And there you have it space fans. Twenty-Three Dogfish Head beers in the month of August, plus one straggler in September. I have to admit, I though this would be a little bit of a chore when I started but it was actually a lot of fun to revisit some of my favorite DFH beers, try several I haven’t had before and try to rank them within the universe of beers that is Dogfish Head.
I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by to read – new official one month page hit record, new unofficial single day page it record (my official record is 2916 but I don’t count it as it was some webbot thing looking for the movie poster for The Shawshank Redemption). I’d also like to thank everyone who decided to stick around both here and on Facebook.
So with that, here’s a quick run down of how the beers of DFH fared:
TASTER – 120 Minute (only as a precaution. Try free first if possible. I love 120), Sah’Tea, Ta Henket and Midas Touch
4/6-PACK/GROWLER – 90 Minute, Chateau Jiahu, Firefly, Urkontinent, Immort Ale, Palo Santo Marron, Raison D’Etre, Red and White
CASE – 60 Minute, 75 Minute, Rhizing Bines, Indian Brown Ale, Bitches Brew, Black and Blue
Kegerator – Hellhound on my Ale, Theobroma, Burton Baton
So there you have it. I’ll be pulling back to my usual 2 post a week schedule after this with a couple “Local Tap” posts and a few “Welcome to Delaware” posts coming up in the next couple of weeks. And of course, throughout August some interesting beers hit the shelves that I was not able to review, so I’ll be getting to a few of those over the next month. Will any of them be DFH? Well I still love the brewery but as it stands right now I think this picture says it best…
It’s hot and muggy here in Delaware again, so I guess it’s the perfect time to wind down my series on the beers of Dogfish Head. I had one more on my list that I wanted to get to because (I’m not going to lie) I love it. But for some reason it kept getting swept to the back of the fridge by on coming tides of BBQ sauces, yogurt containers, coke bottles and yes, even other beer. So with that, let’s reach in deep for the last beer in the Dogfish Days of Summer series. That beer, is Burton Baton.
Ah wood. What would we do without it? What…I already did that? OK, let’s just taste.
THEM: Burton Baton starts as two different beers referred to by Sam as “threads”. The first is an English-style old ale and the other is an imperial IPA, Once finished in the primary, the threads are combined and aged for 1 month in one of DFH’s 10,000 gallon oak barrels. Baton clocks in at 10%ABV and 70IBUs.
ME: I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. Beautiful ruby red with a crisp head. Oak and floral hops swirl out of the glass with hints of caramel, honey, fruit (raisins?). The flavor is a lot of the same, but it doesn’t muddle all together like a big mess. To me, the hops/IPA are just a touch under the old ale (which is pretty impressive considering BB has a pound of hops per barrel) the beer having that big caramel/malt sweetness, but not overly so due to a little bit of bitter on the back end. It initially was hiding its 10%ABV pretty well but it did start peeking through a bit on towards the bottom of the glass.
I’m not sure which is more fun, just drinking the damn thing or trying to crawl into the glass and figure out all that’s going on inside of it. If there’s anything negative to say about this beer it’s that it certainly doesn’t drink well on a hot, humid day like today. This beer needs cooler temperatures (like maybe later tonight when the temperature starts to drop) and probably would work well with food, although to be honest I’d prefer just giving the stage to BB as a solo. It really doesn’t need a backing band in my mind.
This is tough because Baton is sitting right on that CASE/KEG edge. I’m just trying to figure out if it’s really up there with Hellhound and Theobroma for me. You know what? I think this is the perfect beer to slide gracefully out of the ratings bizz. It’s been fun, but you don’t need me to assign some arbitrary appraisal to Burton Baton to know what a great beer it is. All you have to do is pour one yourself. And speaking of which….
Ok, only two more beers to go for this roundup of DFH beers, and I’ll be honest gentle readers, this one has me a little scared. Oh not because it’s some “totally out there” beer like Rocky Mountain Oyster beer or Beard beer. No, the beer in question is a simple fruit beer. Why the dread? Because so many people LOVE this beer.
So far I haven’t gotten a lot of negativity during this. I figured once I started poking DFH with a stick, the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of the brewery’s fans would gather and demand to know why I rated their particular beer so low. But so far the only thing that’s happened is two guys on Reddit stated that they loved Midas Touch, and another guy asked which ancient ales I preferred over Midas Touch. When I told him, he kindly thanked me for the information. That’s criticism I can take all day long.
Every year when Festina Peche is released people seem to go wild. They seek it. Buy it. Hoard it. Sing songs about it. Built monuments to it. Name babies after it. Ok, maybe that last one is an exaggeration, but man people around here do love them some peach.
