Seduction & Bourbon County

Now if I didn’t know anything about these beers other than the names, I would be intrigued.  But I’ve tasted both of them, and I hope to sufficiently describe them so you can decide if you would like to try them yourself.

Seduction: Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, New York.  6.8% ABV.  This is a limited edition brew by Ommegang.  I purchased this 750 ML bottle several months ago at Total Wine, but kept it in Mac’s beer refrigerator until the right moment.  That moment arrived on Sunday October 7, 2012.

Seduction is a Belgian style Chocolate Cherry Stout.  It pours dark, dark, dark red with a tan head that was fairly thick, but faded rapidly.  The aroma is sweet chocolate, with no hops in the nose.  The cherry is quite subdued, and I only noticed it after reading the label.

The flavor is chocolate with some cherry notes.  It’s not bitter, but it’s not sweet, either.  I guess that would make it well balanced.  The carbonation level is high (it’s a Belgian style beer – you’ve got to expect that after all!) which lends some bitterness in the mouth.  The aftertaste is all chocolate.  The label says to serve at 40° F, but I think a warmer serving temperature is advisable.  After warming up, the chocolate cherry aroma and flavor drastically increased, making this a very good beer.

I tasted this along side Mac’s Black Forest Stout, and I must say Mac’s stood up very well to Seduction.  Sheila had a blind taste of both and picked Black Forest Stout over Seduction.  Mac’s had much more body (that’s what you get when you have 2.5 lbs of oatmeal in the mash) and the flavor is more intense.  The alcohol content of the Black Forest Stout is much higher (9.0% ABV vs. 6.8%), but is well hidden and not a factor in the flavor.

I don’t know if Seduction is available any longer.  It was distributed in January 2012 and is a limited edition beer.  I have not seen it recently at Total Wine.  However, if you can find it, I highly recommend it, especially if you are a stout drinker looking for a complex tasting beer.

Bourbon County (2009): Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago Il.  13% ABV.  This is the 2009 version of Goose Island’s bourbon barrel aged stout.  This 22 oz bomber has been in my refrigerator for a couple of years (it was bottled on 10-09-2009; not sure when I purchased it, but it was sometime in early 2010).  According to the label, it can be aged for up to 5 years in the bottle.  I drank this beer on 10-21-2012 (just over 3 years after bottling).

Bourbon County pours dark as night with no head.  It has a sweet, slightly boozy aroma (well, after all, it’s 13% alcohol) with some vanilla and a little bit of smoke in the nose.  It is silky smooth with lots of body; there is very little carbonation.

It has a sweet chocolate flavor with a slight bitterness in the middle.  The flavor is VERY rich, almost overwhelming.  There is a nice bourbon barrel flavor at the end (vanilla and oak).  A very pleasant bittersweet chocolate aftertaste lingers on the palate.  The alcohol is noticeable but not hot.

Overall, Bourbon County is a top quality beer, better than almost all of the bourbon barrel stouts I have tasted (Black Tuesday, by The Bruery in Placentia,  is far and away the best I have ever had, but it’s $30/bottle).  The bourbon flavor with the sweetness and the alcohol make this a sipping, dessert beer.  Take your time drinking this one, and savor every swallow.

I tasted Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout along side this one, and had Sheila do a blind taste test of the two.  Sheila preferred Little Levi’s (she liked the chocolate flavor with the coffee aftertaste and thought the Bourbon County was too sweet and boozy).  I prefer Bourbon County hands down because the beer is all about the vanilla/bourbon flavor.  As with any big stout, the flavor improved as the beer warmed to the 60° range.

If you are interested in finding this beer, I doubt that the 2009 version is still available.  You just might be able to find it on ebay or Craig’s List, but be prepared to pay a premium for it (I think I paid $10 – $13 at Total Wine when I bought it almost 3 years ago).  I will start looking for the 2012 version (if it’s available) and buy a couple of bottles if/when I find it (one to enjoy now and another to cellar for a few years).  The label says, “One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.”  I would have to agree, and I can’t recommend this beer enough – it’s REALLY GOOD!

