Saturday, December 31, 2011

FatCat's Top Beers 2011

As I reflect back on this awesome craft brew year I attempt to recollect the greats.  These are the brews that immediately stand out when I ask myself the question, “What were the best brews you remember trying in 2011.”  I tried to limit my responses to brews that I first tried in 2011 and were not super duper limited.  Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.

14.  New Holland The Poet - This oatmeal stout was a discovery of mine late this year.  For a year round availability this brew is outstanding.  I can't wait to pit this against my beloved Sam Adams Cream Stout.

13.  Ska Modus Hoperandi –
This is the beer that started my canned craft brew     discovery.  This IPA can stand up to the best of them and you can take it in your boat!

12.  Schlafly Bavarian-Style Weissbier –
This brew was a welcome break from the summers’ IPA binges.  It immediately pops in my head when I think of this summer and will forever hold fondness in FatCat’s heart.

11.  Crabtree Oatmeal Stout –
This is the brew I first tried at the Omaha Beer Festival.  Crabtree Oatmeal Stout was the most notable brew and the brewers were some of the nicest people at the event.  As a plus I found out that Crabtree brews are actually available in KS.  Score!

10.  Ska ESB –
This was part of my canned craft brew discovery and I loved it.  If you ever wondered what a creamy beer should taste like grab a can of this. 

9.  Sam Adams Double Bock – The malt complexity and the smoothness of this big ABV brew is phenomenal.  This was also named the Lager of the Year at the World Beer Awards 2011. 

8.  Founder’s Centennial IPA – This is as close to perfection as you can get in the IPA style.  Not only does this nail the complexity of hop character it has also has a stellar malt character on the front.  Poetry in beer form.

7.  Odell Myrcenary –
Grapefruit character runs rampant and this brew is dangerously drinkable for an imperial IPA.

6.  Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale –
This brew is the superman of malt complexity.  Third Coast is the brew that took our Barleywine shootout standing up to the bitterness of the American Barleywines.  The malt complexity is truly amazing.

5.  Avery The Czar –
This is the imperial stout that blind sided me in 2011.  With stouts being my favorite style it’s hard to “surprise” me without bourbon barrel aging or some other bells and whistles.  Well the Czar surprised me and made me a believer.  I love it.

4.  Free State Oktoberfest –
I drank more of this brew than any others this year.  This could be because I was drinking them 1 liter at a time but who’s counting?  This was one of the only American renditions I would prefer over the traditional German Oktoberfests.  DAS BOOT!

3.  Trappistes Rochefort 10 –
As I get further and further into beer culture I try and expand my horizons.  Belgian beer is one of those horizons that many others are absolutely infatuated with and I just didn’t get it.  In an effort to be part of the cool club I started trying different Belgian style brews to try and “get it”.  Largely disappointed in my experience this is one absolute gem that I do “get”. 

2.  Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel –
I tried this brew at Twisters downtown.  I was looking for something different to try and this seemed like it would fit the bill.  Holy crap this brew more than fit the bill it won the lottery.  Discovering new brews that completely surprise me is what keeps me coming back time and again to craft brew.  I love it.

1.  Firestone Walker Parabola –
This is easily my favorite brew of the year.  Big, bad, and boozy imperial stouts are what make me weak in the knees.  This brew is all of that and a little more.  I wish I could get a keg of this stuff and drink it everyday for breakfast.  Is this too much to ask?

Recap:
Those are my memorable moments in craft beer drinking 2011.  Each beer may or may not be the best version of it’s style, but these are the brews that left an impression in the old noggin.  What are some of your favorite brews for 2011?

Everyone have a happy and safe New Years.



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boulevard Dances with the Reaper!

What can you expect when you see the grim reaper dancing with a shock of wheat?  I’m not sure either but I’m intrigued.  I don’t recall ever trying a wheat wine, now I’m doubly intrigued. 

The Harvest Dance poured with a mountain of head.  The head started to come out of the glass volcano style and I began to wonder if it was trying to kill me.  Could this literally be the grim reaper in beer form waiting to kill?  No, the head faded eventually and I could finally enjoy the body of the brew.  The nose had a phenol spice character with some wheat aroma playing along.  Initially you are hit with a thin and very dry body.  Some malt sweetness greets you up front but it is quickly taken over by a big dry middle.  The dry mouthfeel finishes with a spicy kick on the back of your palate.  As the brew warms, the malt character begins playing a substantial role in the flavor profile.  At its peak of complexity you get some wheaty malt sweetness, then a fruity character resembling pear or green apple, and finally the dry spicy kick finishes it out.

Overall this brew wasn’t bad once it warmed up a little.  Based on the wheat “wine” label, I was expecting a bit more in the way of malt complexity.  To summarize the grim reaper didn’t kill me but that shock of wheat haunted my dreams for days.  You have been warned!





Cheers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FatCat of the Future!

