Beer

Brew Tasting

IMG_2834

We had friends over to watch game 3 of the World Series and I thought it would be fun to have Brats, spaetzle, and a beer tasting. Roger explored the beer isle at our local Whole Food store and brought home some unique (to us) beverages and one of we had tried before and loved. Here’s the lineup:

  1. Trappistes Rochefort 8
  2. Trappistes Rochefort 10
  3. Hofbrau Oktoberfest
  4. Inferno – The Lost Abbey
  5. Petrus Oud Bruin
  6. Westmalle Trappist Ale
  7. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

IMG_2837

We all chimed in with tasting notes and when I began researching each individual beverage on my favorite website: beeradvocate.com, I couldn’t believe how on the money we were with some of our comments. I think we might have a future as professional beer tasters. Sounds to me like the PERFECT job!

Beer Advocate is an amazing resource that provides tasting notes, pairing suggestions, and oodles of information about the style, taste, and complexity of a particular beer. I highly suggest – if you’re a beer lover – that you go online and check them out. As you can imagine, some beer we loved and some beer we hated…in spite of the Beer Advocate Score (from here on out referred to as the BAS).

Since Trappist Rochefort has such a rich history, let’s begin with a little background story. This beer is brewed within the walls of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy (in the country of Belgium) in the town of Rochefort. The water used for brewing comes from a well within the monastery and they have been brewing beer here since the 16th century!! How cool is that? There are about 15 monks who reside within the Abbey and they brew the beer to support their monastery and to provide for their charitable work. I’m really disappointed now that we didn’t make an effort to see check this town/monastery out when we were recently in Belgium. Looks like we’ll have to make another trip! Here’s a photo of the inside of the monastery courtesy of Wikipedia:

800px-8250_Church_of_Abbaye_Notre-Dame_de_Saint-Remy_Rochefort_2007_Luca_GaluzziBefore we begin, true confession time: we only have Pilsner glasses. A professional taster would demand that we use the appropriate glass to allow the beer to come to its full potential, just as a wine connoisseur would; however, we’re just don’t have the cabinet space (pathetic excuse, I know). When I was much younger, I was a bartender at a place called the Blackthorne Tavern in Easton MA (across from Stonehill College). The guys who owned this place knew their beer and their cellar was crammed with all kinds of exotic beer. It was mandatory that you poured a pint into the proper glass, or else. They were sticklers about this. Sadly, the Blackthorne is no more. I really respected what those guys were trying to accomplish: create an authentic pub environment (right down to their amazing food) in a small town. They were jammed every night that I worked there, so I’m not sure what happened. At the end of the night we would all sit around and sample the enormous varieties of beer. Wicked nice guys. Anyway, I digress, yet again. Let’s get back to the tasting.

Trappist Rochefort 8, Strong Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).
Trappist Rochefort 8, Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).
Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Ale
Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Dark Ale with a whopping 11.30% ABV (!) and a BAS of 100 (!!!!)
Side-by-side comparison.
Side-by-side comparison. You can see that 10 is darker than 8.

Beer Advocate says lots of great things about Rochefort 8 but here’s the condensed version: muddy brown in appearance with a fruity and sweet taste. They suggest pairing  this Ale with barbecue, a sharp, blue or pungent cheese, beef, and grilled meats. We noted that it was reddish brown, smooth, rich, smoky, subtly sweet, and filling. We liked it.

Beer Advocate raved about Rochefort 10. It’s a Quad style, which means it’s a strong Belgian Ale and typically with dark reds, browns, and garnet hues, and is full bodied, rich, and malty. It pairs well with buttery cheeses (blue, brie, cheddar, swiss, etc.), game, beef, and smoked meat. Our notes described it as maltier, richer, more alcohol, denser, sweeter than 8, and hints of caramel. This was loved by all. We unanimously ranked #10 as our absolute favorite.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest.
Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Marzen/Oktoberfest style, 6.30% ABV, and a BAS of 78.

Beer Advocate called this full-bodied, rich, toasty, and typically dark copper in color. The Marzen/Oktoberfest style means that is a typical beer found at the Munich Ocktoberfest (on my bucket list!). They suggest pairing it with meat, game, salmon, or using it as an apertif. Our notes list it as having a “crispy” flavor and that it was light bodied. It was definitely not “dark copper color”, in contrast to the readily available and delicious Sam Adams Oktoberfest. For our tasting, the Hofbrau came across as an average beer. It would be spectacular ice-cold accompanied by a Cape Cod Cafe pepperoni pizza, or on a hot summer afternoon, if you ask me.

Inferno Ale - The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96
Inferno Ale – The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96

There was not a lot written about this ale on Beer Advocate. That being said, there sure was a lot written on the label! Someone has written stanzas containing material reminiscent of Dante’s disturbing Inferno. It was a little creepy…this would make a great Halloween beer. We had made notes of it being citrusy, cloudy, sweet, and typical of a wheat beer.  It reminded me of Blue Moon. Beer Advocate didn’t have many notes other than food pairings, which were meat, game, salmon, and to serve as an apertif.

Petrus Oud Bruin
Petrus Oud Bruin, Flanders and Bruin style, 5.50% ABV, and a BAS of 83.

Okay, there was a mutual distaste/dislike on this one. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but we classified it as sour, tangy, tart, flavors of cherry, and I added “grape popsicle.” It really did taste like a grape popsicle to me. Anyway, this Belgian beer is fermented in the same way as a Lambic beer (hence, the fruitiness) and we found it wanting. Although, to be fair to Petrus Oud Bruin, we weren’t expecting a Lambic beer, so if we knew ahead of time maybe we wouldn’t ranked it so unfavorably? The Beer Advocate says that this beer can be extremely varied and is often characterized by a slight vinegar or lactic sourness, spiciness, and can be sweet. They suggest pairing it with cheese (I suggest goat cheese), chocolate, and grilled meat. Make sure if you serve this, your guests know what they’re getting or they just might spit it on the floor.

