Hunting Beer Bottles & Yo-Ho Brewing Co – Aooni Review

I decided to use my beer bottle hunting in NYC post to also do a review of one of these beers I found in NYC.  As I said earlier this week, I found a bottle shop in Grand Central Station within an hour or two of being in NYC.  It had some interesting looking beers, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the pricing.  Thus, I decided I would wait and see what else I could find.  There were two other bottle shops I really wasnted to get to while I was in NY, but after dragging my wife to a brewery and a few bars, I couldn’t convince her to spend a lot of extra time trying to find these two stores.  The first store I really wanted to get to is called Good Beer.  The pictures I saw online led me to believe they had a pretty good selection.  The second one we almost got to was an interesting place called the Growler Station.  I don’t think I would have brought anything home from this place, but it sounded like a really interesting concept I would have wanted to check out.  Unfortunately the gay pride parade was going right by the store the day I wanted to go, so we got about a block away but didn’t see anything.

The store we did manage to find was a place called the Breukelen Bier Merchants.  We happened upon it not long after leaving Brooklyn Brewery.  It wasn’t a very big place, but they had a lot of stuff on tap and a fairly good selection of bottles as well.  Since I hadn’t been capable of finding too many good bottle options yet, I decided to do my shopping right here.  Browsing around a little, I decided to go with a few bottles I couldn’t find back home or a few I had never seen before.  I ended up picking up Speedway Stout from Alesmith, Dubhe from Unita Brewing Co, and Aooni from Yo-Ho Brewing Co in Japan.  This combined with a bottle of AMA Bionda from Amarcord Brewing Co I bought at Brooklyn Brewery were the only bottles I came home with.  I’ve had Unita before, but I love Black IPAs.  I’ve never had anything from Alesmith, and I’ve never seen anything from Yo-Ho or Amarcord before.  Like I said, I would have loved to do a little more bottle shopping, but I had already put my wife through enough.  Plus, I had to walk around for another few hours with all of these bottles in a backpack!

This can of Aooni really stuck out to me.  It was written all in Japanese and the English on it were just stickers over Japanese.  I guess you need to still put English warnings on things when you import them to the U.S.  At first I didn’t notice where it said it was an IPA, but I still decided to go with it anyway.  It seemed way to bizarre not to get.  I’ll tell you the small details I’ve been able to find; however, most of this is second-hand from other sites, so I’m not sure how accurate it is.  They are out of Karuizawa, Nagano Japan and their brewmaster COO Toshiyuki evidently interned at Stone Brewing co from 1998-2001.  He took what he learned there and went home to apply his knowledge to Yo-Ho.  Regardless of any information I was going to find on the brew, I was really excited to try it.

This one poured out a healthy orangey amber color.  There was some moderate head; however, while it wasn’t exactly plentiful, it lasted quite a while.  The lacing on the sides of the glass was huge, and it left a seemingly unending amount of long lasting residue as well.  The beer was extremely hazy and it had absolutely no visible carbonation either.

There was some very citrusy aroma that was most prominent on the nose.  The most obvious citrus smell was grapefruit, but I could pull out some orange and pineapple as well.  There is almost an apple cider aroma here as well.  A little bit of the floral hop aroma is present, but I wouldn’t say it is overpowering.  It certainly relies more on a citrus aroma than a hop aroma.  A little light pine can be pulled out.  I really couldn’t get much of any malts out of the aroma either.

The beer has an obvious malty intro that combines with some very light piney hops right at the start.  I was a little surprised that the hops came in so fast, but as an IPA fan, I certainly like it.  As the hops start to mellow, you get a very light vanilla taste that leads you into some hefty citrus flavors.  You get a little pineapple that is the gateway to a very heavy dose of grapefruit.  The harsher citrus notes of the grapefruit seems like the perfect lead into the bigger pine notes of the hops for the ending.  There are some light malts to help balance out the ending, but it is certainly quite hoppy.

The mouthfeel has some ample carbonation at the start, but that dissipates pretty quickly if you let it sit for any small period of time.  It really ends up being quite syrupy especially after sitting for a few minutes.  The malts and hops attempt to do battle here, but the hops are the clear victor.  The citrus and grapefruit notes are very complementary.

I have a feeling I would make this beer a regular at my house if I could find it.  I personally have never seen a can of this in my area before.  Perhaps you have an area they distribute too.  If you are able to get this, I would recommend you do just that.  I personally really enjoy it!

