August 28, 2014

Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest

Brewed By: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, California
Purchased: 12oz bottle from a 6-pack bought at Binny's in Naperville, Illinois; 2014 (Bottled on 07/07/2014)
Style/ABV: Oktoberfest/Märzen, 5.0% 
Reported IBUs: 24

I'm pretty sure that tonight's beer is not actually brewed in oak, despite its name. I'm assuming the name is a reference to Firestone's reputation for oak-aging beer, and is a coincidental and confusing pun. About Firestone
Tonight I'm looking at a beer from the folks at Firestone Walker Brewing. The brewery was founded by brothers-in-law Adam Firestone (son of Brooks Firestone) and David Walker (husband of Adam's sister). The brothers brewed their first beer in 1996, in a small facility rented from the Firestone Vineyard estate in Santa Barbara County. In 2001, the brothers-in-law purchased SLO Brewing Company in Paso Robles, CA, and set up camp. Despite being relatively new to craft beer, the brewery has a ton of accolades, and is known for their Reserve line and their oak barrel brewing system. You can learn more about the history of the brewery here and here. 
The Oaktoberfest is an Oktoberfest/Marzen style beer. Per Brewbound: "The name Oaktoberfest is a nod to the brewery’s hometown of Paso Robles—Spanish for “Pass of The Oaks”—as well as the longtime presence of oak barrels as a central part of the Firestone Walker brewing operation. The checkered blue and white pattern on the label echoes the Bavarian flag and pays homage to the style." This one is fermented in stainless steel, and brewed using Weyermann Pilsner, Weyermann & Vienna, Munich, Cara-Hell, and Cara-Red malts; and German Hallertau hops. Punching in at 5.0% and 24 IBUs, this one is available as a seasonal release.

This one pours into a dark golden-amber body, kicking up a finger of gold-tinged head. The head retains nicely for a Lager, and there is good carbonation. The carbonation is also persistent and lasts long for a Lager. There is some nice lacing, and a centimeter of head is hanging around for what looks to be the long haul.

On the aroma, I'm getting lots of gentle malts. There's some honey, toast, biscuit, biscuit-grain, light grassy hops, and lots of bread. It's a gentle, malt-forward nose.

This is straightforward and drinkable...this has big grainy bread, biscuit, toasted malts, some nice honey notes, and grassy hops that show up to clean things up towards the back. There's a Pilsner-like biscuit note on the back end, and this has a nicely attenuated and dry finish. If you take big mouthfulls, the malts really dominate with bread and toasted notes. It's clean, drinkable, and really very nice.

This is medium to light-bodied. It's clean and refreshing, with good palate depth and complexity for the style. At 5.0% you can drink lots of this. I think that's the point. Up front: sweet toasted malts, bready malts, biscuit; the mids roll into honey, toast, some grassy hops; the back end goes full biscuit, with a clean, dry, and attenuated finish. This is reminiscent of a Vienna, Pilsner, and Marzen...kinda rolled up into a nice and refined package.

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong Above-Average on this. This is super clean and super drinkable...I'd pick this up again to pair with some football and Fall weather. It's probably not as good as Two Brothers' Atom Smasher, or Ayinger's Oktoberfest, but it should compliment your one liter glass and your sausage and pretzel dish. 

Random Thought: I bet this tastes fantastic when racked on oak. I'm still looking for that world-class Oktoberfest...

August 27, 2014

Boulevard Love Child No. 4

Brewed By: Boulevard Brewing Company (Moortgat) in Kansas City, Missouri
Purchased: 750ml bottle (1 Pin, 9.4oz) bought at Binny's in Naperville, IL; 2014 (batch #L14077-2, best buy 03-2016)
Style/ABV: American Wild Ale/American Sour, 9.0%
Reported IBUs: 8

I'm really pumped for tonight's beer. I've heard this one is super sour and funky fresh. I have very high hopes. About Boulevard:
Boulevard Brewing Company hails out of Kansas City, Missouri. They have a very nice website that is cleanly formatted, informative, and is not loaded with Java and Flash scripts. The company was founded officially in 1989, but began in 1988 when founder John McDonald began construction of the brewery. In 2006 the brewery had a major expansion, which allowed for additional brewing capacity. You can find more info on the brewery's history HERE. According to Wikipedia, Boulevard is the largest craft brewer in Missouri, and the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States.
The Love Child No. 4 is a barrel-aged wild ale brewed with Lactobaccillus, Brettanomyces, and whatever wild critters decided to show up. Most of this blend was aged in oak barrels, with a blend of beer ranging from 16 months to 6 years old. Part of the blend was aged for 11 months in stainless tanks, souring on Lactobacillus. This one punches in at 9% ABV and 8 IBUs.
Boulevard Love Child No. 4

This pours into a dark red/brown body that is hazy and oak-aged. It's battered and the faint orange tones are straining to be noticed. The beer does kick up an impressive three fingers of caramel head that rapidly fades into the abyss like the orange hints. A ring of carbonation settles around the edge of the glass, and the beer sizzles away with crackling carbonation. This is incredibly carbonated with numerous streams of tiny bubbles going up, and swirling the beer yields glossy alcohol legs with minimal lacing. It's very Flanders Red-esque.

On the aroma: the first thing jumping out to me is huge waves of oak. There is a lot of oak and wood tannin in here, with acidic funk standing out as the next main note that I am getting. This has incredible layers of cherries in the aroma, with sour cherries, sour cherry candy, black cherry Warheads, and apple cider vinegar. There is also a good amount of Brett funk lurking in the mix, with basement and attic funk, and buttery-oaky notes playing off the oak and wood. It's just a fantastic meld of sourness, funk, and oak, with serious fruity notes that border on being jammy.