Crappy Picture:  How me and the cousin prepare for the Christmas family get together.  No snowmen were harmed in the making of this photo.
In case you haven’t noticed the title image at the top of the blog it does mention, ” beer and BOURBON in and around Kansas City.”  Some of you may be asking yourself, WTF…I’ve never seen FatCat post about bourbon so what gives?  Bourbon is one of my other alcoholic passions and I intended to post bourbon reviews when I started this blog.  The thing is, I can read some other person’s review on a beer and understand what they are referring to when they talk about floral, earthy, grainy, etc.  This gives me some confidence that I’m not completely full of crap when it comes to reviewing beers.  Bourbon is a completely different animal.  I read reviews about bourbon and I can’t say that I taste the cherries, the molasses, the floral notes, etc.  The other problem is my bias towards 100+ proof bourbons.  I started my bourbon life by cutting my teeth on Wild Turkey 101.  Needless to say I’ve developed a preference for big and bad bourbons that punch you in the mouth.  Because of this, I rarely purchase bourbons less than 100 proof and will probably favor rougher bourbons that most connoisseurs would denounce.   With my inability to detect the delicate floral notes of a 100+ proof bourbon, I’ve been hesitant to post reviews on such.  I will now shed my chains of hesitancy and bless the world with my blatherings about the not so subtleties of bourbon.  With the caveat that I’m in no way an expert and I will in no way sound intelligent, I will begin sharing my bourbon tasting notes with you.  I might even organize a blind tasted bourbon shootout!  Hold on to your knickers kids this could get ugly.

Cheers!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

FatCat's Merry Freakin' Christmas!

What is Fat Cat’s favorite holiday season?  If you guessed Fourth of July you are close.  For those of you who guessed Christmas you are absolutely correct.  If you couldn’t tell by my minimal blog posts for December, I’ve been busy preparing for the holiday season.  (Well that and hunting down bourbon and/or imperial stouts Rambo style.  I should have saved more money for this season.)  My plan was to try as many of the winter/Christmas brews as I could and post the Naughty and Nice list on the blog.  I have failed miserably on this mission and will now resort to one big post in my attempt to wish all the Fat Catians out there a very Merry Christmas.

It seems winter/Christmas brews tend to go one of two routes, the fresh hop/IPAs or the spiced winter warmer style brew.  As I may have mentioned earlier a hoppy IPA in winter seems outside the realm of logic.  However, if you want to use the freshest hops picked in October you have to make your brews at that time.  The outcome is winter brews with enough hop character to satisfy the biggest hibernating hop heads.  What is my idea of the quintessential winter/Christmas brew?  Sweet with a hint of cinnamon is my answer.  That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy the hoppier offerings.  Off to FatCat’s workshop!

The Christmas Tree – Breckenridge Christmas Ale
This brew is very piney in taste and with a little bit of bitterness.  This brew is big at 7.4% ABV and is very affordable.  This brew can be the backbone to your holiday celebration just like your trustee Christmas tree.

The Fireplace – Sam Adams Holiday Porter
While this brew is chilled it has substantial bitterness in its finish.  Let it warm up and you are rewarded with a wonderful malt sweetness accompanying the bitterness.  The malt character is somewhat smoky with a hint of chocolate towards the end.  So lay next to the Holiday Porter and warm your toes in the cold winter months.

The Plaza Lights – Boulevard Nutcracker Ale
If there is anything more of a staple for Kansas City in Christmas it is Nutcracker.  Many people proclaim serious love for this brew.  Super Dave wanted to go Black Ops when we went to the Boulevard Brewing Co. tour and dive into the entire vat of Nutcracker.  This brew relies on some bready malt character with some citrus hop flavor in the finish.  As it warms the hop flavor starts to turn a little earthy.  Not bad Boulevard, not bad.

A White Christmas - Sam Adams Winter Lager
I mentioned earlier a semi-sweet beer with some cinnamon character is what I think of if you mention a Christmas beer.  What else comes immediately to mind when you mention Christmas?  Snow!  Winter Lager is subtly sweet with a good cinnamon finish.  There is not overwhelming sweetness in this one but it does have some grainy malt character to give this brew some complexity.  This brew is not over the top but does nail my essentials for a good Christmas brew.  Winter Lager is FatCat’s white Christmas.

The Angel – Old Fezziwig
This is my absolute favorite brew of the Christmas season.  I love you Old Fezziwig will you marry me?  This is the bigger brother to the Winter Lager with more sweetness and wonderful deep cinnamon character.  This one also has some orange peel in it that supplements the cinnamon character perfectly.  Just like the finishing touch of your Christmas tree, Old Fezziwig is the finishing touch to the winter season.

Socks – Sam Smith Winter Welcome
I read in another blog that this was the number one Christmas brew.  I tried this brew and it was OK but not what I expected.  It was like a brown ale with some spice on the end of the palate.  Everything was subdued and nothing really stood out.  It just didn’t seem as interesting as some of the other holiday offerings.  This brew is just like receiving socks as a present, they are functional just not exciting.

The Lump of Coal – Summit Winter Ale
Summit has been impressive with everything I’ve tried so far.  I was excited about trying this one but it was rather bland.  It is very Porter-esque with some roasted malt bitterness and graininess.  My big gripe is how thin the body of this brew is.  It throws everything out of whack.

The Family Get-Together Argument – Sam Adams Chocolate Bock
Here’s is where I eat my words.  I made a rant about chocolate in the thinner bock beers and how much they don’t go together.  Well when I was ranting I forgot how much I like Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.  It is very chocolately like the others but this brew seems to have enough body to make it have less of the chocolate milk mentality.  Perhaps it’s because it comes in a 12oz bottle and you drink it in one motion.  Like a big holiday family feud I eat my words on a previous argument and really enjoy this brew.

Your friends awesome present that you wished you got – Bridgeport Ebenezer Ale
I didn’t try this one but Super Dave said it was awesome.  Some guys have all the luck.

