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Peter LaFrance

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A taste of… Orlio Organic Black Lager

Orlio Brewery
South Burlington, VT

Preface: I am going to assume that this is a 2008 version of the Black Lager the folks at ORLIO released last year. This sample recently arrived and has been living in my refrigerator, in the truly chilly dark, for a week or so. Allowed to come to “cellar” temperature the following notes chart the experience…

Appearance: This brew is as deep red as the old Soviet army. The head is a loosely knit fragile structure of good sized bubbles. The color of the head is almost mocha and the Belgian lace is exquisite.

Aroma: As soon as I opened the bottle there was a pleasant grainy aroma present. The second impression found plum and prunes aromas hiding in the chilly space between foam and nose. The moment between lip and sip also sensed the fruity esters in the aroma.

Mouth feel: This is a creamy feel of a high alcohol brew but the effect is attributed to the malt and carbonation.

Flavor: Refreshing liquid surrenders to a very full mouth feel and a rich coffee flavor that shows a great deal of affection toward the sweet, not quite molasses maltose.

Finish: For those of you who know what it is… This is an egg cream with a touch of bitter cherry. (An egg cream has neither egg or cream in it and with the demise of soda shops has become almost extinct.)

Comments: Although this is a rich brew it is not overly aggressive. There is little astringency and more sweetness than a stout. The hop nose and not so subtle presence nods to the esters of ale yeast. Not quite a “session” brew, I would enjoy two or three with a winter supper of crusty bread, hearty meaty stew and a wedge of New England cheddar and an apple.

The Brewery: http://www.orlio.net/

What others say:

BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/15997/36369

ratebeer: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/orlio-organic-black-lager/76396/

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A taste of… Twin Sisters

Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, CO (USA)

Preface: This is a recent arrival. Once again the Left Hand Brewing Company introduces their particular take on a “style.” This time they offer what they call a “Double I.P.A. Ale.” The label tells me that the ingredients include: flaked barley, malted rye, hops and yeast. There is no mention of alcohol content.

A style with a pucker-power reputation like I.P.A. has I wonder how it can be taken another step.

As with most samples, this one has been living in my refrigerator in the dark. On tasting mornings it is let out an hour or so before it is tasted.

Appearance: A bright amber yellow brew is topped with a very rocky head of medium to huge bubbles that form an almost white head.

Aroma: As soon as this pint was pours I could smell the toasted grain aroma I know as toasted malt. The first aromatic impression is a more concentrated aroma of lightly roasted malt. The second take on the aromatics finds a fresh-cut grass aroma behind the sweeter malt. Finally the lip-to-sip sensation starts to give away the secret of the hop and malt balance… alcohol.

Flavor: The first flavors of chilled, but not cold liquid is the alcoholic warmth followed in a rather leisurely manner by an almost dense caramel flavor that is wrapped in some more heavily roasted grains. The impression is more of a wine than a beer. (And where are the hops?!)

Mouth feel: There is a big feel to this brew.

Finish: If this isn’t a barley wine I will have to find another definition for both I.P.A. and Barley Wine.

Comments: I was very sorry I poured a pint of this brew. It should be savored in a grappa glass or a smaller tulip shaped stemware. A bowl of dried apricots and cherries, with almonds and hazelnuts would be a fine way to spend a late evening solving the problems of the world with a couple of friends.

The Brewery: http://www.lefthandbrewing.com/

What others say:
BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/418/30625

ratebeer: N/A

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Taste of… Hop Trip 2008

A “Fresh Hop” Pale Ale
Deschutes Brewery
Bend, OR (USA)

This sample was provided by the good folks at Deschutes Brewery. I must admit that this bottle has been well cared for, for a few months I’m sure. However, at 5.5% abv, I doubt there has been any regression of flavors. The effects of “cellaring” ale infused with fresh picked hops will be interesting eh?

As with all brews sampled here, it arrived via parcel post in good condition and has been kept refrigerated until an hour before opening.

Appearance: A red-copper crystal-clear brew is topped with a very rocky head of large bubbles. The almost white foam leans toward linen and quickly dissipates leaving fine Belgian lace.

Aroma: If you have never had the chance to smell the aromas of fresh hops this is as close as you can come without the actual flower in your hand.
The second sensation is laced with strawberry and raspberry esters.
The moment between lip and sip introduces an almost palpable wild flower aroma that becomes the first “hop” flavor.

Mouth feel: A rich, creamy initial impression is reinforced by the carbonation (fairly high) and the hop flavors that are rich, almost savory.

