5 “Must Drink” Beers Volume 4

I’m sitting here running yet another test on the new brewing system.  Today I am doing a big, boozy barleywine.  Making a beer this big is often a longer process, as both the mash and boil lengths are longer.  Therefore now is a perfect time to work on another entry of 5 beers everyone should try at least once.  As I always like to say, while I am confident in the beers I am writing about being high quality brews, I always encourage you to formulate your own opinions after trying them, and decide for yourself whether or not you agree with my opinion.

For this entry I am going to try and make the 5 selections very diverse, covering 5 completely different beer styles all of which are quality drinkers for the cold winter months.

 

Enjoy!

The Tide and Its Takers
Style: Belgian Tripel
(Anchorage Brewing Co.  Anchorage, AK  9%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 92  RateBeer Rating 99

Not only is it an awesome beer, but the label is pretty killer as well!

The first beer we are going to look at in this entry is from an amazing and innovative brewery in Alaska, Anchorage Brewing Co.  This brewery has turned out some of the most amazing beers I have had the opportunity to drink.  While I have enjoyed just about everything I have had from this brewhouse, this tripel truly is one of the most interesting and unique beers I have had from them.

I’ve always felt that other than the perfect winter warmer, nothing beats a big Belgian beer on a cold winter night.  While traditionally I lean towards a nice dubbel or even a big quadrupel when searching for the perfect Belgian winter treat, tripel’s still offer complex, yeasty, boozy, and warming flavors that are quite pleasing while trying to keep warm during the winter months.

While any quality tripel will suffice on a cold winters’ night, The Tide and Its Takers will bring you directly to your happy place, providing the perfect warming sensation to ward of the cold, while surprising you with a flavor profile that leaves you thinking about and looking ahead to the coming spring.  How does this beer seem to unite both memories of winter and springtime?  The answer is by somehow combining a delicious tripel, with another of my favorite styles, the farmhouse saison.  Saison’s are the perfect warm weather beer.  Crisp and refreshing, yet complex thanks to that distinct farmhouse aroma and flavor that combines yeasty and Belgian flavors with fresh farmhouse funk providing notes of grass, hay and even leather.   Saison’s are extremely unique beers, and I would venture to say a very difficult style to meld harmoniously with another style as distinct as a belgian tripel, yet the folks at Anchorage Brewing have done it perfectly.

This beer starts off with a big Belgian nose, plenty of yeast and some fresh sliced fruit notes.  Furthermore the presence of brettanomyces becomes present as hints of funk, earthiness and tartness come forward.  Finally to round out the unique aroma subtle hints of grass and banana slip through providing that unique saison-esque aroma.  The flavor matches quite nicely with the aroma.  The Belgian characteristics are still plentiful, while the Brett aspects compliment the beer perfectly.  Also making an appearance in the flavor is a subtle yet pleasant white grape bite more than likely coming from the fact that this beer is aged in oak-chardonnay barrels.  While it is far from the dominant flavor the complexity that aging this beer in these particular barrels provides is perfect.  Perhaps the most unique part of this beer however comes in the mouthfeel and finish.  While the beer, being a Belgian Tripel, is still quite viscous, there is a bright, bubbly, refreshing aspect to this beer that is uncommon to the everyday tripel.  Perhaps the beer is slightly more carbonated then most tripel’s but it is this beer’s finish and mouthfeel that truly started reminding me of a saison as opposed to a standard tripel.

While this beer IS a tripel, the combination of brettanomyces, chardonnay barrels, and perhaps a slightly higher carbonation level, along with the innovation and skill of the people over at Anchorage Brewing; this gorgeous tripel combines many of the characteristics of a saison, creating a refreshing, warming and tasty beverage, perfect to enjoy during the final months of the winter.
Matt’s Personal Rating 4 out of 5

Lashes
Style: American Amber Lager
(Jack’s Abby Brewing  Framingham, MA  7.2%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 90  RateBeer Rating: 84

A gorgeous amber lager

I am certainly a little biased when it comes to this brewery and this beer in-particular.  Not only is this a local brewery that I enjoy, but the person who this beer is both named after and created by used to work with me down at the store and continues to get together with me for some collaborative brewing.