The last piece of pie you shouldn’t have eaten – Weston’s Winter Warmer
This brew is super sweet with huge spice character on the finish.  I immediately compared this brew to the over the top sweetness/spiciness of pumpkin beers in the fall.  Just like your first bite of pie, the sweetness is welcoming.  By the time you stuff your pie whole to the brim, you are sick of the sweet pie character.  By the time you get to the bottom of this Winter Warmer, you feel the same way.

Left over Christmas Dinner – Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
I reviewed this brew earlier and it was good but very hoppy.  This is one of the fresh hop ales and it will punch you in the face with hop character.  I revisited this brew after I first reviewed it and it has grown on me exponentially.  Without my sweet/cinnamon expectation in the way, this brew is beautifully bitter.  Like Christmas dinner it tasted ok the first day but for some reason the leftovers on the day after Christmas are awesome.  What is it about leftovers when you are home in your underwear which makes them so magical?  Some mysteries may never be solved. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death: Round 1

Here it is what we have all been waiting for…FatCat’s Imperial Stout Tournament of Death round 1.  What better way to ring in the holidays than to drink tons of imperial stout.  In case you’re behind on the cards, imperial stout is FatCat’s absolute favorite beer style in the world.  As part of my holiday celebration I’m going to enjoy some of the best stouts I could find all year.  This is not a shootout and thus not a blind tasting. We sampled each beer and ranked them in the order we preferred drinking them. I invited some FatCat veterans over and we got through round 1 of the tournament. Here are the results. 

Warning:  Beware of Zombies!

FatCat’s Ranking:
The Czar #1
The Zombie Apocalypse #2
Old Rasputin #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4

Greg’s Ranking:
The Czar #1
Old Rasputin #2
Zombie Apocalypse #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4

Super Dave’s Ranking:
Zombie Apocalypse #1
Old Rasputin #2
The Czar #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4


The Winner:  The Czar 
The Czar starts off with a huge nose begging you to dive in the thick malty goodness.  The nose starts with big malt sweetness with hints of bittersweet chocolate snaking its way out of the top of the glass.  The mouthfeel is very thick and chewy.  The taste mirrors the nose with big malt complexity and bittersweet chocolate on the finish.  This was definitely the thickest tasting of all the brews in this round.  The malt sweetness layers nicely and is big and complex.  There were subtle caramel notes up front followed by darker malt sweetness.  This leads to the signature bittersweet chocolate and some bitterness in the finish to bring the brew into acceptable balance for the style.  This brew is a real treat and is one of my favorite imperial stouts out there.  A bonus is it is reasonably priced and widely available in our area.  I love the Czar!




Second Place:  The Zombie Apocalypse 
This is one of my first homebrew attempts at an imperial stout.  I threw the whole gauntlet of ingredients at this one including some molasses.  As with most of my stuff this brew came out under carbonated.  One day I’ll figure out my kegging system and adequately carb something.  This brew is black as night and thick.  The nose is anise and black licorice with some sweetness playing around.  The mouthfeel is nice and thick but not as thick as the Czar.  The taste is big with hints of molasses and black licorice.  There is some initial malt sweetness that dives into the black licorice/molasses finish.  There are not any chocolate notes, of which I would prefer, but there is adequate sweetness to  balance the molasses twang.  The molasses twang in the middle of the palate mellows as the brew warms.  The finish is nice and clean with a slight hint of molasses in the aftertaste.  Overall this is a nicely complex brew with a big body to boot.  I’m happy with the outcome of my brew and it faired well in this tasting.

Third Place:  Old Rasputin 
When you mention imperial stout this is one of the first brews that pops into my head.  It is the quintessential, widely available, cheap imperial stout.  This is the first imperial stout that I experienced which pushed me further into my craft brew addiction.  Old Rasputin was by far the most bitter of all the brews in the tournament.  This also had the thinnest body of all the others.  The brew starts with some malt sweetness and moves to a drying bitterness.  There was a bit of astringency from the roasted malts but this tended to balance the maltiness in the other parts of the brew.  It had an almost metallic quality on the front of the tongue.  Overall this was not a very sweet stout, it was dry in the middle of the palate and bitter on the finish.  Old Rapsutin had dryness/bitterness which gives it coffee-like qualities throughout the palate.  I think this brew is very good and is one of the most refreshing examples of the style.



Fourth Place:  Stone 2011 Imperial Stout
This brew had the least interesting nose of all of the brews.  There was some hop character poking through with a minimal malt aroma.  The Stone had a decent mouthfeel but was fairly thin overall.  There was a fair amount of bitterness and a slight hop character in the finish.  The taste was flat in character compared to the other brews in the tournament.  It had some malt character but couldn’t compare to the others in complexity of taste.  I was super excited to try this brew and was very disappointed it was not as good as I had hoped.  Sad thing is this limited release stout is less interesting than imperial stouts available to us on a daily basis.



Extra Brews with abbreviated notes: 

Expedition Stout
The overwhelming bitterness had weakened from just a few weeks ago.  Still the bitterness was over the top for an imperial stout in my opinion.  The bitterness did subside as the brew warmed.  Dave and Greg were very impressed with it.  The complexity is developing with age and I can’t wait to see what this will taste like in 6 months to a year. 

Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy
This one had a smoky character not present in any of the others.  Good complexity with good mouthfeel.  The smoky character was dominant but the malt seemed to stand up well to the smoke.  This brew is very interesting and I want to taste this brew when I have a clearer head.  Stay tuned!


Conclusion:
Why do I love imperial stouts?  Each of these stouts was completely different in flavor profile than the others.  The complexity of this style is amazing and it’s hard to find two imperial stouts the same.  Every bottle is a new delicious adventure and that’s what keeps me coming back to this style.  Imperial stouts I think I love you! 

