Victory DirtWolf Double IPA: Beer Review

October 28, 2013

Victory DirtWolf

Brewery  Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, PA)

Style  Imperial IPA

ABV  8.7%

My Review

I’m back! It’s been several months, and much has happened in the beverage world. I could go into a long spiel about how I’ve been busy with work and have had no time to write, but the Baron is no bullshitter. Here’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time when I could have been writing about beer and spirits: catching up with Playstation 3, reading about Breaking Bad theories, thinking about how to use my wavier wire pickups in fantasy football, watching Breaking Bad, TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD, watching my favorite sports teams lose, and probably most importantly (at least for my readers’ sake), trying new and fascinating beverages that most of you are too lazy to find for yourself  don’t have time to try yourself.

You know, with all this time off, I’ve come to a life-changing realization about beer and life in general. And that is, that ANHEUSER-BUSCH AND MILLER-COORS ARE THE BEST BREWERS IN THE WORLD.

goodfellas laughing gif

“You really are a funny guy!”

Ah, can’t go wrong with the Goodfellas gif – Baron, you hilarious son of a bitch!

Anyway, like I mentioned earlier, there have been a ton of new brews circulating around the world. The newest one in my neck of the woods is Victory’s DirtWolf Double IPA.  India Pale Ales are a requisite for any brewery these days based on their immense customer demand, and when brewed (and transported, AND stored) properly they can be among the tastiest beers around.

Victory has been producing the very solid Hop Wallop for several years as their year-round imperial IPA offering. For the Baron, it’s always been an above average brew, but nothing that I kept in my regular rotation. After a long period of experimentation, Victory decided to shelve Hop Wallop for the more assertive, more in-your-face DirtWolf.  For you hopheads out there, DirtWolf is brewed with whole flower Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and everyone’s favorite, Mosaic hops.

SO HOT RIGHT NOW

Mosaic hops, they’re so hot right now!

Tasty. So, without further ado…

Vitals

  • Appearance  DirtWolf pours a clear golden-amber with a thick, fluffy white head. The wolf on the label reminds you that you’re in for that pleasant, crisp bite of hoppy goodness.  9/10
  • Aroma   While it doesn’t explode in your face like some imperial IPAs, DirtWolf has that typical hop bomb aroma. You get notes of resin, lemon, pineapple, and just the slightest hint of toffee malt16/20
  • Taste   DirtWolf is moderately sweet, with notes of pineapple, citrus, a bit pine, and some biscuity malt before a a dry finish. The taste and aroma are reminiscent of a West Coast style IPA, in the vein of Stone’s and Green Flash’s delectable IPA lineups. If you hate hops for some reason, you’ll likely not enjoy this. I’ve heard a lot of people say they dislike hoppy brews, but I believe just about anyone can enjoy a hop-forward beer in the right circumstance, whether it’s because of the style of the beer (there are dozens varieties) or the food pairing (see below).  35/40
  • Palate  IPAs are not the easiest style on the palate, but DirtWolf brings that pleasingly bitter bite without overwhelming the taste buds. Were it not for the ABV, one could easily down 2 of these bad boys per hour, for several hours. Somewhat highly carbonated for an imperial IPA, each sip leaves you thirsty for more. 9/10
  • Value While the old Hop Wallop was sold for $11/6-pack in my area, DirtWolf is slight more expensive per bottle at $8.49/4-pack. But really, ~$2 for a bottle of an imperial IPA of this quality is a steal. Compared to some of my favorite year-round double IPAs, such as Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA ($10/4-pack), Stone’s Ruination ($11/4-pack), and Firestone Walker’s Double Jack ($13/4-pack), this really is a Beverage Bargain. 19/20
  • Overall  88/100

My Recommendation

I feel very comfortable giving Victory Brewing Company’s DirtWolf Double IPA a “must-try” recommendation. While it may not be the most mind-blowing hoppy beer you’ve had, I can guarantee that if you’re a fan of IPAs this will easily make your regular rotation. With its assertive hop bite, world class drinkablilty (not a word) for the style, and economical pricing, it deserves a place in your favorite refrigerator.  Let’s face it, Victory could put this beer in a 22 oz. bomber and sell it for $9 a pop, and all of us beer geeks would buy it. It’s a veritable bargain at ~$2 per 12 oz. bottle.

Keep in mind, as with almost any IPA, the fresher DirtWolf is the better it will taste. Check the bottling date before purchasing, 3 months or younger is ideal but IPAs are at their best when you can drink them within a month of bottling. If the brew is on a shelf, reach for the pack in the back, as excessive light can skunk hoppy beers, even when they are protected by brown bottles and tall cardboard holders.

Food Pairing

I love drinking West Coast style IPAs like this with bold flavors that won’t be overpowered by the strong hoppiness. Barbeque is an ideal pairing, with smoked beef brisket and pulled pork being the Baron’s go-tos.  Fried foods stand up to IPAs \like DirtWolf as well.  If you’re into cheese pairing I’d go for an assertive (as if there’s a non-assertive) blue cheese or an extra-sharp cheddar. For dessert, the sweeter the better. Cheesecake and bread pudding enhanced by overly-sweet fruit jam or jelly work well, as does extra-sweet cheesecake (think raspberry with buttercream, or vanilla with caramel sauce). Just don’t go for citrus – it’ll be culinary overkill for your palate.

Salúd!


Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock Review: Just in Time for Lent

March 2, 2013

Ayinger_Celebrator_Dopplebock

Brewery Ayinger Brewery (Aying, Germany)

Style Doppelbock

ABV 6.7%

My Review

It’s been Lent for a couple weeks now, so we’re in full Bock season. I may not hate my liver have a job so I won’t be attempting the Lenten Bock challenge, but I do plan on quaffing many of my favorite strong German-style lagers. Ayinger’s Celebrator Doppelbock is by far my favorite bock beer.

Doppelbocks, literally meaning “double bock,” were first brewed by the Italian Paulaner monks in Munich early in the 17th century. Contrary to popular beliefs, the monks DID NOT brew the beer to make it through Father Paul’s excruciatingly long and painful sermons. The monks actually brewed bocks to help them last through long periods of fasting.

The longest of these periods of abstinence was Lent, the 46 day stretch between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Being stronger in alcohol meant these doppelbocks were also higher in calories, so they were an ideal companion for Lent. In fact, doppelbocks are sometimes called Fastenbier, or “Lenten beer.” There, you learned something new. Now reward yourself with nice, tasty brew.

  • Appearance Celebrator pours a dark mahogany with a thick, frothy mocha head that laces the glass with each gulp. 9/10
  • Aroma This brew has an earthy, malty aroma of molasses, caramel, dark chocolate, herbal hops. The aroma is lighter than the beer’s appearance suggests. 18/20
  • Taste Celebrator is clearly a malt-forward brew, with notes toasted nuts, toffee, butterscotch, figs, dark fruit, and a bit of chocolate and coffee. While this sounds like a cloyingly sweet mess, it’s actually very mellow. There is a hint of smoke in the finish that balances that sweet body. Extremely enjoyable. 38/40
  • Palate Lagers are typically smoother and crisper than their top-fermented brethren, but Celebrator is by far the smoothest doppelbock I have ever drank. It’s creamy, medium body masks the slightly higher ABV of this fine brew. 10/10
  • Value At $12.99 for a 4 pack, Celebrator is not the cheapest beer around. But it’s one of the many examples (in the beer world at least) of paying a premium for a higher quality product. I have no problem dropping $13 on a brew of this quality. That means you shouldn’t either. 17/20
  • Overall 92/100

Food Pairing For lunch/dinner a nice hearty beef stew, steak, fried chicken and waffles, spicy Mexican cuisine (the spice and chocolate of a mole would be phenomenal), and of course most German fare. For dessert (or breakfast, I don’t judge) lighter-flavored cakes like red velvet, devil’s food, pancakes. If you’re willing to sacrifice beer you can make an excellent Celebrator reduction for waffles and pancakes.

My Recommendation

Celebrator has earned several distinctions in the Baron’s Brew Book: favorite doppelbock, favorite bock, favorite German lager, favorite German beer, favorite lager overall, favorite beer to tell people I drink for “religious reasons,” and favorite beer with unnecessary decoration.

Celebrator goats

Guess who uses unnecessary beer trinkets as Christmas tree ornaments?

Pretty impressive. Needless to say, I highly encourage every beer aficionado to try this classic brew. Dark beer and German beer lovers will especially appreciate this one.

If you gave up beer for Lent, you are clearly a stronger person than I. The Baron feels sorry for your loss and will personally buy you a Celebrator to enjoy on Easter.

American Doppelbocks A lot of readers have found my site through the Buy American Challenge, so here a few great examples of doppelbocks made here in the U.S. that I have enjoyed: Bell’s Consecrator Doppelbock out of Grand Rapids, MI, Tröegs Troegenator Doublebock from Hershey, PA, Epic Double Skull Doppelbock out of Salt Lake City, UT, Great Divide Wolfgang from Denver, CO, and Victory St. Victorious Doppelbock from Downington, PA.


Salud!


Victory Red Thunder Review: Beer-rock the Red

January 19, 2013

Victory_Red_Thunder

Brewery Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, PA)

Style Baltic Porter aged in red wine barrels

ABV 8.5%

My Review

Just in time for the return of hockey: Beer-rock the Red! (Read the first Beer-rock the Red)

As you regular readers know, when the Baron isn’t scaling the world’s tallest peaks or being the world’s second most popular vigilante, he practices an even more dangerous profession: Washington Capitals fanatic. Recent studies have shown that being a Capitals fan takes an average of 12 years off of average life expectancy in adults, even when accounting for common factors such working for top-secret government contractors or daily 20 mile, 2 hour-long commutes.

While last season ended in bitter disappointment once again, we have a new coach and a few other new faces (“He looks like a rapper”) bringing a renewed sense of optimism before the season kicks off today. Will the Caps win the division this year after a second place finish last season? Possibly. Will Ovechkin return to form in a more offensive system? I hope so. Will Florida go 10-0-38 and somehow win the division again? PROBABLY.

Now, to the actual beer portion of the post.

What’s the difference between a Baltic Porter and a regular Porter? The Baltic variety are invariably bottom-fermented (lagers) while the “normal” versions are top-fermented (ales). Baltic Porters are also usually stronger (8%+ vs ~6%) and sweeter than traditional porters.

Victory has taken their Baltic Thunder and aged it in once-used red wine barrels from Wente Vineyards, creating Red Thunder. The Baron is a sucker for almost any brew aged in barrels (don’t even think about it, Budweiser), and I’m a huge fan of Victory Brewing Co so I had to get my hands on this beer.

