September 2009 Archives

Baron Brewing Über-Weiße

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The Über-Weiße from Baron Brewing is a hearty beer.  Their website calls it a Weizenstarkbier, which we'd call a wheat doppelbock, and it stands up to the name.  It pours dark and opaque with a thin tan head what proved to have little retention, and on the nose it is an orchestra of roasted malts, banana, coffee, and chocolate.

It lives up to its appearance, with a thick, hearty mouth feel with a lively effervescence.  The yeast gives off notes of banana, which mingle happily with the chocolatey, roasted-coffee flavors that dominate this strong, dark beer.  It's an impressive take on a German wheat doppelbock, that's for sure, and I'd recommend giving this beer a try, even if doppelbocks aren't your thing.

This is just a quick note to direct your attention to my first article on The Local Dish, which is a review of the Caldera Tap House in Ashland, Oregon.  You can read it here!

After a long wait, the Gypsy Blues Bar finally has Leffe Brune on tap. This is a brown abbey ale whose blonde counterpart is a pretty popular beer in these parts, but it's always a treat to get something like this from a keg.  It pours a translucent dark brown with a thick off-white head that leaves behind a good deal of lacing.  The nose is malty and nutty, with the banana-like aroma so common of Leffe's beers, promising a hearty dose of Belgian goodness with every sip.

Indeed, the beer does not disappoint.  Unlike a Flemish brown, which typically has a strong sour note, this beer is more like a typical ale.  It is sweet with malt, with a solid Belgian character.  However, for those who don't like Belgian beers, or are looking for an easy introduction, I'd say that Leffe Brune is far more approachable than many Belgian ales, and is really quite a treat to have on tap.

The Gypsy Blues Bar is located at 205 W 8th St in Medford, Oregon.  They've got thirty beers on tap, so even if the Brune isn't up your alley, I am certain that one of their brews will be.  Tell them I sent you!
Bear Republic's Pete Brown's Tribute Ale, an award-winning beer, was quite a bit more than I was anticipating.  Thinking I was just about to encounter your standard brown ale, I was perplexed when it poured a deep ruby-brown, barely translucent enough for a hint of light to shine through it.  It has a thin tan-white head with big bubbles and moderate retention, and a burly aroma that fills the nose with strong molasses, roasted barley, and definite coffee notes.  This is not your average brown ale.  This is more like the Bigfoot of brown ales, in fact.

It follows up its dark appearance and hearty smell with a solid, medium body that borders on thick.  It's smooth, but rich with dark, roasted flavors, lots of molasses, and sweet malts.  It's a big beer, and perhaps not as refreshing as your average brown ale, but it's certainly worth trying, and I'd certainly recommend it.

When I first popped open the bottle of Laurelwood Wry Pale Ale, I didn't know what to expect.  There have been a lot of rye beers on the market lately, and most of them do a nice job of bringing out the bitter astringency of rye without completely overrunning the rest of the beer.  So I didn't know what to expect, but I had high hopes for this Laurelwood brew.  It pours a beautiful, clear gold with a nearly white head that has quite good retention.  On the nose it's fresh and floral, with a substantial but not huge hop character coming through.  It smelled so good that I couldn't wait to sip it, so I didn't, and I was happy.

This beer has a great mouth feel, with a perfect pale ale consistency and a very pleasant level of carbonation.  The hops and malt balance nicely, and there's just a hint of rye bitterness throughout the palate.  This is a great pale ale, and a really wonderful example of what a rye beer can be all about.  It's highly recommended!


The Moustache in Winter

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Let's go back in time to 1183 AD, to the setting of that Peter O'Toole classic, The Lion in Winter.  Europe was rather chilly, and neither coffee nor tea had yet to be introduced to England, nor had hops yet been introduced to beer.  One imagines that mornings would have been pretty dreary, because poor old Henry II couldn't even get a mimosa (no oranges, no Champagne!), and his hot braggot would have been flavored with heather or nettles or something unpleasant like that.  It's really no wonder he had so much trouble with his sons.

Luckily, in these modern times, we have a variety of morning delights to distract us from our filial tribulations, and in winter months hot coffee or tea can be used to warm our troubled spirits as well as our chilled bodies.  It is this cherished attribute we wish to draw your attention to today.

