Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fantome de Noel

It is after Christmas, the presents are put away, the tree is undecorated lying outside, yet I still have a couple beers to drink.  That seems like a good situation to me.

Calling my name is the Fantome de Noel that I picked up at Wine Underground. It looks like a fun bottle to drink, so I thought I would give it a whirl.

The beer pours a dark reddish-brown, with a beautiful fluffy off-white, almost tan head.  The beer looks perfect to drink.  The aroma jumps up and hits you with cherry and alcohol. I always assume that there will be a large spice presence in Belgian Christmas beers, but this one is much more subtle.

The spices stay subtle (there but subtle), with a sweet cherry flavor coming out- it could be candy sugar and cherry, or just the cherry, I'm not sure. As the beer warms, the nice blend of spices start to show up, with no single spice dominating others. The alcohol is present, which is expected at 10%.

The smoothness of the beer and the mild carbonation makes this beer very easy to drink. This is definitely a beer that I wouldn't mind picking up in the future, even though the pricetag is a little higher than I normally pay (it was $13-14).

A very nice Christmas beer that could be enjoyed by the fire. As a dark saison, the funkyness does not overpower everything else about the beer.

Overall Rating: I'd give it an A-/B+.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snowblower Saison

Decided to brew up some sort of belgian that will act somewhat like a saison. Sure, everyone has lawnmower beers, but when it is the middle of winter, you need a snowblower beer.

I love Czech Saaz, so I made modest additions. I was hoping that the hops add a bit of flavor and aroma, but I didn't want it to dominate either.  I used some Candi Sugar to help dry it out a bit, and the smaller amounts of specialty grains to just give it a little something.  I wanted to use Pilsner Extract, but the LHBS didn't have any. I am sure it won't be that big of a deal.

This was also my first time using my immersion chiller. What a great addition to my equipment. Along with the 40 degree weather, the chiller took my wort from 210 down to 75 in about 20 minutes. That is so much better than the old waterbath. I lost a little more due to boil off and also lost a third of a gallon due to a hose malfuntion. I have now decided that my next equipment upgrade will be a brewpot with a valve to make it easier to transfer to my fermentor.

Here is my recipe:

7 lbs. Light LME
4 oz. Belgian Aromatic
4 oz. Honey Male
4 oz. Belgian Biscuit
1 lb. Light Candi Sugar

1 oz. Czech Saaz (60 minutes)
1 oz. Czech Saaz (10 minutes)

White Labs Belgian Saison I (WLP565)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Session #59- Non-Beer Drinking

This month's topic for The Session is "I Almost Always Drink Beer, But When I Don't..." was hosted by Mario over at Brewed For Thought:
So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let’s talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.

Beer cocktails, wines, ciders, meads, you name it as long as it’s not beer. Try to tie it in with craft beer in some way for extra credit. Be creative and I’ll see you guys in the new year.
I gave up soda about 3 years ago. I have nothing against High Fructose Corn Syrup. I love it actually, but for some reason I decided not to drink soda.  And let me tell you what, it is tough to order any of my former mixed drinks at an open bar- no more Scotch and soda, $2 Rum and Cokes, Seven and Sevens, so many pushed my determination to eliminate soda.

I love a good scotch. Really, I love any scotch. Sure it could be a 21 year old Macallan, but it doesn't need to be.  I like a 10 year old Speyburn as well (maybe not as much, but I still like it). I am no where near a scotch or whiskey connoisseur, I just enjoy the drink. But the best part about it is that I like it with 3 (no more, no less- hey, I just like the number 3) cubes of ice. I can drink it slow and steady, and enjoy every sip.

When scotch is not an option, I have no problems with blends (mmm, Tellamore Dew) or bourbons (give me some Jack or Jim). Really, the only liquor that I have not been into has been vodka. Just seems like something that begs for a bit of soda to help it out. While I do not drink a lot of tequila, the higher end drinks can be accepted like whiskey, and aren't as harsh as the cheap stuff.

Finally, I am intregued in the newest liquor that I have been given.  This year for Christmas, my brother gave me a bottle of Hatter Royale Hopquila from New Holland Brewing (here is the beer connection). This is an IPA that has been distilled and then dry hopped with Centennial hops.  I have no idea what to expect.  Online reviews have compared it to a whiskey or tequila, all I know is that I am intregued.  Can't wait to find out what it tastes like.