Teacher Grade: A


Touring and Tasting Brooklyn Brewery

One of the things I wanted to do most when visiting NYC was end up doing a brewery tour.  I wasn’t really all that imaginative when picking a brewery to go visit.  I just decided to head on over to Brooklyn Brewery to see what was going on over there.  We started the morning by heading down to Chinatown.  My wife loves it there.  She’s asian, of course I’m not saying there’s any connotation there, but she does love being there.  We walked around a little bit and found where we would eventually get lunch on Sunday.  We walked from there over to the World Trade Center area to see how things were developing.  I used to go down there a lot when I was in high school before 9/11, so it’s always really interesting to see.  Since we were quickly approach 12, we decided to hop back on the subway and get over to Brooklyn.

The brewery is just one stop from Manhattan over the Manhattan bridge at the Bedford stop.  It’s a really easy 4 block walk from there.  We managed to get there a little early, so we did a little exploring of the neighborhood.  We quickly realized that we would love to live in that area of NYC.  We clearly are not hipster enough at all to fit into that neighborhood, but we really liked what we saw there, and my wife would have loved to be one stop away rom Manhattan.  Interestingly every single store we went in was either a second-hand or vintage store.  Like I said, it is clearly in a hipster neighborhood.  We eventually ended up in the short little line to get into the brewery for the tasting and tour.

The Tasting Room:  You enter into the brewery to see their gigantic brew tanks with a big logo in front of them.  You’re quickly directed over to their little store where you buy your tokens for tasting.  I’m used to going to DC Brau where the tasting is free, but I’m not too surprised that you have to purchase some tickets to get some beer. They are 5 tokens for $20. Anyway, I stood in the line that moved rather quickly and headed into the tasting room.  It’s a pretty big room with a lot of picnic tables.  The beer samples are given out at the end of this room.  There is a fairly large bar with 4-5 employees working behind the bar to quickly get you your sample.  I was a little worried I’d end up with a dixie cup of alcohol, but you get something around 8-10 oz.  Each beer is a single token except their Blast, which I of course had to try.

The Beers: I didn’t really do a break down of all the flavors that took place in each and every beer, but I’ll let you know what I had and what I thought about it.  Even though I picked Brooklyn to visit, I can say I never really have been blown away by much of what Brooklyn has done.  I think they are a good consistent brewery, but I have never sought them out.  Anyway, I had consumed a lot of the brews on their board before.  They had their summer ale, pennant, and weisse.  There were however a few different beers I had never had.  I started with their Radius.  I saw it on the board and didn’t even ask what it was.  Getting back to my table, I decided to look it up and see what it was on my phone.  It’s their saison brew, and I did like it a lot.  I personally really like mine a little more, but I think I’m a little biased.  Next I decided to get their Sorachi Ace brew.  I’ve had the Sorachi and reviewed it on this site before, but I wanted to see how the hops panned out after using them in my own brew.  It was a really good brew, and I honestly liked it more than I did the last time.  The hops clearly come out a lot more in this one then they do in mine.  The next brew I decided to go with their Blast.  Blast is their Imperial India Pale Ale.  I got this right before the tour and took it with me, but I’ll talk more about that in a minute.  The Blast was a fairly good Imperial, but it didn’t have the super hoppy flavor I really enjoy.  It was good, and it was easy drinking, but it wasn’t really my favorite.  Plus I had to give up two tokens to get it.  I think it’s because it has 9.5% ABV.  Anyway, I went up for my last beer and was told they had one beer from their Worshipful Beers series.  Read on to the tour to find out about the series, but it was created by one individual brewer and is only served in their tasting room. This one was called Centerfold and it was a pale ale brewed with rose hips.  I will be honest that I really didn’t get the rose hips out very much, but I liked it a lot.  I wish I could buy a bottle of that around here.

