Beer Review: Backwoods Bastard

  • Brewery:  Founder Brewing, Michigan
  • ABV:  11%
  • Style:  Scotch Ale, Aged in Bourbon Barrels
  • Serving:  Bottle
  • Bottled Roger Rating:  90%

chart

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
Chocolate, dark, kind of dry.

And Go On (Appearance)
Light brown & orange, like a lightweight oil or a dark tea.  Luminescent red in direct sunlight.  Thin ivory head.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
Maple.  Coats the tongue.  Chocolaty, creamy orange.  Some warming alcohol like a brandy.  Heavy like soaked wood, slight coffee.  Sugary, funky caramel.  Malty.  Spiritous. Dessert beer, but not too sugary and overpowering.  A woody, yummy bourbony, beery thing of beer.  Tingly carbonation.

Then Stop (Conclusions)
I enjoyed it.  Viciously.  The bourbon character is well done.  Plus, the beer pairs well with a salad.  Really.  Bacon and pork and cranberry.  While watching Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.

I’d drink it again when the opportunity arises.

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Old Pricks by Black Bridge Brewery

“They are to varying extents dark, rich and sweet, typically with suggestions of soft, curranty fruitiness and blackstrap molasses.”  – Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion

What’s new is old again.  An old ale will be on tap this weekend at Black Bridge.  It’s called Old Pricks, which is an homage, of sorts, to the prickly pear beer brewed by the women of B3.  That one is called No Pricks Allowed.  This one is brewed by the old men of B3 and they wish to release it just prior to tax day.  I’ll leave you to suss out the pun therein.

What do we look for in old ales?  They’re beers meant to be cellared, or aged.  So you would taste that time in the body.  There will be some oxidation giving it a papery, stale, sherryish flavor.  Imagine an amber or brown beer kept in a cask for several months or more.  They would pick up the quality of the wood.  Additionally, any leftover yeast would act on the beer, continuing to ferment and bequeathing a winy characteristic.   The beer family these ales reside in, mild and barley wine, are oft considered “winter beers,” so releasing during early spring is … bold, maybe?  It’s cool, to be sure, craft beer will be unleashed whenever brewers decide it is their desire.

It should be a malty, complex, stale delight.

That Smell ….
Muted and subdued.  Mostly, I could identify bread.  The pale malt comes right through in the nose.  As successive glasses warmed there was maybe a little caramel  and a slight ester character.  I want to say it was prune that I pinpointed, but I’m not that positive.  It was that kind of “dark fruit” smell, at least.

In Appearance …
Old ales should be darker beers.  Not stout level but a it should have some woody chromatics.  This has a gorgeous spectrum of red, orange and brown and possesses outstanding clarity and sports a sound ivory and tan head.

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But the Taste …
Strong malt sweetness.  Not overpoweringly so.  Also a dry-ish finish.  The oxidation, the staleness I sought was a specter in the aftertaste.  I’d like to see that more pronounced, but that’s a subjective wish, isn’t it?   The body does seem a bit light.  Aging for extended periods can produce such an effect so in that regard, well done.  It was only aged for 3-4 months, maybe some ruggedness will appear.  If not, it does have a slight creamy mouthfeel that is pleasant and at 6.6% abv it does produce a warming alcoholic effect.

In Conclusion …
Another corking entry to the B3 taplist.  It was only aged a few months, so I really want to see what this will be like when it gets a good amount of age on it in the keg but I really enjoy it now, too.  It’s reminiscent of 80 Shilling, neither aggressive or assertive.  Perhaps you remember the bready goodness of Oktoberfest; Old Pricks is like that, darker in overall tone, color and flavor.  B3 has done an altbier in the past to which this might be similar.  I could only find this note about that beer:  “It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty.”  Old Pricks is just as tasty.  But it resembles some of the barley wines, mostly, though heavier in mouthfeel and not quite as hefty in alcohol.

History indicates an old ale should be nurtured quietly in the glass, near a fire and steeped in quiet conversation or contemplation.  Old Pricks has that character.  It adds to the pub culture engendered at Black Bridge, not requiring in depth analysis to enjoy but not fearing it either.

 

Flight of the Cricket – Six Beers from Rickety Cricket

There are two breweries in Kingman.  I spend most of my beertime at Black Bridge.  It was the first and it is still my favorite.  However, I do need to spend some effort on Rickety Cricket’s beer.  After all, this blog is about the Beer World of Kingman.  And so, for you, the community, I have made sacrifices.  I have dedicated myself to drinking beer at more than one location.  You are welcome.

Upon arriving at Rickety Cricket you will be met by the smiling face of Nicole; if not, find out why – she is the bartender you want.  She knows beer and can provide good guidance on tap choices and stories about the local brews.

Now, the title of this blog post indicates I had six beers.  This is true, but I also decided to add one more.  I’d found these brief notes made during a dinner at the Cricket.  They are in regard to the Coffee Porter.  Terry had told me when it was debuting and I wanted to make sure to try it right away.

So, seven, seven beers!  Once again, you people types are welcome.

Coffee Porter:

Dark. Medium body. Good tan head. Head dissipates quick. Cold brew coffee added. From Beale St. Nice subdued addition. A little bitterness added but not too much. Subtle touch. Comes up on back end to add a nice touch to the porter. Elegant. Balanced.

Slight coffee aroma no hops evident. Brown porter. Gone before I knew it.

