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Archive for the ‘Beer Review’ Category

My friend Josh Christie and his blog “Brews and Books” has inspired me to write a post about my personal “library.”

Growing up, I was definitely a book geek. On my 10th birthday, my parents gave me 50 books. I woke up to a trail of books from my bedroom door, down the stairs … and into the living room. I was ecstatic. (Especially since a good number of them were R.L. Stine’s Goosebump books.)

goosebumps

My love for reading has never stopped, although my habits of reading have changed quite drastically. Instead of burying my nose in a book, I now find my eyes glued to the computer screen. In order to write my blog, I must read. I do almost all of my research on the Internet and, from time to time, I get a small percentage of information from books.

I am obsessed with all things food and beverage. Food, beer and wine consume my life. So naturally, my current book collection almost entirely involves food & beverage.

My newest toy is  “What to Drink With What You Eat.” I wanted it so bad that I bought it for full retail price (which is odd for me because I usually try to buy my books used online).

what-to-drink

Product Description
The most comprehensive guide to matching food and drink ever compiled, by the James Beard Award winning author team of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, with practical advice from more than seventy of America’s leading pairing experts

In a great meal, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. This groundbreaking food and beverage pairing reference allows food lovers to learn to think like a sommelier, and to transform every meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – from ordinary to extraordinary.

The Wench’s Description
This book is ridiculously fun. As someone who knows food & beverage extremely intimately, it is  a great reference tool. But more than that, this book helps to confirm and support my own beliefs and decisions about pairings. I do not find myself using this book for suggestions, but more as a checks and balances for my own personal ideas. Sometimes I use this book to give my pairing suggestions. However, sometimes instead of creating a pairing menu based on the information in this book, I turn to the contents of this book to defend my decisions.

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Another book in my library is Michael Jackson’s “Great Beers of Belgium.” This book was given to me by one of my best friends, ironically another guy named Josh (having the name Josh might be a predisposition to drinking good beer.)

mj-great-beers-of-belgium1

Product Description
Many a beer sophisticate is surprised by the diversity, individuality and ubiquity of Belgian beer. Here, beer expert Michael Jackson enthusiastically discusses the history and inner workings of this quiet, quirky brewing behemoth of Belgium. He explains the origins of manstic brewing, the good fortune of spiders on Lambic breweries, the reasoning behind using orange peels, coriander seeds and stale hops in the brewing process. Thorough tasting notes are oncluded, providing a reference point for the reader’s own beer hunting. Fully revised with a brand new layout and 300 more photographs than previous editions, this book contains a list of addresses of the most important Belgian brewers, plus all the practical information on brewery visits, overnight accommodation and local restaurants and eateries.

The Wench’s Description
It is no secret that The Wench admires “The Beer Hunter” … aka Michael Jackson. In fact, I am rather obsessed with him. And I strive to be the female version of him. I understand, however, that his knowledge of beer is not something I can acquire overnight. Heck, it will take decades of studying beer, making beer, traveling the world … to gain even a quarter percentage of his knowledge. However, reading his books is a good starting point.

Plus, I love Belgian beers. And this book is the FOREMOST resource on Belgian beers. Hands down.

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The last book that I want to mention (I don’t want to bombard you with my entire collection of food, wine & beer books all at once!!!) … is “Brewing Up A Business”by Dogfish Head Founder, Sam Calgione.

brewing-up-a-business

Product Description
Entrepreneurial dreams do come true! Starting with nothing more than a home brewing kit, Sam Calagione founded Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and made it America’s fastest growing independent beer. This unconventional business story reveals how Calagione found success by dreaming big, working hard, and thinking differently-and how you can do it too.

The Wench’s Description
When I first started reading this book, I was in a huge crossroads in my life. I had left a job in the industry that I loved more than anything itself to pursue what I thought was a more prestigious career in business. Don’t get me wrong, it was a GREAT job with an AMAZING company and WONDERFUL people. But my love for all things food & beverage haunted me every day. I knew that I needed to do something different. But I needed the courage to move on.  Reading this book did not help me find my path in life or help me realize who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do and accomplish in my life. BUT it did inspire me to follow my passions. And so … I did.

Not to mention, Sam Caglione is one cool (and very good looking) dude. His approach to entrepreneurship is both refreshing and inspiring. I love his style of writing and the way he speaks to his readers. Regardless of your love for beer, this is a great read!

