Canadian Breakfast Stout – Another Perspective

As mentioned when I posted my review on Monday, I had the pleasure of sharing my bottle of CBS with a fine friend of mine.  He liked it so much, it actually inspired him to write his own review of it.  He emailed it to me and told me I could do with it as I pleased.  I figured since I started this week with a post on Canadian Breakfast Stout, I could end it in a similar way.  Therefore, enjoy this guest review of CBS!

Hype.  Anyone that has seen the Mona Lisa, read a Jonathan Franzen novel, or been to the Catalina Wine Mixer knows what I’m talking about.  Hype sucks because it sets unrealistic expectations for something that is probably great, but just can’t be the greatest.  When I saw the Mona Lisa, I remember making an effort to appreciate it, and in that effort I lost the simplistic joy of looking at a woman with a giant forehead and no eyebrows.  It’s a good painting and all, but it will never be as good as it’s supposed to be.  The worst part about hype is that if you don’t love it there is something wrong with you and there are experts with empirical data to prove it.

That’s not true.  The worst part about hype is that it created hipsters.  Hipsters got cool hating things that are hyped and ironically loving things that are just awful.  Jokes on them though, because now being a hipster is hyped and they are lost in a spinning void of self loathing.

Anyway, when Gary busted out a bottle of Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout it reminded me of the scene in Indian Jones where the Nazi’s are getting ready to open the Ark of the Covenant, and not just because Gary is German and has interesting views on nationalism, but because this beer is the 3rd highest rated beer on Beer Advocate.  Having never had the top two beers on the list, this is supposed to be the best beer I’ve ever drank.  It’s a seemingly impossible mountain to climb, but anyone that has seen the Grand Canyon or been to Rome knows that sometimes the hype fits.

Appearance:  Nothing fancy here, just pure midnight ebony.  There is thick cocoa head and alcohol lacing on the sides of the tulip glass.

Smell:  It fills a room.  It’s chocolate, ground coffee, syrup, but also has a roasted quality.  You get a bit of the maple and bourbon, but it’s not sweet and alcohol-y, more of a fresh baked bourbon cake.

Taste:  First of all, you feel it everywhere.  Before I actually tasted anything, I wondered how big of a sip did I just take.  The beer has an overwhelming dense quality and a mouth feel of cream or cheesecake almost.  After that initial surprise, the flavors came out for a show.

The Canadian Breakfast Stout is an incredible balance.  The balance between malt and hop, sweet and bitter, roasted and mellow, are all evidence of an expertly brewed beer.  There’s fresh coffee, chocolate, quality bourbon, and sweet maple but it is balanced with the bitterness of the hops.  The flavor is perfectly roasted.  Any more and the beer would have had a burnt quality.  Any less and the beer wouldn’t have had the status it has.  What’s most amazing is that it is drinkable and enjoyable despite having every quality of a beer you should have to drink out of an eyedropper.

Here’s a little poetry – it tastes warm and thoughtful.  If you don’t know what I mean, taste an IPA which tastes like “I’m here to party.”  When you taste this beer it tastes like a good conversation.  Founder’s agrees because they decided to bottle this in a 750mil instead of a 12oz.  Not even the Irishest of Irish could drink a 750mil of this stuff alone.

So does it live up to the hype?  The best beer I’ve ever drunk and will ever drink was a Bud Light on a catamaran with my family.    We just got done snorkeling and my parents, whom I had never seen drink more than a single beer, got a round for the family and we laughed and danced to reggae and watched the ocean.  My family became my friends that day.  I was 16 years old.

What’s the best beer you’ve ever had?

The Thrill of the Hunt

The thought for this post was actually inspired by my experiences on Christmas eve this year.  My long time friend, and now sister’s

The Rotting Skulls

boyfriend, is a hunter.  Recently he went out and shot both a deer and a bear.  He was of course beaming with pride and showed us multiple things that resulted from his kills.  The very first thing I was shown when I got to his house was two deer skulls that were rotting in his basement.  He had not only boiled them, but he had also purchased special bugs to consume the rest of the remains.  They smelled awful, but they were his trophies to display.  Both animals were broken down into various forms of meat.  We enjoyed a “deer stick” while we were at his house. The Bear is currently being turned into a rug.  He has done various things to not only enjoy his triumph, but he is taking certain measures to display to others this pride as well.