Cheers!






Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sam Adams Griffin's Bow


11.5% ABV

The Sam Adams small batch series has been anticlimactic so far.  Although the Third Voyage “Double IPA” was fantastically crafted the other brews lacked excitement.  Up next is Griffin’s Bow Oaked Blonde Barleywine.  This was the brew I was most excited to try behind the chocolate chili bock.  Will it be  boom or a bust?

Griffin’s Bow poured with the familiar giant three fingered head.  The nose was reminiscent of some of the other single batch brews with the simcoe-like earthy aroma.  There was maybe a hint of oak aroma poking through but was not prominent.  The flavor starts out fairly unique but the flavors are hard to place.  The flavors do seem to be blended well and are presented nicely on a medium thick mouthfeel.  There is a little sweetness on the front of the palate diving into a grainy oak character in the middle.  The oak holds on and lasts well into the finish.  The oak is not really a prominent character as in some other oak aged beers, it is more of a blended trait.  An earth/mint hop character is paired with a dark grapefruit character in the finish.  The bitterness seemed subdued and is only really noticeable after you swallow the brew.  As the brew warms, the flavors meld and harmonize giving a toasted oat flavor in the middle of the palate.

All things considered this is a fairly unique brew with a well blended character.  It does exhibit some decent complexity.  With that being said I’m not blown away by this brew and was expecting more out of the Sam Adams small batch lineup.  This could be a case of unattainable expectation on my part but I really wanted these beers to be better than they were. 


Cheers!

FatCat's Imperial Stout Tournament of Death!

Tis the season to stuff your face with tons of food and how else better to wash it down than with an obscenily big beer.  Imperial Stout anyone?  I've been stock piling for this event all year and will now administer a Mortal Kombat style tournment to the death.  I've split up 12 Imperial stouts in three brackets.  The brew will be going head to head for a winner in each bracket.  I wanted to put all 12 beers in one big shootout, but team FatCat talked some sense into me.  I now understand it would be a suicide mission to taste all 12 beers in one day, so the brackets were created.  Stay posted for the the results and beware that the start of the Zombie Apocalypse could spawn from this event.  I may throw some other stouts in unofficially and let you know how they stack up as well.

The Combatants:

Round 1:
Old Rasputin
Stone Imperial Stout
FatCat's Zombie Apocalypse
The Czar 2009

Round 2:
Hoppin Frog BORIS Barrel Aged
The Dogfather Bourbon Barrel Aged
Big John
Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Round 3:
Firestone Parabola
Zombie Apocalypse Bourbon Barrel Aged
Founders CBS
Oak Aged Yeti

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sam Adams The Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock


This is probably the brew in the limited series I am the most excited to try. Sammy has gone 1 for 2 in their limited line up so far. Can The Vixen swing the tide of awesomeness back into Sam Adams’ favor? Let’s find out.

The Vixen poured with a big three fingered tan head. The high carbonation and three fingered heads has been common in all of the brews in this series. The nose has some bready malt aroma with a trace of chocolate aroma peaking through. In the beginning, the mouthfeel is big and chewy, as it warms the mouthfeel sensation seems to thin out considerably. The Vixen starts with some malt sweetness and then darkens into a slight caramel character. The chocolate character is not prominent while the brew is chilled. You only catch hints of the chocolate in the after taste. At this stage in the brew the chocolate seems well integrated and is not overwhelming to the palate. The heat from the chili is only detectable in the aftertaste and warms the throat. This is the first part of the taste test and I would give the brew a solid 3 drunken gnomes at this point. The Vixen is moderately complex and everything seems to blend well without anything really standing out. It did not meet my expectations of greatness, although my expectations were probably way too high.

Taste Test Part Duex:
I was alone in the consumption of this 22oz bomber and as the bottle progressed the balance took a turn for the worst. The brew warmed up and the chocolate became overwhelming. I’m pretty sure I was drinking an overly sweetened YooHoo. This very much reminds me of my exact reaction to the Boulevard Chocolate Ale. As I mentioned before the mouthfeel started to thin as the brew warmed and threw the beer-like-quality to chocolate ratio out of whack. With a thinner mouthfeel the brew could not stand up to the overly sweet/chocolate character. This begins the comparisons with chocolate milk made with skim milk and sugar dumped in for good measure. This furthers my argument that chocolate doesn’t belong in beers except for big thick stouts and/or some porters. Stouts and/or some porters have the thick chewy mouthfeel to stand up to chocolate and the roasted malts provide bitterness to balance the sweetness. Stop it with the non-stout/porter chocolate beers, I will make my own chocolate milk.

Conclusion:
Friends don’t let friends drink this brew alone. If you are drinking this brew alone, leave the bottle in the fridge after you open it. Don’t let the bottle warm up in between your glass fills. While cold this is a decent brew.

While Cold:






While Warm:






Cheers!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Beer in Space: The Conspiracy Theory

Is that what you think it is?  Nope it's an outer space fermentation chamber.
After the initial amusement of reading the article about dudes putting Natty Light into space, my cynical side started poking through. My first burning question would be the validity of the statement “First Beer in Space”. Surely there have been other beers in space. As mentioned in my initial post I did a quick search and found some interesting stuff. Here goes.

The Facts:

Q: Is Natty Light the first beer in space?
A: No. An experiment conducted aboard a space shuttle actually fermented a beer in space.

