Archive for October, 2008

Maybe I should change my name to The Belgian Beer Wench, since these days I seem to be obsessed with the ales of Belgium. Not only have I been enjoying drinking many different Belgian beers lately, but I have also have been enjoying reading Michael Jackson’s “GREAT BEERS OF BELGIUM.” (A wonderful friend of mine and amazing human being gave me this book for my birthday).

Although I usually prefer the beers from Belgian, there are many decent (and some pretty extraordinary) Belgian-style ales being brewed by American craft brewers. My curiosity is always peaked when a craft brewer creates a specialty or seasonal Belgian-style ale. Especially when said creation comes from one of my favorite breweries and DEFINITELY when the beer is accompanied by extremely attractive and seductive marketing.

The brewery in this case is Lagunitas Brewing Company – located in Petaluma, CA. The beer is a Belgian-style Abby Tripel Ale named “We’re Only In It For The Money.” I must confess that I am a few months late jumping on the bandwagon for this beer. Lagunitas released it this summer, but I have not had an opportunity to taste it until now.

“We’re Only In It For The Money” was brewed in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the release of Frank Zappa’s album of the same name. This is the fourth beer in the Frank Zappa series (each beer in the series pays tribute to one of Zappa’s albums).

Zappa’s experimental rock album entitled “We’re Only In It For The Money” comes with a pretty unique story. Zappa released this album in response to the Beatle’s album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, which offended Zappa when it was touted as the first concept album. Zappa, who already had released two (which Paul McCartney later admitted had influenced Sgt Pepper) felt compelled to create a satirical album that parodied the Sgt. Pepper/Beatle craze and “flower power” fad.

According to Wikipedia, the album “bridged styles as diverse as doo-wop and avant-garde sound collage, and peaked at #30 on North America’s Billboard Music Charts pop albums chart. The album satirizes many aspects of 1960s culture, lampooning the hippies, the conservative establishment, and everything in between.”

Not exactly sure why Lagunitas chose a Abby Tripel to celebrate this album … but we will trust their decision, regardless. Now … on to the tasting!


Style: Belgian-style Abbey Tripel Ale

ABV: 8.2%

Appearance: Orange amber color. Super cloudy with lots of sediment that is small and evenly distributed. Thick , off-white head that disapates almost immediately and leaves almost no lacing.

Aroma: Very sweet aroma. Belgian yeast. Floral hops. Fruity nose – typical banana with a hint of citrus (orange peel to be specific). Detect alcohol slightly on the aroma. Mild spice, super doughy. Cloves, naturally.

Taste: VERY sweet and fruity at the onset. Ridiculously malty, lots of caramelized sugars, super doughy. The sweetness lasts for a while and eventually yields a mild bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Carbonation is pretty decent in the onset, but dissipates with time. As the beer sits and loses carbonation, the ale becomes a bit “syrupy.” Alcohol is pretty apparent, but not too offensive.

Drinkability: For an American Tripel Ale, this beer is fairly decent. Although I did not do a side-by-side tasting with any of the Belgian Trappists or Abby Tripel Ales, I can say with complete confidence that Lagunitas falls short in comparison. All in all, though, it is a pretty solid beer. A little on the sweet side, which I do not mind on occasion – but not all the time. This is a beer that I would drink again, but probably not a beer I could drink frequently (and a lot of in one sitting).

And once again … let your own palate be your guide. To each his own. Cheers!

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There are only 7 trappist breweries in the entire world. Only beer brewed at an abbey, under the watchful eye of the Cistercian monastic community living there, can rightfully use the strictly controlled name of “Trappiste”. Belgium is home to six of the breweries entitled to use the “Trappiste” name: Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle and Achel. The seventh is Koningshoeven and is located in The Netherlands.

Each beer brewed at one of the seven trappist breweries is entitled to use the logo: Authentic Trappist Product. The logo is also used for other products manufactured in the Cistercian monasteries and under the supervision of the monks and nuns. It indicates that they are the manufacturers.

