Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight's featured beer is Lagunitas Brown Shugga' (Say "LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS").  I think I've said it enough (that I'm a huge Lagunitas fan) and I typically buy a case or two of Brown Shugga' when it comes out (roughly in October).  
Recently a friend of mine (based on my recommendation) got a pint of Brown Shugga' at a bar and wondered how it is that I like this beer ("It is so sweet" - to which I said, "Well, duh...BROWN SHUGGA'). 
Moving right along (and from the Laguintas website): "Brown Shugga' How Come you Taste So Good?? Boatloads of Pure Brown Sugar in Each Batch, That’s How! The Rich, Roasty and Mysteriously Drinkable Ale might best be described as... Irresponsible. It Leaves a Lot of Stories in it’s Wake.  Brown Shugga' was originally a failed attempt to make our Olde GnarlyWine Ale way back in 1997. Boatloads of Brown Sugar were added to the boil in an attempt to rescue the batch. The result was quite different from the Olde GnarlyWine we were looking for, but the Accidental Release of Brown Shugga' that year was the beginning of an annual rampage caused by a beer that follows no style guidelines and can best be described as.... Irresponsible. Cheers! Thanks for your trust, and as always:Think Globally, Drink Locally!!"

Let's get started!

Appearance : Pours a rich, deep and full brown shugga' red with a nice and tight light tan head.  Good bubbles.
Aroma :  Brown shugga', rich caramel malts, sweet, a little spice and a hint of hops.
Taste :  Brown Shugga' is full and rich with sweet malts, brown sugar - the "barleywine gone wrong" is SO right.  Well balanced, smooth and creamy with citrusy hops in the finish. A warm aftertaste of alcohol, brown sugar and sugared fruits (figs, apples, grapes, dates, cranberries).
Overall :  An extremely well-rounded beer.  Sweet and sugary, yet extremely drinkable.  At 9.9% ABV give your keys up if you plan to have a few as this beer will slay you.

I'm finding myself reviewing beers that I have been drinking for years and one by one I will review each and every one of my favorites.  Brown Shugga' ranks among the best.


Mark Harvey

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rogue Ales John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight's featured beer is Rogue Ales' John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar.  "This unique ale consists of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar aged in Rogue’s Hazelnut Spiced Rum barrels." And as usual, there's a story...

Back sometime around 1987 I was introduced to John Couchot by a mutual friend.  John and I spent the Summer of 1987 (?) hanging out.  I remember good times with John.  John and I made our own batch of homemade yohimbe in a giant jug and it tasted awful.  John pierced my ear.  I think we spent the better part of the Summer running around together. Whenever I think of John I have fond memories.  He's just a super cool guy.  We both went off to college and lost track.

Via social media I have been connecting with a lot of old buddies and it has been fantastic.  I had wondered where John was and so one day I asked the mutual friend that introduced us if he knew where John was.  Well, he did...and I "reunited" with John only to find out he is the master distiller at Rogue Spirits in Newport, OR.  "John received a bachelors degree in chemistry in 1996 from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, which he utilized as a professional chemist for 6 years, working to isolate the active ingredients from Amazonian plants that were found to have curative properties. In 2006, John came to work for Rogue and now creates award winning Rogue Spirits."
After checking out the Rogue website I learned that John was collaborating with Rogue Master Brewer John Maier to age beers in Rogue spirit barrels.  Here's what the website says: "In their third collaborative effort of 2010, Rogue Master Brewer John Maier and Rogue Master Distiller, John Couchot, are releasing John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar. This unique ale consists of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar aged in Rogue’s Hazelnut Spiced Rum barrels.

To craft this exceptional brew, John Couchot first distills Rogue Hazelnut Spiced Rum and ages it in white oak barrels, allowing the barrels to soak up the subtle flavors of Oregon hazelnuts, vanilla and spices from the rum. When the rum is finished aging, the barrels are emptied and John Maier immediately fills them with Hazelnut Brown Nectar. After approximately 6 months of ocean aging, this unique ale is ready."

Let's get started!
Appearance : Pours a beautiful mahogany brown color with nice trails of lacing (minimal, but there).

Aroma : Wow...sweet rum, hazelnut and caramel malt. Scent reminds me of Tripel or Quad.
Taste :  Sweet, creamy malts are up front. The nutty hazelnut and rum flavors are there and very present in the finish as are chocolate and vanilla flavors.  Not boozy at all. The body is light and aides in the drinkability.
Overall :  This beer is very drinkable.  Great flavors (I am a huge rum and hazelnut fan). I will certainly seek this one out again (hopefully I'll find one before they're gone). I was excited to find the beer with a photo of my friend on the label and I plan to keep my eyes peeled for more Rogue Ales John John offerings.

