Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale

More a dare than a real beer, this is the second co-branded beer between Oregon’s Rogue Ales and Voodoo Doughnut. The first was the absolutely terrible Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale. I've tried it and I don't suggest you do. I don’t know anyone who didn't pour part of the 750ml bottle down the drain. Sounds fun, tastes evil.

Let’s keep an open mind on this new novelty Rogue. The roasted flavors of chocolate are common in dark beers. Hefeweizens are often described as having a banana essence. Peanuts are turning up in porters and could go well with malt. Hand me that church key.

On the pour, Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale is a deep cola color that light barely passes through. The head is tan and lasting with lots of tight bubbles. I definitely get the chocolate aroma and there’s a whisper of sweetness that must be banana. No peanut butter coming through at all.

The first sip reminds be of that chocolate cherry diet soda that was popular a few years back – kinda artificial. The cocoa is right up front, but the banana tastes chemical and false. There’s a mustiness than I’m going to say is the peanut butter, but it’s really in the background.

By the second sip, everything but the chocolate begins fading until you’re left with a decent roasty ale with some off backnotes. Compared to the Bacon Maple stuff, this is at least drinkable, but Rogue already makes tastier brews … and for cheaper. Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale is an excuse to sell you that crazy bottle for your collection of other crazy beer bottles. If you don’t have one of those, you can skip this.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Old Crafty Hen

It’s St. Patrick’s Day as I post this and I didn’t think about that until a couple hours ago. So while I’ll be enjoying a Guinness in just a bit – fish bladders and all – I’m writing about a UK beer this week (first brewed in Oxfordshire, now Suffolk).

Old Crafty Hen is a blended beer from Greene King using the Morland brand. Most of the beer is Old Speckled Hen - a smooth English Pale Ale. Like Guinness, OSH is bubbled with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide, which means it goes down very smoothly. The flavor of unblended OSH is malty and fruity, but not overly sweet on the finish.

Old Crafty Hen takes OSH and kicks in a percentage of a beer called Old 5X. Trick is, you can’t buy Old 5X. The brewery only uses the oak-aged brew to flavor other blended beers. The thought is that Old 5X is too potent to drink solo, like drinking peppermint extract instead of a Shamrock Shake -- assuming there’s peppermint in a Shamrock Shake.

Old Crafty Hen pours a darker copper than OSH with a quickly-fading light tan head. The aroma was a bit skunky, but it didn’t come through on the taste. The flavor is very much like OSH, but with more bite. I see a lot of folks taste “raisin,” but I’ll leave it at “dried fruit.” The oaky Old 5X imparts a deepness I associate with bourbon. I get vanilla and browned sugar, but a bitter finish keeps the sweetness from dulling the palate.

I’ve been a fan of Old Speckled Hen for years and the introduction of this more powerful cousin is welcome. Interesting that it only comes in single 50cl bottles instead of multi-pack cans or bottles. Probably has something to do with the higher alcohol content – 6.5% instead of OSH’s 5.2%. That hen can sneak up on you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dogfish Head Noble Rot

Before you get turned off by the name alone, “noble rot” is a fungus that grows on wine grapes. Too much funk and the grapes are ruined. Just the right amount of stink and you can use the grapes to make tasty, sweet wine. It reads better in French – pourriture noble.

Dogfish Head takes a saison ale (spicy, fruity) and adds grape juice that’s been infected with the noble rot fungus. (This has got to be the first time I’ve read a beer label that proudly used the word “infected.”) As the brewmasters say in this video, the final product is a mash-up of beer and wine.

Having no idea what kind of glass to use for this Brundlefly, I broke out a Kentucky Derby glass. Noble Rot pours a straw yellow with a head of loose bubbles that vanish within thirty seconds. The aroma is like a hefeweizen with a shot of white zin – malty, fruity, sweet.

The first sip is beery, then a wave of white wine, then a lighter wave of grape skin bitterness. The second sip turns the two around – sparkling wine with a malty finish. Yes, this is – not surprisingly – a lot like a wheaty beer topped off with wine. If you gave it to someone and didn’t say, I’ll guess they’d guess it’s a semi-dry pinot with an odd aftertaste.

As a guy who doesn’t care for white wine, I will say it’s not cloying like so many whites. Maybe that’s what you can do with it. Give Noble Rot to your wino friends who refuse an ale and your beer snob buddies who walk past the Riesling. Either way, Noble Rot has a wine-style kick  – 9% ALC.