Beer Review: Fort George’s Cathedral Tree

Name: Cathedral Tree
Brewing Company: Fort George Brewing Company
Location: Astoria, OR
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 4.8%

Cathedral Tree is a delicious, classically crafted full-flavored Pilsner and a beer worth seeking out should you find yourself in the Astoria, OR area.”

From Fort George Brewing’s page for Cathedral Tree:

Cathedral Tree is a beer that pays reverence to the timeless lager style – Pilsners. Fermented entirely in 500 Liter oak puncheons, to incorporate Old World methodology and provide a mellow tannic structure that lends a full mouthfeel and support for classic German noble and modern hops. Finishes crisp, clean, and refreshing as any Pilsner should. Look for Cathedral Tree in 16-ounce cans. And just like the actual Cathedral Tree, this one is staying firmly planted at the coast.

BREWER’S NOTES

Brewed in the Lovell Brewery and fermented in the Lovell basement in great big oak barrels, this beer is oak fermented and lagered, but not “barrel-aged.”

Pale straw in color, this pilsner offers floras, white grape, and rustic raw grain aromas in addition to doughy, bready, herbal & floral hops and white nectarine flavors.

For our 20th Wedding Anniversary, my wife bought me a box of special beers, 20 beers specifically. Each beer is meant commemorate a special moment, event, or shared memories from the 20 years of our marriage. Not just any beers, mind you. She bought 20 different styles of beer from breweries from around the country, 18 of the beers through Tavour, which is a beer crating service that allows consumers to get beers from small, independent breweries from around the country. Beers from, say, a small brewery in Oregon a person (like me) from New Jersey would never otherwise be able to procure. Tavour also is a great way to support small and independent business which aren’t exactly local.

My wife also put together 20 index cards with a printed image and a textual hint as to what the beer might be or where the beer was made. This game consists of me picking a card and then she presents a few ounces of the beer in a taster glass, so I can guess what the beer is. The index card clue for this beer hinted at a German store near our house we frequent, so I was hoping for some kind of Lager. I immediately knew it was a Lager of some sort from the aroma, but the small taste also had me feeling pretty good about the beer being a Pilsner. As it so happened, this beer was second I had from the Tavour box and it is one of my favorite styles, a Pilsner.

The beer pours a perfect golden-yellow with a fluffy white head into my Pilsner glass. As it turns out, the glass from which I enjoyed the beer was a wedding gift from my coworkers of 20 years ago, they gave me a box of Pilsner glasses, so another little reminder of 20 great years of marriage.

Getting more of the aroma from the full glass with the fluffy head, it smells like a Pilsner, with some bready elements plus some slightly fruity elements, too.

The first full taste of the beer was extremely pleasing. Cathedral Tree has the classic German Pilsner elements – bready/crackery malt and a pleasant hop finish. Many Pilsners have some kind of hint of fruit element from the hops and while the description above calls out grape as a flavor, I can’t say I was getting any of that. Maybe a hint of nectarine, but more of a pear hint. Not that I was drinking pear juice from a Pilsner glass, but pear is that subtly noticeable fruit that is found in a lot of juice blends to bring other fruit elements together. That’s what the fruity elements here did for my taste buds – brought the wonderful crackery malt together along with the hints of oak from the fermenting barrel.

Cathedral Tree is a superb Pilsner and one I’d happily have again and seek out should I ever have the opportunity to visit Oregon.

Can art by Will Elias, image courtesy of Fort George Brewery’s Website

Also worth pointing out is the gorgeous art wrapping the entire can of beer from Will Elias. Although Fort George’s description of the beer calls out German styles, the Cathedral-like structure looks like it would fit in really well in Czechoslovakia, the birthplace of Pilsner beer.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating, the gorgeous can art nudged the rating just a bit.

Beer Review: Gaffel Kölsch

Name: Gaffel Kölsch
Brewing Company: Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker
Location: Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

One of the first of its style is an outstanding beer, this ale masquerading is a lager is delicious.

From Gaffel Kölsch Page for the beer:

The classic Gaffel Kölsch is a particularly fresh speciality beer from Cologne, brewed according to a time-honoured family recipe and the German Purity Law of 1516 with water, malt, hops, and hops extract.

The delicately bitter, pleasant, slightly hopsy taste is characteristic for this traditional product and clearly distinguishes Gaffel Kölsch from all other Kölsch brands.

