Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

I got to go to Atlanta this weekend for a work-related conference and took the opportunity to visit a couple of the new growler stores that have popped up into the scene in the northern metro area.  One of these was The Beer Growler, of which there are currently five locations total – I went to the one in Alpharetta.  I should also mention it was a Sunday afternoon.

I chose Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, because the fact that it’ll be in a growler I’ll need to drink it over a few days after opening it, but no longer than three.  A good stout is easy to drink and light on the palate, a definite for a daily drinker since I have no friends who’ll come over to help.  The folks at The Beer Growler also mentioned that this was a special edition and wouldn’t be around long or found in bottles.  Therein lies the greatness of the growler store – the ability to take home something the brewery didn’t put in a bottle.

A first pour of this rich, dark treat gives notes of wood, chocolate, and even some coffee.  A thick khaki head forms and stays a while, but not the whole time.  It is thick without feeling like a loaf of bread, and flavorful without being too hoppy.  To me, this is the right amount of malt so that it doesn’t overstay its welcome in my mouth.  It warms the back of the tongue and the throat with an aftertaste of alcohol, and at 6.1% ABV subtle enough not to get upset about.

I did find from the page at Bell’s Web site that it’s a Winter seasonal, and it is available in bottles and draft.  However, it wasn’t found in the bottle that day and I took a chance on a Bell’s beer being fantastic.  I won.

I had three in a row that night and I must say I forced myself to stop there.  I’d hate to think I ruined a chance at my second opinion, but the first one speaks for itself.  I’d get this one again, only I’d love to share it next time…

Style: Stout
Pairs with: Spicy and/or tomato-based (Italian, Thai) and even milk chocolate and caramel, I’d say…
ABV: 6.1%
Availability: Winter

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Releasing Pugachev’s Cobra at Special Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event

Top 100 Craft Brewery Releasing its Third Barrel Roll Series Craft Beer on Dec. 5

REDLANDS, CALIF. – Nov. 5, 2012 – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, one of the top 100 craft brewers in the country, is celebrating the return of winter by releasing its bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, Pugachev’s Cobra on Saturday, Dec. 8. Hangar 24 will also be marking the occasion by hosting an inaugural Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event that day with twelve different beers to choose from for sampling.

Pugachev’s Cobra, which won gold at the 2012 California State Fair, is an intense assault on your senses. This Russian Imperial Stout, with a thick caramel head, is bursting with aromas of chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon, licorice and dark fruits. Flavors of chocolate-covered plum, sweet malt, bourbon and roasted coffee explode on the pallet with every sip. Pugachev’s Cobra features three different-dark roasted malts and rich maple syrup in a truly unique brewing process to create complexity and depth. Once fermented, it’s then aged for eight months in freshly emptied bourbon barrels. While Pugachev’s Cobra can be enjoyed the day it is purchased, Hangar 24 recommends cellaring the bottle for up to three years to receive the full flavor effect.

Pugachev’s Cobra gets its name from an aerial maneuver where a pilot suddenly raises the aircraft nose to near vertical before dropping back to attack mode. Pugachev’s Cobra was first released on Dec. 10, 2011 with 3,495 bottles; due to the extremely popular demand for the craft beer, Hangar 24 has increased its production for 2012 to an estimated 6,000 bottles.

Attendees of the inaugural Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event will be able to sample six, 4oz pours of any of the following Hangar 24 Barrel Aged craft beer:

On Draught:

o   2012 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2012 Hammerhead

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra aged in Rye Barrels

o   2011 Immelmann aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels

o   4th Anniversary Dopplesticke Alt aged in Rye Barrels

In Bottles:

o   2012 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2012 Chandelle

o   2012 Hammerhead

o   2011 Humpty Bump

o   2010 Immelmann

 

Pugachev’s Cobra will be available for sale in 750mL bottles ($20 each, limit 6) and draught in Hangar 24’s Tasting Room in Redlands, California. Limited Southern California distribution to on- and off-premise locations will begin on Monday, Dec. 10.

