Christmas Beer!

This holiday season, my sweetheart treated me to some new microbrews from the great state of Washington. For some time, I’ve known that there are beers from Pike, Rogue and others that are not available here in B.C. So when she decided to head down there with some girlfriends for a weekend getaway, I was sure to put in a request for as many tall boys as she could legally bring back. She did good! And considering that I got me some awesome mugs from Hofbrau, I had the perfect vessel with which to enjoy them. Here are some of the labels I enjoyed!

Pike Monk’s Uncle Tripel: The closest thing I’ve tasted to Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde without being the real thing. Combining wheat and barley malts with a generous dose of hops and then triple fermented, this beer comes off as heavy, rich, yeasty, and with a distinctly Belgian flavor. It’s bite and its intoxicating nose are not to be underestimated, neither is its strength (9% alc/vol) 8.5/10

Odin’s Gift Juniper Ale: A delicious pale ale that my wife substituted for Rogue’s own Juniper Pale, which she could not find. This was an ample replacement however! Like a good pale ale, this beer is crisp, has a floral nose, a good hop bite and a lingering finish. It is complimented by the mild aroma and flavor of juniper berries, giving this beer just the slightest essence of gin. A nice twist on the a pale ale, and well paired with pastas and meats or just on its own. 9/10

Pike Dry Wit: I’ve had several wheat beers over the years, and this was definitely one of the most rare and complex! A strong flavor of wheat malts, a light spice palate that lingers and grows more intricate the deeper one drinks it. I noticed notes of coriander and orange on the first few sips, which is common in witbier. But gradually, I became aware of chamomile and lavender-like notes as well. A definite winner and a very interesting twist on the traditional wit. 9/10

Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine: At 10% alc/vol, this beer definitely lives up to its name! Heavy, rich and very strong, this beer starts with a sugary nose, a rich malty sweetness, a good hop bite and a long, syrupy finish. Not for the faint of heart, but one of the best dessert beers I’ve had in recent years. 9/10

New Belgium Super Cru: A very interesting fruit beer, reminiscent of poached pears and distinctly Belgian in its flavor. In addition, it’s also very strong, 10% alc/vol, and that’s in spite of its light, fruity taste. Hard to believe they doubled the malts and the hops of the usual Fat Tire. Very good when paired with salads, cheeses, and lighter fare, and also pleasant on its own. 7.5/10

Historic Hofbrau beer mugs!

In the summer of 2007, my wife and I did something that’s stuck with us ever since. Something which we hope to do again someday… soon! We visited Munich, our last stop along a whirlwind tour of southern Germany, and decided to take in a historic beer hall. In fact, I was indebted to a friend and quasi-family member (hi Sarah!) for suggesting it. After sending out a mass email to friends and family, telling them we would be in Munich for a few days, she came back and suggested we see the place.

Naturally, some background is needed to properly set the scene: established in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Hofbrauhaus remains one of the oldest beer halls in Germany. Originally, it was established to serve the needs of the Royal House, which was located right around the corner from it and quickly expanded to serve the needs of the community. The beer quickly became famous, and even saved the city from annihilation during the 30 Years War.

I’m not kidding! When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria in 1632, he agreed to leave the city in peace, but only if the citizens surrendered some hostages, and 600,000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus beer. In addition, Mozart is said to have composed the opera Idomeneo thanks to this beerhall. While struggling with his muse, he found that a few visits to this hall fortified him to the task.

In addition, the beerhall was also used by Hilter and the Nazis during the 1930s to conduct speeches to the general public. Though the little bastard and the odious Nazi party used this hall as one of many places to declare policy and hold functions, Hitler had never been known to frequent it for anything other than making speeches. Beer, meat and other such things were not his thing (take that tea-totaling vegetarians!)

Since that time, it has been visited by countless tourists, dignitaries and political figures, including John F Kennedy. It remains a major tourist draw to this day, owned by the state as a public brewery, restaurant and historic site rather than a private enterprise. It also runs the second largest tent during the annual Oktoberfest celebration and is one of the chief purveyors of beer for the occasion.

At the time of our visit, my wife and I were unaware of much of this history. In fact, we wandered through Munich checking out the various beer halls, and I wondered in each case if this was the site of the famous putsch. It was only afterwards that I learned that not only were we in the place where it happened, we were probably seated in the very section where a young Hitler made his speeches! Needless to say, I was both blown away and disgusted!

Which brings me, however circuitously, to the point of this post: this Christmas, I received one of the best gifts ever! A friend of my parents happened to be in possession of several Hofbrauhaus stone mugs that he managed to pick up while he was in Germany. Just recently, he had decided to contribute them to an auction, raising money for the Comox Valley Kitty Cat P.A.L.S. (Prevent A Litter Society). Naturally, my folks recognized the name and scooped them up. And given their inherent value, it was quite the deal!

Each one was made before the Berlin Wall fell and the country was reunited, as the stamps on the bottom will attest to. Each one says, in little black letters, Made In West Germany. Given the historical  significance of this place and the memories it brings back for me and my wife, we were both very pleased to get them! Kudos again to the parental units for procuring them!

Here are some photos:

If you ever find yourself in Munich, I strongly recommend stopping by. In addition, check out some of the other historic beer halls, all of which are associated with Oktoberfest and many of which are walking distance from the Hofbrauhaus. I guess the people of Munich like eating and drinking, and don’t like commuting. I know how they feel…

And of course, here’s the link to Hofbrauhaus’ website:

http://www.hofbraeuhaus.de/en/index_en.html

Rogue Brewery!