One of the more overlooked styles of beer is the Kölsch. This is a shame because it is a relatively straight-forward style, is a great introduction to the wider world of beer styles, and when done well – as one of the first of its kind from Gaffel – it can be a sublime and delicious beer.

So what is a Kölsch? I’ve fully reviewed two other Kölschs (Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch & Free Will Brewing’s Crisper) and those two beers likely took inspiration, if not directly, than indirectly from this beer. The style is one of those geographically protected style names, much in the same way that any sparkling wine produced outside Champagne cannot be called Champagne. One way to think of a Kölsch is that is an ale that is masquerading as a lager, Pilsner or Helles Lager specifically. The beer begins its fermentation process like an ale with top fermentation but finishes like a lager with colder, bottom fermentation. The result, when done well like this one, is a beer that has wide appeal for its refreshing flavor profile and lower ABV which is perfect for “crushing” or repeated enjoyment in a lengthy sitting. It is this beer writer’s personal and humble opinion that every small brewery should have a Kölsch available in regular rotation in their taproom.

Back to Gaffel’s classic take on the style after I briefly set the stage. I was in San Francisco for a few days on business and to my delight, an authentic German Restaurant (Schroeder’s, established in 1893) was two blocks from my hotel. Sure they had some local beers on tap, but selecting an authentically German style from an authentic 100+ year old German brewery was *exactly* the correct decision.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is how transparent the beer is. In every visual way possible, this beer could easily be the beer next to the entry on “Beer” in an encyclopedia. There’s something to be said for a freshly poured draft beer. There’s also something to be said for the setting in which a beer is consumed. Outside of being in Germany, an authentic German restaurant is just about the perfect setting for enjoying this beer, which admittedly, may have added to how much I enjoyed the beer.

First taste is very good, it is even better than I expected it to be. There’s great flavor from the malt and a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a mild sweetness that makes you want to go for a second sip while still holding the glass after the first sip. Some Kölschs can have a hop bitterness, but this one doesn’t, and although hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I get a little bit of fruitiness from the hops, just enough to remind me of some pilsners I’ve had. The thing that makes this beer work so well is the simplicity. It isn’t flashy with abundant, tropical hops, it isn’t double dry hopped.

Gaffel Kölsch is one of those must-try beers of the world, it is relatively older style, defined by the region, is a superb example of a beer created using old world ingredients – and only old world ingredients – that has quite flavorful, especially considering the lower alcohol level.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to 4.5-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Respect the Kölsch (Level 5)

The kölsch style has a rich heritage, originating in Cologne, Germany. It’s clear, crisp, medium hopped flavors are always refreshing.

 

Beer Review: Avery Brewing’s Samael’s Oak Aged Ale

Name: Samael’s Oak Aged Ale
Brewing Company: Avery Brewing Company
Location: Boulder, CO
Style: Strong Ale – English
ABV: 15.47% (2012 vintage under review)

A beer that showcases how aging can impart flavors before the beer is put in the bottle, and age on the shelf can enhance that flavor to an even greater degree. 

From the Avery Brewing’s page for the beer:

Samael is the prince of demons, the angel of death, accuser and destroyer. Filled with enmity towards man, he planted the vine, the forbidden tree of paradise. Behold his venom and vengeance, both sweet and tempting, enticing you, his spellbound victim, within his wings.

Avery is one of the great, respected Colorado breweries who helped to kick start the Western US Craft Beer movement. Avery began brewing/selling beer to the public in 1993 and although they are now part of the same group Founders Brewing is part of – Mahou-San Miguel – their reputation for quality beer is still quite high. Like many breweries, they have core offerings, but the beer under review today is part of the now defunct Demons of Ale series, which ceased bottling/production in 2016. So yes, this beer is very old. In fact, it is the oldest beer I’ve ever consumed at about 7 and a half years of age since it was bottled in April 2012 according to the label.

The bottle itself has some cool artwork, but because it was seven (7) years old, the foil and label was a little faded worn out. There wasn’t an overly noticeable pop and hiss when the bottle opened, but there was a bit of noise. Being that the beer was 15479%* I split it with my father on Christmas Even in two snifter glasses. Once the beer was in the glass, one could be forgiven for thinking the liquid wasn’t beer but rather apple cider. One would realize as the beer drew closer to one’s nose and mouth; however, that what they held was most certainly not apple cider.

