Monday, March 14, 2011

Baconize your beer! Pork fat rules: Fat Washing

Rauchbier is a German beer style where malt used in brewing of beer is smoked over a beechwood fire. This process give the beer an intense salty, sooty, smoky aroma and flavor, akin to bacon. This style is not for the timid, but for those who love those aromas and flavors in their beer? Its a match made in heaven. Many brewers have followed suit and produce their own example of rauchbier. Others have experimented with other styles, and other woods to smoke with amazing results.

But what about a beer where bacon was actually used in the brewing process? Believe it or not, the idea and concept is not as crazy as you might think, and some adventurous commerical brewers, have started to infuse real bacon in their beer. This might just be a fade, some say a gimmick, but the trend is gaining momentum, especially so on the brewpub level.

How does it happen? The process itself is know as "Fat Washing". Fat washing is mixing a melted fat,  in this case bacon fat, with alcohol, chilling and cooling the mix­ture until the fat solidifies. The mixture is slowly skimmed and strained,  removing the solids and the fat itself.  The end result being total removal of the fat, but the aroma and flavor of the fat (bacon) remains. Basically you are left with a bacon flavored alcohol, and depending on the spirit used, be it vodka, rum, or bourbon, the aromas and flavors of bacon can range from subtle to intense. This technique is nothing new, it has been practiced in the perfume industry for years.

This bacon infused alcohol is then added to the beer some point in the brewing process, along with a nice dose of smoked malts, to shore up the bacon character. This is a true bacon beer. A handful of commerical examples exist, and odds are you are you will find this one on the brewpub level. The Brooklyn Brewery, of Brooklyn, NY has produced a commerical example of a bacon beer called Reinschweinsgebot, a bourbon, bacon infused, bacon smoked brown ale. The Watch City Brewing Company of Waltham, MA brewed up a bacon beer called Smokey Joe Brown that has gained a cult following.

Bacon beer, could it get any beer? As a beer and bacon lover, I hope the trend continues.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flip the Switch: Dave's Electric Beer

I was able to spend a few months in Southern Arizona recently. That was a very good thing for me as a beer lover, as I got to enjoy a number of different brewpubs and breweries in the Tucson/Phoenix area. It also gave my a chance to get out to Bisbee, AZ and try a legendary brew from Arizona, Dave's Electric Beer. The picture you see is a pint of Electric beer poured at Dave's Electric Brewpub in Tempe, AZ. This beer was not brewed at the brewpub however, this is the original from the brewery in Bisbee. It can be found at a number of local watering holes in Bisbee, and I'm happy to say I drained many a pint of Electric Beer on its home turf.

So what makes Dave's Electric Beer worth seeking out? A lot really. I won't repeat myself, but if you are interested in the history of this beer and the brewery, look here:

This beer has been brewed in Arizona since 1988, and that is pretty long by mico/craft brew standards. It is a testament of how good this beer really is, and how important a role it has played in the craft beer history of Arizona, What I love about this beer so much,  is that it is a local beer, first and foremost serving the local market. If you have ever been to Southern Arizona, you will understand why a beer like this makes so much sense. Electric Beer is basically a helles or pale lager by style, and in my opinion a good example. I would take this beer every time over a national brand or an import from Mexico. Beer geeks don't seem to get beers like this. They will pan them for not being "bold" enough, or average or mundane. Sorry, but like a Bavarian or an Arizonan, I want and need  my daily share of my liquid bread.

Dave's Electric Beer pours to a beautiful, bright, golden color, with a rocky, white head, and a lively carbonation. The nose on this beer is nice, with good crisp, pale malt aroma with light grassy hop aroma. The palate is crisp and clean, with more good pale and pilsner malt flavor, on a very smooth, polished body. This beer finishes with more good, crisp, pale malt flavor up front, then ends with just enough grassy hop bitterness to balance this beer out.

Excellent, easy drinking, flavorful beer. A fantastic thirst quencher in the heat of Southern Arizona, and an awesome beer to have a few pints at one of Bisbee's legendary bars. This beer is what is is intended for, a good, local drinking beer, and I for one love that.

