Posts Tagged bourbon

New English- A Blurb on Bourbon

New English Bourbon Barrel Aged BrownBourbon barrel-aged Batch #6 stout (6.6% abv): This beer poured deep chocolate-brown with a slight haze and light white fizzy head on top. It gave off strong bourbon aromas with a little bit of chocolate. The first taste was mild with a bit of sweetness. Then the boozy bourbon flavor kicked in, with a touch of maltiness into the middle. Medium body and light carbonation lead to a pretty mild finish with mild bittersweet chocolate on the end.

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Warped Disposition

Warped Wing Whiskey RebellionWhile traveling around the Dayton area in Ohio, we stopped by one of the ubiquitous shopping malls along the highway. This one was a little more upscale, though still a mall. This particular mall, however, included a pub, the name of which I cannot remember. It was a cool place, with lots of rich wood and a sort of Irish feel, if a commercialized version of it.

They had a good selection from all over the country, but I wanted something local, so I opted for a beer from Warped Wing BrewingWarped Wing Whiskey Rebellion (11.2%) was brewed in downtown Dayton. It beer poured black with lots of thick tan head. There was a heavy dose of bourbon on the nose, with some bittersweet chocolate to follow. At first, the taste was pretty mild, but then the bourbon kicked in, coating my tongue. With very heavy body and light carbonation, the middle was a little sticky sweet, with a tiny spice note. It finished with only a little of the bourbon, mostly covered up by the stickiness, which lingered the whole way through.

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Utopias is among us! (part 2)

First of all, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to America this coming Saturday. What better occasion to celebrate with a super special, uber-concocted barrel aged beauty as Sam Adams Utopias? Few, my friends. Few.

Knowing the painstaking process followed to make such a brew, I wanted to enjoy this without getting smashed, so I took only the small amount you see below. This was all I needed to get the full experience of this beer (which is technically more of a barleywine).

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It poured a deep golden amber color, almost like a long-aged bourbon. As expected, it had no head or carbonation, as the aging process takes this element out. One whiff gave me a full spectrum of aromas that reminded me of the holidays: dark fruits, cherries, bourbon, cinnamon, cloves and honey. The taste was thick, with honey up front, followed by bourbon and tart fruit flavors. The combination of flavors and heavy mouthfeel reminded me of maple syrup. Dark fruit made up the middle, with a little sourness. It then moved to clove flavors, finishing with sticky sweet honey, balanced by tart fruit.

The long wait to try this one may have influenced the score I gave it, but this is about as complex and nuanced a beer you are likely to find.

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The Brew Has Landed

Ninkasi Ground Control“Houston, we have a problem.” That problem is that more breweries don’t take drastic measures in brewing their beer like the crazies/nerds at Ninkasi just took. Recently, they combined two of my favorite things into one grand event: beer and space. These guys decided, “Sure, our beer is good…but we want to send something to space.” So, they loaded some yeast onto a rocket that was bound for space. According to Space.com, on October 23, 2014 a successful launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico saw 4 vials of brewer’s yeast experience about 4 minutes of weightlessness. Ninkasi incorporated some of the ale yeast from that trip to space into its newest offering: Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout.

Ninkasi Ground Control_topThis beer pours like motor oil: thick, black and sludgy. It had a cap of tan sudsy head that streaked down the glass a bit. Chocolate and faint coffee and bourbon aromas were about all that made it out of the glass on the smell. Strong chocolaty bitterness came through on the taste. Super thick mouthfeel with little carbonation, though more than most other stouts I have had, to break it up made it a bit syrupy. Flavors of star anise came through in the middle, with a little nuttiness fading back to the bittersweet chocolate on the finish.

Although I really wanted this beer to be 5-worthy, due to its long journey to a place near and dear to my heart, alas it was just a little lacking:

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The 33rd Degree

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Above the 33rd parallel in Vista, CA sits a small brewery among a backdrop of rolling brown hills, strip malls and industrial office parks called Latitude 33 Brewing Company. Seekers of this place have to know a little about the area to get there, methinks, but I found it ok and boy am I glad I did. Occupying the former home of Green Flash Brewing, the first thing I noticed was Irish music playing in the background (recorded, not live, unfortunately). This immediately got me in the spirit.

Lattitude 33 water towerThe entrance had a pool table, ringed with stools and a counter area. This led to the main brewery and tasting room. It was a very small, tidy space, but this only served to concentrate and enhance the working brewery atmosphere. The intoxicating smell of roasted barley and malts was thick in the air, which only got me more excited to get to the beer.

I decided to make my own sampler and started with the Straw Horse Wheat. This one poured a very clear pale yellow, with thin white head that left only a little lacing on the sides of the glass. Citrus, mainly lemon, aromas dominated the smell. The taste was very fresh and lemony, propped up with a malty backbone. Light carbonation helped give this one a light-medium mouthfeel. There really was not much else to this beer.

