Posts Tagged ‘ale’

Beer of the Week: The Notch Session Ale

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Notch American Session Ale 6 Pack

About the beer:

Craft beer is all about options. With the rise in popularity of higher alcohol craft beers some are turning their interests towards other options in the form of an up and coming category in the craft beer community – session beer. Awareness over the session style of brewing has risen over the last two years with many American breweries creating some tremendous crafted ales, all of which carrying significantly lower ABVs than the stereotypical craft ale.

The term “session” finds it’s origins in the UK and refers to the allowable drinking periods that were imposed on production workers during World War I. The licensed sessions were 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. Workers would find a beer that they could adequately quench their thirst with during these restrictive “sessions” that were imposed by the government without getting legally drunk.

With this groundswell of awareness and rich history to live up to, enter Notch Session Ale, an independently brewed ale which is the brain child of Notch brewer and founder Chris Lohring. In collaboration with his friends at Ipswich Ale Brewery of Ipswich, MA, Chris is brewing low-gravity American style session beers that pack immense amounts of robustness and flavor without heavy alcohol content.


Beer of the Week: Victory’s Golden Monkey

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Victory Brewing Golden Monkey

About the beer:

Victory Brewing Company’s Golden Monkey is an American adaptation of the traditional Belgian-style strong ale now commonly found around the world. We’ve talked a lot about Belgian-style ales here at Beeriety and there are several themes that make this beer uniquely different than that of its predecessors from across the seas.


Style Profile: Chili Beer

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

One of the more unusual styles to emerge from the craft beer scene is chili beer. There are all sorts of brews out there with different fruits and spices in them, but beer with chili peepers is not something you see everyday. Although it remains an unusual and rare style, its unique taste is something everyone should try once. Here’s a run down on this odd style.


Style Profile: Russian Imperial Stout

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Russian Imperial Stout is one of the heaviest styles of beer around, often ranging from 7 to 10% ABV. Much like Baltic porters it’s named not for who made it but who it was made for. Russian imperial stouts were first brewed in the 18th century by brewers in Burton, England to be shipped to the court of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Catherine apparently became quite smitten by stouts during a visit to England and demanded some be sent back to her when she returned home; unfortunately the first few batches did not survive the long trip to Russia. Catherine demanded that the English find some way to get her beloved porter to her, and being empress, she got what she wanted. To accomplish this goal the Barclay Perkins brewery crafted a stout to survive the trek much sweeter and stronger than anything available in England at the time and a new style was born.

Today, many years after Catherine’s passing, Russian imperial stouts continue to be brewed not just in England, but around the world. In particular the style has caught on among bold and adventuresome American craft brewers, who see the style as an opportunity to flex their brewing muscle and a chance to brew the heaviest, sweetest beer they can. Due to the styles popularity craft brewers in the US the term ‘imperial’ has come to signify any style that’s especially strong in flavor, alcohol or both. The double, or ‘imperial’ IPA is perhaps the most common example of this phenomenon

This style shares much in common with other heavy stouts and porters, like the Baltic porter. They are both sweet and strong, with bold flavors of dark chocolate, roasted coffee and toffee. That being said, there are some key differences between the two styles. The imperial stout tends be much sweeter than the Baltic porter, and it is usually not nearly as dry. Still, don’t feel bad if you have trouble telling the two apart, they are similar.

The are numerous absolutely delicious versions of this style from many different brewers. Perhaps the best known in America is Old Rasputin, from North Coast brewing. Other notable examples include Storm King from Victory and Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues. Rogue, Stone, and Samuel Smith also have great takes on the style as well.

What’s your favorite version? Next time you try it, let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the #mybeer hashtag.

How Yeast Affects Beer Flavor

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Yeast is a key ingredient in beer. It can account for 70% of a beer’s flavor and without it there’d be no alcohol. With these things in mind we thought it was a good idea to take a closer look at the stuff.

Yeast buds under a microscope

As you may know, yeast is a living microorganism, a fungus. The type used in most brewing and baking goes by the name of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

As we’ve mentioned before, when yeast is introduced to wort (pre-beer) it will eat the sugars for energy and expel CO2 and alcohol as waste products, a process known as anaerobic fermentation. Ale yeast ferments on the top of the beer, while lager yeast usually ferments on the bottom.

However, this is only part of the story of how yeast turns grains and water into beer. In addition to alcohol and CO2, there are other secondary elements which are produced during fermentation and create much of a brew’s flavor. Here’s a quick list of some of the major ones:

Esters – These create fruity flavors, and are frequently found in beers from England and Belgium.

Fusel Alcohols – This is a heavier variation of the standard ethanol alcohol produced during fermentation. They have been linked with hangovers.

Ketones – The most common type of this compound is diacetyl, which gives beer a sweet butter or caramel taste. It’s common in some of the heavier beers of Great Britain, but its tendency to cause stale flavors cause some to regard it as a flaw. Others see it as a benefit, such Samuel Smith Brewery, whose beers all feature strong diacetyls

Phenolics – A type of chemical which can produce spicy notes.