Sweet oak and vanilla are most prominent elements of the aroma, but it is such a wonderful smell that sniffing the beer is nearly as enjoyable as drinking the beer. The same elements of oak and vanilla make their presence known immediately upon tasting the beer. Intermingled elegantly with those flavors as the beer sits in your palate are elements from the abundant malts; flavors of caramel and toffee most prominently as well as burnt/brown sugar. I also got some hints of fruitiness, but not enough to really pinpoint what exactly those fruit elements are. A very sweet, pleasant beer.

The beer is fairly thick and the while the booziness is extremely present, there’s little to no burn from the alcohol in the same way I’ve experienced burn of some level with other barrel-aged ales. The level of booze – a very specific 15.47% – is well enmeshed in the whole flavor profile of the beer and not a kick at the end.

As the beer finishes off the oak and vanilla elements reassert themselves. There’s some sediment at the bottom of the glass, which for me is a feature and not a bug. This beer also skirts the line between what a beer is and can be and when beer can be something else, not unlike Samuel Adams Utopias. Samael is still about half the ABV of Utopias, but the transcendence of the form is still a hallmark of this Oak Aged Ale from Avery.

I noted early in the review this is the oldest beer I’ve ever had. I’ve let some barrel-aged stouts and higher ABV stouts sit for a year or two before enjoying them. This beer was a revelation, I’d seen many comments online about people drinking beers they’ve aged for 5 to 10 years and what a great experience it was. With this beer, I don’t have a comparison as to what it tastes like the year it was bottled or even a couple of years later like I do for with other aged beers. What I can say is that 7(+) years on this beer gave me a beer experience unlike few beers I’ve ever enjoyed before. Sharing it with my Dad helped to make it that much more enjoyable.

So why review a beer that is so old and difficult to find? Two reasons…if you can find this beer, grab a bottle regardless of vintage. Second, I wanted to to illustrate why aging a beer can be such fun part of enjoying the plethora of possibilities in beer.

I can see why people would want to let beers like this sit before opening. If possible, I’d probably buy multiple bottles of something like this (if the price-tag wasn’t cost-prohibitive) to enjoy immediately and “cellar” or age for multiple years.

Many beers have a story of how they were procured, but I figured I’d leave this part until the end …. At the Bridgewater Beer Fest in the spring of 2019, there were only a small handful of beers to make a good impression on me, but this beer was the clear standout to the point where I had multiple tasters of the beer. Probably enough tasters to equal a half bottle throughout the evening. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give a little shout out to Mat of Massive Beers since he recommended this beer to me. He and I live in NJ and we happened to both attend the Bridgewater Beer Fest in 2019. One of the first things he said to me was that this beer was being poured at the festival, and that it was a fantastic beer and one of his favorites. I was only familiar with Avery’s core lineup, but the way Mat spoke of this beer was as if it was something legendary and a beer I wanted to at least try. I can’t say I disagree with how Mat spoke of the beer since it is first and foremost a wonderful beer and secondarily, because it is no longer being brewed and distributed as of the writing of this post. Much to my delight, I was able to procure a bottle* of the same vintage and I wanted to save it for a special occasion, which turned out to be Christmas Eve 2019.

* By procure, I mean the gentleman who was pouring samples at the beer festival saw how many return trips I made to the table and was kind enough to slip me an unopened bottle, since he had a couple of additional bottles and the festival was winding down.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in. This is a whale of a beer that is worth keeping at the front of your mind or mental list when you visit bottle shops with a deep shelf.

Untapped badge earned with this beer:

Iron Man (Level 9)

You don’t have to be a superhero to enjoy a strong beer. Boasting a higher than average ABV, these styles really do pack a punch, so be ready for it. That’s 45 different beers with style of Strong Ale – American, Strong Ale – English, Strong Ale – Other, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Lager – Euro Strong.

Beer Review: Bolero Snort French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout

Name: French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Ridgefield Park, NJ
Style: Stout – Pastry
ABV: 10.3%

A delicious “pastry” stout with several adjuncts that strikes a perfect balance between those various elements.

From Bolero Snort’s Bergen County Bull Stout 2019 page:

🍁 🥞 French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout 🥞🍁 a brand new variant for 2019 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Maple, Cinnamon, Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla 🤤.

