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Draft Notes

One beer at a time…

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Terra Incognita – Sierra Nevada and Boulevard Collaboration

As part of the SAVOR beer and food pairing event in Washington DC earlier this year, a bottle of Terra Incognita was the parting gift for each of the events attendees. This beer is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Boulevard brewed exclusively for the 2012 SAVOR.  The brewers got pretty deep on this one. First off, Terra Incognita is Latin for Unknown Land and they made the beer as a tribute to the explorers who traveled the California Trail which originated in Kansas City. The beer started the brewing process in Sierra Nevada’s Chico, CA brewery with estate grown malts and wheat. They also added some Styrian Goldings and Bravo hops during the boil and dry hopped with East Kent Goldings. The beer then travelled to Kansas City (reverse California Trail I guess) to the Boulevard brewery to finish up with a treatment of Brettanomyces yeast and finally aged in Missouri oak barrels. Of course the next step was the shipment out to Washington DC which I don’t believe has any symbolism, but it made me happy.

Just as when the wife and I buy/receive a nice bottle of wine, I decided I wanted to keep this Terra Incognita for a “special occasion”. As we all know pretty well, these special occasions actually rarely occur. A couple of weeks back my wife and I invited ourselves to dinner at a good friends place who happen to be smoking ribs. Sounds special to me, plus the chef in question is from Kansas City so it makes sense that this was my bottles time.  We did a bit of a group tasting of this beer and a couple of others, but I specifically wanted to take notes on this one time beer.

The beer style is listed as a Dark Ale in some locations and I see that Beer Advocate classifies it as a Wild Ale due to the use of Brettanomyces which is considered a wild yeast.  Although I would ask which yeast is not wild? This beer pours as a dark brown color with a tan head, there is a heavy lacing as the head slowly recedes.  The aromas are sweet, malty, and floral. I believe the floral is related to the yeast, but with numerous hops used I am sure they are also contributing. Plenty to taste in this one to include chocolate, smoke (maybe the oak barrel), malty, tart, and finally the distinct floral taste of the “Brett” yeast. I would say the finish is somewhat bitter and my notes list it as stinging the tongue (maybe dry). Definitely a complex beer with many layers that I am sure everyone will have their own opinions in what is going on. Mouth feel is chewy with very tiny bubbles of carbonation.  Overall I would not say this was an amazing tasting beer, but it was interesting to taste so many ingredients coming together with great balance. Nothing was overwhelming and I enjoyed every sip. I am going to give this one 3.75 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale. Luckily for me my wife also attended SAVOR, so I have another bottle for another “special occasion”.

The information regarding the beers brewing process was obtained from the SAVOR website which you can see here: http://www.savorcraftbeer.com/. I am sure you have all heard of both Sierra Nevada and Boulevard, but here are their websites if you Google button doesn’t work: www.sierranevada.com/ and www.boulevard.com/Cheers!

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Innis & Gunn Original

A good friend of mine has spent a little time in England and highly recommended a Scottish brewery named Innis & Gunn. I looked into the brand and saw that many people had spoken highly of the “Original” which is their oak aged beer.  The problem was it is not sold in my area, so I took note and figured I may run across it one day. Over this last weekend this particular friend, our wives, and others made the trek from Arlington, VA out to Dayton, Ohio for a wedding.  I hate driving 1 hour, let alone 8.5 hours so there was no way I was coming home empty handed and not flying meant no 3 oz liquid max. I hit the chat boards for advice on what to purchase while in Ohio (locals/regional, etc) and was informed of a quality beer shop (Belmont Party Supply). My expert foreshadowing may have given it away, but we rock up to Belmont and there was Innis & Gunn sitting on the shelf. Now I will admit it was not supposed to be the feature buy, as I had a list of Ohio breweries I wanted to try. Therefore, I grabbed one four pack and a nice haul of other Ohio beers (Hoppin Frog, Riverfront, and Buckeye Brewing). My buddy took two and we left one on the shelf.

