Category Archives: Beer Club

BOM Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the beer club tasting notes for October. This month, we’re taking a quick break from beer to feature two apple ciders. Dupont’s is a traditional Norman cider (as in Normandy, France) with protected designation of origin status. The second bottle, West County’s Redfield, is a rose-hued varietal cider from the New World (Western Mass., on the Vermont border, to be exact). Each is a delicious sip of the orchard and a great partner at the autumn dinner table.nike free run sale

Cheers!

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone


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Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie 2014 Domaine Dupont, Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France 5.5% ABV
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The Norman countryside is filled with dairy cows, rolling pasture, and orchards full of apple and pear trees. For centuries, farmers have been making ciders and perries from the fruit and pairing it with dishes full of cheese and cream. Calvados and Pays d’Auge are two sub-regions of central Normandy, and both are famous also for their apple and pear brandies, known collectively as Calvados, distilled from cider and perry. The French government has recognized the cider from this green, fertile region of France as having tradition, terroir, and quality, and has protected its heritage and future with an AOC — appellation d’origine controllee — to regulate its production and promote its uniqueness. Etienne Dupont was one of the principal boosters of the AOC designation
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has been producing ciders and Calvados under the guidance of a Dupont family member since 1887. They grow 13 varieties of apples, categorizing each as either bitter, bittersweet, sweet, or acid. They celebrate Pays d’Auge terroir, describing the area’s soil as nutrient-poor and full of chalk, clay, and marl, which produces small, intense fruit. (More generous soil would yield bigger, less-concentrated fruit filled with water.) Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie is the producer’s entry-level cider, a tasty, quaffable, sparkling cider. They also produce cider aged in oak, fortified sweet ciders, and Calvados. For the Brut de Normandie, they harvest and press estate-grown apples, then make a blend that is 80% juice from “bittersweet” apples and 20% juice from “acid” (sour) apples. In another nod to terroir, they ferment the juice with indigenous yeasts; that is, the yeast or “bloom” that naturally resides on the apple skins. After fermentation, they bottle-condition the cider, bottling it with live yeast that will produce the carbonation and more fermentation flavors directly inside the bottle. In French, bouchon means “cork,” and cidre bouché refers to this cider that is “corked” or “under cork.” The combination of live yeast in the bottle, the cork packaging, and single-vintage dating (2014, in our case), allows for the cider to age, mellow, and cellar, attaining a slightly damp, musty, leathery note that is complex and très français. (French farmhouse beers, or bières de garde, are known for this character, as well.) The cider drinks with complexity but accessibility. It has residual sweetness — about 5% apple fructose by weight — which the Duponts liken to the apple-y, caramelly flavors of another local specialty: the baked apple dessert called tarte tatin.
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Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie pours a rich honey yellow beneath a tempest of frothy white foam. The initial foam subsides, but a persistent stream of perlage continues to bubble forth. Scents of fruit, flowers, and bread rise from the glass: a Norman bouquet of baked apple, anise, meyer lemon, and bready, yeasty sparkling wine. The palate is off-dry, offering a pleasant nectar sweetness that softens the apples’ acidity and slight bitterness as well as the carbonation’s tingle. The French prize the flavor of noyaux, the meaty nut at the center of an apricot pit; this cider exhibits flavors of noyaux and bread dough from the wisps of spent yeast and apple lees residing at the bottom of the bottle. Slight dampness and mustiness show a bit of this cider’s age. Rather than showing bracing, vibrant apple freshness, this bottle has mellowed and gained complexity with age. Subtle tannins linger on the tongue, offering a structure and astringency that beg for another sip of this enjoyable cider. Pair it at the start of a meal with charcuterie and cheese — the more French and Norman the better, to appreciate the terroir: rabbit rillettes, pâte de campagne, good Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, etc. The Normans cook with cider, too, enjoying it in cidery cream sauces to accompany chicken or seafood. Sautéing some skin-on chicken in butter and shallots, then deglazing the pan with cider and simmering with some cream and fresh thyme would be a simple, delicious partner for a glass of Dupont cidre.
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Redfield Cider West County Cider, Colrain, Massachusetts, United States 6.6% ABV  
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Move a family of Northern California winemakers to the Berkshire mountains, and you get a family with a love of the land and a passion for flavor, along with a thirst for grapes that can’t be quenched. Missing their vineyard, the Terry and Judith Maloney, along with their son, Field, got some tips from their rural neighbors and tried their hand at fermenting apples into cider. From their first harvest in 1972, they were hooked, and by 1984, they made their first commercial sales. Legally registered as a winery, these cider revivalists claim to be the first US winery to specialize in hard cider.
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Their orchards have expanded in the ensuing years, and now with 1400 apple trees, they produce a handful of varietal ciders that they ferment and bottle in their farmhouse cellar. A varietal cider, just like a varietal wine, is a cider made from a single apple variety, showcasing all the nuances of that apple. Most cideries make blends, using the juice of several different apples to get tannic structure from one, fermentable sugars from another, bright acidity from yet another, and a variety of flavors from all of them. Most cider apples, as opposed to table apples that you eat out-of-hand, are too tannic and sour to be enjoyable when eaten. They can make for great cider, when allowed to ferment and age properly, which shows the cider maker’s skill. Redfield is an apple variety that is known in the cider world for its crimson-colored flesh, searing acidity, and bold tannins — pretty to look at it, terrible to eat, and a challenge to turn into a varietal cider. Developed in New York state in 1938, the apple is a cross between a Wolf River Apple and a Niedzwetzskayana Red Crabapple. (Obviously.)