Many a time I’ve reviewed individual Rogue products and thought to myself, “damn, I need to do a full on review of the brewery, give credit to every beer I’ve ever had from them”. Hell, I think I’ve even said as much in a post here or there. Well, I’m finally putting my money where my mouth is – literally, since some of them were hard to obtain and involved the cost of travel to procure! And coupled with others that I’ve tried over the years, I’ve finally been able to prepare a full list. It’s been difficult given the fact that seasonals come and go, and one can scarcely remember everything one tries (especially when they drink like I do!), but I assure you, I’ve done my best. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

American Amber Ale: I’ve sampled many amber ales in my day, and I’ve come to expect a certain consistency from them. More often than not, they are smooth, light, tawny on the tongue, and are more malty than hoppy in terms of flavor. This is certainly the case with the American Amber. The taste is both complex, yet light, with smooth, slightly viscous malts and a light hop finish. An enjoyable beer when paired with food or as light-drinking fare. 3.75/5

Brutal IPA: This beer I sampled and reviewed last november, as part of my “Month of IPA’s”. And little’s changed since I reviewed it last! A year later and I still it a fitting examples of a west coast IPA, combining a crisp taste, powerful, floral hops and a good alcoholic bite! Definitely not for the faint of heart, as it more than lives up to its name! 4/5

Chipotle Ale: An interesting experiment in beer-making, and one which I just had to try. And I was not disappointed, nor particularly surprised. Overall, this is a perfectly fine ale and characteristic of rogue brewing, combing a good hoppy ale with the slight hint of peppers and a mild spicy aroma. Perhaps I was expecting something different, but with a name like Chipotle, one would expect more of a punch! However, this remains a very decent ale and given its mild bite, would be well-paired with spicey food. 3.75/5

Chocolate Stout: A first for me, in that it was the first time I had ever tried a chocolate stout. Since that time, it seems like everyone is doing a chocolate or coffee stout/porter. And having tried several, I can still honestly say that this one is my favorite. Whereas most stouts tend to have a bitter, almost burn like flavor to them due to the dark malts used (what is typically described as coffee notes), Rogue’s own manages to come off very smooth. And the chocolate notes are the result of real chocolate being used. No artificial flavors here! 4/5

Dead Guy Ale:One of Rogue’s most famous beers, and definitely the easiest to find here in Canada. Done in the style of German Maibock but still boasting a Pacific Northwest character, this beer is deep honey in color, has a rich, malty profile, a strong bite of hops and a relatively sweet profile. It’s also garnered several awards, including silver medals three years running at the World Beer Championships (from 2005 to 2007).4/5

Hazelnut Brown Nectar: I believe I’ve mentioned several times in the course of my reviews how craft brewing has been coming back into vogue in the last few decades. And if there’s one beer that is consistently becoming more popular, its the Brown Ale. True to form, Rogue recently released their own spin on the traditional Brown, combining the flavor or roasted nuts with brown malts in order produce this beer. Living in Victoria, nestled between so many great micro-breweries, each one producing its own exceptional browns, I felt this baby had some stiff competition. And yet it still came out with top marks!  Rich, dark and tawny, like a good brown, this baby is also smooth and boasts a true nut flavor that is paired well with deserts and Christmas cookies (recent experience will attest to this)! 4/5

Irish Lager: This is going back a ways, but many years back, I spotted this brew in my favorite LCBO located on Rideau street at the edge of downtown Ottawa. I believe I bought it as part of a Rogue taster pack, since this particular LCBO could always be counted on to stack plenty of Rogue products. At the time, I was relatively un-wowed, but that was before I developed an appreciation for lighter beers. Today, I would classify this as a nice, light fare, clean, crisp and refreshing, like a good lager! Its also good when paired with food, though it is also recommended for making Guinness floats. That I will have to try… (personally, I’d recommend using a different stout, but a good idea is a good idea!) 3/5

Juniper Pale Ale: Yet another rare one that I tried when visiting my sis and bro-in-law in Oregon. And, much like with the Yellow Snow IPA (see below) I’ve tried to get my hands on some ever since! It was seriously that good. A delicious ale, red in color, with strong, floral hops, a crisp bite, and a lingering finish that is highly reminiscent of juniper berries, this beer is an all around hit! If you can’t find some, I recommend finding a local beer store that’s been known to carry some Rogue products and putting it on order. 4/5

Yellow Snow IPA: The name might deter some, but for me, this beer is a classic, one which I discovered by accident when visiting Portland in 2004 with my sis and bro in law. The color is consistent with the name, a nice golden orange. Strong hops, a good bite, a long dry finish, and a rating of 80 IBU make this a genuine IPA. After trying it for the first time, I would struggle to get my hands on some here in Canada.  It’s not easy, but thanks to my sweetheart, I enjoyed a nice cold bottle this Christmas, and thanks to my folks, I enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus stone mug! What a perfect experience! 5/5

Ah, and speaking of this Christmas, my darling bride was also able to procure for me some tasty samples from the Pike Brewery that I have been unable to get here in Canada as well. Expect a review dedicated to them as well soon. As with all my Christmas beers by Rogue, they too were enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus stone mug!

As a finale note, here is a link to Rogue’s website, and a picture of Jack Joyce, the co-founder and CEO of Rogue which I happened to come across in the course of my research into them. Doesn’t he just look like a brewer?!

http://www.rogue.com/

Jack Joyce, Co-Founder and CEO