Bolero Snort has been a NJ mainstay for a about a half-dozen years now, they’ve garnered a following and reputation without having a home base, they’ve been a contract brewery since their inception. That all should be changing by the end of 2019 as their brewery/taproom (which will be the 12th largest in the State) finally opens. Over the years, they’ve been releasing a big stout around Thanksgiving, which they call Bergen County Bull Stout. Anytime a bovinely inspired pun can be inserted, it will happen. Furthering the pun, so to speak, the initials of that beer are BCBS, four letters which should ring a bell for beer people.  As for the beer itself, the base of Bergen County Bull Stout is a barrel-aged imperial stout and each year, the Bolero boys brew a couple of different varieties. This year’s new variant is French Toast, which contains maple syrup and cinnamon as the prominent adjuncts with additional flavors of cocoa, Madagascar Vanilla, and lactose.

This was a very limited release as is the full complement of Bergen County Bull Stout variants, so I was happy to get a bottle since most stores were permitting only one bottle per customer. The bottle sports a nice label, cool font for the beer name, with the newly fashioned and stylized “BS” logo (as seen to the right) front and center. One last note on the packaging, I really appreciate that this is a 500ml bottle as opposed to what was once a standard, the 750ml bottle. 500ml is slightly more than a pint and is just enough for one person to consume on their own.

The beer pours almost obsidian and the aroma coming from the beer has my mouth watering. I get the full flavor-smell of French Toast – cinnamon, maple, and even that pleasant eggy-bread aroma. My only concern before taking the first sip is that it might be too sweet.

This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front as if that wasn’t obvious. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. I also tasted ample amounts of cinnamon and maple syrup, too. The beer is most definitely a stout, the adjuncts don’t diminish the stout elements of the beer at all. The vanilla is a little toned down, which is welcome because especially Madagascar Vanilla can overpower other flavors to a negative degree. Here in the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout, the Madagascar Vanilla complements the cinnamon and maple and sits very nicely with the overall “French Toast” profile on the finish of the beer.

This beer is full-flavored, full bodied and boozy. As I said, the character of the bourbon barrel seeps through the whole of the beer, it isn’t intrusive but rather complements all the other additives Bob Olson and crew have thrown in the mix for this beer. Earlier I said I was concerned that the beer might be too sweet. Well, the beer is most definitely sweet but not to a cloying degree.

Pastry Stout (or dessert stout) has emerged as a distinct style over the past few years and this beer definitely falls into that category. I’ve had a few other beers that emulate breakfast meals like pancakes and bacon, but the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout is probably my favorite and most balanced I’ve had along these lines. A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character.

The full “range” of Bergen County Stouts released in 2019. Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Web site

I’ve been really enjoying Bolero Snort’s output over the past year or two. For my birthday my wife took me to a beer pairing dinner at a local restaurant which was great experience – delicious food and tasty beer with an excellent host/ambassador in Adrian from Bolero Snort. Say one thing about Bolero Snort, they’ve never shied away from the flavor adjuncts and this beer is proof that their skills are well up to their ambition. This beer is probably the best I’ve had from them. As their motto says, that is No BS, just ragin’ good beer.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Mast Landing’s Gunner’s Daughter

Name: Gunner’s Daughter
Brewing Company: Mast Landing Brewing Company
Location: Westbrook, ME
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet | Peanut Butter Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%

An impressive beer that is immensely flavorful yet sessionable at the same time. An upper echelon Milk Stout.

From Mast Landing’s Beer List:

Our beautifully aromatic and balanced milk stout with delicious notes of peanut butter, coffee, and dark chocolate.

Stout Day is one of those “holidays” to arise in recent years as the internet has looked to celebrate everything. Well, for many beer drinkers, it is just another excuse to have a beer, in this case a stout. For me, I try to have a different stout every first Thursday in November (a.k.a. Stout Day), like this fantastic Milk Stout from Maine’s Mast Landing.

This beer is Mast Landing’s most popular beer and something of a flagship beer and once I tasted it, I could completely understand why the beer is their top beer on untappd and Beer Advocate.

As one would expect, the beer pours out of the 16oz can very dark. It has a perfect khaki, heavily creamed coffee head. This looks like a perfect stout to me. What is unexpected is the aroma. There’s a roasted peanut / peanut butter aroma that encourages that first sip. I asked my wife, who does not like beer, to give it a whiff and she remarked that it smelled less like beer than she would have expected.

The aroma is about 60% of what makes up the taste for a person and that is very true with this beer. It has the main malt/sweet flavors a Milk Stout typically shows, but then hints of peanut butter/roasted peanut show up to the flavor party. Rounding the full profile of the beer are more subtle hints of chocolate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this beer tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but more importantly, the beer evokes that flavor. In my humble opinion, that flavor evocation is a more subtle and nuanced approach to crafting a beer and the skill of the people creating the beer. That nuanced craft skill are on full display in Gunner’s Daughter.