I, likewise, brought my own product from my hunt.  Of course my version of hunting is much less violent, but I felt some pride in sharing it with everyone as well.  I want this particular bottle to remain a secret for now.  Monday I will have a little review on the bottle, so I will leave you in suspense for now.  However, I spent months tracking and searching for a particular bottle of beer.  I heard it existed, I tracked down its hiding place, and I took the proper steps to bring it in.  Just call me the beer hunter.  Perhaps slightly less manly, but I had quite a few members of the Christmas Eve party who wanted to partake in my “kill”

I, and other beer geeks across America, hunt different beers down all the time.  A perfect example is the beer I reviewed on Monday.  Canadian Breakfast stout was in high demand; however, there was a limited quantity available.  When I went to pick up the bottle I had on reserve, the guy behind the counter remarked how he did have a bottle for himself here, but he was glad he had managed to “hunt” down another bottle at another local store.  We are involved in the hunt all the time, and sometimes, it’s a lot harder to actually come home with our prize. If you live in the wrong area of America it can be downright impossible.

the hunt is on

Of course we have trophies as well. How many rare beer bottles could you not part with?  I brought one bottle home from Italy because it was not only rare, but it also had some significance to me sentimentally.  Christmas eve I had to keep an eye on my bottle to make sure no one threw it away.  It was my trophy and, despite enjoying it in NJ, it would make the trip all the way back to DC.  It needed to take its rightful place on my bookshelf of other trophies.  Coincidentally, it will take up residence right next to my bottle of CBS.

The hunting I do may not seem as manly, but I find joy in it.  There is always something new to hunt.  There is a bottle that wasn’t released in your area, or there is something so rare that only a small quantity can be found.  The thrill of the hunt sometimes only makes the beer taste better.

Quick Review: Smuttynose – Winter Ale

I was given this bottle by my good friend over at Hockey and Beer.  Please go over there and convince him to get back on the blogging bandwagon.  He puts my beer knowledge to shame and needs to share that with the beer blogosphere more.  Having seen my interest in different Christmas and winter beers, this fine gentleman gave this bottle to me for my opinion and future reviewing purposes.  I actually wanted to turn my musings on this bottle into a bit of a more significant review; however, I have been amassing quite a stockpile of different reviews as of late.  Therefore, this beer is going to get the quick review treatment.  I have basically enjoyed most things I have had out of Smuttynose.  I liked their ipa, I loved their robust porter, but I didn’t care for their maibock.  I was hoping that this one ended up on the good side of my feelings about Smuttynose.

Appearance – The pour was a rich brown color with a slight reddish tint to it.  A fairly moderate head develops on the beer, but it disappears fairly quickly. Swirling the glass bring it back fairly, and it make actually comes back more plentiful than the initial pour.  There is some nice sticky lacing on the sides of the glass that last for a while.  There is certainly some haziness about the beer and visible carbonation as well.

Smell – The biggest smell that invades the nose at first is the rich dark fruits mixed with a slight bit of clove.  I pull out some pleasant citrus as well.  There is perhaps something close to candied orange peel in here.  A very strong Belgian scent, as well as, being a little heavy on the booze.

Taste – There is a very sweet malt intro to the beer. This transitions into the dark rich fruits.  I’m thinking dates, figs, and some cherries mixed with a little clove.  A rather strong orange citrus taste enters the flavor profile and is met with just a slight hint of hops.  There is a slight chocolatey finish to this beer.  In the end, I get a little bit of tangy flavor that I think comes from the particular yeast used in the beer.  This is mixed with some of the remaining dark fruits to give it a very unique flavor.

