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Posts Tagged beer of the week

Beer of the Week: ChuckAlek / Council / White Labs Katerina

Mar 24

From the Beer Writer: Collaboration beers provide the greatest opportunity for brewers to get out of their comfort zones and try their hands at more out-there concepts. For some that means incorporating adjuncts, local ingredients or experimental hops. Then there’s truly next-level ventures like the one recently embarked upon by ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Council Brewing Company and White Labs, where the latter interest revived somehow-still-active yeast from a 25-year-old bottle of Russian imperial stout. With that biological feat accomplished, ChuckAlek and Council’s brewers went to work crafting a traditional high gravity stout recipe and fermenting it with that yeast strain. The result is Katerina, a 10.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) offering that was recently bottled and had its official coming out party at ChuckAlek’s Biergarten in North Park. Unlike most modern day imperial stouts, the beer is lower on the chocolate and coffee scale, instead exhibiting big notes of raisin, date and plum with some brown sugar sweetness and a touch of baking spice. Named for the Russian empress whose love of dark beers spurred the eventual popularity of this style, Katerina is a lovely blend of tradition and modern-day ingenuity.

From the Brewer: “Back in 2015, when I was pouring ChuckAlek beer at the pro-brewers night of the National Homebrewers Conference here in San Diego. Jeff Crane from Council and I discussed a tentative collaboration based on the idea of England’s old Brettanomyces-aged stock ales. The next day I ventured down to Baja with friend and beer historian Ron Pattinson to show him around the burgeoning beer and food scene. It didn’t take long before we were chatting about porter and Ron brought up the famed Courage Russian Stout; telling me how he’d bought up a couple of cases before the beer ceased production in the early ’90’s and he was sure the original Brettanomyces yeast strain was alive and well in the bottle, allowing the beer to hold up extremely well over a couple of decades time. Courage Russian Stout was of the lineage of over 200 years in production of the original Russian Stout brand, which famously became high demand from Catherine the Great of Russia and her Imperial Court. At that time, in the late 1700’s, the beer was produced by Barclay Perkins who held the brand through the 1950’s, at which point Courage bought the brand. Most traditional beer styles have changed radically over time due to factors such as war-time taxation and rationing or laws dictating acceptable beer ingredients. Russian Stout, however, remained rather unchanged in spec: about 10% ABV, loads of high-quality UK hops and long maturation in oak vats. With the help of White Labs, we isolated the yeast strain from a bottle of 1992 Courage Russian Stout from Ron’s private cellar. Genetic identification determined it was actually Saccharomyces (ale yeast) that had heartily survived over 25 years. We then worked with Council to conduct a pilot brew and construct a recipe based on Ron’s research on the Barclay Perkins brewing logs. The result is a big and truly stout beer with raisin and date on the nose, fruity yeast and caramelized sugar flavor up front, then lingering bitter chocolate and orange peel in the finish. The body is full, which rounds out the strong hop charge and roast on the finish. This beer will surely do well with some age and we intend to brew it again with Council to set it down in some barrels in the spirit of the historically oak-vatted porter. The ‘Perkins Ale’ yeast is available to commercial breweries via White Labs and we hope to see others experiment with it!”—Grant Fraley, Head Brewer, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers

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Beer of the Week: Rock Bottom Devil’s Thumb

Mar 17

Rock Bottom La Jolla’s Devil’s Thumb Belgian-style golden strong ale

From the Beer Writer: As I wrote a short while back, many are the brewers who tell me, “I brew beers that I like drinking.” Judging by the quality of her hoppy offerings, particularly her Mosaic-heavy IPA, I’d say Rock Bottom head brewer Carli Smith has an affinity for lupulin-laced ales. I like when brewers do right by their taste-buds, but find it particularly impressive when they defy them, crafting styles they aren’t as fond of so others may enjoy them. Case in point, Rock Bottom Devil’s Thumb. This Belgian-style golden strong ale is utterly traditional in its look, scent, taste and feel. Its bouquet contains notes of lemongrass and gardenias, while the beer itself offers a vast array of flavor components—honey, lemon rind, white peppercorn, bubble gum and thyme. At 8% alcohol-by-volume, one would expect something overly impactful, but this beer is balanced and drinkable; enough that the beer-menu warns about its tendency to sneak up on imbibers. Smooth, sweet-smelling and delicious…what’s not to like? For that, we’ll have to ask Smith, because she harbors staunch distaste for Belgian beer-styles, making the quality of this ale all that more remarkable.