Innis & Gunn Original is classed by Beer Advocate as a Scottish Ale and the ABV is 6.6%. I believe I paid about $11 for a 4 pack of 11.2 oz beers. The beer is aged for 77 days in oak barrels and there is actually a great story behind the origination of Innis & Gunn beers. A whisky distiller in Scotland wanted to produce an ale-finished whisky, so he created an ale to fill oak barrels. He would throw the beer away and use the beer soaked barrels to age the whisky which is obviously more important in Scotland.  After throwing thousands of gallons away, some of the workers sampled the beer and said it was “absolutely delicious”. The employees were right, a beer company was formed, and now I sit here in Virginia about to give my opinion of this accidental success story.

The beer is from an 11.2 oz bottle and I have poured it into my tulip glass. This beer is a bronze color (if there was no head, it could pass as bourbon) with a fluffy white head which recedes quickly. The expected oak aroma from the 77 day aging is very nice and I also pick up rum and vanilla. It reminds me of being on a tour of Woodford Reserve Bourbon when they took us through the barrel aging warehouse.  When I taste this beer I am happy to not be overwhelmed by oak. I taste the rum and vanilla I could smell, along with a toffee sweet finish from the malts.  The oak is in play from start to finish, but definitely balanced with all the other flavors. The mouth feel is light to medium and very smooth with minimal carbonation. Overall I am very impressed with this beer and would recommend this for everyone to try. It could even see whisky/bourbon/rum or chardonnay drinkers enjoying this beer as the oak aromas and taste may be appealing. I will give Innis & Gunn Original 4 mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale. I should not have left that last 4-pack on the shelf back in Ohio.

For the full story on Innis & Gunn’s accidental beer, check out their website: http://www.innisandgunn.com/~/media/InnisGunn/IGstory.ashx

Boatswain Double IPA Twin Screw Steamer

As I was waiting in line to check out at Trader Joes I noticed a couple of 22 ounce beers staring me down amongst the chocolates, granola bars, and other “impulse buy” items surrounding the checkout line. Trader Joes is well-known for their cheap but quality wine – 3 Buck Chuck, so I decide that a Double IPA for $1.99 is worth a try. The beer is brewed for Trader Joes by Rhinelander Brewing Company in Monroe, Wisconsin; however, when you look on their website the Boatswain labels are nowhere to be seen.  I have also read it is by Minhas Brewery which is also in Monroe, so I assume these two are somehow related. It is now fairly common to see these larger chains contracting a brewery or winery to produce their own label of beer or wine (Costco and Whole Foods for example). Trader Joes actually has a few personalized brands/brews like Name Tag Lager and Trader Jose’s all sold at very low prices covering a variety of styles.

Botswain 2IPA Bottle

This particular beer is the Boatswain Double IPA Twin Screw Steamer and it weighs in at 8.4% ABV. As mentioned earlier it is 22 ounce bomber at a cost of $1.99. My last Imperial/Double IPA reviewed a few weeks back, Oskar Blues Deviant Dale, was one of favorites to date so it has quite a bit to measure up to.

The beer pours to reveal a brilliant copper color with fairly minimal tan head which recedes almost immediately. The smell is very nice with the obvious hops for an IPA. Grapefruit and pineapple aromas combined with a very present malt give it quite a sweet smell which actually overpowers the hops.  The taste once again starts you off with the obvious IPA hops, citrus, piney tastes. The alcohol taste is present, but not overwhelming due to the malt over powering most of the flavors giving it a sweet finish. The mouth feel is chewy and dense with very small bubbles of carbonation. Overall, this IPA reminds me more of an English style than American as the hops seem to be earthier than the American floral hops; however, it may just be that malt masking the true aromas. Given the price point of $2, I think this is a good buy and well worth a try. Measuring it up against other Double IPAs I will have to give 3 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.

Next time you are at Trader Joes, don’t be afraid to try this and their other labels as they have prided themselves on high quality with low prices in all their products. While trying to find some information on Trader Joe’s beers, I ran across a nice and simple beer style guide which I would like to share. Check it out at: http://www.traderjoes.com/guides/beer-styles.asp#1.

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