Mouthfeel – This beer has the perfect combination of carbonation and syrupy goodness.  The syrupy nature is there for the boozy quality that warms you up; however, the proper amount of carbonation keeps some of that syrupy nature in check.  The really nice slightly tangy finish is kind of unique but not unpleasant.  It creates something worth drinking.  I also really like the little note of chocolate towards the end as well.

Avery helped show me earlier that a good winter/christmas beer doesn’t have to be brewed with a high amount of outrageous spices, and this beer continues that message.  I really like how Smuttynose managed to create a beer that has a true winter feel without making you search through your spice rack to figure out what you’re tasting.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually am one of the ones who doesn’t mind spices in my beer, but I also enjoy something that can have the same effect and go in the opposite direction. I may have to get a six pack of this one, and I encourage you to do the same.

Teacher Grade: A

Why don’t I like this?

I feel like I ask this question a lot.  Reviewing beer and music, I read a lot of other takes on certain bands and beers.  I want to be really informed.  I want to not only formulate my own opinions, but I want to stay current with what is “trending” in society.  I’ll read about one of the best beers someone has ever consumed, and then I’ll taste it and feel a little confused.  Am I missing something?  Why do I not enjoy this particular brew as much as another person?  I’m not sure if these opinions are formed by circumstances, or if they are formed by the way we have developed our taste over time.  Either way, I always find myself a little confused as to why I don’t always enjoy all of the things people tell me are amazing.

I bring this up because I have been feeling this way about a lot of different albums I’m told are top albums of last year.  There were multiple lists I went through where I flat-out didn’t understand what made theses albums top albums of the year.  I’m not saying they are bad albums, but I’m seriously not understanding why they are the best.  Here are some of the albums I just don’t get.  I have a feeling this list will upset some people, but seriously, tell me what I’m not getting.

1. Real Estate – Days

This album wasn’t released all that long ago, and it immediately took off.  I have their self-titled first album, but I feel mostly the same way about that album as I do about this album.  I find a lot of what they are doing a little boring.  The music is tame, the singing is quiet, and the album never really finds the spunk to keep me interested.  Almost every time I put this album on, I have to change it to something a little more interesting.  I just get bored.  What am I missing here?

2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Here I did totally buy into the hype of the first album and ep.  I really liked them both, and I agree that they were two of the best albums put out the year they came out.  I, however, have really struggled to find a love for this release.  There are some songs that strike me as being really good, but I once again just can’t find a reason to put this one on.  I think I moderately like it, but to call it a top 10 – 20 – or even 50 album of the year seems a little steep to me.  I enjoy the vocal delivery, but I find a lot of it a little bit of a bore. I really don’t think that it lived up to the success of the previous albums, and I wouldn’t have given it a spot at the top.  What makes you love this album?

3. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

So I already know I’ll be in trouble with this one from a few different readers.  I just don’t really get it.  I like the up beat tempo, and I like the concept of the entire band, but I find it all kind of annoying.  The song “Boom” sort of epitomizes these feelings for me.  Her singing is a little annoying, and the lyrics are even more annoying to me.  Do you see the emphasis on kind of annoying? I really wanted to like this album in particular. However, every time I put it on, I end up changing it.  I can’t get through a song or two before I find myself bothered by some element of what they have put together.  Perhaps I just don’t have an appreciation for the history behind this band, but I just can’t find a reason to love this album.

James Blake – James Blake

I think this guy started to make waves last year with a few ep releases.  Of course when any person starts to make waves, I jump to check them out.  I figure it has to be worth a shot.  Paste has this guy described as a dubstep minimalist which Pitchfork basically echoes as well.  I just don’t get it.  First of all, my kids at school this week introduced me to Skrillex, who is evidently the face of the dubstep movement right now.  He isn’t deemed a minimalist, but I know he is up for best new artist at the Grammy’s.  Of course, I’m sure everyone will argue that James Blake is better than Skrillex, but I’m not sure I like anything either of these artists put out.  I find Skrillex to be a glorified techno musician, and I find James Blake to be really boring.  So what am I missing with this one?