The Maloneys make two different Redfield ciders: a Redfield varietal and a Redfield/Golden Delicious blend that’s 75% Redfield with 25% Golden Delicious; evidently, some drinkers find the Redfield to be too intense an apple to be fully tamed on its own in a bottle of cider. Your bottle of Redfield is the pure varietal, and so the Redfield’s personality (red hue, bright malic acid, firm tannins, and sweet-savory flavor) is powerfully on display in this cider. Furthermore, the Maloneys ferment it with neutral commercial yeast, rather than an indigenous yeast that might muddy the waters with its own flavors. (To taste some more of West County’s terroir, their Kingston Black varietal cider is fermented with wild yeast.) It’s not just the Redfield apple’s character that’s on display, here, but also the Maloneys’ impressive cider making skills, in order to make this Redfield so a smooth and elegant a cider, certainly not as sour and austere as some ciders can be, nor as tannic and coarse as others.
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Redfield pours an elegant salmon rose color, topped with a hint of bubbly pink lace. The delicate nose shows cut apple, persimmon, grass, and chamomile, along with sweet-savory hints of roasted carrots and winter squash. It tastes clean and pure, a perfectly apple-y, refreshing juice at first. Then more intriguing flavors of chestnut, cucumber, and blood orange chime in, intermingling with the smooth acidity and firm tannins. With its restrained carbonation and savory flavors, it has less in common with most bright, zesty ciders and instead recalls an Italian rosato wine — a negroamaro rosato, perhaps. It’s delicious, complex, and shows an alluring, romantic side of cider. Pair this with grains, mushrooms, and dairy products, allowing the cider to provide savory harmony and fruity counterpoint to the pairing. Tagliatelle with creamy-mushroom sauce and truffle (either truffle oil or the real thing — November is white truffle season, after all); squash ravioli with chestnuts and brown butter; a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough; pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, and good salame; or even a quesadilla with queso fresco, chicken, and cilantro would all be great partners with this cider.

 

BOM Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for August. This month, we look at English craft beer from two different angles. In Coniston Bluebird Bitter, we’ve got a fairly traditional British beer, but its high bitterness takes it a shade beyond the balanced approach of so many British bitters, and the brewery, which opened in 1995, is one of the pioneers of the English beer revival. The second beer for this month is Modus Vivendi, The Wild Beer Company’s flagship English old ale soured with wild Brettanomyces yeast and aged for months in used wine and bourbon barrels. It taps into a sourness more famous in Belgium and the US, but with a yeast that is wildly English.nike free 3.0 v2

Cheers!

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

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It’s 2015, and English craft beer brewed has fully come into its own. It’s making waves in pubs, shops, and the media, and the beers are even starting to make their way to the US. In 2014, Britain had about 1,300 breweries, and most of them stick to traditional English ales (which are “craft” in their own right, having never slid entirely into industrial mediocrity the way American beer did prior to starting the craft revolution). Traditional English ales are often about balance, subtlety, and, well, tradition. The English craft brewers of today are brewing with American hops, higher bitterness, wild yeasts, non-traditional ingredients, while cobbling nooks for their oak barrels and second-hand dairy equipment and revitalizing urban cores and country barns alike. Frankly, English craft brewers are hard to differentiate from their Yankee counterparts, which shows how far craft beer culture has come in what many regard as a stodgy, albeit high-quality, beer culture. The more esoteric and extreme beers didn’t happen overnight, though, and pioneering breweries like Coniston Brewing Co. helped lay the foundation for flashier brewers like The Wild Beer Co.