Tickets are available on Dec. 8 for $25 in the Tasting Room. The first 250 participants will receive a complimentary, Hangar 24 Barrel Aged Beer taster glass. Hangar 24’s Tasting Room will be fully open on Dec. 8 and will be serving all of its craft beer styles.

For more information on Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, please visit www.Hangar24Brewery.com.

About Hangar 24

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery began with a true passion for good beer, the absolute love of flying and the pure enjoyment of being around great friends. Owner and master Brewer Ben Cook and his buddies used to meet at Hangar 24 after an afternoon of flying to trade stories, talk aviation, play music and share a few cold ones that Ben just finished brewing at home. These days, the location where these fine beers are brewed has changed, but the quality time spent enjoying a delicious, handcrafted beer and conversation is the same as ever. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employs more than 50 team members and its distribution is now spanned throughout Southern California with its addition of another company, Hangar 24 Craft Distribution. Its annual capacity now stands at approximately 40,000 and its Brewery and Distribution Center together employ nearly 100 people.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Lands in California’s Central Coast

I received a press release today and thought I’d just re-post it here:

REDLANDS, CALIF. – Nov. 1, 2012 – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, one of the top 100 craft brewers in the country, has expanded its California footprint to now include Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and its famed Central Coast. Previously only available in Southern California, the nearly five year old craft brewery offers 30 different styles of beer across seven categories.

“Hangar 24 continues to grow and we are excited to see people resonate with the brand,” said Founder and Master Brewer Ben Cook. “I am incredibly proud of the hard work that our team has contributed over the past five years, including our brewery staff, sales team and distributors.  We’ve all worked together to get us where we are today.”

Hangar 24 is now available in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, San Benito and Santa Clara counties, in addition to already being featured in Los Angeles, Orange, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Riverside, San Bernardino (home of the brewery) and San Diego counties.

Hangar 24’s current craft beer offerings are categorized by style in groups including, but not limited to:

  • Year Round Offerings – Hangar 24’s seven core beers, offered throughout the year
  • Seasonal Offerings – The perfect beer for each of the four seasons
  • Local Field Series –  Each release features an ingredient grown in Southern California, including citrus, dates, red wine grapes, pumpkins and more
  • Barrel Roll Series –  Barrel aged beers available in very limited quantities

Some of Hangar 24’s craft beers that are currently available include, but are not limited to:

  • Orange Wheat – American Wheat Beer brewed with whole, pureed, 100 percent locally grown oranges added throughout the process
  • Amarillo Pale Ale – American Pale Ale dry hopped with Amarillo hops with an assertive hop flavor and aroma with a hint of caramel in the background
  • Alt-Bier Ale – Northern German Ale with a caramel dominated flavor, bready/toasty finish, followed by a roasty flavor to dry it all out
  • Hullabaloo (Seasonal, November-February) – A Scottish Ale brewed with American and English hops

For a full list of on and off-premise locations carrying Hangar 24 craft beer, please visit http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/findbeer.htm. For a complete list of Hangar 24’s craft beer styles and categories, please visit: http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/currentofferings.htm.

For distribution inquiries in Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties please contact Allied Distributing at (818) 362-9333. For distribution inquiries in California’s Central Coast, please contact Central Coast Distributing at (805) 922-2108.

About Hangar 24

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery began with a true passion for good beer, the absolute love of flying and the pure enjoyment of being around great friends. Owner and master Brewer Ben Cook and his buddies used to meet at Hangar 24 after an afternoon of flying to trade stories, talk aviation, play music and share a few cold ones that Ben just finished brewing at home. These days, the location where these fine beers are brewed has changed, but the quality time spent enjoying a delicious, handcrafted beer and conversation is the same as ever. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employs more than 50 team members and its distribution is now spanned throughout Southern California with its addition of another company, Hangar 24 Craft Distribution. Its annual capacity now stands at approximately 40,000 and its Brewery and Distribution Center together employ nearly 100 people.

