Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slowbeer Unseasonal Tap Takeover

My local bottlo had the great idea (and great availability of kegs) to ask it's punters to choose 4 from a shortlist of big dark beers, that they would like to taste as we go from Summer to Autumn. Of course being a man who loves a good stout, it being close to St Pat's Day, and celebrating 2 years since my first ever days work at Mountain Goat Brewery, I went down there yesterday to try the beers that were chosen.

I was especially happy as 3 of the 4 beers were ones I voted for!

Collecting 4 tasters and setting them down in front of this Beerologist (This man is a Beerologist, so we can't show you his face), he was left to sip and ponder these beers and I now have his notes to pass onto you.

The Peche Mortel from Dieu du Ciel is a coffee stout, but on first whiff, I was getting more of a rich mocha porter about it, and this stayed as it warmed. I therefore quite like this beer with its complexity and depth of flavour, which melded well with the alcohol level in it to keep the profile quite even overall. I have to say, having had this beer from the bottle previously, there was not the richness of mocha I was getting in this beer. Still, it may be the sweet dark malts balanced out the coffee roastedness, or maybe the coffee was cold filtered.

Probably the one I was most looking forward to tasting was the Mikkeller Cocio Bajer, a chocolate stout that where lactose has also been used. It had a dusty dark brown colour, with very little head but specks of floating sediment sitting on top of the beer. Already I was getting flashbacks to a milk chocolate stout I had tried in my own homebrewing, and had come out looking similarly. The similarities continued, when the taste of chalky/alkaline really dominated across the palate, and the texture was quite watery. Unfortunately the one I was wanting to taste most was the most disappointing. Along with this was a coffee aroma and taste that was more than the Dieu du Ciel had, and the only time I had any chocolate in this beer was when it had been left to sit for quite a while.

Another beer I was highly anticipating was the Trios Mousquetaires Baltic Porter, a beer I have been collecting in bottles for the past few years (and happy to say I have 3 vintages of to do a vertical tasting of soon). Now this one did live to the hype I had for it. A dark beer fermented as a lager was both clean, but still had some great dark malt characters that ran evenly across the palate. This was helped with a light, but creamy texture. I guess in a way it has decreased complexity for a dark beer, but the simplicity of it with even profile, clear flavours and good texture are what I really like about this beer, maybe being such a simple man myself. To be honest, I think it is a bit of an extension of my days when the first beer I ever enjoyed was a Toohey's Old, and generally been interested in baltic porters since I found them.

Lastly, and probably the biggest overall, was the Mikkeller George. A classic Imperial Stout with big dark malt characters, a bit of caramel on midpalate and the alcohol starts to rise, and rise, a bit of heat with that alcohol, but still a nice cleansing finish (well for an imperial stout anyway). As it warmed up the alcohol heat died down a bit, and from the keg, texture held up quite well to help. I probably would have preferred to have tried this beer in one of it's barrel aged forms to help mellow it out a bit.

Overall, an interesting line up of dark beers at the end of Summer, and was great to have the opportunity to put my vote in for what I drink. Hopefully I have another chance to head back in for some of these beers again this week...if they last that long...



PS: Thanks to Hannah for the new beer t-shirts!!!!!
PPS: Very happy to see there was a bottle of Rogue Double Chocolate Stout still at Slowbeer, so took that off their hands as well!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Dream Becomes Reality...

So, 2 years ago, I wrote this post here, talking about a beer I had 2 years previously while in the United States. Somehow though, I got it a bit wrong, and what I thought was the Rogue Chocolate Stout, was actually a Rogue Double Chocolate Stout (I always wondered why it never tasted the same after the first try). Still, if anything, it has just allowed me to continue my search for this 'holy grail' of beer for an additional 2 years.

4 years ago, I took this photo of myself with some spoils from Rogue Brewery in Portland (at the time), thinking this was the beer I had tried with that warm chocolate truffle cake.

Today, I post this photo of me with that beer I had actually been looking for.

I'm not going to go on about what I have been through to get to this point (some of it is probably already documented on the blog), so just going to get on with righting a wrong, and learning the difference between the 'standard' Chocolate Stout and the Double.

So, while doing a brew with Stass on the weekend (actually, it was the Monday of a long weekend...not a bad way to spend it), I took 3 Rogue beers with me to try throughout the afternoon.

