Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beer Review - Grimm Double Negative Imperial Stout

Grimm Artisinal Ales Double Negative Imperial Stout (10% ABV)

Today's kick in the nnnnnnose is this beast from Grimm Artisanal Ales from Brooklyn, N.Y. (not to be confused with Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, Colorado OR Grimm Brewery from Utrech, Netherlands .... actually, that is confusing as hell). To make it even more confusing, the Double Negative Imperial Stout (10% ABV) is brewed under contract in Virginia. As a matter of fact, all of their beers are brewed under contract in various breweries around the region.

Grimm Artisanal Ales is a Brooklyn-based nomadic brewery founded in 2013 by Joe and Lauren Grimm after nearly a decade of tinkering with fermentation. The couple develops each recipe in the kitchen of their Gowanus apartment and travels to existing breweries near and far to craft their beers.  Grimm specializes in concise, elegant ales epitomizing the creative, experimental spirit of the American artisanal beer revolution. Each one is a single-batch, limited-edition release that may never come around again.

The beer is creamy and dense with a long lasting head.  The flavor of roasted malts, dark fruits, caramel and dark chocolate completely hides the high alcohol content. Even though it is a superb beer that you can easily enjoy right now, it is a bit raw and we recommend that you buy this one and let it age for a couple of years, it should turn into a diamond. They make a maple, barrel aged version of this that may be worth seeking out. Cheers, Bon.

Grimm Artisinal Ales

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oktoberfest Beer Comparison

Oktoberfest in Munich is without a doubt the largest beer event on the face of the planet with 5.6 million beer afficianado's singing, dancing and of course, drinking their asses off for 2 weeks in September and October.  And this is only at one location; think of how many celebrate worldwide.

But we don't drink just any old beer at Oktoberfest, do we?  Nein, nein, nein, only Oktoberfest Beer brewed specifically for the event will do.  The beer served at Oktoberfest in Munich is a glorious lager, with every beer tasting quite similar, and while you will see an Oktoberfest marzen sold here, you really won't find it easily over there.  Brewers here in the U.S. create versions of the famous beer to be sold to revelers during the event, but how good is it compared to the original.  Drunk minds want to know.  So we assembled a few samples so see how ours compares to the original.  The lab rats were served the beers without knowing which beer was which or even which beers were being served.

We chose Hofbräu Oktoberfest (6.3% ABV) from Munich (left) to represent the German version of the beer for obvious reasons.  First, we have a Hofbräu in St. Petersburg and second it is quite easily sourced by youse guys. It is clean, crisp and identical to the beer being served in Munich.

Highland Brewing Clawhammer Oktoberfest (5% ABV) from Ashville, N.C. (right) was chosen as an example of marzen to see if it was preferred here in the U.S. vs. the original lager.  It contains more hop than that found in Munich but is quite easy to drink.

Tent Beer Helles Lager (5.2% ABV) from Six Ten Brewing (center) in Tampa was chosen simply because Chris Johnson is a superb brewer that can create about any beer style as close to original as anyone that we have met.

The tasters were simply asked to rate the beers in order of favorite to least favorite and to provide a few tasting notes about why they chose what they chose.  The beers were given 3 points for best, 2 points for second and 1 for third.  Here are the results:

1. (tie) Six Ten Tent Beer Helles Lager - 13 points
     comments:  "Nice aroma, very balanced"
                         "More like a traditional Oktoberfest"
                         "Clean Finish"
1. (tie) Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest and Six Ten Tent Beer.  - 13 points
     comments:  "Like the caramel flavors"
                        "This is a Marzen, not Oktoberfest"
                        "Full bodied"
3. Hofbräu Oktoberfest - 9 points.  Now let's be fair here, this beer had obviously not beer stored correctly and had oxidized, but that is what anyone buying the beer would have received.
     comment:  "Meh"
                       "Easy drink"

