31 January 2009

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil/Ola Dubh (SCO)

I came upon a bottle of Harviestoun's special Ola Dubh ("black oil"), and figured I should first try Old Engine Oil. The former is based on the latter, but is matured in whisky casks for some time, mine for 12 years. 

Old Engine Oil: Viscous, Chocolatey, Roasty, says the label. Designated as an old ale, I wouldn't argue if they called it a stout. Roasted malts and chocolate provide an overall effect of bittersweetness. Very slightly fruity. Unfortunately not as rich and full as I would have hoped.

Ola Dubh (12 year): This comes in a much fancier bottle, with a paper cover over the cap and a necklace tag. The label says it was bottled in September 2007 and is signed by both the Head Brewer and Master of Wood. This one really is viscous -- inky black, with some purple around the edge. The body is very lightly carbonated and geared toward sipping. The aroma seems slightly asian to me: miso? mirin? Taste is stout-ish, with roasted malts and chocolate, but there's a bit of a raisiny element to it. Subtle whisky components come through, smoke/peat and warming of the ribcage. This is 8% versus 6% for Old Engine Oil. I like Ola Dubh a lot. Whether the versions aged in a whisky cask for longer would taste better or perhaps be too much, I can't say.

No surprise that Ola Dubh is the better of the two, but I also think it's better when adjusted for the price. Old Engine Oil for me isn't special enough to pay something like $4 a bottle here in the States. Old Dubh, on the other hand, is special enough to be worth the occasional $8 a bottle.

29 January 2009

Beer Sabayon Ice Cream

The first real cookbook I ever bought for myself was Biba Caggiano's Trattoria. This was back when I thought Italian would become my specialty. Nowadays, I'd say my specialty is homemade ice cream (not that I'm a reliably good cook), but one of my favorite recipes is Caggiano's Zabaglione Ice Cream. One day, I found a recipe online for beer sabayon, and realized that sabayon and zabaglione are the same thing.

Beer Sabayon Ice Cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
8-10 oz Ommegang (or other beer)
squeeze of lemon (maybe)
1 1/2 cups cream, whipped 
3 TBS sugar

I've made this several times, but never had the diligence to try to perfect it, so I can't guarantee that above is the best version. It's still good though.

Beat the egg yolks with the larger amount of sugar until pale yellow (the usual ice cream step). Place it in a double-boiler above simmering water (I just use a stainless steel bowl on top of a pot). Slowly beat in the beer with a whisk. Keep at it for a few minutes until the mixture is frothy and has doubled in size. Then, place bowl in ice water bath to cool, stirring.

Separately, whip cream with sugar. (Whipped cream is always better fresh.) Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture, and add a squeeze of lemon if desired. Run the mix through your ice cream machine, or still freeze it if you don't have one.

Whipping the cream first is unusual, but produces a super soft texture. The ice cream itself should be strong enough in taste to cut through all that air (Caggiano's recipe -- made with Marsala -- is considerably stronger). That being said, sometimes I only half whip the cream, which also makes it easier to pour into the ice cream maker. Feel free to experiment, maybe using a different beer (I've only used dark Belgians so far).  

26 January 2009

Homebrew in Five Days

Courtesy of Men's Health Living, a way to brew a small batch of beer in your home using your Mr. Coffee machine. I don't own a coffee maker so I can't try it out, but it looks like it would have been a useful suggestion back in 1975. Today, not so much. Ingredients include "1 packet of baker’s or other yeast." Makes 1 to 2 pints. Commenters are skeptical.

25 January 2009

Cropton Brewery Monkman's Slaughter (ENG)

This is a great name for a beer. It's a great bottle, a bit like the newer St.Peter's with its fat round body and then neck. The beer looks nice: a bit muddy and dark brown from afar, but light shines through to reveal a reddish tinge. Pretty head. Nice, creamy "flat" (i.e., low fizz) British body. 