Bluebird Bitter Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston, Cumbria, UK   4.2% ABV   
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ConistaBrewing Tucked in the center of the cozy town of Coniston in the Lake District National Park is Coniston Brewing Co., nestled on the shore of Coniston Water (that’s English for “lake,” to you and me). Ronald and Susan Bradley owned the Black Bull, the town’s 400-year-old pub, and in 1994 they opened a small brewery in a building behind the Black Bull in order to provide fresh beer for the pub.
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They hired their son, Ian Bradley, as brewmaster, and retained brewing consultant David Smith to write the recipes. Within just a couple years, David’s flagship bitter recipe brewed by Ian won Britain’s highest beer award: it was crowned Champion Beer of Britain at the 1998 Great British Beer Festival. The beer is a triumph of English malts, English hops, and English yeast: incredible biscuity maltiness from heirloom Maris Otter malts mingles with orangey, earthy bitterness from classic Challenger hops, while subtle poached pear aromas from the yeast soften the bitterness and garnish the malts. I was surprised to learn that Bluebird’s name is actually more macabre than bucolic: “Bluebird K7” was the rocket boat piloted by daredevil Donald Campbell, who died in 1967 in a famous boating accident at 300 miles per hour on Coniston Water.
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Virtually every British brewery brews a “bitter,” often called an ordinary bitter to distinguish it from the brewery’s slightly stronger bitters, which in turn sport names like best, special, premium, and extra special. While Bluebird Bitter does, in fact, taste bitter, not all bitters are markedly bitter. Bitter, as a style of ale, earned that moniker in the 1930s and 1940s, decades after porter and IPA had had their heyday and wartime rationing and ingredient taxation had reduced much English beer to low alcohol and low bitterness levels. In a time of fewer and fewer beer choices, English pub-goers ordered either “mild” ale or “bitter” ale, two colloquial names that eventually coalesced into distinct beer styles.
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While Bluebird doesn’t set out to be a self-styled “craft beer,” it shows its crafty soul in upending a complacent English beer cart, a beer envisioned in a 1990s brewpub as a single-hop beer charged with the boldness of more than 35 bitterness units (more than most pilsners). If Bluebird was a wake-up call to the steadily diminishing character of English ordinary bitters, Coniston used its momentum and offering more craft brewery calling cards, such as a slightly stronger Bluebird XB with American-grown Mount Hood hops, a crisp, decidedly un-English Continental pilsner, as well as a towering, 8.5%-ABV barley wine (which was crowned Champion Beer of Britain in 2012). But it all started with Bluebird Bitter, still a classic expression of characterful English brewing.
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Pour Coniston Bluebird Bitter in a large glass and make sure sure you let it warm up a bit from refrigerator temperature. Like many English ales, it’s way too tight at fridge temperature, and only shows its soft maltiness and the fruitiness of its hops and yeast when it’s warmer than 45 degrees; 55 is perfect. It’s a gorgeous burnished orange color with a persistent white head of foam. It smells like pears, dried orange, biscuits, and a hint of waffle with butter and maple syrup. A sip of it greets your palate with pronounced, black-tea-like bitterness, a bright Pippin apple freshness, along with dashes of bread dough, woody thyme, and ginseng. Complex, savory yeast flavor and a whisper of salty, sulfate minerality accompany the finish. It’s light in body but bready at the same time, amazingly smooth and plush for only 4.2% ABV (on cask in Britain, it’s even lower alcohol at 3.6% ABV). Pair this, as brewer Ian does, with fish and chips, or else enjoy its versatility with cheeses, veggie lasagna bianca, saag paneer, or falafel and baba ghanoush. In addition to fried food and cooked veggies, it finds great harmony with minerally foods like asparagus, artichokes, and even seaweedy ramen and hijiki salad.
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Modus Vivendi The Wild Beer Company, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK   7.0% ABV

