Brew Review – DuClaw Brewing’s Sweet Baby Jesus, Peanut Butter Porter

DuClaw Brewing's Sweet Baby Jesus
DuClaw Brewing’s Sweet Baby Jesus

Sigh.  I’m waiting.  Patiently.  My refrigerator has once again brought the temperature of the object of my intended review to a point that’s to cold to allow the subtle (or not so subtle) flavor and aromas to express themselves properly.  I could use this time to go in and find the magic knob that controls the temperature and turn it down a click or two.  But with my luck I would wake up tomorrow with a fridge full of stinky milk and tubs full of fungal experiments that used to by Tracey’s Greek yogurt.  And I have a feeling she’d frown on that.  Hard to believe, I know.

But enough about how my appliances hate me.  Back in October I reviewed Duclaw Brewing’s first brew in there H.E.R.O series, their chocolate peanut porter.  Well the beer was so well received that Duclaw has decided  to offer it as a regular seasonal.  So I guess, really, that makes this review superfluous.  I mean it’s the same beer, just in a different sized bottle and a catchier name.  Sweet Baby Jesus.  Why do I want to say it like an old southern maid?  “SweeeEET  BAby JESSUSSS!”  Anyway, I guess I didn’t think this through.  But I’ve already opened the bottle so I’ve committed.   Took a photo and everything.  So I guess I  just have to do this.

THEM:   DuClaw decided not to mess with the beer (smart move), the grain bill is still pale, chocolate, crystal, black, brown malts; and roasted barley.  Fuggles and Goldings hops balance out the beer at 53 IBUs and it still clocks in at 6.5% alcohol.

ME:  Nope, still to cold.

Tracey is watching her usual Monday night shows.  So is this girl finally the mother on H.I.M.Y.M?  Isn’t this the show’s last season?  We should be getting to see her pretty soon shouldn’t we?  Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.  So I was wondering, has the advent of brewers introducing peanut butter beers given those with peanut allergies one more facet of their life they must be careful in?   Do those who enjoy DuClaw’s Venom fear for the day when under the Government Warning statement there will be a label that reads, “Food Allergy Warning!  This beer is brewed in equipment that has come in contact with peanuts or peanut products.”?

I mean how bad would that suck?  There you are hanging out with your three friends watching Battlestar Galactica when one of your friends absent mindedly pulls the wrong beer from the fridge and suddenly…

"I ththought it wa a Yuengling Pawter!"
“I ththought it wa a Yuengwing Pawter!”

You know!!  How horrible would that be?  I mean, drinking sessions with your friends result in enough trips to the ER already, right?  Huh?  They don’t?  Oh.  Hmmph .  Maybe I need new friends.  Anyway, let’s get back to the beer.

ME:  Nope, still not there.

Am I the only one who thinks Megyn Price from Rules of Engagement is cute?  I mean, obviously Bianca Kajlich is supposed to be the hottie in the cast, but I’ve liked Megyn since she was in “Grounded for Life”.  You know, that Fox Network comedy where she’s totally unbelievably married to Donal Logue?  Yeah, like that would ever happen in real life.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, and how about bars?  Will they have to carry epi-pens and benadryl on the off chance that someone orders a beer from a tap on which the previous beer was SBJ.  What if the lines weren’t flushed properly?  Will bars have to dedicate a “peanut butter tap” which is clearly marked?

With this once beloved product spokesman be reduced to nothing more than a warning sign?
Will this once beloved product spokesman be reduced to nothing more than a warning sign?

Obviously I’m being a little tongue in check here, but these type of food allergies can be the most sensitive and the most severe.  One child in a Arkansas recently started an uproar when his mother sent him to school with a PB&J, unaware that the school had a ban on product, that had been enforce for six years, to protect those with allergies.  And since, as my friend Lisa loves to point out, “we are such a litigious society”, I await for the day when someone sues a bar because they were not informed that one of the beers on draft contained peanuts.

ME:  Finally.  This beer is just awesome.  You know, if someone would have told me about 10 years ago that one day one of my favorite beers would be one brewed with peanut butter I probably would have laughed at them.  But I can’t lie, I love this beer.  The aroma is a tantalizing mix of chocolate and peanut butter, with under tones of roasted grains and English hops.  The nose serves as no slight of hand for the flavor, what you smell is pretty much what you get.  SBJ starts with some nice grainy chocolate in the front, and then the peanut butter comes into play.  There’s almost a reminiscence of some chocolate milks I’ve had in the past or maybe a milk shake.  Did I ever have a chocolate peanut butter milk shake?  I willing to bet I have.  The peanut butter isn’t so in your face as to be stupid, instead it mixes well with the other flavors .  I was getting something else just after the peanut butter, something I couldn’t quite latch onto.  Maybe it was the hops, or something from the grains.  The finish is clean, with just enough bitter to balance, but not to take the beer away from the what it’s intended to be, an ode to the sweet “you got peanut butter in my chocolate” that you enjoyed as a kid.  And if you’re like me, probably never out grew.

