Tasting Notes

Tasting Notes.jpg

The Beer Connoisseur’s guide to new and noteworthy beers.

He’Brew R.I.P.A. on Rye
Shmaltz Brewing Company, www.shmaltz.com
San Francisco, Calif. (brewed in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.)
10% ABV
22 oz. bomber

Bottled in April, this is Shmaltz Brewing Company’s Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A (rye IPA) – a popular homage to Lenny Bruce that has been around since 2006 – aged for more than four months in Sazerac six-year rye whiskey barrels.  It pours a deep amber brown with lots of carbonation and a fluffy beige head that dissipates quickly. The nose portends the big, boozy sweetness that one would expect, with whiffs of butterscotch, coconut, vanilla and lots of oak. You have to fight a bit through the alcohol to pick out the layers of aromas, but they’re there.

Taste is – again, as expected – big alcohol bite up front, unfolding into a toffee-ish malt, brown sugar sweetness. All those hops are working hard to show themselves but mostly come through spicily in the finish. As the beer warms, it unfurls notes of honey, coconut, German chocolate cake, malted milk balls, candied oranges and figs. Those long months in the rye barrels gives the beer its most dominant characteristics, and the rye spiciness mingles interestingly with the punch of hops. It may take a bit of effort for some to get past the hot alcohol bite and enjoy this brew, but it’s worth the effort.

Try it with a nice Stilton on rye bread toast points, smoked ribs with a bourbon molasses sauce, or chocolate pecan pie.

-No alcohol addiction counseling would be necessary as long as you drink beer or any other alcoholic drinks in moderation.

Saison du BUFF #1
Stone, Victory, Dogfish Head collaboration
Brewed at Stone in Escondido, Calif.
6.8 % ABV
12 oz. bottle

The BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) triumvirate was formed back in 2003, but it’s taken the better part of a decade for the all-star team of Stone’s Greg Koch, Bill Covaleski of Victory and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head to actually produce beer together. Their first collaborative saison is well worth the wait.

Brewed in March at Stone and released in early May, this is the first iteration of the brew, which will be replicated at Victory and Dogfish Head this summer to be released next month and in August respectively. A Simon and Garfunkel-esque slate of ingredients include parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and for this first go round, rosemary was harvested on-site at Stone.

Poured into a tulip glass, the inaugural BUFF brew presents a brilliant honeyish gold with a small head of light khaki foam that laces well.  Its carbonation lends the brew a lively mouthfeel, and it sends up inviting aromas of Meyer lemon, orange, a touch of rosemary and a whisper of mint.

The taste is, of course, dominated somewhat by the herbs, especially the sage and rosemary, but black pepper, sweet orange and lemon zest are present as well, and a nice hoppiness balances out the earthy herbaceousness. A bit of sweet breadiness lingers on the palate along with the herbs. There’s a good depth of flavor, and the bold herbs are melded well into the brew, making it mellow enough for sipping in sultry summer weather. Wildly drinkable with plenty to chew on, this is a rare brew to be savored for its distinctive originality.

Try it with mussels in white wine sauce, chicken tacos with lime and cilantro-heavy salsa, or grilled salmon rubbed with rosemary and sea salt.

-- by Nick Kaye


Top photo © Ben Harris-Roxas