I don’t know if the fine folks at Mast Landing added peanut butter, coffee, and chocolate to the beer for those flavors or if the complex flavors arose from the nuanced blend of malts. I’ve had a decent share of beers with peanut butter used in the brewing process or even peanut butter powder, some of those beers range from an overpowering unpleasant peanut butter bomb to artificial, powdery false flavor. Gunner’s Daughter is nowhere on that unpleasant spectrum, the beer is delicious worth a slow sip of enjoyment. Despite the sessionable, low ABV of 5.5% this beer is exploding with delicious flavors.

I also really like the can label/art on this beer. Gold and black play off of each other really nicely and are even similar to the colors of the beer itself.

Gunner’s Daughter is one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had and will likely land a slot on my “favorite new-to-me” beers of 2019.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Stout Day 2019

This day is all about the Stout. First brewed in the 1700’s, this style of beer brings us bold and malty flavors, and is well worth the celebration! Thanks for raising a pint of your favorite stout on International Stout Day!

 

Beer Review: Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont (Beer Review 100!)

Name: Saison Dupont
Brewing Company: Brasserie Dupont
Location: Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6.5%

The legendary template for a beer is that world class rarity – a beer that lives up to its reputation and may even exceed it.

I love the “holes” in the fluffy head.

From Brasserie Dupont’s page for the beer:

The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in our farm-brewery, during the winter time. Then this beer became a second refermentation in the barrel. During the next summer, this very thirst-quenching beer was served to the “saisoniers” which were working on the fields.

Surely therefore, our Saison Dupont is considered as “the classic” among the Belgian season beers! Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quenchener with no equal, just the way it was created. Our selection of yeasts is the perfect base for these typical aromas and ditto taste. A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for a long time in your cellar, result into this complex and particular aromatic beer..

This is something of a momentous review – Beer Review 100 at the Tap Takeover. A little over two years to get to that number, but here it is. I wanted to do something a little special for review #100, specifically a beer held in high regard by many people, one that is fairly readily available, but one I haven’t yet tried. I finally settled on what many consider the standard bearer for the Belgian Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Saison Dupont.

Another stylistic preface – Saison/Farmhouse Ales aren’t a go to for me. I don’t dislike the style, but it isn’t always my first choice. I’ve had a little over 40 over the past few years, largely because it is a fairly widely available standard style. Most of the Saisons I’ve had are American; however. The style likely originated in the 1700s in Belgian farms in Wallonia, mostly from ingredients on the farm. The beer that eventually became Saison Dupont (or a version of it) was first brewed in 1844 and with the same recipe since the 1950s. The beer gained much more popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s after Michael Jackson visited the brewery and encouraged Dupont to partner with a US importer. All About Beer has a great article on the beer, which is where I gleaned much of the information I just spouted about the beer.

The above is all well and good, but what do I think about the beer?

Anytime a beer has the cork and cage, that tells me it is special even if the science behind this capping technique is the real reason why it is capped this way. The cork pops not unlike champagne/sparkling wine (no surprise since Belgian brewing and French wine are geographic neighbors), and out flows a beautiful earthy scent. I let the beer settle after the aggravation of the cork popping and then pour the beer. It is hazy, golden yellow, and creates a very thick and fluffy head. Even tilting the glass at 45 degrees doesn’t prevent the thick head from taking up more than half of the glass. Lots of yeast and at work in the beer for sure.

More earthy, almost bready aroma from the beer as I inhale the aroma more fully. Maybe sweetness and spice, too. I wait for the head to settle before taking a sip.

That first sip is … legendary. Beautiful, complex, potent, and flavorful. Belgian ales and Belgian style ales, in my mind, are most strongly characterized by their yeast, and that is definitely the case with this beer. Dupont has been using the same yeast/yeast strain since about the 1940s so the beer has been consistently delicious, if this batch bottled in early 2019 is any indication.

The yeast evokes pure earthiness, and a saison to me is probably the most earthy style of beer – I get slight hints of lemon, some breadiness, a sweetness throughout most of the time the beer is traversing my palate. It finishes with a bit of spiciness and a pleasant dryness.

The bottle is big, 750ml so it isn’t one to drink quickly. Compared to most other styles, I probably wouldn’t let this one warm to room temperature too much. Straight out of the bottle you get so much flavor that the only real reason to wait before taking that first pleasant sip is for the head to dissipate. Once that happens, dive in and enjoy.