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This is a just a brief peek into my personal library. I hope that some of your will find these books as important and useful as I have and continue to every day.

For more on Brews and Books, check out Josh’s blog!

Cheers!

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In this post I am going to attempt to recap the Dogfish Head Twitter Taste Live event from Saturday March 7th 2009. Now mind you, I did use the word attempt.

avatar

Yesterday I made a last minute decision to purchase a webcam and setup a live ustream feed for the event. Having neither used ustream nor a webcam prior to last night, I think that things went fairly well. Obviously, I could have been more organized … but that is something to work on for the future.

The DFH Twitter Taste Live started out as all TTL events seem to start – early. Several tweeters joined the TTL feed earlier in the day – posting updates about the beer and wine they were drinking at the time. Even the “official” Dogfish Head Tweeter (@dogfishbeer) started the night out a bit early with Dogfish Head Aprihops. After addmitting his lack of patience, Dogfish Head brewer zymoid popped open a DFH 60 min IPA prior to the event. Naturally, my day began early as well. I started off with some Tom Eddy New Zealand (aka TENZ) Sauvignon Blanc during lunch. I then moved onto Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir just prior to the DFH TTL.

The three Dogfish Head beers that were “officially” tasted for this event were: Red & White, Fort, and Palo Santo Marron. Instead of posting my personal tasting notes as usual, I have decided to post the tasting notes of the tweeters from the DFH TTL event. However, I will try to follow the format that I usually use in my beer reviews. This should be interesting … and fun.

 dfh-ttl

All the picutres of the beers are compliments of @kallardnyc. Thanks! For other really great picutres from the night, check out @lemasney’s FLICKER PAGE.

I appologize in advnace to those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter and do not understand the way in which I am presenting my tasting notes. Hopefully you can get the jist! Cheers!

Red & White

red-white1

 

Brewery: Dogfish Head

Style: zymoid: @beertweeter Calif pinot noir grape juice is used. Yeast is Belgian wit type.

zymoid: @panache We like to play with wood, and originally started with pinot noir barrels from CA. Thought a suped up wit beer would be fun.

Color: angelostzelepis: Nice copper color, a lot of sediment

stfler22: the sediments in the red & white give the brew a unique texture and balance beautiful color!!

Carbonation: lemasney: carbonation is not visually evident, but very evident in the palate. Like an ocean. The body is a summer sunset, with rain in the morn.

Aroma: zymoid: I’ve got the 09 R&W. Some bubble gum esters in the nose, tannins/oakiness and all kinds of fun. A party in the mouth.

beercommdood: fruity and tart smelling, nice solid finger of creamy head, picking up the wine notes in the nose

Mouthfeel: bsimi: Very creamy texture… nice beer !

Flavor:  beercommdood: Very sweet and malty, high fruity taste with wine coming through strong.

Finish: darknova306: @beertweeter The alcohol isn’t noticeable at first, but I’m getting a nice warmth after the swallow. Works well with the wine flavor.

kingfarmwine: the pinot noir barrels really enhances the complexity

Pairings: beertweeter: http://twitpic.com/1x5q5 – so earlier I decided to pick up some Chatham Littlneck clams and steam them in Red&White

beertweeter: this works nice with dank cheese http://twitpic.com/1x4l5 as well – Raw Blue Cave Aged

Interesting Facts: dogfishbeer: @zymoid And Sam’s fave wine is Pinot Noir.

zymoid: Tooting the horn alittle here: R&W won gold medal in last years GABF.

Comments:beertweeter: the Red & White is one of the top 3 I’ve had from Dogfish…huge bonus for creativity!

zymoid: @AngelosTzelepis R&W is great in a wine goblet. Lets it warm up and releases the aromatics nicely

 

Fort

fort

Brewery: Dogfish Head (lemasney: Dogfish head is brewing beers that make you rethink the very state of beer as an idea. They ask you to set aside your beer definition.)

Style: zymoid: @panache We brew a strong ale base and then add a BUNCH of raspberry into secondary ferment.

zymoid:@beerphilosopher Some sugar is used in the kettle, but the fruit really carries the load.

zymoid:@beercommdood Not many hops in this, mostly malt and fruit doing the work.

Color: boothbay: For it’s powerful raspberry taste and aroma…it’s color seems lighter/tricky.