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Sampler lineup_wheat_strong_stout

Next, I sampled the Honey Hips strong ale. At 8.3% abv, I expected a boozy sipper. It poured a cloudy golden amber color with pale off-white head that did not stick around long. Sweet roasted barley came first on the smell with some spice afterward. True to this brew’s name, the taste was strong and boozy, but lots of malty sweetness helped to temper it. Medium carbonation and medium mouthfeel helped bring out some plum flavors and sugary malts after the booziness subsided a bit. It finished a little heavy and boozy, but enjoyable.

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Then I moved on to the bourbon barrel aged stout. This was an off-menu item when I was there and the bar tender just suggested it when I ordered their regular Breakfast Stout. Don’t tempt me with a good time… of course I had that instead! This beauty poured black, with thick tan head that really had some staying power. Even though it was like a thick cap on top, it still allowed the potent boozy aromas of the namesake bourbon through on the smell. Whiskey and sweet malts flooded my nose and it was wonderful. The taste was all whiskey up front. It was almost overwhelming, but then some sweet malty flavors came through, before the bourbon came back and lasted through the finish. This was a rather thick and boozy beer, but I definitely liked it.

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Lat33_bfast_stoutI was going to stop there, until a friend asked if I wanted another. Since I switched the Breakfast Stout out of my original order to accommodate the bourbon barrel stout, I considered it only a short while before enthusiastically agreeing.

This one poured thick and black, with tan head that stuck around about as long as that of the bourbon stout. It smelled sweet and malty, with a touch of vanilla. Being a “breakfast” stout, I expected some coffee aromas, but none materialized. After my surprise at how light this stout was subsided, I did not have to wait long, as it was all coffee flavor up front. Then some sweet vanilla came through, before the strong coffee came back through the middle of the drink, lasting through the finish alongside some moderate booziness. Lat33_bfast_stout_top

At 8.5% abv, I am not sure I would have this with breakfast, but good nonetheless.

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All in all, this is a great little brewery that makes some really tasty, if undynamic beers. I’ll definitely be looking them up in the future.

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It’s Pronounced “Merkin”

Firestone Velvet Merkin

Well, now that Thanksgiving is over, happy December, everybody!

I have already regaled you with my experience with Firestone’s Velvet Merkin during San Diego Beer Week, but it got me wondering: it is delicious cold; what would it be like warm? After all, I, a certified cicerone and the Firestone rep at the event I met while enjoying the cold one at KnB spent some time trying to warm our glasses with our hands while drinking it. So, I was able to get a couple of bottles of it and left one in the cupboard and one in the fridge. Here is what I found:

Warm, it poured much as it did from the tap, with brown, foamy head. It smelled immediately of chocolate, followed quickly by the characteristic bourbon, a little coffee and raisins. The taste was very smooth, with bourbon first, then some almost fruity sweetness and none of the raisin from the smell. It finished warm, with lots of boozy bourbon on the finish.

Velvet Merkin topCold, the head dissipated much more quickly. There was none of the coffee aroma that came through in the warm pour, but all the chocolate, bourbon and raisins came through. The taste was a bit sweeter than with the warm, with little influence from the bourbon anywhere until the end. Lots of raisiny sweetness dominated the majority of the drink, with a surprising lack of bourbon flavor.

The verdict: Still a fantastic beer, cold and warm. I would still prefer it warm, as chilling beer tends to hide flavors and make it a little less dynamic.

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Ballast Point 2

Ballast Point building name

No, you are not seeing double. Ballast Point Brewing Company has opened a third brewery in San Diego! This is great news for me, as I work just up the road a piece from this particular location. It is in the middle of an expansive and otherwise unremarkable industrial office complex. At least it is labeled well (and huge!).

Ballast Point Brewery outside

Walking in, I immediately noticed the fondness for wood, rope and glass. It invokes, as I suspect was intended, the feeling of being on a sailing ship.
Ballast Point inside The lines of sight allow a wide open view of the entire tasting room and (future) restaurant. The bar takes up a considerable amount of the room, which is good, as they have a number of great beers on tap to try.

Beer menuOf course, this is just part of the beer list they have, but it gives you an idea of what is on offer (as well as the beers I sampled while there…but more on that later.) They also have tours of their brewing facilities available every 15 minutes or so. This was exciting for me, as I am kind of a nerd for that kind of stuff. On the tour, we learned that they can make 150 barrels of beer per brewing run. In addition, they also have capacity for 300 bottles and 300 cans. That’s a ton of beer! This is great news, as they have some great stuff.

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Dining area

Ballast Point insideNow, for the beer sampling! I couldn’t decide on any beer(s) I wanted a full 16 ounces of, so I got a flight of three different ones. First was the Three Sheets Barley Wine, Bourbon & Rum Barrel Aged. At 10% abv, I knew it was going to be a big one. It poured dark and cloudy (stormy, even?). It was a slightly reddish color with persistent brown head. It smelled slightly sour, very malty and thick (if a texture can be a smell.) For a 10% beer, it did not taste very boozy. Instead, I tasted sweetness up front, with a stickiness that would not go away. That sugary profile was dominant and carried right on through the finish. beer sample lineupNext, I tried two variations of their flagship stout, Victory at Sea. The first was one with Mole. It poured very dark with the consistency of motor oil and dark, quickly dissipating head on top. I was actually surprised at how quickly the head went away, as stouts tend to pride themselves on their staying power. The very first aroma coming from the glass was very prominent chocolate flavors that were slightly bitter and very rich in coffee and vanilla. Though I didn’t get any spice on the smell, it was definitely apparent on the taste. It hit right up front and persisted throughout. I was surprised again by the small amount of mole/chocolate flavor that only came through in the middle and quickly faded to the same spiciness that started it all. Despite the lack of a very dynamic profile, I enjoyed this one for its uniqueness.