Beer is generally made from four ingredients: water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. Brewers Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis founded The Wild Beer Company to brew each of their beers with a “5th ingredient,” be it fruit, oak, or time. When they became drinking buddies, Cooper was training to be a certified Beer Sommelier (a European Cicerone equivalent) and Ellis was an out-of-work California chef who had moved to the UK to marry his English girlfriend. They homebrewed and mused over pints, finally having their eureka! moments while drinking Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and George Gale’s Prize Old Ale. La Roja, from a Michigan craft brewery, was oak-aged, winey, toasty, delicious and beguiling; Gale’s Old Ale is sherryish, toffeeish, and tastes like dates dipped in wine. These are beer flavors and attitudes Cooper and Ellis decided were too rare in England, so they opened their own craft brewery to do something about it.
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To harness the ever-elusive 5th ingredient, Cooper and Ellis tap into a variety of influences, including Ellis’s culinary training, Cooper’s knowledge of beer history, and the terroir of Somerset’s dairy and apple country, south of Bristol and Bath, where the brewery is located. Their proof-of-concept beer is aptly called Modus Operandi, though in the States it’s sold as Modus Vivendi (I can’t find the reasoning online, but my guess is that Ska Brewing Co., Colorado-based brewer of Modus Hoperandi IPA, encouraged the renaming). Modus Operandi/Vivendi is based on a traditional English old ale, a chewy, malty, toffeeish ale often brewed as a winter warmer. Old ales age well, and they tend to develop some winey, sherryish acidity with age, sometimes with a tinge of Brettanomyces yeast. Brettanomyces is Latin for “British fungus,” and while Belgium is more famous for its Brett-influenced sour ales, when Brett was first identified under a microscope, it had been harvested from aged English old ales and stock ales, which often have subtle scents of cellar, wool, and dust (and sometimes pineapple or Juicy Fruit flavors) and a touch of lactic acidity. The barnyardy and horsy flavors Brett is known for are from Brettanomyces species cultivated in Belgium; the British strains on the other hand tend to be less feral in flavor. In 2012, Cooper and Ellis toured the orchards near their farm brewery, picking apples and fermenting them into cider using only the wild, indigenous yeasts and beneficial bacteria on the apple skins. Then they pitched the resulting mixed yeast-bacteria culture into their first batch of old ale and let it age for 3 months in barrels, allowing it to transform into the mature, sour, oaky, terroir-driven Modus Operandi/Vivendi. They first used bourbon barrels for the aging, but found the finished beer lacked some of the desired fruitiness and complexity, and now they age in a mixture of bourbon barrels and red Burgundy wine barrels from Le Grappin. In a 2014 interview with The Grill And Barrel blog, Ellis summed up Modus Operandi quite nicely: “It is the beer that Andrew and I built the brewery to brew and we are only now getting to know that beer.”
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Modus Vivendi pours an attractive garnet brown-mahogany beneath an off-white head of fine bubbles. Immediately, the bouquet promises a complex beer, showing scents of strawberry, hazelnut, chocolate, sherry, licorice root, and rooibos tea. On the palate, it invites you more deeply down the rabbit hole, showing sourness like goat cheese and Balsamic vinegar, the brambly earthiness of an aged red Rioja, and echoes of once-raisiny, once-toffeeish malts that have fermented to a tart, winey dryness. Barrel-aging has dropped out the classic balance and malty treacle of this English stock old ale, and it has emerged from the chrysalis poised, lean, and muscular, trading tradition for attitude in a brave new world of English beer. Pair this beer with rich, earthy dishes, like roast chicken with mushroom sauce, apples and sheep’s milk cheese, New England clam chowder, or Issan-style catfish — sweet, sour, salty, and pungent with garlic and fish sauce.

BOM Club Tasting Notes: July 2015

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               PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for July. This sunny, summer month we turn to gose, a German style of sour beer. Gose has quickly become a trendy beer with zesty, savory sourness. Let’s raise a couple glasses of gose this month, tasting a clean, precise, session version from Off Color Brewing in Chicago, and sipping an artful, barrel-aged version from Colorado’s Paradox Beer Company.