Westmalle Trappist Ale Dubbel,
Westmalle Trappist Ale. Style is Dubbel, 7.0 ABV, and BAS is 93

I bet you’ll never guess where this beer is brewed….that’s right: Belgium!! Next time we host one of these fun tastings, I think we’ll have to make a concerted effort to branch out to more countries. But, what can you do when Belgium makes so much damn good beer? You’re probably thinking, as was I, that this beer is also brewed in a monastery because it has the word Trappist in it’s name. Well, that makes us both wrong. It’s made in a Dubbel style, which means that there is expressive carbonation, it’s malty with a mild hop bitterness, less fruitiness, and dark ale flavors may be present. It sometimes has a caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar. We had noted “lots of bubbles,” sweet note, and a classic dark beer.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Style is Milk/Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91

Generally speaking, none of us at the tasting are dessert people (we’re more of a savory group). We have discovered we definitely aren’t into watery chocolate milk containing  carbonation. Clearly, we must be wrong again since Beer Advocate gave it 91 out of 100, but to each his own. This stout is from the UK and it’s style leaves it with a large amount of dextrins and unfermented sugars. This gives it a sweetness and heavy body, hence, the milk reference. Not a fan of drinking it on its own, but it might be okay in a dessert concoction. Say, over an incredible ice-cream? Yeah, I think that would work.

So, tonight is game 6 and I’m feeling like a cat on a hot-tin roof right now! If Boston wins, it will be the first time winning a series title at home since 1918!! Babe Ruth was playing then. In honor of our Sox, we’re having Fenway Franks for dinner tonight. I went out to our freezer in the garage and grabbed a package REAL hot dog buns  I order from a specialty store online. The “hot dog buns” (and I use that term loosely) here in CA are just awful for dogs. There’s wwwaaaayyy too much bread…they look like mini-sub rolls. All wrong.

Now that's dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden's spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.
Now that’s a dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.
Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.
Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.

Go RED SOX!!!!!

April

Belgian Dubbel and Clawson Cotswold

This past Sunday was the last day of spring break for the kids so, naturally, we spent the entire morning putting the house back in order. There were piles of laundry to be done, floors and sheets to be washed, bathrooms to be sanitized, and a pool to clean. We had experienced a LOT of rain and wind on Saturday and, as usual, along with the mass of floating leaves in the pool, I also found multiple rigid rats and mice no longer doing the backstroke. It happens so often when it rains here that I’m beginning to wonder if it actually rains mice and rats in Southern California. Oh, and sometimes bunnies, too…I do feel badly for the bunnies.

Anyway, after a long morning of clean up I decided that Roger and I should have a tall cold beverage to enjoy with our lunch by the pool. I pawed through our locked “adult” beverage fridge and found some Rochefort 8. I knew we had Clawson Cotswald cheese on hand and I felt the Rochefort 8 would compliment the bold flavored cheese.

Rochefort 8 is brewed by Cistercian monks known as Trappists. There are only seven breweries in the world run by Trappist monks and this particular brew, also known as a Belgian Dubbel, is made at the Abbey of St. Remy (which was founded in 1230 and began brewing in 1595), which is located in the southern part of Belgium.  A Belgian Dubbel (a Belgian Trappist beer naming practice) is a rich malty beer with flavors of caramel, apples, figs, and other dark fruits. The color is deep brown with a reddish hue. It should be enjoyed with full-flavored meats and cheeses, or alone, of course.

Clawson Cotswold cheese is named after Cotswold shire (county to you and me) of Britain. The cheese is made with cow’s milk and it’s reminiscent of a rich and buttery cheddar. The cheese is aged with chopped chives and onions which adds to its robust flavor profile. It’s great for enjoying alone, or in a sandwich.

I decided to make a toasty panini with the cheese, some apples, caramelized onions, Dijon mustard, and arugula. You can get creative and omit/add any ingredient you wish based upon your taste buds. I used the ingredients listed because that’s what I had lying around the house.

Cippolini onions for caramelizing

Add a little butter, salt, and sugar to your sauté pan (I used a non-stick) and slowly caramelize your onions. I wasn’t going for onion soup so I only lightly browned the cippolinis.

I used my hand-held mandolin for thin slices of green apple.

A wedge of Clawson Cotswold.

Foccacia.

Add a smear of salted butter to the bread, then the onions, then the sliced apple, and finally the Cotswold slices. Dijon can be spread on the top piece of bread.

Top with arugula and then your bread lid.

Spray your panini press with baking spray, or brush on some EVOO. Toast your sandwich in the press until the cheese is melty. I place a brick (wrapped in aluminum foil) on top of my panini maker to add more crunch.

Finished product.

Lunch!

If you don’t have a panini press you can fill a tea kettle with water (for setting on top of the sandwich) and use a non-stick pan. I’ve used this method while traveling and it works just fine. The only thing you’ll be lacking are the toasted ridges in the bread. You just add a little butter, or oil, to the outside of your bread before toasting. And be sure to toast both sides.

Heading to Chicago for a convention in a couple of days and I’ve got reservations at several foodie joints.  I’ll take some pictures and upload them when I get a chance. I’m looking forward to some city life…miss it!

Happy eating,

April