Tasting Notes: Katastrophic Humiliation

These notes will be in media res, unedited, rough drafts.  They happened at the tapping party, with friends, in the crowd. 

For those who don’t know, Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, entered several beers earlier this year in the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. The gold medal went to Katastrophic Humiliation, a barley-wine style ale made by Black Bridge.  To celebrate and commemorate the win, the brewery had a tapping party for the newest iteration of Katastrophic tonight, May 12, 2017. This is not the recipe that won gold but a new version. 

Brewer Tim Schritter has always been inspired by the beers at Stone Brewing. This is evident in his hop-forward, high alcohol interpretations of every beer style.  For Katastrophic, he followed the Stone ideal of recipe tweaking and added some different hops to the 2017 version of Katastrophic. 

Here are my notes and impressions. They are not final verdict on the beer, simply my thoughts and those of my drinking compatriots. Support your local, y’all, go find out for yourselves if it’s gold medal worthy. 


That Smell…

It smells tropical. Interesting. I didn’t catch that during the sneak drink earlier this week. There were no hops evident at all then. So, this soft tropical, maybe papaya smell, that’s gotta be the Mosaic hops, which is the new ingredient this year.  I am right.  Seriously, it smells fantastic. I love Mosaic. Brilliant hops. 

In Appearance…

Reddish copper body. Good head retention.  Red and purple appear. Hmm. Okay, well, my wife and a friend were wearing purple, so maybe I am biased. But the color was solid.  Just what a barley wine should be.  

But The Taste …

Tastes of plum.  Maybe Jamaican coconuts … hahaha, anyway.  No not really. No coconut.  That reference was for something else.  The tropical taste was there, the … melons, let’s say, are very apparent. There are a few readers who will dig that reference.   (Wink-wink,  nudge-nudge, say no more …).

Its got a medium body, but feels heavier.  High alcohol, I’m guessing.  It is incredibly sweet and a little tart.  Just like a good wife….

Almost like a Reisling?  Hmm.  Well, it is a barley wine, so that’s cool. 

A B3 patron was cognizant enough to have a sample of the 2016 gold medal winning beer on hand. There are not enough thanks we can give this craft beer enthusiast.  Here is the comparison:

The 2016 gold medal beer is vastly superior. Fine. Not vastly. Just mostly.  It has a splendiferous malty and bready body, clean and precise at the edges like a dense Dostoyevsky novel. Gorgeous and intimidating.  Age gives it a brilliant attenuation and a cleaner, crisper taste. There are no hops apparent in the nose or the body.  The Mosaic hops softens the character of the 2017 batch.  That is not in any way derogatory. After a year of aging, this new batch could easily outshine the 2016 version.

The Conclusion of the Matter …

Wow, what to say about this beer. According to BJCP guidelines for English Barley Wines, the aroma should be “very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel- like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark or dried fruit character, particularly in dark versions.”  This isn’t really a dark barley wine; however, those elements are present. Vinous and complex alcohol flavors definitely present themselves.  American barley wines should have hop flavor and bitterness. This one has just the flavor. It does possess a well integrated alcohol presence. It also has the alcohol warmth and chewy complexity of a British Strong Ale and the raisin/apple smell and taste of a Belgian dubbel. 

Schritter has again produced a beer that is just what it should be, yet something it shouldn’t be. If this beer were a book, it would be a Lovecraftian work, a libation of expectation and madness and something you know has completely altered your palate.

I’ve got to give him homebrew cred, too. He realized in the midst of brewing that he did not have the hops he wanted. But there was no going back; the beer had to be made, had to have hops.  He improvised.  The Mosaic hops were on hand and in the quantity he needed.  How many times does that happen to us as homebrewers?  You’ve just got to work with what you have. And how often does that brewing crisis lead to a beautiful beer?  Most of the time!  And that’s the case here.  The universe wants good beer, y’all!  Deny it not. 

If it were a book it would be, if not Lovecraft, Cloud Atlas

If it were a movie it would be Inception

I’m still not a fan of the beer’s name. It’s cadence just doesn’t work for me.  And I still hold to what I said four years ago. This beer has no “attitude” in the arrogant, supercilious sense.  It is dignified and sure of itself.  That is so much cooler. It is what it wants to be, which is not what you think it should be.  Very well done. 

Cheers, B3! 

