Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Best Bourbon Glass?

It all started with Thanksgiving.  What Thanksgiving is complete without a perfectly brined and smoked turkey?  Not ours.  So when you are awake at 5am, in the 15 degree weather, smoking a turkey, what sort of libations are adequate for the occasion?  In my book the 142 proof bourbon variety will suffice.  I had saved some of my George T Stagg from last year and had also acquired a bottle from this year’s batch.  A vertical George T Stagg tasting?  Happy freakin’ Thanksgiving!

I take out my trusty Glencarin glasses and jump into deep end of the alcoholic pool.  The first thing that struck me was the how hot the nose was.  The way the glass was shaped concentrated every bit of the hot alcohols and directed them straight into your nose holes.  The taste followed suit with plenty of heat and some oak and vanilla in the background.  Ever since I acquired my Glencarin glass I figured this was the best vessel available to enjoy my whiskey.  I was well aware that I was ingesting 142 proof alcohol but it seemed that there was too much heat muddying the nose and taste for no reason other than the shape of the glass.  Since I’ve completed my head to head comparison of the new fangled beer glasses, I have a new appreciation for how the shape of a vessel can accentuate your drinking experience.  Couple this with the incessant advertising for Christmas sales around Thanksgiving which I saw a new Glencarin Wide-Bowl whiskey glass being advertised.  This got my wallet busting curiosity in full blown overdrive. 

The research begins and I find several different whiskey glass designs ranging in price from reasonable to the pinnacle of ridiculousness, Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass weighing in at $68.00 per glass.  I based my selection on some general principles I learned from my beer glass experiment.  A flared bowl should accentuate sweetness and malt, a narrower mouth will concentrate aromas and flavors.  Based on this I narrowed my selection down to two glasses.  The flared rim Glencarin Wide-Bowl and a well reviewed Glencarin Copita Nosing glass.  This should be the best of both worlds, but the question is do these principles hold true for whiskey as well as beer?  I ended up at a website because it was one of the only websites that didn’t require you to order them in sets.  You can buy from them on but I went straight to the website for fear that Amazon would be in charge of shipping them.  The website looked rather pedestrian but the service/shipping was amazing.  I had my glasses at my door in two days. 

With glasses in hand, I set out to put whiskey glass design to the ultimate test.  I chose a bottle of my W.L. Weller 12 year to test the glasses.  This is a “wheated” bourbon which has a nice complexity and a wonderful smooth drinkability.  Would I be able to pick out the nuance of the bourbon in each of these glasses?  I wasn’t sure either but I was excited to find out. 

Original Glencarin:
I tried my original Glencarin glass with the narrow opening first.  Everything about it was hot as it was with the George T Stagg.  There was some decent sweetness up front and then some spicy oak comes in briefly.  Finally the burn would come out center stage and then hit the back of your throat.

Glencarin Wide-Bowl:
I then moved to the Wide-Bowl glass expecting much better malt and sweetness based on the flared rim.  With the wider bowl the nose seems lost compared to the other two glasses.  There was much less heat with this glass.  There was more intense sweetness up front with smooth brown sugar coming through.  This leads into a more complex mid palate with distinct wood and straw character. 

Glencarin Copita Nosing Glass:
If this were the Goldilocks fable this would be the “just right” bed.  The same complexity is present from the Wide-Bowl with more of a blended quality.  The nose is concentrated better but is without the majority of the burn present in the Original Glencarin.  This glass marries the sweetness, complexity, and burn into perfect harmony.    

The Glencarin Copita Nosing Glass edges out the Glencarin Wide-Bowl whiskey glass for the win.  One thing is for sure is that they are both much better at smoothing out bourbon than the Original designed Glencarin glass.  Now when I enjoy whiskey I do it with the Copita Nosing Glass and a little splash of water to open it up.  I guess the only thing left to do is to get the $68.00 Riedel glass to determine the ultimate winner.  On second thought I think I’ll save my money for another bottle of bourbon.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

DUI While Riding a Snake?

I recently uncovered top secret information regarding some new technological advances coming out in the not so distant future.  It all started when I came across a top secret article which unleashes information about a toilet training Ipad “accessory”, Motorhead headphones, Hapifork, and rideable robotic spiders.  What about new top secret break through in beer drinking technology?  Yep it’s here too!  I know what you’re thinking, “FatCat, if you break news of this top secret info won’t the MIBs come and banish you to a dark hole?”  I’m willing to take the risk to inform my friends here on the site.