But then there's the taste. My first reaction after drinking was to Google this beer to see whether it's supposed to taste like this. Apparently, yes. Alan at A Good Beer Blog describes it as "lime juice and molasses cookie," and there's not much I can add to that. Maybe its tart green apple skin rater than lime, and there's also a distinct earthy quality to it. English hops add a some bitterness (Challenger and Goldings). 

The label claims this is a "Strong Bitter Style." Is it supposed to be this sour? Maybe the trip across the ocean didn't do it any favors. Also, this is a bottle conditioned beer, and I might have let some of the yeast slip through the pour. Still, I don't think that's to blame. More likely, Monkman's Slaughter is ultimately a taste I haven't acquired. Strange brew.

24 January 2009

The Session 24: Tripel

The Session for January is being hosted by David at Musings Over a Pint, and the topic is A Tripel for Two.  This is mostly a return to the earlier days of beer style topics, although the "for two" adds a twist. 

What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member, or lover? 

The Session is two weeks from today (February 6th) and I intend to play along. I'll be curious to see if anyone has a specific reason why one tripel is especially suited for sharing, aside from it simply being a great beer. 

22 January 2009

Ithaca Gorges Smoked Porter (NY)

Ithaca Beer Company's winter seasonal takes its name from its town's punny motto Ithaca is Gorges. There are t-shirts attesting to this, but I'm guessing all those college students prefer the ones claiming Ithaca is Gangsta.

The porter is basically a straightforward, medium-bodied, dark, dry brew at around 6% ABV, but with a light layer of smoke added. I'm still a bit put off by heavy smoke, so this is perfect for me. Gorges doesn't taste of ash and doesn't cross over into stout territory. It's just a really nice cold-weather sessions beer, possibly my favorite from this brewer.

19 January 2009

Beer Too Much for Pure Youth

What a fantastic headline! Alas, it turns out that this Taipei Times article isn't about a BYU freshman kegger, but about a basketball game in which Taiwan Beer defeated Pure Youth Construction, 75-72.  Lin “the Beast” Chih-jeh is "still struggling to find his groove," according to the piece.

17 January 2009

Baird Jubilation Ale (JP)

I tried Hitachino Red Rice beer recently, and here's another one from Japan, courtesy of Shelton Brothers. It appears to be new to the US. Baird Brewing doesn't sound like a Japanese brewery, but whether beermaster Bryan Baird is native Japanese or not, Jubilation Ale does seem to be Japanese in style. Or at least it isn't Western.

"Japanese ale brewed with figs an cinnamon," says the label, as well as "emblematic of the good cheer and renewed energy with which Japanese celebrate the coming of each New Year." I'm guessing it's a seasonal. It pours the reddish side of amber, ultimately clear, with a ice head. Medium bodied (a little slick) and properly carbonated. Figs and cinnamon? What hits first is big caramel, the real deal, not just caramel malts. Some cinnamon comes through, and this is certainly a heavily spiced brew. It's not too sweet, IMO, thanks to some hops. But there is that odd, rough aftertaste...

Jubilation Ale is a beer blogger's beer. It's good, but mostly, it's different. Something you'll want to try at least once. It's also expensive at around $10 for 633 ml. I'd like to try some other stuff from Baird. 

16 January 2009

AFC Championship Beer Bet

Per Rob Kasper at the Baltimore Sun's beer blog, the CEOs of Iron City and Flying Dog have wagered their beers on the winner of Sunday's game. Pittsburgh can do better than Iron City of course, but what about Flying Dog? I still think of that as a Colorado brewery. When I think of Bawlmer, Merlin beer, I think of Clipper City.  

Nothing against the Ravens, but I'll be pulling for the Steelers. I just prefer a matchup of an expected team (Pittsburgh's all we have after last weekend's carnage) versus a surprise team, rather than two surprise teams facing each other. Philadelphia-Pittsburgh would be a a great battle, but I kind of think Arizona would be more fun, provided they don't flake out.

10 January 2009

Søgaard Bryghus Julebuk (DEN)

Søgaard is a Danish brewery -- I assume Bryghus means brewhouse -- that has only been around since the middle of the decade. Julebuk is some sort of game children play(ed?) at Christmas time in Denmark, and this is indeed a holiday beer. A "full-bodied German-style bock" with "a "blend of Christmas spices," says to the label.