Sale of Lagunitas Brewing

Evidently, Lagunitas Brewing finally gave in and sold the rest of themselves to Heineken.  I will not discuss the merits or demerits of said sale, that is for you, the drinkers to decide.  I occasionally enjoyed Lagunitas beers, but they were never in the upper echelons of my “To Drink” list.  But the brewery has been around for a long time.  It’s name is, if not venerated, prestigious

Now we can continue the debate regarding the compromising of craft beer.  Are the big, older breweries simply following the American vision of growth and expansion?  Is this the “manifest destiny” of brewing?  Or are they following the money?  Is the sale to a global mega-corporation bad if the beers don’t change in character?  I have no idea what the answers truly are to those questions.  (But writing “global mega-corporation” gave me dystopian sci-fi conspiratorial goosebumps).

I did find a comment from Lagunitas owner, Tony Magee, unsettling.  He’s writing here regarding Lagunita’s sale of half the company in 2015 and the remainder of it this year.

“Some who don’t fully understand it all may say it is selling out.  Truth is that we did then, and are now ‘buying in.’

 


More Humiliation

Prior to knowing anything about Tim and the B3 crew, when my insular mentality was sure I was some kind of beer authority, I wrote this:

Black Bridge’s Katastrophic Humiliation has an awkward name, to be sure, a Stone Brewing riff sans rhythm and attitude but it was easily the best of the beers. It was an admirable 10.9 percent concoction with a sultry orange and amber body. It had a barley-wine-ish slash strong ale look and feel. This beer had verve and wants to be a star. The alcohol doesn’t hit right away, the hops are subdued, currents of strong liquor and caramel are well balanced. Let this beer have a spotlight.

That was four years ago. Hmm. Was The Rog right?  A gold medal for this beer at the strong ale festival says, yes. Slightly.

This beer does deserve stardom.

So, tapping party this Friday for B3’s Gold Medal beer. It’ll be time to update tasting notes.

Further Research Into Tiswin, A Native American Beer

Despite dwelling in the desert for decades, I did not know the following about Saguaro cactus:

  • When a saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers.
  • An adult saguaro is generally considered to be about 125 years of age. It may weigh 6 tons or more and be as tall as 50 feet. The average life span of a saguaro is probably 150 – 175 years of age. However, biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years.
  • It is estimated that a saguaro can produce some 40 million seeds during its lifetime. However, few will survive to become a seedling. Fewer still will become an adult. The low survival rate of seedlings is due to drought, prolonged freezing and animals eating them.

These silent sentinels beneath Sol’s bright eye are impressive plants and can be adjuncts, or maybe the base, of tiswin, a Native American beer which I began writing about here.  Now, I know quite well that I am an amateur and novice in this field of tiswin and Native American life and culture. I have not made nor even sampled the libation as yet.  I’m collecting information. So, I apologize for any errors I may write. Please comment on this post (or any future ones) and let me know where I was wrong and give me some advice and guidance.

Tiswin seems to also go by the moniker “tesguino” (apparently pronounced tes-ween-o).  At first I thought the two names represented two distinct alcoholic drinks: 1) tiswin, a beer produced with corn; 2) tesguino, an alcoholic drink produced with fruit from the saguaro.  But I think that in actuality the twain are the same libation¹.  I also found the spellings “tezvino” and “tizwin” and references to “tulpi” and “tulapa.”  All seem to refer to a maize based drink to which other ingredients, such as the aforementioned saguaro, may be added².  Yet, adding to my confusion is this publication from the National Park Service.  In that brief brochure it mentions a “Saguaro fruit wine imbibing ceremony to bring the summer monsoon” performed by the Tohono O’odham people, a native nation you can read about here.  There is no mention of the name of this fruit wine, so it may just be me conflating two separate drinks.  The Saguaro fruit wine would be great to sample.

Another helpful article that has a brief discussion about tiswin is  Tepache & Tesguino, at Edible Baja Arizona. I believe it was that article that lead me to information on the Tarahumara Indians, also known as Raramuri, whom may best be known as the pinnacle of long distance runners. They, too, make tesguino and brewing it and drinking it is a spiritual act for them. They sound like good people.  “Their ancient theology was not based on dogma or abstract concepts; nor is their new Christianity. Rather it is a day by day practice of living in harmony with nature and their fellow man.”³  Of course, there are many that claim to do the same and the world is still the world we see today.  But I suppose that’s another story.

 The Raramuri say to one another bosasa which means “fill up, be satisfied, be contented.”†  Kinda like saying “cheers.”  Therefore, bosasa, beer friends!


¹ That confusion came from this source:  http://www.oocities.org/xxi1933/recipes-exotic.html.  It notes solely saguaro fruit juice as the ingredient in the drink.

² This is helpful index of native, undistilled liquours by American anthropologist Weston La Barre.

³ http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1924-the-tarahumaras-an-endangered-species

http://www.npr.org/templates/text/s.php?sId=4532569&m=1

Brown Beers Matter

IMG_0953The Session this month is a brown study; participants have been in ‘a state of deep absorption or thoughtfulness’ about the color brown and maybe even induced a moody daydream about brown beers.

In my limited experience a color divide remains in beer audiences, light versus dark.  Of course, brown beers fall right in the middle of this divide – darker than a pale ale but not yet donning the black.  One of my friends who accompanies me to Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, was at first ambivalent about this craft beer experience on which I was leading him. He only knew the macro’s. He drank some a cream ale that they offered at the time and was still on the fence. It was K-Town Brown that converted him.  It wasn’t overpowering but it had actual flavor and nuance.  Now he tells me that he’s been “ruined,” he can only drink real beer. I smile knowingly. Brown beers are good gateway beers. Well, in this instance, at least.

In the beer world we have brown ales, brown porters, altbiers, schwarzbiers and rauchbiers, perhaps; mild ales and barley wines sometimes have a solid brown color; to me, some reds seem to border on brown but maybe it’s just the school I attended.  There are certainly more. They are not all suited to the gateway experience as noted above; it would be a dubious experiment to introduce a beer novice to the woody smokiness of a rauchbier.

Stouts and porters are my favorites but a brown beer is just as tantalizing and neither drab nor boring. I have a home brew recipe for a dark mild which I have made several times; perhaps that’s why I’m partial to British browns, dark mild ales and the American brown. These beers all seem to have a sunset at their edges, orange and calming. Generally they have a faux ivory collar that’s a little sticky. It is as sugary at commencement as it is dry at denouement, like a Stirling engine of taste. Sometimes walnut flavors arrive. K-Town Brown noted above was enjoyable and Wagonwheel, also offered occasionally at Black Bridge, is one of my all-time favorite brown ales.  Ask for them when on tap, you will not be disappointed.

Brown ales also pair well with food. Pretty much any food. It is a beer for all ages, for all tastes, for all occasions.  I used to drink Pete’s Wicked with every dinner.  Well, it seems so in memory.  Pete’s was a wickedly delightful brown … .  Newcastle is overrated.  I hope that does not cause a ruckus.  It’s just my opinion and can be dismissed if you disagree.  Cheers.  Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale is a good choice for a brown.  Oh, and Oak Creek Brewing in Sedona, Arizona has a Nut Brown Ale, too, that’s worth a pint.

For more discussion of brown beers and Black Bridge’s contributions, listen to  the first half of the first episode of the Cartoon Casual podcast.  It’s produced by two locals, Joe Fellers and Paul Gaines.  And as both Joe and Paul will tell you, the show could be offensive to some so use discernment.

The color brown is a study in contrast. It is the hue and tincture of earth and soil, wood and bark, hair and flesh. Earth is our source and home, the surface upon which our diverse temples are built. These bodies are our avatars in this reality allowing concourse and conversation. Logic would indicate we hold these things in high regard.

Therefore, brown can represent quality. The best food, the best drink, the best friends. “Some browns can show a degree of sophistication or elegance, depending on other colors associated with the brown. For example, brown with a soft white or ivory can appear stylish and classy,” states the website Empowered By Color.  Not convinced?  Here …

iu-2Hepburn.  The epitome of stylish and classy.  In a brown hat.

Yet, … “According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, brown is the least favorite color of the public; the color most often associated with plainness, the rustic, and poverty.” Brown can be perceived as drab and boring and even as stingy or cheap. Quite a contrast!

Maybe browns just seem common, wonted.  I mean, they were pretty much the only kind of a beer for a time.  Isn’t that one of the reasons pilsner became such a thing?  People were all, “hey,  it’s …. yellow.”  Indeed, there is an everyman motif to the brown beer.  There is no creative flair associated with them, peradventure. In other words, no awesome hops bouquet or astronomical IBU rating. No heavily roasted grain profile. No eccentric ingredients.  I have nothing against the aforementioned qualities; they all have their rightful place in the beer pantheon.  Browns are honest, straightforward beer.  Of course, that does not mean none of those things can be added to the brown.

