Monday, February 28, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Notes: Surprising mix of old world and new world style. The aromas and flavours were similar but slightly different, I found aromas of cherry raspberry, pepper, cedar, mineral, and eucalyptus. Flavours were cherry, raspberry, vanilla, mocha, green bell pepper, pepper, and blackberry with a long finish. I enjoyed this wine quite a bit especially with the shepherds pie I made. This wine is Very Nice!
Monday, February 14, 2011
We went out to a nice Italian restaurant that has become a special place for us due to the little private celebrations we have had there. But we skipped on dessert and went across the way to Gambrinus for some post-dinner snackies instead. I was tempted to have dinner there, but I gravitate there enough as it is. Beer with dessert was enough.
I don't know what it is but I have largely lost my sweet tooth, especially after eating a whole meal. Especially if the meal is Italian. If you aren't undoing a button or walking funny because you stomach is heavy after an Italian restaurant meal then you are doing it wrong. I can do about 3 bites of Cheesecake. Tops.
So I passed on the sweets and went for something special: Oysters. Marina had Tiramisu and I had a bite or two. I may have to go back and try the Tiramisu with some beer. Some porters and stouts came to mind. Maybe the right Rauchbier (we will be covering the amazing world of Rauchbiers and the mecca of Bamberg, Germany in future posts) would be good here. But that is neither here nor there.
I chose Black Oak Brewery's (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) Summer Saison to go with the oysters and it did not disappoint.
Black Oak Brewery
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Saisons are a style of Belgian Ale brewed with Wheat and are renown for their spicy, zippy, flavour. They are great summer beers, very quenching and refreshing. Black Oak is an excellent brewery. The bottle says this beer is unfiltered, yet the beer just barely has a haze in it. [Note: Cloudiness is an effect caused by any of either cold temperatures, wheat or yeast. If it is intended there is no cause for concern. In fact there is cause for celebration--welcome to flavour country!]
The beer is spiced with coriander and either lemon or orange peels. It says on the bottle but I neglected to note this :( In any case, I found a lemony flavour to be present. The bitterness and peel flavours are in the finish especially, along with the seediness of the coriander. The lemon flavour became more distinct as the beer warmed up a bit. The body thinned out a bit as it warmed, too. This wasn't such a big deal. The lemony-ness was great with the salt and lemon flavours of the oysters. I had a spot of horseradish in there too and this was a hit with the subtle, prickly spiciness of the beer. The wheat and coriander were more prominent in the nose and in the middle of the sips. I suppose it could have had a bit more body and spiciness, but I will not complain. The beer is solid and was a great food match here. Break it out in the summer, as the name suggests.
Overall, I'd say this beer (all on it's own) was Nice. With the oysters and a hot date, however it became Awesome.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
The main ingredients in beer are Water, Malt, Hops and Yeast. Water is the medium in which the magic happens. Malt supplies sugars for the yeast to munch on as well as colour and flavour. Yeast eats the sugars making alcohol and bubbles. I’m glad the world works this way.
Where does the hop come in? Hops are added to the beer at specific points during production to deliver bitterness, flavouring and aroma to the beer. The sweetness from the malt needs to be balanced and bitterness is the way it is done. Hops do a whole lot more and have some interesting properties, but I’ll sketch out the bitterness, flavour and aroma aspects first.
Bitterness – Bitterness is an essential part of any beer. But most beers people drink have barely perceptible levels of bitterness. If you want to do some tasting to try and specifically ‘find’ this aspect of the beer I would recommend you start with English style beers. In fact, ‘bitter’ is the name of a style of English ale. Any beer with ‘bitter’ in its name will work too. Ten Bitter Years by Black Oak Brewery is a good example. If you want a mainstream (Canadian) beer to try I would say Labatt 50 is a good choice here. Of course, India Pale Ales (IPAs) are the beer world’s way of worshiping the hop.
Bitterness shows up in many ways in a beer’s flavour profile (the way and the order that the flavours present themselves). Sometimes it is there, nakedly, all on its own. Generally, it shows up as a compliment or a counterpoint to sweet, malty, and grainy tastes. It can linger as part of the a beer`s finish.
Flavour—Flavour is a little trickier to define. I mean, bitterness is a flavour, right? You would be correct. But here flavour refers to the taste of the hop itself, not the taste of the bitterness it imparts. Each hop has its own flavour. Brewers pick and choose them for their different taste and aroma properties in order to make you a delicious pint.
This is where beer is a little like wine. The hops are a vine-grown plant (actually, hops grow on a bine if you want to be geeky about it). They grow in certain famous regions. They are temperamental and affected by the weather. Each variety has its own unique tastes and uses.
If you want to taste hop flavours and not just bitterness I would recommend IPAs. But I would also say that every IPA is different and you may end up with one that is heavy on the bitterness and lighter on the flavours. Another good choice here would be a Pale Ale or an American Pale Ale. Bitterness is on display here too, but there will most likely be a strong hop flavour here. As you drink different beers you will start to notice the particular tastes of certain hops. Cascade hops, for example, taste and smell a lot like grapefruit.
Aroma—Aroma is where the hops deliver in a big way. Because taste and smell are so intertwined you are mostly going to get the ‘nose versions’ of the tongue flavours hops provide. Fruit, citrus and grass/plant smells abound.
Effectively, you will never detect a hop aroma in a mainstream beer. Stop drinking it and try something not associated with large breasts, pool parties and American football. Here, you will find hop aromas to delight you. As far as a recommendation, I will just say that I encourage you to smell beer in general and to smell it with curiosity. Smell your beer like Sherlock Holmes would.
