Draft Notes

One beer at a time…

Archive for the category “California”

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout

Narwhal LabelMany craft beer drinkers credit Sierra Nevada as one of their “gateway” breweries introducing them to the tastes of craft beer and drawing them away from boring macro beers. I picked up the often available Pale Ale many years ago and continue to enjoy it to this date. Today I find myself far from the old pale ale holding a Narwhal Imperial Stout which is part of Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude Series (Hoptimum and Bigfoot also in this series). Narwhal (2012) was release in October and has been highly touted by many beer drinkers/reviewers. The beer weighs in at 10.2% ABV and 60 IBU using Magnum hops and about a half dozen malts (including 2 Row Pale and Roasted Barley). One item to note for those watching their figure, this beer has approximately 305 calories which is far from 150 or less in the average pilsner or lager. The (hopefully) awesomeness of this stout will be worth it though. Let us drink.

Appearance is black as tar with dark tan head which recedes within 30 seconds. Aromas I detect are sweet chocolate, slight coffee, and a touch of smoke. Aromas are all fairly mild, but blend quite well. Immediate tastes are roasted coffee and a little chocolate with the smoky roasted barley coming through. I detect the alcohol after a sting of bitterness leaves the tongue. There is a silky smooth mouth feel creating a medium body. Narwhal and GlassOverall, I would say they blend of roasted coffee, chocolate, and smoke come together quite well. It is interesting how the aroma leans towards the sweet chocolate (slight coffee) and then the taste is primarily coffee (slight chocolate). I think my favorite part of this beer is the silk like mouth feel. Probably not what the brewery would hope for as the highlight. The lingering alcohol taste is a bit much for my liking. I will rate this beer 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.

The Sierra Nevada website points out that this is a great beer to age, so I would be curious to try this after a year of two of aging to see how much of the alcohol dissipates. That would make me happy and push that rating up. Not sure I have the patience to wait though! Learn more about Sierra Nevada here: http://www.sierranevada.com/. Interested in Narwhals? Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal. Rumor is they enjoy bacon.


21st Amendment Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale

One of my favorite things about winter is trying winter spiced ales (warmers) as the breweries can really get creative with the style. I have been looking forward to writing a review on one of my favorites from last year, 21st Amendment Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale. In my opinion, 21st Amendment has solid beers across the board minus the Watermelon Wheat (My wife loves it though, so it has an audience).  The brewpub was founded in 2000 and is located a couple of blocks from the Giant’s stadium in San Francisco. Besides the fantastic beer, 21st Amendment is known for their creative art design (and names) on the beer cans (Check them out here: http://21st-amendment.com/beer).Fireside Chat Can Fireside Chat is named after president FDR’s depression era radio addresses which, per the brewery website, “were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time”. This spiced English ale has an ABV of 7.9% and an IBU rating of 45. Seven malts, two hops, and a top fermenting ale yeast were combined for the base ale and spices (probably cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and other secret ingredients) were thrown in the mix to produce the final product. Time to taste…

Appearance is dark amber brown with about a half-inch of tan head. Aromas I pick up include nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Pretty much anything you could think of in mulling spices, but nothing too overwhelming.  The tastes I encounter are nutmeg, cloves, sweet malts, chocolate, and a bitter finish which definitely lingers until my next swill. The mouth feel is lighter than I expected, but still a slight syrupy coating. Not much carbonation to speak of. Overall, I enjoy this beer quite a bit and the find the balanceFireside Chat Glass between spices, malts, and bitterness to suit me quite well. I am going to rate 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale. One of my favorite winter spiced ales for sure, but probably not for everyone. So try it at a bar before you buy a 6 pack. I find that the number of ingredients in spiced ales can complicate the tastes and we all may pick up one spice (or malt) more than others. Therefore, I find it interesting to hear what others pick up or find to be the dominate taste/aroma.  If you happen to pick up a can or two, please comment with your opinions.

To learn more about 21st Amendment Brewery, check them out here: http://21st-amendment.com/.  Also, who is coming with me??? A winter warmer beer fest – http://www.ashevillebeerfest.com/  – a nice way to celebrate Australia Day on Jan 26th.

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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