Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Poll

For all you Google Readers or those who didn't notice, I have a new poll. Vote for your favorite Revolution is Brewing Company beer label! Check out the post about "My Beer Labels" to survey the choices.

Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne Ø Special Holiday Ale

A / 4.45
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 9.00%
Purchased: By a friend for ~$5.00 for a 12 ounce bottle at Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA

An emerging trend amongst successful breweries is to form partnerships with other breweries in which the brewmasters brainstorm ideas for new recipes with each other, and brew their collaboration beers at each brewery, typically as a one off specialty. This is the first example I've tried of such a beer, this one produced by Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, CA, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, MI, and Nøgne Ø, of Lillesand, Norway. Keep them coming!

Mahogany/ruby-brown with a lot of bubbles that cascade about from the pour, beneath a tight, tiny-bubble, tan head. In a special Sam Adams glass, I saw plenty of lacing and a resilient head. Visually very pleasing.

I can definitely pick up the sage first, followed by juniper berries, with a slight citrus throughout. The smell finishes with subtle, roasted chocolate malt. It's also got a light perfumy floral thing going on, maybe from the caraway seed although I'm not really sure what that smells like to be honest. Very complex nose, which carries over to the flavor in a big way.

In the mouth: piny, musky evergreen sap you could crawl in and get lost in, a gin-like juniper bite, with sage on the periphery that seizes the finish. A very thick and mysterious mouthfeel that does well to balance the bitterness of the spices. Not much out of the malts in terms of flavor other than a solid backbone, enough sweetness to mellow it out and enough roastiness to not be too sweet. The rye and oats really contribute positively to the mouthfeel, creating a slick, spicy wonder that allows you to pull the most out of the spices. The alcohol is well-hidden until you stand up after half a bottle and fall over.

This is indeed a crazy beer...big thanks to Aaron for surprising me with it. It's an acquired tasted, but focused, and personally I enjoy it. As a homebrewer who's been dabbling in herbs and spices this winter, it's inspiring to sample such a masterpiece of extremity and balance. Here's to more collaboration beers from great brewing minds!

Allagash Four

A- / 4.05
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Style: Belgian-style Quadrupel
ABV: 10.00%
Purchased: ~$9.00 at the "good" Kroger in Roanoke, VA

Murky amber-medium brown, even with a fairly delicate pour. Light just dies in the middle of the Chimay goblet. Modest head winds up a wispy froth, mostly on the edges of the glass. Batch #16, says the bottle.

Quady notes of candi sugar, caramel, milk chocolate, butter-fried hot dogs and brown sugar baked beans are prodded forth by the various Belgian yeasts. Yum.

Clean feel with just the right amount of spicy hops and carbonation makes this not too heavy to enjoy. Herb, earth and mint also comes to mind with the hops, balancing a very dark sugar-forward flavor, with some tobacco notes. Booziness is perceived before tasted - it creeps in with warmth, as butterscotch and candied dates do on the nose. With the second pour, the sugar lets up a little and I notice more chocolate and earthy hop flavors, and it's a bit smoother on the palate.

This could almost be considered a dubbel; it's easier to handle and relatively drier than most quads I've had, certainly too dark for a tripel, but lacks the raisin and sourness most dubbels tend to have. Well-crafted, warming, gets you drunk. A joy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Beer Labels