Randall-ized beers--What got me started on all this hop madness was the recent addition of a Randall at Gambrinus Bistro, my go-to beer bar in my hometown. Also known as an “organoleptic hop transducer module” (though I suspect this phrase is just Sam Calagione’s sense of humour at work ) it takes dry hopping to another level by pumping your draught beer through a chamber filled with hops. There’s a lot of fun to be had by playing with different hop varieties and their flavours + different beers and how they taste when ‘Randall-ized’. You could put spices, cocoa or coffee beans in there. The sky is the limit.
This is a good way to taste hop flavours, but Randalls aren’t exactly common. It will be much easier to walk into a bar or store and buy a hoppy beer (or Gambrinus, if you are in Southwestern Ontario).
Some Hop Facts--If you are curious about how brewers use hops to favour bittness vs. flavour and aroma you are in luck. Beer is boiled during the production process (actually, wort is being boiled and it later becomes beer if you want to be geeky about it). As the beer boils hops are added in stages at specific times. The timing of these additions determines what aspects of the hops will end up in your glass.
Hops deliver bitterness through alpha acids and flavour and aroma through other volatile compounds. Hops that are added early in the boil will have the volatile compounds boiled away and will impart only bitterness. Mid- and late-addition hops have relatively fewer compounds boiled away.
You can also add hops to beer after the boil. This is known as dry-hopping and it imparts flavours in its own way because the hops are never exposed to boiling temperatures. You add the hops by putting them in a bag or a cheesecloth and throwing them in the beer as it ferments. Or they are added to casks. Dry hopping flavours are very noticeable and unique. I once had a beer at Blind Tiger in New York City that tasted eerily like grass clippings and marijuana. Not sure if it made me hungry, but I certainly was very thirsty.
Hop bitterness in beer is measured in IBUs (Int'l Bitterness Units). Hop bitterness comes from compounds known as Alpha Acids and these are measured as a percentage. You won’t see alpha acid percentages unless you are buying hops. You will see IBUs on bottles and in tasting notes.
Hops have anti-microbial properties that help preserve beer. I did one of my first ever interviews with Monique Haakensen, a Canadian beer scientist who studied this exact phenomenon.
Skunky beer flavours occur when hop compounds in beer are fractured by light, breaking into new compounds that don’t smell as nice. This has more to do with the colour of the bottle than hops. Green bottles are the culprit here because they allow in light spectrums that brown bottles don’t. Ever wonder why skunky beers are the ones in green or clear bottles—eg. Heinekin and Moosehead? This has never happened to me, but I heard a brew-pub brewer tell me that he got skunk complaints because people drank the beer slowly, in clear pitchers, on a sunny patio. Better drink quick on the patio!
The big commercial brewers often use hop extracts to flavour beer. They use special extracts that are light-stable instead of changing the packaging. Craft brewers use whole leaf or pelletized hops.
Hops are related to marijuana and hemp. Might explain that beer I had in NYC, eh?
Hops are basically useless for anything other than beer making. Though, The Royal Oak in Wantage, Oxfordshire, makes a nice go at it using them for decoration.
Finally, here is the wikipedia page for hops so you can read more and see just how many beer-specific hops there are worldwide (a LOT!).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
There is much in the way of beer tasting advice, flavour notes, food discussion and a TON of great Brew Dog stories from James himself.
Here is how the Electronic Beer Dinner works:
1) Click here and go to Adventures in Alcohol's SoundCloud page
2) Laugh, cry and listen along to the recording of James speaking in Gambrinus Bistro
3) Drink the appropriate beers at the appropriate times, matching the recording
4) Make whatever food you wish to match the beers
5) Share your comments here or on SoundCloud's unique commenting feature.
You can comment on exact sections of the recording with questions, chuckles, and quaffing notes!
Here are the 4 beers you'll need which were featured that night as food pairings:
- Trashy Blonde Brewdog at Gambrinus - Intro, Tashy Blonde part I by AdventuresinAlcohol
- Punk IPA Brewdog at Gambrinus - Punk IPA part II by AdventuresinAlcohol
- 5 AM Saint Brewdog at Gambrinus - 5 AM Saint part III by AdventuresinAlcohol
- Hardcore IPA (Double IPA) Brewdog at Gambrinus - Double IPA part IV by AdventuresinAlcohol
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
|Photo by Mick Stephenson, who in no way endorses this blog|
Monday, February 7, 2011
|@ Gambrinus Bistro|
|2010 Vintage Ale|
Saturday, February 5, 2011
- First off -- what are you doing at Brew Dog and how did you get here?
- What are some of the problems you are trying to solve, things you are trying to change in your position.
- Brew dog conveys a sort of high energy enthusiasm for brewing and an experimental/radical vibe to their products. Is there a kind of crazed energy in the brewhouse like one is tempted to imagine?
- Are there experiments and test brews that you have seen going on? Anything you can talk about?
- Quick thoughts on living in Fraserbergh, Scotland (pop.~15,000)?
- Name some things that have surprised you recently.
- How did you get hooked and start to learn more about brewing?
- Please say something about the story behind meeting the prominent British beer writers Zak Avery Mark Dredge and Pete Brown---and the beer that was made!
This was a very cool experience. I sadly missed the MUSA (a local pub) dinner with the guys but got to spend a day with them the next day. I don’t think they were at their best. They showed up to brew an Imperial Pilsner which was continually hopped for the full 75 minute boil.
- Do you have a favourite Brew Dog Beer?
So far my favourite beer is probably Hardcore IPA or Chaos Theory. I’ve only had Chaos Theory once so I can’t be 100% sure but we will be brewing it again soon. If you can’t tell I’m an IPA fan. I also really like RipTide which is a great imperial stout. I also can’t wait to try the high ABV ones or the Abstrakt series, which I hear are fantastic.
- Thoughts on the high ABV beers? [Brew Dog has brewed beers at 32%, 41% and 55%! More on these in my future post about the Beer Dinner!]
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
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