Cali-Belgique IPA – Stone Brewing Co.

Stone’s Cali-Belgique is their classic IPA fermented with Belgian yeasts, 6.9% ABV.

Reviewed in a frosted hefeweizen glass.

Appearance: Pours a bubbly, light-shaded golden orange. It produces a one-finger head that dissipates rather quickly until it is non-existent. Zero lacing occurs throughout the glass, except for a bit of residue that is left by the head.

Smell: Has a great, complex aroma consisting of sweet, fruity notes backed by hints of light bread and malts.

Taste: Very sweet on the palate, with notes of light bread and orange. The Belgian yeast is also at the forefront, and produces a soy-like taste that accentuates the initial sweetness. Transitions to a citrusy, hoppy punch that is identical to the standard Stone IPA, but is more mellow on the finish with only a slight bitterness that lingers harmoniously with the yeast. There is a slight tinge of alcohol as well, but it is not overbearing or disruptive in any way.

Mouthfeel: A medium body that leans more on the softer side. Carbonation is fairly moderate. Overall, quite a fluffy mouthfeel.

Conclusion: Stone has created a fantastic beer with the Cali-Belgique. It’s not a drastic change in recipe from their standard IPA, but the added Belgian yeasts really do make a difference, and the end result is a surprisingly balanced brew. Despite the yeast’s lighter flavors in contrast to the hop’s citrusy, bitter profile, everything meshes well in the finish and leaves you wanting a second sip. It’s deliciously drinkable! I’d say my only complaints about this beer are it’s lack of greater complexity when compared to Stone’s more ambitious IPA collaborations, and it’s rather subdued hoppiness, but regardless, the Cali-Belgique a great addition to this brewery’s already outstanding lineup.

91 out of 100

Pliny the Elder – Russian River Brewing Co.

Pliny the Elder is a Double IPA, 8% ABV.

Bottled on 4/3/2012.

Appearance: Aggressive pour yields a two finger, fluffy, off white head. Excellent head retention. Color-wise, this beer is a hazy dark-orange with hues of amber. Sticky lacing coats the glass after every sip.

Smell: Pure, fresh hops. Hints of grapefruit and orange. A bit of pine and resin. Smell is more citrusy and bright than the taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation. Smooth and velvety on the tongue with a hint of bubbliness.

Taste: One word: balance. Breathing in while taking a sip of this beer combines a citrusy and tropical hop profile from the aroma with a piney and earthy hop profile from the taste, giving you the ultimate hop experience. This intense hopinness does not come at the cost of being extremely bitter. The bitterness is present but subdued, allowing the hop flavor to shine. Caramel malt backbone kicks in at the last second to round out this beer perfectly.

Overall: There is a great deal of hype surrounding this beer. It sits at #5 on the Beer Advocate list of the top 100 beers and is widely known as one of the best IPA’s available. Does it live up to the hype? It absolutely does. The complexity of this beer is astounding. Each sip contains so many subtleties that it’s almost difficult to take them all in.

This is a beer that definitely requires multiple tastings to appreciate. When I first tried this beer, I was still pretty new to the craft beer scene and I thought it was a well done IPA, but nothing to write home about. Every time I’ve had it since then (4 times in total), I’ve understood more why this beer is so loved. The brewers at Russian River are truly masters of the IPA.

100 out of 100

Red Poppy Ale – The Lost Abbey

Red Poppy Ale is a Flanders Red Ale, 5% ABV.

Appearance: A gentle pour yields a large three-finger tan head. Head is very bubbly and fades away very quickly to a patchy layer. The beer itself is a dark red-brown that turns to an intense rose red when held to the light.

Smell: Dominated by tart cherries and oak. Sour yeast funkiness works perfectly with the sourness from the cherries.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Body is smooth but beer is highly carbonated. Feels very bubbly on the tongue. Wonderfully sour. Tartness is almost mouth-puckering and can be felt all over the tongue, especially the back. Sour cherries blend perfectly with the oakiness from the aging. Finish is dry and acidic.

Overall: Flanders Red Ales are quickly turning into one of my favorite styles of beer. This beer takes the sourness of the style to the next level. Granted, if sourness is unappealing to you, then this beer will not be your favorite. Everything about this beer is amazing – from bottle design to the last dregs in the glass. It’s not cheap at $16 a 375ml bottle, but completely worth it in my opinion. If you like sours, do yourself a favor and pick this beer up.

98 out of 100

V12 – Victory Brewing Company

Victory V12 is a Belgian Quadrupel, 12% ABV.

It was reviewed in a Lost Abbey Tulip.

Appearance: Pours a dark copper orange with hints of red when held to the light. One finger cream colored head, even with an aggressive pour. Head fades to a foamy ring that sits atop the beer. Moderate lacing sticks to the sides of the glass for a few seconds when swirled but quickly fades.

Smell: Smells like a great quad should: Belgian yeast and dark fruits are the highlight. The yeast is present but not overpowering and allows the prune and date aromas to shine. Raisins add a hint of sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Low to Medium carbonation. It has a thick, syrupy body that works very well in this style.

