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Peter LaFrance

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A taste of… Abyss 2008

Deschutes Brewery
Bend, OR

Preface: This sample arrived in good condition, chilled and nestled in Styrofoam “peanuts.” The promotional material included has not been read as of this tasting. The fact is I can’t find it. So based only on my vague memories of their 2007 version, I will begin the tasting of Abyss 2008. (The wax dipped crown cap is romantic but needs special attention when opening. I started with a hop cutting knife from the hop farms of Elk Mountain, Idaho. The crown cap was dispatched with a nifty palm-size brassy Warsteiner promotional bottle opener.)

Appearance: I’ve seen motor oil lighter colored than this. My trusty Maglight at its tightest beam could not penetrate this deep dark brew. The head is the darkest creamiest creation of small to medium sized bubbles that hold their head high for an unusual length of time for a brew that posts a percentage of alcohol by volume at 11%.

Aroma: As soon as this bottle was opened I could smell the rich aroma of roasted grain. Initial impression is surprisingly light with a definite roasted grain impression. A second, deeper exploration of these aromas find under currents of chocolate and leather. That moment between lip and sip finds chocolate whispers.

Mouth feel: There is surprisingly light mouth feel (for an 11% abv brew) at first, and then the flavors kick in the mouth feel increases and crescendos at the flavor crest.

Flavor: Coffee, chocolate, molasses, smoke and tobacco all sing out. Each note is specific and distinct but all are sung in an impressive harmony of flavors that neither shout nor croon.

Finish: This has a surprising smooth finish. No astringency or dusty dryness, rather a semi-dry smoke roasted fading away.

Comments: This is not a World Wrestling Federation style of extreme beer. This is a well brewed high-alcohol brew. As I search for words to describe this brew I let my eyes wander to the label where I find, “The Abyss: Stout brewed with licorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak bourbon barrels.”

Also: “It’s dark. It’s deep. It’s mysterious. This imperial stout has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich complex profile. The flavor of this special brew draws you in further and further with each sip. The Abyss beckons. Enjoy the journey.”

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

What others say:

BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/news/1613642

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A taste of… Participation Lager

Magic Hat Brewery and Performing Arts Center
5 Bartlett Bay Road
South Burlington, VT 05403

Preface: This bottle has been well cared for despite its age. (It is a pre-election offering by the folks at Magic Hat.) The promotional material for this brew can’t be found so I’ll just take the label information at its word… The neck label “RATE it online at: ODDNOTION.MAGICHAT.net” as well as “HeadCount is a not-for-profit nonpartisan organization devoted to registering live music fans to vote. Register to vote at HEADCOUNT.ORG” The front label states that this is “3/4 pint of beer” and “5% alc./vol.”

Appearance: This is a brilliant light golden brew with lively carbonation and a slight chill-haze. The Head is composed of medium to large bubbles that knit into a semi-rocky head with a smooth almost white color.

Aroma: The first impression is of a faintly sweet refreshing mix of cool (served at 40F) and herbaceous with whispers of clover (yes clover).The second visit revealed a sweet cereal grain tone. The lip-to-sip sensation revealed neither sweet nor floral.

Mouth feel: There is a firm but not full body, enhanced with a creamy carbonation.

Flavor: The refreshing chill of this brew is only momentarily kissed with sweetness before the more powerful herbal push to the front. There is a rather interesting mix of hops used in this brew. Although these flavors dominate, it is, dare I say it, not an unpleasant sensation.

Finish: The final sensation is that of the sharp rather than bitter hop contribution.

Comments: Although this was not the freshest example of this brew the impression is one of a medium bodied lager with a bit more hop esters than is traditional.
(Magic Hat and the word “traditional” are related how?) As the asterisked note on the front label states, this is “A brew to provoke political discussion.”

It would be my beverage of choice with pizza “all the way” (with everything including anchovies).

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

What others say:

BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/96/44215

RateBeer: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/magic-hat-participation-lager-08/91662/7393/

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A taste of… Roxy Rolles Winter Ale '08

Magic Hat Brewery and Performing Arts Center
5 Bartlett Bay Road
South Burlington, VT 05403

Preface: The good folks at Magic Hat sent me this bottle of Roxy Rolles Winter Seasonal Ale along with their Braggot. The promotional material that came with these brews was dated 17 October 2008. It has had plenty of time to settle down. And so the tasting notes…

Appearance: Cloudy red-copper color topped with a full head of bubbles of various sizes resulting in a rocky very light sandy tan foam. As the head falls there is a noticeable Belgian lace.

Aroma: First impressions are those of herbaceous notes and roasted grain accents. Second impressions reinforce the grain aromas and the herb accents recede slightly. Finally the lip-to-sip the anticipation of malt sweetness in increased.