Carbonation: beercommdood: Fort is very fizzy. The head was very crisp and popping like Rice Krispies. ;) Head now completely gone, no lacing.

Aroma: beercommdood: Getting some caramel on the nose with the berries. Anyone else?

darknova306: Lots of raspberry in the nose, with a little bit of caramel malt. Smells like a little tartness is there, too.

Flavor: lemasney: taste is deep, layered with flavors: raisin, cherry, plum, raspberry, citrus, bitterness, burns on the way down. So nice.

lemasney: definitely brandy, wheat, raspberry, and honey. Delicious. Agitation brings a strong aroma of whiskey, oak, and leaf mold.

Finish: kallardnyc: Fort is warm in the chest like a Port or Madeira.

Pairings: dogfishbeer: I’d drink this with a sliver of great dark chocolate.

Comments: beertweeter: this is like Raspberry Rock Candy…insane!

beerphilosopher : Friends don’t let friends drink Fort and Tweet

panache: Well the Fort was great. Don’t know if I would have bought it before today, but now I definitely will! Nice work @zymoid !

Palo Santo

palo-santo-marron

Brewery: Dogfish Head (dogfishbeer: You HAVE to come to the brewery and see the massive tank made from Palo Santo Wood. it’s way cool.)

Style: zymoid: @rgrace99 Gotta say, the wood is the key, yeast is 2nd ary for this beer.

zymoid: White@BrewDad Yes, it almost comes off as a fruit beer– cherries esp. it is all from the Palo wood. Amazing tree.

zymoid: @beertweeter We source yeast from both Whitelabs and Wyeast.

 

Color: hopwild: - PSM – pours like used motor oil – more like a black ale than a brown!

erikboles: as we say on @BeerTapTV “Dark as a struck match”

Carbonation: hopwild: - PSM – pours like used motor oil

Aroma: semperfifi: Partner says “Cherry wood flavor…”

beertweeter: Burnt Campfire Wet Wood Next morning with a malt sandwich?

beercommdood: Palo Santo nose: molasses, vanilla, peat, and burnt sugar cookies

Mouthfeel: brewdad: 12% it does not come off this strong in the flavor. The wood must have mellowed the flavor.

Flavor: angelostzelepis: Coffee, caramel, vanilla working for me today. I love this beer.

Finish: erikboles: there is a very very subtle taste of how fired ceramics smell on the back-end of the PSM

Pairings: zymoid: Y’all, save some of your chocolate for the PSM. It’s a great pairing.

zymoid: Palo Santo is a great mixer too. Try 50/50 with our Punkin ale.

Interesting Fact: kallardnyc: After the 1906 San Fran earthquake, wire insulators were made from Palo Santo wood because the was a shortage of materials.

Comments: thebeerwench: Dudes Palo Santo wood is a fucking bitch. Do you know how hard it is to cut down, let alone make a huge ass fermenting tank with?

 

RANDOM WENCHNESS

Somehow I missed this tweet from later in the tasting – zymoid: @TheBeerWench So who are you?

My bragging rights – dogfishbeer: @TheBeerWench That’s why we love you!

 Great comment – beertweeter: @dogfishbeer @zymoid @thebeerwench the best! great peeps, great brews! I’m sticking around

Another great comment – hopwild: thanks @dogfishbeer and @zymoid for joining us! thx @thebeerwench for hosting!

And lastly - dogfishbeer:@TheBeerWench – Thanks so much for hosting the tasting tonight, that was great fun! – YOU ARE VERY WELCOME. Thank you Dogfish Head for making the best fucking off-centered ales for the crazy off-centered people like myself! Cheers!

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My sister and I are polar opposites.

My mother used to call us Yin and Yang. She thought that we each had a little bit of the other in each of us. She also said that our extreme personalities balanced each other out.

yin-and-yang_

She is an extreme introvert. I am an extreme extrovert. She does not drink alcoholic beverages. I am a beverage connoisseur (aka LUSH).

Regardless of our differences, the girl understands me more than any other person in the world – including my parents. We even have our own little sibling “language.” (Pancake is one of super ridiculous code words … and only a select few know what it means).

pancake

Where is this going and what does it have to do with beer?

Unlike my sister, who is a self-proclaimed “chronic dater,” I am not the relationship type. (In fact, I’ve never been in a serious relationship). This means that I don’t do Valentine’s Day – period. However, I am not opposed to receiving gifts from loved ones.