  • Appearance Red Thunder pours a dark brown with ruby highlights. Its quickly dissipating tan head disappears faster than Alexander Semin in the playoffs. Oh well, not our problem anymore. 8/10
  • Aroma Red Thunder has a nice, subtle aroma of roasted malt, raisins, and chocolate. Usually barrel-aged beers have a stronger aroma, which I enjoy, but this is quite pleasant as well. 18/20
  • Taste The flavor is enhanced by the barrel aging, with loads of red wine, berries, tannin, joining the expected vanilla, cocoa and roasted malt. Red Thunder has a dry, tart finish. A little more tartness would push it into a Don-Cherry-when-Canada-loses-to-America level sourness. So it’s just right the way it is. It reminded me a bit of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja, but with an addition of roasted character. Very good. 37/40
  • Palate Red Thunder is medium bodied with ample carbonation. Like I mentioned earlier, it is quite tart, so if you’re not into that flavor profile then this brew will not be quite as smooth to you. Don’t worry, I’ll finish the bottle if you don’t like it. 8/10
  • Value For the price of $9.99 you can enjoy this unique brew. I honestly expected it to be in the $12-15 range, so this is a pretty good value for the 750 mL bottle. I have seen it sold for closer to $8 in other areas, stupid cost of living near D.C. 18/20
  • Overall 89/100

My Recommendation

If you’re a beer nerd, and you can find Red Thunder, it’s definitely worth checking out. The red wine characteristics bring an interesting flavor profile to the brew, but it will taste funky if you’re only used to IPAs, stouts, etc. The tartness will also be off-putting to those who prefer more traditional beers.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Red Thunder. It reminded me of a chocolate and red wine pairing, only not as snobby and without judgmental servers (“Sir, you aren’t supposed to swallow.” “… That’s what she said.”). If you enjoy barrel-aged brews, or any experimental beers for that matter, I recommend you give Victory’s Red Thunder a look.


Salud and go Caps!


Baron’s Brews News 1/13/2013: KBS Release Date, Port City 2nd Anniversary Brew, Bell’s New Seasonal “Smitten Golden Rye Ale”

January 13, 2013
Founders_KBS_Kentucky_Breakfast_Stout

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout

Founders Brewing Company has announced that their Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) will be released to their distribution footprint the week of April 1st. If you live near Grand Rapids, MI, or just have a lot of free time, you can go directly to their taproom March 27-30 for the official KBS release. Either way, you’re sure to be waiting in line for a while if you want to try one of the greatest beers in the world. Just read the description:

What we’ve got here is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure wonderful bourbon undertones come through in the finish. Makes your taste buds squeal with delight.

Dammit, I knew I should have gotten that blasted drool-resistant keyboard!

Baron-local brewery Port City Brewing Co. will release their second anniversary beer, TWO, a smoked imperial porter. Mmm… porter. I’m sure I’ll be picking up a growler of that when it debuts February 1.  Port City’s head brewer, Jonathan Reeves, also wrote an interesting post on the evolution of the  East Coast IPA. An interesting read, I like the idea of having more subcategories to help new consumers further distinguish characteristics of craft beer BEFORE they buy them. I know I cry myself to sleep just thinking about people drain-pouring precious craft beers that they tastes completely different from what they expected or haven’t developed the palette for yet.

Bell’s Brewery will make an addition to their spring seasonal lineup with Smitten Golden Rye Ale. Straight from the brewery, this new seasonal combines “sharp citrus & resinous flavors from the hops with the earthy, rustic overtones of the rye malt, yielding an interesting take on the American Pale Ale.” Smitten Golden Rye Ale will join Bell’s Consecrator Dopplebock on the shelves this February.


Baron’s Brews News 1/7/2013: Stone Enjoy By 2.15.13 IPA Coming to D.C., Hopslam Shipping Soon

January 7, 2013
Stone Enjoy By 021513 IPA

Copyright © 2013 Stone Brewing Co., All rights reserved.

Stone Brewing Co announced that DC and VA will be blessed by its highly-rated Enjoy By IPA in the coming weeks. Hoppy beers, outside of a few high-ABV monsters, are meant to be consumed as fresh as possible, and as Stone says, this imperial IPA was brewed NOT to last. Be sure to nag your favorite beer purveyor when this brew drops.

In other very exciting news coming out this week, Bell’s announced this year’s Hopslam batch will hit the DC area the week of January 21. If you haven’t tried this amazing, life-changing beer, be sure to try to get a six pack of it before assholes who resell it on eBay buy all of it it sells out. Hint: it usually sells out withing 12 hours of hitting the shelves. Other areas getting Hopslam this year (from Bell’s Blog):

Hopslam will start shipping to areas in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio the week of Jan. 7.

It will begin shipping to Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri and Arizona the week of Jan. 14.

It will then start shipping to Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC, Kentucky and Pennsylvania the week of Jan. 21.

Salud and happy drinking!


Bell’s Winter Mafia: Seasonal Beer Review

December 30, 2012

Vito Corleone

People often ask me what my favorite Christmas movie is, usually just so they can tell me Die Hard or Home Alone is their favorite. My favorite Christmas movie is The Godfather, because its one one of my favorite movies, and it has family yadayada. I’m not really big on seasonality when it comes to entertainment, but I’m huge on seasonality when it comes to beer. Winter beers are by far my favorite; I love heavy imperial stouts, malty brown ales, crisp witbiers and so on.

