Beer Review: New Belgium Pluot – Don’t F%$k With Mother Nature

Next up, New Belgium Pluot:

pluot

This is beer brewed with Pluots, which are a sweet 70/30 cross of plums and apricots. While I usually find fruit hybrids interesting, they make me a bit uneasy. Clearly, in the animal and plant kingdom, the sum of good + good does not always equal good…or 2good, or whatever. Several cases in point.

First we take a crab. Mmmm, tasty. Sure, they’ve got claws, but they’re pretty easy to avoid.

crab

In fact, sometimes I wish they had bigger, juicier claws and maybe a tail…like a lobster.

lobster

Which might yield:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I take it back! There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…

The South Pacific’s coconut crab. It’s the world’s largest land-dwelling arthropod and one of the scariest-looking creatures not from Australia.  They are mainly herbivores (they eat coconuts…duh), but some have developed a taste for the flesh of tortoise hatchlings, rats, other crabs, and Amelia Earhart. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s suspected that coconut crabs ate her remains, then hoarded her bones in their burrows as creepy little crab trophies. Did I mention they climb trees to fetch coconuts and purposefully fall out of the tree, rather than climbing down like civilized creatures? Welcome to paradise (watch out for the 10-pound ninja crab ambush from overhead).

As another example, take comic strip character Ziggy. I think it’s pretty well accepted that he is cute. He’s a little preachy, especially for someone who never wears pants…but cute:

Cute. Preachy...but cute.

Dial down the optimism, pervert.

Add a dash of fish. Preferably a cute fish:

Awww. It's Nemo.

Awww. It’s Nemo.

Which might yield:

That ain't right.

Ummm. That ain’t right. Let us not speak any further of the blobfish.

This beer is from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series, their usually good small batch series. This one is brewed along with pluots and using a blend of brettanomyces and belgian ale yeast.

It pours a dull gold, with a head that recedes so quickly it warrants a “Gosh, I’m sorry. This has never happened to me before.” It smells like sweet plums, grain, pineapple, and something strange in the background that I can’t quite place. It’s not quite brett funky, and it’s not quite New Belgium’s earthy/nutty house flavor that many of their beers carry. The taste is like a way too sweet tripel, dosed with pluot juice. Yikes this bastard is sweeter than a “My Little Ponies Save Caralot” movie narrated by Mrs. Poole from the Hogan Family. I was hoping for a little tartness, but the only distraction from the onslaught of sweet is that aforementioned earthy/nutty funk. Ultimately, the beer’s one redeeming quality is its 10% ABV, helping you get in touch with your inner diabetic hobo.

The Haybag: Remember when you said none of the stuff you picked-up at the beer store sucked. Wrong.

Beer Storage: Surviving the apocalypse and my trunk

There are two issues that often weigh heavily on my mind: (1) What is my zombie apocalypse contingency plan; and (2) in the case of a large scale nuclear exchange, what’s my safe drink of choice in the post-apocalyptic world? Of course, cracked.com has zombie apocalypse contingency plans pretty thoroughly covered. But what kind of cold one will I be able to crack after a long day in the Thunderdome?

Fear not! The Federal Government has answers. Back in the 1950’s, as part of Operation Teapot, the Nuclear Defense Agency tested the effects of nukes on beverages, including beer. Apparently, beer fared pretty well. Hell, as long as it didn’t get smashed in the explosion, it was pretty much good to go.

To be fair, the tasting “volunteer” did note some off-flavors in the beers that were close to ground zero. However, beer that was at least a quarter mile from ground zero had no discernible taste difference and low enough levels of radiation to be suitable for “emergency consumption”. In fact, beer a mere 4,700 feet from ground zero showed no appreciable radioactivity.

Sorry. Get your radiation elsewhere, big guy

Which leads me to my experiment. After my butter-bomb experience with Samurai Krunkles, I got curious about other off-flavors, particularly off-flavors arising from poor storage and oxidization. (Paper, lipstick, sherry, metallic flavors…sounds pretty kinky, actually.)

So, I took two New Belgium Red Hoptobers and stored one in the trunk of my car, subjected to the August heat for two weeks; and I stored the other in the friendly confines of my fridge. At the end of two weeks, I cooled-off the trunk-stored beer in the fridge, then tasted the two side-by-side.

I picked Red Hoptober because I knew it was fresh, and I got a good deal on it. After all, I was intentionally ruining it…or so I thought. During the two weeks, it was regularly in the 90s, which means it reached at least 140 degrees in my car. Red Hoptober didn’t give a shyte, though.

Asshole.

The fridge-stored beer may have tasted a little fresher, while the flavor of the car-stored beer seemed to have been dulled slightly. But for the most part, I really couldn’t see, smell, or taste much difference.

So, other than being a big fucking let-down, what have we learned? Well, beer seems pretty damn resilient…at least when the beer is heavily-hopped and has a solid malt character. When it gets hot again, I may try again with something more delicate, like a noble-hopped pilsner. Until then, feel free to store your beer in the car (for not more than 2 weeks). Or don’t.