The iPotty is a perfect accessory to any man cave.  Have to put your beer down to run to the can?  Heck no.  Put this in the corner and you and your buddies can take a leak while enjoying content on your iPad or equivalent less expensive Android device.  What do you mean it’s for potty training?  I think the company is completely missing the mark in their marketing department.

Dr. Dre slapped his name on the Beats Audio brand and whammo $400.00 headphones.  Now step in Lemmy Kilmister and Motorhead headphones are born.  What was the criteria for these headphones?  According to Kilmister “I just said make them louder than everybody else’s” and “Their (Motorhead fans) hearing is already damaged, they better buy these.”  How can you deny this ingeniously brutal truth in advertising?

HAPIfork is a fork programmed to keep you from shoving food in your pie whole too quickly.  If you eat to fast, this fork will manifest a 3d likeness of Richard Simmons doing jumping jacks in the nude.  Ok I made the Richard Simmons thing up but the fork will vibrate to warn you that you are eating too fast.  This way you can shove calorie laden food into your pie whole at a moderate pace.

The next technological announcement makes me want to sell my vehicle and my house so that I can live out a childhood dream of being in a real life Mad Max.  Here it is a giant, rideable, 5mph, $26,000.00, robotic spider.  Yes I could walk to work faster than this but holy crap would you look awesome.  If spiders aren’t your thing how about a giant, rideable, probably slower than 5mph because they didn’t list the speed, $70,000.00, robotic snake.  My house is officially for sale!  Imagine the dash cam video of your DUI riding one of these bad boys, priceless.

Here it is, the biggest advancement in bigger drinking technology in recent memory, a smart phone based breathalyzer.  The Breathometer is either a gift from the beer drinking gods or the devil in disguise.  At an estimated $19.99 I’m sure a lot of people are going to figure out which one, me included.  On the positive side, the Breathometer can be used to help you gauge your intoxication level.  Have trouble with blacking out?  Fear not, this could be the solution to your temporary amnesia.  Do you wonder if the couple of beers you just drank will be your exclusive invitation to a one night stay at your local police department?  This could help to a certain extent.  While the above mentioned reasons could be a godsend, this technology also has the potential to be used for evil.  It does mention that there is no “sharing” ability built into the app which is probably a smart choice.  However, when you are drinking with a group of friends sans facebook this could become a dangerous game of one-up-manship.  The other potential problem I see with this technology is the fact that the police officer pulling you over for DUI will not care how drunk your cell phone says you’re not.  Here is how I imagine it would go:

Me: “Mr. Ossifer my cell phone says I should be able to walk that straight line I stumbled off of so I think you should let me go. 

Mr Ossifer: “Oh that’s interesting.  Try to get your hands up around your head so when I taser you you will not hit your head on the asphalt.” 

Me: “That doesn’t sound like a fair sobriety test…” 

Mr Ossifer: “Come on why did you piss yourself?  It was only 50,000 volts, now I’m going to have to hose out my patrol car.


Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 in the Rearview

I hope everyone made it through the New Year with minimal damage.  I want to take some time to thank everyone for following me this year.  My posts were pretty sparse but I’m looking forward to picking it up in 2013.  Go big or go home, right?  I was perusing my tasting notebook and there are several brews that I failed to post about in 2012.  There were a few good ones so I wanted to take the time to give props to those that stood out.  Here we go, all the missed opportunities in 2012 in one epic blog post.  Fasten up.
Sam Adams Grumpy Monk:
Poured with a decent rocky head.  The nose is dominated by musty Belgian yeast character.  Mouthfeel is fairly thin.  Your palate is immediately hit with yeast character of the sulphury mediciney variety.  It’s hard to tell what sort of finish there is and whether there is any hop character because the yeast character is so overwhelming.  Overall I didn’t really care for this brew due to the overpowering yeast character.

Sam Adams Verloren:
This brew interested me from the get go.  It was being advertised as a Gose being brewed with coriander and salt which sounded really “unique”.  At first glance, this brew garnered visions of  vile witches brew.  My curiosity got the best of me and I had to try it.  There were strong aromas of wheat spice dancing around with a bit of coriander in the background.  My initial impression was that it was strange but nice and very refreshing.  The main player is a spice character that is delicate but makes the entire brew what it is.  There was a very slight tart fruit that hides behind the spice.  There is a very nice robust “soft” wheat character that is well rounded and fills your mouth.  The spice, wheat, and fruity tart character make this brew exceptional.  At the point I tried this brew I was still experimenting between using my beloved Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass and my new fangled Spiegelau Stemmed Pilsner glass.  The Verloren turns out to be the perfect brew to showcase the virtues of the Spiegelau glass.  It was amazing the difference of the taste of this brew in the two different vessels.  The Verloren is one of the brews that stands out in my mind even months later.