Time for another beer…

Brew Review – DuClaw Brewing’s H.E.R.O. Chocolate Chipotle Stout

DuClaw Brewing’s H.E.R.O. 2012 Chocolate Chipotle Stout

This time last year I reviewed DuClaw’s Brewing Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter which was brewed as part of their H.E.R.O. (Honest.Excellent.Robust.Original) homebrew contest.  Last year’s beer came from the winning recipe of Tony Huckestein and Doug DeLeo with all the proceeds going to the  Cool Kids Campaign to aid the creation of their Learning Center for children battling cancer.

This year, Vincent and Suzanne Powers brewed the winning beer, chosen from over 50 entries, a chocolate chipotle stout.  Once the winners were announced, DuClaw then opened up their email for recommendations as to where the proceeds from this year’s H.E.R.O. beer should go.  After what I’m sure were many worthy recommendations, it was decided by DuClaw that every penny of this year’s H.E.R.O. brew will go to the Alysha Miller Harris Baby Fund.  For those who don’t know, Ben Harris was a very well liked employee at the Redhook Brewery in New Hampshire.  Tragically, Ben was killed when a keg he was cleaning exploded, leaving his wife Alysha, and their (then) unborn baby as his survivors.  One hundred percent of the proceeds from this year’s H.E.R.O. will go to a fund for their support.

THEM:  The grain bill for this year’s H.E.R.O. consists of Pale Malt, Chocolate Malt, Crystal Malt, Black Malt, and Roasted Barley.  The only hop variety used is the New Zealand Pacific Jade.  The beer starts at 18.5 Plato and finishes at 7.5% ABV, and is balanced with 85 IBUs.

ME:  CCS pours jet black with a nice tan head.  The nose is rich with chocolate and roasted malt, but carries no hint of the spice to come.  On just the first sip chocolate, malt and a touch of smoke rush up in the front and give way to a full bodied creaminess in the middle.  And then, the bite from the chipotle’s catches you in the back and takes full attention.  The heat is sharp, and stays to the back of the mouth so it doesn’t set your whole mouth on fire like that plate of “Nuclear Inferno Wings” you get from your local happy hour stop.  That being said, if you have an aversion to all things hot, this probably isn’t going to be your glass of beer.  Once your palette gets used to it however, the heat calms down to a nice warmth in the back of your mouth and the beer leaves a slightly sticky chocolate after taste.

I really liked this beer.  The chipotle gives a nice balanced heat to the beer, and the depth of chocolate throughout is awesome.  In fact, I’d love to try this without the peppers because I think this would be an awesome chocolate stout on its own.

If this sounds like something you’d like, give it a try.   Remember, it’s for a worthy cause.  If a little heat in your beer isn’t for you, you can still donate to the fund:

The Alysha Miller Harris Baby Fund
c/o TD Bank
20 Portsmouth International Drive
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Time for another beer.

Brew Review – DuClaw Brewing’s X-5 IPA (Sorachi Ace)

[EDITOR’s NOTE : Hey look!  Ed’s finally remembered he should be doing beer reviews!]

Haha….shut up….

I need to thank Gary over at Triple L for getting this beer into my hand.  Well, not literally but he was definitely a source of inspiration.  Back when he was formulating the beer that would eventually become his Seppuku Saison, he was insistent that he wanted it to showcase a hop variety that I had not had a lot of exposure to, the Japanese hop variety Sorachi Ace.  I was aware of Brooklyn’s beer of the same name but to honest I don’t gravitate towards Brooklyn very often so I hadn’t tried it.

Well then came that fateful day when I decided to throw caution to the wind and a freshly tapped mug of Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace was placed in front of me.  And I was hooked.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken to something in the beer world as much as I have this hop.  It has such a notably different aroma and flavor profile than the more commonly used hops, especially those in the three “C” family.

“Mrs C” and the other three “C”s

Ah, no.  And wouldn’t that really be four “C”s anyway?

Better.  Thank you.  So when I saw DuClaw’s X-5, Sorachi Ace IPA, I had to give it a taste.

THEM: Sorachi ace IPA is part of DuClaw’s eXile series.  A series of small batch beers brewed to be experimental in design and available only at their locations.  The series has included such concoctions as an Imperial Wit, an Imperial Chocolate Rye Porter, and a Macchiato Milk Stout.   X-5 started out as a small batch Imperial Rice Ale, , which used the rice to keep the flavor of the beer light so as to let the nuances of the sorachi to stand out in the beer.  The beer was retooled for bottling early this year, dropping it down from its tap ABV of 7.2% to a more approachable 6.0%.

