Monthly Archives: March 2009

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale Review

A Can and a Glass of Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale (from above)Two Cans of Buckbean Original Orange Blossom AleBuckbean Brewing Company is a fairly new brewing company in the Western United States, founded in Reno, Nevada in 2007. In April 2008, the brewery began operations in a 7600 square-foot facility from which they produce various styles on tap as well as two styles in 16 oz. cans. The first beer is Black Noddy Lager and the second is Original Orange Blossom Ale, the focus of this review.

In a previous article about the SF Beer Week Canned Craft Brews event, I briefly mentioned some of the benefits of craft beer in a can. Buckbean is very interested in both dispelling the myths as well as promoting the benefits of beer in a can. These are some of the points that the brewery makes:

  • Cans have had inert, flavorless linings since the 1980s, meaning no metal flavor
  • Cans can go where bottles cannot: golf courses, camping, parks, etc.
  • Cans are more environmentally friendly
    • Since they are lighter than bottles, they require less fuel to ship. Trucks go partially empty with bottles due to weight concerns.
    • Cans don’t require paper labels and glue.
    • A case of cans uses 70% less paper and cardboard than a case of bottles.
    • Cans are more easily recyclable.

Pouring Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale into a GlassOf the craft beer that I have tried in cans, with Original Orange Blossom Ale as no exception, I have not detected anything that tasted like metal. Since I always pour my beer into a glass, I never literally taste the can itself.

Now onto the specifics of Original Orange Blossom Ale. The idea for this beer style came from the brewer, Daniel B. Kahn, in the 1990s while he was living and brewing in Riverside, CA to accompany the Orange Blossom Festival. Buckbean claims that Dan originated this style of beer and thus include the term “Original” in the name of the beer.

If you enjoy beer that are, as the folks at Dogfish Head put it, “off-centered” or extreme, then you might enjoy this beer. Otherwise if you are a conformist to the Reinheitsgebot and dislike beer with adjuncts, herbs, or spices, then you might not like this beer. The orange blossom bouquet and flavor is quite prominent. I find this to be a very interesting and refreshing beer that will go great with food. Just before I tried this beer I had some Japanese yaki soba fried noodles and it would have been excellent with that. It should also pair well with spicy food like Mexican and especially Thai food to complement the lime, spiciness, and saltiness found in many Thai dishes (at least the ones that I eat and prepare).

Where I Found It. A sample can graciously provided by the brewery. Thank you Buckbean!

Serving Type. From a 16oz can into a pilsner-like glass.

Appearance. Orange Blossom Ale pours our of the can smoothly with a nice thick frothy white head. The head lasts much longer than I would have expected. When the head receded, it does not leave much on the glass. The beer is hazy and has a color that is somewhere between dark honey and light amber.

A Can and a Glass of Buckbean Orange Blossom AleSmell. Upon opening the can, the smell is bready and yeasty. As the beer is poured into a glass and brought to your nose the full affect of the orange blossoms come into play. The bouquet is fruity and sweet-floral, like the scent of jasmine flowers, or orange blossom flowers. The fruitiness isn’t the typical citrus-from-hop but more like a tropical-orange fruit juice cocktail. I pick up fruitiness like passionfruit with a little white grape juice. The combination of these flavors creates a candy-like odor. The floral bouquet is quite intense but in the background there is still a hint of malted grains, letting you know that this is a beer.

Taste. Original Orange Blossom ale has a sweet honey maltiness without actually being sugary. There is a touch of hop bitterness making it crisp and clean coupled with a floral and fruity orange flavor. This beer should be great with salty food as well as spicy food. It will be especially tasty ice cold on a hot summer day.

Mouthfeel. This beer is a light to medium bodied beer that goes down very smooth. There is a slight bitterness that lingers on the tounge with the floral flavors. For some reason, I feel that I want more effervescence

Drinkability. Original Orange Blossom Ale is highly drinkable and very refreshing.

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score.

  • Appearance (20%): 3.5
  • Smell (20%): 4.0
  • Taste (40%): 4.0
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 3.0
  • Drinkability (10%): 4.5
  • Overall: 3.9

Information

  • Style: Herb/Spice Ale
  • Brewery: Buckbean Brewing Company
  • Alcohol by volume: 5.8%
  • Hops: “American” hops
  • Malt: Munich and light caramel malts
  • Other ingredients: orange tree flowers
  • Beer Advocate rating: 3.12 (as of March 28, 2009)

Caption on the Can

The following caption is found near the bottom of each can:

This well balanced, full flavored, copper colored ale combines the smooth, creamy flavor of Munich and Caramel malts and bright, refreshing American hops with the rich flavor and aroma of real orange tree flowers. A real treat for the sesnses!