So let's say that even though the Marzen is not really a traditional Oktoberfest beer based on Munich standards, the Clawhammer is a fine drink and available right now here in Florida. The Tent Beer from Six Ten, from my recollection, is as close to the flavor of a traditional Oktoberfest beer as any that you will find in the States. Mr. Johnson again shows what a master brewer is.  And the Hofbräu?  Go to St. Petersburg and have a stein, it really is quite good.  Cheers, Bon

Six Ten Brewing
7052 Benjamin Road
Tampa, FL 33634

Highland Brewing Company
12 Old Charlotte Highway,
Suite 200
Asheville, NC 28803

Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg
123 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Tips for Aging Beers in Difficult Locations

If you are a true beer snob, you are most likely aging several beers in a cool, quite, tucked away space.  But what if you don't have a cool place to age your liquid gold?  Here are some hints from DRAFT magazine to help you along.

The general rules of aging beer are, by this point, pretty well-known. Focus on high-alcohol beers and intensely flavored styles like imperial stouts and barleywines; store them out of the reach of sunlight; try to keep them at a constant temperature between 55 and 65 degrees. But for many would-be cellarmen, warm climates and the lack of a beer fridge make following that last decree particularly tough. What’s a beer nerd without a basement to do? For the answer, we turned to Patrick Dawson, an expert on aging beers well. He’s the author of “Vintage Beer: A Taster’s Guide to Brews That Improve over Time” and a regular drinker of ales that are older than you—he once tasted a Bass Ratcliffe Ale bottled in 1869, which had to be poured through a cheesecloth to catch all the chunks of coagulated yeast muck and crumbled cork, but still held up well. Dawson offers several tips for laying down bottles when your environment is far from ideal.
Invest in insulation.
Because so many beers are fermented in a brewery’s tanks at temperatures lower than 70 degrees, Dawson says that’s about as warm as you ever want your cellar to get. “There are certain flavors that could come out at that temperature that the brewer never even realized would come out,” he says. But for the sweltering late-summer months when even “room temperature” nudges near 80, getting above that magic number is unavoidable; you’re going to have to take extra steps to minimize the damage. Dawson suggests using styrofoam shipping boxes (the kind you can pick up at most large liquor stores) or an insulated cooler, which will at least mitigate the temperature swings and allow the beer to age more gracefully. “The whole logic with temperature swings is that there’s an activation temperature for certain chemical processes,” says Dawson. “They’ll slow down or maybe even stop at certain temperatures, so if you’re constantly stopping and starting these processes, the beer’s not going to mature as well. You want to just have that nice, steady temperature so the processes can finish out smoothly.”

Aim for the middle.
Don’t store your beer in closets with exterior facing walls, Dawson explains: They tend to get warmer and go through larger temperature fluctuations throughout the day. Try to find a space for your insulated boxes near the center of your home or apartment, where the AC will have maximum effect and what’s going on outside will matter least.

Buy tougher beer.
“If you have a 55-degree cellar, yeah, age an 8% or 9% beer, but if you’re only able to keep it around 70 degrees, I’d say nothing below 11%,” suggests Dawson. Big, viscous beers with lots of residual sweetness and loads of alcohol flavor are your best bet in staving off the thinning of a beer’s body and reduction in its malty sweetness that naturally occur over time and will be more pronounced at higher temps. He says, “For me, a dream barleywine bound for the cellar is basically screaming hot—like, it just tastes like rubbing alcohol—and it’s thick and syrupy sweet. Over time, that’s going to develop so much more complexity and have enough body that by the time I drink it, it doesn’t feel like a Diet Coke.”

Shorten their slumber.
Higher temperatures make beers age more quickly, so if you’re on the fence about how long you want to age it, err on the shorter side. “It’s always better to have a beer a little bit too young than too old, because once those stale flavors come about, they’re always there,” Dawson says. “If you open it too young, maybe it’s still a little too boozy and all that complexity hasn’t developed yet, but it’s still drinkable and enjoyable.”