The Tour:  I was definitely looking forward to the tour.  I’ve done a few other brewery tours, but I don’t think I’ve done one with a brewery as big as Brooklyn.  I lined up for the 1 o’clock show with quite a few others, and we headed back to the tour room.  I say room because we stood in a semi-circle around the presenter in a single room the entire time.  We didn’t really walk around anything.  Things were pointed at, but we really weren’t shown much of anything.  Overall I was quite disappointed in the tour.  The presenter started out with explaining how beer is made.  He passed around some hops and different types of malts.  He pointed at different machinery and told us what they did, but we never really were taken to the different parts of the brewery.  The second part of the presentation was on the history of the brewery.  Once again it was interesting, but it was still somewhat boring.  The presenter certainly peppered in humor which kept everything interesting, but it wasn’t really a tour.  We ended with a question sessions which allowed me to ask about the barrels I saw on the floor of the brewery.  This is where we were informed of the Worshipful Beers series.  Evidently these are wine barrels that are filled with some type of beer one of their brewers brewed for the series.  The presenter didn’t know what was in them, but I was glad to be given the a little insight into something cool the brewery is doing.

I certainly did enjoy visiting the brewery.  It was nice to see where the beer I serve every week comes from.  It wasn’t an expensive trip, although I did buy a bottle and a t-shirt as well, but the tokens were 5 for 20 so it was okay.  I would definitely skip the tour if I ended up there again.  I would probably just buy an extra token or two instead.

Craft Beer Bar Hunting in NYC

Last week I make it very well known I was heading into NYC for a little anniversary celebration with my wife.  We stopped over at my parents house thursday night to drop off some Seppuku and our pup and then headed in Friday morning.  Heading up to our hotel in nearly 100 degree weather was less than fun, but thankfully we made it there and our room was ready ahead of time.  We ate a quick bite in Grand Central, but I saw a shop with some scotch bottles in it as we were leaving.  Curious to see if I could gain some info on some craft beer places, I went in and talked to the manager.  Turns out two doors down was a store with some craft beer.  A lot of the bottles seemed a little over priced, but I gained some intel on a few bars to check out. We then set out to try to find tickets for the Newsies on Broadway.  That would be one of my wife’s major reasons for heading to NYC for our celebration.  After coughing up some money for those tickets, I was of course ready to get to one of the places I was recommended.

Rattle N’ Hum – We headed down around 3:30 on Friday to catch a beer or two and the Germany vs Greece game.  When we got there it was a little busy because of the soccer game, but a few of the seats cleared out at just the right time.  Thankfully I finally started to use my Untapped app to keep track of everything I drank over the weekend.  I saw that they had Green Flash Palate Wrecker on cask, which I had never had before, so I decided to give it a try.  It was a really good beer, but I shouldn’t have gone with anything on cask after walking down there in that terrible heat.  I noticed a few interesting things about the bar while enjoying my first beer.  First they only have women working there.  That isn’t a terrible thing, but I tend to always try to picture working in a bar like this if I moved to a new city.  Needless to say it was pretty hard here.  Secondly, they had some good beer on tap, but they really don’t advertise their bottles very much.  I had to ask to see a bottle list, and they were pretty highly priced.  Finally, they put out a brand new menu for their taps while I was there.  I kind of like that idea.  They keep you up to date really easily with what’s available real fast.  Following the Palate Wrecker, I split a sampler with my wife.  She really likes Framboise, so I got her that and the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier in the hopes that she would like it.  I had the Sixpoint Otis stout and the Wandering Star Bert’s Disqualified Imperial Stout.  Wandering Star was the clear victor.  Trying to finish on a lighter summery note, I went with the Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere which is their saison.  It was quite good, and it was the perfect end to watching Germany kick Greece’s butt.

The Ginger Man – We ventured out to another one of the craft beer bar suggestions after our dinner on Friday night.  Being given three suggestions for bars, I wanted to try to make it to all of them.  Walking into the Ginger Man, it was clear that this bar was slightly more of a fancy craft beer bar.  Rattle N’ Hum had a little more of a hole-in-the-wall feel.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like both types of bar; however, this one had me slightly worried it would be a little bit pricier too.  Although it was slightly harder to get to the bar, I was glad that it wasn’t too expensive.  We found a couple stools near the back of the restaurant, and I bellied up to the bar for my first pick.  I went with Hoptical Illusion out of Blue Point Brewing Co.  I really wanted to do something local, and I had a really good black ipa from them last winter.  We sat back and I enjoyed my beer while debating another tough decision.  This bar does something very different as well; they will put together a six pack of their beers for you to take home.  You also get a 15% discount off a six pack you put together.  Thus, I was really considering getting a collection together here.  I went back up to pick up one more beer; however, they didn’t have my next selection.  Being put on the spot for a quick next pick, I decided to go with a brewery I had never had before.  I got a Belgian style pale ale from White Birch Brewing Co.  It was a great summery end to the evening.  I could have hung around a little longer, but it was clear my wife was more than ready to go.  Still unsure of a complete six pack, and they were really busy, I decided to forgo it and see if I could get back there later.

