Enjoying Flying Dog’s Brewhouse Rarities Green Tea Imperial Stout 

Flying Dog Brewhouse Rarities Green Tea Imperial StoutThanks to the generous folks at Flying Dog, I was able to try 1 of the 3 bottled Brewhouse Rarities, the 10% Green Tea Imperial Stout. The beer was released in February 2013 and follows the simple criteria that all the rarities are held to: “Too weird to live, too rare to die.”

Ray and I sat down with a 750 mL of the beer Wednesday night, and here are our thoughts:

The beer pours jet black and opaque with a fluffy mocha head that lingers. I picked up sweet chocolate notes in the aroma, while Ray found nutty and crisp notes.

There was a medium mouthfeel, and I found that the stout coated my tongue, but pleasantly (no motor oil slickishness here).

I found the Green Tea Imperial Stout to be mega chocolatey, yet still balanced. Ray noticed a lot of dark fruit and molasses, as well as chocolate.

Unfortunately, neither one of us could pick up any green tea notes.

As I let the beer warm in my glass for 15-20 minutes, I thought I dedicated a slight herbal bitterness, but it was so hard to tell. I had Ray check and recheck, because he drinks green tea regularly, while I do not. He was unable to taste any green tea.

That said, this is an excellent imperial stout. The higher ABV is obvious, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. Ray felt that this style wasn’t the one to pair with green tea—maybe a pale ale would have been better?

Either way, I’m excited to work this beer into a baked good, which I plan to feature on my baking blog, Cupcake Friday Project. Stay tuned!

Disclosure: Flying Dog provided me with two bottles of Green Tea Imperial Stout so I could review it and develop a recipe for it on Cupcake Friday Project. My opinions are my own.






Review: Unibroue’s Quelque Chose 

Unibroue Quelque ChoseI amused Ray by translating the French on the Unibroue bottle, “It means ‘something.’”

“That’s it?” he said.


“Huh. The French.”

You don’t need four years of studying la belle langue français to understand that Quebec’s Unibroue has a little somethin’ somethin’ up its sleeves with Quelque Chose. Described as a 50% dark ale, 50% brown ale brewed with cherries, this sweet-and-sour beer stands at 8% ABV. But you don’t notice it (trust me).

Quelque Chose pours a beautiful ruby red with no head, and according to the bottle, the beer has “very little carbonation.” The cherry notes are strong and lovely, but there are also some hints of caramel and plum, which add to the depth of its flavor.

Sharing a goblet of the cherry-drenched libation with Ray, he proclaimed, “This is a ‘start your girlfriend’ beer!” I agreed—for someone who might not know where to start with craft beer, Quelque Chose would be a good choice, but only if the drinker understood that this is a slightly sour beer. I think once that’s out in the open, a new-to-craft-beer gal could really get behind Quelque Chose.

For food pairings, Quelque Chose would be smashing with duck (you could even make a reduction of it to serve over top) or any other red meat, as well as a mild bleu, maybe even a creamy cheddar—the slightly sharp sourness could cut through the fat well.

While this isn’t the kind of beer you’d pair with dessert, it certainly can be used to make dessert. Check out the recipe for the Quelque Chose Raspberry Tart or Quelque Chose Crepes.

On Beer Advocate, Unibroue’s Quelque Chose has a rating of B+, but I argue it’s a solid A. This is most definitely a bottle I would pick up again.




The Trinity of Saison du Buff 

Saison du Buff writeupBefore you even read this post, do yourself a favor and watch this video put together by Stone Brewing Co. about the collaboration between Greg (Stone), Sam (Dogfish Head) and Bill (Victory) to create Saison du BUFF.

I LOVE these guys and what they (and many other brewers) are doing for craft beer. They’re showing the Big 3, as well as many other corporations in the U.S., that collaboration is a good thing. Are they still each others competition? Of course. But they’re also each others allies, and together, through collaboration, they make the beer scene a better place for all of us craft beer drinkers.

Saison du BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) was brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme 3 times: once at Stone (released in May 2010), at Victory (released in August 2010) and Dogfish Head (also released in August 2010). Each brewery’s take on the beer has its own unique bottle label, done in the style of that brewery.