Although winter has only just begun, the winter beer season is already beginning to wind down. I could go on a ten-page rant about how that pisses me off, but instead I’ll tell you about the Michigan brewery that has turned this season from a desolate tundra of wintry death, to a time of year that I actually look forward to. Most breweries have one, maybe two winter beers they regularly release. Bell’s Brewery has NINE. They OWN winter. Other breweries just hope to have a tiny sliver of the winter beer pie (mmm… beerpie).

Expedition Stout AKA Don Vito Corleone

Bell's Expedition Stout


Expedition is the Godfather of the Bell’s Winter lineup. Expedition practices the Art of War. Sure, some of the other beers are flashier, but everyone knows Expedition runs the show. When Expedition speaks, other beers listen. When Expedition doesn’t get what he wants, a rival brewer finds a hipster’s dismembered head in his bed. Don’t mess with Expedition, or his family. And if he makes you an offer…

Style Imperial Stout
ABV
10.5%

Expedition Stout pours an impenetrable midnight black color with a medium milk chocolate head. Big roasted malt aroma, chocolate, coffee, raisins, figs, and licorice. Very sweet roasted malt flavor with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, and a nice wallop of bittering hops. Despite its considerable ABV and huge flavors, this heavy brew goes down smooth. This Capo di tutti capi only gets better with age; cellar this for a year or two and you’ll be rewarded with a mellowed-out malt monster.
Baron Rating 95/100

Third Coast Old Ale AKA Michael Corleone

Bell's Third Coast Old Ale


Barley Wine has often been called the brandy of beers, or the red wine of beers, or pretty much any other alcoholic beverage whose luxurious complexities can only be appreciated by the snooty few. Bullshit. Beer is unpretentious; only humans can make an inanimate object seem elitist. Michael was often seen as “too good” for the Corleone family business. However, despite his highly-polished exterior, we soon find out that Michael is capable of being even more cunning and ruthless than his father.

Style Barley Wine
ABV 10.2%

Pours a murky amber with a quickly dissipating white head. Sweet malty aroma of dark fruit, brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. The taste is much the same, with a dry, hoppy finish. This is another beer that improves with cellaring – what is currently a strong, slightly hop-forward ale will become a smooth, sweet caramel brew to savor as a dessert, or with a dessert. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Baron Rating 92/100

Hell Hath No Fury… Ale AKA Kay Adams

Bell's Hell Hath No Fury... Ale

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If you have seen The Godfather Part II you need no further explanation as to why Michael’s future wife is tied to the name of this beer. Scary stuff.

Style Abbey Dubbel
ABV
7.5%

Hell Hath No Fury… Ale pours a dark brown with a fluffy beige head. The nose is more like a traditional Belgian Dubbel while the taste is more like a Dubbel/stout hybrid. Aroma of clove, roasted malt, chocolate, molasses and yeast. Sweet taste of chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee and dried fruit, with a slight bitterness from the roasty notes. Hell Hath No Fury has a lively-carbonated medium body. Definitely an interesting take on a Belgian Dubbel.
Baron Rating 88/100

Java Stout AKA Tom Hagen

Bell's Java StoutAs consigliere of the Corleone family, Tom Hagen is probably the only character in The Godfather who drinks more coffee than wine, whiskey and beer combined. Kind of necessary when you’re on-call 24/7 as the adviser to the most powerful man in organized crime. It’s kind of like being the Vice President of the United States, only you have to actually do work.

Style Stout
ABV 7.5%

Pours a clear, deep brown with thick tan head. Huge aroma of freshly brewed espresso and roasted malt. This is really the closest a beer could taste like a gourmet cup of coffee. Founders’ Breakfast Stout may be a better overall brew, but Java Stout is THE beer for coffee nerds. It’s medium bodied and can be enjoyed cold or even at room temperature. The Baron drinks it for breakfast sometimes.
Baron Rating 89/100

Best Brown Ale AKA Pete Clemenza

Bell's Best Brown Ale

Ahh the old reliable caporegime, Best Brown Ale. He might not be the brightest nor brawniest, but he always gets the job done. He combines the tactical abilities to set up a hit on rival gang member while having the wherewithal to remember the precious, precious cannoli.

Style Brown Ale
ABV 5.8%

Bell’s Best Brown is one of the Baron’s favorite “regular” brown ales. It’s not barrel-aged or brewed with hazelnuts; it’s just a supremely well-done, well-balanced beer. Best Brown pours a rich mahogany with a foamy off-white head. Nutty caramel aroma with a rich, malty taste. It has just the right amount of hops to keep it balanced, and a hint of cocoa flavor that makes a good companion for the season. A very nice sessionable brew.
Baron Rating 87/100

Cherry Stout AKA Luca Brasi

Luca Brasi
A mainstay in the Bell’s Winter Mafia, Cherry Stout sleeps with the fishes this year due to cold weather killing this year’s Michigan cherry crop. R.I.P.

This One Goes to 11 Ale AKA Sonny Corleone

Bell's_This_One_Goes_to_11_Ale

The original successor to Vito, Sonny was known for being overly aggressive, bloodthirsty and hotheaded. He made his bones at 19 and had so many mistresses it would make Bill Clinton blush. Pretty much a mafia rock star, so this is a fitting beer to honor him with.

