Tag Archives: Pint-Sized Reviews

Pint-Sized Reviews: Grand Imperial Porter

If there's one thing that Labor Day weekend doesn't get enough of, it must be beer. So I thought I would do my part.

Grand Imperial Porter from Browar Amber, Bielkowko, Poland, 8 pct ABV, is a tasty Baltic porter. I would say that this is one of my favorite styles, but, really. Aren't they all?

Baltic porters are lagers, not ales, like your typical english porter. Like the better known India Pale Ale style, this was a style designed for shipping: high in alcohol, with strong flavors to mask brewing flaws and/or the stresses of long transportation chains with uncertain handling. Baltic porters characteristically have a bit of sweetness, some bitterness from dark-roasted malts, and perhaps a hint of licorice, but often with a soft mouthfeel. So, not the overwhelming punch of a Russian Imperial Stout or an American Imperial IPA. Basically, a cross or blend between the high-alcohol, high-impact Russian Imperial Stout style and the softer, happier english porter style. Outstanding domestic examples include Victory Baltic Thunder and the Alaskan Baltic Porter or, so I'm told (since I haven't yet had one), Surly's Smoke.

This one fits right smack in the middle of my experiences with the style: soft mouth-feel (reminiscent of one of my favorite english beers, St. Peter's Old-Style Porter), big but not overwhelming flavor. Lightly carbonated. Some chocolate and coffee, some licorice, but not too much. It is a wee bit on the sweet side, but only a wee bit. I had no trouble finishing the 16.9 oz bottle because it was so smooth. Like a comfy recliner. A beer to take you to a happy place.

Pint-Sized Reviews: Traquair House Jacobite Ale

Wow. It has been six months since my last review. I almost feel guilty.

But not guilty enough to keep from telling you all how awesome Traquair House is as a brewery. According to the website,

The brewery currently produces around 600 - 700 barrels per annum. (200,000 bottles and the remainder draught) Brewing takes place all year round with the exception of August. The brewery expanded its premises in 1993 but continues to ferment its total production in the original oak vessels. At present there is room to increase production by a further 20% but there are no plans to expand beyond this as it is intended to retain brewing in the original style and premises.

I'm pretty sure that I sold this line at the old basement as well, in a review of the utterly awesome Traquair House Ale (if you see this in your local bottle shop, BUY IT!!!).

Today, I'm moving on to taunt, err, regale you with another bottle of awesomeness (and I don't mean donkey-sauce awesome, I mean reality awesome) from Traquair House: the Jacobite Ale "wee heavy" flavored ale.
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Pint-Sized Reviews: Port Brewing Old Viscosity Ale

It's after noon, so I think it is safe to talk about beer on a sunday. 'specially since it is my birfday.

I bought this bad boy at a Bevmo in Vacaville last weekend, on the way home from Oakland, where the Boy got himself a fancy-dancy trombone as his graduation present. Said trombone got a nice workout on Friday at the local pizzeria when his jazz quintet played a gig, in return for pizza and tips. The crowd consisted mostly of parents of the quint, plus a table-full of their friends, but we had a great time, and the pizzeria did a nice chunk of extra business.

This was my early present to myself, after a tasty dinner of baked beans, roasted chiles, and BBQ'd beef ribs. Mmm, dinosaur bones! Hard to resist when they are only a couple of bucks per pound and pretty meaty. I gave them a nice rub, let them stand for an hour, then smoked (indirect heat) for ~45 minutes over hickory chips and charcoal, finishing with just a couple of minutes on direct heat to crisp up the undersides. Fatty, smokey deliciousness.

And this was dessert. Port Brewing is the extension of the venerable and venerated Pizza Port. If you are ever in the San Diego area, I highly recommend a trip to the mothership in Solano Beach (although they now have locations in Ocean Beach, Carlsbad, and San Clemente as well). Excellent pizza, and a bitchin' beer selection. Each location has its own lineup.

Port Brewing was spun off in 2006, locating in Stone Brewing's former facilities. Named Small Brewery of the Year at the 2007 GABF, and Champion Small Brewery at the 2008 World Beer Cup, these guys know what they are doing.

The Old Viscosity Ale is a strong ale that reads like a Russian Imperial Stout. This is a sipping beer that really should be shared with friends. But it is so good you may be tempted (as I was) to keep it all to yourself. Consider yourself warned.
Continue reading Pint-Sized Reviews: Port Brewing Old Viscosity Ale

Pint-Sized Reviews: Strubbe’s Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale

I finished my book o' the month early this month, so I decided to sit down to celebrate and to write up the First Monday post. This seemed like a good time to crack open a bottle of something that I hoped would be special, or at least different.