I sampled the brews from Dogfish Head and Stone back in September of 2010 and wrote about them for the Ladies of Craft Beer website. I had a tough time getting the third bottle—from Stone—until a wonderful benefactor came through and sent me a bottle (and no, it wasn’t Stone).

So, here’s my take on all three of the SDBs:

Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head Saison du BuffPoured into a snifter, the beer pours a bright golden hue with a light, fluffy head. The aroma is very typical of the Saison style—spicy with hints of citrus. But giving it a few more sniffs, I could pick up some really wonderful herbal notes. There wasn’t one herb that stuck out more than another, but the fragrance was lovely and balanced.

Upon first sip, I got a lot of carbonation bite, most likely because the beer was too cold. I let it come up in temperature before trying it again, which is what you want to do with any overly-chilled beer (your tongue won’t pick up on the myriad flavors a beer has if its too cold). After 10-15 minutes, I was rewarded with a flavor that matched its aroma to a T—nice and dry, spice and herbal notes, with hints of citrus.

Victory Brewing Co.
Victory Sasison du BUFFLike DFH’s version, Victory’s SDB pours a pale gold with a thin, white head that dissipates fairly quick. The spice is very evident in the nose and a lot of the herbal notes of rosemary, sage and thyme come out—with rosemary taking the forefront. When giving the glass a few swirls to kick up aroma, a bit of barnyard funk comes out, which is a nice touch amidst the herbs and spice.

Ray noticed a light, fruity sweetness to the beer, something he associates with farmhouse ales. He also found the rosemary complimented the citrus in the beer. I had a difficult time recognizing the traditional saison attributes, unlike my first sampling of Dogfish’s SDB. When I looked up Victory’s version, I came across a review that claimed it was “more Prima Pils than saison.” While I agree that this beer is more of another style than a saison, I don’t agree with likening it to a base of Prima Pils. It’s just something … else. And that’s not a bad thing.

If I were to pair this beer with food, I would go for a nice whitefish, like haddock, topped with a not-too-spicy salsa with plenty of cilantro. Ray pointed out that the cilantro would go well with the bright bitterness of the herbs and hops. He also suggested pairing SDB with grilled veggies tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette. Even some bread and the right cheese would go well.

Stone Brewing Co.
Stone Brewing Co. Saison du BuffLike DFH and Victory’s, Stone’s take on Saison du BUFF poured golden and clear into my geektastic pint glass. A little different from the other two beers was the massive, fluffy, aromatic head. The nose is full of rosemary, and even after letting this bottle get jostled about in my cabinets for nearly six months, it tastes of sweet freshness—almost as if we just picked it up from the Escondido-based brewery. It’s citrusy and herbal, and just the right beer to welcome in the warm weather and spring.

Stone’s version of Saison du BUFF actually reminds me a little of our Ginpel, due to the aromatic rosemary nose. I’m imagining Stone’s offering—as well as the other two—would be excellent to cook with. Perhaps a braised pork roast with roasted veggies?




Tasting #16 — Boris the Spider Chai Oatmeal Stout 

Boris the Spider Chai Oatmeal StoutCreepy, crawly, creepy, crawly, creepy creepy, crawly crawly … oh Boris the Spider.

Brewed about a month and a half before our wedding, Boris the Spider Chai Oatmeal Stout was to be a thick chai spice monster. However, in my opinion, I’m not thrilled with it. The body is too thin and there could be more chai spicy goodness going on (also, the ABV is a bit lower than expected, hitting 5.4%. I think this could be a much bigger beer). Nonetheless, Ray, Ryan and a number of other folks really enjoy Boris, which is a good thing.

Appearance: Opaque, reddish brown. Fluffy beige head.

Nose: Chocolate, banana, spices.

Taste: Chocolate. Fruity sweetness. A lingering hint of spicy bitterness. Cardamom really pops.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Finishes very clean.

Overall: A really cool idea that played out nicely. The chai flavors really pop, especially the cardamom. I think I’d like to see the anise make a bolder statement, but other than that, I really like this.

Appearance: Thin beige head; deep brown with hints of ruby.

Nose: Chai spices, roast, a little woodiness.