Wine:30 – Saturday night after attending the theater I wanted to get out to another bar I was told about: Cannibal.  It sounded like a really cool place, but we didn’t get there till after 11 and their kitchen was closed.  So we walked around the corner to this little place for some food and drinks with a friend who was also in the city.  They only had a handful off beers; however, they were all craft beers.  We ordered some meat and cheese, dips, and some awesome beef sausage lollipops wrapped in red pepper.  The first one I picked up was from one of their three different tap offerings.  I’m not sure which beer from them it was, but it was from Brasserie d’Achouffe.  It was nice for a warm night.  After that I decided to go with a Saison Dupont for a nice summery beer. We tried to head back to Cannibal, but they evidently close at 11:30 every night.  Thus we went back for a couple at Rattle N’ Hum.  The two beers I got there were Sneaky Pete from Laughing Dog and Merry Monk’s Ale from Weyerbacher.  These two are available in my area, but I had never had them.

I’m sure there were a lot of other great bars to get too; however, I only had so much time to get around.  Hopefully I get to visit a few more at some point.  If you happen to be in NYC, you should definitely check these few bars out.  I did get a brewery visit in, which I’ll post about tomorrow, and I have a little something to say about finding bottle stores as well.  Keep checking back for those posts the rest of this week.

Anderson Valley Brewing Co – Summer Solstice

Seasonal beers are one of those things that brewers all do.  Thus, right now you can go to the store and find 50 different summer beers to choose from. Some of them try to set their summer beers apart in a variety of different ways, but you can almost always expect certain things to play a part in the end product.  I think that’s why I appreciate it when I stumble on a beer that does something you really didn’t expect.  My friend John attempted to do something like that with his summer ale.  He brewed his summer ale at the same time that I brewed my saison.  We ended up using a lot of the same ingredients; therefore, he put in a bunch of ginger as well.  It is slightly more overwhelming in his brew, but it is something different and welcoming in the end.

Anderson Valley has decided to take a similar stance with their summer beer.  A lot of summer beers go out there with what you would expect.  You open something that says summer and expect it to have some citrus, refreshing crispness, moderate carbonation, and an overall light quality.  Anderson Valley said let’s do something different.  They decided to make a cream summer ale.  I know some people out there will think that sounds awful for summer, but they were really smart in how they approached it.  It’s essentially a summer session beer.  The alcoholic content is only 5% and the hops only come in at a meager 4 IBUs.  It’s a somewhat strange approach to a summer ale, and I doubt I would have tried it had someone described it to me, but I had it at a bar before I ever brought it into my house.  It struck me as something so different that I had to go pick up a six pack of it.

This one pours out a rich reddish copper color.  The head that comes off the pour is certainly plentiful with a bountiful amount of off white head.  The head leaves a lot of bubbles left over, but you really don’t get any real lacing or sticky residue.  I think it may have something to do with the light alcohol content.  The beer certainly has some great clarity to it, but you still can’t see much of any clarity in it at all.  The one really striking visual quality of this summer ale is that you wouldn’t think it’s a summer ale if you were handed it.

The aroma once again doesn’t quite match up to something you would expect when you get a summer ale.  The big malts really come off as the most prominent part of the smell.  There is certainly a fruity aroma that combines with a much bigger citrus smell as well.  A slightly spicy quality comes off.  It isn’t like spicy hot; it’s much closer to the sort of spice you get out of a lot of fall beers.  It may seem out of place to some, but I kind of like how it they use it sparingly.  There also seems to be a little light vanilla in here too.

This somewhat unique summer brew immediately hits your tongue with the rich malty flavors that dominate the tasting.  Interestingly, it manages to be malt forward without being overly sweet or thick.  Even with it being considered a cream beer! Though the beer starts sweet and malty, it has some rich orangey citrus flavors that comes in.  From there you get some of that spice flavoring that transitions you to some really surprising vanilla near the finish.  The beer has a slightly fruity finish to it.  This combines with a little remaining malt and citrus to make a quite pleasant and different summer ale.