Holy cow, this is sour! This assaults your palate with overt sourness: apple cider vinegar, oak, wood, lemon, tart cherry Warheads, citric acid and nectarines, and piercing lactic funk. There's some other stuff going on here too. This has some nice vanilla notes lurking beneath the sour, with oak and wood. There are also nice waves of tart and jammy cherries, apple slaw salad, peaches, and even some apricot funk. The back end hits the back of your mouth with some hints of malt. This is fantastic.

This is pretty high on the sour scale, with a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel that is made easier to drink by the sourness and carbonation. The alcohol is completely hidden, and this is pretty easy going. I'd call this a sipper, but an easy-going sipper. Palate depth is fantastic, and the complexity isn't far behind. Up front: sour notes, apple cider vinegar, lactic punch, lemons, sour nectarines, black cherry Warheads; the mids roll into serious oak and butter, vanilla, wood, nectarines, jammy fruits and cherries, Brett funk, more oak, wood; the back end drops oak, vanilla, malt sweetness, and the finish is dry. This is subtle, complex, funky, and not very sweet...I like it.

Divine Brew (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong 
Divine Brew  on this. This is incredibly complex and funky, with notes ranging from oak and wood tannin, to lemon and nectarines, to jammy cherries and sweet's a well-crafted beer, and you can tell that the blend was put together with some thought and finesse. This also has the potential to age in the bottle, making it obtainable and probably one of the best mainstream American sours. I'd recommend not pairing this with anything...sip on this one, enjoy it. It's really good.

Random Thought: Boulevard going mainstream = the best thing ever. I love Duvel. 

August 26, 2014

Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale

Brewed By: Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California
Purchased: 22oz bottle bought at Binny's in Naperville, IL; 2014
Style/ABV: Belgian Quadrupel, 9.3% 
Reported IBUs: 40

Tonight we are trying another beer from Stone's Stochasticity Project. In case you are not in the loop, the Stochasticity Project is Stone's other label for people who aren't stupid. Are you stupid? Do you like talking gargoyles? Well turn around, there is nothing for you to see here. About Stone:
Stone Brewing are one of the more prominent breweries in the American craft brewing scene. They were founded in 1996 in San Marcos, California, and moved to Escondido, California where they recently expanded their operations. Stone was founded by Steve Wagner and Greg Koch. Koch has a reputation among the craft beer community for voicing his opinion, not putting up with shit, and standing behind his beer. Also...farking woot and fizzy yellow beer is for bitches. 
The Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale is a Belgian-stile Quad brewed with triticale, "a hybrid grain combining the pleasant flavor of wheat with the elemental durability and spice of rye." To be more exact, this beer uses Pilsner and Flaked Triticale malts, Dark Candi Sugar, Ardennes Strain Belgian Yeast, and unknown hops. Let's get this gargoyle-hating beer into a glass.
Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale

From the onset, this looks the part of a Belgian Dubbel with those dark ruby red and orange tones. The beer kicks up two to three fingers of creamy, dense, wheat-fueled's the stuff you expect with a dark Belgian Strong Ale. This beer is also super effervescent with tons of carbonation. Head retention is nice, with a wispy coating hanging around for the long haul. There's also tight like a tiger lacing.

On the aroma: good things. I'm actually surprised at how straight this beer plays things. I say that for a few being how weird Stone's Saison was, and two, the Belgian beers that Stone brewed for the Vertical Epic Series (and that they alluded to in the description of this beer) are somewhat off the beaten path. I'm getting big candi sugars, cherries and dark fruits, clove and phenol spice, and some nice waves of caramel and vanilla. This has a really nice depth to the aroma, with some bready, rye-like notes popping against the Belgian candi sugars and perfume fruits. It smells surprisingly awesome.

Wow...this is a pleasant surprise. This is actually really good, and kind of embraces everything I love about the Dark Strong Ale style while retaining a little bit of Stone's unique point of view. This is full-bodied and expansive with a substantial mouthfeel. You want that for this style of beer. However, this cleans up somewhat refreshing and dry, with dark fruits, rye bread, wheat malts, and then some nice hoppy punch. I wonder if Stone slipped some American hops into the boil...up front, this drops blissfully balanced and clean Belgian candi sugars, with lightly bitter hops and rye bread, phenol spice, hints of cherries, and then bam...the back end cleans up towards the slightly bitter. Nice.

This is full-bodied, but very drinkable. It hides all the boozes, with none of the 9.3% showing up in the taste. Palate depth is fantastic, while complexity isn't quite up there with some of the heavy hitters. I do like this beer, however. Up front: sugars, bread, rye, bitter hops, candi sugars, phenol spice; the mids roll into dark fruits, hints of cherries, more sugars, more dark bread and rye; the back end gets uppity with the hops, and finishes somewhat dry and clean with lingering sugars and bread. There is some nice boozy warming.

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm calling this a Strong Above-Average
. This is a fantastically crafted beer...I hope Stone continues to brew this one and keeps it on the shelves. I'd even call this memorable in some regards, I could not only see myself buying this again but I bet this one would be fun to age. This has potential to pair well with strong cheeses and a meat tray, grilled meats, rustic dishes likes stew and potatoes, and cold Winter nights. I have to tip my hat to Stone for this one; this is a good beer.

Random Thought: Stone killed it with their Indiegogo campaign.