            Prost!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone
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Back in January of 2012, we featured a newly imported beer from Leipzig in this Club. At the time, it was a rare sighting of an esoteric sour German beer style, and I was excited to give the beer some daylight. The beer was Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery’s Gose, resurrected and brewed by a pioneering craft brewery in the center of Leipzig. Leipzig’s beer culture had somberly deteriorated during its time in the Eastern Bloc, and Soviet culture and pilsner economics had turned this city — home to dozens of gose taverns in the 1800s into a tomb for this tart, spiced ale.
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Gose (pronounced GO-zuh; different from Belgium’s gueuze, which is pronounced GEU-zuh) is a low-alcohol, low-bitterness, slightly sour, spiced wheat ale. Gose derives its name from the town and river where the style coalesced: the town of Goslar, on the Gose River, 100 miles from Leipzig. Goslar was a salt mining center in the Middle Ages, and its well water is naturally a bit salty. In addition to brewing with this salty water, beer in pre-industrial Goslar and Leipzig was fermented in part by bacteria that produce lactic acid. Thus, for centuries the wheat beer from this area was slightly salty and slightly sour. Historically it was common to add spices to beer, and dash of coriander became a common addition to gose. As Goslar’s mining economy faded and Leipzig became a larger, industrial city, the center of gose consumption moved to Leipzig in the 1700s. Unfortunately, in the 20th Century wars and Soviet occupation were not kind to East German breweries, and between 1945 and 2000 gose was only intermittently brewed.

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In the past 3 years, a hundreds of American craft brewers, and even handful of new German breweries, have added gose to their line-up and gose’s future is looking up. Not for the first time, the exuberance and growth of craft beer in the US saved a style. (Last February, Thrillist published an article claiming craft beer had jumped the shark in embracing gose; I hope you’ll disagree after tasting this month’s beers.) Fitting nicely into the fast-growing thirst for sour beers, gose has helped add diversity within the sour beer range. Gose satisfies a demand for sour beer in a faster, less-expensive production cycle. I call it a “fresh sour,” since it doesn’t take any longer to ferment than a non-sour beer, and it’s meant to be drunk fresh and not be aged. Just as yogurt and bread dough will sour within a couple days, gose wort turns from wheaty and bland to zesty and tart within just a few days, courtesy of fast-souring lactobacillus bacteria. The beers lack the complexity of a lambic or a wild ale, but just a few weeks after brew day, they’re in mugs out in the marketplace, while more complex sours sit in barrels (and on brewery ledgers) for months or years longer.
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Gose is also press-ready — freedom in a glass — as American brewers play with this spiced, sour style that had lingered as a non-compliant, red-headed step-child appendix in Germany’s Reinheitsgebot brewing culture. This side of the Pond, hey: adding verboten spices and flavors, is, in a way, what American craft beer is all about! The most successful American contributions to beer history are all upsets to established beer recipes: look at steam beer (brewing lagers at warm San Francisco temperatures), American lagers (sneaking corn and rice into pilsner’s malt bill), and American pale ales and IPAs (using bold, brash American hops in place of delicate, refined European hops). Where the Saxons stopped at salt and coriander in their gose recipes, Yankee ingenuity is infusing goses with delicious blasphemies like cilantro, lemon verbena, hibiscus, marionberry, and sumac.
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Troublesome Off Color Brewing, Chicago, Illinois, USA 4.3% ABV
Much like bakers, Off Color’s brewmasters John Laffler and Dave Bleitner keep a couple lactic fermentations in their Chicago brewery. A baker calls it a sourdough starter or a mother, and pinches off a portion of this sourdough to knead and bake into that day’s sourdough bread, and replenishes the mother with some fresh flour and water to be soured overnight for the next day’s bread. That concept is alive and well in liquid form at craft breweries like Off Color. In two rigged “farmboy” tanks, Laffler and Bleitner keep a population of lactobacillus bacteria happy, borrowing some lactically-soured beer from time to time in exchange for keeping those sour tanks topped up with fresh wort on brew days. Lots of breweries (not the majority, but not a few) keep “lacto beer” on hand to blend into the mash tun, into the wort kettle, and into fermented batches of beer — in small and large amounts, tweaking pH here and adding bready, yogurty tartness there. German brewers do it, too, and in concert with pasteurization, it’s a valuable way to add a hint of refreshing acidity without letting a beer become more sour during its time in the bottle. For Troublesome gose, Laffler and Bleitner hew to the modern German approach, brewing a base plain wheat beer, harvesting and pasteurizing the exact right amount of lacto beer for blending, and adding it to the wheat beer along with salt and coriander to create a subtle, precise, refreshing beer. It’s the perfect biergarten beer, whether you’re in Leipzig, The Loop, or on Lombard Street: drinkable (gulpable, really), refreshing, and great with sunshine, sweat, and sausage.
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Troublesome is a hazy, pale straw color, pouring into the glass beneath a fleeting white head. It smells supremely doughy, with faint hints of orange peel, meyer lemon, and hay. It’s the ultimate refresher, drinking easily with slight sourness, saltiness, and woody spice. It explores tastes that most beers ignore: it’s a balance of sour and salty (both of which tease the faintest sweetness from the dry malts), rather than being a tangle of bitterness and residual sugar as most beer styles are. Though it’s low in alcohol and sweetness, its mouthfeel isn’t thin, instead offering nice breadiness to chew on (it is a wheat beer, after all). Troublesome shows gose’s softer side, and is a supremely refreshing craft beer that can be the beer geek’s quaffer or the quaffer’s geeky beer. Drink it with a burrata salad, a plate of sushi, bagels with schmear, lox, and capers, or a Chicago hot dog.
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Skully Barrel No. 25 – Salted Sumac Gose
Paradox Beer Company, Woodland Park, Colorado, USA 7.6% ABV