The mouth has some really light carbonation to it, but it is certainly more dominated by a sweet malty syrupy nature.  Interestingly it manages to stay fairly crisp and clean despite a very malty nature.  This seems more like a summer ale based on the fact that it seems like a session beer and not overly light and hoppy.

I haven’t really looked into a lot of different summer ales.  I know the ones that I’ve had, and I tend to like them, but they all follow a similar taste.  Thus it’s really nice to see Anderson Valley doing something different here.  Despite being called a cream ale, it’s not too thick and creamy to make it difficult to drink on a hot summer day.  It’s really just a good session beer I would certain recommend.

Teacher Grade: B+

An Ode to Portable Music

I guess I can remember a time when people weren’t consistently walking around with headphones in their ears, but it really seems like something of the very distant past.  Being a school teacher it is certainly a bit of a different time in schools when it comes to distractions.  Kids come into school with their headphones on, they complain when you ask them to take them out or turn it off, they lie that it isn’t plugged in or turned on, and they want to wear the headphones around their neck as a fashion statement.  If that isn’t enough, I have to tell kids to put them away, and I have to watch out for sweatshirts that disguise the headphones in the actual hood drawstrings.  It’s a crazy time period.  Thinking of my other job, I watch kids come in with their parents totally ignoring family time to listen to their music.  I’ve had kids put on their pandora app at the table so they have music they want to hear, and I’ve watched families sit through entire meals without speaking to each other.  It’s a strange new world we’re moving into and, while I may sound really annoyed at the state of the world, I’m loving this new technology.

I am old enough to have owned and operated a Walkman back in the day.  It wasn’t all that long, but I did purchase a few different cassette tapes of my own before I stated in on the new fangled world of compact discs.  I specifically remember making mix tapes and buying a Green Day and Presidents of the United States of America tape as well.  It wasn’t long before I purchased my first Discman. This very quickly led into a world wind buying spree of different albums.  I loved the fact that I could listen to my own music privately and, with the invention of downloadable music and burning cds, I could quickly increase the amount of music I had in my library.  I remember even up through college being obsessed with downloading music.  I would burn CD’s that had two different bands on them or 4 different EPs.  It was an easier way to keep music even though I had to carry all the CDs in my big binder of music.

Then all of a sudden the big binder wasn’t necessary anymore.  I tried to keep myself from buying an Ipod for a little while, but I gave in my Junior year of college.  I have never been a big fan of trying to buy stuff new, so I purchased one off Ebay.  It was a crazy advance in the portable music industry.  I didn’t need the binder anymore, now I could carry hundreds of albums in this compact device.  Of course, with the advance in technology came a different type of responsibility.  Now I had to be much more careful with the device.  I managed to only purchase one Walkman and one discman in my life, but in the span of 8 years, I have gone through 4 different Ipods.

The first one, a bit clunkier version for sure, somehow had the screen smashed and black ink spread throughout the display.  The second one was left on the roof of my car after school one day.  Apparently finding an Ipod on top of a car outside an apartment building means you don’t have to turn it in to the management’s lost and found.  The third one I managed to get them to replace for a price.  I confiscated a powerful magnet from one of the students in my class.  I foolishly put it on the side of my desk.  Not too surprisingly it attached itself to my Ipod as I walked by and yanked a gear inside out of place.  The final Ipod was a shuffle I got from my parents for working out.  I have no idea what happened to that one, but it stopped working after one year.

I bring up all the loss because I may have one more Ipod to add to the list of the fallen.  This of course is the one that brought on this run down of mobile music technology throughout the years.  The final day of school this year I was listening to the Ipod on the way home from school.  I’m fairly sure I got it in the house, but I haven’t seen it since.  It may soon join the long list of Ipods that have come and gone, but I thankfully have a back up Nano that I now use for working out.  It really needs to be updated, but I’m glad I can still carry quite a few albums around with me.

I find it funny that I went through years and years with a discman and never had a problem, but I’ve managed to go through potentially 5 different Ipods in quite a short period of time.  I can’t help but feel we’ve started to sacrifice longevity for a device that can handle so much more data.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy I don’t have to carry around a binder of music to accompany my eclectic taste; however, at $250-300 a piece, I can’t help but wonder if I’d be better off walking around with a book bag to hold all my music and discman.  Hopefully I find my Ipod soon!

where are you!?!?

