Monthly Archives: January 2018

Tasting Notes: D9 Kingsbridge Barleywine

Does how we perceive a brewery or its staff alter our perception of their beer? Or, does the name on the bottle affect whether you consider a beer good?

Every craft beer fan has a brewery blind spot. Sometimes a brewery will use a house yeast that doesn’t particularly fit your palate. Sometimes the brewer concentrates on styles your palate does not naturally gravitate to. This is a people business. One night you and the head brewer met at a bar didn’t like each other. That could affect your perception of the beer. It could be as simple as you do not like the packaging for their beers.

Whatever the reason, you are predisposed to dislike their beers.

One of my blinds spots is in my own backyard with D9 Brewing out of Cornelius, NC. I have no animosity towards anyone who works there. In fact, I like everyone I’ve met from the brewery. Yet, I am not a particular fan of their beer. I don’t hate their beer, I look forward to their Systema Naturae sour beers releases every year. Yet, outside of those beers, I normally don’t find their beers appealing. That makes this review of the Kingsbridge Barleywine interesting.

 

D9 Kingsbridge Barleywine
Photo by Ryan Moses

Kingbridge pours a clear amber color with a thin head with a short retention span.

 

A bready malt and dark fruit sweetness is the primary aroma. There is also leather, clove, and hints of vanilla present. Alcohol also comes through on the nose, but it is not overwhelming.

In fact, the alcohol is the first flavor you perceive on the taste. It provides a little heat, but nothing too intense. The rest of the taste is a good sweet malt showcase. There is a breadiness followed by a vinous and pruny sweetness. It coats the mouth, but the taste doesn’t cloy or linger. The taste ends with a classic barleywine taste of honey and sherry.

This is a quality offering from a brewery whose style and quality has grown since I first encountered them. I look forward to their beer and my palate growing and evolving side by side as I continue to try all of their offerings.

Tasting Notes: Stone W00T Stout 2017

2017 W00T Stout from Stone has many things going on from the aroma to the finish. A lot of

Stone W00T Stout 2017
Photo by Ryan Moses

thought and planning went into creating this beer. That is apparent from the first whiff as you pour it into the glass.

It is a dark, dark, dark, dark brown bordering on black, like the oil from your car if you don’t change it regularly. There is no haze and it has a thin brown head and good visible carbonation.

There is a lot to the aroma. You first experience a strong whiff of alcohol. Then all the different malt aromas envelop you: chocolate, coffee, and smoke. Next is all the nuttiness from the pecans and spiciness from the rye. The beer closes with aromas of plum and raisin with the vanilla from the barrel aging.

As with the aroma, there is a lot happening with the taste. You would imagine the taste would knock you out with alcohol based on the aroma. The alcohol is definitely present, but not overpowering. Then you move into the chocolate, caramel, and smoke from the malt. Next, the combination of the rye and alcohol mimics the taste of cinnamon on the back of your palate. The pecan nuttiness and vanilla from the barrel aging close out the beer.

The wonderful thing about W00T Stout is that it does not overwhelm. With all these things occurring, it still drinks with a comfortable easiness. This beer that is crafted to be enjoyed. Not as an experiment to break ABV records or see how many weird ingredients can be included and still be palatable.

Food recommendations start with late night pancakes served with real maple syrup. If you want a more traditional meal, go with a pot roast with roasted parsnips and carrots as the root vegetables.

Tasting Notes: Founders Backwoods Bastard 2017

The Founders Backwoods Bastard will become a year-round offering in April.

Founders Backwoods Bastard
Photo by Ryan Moses

This makes me happy. This means more opportunities to enjoy this beer without buying as much as I can when it arrives in November.

My question becomes, how will this change affect both its actual taste and its perceived taste among the craft beer blogosphere.

I trust Founders to make a move like this. Their beer’s high quality remains consistent with every bottle and keg. I expect that this decision is carefully planned and will occur with minimal disruption to the beer. The question begs, will the response to Backwoods Bastard in April, hold the same intensity as a core item as it did in November when it was special. The stories we tell ourselves about a beer carry more weight than the actual facts of the beer.

Yet, I digress. We are here to praise Backwoods Bastard not bury it.

Backwoods pours with a reddish brown/chestnut color and a thin off-white foamy head. It has a slight haze and nice carbonation.

Alcohol and a plum/pruny sweetness are upfront on the aroma. For an aged beer, it carries less leathery/oxidized hints then I expected.

The alcohol, while present and noticeable, does not overwhelm and is not as intense as the aroma indicates. There are two “woody” tastes. The first is a restrained old-world hop woodiness and the second is on the backend and comes from the barrel aging. The rest of the taste is a classic scotch ale with a malt-focused sweetness with enough hop bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the malt and barrel aging.

