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Archive for the ‘Beer-ology’ Category

This post is dedicated to my Ma, for reasons you shall discover later on…

I am sick and tired of hearing people bitch and complain about calories, carbs and fat.

Okay, I understand that these things exist. However, there are more important things in life to obsess over …

When it comes to health, beer has a bad rap.

beerbelly3

“Belly Belly” … “Beer Gut” … Beer makes people fat, right?

NO!

Allow me to present an arguement in regards the caloric content of beer. Please note that there is no “scientific evidence behind my assertions. All of my observations are …  well, just that. Observations. And my conclusions are neither “credible” nor “official.”

However, I am not exactly uneducated … so there may be truth to what I have to say.

If you know nothing about nutrition, know this: not all calories are created equal.

good-calories-bad-calories

Some calories are readily transferred into energy, while some are stored as fat.

The 100 calories in a glass of coke are NOT digested and processed the same as the 100 calories in a plate of vegetables.

Once upon a time, monks in Belgium started brewing “bread water” [aka Trappist ales] as a way to sustain themselves throughout fasting. To this day, Trappist beers are produced with only the best and highest quality ingredients. Said monks were able to sustain themselves on this “bread water” for several days at a time. Why? Because the beer that the monks brewed was full of readily digestible matter. AKA … it was actually nutritious.

trappist

Truth be told my mother inspired this blog.

 beer-wench-mom1

She responded to my post: “Please Put Down The Budweiser.” In her comment, my mother said: ” So here’s your newest task, Wench. Find me a less caloric, tasty, crafted beer.”

DEAR MOM: YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER! And I say this with love.

My mother is a brilliant woman: She’s a vegetarian (her choice, NOT mine), a liberal, a feminist, an environmentalist … and the list continues for miles. But the point is: my mother is UBER healthy and ridiculously conscientious.

(No offense, Ma … well then again, you are a New Yorker born and raised … so you, more than anyone, should be able to handle the truth)

michelobultramedlogo

So why the hell is my intelligent mother drinking crap like Michelob Ultra Light? (Aka … this beer sucks, has virtually no nutritional benefits WHATSOEVER and tastes like watered down piss)

Because she is a CHICK. And like most chicks, she fears gaining weight. And most people equate drinking beer with being fat.

NO ONE WANTS THE “BEER BELLY”. Trust me, even those who have it don’t want it.

 homer20beer

Try this experiment: Ask people who have these “Beer Bellies” and “Beer Guts” … what beer do you drink the most? And your response will be something like “Bud, Coors, Corona, Miller and so on and so forth.”

Hmmm COINCIDENTALLY, people who brew and drink craft beers are less likely to have these things that people call “beer bellies” or “beer guts.”

Evidence? Well , I drink beer and seem to be relatively healthy and of a “decent” size.

My friend and renowned beer writer, Stephen Beaumont, is virtually stick thin.

Another chick beer blogger, The Beer Babe, is anything but fat and absolutely STUNNING.

1WineDude drinks almost as much beer as he does wine … and he is as fit as a fiddle (and cute as a button).

And then, of course, there is the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery. Sam Caglione is definitely a hottie (… ummm I mean an extremely attractive gentleman whom I respect emmensely).

sam_calagione

Bottom line: the higher quality shit you put in your body (whether it be food or booze) … the more likely your body will transfer the calories to energy as opposed to FAT. Stephen Beaumont wrote an excellent article entitled “Beer Makes You Fat, or NOT” that, very eloquently, argues this very same issue. “I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again: Beer is as dignified and sophisticated a beverage as any other, and in and of itself, does not make you fat or lazy or stupid or boorish. And stereotypes suck.” - Stephen Beaumont’s A World Of Beer

When it comes to the caloric content of brews, one must ALWAYS consider ABV – aka Alcohol By Volume.  Most people need to drink 2 or 3 “so called lite beers”to reach the same ABV of the “heavier beers.”

Need further proof? Let’s play the math game.

Coors Light= 104 cal/ 4.15% abv

Bud Light= 110 cal/4.2% abv

Miller Lite= 96 cal/ 4.2% abv

IN CONTRAST …

New Belgium Trippel Ale= 215 cal/ 7.8% abv

Dogfish Head Midas Touch= 309/ 9% abv

Dogfish Head 120 Min IPA= 450/ 18% abv

And with the few examples we have, let us play math …

In theory, one bottle of Dogfish Head 120 min IPA is equivalent to FOUR and a half bottles of any of the corporate light beers on the market.