Strubbe's Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale is a Flanders-style sour ale from Brouwerij Strubbe, a family-owned and -operated brewery in Ichtegem, Belgium. Somewhat weirdly, the firm also produces a second Flanders-style red ale, called Ichtegem's Grand Cru, first produced in 2006. It is unclear from their website whether these are actually different beers, even though they sport different labels.

The Flanders Red Ale style is a sour ale style. Unlike lambics, which traditionally are open-air fermented in musty old barns infected with Brettanomyces yeasts, leading to their characteristic flavor profile, some Flanders Red Ales apparently get their tang and pucker from the addition of Lactobacillus during fermentation, which adds lactic acid. In addition, they typically are aged for a year or longer in oak barrels, adding a further acidic note (from acetic acid). They tend to have very fruity noses and flavors (tart cherries, plums, raspberries), despite not actually having any fruit in the wort.

I am a sucker for sour ale styles, from traditional lambics (which typically are fruit-flavored) to gueueze (a non-fruity lambic style, but if it had been invented by Americans would probably be called an Imperial or Double or Triple Lambic, because it is seriously funked up) to Flanders reds.

The Strubbe's version of a Flanders red hits most of the traditional notes. It has a pretty, deep amber-red color, low carbonation, lots of tart cherry notes, and some sourness and astringency. It's a fine sipping beer.

Unfortunately, it's not a great beer for the style. For an analogy, I'd put it on about a Blue Moon level on the witbier scale, far below something like the Allagash White, but nothing you'd be embarrassed to serve to friends. For that, you'll need to pony up for the Rodenbach Grand Cru (oh, yea!) or Duchess De Bourgogne (mmmmm). And if somebody in upstate New York were to some how send me one of these (draft only, sadly, and apparently no longer produced??), I would be eternally grateful.

That said, there's nothing ordinary about Flanders red ales. If you've never had one and your palate is even a wee bit adventurous, I'd urge you to give one a try.

Pint-Sized Reviews: Drinking in Prague – The Beers (Pivo)

As most of you all know, I've recently returned from spending about 9 weeks in Prague. This is going to be a two-part review of my drinking in Prague, which will cover the different beers I was fortunate enough to consume. Part II, sometime next week, will cover my favorite drinking establishments. Continue reading Pint-Sized Reviews: Drinking in Prague – The Beers (Pivo)

Pint-Sized Reviews: Not all Canadian beer is Blue

[note: I'd started this post yesterday, not anticipating that meat would bring the pork again today. Awesome. So go read or re-read that recipe, then come back here and fantasize with me about eating it while drinking this beer]

The family is scattering to the winds this week, with the Boy off to the Carleton Summer Writing Program, the Mrs. and the Girl heading to Nuevo Mexico, and li'l old me staying here to work my fingers to the bone for Gov'nor Brown. So saturday night I was treated to an early birthday dinner. And what a treat it was:
*the Boy grilled a tri-tip to perfection
*the Girl made a delicious pot of pinto beans
*the Mrs. made sauteed spinach and, for dessert, a fantastic blueberry-peach crisp.

and for double-dessert, I treated myself to a bomber of the Unibroue Quatre-Centième Brassin Commémoratif belgian-style strong pale ale. So sue me for using the wrong glass.

This is an interesting hybrid brew. It pours a beautiful golden straw color with an effervescent white head that settles down quickly, leaving little lacing. The mouthfeel is soft and light, beginning with a champagne-like bubbliness that slowly dissipates in the glass. The aroma is firmly Belgian -- like a dubbel, but with a heady (yet still light) undertone of bready, biscuity malt. One reviewer nailed the taste -- reminiscent of their world-class La Fin Du Monde, but toned down. You never notice its weighty 7.5 pct ABV.

The Quatre-Centieme, brewed originally to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City, is the beer that proves that Unibroue is a truly great brewery, not by its greatness, but by its seeming ordinariness. To make my case is the Alström Bros themselves:

While Quatre is certainly not a bad beer, it simply smacks of past Unibroue beers and doesn't offer us anything unique--like the city it's supposed to be honoring. Fairly middle of the road, but Unibroue fans will no doubt want to give this one a try.

In other words, it's not world-class great like many of Unibroue's other products, so it is consigned to "meh". Seriously? No, this is a really, really good beer. It doesn't overwhelm the palate on any one dimension, it isn't way over the top, but instead is a delicious, drinkable, well-balanced Belgian ale. Most breweries would kill just to make a beer this good, but this one is snubbed as merely quaffable. Oy.

If you are curious about but unseasoned in Belgian ales, this would be a great place to start.