Orval is situated near Florenville, in the province of Luxembourg, south-east Belgium, in the immediate vicinity of the border with France.

As is customary with Cistercians, the Community of Orval provides entirely for itself through its own activities (mainly cheese-making, hospitality, and beer brewing). All generated profits are devoted both to various forms of social and charitable aids, and to the upkeep of the monastery.

Throughout the long history of Orval, it is assumed that there has always been a brewery on the grounds. Various facts corroborate this idea : topographical references on old drawings; a detailed description of production left by a Franciscan visitor three hundred years ago; an area called the “hop-field” very close to the monastery. Since the area was ill-suited for vine growing, brewing beer was customary. Beer was first and foremost considered for its nourishing properties : it was called “liquid bread”. (Source: Orval)

In 1931 the present day brewery was built, employing lay people and intended to provide a source of funds for the monastery reconstruction. It was designed by Henry Vaes, who also designed the distinctive Orval beer glass. The first beer was shipped from the brewery on May 7, 1932, and was sold in barrels rather than the bottles of today. Orval was the first Trappist beer to be sold nationally around Belgium. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now I know what you are thinking … enough of the history lesson – what about the freaking beer?

Ah yes. THE ORVAL Trappist Ale. A classic amongst the Belgian ales.

Merchant Du Vin is the sole importer of Orval. For a list of their distributors, visit this link.

To learn how Orval beer is made, visit this link.


Appearance: Amber-orange color. Cloudy with large fluffy head – which lasts a really long time and leaves a thick film of lacing.

Aroma: Mild Belgian yeast aroma (sweet yeast with hints of cloves). Slightly floral nose with citrus notes (compliments of the hops, naturally).

Taste: Well-balanced ale! The ale has an interesting acidic “bite” that is nicely neutralized by a mild malt and mild yeast taste. The floral hops are apparent on the taste and help balance out the sweetness of the malt as well as kill some of the acidity. The finish is tart and slightly bitter, lingering … enough. Medium to full body. Nicely carbonated. Alcohol is very hard to detect on the taste, which makes it a super easy ale to drink.

As always, ORVAL is a classic. This is a MUST TRY BEFORE YOU DIE kind of beer. I don’t care who you are and if you don’t like beer – you must try Orval at least once in your lifetime.

Orval is a staple in my beer diet.

Why? Because it could very well be the quintessential example of what a well-balanced, well-rounded ale should look, smell, feel and taste like. It reminds me of Goldie Locks and The Three Bears. Not too strong. Not too weak. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too sour, not too astringent -EVERYTHING IN BALANCE.

Just right!!!

But as always, don’t take my word for it – try it for yourself and then feel free to call me out on it. After all, I am just a wench … wink wink!


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The Beer Wench on Alltop

I am extremely excited and honored to be added to the beer page of the Alltop website!!!

What on earth is Alltop, you ask?

Alltop calls their site a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet. I call it a kick-ass, easy-to-use resource for finding relevant information about specific topics of interest -quickly- on the Internet.

Alltop collects stories from “all the top” websites and aggregates them into individual sites based on certain topics of interest. Some examples of site topics include environment, photography, science, politics and -of course- BEER!

Nononina is the company that owns Alltop. It is “two guys and a gal” in a garage—or more accurately, one guy in home office (Will Mayall), one gal on a kitchen table (Kathryn Henkens), and one Guy in United 2B (Guy Kawasaki). Guy Kawasaki is the man responsible for adding The Beer Wench to the Alltop Beer site. To him I am forever indebted.

How do I know Guy … or more importantly … how did he find my blog and why did he add it to the Alltop site? Well, technically I do now KNOW Guy “personally”. BUT … I do know him “interactively” … aka I stalk him on the Internet. Guy is a huge advocate, supporter & user of Twitter. And for those of you who know me … know that I am a Twitter addict.