Velvet Glove & White Oak

Two brews I tasted in September.  Now that I have computer access again, here are the reviews.

Velvet Glove: Iron Fist Brewing Company, Vista, California.  9.0% ABV.  I drank this while tailgating at the USC football game on Saturday September 22, 2012.

Iron Fist Brewing is a relative newcomer to the San Diego craft brewing industry.  This beer, however, is not for the novice.  It pours black as night, with a dark tan head.  The aroma is of chocolate with just a hint of alcohol.

Velvet Glove has a well balanced chocolate and coffee flavor, not sweet, but not overly bitter either.  Hop flavor and aroma are almost non-existent.  The dark bitter grains provide the bitterness, but they are not overwhelming.  In fact, for a 9% stout, the flavor is not as strong as I had expected and I was a little disappointed (my observations upon drinking it ice cold).  The beer was good, but not great.

After letting it warm up (as you should with any imperial stout – drink at about 50° – 55° F), the flavors really jumped out, and my impression of the beer changed greatly.  There was much more flavor and aroma.  The flavor profile didn’t change, it just intensified – more coffee/chocolate flavor, with a nice warming alcohol note.  The body is thick and smooth.

I recommend this to any stout drinker (especially an Imperial Russian Stout drinker).  It’s 9% alcohol, but is smooth and easy to drink.  It is available in 750 ML bombers, and I drank the whole bottle in one sitting (hey, we were tailgating so excessive beer drinking is acceptable, and even encouraged).  The bottle was given to me by co-worker Jeff Toy – he purchased it at Iron Fist Brewing in Vista (Thanks, Jeff!!!).  I have seen this on the shelf at Total Wine, so it is available at stores where they have a good selection of craft brews.

Here is how the Velvet Glove label describes this beer: “You know the expression ‘A Velvet Glove and an Iron Fist’?  It was coined to refer to a regime that used a soft exterior to hide its punishingly unforgiving nature.  This seems an apt description for our Velvet Glove.  Its placid appearance and unparalleled smoothness hide the truth; this is one fiendishly unrelenting stout. . . .  Put the 500 pack of light lager back with its buddies and rule your taste with an IRON FIST!”

White Oak: The Bruery, Placentia, California.  11.5% ABV.  I tasted this on a hot Sunday afternoon, September 30, 2012.  I have reviewed other offerings from the world renowned Bruery on this blog site in the past, and this selection will not be much different – The Bruery makes great beer.

White Oak is 50% ale, and 50% ale aged in bourbon barrels.  It pours a clear blond color.  The clarity is somewhat surprising as this is an unfiltered bottled conditioned wheat ale.  It is highly carbonated, as one would expect with a Belgian style ale.  The head is extensive and white in color, with good staying power.  It took a while to fill my glass due to the high carbonation, and I had to wait several minutes for the foam to subside (so I could fill my glass) before I could taste it.

It was worth the wait.  White Oak is a great beer.  The pleasant bourbon aroma is front and center, but the signature Belgian aroma lurks in the background.  My initial taste impression was Belgian, but then the bourbon flavor kicked in.

White Oak is a blond color Belgian wheat ale (with the signature fruitiness/sweetness), but make no mistake about it, it is a bourbon barrel masterpiece.  The flavor is big and the alcohol content is big, so don’t chug-a-lug this beer.  I felt the alcohol right away.  At 11.5% it can put the hurt on you.  Drink it on an empty stomach?  Plan on having a buzz for awhile.

This selection is available in 750ML bottles from the Provisions store (The Bruery’s retail store in old town Orange) and costs $20 per bottle (see previous note – “don’t chug-a-lug this beer”).  I purchased the bottle in August, so I don’t know if it’s still available.  If it is available (never saw it at Total Wine; might be available only at the Provisions store) then buy yourself a bottle and treat yourself to a little bit of beer nirvana.  Although unusual, this is a GREAT beer (Sheila liked it also)  and I highly recommend it!! If you like bourbon aged beer, you will love this one.