And why not? After all, what’s the first state you think of when you think of peaches. Why, Delaw….GEORGIA? Who said, Georgia? Come on. Somebody fess up. Ok, fine. But we’re not continuing until someone comes clean.
And I have all day.
Nothing else to do.
Just waiting for someone to say something.
Ah, I though it was you. Well just so you know, although Georgia is the peach state it’s not the top peach producer in the US. And I’ll have you know that for part of the nineteenth century, Delaware was the number one producer of peaches in the US. How important was peach production to the state back in those days? Well, important enough that the state flower was designated the peach blossom, and the state dessert is peach pie. And of course the official state fruit is….strawberries. Hmmmm, ok we seemed to have missed the mark on that that one. Anyway, Middletown, Delaware still holds the Olde-Tyme Peach festival, as does the town of Wyoming. So although we may not be “GEORGIA”, we do have a little peach in our blood. But how about our beer? Is that really where we want our peach? Let’s taste.
THEM: DFH describes FP as a neo-Berliner Weisse which is a wheat beer brewed with ale yeast; and Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces to give the beer its signature acidity and earthiness respectively. The beer can sometimes be served with a sweet syrup (such as raspberry) to balance out the sourness. But in the case of FP, DFH does it by adding peach puree. The beer clocks in at a non-threatening 4.5%ABV and has an almost non-existent 8IBUs.
ME: Peche pours golden with a quick energetic head that quickly fades. Man the peach is already jumping out of the glass and I haven’t even put my nose up to it yet. I’m finding the nose a little subdued, there’s not much beyond the peach to be honest. But there is that sourness in the nose to warn you of what’s to come and a touch of what I can best describe funk meets earthiness fall in love and have kids. This is really clean in the taste with the front being almost empty and the peach coming in the middle. There’s a slight sweetness from the peaches, but that gets clear out quick by the sour/tart finish like a NYC bouncer on a drunken patron. Right between the peach and the tartness however, is a flash of earthy/funky something that is distracting me from this beer for about 5 seconds.
My overall impression of this beer is that it’s interesting. It is definitely peach. But if you think this a glass of those sugar-water packed peach slices your mom used to put in your school lunch – you couldn’t be more off the mark. FP has a nice tart kick in the back end that not only serves to balance the beer out, but cleanses your palette at the same time. Personally I’d go GLASS on this one. It would be good to have from time to time, but nothing I’m overly crazy about. The earthiness was a little off for me, but since that’s a characteristic of a Berliner Weisse I certainly can’t say it shouldn’t be there. Maybe I should rate the style a GLASS, and the beer a 4-PACK? Naaaa. Sorry, just not for me I guess. Oh well, let the stone throwing commence (stone – peach pit, get it? Get it? Is this thing on?)
Sam Calagione is a wine guy. Oh, don’t let the fact that he owns one of the largest craft beer players in the game deceive you. He’s a wine guy. One only has to look at his DFH webpage to see that. Every beer brewed by DFH has a comparable wine listed, and the newest core beer added to the DFH line up, Sixty-One was created from Sam’s love of pouring a little red wine into his 60-minute IPA. Not to mention the other wine/beer combination I’ve covered this month.
So it should be of no surprise to anyone that one of the things DFH loves to do is beer/wine hybrids and the wine/beer hybrid I want to focus on in this review is Noble Rot. Do wine and beer make good bed-fellows. Let’s Taste.
THEM: I couldn’t explain this beer any better than Wiki, so here it is. “In 2010, Sam Calagione collaborated with Washington winemaker Jarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars to produce a “hybrid” beer-wine beverage labeled Noble rot. A saison-style beer, the brewery uses botrytis-infected Viognier and Pinot gris grapes from Alexandria Nicole’s Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the brew. This results in a beer with 49.5% of the fermentable sugars coming from grapes that finishes with a 9% alcohol level. Alexandria Nicole presses the grapes, leaving the skins with the must, and Dogfish co-ferments the Viognier and grains while adding the Pinot gris later in the process. In 2012, the beer went nationwide in the United States in more than 27 states from coast to coast and was received favorably critical acclaim”
Noble Rot is build off of a grain bill of pils and wheat malts and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. It contains 18IBUs and has an ABV of 9%.
For those not in the wine know, Botrytis cinerea or noble rot is a fungus that grows on wine grapes that if controlled, is actually considered beneficial for well know wines such as Sauternes from France , and Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese from Germany. It is also an important factor in aszú from Hungary, Slovakia, Romanian Grasă de Cotnari, and Austrian Ausbruch.