As per recommendation by a good friend and fellow Twitter addict, I have been following Guy Kawasaki since I started Twittering back in July-ish. I speculate that this same good friend (@wyliemac) nudged Guy to add me to the beer topic Alltop website. Could be wrong – but I am almost positive that is how it all went down! (Big thanks to Alvin for pimping me out!)

Alltop is a great example of where the Internet is headed – Web 3.0. For those of you who do not understand the web point zero philisophy, here is my mini breakdown:

Web 1.0 = Prehistoric web. Pretty much any website designed and developed before the “dot-com” explosion in 2001. Any website pre- Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 = The revolution of web. Wikipedia (born during Web 2.0) defines it as “a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, secure information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web.”

Web 3.0 = Ths future of the web. The web of the people … by the people … for the people. Companies and corporations will no longer control the Internet. In a Web 3.0 world the USERS and people will create and generate all the content – as well as control the formats in which information is formatted, organized, searched and used. (Disclaimer: THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL VIEW POINT. Chances are I am wrong and completely missing the mark of this …)

BOTTOM LINE: THIS IS AN AWESOME FEAT FOR MY BLOG!!! Why should you rely on Google to tell you what THEY you need to know about the topics you enter in THEIR [paid] search engines??? WHY NOT TRUST your peers? Why not trust other PEOPLE to provide you with the most important and relevant information about the topics you enjoy most?

Alltop is a phenomenal resource. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take a moment to check out the website and use their search engine to research, find and browse information on topics of interest to you. I guarantee they will help you uncover some extraordinary resources that you never knew existed!

Thanks again to the founders of Alltop, and specifically to Guy Kawasaki! Keep on keeping on … rock it out my friends! This beer’s for you! CHEERS!

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Avery Brewing Company (located in Boulder, CO) is one of my favorite American craft breweries … BY FAR! Avery’s Seasonal Maharajah IPA is one of my all time favorite IPA’s … a “staple” in The Beer Wench’s pantry! Avery also produces one the best barleywines that I have ever tasted – Hog Heaven. But that is only MY opinion – feel free to form your own!

Being new to Orlando – I am only JUST uncovering its beer “niches.”

The other day I found its candy store for big kids – Total Wine. Despite the name, Total Wine has a pretty damn decent beer selection – from all around the world!

I filled up a basket of single beers while I was there … and I am REALLY looking forward to sharing my experiences with each of the unique beers that I bought!

FIRST UP: Avery Karma

Beer Style: Belgian Ale
Hop Variety: Sterling
Malt Variety: Two-row barley, Belgian special B, cara 45, aromatic
OG: 1.048  
Alcohol By Volume: 5.2%  
IBU’s: 10
Color: Amber

Commerical Description: We believe in Karma. We suspect most of you do, too. It truly is a global concept. Very simply put, “you get what you give.” Inspired by this principle and the wonderful farmhouse and pale ales of Belgium, we’ve created Karma Ale, a decidedly fruity and estery ale, intricate in body and nose, all driven by a unique Belgian yeast strain. Remember, good things DO happen to good people. Here’s to being good!

Beer Wench Tasting Notes:

APPEARANCE: Light golden amber. Thick, foamy, off-white, slowly dissipating head. Decently lacing (props to me for having a squeaky clean glass!) Cloudy with subtle sediment.

AROMA: Characteristically BELGIAN! Mild malt, almost non-existent hops on the aroma. Belgian yeast takes the cake – lots of clove … subtle banana … some citrus. DEFINITELY a Belgian Ale! My only gripe is that is does not have the typical aroma of a Saison – aka Belgian-style farm ale. It is missing the characteristic “manure-esque” aroma of saisons that I have come to know and love …

TASTE: Light malt, little hops, low alcohol. Very smooth, easy to drink. Bitterness increases as the beer warms and sits in the glass. Highly carbonated, minimal acid, short finish.