From the Brewer: “Being at a brewpub, I am able to keep my beer-list stocked with lots of stuff that I like to drink. Belgian beers not being one of those things, they rarely make their way onto my board, but I have a few regulars that really enjoy Belgian beers and they have been bugging me to make one. One of the things that I dislike about Belgian beers is the high amount of residual sugars that are usually present in the final product. So for mine, I wanted to make something that had a pretty simple grain-bill, pretty much just Weyermann Pilsner malt. This way the yeast is the star of the show, and if I could get it to totally ferment out, I knew the finish would be clean with just enough Belgian-ester sweetness. I am really happy with how it turned out, which was extremely surprising to me and everyone else. I get lots of weird looks when I say, ‘Here, try my Belgian beer,’ when everyone knows I strongly dislike the style. When I carbonated it and put it on tap I was able to drink almost a whole eight-ounce serving in one sitting, very big for me…ha. I was inspired to enter it into the San Diego International Beer Festival competition, because I felt that it was an almost perfect representation of the Belgian golden strong ale style. I also thought it would be hilarious if the brewer who hates Belgian beers won a medal for one. Oh, the irony! “—Carli Smith, Head Brewer, Rock Bottom La Jolla

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Beer of the Week: Coronado Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake

Mar 10

Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake from Coronado Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: For me, one of the most fun, non-alcohol-related aspects of beer-culture is how the taste, or even the mere mention of a beer can transport me to a specific moment. When I first heard that Coronado Brewing Company was releasing bottles of a whiskey barrel-aged version of a stout originally brewed for Bottlecraft’s 3rd Anniversary, I instantly remembered the first time I tasted it. I was at Embarcadero Marina Park North for a beer festival. As often happens at such affairs, I had the pleasure of conversing with numerous industry friends and colleagues. A number of those individuals referenced a beer crafted to taste like a popular dessert, German chocolate cake, lauding it as a “must-try”. When I finally came across the beer at Coronado’s tent, I eagerly consumed my sample. Fortified with chocolate malt and toasted coconut, it did right by its namesake. So I was glad to see it resurface with a touch of spirits-soaked oakiness added to the equation along with bold vanilla-character that enhances this beer’s likeness to its edible inspiration. Like its predecessor, Coronado Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake does not disappoint. But one has to take it quite a bit easier with this version, as it chimes in at 9% alcohol-by-volume, lest they find themselves unable to remember the first time they tasted it due to the brain-erasing power of imperial beer.

From the Brewer: “The original German Chocolate Cake was a beer that we had brewed a few years ago. I liked the beer, but this time around, while preparing to create a barrel-aged version, I wanted to make the beer with a much fuller body. I mashed the beer at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and we only brewed 20 barrels in a 30-barrel batch, so I only collected the strong wort runnings. After fermentation, I added 200 pounds of coconut that our head-chef, Kasey Chapman, hand-toasted at our original Coronado Island brewpub. I also added 100 pounds of cacao nibs before blending with beer that had been aged in whiskey barrels we procured from Smooth Ambler Spirits in West Virginia.”—Ryan Brooks, Brewmaster, Coronado Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: Booze Brothers Buena Vista IPA

Mar 3

Buena Vista IPA from Booze Brothers Brewing in Vista

From the Beer Writer: If you ask the team at Booze Brothers Brewing Company what their most popular beer is, the clear-cut front-runner is their Ol’ Grandaddy’s double IPA. Given its popularity, one might wonder why the family-forged Vista interest would sink time into developing another India pale ale, and a single at that. But one whiff of citrusy new addition, Buena Vista IPA, brilliantly communicates its raison d’être. Big tangerine aromas—the product of generous dry-hopping with New World hops—bombard one’s olfactory senses. That’s followed by matching citrusiness on the taste-buds plus a touch of pineapple-like tang that’s in no way impeded by overbearing bitterness or belligerent booze (the beer registers 6.8% alcohol-by-volume). Brand new and pouring super-fresh at present, it’s a welcomed addition to the Brothers’ portfolio that will be packaged in the near future.

