Tag Archives: Brooklyn Brewery

Out of the Cellar: Brooklyn Monster Ale

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Coming out of the cellar this time is a behemoth barley wine from Brooklyn, Monster Ale. Born in 2007, this ale weighs in at 10.1% but after a few years in the cellar it is probably going to taste much, much bigger!

Monster Ale pours a murky chestnut brown with little to no head and just the most minimal ring around the glass. Lots of heavy malt on the nose. As the nose implies a very malt forward beer, barely medium bodied and slightly sticky, with caramel, leather and oaky flavours as well. The finish is bittered the sweet. Not as boozy as I expected but it does become more warming as you drink. A deceptive barley wine as it is easy to drink but the ABV does pack a wallop so sip, sip, pause not chug, chug, chug. Overall a consistent and safe choice for your cellar.

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Out of the Cellar: Black Ops Edition

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The oldest resident in my cellar has gotten itself drunk.

In 2009 when I was still just a fledgling beer geek, the hubby and I picked up a rather expensive bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops an 11.6% stout aged in bourbon barrels. This was our first real foray into serious beer purchasing and our first hesitant steps towards the creation of a beer cellar. Or in other words, resisting temptation to drink it right away we stashed the bottle in the farther (and coldest) corner of our office.

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Black Ops pours blackest brown with some mocha head on the initial pour, which dies down to a nice ring around the glass and a slight skim. Big and boozy nose on the initial pour it quickly calms down to a caramel malt nose. First few sips are surprisingly smooth, no harshness from the alcohol, sweet and rich with just a hint of chocolate. Usually I find these big barrel aged beers to be very complex but Black Ops is deceptively simple and eminently drinkable. As you drink the warming sensation begins and there is medium body to this beer, not the viscous brew I was expecting, and this simplicity is really what contributes to its’ drinkability. The finish is kind of quiet with a lingering sweetness.

Overall, a very impressive beer and one that demonstrates the benefits of cellaring.


Beer Floats

Brooklyn Chocolate Stout is one of my favourite beers to experiment with because it is strong, well-balanced and relatively inexpensive.

On its own Brooklyn Chocolate Stout is dark brown black with lots of deep mocha coloured head. There is coffee and chocolate on the nose and in the flavour. It has a creamy mouthfeel but retains a bit of effervescence  which makes it very drinkable. There is a nice roasted finish.

From this base you can add a light fruity beer to make it sweeter and less alcoholy or you can kick up the coffee with some espresso vodka or you can add it to chocolate cupcakes to make them a little more adult.

But if you are feeling a little more adventurous you can add a couple spoonfuls of ice cream and voila you have a beer float!

 

 

Beer and Ice Cream together at Last…

I have been meaning to try out beer and ice cream for sometime now so when I opened the fridge and saw a cold chocolate stout and a pint of vanilla bean coconut ice cream I knew tonight was the night.

What does ice cream do for beer?

Lots. The ice cream melts into the stout ramping up the creamy mouthfeel of the beer. The vanilla flavour takes the edge off the roasty coffee notes like a wondrous cafe au lait. The ice cream reactivates the head creating a light porous layer on top of the beer. The finish becomes very smooth and sweet.

As a vegan bonus, the addition of ice cream lets me enjoy something similar to a milk stout or creamery beer without the milk additives.


It’s Lager Time!

Summer is great; more hours of sunshine, warmer temperatures, less clothing, BBQ dinners, nights on the patio, wearing sunglasses, eating gelato, going on holidays, swimming in the ocean, watching fireworks …need I continue?  With this advent of sunny weather, and the resultant increase in endorphins, comes an inevitable change in the beers we want to stock in our fridges. Out are the ‘winter warmers’,  the dark porters, strong barley wines and robust stouts that warm us from the inside out while providing a days’ worth of calories, and in are the fruit beers, the IPA’s and the lagers.