Style Imperial Red Ale
ABV 11.0%

Although this isn’t a winter seasonal, This One Goes to 11 is replacing Cherry Stout for this post. Brewed to commemorate Bell’s 11,000th batch of beer, it pours a dark, clear amber with a foamy white head. This One Goes to 11 has a dank hoppy aroma, with notes of grapefruit, pineapple, with a bit of pine and caramel. Tastes of citrusy hops, resin, with a toffee malt backbone. This One Goes to 11 goes down smooth despite its high ABV. I’d love to see the brew become another seasonal for the Bell’s Mafia.
Baron Rating 90/100

Christmas Ale AKA Fredo Corleone

Bell's_Christmas_Ale


Always thought to be the black sheep of the family, Fredo is not what you expect when you hear the Corleone surname. Similarly, Bell’s Christmas Ale does not resemble anything associated with a typical Christmas beer; no seasonal spices or fruit, no dark, roasted malts. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either Fredo or Christmas Ale, it’s just that average sticks out in a family full of strong characters. Watch your back, Third Coast Old Ale.

Style Scotch Ale
ABV 5.8%

Christmas Ale pours a dark hazy ruby with a generous off-white head. Light sweet malt and bready aroma. Light malty taste as well, with a bit caramel and some hops in the finish. Thin body with a decent amount of carbonation. A nice winter session beer but nothing that will wow you.
Baron Rating 83/100

Special Double Cream Stout AKA Johnny Fontane

Bell's_Special_Double_Cream_Stout

Sporting an olive oil voice and guinea charm, Special Double Cream Stout has known to seduce women throughout the lands. And men. Because its a beer not a person. And unlike Johnny Fontane, you won’t hear Godfather Expedition Stout scolding SDCS “You can act like a man! What’s the matter with you? Is this how you’ve turned out? A Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman?

Style Stout
ABV 6.1%

Special Double Cream Stout is the smoothest, creamiest stout in the world. Kind of odd since it’s one of the few beers with “cream” in its name yet contains no lactose. It pours a dark brown with a luxuriously rich tan head. Aroma of coffee, caramel, and chocolate. SDCS has a moderately sweet taste of roasted malt, with a tiny bit of burnt bitterness. This brew has an amazingly smooth and creamy mouthfeel that you will make you feel foolish for drinking Guinness Draught.
Baron Rating 91/100

Winter White AKA Connie Corleone

Bell's_Winter_White_Ale

The sweet, spoiled youngest daughter of the Don, Winter White always gets her way. Although Connie doesn’t really bring anything positive to the storyline, at least we get this famous scene on James Caan kicking wifebeater ass:

Style Belgian Witbier
ABV 5.0%

Winter White, nicknamed Snoberon by some, pours a cloudy straw color with a medium frothy white head. Aroma Belgian yeast, coriander, clove, bubblegum, and sweet malt. Taste is moderately sweet malt that is balanced with the coriander spice and delectable trademark Belgian yeastyness. Very smooth, refreshing, and sessionable at just 5.0% abv.
Baron Rating 87/100

Salud!


Henderson Family Values: Angel’s Envy Bourbon Review

August 26, 2012

Angel's Envy straight bourbon whiskey

Distillery  Louisville Distilling Company (Crestwood, KY)

Type  Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV  43.3% (86.6 proof)

Age  4-6 years

My Review

Summer is nearly over and the Baron has yet to review a bourbon. Simply unacceptable. I present to you a relative newcomer to the bourbon aisle, Angel’s Envy.

This whiskey is the brainchild of bourbon paragon Lincoln Henderson, the not-even-close-to-being-a-newcomer former master distiller of Brown-Forman. To borrow a phrase from the late  great Troy McClure, “you may remember him from such bourbons as Woodford Reserve and Old Forester.” Three generations of Henderson’s are involved in the production of Angel’s Envy. They’re like the Kennedy’s, but with more booze-making and less booze-drinking.

Getting back to the actual bourbon, it spends 4 to 6 years aging in the highest level of the barrel warehouse, soaking up that oakey goodness. Lincoln Henderson then personally tastes each barrel, choosing the ones he deems ready. The whiskey in those select barrels is then aged in Port wine barrels for an additional 3 to 6 months. Sure it sounds a little “different,” and it’s unlikely to attract the stereotypical cheap bourbon and coke drinkers you’ll find at your local bar or lounge, but the process renders an incredibly smooth and exquisite bourbon.

(Click to read more about the Angel’s Envy bourbon making process)

