Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Floyds IPAs

As recent as Labor Day, I've had a friend who has shared two newer Three Floyds IPAs with me. I love Three Floyds. They truly do make some excellent beer. But these two IPAs? They're just fine. I don't think that they're all that great to write home about.

In case you weren't aware, Three Floyds makes what is probably the best American Pale Ale out there called The Alpha King. If I weren't interested in trying every beer in the world out there, this one would be a staple in my home, along with Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. If you're a beer novice, Alpha King will rock your world. It's got an amazing body and hop profile.

Then they went out and released this Blackheart IPA. I saw this at Pat's and at first was tempted to buy it ($10.99 for a 22 oz bomber), then I saw it was a British IPA. There was a bottle of the Three Floyd's Dreadnaught (an IMPERIAL IPA) for the same price. I've had the Dreadnaught. It's very nice. So why would I pay the same price for a British-style IPA? British-style IPAs and Pale Ales just don't jump out at me like the American versions do. They're okay. They're usually good beers, but I'm not going to spend $10.99 on a 22 oz bottle when I can get a better beer for the same price, or a sixer of the Alpha King for $8. What? You got a well-known California tattoo artist to design your label? Yay! You've just become the Magic Hat of Indiana.

Anyway, I tried the Blackheart, and it was pretty good, but still not $10.99 pretty good. I've had similar IPAs for less.

Then I had noticed that they released an 11-year anniversary beer called Fantabulous Resplendence XI. I had the Fan Res X (An American Strong Ale - whatever that is) and it was one of the best beers I ever had. I swear it was more along the lines of a Belgian strong ale, but then, that was over a year ago, I just read my notes on and I raved about the thing like it was the second coming.

So as I was saying, I saw this thing in the store and thought it was going to be awesome. I went home to find out what kind of beer it was on and found out it was an IPA. Huh? Maybe they're saving the special beers for the big anniversaries (10, 20, etc.).

My friend, Gumbo, brought this one over just this last weekend. I was still kind of hoping it would be good, but had forgotten it was an IPA. I seriously thought it was a Belgian pale ale when I drank it.

Both of these IPAs were not as hoppy as I thought they would be, but British IPAs don't usually knock me out with the hops anyway.

Just a note to Three Floyds: Maybe if you're going to make average beers, don't spend so much money on the label art, then you won't have to charge us $11 for a bomber. I know we love capitalism, I'm down with the cause. Just don't expect me to spend that much money on a bomber when there are plenty of others at Pat's for $5.99 and $6.99 that are just as good, or maybe even better than these.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Indiana Apple Cider or Scarecrow Graf

There's this series of Stephen King books I love called The Dark Tower. I really like the character of Roland in these books. He's a gunslinger. The story crosses different time periods, and may seem goofy if you're not familiar to King's works, because in this seven-book series, he pulls out characters from other books. Unfortunately, he even writes himself into the books, which is sort of a downfall. It's sort of a The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Lord of the Rings.

But I didn't come here to write a book review. In The Dark Tower, they drink something called graf, which is supposed to be some kind of apple beer. Leinenkugels made what might be considered an apple beer, called Apple Spice. In my humble opinion, it sucked! Fortunately, for all of us, they retired it, and apparently make a brown ale in its place now, which appears to be getting rave reviews.

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to talk to one of our friends' dad, who owns property with quite a few apple trees. He told me he was making cider the next week, and I asked if I could fill a 5-gallon carboy up with some. He said sure. I went the next week and worked for two hours moving apples around and throwing them into the cider press. Then I found this recipe, which I call Scarecrow Graf.

Scarecrow Graf
5 gallons fresh, unpasteurized apple cider
3 lbs Indiana honey (from our friend, Ken, who raises bees)
3 lbs Dark Brown Sugar (from the ultra-mega corporate Domino Sugar company)
2 packs of Five Star dry champagne yeast
Several cinnamon sticks for secondary fermenter
Optional handful of raisins for secondary fermenter

You have to get fresh cider. That stuff from the grocery store apparently has some kind of pasteurization going on that will actually kill your yeast, so get your cider fresh from a farmer's market or the like.

I looked around the internet for recipes, and the first 4 ingredients were used in one recipe I found. I thought the cinammon sticks would add a nice touch. I'm still not sure about the raisins. Nothing out there really about sanitation, and nothing really about bringing the cider to a boil. Instead, I opted to bring 3 gallons of the cider up to a temperature of 100 degrees, stir in the honey and brown sugar, and then mix it back into the carboy with the remaining 2 gallons of cider. Follow the directions on the yeast pack, making sure your mixture of cider is around 70 degrees, and then pitch the yeast. I think we did the whole "brew" in about 30 minutes. The original gravity on the thing was a 1.100.