Lagers are probably the most common style of beer in the world in terms of sheer quantity. Quite arguably the quintessential summer drink, and long the staple of ballparks and stadiums, lagers range in colour, hopiness and strength but share the defining characteristic of being fermented and stored at cool temperatures. In its perfect form (to me anyway) lagers are light bodied, crisp and refreshing; something you can drink ice cold and something that is safe to consume in multiples.

As always, I would like to give some background so you can to get to know your lagers a little better.

Moving from Dark to Light…

According to Randy Mosher in Tasting Beer, the origin of lagers is somewhat murky but generally the story goes that brewers in Bavaria were perfecting their craft by fermenting beer in natural caves or cellars dug into the limestone hillsides. Gradually, a new yeast strain emerged adapted to this cold weather brewing process. Flash forward five hundred or so years and Bavaria style lagers, and brewing practices, were transported to the New World with German immigrants.

The first lagers being produced in North America were dark brown beers and probably had little resemblance to the straw gold brews we have come to know today. We have Anton Schwartz, a brewing scientist, to thank for developing the cooking technique in the 1870’s, which afforded the use of lightening ingredients such as corn and rice. Couple with this the development of machine bottling and refrigeration and the stage is set for the birth of the modern lager.

A Bit about the Style

In terms of taste, cold-temperature and long fermentation times means less (or no) fruity esters in the beer, which ideally produces a clean, crisp taste focusing solely on the malts and hops. One of the great things about lagers is this simplicity; with only the choice of malt and hop determining the flavour profile subtle characteristics can emerge in the beer from honey and caramel to mint and herb. Mosher suggests that for this style any hint of fruitiness may indicate a too-warm fermentation temperature but subtle sulphur or DMS notes may be acceptable.

Some of the styles falling under the lager umbrella include: Pilsners, American Lagers, Malt Liqour, Dunkel, Oktoberfest, Bocks, Rauchbier and many other variations within. When you think about the vast range of tastes and appearances represented in these styles it is pretty amazing to believe all these beers are classified as lagers, a style essentially defined by a couple of strains of cold-temperature tolerant yeast!

The Best of the Best

I guess it is only fair to warn you that due to the mass popularity of the style, there are a lot of bad lagers out there. In fact, while I was perusing Rate Beer’s 50 Worst Beers list I noticed a disproportionate number of the bottom feeders were in fact lagers. But be brave and be perseverant because there is gold in ‘dem dar hills. Some notable lagers include:

Rate Beer – Mikkeller The American Dream, Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest, Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt, Surly SurlyFest, The Bruery Humulus Lager.

Beer Advocate – Snoqualmie Summer Beer, Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager, Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, Full Sail Session Lager, Anchor Steam Beer, Brooklyn Lager, La Trappe Bockbier, Samuel Smith’s Organically Produced Lager Beer

World Beer Awards (2011) – Samuel Adams Double Bock, Bernard Dark, Samuel Adams Double Bock, APU Borgio, SA Damm Keler 18, Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, Egils Gull, International Breweries Australian Max, Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager, Eisenbahn Rauchbier

In my Fridge

Brooklyn Lager pours clear reddish gold with lots of off-white head that lingers. Slight carbonation in the glass. Sweet malt on the nose and citrus notes as well. Light bodied and very clean to drink. Taste wise there is some caramel and citrus with a bit of hoppy bitterness at the finish.


Warming up with Winter Beers at Firefly

Tuesday night was only my second ever ‘La Table Commune’ event at Firefly Fine Wine and Ales. I know, I know, how come a beer geek such as myself is not a regular at any and every beer event in the lower mainland. Well to be honest I often feel like I have tried so many different beers that I am becoming a challenge to impress; however, ‘Winter beers’ was an impossible temptation for me to pass up. As a lover of all beers dark, liquory and spicy especially as the temperature drops and the sun sets earlier, I was ready to be wowed with something new to add into my rotation. First up a little background on the beer selection courtesy of our hostess Lundy from Firefly. Winter warmer beers tend to be higher in alcohol, heavier in spices, roastier (?) in malt and generally all around bigger and bolder versions of our everyday ales. Styles can run the gamut but winter beers tend to work best with stouts, porters, barley wines, eisbocks and scotch ales as there starting points. Eisbocks were new to me so I will give you a bit more detail on this style before proceeding with the tasting notes. Eisbocks are doppelbocks that are frozen and then the ice is removed to concentrate the flavour and the alcohol. Eisbocks are lagers in the sense that they undergo a cold fermentation to clear the beer. This is analogous to the process for making ice wine. Now back to the matters at hand. I would like to introduce our evening’s line-up and offer some of my tasting notes:

