Sunday, January 30, 2005

Victorious Victory for the # 12

One may be a lonely number, but the number twelve can be even lonelier if you only purchased a single 750ml bottle of the Victory Brewing Company's V Twelve Ale. This Belgian inspired ale, of a whopping 12% alcohol by volume, was a rare treat. First, 12% alcohol is just about like drinking a glass of wine. Second, the 12% alcohol was so subtle in taste, that I wasn't really aware of the ale's potency as I was drinking it. A good sign I am sure. A sign that allows you to want even more of this beverage once you have finished the bottle. Victory V Twelve Ale was very smooth with a very enjoyable light sweetness to it. The most remarkable thing about the beer, besides the taste, was the color. Poured in a wide mouth goblet, the color of the ale was the deepest red I have ever seen. I actually found myself staring at this glass of beer numerous times throughout my afternoon of beer enjoyment. The color of this ale really was something to see.

I used Victory V 12 as an appertif. I had ordered some Chinese food for home delivery. Chicken and Broccolli in a brown sauce. As I was waiting the customary 30 minutes for my food, I poured a nice chalice full of beer and sat in my wide back chair to enjoy this brew on an empty stomach. I have to tell you, V 12 is an incredibly well done beer and tastes fantastic. By the time I had finished my first glass, I had forgotten about my food and poured another. Thankfully the doorbell rang before I had finished my second glass. I wasn't sure how Chinese food would go with Belgian beer, but happily, it didn't matter. The ale was so good, any food would have been complemented by its subtle complexity. V 12 is bottle conditioned in 750ml, champagne corked bottles. They are perfect to take to a nice BYOB restaurant with just about two 12 oz servings per V 12.

The Victory Brewery Company is located Downingtown, Pennsylvania. They are the brewers of many fine beers. You can lean more about Victory Brewing by going to .

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Beers for Braveheart

Christmas time in the United States is the time of the year where the beer lover is inundated with the beer gift pack. The "12 Beers of Christmas", "Beers of the World", "Belgium Beers and Goblets" are the types of packages one might see on the shelves of their local beer store. One package I came across this year, I had never seen before and that was The Historic Beers of Scotland brewed by the Craigmill Brewery in Strathaven, Scotland.

The winters in Scotland can be quite harsh. Cold, damp and dark. The kind of weather during the kind of season that would keep a sensible person inside next to a fireplace having a Scottish Ale or two. Scottish Ales were a beer that I have always been fond of, especially this time of year. The full bodied beer and the cold outside temperatures are a perfect match. The Craigmill Brewery upped the ante a bit and decided to brew five beers using historic recipes, recipes that date back as far as the 9th century. The box that the beer was displayed in was intriguing. All of the beer had a historical account of their recipes and ingredients. Beers brewed with heather, kelp, pine, elderberries and gooseberries were enough to have me gift myself and purchase a gift set.

Grozet is a wheat beer brewed with gooseberries, dating back to the 16th century. This beer was as refreshing as any wheat beer and atypical of the Scottish Ale style. Grozet would probably taste great on a hot summer day. Alba is a brown beer brewed with spruce and pine. The wood flavor actually came out in the beer. I know, who wants to taste wood in their beer. But the wood gave the beer a really smooth after taste. My wife, who will only drink a dark beer, loved this one and almost drank my entire bottle. Alba at 7.5% alcohol made the perfect after dinner beer. Fraoch has been brewed in Scotland since 2000BC and the main ingredient added to the secondary fermentation is heather. The heather gave the Fraoch a dry wine after taste. I had some spicy chicken wings with this beer and the two tastes complemented each other perfectly. Ebulum was first brewed in the Scottish Highlands during the 9th century with elderberries as the added ingredient. Elderberries, at that time, were used to treat many ailments, including the flu, arthritis, neuralgia and sciatica. Maybe I should give this beer to my patients with each spinal adjustment. Ebulum was a very dark, almost black ale. This beer also had oats added to the wort, which gave the beer a silky quality to its taste. Kelpie, it goes without saying is brewed with seaweed. Kelpie actually had a sea breeze aroma, so I cracked open a few oysters and thoroughly enjoyed drinking this beer. My favorite beer of the five was the Alba, which made me wish I had purchased a few more gift sets.