Q: How high does an object have to travel before it reaches space?
A: Although there is no set definition for where Earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins, the commonly excepted limit is an elevation of 327,920ft equal to 62 miles. This is referred to as the Kármán Line.

Q: How high is weather balloon capable of traveling into the atmosphere?
A: According to the National Weather Service, a six foot wide helium filled weather balloon can reach an altitude of about 115,000ft.

Q: Can a weather balloon care a Natty Light can or any other object into “space”?
A: No based on the maximum altitude of 115,000ft.

Q: Was this a corporate gimmick with a factually incorrect title?
A: The magic eight ball and Jim say all signs point to yes

The Details:

The Real First Beer in Space was Coors! (Kind of)

Kirsten Sterrett returned to Colorado University to complete her master’s degree. The topic for her thesis involved fermentation and carbonation behavior in weightlessness. Her experiment was sponsored by Coors and was conducted on a NASA space shuttle mission. In the mission, a beer was fermented in the weightlessness of space. There is no indication of what style of beer, or the recipe composition used to make the space beer. Hopefully it was not a light lager! The fermentation processed turned out to be more efficient in space than it is on Earth. With a more efficient fermentation, the space beer had more alcohol content (higher ABV woo hoo) than the same beer brewed on earth.

Resource:
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast21sep_1/

All About Weather Balloons!

According to data available July, 13, 2006 weather balloons are released twice a day from a network of nearly 900 stations worldwide. They can achieve altitudes of 115,000ft and travel more than 125 miles from their release points. After the balloons pop a parachute lowers the balloon and attached instrumentation back to Earth. If you find an instrument package, known as a radiosonde, mail it back to the National Weather Service. Estimates show about 20% of the 75,000 radiosondes released per year are returned.

Resource:
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/askjack/wameasur.htm

Space beer (Earth fermented) exists!

Two Australian companies, Saber Astronautics Australia and Four Pines Brewing Company, developed a beer designed specifically for consumption in space. Future space travelers have to worry about drinking carbonated drinks in fear of experiencing the dreaded wet burp. Liquid and CO2 do not separate in the stomach in a zero gravity environment. So when you burp, it’s not only CO2 coming out. Other than the dreaded wet burp, there are also taste problems associated with weightlessness. In the zero gravity the tongue swells and the senses dull over time. What style of beer could stand up to reduced sense of taste? A stout of course! The carbonation was reduced to aid the wet burp problem. The beer has been tested on a simulated zero gravity flight and got the thumbs up. The brew is called Vostok 4 Pines Stout and is available at $20.00 a sixer.

Resource:
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/special-features/vostok-beer-is-a-sturdy-stout-you-can-swig-in-space/story-e6frg1ac-1226013961545

Job Opening: Captain of the Enterprise

Do you want fly in space and drink beer? It will only cost you $95,000 for a ticket. You think a mortgage company will go for that?

http://www.beerinspace.com/

I promise never to discuss Natty Light again, sorry for the detour into big beer corporate asshatland.

The First Beer in Space: The Empire Strikes Back

I'm not trying to piggy back off of anyone elses blog but over at the Beer and Whiskey Bros there has been some funny crap involving the Natty in Space event.  Apparently (as most probably figured) the Natty in Space thing was a corporate gimmick.  One of the dingles in charge of the marketing project attempted to infilitrate the comments section of the Beer and Whiskey Bros under a false identity.  He was defending the authenticity of the "fans" that completed the beer in space bit and that Jim was out of line by assuming the stunt as being a corporate hoax.  Well they sparred for 5 rounds in the comments section and Jim unmasked the dingles' real identity as being part of a marketing team associated with AB.  I got a chuckle out of it and it confirms my feelings regarding how AB (and the other beer behemoths for that matter) conduct their business.  Jim summed up the comments between him and dingle in a new post.  Check it out, it's pretty funny.

Beer and Whiskey Bros:  Comment Fight (How not to defend your beer PR stunt)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sam Adams Tasman Red IPA

6.75% ABV

The first Sam Adams small batch was a homerun.  Can Sammy keep up the momentum and beat the phenomenal brew inappropriately named “Double IPA”?  Next up is the Tasman Red.  According to the label it features Topaz and Galaxy hops from Tasmania.  If that doesn’t peak your curiosity I don’t know what will.

The Tasman Red pours with a huge fluffy head and lives up to it’s namesake with a nice dark red complexion.  The nose is spicy earth with some citrus notes.  The brew starts with decent hop bitterness and then…and then…and then.  That’s about it with this one.  The malt is a side note and doesn’t stand out at all.  The bitterness is mellow but does have some interesting earthy cinnamon character.  Normally I praise balance in beer but this one is almost balanced to the point of non-existence.  The hop character is notable but overall this brew is rather uneventful, especially for a limited release. 





Cheers!

First Beer in Space!

Beam me up Natty! 


That's right Natty Light is the first beer in space.  A father and son team built a space ship out of a styrofoam cooler and attached it to a weather balloon.  Included in the package was a GPS tracking device, an HD video camera, an empty can on the outside, and full can of Natty Light on the inside.  There are videos on YouTube of the adventure.  Who says drunks aren't an industrious people?

This was adapted from a post on The Daily Meal.