ME: Unsurprisingly, NR pours like a carbonated white wine. and visually could pass as an inexpensive champagne in the glass. The nose also wants to convince you that it’s a wine with a touch of earthiness against a back drop of grape. There’s little if any “beer” to be recognized here. The flavor is light with notes of grape, green apple and some grains, but there is that Belgian yeast “spice” to remind you that this is supposed to be a saison in style. The finish is wine-like as well with no hop bitterness from the beer or acidic bite from the wine. Really, if I blind folded a group of people so they couldn’t see NR some would probably think it’s an inexpensive white wine, not a beer/wine hybrid (which isn’t all that inexpensive). Is that good? I guess it depends on whether-or-not you feel beers should be beers and wines should be wines.
Here’s where ratings hit another logical brick wall. I’d go GLASS on this as it probably would be a great beer to sip on a hot summers day, although probably not something you’d want to drink all day. I’d recommend TASTER however, because I think if you’re a beer lover, you really should know what you’re getting into before you plunk down a lot of money on it. It’s not a bad DRINK, but it might not be everyone’s glass of beer.
When I decided to focus solely on DFH over the month of August (point of disclosure, it’s now going to spill into a couple of days of September), part of my initial plan was to get some of my fellow bloggers involved. I wanted to share some insights on Delaware’s #1 brewery from people whose blogs I read on a regular basis and whose opinions I valued. I thought it would be a great to mix outside opinions with my homer attitudes.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Except of course for Oliver Gray at Literature and Libation who, through an email conversation we shared, was the only one who knew my plans before hand and jumped on the chance to contribute. I thank him for that.
For the rest, well let’s just say that I know the value of people’s time, and I didn’t feel like being overly greedy in requests to participate in this. But then I realized that I didn’t have too as they’d already done all the work for me. A quick skim of blogs I follow revealed a wealth of previously written DFH reviews that span the gamete of the brewery’s catalog. All that was left for me to do was to pull them together into one post.
If I had thought of this sooner, I would have done the smart thing. I would have include links in each of my reviews to other reviews of the same beer. This would have stretched it out over the full month. But as usual, the smart idea always comes late to me (if it ever comes at all). So with that, here is a run down of some of the excellent blogs that I read along with links to some of their DFH reviews. Now I don’t expect you to go down and immediately read everyone. But I suggest you bookmark this post, and over the course of the next couple of weeks or so pick a blog or a beer and check them out. There’s some great stuff here. So with that….
As I said above, Oliver over a Literature and Libation was quick to jump on the chance to do a guest post for my Dogfish Days of Summer series. You can check out two more pieces of beer fiction at this blog, one for Sixty-One and another for Noble Rot. You can also check out one of my favorite reviews of his (ok, maybe I’m biased because he gives me a shout out) for My Antonia.
You have to be a certain type of person to love Scott’s “special” take on the craft beer world and BBQ over at Beerbecue. Luckily, I’m just that certain type of person. First, Beerbecue daycare takes a turn to peaches of all kinds, including DFH’s Festina Peach. Next he turns his eye towards Noble Rot and rebuilds a teddy bear. Then it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in the BBC house without Bitches Brew. Scott doesn’t suffer from gluten intolerance, hell he doesn’t even understand it. But he still reviews Tweason’ Ale. And finally, you can find out what he thinks about DFH’s Punkin ale here.
If you’re not following the great collaborative blog about beer and whiskey that is It’s Just the Booze Dancing, well then you must not want to learn anything about beer and whiskey. First, G-LO takes a look a Sixty-One, Festina Peach and Punkin Ale. Then Limpd gets into the act with a review of Midas Touch.
Stouts and Stilletoes is an great blog written from a woman’s perspective by three ladies who really enjoy (and know) their craft beer. Check out Heffenista’s review of DFH’s Black and Blue.
Christopher over at the awesome blog I Think About Beer (especially if you’re into Belgian Beers) takes a look at DFH Aprihop, the DFH/SN collaboration Rhizing BInes, and finally Etusca Bronze.
One writer that I’ve recently started to follow is Jana over at Head Over Beers. She writes great posts on food and beer, including this recent review on Rhizing Bines.
Bryan, the mind behind the Six-Pack project and the blog This is Why I’m Drunk has some awesome insights into DFH beers. First he takes a look at 2010’s World Wide Stout, Next he tries to do 120 Minute IPA (2011) justice in 120 words and finally, he packs up the car to go to the source itself. Read his thought’s on his beergrimage to DFH brewpub where he decides to take on the entire draft list.
Check out The AleMonger blog which always has an interesting tone and perspective. You can read his review on Sixty-One where he makes a bold prediction on Sam Calgione’s next business venture.