First Pumpkin Ale

I can’t recall the origination of my idea to make pumpkin ale, but I do remember sticking with it.  It was probably sometime back in July when I decided I’d start brewing again and this time make seasonal brews, like a pumpkin ale for Halloween/Thanksgiving.

However, the season wasn’t on my side for making pumpkin ale in time for Halloween.  We don’t see pumpkins down here until the second week of October, pushing back the beer tasting well past Trick-or-Treating.  No big deal – we don’t join the majority of the United States when it comes to that holiday.  We’re really big on Thanksgiving and Christmas but not on the celebration of goblins and such.  Having pumpkin ale in time for a Halloween party just wasn’t on the top of my priority list.  Getting to drink it at Thanksgiving is a more highly desired and attainable goal.

I started searching back in August for a recipe, and luckily I found several.  There’s one at The Brew Site, Serious Eats, and Brew More Beer.  Taking something from each recipe and changing the ingredients again when I went shopping, I came up with this recipe:

5 Gallon Rehberg Pumpkin Ale

Ingredients

3 lb Light Dry Malt Extract 4 lb Domestic 2-row Malt 1 lb Crystal 20L Malt 3 oz Chocolate Malt 3.75 lb Roasted Pumpkin
2.5 Tsp Cinnamon 1.5 Tsp Nutmeg 1.5 Tsp Allspice 0.75 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets (9.4% AA) 1 oz East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.7% AA)

Instructions

  1. This will take three main stages: Roasting the pumpkin, Mashing, and Boiling.Cut the pumpkin into quarters (or smaller if you prefer) and remove the seeds and stems.  Place them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350°F oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin meat is soft.
  2. Put all your grains and the pumpkin in nylon grain bags and mash (steep) them at 145°F – 155°F for an hour.  Remove the grains and pumpkin, allowing them to drain into the wort.
  3. Bring to a boil and add the dried malt extract.  Boil for an hour, adding the Northern Brewer hops at 60′, the Kent Goldings hops at 15′, and the three spices at 5′.
  4. Ferment for one week in primary and rack to secondary.  Ferment for one more week, then bottle with 5 oz priming sugar.  Bottle-conditioning should be complete in two weeks.

    Poor man’s fermentation chamber

Thanks to John Larsen at HomeBrew Den in Tallahassee for his expertise and recommendations.

Batch Notes:

October 14, 2012: This recipe was followed.  Ended up with an adjusted OG of 1.046.  Pitch temperature was around 75°F.  Will rack to secondary on October 21, 2012.

October 21, 2012: I racked it to secondary yesterday, October 20.  I can still smell the spices but the fruitiness of the hops has settled in a bit.  It really feels like this is going to be good!  I have a gravity of about 1.012 now, and the calculators say I have about 4.3% ABV.  So far it hasn’t been very active in the Better Bottle, so I’ll be checking on it again tomorrow to see if the gravity has changed.  If not, it’s ready to bottle and cap — meaning we may can have it on the show on November 9.

October 23, 2012: Wow.  White Labs California Ale yeast is aggressive.  I got a final gravity of 1.010 tonight and decided that it was time to bottle.  I didn’t want to wait too long and not get a good carbonation, so here we are.  It was non-active in the Better Bottle and hadn’t really done much since I racked it to secondary on Saturday.  I added the priming sugar to the bottling bucket and went to work.  I yielded exactly 48 bottles, and the last one was only about 3/4″ short.  I hope it doesn’t explode.

This is the end of the process for the Pumpkin Ale; I’ll report back in a few weeks when we crack it open.  Look for it on the show November 9.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

It’s been so long since my last beer review that I should be ashamed.  I mean, I was doing so well there for a while

Ah, life.  Something we can’t get away from and still keep writing.