For more information visit:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Old Cactus Juice: Sonoran Old Saguaro Barleywine 2004 Vintage

Where ever I travel in the world, be it for business or pleasure I'm always on the hunt for a new beer. Back in 2004 I paid Phoenix, AZ a visit for the first time, and enjoyed many a beer from the Sonoran Brewing Company. I've made a few visits to Arizona since, even lived in AZ for a few months on a work assignment. I love the state of Arizona, and I love the beers from the Sonoran Brewing Company. One of my favorites is their limited release barleywine called Old Saguaro.  I first tried this beer back in 2004. Here was my impressions of this beer back then:

Old Saguaro (pronounced "suh-whar-oh") is a barleywine by style, and is an exceptional one at that. A Saguaro is the variety of cactus, most of us see when ever we see a desert land scape of the Southwest.  No cactus juice is used in the brewing of this beer, however. Here is what the brewery has to say about it from the 4 pack
Old Saguaro is a barleywine styled ale. Barley wines are traditionally strong beers(they are not wine) with an alcohol content similar to wine. Rest assured no grapes or saguaros are harmed during the hand crafting of Old Saguaro. Just lots of malts and hops, with somewater and yeast, resulting in a smooth, malty, robust brew that you can always count on to relax with.

Well said, and I could not agree more. I've enjoyed many a barleywine in my day, and Old Saguaro is one of
them. This beer is aged at the brewery for 6 months before its release, and the 2004 vintage that I
enjoyed, and brought back with me for my beer cellaris truly outstanding. Coming in at 9.2% abv by volume,
this is the perfect beer to sit in relax with as you watch the Southwestern sky fall.

Old Saguaro pours to a beautiful, bright, deep tawny brown color with a slight tan head that fades, and soft carbonation. The nose on this beer is very iinviting with lots of sweet malty and caramel aromas, paired with just a hint of peppery alcohol. The palate is firm with some soft touches, as flavors of biscuit and caramel malts fill with mouth. Hints of estery fruit play along as this beer glides over the tongue.Old Saguaro finishes with more sweet malt and touchesof estery fruit up front, then ends with a slightly warming, peppery burn.

So how does it taste with 7 years of age on it? In a word, amazing.
I was careful to pour this one as it is sedimented with yeast. The 2004 vintage pours to a beautiful, bright, deep tawny color, with no head, and a soft carbonation. The nose on this beer has become more polished with malty aromas of toffee and treacle paired with peppery alcohol. The plate on this beer has become smooth and silky on the tongue as flavors of sweet malts and toffee glide over the tongue. This is paired with a wonderful flavor of plum and sherry that has come from age. I say plum and not prune as it has a more fresh than dried fruit flavor that is just wonderful. Old Saguaro 2004 finishes with more good toffee and plummy flavors up front, then ends with a soothing, peppery burn that lingers.
This beer has held up exceptionally well in my cellar. Old Saguaro has stood the test of time, and shows that a good barleywine can improve with age. This beer was fantastic young, but I believe 7 years of age has made Old Saguaro even better.
A fantatic beer from a fantatic Arizona brewery. If you see this one, do not hesitate to purchase it, and cellar a few bottles. My rule of thumb with barleywine is to always try it young, and always cellar vintages for future enjoyment. I'm happy to say Old Saguaro Barleywine 2004 was a great beer when I first tried it, and its as good if not better 7 years later. For more information about this beer and the brewery, visit their site at:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Phoenix Rising: Sonoran 200

Extreme beer has been a huge trend in the craft beer world for the past 5-10 years or so, and its a trend that does not seem to be going away. I have mixed feeling about this, and I believe some brewers do an extreme beer just because they can, or they are trying to "one up" another brewery who claims the most extreme beer on the plant. I can live without that element of the extreme beer trend. My opnion on that can be found here:

That being said, I truly believe extreme beers have a special place in the beer world, and there are some phenomenal examples of extreme beer.

The Sonoran Brewing Company of Phoenix, AZ is a good example of a brewery doing an extreme beer right, and for all the right reasons. I was fortunate enough to purchase a bottle of their Sonoran 200 on a recent stay in Arizona. Established in 1996, Sonoran Brewing is a very small, local, craft brewer, that is doing some amazing things with beer. I have enjoyed a number of their beers, and this is a very impressive brewery. Sonoran 200 is a great example of what extreme beer should be all about, and yet another great beer from this brewery. From the label:

We have done it again. Brewmasters Scott Yarosh and Zach Schroder are proud to present Sonoran 200, the second beer in our continuing series of Extreme Brews that will we be releasing every 100 batches. Sonoran 200 is produced from 2-Row Malt and pure Agave Nectar. We increased the Agave flavor and sweetness by infusing more Agave Nectar into the brew after the four week fermentation was complete. Then we Oak Age the whole batch for six months until just the right balance of Agave Nectar and Oak flavors were achieved, giving Sonoran 200 its distinctive characteristics.

