Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beer of the week: Smuttynose Maibock

Beer score: 8.4
ABV: 8.7
IBU: unknown
R-i-i-i-i-c-h. As in flavor. The price is actually very decent. But that flavor kicks you right at the first sip. And what is that flavor? It's difficult to describe. Kind of grainy, as in wheaty, almost like this brew came right from a farm field and was served to you. Has a fine caramel smell, and there's a hint of fruit, perhaps citrus or grape, in the back of that scent. Goes down smooth though there is a strong alcohol flavor with fruity undercurrents right at the back of the tongue. Goes well with broiled pork chops and potatoes, I can say. Might be a little too strong for drinking every day of the week, but if you're in the mood for something different then this beer is more than worth considering. Comes from the Smuttynose Brewing Company of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and those folks should be proud of this brew. A maibock is traditionally a light-colored lager with a robust amount of alcohol, and that's the case here. The Smuttynose folks put out a new maibock each Spring, and the one I tried was for 2011. I'll be looking for this one again next year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beer of the week: Saison Dupont

Beer score: 7.9
Web site: Brasserie Dupont
ABV: 6.5
IBU: unknown
This beer from Belgium almost always draws very high marks on various brew review websites, and while I give it fairly high marks myself, I didn't feel it was so great or so unique. Don't get me wrong, this is a solid beer. Your Budweiser friends will be at a loss if they tried a Saison Dupont. But the flavor and texture here was nothing unexpected and nothing all that complex or unusual. If you like a traditional Belgian ale, you can't get more traditional or normal than this. On the plus side, several people have told me this beer has a skunky odor to it (which is common among beers in green bottles), but I have to say I did not experience any of that. Very earthy without being thick on the tongue, with early hints of fruitiness that die away swiftly to be replaced by a cool bitterness. Has a nice head. This is a bottle fermented brew and a top-fermented brew. By the way, a "saison" traditionally is a beer somewhat similar to a pale ale but with a low-alcohol level; historically this beer was brewed and fermented in farmhouses in Belgium and possibly some parts of France and served to farmworkers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to name your dog after beer

If you are a beer lover and an animal lover, like me, at some point in your life there's a pretty good chance you are going to want to name a dog after a beer. However, it's quite possible your significant other will shoot down the idea, or perhaps it will be your parents. Or maybe there could be some other reason that would intrude upon you wanting to name a dog after a beer.

Don't let this get you down. You can still name a dog after a beer, you just have to be a little more sly about. it.

For instance, you obviously wouldn't want to name your dog Budweiser. Why? Because that's a world-wide recognizable name meaning beer. However, you might be able to get by with something a little more slick, like Bud or Buddy. Not exact, but it's close enough to count.

Another fine name for a dog is Foster, after Foster's, the Australian beer. I'm not a huge fan of this particular brew, but I do like the name. And I once fooled my wife into allowing me to name a dog Foster. She never caught on until I told her years later.

If you'd like something a bit more esoteric, you could name a pet after Bert Grant's. Heck, this brewing company doesn't even exist any more, but they put out some very fine drinks. Either Bert or Grant would be solid names for a dog. Even Bertie wouldn't be too bad for a small dog.

If you want a sturdy, old-fashioned name for a dog, you could always try Breckenridge after the Breckenridge Brewery. Possibly Breck would do, as well.

Are you religious? How about Pete or Peter after St. Peter's Brewery of England. They make a fine Organic English Ale. And don't forget the folks at Pete's Wicked, who make a great Strawberry Blonde.

Even less obvious options would be Rod or Roddy after Young's Ram Rod, or Nick or Nicholas after Young's Old Nick, or even Dick after Young's Dirty Dick's Ale.

If the dog is female you could go for Stella after Stella Artois or possibly Sierra after one of the fine Sierra Nevada brews, such as Sierra Nevada Porter.