I highly recommend this barrel aged beer and at 5% ABV you can jump in and have a few 22s.

Kudos to my friend John, the master brewer John and to Rogue Ales!  I am hoping to someday soon visit Oregon - see some of my old buddies and enjoy some great brews (and spirits) from the source.


Mark Harvey

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NCBB "High Octane Hefe"

Greetings and good evening beer lovers,

This is a late night post - a chronicle - of the most recent brewing (and bottling) escapades by yours truly and Brian Busch.

After brewing a Hoppy Red, "Lights Out Double IPA" and the "Heavy Mellow Stout" I decided it was time to brew a beer my wife would like (although I am fairly sure she'll like the stout once it is ready).  My wife is a big Hefeweizen fan so I thought I'd try my hand at making one.

I called ahead to the good folks at Hop Tech so they'd have "the goods" ready to go.  I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating....Jade and Roberto over at Hop Tech are such good people and I cannot recommend their shop enough.  If you're thinking of brewing - go see 'em and tell 'em I sent you.

When I got there I was ready to roll, but I started thinking about the ABV of this one.  With the malt extract I got I was looking at around 4% ABV.  Many of the commercially available hefeweizens are around 5.5 so I asked Roberto to add another 1 1/2 pounds of malt extract in an effort to bump up the ABV - perhaps not quite high octane, but I like the name and I plan to tweak this one until I get the ABV up, up, up!

Around 7:00 pm on Saturday night Brian showed up to bottle the "Heavy Mellow Stout" and brew this next batch that I named "High Octane Hefe".
I boiled some water and stirred in the priming sugar - let that cool.  We added the sugar and water mixture to the bottling bucket and then moved the "Heavy Mellow Stout" out of the fermentation tank and into the bucket.  We let it settle so that we could have a cleaner end product.
Next we started the water for the "High Octane Hefe".
Once we reached 180 degrees we turned off the heat and added 8 pounds of liquid wheat malt extract. That was brought back up to boil.
Once we reached a nice rolling boil we added the hops (Mt. Hood Hops) and let that boil for 60 minutes.
Towards the end of the boil we added the Irish moss (to clarify).
We hooked up the wort chiller and began to bring the temperature down.
At that point we felt pretty good about the settling of the "Heavy Mellow Stout" so we began bottling.
We got our "production line" going.  This is serious stuff folks!
A bottle tree is a beautiful thing.  We're collecting as many stubby bottles as we can get our hands on.
It is amazing how nice it is to see cases of home brewed beer.
We checked the temperature of the "High Octane Hefe" and it was ready to head into the fermentation tank.  We pitched the Wyeast American Wheat yeast (1010) and then fanned in the wort to properly aerate it.
We moved the fermentation tank into a safe and secure bunker and now we wait.
After less than 24 hours we've got some serious action folks!

The plan is to bottle this one (fermentation willing) on Good Friday.


Mark Harvey

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale

Hello beer lovers, happy Friday and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

As I mentioned in my review of Lagunitas Maximus I am a HUGE fan of Lagunitas and their beers.  As I was crusin' through the beer isle of my local grocery store (and I do cruise, mind you) I saw Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale.  Lately I've been less shy about getting a 22 even though I know it is a commitment that I must keep. "WTF Ale. A malty, robust, jobless Recovery Ale! We’re not quite in the Red, or in the Black... Does that mean we’re in the Brown? A big Ol’ Imperial Brown Ale to help you with your slipperly slide on into springtime. Rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey."

From the Lagunitas website : "This Beer was Supposed to Follow Up the 2009 Correction Ale with the Name ‘2010 Recovery Ale’, And Here in 2011 it STILL Doesn’t Look Like We’ll Be There Anytime Soon. Wonderin & wonderin’..... WTF?"

Let's get started!

Appearance : Pours a lovely warm reddish brown with an off-white head.  Excellent lacing.
Aroma :  Major nose candy - sweet, but not overly - caramel malt - citrus fruit - a little spice.
Taste :  Tasty, tasty (but I am a huge Lagunitas fan so that doesn't surprise me). Big sweet malt flavor - some spice - a little nutty and some caramel...then the bitter kicks in. And the finish...roasted malt.  Nice. 
Overall :   Drinks well...not overly boozy for an "Imperial Brown". This is another bold offering from Lagunitas - not too hoppy - not too malty - balanced VERY well. 

