I spent the whole day at school today…a Saturday. The first half of the day was spent at TSU (my school) taking a practice test, four hours long, in preparation for an eight hour long test (Fundamentals of Engineering exam) October 30. The latter half of the day was spent at W.O. Smith Music School, enjoying great beer, really tasty BBQ, and the beautiful weather we had today.
I’ve got to express my appreciation for some people before I go into this any further. First, I am very grateful to Katya at Aleksey’s Imports. She got me on the guest list for this event and made it all possible for me. Thank you, Katya! I am also very appreciative of the people with Grand Cru Wine & Spirits. They sponsored this event and provided the beers, but more than that, they all, especially Jason, made me feel very welcome. Jason even purchased a tasting glass and a great BBQ sandwich (courtesy Peg leg Porkers) for me, because I had brought no cash and no one was set up to take debit cards. Thanks, Jason, and the Grand Cru staff. I will definitely be paying you a visit soon!
The website for the beer tasting promised a large variety of beers available for sampling, so I was definitely excited. I already had a couple of beers in mind for tasting, but I also hoped for some surprises along the way, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The first beer I tried, which I had looked forward to trying, was Dogfish Head’s Theobroma. Their website says, “Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).”
I expected to be completely blown away by this beer, but I simply wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite tasty, but perhaps I had my expectations too high. I’ll have it again though, for sure, so I can do a full review. I thought this had some spicy notes and a touch of honey. The higher alcohol (9% ABV) came through on the finish, bringing a nice warmth to it. The distinctive flavors of the chilies came through very late on the finish. It was almost like a very late surprise. I had finished my couple of swallows and was thinking about what to try next when it came through. Overall: at first blush, a tasty brew with the chilies acting as an interesting addition.
The next beer I tried I had actually had before, but it has been a long time. When I first tried Yazoo’s Sue (a smoked porter), it was relatively new. At the time, I was not a huge fan of it. I had heard it had changed since last time I tried it, though, so I gave it another shot. I was very pleased with the changes they made to it! The nose was excellent, featuring good smoke and oak notes and hints of whiskey. On the palate the smoke is there but not overpowering. It makes its presence known as a mildly musty smokiness that acts as a pleasant backdrop for dark fruit and sour cherry notes with some malt sweetness. It tasted far better than the first time I tried it, and, as a matter of fact, won a silver medal at this year’s GABF. Overall: even if you don’t like smoky beers, you’ll appreciate this one.
The next beverage I tried was Viking Blod, a mead made with hibiscus and hops. I don’t generally love honey in beers, so I wasn’t sure about a mead, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the hibiscus. This 19% ABV mead (yes, 19%!) surprises though. The nose consists of floral and honey aromas wafting up on the vapors from the higher ABV. Honey is in the foreground of this mead, as is to be expected, but the hibiscus and higher alcohol come out on the finish and complement each other well. Overall: the hibiscus brings welcome, unique flavors to this mead.
Next up was Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock. According to beeradvocate.com, “Eisbocks are created by freezing off a portion of the water, and removing it from the beer. This form of concentration, of sorts, increases the beer’s body, flavor, and alcohol content.” This had a great nose, with spiced notes mingling with the prominent wheat. This beer had a mouthfeel like carbonated honey with a wheaty flavor. Overall: this was a pretty tasty brew.
The highlight of my tasting, and the most interesting beverage there, in my opinion, was the 2009 Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut De Normandie. I’m not a fan of ciders, at least the ones you buy in six-packs at the better beer stores. But I am a big fan of this one. The nose is probably the smelliest of any fermented beverage I’ve had. Katya referred to it as a “stinky French nose”, which I thought was hilarious, and completely accurate! It smacks of green apple and stinky cheese…yes, stinky cheese. The nose definitely has a funkiness to it, a sort of sour earthiness, perhaps. But there is just something I loved about that aroma. On the palate it is much more simplistic, with green apple being the dominant flavor. I will definitely try this again and do a full review. Overall: this is something to be experienced and savored. Excellent!
Next I had to try Granitbock, from Brauerei Hofstetten Krammer GmbH & Co. KG in St. Martin, Austria. According to B. United International, Inc., the importers of this beer, “The Granit Bock is brewed in large granite open troughs. The granite stones are then heated to be white hot and added to the wort. This causes the sugars in the malt to caramelize around the stones and gives the beer lovely caramel and roasted flavors. It also gives the Granit Bock a unique smoked flavor.” I was intrigued by this and thought I’d give it a shot. The nose was odd, in how much it smelled like a slab of granite. I liked the nose, though. The beer itself tastes minerally, like granite, but with slightly bitter hints on the finish. I will be reviewing this fully soon. Overall: it’s interesting smelling that granite on the nose. I haven’t passed final judgment on the taste yet.
The next one I tried was recommended to me by Katya and the Grand Cru staff. Hitachino’s Nest Nipponia is brewed using two Japanese original materials; “Kaneko Golden,” the Japanese ancient barley, and “Sorachi Ace,” the hop which once was bred in Japan.” I was picking up very interesting floral notes on the nose, and lavender was what kept coming to mind. I also noticed lemon and perhaps coriander notes. The beer itself displayed floral and interesting spiced barley notes on the palate. Overall: this was my first Japanese beer and I am intrigued. I will try more Hitachino beers.
The final beer I tried (I had to drive home at some point after this you know!) was Boulevard Brewing Company’s Seeyoulator Doppelbock. The nose gives olfactory proof that the beer was aged in cedar. Woody cedar highlights the nose and gives the taste a spicy woody profile, with a little malt sweetness and a hint of citrus. Overall: I like the scent of it in the nose and the taste of it on the palate but wonder the cedar shouldn’t be toned down a little?
So those are the beers I selected and enjoyed today. There were so many there that I wanted to try, but I think it’s better to be moderate and make sure I can drive home safely. Again, biggest thanks to Katya and the Grand Cru staff for a fun, tasty afternoon.