Death, Taxes, and Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale

Next up, Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, et al.:

I attended my Grandmother’s funeral this week in Effingham, IL. (Best city name ever. Ben Folds wrote a hilarious song about it. Say “Effingham” frustrated or disappointed a couple times. It never gets old.) Don’t worry, however, this isn’t going to be a melancholy post. I deal with death by pretending it didn’t happen and trying to be funny. It’s healthy. Look it up.

Grandma Probst was cool. In fact, the consensus amongst everyone in attendance was that she rarely had it easy in life; but she was unflinchingly devoted and resolute, and she never complained. In fact, I think beerbecue could stand to be a little more like her.

After the wake, we did what every big Catholic family should do: Drink. I didn’t have time to hit up an Effingham beer store, but my brother brought 2 nice bottles of wine, and an aunt had procured pizza, wine, and plenty of Coors and Miller Lite. Did I complain about the lack of craft beer? No. I am now devoted, resolute, and stoic.

With God as my witness, I resolve to drink  free alcohol without complaining!

So, I drank. Then, looking to diversify while my brother and I were plowing through his second bottle of wine, I discovered this wonder of modern engineering in the cooler:

OMG! It’s the punch top can, patent pending.

Oh, dear God. My only past qualm with canned Miller Lite was that it took too long to drink. Problem solved. It tastes just like Miller Lite, only faster. And now that I’m more devoted, resolute, and stoic, I will say that getting the shotgun hole open was a fun challenge and provided my hands with some much needed strength training.

Later in the evening, one cousin pulled out some New Belgium Somersault and was kind enough to share. This is a very good beer. Spicy, floral, and herbal hop character. Refreshing. I am underwhelmed by a lot of New Belgium beers, but I really liked this one.

Served in a Solo Snifter.

The next day, after the funeral and almost all the way back to the St. Louis airport, the Haybag called to tell me that my flight had been delayed 2 hours. Did I complain? No. Devotedly, resolutely, and stoically, I dialed in the coordinates for Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood.

It screams of devotedness, resolutification, and stoicality.

Once inside, the sweet and pleasant aroma of brewing surrounded me, and I saw they had their Pumpkin Ale on tap. Of course, I have previously ranted about the too early release of pumpkin beers, but that was before I was devoted, resolute, and stoic in the face of hardship. So, I ordered one, and I was quickly reminded why their pumpkin beer is hands-down the best.

At times, it’s reminiscent of a spiced cider, but there is no mistaking its pumpkin pie flavor. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, all backed by some caramel and a nice Munich malt sweetness. It’s like a rich, sweet, spicy pumpkin pie. This is THE pumpkin beer. And unless someone can convince me otherwise, this is the only pumpkin beer I will be getting this year.

My one suggestion would be to let it warm up a tiny bit. When it’s cold, the cloves and some slight bitterness attention whore it up. But as it warms just a little bit, the richness and complexity come out.

Yes, my pretties, come to Virginia.

The Haybag: Whatever. I still pledge my allegiance to Southern Tier Pumking. And I think the readers should know that I suggested going to Schlafly Bottleworks and figured out the directions. Otherwise, you would have ended up “stoically” sitting at the airport.

New Belgium and Lost Abbey Brett Beer: Maybe Less Bretta Betta?

Next up, New Belgium and Lost Abbey Brett Beer:

It’s late, and I couldn’t finish my Carly Rae Jepson parody video compiled from clips of Leonard Part 6. So I’ll go with a written post as a backup. Disappointing, I know.

Not as disappointing as an ’80s Bill Cosby workout montage.

This wild ale is a collaboration between New Belgium and Lost Abbey. Lost Abbey doesn’t really distribute here, but both breweries are doing some cool stuff with wild ales. So I was excited to try this. As a side note: I think this beer is supposed to be a resurrection of Lost Abbey’s Mo’ Betta Bretta (which I have never had).

As the name suggests, Brett Beer is 100 percent fermented with Brettanomyces. This is a little different, as more often Brettanomyces are thrown in after the “tame” brewing yeasties have worked their magic. Then the Brett usually eats up residual sugars and provides funk (barn, barnyard, hay, horse-blanket, etc.) and often some a little bit of sour character. Soooo, if a little Brett does that, then 100 percent Brett will be super funky and sour, right? (That’s what the kids call foreshadowing.)

It pours a radioactive, hazy, straw color, with a slowly-receding, fine, white head. At first, it smells like one of those stupid tropical fruits that is all exotic and crazy-looking but ends up being kind of lame. Then there is some banana, aaaand the Brett. The Brett has me a little confused, though. It’s not the usual funk.

As for the taste: It’s way sweeter than I expected. The tropical is still there (a little more forward than in the smell), joined by some cereal, and a faint tripel-like apple and pear. And now the Brett is definitely all up in my grill; but it still has me a little thrown off…like when you’re traveling in another time zone, and Jeopardy comes on at a different time.

You may be naturalized, but I’ve got my eye on you, Trebek.