Sam Adams Cinder Bock:
This brew is a Rauch Bock (smoked beer) weighing in at 9.4% ABV.  The nose is subtle smokiness with a hint of bacon.  There is immediate smoke character when you take a drink but surprisingly it’s not overpowering.  The character is smooth overall with good malt sweetness to support smoke.  A hint of caramel on the finish but the smoke persists throughout the entire palate.  Not a bad brew at all.

Sam Adams Norse Legend:
The Norse Legend is a Sahti brewed with Juniper clocking in 7% ABV.  The nose is unique with very dull spice character much like anise and touches of pepper.  The taste is kind of peppery with an almost coriander quality.  There is a slight tart character on the finish.  Some juniper/fruitiness comes through but it’s more in the background.

Stiegl Radler:
I first became interested in lemonade infused brew with Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.  There is another more traditional radler on the market and that is Stiegl.  It is a 50/50 blend of beer and lemon soda.  The nose is an almost acidic lemony character.  Mouthfeel is thin for the most part.  The radler is pretty sweet through the entire palate but it is balanced by a seltzer water crispness.  It is very soda-poppy but does hit the spot on a hot summer day.

Sam Adams Porch Rocker:
I compared this head to head with the Stiegl.  The Porch Rocker had much less lemon in the nose and had some grainy malt aromas.  This brew was much drier than the Stiegel and had a more beer quality to it.  Both were refreshing.

Weston 1842 Porter:
This is yet another different brew coming out of Weston Brewing Company.  They continue to try different stuff and I applaud them.  Keep up the good work.  The nose is beautiful roasted malt aromas with chocolate and hints of vanilla.  Very inviting.  The flavor starts with a dull malt character that transitions into a very coffee-like roastiness.  To further the coffee-like quality a faint roasted malt bitterness peaks through before a fairly dry finish.  This brew was really good and I was quite impressed.  This is like a diet version of some of the bigger coffee stouts that are out now.  Good job Weston!

Weston Rip Van Winkle:
This is another one of the brews that came to my mind when I think about the past year.  I really liked this brew.  The Rip Van Winkle poured with a huge fluffy head.  The nose was predominately musty German yeast aroma.  There was good malt character that was well rounded.  A bit of caramel peaked through but overall the character of the brew was not too sweet.  The yeast spiciness is the main player in the finish but was subtle.  Hints of cinnamon began showing up on the finish as the brew warmed.    

Boulevard Stingo:
I was excited to try this one from the time it was announced.  I love trying beer styles that I’ve never even heard of before and this was definitely one of them.  A stingo?  It didn’t sound the most appetizing but again my curiosity got the best of me.  I noticed that people didn’t really have the same curiosity as I did because I noticed the Stingo on the liquor store shelves for some time.  Initially I was impressed by the beautiful red complexion.  The nose was a dull sweet malt character with hints of straw/grass.  The mouthfeel was on the thin side.  The first observation was that this brew was very sharp on the palate.  There was a very brief malt sweetness up front with characteristics of molasses.  It reminded me of a brown ale for a fraction of a second and then I was confronted with the sourness.  The sourness is well done and is not overdone.  The drying “stinging” character follows and lasts into the finish.  The malt character is subtle but present throughout.  If you let your palate rest for a few minutes before taking another drink, you get an almost smoky character.

Boulevard Reverb Imperial Pilsner:
I am generally not a fan of the imperial pilsner or double pale ale styles.  For whatever reason these styles always seem WAY too dry for my taste.  I was anxious to try the new Boulevard offering nonetheless.  The nose on the Reverb had a dry grain quality similar to bread but drier.  There was no sweetness to speak of in this brew and it had a sharpness on the palate.  There was some dry grain character, almost a straw character, that makes up the body of this brew.  The “dry” character that I’m normally not a fan of was nicely done in the Reverb.  It was there but it was not overwhelming.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bigfoot vs Your Mother New Years Style