 

 

 
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Gose is the inspiration for Paradox’s Skully #25, but it breaks the mold in some anachronistic ways, both into the past and the future. This is to be expected from a brewery whose ethos is to be “unflinchingly wayward.” Gose is normally a clean, stainless-steel-fermented wheat beer bolstered by salinity and tinged with simple acidity; charting a new path while borrowing from age-old traditions, Skully #25 (like all of Paradox’s beers) is entirely fermented in oak by a host of wild Colorado yeasts and bacteria. This slow, rustic fermentation in used chardonnay barrels produces the style’s requisite lactic acid, but also imparts depth, complexity, and structure that take this beer beyond the clean lines of a Germanic beer. The beer’s tartness is accompanied by the wild microflora’s earthy, barny hints of wet wool and goat cheese. Also, rather than showing other goses’ snappy finish, Skully #25’s aftertaste is a lingering, wheaty breadiness layered with the oak’s slightly drying tannins and oxidized softness. Rather than relying on the woody, lemony hints of coriander for aroma, sumac is used to show hints of lemon blossom and a wind-swept, piney, thyme-like scent (it reminds me of the garrigue scent that’s prized in coastal Mediterranean wines) along with lip-smacking, sour berry hints like red currants, all while sea salt mixes with oaky toast to evoke a beachy, sandy element.
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Brewer and blender Jeff Airman drew inspiration from sumac when he enjoyed its complex flavors on a trip to Istanbul. For Airman, the “challenge was to bring all these ideas together in liquid form while creating a balance between them that kept nothing in the shadows.” White wine barrels, coolship, wild yeasts and bacteria, sumac, sea salt, lactic acidity, sour beer from Rocky Mountain Foothills via Goslar and Leipzig. That’s quite a list, and fraught with potential for over-exuberance, gimmickiness, and imbalance. But a taste of this beer reveals that it’s all there; balanced, complementary, graceful, and delicious.
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Skully Barrel No. 25 pours a golden orange hue topped with an attractive, sturdy head of foam. Its bouquet is complex, like a walk through an open-air market in Casablanca or Guadalajara, wafting scents of sourdough, corn masa, pomegranate, pineapple, herbs, and spices, amidst a breeze of beach and barnyard. A sip brings in a wave of smooth, salty, lactic sourness that’s supple and supported by oak tannins. On the mouthfeel, the hardness (from salt, acid, carbonation, and tannins) is perfectly balanced by the creamy nature of the lactic acid, the bready wheat malt, and the smooth oxidation from barrel aging. Skully #25 sidesteps the simple, freshness of a traditional gose, but wayward Paradox has crafted a delicious, savory, supple sour ale, expanding along the way the conversation around what a gose can be. Serve it alongside a board of salumi and aged sheep’s milk cheese, or pair it with Moroccan-style couscous with apricot, za-atar, and harissa. It especially loves all kinds of fish, including olive-oil-poached tuna, clams in Chinese black bean sauce, and even uni draped over garlicky pasta.

