside, but they had some cool ambient lighting with neon and some fireplaces high up on one wall (presumably for effect, more than warmth.)

When I asked my server for her recommendation on a quintessential New Mexico beer selection, she pointed me directly to a green chile infused one that is apparently their signature beer. I decided to include it in a flight of four to get a well-rounded experience.

ABQ Brew beer flightI started with lighter flavors and went with the Sierra Blanca Nut Brown. This one is the empty you see above…I was just too excited, I guess. As I said, it was very dark inside and hard to tell, but it poured a deep red-brown color with thin white head that neither stuck around long, nor laced the glass to any appreciable degree. It smelled very carmelly, with lots of malty sweetness. This maltiness came through immediately on the first taste, with some sweetness coming through after. It had a pretty thick mouthfeel that coated my palate a bit. It finished a little calmer on the thickness, but lots of lingering roasted malt flavors. I can’t quite give it a 4, but still my favorite of the night:

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Number two was the Alien Wheat. It poured a very clean, clear pale yellow color with smooth foamy head that left some light lacing on the sides of the glass. As expected, there was little aroma, except some light yeasty sourness. It tasted light and had a faint refreshing lemon flavor. Otherwise, it tasted very much like your typical light beer with some bitterness on the finish. Though it finished clean for a wheat, it was unimpressive:

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Next up was the Monks Belgian Ale. This one poured a golden amber color with foamy, slightly off white head that really clung to the glass like glue. It had an alarming aroma of bananas and had surprisingly little sourness. I found this odd, as Belgian beers have always left me with a pleasant yeasty sourness. The first taste was mostly masked by the rather thick mouthfeel, but it was smooth. Bananas, yeasty malts and light carbonation all combined at once to finish with a medium caramel and the yeasty sourness I had missed earlier lingering afterward. This one was complex enough to entertain my taste buds, but still:

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It has been said that it is best to save the best for last. I, however, prefer to put off potential pain for as long as possible. Although I was somewhat intrigued, the potential for pain was why the Rio Grande Pancho Verde Green Chile Cerveza was my last of the night. It started off well, pouring very clean and pale, much like a lager. It had little in the way of head, save a ring of white around the edge. Placing my nose over the glass I–CHILE. There was no other discernible aroma other than the overpowering smell of roasted green chile. This gave me a pretty good idea of what I would taste, but I pressed on and was rewarded with…CHILE. Afterward it moved to a heavy CHILE flavor. It finished clean, but…CHILE lingered well afterward, leaving a none-too-pleasing burning in my chest that felt like heartburn. Though the concept was very local and somewhat interesting, there was just far too much CHILE for me:

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Overall, I was unimpressed by the beer selection at this particular establishment. If I am ever back that way, I will definitely give the Albuquerque beer scene another go, but I’m good for now.

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The Best Week Ever (Day 4)

SDBW logo

You might notice that I skipped Day 3 of The Best Week Ever. Well, it turns out I was not able to be as exuberant in my celebrating as perhaps I wanted to be and stayed in on Sunday. This caused me no grief, however, as I needed a rest. This gave me the stamina I needed to make a go of Day 4 of SDBW2014 and it went thus:

San Diego Brewing Co sign

I went back to newest brewery find near me, San Diego Brewing Co., as I had a blast there on Day 1 (and any other time I have been there). As an added bonus, it was Monday Night Football and happy hour: the trifecta in my book. I just had to come back for my beer week celebration.

SD Brewing brewery and barThis place is in a pretty nondescript strip mall in an area of San Diego called Grantville. I have been told that the powers that be want to build Grantville up into a brewery mecca, but this is the only place anyone would know about. The other two are nano-breweries Benchmark and Groundswell. SD Brewing is easily the most recognizable, as it sits on a thoroughfare that runs through what could be considered Grantville’s “downtown,” though it is far too small an area to warrant its own downtown.

Walking in, I was immediately taken in by the openness of the layout, mostly because it is all one big room. Straight ahead is the bar and the dining area is to the right. To the left of the door is the brewery, all behind glass to keep things separate (and quieter, I imagine). It also has a small arcade, with a pinball machine and a couple of other games. Other than that, the abundance of TVs are what I noticed right away. This is definitely not a sports bar, but it is a great place to catch a game. The wait staff and bartenders are super friendly and mostly attendant, though they have only ever had one person tending a rather large bar, which has resulted in some waiting. Nothing that kept me from coming back, obviously. Enough blather– sd brewing beer glasses and foodonto the libations!

I always start with proprietary beers, so I got a Decoaster Belgo Pale. This one poured like a darker version of the Blonde I had previously, with a rich golden color, light carbonation and brief head. It smelled light, only slightly sour and had a bit of maltiness. I expected much more sourness from a Belgian, but I did not complain. The taste was very smooth, with sourness up front and the maltiness persisting throughout. These were really the only two flavors coming from this beer, with the malty smoothness lasting through the finish and some slight sourness lingering afterward. A good, if very simple beer.

After the first quarter of the football game I was watching ended, I ordered their Old Town Nut Brown. This seemed like a great choice for the sliders I already knew I was going to have when I walked in the door. This one poured very dark brown-red, with slightly tan, thinnish head. There was virtually no aroma, with only a slight sweetness from the roasted malts. It tasted very smooth, with lots of toasty malt flavor and sweetness. These flavors also persisted through the finish.

These were very simple beers, mainly owing to SD Brewing’s philosophy of using only the simplest ingredients. If you like more complexity and/or hoppiness in your beer, they have plenty of others to choose from, but if all you are looking for is a relaxing good time, this is definitely the place.