Flavor: After the refreshing cool liquid is enjoyed, there are a number of flavors that the hops bring to the front. These flavors are less floral or herbaceous and sharper bitter spikes that vary in intensity. Slight metallic glints sharpen those bitter spikes.

Mouth feel: There is more body to this beer than the aromatics hint at. The color also hints at the fuller feel.

Finish: The finish is not as fleeting as anticipated. The hop tang lingers longest but is not unpleasant.

Comments: This is one of the less emphatic “winter” brews. I would pair this brew with a slate-grey, misty, overcast afternoon spent in a comfortable tavern in Burlington, listening to college kids gripe about grades.

It would also be a beverage of choice with pizza lardo (a crisp crusted pizza topped with pancetta renderings and cracklings), or a cone of deep fried thin julienned of potatoes served with a side of mayo.

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

What others say:

BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/96/33200

RateBeer: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/magic-hat-roxy-rolles/65532/

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A taste of… XX Au Naturale Double Red Ale

Grand Teton Brewing Co.
430 Old Jackson Hole Highway
Victor, ID 83455

Preface: I apologize for the crude bottle adornment. The folks at Grand Teton ship their samples in “barely marked” bottles. This one was shipped 8 October 2008. This sample came with the XX Bitch Creek sample and the good folks at Grand Teton neglected to include a “cheat sheet” on the XX Au Naturale. Ergo I go un-lead into these notes.

Appearance: I would call this a red brew with some orange hints. The head was so short lived I am going to blame the glass this time. What head there was seemed to be knit of medium bubbles that formed a very rocky sandy brown foam.

Aroma: First impressions are of damp whole wheat bread. Closer exploration reveals caramel and rock-candy accents. That moment between lip and sip reveals low levels of vegetal esters.

Flavor: After the refreshing cool sensation of brew served at the best temperature, the flavors begin a series of feints and advances. First is a grainy and caramel flavor base that is swept over by a series of flowery but truly bitter flavors.

Mouth feel: The body is enhanced by the effects of the bitter floral flavors.

Finish: The bitter floral accents disperse gradually. They don’t over-stay their welcome but rather remind the imbiber that there is more where they came from… so drink up!

Comments: Except for the caramel “nose” to this ale, I would imagine that this could be regular “session” ale in places where it can find an available tap. As it is a limited edition this means another reason to enjoy autumn.

I would pair this with rich cold cuts of meat and cured sausages. It also has a fine palette cleansing ability that would make a plate of mixed cheeses a real treat. (Warm bread for real flavor explosions of cheese and beer.)

Original Gravity: 1.052
International Bittering Units: 23
Alcohol content – 4.94% abv

The Brewery: http://www.grandtetonbrewing.com/ourbeers.html

What others say:
BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/1394357

Monday, December 1, 2008

A taste of… Braggot Winter Odd Notion 2008

Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center
5 Bartlett Bay Road
South Burlington, VT 05403

Preface: Not too many days ago (18 October 2008) I received this sample from the folks at Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center. (Rather a fine full moniker eh?) This time I did peruse the promotional literature and was almost immediately drawn to the word “Braggot:” on the “spec-sheet.”

This style has an ancient tradition and this product has the weight of that history riding on it. And so it begins…

Appearance: This is a fairly lively brew when opened at 50F. The bright amber brew is topped with an almost-white head of hearty, large bodied bubbles that soon relax to a tin but long lasting head sans Belgian lace.

Aroma: Almost immediate “honey” aromatics appear. This is followed by more honey until that moment between lip and sip when more honey invites itself in.

Flavor: This is one hairy brew. The aroma gives away no hint to the flavors. The flavors come crashing through the refreshing liquid with a commando like stealth attack on your nasal passages. There is a sweet, flower-shop rush of sensation followed by a honey-wine flush of flavor that ends with a “Celestial Seasonings” sensation that I determined was Chamomile.

Mouth feel: There is a big feel to this brew that muscles past the relatively light 6% abv.

Finish: The honey and Chamomile linger on but don’t exceed their welcome, departing together.

Comments: As I noted before… this is one hairy brew. It’s not quite a mead and not quite a barley wine. The fairly monochromatic herbal flavor is nicely balanced by the honey flavor. Contrary to usual protocol, I would like to try the next bottle of this brew a bid more chilled than the cellar temperature I served this sample at.

It will take some research to determine what food to pair with this brew.

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

What others say:
BeerAdvocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/96/45387

ratebeer: http://www.ratebeer.com/ratings/beer/magic-hat-odd-notion---braggot-&40winter-08&41/94638/