  • Appearance  Angel’s Envy pours a subdued copper color. You can tell this isn’t a high proof bourbon, as the color would be more robust, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This has nothing to do with the actual bourbon, but I find the bottle to be very eye-catching. 8/10
  • Aroma  There is a lot going on in the nose on this one. Very sweet and enticing aroma of vanilla, caramel, maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, toasted nuts, and dark fruit. It doesn’t get much better than this. 19/20
  • Taste  Angel’s Envy has a pleasantly sweet taste, with the usual bourbon flavors of vanilla and caramel, as well as brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and spice. The Port influence is evident, but not overbearing. You can taste the notes of raisin and dark fruits, with a slight hint on mint. The finish is medium-long, with the maple and fruit lingering on the palate. I also got an odd hint of chocolate in the finish. So far, no one else I know who has tried Angel’s Envy has tasted this, so feel free to ignore that part. (UPDATE: Chocolate is actually part of Angel’s Envy tasting notes) 38/40
  • Palate  This whiskey was originally going to be called “Baby Butt Bourbon” but the marketing department felt the name didn’t accurately describe the incredible smoothness this Kentucky spirit. Angel’s Envy is liquid silk, so smooth and gentle on the palate. There is absolutely no burn whatsoever. 10/10
  • Value  Let me preface this section by saying I paid WAY too much for this. It’s not available in Virginia, so I made the mistake of buying it in DC, paying a good 20% premium over the average retail price. But I won’t punish the bourbon for my lack of price research. You should be able to purchase a 750 mL bottle of Angel’s Envy for about $45-$50, where available. That’s a decent price point for a bourbon of this quality. If I could get it for $40 in my area there would always be a bottle in my whiskey cabinet. 16/20
  • Overall  91/100

My Recommendation

If you’re a fan of bourbon or craft whiskeys, I highly recommend you try Angel’s Envy. If you’ve read any of my previous bourbon reviews, you know I like big, bold, in-your-face-like-a-starving-zombie bourbons. Angel’s Envy does not fall in that category, but it has become one of my favorite bourbons.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon’s sweet, complex flavor and aroma are excellent in their own right, but its incredible smoothness really puts this straight Kentucky bourbon over the top.  There is no need for ice, and absolutely no need for adding water. And please, for the love of God and all that is good in the world, DO NOT USE THIS FOR MIXED DRINKS. Pour it in a glass, admire it, and enjoy it.


Salud!


It’s Not What Your Country Can Do For You, But Which Canned Beers You Can Get in Your Country

July 5, 2012

Happy 236th birthday, America! I hope I don’t look this bad when I’m your age!

(rimshot)

Just kidding America, you know I love you. It’s a little late, but here is my birthday gift to you: a post about canned beer, one of the most American things in the history of Americanism. These American brews are all great for the summer, and being packed into cans makes them easier to take on the go during summer outings.

Enjoy.

21st Amendment Brew Free! Or Die IPA

Is there a more aptly named beer, or brewery, for America’s birthday than this? The Baron shouts “Give me beer or give me death!” every time he cracks one open. For those of you who don’t know what the 21st amendment is, it is basically the greatest amendment to the US Constitution EVER. It repeals the 18th amendment, AKA prohibition, AKA terrorism freedom-stealing prudishness. Although many archaic prohibition-era laws still exist, the 21st is BY FAR the most important piece of legislature passed since the nineteenth century, excluding those prohibiting racism and other forms of backwards prejudice. And for those of you who don’t know the inspiration of the Brew Free! Or Die moniker, please just read this and pretend you remember it from 4th grade history.

Before we get to the actual beer, let’s take look how badass this can design is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brew Free! Or Die IPA pours a hazy orange color with a thick, creamy white head that leaves a delicate lacing along the glass. It has a big, hoppy citrus aroma with some tropical fruit and sweet malty notes. This brew tastes like a hopbomb, but it has a solid malt body to inch it close to balanced. You get a solid punch of the citrus and tropical flavors from the hops upon entry, and the sweet caramel and toffee malt flavors intermingle to create the preferred 65-35 hop to malt ratio that Baron prefers in his IPAs. Thanks for making this brew just for me, 21st Amendment!

Baron Rating: 88/100

21st AmendmentBack in Black

That right, 21st Amendment gets not one, but TWO beers in the post! As the brewery states, this beer is “[i]nspired by Paul Revere’s midnight ride, we rebelled against the British style IPA, embraced the more aggressive American version and then recast it in bold, brave, defiant black. Our Black IPA is a Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the expected.”

The British aren’t coming, but I’d like to set fire to AB In-Bev’s headquarters. Your next, MillerCoors.

Damn straight. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s tyranny. If there’s two things I hate, it’s tyranny and not rebelling against said tyranny. I recently went to the NoVa Summer Brewfest, and though I had a great time sampling beers, I was disappointed in the lack of roast in the breweries beer offerings. Traditionally summer beers are lighter, but the Baron needs dark beer in his life, no matter the temperature. Back in Black is the best roast-forward brew for the summer months, in my not so humble opinion.

Back in Black pours as dark as a stout, with a very frothy tan head. The nose is hoppy, mostly citrus and pine, with a nice coffee character from the roasted malt. The flavor is much the same, with citrus hop flavor intermingling with coffee and chocolate notes. The mouth-feel is fantastic. Back in Black has a rich, creamy body that you would normally get in a stout, but the hops continuously refresh the palate making it great for repeat drinkings.

Baron Rating: 87/100

DC BrauThe Citizen

DC Brau is the first packaging brewery operating in our nation’s capital since 1956, so of course its wonderful canned goods are needed for this post. The Citizen is DC Brau’s take no a Belgian-stlye Pale Ale. The Citizen pours a hazy yellow color with a medium, foamy white head. The aroma is of Belgian yeast, spice, and biscuits. The Citizen has a moderately sweet taste of Belgian yeast and sweet malt, with just a bit of fruit and black pepper. This brew has nice, rich body for the style that definitely tells your mouth it’s drinking a real beer.