Taste: Roasty sweetness—very, very, very dry, yet oddly refreshing; maybe a little estery from being in the guest bathroom, which suffers from fluctuating temperatures. Chai spice is balanced and not overwhelming; cardamom pops.

Mouthfeel: Light, dry and smooth.

Overall: A worthy experiment. If done again, I want a thicker, chewier mouthfeel and a bump up in chocolate notes. Currently, it’s too much like a dry stout. Maybe make it a milk stout so the creaminess plays up the spices, reflecting the traditional Indian beverage it’s based on.




Tasting #15 — Ginpel 

Homebrewed tripel with gin aromaticsApproximately a year and 3 months ago, we brewed the Ginpel; a Frankenstein of a beer, inspired by Ray pouring a shot of Dogfishhead’s Jin into our homebrewed Tripel.

While we’ve been drinking the Ginpel, I always found it to be too strong in juniper and alcohol flavor. But today we decided it was time to crack one open, and I’m glad we did.

Unlike our usual tastings, there was only one 12 oz bottle of Ginpel in the fridge, so we split it (instead of the usual bottle apiece). It seems when Ray poured the beer, a bit of sediment got in my glass, which is reflected in the separated tasting notes below.

Appearance: Bright golden orange. Clear. Thin, white head.

Nose: Mainly juniper. Some citrus and spices as well, but the biggest note is the juniper.

Taste: Lots of juniper and fruity candy sweetness. Subtle clove, citrus, and rosemary notes.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium and very smooth.

Overall: Definitely a little heavy handed on the juniper, still evident even a year plus later. Can’t decide whether it nails the gin/tripel so well despite or because of the extra juniper. Worth doing again with less juniper, regardless, if only to let the other spices show themselves.

Ginpel tastingBOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE (Mel)
Appearance: Thin white head, deep amber in color, slightly hazy.

Nose: Very herbal. The juniper pops, and there are hints of sweetness and citrus.

Flavor: Herbs and spices dominate (makes me think this would be good to cook with). Very smooth. Alcohol taste has mellowed considerably—this does not taste like a 11.4% ABV beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium and smooth; a little dry.

Overall: I’m happy to see how much this beer has mellowed. The juniper still dominates, and the recipe could benefit from it being scaled back a bit. I think this is a beer that a straight-gin drinker would really enjoy.




Tasting #14 — Barleywine 

Bathtub Brewery BarleywineWe brewed the Barleywine back on July 18, 2009. It’s over a year old at this point, and wow, has it aged well. During our tasting session the other night, Ray asked me when we brewed this. When I told him last July, he nearly did a spit-take of the precious liquid. Time flies when you’re working on myriad other projects, I suppose. It’s also our first beer without a fancy-schmancy name.

Appearance: Orangeish. amber brown. Opaquely cloudy. Thick, fluffy, off-white head.

Nose: Lots of dried fruit, caramel, malt and molasses. Slight hint of alcohol

Taste: Caramel, plum, fig, raisin. Very little bitterness. A bit of yeasty breadiness.

Mouthfeel: Creamy smooth with a CO2 bite.

Overall: We’re glad we let this sit and stew for a year before sitting down to do a formal tasting. When we first bottled, it had a distinct, flowery hoppiness and brightness that Ray felt was out of place for the type of barleywine we wanted to make. After a year of aging, it’s transformed into exactly what we wanted it to be. It has a great sophistication to it.

This was also the beer we sent up to Boston when The Town Dish headed up there for its “Dish on the Fly.” A bottle of the Barleywine was given to Charlie Cummings, brewer of Harpoon Brewery, who is also a homebrewer. We haven’t gotten any feedback from him yet, but if he’s tried it, I’d love to hear from him.

So, the Barleywine. Our first year-plus aged beer that has mellowed, ripened and come out strong. Maybe we should stash a bottle and open it next July.




Video: SAVOR 2010 Highlights I Guess 

Scintillating video that I shot with my iPhone at SAVOR 2010. Some of the language may not be safe for work depending on where you work, so make sure to turn it up super loud.




Tasting #13 — Simie the SNAKE Simcoe IPA 

Eep! The IPA is almost gone! Quick! Take some notes!

Appearance: Bright, golden, crystal clear amber. Lots of fluffy, white head. Sustained, rapid effervescence.