This is an extremely versatile beer that I can imagine pairing with just about any meal. As the global template for the style, Saison Dupont should be readily available in most liquor stores and bottle shops. I’ve seen the beer in both the big 750ml bottles and 4 packs.

Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.

Jeff Alworth over at his Beervana Blog has a great article on Saisons, which highlights Saison Dupont. It is well worth a read, as is anything Jeff has to say about beer.

Without hesitation, I can say this beer is an absolute must-have. This is a beer that absolutely lived up to the reputation it has earned over the last 70 or so years. I know, I’m really pushing the envelope here on my 100th beer review with those statements about such a revered beer.

This is a beer that is supposed to age fairly well, so I’d like to try a bottle with a little more time on it as this bottle has a 2019 bottling date.

Recommended. Link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Allagash Brewing’s Pick Your Own

Name: Pick Your Own
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American Wild Ale (Beer Advocate’s description American Wild Ale is at the end of the review)
ABV: 6%

“A complex, flavorful fruit forward beer that is artfully delicious.”

From Allagash’spage for the beer:

Pick Your Own begins as a sour red ale that’s aged in an oak foudre with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for two years. After adding fresh, local raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries, we age it for an additional three months. The finished beer is a vibrant, ruby red with an aroma of ripe berries and vanilla. As you might expect, berries fill the flavor. Pick Your Own finishes dry with notes of bread crust and a lingering, tart juiciness.

Allagash has done more to push the Belgian art/science of brewing in America than just about any brewery that doesn’t rhyme with dome-nang. But seriously, from their White, Triple, and Saison, to their more “high-end” barrel-aged beers, Allagash is synonymous with quality and Belgian-inspired brewing, which brings me to Pick Your Own, one of their many wood-aged, funky beers I’ve been intending to try for a while.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is the color. It is a red bordering on purple, or a blue with hints of red, or a deep red edging over into purple. No matter what you call the color, a beer this color is pretty damned intriguing to me. The second, and more overpowering element is the aroma. This beer has a funky aroma to it. As I’ve come to appreciate sour beers over the past couple of years, this aroma, with hints of berry underlying the funk, is very, very appealing. (An anecdotal point – I did *not* like Victory’s Sour Monkey when I first had it a few years ago. I revisited it last year and enjoyed it quite a bit.)

Back to Pick Your Own

The nose leads the taste and I get some funkiness initially that is immediately overtaken by the abundant berry flavors from blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. For me, the raspberry and blueberry stand out initially with a wallop of sweet tartness – just a lovely blend of those fruits. I don’t get much strawberry in the fruit flavors, but I’m guessing the strawberry brings it all together since the natural sweetness of the strawberry probably balances out the tartness of both the blueberries and raspberries. I get maybe a hint of cherries on the finish because there’s a welcome smoothing/rounding of the beer on the backend that is absolutely divine.

I don’t know if I get much “bread-crust” on the finish (per the description above), but it is a fantastic smoothness that might be the vanilla hinted at in the description. While the complex beer has such a movement of flavors – all delicious – there’s something about that finish I found my palate chasing each time I drank from my glass. A finish I enjoyed, but was gone too quickly. Stouts are typically thought to taste better as they warm, but the last few sips of this beer were sitting in my glass for a while and were closer to room temperature and the complex flavors came more alive at that point.

Pick Your Own is a delightful beer – one of the most complex beers I’ve had in a while. Readers of this blog know I love a straight-forward pilsner and how deceptively complex a great pilsner can be. There’s nothing deceptive about a beer like Pick Your Own – it is aged for two years in a foudre (barrel), it has multiple potent fruits added, it has beneficial/good bacteria working magic for two years in that foudre before those fruits are added. And you know what? You can taste all of those elements in a progression as it seeps into your palate. In short, it is a wonderful beer to experience.

I know sour beers can be an acquired taste or even a turn-off to some. Hell, I’m living proof. But this is a beer that proves just how complex a consumable liquid classified as beer can be, how so many flavors can amalgamate into a singular goblet of deliciousness. Pick Your Own is a wonderful beer to enjoy as the night winds down, a fantastic summer desert beer. Flat out, it is a sublime and wonderful beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.50-bottle cap rating.

An American Wild Ale, is something like an Americanized version of the Belgian Lambic. According to Beer Advocate: Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to “wild” yeast or bacteria, such as Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus, or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitching into the beer, or gained from various “sour mash” techniques. Regardless of the method, these yeast and/or bacteria leave a mark that should be noticeable to strong, and often contribute a sour and/or funky, wild note. Mixed-fermentation examples will display a range of aromatics, rather than a single dominant character.