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome 6.0% ABV IBU 32 – This beer is clear and copper in colour with a nice cream coloured head. I get sour malt with a bit of apple on the nose. There is a caramel sweetness when drinking and a bitter hop aftertaste. It is smooth and well-balanced. Improves as it warms up closer to room temperature.

Mission Springs Mr. Brown’s Mashed Pumpkin 8.0% ABV – This ale is golden amber with very little head. It has the most distinctive root beer nose I have ever encountered. Light in body but heavy in allspice/nutmeg/cinnamon. There is a bitter almost burnt finish.

Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale 7.0% ABV IBU 17 – Amber to red in appearance with minimal head. I really get a floral (lilac) nose with sweet malt. There is a tinge of sourness to this beer, which plays off the heavy malts and spices. Also, a sherry-like quality.

R&B Auld Nick Winter Ale 6.5% ABV IBU 18 – Deep amber to brown coloured ale with average head retention. There is a sweet crystal malt nose and a bit of molasses. A heavy bodied beer and you can really taste the molasses. Slight hop bitterness on the finish and a scotch element as the beer warms up.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter 5.8% ABV – A deep brown relatively clear beer with a large caramel coloured head. You get sweet caramel/malt, raisin and sherry on the nose. Christmas cake spices and sweet liquor dominate the mouthfeel. Very smooth and well-balanced.

Vancouver Island Brewery Hermannator (Eisbock) 9.5% ABV – A deep amber to brown coloured beer with a small amount of head. Sweet malt is the dominate element on the nose. It is light in body, almost tepid, with a syrupy quality. Powerful liquor taste. This beer would cellar quite well.

Howe Sound Pot-Hole Filler Imperial Stout 9.0% ABV IBU 65 – Deep black stout with a dark caramel coloured head on this ale. The nose is a mix of crystal malt and roasted barley. It is a very heavy and smooth beer with subtle coffee and molasses elements.

Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine 9-10% ABV – Clear and amber in appearance with a stiff ivory head. Malt is very present on the nose of this beer. It is smooth and dry with a fair amount of hop bitterness at the finish.

Brooklyn Monster Barley Wine 9-10% ABV – Similar in appearance to the Pike. You get a sweet malt nose and some liquor vapour as well. It is extremely well-balanced with no discernible bitter aftertaste. Drinks like a spirit.

Overall it was a fun, albeit cramped, winter beer tasting. Perhaps ‘La Table Commune’ really intends for you to embrace your new beer friends by tightly packing you into a small space. Diligent note-taking and photograph-happy beer geeks be forewarned that you may inadvertently clear the table in your attempts to document the evening (sorry about the glass Lundy). Our hostess was both knowledgeable and considerate offering up some of her own cellared beers for the event and making non-regulars such as myself feel most welcome. I am definitely looking forward to another tasting event at Firefly. To wrap this post up in a neat little (Christmas) package my picks for the best winter tipplers for the season are:

1. Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

2. V.I.B. Hermannator

3. Brooklyn Monster Barley Wine


The Art of the Beer Label

I have a confession to make: when I am unsure about which new beer to try I often pick the one with the most creative label and conversely (and perhaps more detrimentally) I often avoid brewers with less-than-stellar aesthetic sensibilities. Despite how often we are plied with the euphemism to not judge a book by its cover we just darn go ahead and do it anyway. Part of this is necessity; if we were allowed to pour a sample glass before buying a bottle or can we could judge a beer using all of our available senses. But this is perhaps the fevered dream of an as-yet-unbuilt beer utopia… As such this post will be grounded in cold hard truths of reality and entirely devoted to some of my favourite beer labels.