BOM Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

 BOM Blog Post Banner            PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for June. We’re shining a spotlight on the updating of established craft beers. Meet Lagunitas CitruSinensis Pale Ale (a variation of New Dogtown Pale Ale) and Green Flash’s new West Coast IPA. Based on brands that have been brewed for a combined 32 years, these veteran breweries are recalibrating to the ever-shifting, ever-growing craft beer market. It’s fascinating and instructive to witness these beers rebrand and experiment in today’s craft beer scene.air jordan one

            Cheers!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

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            Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, likes to quote a professor from the design school he attended in the 1980s: “A product is frozen information.” A product like a single beer is a snapshot within the larger continuum of beer, and breweries use their beer brands to continually broadcast the same information over and over again because the beers’ messages are valuable to the brewery and (they hope) to the consumer. But as some craft beer brands are going on 30-35 years old (and grandaddy Anchor Steam is at 50), these breweries are confronted with the need to keep their information, message, and commentary resonant. Some breweries are now altering core brands to freeze the information into a new snapshot.
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Craft beer is booming right now all over the United States. New breweries are opening at an amazing clip of more than one per day, and the craft beer’s share of the American beer market is in double digits. The growth is led by brewers new and old — with both new neighborhood upstarts and established regional brewers building second and third breweries, sometimes in the same town, sometimes across the country (including Lagunitas), and some (like Green Flash) partnering with breweries in Europe. The challenge for established breweries is to keep their core brands perpetually trusted and enjoyed by a market that’s faced with new breweries and new brands at every turn. There are a hundred approaches to this challenge (or opportunity) and no single recipe for surefire success. But a couple recent beers from Lagunitas and Green Flash offer a couple strategies. For Magee, it’s an opportunity to check back in with craft beer’s “community and passion element,” he believes, “because that is the engine behind it . . . that replaces imagery and artifice.”
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CitruSinensis Pale Ale Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California, USA 7.9% ABV 
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Keeping up with the consumer clamor for new one-off beers, in 2015 Lagunitas is brewing and promoting its “One Hitter Series” of beers. Brewed once, sold once, and get ‘em while they’re hot, cause when they’re gone, they’re gone. For June, their One Hitter is “CitruSinensis” Pale Ale, what the brewery calls “a wheatier version of our New Dogtown Pale Ale,” spiked with with blood orange juice. First brewed in 1994, Dogtown Pale Ale struggled to compete with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and so Magee put all his chips into brewing an IPA at a time before IPA was a proven seller. Dogtown Pale Ale has been a core brand that’s played second fiddle to Lagunitas IPA ever since. The brewery rewrote the recipe about 5 years ago, re-releasing it as New Dogtown and infusing it with more dry hops, creating a incredibly delicious pale ale that, nonetheless, still lags in category sales behind stalwarts like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Deschutes Mirror Pond. In the interim, Lagunitas has opened a new brewery in Chicago and has just announced plans to open a third brewery in Los Angeles County, and Magee has kept his incredibly successful IPA’s recipe and message consistent, leaving room to experiment with (New) Dogtown Pale Ale.
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The current experiment is a new riff on several craft beer successes, proving that there’s never too much of a good thing. Citrus sinensis is the biological name of the common, sweet orange, including blood orange cultivars. The brewery juiced a Sicilian variety of blood orange known as sanguinello, evaporated the juice’s water content so as not to water down the beer, and added it to a batch of New Dogtown. The ale yeast fermented the juice’s sugars, upping the beer’s ABV to 7.9%. Of course, the blood orange aromatics dovetail beautifully with the hops’ already citrusy, grapefruit aromas, but the pleasant surprise for me is how much the juice’s citric acid contributes to lightening this big beer’s palate, recalling the soft tartness of a gose and making a zesty, refreshing American craft beer version of a German Radler (German bicyclists’ classic post-ride mix of beer and lemonade). The “wheatier” part of the recipe is a move borrowed from Lagunitas’s successful wheaty IPA, Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin — the wheat adds a dash of refreshing acidity and a bready backbone to the beer. Magee is, among other things, craft beer’s visionary and hippie Bard, and to borrow one of his own quotes: “The soul in the brand’s initial incarnation has moved on to other realms.”
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CitruSinensis pours a slightly hazy, light orange color, capped by a head of white foam. (Some yeasty, orangey goodness has settled at bottom of the bottle — be sure to pour it all!) Jumping from the glass are aromas of intense orange, with hints of raspberry and marionberry (from the blood orange), along with fresh pine, hempseed, and cannabis from the hops, and a whisper of toasty malt. A sip reveals a tart, bitter-sweet ale with layers of orange and resiny bitterness. The mouthfeel is smooth and wheaty, while the OJ adds a refreshing, lip-smacking kick. Citrusy aromas of American hops are the soul of an American IPA, and CitruSinensis is an exploration of these aromas writ large, but instead of amplifying them with brazen additions of hop flowers, it’s a study in citrus from the genuine article, and it’s some of the best blood orange I’ve tasted. Pair this beer with salty, savory, crispy foods that could use a spritz of citrus — fried calamari with lemon aioli, steamed artichoke with ranch, or grilled swiss cheese sandwich with garlicky, sautéed kale.

