Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beer Tasting with Friends: Picks and Pans

This weekend, a few of us were staying at a friend's cabin near Bear Valley, and we all brought some unusual beers around for a tasting.  The scores were interesting - see what you think.  The beers were scored from 1 (Yuck) to 5 (Superb), with some things pulling voters in opposite directions.

We whet our whistles with local Snowshoe Brewing Co.'s Lodgepole IPA from a growler  - too hop forward for me, but still a very drinkable beer.  Mark, an admitted IPA nut, loved it.

The first beer in our tasting line up was the collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing and the monks at Abbey of New Clairvaux, Ovila.  This was a delightful saison (one of my favorite types of beer), with hints of cardamom and other spices. A bit too strong and the cloudiness threatens a nasty hangover if you drink too much, but I was a huge fan all the same. Others really liked it, or just felt it was average.

Next we went to La Chouffe's Golden Ale. Coming in at 8%, it was not going to be our strongest beer of the evening.  It had a bit of a tinny, lager taste to me and CB, though everyone else found it nice and refreshing.  This round introduced our first, but not last, decimal vote, with G giving it a 3.9.

The Double Barrel Aged IPA from Firestone Walker was just too strong (9.5% ABV) and too hoppy. I don't like my beers to bite me, and this one did.  Only Mark rated this one highly, but he cannot get enough hops in his brews.  I love their Double Barrel Ale (DBA), so was disappointed that I just didn't like this beer.

I was excited to try AleSmith Brewing Company's Nut Brown Ale, as I love brown beers. Alas, it had the malt that I love, but was much too tangy for me. I've never encountered such tang in a non-fruit related beer. Two in our group, it turns out, hate malty beers, so the Nut Brown did not fair well overall. In my opinion, it was a decent beer. I did like that it was only 5% ABV, so it won't knock you on your butt unexpectedly.

One of my favorite breweries, The Bruery, popped up with two beers in a row! First up was Rugbrød, a rye beer that also had a lot of delightful malty flavors. This one would go down very easily, though at 8% ABV, you'd best be careful with it.  Then we moved onto Mischief. It was a very active pour, very fizzy (though we'd probably over chilled it), but once it calmed down I found a nice beer. Again, too strong (8% ABV).

The only bad thing I can say, in general, about the Bruery beers - they are nigh impossible to ask for in beer stores and restaurants. Everyone thinks you're making a dumb joke.

After dinner of home made buffalo meat sliders with just backed buns, we moved onto more mellow flavors.  Beers that went really well with dessert (crepes with Nutella).

One of my all time favorites, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, came up first - a bottle brought back from a friend who recently visited Kentucky. As always, this has the perfect balance of malt and caramel, you can taste the bourbon but it does not overpower. This was the favorite beer of the night. (8.1% ABV).

Our next dessert beer, Black Xantos by Nectar Ales (a Firestone Walker company), had wonderful overtones of chocolate and coffee, a perfect pairing with my crepe.  BUT, at a whopping 11% ABV, the only way to drink this bottle is shared with a large group of friends.  I would've rated this beer a 5, but the outrageously high ABV brought it down a full point.

Beer CB K G CV P Val M Total
Sierra Nevada's Ovila 4 3 3 4 3 5 3 25
La Chouffe 2 3 3.9 3 4 2 4 21.9
Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Aged IPA 3 2 4 3 2 2 5 21
AleSmith's Nut Brown 1 1 4 3 4.5 3 4 20.5
Bruery's Rugbrød 2 2.5 4 4 4.5 5 4.5 26.5
Bruery's Mischief 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 22
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale 4 4 5 4 5 5 4 31
Nectar Ales' Black Xantos 3 3 5 4 4 4 4 27

We finished up with an unrated Snowshoe Brewing Company's Pitch Black Porter. I loved the beer, but again, it was too strong.  I do wish more brewers would make a tasty, malty beer that was in the 5-6% ABV. I cannot wait for this stupid trend of super strong beers to end. Speaking of which ... it's strong beer month in SF. Who's going?