Fatty acids – While these don’t impart a strong flavor on their own, fatty acids can make beer oxidize and grow stale quicker than normal and as a result most brewers try to avoid them

While there is only one main species of yeast used in commercial brewing there are many different varieties, all with different characters and flavors. Most yeast is strained out of beer before it makes it to the bottle as it can produce off flavors. When yeast is allowed in the bottle, as with bottle-conditioned beer it’s still best to avoid pouring it into the glass. That is of course if you’re drinking hefeweizen, or other wheat beers. Consuming the yeast is actually encouraged with style. It all goes to show the tremendous diversity of yeast and beer.

Try These Five Barrel-Aged Beers

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Barrel-Aged Beer

Barrel-aging is nothing new in the world of wine and liquor; aging beer in barrels, however, is a relatively new practice that’s gaining in popularity. Today, we’re going to take a look at how it works and some barrel-aged beers that everyone should try.

Beer is usually placed in barrels for aging after primary fermentation is complete and before it has been carbonated. A variety of barrels can be used, but brewers frequently use barrels which have previously held wine or liquor. After anywhere from several months to several years in a barrel, the beer will absorb some of the flavors and aromas left over from the wine or liquor. Then, the beer will be carbonated and bottled for your drinking enjoyment.

The barreling process adds additional complexity to the taste and aroma of a beer. Sometimes a brewer will simply age an existing beer he has in his (or her) repertoire, but many of the more adventurous will craft a recipe specially suited to benefit from the barreling process. This could be an extra malty brew that will blend well with the sweet flavors of rum or a crisp light beer that will complement the light flavors of a chardonnay.

However it is done, barrel-aged beer is an exciting area that craft brewers are exploring with enthusiasm and passion. Be sure to try one if you haven’t yet. Some of our favorites include:

Stone Brewing Co. Oaked Arrogant Bastard – The barrel-aged version of Stone’s infamous Arrogant Bastard. Trying this alongside the regular version would be a good introduction to how barrels can enhance beer.

Brooklyn Brewery Manhattan Project – This  beer was a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery and David Wondrich, drinks editor of Esquire magazine. It was aged in rye whiskey barrels for a wonderfully smoky aroma and taste.

Allagash Curieux – Aged in Jim Beam barrels for 8 weeks, this one is a must try.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton – A fantastically complex yet still light ale with notes of oak and vanilla.

Smuttynose Brewing Oaked Tripel Penetration – A great twist on a traditional Belgian style tripel. The heavy oak notes blended well with the light flavors of a tripel.

What’s your favorite barrel-aged beer? Have you tried a barrel-aged brew you would like to recommend? Let us know next time you have one by tweeting what you drank and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Pumpkin Ale

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

pumpkinWith the fall quickly approaching it’s time to begin looking at the beers of autumn. September is traditionally harvest time, in which the fruits and vegetables of the summer are collected and there’s plenty of good food and good cheer to go around. The root vegetables gathered this time of year frequently make for great beers; the most well known of these is of course the pumpkin beer.

Although pumpkin beer as we know it got its start by American craft brewers during the 1990’s people have been brewing beer with pumpkins for ages. The pilgrims were even known to brew pumpkin ale when they arrived on Plymouth Rock, because they was a lack of other fermentables like barley available. While pumpkin beer is associated with the autumn these days, because pumpkins weren’t typically available to brewers in colonial times until harvest, pumpkin beer couldn’t be enjoyed until the winter months.

Today modern pumpkin ales typically fall into two schools: beers which taste like actual pumpkins, and beers which taste like pumpkin pie. Although beer which replicates the taste of real pumpkins is generally more difficult and sometimes more respected by beer snobs out there, both types can be wonderful and a great way to celebrate the fall. Brewers striving for the first type will use a variety of methods to create their brew, sometimes using canned pumpkin filling while others will use actual roasted pumpkins for a more authentic taste. Brewers hoping to replicate Grandma’s pumpkin pie on the other hand will typically use pumpkin filling with a variety of associated spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; some lazier brewers will sometimes even just use the spices and leave out the pumpkin all together.

There are countless brewers who craft a mean pumpkin beer. Some favorites of Team Beeriety include are the pumpkin beers of  Smuttynose, Dogfish Head, Post-Road and Shipyard. What are some of yours? Next time you enjoy a pumpkin ale let us know what you think about it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Wheat Wine

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009


Wheat wine is a relevantly young style of beer, having emerged from  bolder American craft brewers over the last decade or so. For awhile there has been a trend among these brewers to experiment with older, less alcoholic styles by creating high alcohol versions; these bold versions are often dubbed “imperial,” a reference to the extremely potent Russian imperial stout. Some of these experiments work better than others. Over time wheat ale proved to be a style which did extremely well at higher alcohol percentages, and the one-off batches made by various brewers across the country took shape as a more cohesive style.