When the colder months approach, waxing one's moustache in the morning can become rather taxing.  During the day, the wax stays nice and firm, as the Winter sun doesn't seem that good at melting it, but chilly fingers do a poor job of softening and spreading the wax to begin with.  This is why you should have a hot, fresh cup of tea or coffee with you while working on your moustache.  With it, you can warm your fingers, perhaps warm the wax a bit, and if the going gets really rough, you can take a few sips and let the hot steam from your beverage increase the suppleness of your 'tache, for easier working.
stash_super_irish_breakfast.gifThere occasionally comes a time in life when one is forced to retreat from the ceremony of loose leaf tea and embrace, if even for a short sojourn, the convenience of bagged tea.  As your loyal correspondent, I have spent the last couple of years searching for a worthy tea bag so that you, dear reader, wouldn't have to, and I do believe I've found it.  Stash Super Irish Breakfast is a swarthy, strong black tea that makes up for the customary blandness of tea bags by throwing away subtlety once an for all, and delivering to the mouth a blatant blast of pure, malty black tea.  I'd strongly suggest drinking this tea with milk and sugar.

Stash says that this tea has an Assam base with a good dose of Ceylon thrown in for good measure, and as those are my two favorite non-Chinese teas, that may by why I enjoy this particular bag so much (I mean, when loose leaf isn't available).    And for those of you who take a strong liking to this particular blend, it's also available in loose leaf form from the Stash website.
pillagers_pale.jpgThis afternoon as I sat back to enjoy a few pints of beer, I cracked open a bottle of Three Skulls Ales' Pillagers Pale, which poured a rich, slightly cloudy gold and produced a wonderful off-white head that proved to have good retention and a lovely, solid lacing.  As I leaned forward to sniff the beer, I contemplated the recently discovered "G-variant", or Churchill gene, which apparently causes alcohol to have more of a creativity-inspiring opiate effect instead of instilling that common sottish idiocy we've all seen so often before.  But I didn't have time to contemplate much before encountering the odd, yeast-heavy aroma of this particular pale ale, which seems out of place with this particular style.  I sniffed again, and indeed it has a curious bready odor almost entirely masking the mild hops beneath.

In any case, according to a recent article in Prospect Magazine, about 15% of Caucasians possess this miraculous variant, which was named after Winston Churchill because of his life-long love for alcohol and his legendary consumption.  But how legendary was his consumption, really?  It has been argued that his omnipresent scotch-and-water was but a smidgeon of the strong stuff liberally laced with the weak, and that the man used his reputation to his advantage, but certainly knew his limits.  Nevertheless, it's truly inspiring to see that science has finally acknowledged that some good can come to the creative mind from a modest tipple or two.

As I pondered these heavy thoughts, my tastebuds were hard at work on the Pillagers Pale.  It has a very nutty, roasted malt flavor that does a good job masking the hops.  I would suggest that it's perhaps too good a job, and that there are certain aspects of this beer that depart from what one would usually expect from a good pale ale.  However, it is not a bad beer, and if one is ready for the unexpected, it can certainly be readily enjoyed.
It's been nearly a year since Mr Maujean and I have reported on our drinking-and-airgun experiments, and when we last spoke about it we discussed the unsuitability of cigars as an accompaniment to shooting.  Well, it was a hot summer day, and I had an imperial stout to review, so I thought it would be nice if I could just sip the stout while I was doing something else.  I've always thought that a really nice stout has a range of flavors that develop as the beer warms up, and though I'm not necessarily a proponent of drinking room-temperature (or outside in the summer in Oregon temperature) beer, it can really help one get a handle on a dark one.

eel_river_ravens_eye.jpgSo I dug out my BB gun, which hadn't seen any action in probably eight months, and set up some targets at an embarrassingly close range.  I then popped open the beer, an Eel River Raven's Eye Imperial Stout, and began drinking and plinking.  My first step was to take a look at this beer, because I suspected that analyzing the brew up close might help tune and refine my eyesight, thus honing my aim.  This is a rich-looking, dark, espresso-colored brew with a brownish-tan head that has poor retention, which doesn't throw me off too much, as I figured it would have a rather high ABV and thus not a lot of yeast life left for bottle conditioning.  I then fired five shots at my first target and did horribly.  My lack of practice was really showing.

"Maybe it's the wind," I thought to myself, and so I sniffed the beer hoping that a bit of olfactory exercise would sharpen my wind-detecting senses, whatever they are.  Pleasant coffee and roasted grain aromas wafted into my nostrils.  This beer certainly smells like a stout, and certainly looks like a stout, and what the hell, I may as well admit it.  I was going to shoot at my second target before tasting the beer, but I couldn't help myself.  I was in for a little bit of a surprise.