This is a great beer whose year-round presence I welcome. I hope the general beer drinking population joins me in that sentiment.

Food pairing recommendations: Rotini pasta with a vodka marinara sauce or a nice slice of apple pie topped with cheddar cheese.

Beer and Food Pairing: A Curry Dish and Saison Dupont

Today’s pairing is more of an idea than an actual pairing.  I was inspired at a recent Christmas dinner for the bartenders at the bar that I manage.  We were at Copper, an excellent Indian restaurant in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte.  However, their beer list is less than stellar.  Therefore, we were drinking wine.  Nothing against wine.  In fact, the pinot noir we drank was excellent.  However, as I drank I could not help but think, “A beer would be better with this meal.”  Why did I think that?

Well, there is the obvious that I work in the beer industry and I have a beer blog and beer is one of my favorite things on Earth.  There is also the stone fact that beer is better with some foods than wine because of the cooked nature of beer and the way the carbonation in beer scrubs the palate.

On to the meal and the pairing.  First, the naan was outstanding.  I will eat naan without any tzatziki or any other condiment.  Second, my entrée was equally outstanding.  I had the Yukon gold-green beans-mushrooms curry served with Goan style coconut-chili sauce, garlic, and vinegar.  The pinot noir we were having with dinner fought valiantly, but it did not quite work with the spicy nature of the dish.

So, my mind started working.  I needed a beer light on the palate, crisp enough to cut through the spiciness and creaminess, and yet spicy enough on its own to handle the spicy nature of the curry.  What was my answer?

Saison Dupont
Photo by Ryan Moses

Saison Dupont is my favorite beer.  In this case not only is it my favorite beer, but it is the perfect beer to pair with a spicy dish such as this.

Let’s start with why a saison before we get to why this saison and you will see why I picked it.  Saisons are crisp, refreshing, and dry.  Just what you want to cut through a creamy, spicy food.  Then they also tend towards a spicy and citrusy taste both of whom complement most curry dishes.  Why this particular saison?  This the saison all other saisons strive to emulate.  You remember how everyone wanted to be like Mike?  This the same thing.

In a subjective business, like beer rating calling something the G.O.A.T. is almost pointless.  I may not be able to say Saison Dupont is the G.O.A.T., but I can say, you will be hard-pressed to find a saison that hits every checkmark when you look at the BJCP style guide with such exacting beauty.  It is crisp and with its touch of citrus cuts through the spice and cream.  The hint of pepper also makes it a compliment to the curry’s heat and spice.  Its carbonation gives it bright refreshing taste the scrubs the palate and has a perfect dry finish.

So, this particular saison because this particular saison is the almost perfect representation of the form which makes it ideal for this particular meal.

Tasting Notes: Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
photo by Ryan Moses

Where as the Fortnight Vintage Ale 2016 is a well done modern version of an Old Ale, the Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome is a pure classic as one of the first winter warmer beers available in the US. 

The beer pours a dark gold/brownish amber color.  It is pasteurized and has a nice clarity and moderate carbonation.  It pours a moderately foamy off-white head.

The aroma is reminiscent of a cookie or a dessert bread.  You get bread, caramel, prunes and maybe a hint of apricot. There is a slight herbal hop aroma.

The taste is a good reflection of the aroma.  The alcohol isn’t detectable which makes sense, as it only weighs in at 6%.  That is rather light in comparison to modern interpretations of the winter warmer which are made for sipping.

The hop flavor leans on the herbal nature of the flavor and just enough bitterness to offset the sweetness of the malt.  There is a bready and caramelly comfort to the beer that again reminds one of a nutty snickerdoodle or a gingerbread cookie.

Adding to the cookie idea the Welcome has a nice creamy mouthfeel.  It isn’t thick as much as smooth and slightly mouth-coating.  That in combination with the prickly carbonation and dryness makes this an easy drinking beer.

Two good ideas for a pairing are a granny smith apple pie.  The tartness of the apples should balance with the caramelly breadiness.  Almost like getting two doses of the filling and the crust.  Another idea is a tomato bisque.  The tomatoes should provide just enough tartness to play off the beer’s sweetness.  The only issue maybe the creamy to creamy taste from soup to beer, but this is such a good beer that should not matter.

Yes, Christmas is past, but it is still winter.  Also, as we enter January and people are thinking about drinking less after a very busy Thanksgiving to Christmas food/drink period, the Winter Welcome with its low ABV and bold taste is just the beer you should enjoy.