There are of course quite a few different albums out there that I’m just not getting. I probably would have put Cults up here a couple of weeks ago, but I started to click with that one after listening a few more times.  I think other than dubstep, I can also question quite a few different rap artists that are getting a ton of cred.  I’ll leave that alone though because I don’t know anything about those releases.  I’m definitely not saying any of these are bad releases, but I keep seeing these pop up as top releases of the year, and I just don’t get it.  So tell me why I need to like these albums.  I know there has to be something I’m missing.  And, if you have any others that you aren’t really understanding either, let me know what releases of this past year you just don’t get either.  I would love to know if I agree with your thoughts on certain artists as well.

Founder’s Brewing Co. – Canadian Breakfast Stout!

The time to crack open this most sacred of beers came the other night with a couple of friends.  I had ultimately decided that I didn’t want to sit down all alone to taste this one.  One of the greatest things about drinking good beer is its social aspect.  Therefore, I sat down with a good friend to enjoy this bottle.  It actually resulted in him writing his own review of this bottle, which I plan to have as a bonus post tomorrow or maybe next week, but for now, you can read my thoughts.

I really lucked out in getting this bottle.  Another good friend of mine told me that the local beer store I frequent actually had lists you could get on for certain beers.  I asked to see the list, which had this beer listed as one of the beers for a wait list.  I knew nothing about it at the time, but I figured any beer worth a waiting list was good to be in line for.  A month or two later I received an email stating that the store had received one case (12 bottles) and the top 12 people on the list would be getting a bottle.  I had truly lucked out.  They said there were about 60 people not getting a bottle.  Since then I have missed out on a few beers because of the list as well, but I definitely lucked out on this one.

The Founder’s site states, “Canadian Breakfast Stout is an Imperial Stout brewed with a blend of coffees and imported chocolates, then aged in spent bourbon barrels that have most recently been aging pure Michigan maple syrup”.  Having really enjoyed the regular Breakfast Stout, I figured this one has to be amazing.  There are some key words in the description that really made me, and others, go crazy.  Imperial, bourbon barrels, and maple syrup were sure to change this typical stout into something worth blogging about.

Recently I seem to talk a lot about how dark the beer pours, but this beer takes the cake.  It pours out far darker than any other beer I’ve had this year.  The bourbon barrels and maple syrup definitely had an effect on the color of this one.  Looking at my notes, I wrote that it looked like motor oil and had a midnight black look.  There is a really nice dark brown espresso head that develops on top as well.  The head is thick and creamy, and it definitely manages to last for an extended period of time.  There is very ample lacing that develops on the side of the glass.  Let’s face it, there is no way you can see any clarity or carbonation in the glass.  The liquid is far to dark.  You have to jump in and find out through experience what this beer has going on.

The smell does seem to have a similar scent to that of the regular Breakfast Stout; however, it has been a little while since I had their standard Breakfast stout.  I do get a ton of the chocolate and coffee in there.  There are definitely a lot of toasted/roasted smells that come out of it, and you can really pull out the sticky sweetness and boozy quality as well.  There seems to be a little hint of vanilla in there somewhere adding a little depth.

The sweet flavor of the maple syrup is the most prominent thing to invade your palate overall.  The roasted flavors kind of kick start the tasting.  These are a really pleasant start to the beer.  I’m typically used to tasting the roasted qualities as a finishing taste, but here you get them right off the bat.  The combined coffee and chocolate flavors come in next.  They are extremely well blended into the rest of the mix and very potent as well.  The very syrupy sweetness comes in at its strongest and leads you into the end.  In the end you’re left with a very sweet boozy coffee taste. The bourbon quality comes in right at the end to give you that strong alcohol taste.

Overall, the mouthfeel has a very thick heavy syrupy feel.  I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking it’s too thick to drink.  It’s not like drinking actual maple syrup, but it is quite thick for a beer.  My friend said it has almost the consistency of heavy cream.  I would say this is fairly close.  There is definitely not a lot of carbonation here, but there is just enough to help balance out the beer.  The aftertaste is perfect for all of these flavors combined.  I would fear something would overpower the rest of the mixture, but really, nothing manages to overpower too much.