Jack’s Abby is a unique brewery in the sense that everything they produce is lagered.  Many of the beers they produce are far from traditional lagers however.  Instead, they are lagered versions of many of our favorite ales.  They have rauch’s that have been lagered, I.P.L’s; and lagered porters.  Generally if it can be lagered they will try, and more often than not, be incredibly successful.

Lashes is a fantastic blend of a traditonal amber ale, and the crispness and refreshing characteristics of a lager.  Again, this beer does not remind the drinker of a traditional lager, it has a much higher ABV than most lagers, it has quite a bit of body and chewiness when it comes to the mouthfeel, and even the hop profile is much more upfront then the more traditional type lagers we have come to know.  Even with all of these characteristics there are still elements of this beer that remind you that it is indeed a lager.  Despite the fuller body and chewiness of the beer it still finishes with a refreshing crispness making this beer extremely quaffable.

The beer opens with a nice aroma that is very hop forward.  A combination of piney notes and citrus fruit lead it off, with a unique and subdued peppery aroma sneaking in towards the tail end.  The citrus notes are very prominent when the beer is freshly poured, however as it sits the piney notes become the dominate scent.  The flavor provides more of that piney hop flavor with some earthy undertones and a nice malt backbone.  The beer is medium bodied with a crisp lager-like carbonation and sticky finish loaded with a pleasant long lasting bitterness.

The balance between the hops and malt, as well as the unique feel of a medium-bodied amber crossed with the crisp refreshing feeling of lager makes this brew an extraordinarily enjoyable beer.  I hop the brewery decides to keep this brew in constant production as it is certainly a beer I would enjoy on a regular basis.
Matt’s Personal Rating 3.8 out of 5

Kriek Ale 2011
Style: Sour Ale/ Flanders Red

(Cascade Brewing Co. Portland, OR  7.5%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 94  RateBeer Rating: 98

Truly the perfect balance!

When it comes to a quality kriek the name of the game is balance.  Honestly, I don’t care to much about the fact that many people will argue that a kriek should be super sweet and almost syrupy.  I believe that a world class kriek is a beer that can hold true to this unique style, while still maintaining a balance that allows it to be enjoyable and drinkable.

Kriek’s are a Belgian style beer born from combining a lambic with sour morello cherries.  (or in some circumstances raspberries).  Lambic’s which are sour in nature take on the characteristics of the cherries over a long aging process often lasting 4-6 months.  During this phase the sugars from the fruit restart the beer’s fermentation process causing the sugars from the fruit to be turned into alcohol.  This results in the fruit flavor remaining left behind, while the sweetness disappears and dry’s out during fermentation.  Hence, while many believe that a kriek beer should be overly sweet, the fact is that a balance between tart/sour, sweetness, and a dry finish must be found to create a quality brew.

While it is often incredibly hard to find over here on the east coast, Cascade Brewing remains one of my favorite breweries, especially when it comes to wild and spontaneous fermentation.  While all of their beers are unique and tasty their kriek remains one of my favorites.  For this review I am writing based on a tasting of their 2011 vintage.  That being said, if you are able to get your hands on a bottle of this beer regardless of the year it was born, DO IT!!!  This beer is a delicious adventure.  The nose provides hints of sour cherries, tart lacto, and the hint of oak barrel essence.  The flavor kicks this beer up a notch paying homage to its lambic roots.  A bright but balanced sourness jumps out at you, while a distinct tart cherry flavor plays a co-starring role.  What is interesting about this beer is that enough oak essence is present to make it obvious that this beer was barrel aged, yet it never gets in the way or competes with pleasurable and puckering sensations of the cherry infused lambic.