Next I suggest you head on over to Movies, Cigars and a Brew with local guys Keith and Andrew. You can check out their podcast on Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 5, Liga Privada Feral Flying Pig Cigar and (of course) Dogfish Head’s Positive Contact. Then the guys share their thoughts on the movie Arbitrage, El Rey del Mundo robusto Larga cigars and Raison D’Etre.
Well that should keep you busy for awhile. I’d like give a shout out to all the blogs mentioned and thank them for their time in looking at the beers from Dogfish Head. I look forward to reading more reviews in the future.
I’m doing these beers together because – well, their labels suggest I should. And that’s by design. The label for Black and Blue was done by David Larned, a Pennsylvania painter who studied for a time in Florance, Italy before finishing at the University of Pennsylvania. His wife, Sarah painted the label for Red and White. But that’s just about all these two beers have in common, as they’re both nods to totally separate styles. Let’s Taste.
THEM:Black and Blue ($13.99/750mL bottle)is Belgian-style golden ale from a malt recipe stand point and then it’s fermented with real puree of black raspberries and blueberries. The beer shares the same yeast strain with Red and White, and Pangaea (which sadly I wasn’t able to get my hands on for this months round of reviews). Sam states that the benefit of using real fruit instead of artificial flavors is that the real fruit allows you to get the fruit in the flavor and not just the aroma. Black and Blue clocks in at a respectable 10%ABV and has 25IBUs.
Red and White ($13.99/750mL bottle) from a beer perspective can be thought of as a Belgian white with some red wine nuances brought on by the addition of pinot noir juice in the fermenter. The beer contains coriander and orange peel as you might expect. Sam than twists the beer a bit by aging a portion of it in oak tanks. The finished beer also contains 10%ABV, but clocks in at a slightly higher 35IBUs.
ME: First Black and Blue. The beer has a beautiful berry red color to it with a ring of white bubbles around the edge of the glass. The nose is pretty much as it say on the label, gobs of raspberry with hints of blueberry peeking through. The flavor is more of the same with bold fruit and a clean crisp finish with just an ever so light kiss of tartness. If beer labels were subject to truth in advertising laws, DFH would have nothing to worry about here. This beer is exactly as described. I would compare it to a raspberry lambic along the lines of a LIndeman’s Framboise, great berry taste, but not as tart on the back end as some other Framboise I’ve had. Of course, that’s not a straight ahead comparison as for me the raspberry takes more center stage here, but I think there’s enough commonality that I can make the comparison pretty confidently.
Red and White. Well this is a whole other beer. Amber through the center of the glass and with carbonation/head that pretty much is on point with Black and Blue, but that’s where the similarities end. I could see this beer going south with the addition of the wood, which is probably why DFH only ages a fraction of the beer in oak. Everything is there that would remind you of a white ale, the coriander, the orange. There’s a little roundness in the middle that I’d attribute to the grape juice, but nothing here screams “grapes!” to me. For the record, that’s a good thing. The wood is subdued. In fact, I can’t even pick it up unless I’m restrained from putting the glass up to my nose for a few minutes. It’s got a touch of sweetness to it (for the record I’m not good at judging the whole “sweet” thing sometimes, I blame the years of my youth spent downing 4 liters of real coca-cola every day) but it’s not making my fillings itch by any means. The finish is clean and not overly bitter and it leaves your mouth with a nice little smack of something that I’d almost describe as honey at the end. I gave the glass to Tracey (remember, white ale fan) anticipating that I might not get it back and her thoughts that it was a nice white ale, but the added complexity would make it something that she’d enjoy drinking all year round, not just in the summer months. Hmmm, maybe she should be writing this blog.
After doing this for a month I’m really starting to understand why I don’t like ratings. You really have to come in with a clean and concise understanding of what your ratings mean and then strictly adhere to them. Over the past month I’ve kind of danced on the line a bit. Sometimes I’ve rated beers on just where I though they stood in the DFH catalog and other times I’ve adjusted them knowing that the beer I was rating might not be something that everyone would want to buy a 4-PACK of only to find out that one was enough.
Black and Blue throws me into a tizzy. I love this beer and would give it a CASE. But understand, although I’m not big on fruit beers, I love raspberries, and have a HUGE soft spot when it comes to blueberries in a beer. Maybe it was the several trips I took to Maine where they put blueberries in…well, just about everything. This thing hits the two fruits on point, and I think it would absolutely rock with a piece of chocolate cake. However, if I was to continue to rate beers beyond this point I’d add what I’d call a “Recommendation Rating”, and that would be a TASTER. This might not be for everyone, especially you testosterone laden, hop heads. That being said, if what I’ve described appeals to you, then by all means pick up a bottle. You’ll be happy you did.