One of my personal favorite names is Skullsplitter. And yes, there is a Skullsplitter Orkney Ale.
More obvious choices would be Sam or Sammy, after such brews as Sam Adams Triple Bock or Samuel Smith Taddy Porter.

Truly, it's up to you. I suggest having fun with the exercise. Pick a unique name for your dog, something you think will represent his or her spirit and will fit well.

And don't forget to enjoy a good beer every once in a while.

Beer of the week: Highland Brewing Company Gaelic Ale

Beer score: 7.7
ABV: 5.8
IBU: 32
A pretty sturdy amber ale. Nice, clean, smooth. A touch of sweetness early on gives way quickly to a strong burnt bitterness that is not overpowering, though it comes close to crossing that line. Very wet. Comes from the Highland Brewing Company of Asheville, North Carolina. Apparently this Gaelic Ale is the company's best-selling brew, and that's not a surprise. Though, admittedly, as of this writing I've not tried any of their other beers. That is a disastrous situation I will have to remedy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beer of the week: Sierra Nevada Glissade

Beer score: 8.2
Web site: Sierra Nevada
ABV: 6.4
IBU: 42

Quite possibly the perfect beer for hot weather. Has a smooth, fruity quality and a light texture that makes this an awesome brew for summer. The label on the bottle calls this a "Golden Bock." Basically, this is Sierra Nevada's seasonal brew for the Spring. Has a light bitterness on the tongue. There is a touch of sweetness right at the beginning, but that dies away after the first sip, though that sweat, almost honey-like, quality is still present in the scent. As of this tasting, my favorite Sierra Nevada beer. Don't let the high bitterness ranking fool you, because I didn't find this to be an overly strong beer in bitter territory; must be a fine trick with malts to have such a smooth beer with such a high bitterness units rank.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Beer of the week: Fort Collins Brewery Chocolate Stout

Beer score: 8.3
ABV: 4.9
IBU: 33
Oh my gosh! This stuff looks like dark maple syrup as I pour it into the glass, and even has a bit of a burnt syrup smell to it. The only way I can see light through this beer in a clear glass is to hold it up almost directly next to a bright light source, otherwise this stuff is dark, dark, dark. Quite smooth with a nice, frothy head. Has a very cool roasted bitterness that true stout fans will love. This is my first brew from the Fort Collins Brewery folks, but I’ll definitely be trying more in the future. Truly, an excellent stout.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What is cock ale?

Cock ale.

It sounds funny. Even dirty. But it's not. At least not in the way your twisted mind is probably thinking.

Cock ale is actually ale, a type of beer brewed with malted barley and yeast and then fermented at relatively high temperatures (for fermentation, anyway), that is also fermented with poultry, often chicken.

Cock ale has a history going back at least 500 years, and some beer historians believe that history started in Scotland.

As mentioned, this beverage is often made with chicken, but sometimes duck or other poultry can be used. Also, fruits, nutmeg, clove, mace and sometimes other herbs are used in the fermentation process. The chicken and the herbs can also be soaked in wine for a day or longer to add a little zing to the flavor.

Strictly speaking, the general goal is to create a mincemeat of the poultry being used, but modern recipes often just rely on using shredded chicken.

However, all that being said, you shouldn't just take shredded poultry and mix it in with beer you bought from the store. You'll just end up with a mess, and it'll taste nasty.

Proper cock ale is made during the actual beer-making process, during the fermentation. I'm not going to go into all the details of beer brewing because aficionados will already know and everybody else is not likely to care, but basically the poultry and other ingredients are placed into a bag and added to the fermenting beer on the second day of fermentation. Fermentation should take about a week longer than usual and the final product should be matured in the bottle for about a month before drinking.

Generally speaking, cock ales have a taste and texture akin to what are often called barley wines. Cock ales are usually darker or red, and usually have a fruity taste to them. But what can you expect if you add all that fruit?

So, there you go. At its most basic, cock ale is ale that's been fermented with chicken. Now you know.