Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Santa's Private Reserve

I wish it was Christmas today … so this review wasn’t a few days behind the calendar. Oregon’s Rogue Ales brews both outlandish beers - Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale - and the slightly more traditional such as Dead Guy Ale. On this late December night, I’ve got a single bottle of the red ale Santa’s Private Reserve. (Thanks, Grace!)

Pouring, the color’s a little bright for “coppery,” so let’s go with vermillion. As you’d expect, the aroma carries both malt and pine, but if I try really hard, I can pick up a little rose and honey.

Santa’s Private Reserve is definitely a hoppy beer, and true to the season, leans toward spruce. The “green” dominates, but malt’s there in the background and a little hay too. I get a different bitter on the tip and the back of tongue, but neither lingers, quickly washing away until the next sip.

If you love chewy beers, you might argue Santa’s Private Reserve is a little low on flavor for a Christmas beer. I’m going to come at it from the other side and say that Santa’s has holiday zip, but isn’t so thick, spicy or alcohol “hot” that you have to stop at one. 6% ALC

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Scaldis Noël

So, this is Christmas … and I’m visiting Mom in Iowa. This particular bottle of Scaldis Noël made it from Belgian brewer Brasserie Dubuisson to Florida (Thanks, Bryan!) to here in the snowy Midwest in my checked baggage. In Europe, this beer is sold under the name “Bush” instead of “Scaldis,” but methinks someone in the USA already owns a very similar trademark.

The label calls Noël Scaldis “a brilliant red amber ale” and the brewery’s website promises a beer made just for the Christmas season with only four ingredients - hops, malt, candy sugar (big crystals of table sugar), and water. A wintery brew, Scaldis Noël also has an alcohol content of 12 percent.

On the pour, this holiday beer has a large light-tan head. Beneath that, a clear, coppery, almost-orange brew with a malty aroma that also has some hoppy fruitiness.

I’m splitting this 11.2 ounce bottle with Mom … who asks if I’m calling her “Mom” in this review or using her actual name. So, Rosemary says the beer tastes like maraschino cherry, which I hadn’t been able to nail down more specifically that “fruity.” Expanding on that, I’ll say Scaldis Noël has the almond essence of a liqueur, caramel sweet with a lot of alcohol heat too.

Says Rosemary – It’s like a dessert to me it’s so sweet, but it does feel like a holiday drink.  John now – I’ll back that up. The sweetness and high alcohol content make it unlikely you’ll drink more than one Scaldis Noël in an evening, but it’s warming on a cold Midwest night and feels Christmas-y without being a novelty.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wait, There's Two Versions of That Song?

Children of the '80s know well that in 1983, Daryl Hall and John Oates remade the classic Bobby Helms Christmas hit "Jingle Bell Rock" ... but did you realize that for all these years, you've been hearing two versions of the song?

Here's the one you probably hear most with Daryl on lead vocals ...

Then, there's also a version with John at the mic.

I guess that explains why neither one of them does much lip-synching in the video. Jump both versions to the 1:30 mark to see where they go off on their own paths.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Jubilation/Celebration Ale

I promised I’d dive into holiday beers, so how about two?  One you’ll probably be able to find at the supermarket. The other called to me from the shelf at Total Wine. Someone had abandoned a single bottle in the wrong aisle. In the spirit of charity, I took the orphan home ... and drained it.

Jubilation Ale from Baird Beer (Japan)

Baird Beer was started by a husband-and-wife team in Numazu, Japan along Suruga Bay. Since 2000, a small brewhouse and restaurant has grown into several taprooms and a commercial brewery. Among the beers they make is Jubilation Ale, flavored with figs and cinnamon, meant for welcoming the new year.

Jubilation pours reddish-brown with a head of large bubbles that fades by half, but then stays. Specks of (I assume) fig fleck the beer, hanging in the glass without sinking.

Jubilation is sweet and malty, very much a wintry brown ale. The pulpy bits make it almost velvety. I don’t taste the cinnamon at all. What I get of the fig is more of an aftertaste, a cleanness that powers malt off the tastebuds and keeps it from cloying. Interesting, but I’d like to taste more of what’s on the label. 7% ALC

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

I wrote about another wet-hopped ale a few weeks back. Basically, they’re made with the first fresh hops of the season – less than a day out of the field -- instead of the dried hops used by many all year long. Wet-hopped ales are generally even more piney that IPAs and often lemony. Sierra Nevada considers theirs as a Christmas brew.

Celebration is a clear copper in the glass with a sturdy white head and , of coursem a strong aroma of hops. The flavor is very resiny with hints of clean citrus and tea. The beer also has a malty backbone that keeps the hops in balance and not overpoweringly green. This is a balanced brew that’s wintry without diving into novelty ingredients to get the job done. 6.8% ALC

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout (Part II)

Yep, it works! (See Part I)

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout

Just as October brings pumpkin spice in your glass, December means “fun” ingredients like cinnamon and gingerbread and juniper. I’ll get to some of those brews before the 25th, but this Sunday, it's a seasonal milk stout from Terrapin Beer in Athens, GA, flavored with cocoa shells, cocoa nibs, and a bit of vanilla.

I'd like to embed a clip from Terrapin's Head Brewer here, but it's hidden on the YouTube channel even tho it plays on Terrapin's own site. If you really feel it's worth it, cut and paste this ...

So you’re new to milk stouts? They’re dark and roasty like “regular” stouts such as Guinness. The twist is that lactose (aka milk sugar) is added early on, a sugar that yeast can’t digest into alcohol and bubbles. The result is milk stouts come out sweeter and thicker. Adding cocoa is Terrapin's twist.

On the pour, Moo-Hoo is impenetrably dark with a tan frothy head like a root beer float. You can smell both the dark-roasted grain and the cocoa sweetness. The chocolate flavor is right up front, but also a smoky something is pushing its way through the coffee roastiness.

Sure, it’s a novelty to add chocolate to a milk stout, but someone had to be the first to make sour-cream-and-onion potato chips too. The chocolate flavor is very integrated here, not gimmicky, and the dairy sweetness and mouthfeel aren't overpowering or syrupy as they can be in some other milk stouts.

Moo-Hoo is a little heavy for a night of pints, but a bottle would fit right along side a spicy winter chili. You could also try it as dessert beer. I know some genius must have already floated a scoop of vanilla in a pint glass. You know what? Check back later tonight ... (ALC 6%)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Spotted Cow Ale

This week, I’m digging in the back of the Norge icebox for another bottle from New Glarus Brewing. The stuff’s usually only found within a few miles of the Wisconsin border, but my brother disguised a few as a box of chocolate-chip cookies and got them to the Sunshine State.

Spotted Cow Ale is cask-conditioned, so it’s yeasty/cloudy in the bottle – although not as foggy as I expected. It pours a pale straw yellow with not much of a head and just the barest aromas of corn and apple. It’s lightly carbonated – sweet, but still crisp on the finish. The corn flavor is forward, but there’s also that bready touch from the barley and malt.

Some beery folk might be underwhelmed because Spotted Cow doesn’t kick you in the teeth with hops or rye or coffee chocolate malts. Where it breaks away from the six-pack is the execution. The flavors are rounded and the harshness of many supermarket beers just isn’t there. So, I guess what I'm saying is that Spotted Cow is a mild American lager done properly. 4.8% ALC.