This year, my sister proved her love to me on Valentine’s Day. My parents sent me chocolate. Albeit really good, high quality chocolate – it was still … chocolate. My sister on the other hand, sent me beer.

black-radish-beer-case

And not just any beer. NO NO NO. My sister is an extremely intelligent chick. She did research.

Somehow my non-alcohol drinking sister stumbled across Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, where she found a beer that made a list of “50 beers to try before you die.”

weeping-radish-farm-brewery

My family is pretty environmentally conscientious. We do as much as we can, as often as we can.

My sister is currently in grad school at The Ohio State University for mechanical engineering. Her ultimate goal is to obtain a PhD in engineering and she is seriously considering pursuing something in environmental engineering.

My sister is very interested in sustainable agriculture, which is why she decided to send me a 5 pack sampler of brewskies from Weeping Radish Farm Brewery.

weeping-radish-beers

About Weeping Radish

Weeping Radish Farm Brewery is North Carolina’s oldest micro brewery. All of its beers are brewed in strict accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot), which stipulates that only water, hops, malt and yeast are to be used in the beer making process. All Weeping Radish beers are unfiltered and non of the natural vitamins and minerals have been removed.

    Weeping Radish is dedicated to an integrated approach to a complex issue: Craft Brewing, Sustainable Agriculture and the survival of Crafts.

  • The Craft Brewer creates natural unfiltered beer draft and in refillable bottles.
  • The Master Butcher buys animals from local farms and creates a variety of fresh and smoked meat products, all labeled by Farm of Origin.
  • The 14 acre farm produces vegetables, eggs and herbs for retail and for the Chef.
  • The Chef creates meals for the onsite restaurant based on availability of fresh meats and vegetables, not based on a pre-set menu.
  • The Farm Retail Barn features a “Goodness grows in North Carolina” section and promotes educational tours.

weeping-radish-tractor

Unfortunately, my sister knows very little about beer. And become of this, she knows very little about me and beer – save for the fact that I love it and write about it. This is why I cannot be too hard on her for sending me a sampler of lagers. And many people know that lagers are “not my favorite” style of beer.

Nonetheless, I am very impressed by my sister’s generous gesture. In fact, I am actually looking forward to sampling and writing about these beers in the very near future. Perhaps they will open my eyes to an entirely new world of lagers that I never knew existed!

CHEERS to my beautiful baby sister! I look forward to writing about the Weeping Radish Farm beers so keep your eyes pealed for my future posts!

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Tomorrow is Valentines Day, one of the most useless and overrated holidays that plagues society every year (in MY personal opinion). But then again, I am anti most holidays. Not too mention, I loathe romance. And the color pink.

antivalentine

If you decide that you must partake in this “unimaginative, consumerist-oriented and entirely arbitrary, manipulative & shallow interpretation of romance” day … please do me one favor: BE ORIGINAL.

Roses, diamonds, chocolate & champagne are sooooo overused it makes me want to puke.

Although I am a wine enthusiast and aspiring sommelier, the unconventionalist in me needs to steer society away from toasting with champagne on “singles awareness day.”

If you really want to impress your Valentine, pop open a bottle of brew. Trust me on this one – it will work on both chicks and dudes alike.

Naturally, my go to beers on special occasions are lambics (and other “wild yeast beers”). In my opinion, gueuzes (a type of lambic) make the best substitute for champagne. And for a good reason.

Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambics. As with champagne, gueuze undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. If you love the ceremonial uncorking presentation and the “special pop” that accompanies champagne, have no fear. Gueuze is served in champagne bottles – cork and all.

gueuze

Unlike most beers, gueuzes are produced with aged hops. The combination of wild yeast and aged hops yields a dry, cidery, must, sour, acetic acid & lactic acid flavor. Mmmm … dreamy.

Here are a list of my personal favorite gueuzes, in no particular order:

Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René

Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic

Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze

Cantillon Iris

Boon Oude Geuze

Okay, so I understand that not everyone enjoys gueuzes as much as I do. Fair enough. To each their own.

BUT BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO THE CHAMPAGNE – STOP. There are still other options. Let us visit the fruit lambics, shall we?

Now I know from LOTS of experience that some people (cough *women* cough) think that all beer is heinous and getting them to drink one is like trying to give a cat a bath – lots of hissing, spitting and clawing with nails.

cat-bath

However, I have found that many beer haters can be converted with fruit lambics. (Even my very own SISTER … a chick who drinks one alcoholic beverage a year … enjoys the flavor of fruit lambics!)