A Brew to Plan, A Plan to Brew

If you read the review of my beer yesterday, then you know that I am finally beginning to empty out bottles.  This can only mean that I’m ready to start thinking about my next brew.  Of course, if you didn’t read the review yesterday, then you really need to get on it.  John has quite the way with words.  He really makes my beer sound good. (which it is of course).  I think I’m still a week or so from actually getting out there and getting all the ingredients, but I have decided on the style and some of the additional factors I want to include in my next brew.  John made one really good point in his review of my beer yesterday.  I really like to mull over all things dealing with my recipe before I even start putting it together.  One other thing I love to do is make a little blog about my plans and see what everyone thinks about it.

The saison turned out so good I’m approaching this one in a similar fashion to the way I brewed the last one.  If you’ve forgotten, I tried to find a base recipe I could use and then make some alterations to make the beer really my own.  Last time I really focused on the hop and other flavor additions I wanted to add to the base.  I’m not sure I’ve really wanted to change the hop editions too much in this case.  I don’t think it will affect what I’m trying to do too much.  I do have a questions about the hop additions I see on my base recipe, so I’ll be asking that in a minute.  But, like I said, I may change that thought as I continue to develop my idea for this.

So what have I decided to brew?  I think I’ll be doing a brown ale, or at least, that is what the base will be.  I really wanted to do a brown ale because I’m anticipating it to be something nicer to end summer and transition into fall.  I’m sure it will be ready well before the real cold of fall hits, but I’m alright with it.  I’m really tossing around doing a pumpkin ale or something for the fall anyway.

So here are the base recipe ingredients.  Let me know what you think!  The steeping grains are 8.0 oz 90 L Crystal Malt, 8.0 oz 60 L Crystal Malt, 6.5 oz Chocolate Malt, and 1.0 0z Black Patent Malt.  I don’t see anything all that striking about the steeping grains.  They seem good for what I’m attempting to brew.  Since I do extract brewing, I need to add 7.25 lbs of pale malt extract syrup.  Seems like a lot of malt syrup, but it’s just because my saison had about half a pound less.  That, however, was a much lighter brew.  Is there some other malt extract I should be using for this style, or do I more let the steeping grains steal the show here?  Anyway, this beer calls for primarily Willamette hops (80 min, 30 min, 5 min), but it also uses Mt. Hood hops (15 min).  This results in two questions I have.  First this beer calls for it to be an 80 minute boil.  I’ve typically done 60 minute boils, and I’ve heard of doing 90 minutes as well, but I really don’t know about an 80 minute boil.  I’m sure it won’t make a huge deal, but does it seem random that it would ask me to do an 80 minute boil? My second question deals more with the hops.  I’ve only used pellet hops before, but this beer asks for whole hops.  The IBUs are only supposed to be 38, so would it be a big deal if I went with pellet or should I just stick with what the recipe says?  Help me out homebrewers!

Here is where I’m really debating what I want to do with the additional flavors.  I initially wanted to do a nut brown ale.  This resulted in quite a few more questions.  Do I try to make it hazelnut, pecan, or some other nut?  Also, do I just use some sort or extract, or do I try to have it sit on a bed of nuts?  Is that even really an option?  Also, when do I add the nut extract if I use it?  As you can tell I have a lot of questions.  As I was thinking over some of these questions, things got even more complicated when a teacher at my school gave me a pound of local honey.  I would love to do a honey nut brown ale, but I’m already trying to work through my nut questions.  Do I add even more questions on top of the ones I’ve already asked.  I guess I do!  What suggestions do people have for honey if you want to actually taste it in the beer.  I know adding it in different places will result in different effects to the beer.  Someone help me out with how to fit the honey into my recipe!

As you can see I have a ton of questions about my next brew.  If you can help me out with this next one at all I’d really appreciate it.  I want to create another great brew, but I don’t want to over do it either.  Don’t worry though, I’ve already figured out my name for this next one.  That is one thing I never have difficulty with!  Check out the bottom picture for a little hint to the subject matter for this Vigilante!

Vigilante Brewing Co – Seppuku Saison Review!