Starting with their Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, realising not just in name, but also packaging, the potential for a novelty beer to be within this pink bottle. Ok, the colour does seem to have similarities to the German smoke beers (Rauchbier) I have seen, and even the glossy maple look can also be seen in presentation. Upon the first whiff, the maple is quite strong, and this aroma seems to only become stronger as the beer warms up, along with some slight notes of what I can only presume may be the cherrywood smoked malt. I am not sure if this sort of sweet smell is meant to arouse the doughnut factor in this beer, but for Stass and I, we were drawn more to pancakes than doughnuts with this, which may work better with the maple and bacon (Canadian Bacon pancakes!). The maple aroma does not come across as strong in flavour, but is definitely present upfront, and it sweetness is left as a residual lingering any minutes after swallowing. From the initial maple taste, this melds into the cherrywood smoke malts, then the beechwood smoked malts bring out more of the bacon aspect on the midpalate. I found it a bit difficult to the detect the difference between the beechwood and the hickory smoke, as I tend to get a bit more sweet bacon from hickory smoke, and was generally only sensing a drier bacon flavour, as if it had been salted. This also meant the apple sauce bacon supposedly also in the beer seemed to have negligible impact on the beer from my perspective. As the beer hit the back of the tongue the cherrywood smoked malts seemed to return, along with the maple, and so in aftertaste, the beer came closest to actually tasting a like doughnut maple bacon, but as I said, maybe more Canadian Bacon pancakes.
Overall, while the profile was interesting, there was not a good balance of flavours, so this beer remains a bit of a novelty.

Ok, with our tastebuds peaked, it was time to finally go where I had not gone before, and crack open a bottle of the Rogue Chocolate Stout with a bottle of the Rogue Double Chocolate Stout. Phew, was I really ready to have this long lived dream come true?

Cracking the standard Chocolate Stout, the smell of chocolate was quite strong, and even with at least a year of age under it's belt, I could not find any oxidation in aroma or taste. The chocolate malt character was quite good, and think cocoa has been used to build on this to emphasis the chocolate aroma and reduce the roasted character that I would expect from chocolate malt by itself. I believe the use of Dutch cocoa gives it a better 'real' chocolate aroma and flavour to beer, and therefore sense it's presence in this beer. There is definitely a lightness to the chocolate, or maybe I am just expecting more texture to go with the chocolate flavour. You may not hear this from me often, but I actually don't mind the use of hops they have used to pair back the chocolate from the end of midpalate and then clean it up completely in aftertaste. Just means you are willing to go back for more sooner...still, residual chocolate flavour would not be unwanted, but would simply make the beer one-dimensional...but then it is a chocolate stout...I'll stop arguing with myself.

So, for the big moment. As soon as I poured the Rogue Double Chocolate Stout into the glass, the thickness of the beer was already noticeable, and the brown head that is not so evident on the standard Chocolate Stout, and reminded me of the head that was on the beer I had at Pix those many years ago...yes, this was definitely the same beer. Aroma is quite light on in terms of chocolate, but honey sweetness is evident with the dark malts, and alcohol is very evident on the nose also. To be honest, it does not smell as chocolately at the standard Chocolate Stout, which had me very worried after all this time of waiting for this moment. Still, being a very texture based drinker, as soon as I put this beer in my mouth, the sensation I had that previous tasting came back, and not too ashamed to say some tears welled in my eyes a bit (only the second beer to do this to me). While this beer does not have the same chocolate taste as the standard, there is a richness to the beer that brings me the sensation of chocolate, which I think I actually enjoy more, and why it paired so well with the chocolate truffle cake I had with it previously. The cake brought flavour and the beer sensation. I realise now that is why that combo blew my mind back then. Still, I think the hero of the beer is really in the honey. Firstly, it thickens up the beer to give the lush texture a beer like this needs. Secondly, the brings the sweetness this beer needs to counteract the roasted bitterness that can come from using too much chocolate malts/cocoa. Lastly, it may have also been used to help get this beer to it's 9% alcohol, which I have to say, is quite hot in the beer. I know now I need to give this beer a bit of time to mellow out the alcohol heat and maybe allow more of the chocolate flavour to dominate the palate a bit more.

Still, a resounding success and contenting moment was had as Stass and I slowly sipped away at this beer in the shade of his backyard with the music set up and brew going on in the shed. One of those moments that will be tagged with this beer forever now for me. Not only that, but I have a growler of this beer waiting for me at Stass' dad's place when I am up that way next week, so there may well be some chocolate beer to be tasted for Easter this year...to go with every Easter I have nowadays, and a chance to taste this beer two ways at the same time...Amazing!!!!



