Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Flying Dog Beer Review: Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog

Welcome to review number 2, featuring Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, another fine beverage provided by Flying Dog Brewery for my reviewing purposes. The great thing is, you can only get this treat straight from the source. But thanks to the generous folks from Flying Dog, I got to sample it without flying all the way out to Colorado. Thanks again!

My buddy Dave was kind enough to assist me with his own review offering a second opinion.

Beer: Flying Dog Brewery's - Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog

Some words from Flying Dog: This is a completely experimental beer. We took our Horn Dog Barley Wine and aged it in used Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels for 13 months to give us a BarleyWine with a very distinctive flavor. Being that it was an experiment, we brewed a very limited amount (725 12oz bottles to be exact) and they can only be purchased at the brewery.

Style: English Barleywine

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer, albeit a very strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always alcoholic. A brew of this strength and complexity can be a challenge to the palate. Expect anything from an amber to dark brown colored beer, with aromas ranging from intense fruits to intense hops. Body is typically thick, alcohol will definitely be perceived, and flavors can range from dominant fruits to palate smacking, resiny hops.

English varieties are quite different from the American efforts, what sets them apart is usually the American versions are insanely hopped to make for a more bitter and hop flavored brew, typically using American high alpha oil hops. English version tend to be more rounded and balanced between malt and hops, with a slightly lower alcohol content, though this is not always the case.

Most Barleywines can be cellared for years and typically age like wine.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 7.0-12.0%

(In this case, the Horn dog boast a whopping 10% abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Standard pint glass
Location of tasting: Dave's apartment
Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance - Now here is a thick looking beer. Cloudy, dark brown, like a pint glass full of black coffee, with almost no head to speak of.

2. Smell - The Horn Dog smells like mulled wine, with hints of chocolate and roasted coffee. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - Wine meets coffee with undertones of chocolate (and raspberry?)... Very rich... An almost Jägermeister-like thick and sweet quality. This is a really good dessert beer, reminds me of cheap wine with chocolate and strawberries, but in a good way. Don't ask, it's a college flashback... I can also taste hints of oak, undoubtedly a result of the barrel aging process.

4. Mouthfeel - A heavy but smooth drink. Very lightly carbonated.

5. Drinkability - An interesting drink, but just too sweet for me to have more than 1 or 2 at a clip. But at 10% abv, that's probably a good thing. In my mind, this is a sipping beer, or as stated before, a dessert beer. Something good for a cold winter night, while you sit by the fire. Now don't get me wrong, this is a good beer. My aversion to more than 2 is more about the style than the beer itself.

This begs the question, "What does drinkability mean to you?" If you're looking for a beer that you'd have many of in one sitting, you're probably looking for a session beer, as good as this beer is, it's no session beer. Think of it as more of a special treat.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A 7. (Would I have another? Yes, but probably on another night.)

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance - The beer is unique looking; thick as mud with no head and a color like moist coffee grounds. It's both inviting and intimidating.

2. Smell - There's a lot going on here, and it's all good. First impressions are coffee and red wine smells, and chocolate shows up in there as well. The background presents roasted, malty smells and is very inviting.

3. Taste - The taste is amazing and complex. It presents as a well aged tawny port, with hints of winter spice, coffee, and chocolate. Nutty and toasty, this is not a 'six pack beer' you can finish in one sitting.

4. Mouthfeel - Letting the beer wander allows the hint of alcohol to sneak through. horn Dog is smooth and heavy, with little to no carbonation, but the lack there of, does not leave one wanting.

5. Drinkability - The beer is very drinkable, but not in large quantities or consistently. I recommend everyone try one as this beer is delicious and I hope to have it again.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 8.5

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flying Dog Beer Review: Wild Dog Doppelbock (Collaborator - Open Source Beer!)

If you recall, the good folks at Flying Dog Brewery were kind enough to send me a few beers to sample and review. I got the chance to review these tasty treats a few weeks ago, but haven't had the time, until now, to post my reviews on the blog. Sorry for the delay...

Here's what I was sent and what I reviewed: Wild Dog Doppelbock, Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, and K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale. Lets start with the Doppelbock and I'll post the remaining reviews over the next few days.

Once again, my buddy Dave was kind enough to assist me with his own reviews of these fine beverages. It's always good to get a second opinion, and I'd rather not drink alone...

Beer: Flying Dog Brewery's - Wild Dog Doppelbock (Collaborator - Open Source Beer!)

Some words from Flying Dog: Collaborator Doppelbock was created through Flying Dog's Open Source Beer Project, which gave amateur brewers a chance to give our brewing team recommendations and feedback on everything from the grain, hops and yeast to the brewing process itself. We combined their feedback to create this unique Doppelbock recipe.

Collaborator has a full body with a sweet malt profile and a slight roast character. The complete recipe and printable labels are available for download at http://www.opensourcebeerproject.com/.