It’s almost like an over-ripe, not-quite-rotten-but-maybe-the-Haybag-will-get-mad-if-I-eat-it pineapple. Strange. Finally, it finishes sweet, and is overall pretty heavy. Like this beer leaves its shirt on at the pool, heavy. I’m not feelin’ it. And I wanted to like it.

As for the Haybag, I opened this while she was out with the ladies to see the critically-acclaimed Citizen Kane of stripper movies: Magic Mike.

New Belgium Tart Lychee

Next up, New Belgium’s Tart Lychee:

Tart Lychee is born of Felix, New Belgium’s pale wild ale, which is also used for Eric’s Ale and Le Terrior. (Logically, Oscar is the darker base wild ale, which is used to make La Folie.) To get Tart Lychee, Felix gets all funky with souring bacteria in New Belgium’s wild ale barrels for several years. Felix is then blended with an ale brewed with lychee fruit and cinnamon sticks. Voila, Tart Lychee.

Now, lychee is a sweet, perfumy, alien-looking fruit that is native to China, Taiwan, and Southeastern Asia. And it’s worth noting that the Haybag is a lychee bubble tea junkie. In fact, she put such a strain on lychee crops during the year we lived in Seattle (something of a bubble tea mecca), countless children in Southeast Asia wept themselves to sleep at night for want of lychee.

Perhaps the only person in history to have loved lychee more than the Haybag was Sung Dynasty poet, Su Tung-po. Exiled to an island, he declared that if he could have 300 lychees each day, he could reconcile himself to banishment anywhere. I guess Newark hadn’t been invented yet. And with the number of trips to the can that accompanies a 300 lychee/day habit, I can only assume he was never unbanished and that his name may have actually been Su Tung-poo.

Seen here in post-deuce meditation.

It pours a hazy orange-gold, and its quickly-dissipating white head seemed a little angry. I ain’t mad, though. It smells of mild tropical fruit, accompanied by a little musty funk, a hint of cinnamon, and some wood. It opens moderately sweet with tropical fruit, lychee perhaps, and moves on to a light and fruity tartness. Thankfully, the light funk remains (like more funky than Chuck Mangione, but not quite the Brides of Funkenstein), along with a kiss of cinnamon. As it warms the tropical flavor comes out as the cinnamon and tartness fade (although the latter never completely goes away). What tartness does remain, taunts me to score some more high-grade sour (like a crack addict in search of his first high).

It’s a touch sweeter than I thought it would  be. It’s also not as carbonated as I thought it would be (it’s moderately carbonated). And the finish is not as dry as I expected, either; but it’s somewhat dry, crisp, and refreshing on a hot day.

The Haybag: This is the first of the tart/sour beers that I have enjoyed. But when can we go to Eden Center for a lychee bubble tea?

New Belgium La Folie: Yes, it is sour.

Next up, New Belgium’s La Folie Sour Brown Ale:

Some sour beer fanatics can come off as a little smug…staring down their refined noses at hopheads as the noobs of beer geekdom. It’s like talking to an elite, hardcore, indie music fanatic, and they’re all, “Oh, you still read Pitchfork? I guess you’ve never heard of I Was Totally Destroying It or Sorry About Dresden. Have fun listening to your Bon Iver.”

Well F them. They think they’re so Raven.

I’ve had a couple tart/sour beers. I like Bell’s Oarsman, which has a refreshing light tartness. I think Duchesse de Bourgogne is pretty good. And I really liked Blushing Monk, a raspberry Belgian ale, which I thought was pretty dang sour. I was a bad ass and could hack anything sours could throw at me. Until I brought this evil, uncaring bastard home.

La Folie is from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series. It rests in French Oak barrels between one and three years and is “infected” with some acetic acid- and lactic acid-producing wild yeast and bacteria. Then, as I understand it, the various ages are blended to New Belgium’s liking. I don’t know if this is a Flemish Red, a Flanders Brown, or what…but they just call it a Sour Brown Ale.

It pours a dark brown-burgundy, with a quickly receding tan head. It smells like Cheerwine and vinegar. It tastes like taking a shot of vinegar and immediately french-kissing a vomitously sour and angry mob of hobos who are all housed on Pinot Noir & RC cola spritzers. OK, so I’ve never had a Pinot Noir & RC Cola spritzer. But it does taste like f-ing vinegar.

Obligatory sour face photo.

After I recover, I sniff around a bit more, and beyond the aforementioned cherry cola and vinegar, it smells like a musty, red wine cork. And then it’s all like 50 Shades of Green naturalist porn with a deep, wet, earthy funk and some emerging wood. And in the taste, as the vinegar fades a bit, you can pick up some tart-ass granny smith apples, cherries, and maybe some caramel (without the appurtenant sweetness). Finally, it is moderately carbonated, pretty thin, and finishes dry.

It fascinated me, and despite my initial revulsion, I killed the whole deuce-deuce. I think I am going to try more of the various types of sour beers and return to this at some point. I’m still a hophead, though.

The Haybag: Ack. It tastes like sour champagne. I can’t drink this. Nasty.

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.