West Coast IPA Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California, USA 8.1% ABV

Green Flash’s portfolio of beers is an ode to IPA. Other than their double stout, their ultra hoppy red ale, and an occasional one-off, you’re hard-pressed to find a beer without IPA on the label, from session IPA all the way up to Triple IPA. (They did just open up Cellar 3, a facility dedicated to barrel aging and blending, so we’re sure to see some new creations bubble up from there in the future.) The brewery first brewed West Coast IPA in 2004 and trademarked the name in 2010. They called the beer an IPA, but with its 95 bitterness units balanced by 7.3% ABV, this was an ascerbically epic IPA/DIPA hybrid masquerading as an IPA. Green Flash has made its name by brewing beers that break a style’s upper limits, even calling its 30th Street Pale “an IPA on any other street.” (It’s dedicated to the main drag that connects the city’s beer-focused North and South Park neighborhoods.) It seems that 2014 brought a spirit of recalibration to Green Flash, and West Coast IPA is labeled a double India pale ale, now officially out of the double IPA closet. The new label for 30th St. Pale Ale upgrades it to an IPA (at 45 IBUs and 6.0% ABV, it’s close to the marks for Lagunitas IPA), while the new Soul Style IPA splits the difference at 75 IBUs and 6.5% ABV.
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There’s more to a beer than numbers, and there’s even more to the perception of bitterness than IBUs. Brewmaster Chuck Silva has beefed up West Coast IPA a bit with more alcohol, from 7.3% to the current 8.1%, courtesy of about 10% more malt. He introduced a fifth hop into the recipe, adding Citra to the line-up of Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade, creating an even more robust cocktail of hops. You can ignore the language on the label that lists the hops’ roles as convenient and tidy. The language on the label isn’t insincere, it’s just necessarily oversimplified. The fact is all five of these hops share cross-over aromas of citrus, pine, and flowers, and any of them can be pungent if you boil them long enough. The aromas of each hop are different in different applications: Simcoe are undoubtedly tropical, as are Citra, and Centennials usually smell to me like white flowers, but with a steely, metallic edge. Columbus are prized for their grapefruity, piney, resinous quality, but they often bring garlicky, oniony hints, too, which Silva, a master of hops, deftly avoids.

West Coast IPA, the double India pale ale, pours a rich copper color beneath a lasting white head. The bouquet shows what this beer is all about: heady aromas of pine, orange blossom, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, mint, and cannabis, with just a whiff of malty bread crumbs. Drinking it brings a tide of bitterness that’s only partially tempered by the lush fruity flavors. Visions of pink grapefruit Jelly Bellies and candied orange peel duke it out with masochistic nibbles of pine cone and lemongrass soap. Malts provide slight almondy, bread crust flavors, while providing the backbone to deliver a fountain of hops. This beer is more than just an overly exuberant hop bomb, and the subtlety of its malt lends the beer the cleanness and leanness of a San-Diego-style IPA, while its towering hoppiness shows some elegance by avoiding hops’ less appealing garlicky, oniony, and leafy vegetal flavors. This double IPA pulls no punches, focusing on the task at hand: delivering tons of citrusy hop bitterness. For food pairing, go for rich foods that can handle a lot of aromatics (herbs, spices, citrus, etc.). Chinese orange chicken, duck tacos, scallop ceviche, hominy-studded posole, or Moroccan tagine would all be great. For dessert, make an orange-creamsicle-inspired beer float by adding scoop of vanilla ice cream to a glass of this beer (trust me — it’s dirty, wrong, and delicious).

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