One more time, I will CLARIFY this to all you calorie obsessed kids.

ONE WHOLE bottle of Dogfish Head 120 IPAalso known as one of the best damn beers on the planet … is equivalent, both in caloric and alcohol content, to FOURwhole bottles of ANY FREAKING Joe Schmoe lite beers on the market.

dogfish-head-120

It is like telling you that you can have one scoop of the most decadent ice cream made from the most amazing ingredients in the entire world … or 4 scoops of sugar-free, fat-free … wanna-be ice cream made of chemical ingredients.

ice-cream

Hello, what is the point of ice cream without cream?

FLAVOR … is the most important factor to all things consumable, including beer.

PLEASE DO NOT SUBJECT YOUR PALATE TO BEER THAT TASTES LIKE … hmmm bad stuff.

Instead, drink craft beer … and know that your calories are being converted into something other than FAT.

Yes, I have opinions. I am The Wench. 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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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 …

pancakes-su-682828-x

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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Welcome to the year 2009! Here is to another great year full of drinking beautifully crafted, unique and excellent beers! Cheers!

champagne-toast

The current trend amongst many of my favorite bloggers has been to create some sort of list to commemorate the past year. Some have written posts about the top ten blogs that they have either written or read in 2008. Others have listed the top ten wines or beers that they had tasted in 2008. Some have done both.

Technically, my blog is not even a year old. (The Beer Wench was born February 7, 2008) This makes it a little difficult for me to make a compilation of my favorite posts or blogs or even just Beer Wench experiences for the entire year.

HOWEVER, since my blog is only in its first year … it and I have experienced tremendous leaps and growth in the seemingly small amount of time that we have existed.

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As a way of welcoming in the new year as well as reflecting upon the last year, I have chosen to create a list of the 3 most influential people on The Beer Wench (both blog and person) in 2008. Honestly, several people have made a tremendous impact on my beer tasting … beer drinking … beer writing experiences. Although most of these people will go unnamed, I hope they know how much I appreciate them and the education, encouragement and experiences of which they have provided me!

I have chosen to highlight the 3 most influential people on both myself and my blog in 2008. In my opinion, these 3 individuals have educated, inspired and helped develop me and my blog into what we have become today. And without any further ado … allow me to present The Beer Wench’s 3 biggest influencers of 2008.

Drum roll please…

3. Sam Caglione. It is no secret that The Beer Wench is obsessed with Dogfish Head beers. In many ways I attribute my passion for craft beers to Dogfish Head. Not only is the beer DAMN GOOD, but the stories that accompany each ale are equally intriguing. Drinking Dogfish Head is more than just mere consumption of beer. It is an experience. Each ale has a compelling story. Each ale is brewed with unique and interesting ingredients. Each Dogfish Head ale is brewed with an obscene amount of TLC … and trust me, you can taste it.

sam_calagione

I have many of these extraordinary “off-centered ales” sitting in my “cellar” at this very moment. (And by cellar I mean the several cardboard boxes of beer I have sitting in my closet. Currently, I have Raison D’Extra, World Wide Stout, 120 Minute IPA, Pangea, Theobroma, FORT, Red & White, Punkin Ale, Midas Touch, Chicory Stout, Palo Santo Marron, Olde School Barley Wine…)

dogfish

My preoccupation with everything Dogfish Head resulted in my reading of “Brewing Up A Business” … written by the brilliant founder and owner of Dogfish Head, Sam Caglione. His book was extremely compelling and surprisingly inspirational. Sam’s dedication to producing the highest quality “off-centered” ales is rather amazing. His passion for beer is contagious.

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One of my most memorable moments of 2008 was my first visit to the Dogfish Head Brewery and Brewpub in Delaware. Unfortunately, Sam was not around at the time. HOWEVER, I am intent on meeting him (and his wife Marnie) in person … in the very near future. Until then, I will just have to stalk them via Twitter (@dogfishbeer).

PS: Rumor has it that The Beer Wench will be co-hosting a Twitter Taste Live beer event with Sam Caglione in mid-February. Stay tuned for official confirmation. (‘The virtual tasting will definitely happen … when and who will be involved is TBA.)