I was at the local supermarket earlier this week when I found myself unable to leave without a bit of beer.  This particular store only carries one beer from a craft brewery, and for some reason I wasn’t in the mood for Sweetwater 420.  It just wasn’t that kind of a night.  Instead I settled for a seasonal Harvest Pumpkin Ale from Blue Moon Brewing Company, which we all should know (or should know) is owned by MillerCoors.  No matter how you look at it, MillerCoors influences the feel and taste of this beer.

It also explains why I found it at a grocery store in Adel, Georgia.

With flash, so you can see the label

Without flash, so you can see the color of the beer.

From the neck label:

A pumpkin ale crafted with autumn’s bounty of vine-ripened pumpkin and flavors of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.  Then brewed with a touch of wheat for a smooth, lightly spiced finish.

The average brewer with experience in spiced ales knows immediately that this is bullshit.  That aside, it’s a drinkable ale.  When I twisted off the top and poured the first one, I put it to my untainted nose and could detect the nutmeg and allspice flavors.  It’s a clear reddish-brown ale, and a bit fizzy with little head retention.

First taste is a bit astringent, but held in the mouth one can get the “wheat” and liken it to Blue Moon’s Belgian White.  The two have a strikingly similar finish.  It could be the water out there in Golden, or an addition of corn sugar to push up the alcohol by volume to 5.7%. The carbonation is the same level as an American lager, another tell-tale sign of large-brewery influence.  You cannot bottle-condition with twist-off caps.

Aside from the aroma that I sometimes have to close my eyes and breathe in very slowly to really get in, I’m not impressed with this brew.  Drinkability was an obvious factor when this was created.

My wife brought me some Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8%) and Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest (6.1%) tonight.  It’s my birthday tomorrow and I hope to have good quality beer in the evening.  Until then,

Cheers!

Ben on Beer Episode 6 – Victory Brewing Company

In this episode, Donovan and I continue to get comfortable with the new setup as we discuss the awesomeness of Victory Brewing Company and the friendly culture of craft beer and home brewing.  Cheers!

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Ben on Beer Episode 5 – Publix Knows The Way

In this episode, we chose a new format and had some technical difficulties.  It was an interesting show and we talked about the new grocery store in our small town that somehow provides the most diverse selection of craft beer within 50 miles.  We also discussed Oskar Blues and their new Brevard, NC brewery and restaurant.

Cheers!

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Ben on Beer Show 4

In this episode we continue to discuss the brewery of the month, Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado.  Their farm-to-plate philosophy includes raising cattle and growing hops right there on their farm in Longmont.  We tasted Deviant Dale’s IPA from there and discovered just how diverse one beer can be.

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End of Summer Drawing – Plastic Beer Steins

Hey Folks!  The end of summer is upon us, and I’ve been propositioned by a promotional products company to hold a drawing.  The lucky winner will receive a set of 10 PlastPlastic Beer Steinic Beer Steins absolutely free.  I imagine they’re an assortment of different types/shapes of mugs; I’m not sure.  We all could use something more to drink out of, whether it’s beer, water, kool-aid, or soda (not that I recommend anything other than beer and water).

So if you don’t have enough plastic mugs around the house, enter the drawing to win 10 new vessels.  Again, the actual product may vary from the photo in this post.

To enter, send an e-mail to steins@benonbeer.com with at least the text “2012” in the subject line.  Open to residents of the United States. The drawing will be done by computer on September 28 during the Ben on Beer show.  Duplicate entries won’t count.

The winner will be contacted for shipping information via e-mail after the drawing.  Good luck!

Almost All About Hops

Hop Flower ConeIt has taken me a long time to write an article on hops for many reasons. I’m not going to tell you anything here that you can’t find or read about anywhere else, but there’s so much to this plant and about its use that no single source seems to capture it all. I think it answers most of the questions about hops that I originally had, plus some lesser-known trivia I found along the way.

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