Taste is subjective. What I appreciate in a beer label may not be what you enjoy, and this is good thing since brewers express themselves in a myriad of ways from the fairy-tale beauty of Pretty Things, to the adverserial taunting of Stone, to the medeival nerdiness of Russian River. So what do I like in beer labels? I am not sure I can put my finger on any unifying stylistic elements but I do admire many differing qualities including but not limited to simplicity, clean lines, creative use of colour, witty banter, historical references, an overarching theme and perhaps above all an effort to stand out from the (six) pack. What follows are some of my favourites in no particular order:


So you think you know your Craft Beers?

The Beer Tasting Line-up

I’ve been thinking a lot about the development and evolution of my palate lately. The types of beers I enjoy, the flavours I can discern and my ability to articulate differences between beers has changed a great deal since I began exploring the world of craft beer a couple of years ago but how far have my skills come? When push comes to shove can I tell my Budweisers from my Brooklyn Lagers? How well do any of us self-proclaimed beer enthusiasts really know our ales? In order to put my skills to the test I recruited five willing (does bribing with cupcakes count as willing?) guinea pigs to try a blind taste test. I chose nine beers all with an ABV of around 4%-8% and all fairly middle of the range style-wise i.e. no heavy stouts, double IPA’s, cask conditioning or anything else that might give away the craft element. I created a rating chart so people could comment on appearance, aroma, flavour and then provide their best guess as to whether the sample was a craft or commercial beer, the brand, the style or anything else they wanted to mention. I put myself in the role of omnipresent beer god so I knew which beers were being served but I still partook of the sampling purely in the name of science. Other variables to note; I served everything quite cold and in glass, I rinsed between samples and water with lemon was available to cleanse the palate. To amalgamate the results I decided to highlight a few of the reviewer’s comments on each aspect of the beer in the table that follows:

BEER STATS APPEARANCE AROMA FLAVOUR BEST GUESS
Mendocino Brewing Company Red Tail Ale American Style Amber Ale

Handcrafted American

ABV 6.1%

“Just by looking at it I thought it was craft”

“dark amber”

“subtle”

“standard”

 

“mild hop”

“woodsy”

“bitter, hoppy, caramel”

“Craft”

“Not Kokanee”

“Pale Ale”

Driftwood Ale Northwest-style Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 5%

“Golden cloudy”

“honey”

“light colour”

“sour tinge”

“mild at best”

“simple”

“harsh metallic finish”

“reminiscent of soap”

“fruity, citrus, light hops”

“Not Craft?”

“could be a craft because of the cloudiness”

“mass produced light ale”

Stella Artois Belgian Premium Lager

Commercial Import

ABV 5%

“very light”

“Domestic, industrial”

“very filtered

“familiar but not distinctive”

“little aroma”

“Doesn’t leave much behind”

“metallic finish”

“green apple sour/sweet mix”

“Mass lager”

“Industrial”

“Canadian?”

Tree Brewing Co. Cutthroat Pale Ale A Classic Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 5%

“Fall colours”

“Light Amber”

“a little cloudy”

 “warm, earthy, sweet” “smooth and citrus”

“hint of hop”

“airy after taste”

“Six pack standard craft”

“Pale Ale”

“Craft”

Molson M Microcarbonated Lager

Commercial Canadian

ABV 4.9%

“super filtered”

“super light”

“Beer hall”

“White grapes, sweet”

“Nothing here, flat line”

“Apple, sweet, but very tepid”

“Smooth and dry”

“Summer Beer”

“Industrial Lager”

“Craft?”

Colt 45 Strong Beer

Commercial American

ABV 8%

“Makes me worry”

“light golden, foamy”

“honey”

“Sweet, flowery”

“Standard beer”

“Not much”

“Lingering aftertaste makes me suspect mass market”

“Fruity – but what kind?”