ME:  X-5 pours clear, delivering a slightly thicker than lace head across the top of the beer.  The head leaves a beautiful lace down the side of the glass as you take each sip, and the cascade of bubbles from the bottom of the glass was steady, and non-ending.  Really, this is just a beautifully carbonated beer.

DuClaw’s X-5, Sorachi Ace IPA

The aroma has some nice malt notes but also has everything you’d expect from sorachi ace, lemon peel, floral notes, and coconut husk(?).  The taste is interesting, in that the front is very clean due to rice.  The middle begins to bring in the flavors; a small touch of malt, lemony citrus and a taste I’ll talk about later.  It finishes off with a light hop bite that lingers slightly, and leaves your mouth watering for the next sip.  Which for me, was never to far away with this beer.

An interesting sensation I always get with sorachi is a sort of woodsiness in the aroma and taste.  It always makes me think of a clean plank of wet wood.  I don’t know where it comes from, but the vision always pops in my mind when I drink a beer with sorachi in it.  And yes, I consider that a good experience.

Not only is X-5 another very solid beer from the folks over at DuClaw, but it solidly cements sorachi ace as my favorite current trend in brewing.  I simply love this hop and can’t wait to try other brews that use it.  Or hell, I just might stop by the bar and have another mug of Brooklyn.  Thanks Gary!

Time for another beer.

Brew Review – DuClaw Brewing’s Venom and Anti-Venom

The Poison and the Cure (notice how the Cure is always bigger?)

Now that I’ve been writing this blog for awhile, I find that I spend a good amount of time at State Line looking for my next post.  I walk up and down the aisles looking for something that not only peaks my interest to try, but also has “a hook” that I can write about.  Something about the beer(s) that speaks to my quirky side, beyond just the hops and malt.  An aspect that I can have some fun with, and as one of my best friend’s father used to say, “It doesn’t take much to amuse the retard!”  So when DuClaw Brewing’s Anti-Venom walked into State Line a while back I swore I wouldn’t drink it until I got a hold of a bottle of their Venom.  After all, what good is drinking the antidote if you haven’t first had the poison.  So let’s see if I survive…

THEM: Venom’s grain bill consists of  pale, aromatic and crystal malts and is hopped with columbus and cascade hops.  It’s bittered to 36 IBUs and sports 5.6% ABV.  Anti-Venom is a single hopped beer in the style of Venom.  It’s brewed with New Zealand Green Bullet hops over a grain bill of pale, caramunich and carared (a malt produced by Weyermann, that is especially made for red ales) malts.  Like Venom it’s brewed to a original gravity of 13.5 plato, but the IBUs are higher at 45.  The ABV clocks in at the same 5.6%.

ME:  Venom pours a clear amber with a thin head that dissipates into a thin layer of lace across the top of the beer.  The nose is surprisingly light with only a mild hop aroma.  The taste starts with a slight malt sweetness in the front and follows through with citrus notes with a lingering (not crisp) hop finish.  Anti-Venom  pours amber as well (I have myself convinced that it’s an iota darker) with a head that reduces to a fine lace.   The nose is more malty than its partner and indeed, that maltiness comes across in the taste along with a touch of caramel.  Anti-Venom finishes with a bitterness that seems cleaner to me than the Venom, leaving a pleasing after taste.

From a quick look at the packaging I was suspecting something different.  I came into this tasting believing that Anti-Venom would be a single hop clone of Venom.  That’s not actually true as the two beers are indeed different.  Anti-Venom (my favorite of the two for those who care) brings more malt to the party , and because of it doesn’t seem more or less bitter than Venom despite having 10 more IBUs.

Anti-venom was my first beer (that I’m aware of, but I feel  confident that I’m correct) that utilized green bullet hops.  Its flavor profile is different than the cascade/columbus combo found in Venom, the green bullet having more of an “English ale” hop characteristic to it.

If you get a chance, seek out these two very good beers from DuClaw and decide which is better for you, the poison or the cure.  Whatever your taste in beer, I believe you’ll find one of these to your liking.

Time for another beer.


Brew Review – DuClaw’s H.E.R.O. Chocolate and Peanut Butter Porter.

DuClaw's H.E.R.O. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Porter.

A long time ago a candy company spent millions of dollars in advertising to convince people of one idea: that chocolate and peanut butter were “two great tastes that taste great together”.  And while people couldn’t decide if someone got peanut butter in someone’s chocolate or visa versa, they had no problem agreeing that indeed, they make an awesome combination.