Wait a second.  Could this be true?  Has there been no other beers in space?  With a quick web search I came up with some interesting info regarding beer in space.  Stay tuned we'll get to the bottom of this mystery and further our beer Yoda geekdom!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sam Adams Hangin' With the Kids

Sam Adams Third Voyage Double IPA (kind of)


8.0% ABV

Sam Adams is making their way into limited release bombers.  Should I be disappointed or rejoice in the potentially wonderful nectar of the beer gods?  One of the best parts of Sam Adams brew is the wide availability.  No harassing the local beer store months in advance and no pepper spraying people to get your hands on it.  Old Sam Adams is jumping in with the young kids and limiting some of their line-up.  With that being said I did manage to land all of the single batch brews without special reservations.  Will the brew live up to the “hype”?  Lets find out.

First in line is the Third Voyage Double IPA.  The brew pours with a huge fluffy three fingered head.  The nose displays delicate hop aroma with some earth, spice, and dull fruit being the main characters.  Exact tasting note, “WOW different”.  I don’t’ know if I am so surprised because this is supposed to be a Double IPA but this beer is wonderfully unique.  The malt complexity is surprising and phenomenal.  Wait…Double IPA right?  The malt starts with light brown sugar and blends into traces of honey.  From there the brew dives into deep caramel notes finishing with delicate hop character.  The bitterness is very subtle, coating the mouth evenly and lingering after the finish.  The hop character is a very smooth earth character with mint character developing after the brew is swallowed.  The funny thing with the bitterness is that it doesn’t really register until after you swallow.  Good malt, swallow, wait is that bitterness?  Awesome!

Lets visit the initial assumption that this is supposed to be a Double IPA because this is not what I think is representative of this style.  I think it could almost be classified as a barley wine but thinner.  Thinner than barley wine and not as hoppy as a double ipa, where does that leave us?  Overall the balance of this brew is phenomenal but in my opinion the real star of this brew is the initial malt complexity.  The subtle hop character and delicate bitterness is a bonus.  I think a lot of people will be disappointed with this because this brew doesn’t have the huge hop presence typical in most commercial double IPAs.  However if you approach this brew with an open mind and without any expectations of the double IPA style, this brew is a work of beer brewing art!    

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

6.8% ABV

In my undying internet “research” the name Celebration Ale has came up a lot recently.  I even saw on one forum that posed the question “What is your favorite Sam Adams beer?” where someone answered Celebration Ale.  When someone called them out that this was clearly not a Sam Adams brew they admitted their mistake and claimed they were so excited it was a Freudian slip so to speak.  With that sort of excitement I’m sold on trying this one.  This offering should be easy to find and it’s even available at Tipsy’s build your own six pack.

What is Celebration Ale?  I envision an almost barley wine-esque brew with some holiday spice mixed in.  The package tells me differently describing the brew as being a fresh hop ale with the label mentioning this being an IPA.  This is not what I think of as being a Christmas/Winter seasonal but the hop harvest season dictates when the freshest hops are available.  Hops are generally harvested in the Fall, so now is the time to get the freshest hops available.  Unless of course you grow them at home and are a better gardener than the FatCat.

The Celebration Ale pours with a big fluffy pillow of off-white head.  The nose has lots of fruit, citrus, and sweet grapefruit.  The brew begins with some very brief malt sweetness.  There is not much in the way of malt complexity, just some brief sweetness at the beginning.  Scratch the barley wine idea.  What comes next?  Big astringent hop character punches you in the mouth and seems to last forever.  The hop character is dominated mostly by grapefruit and finishes with hints of grass.  This brew has a very drying character which makes it seem much bigger than a regular IPA.  Celebration Ale is definitely not a barleywine and seems more bitter than a regular IPA.  The astringency of the bitterness is very prominent and overwhelms the palate. 

This brew was clearly not what I expected and I can’t say that I share other people’s enthusiasm for it.  On the other hand if you like hop bombs this may be your cup of tea.





Cheers!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Update!

There's has been some new additions to the area lately so keep your eyes peeled.

Sam Adams Single Batch Bombers - Coming in Chocolate Chili Bock, Oaked Blonde Barleywine, Red IPA, and a Double IPA.  These are very affordable for a "limited" release at $5.00 to $6.00 per bottle.

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA - The Reserve Series has been the only offerings available to us until now!  Now there are $10.00 six packs of Union Jack!  This is highly touted on the internet so expectations are high.  Hopefully we will be getting Velvet Merlin as well.  Fingers crossed.

Odell Mountain Standard Reserve Double Black IPA - This was involved in our Black IPA throwdown but stood alone due to it's "Double" quality.  It was more like a hoppy imperial stout than a black IPA.  I was intrigued by it but at that time was only available in 750ml bottles.  Now it has been released in 12oz 4-packs. 

Nebraska Brewing Co. - I've seen Black Betty and Hop God around town but at $20.00 a 750ml.  I'm a little wallet shy.  These brews are highly touted and have won awards but $20.00?  Ouch.

Bells Expedition Stout - One of America's first versions of a Russian Imperial Stout.  I tried one the other day and it was very bitter.  They seem a little young and will most likely improve with age.  If you've scored some of these stow them away for a while and they should improve.

Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FatCat's Turkey Day Rundown!

The dinner plans are set and the family is prepped for culinary battle.  Now for the drink plans!  Thanksgiving makes for a perfect time to share some malty goodness with your friends and family.  Whether your intended drinking buddies are seasoned craft brew pros or rookies, there is something out there for everyone.

Estrella Damm Inedit - For beginners and fancy pants


This will make a great brew to introduce to craft brew rookies or for those families who may not view craft brew as "classy".  The elegance of the bottle design should get you past the initial "not classy" stigma and get some beer in peoples glasses.  The Estrella Damm Inedit is not only a pretty package, it is a stellar tasting craft brew.  It is light enough for the palates of the non-initiated but complex enough to be intriguing for anyone.  This will make a great accompaniment to your holiday dinner. 