Photo Credit: Mark Pansing

Photo Credit: Mark Pansing

As a result of its young age and development it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that wheat whine is not a very precise category. Generally speaking, wheat wines feature a smooth, velvety mouth feel and a sweet, but light taste. Its strong alcohol percentage, (which can range anywhere from 7-14%) also gives the beer a warming affect.

Unlike other high alcohol or imperial beers, such as the barley wine, from which it borrows the ‘wine’ part of its name, wheat wine remains a nicely balanced beer thanks to the subtle flowery and citrusy flavors the wheat gives it. This makes it perfect for consumption any time of year. Color and appearance tend to fairly widely, ranging anywhere from a clear amber to a cloudy gold.

Ever had a wheat wine? Although it’s still fairly rare there are plenty of great brewers with examples of the style. New Hamshire’s Smuttynose Brewing makes a great one, and be sure to check out Gamma Ray from Terrapin Brewing in Georgia and  New Holland’s Pilgrim’s Dole from Michigan for wonderful wheat wine. Next time you do let us know what you think about it or any other wheat wine by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Barleywine

Thursday, August 27th, 2009
Bass No. 1 ale, the first commercial barley wine. Image via: <a  title=

Bass No. 1 ale, the first commercial barley wine. Image via: Joyce Images

Don’t let it’s name fool you, Barleywine is still very much beer, albeit one which rivals wines in strength (7-12% Alc/volume) and complexity. This beer was originally brewed by English aristocrats of the 18th century who wanted a strong alcoholic beverage of their own to compete with the wine made by the French with which they were constantly at war. These early barley wines were mostly brewed and consumed by the aristocrats in their private breweries, but in 1900 Bass debuted the first commercial barley wine, Bass No. 1 Ale. Although most wine doesn’t actually taste like wine, it has a flavor and beauty all its own that will quickly make you forget about wine (or anything else for that matter.)

In a lot of ways barleywine is more of a loose guideline that a strict style, there is quite a bit of variety when it comes to what brewers will call a barleywine. Generally speaking though, barleywines start with a solid base of pale barley malt, to which frequently sugar or honey is added. American barleywines tend to match the strongly sweet and malty flavors with an equally strong hop presence, sometimes even dry hopping the beer to give it some added hop aromas. British barleywines on the other hand tend to be more balanced and rounded, with strong dried fruit elements to the taste. However it’s brewed, the hallmark of any good barleywine is a malty, complex body paired strong alcohol notes, while generally avoiding the especially dark and smoky flavors of something like a porter.

Although the style lost much of it’s popularity by the 1960′s, the American craft beer movement has resurrected the style and it has become a favorite among daring homebrewers and craft brewers alike. Due to concerns this style’s name might confuse some consumers, it’s required that all barleywine in America be labeled as “barleywine-style ale.” I’d surprised  if anyone has ever picked up a bottle thinking it was wine, but who knows?

What’s your favorite barleywine? Next time you try one let us know what you think about it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Porter

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009


Porter is a style that traces it roots to beer cocktails of the 18th century. Although the only modern beer cocktail that most people know is the Black & Tan, in centuries past it was fairly common to mix several beers in one pint glass. A bartender in 1720s London might be expected to blend frequently as many as six different ales into a customer’s pint. As we mentioned in our article on cask ale, (which is how all beer would have been served at the time) beer on cask should really be consumed within a few days after it’s been tapped as it begins to grow stale and loose its flavor rather quickly. of course not all pub owners followed these rules, and there was plenty of stale beers being served in London pubs.

Black & Tan

Black & Tan

Additionally, many of the working class poor could only afford the weakest and cheapest of ales. As a result, many in the lower classes took up the habit of mixing half a glass of fresh, quality ale with half a glass of the cheap, stale stuff. A particularly popular beer cocktail at the time was known as “Three Threads,” which usually combined pale ale, new brown ale and stale brown ale. In order to save the bartenders some time and energy a brewer by the name of Ralph Harwood developed a heavier beer which was designed to mimic the taste of the “Three Threads” brew, much in the same way you sometimes see pre-bottled Black & Tans today. Harwood’s Entire, as it was known soon became quite popular after its release in 1722, particularly among the cities hardworking porters. It was only a matter of time before this style of beer, which was heavier and smokier than most beers at the time took on the name porter, which it’s still referred to today.

Porters later gave rise to stouts, a darker and more robust version of the style, which were originally known as ‘stout porters.’ Although the two styles remain closely related and similar in flavor, there are a few key differences that warrant the separation of styles, that’s a topic for another style profile though. Porters are typically made with pale malt base with the addition of black malt, crystal, chocolate or smoked brown malt, but as with many styles, there is a tremendous amount of leeway  in what many brewers will call a porter. Hops tend to be low in the mix, although American porters may have a moderate hop presence.

What’s your favorite porter? Next time you try one let us know what you think about it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

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