Red and White is a 6-PACK (or in this case a bomber bottle), it’s a solid beer with its touch of wood and its impeccable balance, but going CASE would be just to much. That being said, nothing says you have to stop at one bottle and remember, Tracey says it’s good all year round (Who am I to argue) so since it’s brewed only once a year, maybe you should a keep a couple bottles around for later.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Oliver originally wrote this with Shelter Pale Ale in mind, but realized late that DFH no long offered it in bottles. He wrote the story below with a combination of SPA and RD’E as only Oliver can do. I will always thank him for his contribution to my blog]
Today I’m thrilled to have Oliver Gray from the awesome blog Literature and Libation as a guest poster here at tDoB. I’ve been reading Oliver’s blog for quite awhile now and it’s an amazing mix of posts on writing, beer, brewing and beertography. If you have not check it out, I highly suggest you do so.
One of the things I like most about Oliver’s blog is that his reviews aren’t the traditional by-the-numbers reviews that so many of us do. In keeping with his passion for writing, Oliver takes the essence of the beer, plus a little pinch of whatever is inspiring him on that particular day and scripts a piece of beer review fiction. Past stories have ranged from a wheelchair bound man dreaming of surfing, an elderly man at a nursing home reliving one of his last lucid memories, and a woman struggling to find the proper words at her brother’s funeral – inspired by DFH’s own Noble Rot.
So with that, let’s get to this. But before we do, keeping with the other reviews that I’ve done this month, let me toss out a few words about this beer.
THEM:Raison D’Etre is a French phrase that means “Reason for Existence”. I think this is a pretty clever play on words, one because beer certainly is one of the things that make existence enjoyable and two, DFH brews the beer with green raisins. The beer is also brewed with beet sugar and fermented with Belgian yeast to 8%ABV and bittered to 25IBU.
ME: Nice head and carbonation. Notes of fruit, caramel, dark sugars and Belgian yeast in the nose. Interesting spice up from in the mouth, with what you get in the aroma peaking through which clears out to leave a nice malt finish with perhaps a touch of booze. There’s a sweet stickiness left behind when it’s all said and done, with the clean finish you’d expect from 25IBUs in this beer. This is a pretty decent beer, but for some reason it’s not doing more for me than a 4-PACK. Some might go CASE, but I think there’s a few things about the beer that keep me from going that extra rating point. If I were to cheat, I’d go two 4-PACKS because that’s pretty much where this thing sits for me, but I’m not going to muddy the waters in the last week of doing this thing.
And now Oliver:
With my back turned, all I could hear were the whimpers of the other dogs, the longing whines of those furry faces trapped behind cross-hatched steel. I could picture all of the faces that went with each canine cry – the ugly beauty of the smoosh-faced Pugs, the dopey loyalty in the eyes of the Labradors, the regality and inborn pomp of the Poodle mixes – all staring out at me, trying to win me over with a melting puppy gaze if I’d just turn and look.
But my mind was made up. I couldn’t own a dog, not even one as painfully adorable as Nymeria. I wasn’t a “dog person.” Never had been, never would be. Dogs meant pre-sunrise walks and poop-scooping and hundreds of dollars at veterinary offices just to find out the dumb thing had eaten a frog that didn’t agree with her.
No. No dogs.
I signed the papers to give her up, but refused to turn around.
Ϟ Ϟ Ϟ
The font of the note was 11 point Calibri. The default. He hadn’t even bothered to change it to something more thoughtful, more meaningful, something with a goddamn serif. It was just a wandering explanation of reasons, some apologies, some blames, some pathetic attempts to justify leaving abruptly after 9 years.
His hasty signature at the bottom sliced through the arteries that pumped blood to my inner romantic; a formality that made it seem like our love had been some kind of official arrangement or contract, to be severed or ended whenever one party was no longer satisfied with the work being done. He didn’t even close it with “love” or “yours,” just a perfunctory penultimate punch: “thanks.”
He’d loaded up most of his clothes and electronics while I was at work. He’d faked sick that morning, letting me worry about how he was feeling while he was dismantling and unplugging his life from mine, leaving half of an apartment and half of a home for me to return to. He’d been conservative in what he took, perhaps to assuage his guilt, leaving most of our “joint” purchases behind like inappropriate gifts.
