Welcome to my beer blog. Here I'll post some of my thoughts on and reviews of craft brewed beer. Follow me on Twitter @AleThoughts

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2006

So this storm came through and messed up a bunch of stuff on the East coast. We decided to have a party of sorts in preparation for the destruction. I pulled a few semi-old bottles from the closet for the occasion. Over the last year or so I've collected a handful of vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoots. Since I've now got doubles of some years I figure its ok to start opening some. This one is from 2006 (bottled and distributed late 2005?). By my calculations that puts this one well over five years old.

I really enjoy this beer fresh. It's a very hoppy American barleywine. It's somewhat of a booze bomb too at close to 10% alcohol by volume. I figure that both of these characters would mellow out a bit over time. I tend to enjoy the less hoppy English barleywines more. I've got a nice relationship going with the 2002 JW Lees Harvest Ale. Just like the Lees, though, Bigfoot changes year to year. 

It pours cloudy caramel brown with a solid one finger head. This is retained at the edges through the end of the tasting. Carbonation streams are strong at first and disappear a few minutes after the pour. The aroma is of caramel, toffee, toasted bread with a slight dark citrus tinge.

The flavors up front are lovely. Deep caramel, toffee and a very strong hoppy bitter presence. Five years later and it holds some sharp hop flavors, that's Sierra Nevada's calling card. As it opens up the toffee sweetness deepens and the aggressive hops give way to sweet candied citrus. The finish is sweet like chocolate and caramel. It feels quite viscous, as it should. It's a rich, rich beer. The alcohol warmth is not as obvious as in the fresh vintage.

Just like most barleywines, Bigfoot is very enjoyable as a sipper. Some of the very aggressive flavors have mellowed a bit. I've not even taken in to account the slight difference of this brew year to year. I think five years rest is great for a barleywine. Or, is it this specific 2006 batch? I didn't have this fresh when it was first distributed. The oldest I have in my collection is this batch. I'd love to get my hands on some 2005, or older. This makes me want to buy a few cases of this every year.

What's the oldest Bigfoot you've had? Thoughts?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beer Review: Epic Brewing Sour Apple Saison

We picked up this bottle Epic Brewing Sour Apple Saison in Durham, NC on our vacation road trip this summer. We don't get Epic up here and we're huge fans of the loose saison style so we figured we'd give this one a shot. The labeling says that this is from their Exponential Series, which is Epic's big beer offerings. Take a look at that list, there's a lot there I'd like to try.

The label is printed "RELEASE #6", which their website says was brewed on June 6th of this year. In addition to specific release info they clearly list which malts, hops and spices were used in the brewing process. I really appreciate that this information was readily available. I wish more breweries would give us clear release, brew or bottle dates. My wife and I split the 22 ounce bottle in two tulips.

It pours hazy yellow with a bright white fluffy head. The settled in carbonation streams stick around for a bit and the head retention is good. The aroma is of tart apple, funky yeast with mild spiced bread notes. The flavor begins with a big tart and sour fruit smack in the face. There is zero sweetness. The middle has some light pepper and spice notes. As this beer warms some banana and lemon notes come out. It finished creamy and slightly sour. The mouth-feel is medium to medium-thin with some slight alcohol warmth in the finish.

Really, there's no apple in it. The name is derived from some of the tasting notes. I am completely ok with this naming and labeling. Just don't go in to this think that it's a sour apple cider, it most certainly is not. This saison is a nice change of pace, and it's anything but typical. It's a refreshing palate cleanser. I feel that it's well made and found it quite enjoyable. At 7.8% alcohol by volume this will having you feeling quite nice, quick. I imagine that this would keep well for an extended period of time. I'd get it again if I could find it, maybe even a few to keep on hand.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beer Review: New Belgium Lips of Faith Kick

Did you hear the news? New Belgium now distributes to Maryland. About damn time! There's a slightly different version of the Fat Tire label that says something along the lines of "don't be crabby, we got to the Chesapeake". I guess this is to answer similar reactions from others who share my feelings. It is about time.

Craft beer folks will know to skip the Fat Tire and go right for the big boys, the Lips of Faith series. In all seriousness, I'm very happy that New Belgium stuff can be had in Maryland. I'm thrilled that they sent out some of the special and seasonal releases in addition to their standard line. I hope this is a sign of things to come. Prices seem very reasonable at about $4 for the standards and $7-$9 for the big guns.

Kick appears to be a fall seasonal. The jack-o-lantern themed label give that away. This brew is a collaborative effort between New Belgium in Colorado and Elysian Brewing Company in Washington. It's a sour ale that's a blend of sorts. 75% is an ale that's brewed with cranberry juice and pumpkin. 25% is an un-fruited ale that's been aged in wood barrels. It clocks in at 8.5% alcohol by volume.

I poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a medium snifter. I offered to share this with my wife, but she declined. Ok, I'll drink it by myself. Darn. It appears evenly hazy, pale orange with a fine bubbled head, small streams of carbonation that come up sporadically through the tasting. The head scoots to the edge really quick. The aroma is with faint hints of cranberries with some light wood notes. It reminds me of chardonnay wine.

Sipping commences. It's big and tart. Huge tart orange citrus up front which sticks through the middle. I picked up some earthy woody notes and tart and sour cranberries in the middle. It finishes with hints of sweet cherries. The lingering aftertaste is rocky and sour with some hints of cinnamon spice. It comes back and goes away a few times. This is a palate cleanser, for sure. Kick feels light to medium in body with not a hint of alcohol.

I'm pleased with this, my NB-hype excitement aside. For the price, this is a VERY well executed lightly sour ale. I don't pick up too much from the pumpkin addition, but the cranberry is there for sure. This could be a good one for the adventurous beginner who has had success with lightly sour brews. Very enjoyable as a sipper after dinner. The 8.5%ABV is extremely well hidden. The  use of cranberry and the cinnamon notes make me want to save this for the colder holiday weather. But, it's quite enjoyable in the light summer as a sour to finish off a tasting session.

In my recent shopping I grabbed some Clutch, a dark sour ale. We'll see how that one is tomorrow.