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Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale Review

Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale Glass of Beer and BottleLast summer I discovered Japanese craft beers when I tried a Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale while visiting Las Vegas. Eager to find more Hitachino Nest beer, I went to City Beer Store in San Francisco to pick some up. While at City Beer, I discovered another Japanese craft brewery, Baird Brewing Company. I picked up a few bottles include Rising Sun Pale Ale.

Baird Brewing started in 2000 by Bryan and Sayuri Baird and is located at the base of My. Fuji in Numazo, Japan. The brewer’s website describes this beer as follows:

This quenching brew is crafted in the American west-coast style. It sports a beautiful soft citrus hop aroma which gives way to a round, honeyed-fruit flavor. The finish is crisp and refreshing.

Where I Found It. I found this beer at City Beer Store in San Francisco, CA.

Serving Type. I poured the contents of a 355 ml (12 oz.) bottle into a pint glass.

Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale Bottle (front)Appearance. The head of Rising Sun Pale Ale has the typical egg-shell white color and lasts an average amount of time. The color is a nice orange caramel color but the clarity is semi-cloudy. It was even more cloudy when I forgot to stop pouring and emptied the bottle conditioning yeast into the beer.

Smell. The hop bouquet has a nice citrus, orange, and floral smell, which is noticeable but not intense. The aroma has background hints of sweet malt and grain. There is a slight touch of vanilla and something that I can only describe as Japanese grape-flavored hard candy.

Taste. As the caption on the side of the bottle claims, this beer is well balanced. It has malty sweetness and is not too heavy on the hops and bitterness. The taste is pleasant and has a honey sweetness with a touch of hop spice. Again, I pick up on another type of sweetness in the taste that reminds me of white grape juice.

Mouthfeel. The mouthfeel is a little too watery for my preferences. The initial hop aftertaste on the tongue is pleasant and fades quickly.

Drinkability. Despite the watery nature of Rising Sun Pale Ale it is highly drinkable. It is smooth, easy to drink, and has a nice hop nose while not being huge on the hop bitterness.

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score.

  • Appearance (20%): 3.0
  • Smell (20%): 4.0
  • Taste (40%): 3.5
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 2.5
  • Drinkability (10%): 4.0
  • Overall:3.45

Caption on the Bottle

Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale Bottle (back)The following caption is found on the side of the bottle:

This hoppy, brisk and refreshing Pale Ale is indescribably complex, but holds tenaciously to Japan’s prime aesthetic value — supreme balance. Behold, the Zen Brewmaster’s Pale Ale, a perfect beer for drinking now, later, tomorrow, the next day, every day. “In balance there is harmony.” Kampai!

There is also information about the brewery listed on the side of the bottle:

Baird Beer is brewed at the foot of Mount Fuji by Japan’s pioneering craft brewery. Lovingly and authentically crafted, it is unfiltered, re-fermented in the bottle, and naturally carbonated. Please drink contemplatively, Beer Drinker-san.

Information

  • Style: Pale Ale
  • Brewery: Baird Brewing Company
  • Alcohol by volume: 5%
  • Beer Advocate rating: 3.84 (as of March 21, 2009)

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Homebrewing: Blood Orange Hefeweizen

It had been nearly 2 years since the last time I brewed a batch of beer and I was eager to start brewing again. I had recently purchased a copy of Extreme Brewing [Amazon] by Sam Calagione and while flipping through the pages I found a homebrew recipe that was both simple and interesting:  Blood Orange Hefeweizen. And so, on February 23, 2009 I brewed up a batch and took some photos of the process.