If his reminders had been left at the material, just those physical items abandoned in the ruins of our relationship, I could have sold them or washed them or performed rituals to purge his energy from them. But of course, that asshole left the dog. No note about coming to get it later, no instructions for where to take it. Just a drooling mess of barks and pee, rolling around blissfully happy in the dirt and petal mess he’d made of my prize hibiscus.
I’d fought getting the dog in the first place, but he had always wanted one – a purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever, specifically – and saying no to Alex was like trying to ask a hurricane to kindly go away and come back at a better time. He’d promised me that it wouldn’t be a hassle, that he’d train the thing and that it would be good for our social lives to get out and interact with other dog owners. But all of his plans devolved into spoiling the ball of tangled golden fur, giving into its every whim like it was a bratty child, smothering it with sometimes overly enthusiastic affections.
And now, he’d left it with me. He wouldn’t answer his phone, the coward. I assumed my voicemails would be deleted as soon as they hit his inbox. I tried email, and Gchat, and speaking to him through his mother, but he had, as far as I could tell, managed to completely excise me from his life. His last will and testament to our love left yellow stains on the carpet while I was at work and completely voided my security deposit when it voided its bladder. I wasn’t cut out to own a dog; especially one whose shining brown eyes did nothing but remind me of its former master.
It wasn’t lightly that I decided to take it to a shelter. I knew what shelters meant, knew what connotations sat like vultures atop the brick façade. I secretly hoped that its purebred blood and youth would get it adopted before anything bad happened, so that I wouldn’t feel too bad about having this dumped on me during an actual dumping.
Ϟ Ϟ Ϟ
I rested my hand on the bar of the door, taking a moment to curse Alex under my breath, damning him for making me do this. The smell of wet dog and industrial cleaner and stale dry dog food hung heavy in the air, and I wanted nothing more than to escape into the oppressive warmth of late-summer Delaware.
But my hand would not push, and my feet would not move. My mind kept me planted, replaying mental home movies of Nymeria, like when she leapt up on our bed at 2 AM covered in mud after having escaped through a poorly secured door, and us laughing while trying to wrestle her into the bathtub.
I remembered all the times her smiling face, tongue flopping lazily as he spun in little circles, greeted me as I came home from a long day. The sound of my keys in the lock was a herald of excitement for her, the trumpets blaring the return of the master, and I could trust she’d be there ready to jump on me without fail. It was Nymeria who cared about me, was always happy to see me, while almost antonymous, Alex sat on the couch, eyes unmoving from the TV, barely acknowledging my presence.
I hear people talk about “man’s best friend” but is it reciprocal? Who is “dog’s best friend,” if not man? We’re so selfish in our desire to be loved and not be alone, that we treat these perfectly loyal creatures like emotional putty, to be molded and shaped and forced into the holes of our psyche. It wasn’t Nymeria’s fault that Alex had been a terrible dog owner.
I turned around. The woman who had taken my paperwork was sitting down at her computer, about to process my information. The green leash that belonged to Nymeria’s green collar was coiled in a pile on her clipboard. She looked up at me, her gaze equally sympathetic and confused.
“I think I made a mistake. Can I have my dog back?”
I’d like to thank Oliver for taking the time to do a guest post for me, especially under what could be described understatedly as a very difficult month for him. Again, check out his blog and read all the other excellent “reviews” that Oliver has written.
Ok boys and girls, pull up a chair. Grandpa Ed is going to tell you a little story about a spice you may not have run into very often, saffron. Hey! Sit down you ingrates! Your mom left you here so she could visit her “friend” Paul. You know, the young buck that never comes around when your father is home. So you’re going to sit down an listen. Now where was I? Oh yeah, saffron.
Saffron comes from the flower of Crocus sativus or saffron crocus which was originally native to Greece and Southwest Asia. What? Yeah, like those flowers that come up in the snow every spring. That’s them. Anyway, each crocus can have up to four flowers and each flower has three crimson stigmas, which when harvested make saffron.
Saffron has a ton of aromatic compounds in it, and besides giving its unique flavor and yellow color to a variety of dishes (especially rice) it has also been used as a dye, an ingredient in perfume and has been studied for its medicinal properties.
What? Mom doesn’t have it in her spice cabinet? Not surprising because saffron can be very expense with a jar of just a few threads easily topping $30 Think I’m joking? I just saw a variety of saffron on the Walmart website that went for $38.54 for 0.01oz. Think that idiot down on the street corner makes a good profit margin selling those bags of oregano that ain’t fooling anyone? Well I’m hear to tell you, saffron blows all that away.
Why is it so expensive? Well, in order to get a pound of saffron (that’s 0.45 grams for your friend down at the corner) you’d have to plant a plot as big as one pro football field. Then there’s the hand-picking, cleaning, sorting and toasting that has to happen.