Fast forward to today and that belief still holds true.  Peanut butter and chocolate do make a great tandem.  And since chocolate is a very common flavor in certain beers, it was only a matter of time before some adventurous brewer pulled a jar of Skippy out of the kitchen cabinet one morning and thought “Hey, I wonder……”  Searching the internet shows that peanut butter and beer is not a unique concept, plenty of breweries have tried it.  But when I caught wind that the guys at DuClaw were brewing one, well I kept my eye open on the beer shelves.  And when one day recently I did indeed find it sitting on Stateline’s shelf, well as my buddy Chuck would say, “Ya Gotsta!”  Let’s taste.

THEM : HERO CaPBP starts with an impressive grain bill of pale, crystal, brown, chocolate and black malts.  Roasted barley and peanut butter are also added.  Fuggles and Golding hops are used with the IBUs coming in at 53.  The ABV finishes about 6.5% according to the spec sheet (although my bottle simply said 6%), from an original gravity of 16 plato.

ME : HERO CaPBP pours, with a nice creamy head which dissipates into a solid thin lace across the glass.  The nose  carries a roastiness with a hint of coffee. The flavor up front is actually clean,  I wasn’t  getting a lot there.  Then it turns into a slight creaminess in the middle that at first doesn’t really taste like anything, but after a few sips the peanut butter starts to become apparent. Hero finishes with touch of chocolate with a hint of roasted grain.

As the beer warmed up, and I had a few more sips, the peanut butter started to become more apparent in both the nose and flavor.  I would recommend not serving this beer to cold.  It’s an amazing symphony of subtle flavors and aromas  and to over chill this beer would be to do it a huge injustice.  This is a beer that at a bar I’d order two, and drink one while the second warmed up to really show off all that it has to offer.

The beer is a product of DuClaw’s H.E.R.O. homebrew contest.  The winning recipe came from Tony Huckestein and Doug DeLeo (congrats guys!) and all the proceeds go to the  Cool Kids Campaign to aid the creation of their Learning Center for children battling cancer.  As I’ve said before, great beer and helping a great cause – you can’t go wrong!

So next time you see a commercial that gets you in the mood for a little PB & C, hop in your car – but drive past the candy store.  Pick a bottle of this awesome beer up and you won’t care who got the peanut butter in the chocolate, you’ll just be glad they did.

Time for another beer!

Brew Review – DuClaw Brewing, Colossus

I enjoy breweries who really love to have fun with their product.  Whether it be a unique name, label or ad campaign, being clever in promoting your product will always get points with me.

Points go to DuClaw Brewing in Maryland.  DuClaw sports several different locations and more than a handful of year round and seasonal brews.  With interesting names like Alchemy, Repent, Misery, Mad Bishop, and Enigma you can tell these guys are thinking out side of the box.

Godzilla has nothing on this beer!

But it was their recent release of Colossus that really caught my eye.  The brewery did a spirited social media run on its Facebook page proclaiming wild accusations such as “That’s not vomiting. Colossus is just bored being inside you” and “Steroids once tested positive for Colossus”.  And recently after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake shook a large portion of the east coast, DuClaw was quick to post the reason why “A keg of Colossus fell. Sorry about that”.

But quick wit alone does not a great brew make.  While catchy sayings and cute names are fun, it IS about the beer.  So does Colossus live up to its name?  Let’s find out.

THEM : The grain bill for Colossus consists of pale, crystal and dark crystal malts. DuClaw uses chinook and nugget hops targeting the IBUs at 70.  Gravity is 40 plato, with final ABV finishing at 21% which they claim is achieved totally by fermentation – wow.

ME : Colossus pours cloudy with little to no head retention.  In my glass the color starts at the bottom as a dark amber and moves up to a dark brown.  The nose and flavor are very much in sync.  Hints of apple, cinnamon and honey dance across your tongue from front to back ending in a noticeable alcohol bite.  After tasting, I was please when I read the label and saw that those flavors were very much expected from the beer. Colossus is very much truth in advertising, a big beer with notes of apple, cinnamon and honey.  If that sounds good to you, then you’ll like this beer very much.

But Colossus?  Well at 21% ABV who am I to argue.  This definitely isn’t a session beer, so keep that in mind while you’re enjoying it.  And it does have the backbone to support the alcohol content.  It’s a very tasty, solid beer.  Sadly however Colossus lives up to its name in price as well.  My 22oz bottle cost $25+ which puts it outside of my “beers that I’ll normally have in my beer fridge” category.  But every now and then as a treat (or if I’m lucky enough to catch it on draft) I’ll definitely revisit this beer.

Have you had colossus?  What did you think?

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