Winter Awards

I've been able to try a wide variety of styles, and my tastebuds are starting to be confused about what they like more. I decided the only way to settle this would be to hand out some Winter awards based on what I've tried.

Best Overall Beer:

Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Quadrupel, 11.3% abv) - Nathan hooked me up with this as a gift for being in his wedding. Funny enough, I've had this beer once before and thought it was just okay. This time around, it was flat out amazing. Alcohol+figs, raisons, yeast, and candy all put in one beer...fantastic! Rated #1 beer in the world in latest beer advocate magazine ratings. Who am I to disagree?

Best Belgian Winter ale:

Canaster Winterscotch Ale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 8.7% abv) Went up to brick store for one drink on a random Saturday afternoon and happened to catch this on draught. What an amazing decision that turned out to be. From the De Glazen Toren brewery that brought us the Cuvee Angelique and the Jan De Lichte. Amazing brewery. Amazing beer.

Best Christmas Ale:

Corsendonk Christmas Ale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 8.5% abv) I tried them all...St. Bernardus, Scaldis, De Dolle, Delirium, Gouden Carolus to name a few. Corsendonk just seemed to have the perfect blend of sweetness and alcohol making it the smoothest, tastiest thing I tried this winter. Everyone that tried this seemed to rave about it. Well done.

Ms. Congeniality:

Samichlaus Bier (Doppelbock, 14% abv) Easily the strongest beer I've ever tried. Maybe the most interesting as well, as it seems to taste more like brandy than a beer. It got better with every sweet sip and made me glad I tried it. This Austrian beer is only brewed once per year (December 6th) and is aged for 10 months before bottling. Unique. Perfect choice for Ms. Congeniality.
Most Disappointing:

Terrapin Dos Cocoas (American Porter, 5.8% abv) I hate to throw the local brewery under the bus, but this beer just didn't do it for me. Every taste seemed smokier and drier than the last. I kept looking for that cocoa taste to come out...but sadly, it never did. Someone had to win this award, don't feel too bad Terrapin...I'll still drink your other stuff.


A few that have tickled my tastebuds

Over the last few months I've had some good beers, none that are worthy of my top 10, but still worthy of a mention. I'd suggest you try these when you get a chance...they all grade out as A's.

Terrapin Gamma Ray A- (11% abv) This wheatwine made with honey is one of the most unique beers I've ever tried. Easily my favorite Terrapin.

Scaldis Noel Premium A (13% abv) Maybe the most drinkable beer I've ever had that is that high in alcohol. So many different sweet, fruity sensations come out with every sip. This beer is known as Bush De Noel Premium in Europe...Scaldis is an alias.

De Dolle Still Nacht A (12% abv) This belgian strong dark ale was the first full De Dolle beer I've ever tried (I've had sips of others) and it certainly left a good impression. What a great way to celebrate the Winter approaching.

Unibroue 17 A- (10% abv) Certainly one of, if not THE best I've had from Unibroue...and that's tough to do. A great mix of sweet and spice make this something I've been craving to get my hands back on.

I'll give an honorable mention shout out to a German beer that is pretty easy to find as well (think Kroger).

Spaten Optimator

These are just a few to look out for the next time you are in a place that serves high quality beer. The best news is that most winter seasonals are still yet to be that gives you something to look forward to!


Seasonal Fun

With the falling of the leaves, comes some changes with the beers you see around your neighborhood pubs. No longer do we need those summer ales to refresh us from the heat. What should you be turning to in the mild fall weather?

From Beer Advocate:

"Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content. The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies'n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style."

We made a stop at Brick Store for their Oktoberfest celebration and came across a few "Oktoberfest" beers that were quite tasty. I liked all of them but probably enjoyed them in the following order (of course served in litre mugs):

1. Left Hand Oktoberfest B+

2. Victory Festbier B

3. Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen B-

Not into the German stuff? Well, how about a juicy pumpkin shoved in to your beer?

From Beer Advocate:

Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.

When I first tried a pumpkin ale last year I wasn't that into it, but I've had two this year that are starting to make a believer out of me.

1. Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale B

2. Post Road Pumpkin Ale B

Enjoy your fall, because it won't be long until we'll need some dark, heavy Belgian winter-warmers. That actually doesn't sound bad at all.


Oktoberfest at Brick Store Pub

This past weekend we joined some friends at Brick Store Pub for their annual Oktoberfest celebration. I sampled three of their Oktoberfest offerings: the Victory, Left Hand, and the Ayinger. All three of these beers were solid lagers and tasted just like a Märzen should, crisp and toasty. Great beers, great food, with great friends made for a great time. Jarrod will expound on the beers in the next post, but for now, here's some photos:

Where's Waldo (Jarrod)?

BSP Oktoberfest Beer Offerings

View from our corner booth

The Dubbels and Tripels - Glory in a Glass

This goes without saying, but the Belgians got it right when they began brewing beer many a' centuries ago. Three of the greatest (IMO) and most complex styles ever brewed originated in this crazy, waffle-loving-land o' plenty.