I encourage you all to raise your glass to Sam Caglione and the ridiculously awesome beers he has created at Dogfish Head Brewery! CHEERS!

sam-734980

2. Michael Jackson. My number two is a no brainer. Almost all homebrewers, brewmasters, beer bloggers, beer connoisseurs, etc. can attest to the fact that Michael Jackson, even after his death, is and was the most influential person in the modern day beer world to have ever walked the planet.

michael_jackson_the_beer_hunter

His books are my bibles. Especially when it comes to Belgian beers. And we all know how much I love my Belgians. Any time I need information, confirmation, further education about a Belgian beer, style or brewery … I consult MJ (my pet name for Michael Jackson). He is my go to reference when it comes to beer.

Unfortunately, the infamous Beer Hunter died before The Beer Wench was even conceptualized. His death occurred just as I was coming in to my beer obsession. And sadly, I will never have the honor of meeting him. He will never be forgotten, though. I have aspirations to keep his legacy alive and lofty dreams of becoming a female version of The Beer Hunter. (After all, like MJ, I combine a passion for beer with a “skill?” for writing.)

michael-jackson-in-heaven

And now I ask you all to raise a glass to my number 2 … quite possibly the most infamous man of the beer world … Mr. Michael Jackson. CHEERS!

1. Brian Van Zandbergen. Who is this mystery man, you ask? How on earth can any one person out rank THE Michael Jackson? Why have you not heard me mention him before now? Or have I …

Allow me to explain. Brian has had, without a doubt, the biggest impact on my beer world yet. He completely revolutionized the way I thought about and tasted beer.

z_brianvz

Need elaboration?

I met Brian in Chicago. I was in town for the National Restaurant Association show. 2008 was the first International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event at the NRA show. Naturally, after the day long event … everyone involved spent a good amount of time eating and drinking throughout the entire city of Chicago.

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One night, I found myself in the same Irish restaurant as a Mr. Brian Van Zandbergen. A mutual friend introduced us … knowing that I was an aspiring beer connoisseur and that he was not only a beer connoisseur and the Merchant Du Vin representative for Illinois … but also the infamous author of The Beer Enthusiast’s Guide to Chicago!

mdv_logo

When I first met Brian, I thought I knew about beer. BOY WAS I WRONG. Although I was the biggest advocate of American craft beer, I still had a thing or two to learn about the world of beer. And Brian made sure to school me … and school me he did. We traveled around the city of Chicago to all of his favorite, and arguably the best, beer bars in the entire city. And learn about beer I did.

trappist1-for-web-large

Because of Brian, I am obsessed with Belgian beers. And because of Brian, I am head over heels … completely in love with Lambics. And because of Brian, the GUEUZE is my absolute favorite style of beer.

I told Brian that I loved IPAs and Double IPAs. He schooled me on what a real IPA was. And then he schooled me on the Belgians.

Brian gave me one of the most memorable beer experiences of my young Beer Wench life … and for that I am eternally grateful. He is an amazing mentor … and friend.

And now I ask you all to raise a glass to my friend, my mentor … a fellow beer lover and connoisseur … Brian Van Zandbergen. Thanks, Brian. You have inspired me in more ways than you will ever know. I look forward to visiting you in Chicago sometime in the near future! Cheers!

And so kids … we begin a brand spanking new year. Cheers to making this year better than the last!

f_champagne20m_a39e97e

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The first time I had heard of Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø was when I learned of their collaboration with American craft brewers Stone and Jolly Pumpkin on a highly coveted “Special Holiday Ale.”

specialholidaybottles1

Naturally, my curiosity was peaked. After all, Stone and Jolly Pumpkin are two of the most kick-ass [craft] brewers in the world (forget about the country). If they thought that Nøgne Ø was awesome enough to collaborate with – then logic can only deduce that this brewery has got a little somethin’ somethin’ going on.

logo2

Truth be told, Nøgne Ø is ridiculously bad-ass. Started by two Norwegian homebrewers with lofty dreams, Nøgne Ø has completely revolutionized beer in Norway.

Now, you may think that my last statement is a radical over exaggeration. Well, I beg to differ.

Nøgne Ø will forever go down in history as “Norway’s first microbrewery for creative brewing.”

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Before Nøgne Ø, there were no IPAs in Norway. (GASP!) In fact, there were no pale ales. No Porters … no Imperial Stouts … no bottle conditioned ales. Actually, Norway had pretty much nothing but lagers (insert high-pitched horror flick scream). Worst of all, most Norwegians had no idea that any other beer styles even existed!

Imagine a world without ales. For The Beer Wench, such a world is the equivalent of (if not worse than) Hell.