Tasting Notes: Fortnight Vintage Ale 2016

In the modern craft beer, when you think of a winter beer you think of something like the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale or the Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas.  It is a beer that is a lot.  A lot of alcohol, a lot of “winter” spices, a lot of sugar.  However, one of the original winter beer is the simple Old Ale.

The Old Ale is an aged, referred to as “stale” back in the day, beer with a higher ABV.  It is a beer that should warm you as you drink it on a long winter night either by a fire or cuddled next to the one you love.

Fortnight Vintage Ale 2016
Photo by Ryan Moses

The Fortnight Vintage Ale 2016 is a great example of an old ale.  Clocking in at a nice 9.2% ABV, this amber beer provides a good warming feeling as you enjoy it.

It pours a nice hazy dark amber color and shows a good amount of carbonation.  The head is off-white and holds itself well.

The Vintage has a nice aroma.  It is all dark fruit, molasses, and caramel.  There isn’t much hop presence on the aroma however, there is a little leather and oxidation, which is to be expected from an intentionally aged beer.

Once you taste it, you notice the alcohol.  It isn’t overwhelming, but it is present and noticeable.  There is a little bitterness coming from the hops.  Not a real hop flavor, but just the bitterness to add a little balance to the sweetness.  That sweetness is dark fruit, molasses, and caramel.  It isn’t cloying sweetness, but a well-balanced sweetness that makes you think of cookies. You also get a little leather and oxidation, but again in just the right amount to be expected.

There is still a good amount of carbonation in the beer.  It also nicely attenuated staying relatively light on the palate as well as a nice dry finish.  This is a big beer that is easy drinking and smooth.

For food pairings, you should go with something big like roasted beef or lamb.  If you wanted to go with a dessert, I would try something creamy, but sweet like cheesecake with a cherry glaze.

Why I Write

I see them come in every day to the bar.  They are all like greyhounds chasing a fake rabbit around a track.  They are on a track chasing a goal they’ve been told they should want.  They set goals, hit benchmarks, and achieve things.  We are taught this concept at an early age, and then it is reinforced by a whole industry dedicated to teaching and perpetuating that across almost every business.

That approach did not work for me.  That is not quite accurate.  That approach might have worked if I had been setting goals that I wanted to accomplish and not the ones I was told I should accomplish.  After a series of not quite failing but not getting what I believed I wanted and going broke, I had to find another way for me to be content.

I was flailing and working at a job I knew I could do in my sleep that had no real future for me.  I found website zenhabits.net.  The author, Leo Babauta, had a similar story as I did in not finding happiness in the traditional goal setting manner, so along with deepening his Zen Buddhist practice, he became a proponent of living a goalless life.

The first blog post I read from was to imagine the perfect day.  The day where you are living your life the way you want to.  What are you doing and who are you with from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.  From that, you know what you should be doing every day.  If you start doing the things you saw in that vision right now, you will begin to live the life you want and begin reaping the things you need for a content life.

After I started that, I then started reading more about Zen Buddhism and found another concept that has shaped how my life has moved.  It goes hand in hand with the goalless life and it is the idea of doing the thing to do the thing.  You dig a hole and fill it up.  Why? To dig a hole and fill it up.  Zen meditation isn’t about achieving enlightenment, it is about sitting and breathing.

This appealed to me because it had been my experience in life.  The times I tried to do X solely to accomplish Z, I failed.  The times I did X for the sake of doing X and did it to the best of my abilities I found I gained much more then I could ever have imagined.  I did X and I still accomplished Z.  No expectations and no goals work for me.

This Christmas season I had lost the idea of no expectations and no goals.  I forgot that doing the thing, to do the thing was how I have made the life I’ve made.  I have lost a lot of weight in the last year, and part of that was because of running every day.  Somewhere in the last two weeks of dinners, weird work hours, going out with friends, etc. I lost the idea of running to run and running began to take on the weight of losing weight.  I forgot that I ran because I like it and it is fun.  By thinking about it as solely a way to lose weight it took on too much and I couldn’t make myself run for the last week.  The same thing happened with my mediation and my writing.  I sit and just breath to sit and breath.  I write because I like writing.  The outcomes of any of those actions are uncontrollable.  You can only control the things you do and not really what they accomplish and certainly not how others react to it.

So, why do I write? I write because I like it and I write about beer because the things around the American craft beer market are interesting and ever-changing.

Living with no goals and no expectations works for me.  I think, my life will see great changes over the next year.  However, I don’t expect it.  I am simply going to keep running, keep meditating, keep writing.  I know if I do those things every day, I will get the things in my life I need.