I’ll admit whether it is lambics or krieks, or any other style of beer that falls under this particular umbrella, there are a lot of poor examples available to drinkers.  This is the type of style, where if you have the wrong beer first, the entire genre can be destroyed for you.  While quality beers in this style are far from cheap, finding a quality beer is imperative.  The kriek ale offered by Cascade Brewing is without a doubt one of the beers that will provide you with a high quality, proficient example of the style.  It is perfectly balanced, flavorful and tart, and will leave you puckering and smacking your lips while anxiously waiting for the next sip.
Matt’s Personal Rating 4.2 out of 5

Mad Scientist Series #12 Goser the Goserian
Style: Gose

(SixPoint Brewery Brooklyn, NY  4.5%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 85  RateBeer Rating: N/A

My apologies for my good friend Petey throwing his ugly mug in the photo!

I’ve been waiting for the right moment to throw a Gose into the discussion.  Pronounced Gose-uh, this unique style of beer is often tossed to the curb; a style of beer that few have tried and fewer understand.  While the popularity of this particular style is incredibly low, there have been signs, especially with the craft beer boom, that it is in fact making a “comeback”.

Before we look at this specific beer, what exactly is a Gose, what does it mean and where does it come from?  Gose is a style that originated in Germany near or around the town of Leipzig.  Thus, when most beer drinkers discuss this style the most commonly discussed version is “Leipziger Gose”.  While this version brewed by Leipziger may be the most well-known, many craft breweries are attempting to create their own version of the style in an effort to bring the style back to the mainstream.  Gose’s are unique for their blend of flavors and for the distinct saline profile that the beer showcases.  Originally the water used for this beer came from the River Gose near the small town of Goslar in Germany.  The water in this river was noted for its natural salinity from the mineral rich compounds abundant in the area.  Locals, throughout history, had always been enamoured with the content of this water, even claiming that the salt crystals from the water had incredible medicinal purposes.  Beers brewed using this water had a distinct salt-like profile, and thus the style known as Gose was born.  Combining this saline water, with a lacto fermentation and hints of coriander, brewers found themselves with a unique, flavorful and distinct style of beer.

Now while it would seem to make sense to use the more well-known Leipziger Gose as my introductory beer to the style, I must admit that the offering from the “mad scientists” over at SixPoint truly captured the style in a way that I found to be more flavorful and exciting.  While SixPoint did not use actual water from the river Gose, or even a true lacto culture for fermentation, this version captures how many craft breweries are figuring out new ways to capture the essence of the style with the ingredients they have at their disposal.

Goser the Goserian, the latest release in the mad scientist series by SixPoint is a flavorful, drinkable Gose, that functions as the perfect stepping stone for anyone interested in trying a new/old style of beer.  In order to capture the essence of a true gose the breweries used a combination of sea salt, coriander and acidulated malt to recreate the unique flavor.  While the first 2 ingredients may seem obvious, it is the use of acid malt that really helps capture the beer’s true characteristics.  Acid Malt is a specialty malt that has actually been cultivated with lactic acids.  Therefore while an actual lacto culture was not used during fermentation, the lactic acids in the acid malt help provide that light tang/sour flavor that is present in Gose’s.  For the record the strength of the sour profile is much more subdued than in a typical lambic or other wild ale.  In a Gose the sour notes are part of the overall flavor, not the star.

Goser the Goserian opens with a refreshing and eye-opening aroma.  Notes of coriander, sea salt, tang and citrus zest round out the nose.  While the aroma is not overpowering it is an interesting combination of aromas that many beer drinkers have not had the pleasure of experiencing together.  The aroma makes way for the unique flavor of this beer.  The beer, sort of a light wheat beer at its core opens with a light tart punch with notes of citrus, wheat bread, and spice from the coriander.  This initial flavor slowly fades away making way for the unique dehydrating effect of the salt.  Have you ever swallowed a mouthful of ocean water?  The salt water quickly dry’s out your mouth, leaving you to smack your lips while a lingering saltiness fades slowly away.  This beer has a similar effect.  While the overall flavor is much more appealing than ocean water, the flavor finishes with that distinct saline finish.  After finishing your first sip, you almost feel like you need to rehydrate, leading you to take another sip of the beer, only to discover that the latest sip is forcing you to want to take another.  This unique sensation is what makes this beer and other Gose’s like it, the unique beer drinking adventure that it is.