Bell's Third Coast Old Ale - Big Sweet and Complex

This brew would be great as a either a pre-dinner appetizer or post dinner dessert.  The complexity of the malt character is phenomenal and is practically a dish on its own.  Awesome!



Firestone Walker Double Jack - If hops are more your speed

This Imperial IPA is not just bitterness it is wonderful hop character.  The deep grapefruit notes are complemented beautifully by the malt character.  This brew would make a great pre-dinner treat or as a sidekick to the turkey.



Avery The Czar - Wrap Up the Festivities With This Beauty

The Czar is a big bad imperial stout ready to be your grand finale of Thanksgiving.  The big roast and complex maltiness is an absolute treat. 

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 FatCat Oktoberfest Shootout Results!



October has come and gone but FatCat is hanging on to it with an Oktoberfest Shootout!  I gathered up as many Oktoberfests as my pocket book could handle.  Several of my choices were dictated by whether or not they were available in a build your own six pack.  We ended up with 10 brews.   I did manage to forget the Sam Adams and Ayinger in my fridge so we should have had 12.  OOOPS.  Going into this shootout my personal favorite was Paulaner followed very closely by the semi-local Free State.  Can America’s craft brewers keep pace with the age old brewing prowess of the Germans?  I gathered 4 familiar faces as well as a craft brew rookie to sort it out.  As with all other shootouts this is a blind tasting meaning we had no idea what beer we were tasting.  We ranked them with a score of 1-5 (5 being the best) based on whether we liked one beers taste better than the others.  None of us are, or claim to be beer judges of any kind but we do drink a lot of different beers.  With that being said this was a ton of fun and if you don’t agree with us you should have your own shootout.  It’s awesome!


The winners are:

1t.  Summit                                  24.0pts
1t.  Free State                               24.0pts
2t.  Paulaner                                 21.0pts
2t.  Magic Hat Ourtoberfest         21.0pts
5.  Schlafly                                   19.5pts 
6.  Leinenkugel                            19.0pts
7.  Bobs 47                                   18.0pts
8.  Spaten                                     17.5pts
9.  Weihenstephaner                    15.5pts
10.  FatCat                                    14.0pts

FatCat's Favorites:
Free State    5.0pts
Summit       4.5pts
Magic Hat   4.0pts

Super Spiker Andrew's Favorites:
Spaten         5.0pts
Paulaner      5.0pts
Freestate     4.0pts

Greg's Favorites:
Freestate       5.0pts
Summit         4.5pts
Leinenkugel  4.0 pts

Big Ed's Favorites:
Summit       4.5pts
Schlafly      3.5pts

Super Dave's Favorites:
Freestate     5.0pts
Bobs 47      4.5pts
Summit      4.0pts

Honey Lager Jimmy's Favorites: 
Magic Hat  5.0pts
Paulaner     4.0pts
Summit      4.0pts

Conclusion:

The Aftermath!
Well we were all over the board on this one.  The German varieties seemed to be much lighter in color with slightly more bitterness than the American versions.  The American versions tended to be sweeter with more hop character.  The Summit Oktoberfest proved to be exceptional as is the case with most of their offerings.  This was the 10th beer we tasted and it was getting dark.  What does that mean?  We were outdoors and I had to forgo detailed notes in the name of ranking beers in a timely fashion.  Unfortunately, the only notes I took were “good malt”.  Sorry guys.  Summit has been a solid addition to our local beer market so embrace our blessing and grab a Summit next time your at the store. 

One of my favorites held up for me and that is the Free State Octoberfest.  The Free State is a superb brew that puts a slight variation in the typical Oktoberfest style with some grainy chewiness in the middle of the palate.  It makes most other Oktoberfests seem thin and watery by comparison.  It also has some hop character at the finish to help even it out. 

The Paulaner was my #1 pick coming into this shootout.  It actually didn’t make it in my top 3 which surprised me.  Of course that’s the magic of a blind tasting, all preferences are left at the door.  The Paulaner sports an absolute silky mouthfeel followed by a stellar malt profile.  It is not near as grainy as the Free State but has solid munich character with plenty of residual sweetness.  The Paulaner finishes with some muted bitterness but was not “skunky” like some of the other German versions.  Tied with the Paulaner was the Magic Hat Ourtoberfest. 

The Ourtoberfest was by far the sweetest brew in this group which made it delicious but also made it seem out of place.  It had a good caramel maltiness followed by what I thought was a hint of cinnamon.  Even though it was sweeter than the others, it did have very good complexity with different levels of sweetness throughout the palate.


Afterthoughts:

What happened to FatCat’s Oktoberfest?  Carbonation, or lack there of is what happened.  My Oktoberfest was not carbonated very well = FatCat fail.  I was very disappointed because I thought my Oktoberfest had a solid malt character that could stand up to the commercial brews.  However, my brew could not get past the initial flat character to get to the malt profile.  FAIL!  Oh well I’ll kick up the carbonation and knock out my Oktoberfest 1 liter mugfulls at a time. 

I drank the Ayinger after the shootout and I think it would have faired very well.  I would put it in my top 3 Oktoberfests easy.

Hope everyone enjoyed the shootout results.