Nose: Grapefruit, orange, tart citrus in general. Slightly dry.

Taste: Very citrusy, mostly grapefruit. Earthy and piney. Fairly bitter, buffered by a hint of caramel sweetness. Finishes bitter, in that way that begs another sip.

Mouthfeel: Light-to-medium. Crisp and dry. Barest hint of tongue-coating. A lot of CO2 bite. Foamy, foamy, and foamy.

Overall: We almost ran out of our IPA before realizing we needed to do a tasting writeup. It’s a bit addicting, see, even though a good two-thirds of our bottles turned out to be foamy gushers.

We aren’t entirely sure what happened with the carbonation, but our brother-in-law thinks some kind of bacterial contamination could be to blame. There’s supposed to be a strain that doesn’t change the flavor but does excrete a lot of CO2. That’s as good an explanation as any.

Once the assault of carbonation settles down, this is one of the best IPAs we’ve ever tasted. We love the way the subtle sweetness plays against the citrus to give an almost lemony tart sensation… which, I’m just now realizing, might actually be the result of infection. In any case, we think we succeeded in showcasing the Simcoe hop, so that’s a win.




Tasting #12 — Hefe the ORC 

Whu— Oh, hey. Hey! Hey, wow, how’s it going? Yeah, I’ve been meaning to blog, it’s just been— I’ve been so busy with… work and… stuff. Well, hey, you look like you’re doing well! Ha ha…

I’m just gonna get to talking about this beer now, yeah?

Appearance: Light-to-golden amber. Very clear. Fluffy, bone white head. Lots of effervescence.

Nose: Tart berries. Cloves. Faintly alcoholic.

Taste: A perfect mix of sweet and tart. Hop bitterness takes a back seat to the tartness. Cloves, oranges, berries. Noticeable alcohol could stand to be masked a bit more, but doesn’t detract significantly.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, yet somehow slightly viscous, especially as it warms up. Coats the tongue. A little bit of an alcohol sting.

Overall: Not utterly hefeweizen-like, but there is just enough clove to at least suggest that it might have been a hefe in another life, maybe one that was born in Germany but raised in Belgium. The raisins are not as overt as we would have liked, but we love the tartness from the cranberries, which is assertive without completely drowning out the orange. The dryness could also prove to make this a great gateway beer for wine aficionados.

In a word, Hefe the ORC is totallyfreakingexcellentnoseriouslyguysholycrap. It’s results like this that make brewing such a fun hobby. It’s barely the hefeweizen we advertised it to be, but that’s fine, because Hefe the ORC has so much weirdness and complexity that we stopped caring what arbitrary style it fits into long ago. It’s simply a delicious and fragrant beer, and we could not be happier with it.




Tasting #11 — Bee Sting Ale 

Float like a butterfly, sting like a beer.The Bee Sting came out Jim dandy booyah, which is why our supply of it is not lasting very long, so let us get to the tasting notes:

1.045 OG; 4.9% ABV; 45 IBU

Appearance: Bright amber, mostly clear, just slightly hazy. Foamy white head that settles into a thin sheet of bubbles.

Nose: Sharply citrusy, with grapefruit being the most prominent, complimented by a hint of orange, pine, and resin. Slight alcohol aroma.

Taste: Bitter and very citrusy with the same grapefruit, orange, and pine as the nose. Slight alcohol dryness. Smooth honey sweetness. Peppery heat is vaguely insinuated.

Mouthfeel: Light-to-medium bodied and smooth. Moderate-to-high carbonation. Crisp and refreshing. Leaves the tongue dry.

Overall: Mel writes: “I am so proud of this beer. It has gotten some of the highest remarks from those who have tried it—we’ve been told several times by friends and coworkers that this is the type of beer they expect to be able to order in a pub. I’m really pleased that I could take my crazy concept of a “bee sting”, deconstruct it, and then reconstruct it in a beer recipe—AND IT WORKED!!! This beer is both complex, yet extremely refreshing, and seems to be a real crowd pleaser.”

Yeah, damn, Mel really knocked it out of the park with this recipe. I’d like to try this again later with more seeds of paradise so the pepper heat asserts itself more, but other than that, this is the picture of delicious in my book.