Taste: All the aromas present in this beer are made more intense in the taste. It’s sweet and the yeast ties the beer together very well, adding a small note of tartness. Despite the sweetness though, the finish is relatively dry. Hints of earthiness and spices are also apparent. A small bit of alcohol hits the back of the tongue and throat but this beer drinks exceptionally well for a 12% ABV. The one thing it seems to lack is a dark malt backbone.

Overall: Simply stated, this beer is incredible. I admit bias is present because the Belgian quad is my favorite style of beer, but as of late I have been disappointed with some of the American offerings. This beer has everything a great quad needs: thickness, pleasant Belgian yeast, and rich dark fruit flavors. The only thing holding it back from a perfect score is that I’m comparing it to St. Bernardus Abt 12, my benchmark for the style. This beer, while coming very close, falls a tiny bit short of that mark due to the lack of maltiness. Another great beer from Victory.

95 out of 100

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day

This past summer I went to Ireland with my siblings and our dad for 10 days. We learned a lot about our family history, and drank a lot of Guinness. And a little bit of Jameson.

My best friend is currently studying abroad in Dublin, and based on what she has told me as well as the things our relatives told us while we were there, St. Patrick’s Day is really more of an American holiday than something the Irish actually celebrated. Well, I’m in America, and I’m celebrating with these DELECTABLE cupcakes. I can’t stop eating them! And washing them down with Guinness, of course, though it isn’t as yummy as it was in Ireland.

I adapted this recipe from Will Cook For Friends, but you can find it just about anywhere at this time of year. Many have been asking, “can you get wasted from them?” and I would have to say no. When they were really fresh they tasted like alcohol, but after 25 hours you don’t taste it at all, and you NEVER actually feel the alcohol. You could try eating the whole batch, but I think at that point you would have so much food in your belly it would just soak up all of the alcohol. However, you should have enough Guinness, Jameson, and Baileys left over to make some real Irish Car Bombs which are sure to get you wasted.

Ingredients

For the cake:

    • 1 cup Guinness stout, or other dark beer. fill so that the head begins at the 1 cup mark- this will die down and you want to make sure you have the full amount of beer.
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 cups (loosely filled, not packed) all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:

    • 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped or in chip form (semisweet, bittersweet, use what you like)
    • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3 TBSP Irish Whiskey

For the buttercream:

  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

Directions

For the cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350f and line 2 cupcake trays with liners.
  2. In a pot over medium heat, combine the butter and stout and bring to a simmer.Once the pot simmers, the head from the beer will get very frothy. Add in the cocoa powder, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Be sure there are no lumps of sugar or baking soda left.
  5. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the eggs and sour cream. Beat together until blended
  6. Pour the cooled Guinness/butter/cocoa mixture into the eggs/sour cream. Beat to combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, and mix on low speed until well incorporated.At this point you should really taste the batter. It was the BEST tasting cake batter I have ever had in my life.
  8. Evenly distribute into the lined cupcake trays. They should be filled no more than 3/4 of the way up. Tap the tray 2-3 times atop the counter to help remove any air bubbles.
  9. Place one batch of cupcakes on the middle rack of the oven, reduce the temperature to 325f., and bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Rotate the pan from front to back to ensure even baking, then bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool 1-2 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the tray, and set on a cooling rack.
  12. Bring the oven back up to 350f., and repeat with the second batch.

For the filling:

  1. Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl.
  2. In a small pot, warm the cream over medium heat until just simmering.
  3. Pour cream over the chocolate and stir, starting from the middle and working out, until all of the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  5. Stir in the Irish whiskey, and set aside until ready to fill.
  6. To fill, use a small knife to remove the center of each cupcake.
  7. Using a piping bag, or a spoon and your fingers, fill the center of each cupcake with the ganache.

For the buttercream

  1. Beat the butter for 2-3 minutes or until light, fluffy, and pale.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, and beat until smooth. Repeat until all the sugar is added.
  3. Once all of the sugar is added, pour in the Baileys and mix to combine.
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add another tsp. of liquor (or milk or cream) to thin it out. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  5. Ice your cupcakes!
  6. EAT!!!!! And be merry, of course.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Hop Henge Experimental IPA – Deschutes

Hop Henge is a Double IPA, 8.5 % ABV.

Reviewed in a Duvel tulip glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark orange with light orange shades around the edges. An aggressive pour yields a creamy two-finger, light beige head that fades relatively quickly. Lacing is spectacular.

Smell: Hops are dominant. Tropical fruits like mango and papaya are present with hints of orange.

Mouthfeel/Taste: On the creamier side for an IPA. Coats the mouth with a pleasant velvety feeling. Bitterness is very subdued for a beer with 95 IBU’s. Juicy and tropical, which is somewhat odd considering the brewery’s claims. Sweetness is highlighted as well. Slight malt backbone.

Overall: This beer is touted as an “experimental IPA” and a “monument to hops. ” Based on those claims, this beer is rather unimpressive. It’s not particularly bitter and it’s not even terribly hoppy for that matter. Those faults aside, Hop Henge is still a very solid IPA.

85 out of 100