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Recipe

I found the recipe for this beer on page 96 of Extreme Brewing but as usual I had to substitute a few ingredients. Here is the version of the recipe that I brewed:

  • 6.85 lbs of liquid wheat extract (65 minutes)
  • 0.5 oz Liberty hops 4.5% AA (60 minutes)
  • 0.7 oz really old (but sealed and refridgerated) Czech Saaz hops 3.2% AA (20 minutes)
  • 0.5 oz Liberty hops 4.5% AA
  • White Labs WLP380 Hefeweizen IV Ale Yeast
  • 4 blood oranges
    • Grate the orange part (the white part is very bitter) of the rind of 2 of the oranges
    • Peel, section, and chop all 4 blood oranges
    • Heat fruit in 1/2 gallon of water to 160°F, cover, turn off heat, cool.
    • Add to primary fermenter
  • 2 blood oranges
    • I sampled the beer going from the primary to the secondary I added because I wanted more blood orange flavor.
    • Grate the rind of one of the oranges
    • Juice both the blood oranges
    • Bring the mixture barely to a boil.
    • Cool and add to the secondary fermenter

Yeast Starter

Three days before brew day I made a 1.25 L yeast starter with a quarter cup of light dry malt extract. I bought it to a very gentle boil on an electric stove. While wearing silicone oven mits, I pulled the flask off of the heat when it looked like it was about to boil over.

homebrew_bloodorange_hefe-6711

Yeast Starter for White Labs WLP380 Hefeweizen IV Yest

Brew Day

The following are some pictures that I took on brew day. The first picture (and the first picture in this post) are of the blood oranges. I used two store bought blood oranges and two home grown (by relatives, not me) blood oranges. Can you guess which were store bought? The home grown ones were blood red in color while the other oranges were more pink and brown.

homebrew_bloodorange_hefe-6741

Below I’m adding the liquid wheat malt extract to the boiled water. More Flavor in Los Altos, CA packages their LME in convenient bags. I thought that this wheat LME was a little dark, which will probably hide some of the redness from those really dark blood oranges.

homebrew_bloodorange_hefe-6747

Liberty hop pellets, measured out to 0.5 oz and ready to be added to the wort.

homebrew_bloodorange_hefe-6751

Liberty Hop Pellets

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New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale 2008 Review

New Holland Brewing Cabin Fever Brown AleWhile I was on a trip in Chicago, I wanted to try some of the local beers but my schedule didn’t lend itself to visiting any of the local breweries or beer bars. Instead on the way back to the hotel, I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some beer. I wasn’t quite sure what to try but the New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale caught my eye.

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SF Beer Week Recap: Book Signing and Beer with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head

SF Beer Week: Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione at City Beer StoreFor the third event that I attended for SF Beer Week I returned to City Beer Store on Sunday, February 8 for the book signing with Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery. I had ordered Extreme Brewing [Amazon] a few days prior (it arrived the day after the signing) and I also had been reading a lot about Sam and Dogfish Head but until this event I had never tried Dogfish Head beer. I was in for a treat.

I arrived about 20 minutes early to avoid the crowds that I experienced on the previous day and although many people eventually arrived it was not packed like sardines.

90 Minute IPAI started with 90 Minute IPA, a great double IPA. It has an extreme amount of malt, hops, and alcohol (9.0% abv).  It is pleasantly different from the west coast IPA’s in that the hop bouquet has less citrus and pine but a little more spice. It also has a great unique orange amber color.

Next, I tried Midas Touch, a beer that is based on ingredients from a 2700 year old Turkish fermented beverage found in the tomb of King Midas. It is sweet smelling and tasting but light bodied, which seems a bit paradoxical given that it contains 9% alcohol by volume. It is seems much lighter that a typical high gravity beer. It is unique and delicious.

dfh_cbs-5798Midas TouchShortly after opening a bottle of Midas Touch, Sam Calagione arrived. Since I did not have my copy of Extreme Brewing, I picked up a copy of Brewing up a Business [Amazon] for him to sign. I had a few questions that I asked him such as how he decides what unique beers to brew and how to determine how much of a unique ingredient to use. He answer was simply that the influences were manifold but included culinary influences and knowing how much of an ingredient to use is based on experience. When I pressed him more on the ingredients he did divulge that sometimes they will soak the ingredient in hot water to make a tea out of it to see what it might be like.

Chicory StoutAfter my breif interaction with Sam, I tried two more Dogfish Head beers. First I tried Chicory Stout, which is a dry stout that has an intense coffee flavor. This makes sense because the ingredients include: chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort, and licorice root.

Finally, the last beer that I tried at this event was Palo Santo Marron. This is a brown ale with a huge 12% alcohol by volume but is so malty, nutty, and woody that it doesn’t seem like it. That is not to say that you don’t notice that it is a much stronger beer, it is just not in your face and does not detract from the experience. The uniqueness of this beer comes fromt he fact that it is brewed in a Palo Santo wood, a wood from Paraguay used in regional wine making.

Palo Santo Marron

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