OVERALL: Not what I expected. Based on the description, I was hoping for something closer to a saison-style ale. Besides the characteristically Belgian aroma – this ale lacked many of the qualities that I love and enjoy about Belgian beers. HOWEVER, in the end – the beer was smooth and drinkable. The low ABV makes it easy to enjoy several of these – without regretting it in the morning.

Karma may not be the BEST Avery ale out there, however – it is still a pretty decent beer. One that The Beer Wench thinks is definitely worth trying! A lighter beer, with Belgian notes … and decent drinkability.


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Sadly, tomorrow marks the last official day of the world’s largest folk festival – Oktoberfest. And unfortunately, yet another Oktoberfest has come and gone without me. I vow to make the trek to Munich for this event some day! Until then, I will live vicariously through the stories of others while sipping on some Oktoberfest-bier.

Speaking of Oktoberfest bier, although the official festival ends tomorrow – the Oktoberfest spirit still lives on through the beer! (Which should remain on store shelves for another couple of weeks!)

So, what is so special about Oktoberfest bier? Oktoberfest bier rules are similar to the Trappist beer laws in Belgium in that the beer must be brewed in a certain style within a certain location and only a few breweries can actually carry the official name “Oktoberfest.”

Authentic Oktoberfest bier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. There are several breweries outside of Munich, including U.S. craft breweries, that brew beers in the Oktoberfest style. Technically, they are not authentic and must be labeled Oktoberfest-style beer. (Just like how any beer brewed to emulate the Abbey ale style must be labeled Abbey-style).

And as with the Belgian Trappist beers, only a select number of breweries in Munich are officially sanctioned as Oktoberfest brewers. The official breweries of Oktoberfest include: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. These “Big Six” are the ONLY breweries allowed to participate in the annual Munich Oktoberfest.

The story of how Oktoberfest bier came to be is a classic story – very similar to the foundation stories of many other styles of beer. Once upon a time, the brewers of Bavaria had difficulty controlling the quality of beer in the hot summer months. A combination of heat and bacteria would cause the beers to sour and spoil.

In order to remedy this problem, Bavarian brewers resorted to two simple but effective solutions.

One solution was to increase the level of natural preservatives in the beers. They achieved this by adding more hops to the brewing process as well as increased the alcohol content of the beers by brewing them at a higher gravity.

A second solution was to change the schedule of the brewing season. After much trial and error, Bavarian brewers learned that brewing between early October and the end of March tended to produce the best tasting beer. And this is how the Märzen-Bier was born.

FYI: Märzen-Bier in German translates to March Beer in English.

In order to maintain freshness during the hot summer months, brewers stored casks of Märzen beer in cool cellars and mountain caves (in the Alps) which were often filled with blocks of ice from the winter.

The preservative qualities of possessing high alcohol and hop contents in combination with the ideal storage conditions of the mountain caves and cool cellars ensured that the beer kept well – even matured and improved as summer turned into fall!

Just like Cinderella had to be home by midnight, all of the old Märzen casks needed to be returned to the brewers by October so that they could begin brewing another years worth. And naturally, the casks needed to be empty – which meant that the last of the Märzen beer needed to be consumed.

And as fate would have it, Munich just happened to host an enormous folk fest in the world at the end of September through the beginning of October. And what better time and place to consume the last of the Märzen beers than Oktoberfest? This is how Märzen-biers became known as Oktoberfestbiers – what they are most commonly referred to as today!

Oktoberfest biers have been served at the festival in Munich since 1818. Advances in technology and the science of brewing led to the evolution of the Märzen-Oktoberfest styles. The Oktoberfest recipe was first revolutionized in 1941 by Gabriel Sedlmayr, former owner of Spatan Brewery of Munich, and Anton Dreher, former owner of the Dreher Brewery of Vienna. Together they created the first Märzen “gebraut nach Wiener Art” (brewed the Vienna way). They achieved this by adding a new, slightly caramelized, but fairly pale malt to the grist – which also lightened the color of the beer. This malt is now called Vienna malt.