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Belgian Randomness

IMG_2045 copyI saw this beer and had to try it. Generally speaking, Stone Brewing does not bring to mind a whole bunch of creativity in their brewing. Self-marketing, a lot of hops and some more self-marketing, perhaps, but when I see a quad on the shelf, I can’t help myself.

This brew’s name is a shout to randomness, perhaps in what they see as a departure from their normal brewing style. More likely, it is probably a reference to the fact that they included triticale, a kind of wheat-rye hybrid, into a brew traditionally made sans both wheat or rye. Stone’s Stochasticity Project (pretty slick site, too) consists of a collection of three beers: two Belgian trappist ales and a double IPA.

Quadrotriticale is the booziest of the bunch, at a whopping 9.3% abv. It pours a clear deep, reddish-brown color, with white head. The came with a maltiness and, as expected, a sour smell due to the type of fermentation used in brewing Belgian ales. These beers use what is called spontaneous fermentation, which is beer exposed open air to allow the yeast and bacteria essentially infect the beer. This is what gives this style of beer its characteristic sour taste, as well. Definitely an acquired taste for some, I enjoy it.

quad_foamThe taste was not as I expected. As I mentioned, Belgian ales are usually fairly sour tasting, but quads are far richer than their dubbel and tripel counterparts. The sourness was the first thing I tasted, followed by a richness that the deep dark color gave away at the top. The next thing to come through was the alcohol. The warmth was a very nice way to mute the sourness and made me forget for a second I was drinking a Belgian beer. The sweetness was the last thing I tasted, before the sourness came back on the aftertaste.

I enjoyed this beer. Overall, I would rate this beer:

5

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Tetravis

IMG_2031Belgian-styles are often described as complex, malty and perhaps a little sour (depending on the type). Tetravis from Sam Adams’ Barrel Room Collection is a quadrupel, or “quad”, which told me to expect a strong, rich beer. Added to the intrigue with this beer, was the fact that it was purported to have notes of raisin and currant. This did give me pause for a second, then it passed and I dove in.

The pour is a deep, dark red, with a cloudy complexion and thick tan head. Lots of bubbles streamed up from the very bottom of the glass, which told me this was going to be a very yeasty beer. Indeed, it smelled a little sour, malty, rich and sweet. The taste was a little hard to get at first, due to the thick cap of foam on top. Once it came through, I tasted sticky-sweet flavors of raisin and brown sugar, mixed with sourness that reminded me of some tart fruit, and finally lots of malt, which was in turn broken up by all the fizzy carbonation I saw on the pour. As it moved through my mouth, so too did a slight burn in the back of the throat, muted somewhat by the smooth warmth of the alcohol.

IMG_2034This was a very good beer that had a lot of characteristics I expected and even some I didn’t. I am glad there was no heavy currant taste, as that probably would have made me think I was drinking some kind of brewed grape juice.

Overall, I would rate this beer:

4

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So Good It’s CRAZY!

IMG_1944I haven’t had any brews from Left Coast before, but this one set my mind a-spinnin’. This here is 1 pint, 6 fluid ounces of pure Belgian goodness. It pours a deep, dark orange, which reminds me of fall (even though we’re beginning our hot summer season where I live). The head is pretty fizzy and dissipates rather quickly, which is to be expected of somewhat effervescent Belgian-style beers. This helps give it a lively feel, not unlike that of a saison, in my opinion. The first whiff brought out the sourness characteristic of these beers, with strong yeast character and some sweetness. It actually reminds me a little of the “beer” I have attempted to make on the journey I talk about on here so much.

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The taste brought forward all the sourness this beer has to bear, which isn’t to say that it’s bad; some might find it off-putting, but I think it makes a beer more interesting and gives it more for the drinker to discover as they work their way through it. This beer, though, could hardly be called “work,” as it is surprisingly easy drinking, despite its 11.8% abv. After the sourness came the yeast. These little critters imbued this beer with so much taste, it was almost unexpected. Almost. It finished sour, with a touch of sweetness toward the end that was quite pleasant.

Overall, this beer is a fine example of a Belgian-style tripel.

I would rate this beer:

5

 

 

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Age of the Fist

IMG_1754I have had it on the back burner to write this one for a while now, but could never quite find the words. I still may not, but I’m going to give it the old college try. Iron Fist Brewing Co. is up in Vista, which is in Northern San Diego County, or so-called North County around here. I have never had any other beer from this brewery, but after trying this one, I’m not sure I need to. This lovely concoction is a smooth, not-too-light, but not-quite-heavy Belgian style golden ale that comes bottled in a capped 750ml champagne-style bottle. This is necessary (I assume) to contain all the malty deliciousness inside.

It pours a rich dark orange color, with bright white foamy head that really sticks around and lays like a light blanket on top for a good while. The smell is mostly that of the heavy sweet malts and very little hoppiness. The first thing to hit me in the taste is the sweetness coming from all the malts packed into this beer, which apparently is unusual for a Belgian strong ale. Generally, these beers are higher on the abv, with this one clocking in at 9.5%, and have a more hoppy profile than this one does. While I would consider 9.5%abv a pretty hefty alcohol content, it is anything but overpowering. In fact, I think it works well with all the malts to bring a warmth that I usually find with the holiday ales or wine. The lack of hoppiness isn’t a problem either, as long as you don’t expect a lot of them to come through. The finish is pretty much just that warmth from both the booze and malts, with the slightest hint of the sweetness.

While it is unfortunate that this beer is hard to find, at least for me, I completely understand and recommend snapping this one up when you find it.

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