“Stronger finish”

“Maybe a strong beer”

“Belgian?”

“Mass produced pilsner”

Brooklyn Brewery Lager American Amber Lager

Craft American

ABV 5.2%

“Amber”

“Golden Amber”

“sweet, hoppy”

“complex and sweet”

“enjoyable”

“Excellent, well balanced”

“sweet grapefruit”

“Hop aftertaste”

“Perhaps Brooklyn”

“Craft”

“IPA?”

Budweiser Lager (?)

Commercial Canadian

ABV 5%

“Apple juice”

“very light yellow”

“unappealing”

“no aroma”

“not much”

 

“Meh…”

“No flavour”

“Not offensive”

“Molson?”

“Industrial lager”

“Possible craft”

Moon Under Water Lunar Pale Ale Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 4.2%

“Deep amber”

“Clear”

“Little head”

“Hoppy, floral”

“Flowery, grapefruit”

“stronger than most”

“Clean taste, a little sweet, some hops”

“Smooth with robust pop”

“Lingering finish”, excellent”

“Higher production craft”

“Craft IPA”

Pale Ale Red Ale”

So what did I learn from this experiment? Well after several hours of gruelling conditioning I could make my guests salivate when I rang a bell …oh no wait wrong experiment. Seriously now, I was impressed with everyone’s ability to pinpoint the majority of the craft beers while at the same time I was impressed with some of the complexity people were getting from those mass marketed beers we tend to pass over in our trips to the beer store. The Colt 45 was a particularity interesting case since the higher ABV seemed to confuse our palates by bringing out contesting elements that made one lean towards craft then lean back towards commercial. At the same time the less-than-stellar reaction to Driftwood was a bit of a surprise. To be fair to all the beers nine is a large sample to keep things distinct and if I had more glass ware I should have probably served everyone all nine in one sitting so they could compare and contrast. For those who rated their samples using various systems Brooklyn Lager was the clear winner followed closely by the other craft selections. The best of the rest was probably the Colt 45 and Molson M. Overall an amazingly fun and informative evening and I would like to give a quick acknowledgement to all of my most excellent human subjects – ‘The participant with fancy shoes’ ‘The participant who likes sex often’ ‘The participant who likes light coloured beer’ ‘The participant who wears a size 12’ and ‘The participant who likes the way Guinness changes colour’. Cheers guys!


Been There Drank That

So lately I have been looking at my fridge and feeling a sense of been there done that with regards to my beer selection. I have tried the standards (classic ales, lagers and pilsners), sampled the varieties of styles (lambics, barley wines, IPA’s, ESB’s, white ales, sours, stouts, porters), branched out to the one-offs (chocolate mint, oyster stout, cookie beer), sipped the spectrum of brewing methods (trappist, casked, cellared, draft) and come full circle to my beer roots (ahh Belgian Beer) but as any serious beer lover needs to ask now and then I wondered now what? Well aptly enough the answer came from the very fridge, which was causing my ennui; I saw a lonely little Fruli hanging out with the remainder of my winter stouts and this got me thinking why not try mixing some beers together?

Heavy strong Brooklyn Chocolate Stout meet the sweet pink fruity Fruli. So how do these two beers interact? Well there is a reason chocolate dipped strawberries are the dessert gold standard. The light sweetness of the Fruli cuts the heaviness of the stout making this combination immensely drinkable. The bite of the high alcohol Brooklyn stout is nullified by
strawberry when you take a sip and, in fact, the kick of the stout does not hit you until well after you have finished an entire glass. The colour and clarity of the stout remain after mixing and the head is pretty much negated. These two beers really bring out the best in each other. I find the Fruli too sweet on its own lacking in beer taste if you will -bordering on a cooler- while the Brooklyn is almost too strong for me unless it is a particularly nippy winter’s day and I am cuddled up in front of a roaring fireplace with a good book. This combination really makes the stout a viable summer option.