Carrie gave me props about a month ago in her blog post about making beer labels, and I just got around to reading it. So in honor of that, here are the labels I've put together to date for my Revolution is Brewing Company homebrews. I use a program called paint.net, which is a free download that lets you import and manipulate picture files, draw, and add text to create really nice-looking images. I then print and tape the labels onto my bottles so I can easily remove them to reuse the bottles for future batches.Marsupium was my first attempt at making a label with paint.net. I brewed this one in late fall 2007 for my first annual Holiday Homebrew Party. It was an extract-brewed stout with 8 oz. of organic cocoa powder added to the end of the batch. The idea behind the label was that I treated it like a baby, keeping it close as a marsupial would it's young. The kangaroo is holding a basket of hop cones and cocoa beans. It was actually brewed after Chrysalis, the next label I attempted (below). Chrysalis was a very bitter (97 IBU) dry-hopped IPA, also from extract. The grassy, spring-like flavor and aroma from all that hops (Columbus mostly, some Cascade, and Nugget for bittering) inspired the theme for the label: a butterfly emerging from a hop cone-chrysalis. This one was also served at the homebrew party in December '07. Following these, I brewed a beer called Lady Fitzgerald Irish Red, in honor of my grandmother, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald. I skipped the label on this one - although I had some ideas, the beer didn't last long enough to do one, thanks in part to St. Patrick's Day. Following Lady was Hippity Hoppity, another ultra hoppy IPA much like Chrysalis, brewed around Easter, again with no label.
Then followed a long and arduous period of being too broke or busy to brew, two words I refuse to ever let sway my brewing tendencies henceforth. The reward at the end of the tunnel was Lazarus, brewed in August 2008, a big-ass strong Belgian Golden Ale brewed with extract and a shitload of sugar. Lazarus got its name from a primary fermentation that looked like it was ready to peter out after a week, then kicked in for another week, presumably when it started eating the cane and corn sugar. Raised from the dead you could say. I also liked the religious theme that it and so many other Belgians imply, though when I made this label I was teetering more towards heresy. Yes, that's Jesus being abducted by aliens in a bottle-shaped laser beam. All in good fun.
Bellona is my first real concept beer. I envisioned a full-bodied, syrupy beer with minimal bitterness or dryness, kind of a smooth yet complex elixir. I'd wanted to experiment with agave nectar, but didn't want the yeast to eat it all, so I added it to the secondary. I used a Scottish ale yeast to keep it malt-forward, some wheat malt extract as a base, malto-dextrin to keep the body up, and kept the carbonation light. Then I used a few hop varieties that were supposed to make it qualify for the September Star City Brewers Guild Competition (Glacier, Palisade and Galena). Unfortunately, I didn't realize adjuncts weren't allowable for this competition, so obviously I couldn't enter it. The label is inspired by the city "Bellona" in Samuel R. Delaney's book Dhalgren, a city where all kinds of oddballs gather and live together. Read the book and you'll get it!Next I took a couple of months off while upgrading my equipment to all-grain. In November 2008 I brewed my first all-grain batch for the December competition, a Robust Porter with a variety of malts. By all accounts it was a solid first batch that really only suffered from low carbonation at competition time. Time took care of that though. Having brewed this shortly after the Presidential Election, and itself brewed for a competition, the political theme was in my head, so I dubbed it Proletariat, a working class style (see History of Robust Porter) for the working class. Instead of a hammer and sickle, thats a crossed mash paddle and auto-siphon. The Voice of the People Series is a gimmick that will cover all of the beers I brew for competions through this year (American Brown, Saison, Oatmeal Stout and Imperial whatever).
Dreamer was my second all-grain beer, one that started out with every intention of being a strongish English export ale or special ale, but whose original gravity wound up low enough to fit comfortably in the Extra Special Bitter (ESB) category. There's a movie I won't mention that kind of inspired this, in addition to my constant daydreaming at work of someday opening a brewery. The peacock is a reference to the book Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver that I read and liked in high school...seemed relevant. This one was a little rushed (trying to get it finished for Christmas which didn't happen) so it's not my favorite.
Lastly, for now, is Flora. With the homebrew shop closed the day after Thanksgiving and myself itching to brew, I turned to Patrick from the Brewers Guild to supply me with some grains. I wound up with a recipe much different from what I was intending, so I personalized it by adding some rose hips, the dried berries of rose plants often used in teas, to the end of the brew. It's very citrusy and a bit too bitter from hips and hops, but certainly its own animal, and packs a nice punch. The label theme is kind of obvious, "flora" meaning plant material, this shows a picture of some roses taken by Bailie out in our yard from last summer, a picture of hop vine leaves, and a picture of a rye plant.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment. I'll post new labels as they are conceived!