It is rumored that when the Trappist monks began brewing beer, they set out to brew three distinctive styles of beer (Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel) to incorporate the symbolism of the Holy Trinity into their beer making. The names also characterized the alcohol present in each style, with Enkels containing the least amount and Tripels being the strongest. Although Enkels are no longer brewed, the symbolism of the Trinity remains present today in several monasteries with the addition of Quadrupel style beers, which categorically just beat out the Tripels, and contain the highest amount of alcohol. Jarrod took care of the monster Quadrupel beers, and now I bring you my favorite Dubbel and Tripel style beers.

Dubbels are dark in color, and tend to have malt flavors dominating over hops. Whereas the Quadrupels have more of a fruit presence, the Dubbels tend to be a bit spicier with strong caramel flavors. This is very present in the aroma of the beer as well, as Dubbels typically have a warm caramel and brown sugar smell. Some Dubbels have rich creamy heads and others will have little to no head with slight lacing. They can be unpredictable as some breweries balance the flavors perfectly and others brew a very mediocre Dubbel beer. But, man, when they get it right it is an exceptional beer.
Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 6.5-9.0%

My top 5 Dubbel Beers:
1. Trappist Westvleteren 8 - It is hard to describe this beer. Westy's are by far the hardest to get and most sought after beers on the planet. The remarkable part about them is that they live up to the hype. It is by far the best Dubbel and one of the best overall beers known to man.

2. Westmalle Trappist Dubbel - This is the best readily available Dubbel. It tends to be pricey (roughly $5/11.2 oz bottle at your local bottle shoppe) but it is well worth it.

3. Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale - Although classified as a Dubbel, it tends to be less complex than some of the others I have tried. That aside, it is incredibly drinkable, very smooth, and just an all around great beer.

4. St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Some people debate this beer over its sister, the Pater 6, but for me, the Prior 8 "takes the cake". The Pater has more a sting to it up front whereas the Prior is more balanced and there are so many flavors present in this beer (including some crazy fruit undertones) it's hard to describe it accurately.

5. Maredsous 8 - I have only tried this beer once, but it was outstanding. I remember thinking it is exactly like a Dubbel should taste. Complex, spicy, dark, manly, etc.

I go back and forth deciding which style of beer is my favorite. One week it is Quadrupels, the next it is Belgian Strong Darks, but the style that remains tried and true for me (and the style I have sampled the most), is the Tripels. The Tripels probably deserve their own blog entry as I could ramble on and on about this style of beer. The beer is so well balanced and perfectly combines everything that is great about beer - malted barley and hops. It tends to be spicy and fruity and hoppy and malty all at once. The appearance of these beers can be quite deceiving to the novice beer drinker as they tend to be lighter in color, and unfortunately many people think the lighter the beer color, the less alcohol. Not true. Although Tripels are typically bright yellow to gold in color, their appearance is distinctly different from say, a pilsner, or lager. Mainly due to the fact that most Tripels are bottle conditioned, making for a cloudy appearance and a slightly different flavor depending on when it is opened/enjoyed. The best beers, after all, are the ones you cannot see through. Speaking of appearance, to me, there is not a beer style that exists that is more pleasing to the eye. When enjoyed in the proper glassware (tulip, snifter, goblet), with that cloudy golden color, and that large white head, it is a site to behold!
Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 8.0-12.0%

My Top 5 Tripel Beers:
1. Allagash Curieux - One of the few Tripels I have seen that is not yellow/golden in color. This one is aged in bourbon barrels, which might explain its dark amber color. The bourbon flavor is very present, but unlike bourbon, this does not burn your throat on the way down. It is incredibly smooth and just a crazy hybrid beer. I love it.

2. La Fin Du Monde - This beer is responsible for my love of Tripels and it is the standard, for me, to judge all other Tripels against. It is widely available and from one of my favorite breweries, Unibroue. There are flavors ranging from strong yeast to mild banana. Awesome.

3. Tripel Karmeliet - Although the color is more transparent than I would like (joking, kind of) it looks beautiful when poured properly, with its large white head and carbonation bubbles emitting from the bottom of the glass. This Tripel tends to have more of a peppery taste and also has more carbonation, which makes for an interesting mouthfeel.

4. Westmalle Trappist Tripel - Much like the Westmalle Dubbel, this one can be pricey, but it is also well worth the money spent. It is very smooth and drinkable and leaves a lot of lacing on the glass, which I love. It has a bit of spice to it, but levels out towards the end.

5. Green Peppercorn Tripel - I was lucky to get my hands on this beer thanks to a trade negotiated online. Much like the name suggests, the peppercorn dominates the palate. It is very spicy and there are (at least in mine) yeast balls floating in the beer which balances the spiciness as it goes down. I believe this beer is only available at The Brewers Art in Maryland, which is on my radar to visit in the near future.