One of the brewery’s founders, Kjetil, is an airline pilot. On his frequent trips abroad, he developed a taste for better beer, and especially for bold brewing styles. His attempts to re-create these beers as a homebrewer were so successful that he was strongly encouraged to follow his dream of brewing professionally.

photoservfcgi

Today, Nøgne Ø is Norway’s leading and largest supplier of bottle conditioned ale.

The name derives from the first two lines of the famous poem Terje Vigen by Henrik Ibsen: “There lived a remarkably grizzled man on the uttermost barren isle”. In the ancient-styled language in which the poem is written, “barren isle” comes out as “nøgne ø”.

Nøgne Ø’s subtitle is “The Uncompromising Brewery.”  It is their mission to craft ale of highest quality, personality and individuality by using only the highest quality of ingredients in order to make beers of uncompromising quality.

They currently “create” nine bottle conditioned ales.

nogneo-alle-flasker-300b

The list is as follows:

1. Nøgne-Ø # 100
2. Nøgne-Ø Brown Ale
3. Nøgne-Ø Dark Horizon
4. Nøgne-Ø Imperial Stout
5. Nøgne-Ø IPA
6. Nøgne-Ø Pale Ale
7. Nøgne-Ø Porter
8. Nøgne-Ø Saison
9. Nøgne-Ø Winter Ale

Sheltonbrothers are the official US representative. They help to distribute the Pale Ale, Brown Ale, IPA, Sasion, #100, Imperial Stout and Dark Horizon to a total of 43 different states.

The beer gods must really love me. Naturally, after finishing my post on the “Special Holiday Ale” collaboration and learning all about Nøgne Ø … I was bound and determined to find me some Nøgne Ø to taste. As fate would have it, as I was combing the shelves of Total Wine for some Lambics that same evening … there they were.

Four different beers stared me down with extremely seductive bedroom eyes. The Saison, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, & Porter all blinked their long flirtatious eyelashes at me … and I giggled like a little school girl. I wanted to kick myself for not noticing them in the past, but as it turns out, it was not an oversight on my part. The store clerk informed me that Nøgne Ø only just entered the store (and the Florida market???) the previous week along with Stone Brewing Company.

Being a slut for all things Belgian [well, actually just Belgian and Belgian-style beers], I was immediately seduced by the Saison. The Pale Ale also managed to slip into my basket as well. In a way I regret not picking up the other two, but then again the store is only a car ride away.

Tonight I opened the Nøgne Ø Saison.

Description on the bottle:

SAISON 14°P, 25 IBU, 6.5 ALC/VOL

One of our most refreshing brews, made for those hot summer days, but satisfying year ’round. Recommended serving temperature 8°C/45°F. Goes well with seafood, particularly oysters.

Ingredients: Wheat and lager malt; East Kent Goldings and Crystal hops; Belgian ale yeast, and our local Grimstad water

THE BEER WENCH’S TASTING NOTES ON Nøgne Ø SAISON

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Appearance: First off, let me just say that I totally dig the bottle. The crazy “O” logo is very reminiscent of my alma matta – Ohio State. Especially since the Saison’s version is in red (Ohio State’s colors!)

The beer is a ridiculously cloudy, Marigold yellow color.  (For all you non-Crayola kids … Marigold is light golden yellow with hints of orange). The small white head dissipates fast. This may be a result of my pouring the beer into a large round wine glass … but who knows. Regardless, it leaves a nice lacing on the glass … so carbonation is A-Okay.

Aroma: Definitely reminiscent of a Saison – aka Belgian yeast + farm “funk” smells. On the nose I get sweet grass, fresh hay, banana bread, and spice.

Taste: Starts out sweet with flavors of honey, toasted nuts and doughy yeast. The sweetness fades and a nice crisp hoppy bitterness takes over the palate. Light acidity fades as the beer warms.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderately carbonated, slightly syrupy (especially as it warms).

Drinkability: Overall, I like it. It is a lovely Saison-esque beer, moderately complex & flavorful. The nonabrasive, moderate alcohol level (6.5% ABV) makes it easy to drink.

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I am really looking forward to tasting the others in the very near future. In the meantime, I encourage everyone (in the 43 states where Nøgne Ø is available) to hunt down and try some Nøgne Ø beers ASAP!

CHEERS!

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Jolly pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale

Ummm … what?

When I first saw the title of this beer, I was utterly perplexed. BUT now it makes complete sense.