Baron Rating: 85/100

Oskar BluesDeviant Dale’s

Like keeping four different liquors in your office before Mad Men started winning awards, Oskar Blues has been canning their masterful craft beer creations way before it was cool. Deviant Dale’s is their newest craft creation, an IPA they describe as a “sensory assault for hop lovers.” It pours a dark amber color with a thick off-white head. Deviant has a HUGE, dank hoppy aroma. Putting your nose into the glass is like taking an immersion bath in a hop soup. It also tastes like a hop-bomb, with sticky, resiny hop flavors dominating the show. A little bit a caramel from the malt comes through as well, but it’s clearly playing 6th man to the all star hop squad.

At 8% ABV and 85 IBUs I’m not quite sure how this is not considered to be an imperial IPA, but since it’s served in 16 oz tallboy cans I’m sure you don’t want to be driving around after downing a couple of these.

Baron Rating: 90/100

SixpointApollo

Sixpoint just started distributing to the Baron’s region last year, but it has quickly become a go-to brewery for both interesting beers, and brews that can help convert macroheads. Apollo is their newly-canned summer seasonal brewed in the kristalweizen style. For those of you who don’t speak German, or aren’t way too excited about German beer, kristalweizen simply means “crystal wheat.” So a kristalweizen is basically a German-stlye wheat beer that is filtered, giving it a clear appearance, rather than the typical cloudy weizen.

Apollo pours a murky golden color, not as clear as I expected it to be. It smells of clove, banana, bubble gum, and bready malt. Apollo has a nice, crisp flavor of clove, banana, bubblegum, and a bit of tart orange flavor. It’s very refreshing and perfect for the back-sweating temperatures most of the country is enjoying right now.

Baron Rating: 87/100

Salud!


Jefferson’s Bourbon Review: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Whiskey

May 19, 2012

Distillery- McLain & Kyne (Clermont, KY)

Type- “Very” Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV- 41.15% (82.3 proof)

Age- 8 years

My Review

Thomas Jefferson has been credited with many accomplishments, some of them deserved, some of them he’s been credited for seemingly because no one had any other idea who invented what. We all know that he composed the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but did you know he also invented macaroni and cheese? No? Well that’s because he didn’t, but no one really knows who did. Jefferson was a fan of mac and cheese, served it at Monticello, and BAM! Thomas Jefferson introduced macaroni and cheese to the world. Flash forward to the present. Thomas Jefferson is disappointed that that their are no flying horse chariots, and wondering why McLain & Kyne Distillery has named a line of bourbons after him that has supposedly invented the phrase “very small batch.”

I imagine all of the bourbon distillers in the country gathering around like teenagers in the locker room, arguing over their “size.” Only in this case, the most bragged about size is not the one claiming to be the biggest, but the most minute.

“Mine’s small!”

“Well, mines very small!”

This particular whiskey is named Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon. It’s the first “very small” batch bourbon I’ve tried to date, so it must be the best, right? Just like most things in life, however, size doesn’t tell the whole story.

*Cues Reading Rainbow story-time music*

Bourbon is typically aged in large warehouses, with giant shelves built in so that dozens of stories of barrels can be aged. As you can imagine, there is much more volatility in the temperature near the roofs of these warehouses, as opposed to those on the floor. Large fluctuations in temperature, as well as high temperature in general, cause whiskeys to “age” faster and lose more to “the angel’s share,” or the amount of liquid lost to evaporation. To combat this, some distilleries move the barrels around to get them closer to the same “age.” But this is just a complete pain in the ass; barrels are heavy and warehouses are hot. So most distillers just say “F*ck it” and don’t bother. Why, you ask? If the bottle you’re drinking does not say “Small Batch” or “Single Barrel,” that means the bourbon is a conglomeration of every matured barrel in the distillery. They mix it to create a uniform taste, so that you, the consumer, know exactly what to expect.

The best barrels in the bourbon warehouse are, without a doubt, from the very center of the building. If your bottle says “single barrel,” then it is just what it sounds like: the contents of a choice single barrel from the center of the distiller’s warehouse. “Small batch” bourbons are in between regular and “single barrel” bourbons in terms of how they’re produced. Basically, the distillery will take all of the barrels from the center of the warehouse, sample each one, and combine them to produce their desired flavor profile. Jefferson’s Bourbon is made the same way as every other small batch bourbon, the “very” part is used just because the total amount of those prime, middle of the warehouse barrels used is smaller. Since consumers associate smaller with higher quality, it’s a great marketing tactic. But does very small make it better? Follow along as the Baron begins this noble quest.

Before we begin, here’s a video re-enactment of how the Baron drinks his bourbon:

As you can see, the whiskey goes down, and is never heard from again. Another shot is poured; it suffers a similar fate. The Baron’s belly is a whiskey graveyard.