Fruit lambics are exactly as they sound – lambics with fruit added. Typically, whole fruit is added after the spontaneous fermentation. In some cases, fruit flavoring is used (usually by American brewers trying to mimic the Belgian style).

fruit-lambics

The most common flavors include: sour cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif) and strawberry (aardbei). My personal favorite, without a doubt, is Kriek.

Here is a list of fruit lambics that I particularly enjoy:

Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

Oude Kriek

Boon Kriek

Lindemans Kriek

Lindemans Framboise

Still not convinced to forgo the champagne in favor of beer? HOLD UP. STOP RIGHT THERE.

It is time to take out the big guns … Allow me to introduce you to my friend DeuS.

deus

Ahhhh yes. DeuS, the REAL champagne of beers. And this is NOT an over-statement.

DeuS is brewed by Brouwerij Bosteels in “one of the newest and most interesting styles of beer”: Bière de Champagne. Essentially, the only thing that separates it from champagne is the ingredients.

DeuS is initially brewed in Belgium, where it undergoes double fermentation (the second occurs within the bottle). It is then sent to France, where champagne makers add champagne yeast for a third fermentation. DeuS spends a long fermentation period in France where (like champagne) it is slowly turned each day in a process called riddling. Eventually the yeast collects in the neck of the bottle, which is frozen, and the yeast is expelled. (Also known as the “methode de champenoise” process of removing yeast from the bottle.)

The price tag of DeuS reflects the lengthy and complicated process of producing this beer. At around $30 bottle, DeuS is a beer for the big ballers. But as with a good bottle of champagne, it is a worthy investment. And you have my word on it. In fact, I will even give you my scouts honor.

scouts-honor

And whether you chose a gueuze, a fruit lambic, DeuS or all of the above … take my suggestion and “class” it up with a flute glass. It will have you saying “champagne schmampagne” in no time. And before you know it, all of your holidays will be celebrated with a beer!

evil-valentine

And regardless of how and why you celebrate it, Happy Valentines Day. Cheers!

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True story: France isn’t really known for its beer.

Gourmet cuisine? Yes. World-class wines? Yes. Art? Yes. Architecture? Yes. History? Yes. Beer? NO.

However, Flanders IS known for beer.

flag-of-flanders

The Flag of Flanders

Not quite a country, Flanders is a geographical region consisting of parts of Belgium, France & the Netherlands.

Map of Flanders

Map of Flanders

Today, the French region of Flanders lies in the modern-day region of Nord-Pas de Calais, on the Belgian border.

Nord Pas-de-Calais is home of France’s only native style of beer – Bière de Garde. Bière de Garde literally translates into “beer for keeping” … or “beer for storage.” Like the saisons of Belgium, bières de garde were originally farmhouse ales brewed for the farmers and their fieldhands. However, they were vastly different in flavor profile from saisons. Whereas traditional saisons were lighter bodied and lower in ABV, traditional bières de garde were known for being intense, invigorating & strong. They are typically stored in traditional champagne bottles.

Unfortunately, this post is NOT entirely about bières de garde. Sadly, I am not in possession of a Flemish bière de garde. However, I do have a bottle of Jolly Pumpkins La Roja … an American craft beer brewed in the bière de garde style … in a box hidden in my closet somewhere. But we are not going to be tasting that beer at this time, either. FYI: La Roja is one of my FAVORITE beers and I highly recommend it.

la-roja-ale

Mmmm Wenchie Love La Roja

Alas, for this post I will be tasting a French beer brewed a different style … a Belgian Strong Ale to be exact

The beer I have chosen to taste for this post is Belzebuth – a 13% ABV Belgian Strong Pale Ale. DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware of Belzebuth’s less than desirable reviews. From what I’ve read, I can deduct that the high alcohol in this beer completely overwhelms the aroma and the palate … significantly reducing its complexity.

HOWEVER, I personally have never tasted this beer. And although I have visited France, drink lots of French wine and am a big fan of most things French (esp the Riviera!) … I have yet to taste an official French beer! (Gasp!)

beer_belzebuth

So regardless of the terrible reviews, I am going to subject my palate to Belzebuth … in the name of beer and research. And who knows … maybe it really isn’t that bad, right?