What better way to ring in the New Year than a good old fashion throwdown?  Two beers, New Years Eve, a fight for taste bud supremacy, sign me up!  What two beers have enough gumption for this mission?  I searched high and low for two worthy adversaries and only two options stood out in the crowded beer aisles.  The contestants are the legendary Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and the new kid on the block Mothers Foggy Notion.  Barleywine for New Years Eve, oh hell yes!
The stage was set and it was time for the battle.  Both brews poured a seductive reddish brown with the Bigfoot being the slightly darker of the two.  For whatever reason when I put my nose to the glass of Bigfoot my brain envisioned an Olympic sized swimming pool filled with delightfully aromatic hop cones.  Then when I realized how epic my vision was, I took it a step further and envisioned the Olympic swimming competitions being held in this same pool of hops.  This made me chuckle but this is no laughing matter, back to the throwdown.  If Bigfoot is a pool of hops, then the Foggy Notion was a boxing ring of muscled up malt and booze waiting to uppercut you into next week.  I have to admit the nose on the Foggy Notion was almost intimidating.

First tasting note: “Bigfoot is f’n awesome!”.  There is a bit of sweetness initially and then BAM,  big beautiful hop character washes over your senses.  There is big big bitterness in this brew but it is so well done.  The bitterness sets right on the fence between super overly brutal bitterness and perfectly delightful full mouthed bitterness.  As this brew warms the malt character comes out of hiding with notes of brown sugar blending in with all that wonderful bitterness.  The interesting part is there is a slight fruitiness married to the malt character up front giving this brew complexity.  The finish lasts for ages but is not unpleasant at all.  I know I loved drinking this brew but I had a hard time pinning down the exact qualities of the hop character.  The bitterness is there for sure but there is something more.  As mentioned earlier there is a bit of fruitiness laced all the way through this brew but it is not an over the top tropical kind like in a lot of IPAs.  This fruitiness is more restrained.  There is definitely a resinous character to the bitterness and some earth tones as the bitterness travels further into the palate.  All I can say is WOW, Sierra Nevada pulls this off year after year.  I thought to myself at this point, “How in the world is the Foggy Notion going to compete with this work of brewing art?”

Foggy Notion:
I felt a little bad at this point because I thought my mind was made up on the winner before even trying Foggy Notion.  Could I be unbiased enough at this point to forget the fact I was swimming in a pool of hops?  I did my best to clean the hoppy deliciousness off of my palate and jumped into the Foggy Notion.  It was pretty evident from the nose that the Foggy Notion was going to be a different animal altogether.  Bigfoot was a hop monster and the Foggy Notion was going to plead its case with malty complexity.  Onward! 

First tasting note: “Different”.  This was a very unique brew to say the least.  There was good malt character throughout but there was a distinct drying quality as the brew progressed on the palate.  What was that?  To me this brew had a “barrel-aged” character to it.  The drying quality reminds me of something aged in oak barrels.  There is even some vanilla that pops up towards the end of this brew.  The Foggy Notion is similar to the Bigfoot in that it’s initial maltiness is married to a very pleasant fruity character.  The fruit character in the Foggy Notion is much less distinct than in the Bigfoot but does add some welcome complexity.  More pronounced brown sugar plays around in the Foggy Notion and it is accompanied by some light molasses notes.  There is enough bitterness in the brew to provide the necessary balance to the malt character.  The bitterness is not a main player in the Foggy Notion but it is detectable and adds nicely to the overall experience.  I checked the label to see if there was any mention of barrel aging.  It did mention it was aged for 6 months which nurtures notes of oak and stone fruit.  Hmmm?  I will definitely say the flavor leads you to believe it may have been on some wood at some point but it’s not an over the top thing were you would swear it had been on wood.  Very interesting.  This is one of the more unique brews I’ve tried in recent memory and definitely holds it’s own against the Bigfoot.

I really really want to call this one a draw.  I thought the Bigfoot had a lock on this throwdown with no questions asked.  It is true that while both of these are barleywines, they are playing from two different sides of the field.  Hop vs malt.  How do I judge these two vastly different brews?  I want to call this a draw but that is not what a throwdown is about.  Based on the fact that Foggy Notion was the serious underdog and held its own to the point of making me want to call this a draw, I will call it the winner.  Foggy Notion reins supreme and wins by the narrowest of margins in the FatCat New Years Eve Throwdown.

I wish you a very happy New Year.  May your New Year be filled with mountains of craft brew and for those more adventurous, homebrew.  Cheers!