When I move the cider to the secondary, I will add probably 3 cinammon sticks for a hint of cinnamon. After a week in the secondary, we will bottle, and hopefully this stuff will be ready by Christmas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Smells Like Monk Basement

You may have read here that I like to rate the beers that I drink on For the most part, I'm not very creative when I describe the quality of the beers I drink. I mean, you can only use so many of the same words to describe the same beer 500 other people have also described.

However, on my discovery of Belgian Tripels, I found a smell that I could only describe as "monk basement." I guess the proper European term would be "cellar," but tell me, if you keep beer stored in your house, and your specific geography allows for certain types of domestic construction, don't you usually keep, or ferment your beer in a basement? That is the first thing that came to mind when I smelled the yeast of those golden, strong, Belgian ales. I thought, "This has a smell reminiscent of all those damp, European cellars I occasionally found myself in when I lived over there." But to call the smell "European cellar" was not quite colorful enough for me.

Most Belgian styles of beer, according to my limited study of the style, were made by monks, so why not give them credit?

So please, I ask you kindly, use my terminology to describe the smell of Belgian ale yeasts. It's more prevalent in tripels, dubbels, and strong ales. Seek it out. Enjoy it.

Here are my favorite North American-influenced Belgian-style beers:

1. Pere Jacques (4.4) - Goose Island Brewing Company
Pours brown with a slight haze. Smells of toffee, caramel, and slight licorice. Taste is strong alcohol, but with a caramel back.

2. Hell Hath No Fury (4.1) - Bell's Brewing Company
Beautiful beer. Pours almost black. Smells fruity and slightly of monk basement. Tastes are many here: chocolate, coffee, fruit, licorice and dirt finish. I like it. I think it’s a decent example of the style.

3. La Fin Du Monde (4) - Unibroue
Nice blonde beer, with a little white fluffy head. Sweet smell. I notice the carbonation followed by a yeasty taste and slight alcohol burn.

4. Maudite (4) - Unibroue
Dark amber pour with a nice head. Fruity and raisin aromas. Nice mouth feel typical of all Unibroues.

5. 1554 Brussels Style Black Ale (3.9) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Black ale with a tint of red when held to the light. Beautiful. Smells of monk basement, malty, some nice chocolate overtones, and finishes with a "pinch of dirt" taste I always get from NB beers. I think I actually like aftertaste now.

6. Trois Pistoles (3.8) - Unibroue
Dark brown pour with fluffy white head. Has a fruity wine smell to it. Nice smooth, flavored mouthfeel.

7. Raison D Etre (3.8) - Dogfish Head
Dark red color. Slight head, no real lacing, just fades quickly. Smells like a sugary beer. Taste is malty, derived from raisins, and somewhat biscuity. Palate leaves a nice finish, and with two bottles, you can feel the alcohol burn.

8. Springboard Ale (3.3) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Pours a hazy light yellow. Nice white head that dissipates quickly. I can’t quite place the smell, but the yeast is nice. Has a nice citrus aftertaste and is an overall nice average summer beer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Audit This Week - No Real Post Here

I've had a Safety Audit all week, so I didn't get a chance to write anything here. Should be done with the audit by 12:30, hopefully.

We have a friend whose dad has a bunch of apple trees. They're pressing cider on Saturday, so I'm going to try and get 5 gallons of that and order a cider yeast.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Green Bottle Hell - The Sweet Smell of Skunk

It's hard for me to understand why some companies still use green bottles. If you've ever drank Heineken, you might have noticed the skunky smell that accompanies this. I was at a party a few months ago where the host had two of those little kegs of Heineken, and a guest poured himself a glass and said, "Hey, this doesn't taste like Heineken, it tastes...good." I asked him if the skunkiness was missing, and he said that it was. I then told him, "It's because it's not in its usual green bottle."

Doing about 5 minutes of research on the interwebs, I found that really, there seems to be only two reasons that companies use green bottles: First, it is all about marketing the product. Yep, nevermind that the beer has that skunky effect, it looks good in green. Second, the company may actually be going for that effect, as some people actually like the skunk. For those people I ask, "Where were you when the skunk fell into my window well last spring?"

The best information I got was from, of all places, a Yahoo! Answers post answering the question, "Do green bottles really make beer skunky?":

Not the green bolttes but UV light. Brown bottles do the best at filtering out the UV light. Heineken beer was once known for this defect and built its world reputation on peoples' ignorance of it. Many people thought the "skunkiness" as normal and a quality beer aroma and flavor...

Lots of really decent information in that whole answer.

I'm not really a fan, honestly, of most beers in green bottles, but there are a few pilsners that I think I would enjoy a whole lot more if they were only in brown bottles. Jever, Czechvar (Budvar), and Pilsner Urquell taste so much cleaner from the tap.

As far as Rolling Rock, Heineken, Stella Artois, and Beck's go, they can keep them in the green bottles, since I don't drink buy those. I saw a Beck's commercial during a Monday Night Football game giving examples of things that said "no" then it came to "Beck's - The beer that said no to compromise" or something like that. What a sham. You compromised your beer with a green bottle!