  • Appearance Jefferson’s pours a vibrant shade of brown; not quite an amber color like most quality bourbons. Still, it looks much more palatable than Evan Williams or Jim Beam White Label. 8/10
  • Aroma Jefferson’s Bourbon smells of vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar, with slight notes of peaches and berries. It’s always nice to find aromas outside the typical scent of an oak-aged spirit. Nice job, Mr. President. 17/20
  • Taste This bourbon does not have the most aggressive flavor, but it’s still very pleasing. You can pick up caramel, vanilla from the oak, corn, and a bit of cinnamon spice. It’s good, but I prefer my bourbons to be a little more ballsy. 35/40
  • Palate- Velvety smooth and delicate body that warms the palette. The finish is moderate in length, with the tiniest bit of burn going down. 9/10
  • Value At $28 for a 750mL bottle, Jefferson’s Bourbon is about the same price as the Baron’s standby, Maker’s Mark. It’s also cheaper than Baron favorites Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek. This is a pretty good price point for a spirit of Jefferson’s caliber. 18/20
  • Overall 87/100

My Recommendation

The Baron ranks Jefferson’s Bourbon just above 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and several large notches below Baker’s Bourbon. Despite this, I think it is a very good bourbon for those beginning to test the delicious, brown and amber waters of small batch and single barrel bourbons. It’s also a good, affordable change-up for regular bourbon enthusiasts. The Baron buys a bottle every year. I’ve also been donating a case every Christmas to my local homeless shelter. I checked out their website recently to see if they wrote a thank you to the Baron and listed my site, hoping it would garner some page views. “**** Shelter would like to thank the ancestors of our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson for personally hand donating a case of their family’s bourbon to us for the last three years. Your holiday cheers have warmed our spirits.”

Thomas Jefferson: 697, World: 0

Bonus Baron Bartending

The Washingtonian

Ingredients

2.5 oz Small Batch Bourbon

0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

Dash of bitters

Pour over 1-2 pieces of ice in an old-fashion or rocks glass, enjoy quickly.

Since the Washington Capitals entered a battle to the death with the New York Rangers a few weeks ago, the Baron has avoided anything New York related. This includes pretty much the only mixed beverage the Baron regularly drinks: the Manhattan. A traditional Manhattan is mixed in a 2:1 ratio of bourbon to sweet vermouth, with a dash of bitters. It is then shaken with ice in a cocktail mixer and poured into a martini glass with a maraschino cherry. F*ck that noise. The Baron’s version is called the Washingtonian, and has a higher bourbon to vermouth ratio because we’re using the good shit. F*ck the cherry and f*ck the martini glass, this drink is too ballsy for that. Go Caps, 2013.


Salud!


Beer-rock the Red

April 14, 2012

Like a “Jeff Schultz can’t hit” joke or a “TRADE MIKE GREEN” rant, losing early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has gotten old for fans of the Washington Capitals. “Hope springs eternal” is replaced by “F the Penguins!” far too early each and every year. I could tell you that this year is different;  that this Caps team is hungrier, older, wiser. Or I could be a pessimist and go on about the deficiencies in Dale Hunter’s system and coaching style, the team’s lack of a killer instinct, and inability to put together a fully-focused effort for an entire 60+ minute hockey game. Luckily for you, readers of the Beverage Baron, I chose to do neither. Instead, here a few delicious “Red is Caps Hockey”-inspired brews that are equally proficient at calming overtime nerves, celebrating a victory, or numbing another disappointing loss.

You aren’t going to find any of these beers at Verizon Center, but they are all currently available at retailers throughout the DC Metro area, while supplies last of course. (Post title inspired by RMNB’s Barack the Red campaign)

21st Amendment – Monk’s Blood

This Belgian-style strong ale pours a dark crimson, similar to that of venous blood. Aroma of sweet malt, Belgian yeast, oak, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruits. Monk’s Blood has a heavy and satisfying sweet taste, with caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruits dominating the palette. The vanilla and oak notes play along in the background like a stay-at-home defenseman, invisible to the casual fan. It has a pleasingly palette-coating viscous body that makes it feel like you’re drinking a meal. It’s no wonder how Caps fans survive completely on alcohol during the playoffs some monks survived on a diet of beer during Lent if they had brews like this available. Be sure to try Monk’s Blood this year, because 21st Amendment has already announced they will not be able to produce any in 2013.

Baron Rating: 90/100

Dogfish Head – Red & White

Red & White is a brew that blurs the line between beer and wine, and in a completely non-snooty, always-rhyming kind of way. It’s also one of the Baron’s all-time favorites. Just read the description: Red & White is an ale brewed with coriander and orange peel with pinot noir juice added. 11% is aged in pinot noir barrels and 89% is aged on oak barrel staves. Luckily for me it has been released just in time for the playoffs, a time which historically has seen increases in sorrow drowning.  Red & White pours a hazy golden amber with a thick, frothy white head. It has the aroma of Belgian yeast, pinot noir grapes, coriander, candied sugar, and orange peel. It has a sweet, juicy taste that really tastes like a blend of a fine wine and a  Belgian witbier. It has a balanced fruity and dry taste, with notes of coriander, oak, Belgian yeast and caramel malt. A very smooth body hides the 10% ABV. Red-iculously amazing.

Baron Rating: 93/100

Lagunitas – Imperial Red

This imperial amber ale pours a clear, dark red color with a medium-sized white head that leaves rings of lacing along the glass. Lagunitas Imperial Red has a hoppy citrus aroma, with a bit of earthy malt presence. It has a moderately sweet malt flavor with a good wallop of bitter hoppiness. Like losing in the Cup Finals, the finish is long and dry. Luckily for you, that’s a good thing in a hoppy beer. Its medium body is well-carbonated and rather sessionable for 7.8% ABV brew. If you like a lot of sweet maltiness in you hop-forward beers, this one’s for you.

Baron Rating: 87/100

Salud! And go CAPS!


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