Sniffing directly from the bottle, I sense ginger and soy sauce. Maybe I was just imaging them, though, because they don't appear at all once poured. Held to the light, the beer reveals that it's more medium than dark brown. The head is big and fluffy. It's medium bodied and lightly carbonated. Julebuk isn't heavily spiced, and I wouldn't assume it was a Chrismas beer if they hadn't said so. To me, it falls somewhere in between a doppelbock and a porter. There's a subtle dessert quality to it -- some milk chocolate, caramel -- but it finishes dry-ish. It doesn't have the roastiness of many porters, nor the licorice notes or alcohol burn often found in doppelbocks.

Julebuk reminds me a bit of Utenos Porter , except that it is much, much more expensive (at least here in the US). So much so, that I will probably never buy Julebuk again, even though it's a pretty tasty brew.

08 January 2009

Saranac Vanilla Stout (NY)

I've been disappointed with Saranac as often as I've been pleased with them, so I don't know why I keep coming back. Vanilla Stout certainly sounds tasty, although Caramel Porter did as well, and I didn't like that. It turns Vanilla Stout didn't do it for me, but for reasons that were different than I would have thought. So at least it was interesting in that respect.

I was ready for an overly sweet, lightweight dark beer, with faux vanilla and too many bubbles. Instead, I got a beer with an admittedly terrific, fluffy beige head and a decent (if somewhat light) body. It wasn't too sweet; it wasn't sweet at all. And there was very little vanilla to be found. At most, it tasted like chewing on a leathery vanilla bean pod. Instead, it had a dark roastiness that sounds attractive, but turned into a harsh bitterness in the finish. 

It looks like Saranac Vanilla Stout is receiving pretty good reviews. I can understand that, I guess, as it was neither weak nor cloying. Still, it wasn't for me.  

05 January 2009

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d'hiver (CAN)

We don't get too many good Canadian beers around here, despite the fact that we're just across Lake Ontario. Unibroue is easy to find (thanks to Sapporo), and MacAuslan is around as well. These are both based in Quebec, as is Dieu du Ciel. I don't recall seeing anything from Dieu du Ciel before, so was quick to snathc up Solstice d'Hiver, their winter seasonal barley wine at 9.8% ABV. The label has two scales from 0 to 9 with a couple notches between the 1 and 2 on the second one. So what does that mean? Drink by mid-2011?

The label also reviews the beer. "Brown in color with flaming red highlights...delicately sweet and liquor-like...a very bitter beer." It's weird to describe your own product as "very bitter," especially since it's not that bitter. It probably fits about midway between Anchor Old Foghorn and SN Bigfoot in this regard. Resiny hop bitterness comes through at the end, following an initial big, thick malt sweetness of cherries/berries and caramel. Maybe it's a fruit punch with a grapefruit juice finish. The alcohol is noticeable but not overwhelming.

Barley wine fans have to give this a try. Send more good beer to Western New York, Canada! In return, we'll let you host the Bills for another one of their nine losses next year.

02 January 2009

Unibroue Trois Pistoles (CAN)

Trois Pistoles is named after a town near Quebec that disappointingly means "three coins" not "three pistols." My 750 ml bottle was dated 10/01/10. This is the sort of beer which should age well (it's 9% and the yeast is left in the bottle), but it was hard not to uncork it sooner.

It looks very dark in the glass, but held to the light, it's clear and reddish. The aroma is awesome, and the taste is nearly as good. A dark, strong Belgian ale, it brings the expected fruits (plums, maybe berries) with some chocolate cake. It's actually lighter in body than I would have expected, though not too light. The finish is dry.

The brewer suggests pairing with game, wild fowl or pasta. I'm assuming they mean something like fettucine with a rich cream-based sauce, and not alio oglio. Either way, I like to drink beers such as this by themselves, and save more everyday brews for food pairings. To me, Trois Pistoles is superb, and can hold its own with a few Belgian Trappists.