Flavor: The combination of the savory hop mix and the rich grain accents, enhanced with caramel, combine to render not so much a marriage of “sweet” and “bitter” but a synthesis of flavors that are sensed as “rich” with a touch of “happy”.

Finish: The final flavors of savory and caramel linger for just long enough. While not quite a pallet-cleanser, the effect is lusher and less hurried.

Comments: The “cellaring” was, if anything, influential in the mellowing of the fresh hop and rendering that savory sensation. The lingering traces of hop and grain on the pallet would nominate this as a session brew perfect for a chilly evening with good conversation. Some nuts (food not friends) would make a nice escort.

N.B. I have a feeling (haven’t checked) that I have posted notes on this brew in the past…

Deschutes Brewery: http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/splash/default.aspx

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A Taste of… Terra-Rye’zd

Black Rye Lager
Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, CO (USA)

This sample was provided by the good folks at Left Hand Brewing Company. I will admit that between these folks and the folks at Magic Hat in Vermont I am beginning to think that there is no end to the styles that brewers can come up with. As with all brews sampled here, it arrived via parcel post in good condition and has been kept refrigerated until an hour before opening.

Appearance: This is one deep red colored brew. Not quite opaque, it has a dense color. The head is a lush layer of large and medium-sized bubbles. They knit into lacy foam of deep dessert sand brown.

Aroma: As soon as I poured this brew there was a nutty roasted aroma in the air. The first impression was slightly dulled by a chilly brew. (It was, as you can see, in a large bottle and was not quite at cellar temperature.) The second impression introduced a hint of floral aromas. If you are familiar with the aroma of rye flour you can catch just a hint in that final aromatic reception of flavors that happens just between lips and sip.

Mouth feel: There is a fairly rich feel to this brew. I am not sure if it is the roasted, almost patent malt sensation, or the smooth effervescence. The peppery sensation is the rye at work and it does good work balancing out the other flavors.

Flavor: The first impression is of deep roasted, almost coffee flavors. The second taste reveals a slight sour sensation that blooms into a floral hop flavor. The specific hop is hard to pinpoint with all that is going on in the grain flavors.

Finish: There is a pallet cleansing quality about this brew that, for all its rich malt flavors, gives a reason to congratulate the brewer on the choices of hops.

Comments: This particular brew, if you can still find it, would do well as a beverage of choice with a seared shell-steak, creamed spinach and hash-brown potatoes.

As noted at the beginning, these folks constantly amaze me. There range of beers is both amusing and entertaining. I’m never quite sure what I’m getting, but it will be interesting.

Left Hand Brewing Company: http://www.lefthandbrewing.com/

What others Say:



From the brewer:

Left Hand Brewing & Terrapin Beer Co., Terrorize Each Other

(Longmont, CO) – In today’s day and age with everyone trying like hell to kill one another, two craft brewers with different philosophies and from opposite sides of the country are actually putting aside their differences to, wait… yes, work together. No flashy mergers or hostile international takeovers, just two craft brewers interested in taking over your palate with unusual beers.

Left Hand Brewing Company from Longmont, Colorado and Terrapin Beer Company from Athens, Georgia, are collaborating on a series of one-time releases each year, calling the coalition the Midnight Project. The first release is Terra-rye’zd, and Imperial Roggen Schwartz Lager, with very limited availability – only six states will carry the brew.

“The entire “Manhattan Project” was born late one night” says Chris Lennert, VP of Operations for Left Hand. “We had finished a successful beer dinner in Athens together, as well as a beer festival in Decatur, and were having a few pints at the Brickstore Pub to celebrate when the idea started to take shape.”

“We’ve been friends with Left Hand for years, says Dustin Watts, Director of Sales & Marketing for Terrapin, “and really just thought about doing a beer dinner together out in Colorado during the Great American Beer Festival later this year (Saturday, October 11th at the Kitchen in Boulder). Then, somehow, it turned into making a beer together.”

After several months of back-and-forth recipe concoction and name brainstorming, Terra-rye’zd was finally brewed at Left Hand Brewing Company. Terrapin’s Head Brewer, Spike Buckowski, flew to Colorado in late July to brew the black rye lager with Left Hand’s VP of Brewing Operations Joe Schiraldi and Head Brewer Ro Guenzel. “I think Terra-rye’zd is a pretty incredible, interesting beer,” said Ro, “but the prospect of ever having to brew it again is terrifying!” The brew literally terrorized Left Hand’s new 60-bbl brewhouse, or as Ro claims “anyone who has ever brewed with close to 50% rye malt can understand the terror.”