The Craigmill Brewery is located in an 18th century watermill located on the bank of the river Avon, near Glasgow. The beer is actually brewed in a stone kettle based on an 18th century design from Glasgow University. If you see the Historic Beers of Scotland Gift Package, grab a few. They are worth it for the taste as well as the history. Visit the Craigmill Brewery website at or contact at .

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Allagash Curieux.....Belgian Style with Kentucky Flare

I enjoy big beers. Big, meaning big in taste, heavier in alcohol and larger in volume. I am a sucker for those 750ml, champagne wire corked, bottles. There is nothing better to me, than on a cold winter night, uncorking a belly warming beer and sipping the two and a half pints away. These are the beers that are meant to be savored a taste at a time, not chugged like a frat boy with a beer bong.

Allagash Brewing from Portland, Maine makes such beers. This brewer is the champion of Belgian style beers and the innovator of a few "new" styles for us to experiment with. One such beer is Curieux. I was spending my typical long amount of time in front of the gourmet beer case of my local beer store, when I spotted Curieux. The first thing that jumped out at me was the price. Any beer that retails for around $12.00 a bottle needs to be picked up and have the label read. The second thing that stood out was that Curieux was secondarily fermented in oak bourbon barrels from Kentucky. This I had to try. Belgium style Tripel Ale aged in whiskey barrels. Every now and then, I sip some Jameson's 12 year Irish whiskey along with a pint of Guinness ( a wee one, they say in Ireland ), so I was interested to see how the Curieux played out and how much of the bourbon taste would be in the beer.

Curieux was not a pleasant surprise. It was a miracle! This beer was incredibly warm, with a tremendous mouth feel. The first sip presented a slight, almost vanilla taste and smell. Very enjoyable. You could feel the 9.5%-10.5% alcohol warm your throat and heat your belly. As the first sip settled in, the taste of kentucky bourbon came through. The taste was actually shocking. A beer that tasted like whiskey. I enjoyed this beer so much that I didn't want to drink the whole bottle in one sitting, I wanted to savor it again on another evening. I used my air-vaccum, wine preserve pump and preserved the Curieux for the next evening. Curieux managed to maintain all of its qualities the next evening even after being opened.

Allagash only brewed a limited number of Curieux barrells this year, and sad to say, they are probably already gone for the year. After I finished my Curieux, I purchased 6 bottles for myself. And since they were dated October 2004 on the label, the same month and year my daughter was born, I plan on saving a few bottles for her 21st birthday. I hope they age well. You can learn more about Allagash Brewery by going to their website at .

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Low Carb, No Alcohol....Not Sleeman's

I must be crazy to initiate my beer blog with a review of a light beer. Light beers usually have no taste and even less alcohol. The only time I ever enjoy a light beer is on a hot, summer day, after some strenuous activity, like a rugby match or a hard session of lawn mowing. The most enjoyable part of these mass produced, watered down oddities is that you can quaff the whole 12oz in two refreshing gulps and then pick a hardier beer from the fridge. The trend to even further water down the beer reached an all time low-point with the "low carb" version of light beer. Isn't all beer really low carb? I mean, come on, who is going to quibble over 10-15 carbs. That sounds pretty low to me. So, I was surprised to see a low carb, light beer, microbrew offering from Canada, Sleeman's Clear. 95 calories, 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, but get this, 4.0% alcohol. Not the standard 2.8% we see in low carb beers, or even the 3.2% we see in light beers. I purchased a six pack and thought I would give it a try with a couple of slices of South Jersey pizza. First taste, damn, it tastes like water. Second taste, no it doesn't, there is something there. Third taste, is that alcohol I taste? Finished bottle. Is that alcohol I feel in my brain? Yes, Sleeman's Clear was surprisingly good and won me over after the first one. My next test was to give a few to my tasteless, low carb beer friends. Guess what? They loved it. But since they are only used to drinking 2.8% alcohol beer, the session became dangerous. Be careful on the uninitiated. If you would like to try a light beer that is low in calorie, but not in taste or alcohol, give Sleeman's Clear a try. You won't be disappointed. For more information visit the Sleeman website at or e-mail them at .