Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Real Ale Brewing Company’s Brewers’ Cut #1, Signature Hop Pale Ale

It’s been a nice, long, relaxing day here at Casa de Crisco. A power outage thwarted my plans for getting stuff done around the house, and I somehow took it easy despite having a few tasks on my plate.  To reward my day of sloth, I am having a pre-dinner cocktail and letting Pandora do its thing. 

The station, Vampire Weekend, the beer, Real Ale Brewing Company’s Brewers’ Cut #1, Signature Hop Pale Ale, featuring Hercules hops.

The American pale ale, when decanted into a pint glass, has a nice burnt orange color to it with a very slight tint showing up in the mostly white head. Carbonation is very active, and it takes an experienced hand not to pour too aggressively and end up with four inches of cloudy foam atop one’s beer. Once the beverage settles the head is about a finger thick, and as fluffy as a cirrocumulus cloud.

The olfactory glands engaged, the beer exhibits a bready aroma, accented by a fair amount of lemon zest.

With gusto I take my first sip of the ale, and I am greeted with the hop forward presence of citrus zest and a sticky sweet mouthfeel. Pondering and sipping further the flavors developing on my palate remind me of iced tea, over brewed and cut with water, lightly sweetened, and then being adulterated further with the lemon juice that comes from the plastic lemons in super market produce aisles.

Now, this might suggest that I think the beer bad or undrinkable, but that’s not the case. The beer is drinkable. More than anything though, this beer feels like it falls short of the quality that Real Ale brings out in their regular production, much less something labeled as their “Brewers’ Cut.”

Happy drinking!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hops And Grain "The One They Call Zoe" Pale Lager

Days off for myself are usually distilled into a balance of work and play. I like to spend my mornings toiling with laundry, working on illustrations, and chipping away at whatever projects I might have had to put on the back burners. One crutch modern people have with doing most tasks though is that of electricity. 

While it is true humans have lived eons without the ease of electric living, currently we have built our domiciles on the assumption that it will always be available for us to consume. This hubris leads us into situations that once power is denied us, our ability to complete chores becomes quite limited. As inconvenient as this is, it does also allow an opportunity to sit back and reflect.

With a cold front moving across North Texas, I pulled a beer from the chill chest and walked out onto my apartment’s small patio. The beer du jour is a can of Austin’s Hops And Grain pale lager “The One They Call Zoe.”

Dispensing the ale from its aluminum vessel into my pint glass, a quite beautiful beer is exposed.  As the tangerine hued ale pours against the sides of the pint glass a plume of carbonation fervently builds. A perfect head forms, never appearing too weak or thin, and never builds too aggressively, building to at most a finger’s thickness, and during consumption never dissipating to anything less than half a finger.   It is a head with presence and fortitude, one that laces the sides of my glass with aggression.

As pretty a beer it is, its aroma is an enticing perfume for the craft beer drinker with a hop forward nose. Pine and grapefruit mingle atop a yeasty, bread-like foundation.

The first sip of Zoe, as best described by my wife, is like drinking a grapefruit soda. While offering a sweet body, a mildly bitter citrus and pine brightness and bitterness bring wonderful balance and ease of drinkability.

The brewer’s skill has created a “Goldilocks” ale, threading a needle of flavor. Sweet malts sing, but it’s not too sweet. Hops are unmistakable, but bitterness is restrained.  

The beer’s packaging describes itself as affable,  and given its insanely well balance flavor profile, and wet mouthfeel, it is undoubtedly so. This is a beer that can be enjoyed in quantity, on its own, or paired with just about any beer worthy meal.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Real Ale Brewing Company Brewer's Cut #2 Black Quadrupel

Hello Malt Mavens and Hop Heads. Life has been somewhat slow and repetitive in my corner of the world. My mother’s cancer is in remission, the daily grind that the Pope endures to put craft beer on the table continues without drama, and Spring in North Texas is showing its mild, albeit fleeting, head.

To welcome Spring, and clear out an ever growing reserve of craft beer, I will be focusing on beers of the Lone Star State from some of my favorite breweries since my move almost two years ago. I am also hoping to get back into regular publishing of reviews, shooting for one or two a week as opposed to the one post a month or less that has defined my recent attention to my beer duties.