Agave is a plant that grows in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Agave is known world wide in the production of tequila. Sonoran Brewing pays tribute by marketing this beer in a beautiful, square, corked bottle, traditionally used with many tequilas. Agave nectar used in this beer, pays tribute to its indigenous Southwestern roots and adds a wonderful sweetness to this beer. Many might not know this, but agave nectar has been used as a sweetener like honey, or maple syrup for centuries. It gives this beer another dimesion of sweetness and make an already fantastic extreme beer, even better in my opinion.

Sonoran 200 pours to hazy, opaque, caramel color, with no head, and no carbonation. The nose on this beer is wonderful, with lots of sweet malt, and agave nectar aroma of toffee , caramel and dried fruit. The palate on this beer is surprisingly lean for such a potent brew, coming in at a mighty 19.37% abv. Flavors of sweet malt, toffee, caramel, dried fruit such as raisin, prune, and fig, glide over the tongue. Sonoran 200 finishes with more of those big sweet malt, caramel, toffee, and dry fruity flavors up front, then ends with a slightly warming and cloying finish that lingers.

This is a very sweet, very strong, satisfying, delicious beer. This is one to sip and savor, and one that would make an ideal desert beer, digestif, or a beer to relax with a good book and a roaring fire. Its 19.37% abv strength is hide well, and it such, a smooth, mellow, sipping brew. A perfect night cap on a cold night in the Sonoran desert. The beauty of a beer like this is, you can drink it in a number of ways. Chilled, on the rocks, warm, room temperature, as a mix, you name it.

Beer geeks might not appreciate its cloying sweetness, but they don't get it if they pan this beer for that fact. Cordials and schnapps are sweet, we expect them to be, and Sonoran 200 should be treated as such, in my opinion. The use of caramel malt and agave nectar has wonderful caramel and dry fruit aromas and flavors that gives this beer big sweetness, in a very good way. This beer is like drinking a liquid Sugar Daddy or dulce de leche. Fantastic stuff. Sonoran 200 retails locally for about $25 a bottle. It is a very rare, very local, very special brew. One well worth seeking out.

For more information, visit the brewery's site at:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Drink with the Devil: San Tan Devil's Ale

Arizona can be a pretty hot place to live. The summer has some real scorchers and it can be very, very hot even in the Fall and Winter months. As a craft beer lover, you want a beer with a lot of flavor, but you also want a beer you can drink a few of, and one that can slake your thirst in the hot Arizona sun. The San Tan Brewing Company of Chandler, AZ clearly gets it right. This craft brewery/brewpub brews up some pretty flavorful yet very drinkable beers. I was fortunate enough to pay this brewery a visit last weekend, and was happy to enjoy one of their signature brews: Devil's Ale.
This beer is a classic example of APA or American Pale Ale, brewed with both Cascade and Centennial hop varieties that define this style. This beer has tons of flavor yet remains very drinkable and enjoyable. I was really impressed with this brewery, and was really impressed with this beer.
Devil's Ale pours to a bright, deep golden, to light amber color with a nice, white head, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose on this beer is just excellent with zesty, vibrant aromas of citrus and grapefruit. The palate is firm, with good pale and biscuity malt flavors, touches of caramel, paired with a really nice lemon/citrus hop flavor. Devil's Ale finishes with more good pale and caramel malt up front, then ends with a dry, grapefruit and citrus hop bite that slightly lingers.
An outstanding beer that would match well with a number of dishes on San Tan's menu. This place is on point on so many levels, from the crafting of the beer, to the service, to the food, to the atmosphere.