I love to review beer.  It’s something about opening up a bottle I’ve never had before and trying to figure out the different flavors the creator wanted to achieve when they set out to make the beer.  Of course, I’m not quite ready to try to pat myself on the back by reviewing my own beer.  So, I get someone else to do that for me.  Once again I’m having my guest reviewer, John, take a shot at telling you all what you’re missing by not getting one of these ultra rare homebrew releases.  He’s a little too nice on this being a big sophomore hit.  I’ll have to remind him that there are quite a few bottles of a seemingly failed imperial IPA sitting around.  Regardless, I really do like my latest beer.  

There is a lot of pressure on successful artists follow up on their sophomore releases.  Metallica’s second album was Ride the Lightening, Radiohead’s was The Bends, and Baha Men’s was 2 Zero 0-0.  Even the most talentless people can get a hit once, but it’s the people that show up again and again that make waves.  Vigilante did a great job with its initial release, Anniversary Amber Ale, but the second brew is going to determine if Vigilante is here to stay or if they are the Baha Men.

Seppuku Saison is the second release from Vigilante Brewing Company.  In a bold move, Vigilante decided to take a primarily French and Belgian style and throw in a little Asian spice.  This is not a complete surprise from Vigilante head brewer, Gary, who is a fan of all things Asian.  He is also a fan of beers with unusual personalities. By adding ginger, coriander, and orange peel, he tried to take a style with a lot of bright, fruity flavors and add another level of complexity.  He added Japanese Sorachi Ace hops, known for their lemon quality, to give the beer another level of aroma and Asian.  This beer was thought out and planned, now let’s see if he executed it – Seppuku style.

Appearance – The first thing you’ll notice when you pour the beer is that there is no beer.  We’ll talk about this later, but for now, let’s just say that there is no lack of head.  After the head dissipates, the beer is a golden amber hue that I like when I pour a Saison.  Yellow beers are missing some of the caramelized malts that give beer complexity and depth.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many ‘yellow’ beers I like.   Go ahead and fill up the comments section proving me wrong.

Aroma – There is a great deal of complexity in the nose on this beer.  The late fresh ginger and orange additions add a noticeable character, and the Sorachi Ace hops add the lemon, but the yeast is star here.  The Wyeast Belgian Farmhouse 3724 is a self described complex yeast strain.  It adds clove, cinnamon, orange, powdered sugar, and, when you mix all those things together there is bubble gum.  I thought I was a little crazy when I smelled the bubble gum, but that is a common smell with a lot of German and Belgian style yeast strains.  The beer smells perfect for summer drinking on a back porch.

Mouthfeel – As a home brewer myself, I recognize the importance of honest and sincere criticism of my beers.  I take this seriously and so does Gary.  We’re also both very new to this and we are going to make mistakes, and here is where I need to be honest – the beer is over carbonated.   Out of all the mistakes that can be made, over carbonation is probably the least of a home brewer’s worries.  If you drink the beer right out of the bottle, the beer will foam when it hits the saliva on your tongue.  However, to fix this problem I came up with a solution: Do nothing.  I poured the beer, put it in the fridge, waited 10ish minutes, and drank it.  After it calmed down the beer was extremely light and crisp.  There was still enough carbonation to give it a bite on the tongue and accentuate some of the syrupy qualities in the feel.

Taste – The beer has three distinct dimensions.  First, it leads with tart fruit from the mixture of lemon, orange, ginger, and grapefruit flavors.  It’s big, bright, and sweet right off the bat, but then the beer’s second side shows up: spice.  There is clove and black pepper that creates a really pleasant sting and emphasizes the lemon and orange flavors in the beer.  The third flavor from the beer is in the tart, dry finish.  Describing a beer as “tart” is typically an insult, but for Saisons or Flanders Red Ales, it’s a compliment.  This beer ends with a little sting that leaves you wanting another sip.  The journey from glass to gullet is mostly a bright, citrus, treble clef kind of flavor, perfect for a summer day.

Overall – Vigilante stepped it up with their sophomore release, and it’s a good thing they did.  The thought that Gary put into the beer pays off with a complex beer that still falls within the lines of the style guidelines.  If you drank it, you’d know it was a Saison, but you’d wonder where some of those flavors came from.  You’d also wonder why other breweries haven’t added these flavors.  The beer is a fantastic follow up to their initial release and supports the notion that Vigilante Brewing Company will be a Radiohead, and not a Baha Men.