The brilliant brewmasters of Stone (California), Jolly Pumpkin (Michigan) and Nøgne-Ø (Norway) have joined forces and brain power to create what they are deeming a “Special Holiday Ale”

How did this all come about? Long story short: Greg Koch from Stone ran into Kjetil Jikiun, the owner and head brewer of Nøgne-Ø, at a bar in Tokyo. They saw each other again at a Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego. Kjetil invited Greg to visit his brewery in Norway. Greg accepted and took a trip out. The new friendship triggered the gears in Greg’s head. He suggested that the two of them collaborate with Jolly Pumpkin‘s head brewer, Ron Jefferies. All parties involved agreed and a magical triad was formed.

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I happen to love superstitions, folklore … and all that jazz. (I was born on the 13th.) For me, the number three is pure magic. 3 is a Prime Number. 3 is a Triangular Number. 3 is a Fibonacci Number.  White light is composed of the mixture of the three additive primary hues: red, green, and blue.  The physical world has 3 dimensions. Earth is the third planet in its local Solar System. Atoms consist of three constituents: protons, neutrons, and electronsevolution3glyph

The Rule of Three is a religious tenet held by some Wiccans. It states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.

Plato split the soul into three parts: the appetitive, the spirited, and the rational.

The 3 Musketeers.

The 3 Stooges.

Whether it be a triad, trilogy, three-of-a-kind, trio etc … I believe that some of the best things come and happen in threes!

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The “Special Holiday Ale” was brewed at Jolly Pumpkin’s facility in Michigan and is rumored to have a very limited release in late November. The theme of the beer reminds me a bit of Dogfish Head’s PANGEA (which was made with ingredients from each of the seven continents).

Here’s an excerpt from what Mitch wrote for the back of the bottle: “We quickly decided to try and use one indigenous ingredient from each of our brewing regions, Southern California White Sage, Juniper Berries (we couldn’t get Norwegian, unfortunately, so we used Italian Juniper Berries, at least they are from the same continent), and (mostly) Michigan Chestnuts. Kjetil suggested brewing with rye malt and Ron suggested adding some caraway to complement the rye, so we decided to brew a full bodied, spiced ale with 25% rye malt.”

For the full story on the ale’s creation from start to finish, visit THE STONE BLOG.

The beer is being released with three different labels.

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The back of the Stone bottle.

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The back of the Jolly Pumpkin bottle.

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The back of the Nøgne-Ø bottle.

FYI: The name Nøgne-Ø translates to Naked Island.

Lucky for me, Stone just entered the state of Florida last week. We also get Jolly Pumpkin, which doubles my odds. HOPEFULLY, someone somewhere will get their hands on this beer so I can taste it! I am crossing my fingers that my stars will be aligned!

Cheers!

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I have developed an intense fascination, preoccupation … and obsession with wild yeast beers.

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In my personal opinion, Lambics are quite possibly the most exciting and interesting style of beer. Ales and lagers are both fermented carefully with cultivated strands of brewer’s yeast -using tremendous control. On the other hand, Lambics are produced by spontaneous fermentation.

Although, my spontaneous nature has led to less than desired consequences in the past … I still pride myself for having such a free-spirited and adventurous personality. So what if I almost died jumping off an 80 foot cliff when I was in high school … I am still alive now, right?

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I love the thrill of not knowing. I function well in chaos. I love jet setting at the very last minute. I am an adventurer and explorer. And this is why I love the concept of spontaneous fermentation.

The late and internationally renowned Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, has referred to Lambics as the winiest of all the world’s beers.

As with many Belgian beers, Lambics are also subject to many regulations. In order to receive Lambic “certification” and label privileges, Lambics varieties must have Traditional Speciliaty Guaranteed (TSG) status.

The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) is a trademark for an agricultural product or a foodstuff, which has a certain feature or a set of features, setting it clearly apart from other similar products or foodstuffs belonging to the same category. The product or foodstuff itmust be manufactured using traditional ingredients or must be characteristic for its traditional composition, production process, or processing reflecting a traditional type of manufacturing or processing.

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So what exactly is all the traditional mumbo jumbo for Lambics?

The Lambic style can trace its roots back over 400 years, and has remained mostly unchanged from its introduction. The first written recipe is dated 1516.

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Although it is impossible to confirm the origin of the word “Lambic” (“lambiek” in Flemish / Dutch), its most likely origin is the small town of Lembeek (“Lime Creek”) – a municipality close to Brussels. Today, Lambic production is concentrated in the western part of Brussels and in the nearby “Pajottenland”.

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The definition of Lambic was set out in a series of Belgian Royal Decrees in the 1960′s and 70′s. These determined that Lambic must be made from at least 30% unmalted wheat at a gravity of no less than 11 Plato.