San Tan even has it own custom made beer glasses that are hand blown by an artisan glass maker. These should not be confused with the mass produced, machine made beer glasses that the Boston Beer Company has made for them. The quality of the SanTan glass is phenomenal and a true work of art. This glass is designed to enhance the aromas and flavors of the beer, and anyone who is serious about beer will tell you, the proper glass, does make a difference. You can purchase the glass as well as their beers in six pack cans, and growlers to go.
For more information about this outstanding AZ brewery visit:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An American Fall Classic: Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Now here is a beer style that is uniquely American and one that I look forward to every Fall. Pumpkin ale has it roots in American Colonial history and was a style that for centuries had been all but forgotten until the craft beer revolution of the 1980's. The style has been brewed by colonists since the late 17th Century when malt supplies ran short during hard times in the colonies and brewers were forced to improvise. Pumpkins were native and plentiful, especially so in New England, and made for a good fermentable when malt was scarce. In the colony days the pumpkin gourd of choice for colonial brewers, but were used more so for their sugars than for flavor. It is out of this tradition that modern American brewers pay tribute, and these days, you will find many examples of pumpkin beers on the U.S. market.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale was one of the very first commerical examples of pumpkin beer and to this day it remains one of the best. It was first brewed by the Post Road Brewing Company of Framingham, MA which was a contract brewer who had this beer brewed for them by the now defunct Catamont Brewing Company of White River Junction, VT. The label was sold when Post Road went under in the early 1990's and since that time has been owned by the Brooklyn Brewery of Brooklyn, NY. Brooklyn contract brews this beer as well, it it is brewed for them by the F.X. Matt Brewing Company of Utica, NY. This beer has become a Fall classic and is a bench mark example of the style.
Most versions of pumpkin ale, including Post Road are going for the "liquid pumpkin pie" effect and are heavy with spices such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Some examples feature more of the meaty/squashy pumpkin flavor that would you would find in colonial times. Post Road Pumpkin Ale gives the beer lover a bit both. This is a delicious, hearty pumpkin ale, with great spicy flavors as well as great pumpkin flavors.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale pours to a beautiful, bright, orange color, with a nice white head, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose is the first thing that really grabs your attention. Fragrant sweet and spicy aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and pumpkin flood the nose. That palate is very flavoful with accents of malt, and meaty/squashy pumpkin flavor. Post Road finishes with more great pumpkin flavor up front, then ends with spicy flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon that lingers.
This is a classic example of pumpkin ale with a very clever use of pumpkin pie spice and real pumpkin. The brewers are not too heavy handed with the spices that really allows those squashy/gourdy pumpkin flavors to come though. Well worth seeking out, this beer is easy to find in U.S. markets during the Fall season and is probably the most popular of all the pumpkin beers on the market today. For more information visit:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Splice the Mainbrace: Heavy Seas Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest

The Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, MD over the years has brewed some truly outstanding beers. This brewery has done a bit of a metamorphosis over the years and its products are now know as the Heavy Seas Beer, though the brewery is still officially Clipper City Brewing. Heavy Seas was at one time the line of specialty beers that Clipper City brewed, but has now become the name of their "fleets" of beer. Now a very pirate themed brewery, Heavy Seas offers three lines of brews:The Clipper Fleet, The Pyrate Fleet, and The Mutiny Fleet.

The Mutiny Fleet line of beers are the biggest and boldest of the Heavy Seas offerings, and they have been very impressive to say the least. Coming in at 8% abv or better, and marketed in 22 oz bombers, these are beers that can be aged and are seasonal releases, only available for a short period of time. I have enjoyed all the beers of the Mutiny Fleet, and one of their most impressive is Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest Lager.
The whole "imperial" thing in American brewing has become a bit over done in my opinion, but in this case I must say it really works. Clipper City brews a beer that for years was called Baltomarzhon, which later became know as Marzhon. That beer is now known as Heavy Seas Marzen and is one of the most authentic, delicious, domestic examples of the style. Prosit! is a bigger, bolder, beefed up example of that truly exceptional beer.
Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest Lager pours to a beautiful, bright, deep chestnut color, with a thick, creamy, white head, and a lively carbonation. The nose on this beer is just fantastic with big aromas, of light toast, nuts, and sweet malt aroma and light grassy hop aromas. The palate is polished and full on the tongue, with big malt flavors. Lots of good toasty and nutty malt flavors glide over the tongue on a very smooth, drinkable body. Prosit finishes with more good toasty and nutty malt aromas, then ends with just the right amount of grassy hop bitterness to balance this beer out.
This is a fantastic example of marzen, just amplified. Very smooth, very round, and dangerously drinkable for a beer of 8% abv. It is hefty enough to stand up to a hearty German meal, but smooth and drinkable enough that you could easily knock back a liter or two of this one. So in that regard, beware because Prosit! packs quite a punch. Available for a limited time only in 22 oz bottles and on draught, this beer is one well worth seeking out. Fresh this beer is outstanding, and that is how I enjoy drinking it. It would be interesting to see how this one would age, so you might want to put a bottle or two in the cellar and re-visit it in a year or so. For more information visit: