Monday, May 30, 2011

Imperial Pumpkin Stout - A Bastard Style of Beer

Beer Style of the Week – The One of a Kind Beer (The Bastards) Imperial Pumpkin Stout - Part 2 of 4

Week 17

A few weeks ago I have was having a deep beer discussion with German Beer Historian and Writer, Horst Dornbusch (FYI- All beer discussions with Horst can become deep… as in, put-on-your-thinking-cap-deep). I wondered what “style” of beer Samuel Adams/Weihenstephaner collaboration, Infinium fell into. Is it a Biere De Champagne? Horst, catching me slightly off balance asked me a seemingly simple question in reply? He asked, “Is a Raspberry Vanilla Cream Wheat Double IPA a style?” Huh? I replied back. He clarified, “How many brewers need to brew the same type of beer, for it to be considered a real “style”. He added that for a beer to fall into a “style” category there must be at least some comparative analysis. In other words, several brewers need to create a beer using similar ingredients and similar brewing techniques and processes so that a “style” of beer can be compared to and matched to each other.

We didn't determine an exact quantity of brewers brewing a similar beer to qualify for a "Style" designation, but we did agree that at least, several brewers need to brew the same "type" of beer in order for it to fit into a "Style" range.

And that, my friends leads us to our second, One of a kind Bastard beer series;

The Imperial Pumpkin Stout.

Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout – Cape Ann Brewing – Gloucester, MA – 11% ABV

22 oz dark brown bottle. Freshness date not noticed.

Served in a Nonic tumbler.

It pours a ruby-hued dark chocolate color with fast-fading tannish head.

Big robust whiffs of pumpkin and roasted malt blast forward, followed by pumpkin pie nutmeg spices and a trailing resinous hop nose. A perfumy rum vapor rises through and lasts throughout. Interesting compound aromas...

The flavors are not shy! Tastes of dark rum, coffee, cocoa, pumpkin, spices and resiny hops pound away at all spaces and corners of the mouth. It's all quite good! I'm looking for some subtle tastes, and I guess a faint taste of limes and a little prune flavor may be present...though they tend to peak through, then shy away.

The body is rich and almost syrupy...nearly cloying, though maybe correct for what it is.

It's a bastard style, belonging to several mothers and fathers and maybe some distant relatives, but it will always be welcome to dwell in my cellar.

Let’s welcome the Bastards everywhere. They may not fit into any one style, but they do provide an enriching diversity upon the olfactory senses.

Cheers to the Bastards!

Quote: “Did you ever taste beer?” “I had a sip of it once,” said the small servant. “Here’s a state of things!” cried Mr. Swiveller…”She never tasted it-it can’t be tasted in a sip!” – Charles Dickens (1812-1870) from ‘Nicholas Nickleby’

Beer Picnic & Party at Ben Fuller's

Beer Picnic with Hennipen on Tap!!!! 2 Shots & a Beer Smoked Beans, Venison Carpaccio, Beer Bread and Chili, Beer Wings, even Beer Cupcakes!!!

Thanks Paula and Ben!

Beer Picnic & Party at Ben Fuller's

Hennipen on Tap!!! 2 Shots and a Beer Smoked Beans, Venison Carpaccio, Beer Bread, Chili 'n Beer, Beer Wings and even Beer Cupcakes!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy 20th Anniversary/or Birthday Ipswich (aka Mercury Brewing)

Ipswich 20th Anniversay Imperial Pale Ale

Hey Ipswich, You'll be of legal drinking age in less than one year!

22 0z Dark brown bottle. No freshness date noticed.
Served in a Sam Adams fluted glass.
It pours a cloudy dark amber color with a fast-fading beige head and some sticky, trailing lacing.
It's got an IPA-amount of hoppiness to the nose. Grapefruit, and lemon zest citrus smells ride atop a solid grainy malty aromas. A late whiff of alcohol enters, as done a faint smell of oranges. A smell of wild flowers finishes.
The flavors mirror the smells in every way. A bit of a resinous hop bitterness is noticed in the aftertaste.
The 8% ABV is no surprise, in fact it tastes stronger than it is.
This brew goes well with sharp aged cheddar.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - One of a Kind (The Bastards) 1 of 4

Samuel Adams – Utopias – Boston Beer Company – Boston, MA – 27% ABV

Jim Koch, Founder and President of Boston’s Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) has been at the forefront of America’s Brew Revolution. When he entered the micro/craft beer scene, there was only a hand full of true craft beers being brewed. Today, Samuel Adams is perhaps the most well-known name in Craft Beer industry. Since launching their flagship brew, Boston Lager, Samuel Adams has released over a hundred different variations of dozen of styles, but none has approached the extremeness in style as Utopias.

Utopias were first released in May of 2003. At the time it was rated the most potent beer on the planet, weighing in at 24% ABV. The second release was a bit stronger at 25% ABV. The newest release, just hitting the shelves comes in at a whopping 27% ABV.

Here is Jim Koch’s description of Utopia’s 2009 Release:

Sweet fire, with a rich malt and wood complexity.

Truly the epitome of brewing's two thousand year evolution; Samuel Adams Utopias® offers a flavor not just unlike any other beer but unlike any other beverage in the world. The 2009 release is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 16 years in the barrel room of our Boston Brewery, in a variety of woods. We aged a portion of the beer in hand-selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery. The latest batch also spent time in Portuguese muscatel finishing casks, as well as sherry, brandy and Cognac casks. This flavorful, slightly fruity brew has a sweet, malty flavor that is reminiscent of a deep, rich vintage port, fine cognac or aged sherry.

My friend and fellow researcher, Larry each bought one bottle of the first release in May of 2003. We decided one bottle would be opened within the year, the other in the distant future. The resealable twist cap is supposed to keep the "beer" in fine condition much as brandy or sherry can be recorked (time would tell).

The collectible brew-kettle shaped decanter is a copper-coated ceramic. A limited Edition # was stamped on the bottom (01644).

It pours a dark toffee/amber color. There was no head or lace, just a light syrupy slide down the inside of the glass when tilted.

A sherry-like aroma mingles with maple, lemon peel, caramel and alcohol. A faint whiff of vanilla lingers throughout.

Nutty caramel, sherry, raisins, maple, honey and candy sugar are housed within a solid, slightly smoky malt. A mild lemony citrus flows from the middle to the back of the tongue. Traces of milk chocolate and oranges are noticed, as is a slight saltiness. Fumy and warming alcohol is present throughout.

This brew still maintains a distant ale quality, however creamy, oily and brandy-like.

Almost true to our plan, we opened Larry’s within a month and we cracked mine open two years later. To our amazement, very little had change with time. Perhaps a bit mellower? Hard telling…

The 2011, and strongest version thus far has just been released. One is being saved for me at A Taste for Wine and Spirits in Cohasset. This will be opened on October 23rd, for my son, Liam’s wedding reception. Ain’t love grand?


Quote: Beer…”A high and mighty liquor” – Julius Caesar

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - Doppelbock (Double Bock)

Week 14

We played a silly game as a kid called, ‘Buck Buck how many fingers do I have up?’ The details of the game escape me now, but that’s not the point. I’m “researching” new game for silly adults called ‘Bock Bock, How many fingers am I holding up?’ After each player downs a six pack of Doppelbock, the player who best remembers what game they are playing, hollers, “Bock, Bock how many fingers am I holding up?”– The answer is always, “I’ll let you know when the room stops spinning.”

So, the point is; avoid playing any Bock Bock games and do not drink a sixer of Double Bock then attempt to count fingers.

The Bock (Billy Goat in German) style was originally brewed as an ale from an area surrounding Einbeck, Germany. A bigger, stronger Bock, the Doppelbock, evolved as the head-butting beer of the lager family.

Traditional Doppelbocks are malty, sweet, lightly to moderately hopped and fairly strong in alcohol by volume (from around 7.0% - 11.5% ABV). The color ranges from a teaky light amber/brown to ruby-hued mahogany. The off-white to beige head should be rich and creamy, though in the higher ABV versions, the head will dissipate rather quickly. The aroma is malt focused with noticeable whiffs of alcohol present. Citrus and fruity notes may be in the background. The body is slick and full, but not necessarily heavy. Monks who must forego solid foods during fasting sessions have used the Doppel Bock as “Liquid Bread”. Speaking of food, Doppelbocks go well with a wide variety of menus. Try pairing with creamy cheeses and sausages, or duck with rich berry sauces, or mixed grilled meats. Wake up your vanilla ice cream by adding a little strong Doppelbock!

Germany (land of Origin)

Ayinger Celebrator – Aying, Germany – 6.7% ABV (A mild version of the style)

It pours a tar black with a smallish beige head and a bit of sticky lace. Aromas of dark chocolate, licorice, coffee and slight alcohol fuminess lasts a god long time. A heavy, almost oily malt body is home to many rich flavors and tastes. Strong coffee, chocolate and fresh rye bread-like tastes are upfront. Tastes of licorice, orange zest, toffee and nice alcohol finish get together very nicely. As it warms a taste of prunes develops. This is one satisfying brew!

Paulaner Salvator – Munich, Germany – 7.9% ABV

It pours a deep red amber with a full beige head.

A full sweet malt and lightly smoky smell mix with a fruity and slightly perfumy scent.

The biscuity malt is thick and rich, with caramel sweetness and chock full of nuts.

It's abundantly hopped. Lots of citrus notes with just a touch of a metallic tang.

The well-hidden alcohol effect comes on as a sensation before you know it.

This is a robust and complex brew!

Austria (The Biggest Doppelbock out there!)

Brauerie Schloss Eggenberg - Samichlaus (Santa Claus) – Vorchdorf, Austria – 14% ABV

The World’s Most Extraordinary Beer. Bottled 2002. Sampled in 2004.

This Rare Malt Liquor is dark maple in color with a fast fading beige head. The aroma is rummy and malty with a faint trace of hops sneaking through. The full sweet malt houses highly hopped citrus bitterness. Dark rum flavors mingle with strong honey and light lemony taste. Strongly Alcoholic at 14%) abv. But, it slides easily and dangerously down.

One of my favorite liqueurs or sherries.


Moretti - La Rossa Birra Doppio Malto (Don’t you just love saying, Doppio Malto??!!!??) 7.2% ABV

This uniquely styled Doppelbock pours a dark rusty color with firm beige head. A big sweet malty aroma offers a bit of damp hay and hop background a bit of alcohol is noticed upon opening. The heavy sweet malt (think 10/40 weight motor oil) is the focus of this brew. Flavors of fresh baked bread and sweet caramel flood the mouth and soothingly bathe the throat. A lemony lime sour bitterness mixed with a faint apple taste delivers a little hard cider-like flavor. The alcohol is noticeable, but not overpowering.

Mama Mia!!! Chio Bella!!!

New England Representations

Thomas Hooker – Liberator Doppel Bock – Bloomfield, Connecticut – 8% ABV

16.9oz dark brown swing top bottle.

It pours a very dark and deep ruby-hued mahogany color with a fast-fading beige head, along with thin scattered patches of lacing.

It smells like a malt monster with big whiffs of caramel and damp hay accompanied by notes of dried barley and leather.

Tastes of burnt crème brulee, sweet caramel, Ovaltine, milk chocolate, tobacco and leather are all quite upfront and noticeable. A slight background taste of prune juice is detected in the background.

A mellow Myers Lemony tartness provides some contrast to the big, bold malty body, as does a dose of a metallic bite. Though make no mistake, this brew is all about the malt structure with well-applied hop reminders.

Lovely Stuff!

Samuel Adams – Imperial Series Double Bock – 9.5% ABV

12oz brown bottle. Date etched on side label.

It pours a ruby-hued teakish color with a nice thick yellow-tinged beige head and a fair amount of lacing.

The aroma is mostly of sweet malt, with a noticeable whiff of horse barn.

Man, this is one malty brew! Remember Ovaltine? There's a resemblance here.

Notes of milk chocolate and doughy buttered bread come to mind. A bit of honey and molasses add to the sweet sensation

Although there is plenty of raw and edgy resinous hop bitterness, their impact is tempered by the full powerful body of malt.

A taste of golden rum enters the picture and flitters around the peripherals of the all mighty maltiness and vies for attention with its equally dominated hop sibling.

Yeah, Sam Adams is a big brewer, but that doesnt mean they dont still brew good, or even excellent beers. This is one really fine brew!

Fisherman’s Navigator – Cape Ann Brewing – Gloucester, MA – 7% ABV

Served in a 20oz tall mug.

Pours a tannish amber color with a 1” tannish beige head and a fair amount of webby lacing.

Smells of grainy barn malt, sweet cereal and a bit of resinous malt mingle together well.

The taste is layered with sweet caramel maltiness and a light dose of resiny and metallic hop bitterness. A faint taste of dark tea edges forward. A warming alcohol is noticed upon exhale late.

The body is a bit on the light side for the style, but is very gulpable!

According to an article in Wikipedia, there are over 200 “ators” registered for the dopplebock style in the German patent office.

Quote: “It’s extraordinary how friendly you can make a lot of people on a couple bottles of beer” –

Baron Frankenstein – “Frankenstein”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - Blonde or Golden Ale

In honor of all you mothers and/or those of you who have or have had a mother. Most mothers have been blonde at least sometime in their life. Right? If so, this style is for you/them.

The Golden or Blonde Ale is as the name implies, pale blonde or gold in color. Unfiltered Blondes tend to be a bit cloudy. The head in most cases is snow white to light beige.

The aroma and flavor profiles vary widely from country to country. Belgian and Netherland Blondes can be fairly potent with a whiff of alcohol upfront an edgy hop and spice-forward smell and taste. Those from France tend to be a bit more subdued and somewhat balanced (think Amber Ale). The UK Goldens tend to be drier (think Saltine Cracker dry) and lower in alcohol than their European counterparts. One thing Blondes have in common is a subdued fruitiness in aroma and taste. As can be expected, the US versions disregard any profile stamp and are a mixed bag.

Belgian Blondes

Brewery Lefebvre - Hopus Ale Quenast, Belgium 8.3% abv
11.2oz stubby brown flip top bottle. Best before date stamped on back label. Served in Kapittel Watou stemmed snifter.
Pours a cloudy caramel toffee color with a fluffy white head and loads of sticky, clinging lace.
The smell is a little disjointed with sour yeast, dry hay, horse barn, oak, floral hops and gin.
The flavors are rangy as well, but with more complimentary results. Edgy astringent hops, lemon zest, gin, orange peel and Orange Lifesavers. A little metallic tang is noticed in the finish.
The mouthfeel is a little raspy at the first few gulps but mellows out as it warms.
For some reason, I feel this tart and bitter brew will go nicely with lemon tarts or bitter pineapple upside down cake.

Affligem Blonde Affligem Brewery – Opwijk, Belgium 6.8 ABV

11.2 oz. Thin brown bottle. Produced on date on back label.

Pours a dirty blonde with a beige head and trails of patchy lacing.

Smells of barn grain and fruity citrus are quite noticeable. A light whiff of white rum floats in.

Sweet caramel and a pear-like fruitiness ride a fairly solid malty body. Citrus and peppery spice notes balance things nicely. A bit of warming alcoholic slides in and out.

The finish is clean, yet the spiciness lingers.

A good beer to pair with rustic chicken dishes.

French Blonde

Jenlain Blonde (Biere de Garde, Blonde) Jenlain, France – 7.5% ABV

11.2oz brown bottle. Freshness date noted on label. Served in an Allagash tulip glass.

It pours a yellow golden color with a good sized white head and some patchy lacing.
A sweet, biscuity malty smell rises at first pour. Floral and resinous hop aromas drift in. A little mixed fruit cup and whiffs of alcohol are noticed.
Slightly citrus and edgy tea-like hop bitterness rests on a biscuity bed of malt. A little vodka-like alcoholic bite sneaks in midway through a lasts throughout, especially in the breath.

This Blonde is a bit sweeter and bit richer in body than I expected. And it’s a fairly potent brew for the style, but overall a nice, easy-to-gulp brew.

UK Blonde

Harviestoun Brewery - Bitter and Twisted - Scotland - 4.2% abv
From a review in 2003
A real treat to find this at the NERAX 2003! Bright golden in color with medium-sized bubbles and a fast fading head. The lace is thin, but a little sticky. The hoppy aroma is slightly mellowed by hints of lightly roasted malt. Sharp, citrusy bitterness with an edgy aggressiveness. Mellows, sweetens and balances out toward the end of the glass. Very gulpable!

New England

Mayflower Brewing Golden Ale - Plymouth, MA - 4.7% ABV
12 oz. dark brown bottle. Pkg. date stamped on label.
Served in a Sam Adams fluted glass.
A firm 2" snow-white head floats upon a pale clear golden body. Wispy trails of webby lace rim the glass.
The smell is grassy, with a mix of dry malt and dried fruit.
Tastes of edgy metallic and tea-like hops are forward. The lightly roasted malt has a vague sweetness and wheat cracker taste.
It's a tad bit overly dry, but true to the style, so can't fault it there. Nice session brew!

Rapscallion Premier – Holyoke, MA – 7% ABV

On tap. Served in a tulip glass.

It pours an amber-hued golden color, with a fluffy, off-white head.

A mild dry grainy smell is upfront. A light blend of sweet candy, fruit cup, with a dose of citrus and resins roam around. A whiff of white rum fades in and out.

This Golden is a bit sweet for the style, yet it’s a pleasing sweetness. Bready, grassy and caramel malts carry hints of citrus and fruit cup, along with some warming alcohol. A faint taste of ripe banana and spices peek through.

The body lacks in dryness and is a bit full and rounded for the style.

It’s a good beer to pair with a wide variety of cheeses and salamis, or vanilla-based desserts.

Cheers and Salut!

Quote: “ Ere’s to English women an’ a quart of English beer”. – Rudyard Kipling

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Beer Retail - Small Things Come in Small Packies

We’ve all seen the ads for the Giant Super Beer Inventories at the Mega-Super-sized Liquor Stores.

Full Page ads stating things like; “Check out our 4,000 ADD-inducing Beers from around the World!!!!”

Or, “We Got Twenty Aisles Full of Beer – Foreign and Domestic, some from places even NASA can’t identify!”

Or, “We’ve got enough beer to create a foamy sea large enough to sail the US 7th Fleet upon!!”

It is impressive, no doubt! But, it can also be a bit overwhelming and, for the most part, an impersonal and confusing experience. Row upon row, aisle after aisle. So many beers, so small a liver!

Now there are some occasions when it’s actually fun to drive the twenty or thirty miles, grab a basket at the entrance to the Super Mega Beer store and peruse the endless array of beers. Hmmm, I’ll take one of those and one of these, and two of that, and oh, wait I need to try that one, and so on, until your forearm begins to cramp and you go for one of the over-sized shopping carts found in every one of these stores.

Thirty beers later and you realize you haven’t made the slightest dent in their inventory, but have made a giant impact upon your wallet. So you trudge your way through the smoky haze to the checkout counter and patiently wait in line. (BTW- how is it possible that all of these mega-stores have cigarette smoke pluming down the aisle from the warehouse? Is it mandatory for someone to be smoking at all times?).

Finally, at the checkout counter, the clerk who looks as though she just escaped from a maximum security institution, only not as personable-looking, begins scanning your selections, but only half are readable by the barcode scanner. She glares at you as does the line of customers piling up behind you. She sends Scruffy, the store nitwit to go find a price for your Dominus Vobiscum Brut. “Huh?” grunts the clerk. “Says here it’s made in Canada. Why don’tcha just buy a case of Molson instead?” And on and on it goes until all your selections have been tallied and your pockets emptied.

