The way I heard the story behind this beer is that Eric was a lowly junior brewer at New Belgium and this was his Longshot moment (a la Sam Adams). This was relayed to me by someone who claims to have heard it first hand while on tour in Fort Collins, so make of that what you will. What I do know for a fact is that this beer is an ale aged on wood for "up to three years" and fermented with peach juice. All of that sounds great... but not all of that comes through in the end.
This can of Surly Brewing Company's Bender found its way to me through a beer trade. Surly doesn't distribute to my neck of the woods but I had heard some good things about their beers. This was the first Surly I'd had so I went into it with an open mind and an eagerness to try something new. The description on the back of the can certainly got my attention by describing this beer as an "oatmeal brown ale" ... sounds promising. Pouring this (very full) pint sized can into my glass was relatively uneventful. The head was predictably fluffly and the body was a dark reddish brown that only got darker the more it settled. Things were promising but I was suddenly a bit more reserved with my optimism.
Tin Mill is a brew pub I'd heard good things about. They're located in Hermann, the heart of Missouri wine county, which much nicer than it sounds... Starting earlier this year Tin Mill has started bottling some of its beer and sending it to the far reaches of the Show Me State. I picked up this bottle in Saint Louis earlier this summer when I wasn't exactly in a hurry to drink a Maibock, so this bottle sat in the basement for three months or so. Well, the weather is cooling pretty rapidly and another daylight savings time is nearly upon us, so I figured it was high time I open up this Tin Mill Maibock and see what I've been missing in Hermann.
Always excited to try a new Belgian beer when it comes on the market, I was looking forward to getting a bottle of Affligem when it arrived earlier this year. It fell through the cracks as summer rolled by and fall beers hit the shelves... Before I knew it I'd had this bottle of Affligem Blond sitting in the basement for about five months. Not ideal, but at 6.7% ABV I'm hoping the beer held up alright. I decided to start with the Blond rather than going straight for the Tripel because I was feeling a little burnt out on Tripels at the time. Had I known the beer was going to sit around for so long, I would've grabbed the Tripel. Oh well...
Avant Peche is a beer I've been waiting a long time to try. Odell first announced this beer about four months ago but up until last week it was only available in Colorado. I happened to be in Boulder last week and picked up a bottle just as the Avant Peche was showing up on shelves back home. What excited me most about the Avant Peche was the style of this beer, it's an Imperial Porter that is barrel aged and blended with peaches. I've had a few peach flavored Wheat beers but never a Porter. This intrigued me because I've really enjoyed the two sour Porters I've had before and I was hoping the Avant Peche would be similar to those beers.
Smuttynose is one of those breweries that I've heard of numerous times in passing, but I've never seen their beer on the shelves... or on tap. Smuttynose beers come from the great state of New Hampshire, so it makes sense that I never saw them on the far side of the Mississippi. Now that I'm on the East Coast I've started seeing their beers on shelves and decided to pick up a bottle. On my drive home from work tonight I stopped at a small liquor store and built a six pack with some of the more interesting beers in their cooler. I opted for the Smuttynose IPA, I figured it was better suited to the warm weather than the Robust Porter.
Weyerbacher is a brewery I saw on a lot of shelves when I was living in Delaware this summer but I never bothered to pick up any bottles of their beer. It's nothing personal, I just never got around to it. I'd like to think it didn't have anything to do with the packaging, but these labels are notoriously low budget... It looks like these labels were crafted from the finest clip art galleries available to a community college graphic design student in 1997. Labels don't have any effect on the flavor of the beer, but they might be the deciding factor for someone who isn't familiar with the Weyerbacher name.
This certainly isn't a session beer. At 7% and smelling like a jar of deli mustard, the Wostyntje Mustard Ale is... different... The closest comparison to this beer I can make would be with a Bière de Garde. Both are copper colored, a little thick bodied and have a pleasant sour tartiness to their flavor. At first, the Mustard Ale tastes like a Bière de Garde with a few packets of mustard powder stirred in. After a few sips the nuances become more apparent. The beers dominant flavor is, of course, the mustard spice. Behind that is the sour citrus flavor that the Belgians do so well. One might expect the mustard to be overpowering, after all - there is a reason you don't see mustard flavored drinks at every store... but, the sourness of the blonde base really keeps the mustard in check. The combination of these flavors works pretty well.
Michigan Brewing Company's High Seas India Pale Ale really wowed me. I can't say I'm in love with this beer, but it was definitely a surprise. This beer is every bit an IPA, it's beer and hoppy. It smells like citrus scented hops and light grains, just like you'd expect. Where this beer differentiates itself from other IPAs is the flavor. Sure, you can taste hops, hops and more hops... that's just part of being an India Pale Ale. What I wasn't expecting was the sweet malt flavor that greets you when you take your first sip.
Westmalle ranks right up there with Orval and Chimay as far as Trappist mindshare in the average craft beer drinker goes. Trappist beers are held in high regard, and for good reason. They're high quality beers with unique characteristics. Westmalle's Tripel is a spicier take on the Tripel style that packs a lot of alcohol and yeasty funk into an outwardly modest looking beer. I poured this Tripel into a tulip glass and noticed a couple things that were worth mentioning right off the bat. The color of this beer is a little lighter than I was expecting, this made sense when I went in and got a good whiff...