I will admit that I would have loved if this beer’s salt profile was a little stronger.  However, that is because I am obsessed with that particular sensation and would love to see it taken to the extreme. (see an upcoming post on Gose creation)  However, my personal obsession should in no way get in the way of describing exactly what this beer is, a new age spin on a forgotten classic.  Goser the Goserian is refreshing and balanced.  The tartness mixes perfectly with the wheat base, the slight spice profile from the coriander is noticeable but subdued, and the unique experience of a salt based beer provides a very unique experience and helps formulate a very interesting and tasty beverage.
Matt’s Personal Rating: 3.6 out of 5

Pumpkin Lambicus
Style: Lambic (Fruit)
(Brouwerij Timmermans-John Martin N.V.  Itterbeek, Belgium 4%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 85  RateBeer Rating: 83

Why am I talking about a pumpkin beer in March?

It is the middle of March and here I am talking about a pumpkin beer.  It sounds ridiculous but there is merit.  I recently looked back at my old post describing my top 5 pumpkin beers and realized two things.  First, I discovered how hard it was to come up with that list.  At the risk of sounding like a beer snob, the majority of serious beer drinkers are often avoidant of any beer labeled a “pumpkin” beer.  Secondly, as I sat back and thought of the beers aging in my basement I realized that this particular spin on the pumpkin beer is the perfect beer to stash in the cellar for use later on in the fall.

Lambics are traditionally of Belgium origin and brewed using a method known as spontaneous fermentation.  This means that unlike most beers that are fermented using carefully selected and cultivated yeast strains, these beers are fermented using natural yeasts and a wild/spontaneous (yet controlled) fermentation process.  This process results in a beer that is considered dry, wine-like and more often than not soured.  To reach the prime level and combination of these unique flavors lambics are often aged for long periods of time prior to consumption.  Furthermore while it is possible to find straight lambics, this beer style has become more popular as refermented beer used in the creation of Gueze and Kriek style brews.

You may be sitting there saying, pumpkin and sour beer together?  I’ll be honest, the same question floated through my brain as I prepared to pop open the cork on this unique lambic.  However, to my absolute delight I discovered a beer that combines the unique flavor profiles of a lambic and pumpkin nearly flawlessly.  The beer’s aroma is certainly pumpkin heavy.  Notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and a little nutmeg can easily be picked out.  What makes the aroma unique is the subtle tart aroma that creeps up on the pumpkin notes providing a very unique blend.

The flavor is almost the exact opposite of the aroma.  The beer starts off with the unique, puckering sensation found in a lambic.  While this beer is not nearly as sour as many lambics that I have tried, there is still an obvious dry tartness that clearly defines this beer’s lambic roots.  While the dry, tart notes linger on the tongue, the next level of flavor begins to shine through.  It is in this second layer that the pumpkin “re-enters” the picture.  Beginning with a fresh almost vegetal note, the pumpkin spices slowly work their way into the mix, introducing cinnamon and nutmeg and finishing with a light cocoa finish.  This combination of flavors, and the breweries ability to happily marry these unique styles together is amazing.  This beer is still clearly a lambic, sour at its core, however the pumpkin essence is strong, helping to balance the lambic and create the ideal “beer drinkers” pumpkin beer.

This beer is not perfect.  The finish is abrupt and the beer would truly benefit from a nice pleasant lingering aftertaste.  Furthermore the pumpkin flavor truly relies on the spice profile more so than true pumpkin.  However, in a world where pumpkin beers flourish, and with the reality that come fall everybody will once again fall into line and begin drinking those overly sweet pumpkin beers, this lambic offers an alternative pumpkin beer option, that any beer drinker looking for something unique, timely and balanced is sure to enjoy.  Grab a couple of 750 ml bottles now and stick them in your cellar.
Matt’s Personal Rating 3.6 out of 5

 

So there you have it, the next edition of my 5 “Must Drink” beers.  I am always curious to hear your opinion so please don’t be shy.   I am currently working on a blog talking about different off-flavors many brewers and beer drinkers come across, as well as an entry on how to make your very own Gose.  Furthermore, the on-going battle of building my electrical home brewing system continues and I am sure I will have another entry in the saga very soon.

 

Until next time, Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Beer

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