Finally, safe at home, bottles sorted and cellared, the anticipation mounts as you plan to pair your new found Les Frères De La Bière / Thiriez XXtra (Saison) with some fresh picked mussels. Hmmm, even better, steam the mussels in the beer with a little garlic, butter and shallots! Oh Boy! Finally, you pop the cork and…who farted? You look around. You’re alone in the room. You sniff the mussels. Fine. You sniff the beer. Not so fine. You check the date on the bottle. The date has faded off. It has probably sat on a shelf since the Carter Administration. So sad.

Enter the small local beer packie. Two to three beer aisles, tops! Logically laid out displays. Varied enough assortments and most importantly a knowledgeable person to ask questions of or to provide recommendations to. One such place, A Taste for Wine and Spirits in Cohasset, MA embodies the best attributes of the Small Local Beer Packie. Proprietor Manager Bruce Sinclaire greets you by name with a genuine smile as you enter. You drop off your empties in the back room. It doesn’t matter whether or not you purchased those beers at his place. He accepts them and gives you credit for having cleaned and counted them. None of those highly inefficient bottle and can return machines that we find crunching away in the Mega-Super Store, which fail to read the barcodes most of the time (even if you purchased them in that very store). Oh boy, 15 cents back on my 35 returns!

Bruce is a wine guy (try not to hold that against him). He’s the sommelier of the store, but he’s a very willing, fast-learning student of beer. Like every small packie with a deep and abiding respect for beer, A Taste for Wine and Spirits employs a go to beer expert, Mark McGuinness in this case, to make sure there are plenty of great beers on the shelves, displayed in an attractive and easy to navigate manner. Bruce has a cleaver gradient color scheme painted on the walls leading customers naturally to their wine preferences. Whites to the left, reds to the right. Lightest, to darkest. Simple, yet refined! Then, right down the middle…Beer!

What the small beer store lacks in the quantity of beer, they make up in the quality of their selections. Part of that quality control requires the rotation of stock, making sure the customer is satisfied after they leave the store. Friendly, caring service, good fresh beer, convenient…What a novel approach!

Let’s take a visit to a Small Local Packie, south of Boston in the town of Hingham, MA.

Ralph’s Derby Street Liquors located within the upscale Derby Street Shoppes (the spelling, “Shoppe” alerts you to the fact it’s boutiqueish) fits all the criteria of a great Small Local Packie. Owner, Sommelier Ralph Hersom has traversed the wine world in impressive fashion from San Francisco and Napa, to owning an upscale sister store in New York. He brings his experience, for not only wine, but also for high-end liquors such as single malt scotch, bourbons, rums and tequilas.

Knowing a good thing when he sees it, he has Beer “Guru”, Ryan O’Malley managing the smallish, yet excellent beer selections. Both Ralph and Ryan share in their customer’s enthusiasm for fine adult beverages. It’s always a pleasurable experience walking through the doors into a well thought out and well-laid out store. It sets the tone for a pleasant purchasing experience. Friday evenings are reserved for beer tastings, and Ryan helps guide you through the samplings in a knowledgeable and friendly way. Lighter, milder beer first and on up through the bigger, full-flavored brews. Ryan knows beer and he knows his store’s demographic. Many of the high-end beers from Belgium, UK, West Coast, East Coast and New England areas are right here. What a treat! There are also enough fine local selections to keep my interest and budget in order.

Visit A Taste for Wine and Spirits at 380 Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A) in Cohasset or call 781-383-0059. Beer and/or wine tastings are offered on Friday evenings. Nice food pairing samples and advice are offered as well.

Ralph’s Derby Street Wine and Spirits 94 Derby Street Hingham, MA 781-749-WINE –

If you enjoy pleasant, stress-free beer shopping experiences, you need to continue to support your local packie. Please let our readers know about your favorite(s) Small Beer-respecting Packie. Spread the good word!


Quote: “He that buys land buys many stones,

He that buys flesh buys many bones,

He that buys eggs buys many shells,

But he that buys ale buys nothing else”. – English Medieval song