 

Beer Review: La Trappe Quadrupel

Name: La Trappe Quadrupel
Brewing Company: La Trappe/Brouwerij de Koningshoeven
Location: Berkel-Enshot, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10%

A world class beer, a beer that gave birth to a style. 

From La Trappe’s page for the beer page:

In 1991, The Koningshoeven brewery baptized her beloved Quadrupel under the approving glance of the monks. A closely guarded recipe became reality, and the first Quadrupel beer in the world was born.

Colour: Warm amber-coloured with a crème-coloured head.

Aroma: Hints of cloves and nuts, balanced by the sweet aromas of vanilla, raisins and banana.

Taste: La Trappe Quadrupel is the heaviest ale of La Trappe Trappist ales and is eponymous of this ale style. A full, warming and intensive taste. Malty with the sweet tones of date and caramel.

Aftertaste: Smooth and light bitter aftertaste.

Trappist Ales…perhaps the rarest of breweries in the world. To wit, Brouwerij de Koningshoeven is one of 14 Abbeys officially designated as Trappist breweries in the world and one of two in the Netherlands. I’ve had a handful of ales from Trappist breweries and I think this is the best of the handful I’ve had. Granted, I haven’t had the legendary and highly sought after Westvleteren 12. That said, I realize it has only been about a month since I last reviewed a Belgian Quadrupel, so that alone should be an indicator of just what an amazing beer La Trappe Quadrupel is.

As always, the look and aroma is where we begin. The beer pours a deep brownish-amber-copper. The aroma is typical of a Belgian Quadrupel – some earthiness, some vanilla, maybe even some almond/amaretto. I can smell the sweetness in the beer. Outside of some barrel aged beers, I usually don’t smell the sweetness quite as potently.

That first sip is filled with flavor, lots of sugary goodness like caramelized banana, maybe some stone fruits like figs or even warmed cherries. The finish isn’t quite as yeasty as some other Quadrupels I’ve had (I’m thinking the classic Abt 12 from Saint Bernardus) which sets this beer slightly apart from other Quadrupels but not in an unwelcome fashion.

I also get a smoother finish on the whole with La Trappe’s Quadrupel, compared to most other Quadrupels I’ve enjoyed. There’s a bit more booziness, I taste the alcohol just a bit more in this one than other Quads, from what I can recall. It has the smooth finish of what I’d expect from a barrel-aged beer, but without the barrel-aged flavor. Again, (to borrow a tech term), this is a feature and not a bug for me. This is a boozy, sweet, potent, flavor-filled beer that is big in every good way.

This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name when it was first brewed back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in  of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.

I may say this with frequency, but it is perhaps truer for this beer than any other beer I’ve mentioned or reviewed – La Trappe’s Quadrupel is an absolute must try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Additional reading on this beer and Quadrupels:

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’s Quadraphonic

Name: Quadraphonic
Brewing Company: Barrel of Monks Brewing Company
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10.5%

I had to buy one of these glasses. Too bad I couldn’t take any of the beer home in my carry-on.

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’ Quadraphonic

From Barrel of Monks’s beers page (which changes regularly):

The Quadrupel is the granddaddy of the abbey-style ales. Typically, they are dark, strong ales bursting with flavors such as dark fruit, chocolate and raisins. Our Quadraphonic is no exception to this. This dense beer hides its 10.5% well with a deep brown color and a long rich finish. The Quadrupel is a beer designed for celebration and decadence.

Although traveling for work can be a bit wearying, it can also be rewarding. You can build great new business relationships and strengthen existing business relationships. Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to be traveling with some like-minded people who enjoy well-crafted beer, and sometimes, you’ll find a great brewery when you’re traveling. Such is the case with today’s beer from Barrel of Monks brewery out of Boca Raton, Florida. This is standout brewery because it brews exclusively Belgian style ales and an outstanding brewery because their beers (at least the two I had, including today’s beer being reviewed) are superb examples of their style.

The Belgian Quadrupel, one of the biggest of all beers and the biggest of the Belgian Abbey styles. A world renowned style that derives much of its flavor from the magic of the yeast, it is a style not many breweries attempt and a style you’ll also find aged in some kind of oak barrel. Sometimes; however, you want the beer in its pure form un-enhanced by the barrel. Quadraphonic from Barrel of Monks in Boca Raton, Florida more than amply fits that bill.