Spike couldn’t agree more. “The Terra-rye’zd experience was one of pure terror. Not only in brewing it, but the madness of travel added to it.” He started his day brewing in Athens, got on a late flight that night to Denver had a few hours sleep, and started brewing early the next day all day. Then it was back to Georgia early the next morning after another full day of brewing. “All in all, it was definitely worth it. Great travels, great times and definitely a great beer.”

“Terra-rye’zd is a beguiling black rye lager that will hold you hostage with its complex flavor, and make you want to ransom off your neighbor’s children for another bottle. The spice derived from the judicious amount of rye malt will bombard your palate. Don’t turn your back on the hops, which we took all the way to level orange. After the assault the flavors will disappear until they rear up again with each sip.

Medium-bodied, with 6.6% alcohol by volume with 37 IBU’s, Terra-rye’zd will be available in 22 oz. bombers and 1/2bbl kegs starting in early October. It will only be available in the Southeast states where both breweries have a presence (Tennessee (Nashville only), North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida (Tampa/Fort Myers only)) and Colorado.

For more information:

Chris Lennert
Left Hand Brewing Company

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Taste… of Zoetzuur Flemish Ale

Lochristi, Belgium

This one has been sitting in the fridge for over six months, perhaps a year, and it’s time has come. The brewery is attempting to recreate traditional style brews in a state of the art brewery. To their efforts the following notes will offer impressions of their beer, well cellared.

Appearance: This is a red garnet crystal clear beverage topped with a linen brown, closely knit head of very small bubbles.

Aroma: The first sensation was of fairly sharp sour grape. The second impression reveals the herbaceous undercurrents of citric orange and Clementine.

Mouth feel: The initial mouth feel is pleasantly effervescent, for such a well toned finish. There is no “flab” to this brew.

Flavor: The vinous flavors of sour cherries and grapefruit erupt in a foretaste that slides into a sour tang, ebbing to a recognizable bitter cherry ending

Finish: The sour cherry flavors, accented with citric spikes are not easily forgotten.

Comments: As noted at the beginning of this posting, this brew has had time to rest. At 7% abv it is definitely not the beer I received from these good folks. Lacking notes on the fresh version of this product, the opportunity for comparison has been lost. That said, the resulting rest has rendered a brew that is a perfect match with soft to runny cheeses.

DeProefbrouwerij: http://www.proefbrouwerij.com/

bvba Andelot
Doornzelestraat 20
9080 Lochristi-Hijfte
tel. 00/32/9.356.71.02
fax 00/32/9.356.71.03

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Taste of Jubelale 2008

Jubelale 2008
Deschutes Brewery
Bend, OR (USA)

This bottle has been languishing in my refrigerator almost too long. The emphasis is on almost.
And so I apologize to the good folks at the Deschutes Brewery, in Bend, OR, for not posting this earlier.

Appearance: This almost red brew also has a hint of amber to accent the clear, moderately effervescent beverage. The head was copious and took its time settling down to a fragile desert-tan rocky head of large bubbles.

Aroma: The initial aromatic sensation is of nutty caramel, followed by some citric aromas similar to orange marmalade. Finally there is a dusting of dried hay.

Mouth feel: This is a very “creamy” brew. There is a pronounced, but not evident effervescence that has a surprisingly rich hop flavor behind it. That is to say that this is a savory, rather than bitter flavor that builds. This savory reaction adds to the mouth feel of this brew.

Flavor: The impression between lip and sip is one of that savory sensation of this hop mixture. This prelude is followed by a spike of sweet grain almost immediately squelched by a rush of that savory hop flavor that delivers a fresh herbal flourish that leaves the malt to fight for recognition.

Finish: The particularly fresh sensation of the hop flavors finally recede and in the end leave a lingering lushness on the flavor receptors. A last trace of sweet malt keeps it from becoming astringent.

Comments: I tasted this brew unprompted. That is to say that Deschutes Brewery sent me this product to include in my tasting notes section of BeerBasics.com

Until I find the promotional material that came with this bottle and I am proven totally off the mark, I offer the following observations on this brew.

It will please the hop-heads and still give the rest of us a brew to sip and appreciate. This is not a session beer in my opinion. If pressed by my wine friends (pun intended) I would pass this off as a burgundy-style beverage to be enjoyed with a rib roast or braised beef ribs.

Deschutes Brewery site: http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/splash/default.aspx

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Taste of… Left Hand Oktoberfest Marzen Lager

Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, CO (USA)

This morning I’m going to crack open a bottle of Left Hand Oktoberfest Mazen Lager. The label on the bottle says that it was bottles on August 30. It also notes that it is 6% alcohol by volume. Therefore I believe it was done little harm resting for a bit in my refrigerator.

