Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Odell Brewing Company - Myrcenary Double IPA

Looking around the country, there are a few states that really stand out as far as their impact in the craft beer world. I'm a bit biased, but I think California has to be at the top of the list. However, there are a few other states that can't be looked at as being far behind. One of those states has to be Colorado, which is home to some of the best breweries in the country. Unfortunately, while some great Colorado breweries are distributed here (New Belgium, Avery and Great Divide come to mind), many are not. One of these is a brewery called Odell, which I've been wanting to try for a while now. A few months ago, I was buying some Founders Breakfast Stout from an online store when I noticed that they also carried a few beers from Odell. Cha ching! I decided on a double IPA I'd heard a lot about, Myrcenary.

Myrcenary pours a slightly hazy and glowing golden color with a one finger cream colored head. The beer just looked sticky and left thick gobs of lace down the glass. The smell is full of big, sticky citrus hops. Heavy notes of grapefruit, orange, mango and honey are also present. This isn't the biggest Double IPA around, but it smells like a beast. I love it.

The taste opens with a rich and sweet caramel and honey malt flavor held back by a load of sticky citrus hops. Honey and melon make an appearance in the middle before a finish of thick hop resin. Clocking in at near 10% ABV, this is a pretty big beer, but it manages to hide it pretty well. The mouthfeel is slick and a little oily without ever becoming syrupy. This really makes me wish Odell distributed out here. I'm going to have to get some more of their offerings pretty soon.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - Cantillon Lou Pepe (Framboise)

More often than not, when it comes to getting to try a Cantillon, you need a little luck on your side.The two times I've been lucky enough to try their beers, I just happened to walk into a bottleshop on the day a case came in. Your other options would be either finding it on draft (but finding Cantillon on draft usually entails dropping a significant amount of cash to attend a sour event) or finding a bottle at a bar, which I had yet to do until recently.

Which brings us to this past Tuesday. I was at a bar in Kearny Mesa with a coworker when I happened to notice a case with a Cantillon logo that was sitting on the bar. When I asked the bartender if they were selling any of the bottles, she told me that the bottles were being saved for an event, but she thought there might be a bottle of Cantillon in the fridge. She went to check and, sure enough, emerged with a bottle of Cantillon's 2008 Lou Pepe Framboise, a beer that I'd heard amazing things about but had never even laid eyes on before then. After about two seconds of debating if we should get it or not, we decided to go for it.

Lou Pepe Framboise pours a dense pink color that borders on ruby. A beastly pale pink head wells up in the glass on the pour and takes a while to go down, leaving thick streams of lace down the glass. The raspberries used in the beer are evident the second you smell it. Rich, sweet and jammy, the aroma is absolutely incredible. There's a bit of a tartness present as well that reminded me more of cranberries. As the beer warmed a bit, a dry hay-like funk emerged along with some barrel notes that smelled like cedar. I really wanted to stay and smell this beer for hours.

The taste isn't as sweet as the smell suggests, and opens with a nice tart snap of unripe raspberry skins and cranberries. A lemon tartness with some cherry skins follows with a finish of some faint oak and more unripe raspberries. There's a fantastic dryness to this beer that fills your mouth with every sip without becoming overly sour. It seems like every time I get to try a Cantillon, I leave more and more impressed. This is another fantastic one and I hope to see a lot more of it in the future.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brouwerij De Molen - Hemel & Aarde

If I had to consider myself a nationality besides American, I would go with Dutch. My paternal grandparents were both born in Holland and emigrated to the states after World War II. It's to them and to Holland that I can attribute my last name, my height, my love for strong cheeses like Gouda (which is actually pronounced "How-duh") and, most likely, my love of beer. In fact, the Dutch have a long history with brewing that has produced some amazing beer, hardly any of which comes in the green bottle that Dutch beer has become so famous for. Damn you, Heineken! Which brings me to my current predicament: Somehow, I have been writing this blog for over two years and have yet to review a Dutch beer. What is wrong with me???

Yesterday was International Stout Day, so I took the opportunity to open a bottle from a Dutch brewery called De Molen. They're located in the town of Bodegraven, which sits about equal distance from Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I've heard some fantastic things about De Molen, but it was only recently that I started seeing their beers around. Hemel & Aarde ("Heaven & Earth" in Dutch) is a 10% Russian Imperial Stout that features an ingredient I had never seen before: peated malt. As it turns out, the process of peating malt involves smoking peat moss and letting the smoke envelop the malt while it is still in the kiln. I'm not the biggest fan of smoked beers, and peated malt is described as being stronger in flavor than Rauch malt (the malt used in German smoke beers). So let's see how this one turns out.

Hemel & Aarde pours a dense black color with an absolutely enormous head that refuses to dissipate. Even after a slow pour, the head welled up, thick and khaki colored, and would not go down. It took about 15 minutes before it even thought about going down. The upside to dealing with this problem was that the head released a huge aroma full of peated malt. I found big notes of burnt bacon grease, cigar ash, espresso and campfire as well. Normally, this isn't the kind of profile I'd be a fan of, but something about all these flavors together really intrigued me.

When the head finally decided to go down, I took a few small sips, expecting a blast of peat and smoke. But as it turns out, these flavors aren't really what this beer is about. Instead of overwhelming anything in its way, as it did in the smell, the peated malt took a backseat to a heavy roasted and charred malt flavor. It had a definite smokiness to it, but the smoke was far from overwhelming. There wasn't a lot of sweetness to be found in the flavor, but I picked out a trace of fudge peeping from behind a wall of dark chocolate covered almonds and burnt coffee grounds. The finish brings the flavor back to the charred/smoky flavor that really is the star of the show in this beer. As I said, normally smoke in beer isn't really my thing, but this one nailed it.

As far as stouts go, this is one of the harshest and hardest to like for beginning stout-drinkers that I've found. It's big, mean and smoky. If you're just starting to explore the world of stouts, look elsewhere for now. But if you've really embraced the world of stouts, remember this one. It's definitely different, definitely good, and definitely Dutch.

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43