Style: Doppelbock

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com:
Double Bocks or Doppelbocks are huge beers with enough malt packed in them to consider them a meal in its self. Generally having a very full-bodied flavor and darker than other bocks with a higher level of alcohol also. The range in color from dark amber to nearly black. Dark versions may have slight chocolate or roasted characters.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 6.0-10.00%

How was it served? From a bottle Glass: Standard pint glass

Location of tasting: Dave's apartment

Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance - The Collaborator is an inviting crystal clear beverage with fair head retention. Upon first glance, it resembles a glass of brewed ice tea with it's rusty-red hue. It's a pretty beer.

2. Smell - There is a slightly toasted, musty, malty scent with a floral undertone I'm guessing is from the yeast, if not the hops. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - The Collaborator is a full bodied beer that starts off mellow and finishes with a slightly bitter flavor. As the beer warmed, the bitter finish faded with each remaining sip. The sweet roasted and malted taste was balanced with an ample showing of hops. I detected hints of something that reminded me of licorice.

4. Mouthfeel - A smooth finish that coats the tongue. A smooth beer with a medium texture.

5. Drinkability - A good beer, I would definitely have another, especially if I could find it on tap. Will this ever be available on tap?

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A strong 7.

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance - The beer presents itself very well; it is a picture perfect example of what I would choose to drink. The color is bright amber, like, as Bryon said, brewed tea. The beer is crystal clear, with small, active bubbles and a light but hearty head.

2. Smell - This definitely smells like beer. The malts and yeast are most present. The Collaborator has a sweet smell, with remnants of roasted hops and fermented yeast. Not the best smell, but it does not turn you off of the beer.

3. Taste - The flavor follows closely to the bouquet, except the hops are more prevalent. It reminds me of a rich ale, but the sweetness is not over powering. This is a beer you could drink all night, but the flavor does not stand out as particularly special. No one will hate this beer.

4. Mouthfeel - This is a smooth beer, with a medium mouthfeel. There is a certain viscosity to the liquid that makes it linger. think of the equivalent of 'legs' in wine tasting.

5. Drinkability - This is a very good beer and I would not feel as if I was missing out to drink this all night.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 7.5

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Custom BrewCrafters: Wee Heavy (Review)

And now two quick reviews (and one real quick video review) of the Wee Heavy I purchased while touring the Custom BrewCrafters brewery in upstate New York with my family right before Thanksgiving. For this beer, I had a little help from Dave, who offered his own second opinion, and Kenn who made time for a brief video review.

Custom BrewCrafters - Wee Bitter (2007)

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com:
Scotch Ales are strong ales, also known as "Wee Heavy." In the 19th century Scotland, they'd also be known as 160/-, a nomenclature based on the now obsolete shilling currency.

Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown in colored brew. Compared to Scottish Ales, they'll be sweeter and fuller-bodied, and of course higher in alcohol, with a much more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavor. A low tea-like bitterness can be found in many examples. Best served in a "thistle" glass.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 6.0-10.00%

How was it served? From a growler Glass: Standard pint glass

Location of tasting: Dave's apartment

Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave (oh and Kenn too!)

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance -
Custom BrewCrafter's Wee Heavy had a clear burnt amber, almost red, color. topped off with a nice head.

2. Smell - The Wee Heavy had a crisp, sweet, malty scent, with a hint of a musty undertone. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - Custom BrewCrafters struck a good balance here with heavy malt, perhaps caramelized, roasted flavoring while maintaining a satisfying 'hoppiness'.

4. Mouthfeel - This medium to heavy beer goes down easy (maybe too easy) with fair amount of carbonation that never threatens to overpower the flavor of the beer.

5. Drinkability - Overall this is a good solid beer, very drinkable, but you must be careful, it's no session beer. Over indulgence here would require a ride home. Remember folks, drink quality beer and do so in moderation.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A strong 8.

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance -
Crystal-clear amber color with a light but full head. Appears crisp and consistent with a good English Ale (or apparently a Scottish one). Lacks the common red/copper tinge of a Scottish Ale.

2. Smell - Smells like a brewery! The smell is crisp and also consistent with a classic English Ale (Read: Bass). There is a malty sweetness somewhat overshadowed by the smell of fermented yeast. While not the most beautiful smell, it does imply a good drinking beer.

3. Taste - The flavor is crisp with a good mix of bitterness and sweetness. The malt dimension is somewhat toasty but not over powering. Still, all I can think of is Bass. This is your all-around good beer as it does not particularly stand out but is very tasty and refreshing. Any 'Beer Drinker" would surely appreciate this and consider it a baseline or stand-by for any occasion.

4. Mouthfeel - This mouthfeel is light, crisp, and smooth. No lingering consistency an the carbonation levels are right-on.

5. Drinkability - This beer is very good. I could drink it all night and would recommend it wholly to anyone. While I don't want to admit it is as good (or better than) Bass, it may be..

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A 9.

And one last opinion from Kenn...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Custom BrewCrafters Tour

The week before Thanksgiving, I headed up to up-state New York to visit my brother and his family for an early Thanksgiving with my father. We had a blast! But it wasn't all turkey and and football, there was beer too.