Appearance: The color of this beer is very reminiscent of the beers that I tasted of Oktoberfest in 1988. It is a deep red copper colored brew, almost orange. The head is composed of rather loosely knit large bubbles that form a very rocky surface. However, it appears to be a very effervescent beer.

Aroma: The very first impression is a combination of caramel candy and lush green meadow grass. The second impression is similar to that of condensed malt syrup. There is very little hop influence. The third impression brings the return of some herbal aroma hiding behind the rich malt impression. Moment between lip and sip reveals a favor of neither flavor.

Mouth feel: There is a medium mouth feel that is enhanced by a rather effervescent carbonation. There is a hint in the flavor that this might be a fairly alcoholic beer.

Flavor: The first impression is almost a citric snap followed by the rich roasted flavors of the malt. The second sip echoes the flavors of the first, however, on aspiration, there remains a non-grapefruit citric sensation. This spike of flavor is not unpleasant. However, it is not quite to style for Oktoberfest beer.

Finish: From the beginning of the finish all away through to the end there is an almost metallic flavor that sticks to the roof of the mouth. This flavor seems to be the result of the combination of hops used in this beer. It is palate cleansing without being astringent.

Comments: In 1988 I had the opportunity to visit Munich for Oktoberfest. I’m glad to say that I had the chance to taste all six of the Oktoberfest beers that were served there. Each had a characteristic that made it unique however; all of them were of a similar style.
As I remember it, and it was a bit of the haze, these beers were amber in color, rather light in alcohol content, and left a sweet finish on the palate.

I have seen information posted that the style is changing in Munich. There is information available to say that this beer has become much more blonde, and higher in alcohol content. I look forward to trying to 2009 version!

Left Hand Brewing Company: http://www.lefthandbrewing.com/

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Taste of… XX Bitch Creek Double ESB

A Taste of… XX Bitch Creek Double ESB
Grand Teton Brewing Company
Victor, ID (USA)

Last week I received this sample bottle of Grand Teton Brewing Company XX Bitch Creek Double ESB. It arrived well packaged and was refrigerated as soon as it was unwrapped.

The promotional material that came with the beer informed me that “Twenty years ago Charlie Otto began making beer in Wyoming’s first modern brewery, a 210 square foot cabin in Jackson Hole. Since then, Grand Teton Brewing Company has grown into its present 11,000 square foot facility in Victor, Idaho…”

Regarding this particular brew… “Bitch Creek ESB was first brewed in 2003… “We took the Bitch Creek recipe and doubled everything: double the malt, double the hops, twice the flavor. This is a huge beer at 7.5% abv, which should be paired with only the most flavorful of foods.”


This brew is a deep cherry red, almost Garnet, colored brew. There is a slight bit of chill haze but it is almost impossible to perceive unless you shine a light through this beer. The head is a rocky light tan frothy foam-like construction. There are a lot of large bubbles rather than fine small bubbles. When pouring the beer the Belgian lace is immediately evident.

The first aromatic impression is of rich caramel malt this is followed up by a prominent hop presence and finally, that moment between lip and sip reveals a continuation of intense hop sensation.

Mouth feel:

The initial mouth feel is relatively light for such an intense beer. There is no sweet cloying sensation, rather a distraction created by what I perceive to be well roasted malt, kicked along by a very intense hop sensation resembling newly mowed hay.

The initial impression of intensely roasted malt intensifies as the flavor profile develops. There is quite a contest between the intense flavors of the malt in the intense fresh just picked flavors of the hops. At the very end there is a light almost molasses like flavor that lingers on the palate.
Again, there is remarkably little cloying sweetness to this beer. As this brew gets warmer, naturally there is an increase in the different levels of flavor perceived. A slightly phenol taste remains in the background while the intensity of the roasted malt remains on the front.


The flavors of this brew are very powerful. Once this beer reaches cellar temperature they are easier to discern. Served chilled, they are easy to miss.


I have no idea what the original pitch Creek double ESB tasted like, this double ESB however is certainly an exercise in extreme beer. Although the alcohol content doesn’t up production saw the hire alcohol beers, the intensity of flavors certainly makes us a beer that would go well with food. Drinking it unescorted, would add to the challenge of finishing a 33 ounce bottle of this brew.

Grand Teton Brewing Company: http://www.grandtetonbrewing.com/

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N/A as of 11/05/2008