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale has an ABV 7.83% and is available now. Since this is a seasonal offering I suggest gettin' out there and grabbin' some.


Mark Harvey

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kona Koko Brown

Greetings (or Aloha) beer lovers and welcome to another edition of NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight's featured beer is Kona Brewing Company's Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale.  And now for a little story...

In August of 2009 my family took a trip to the Big Island and I was very excited to visit Kona Brewing Company. I've been a fan of their Fire Rock Pale Ale, Big Wave Golden Ale, Pipeline Porter and Wailua Wheat. 
I always enjoy drinking beer "from the source" and this was no exception.  On tap at the Kona Brewing Company Kailua-Kona Pub & Brewery was a new nut brown ale flavored with toasted coconut.  I liked it so much I talked my family into going their twice so I could drink this incredible beer. 

According to what I've recently read this beer was first tapped at Kona’s Kailua-Kona pub in the summer of 2009 under the name Coco Loco.  From my first sip I told the folks at the brewery that THIS needs to be bottled, but at the time they didn't have a plan to bottle it.  Well, flash forward and (drum roll please) HERE IT IS!!!
The above photos were taken back in 2009...the beer...Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale.

From Kona Brewing Company's website: "A Nut Brown worth cracking - Is there anything more iconic of the lush tropics than the coconut? The delicious heart of this island treasure has a nutty, toffee flavor and aroma that sends you straight to the beaches of Paradise. Kick back with a Koko Brown, brewed with real toasted coconut, and savor the mahogany color and smooth, roasty malt taste."

"Koko Brown pairs well with coconut and caramel flavors, such as Thai curries, BBQ meats and carne asada. Its refreshing nutty aroma makes for the perfect beer after a day on the water."
Let's get started!
Appearance : Pours a beautiful dark brown with a reddish hue.  A thin head that quickly dissipates with minimal lacing.
Aroma : The scent of coconut is big (as one would expect). A little nutty, slightly malty and some hints of chocolate.
Taste : The coconut and nutty (almond) flavors dominate with a touch of toasty caramel malt, chocolate, and a tiny bit of hop bitterness. The coconut hits immediately and it lingers on and on. The aftertaste is fantastic.
Overall : I am so glad they bottled this beer and I wish it was a year-round offering. The bottled version isn't as good as the one on tap (close), but the coconut flavor and aroma are bold without overpowering the beer aspect of the ale and I am an absolute fan.  If you like brown ales and coconut THIS beer is for you!!!

At 5.5% ABV this one is worth having a few of.


Mark Harvey

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All-In-One Beer Factory!!!

Well I'll be...
Check out this article on an All-In-One Beer Factory found on Wired's Gadget Lab.
For $4,500.00 I think I may prefer to brew the old fashioned way, but goodness this looks slick (and that's probably the extent of it)! And for anyone looking to get me a cool new toy for Christmas...no, seriously folks...I could find better ways to spend $4,500.00 on beer making items.  It sure is shiny though!
Learn more about the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery at their website. A very interesting read and if you've got the extra dough, talk to me!
Mark Harvey

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pint Night - The Hop Yard San Ramon - Mad River Brewing Company

Greetings beer lovers,

Tuesday Pint Nights are back (for me that is)!  It has been some time since I've had a chance to visit The Hop Yard in San Ramon for a pint night.  It was a weekly ritual, but some family responsibilities came up and those kept us away....until TONIGHT!
I was excited to see a free Tuesday night on the calendar and even more excited that tonight the featured brewery was Mad River Brewing Company.  Check out their website to read their history.

Mad River Brewing Company makes some outstanding beers and tonight this is what I tried...
My first beer was Mad River's Jamaica Sunset IPA...from the brewer: "Sunset is a rich light copper India Pale Ale that features the finest spicy floral dry hopped character with a clean crisp finish."
Beer #2 was Mad River's Jamaica Red...from the brewer: "Our Jamaica Red is a unique malty red bitter ale. This mahogany hued ale brings an intense spectrum of hop flavors from the spicy aromatic to lingering bitter, all underscored by a full-bodied caramel richness."
My wife had a North Coast Brewing Company Scrimshaw Pilsner.
Overall I dug the beer.  The IPA wasn't super hoppy (and I like super hoppy, but this was nice) and the red was nice with the dinner I had.  We're always treated so well at The Hop Yard - like family.  My family REALLY enjoys going there - great food - great people - great beer! Can't wait for the next pint night!


Mark Harvey