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Another Sydney Beer Weekend

So, it is with a better state of mind that I come to this blog this time. It is funny though, after being depressed with the 4 years I have been searching for Rogues Double Chocolate Stout and still not being any closer, it was this week I found that Warners At The Bay in Newcastle has that exact beer on tap. Thanks to Stass's dad up there, we now have a growler of this long searched beer in his care until I am up there in a few weeks. Yes, it may not be in the best state by then, but after this long, I don't really care, and reports from Stass's family is that it tastes as good as I recall. Plus, I have heard a new distributor is bringing Rogues to Australia now, so I will have a chance to soon to maybe even get this beer in bottle form!!!!! Still after this long I have learnt not to get my hopes up, so until I taste it, and see the bottle in Slowbeer of Purvis, I will keep fighting to get it. Which reminds me, I need to go to the bottle shops near me to see if they will be/persuade them to getting it in.

Anyway, now onto this post, was happy to head back up to Sydney last weekend to hang out with Hannah and her friends at a wedding (only Boag's available unfortunately, but at least the groom looked and sounded like an Irish jockey to keep me entertained) and her and Rach's birthday drinks at the Taphouse in Darlinghurst. With Hannah's favourite beer (at the moment) being on tap (Sierra Nervada Kellerweiss), and a good selection of other beers to choose from, it was a good night of tasting and trying to find beer appropriate to the tastes of those around me. After a warming Bridge Road Robust Porter to warm me up from the chill of rain in the air (but mugginess inside), it was time to taste what beers on the list I had not had before.

Starting on something quite weird, the Doctor's Orders Cephalopod had the green of a usual Berliner Weisse, but with the addition of the ink, gives it a blue/grayish cloudiness which makes it look a bit like swamp water (ok, not an appealing look for your general beer drinker). So along with the tart finish that  is standard with the style, I could not help but feel like I was also tasting a bit of saltiness (maybe from the ink), to the point I could have been closer to drinking a Gose (another Northern German regional style of beer). Still, in the crowd, the look and taste did not generally go down well, with 'butt crack sweat' being one of the more memorable responses to the beer. I did however find it quite refreshing in its own way, and the ink also seemed to give the beer a bit more body, which with the slight salt had me thinking of the use of mussels in some stouts.

Next on the list was sort of keeping with the wheat beer start, but going back in time to it's ancestor, the Enkir, with this Birra del Borgo speciality grain ale. The haze gave it a yeasty taste towards the back, even maybe a bit husky, and looked a bit darker than normal wheat beers. I was interested to taste it had quite a bit of sweetness to it up front to go with the citrusy nose. The sweet with the husky flavours did not mix great in the balance of the beer, but made for something new to try in a beer. Was happy to see the hop character was diminished to allow this malt character to come through fully.

Getting a bit darker and into the Autumn beers we are just getting into in the southern hemisphere, the Beer Here Autumnie Fallout was a really good balanced beer. Being Scandinavian, the malt character was quite big, but evened with a cleansing hop finish to make it easy drinking...well compared to the rest of the range I was trying...making this a really good palate settler in the middle of the tasting.

Going back to Italian beers, the Opperbacco 10 e lode had sweetness to burn! Having used brown sugar in a few of my own beers, could pick up on this. The belgian aspect of the beer was a bit hard to find even at the back end of the palate, but is possible there was a bit of candied sugar to keep with the sweet theme. Of course, this became one of my favs of the night, but many others just found it too sweet.

Ending with a bang, a Scandinavian malt bang, the Fano Bryghus Evil Twin Soft Dookie had such a creamy texture too it, the 'cloud' metaphor came out, add that vanilla, and big malt of an imperial stout, this was an amazing beer to finish on, and definitely my sort of beer for the rain in Sydney.

I guess speaking of stouts, I also have to mention on was walk around Blackwattle Bay, I came across a Belgian Imperial Stout in a Glebe bottle shop, and just had to buy it (like the Hercule Stout, I don't often find stouts from Belgium). I did not get a chance to drink it this time, but am sure I will be writing up here about it when that chance come along.

After the night at the Taphouse, I also took the opportunity to visit the Union Hotel and see there good range of tap beer available. They even had the Doctor's Orders Cephalopod, so decided to try it again. It seemed a bit clouder this time, and talking to the barman, he said they had to keep rotating the keg to stop the ink sitting on the bottom. Seeing they also had two handpumps, Hannah and I shared a Murray's Punch and Judy, and a Young Henry's Vertigo. I liked the english style of the Punch and Judy on the Handpump, while Hannah enjoyed the kristalweizen for obvious reasons. Both great beers to have on handpump, and shows Australia may be getting closer to appreciating beers that are served this way.

Ah, a much better post, and now have good things again to look forward to in beer. Not to mention I jst had a full week in Mountain Goat's brewhouse, which apart from being tired and burning myself with steam and hot pipes, did not go as badly as I thought it would. So hopefully, even more things to look forward to in the career I have been slowly persistent in pursuing.