From the Brewer: “To those who know us over at Booze Brothers, they know that we like to drink beer. We don’t sip and taste, then spit out our beer. We sit at the bar with our friends, co-workers and customers, and drink pints. But once in awhile, we feel like drinking something different than our typical line-up. Buena Vista is one of those brews, a strongly aromatic IPA with loads of tropical, citrus, pear and pine, exactly what we felt like drinking. We named it Buena Vista, which means ‘good view’, not only because it’s a beautiful beer to look at, but also after the beautiful city we call home…Vista, California. Buena Vista IPA  has a low-medium body, and is lightly golden in color, with a grain-bill built specifically to allow the hops to shine. We dry-hop each batch with a generous amount of Eureka, Citra and El Dorado hops. In fact, it is our hoppiest beer to-date.”—Donny Firth, Co-owner & Brewmaster, Booze Brothers Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: Bear Roots Bear Cookie

Feb 24

Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout seved on nitro at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing

From the Beer Writer: Peanut-butter beers enjoyed a brief boom two or three years ago, but even at the height of their popularity, they were polarizing. Adventurous drinkers and fans of the flavor of peanut-butter embraced them with open arms while “beer purists” denounced them as nutty bastardizations of their beloved beverage of choice. While there are few I’ve enjoyed, I’ve never had anything against these brews. Made with various (in the best cases, all-natural) peanut additives, they are usually dark beers that are brewed with deeply-kilned malts, and sometimes cacao or chocolate, to bring on a dessert-like flavor-profile. I approach these beers the same way I approach the last course of a meal, in search of a luscious, sweet sensation. But because it’s beer versus a hibernation-inducing slab of cake, drinkability is important. It can’t be overly sugary and has to balance that peanut-butter essence. Most breweries’ attempts at this come up short, but this is not so at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing. This one-year-old nano’s Bear Cookie chocolate peanut butter stout is like a well-made truffle filled with nut-infused nougat. These flavors are presented in just the right proportions in a 6.4% alcohol-by-volume beer that has a gently satisfying presence on the palate that’s soft and velvety when dispensed on nitrogen. It is hands-down the best peanut-butter beer being made in San Diego County right now.

From the Brewer: “When I first started home-brewing and dreaming of the idea of opening a brewery, I made a lot of beer around the styles my wife and I enjoyed drinking. Bear Cookie was one that was brewed for my wife and inspired by other great versions on this style. When we first opened our doors, we had not planned on coming to market with this style, as North County had a few already, but given this was my wife’s favorite of my home-brews, it was hard not to eventually put it on tap. Originally, we poked fun at ourselves by calling it ‘We Made One Too”. One thing we love about the craft industry is that you can run a serious business but have a lot of fun doing it along the way! After all, we make beer for a living. Eventually, we realized that coming up with actual names for our beer would be important as we grew, so we turned to our most trusted source for some naming advicec…our then three-year-old. Anytime I would work late nights at the brewery, he would ask if I was going to the Bear Cookie store. Given our name, Bear Roots, our sons’s love for cookies, and the fact that our beer has cookie elements in it, my wife and I thought “Bear Cookie” was very fitting. We use eight different malts, including chocolate, roasted barley, Munich, oats and a few more. The base of the beer is bready, but has a lighter body and crisp finish. On nitro, I think the flavors really blend nicely and it’s one of my go to beers when enjoying a pint at the brewery. Given the fact we are attached to a homebrew store, we have been able to experiment and refine this recipe over the last year, making it one of our most popular beers. I love that we have a completely different take on the style, yet it is enjoyed by many craft-beer fans who dabble in chocolate peanut butter goodness!”Terry Little, Owner & Brewmaster, Bear Roots Brewing Company

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