Spaten Brewery went ahead and revamped the Oktoberfest recipe for a second time in 1871. Spaten helped Oktoberfest beer return back to its Munich roots by brewing it with Munich malt – a slightly darker version of the previously used Vienna malt. This “re-Bavarianized” version of Märzen-bier is the official Oktoberfest bier drank at Oktoberfest today!

The traditional style guidelines describe an amber-gold lager, robust at 5.2 to 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), bottom-fermented and lagered for at least a month, with pronounced malt flavors from Vienna [Munich] malts, usually accented by the German noble hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang.

For more information on the history and brewing techniques of Oktoberfestbier, visit the website of the German Beer Institute!

And if you still have not gotten a chance to celebrate Oktoberfest this year – have no fear! Just go out and grab one of the big six Oktoberfest beers or one of the thousands of Oktoberfest-style beers still available today! But hurry … these beers need to be consumed by the end of autumn to make room on the shelves for the winter ales! (Need help choosing one? Try Spaten … after all, its the grand daddy of Oktoberfest-bier!)


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Hops are most commonly known for giving beer its distinctively bitter taste – a characteristic which no other plant is able to provide. Hops is also a natural preservative.

What most people don’t know is that there are several “medicinal” uses for the hops plant. The word medicinal is in quotations since most hops remedies have originated from traditional “folk” medicine and have not been scientifically proven on a large scale. Although there may be little scientific evidence that hops can cure certain ailments and diseases, there is no evidence in the contrary. Personally, I choose to believe in the magical “medicinal” powers of hops … and something tells me you will want to as well!

So go grab yourself the biggest, hoppiest double IPA you can find and drink to the medicinal uses of my favorite magical herb – HOPS! Cheers!

First off, hops is a sedative. It has been proven useful in treating insomnia and nervous tension. Traditionally, hop filled pillows were used for inducing sleep.

Due to its strong anti-spasmodic actions hops also effectively relieves muscular spasms and cases of colic in the gut.

Hops is also used for treating coughs, bladder ailments, and liver ailments. Hops has been proven as an excellent remedy for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, nervous indigestion, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other kinds of stress related digestive problems. In addition, the bitter principles in hops aid in digestion, enhance the action of the liver, and aid in the secretion of bile as well as other digestive juices in the body.

The tannins in hops aid in the quick healing of many types of irritated inflammatory conditions and can treat diarrhea. The strong antiseptic action of the hops helps to relieve infections in the body. Externally it is used to treat itching skin rashes and hives. It has been used to alleviate the pain and inflammation of abscesses, boils, swellings, and neuralgic and rheumatic complaints, as well as to allay skin infections, eczema, herpes and ulcers.

Hops also remove poisons and toxins from the body.

And for all of you who [wrongly] think that beer is a man’s drink – THINK AGAIN! Hops naturally possesses very strong estrogenic action, which makes it an ideal remedy for all sorts of “female” problems. Hops based medications can be used to treat the symptoms of menopause as well as painful and suppressed menstrual periods.

So far so good right? Hops sound like a pretty magical herb, does it not? Well kids, I have saved the BEST remedy for last. Drum roll please …

Due to it having a high content of flavonoids – a form of phtytoestrogens, hops has been proven to have beneficial effects on the female endocrine system. This has led to it becoming a common ingredient in effective natural breast enhancement supplements. It has ACTUALLY been scientifically proven that taking hops alone will encourage breast development. (Doctors even claim drinking lots of beers which are high in hops will help to make breasts grow.)

Now THAT is what I’m talking about! Now I know why I love my IPAs and Double IPAs so much … haha!

Let us revisit basic logic … If beer = hops and hops = boobs, then beer must = boobs. FURTHER evidence that women should drink beer. How about it ladies? I think it is time to trade in your appletinis and wine spritzers for a big ole’ IPA … or at least a weak little pale ale! And if you men know what’s good for you, you will all start encouraging more ladies to embrace the magical powers of hops!


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