I brought up the rest of my English Pale Ale so my father, brother and his beer loving neighbor could give it a try. My Dad wasn't crazy about the beer, he's not much of a beer drinker, but my brother and his buddy seemed to like it well enough.

I did a little beer-recon before heading up and found a short list of breweries in the area. The only one I found that was really close and open on Sunday was Custom BrewCrafters, out of Honeoye Falls, New York. Just a short drive from my brother's town. So off we went for a little father-son-brother bonding.

Custom BrewCrafters was easy to find, but also easy to miss. You have to drive all the way to the end of a dead end street in a residential area before you see the truck above parked in a lot across from a grade school. The brewery is just around the corner at the far end of the lot.

They've recently started the construction of a new facility, bigger and better, so I'm thinking the new home of Custom BrewCrafters maybe less hidden.

Me and Dad pose for a quick shot before entering the brewery. We almost look like we were in uniform or something, I swear we didn't plan our outfits together. What can I say, Dad and I are snappy dressers!

Mark and Dad pose for a similar photo. I really need to get a photographer to come with me on these trips so I can get in on all the photos... Note Mark also has jeans and a black jacket...

Before starting the tour, we were offered a few free samples to take with us on the tour. We started with the Canadaigua Lake Ale, which was a nice smooth yet sweet ale, definitely something I could have a number of in one session. Now I didn't take the time to write up a proper review of any of the free samples I had that day, I don't think Mark and Dad were quite ready for that level of involvement just yet.

Dad gave the Wee Bitter a sip. He wasn't a big fan, although he doesn't really drink, so that's not really a fair critique of the beer. Dad was more into beer back in his youth. Dad confided in me that as a young Marine, he enjoyed the occasional Miller, and I've heard him mention Pabst Blue Ribbon in the past. Cut the man some slack, it was a different time, and there was a lack of quality beer available to him.

He was more or less humoring me on this little excursion, thanks Dad you're a good sport!

My brother noticed this little sign on a locker door as we entered the brewery floor. "Everyone has a dream. For us it was drinking on the job." Aint that the truth? Speaking of which, they're hiring! If only I lived a bit closer...

Our tour guide (I can't remember his name) gave us a thorough walk through on how the brewing process worked. This was the most detailed walk through I've seen so far during a tour. But then again, it was just the three of us in the audience and the place is very small.

Our guide told us a little about the impact the hops shortage is having on their products. They've had to cut back on some of the hops in some of their beers this year. They actually have their beers reviewed with vintages. Beer Advocate shows three different years for their Wee Heavy, for example. Apparently the die hard fans of Custom BrewCrafters can tell the difference, but they still stand by their products as quality crafted beers.

The only beer I tried that I did not like was the one our guide warned me about. It was their Christmas Ale. It tasted like a beer with a candy cane in it. Not a good choice... Everything else was quite enjoyable.

I really want to try their Wasabi Ale some time with a nice plate of sushi, but they didn't have any on tap that day...

Custom BrewCrafters has a pretty cool business model. They brew custom beers for local restaurants and pubs, keg them and let their customers sell them off the tap as their own brews. They also make some beers for themselves and sell just about everything they make right there off the brewery's tasting room.

Our guide was kind enough to let me shoot some images inside the large stainless steel kettles. When I saw the open hatch, I couldn't resist! Once again I couldn't help but think of that scene from Strange Brew.

I call this one, "inside the belly of the beast!"... I wanted to get some one to take a photo from up top of me sticking my fat head in there, but I didn't want to push my luck or cause any contamination.

Here's a shot of the breweries hot water tank, that feeds (you guessed it) hot water to the brewing vats. I could use one of these at my house for showers let alone brewing. Custom BrewCrafters pride themselves on their local water source. Keep in mind this place is nestled in the famous finger lakes area and just south of the Great Lakes.

Now this is a small brewery. You could walk from one end to the other in less time than it would take to fill a pint in the tasting room. But the tour was fairly lengthy and informative. I can't wait to visit their new location once it's completed! They're not taking any of their equipment with them, it's already been sold. They're getting a whole new set up at the new brewery. Apparently they're doing something right with this business model...

Here's the cool thing... They'll be able to bottle at their new facility, which means they'll be able to more widely distribute their products. Who knows, maybe we'll be able to get some of their beers in other states some day. Hmmmm... I wonder if they'll ever become an IPO? $

I couldn't resist getting a photo in the middle of all that freshly brewed and kegged beer in the breweries walk-in cooler. I felt like Daffy Duck from Ali Baba Bunny when he found the cave a treasure...

Although I didn't take the time to write any reviews of their beers I sampled that day, I purchased a growler of their Scotch Ale, Wee Bitter. (Beer Advocates details on the brew) Now that's good stuff! I'll post a review of the beer very soon, I promise!

By the time we finished our tour there was a line of loyal customers waiting to get their growlers filled. Some folks were getting boxes filled, including some Custom BrewCrafter fans that were heading out for some pre-game tailgating before a big Buffalo game.
All in all it was a great trip and so close to my brother's house that I may visit the brewery every time I go up to see the family. Can't wait to see the new facility!

Popular Posts