Overall I would give my new creation (Bruli? Frooklyn?) a 4.5 out of 5


Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me home…

Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi  Ace is a Saison or farmhouse ale. According to the Brooklyn Brewery website, the Sorachi Ace variety of hop was developed in Japan in 1988 and this unique hop has a distinctive lemony character. While the big brewers opted to by-pass this little fella Brooklyn sourced the now rare Sorachi, which is grown on a single farm in Oregon. Sorachi Ace comes in the big, perfect for sharing, 750ml bottles and has a 7.5% ABV. The beer pours straw gold in colour, is hazy in the glass and has a lingering creamy head that must be sampled to reach the ale below. This Saison is a bit unique due to a strong hop presence that cuts through the familiar ‘barnyard’ or earthy aroma typical of the style. The malt has an amazing sweet quality that balances the other elements perfectly giving the ale an almost sticky mouthfeel. But at the same time there is a real carbonation to this farmhand ale that keeps it crisp and dry to drink. Sorachi Ace pairs extremely well with a wide variety of foods and it might just become a go-to summer beer.

Overall I would give Sorachi Ace a 4.5 out of 5


Barley Wine is the New Black

Craft beer seems to be following an interesting path lately in that new or re-discovered styles of beer become ‘trendy’. Once one of these ‘new’ beers hits the shelves all of a sudden every microbrewer is making a version to call their own –some recent examples include pumpkin ales, coffee stouts, fruit beers, white or wheat beers etc.

The first time I tried barley wine it was definitely a new experience and still somewhat novel but shortly after the flood gates opened and everyone and their dog was brewing up their version of a barley wine.  So I thought I would devote an entire post to this beer fad before it becomes passé.

 

First let’s talk about the barley portion of the barley wine. Barley [bahr-lee] is a cereal grain when malted forms the primary ingredient in beer.  According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, barley may just be the perfect brewing grain.  It contains a large reserve of starch that can be converted to sugar, a husk that functions as a filter bed and enzymes that do all the ‘work’ with only the addition of hot water.   The enzymes in the barley grain facilitate the malting, brewing and fermentation processes.  Barley for brewing comes in two forms, two-row and six-row, so named because of their appearance when viewed from above.  From a brewer’s point of view the main difference is the level of protein.  Malt beers tend to be brewed using the plumper, lower protein two-row variety while mainstream American beers use the less rotund six-row variety, which has extra enzymes to break down corn or rice starches.

Barley Wine is a style of strong ale originating in England.  According to CAMRA this style dates to the 18th century where it was the duty of the upper classes to drink ale rather than Claret during the war with France.  Barley wines were often stored for long periods of time -eighteen months to two years.  A barley wine typically reaches alcohol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.120.  This style is called barley wine because it can be as strong as wine but it is made from a grain rather than fruit.

Everything about a barley wine is big; big malt flavour, high alcohol content, a ton of hops and it takes time for these elements to blend into a full, complex and mellow drink. In terms of taste, one can expect massive sweet malt, ripe fruit, generous hops, pepper, grass, floral notes, chocolate and/or coffee.  In many ways barley wine is the cognac of the beer world; it can be successfully paired but it is truly meant to be savoured alone. Anchor Brewing Company introduced the style to the United States is 1976 with Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale.  Many micro-brewers now produce their interpretations of the style.

Some examples include: Driftwood’s Old Cellar Dweller, Rogue’s Old Crustacean, Brooklyn Monster Ale, Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine, Deschutes Mirror, Mirror, Southern Tier’s Backburner, Full Sail’s Old Boardhead and many others.

 

Driftwood Old Cellar Dwellar: I would give this beer a 4 out of a possible 5

Rogue Old Crustacean: I would give this beer a 3.5 out of a possible 5

Descutes 2009 Reserve Mirror, Mirror: I would give this beer a 4.5 out of a possible 5

 

*Thanks to www.camra.org.uk, Randy Mosher 2009 Tasting Beer,http://beer.about.com, Barley Images courtesy of http://www.mosseolets-venner.no/mossol.htm


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