Lambic wort is usually composed of 60-70% barley malt and 30-40% unmalted wheat. Lambic beers are typically made from an original density (wort-strength) of 11.75-13.5 Plato (12.7 is the classic level) with an alcohol content of around 5.0-6.5% by volume.

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Lambic beers use a variety of mashing regimes – some being very long and elaborate. The traditional method involves making two separate mashes and heating each in individual kettles.

At the boiling stage, Lambic beers use far more hops than conventional beers – sometimes up to 6 times as many hops. HOWEVER … Lambics are NOT bitter. (We will get to the flavor notes later). One of the MAJOR differentiating factors about Lambics is that they use AGED HOPS, typically aged up to three years.

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The object of aging hops is to diminish their aroma, flavor, and bitterness. INSTEAD, the hops are being used solely for their secondary purpose – to ward against unwanted infections and excessive oxidation.

Unlike conventional beers which usually boil for an hour or so, the Lambic boil lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. After the boil, conventional beers are usually cooled in a heat exchanger. Lambics are not. Instead, Lambic wort will spend the night in a coolship.

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Then it is on to fermentation.

Unlike with conventional beers, No yeast is artificial added to Lambic wort. Instead, Lambic wort is exposed to the open air of the “Zennevalei” aka the Senne-valley. Wild yeast cells, including Bretanomyces bruxellensis and Bretanomyces lambicus (which are always in the open air in the environment of Brussels), come into the wort and eventually result in spontaneous fermentation.

Due to the spontaneous fermentation, Lambic can be brewed only in the “winter season” (October-May). In summertime, there are too much undesirable bacteria, which can infect the wort and interfere with the natural fermentation.

Most ales and lagers are produced using only a few strands of yeast, while Lambics are typically made with around 86 yeast strands.

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As you can imagine, spontaneous fermentation is a very lengthy process. The microorganisms involved in the creation of Lambics must work in a specific sequence. Each microroganism depends on the metabolized products of its predecessors. It takes about two to three years for the entire process to complete and to produce a mature Lambic.
The varieties of Lambic include: Straight Lambic (Lambic Pure), Faro, Fruit, Mars … and MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, Gueuze.

Straight Lambic: Cloudy, uncarbonated (almost still), unsweetened and unblended draught beer. Generally three years old. Extremely hard to find. It is served in only one or two two cafés in Brussels and a handful in the area of production.

Faro: Unblended three-year-old lambic sweetened with rummy-tasting dark candy sugar and occasionally spiced. Also hard to find and typically found on draught. Sometimes available at Lambic cafés in a do-it-yourself version where sugar is added directly at the table by the drinker and crushed into the drink with a mortar. Faro was once the restorative for the working man in Brussels.

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Mars: Traditionally referred to a weaker beer made from the second runnings of a Lambic brewing. It is no longer commercially produced.

Fruit: Lambic with the addition of whole fruit or syrup. Most common fruits include sour cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif), or strawberry (aardbei). Rarer fruit lambic flavorings include apple (pomme), banana, pineapple, apricot, plum, cloudberry, and lemon. Fruit lambics are usually bottled with secondary fermentation. Lambic-based Kriek beers are the most traditional fruit brews.

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Gueuze: Bottled, sparkling and easier to find. Made by blending young Lambic (6 months to 1 year old) with more mature vintages (2 to 3 years old). It is then bottled for a second fermentation (similar to Champagne and is actually bottled in Champagne bottles). The word Gueuze (hard “g”, and rhymes with “firs”) may have the same etymological origins as the English words gas and ghost, and the Flemish gist (“yeast”), referring to carbonation and rising bubbles.

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Last spring – while drinking and eating my way through Chicago, I was introduced to the gueze. My first experience was with Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene – which absolutely blew my mind. I loved it so much, in fact, that I opted to drink Cuvee Rene for my last birthday (the quarter of a century celebration) in lieu of Champagne or sparkling wine. To this day, I find it very hard to choose between Gueuze and Champagne!

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Now that I have posted the educational mumbo jumbo about Lambics … I look forward to tasting and blogging about some of my favorites in the (very) near future!

CHEERS!


SOURCES: Michael Jackson’s GREAT BEERS OF BELGIUM, Wikipedia

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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!

LAGUNITAS “WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY”

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.

THE BEER WENCH’s TASTING NOTES:

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.

OVERALL:
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!

CHEERS!

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