To saddle up this focus on Texas craft beer, I have chosen the Real Ale Brewing Company’s second release under their “Brewer’s Cut” series, a Belgian style “Black Quadrupel“ brewed with Belgian black malt.
Pouring the chocolate hued ale, careful to not exceed the capacity of the sole chalice in my barware collection, I get a small amount of head and active carbonation from my pour. 

The aroma from the freshly decanted beer brings bold, but unsurprising notes. Chocolate and coffee play on the edge of roasted malts, as the Belgian yeast adds a slight fruitiness to the party. 

Now, to be honest, I was really looking forward to reviewing this beer since enjoying it last November on tap at the Dallas Winter Warmer, a local beer festival. I’m not one that usually identifies as a fan of beers brewed with Belgian yeast strains,  but this offering twirled my moustache from first sip. 

The roastiness of the malt, bringing a nice chocolate base, combined with the dark currant and fruit notes from the yeast strain, make an ale that offers the best flavor profiles from dark beer and red wine. Allowing the ale to warm up brings out more of the fruitiness, making it quite tasty at any range of temperatures.

My brother, who is bonkers for Belgian and Belgian style brews, often professes he would consume nothing but this brew if it were more than just a one shot from the Blanco, TX brewery. I cannot doubt nor blame my brother for his fanaticism for it is a beer that is making me take another, more open look at Belgian inspired intoxicants.

Happy Drinking!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yazoo Brewing Co. Pale Ale and Hefeweizen

It’s been a minute since my last post, I would like to claim more family drama, but no, it has been a much less honorable diversion from my readers.

For some people, er, geeks, World of Warcraft is a monkey that refuses to be shaken. But, for myself, while WoW had its charm for a moment, my gamer addiction comes in the form of a number of versions of Sid Meier’s Civilization. Turn based war and diplomacy has diverted me long enough, so today I shut the game down, and got to work on a number of domestic chores that required my attention on this day off.
With a load of dishes and laundry started, glass and bits of trash swept up, and my desk organized to a more manageable chaos, I think it time to have lunch, drink a beer or two, and finish some graphic design work I am doing for a friend.  

Continuing with the Yazoo brews picked up in Nashville in 2012, I start with the brewery’s hefe called, appropriately, albeit uninspiring, Yazoo Hefeweizen Ale.

The beer, which won a gold medal in 2004’s Great American Beer Fest, pours out a nice tangerine color. Despite a semi aggressive decanting, the ale failed to develop much of a head and absolutely no lacing, despite oodles of active carbonation.

A nose of banana and clove matches the initial wave of flavor that hits the palate. These flavors are paired with a nice tart citrus aspect, however a buttery essence muddles all the parts of the beverage. This detraction on the palate paired with a lackluster mouthfeel make the beer decent, but far from an ale that I would recommend to the casual drinker. 

When it comes to craft breweries, as beer drinkers, where do we begin to gauge the craft worthiness of a brewery? For every beer enthusiast, a different answer exists. For me, the best yard stick is the everyday Pale Ale. No super fancy grain or hop bill, just a mid range, balanced ale is where, in my opinion, a brew master shows their stuff, and after a nice lunch, I am ready to be engaged in my beer drinking experience.  
Just slightly darker than the previously reviewed hefe, I pour myself a Yazoo Pale Ale. Exhibiting a moderate, but long lasting head, active carbonation, and visually tasty lacing, I am primed for the first taste.  

Still thirsting for the first drops, the nose is bready, and equal amounts malty with brown sugar notes, and floral hops. Giving into desire, and taking a large volume of the beverage, I am reminded, of all things, orange Tootsie Pops that I loved as a child. A slight orange citrus flavor dominates the experience, and is augmented by a molasses, maltose body. A “chewy” mouth feel, which is a good thing, helps make the consumption of this beer enjoyable.

Reflecting on this varietal from Yazoo Brewing Company, and on the four or five beers I have sampled, I see a small, regional brewery that is making some very drinkable ale, although not terribly remarkable beer. I don’t see finished work, but a good beginning.

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