Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bachelor

Bachelor ESB is a beer that I can remember reading about in one of legendary beer writer Michael Jackson's book Ultimate Beer. It has been a long sought after beer for me. In this book, Jackson describes the beer as, "big-tasting" and "notably firm and assertive, with a fresh dryness of American hop flavors and clean, orangy fruitiness."

I would generally agree. In addition, I notice a spicy, woody aroma and while the bitterness is fairly assertive, it is by no means over the top and tastes more restrained than the 50 IBUs (as described by the brewery's website) would suggest. The Bachelor is a heavily lauded beer with about 20 awards under it's belt (see the Bachelor ESB page on the brewery's website for a listing of all the awards.)

After a few sips, and as the beer warms up, I notice that what I really like about this beer is that it starts out fruity (orangy as MJ would describe it), but ends with solid bitterness that creates balance and a slight lingering bitterness. This is a great ale that is worth seeking out. A big thanks goes to Fred for picking this six-pack up while touring the Pacific Northwest and Ryan for sharing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Enjoyed a Brugse Zot this evening; inspired by none other than...Rick Steeves? Details can be found at the Marcobrau Beer Pages. The beer is the current Belgian Beer of the Moment.

Also enjoying a recent batch of homebrew that was meant to be a Biere de Garde, but has ended up more of a cross between a Witbier and a Belgian Pale Ale. I've been enjoying this beer from one of my Party Pigs. It's tasting a little oxidized, but is otherwise toasty and more assertively bitter than an authentic wit or Belgian would ever be. S'okay, as it's a decent everyday sort of "house" beer. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of brewing a dunkelweizen for an autumnal ale.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bell's is Back!

Bell's beer is back in Illinois. Sure, we've getting beer from Bell's under the Kalamazoo label, but it hasn't been the same. The "faux"-beron that I've been seeing lately is a decent summer wheat, but not quite the same as Oberon, but then again Oberon isn't even my favorite summertime Bell's beer.

Well, today I found my favorite and it's Bell's Third Coast Beer. This is not to be confused with the Third Coast Old Ale. T.C.B. is a much different product. It's a straw colored lager-like beer with American hops and an interesting grassy, yeasty nose (no doubt the result of the beer being unfiltered.) This light (roughly 12 Plato) beer has a rather tasty toasty malt flavor, pleasant bready yeastiness and crisp, moderately bitter, lingering finish. For me, it's the perfect accompaniment to a late summer afternoon. Reviews on Beer Advocate are a bit mixed; I suppose in support of this beer I would advise the consumer check the bottling date to make sure it's fresh. There is a code on the back of the bottle that can be entered on the brewery's website that tells you the bottling date. Of cousre, either you like this beer or you don't.
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Avril not your average saison, or is it?

I've read that many, many years ago Belgian brewers produced a much lower strength Saison than what we typically see today and I've always wondered what a truly "sessionable" farmhouse ale would taste like. I've made some attempts to homebrew Saison-style beers in the 4 to 4.5 percent range, but until now I've never seen a commercial example. I've always enjoyed Saison DuPont, so when I found Avril from Brasserie DuPont, with "Biere de Table" on the label I knew it had to be a more sessionable version of the classic. Upon a closer inspection I noticed the alcohol content of 3.5 percent written on the label. This discovery made me even more curious. Could such a small beer be packed with all that great DuPont flavor?

The short answer is yes. Yes, with a disclaimer I suppose. Avril is much lighter then the classic Vielle Provision Saison DuPont and there is much less alcohol, which admittedly is a component of the beer's flavor. However, most of the other parts of what makes a great Saison are present. The enormous rocky mousse-like head, the light color, the delicate grainy and earthy flavors and of course, the lingering dry finish. Delicate peppery hops seemed in perfect balance with the small of grain used to make this beer adding just enough complexity and pleasant bitterness.

Overall, I would love to be able to brew something like this, but I imagine it would require complete control of the process. I other words, an all-grain recipe with mash temps kept fairly low to ensure a complete fermentation. I don't know that I'll tackle such a project yet this summer (especially since I recently brewed a light Belgian Pale Ale), but such a lovely light beer would be great for next year.
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