Cheers!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weston's Festival Ale

Weston is one brewery I really really want to love.  It’s a cool local brewer with an even cooler dungeon bar.  Unfortunately, most of my experience with Weston brews is so-so at best.  With my recent discovery of Little Lucy, I have some renewed faith in Weston Brewing Co. so I decided to pick up a sixer of the Festival Ale.  One positive for Weston is the affordability of its offerings.  Festival Ale at $7.00 a six-pack is definitely easy on the wallet, not to mention Brown Ales are quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles.  Seems like a no brainer. 

Festival Ale pours with a nice creamy one finger head.  The nose is typical brown ale with good malt aroma and slight hints of dull molasses.  The mouthfeel is medium thick bordering on being creamy but not quite.  The taste matches the nose verbatim with good malt character.  The Festival sports the typical brown ale flavor with a fair amount of sweetness and a somewhat acidic finish.  It has notes of light brown sugar with some graininess in the middle.  This is a solid brew but is rather lack luster.  I think this brew would benefit from either increased hop character or increased malt complexity.  It just seems rather one dimensional for me.  The Festival Ale is a good “filler” beer.  A “filler” beer is the less interesting beers I drink in between my bigger more complex beers.  With that being said, this is one of my favorites on the filler list.  If you need something to drink in between your Expedition Stout or Breakfast Stout grab a six of Festival Ale.





Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FatCat's 2011 Oktoberfest Shootout!

Better late than never right?  October is long gone but I have a stockpile of Oktoberfests ready for action.  Who will rein supreme?  Stay posted to find out.

The combatants:

Magic Hat Ourtoberfest
Spaten
Schlafly
Freestate
Paulaner
Boulevard Bob's 47
Weihenstephaner
Leinenkugel
FatCat Oktoberfest
Summit

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Southern Tier Krampus

I’ve been setting on this review for quite a while.  Here lately I’ve been accomplishing a lot more beer drinking than beer reviewing.  This brew is one that I really liked so I wanted to post it for you guys.

I found this brew a while back and it seemed a little out of place.  It appeared to be a Christmas/winter beer by the looks of the graphics but it was September at the time.  It's hard to see in the picture but the demon looking thing is holding a club with some Christmas holly on it.  That's Christmasy isn't it?  I thought to myself maybe the breweries graphic artist were a little off kilter and were celebrating Christmas a little early.  The other thing that struck me as odd was the style displayed on the label was Imperial Helles Lager.  This is not really a style that would jump to mind when you think of a Christmas/winter brew.  Undeterred I followed through with the purchase and was rewarded handsomely for my gamble.

The Krampus poured a golden yellow with a substantial head.  The nose is a very inviting aroma of somewhat a somewhat spicy floral character.  The mouthfeel was creamy with lots of carbonation.  The head starts strong and lasts almost indefinitely.  The creamy mouthfeel is a hint to the very smooth munich malt character hiding in this brew.  Complimenting the malt is a nice bitterness that is very even.  By even I mean it coats the palate evenly through the start and into the finish.  The bitterness is very smooth without any notable astringency.  The finish gives way to some floral hop notes and a hint of sour fruit.  I really liked this brew.  It is a well made product and everything is in perfect harmony.  Nothing is overwhelming and all the ingredients play nicely together. 


Now that I’ve confirmed this is an exceptional brew, what’s the deal with the bottle?  Is this a Christmas/winter brew?  Researching their website this is considered their Christmas Seasonal with a November release.  This means I was enjoying a brew from last years holiday season.  An Imperial Helles Lager is not what most people would expect for a Christmas beer.  I personally envision dark beers with chocolate and/or cinnamon added to them for Christmas type beers.  Although this is clearly not a dark spiced brew this is a winner in my book.  This years batch should be hitting the shelves soon, if not already there.  Check it out.





Cheers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Attention All CEO’s, Directors, and Managers

Do you want optimum performance from your employees? Do you want undying loyalty to the cause? Well look no further; we have uncovered a revolutionary new way to keep your employees at the top of their games. For 132 installment payments of $300.00 we can whip your employees into shape and make them happy at the same time. Is this a secret psychological tactic only known by Shao Lin Monks? No it’s simple, it’s quick, it’s painless (usually),it’s free beer at work! Oh yes my friend we have reached the top of the management mountain and now you can too!


The Plan
This foolproof plan was engineered over at the ad agency Arnold Worlwide. There, a traditional vending machine has been transformed into a beer dispensing at work robot super power, which is referred to affectionately as “Arnie”. The traditional bill and coin receivers have been removed in favor of a touchscreen and radio-frequency reader. This allows fob-carrying employees to be greeted by name.

There is a catch
You can’t feed your employees just any beer, you have to feed them the best. Arnie is stocked up with bottles of beer brewed by the employees. That’s right my friends homebrew (kind of). Inside there are six styles of brew which were brewed by Arnold Worldwide employees at the do-it-yourself microbrewery named Barleycorn’s.

How much should you charge your employees?
Nothing! It’s free! (Although it’s not entirely clear if Arnold Worldwide picks up the tab at the microbrewery to actually make the brew). Each employee is allowed 3 beers a month from Arnie. The beer is theoretically available 24hrs to the employees, but it is not to be consumed until after the work day. Everything is tracked by a Mac minicomputer and amazingly no one has “slipped up” and consumed any of the brews during the work day.

If you would like to be a part of this revolutionary revolution in management call now!

(This is in no way a real advertisement and if you think it is you are a chicken genius)

P.S. if my manager is reading this I’m definitely on lunch break.


Adapted from article at BostonHerald.com to read entire article click here.

Cheers!