Oh, another aspect of brown – people with brown eyes “are the greatest kissers of all.”

Pretend that glass of brown beer is a kiss from your favorite brown-eyed girl … or guy.  And introduce them to a possibly overlooked beer style.


Sources:

Brewing Fun

These sentiments recently appeared in an article at CraftBeer.com:

Why do so many people love beer? It’s because beer presents a fun experience to nearly everyone, no matter their background or level of knowledge. Yes, there are people who love beer without really knowing anything about how it’s made. For some, however, the experience becomes more satisfying as more effort is put into learning about beer.

 

If you are truly interested in beer and brewing, whether it’s home brewing or craft beers, your local is the best place to be.  For Kingman, that’s Black Bridge.  Here’s a few things they’ve been doing recently that I thought were fun and have expanded the beer knowledge of their crew and community.

  • Angry Elf.  A Russian Imperial Stout brewed originally by a local home brewer and employee at Black Bridge.  His recipe won gold at a home brew competition and is an outstanding beer on it’s own and is occasionally offered at the brewery.  They brewed it again this year, added cherry puree and some chocolate and called it Sexual Chocolate.  It’s a wonderful stout, highly recommended, especially if you like dessert.  It may already be gone, though, but maybe it’ll come back.
  • Pete LaFass.  A heavily smoked scotch ale.  Honestly, that thing is for hardcore beer fans.  It tastes and smells like a hospital inferno, latex, nitrile and band aids burning in diapers or something. These are all usually bad. But, somehow, it works in this beer.  You may only be able to cope with a small sample, but it’s worth a try. It’s from a local home brewer.
  • No Pricks Allowed.  A Belgian blonde that is a gorgeous pink/purple color, from the prickly pear addition, so it’s using locally found ingredients from a cactus.  A true desert beer.
  • Hop Tart.  Another beer from a home brewer who won a contest at Black Bridge; it’s been a while since I’ve had this beer, so I can’t say a lot about it.  I only remember that I didn’t hate it, so, that’s got to be good.  I believe I read that it’s coming back on tap soon.

 

Anyway, these beers may or may not be on tap at B3 by the time you read this and they are by no means the only beers there.  Doubtlessly, I’ve left off beers that were inspired/brewed by other locals and B3 crew, the above beers are just the ones I know about right now.   The brewery is a place to get good brewing advice, inspiration for your own beers, and to get goaded into a new hobby.  And, really, the point is that the brewery is sponsoring local brewing culture and I think that’s cool.  And I have a self-important blog.  So I’m going to write about it.  Because I can.  And you can even get beer there, fun and all.

Beer Journaling

2016

December 21

-somewhere in the desert

The Week draws close now; the Week of willing sequestration wherein I will eschew all social things.  Responsibility will be a shadow seeking life at high noon.  I shall be a veritable hermit reveling in silence and nothingness.  Now, family is inviolable so my immediate relations will still have access to me.  I have not yet decided how this will affect my relations with John Barleycorn at the local malty grotto.  But I know I shall be in the company of beer whether by visitation of the local, rushing the growler, or my own fine home brew.  Mayhaps I’ll take the time to re-examine beers I have rejected in the past.  The dreaded industrial beers.  Since I’ve been told these past two years that I am a “beer snob” and “self-important” and “judgmental” I feel it may be time to Star Trek my beer universe.  Does “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” hold true in the vast frontier of beer?

It seems, to be sure, that home made neck oil will rule the day.  At home I have two batches bottled and waiting.  One is called Shistory and it is a black(ish) saison.  The black pepper is unmistakable upon warming.  The other beer is called Old Ben and it is a clone of Guinness Stout, without the well known nitrogen.  It is slightly creamy and a little toasty and very tasty.  In addition to drinking said home brewed beers I’ve got ingredients shipped for to make an additional two batches.  One of those batches will be a modification of the stout mentioned above, Old Ben.  Instead of using stout malt for the base I will use Rahr 2-row.  I am intrigued to discover what the difference may be, however subtle.  The other beer will be a Belgian blonde produced with pilsner malt and flaked barley and a Belgian yeast.