I finished up with Victory at Sea, Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged, another big stout. This one also poured black with quick brown head. It smelled very boozy, despite having the same alcohol content as the previous two I had tried. After the strong alcohol aroma, I got some rich chocolatiness. The taste was very rich, mild and boozy. Heavy whiskey flavors dominated up front, with some chocolatey bitterness to follow, followed by some spice from the rye. Not too much sweetness, despite the rich taste, but it finished a little sticky and still very boozy. I like whiskey and I think they went a little heavy on the whiskey flavors in this one.

Overall a very nice brewery from a brewer of some of the best beers in San Diego.

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Rough Draft

IMG_1985There is a local brewery right down the street from my work called Rough Draft Brewing Company. They don’t seem to distribute very widely, but I only started going to their brewery/tasting room a couple of months ago, so their brews very could well be in your neck of the woods.

IMG_1984As you can see, it’s just a pretty nondescript industrial office space. That is mostly the norm, though, for small brewery startups. Inside, however, is where the magic happens.

IMG_1986They display all of their wares in the lobby for visitors’ perusal. Directly behind where the picture to the right was taken is a hallway leading to a couple private party/meeting rooms and the warehouse where they store all the goodies that go into their beers.

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Their tasting room is really well laid out: all the beer making going on right in front of the tasting counter area, with stools and comfortable couches. It’s a cool thing to be able to sit among the making of what you’re drinking. It makes me appreciate the work that went into it just that much more. After all, that’s what craft beer is all about: making and sharing this stuff we all love so much.

The beer selection is pretty good, considering the apparent size of the operation. They usually have about 10 beers on draft, ranging from a blond to a stout and the ever-present IPA. The draft board always includes at least one nitro selection, as well. For this event, they included two others: their second anniversary special called 2nd Draft Manhattan and a casked IPA called Group Project. 

 

First up, I tried the 2nd Draft Manhattan. This one was a strong ale, clocking in at 9.3% abv. It poured a rich caramel brown color, with fine, slightly off white head. It smelled slightly sweet, though that could have been from the cherry they included with it. It also gave sour and grainy scents. The first sip brought all the alcohol this beer had to bear. It mellowed a bit after to the bourbon flavor you would expect in a Manhattan mixed drink. That was followed by a bitterness I did not expect, thought that could have been the masking effect of the alcohol content. It finished bitter with the lingering bourbon booziness leaving a warmth at the back of my throat.

I would rate this beer:

4

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I am a sucker for anything served in a cask, so next I went for their other special brew: Cask Group Project IPA. This one is made with three kinds of hops: Amarillo, Cascade and Citra. Now, I have to admit ignorance when it comes to hops, considering my previous aversion to beers made with a bunch of them, but I couldn’t help myself. This one poured a deep cloudy golden. It actually reminded me of a wheat beer. It had fine off white head that coated the glass evenly.IMG_1991Putting my sniffer to the glass about knocked me over due to the copious hop content of this beer. After that subsided, it actually smelled pretty mild and only slightly floral. Tasting it, I was surprised at the slight sourness. Then all the hops slowly drifted back along my palate to the back, finishing with a hoppy kick. The aftertaste was a bit bitter with some interesting floral flavors.

All in all, not a bad beer. I was impressed by how they were able to pack so many hops into this beer without absolutely knocking out my taste buds.

I would rate this beer:

4

 

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It’s so good, it’s stupid!

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Oh, Coronado, how I love thee. Well, at least I love thine beer…anyway, this came across my Facebook feed and I so wanted to go. Alas, I had to be at work during the hour of the event, so a friend went for me and picked up this special limited release barrel aged Stupid Stout. I really like their normal Stupid Stout, but this one was aged in oak bourbon barrels, giving it what I expected to be a sweetness that usually accompanies barrel aged beers.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. It poured smooth, with a frothy, soapy medium tan head that further confirmed my preconceived notion that this was going to be a super rich tasting beer. Smelling it, I got rich coffee and bourbon flavors. While not particularly boozy, I could definitely tell this was a pretty alcoholic beer. The first sip, much to my pleasant surprise, was like dipping my tongue into a smooth, glass of oaky straight bourbon. It dominated my palette right off the top. The flavor faded to the coffee notes and finished with the warmth from the alcohol.

What surprised me most about this quite mellow beer was how it avoided the over sweetness common in barrel aged beers. Also, the absence of the customary stout bitterness was a little unexpected, but not at all missed in this brew. It combined two things I love dearly: whiskey and beer and for that I applaud Coronado Brewing Company.

My only regret is that I may not be able to find it before the Super Bowl.

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