Ingredients used in the brew include Pale Ale, Vienne & Ambered malts as well as Flemish Brewers’ Gold, Hallertau, Aromatic & Styrian hops.

belzebuth

According to the brewer:

“BELZEBUTH from Brasserie Grain D’Orge is a very unique golden ale in the world at 13% alc./vol. It is top-fermented all malt filtered ale. Its pungent taste is a result of a particular variety of yeast and mixture of three different malts. No extra alcohol is added to the natural process nor water is removed to increase its strength. This golden ale has a complex aroma, which almost defies description with fullness of flavors overcoming the warming sensation of alcohol. Perfect as an aperitif or with a sinful desserts.”

With sinful desserts? As both a beer and sugar fanatic, The Wench will be a judge of that! Ha!

And without further ado … on to the tasting!

seasons-52-gang-010

The Wench’s Tasting Notes: BELZEBUTH Blond Ale

Brewery: Brasserie Grain D’orge

Region: Flanders region of Northern France

Style: Belgian Strong “Blond” Ale

Color: Hazy burnt orange copper with an off-white head

Carbonation: Pours a thick, foamy white head. The head is lasting and the ale leaves a really decent amount of lacing on the glass. (Point for The Wench for a well-cleaned glass!)

I let the ale warm down quite a bit before attempting to review the aroma and flavor.

Aroma: The aroma is heavy with sweet malt, caramelized sugar and doughy yeast. As expected, the alcohol is extremely present and almost completely overwhelms the aroma. Every once in awhile I get hints of orange peel.

Mouthfeel: Super thick, heavy and syrupy. Warming sensation from the noticeably high ABV.

Flavor: Heavy malt – lots of brown sugar & caramel. The alcohol leaves a burning tingle on the tongue and warms the throat all the way down. As the beer warms, the warming sensation from the alcohol reduces some. Very little bitterness … and almost no acidity.

Finish: Overall, the finish is very mild. The burn from the alcohol does not last very long.

Pairings: Cheese, nuts & dried fruits. It could easily replace a fortified dessert wine, port or sherry at the end of a meal.

Interesting Fact: Belzebuth is also the name of the long-haired, white-bellied spider monkey native to Brazil.

Comments: The beer reminds me of a port – very sweet and warming. Its two strongest characteristics are 1. a high level of sweetness and 2. a noticeably high level of alcohol. I am not a fan of ports because I am not a fan of the burn that accompanies fortified wines. This ale is extremely sweet and almost too syrupy for my personal taste.

Whereas this beer does not appeal to me for everyday … or even once a year … consumption, I would seriously consider using this beer for cooking. It has potential for braises, marinades, glazes, stews and sauces.

beer-braise

As with all my tasting notes, I just want to remind everyone that my palate is not the end all be all. I always encourage people to give me their feedback on the beers that I review!

Cheers!

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“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria.”

beer_vs_wine

No truer words have ever been spoken. Those who live by this German proverb most assuredly deserve the respect of The Beer Wench.

And so when I learned that this German saying was the favorite quote of Oscar Wong, Founder, Owner & President of Highland Brewing Co., my curiosity became peaked.

oscar

As it turns out, Oscar Wong is a pretty damn interesting dude. Oscar Wong, although from Chinese decent, was born and raised in Jamaica. He majored in civil engineering at Notre Dame, where he also dabbled in the art of homebrewing. Post graduation, Wong found himself “saving the world” by ridding the planet of nuclear waste for nearly 30 years.

In 1994, Oscar rekindled his passion for brewing and opened up Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC.

logo_highland_brewery

Until recently, I was unaware that Highland Brewing Co. even existed (yet another reason why I am not a fan of the whole “state regulation of beer, wine & alcohol distribution and sales” thing). As it turns out, Highland Brewing Company is North Carolina’s largest microbrewery. Unfortunately, its beers are only distributed in North and South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Georgia and Central Florida.

highland-brewing-004

The other day I picked up three Highland Brewing Co. brews: Galic Ale, St. Therese’s Pale Ale & Kashmir IPA. And here are my notes:

Gaelic Ale

Gaelic Ale

A deep amber colored American ale, featuring a rich malty body. Cascade and Willamette hops add a complex hop flavor and aroma. This ale is exceptionally balanced between malty sweetness and delicate hop bitterness.