How do I know so much about saffron? Well many years ago, when I was about the same age as the guy you’ll soon be calling “Uncle Paul”, the Dogfish Head Brewery released a beer called Midas Touch. Ohhh, I remember it like it was yesterday….
THEM: Midas Touch was the first “anceint ale” produced by Dogfish Head. Although usually thought of as a myth, Midas did exist (actually there were three of them) and ruled the kingdom of Phrygia (located in a region of Turkey) around the 8th century BC. In 1957, a team from the University of Pennsylvania discovered a tomb in what is now modern day Yassihöyük, Turkey that contained according to one source, “the best collection of Iron Age drinking vessels ever uncovered”. It was from residues found in these 2,700-year-old drinking vessels that the recipe for Midas Touch was formulated.
Midas Touch is brewed with barley, honey, white muscat grapes (a variety used in wines, raisins and table grapes) and saffron. It clocks in at 9.0%ABV and 12IBUs.
ME: I would have gone golden in color but I guess that would have been to heavy handed. The color is golden around the edges of my glass, but through the middle it’s a nice shade of orange. The carbonation is good, no wasted effort on any large head, just a nice ring around the edge of the glass and some very fine lacing. The nose is light, with hints of grain, perhaps a bit of cracker, a touch of grape and some earthiness that I’ll assume comes from the saffron. The flavor is also light and slightly sweet, A nice bit of honey and a bit more grape, along with some hay and herbs. The finish is pretty clean, it leaves your mouth with a slightly sweet coating, a little mouth water in the check and no real bitterness. Not a lot to really say about this one. It pretty much is what it says it is on the label. A little bit of beer. A little bit of mead. A little bit of wine.
I haven’t had this beer in years, and to be honest, I didn’t like it when I first had it. I guess I’ve grown a bit because it’s not as objectionable to me now, but compared to everything else I’ve tasted from DFH this month I’d be doing a total disservice if I rated it any more than a TASTER. It’s well constructed, and drinks fairly well, but I’d make sure it was something I liked before I plunked down nearly $15 for a 4-pack.
There are some things that simply transcend a small blog like this. The subject’s depth and grandeur in our world can not be summed up in the mere 500-600 words that I would write. Nor would those words do any justice or provide sufficient scope to the subject they intend to convey.
Such is Miles Davis. To say Miles Davis was a jazz musician would be like saying that Jack McAuliffe was just a brewer. It so understates what he brought to his craft and the art as a whole, and also his influence in not only the world of jazz, but other genres of music as well. So instead of writing a few inadequate words, I suggest you read a synopses of his amazing contributions to music on wikipedia.
That being said, I will take a few paragraphs to talk about Bitches Brew, Davis’ 1970 album that lends it’s name to DFH’s first entry in its musical beer series. The album marked a continuation of Davis’ experimentation with electric instruments and a more rock influenced style that he had started to experiment with in his previous album, InThe Silent Way.
The album (which features such notable musicians as Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin and Chick Corea) wasn’t a critical success early on mainly because it was such a departure from what was currently going on in the jazz word. But it later became recognized as a major influence in the jazz-rock genre as well as impacting rock and funk. Despite the mixed response from critics the album won a Grammy in 1971 for best large jazz ensemble album. In 2010, DFH release the self-titled beer, Bitches Brew, to honor the 40th anniversary of Davis’ influential album. Cue up the vinyl, put your headphones on, and let’s taste.
THEM: DFH describes BB as “a dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root.” And that’s pretty correct. BB is a blend of two beers. One is described as a straight forward stout, on which DFH gives no info. The second is a Tej, which is an African mead that uses gesho (Rhamnus prinioides, or Shiny-leaf Buckthorn) much in the same way that hops are used in traditional beer. The beer clocks in at a respectable 9%ABV and 38IBUs.
ME: BB pours black with a tan head. The dark grains immediately jump from the nose with what I’m getting as a touch of licorice. This is every bit the imperial stout it’s reported to be. For as heavy as it is, there’s still a surprising amount of caramel coming across in the nose. I’m diggin’ this daddy-o! The flavor is an amalgamation, of chocolate, molasses, malt, vanilla, a bit of that licorice, a hint of honey, and perhaps a touch of cherry. Man this thing is really packing it in. It drinks like smooth jazz, mellow, yet flavorful through most of it, clean and not overly bitter on the back end.
There’s plenty here to hide the 9%ABV, so this beer doesn’t come across as boozy, although I think I’m sensing a bit peeking through. The after taste leaves you with a nice coating around your mouth with hints of honey and a dash of coffee. I struggling for more things to say about it, but there really isn’t. But that’s not a negative, this beer is compact and tight like seasoned jazz musicians.