Aside from the “Belgian Strong Dark Ale” the Quadrupel is the darkest of the Belgian ales that shows in the picture above. The bartender at Barrel of Monks poured the beer perfectly, allowing for a big fluffy head that gave off a beautiful earthy scent that was extremely inviting.

The first sip is a delightful “wow” and does what a good beer should – encourages to you drink more. I found the typical stone fruit flavors to be present, hints of plum and raisin with some figginess. Those first sips tell you this is a complex beer. As it settled to room temperature, I caught a hint of cherry too. By the time the glass was empty, I was both satisfied and sad. The beer was delicious, multifaceted enough that the flavor profile evolved in subtle, pleasing ways over the course of finishing it. The sadness should be obvious – the glass was empty.

This beer is on par with the Quadrupels I’ve had in the past. Only one of those was from an actual Belgian brewery (St. Bernardus), but I’ve also had renowned Quadrupels from Brewery Ommegang (Three Philosophers) as well as Weyerbacher (Quad) and Victory (V12). I’d easily rank Quadraophonic near or at the top of the Quadrupels I’ve had since joining untappd. I expect when I do my best of 2019 beers, this will be making an appearance.

Quadraophonic is quite simply, a delicious beer. What I wasn’t expecting was for how well the big ABV of this beer (10.5%) isn’t overpowering. On the whole, that’s what makes Quadraphonic such a great beer – it has all the elements you’d expect from a Quadrupel, without any element overpowering the other.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Untapped badge earned with this beer

Find the Source (Level 2)

Everyone loves fresh beer, but obviously not as much as you do. You went straight to the source. That’s a beer at 40 different venues categorized as a Brewery.

 

Beer Review: Epic Brewing’s Son of a Baptist

Name: Son of a Baptist
Brewing Company: Epic Brewing Company
Location: Salt Lake City, UT and Denver, CO
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
ABV: 8%

From the beer’s description on Epic Brewing Company’s landing page for the beer:

Son of a Baptist is an 8% ABV imperial stout. It is not barrel aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist; instead its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small batch coffees. Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about. Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is widely different depending on the coffee selected. Some are fruity and sweet with notes of jam and chocolate, others are rich and earthy with a big roasted finish. Each limited release will return to the Roaster’s home market where the beer and the coffee can be sampled side by side.

Stouts, truly my favorite style of beer. Add coffee to the beer in the appropriate amount, and I like the beer even more since coffee is probably the beverage I drink at least as much as or more than beer. Coffee may be the most prevalent adjunct flavor element in stouts and given that large swath of coffee stouts on the market, they vary in quality. For some of those coffee stouts, the coffee overpowers the beer. In other coffee stouts, the coffee is barely noticeable. With Epic’s Son of a Baptist, harmony is achieved.

As the beer pours from the can into the glass, I realize this is one of the blackest beers I’ve ever had. A combination of the roasted malts and coffee add to this, I suspect, but the aroma hints at coffee rather than blasting your senses with the coffee.

That first sip sets the tone for the delicious 12 oz that will be consumed. The standard stout flavors of roasted malt, a bit of hops are prevalent but the coffee slides in to give a wonderful, balanced flavor. There’s an added layer of sweetness not all coffee stouts exhibit. I do tend to put a little more sugar in my coffee so I’m accustomed to sweetened coffee. Whatever the fine folks at Epic did with the coffee matches just about perfectly with the level of sweetness I try to achieve every morning in my own mug of coffee.

For a non-barrel-aged stout, Son of a Baptist packs a decent punch at 8%. The closest comparison I can think of is Founders’ vaunted Breakfast Stout, a beer I love and get quite regularly. Son of a Baptist compares extremely favorably against Founders’ brew, so I’d highly recommend seeking out Son of a Baptist.

One of my co-workers was talking about this beer for the last few days before I picked up the six pack at my favorite beer shop. In other words, he convinced me to give this one a try and I’m very happy I did.

The particular six pack I purchased used beans from Novo Coffee. There are about at least another dozen variants to Son of a Baptist with beans from other local roasters so I may have to give each of those a try.

The “Baptist” line of stouts from Epic is very well regarded. In addition to the Son of a Baptist, there’s the Big Bad Baptist, which is aged in whiskey barrels as well as Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist with coconut aged in rum and whisky barrels.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Heavy Weight (Level 53)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 265 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

2X (Level 26)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 130 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.