The Raven's Eye has a fairly light, drinkable body for an imperial stout.  It's still a big beer, with a surprising fruit character and a rich, medium body that highlights all of the flavors you'd expect from an imperial stout.  The heat of its 9.5% ABV is well-concealed, however, and since I didn't look at the bottle while I was drinking it, I assumed it to be perhaps a 7% ABV beer, which would be quite low for an imperial stout.

As I continued to shoot, the beer warmed up a little, and the rich sweetness became accented by a nice roasted bitterness in the finish.  I enjoyed the beer quite a bit, I must say, and whether it was the quality of the brew or the practice, my shooting improved noticeably by my sixth target, and I was getting much better grouping and even a good number of bull's eyes.  While I could never sanely endorse drinking and shooting at the same time, I can sanely endorse this beer, and would urge you to go out and buy some, and maybe save it for the chilly Fall months ahead.
mad_river_mad_belgian.jpgThe Mad Belgian is the new seasonal release from Mad River Brewing, following in the footsteps of Serious Madness and Double Dread, both earlier this year.  This new release is a Belgian-style golden ale, one of my favorite varieties, so I was really looking forward to trying it.  I've had a couple of bottles now, and have formed a pretty solid opinion.  The beer pours a hazy, deep gold, and is translucent with very tiny, champagne-like bubbles.  It has a finely-textured, slightly off-white head, but unlike a traditional Belgian golden ale, the head is thin and has very poor retention, leaving little lacing.

On the nose, this beer is sweet and candyish, with strong malt notes and perhaps a hint of honey.  It has an effervescent and smooth body, with a clean, fresh flavor backed by a malty strength, an acidic tartness that was difficult to place, and hints of hop bitterness.  Aside from the poor head, I found it to be a rather tasty, malty version of a Belgian-style golden ale, and one that I'd recommend trying.
On June 22nd, President Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act, a very nanny-state sort of assault on smokers.  One of the strangest elements of the act is the banning of flavored cigarettes, including cloves and fruity things, but excluding menthol.  This can't come as much of a surprise, as apparently Philip-Morris was one of the big corporate backers of the new law.  It's a big law, and there's a lot to sort through, but the odd paragraph in question is Section 907.a.1.A, which reads:

Beginning 3 months after the date of enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke.

Oddly, the law says nothing about cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, that funny new Camel dissolving tobacco stuff, or chew.  Just cigarettes.  Why wouldn't menthol be included?  That's surely a more popular flavor among underage smokers than any other fruit flavors.  Well, if you're a clove smoker, now's the time to rush out and stock up, because September 22nd is approaching, and after that date it'll be illegal for shops to sell the things.

Drinkin' With The Duchesse

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I had heard a lot about this beer before I tasted it, but nobody had really told me what it was supposed to be like.  Upon its arrival, the bottle boasted that it was a Flemish red ale, so I feared that it would be another uncomfortably sour beer like The Dissident, Rodenbach, or a gueuze.  I approached it with trepidation.  Boy, what I wouldn't give for a palate that appreciated sour flavors!  I needn't have worried, though.

The Duchesse pours a dark ruby with an off-white head that sticks around for a while and leaves a nice foamy lacing in its wake.  On the nose, it has notes of green apple, cinnamon, and hints of cardamom and other fruits.  It tastes surprisingly sweet and fruity, with flavors of apple, stone fruit, and a very mild sour acidity that acts more as an undertone than a primary flavor note.  I found it to be perhaps a bit too sweet for constant drinking, but it reminded me a bit of Lindemans Pomme and was quite tasty.  This is a beer that would make a good bridge into more esoteric styles, and may even help the sweet lambic drinker branch into more mainstream beers.  It's definitely one worth trying out.
I was reclining in my favorite chair this morning, and enjoying a cup of black Assam with just the right amount of honey and sugar and a pipe of my favorite morning blend from Margate, dreaming of drinking really fine bourbon on a trans-continental train trip, when I recalled a website I read from time to time called The Art of Nonconformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work, and Travel.  All three of those are useful things to approach unconventionally when one is interested in an affordable life of leisure, but his articles on "travel hacking" are interesting and outstanding.

His latest article on this subject includes some funny anecdotes, odd tricks for accruing frequent flier miles, and information on various travel hacking projects he's had in the past.  This got me to thinking about any travel anecdotes I might be able to share, and I couldn't come up with any.  I remember times when I've had issues bringing flasks through security and all of the times the TSA guys have had a problem with my pipe tool, but terribly interesting.

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