10 March 2009

Beer Talk with The Responsible Drunk...

This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of brewer profiles from the Responsible Drunk. At Beer fest we were able to chat with Christian Ryan from River Horse Brewing Company in Lambertville, NJ about what they got brewing for this year, his thoughts on brewing philosophy and why some beers taste different out of the bottle and on draft...

RD: The Weizen Bock is brand new?
CR: Yes, just kegged that off yesterday
RD: What else do you have coming out new?
CR: At the beginning of our year we have the year roughly mapped out. We do try to do three reserves a year we try to do at least as many draft-only’s, because that is only like a half tank, get it out, blow it out and see what happens. The dunkel last year was one of those, and we’re bringing that back full time. Full time for Oktoberfest, and we’re going to do a fall run too… We’ve got Hopalatomus, last year we did a draft only, we’re bringing that back full time. We’re going to do a wheat-rye beer for our first reserve in a couple months. In the fall we’re going to do a farmhouse. We’re doing a pumpkin tripel…
RD: Gearing up for Oktoberfest?
CR: Yea, I think it will go very well. We got a Milk Stout coming back out… we’re probably going to do a barley wine for Christmas time. We’re going to do a Russian beer thing, a Russian style stout.
RD: Do you have a general philosophy…
CR: I do what I like, I don’t want to stick with style, I guess my philosophy is, I don’t like styles. If you stick to styles, then you are making beer that everybody else has. While it’s a good guideline I don’t want it in beer
RD: You don’t wan to peg yourself in extreme beer…
CR: I’m not a really big extreme beer fan, I like drinkable… For me if you dump 40 pounds of hops in a beer to the point where you can’t taste anything else, then what’s the point? Anybody can do that, look hey, I have the hoppiest beer! Alright, so what? I can’t taste anything else. Every person in this room could make that.
RD: And consistency is the other thing:
CR: That’s the hard part. Honestly, anybody can make good beer, the hard part is making good beer consistently.
RD: We recently reviewed Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, and we review everything out of the bottle, and neither of us liked it out of the bottle, but we had it on draft list night, it was amazing. I feel like bottling technology has gotten to a point where it shouldn’t matter whether its on bottle or draft:
CR: Depending on which beer. So for us you have our Tripel, or Double or the Belgian Freeze, it's bottle-conditioned, so those are getting up to about 3.8%, 4.0% by volume CO2 but in the keggar, we only bring it up to about 2.8%... It can be a different experience, some guys don’t filter their draft, but filter their bottles… so there’s no real reason they should be different but in reality sometimes they are.

Beer Talk with the Responsible Drunk is edited for clarity and drunkenness.

09 March 2009

The RD Night Out - Brooklyn Event at London Bar and Grille

In our continuing coverage of beer week, the Responsible Drunk headed out to the London Bar and Grill in the Art Museum district of Philadelphia on Monday night to sample some brand new Brooklyn brews and chat with Head Brewmaster Garret Oliver (pictured on left).

Brooklyn Brewery has been admired on this site for its consistency and stylistic discipline. This concept of a devotion towards a German style reinheitsgebot rigidity must not be overstated, however. More accurate would be to say Brooklyn attempts to blend that sort of consistency and discipline with truly American flavors, and the best argument it has presented so far was on display in two new beers premiered this week for Philly Beer Week.

BLAST! is a new double IPA that showcases Brooklyn venturing into Dogfish Head territory. The dry hopped Imperial Pale Ale has a super foamy head, a bright complexion and features a blend of 8 different hop varieties, including the vaunted and popular new SIMCOE(r). In the opinion of Mr. Oliver, its a powerful beer (8%), and judging by his brewing selection, I'd say that is a reasonable assessment. Surly there are more potent IIPA's out there, but this is pretty much what you would expect from Brooklyn in that department.

Local 2 is the second in a new series of 100% bottle conditioned Belgian style ale from Brooklyn. Last year they released a smooth, citrusy Belgian white which was more or less by the book (as Brooklyn is wont...). This year, however, Mr. Oliver has taken it up a notch. This dark Belgian ale blends honey grown in a local apiary with dark roasted caramel and other Belgian malts with a Belgian yeast that lends a special spicyness to a beer that is otherwise rich in fruit and chocolate. Pulling this brew off with typical Brooklyn consistency is truly a feat. When I asked Mr. Oliver about his inspirations for this beer, he said, "definitely Chimay Grand Reserve, like it used to be in the 80's" as well as Achel Extra, but he stressed the importance of adding an American flavor, hence the locally grown honey and the dry chocolate malt.

I'm sure we will be getting around to full reviews of these beers, as well as the solid Blunderbuss Old Ale which was also on tap, as soon as they are more widely available. Stay tuned for more updates on Philly Beer Week activities!

Old Man Winter Ale

Rating: 8.1
Brewery: Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY)
Glass: Pint
ABV: 8%
Seller: The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA)
When Enjoyed: 6 March 2009

Brewers attack a winter ale in a variety of ways. Some go for a spicy, hoppy amber, like Goose Island's Lake Effect, to warm our souls and tantalize our taste buds. Some go malt crazy and produce a stout that packs in the coffee and chocolate, to complement the tons of coffee and chocolate we're already consuming during the holidays, Lagunitas' Cappucino Stout comes to mind. Southern Tier's Old Man Winter is certainly in the malty category.

Stylistically speaking, Old Man Winter might fit the loose definition of a porter, but it's makers have stuck in the Old Ale category (an even looser affiliation). It is very dark, the malts are prominent, but it doesn't carry the same density as a stout. It has a smooth pour, with some measure of carbonation, but not too jumpy. The head is thick and brown in color. The real star is the flavor. The malt complexion here is one that cuts both sweet and bright, with a hop content that is relatively high. The hops here are what really defines it as an Old Ale, allowing for the right bitter cut to a dark ale, and acting as a preservative that will allow it to age with some amount of grace. It is probably worth cellaring half of your six pack, if you're into that kind of thing.

The ABV is also on the high side, and with cellaring that will increase further. The real skill of the brewers comes with the unrecognizability of this beer's strength. We were both quite sruprised to find out this beer was at 8%, the alcohol taste is practically non existant. While there is nothing terribly suprising about this brew, there are certainly more interesting Old Ales to be found, Old Man Winter is sure to please on a cold winter night in.