IBU: 32
Alcohol content: 5.8% by volume
Hops: Chinook, Willamette and Cascade

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: American Amber Ale

Color: Cloudy, mahogany red

Carbonation: Moderate carbonation, pours a very small off-white head & leaves very little lacing.

Aroma: Notes of sweet caramel, toasted malt, sweet grassy hops … and there is something else but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I want to call it roasted almonds (which tends to be popcorn-esque).

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, low alcohol content … over all, really smooth.

Flavor: Sweet caramel and lots of malt … which is balanced out nicely by the crisp, bitter flavors of hops. Relatively low acidity.

Finish: Moderately bitter with decent longevity.

Pairings: Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Shepard’s Pie (aka heavy, hearty & fried foods)

Comments: Despite the dark color and malty aroma, this ale has a surprisingly bitter bite to it. It is pretty damn smooth, making it easy to throw back a few of these without blinking an eye. CHEERS!

highland-brewing-014

And then there were two …

St. Terese's Pale Ale St.Terese’s Pale Ale

A golden pale having a slightly malty body balanced by an assertive American hop flavor. This pale ale displays a delicate hop nose due to the process of dry hopping. A crisp and refreshing beer perfect for any occasion.

IBU: 24
Alcohol content: 5.2% by volume
Hops: Chinook and Cascade

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: Pale Ale

Color: Cloudy, golden orange

Carbonation: Once again, this beer pour a very small off-white head … that does not last very long. I find that by swirling the beer as if it was wine … helps to show the level of carbonation as well as generates a bit more head. Leaves a moderately decent lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Sweet notes of fresh cut grass. Notes of citrus (mostly lemon) & floral hop aroma, which is very characteristic of Cascade hops (quite possibly the most commonly used hops varietal in North America and one of the very few that I can recognize). Slight hints of honey.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with mild alcohol content.

Flavor: Citrus (lemon rind?) and pine hit the palate first and eventually yield to a doughy, sweetness with hints of honey. Hops dominate the palate, without overwhelming it.

Finish: Clean, lightly bitter, slightly metallic, with a decent duration.

Pairings: Pizza! But then again, I always think that a pale ale goes perfectly with pizza. Hell, most beer goes with pizza.

Comments: The Wench is an ale girl at heart. This is a nice, crisp pale ale. Very fresh and easy to drink. Since it is fairly low in alcohol and extremely smooth, I could easily drink several of these in on sitting. It would make an excellent brew to accompany a sailing trip, a game of beach volleyball … or even just a tailgate party!!! Cheers!

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And then there was one …

Kashmir IPA

Kashmir IPA

A brilliant, dry pale ale with an aggressive hop character balanced with a smooth finish. A bold beer best consumed with a stiff upper lip.

IBU: 60
Alcohol Content: 5.6% by volume
Hops: Stryian Goldings, Mt. Hood, Fuggles, Magnum, Willamette

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: India Pale Ale

Color: Hazy, almost clear burnt-orange amber

Carbonation: Moderately carbonated with a very small off-white head and light lacing.

Aroma: Not as hoppy as I was expecting, being that this is an IPA. Caramel & honey with fleeting hints of floral and citrus hops.

Mouthfeel: Very light-bodied with relatively low alcohol content. Very smooth.

Flavor: Despite the lack of hops on the aroma, they are definitely present on the palate. Tastes of pine, citrus and sap. Very little malt … slight hints of honey. Nicely balanced.

Finish: Bitter, and fairly short lived.

Comments: Although this beer is labeled as an IPA, it does not entirely fit the profile. For an IPA, it has a low ABV and low IBU. However, I like its mildness. This is a very approachable IPA for those who do not typically like IPAs because they tend to be overwhelmingly hoppy.

Although it is pretty tame for an IPA, I do like it. It is not my favorite IPA, by any means … however, it is not the worst.

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Of the three Highland Brewing Company beers that I have tasted, the Kashmir IPA is my favorite. All three were very well-balanced and rather enjoyable. I am interested in the Imperial versions of both the Gaelic Ale and the Kashmir IPA. Perhaps, one day in the future I will get the opportunity to try them.

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CHEERS!

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Whereas some people may frown upon consumption of alcoholic beverages before noon, I encourage it. (Some people may read that statement and tell me that it is an indicator of a problem. Those people are silly folks and prefer to ignore them.)

If you think like me, then you will agree that the consumption of alcohol is appropriate at any hour … day or night.