Mac’s Brew News – October 23, 2012

It’s been several months since I posted anything to Mac’s Brew News.  As I pointed out in my last newsletter, Mac’s Brew Pub was on hiatus for the summer, but I had planned on brewing again in August 2012.  However, I did not brew in August, and it doesn’t look like I will brew anything before the holidays, so I think January 2013 is a realistic goal to return to brewing.

So, what happened?  Sheila (Mrs. Mac, aka “The Boss”) wanted a new air gap cover for our kitchen.  This led to all kinds of mischief, including painting most of the interior of the house (ceilings different colors, each room a different color, accent colors on certain walls, baseboards and door casings with accent colors, etc.) new floors through the whole house (except in Mac’s Brew Pub room), complete kitchen remodel (new cabinets, new counter tops & sink, new appliances, new lighting), bathroom remodel (see kitchen remodel, but new fixtures, including sinks, instead of new appliances), new living room furniture (to match the new paint, of course), and all kinds of new uh, uh . . . .  stuff (yeah, that’s what you call it, “stuff”).  Needless to say, Mac’s attention has been diverted to remodeling (painting, plumbing, fixture installation, detail work, etc.) AND, the brew pub room has become a storage unit for all of our kitchen & bathroom stuff for a few months (since the beginning of July).

I don’t mean to bore you with all of the details, but this is my (lame) excuse for not brewing nor posting for the last few months.  We are getting to the end of this saga, so (like I already stated) I hope to start brewing again in January (2013).  Oh, also, I put the kegerator project on hold as well, and hope to get back to that within the next month.  I want to keg my next batch.

One thing I want to mention in this edition of the newsletter has to do with everyday life at Mac’s.  I retired from my day job on October 5, 2012.  On Wednesday October 10th, I went to the Tahoe area with my great friend, Brian Renden.  His brother, Joe Renden, is a real brewmeister, and is head brewer at High Sierra Brewing Company in Carson City, Nevada.  On Thursday October 11, 2012, Joe Renden let me assist in brewing an IPA for the brewery.  This was a thrill for me, and an experience I will not soon forget.  Thanks, Joe, for the opportunity to be part of a real brewing adventure.  You’re a good man, and a gracious host (I stayed at his cabin in Truckee with him and Brian).  And, a special thank you to Brian for the 5 day adventure and letting me have some fun with your brother.  You’re the bomb, Brian.

For now, my next few postings will be beer reviews – after all, even though I am not brewing anything, I’m still buying beer and drinking it.  I will try to give everyone some food for thought (remember, beer has food value) and make some recommendations for beer appreciation.  I hope you find the beer reviews insightful, interesting and helpful.


Stone 16th Anniversary IPA

16th Anniversary IPA: 10.0% ABV.  This is Stone’s annual anniversary brew, and will be a limited release beer.  It is brewed with Lemon Verbena and Lemon oil.  There is also a small amount of rye malt in the mash.  I tasted / reviewed this on August 30, 2012 from a 22 oz bottle.

The ale pours a dark golden to a light amber color, with an nice foamy head (with good retention).  It is crystal clear, which is not always the case with an IPA.  The aroma is hoppy with a slight sweetness.

The flavor is just like the aroma (not the case with a lot of beers).  It’s bitter, but much more than that.  It has a VERY nice hoppy flavor; malt sweetness is also evident, but the citrus flavors prevail.  There is a nice bitterness when swallowed, but then it sweetens back up.  I didn’t notice the lemon (lemon oil and Lemon Verbena) in the flavor, but it’s not a typical IPA either (hmm, maybe it’s the lemon).

This beer has a lot of body, especially for an IPA, so I am describing it as an Imperial IPA (ok, I just read the label after writing this, and Stone says it’s a double IPA – same thing).  At any rate, this is a REALLY good IPA, and I highly recommend it.  In fact, I have purchased several bottles since I initially tasted it, and intend to purchase more as long as it’s available.  If you like IPA’s, don’t let this brew become obsolete and unavailable before  you have some.  It’s not expensive ($5.99 for a 22 oz bomber at Total Wine), so buy a few bottles and reward yourself.