I wish I was familiar with gesho to know exactly what it was bringing to this jam session. I’m sure it’s in the mix somewhere, but like a newbe to Jazz music, I’m just not noticing it on my first listen.
Initially I was thinking 6-Pack on this, but I have to admit after drinking it for a while (and as it warms up) I’m going CASE. This beer is really nice with lots of great flavors and is just balanced beautifully. It totally reaffirms my belief that whether I like them or not, DFH is really putting a lot of love into their music series beers.
Wood. What would we do without it? Besides the basic essentials of life – water, air, food, Kardasians; one could make an argument that the most important substance to our very existence on this planet is wood. After all, what would the ancient cave men burned once they discovered fire? And what would maritimers of old build their ships from? What would the second little pig have built his house out of? What kind of nickle would we have ended up being warned not to take?
No, wood in its various uses is like sign posts for the evolution of the human species. There isn’t an aspect of our lives that it doesn’t touch, or hasn’t touched in the past, only to make way for more modern, practical man-made substances. We build our shelters out of it, use a form of it in daily correspondence, and make sporting equipment, musical instruments and hell, just about everything out of it. It seasons our food (cinnamon), is an essential part of Tabasco and Balsamic vinegar production, and of course puts the cue in barbecue.
So it should be no surprise that along the way it’s become an integral part of the production of alcoholic beverages, including bourbon, scotch, sherry, brandy, port and of course wine. But beer is not to be left out of this company. Storing, aging and serving beer in wooden barrels was common before the advent of metal kegs.
Of course as stainless steel became more available and more practical, wood began to take a back seat in the beer world. But modern brewers have a strong sense of tradition about them and so many have begun to look at wood again and the awesome influence it can have on their beers.
Dogfish Head is no stranger to the marriage of wood and beer, producing several that are aged in one type of wood or another. The one I want to look at today is Palo Santo Marron. Let’s Taste.
THEM: PSM is an unfiltered brown ale. That’s pretty much it. There isn’t a lot else said about it, or to say about it. Twelve-percent ABV, 50IBUs.
But the real story behind PSM isn’t in the grain bill or hop schedule anyway, it’s in the wooden 10,000 gallon tank that it ages in. Of course Sam does nothing conventional so you can expect that this isn’t just any old wooden barrel. No, the barrel is made out of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood that is more commonly used by some South American wine makers. Palo Santo (which in Spanish means “Holy Wood”) refers to Lignum vitae a trade wood from the genus Guaiacum, or either Bulnesia sarmientoi or Bursera graveolens.
Santo Palo wood is known for its density and is used in many hard wood applications such a construction, cricket bats, and, mortar and pestles. In one telling of the Arthur Tale, Merlin’s wand was made out of Lignum vitae because it was believed to have magical powers.
The wood is credited for the “caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this beer”.
But the wood isn’t all, the 10,000 gallon tank (which stands fifteen feet high and measures ten feet in diameter) was the largest wooden barrel produced in the US since prohibition. DFH currently has two other tanks of the same size sitting next to it, both manufactured from oak.
Marron? Well according to my research, it’s either a species of crayfish, or a French description of a certain variety of chestnut. Knowing Sam, it might just go either way.
ME: I’d love to try this beer without the wood aging because I think it would be an excellent comparison to demonstrate what the Palo Santo wood is bringing to the party. First, there’s an ever so slight roast in the nose, and the slightly darker than tan color of the head is definitely influenced by dark grains. I’m also getting touches of caramel, chocolate and a light spice in there as well. The flavor is owwww so smooth in the front with an amazingly silky mouth feel delivering caramel, chocolate, a nondescript woodiness, vanilla and perhaps a touch of coffee . For all the flavor in the front, the back is surprisingly clean with just a little stickiness left coating the mouth and not a whole of bitter. I can sense the booze in this. It comes at the end like the lingering reminder of a shot or sip of bourbon. Especially when you burp. Maybe 12%ABV is a little too much to ask of this beer to hide. You wouldn’t think so though, because this isn’t no mamby-pamby beer. It’s packed with all kinds of things that your mother told you were good for you. Ok, maybe not, but she SHOULD have.
I’ll admit I ended up liking this one a lot more than I thought I would. I liked the smell, and loved the flavor and mouth feel, but the alcohol on the back end made it finish a little harsh for me in the beginning (I got used to it). Still, not a bad beer. Let’s give it a 4-PACK, although I have no doubt some of you out there will really enjoy this one.