I am not opposed to drinking during breakfast. In fact, a great brunch is incomplete without some sort of hooch. Typically, The Bloody Mary (double vodka, extra spicy) is my poison of choice. It goes really well with savory breakfast foods such as eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, etc.

bloody_mary

But as much as I love my extra spicy, double strong Bloody Marys … they are a horrible pair for pancakes, waffles, french toast, scones, danishes, blintzes, cobblers, muffins, fruit and all the other sweet breakfast goodies.

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When it comes to the sweeter side of breakfast, one can always reach for a Mimosa or a Bellini (classic brunch cocktails). OR … why not try a fruit beer?

Normally, I would go straight for the fruit lambics of Belgium for this post. Although this blog is not about fruit lambics, they would make an excellent pairing with a number of breakfast items – particularly those made with fruit.

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The other day I stumbled upon a bottle of Melbourn Bros. Strawberry Beer. The bottle said spontaneous fermentation … and we all know that The Wench is a sucker for wild yeast beers. So naturally, I purchased the beer and did some research on its origin.

strawberry-beer

Melbourn Bros. Strawberry Beer is spontaneously fermented and brewed with malted barley, wheat hops, yeast, water & fresh strawberries. The brewery is located just off the main square in Stamford, a small town in Lincolnshire, in the east of England. It was established in 1825 by William Brown Edwards. In 1869, the business was purchased by Herbert Wells Melbourn.

stamford-04

The brewery was rebuilt with more modern equipment, after a fire destroyed the original brewing facility in 1879. It was renamed Melbourn Bros. Steam Beer Brewery. In 1970, it was decided that the brewery was too old and too inefficient and operations ceased. Operations were resumed in 1994, when the brewers decided to brew in an ancient British tradition using spontaneous fermentation. They also decided to flavor the beers with fresh fruit (the process is very similar, if not identical to the creation of fruit lambics.)

fresh-fruit

Brewing in the old tradition turned out to be advantageous, as the old fashioned construction, wooden tanks, and hard-to-clean surfaces proved to be ideal for spontaneous fermentation. (The best conditions for spontaneous fermentation are old and exposed areas that are conducive to breeding bacteria.)

Melbourn Bros. currently produces three fruit beers: Apricot, Strawberry & Cherry. I cannot speak for the other two, but the Strawberry is killer sweet – yet not artificially sweet. The best way to describe the beer is jam … all-natural homemade strawberry jam.

strawberry-jam

This is why I have declared this beer to be the best beer for pancakes … pancakes that have been smothered in fresh strawberries or a homemade strawberry sauce, a few sprinkles of powdered sugar, and perhaps a bit of whip cream and a sprig of mint. Strawberry crepes would also do the trick …

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Although the flavors and aromas of this beer are obviously not complex, I will include my tasting notes … for shits and giggles.

MELBOURN BROS STRAWBERRY BEER

Brewery: Melbourn Bros

Region: Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Style: Fruit beer, spontaneously fermented

Pairings: Pancakes, pastries, cheesecake, dessert, cheeses, baked goods, brunch, fruits

Color: Cloudy, light amber red

Carbonation: Moderately carbonated beer. Pours a thick, white head that lasts. Moderate lacing remains on the glass till the end.

Aroma: Sweet strawberries with notes of sweet grass. Light acidity on the nose.

Mouthfeel: Very light bodied beer, low in alcohol.

Flavor: BAM! Strawberry jam in the face. Fresh strawberries take over the major of the palate. The beer is definitely sweet … but not artificially so. The acidity level balances the sweetness nicely. The carbonation is ideal and prevents the beer from being too syrupy.

Finish: The bombarding sweetness yields to a nice tart finish that, surprisingly, lasts quite a bit.

Comments: The taste of the beer inspired the contents of this entire post. The minute I tasted the beer I thought … mmm breakfast. All I wanted was some hot pancakes straight off the griddle, covered in powdered sugar and completely smothered in a warm, homemade strawberry sauce.

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So whether or not you agree with drinking during breakfast, Melbourn Bros. Strawberry is definitely a pancake beer. (Originally, I thought it would be the perfect Belgian waffle beer … but, the perfect Belgian waffle beer would in fact be a Belgian beer, no? And so we will go with pancakes!)

So if you don’t want to drink while eating actual breakfast in the morning, make breakfast for dinner … and then pop open one of these babies.

Cheers!


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