I waited a long time to crack this bottle open; however, it was definitely worth the wait.  The Breakfast Stout might be one of the best regular stouts out there, but this is definitely one of the best limited release imperial stouts ever.  I wish I had another bottle of it to let it age a little more.  Instead, I’m just glad I actually got this one.  Founders is one of the best breweries out there, so even though you can’t find this one in stores anymore, you should definitely make sure to pick up anything from them you find in stores.  You won’t be disappointed.

Teacher Grade: A+

A Merry (Beer) Christmas

I’m not sure how many people will read this Christmas Day post, but I figured I’ll shoot up a little Merry Christmas post real quick.  As you can see from the picture, there were a few beer holiday presents that are applicable to the blog.  I received two t-shirts from one of my favorite breweries: 21st Amendment – Brew Free or Die IPA and Bitter American.  I also got a set of two different types of glassware.  This is great because my second tulip glass from Victory Brewing broke a few weeks ago.  Then I also got The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. – Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance.  If nothing else it gives me some good insight into Stone and a few recipes for one day when I can start brewing my own stuff.

So from Lyrics, Libations, and Life to you and yours: Merry Christmas!

Quick Review: Clown Shoes – Lubrication

I have to admit to not being very well versed in the Clown Shoes Brewery.  They seem to enjoy making some slight waves with the different beers they make; however, I never really hear a whole lot of people talking about them.  That is, unless they are talking about the name of a beer they created.  Hoppy Feet seems to be the beer that they are most known for, but I have never actually tried that one.  I had a friend tell me once it wasn’t really worth it.  If you think differently please let me know.  I have, however, enjoyed a bottle of their “Muffin Top”  Like I said, they enjoy making a few waves with the naming of their beers.  Having enjoyed that one to a certain extent, I was really interested to give this little bottle a try when I saw it in the store.  Thankfully I didn’t need to buy a whole six pack because I would be looking for a way to pawn it off if I had.

Appearance – This one poured a very dark black color with a thick ample amount of head development on top.  The head had a somewhat brownish coffee tint to it.  The lacing was quite plentiful and managed to last for an extended period of time.  Of course, the beer was far to dark to get any sense of haziness or carbonation.  The head leads me to believe there is some good carbonation in here though.

Smell – The roasted coffee notes are the most prominent smell given off.  There is a little sweet caramel aspect to it as well as some nice rich malty scents.  A slight hint of hops rounds it off.  Overall, I know they are calling this one a Black Ale, but it is coming across as a black ipa to me.

Taste – The combined coffee and hops slam your tongue almost immediately.  For most darker beers, I note the nice sweet malty intro, but that really isn’t present here.  The sudden blast of these two rather bitter aspects is more off-putting than enjoyable.  Typically I like this mixture, but the coffee is far too bitter and powerful to be combined with such a high amount of hops. That immediate hit of so much bitter makes for a rather strange mixture of flavors.  The saving grace here is the roasted flavors that come in on the aftertaste.  Once you get through the strong coffee and hops flavors, you have a warm roasted flavor hidden behind to mellow the flavors.  If it wasn’t for the intro to the taste, I would probably like this beer a lot more.

Mouthfeel – There is an ample amount of carbonation with practically no syrupy quality here.  I, however, think backing off the carbonation and upping the syrupy feel would mellow out this beer a little.  Allowing it to warm did this slightly, but it never really got to a point where I thought it was great.  The bitterness of the two main aspects are too strong to overcome even with the pleasant roasted aftertaste.

I wanted to like this beer, but I just didn’t really enjoy it.  I won’t allow it to fail because of the aftertaste, but I have it teetering there right now. Beer Advocate has this one a lot higher than I would go, but I guess I just have a different opinion here. I haven’t given up on Clown Shoes just yet, but I’m hoping my next beer from them will be a lot better.

Teacher Grade: D