Rickety Cricket has eleven beers on tap, to my surprise.  I only expected six.  I only tried six.  Look!  More opportunities for me to diligently apply myself to the consumption of barley based libations for the betterment of all Kingman.  I feel so altruistic.

The Flight of the Cricket:

Anaconda Squeeze. Rebranded an IPA.  That works.  Danky hops, dry body, good legs.  Smells like the APA below. Much better now than it was a few weeks ago.

Angry Ex Girlfriend (once called a blond, now an American Pale Ale). Splendid aroma. Citrusy. A little chalky maybe? That could be me. This is better as an APA than it was a blond. Not hoppy enough to warrant “angry.”  But good.

Bearded Bagpipe.  Meh on the name. More meh on the taste.  I think this is a miss. There is a sharp, dark flavor I can’t quite figure out. But it’s not quite right.  It’s off in some way I can’t pin down here at the bar.

Porter. Roasted grain. Dark toasted flavor. Yeah, lost track of notes while drinking. Fantastic.

Stay Puft. A stout. Let’s see … nice. Lactic character at the end. Sugary.  A sweet stout to be sure.  Good color.

Bird Cage Blonde.  Well done. A little more hops than I anticipated but not bad at all. Dry but decent body. Great color. Impressed.

Overall, the beers seem solid, stable.

Anaconda Squeeze started life as New England IPA, but it wasn’t right at all.  Making it a straight IPA was a better idea, although I would have just kept it as is and left it as my American Pale Ale.  Angry Ex Girlfriend could have then be re-designed into Bird Cage, which is just a fabulous light, easy beer. What?  That would leave them without an IPA?  Oh, heaven forbid that a brewery exist that has no IPA!  What blasphemy!  But, anyway, my real point behind all that chatter is that Anaconda Squeeze has turned into a pretty good beer.

The Irish Red, however, the Bearded Bagpipe, was not so delectable.  It suffered from some temperature issues, I was told, resulting in a woody character that didn’t fit.  This round of that beer was not good at all, but Nicole says they’ll have more ready in about two weeks so I’ll give it another go then.

The porter was my favorite of the flight.  I’ve got a growler of it at home so I’ll spend some more time with that beer later.  There’s also a black IPA, a collaboration beer with Black Bridge, that I’d like to further study.

In Review of A Beer: Legend of Tom by Black Bridge Brewery

***Update: So, yeah, I’m just an amateur at this drink tasting/reviewing thing. It was BRANDY barrels, not RUM. My bad. I repent in dust & ashes and all. Trust not the reviews on this blog. Well okay, this is still a really good beer.***

As this Saturday, August 12, marks the fourth year of operations for Kingman’s first brewery, Black Bridge, and since the soiree on the aforementioned Saturday commemorating said operations will feature the revealing of a new beer to add to the already extensive tap list, the time seems appropriate to experience this new beer.

First, some context.

The beer’s moniker is Legend of Tom and it is a Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Porter.  Now, barrel aged beers are not unfamiliar to craft beer enthusiasts.  They’ve been quaffing stouts and porters and even IPAs aged in wine, whiskey, rum and whatever barrels for an interval of many years.  But, that’s not what this new release is; at least, not barrel aged in the traditional sense.

Brewer’s in Portland and San Diego ascertained that coffee beans – green coffee beans, that is, beans that have not yet undergone the roasting process – absorb their surroundings handily and profoundly.  The brewers thus placed the green beans in an empty barrel that had previously contained the spirit of the brewer’s choice.  For Kingman that meant the green coffee beans, procured by Beale Street Brews, were aged in rum barrels provided by Diamond Distillery.  Once the beans have been barrel aged to the brewers delight they are cold-brewed.  The resulting coffee is then added to the wort at some point during the boil.  Or perhaps after.  Esoteric lore such as that can only be divulged by Tom, the brewing sphinx*.

The process results in a coffee tinged with the libation within which barrel it was housed melded with a malty delight called beer.  It sounds fantabulous, does it not?

*The next question is, who is Tom?  He is a curious character, one of myth and obscurity.  Only those on the inside know his true identity and he is spoken of in whispers.  And that’s all that can be said at this time.  Regardless, he has overseen the production of this new beer and … well, its character shall be dissected in the words to follow.

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It emanates so much coffee!  It smells like breakfast on the third day of seven days off.  Like a campfire with a little perfume.  Thus, dark grains, strong coffee and a hint of hops.  Smashing.

And Go On (Appearance)
What a luscious head, the tincture of Irish cream on a waffle.  Dense but approachable and stable, indubitably enhanced by the nucleation points in the glass.  It rivals Angry Elf in color, an unfeigned brownish-black with sensuous spotlights of garnet.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
There’s fruit at first taste, like a bursting plum.  With some tangy rum. Yes, there’s that distillery.  But that dwindles and the tang of dark fruit remains.  It rings on the tongue like the drawing of Anduril from its sheath, with all the  accompanying fanfare.  There is bitterness, derived from the sharp black coffee burntness.  But it lingers not.  The coffee presence is far superior to any other coffee beer, very fresh, smoky, mapley & caramelly.  Seeking the hops may result in a smidge of earthy resin.  Medium body, not really chewy but substantial.  Lingers, sweet and content.  The bitterness creeps up in the finish.  Not belligerently, but properly, like an English hop?

Then Stop (Conclusions)
Wow.

The coffee, malt, rum, mixed sagely.  The cold brew coffee reduces the beer abrasiveness but enhances its depth.  As with so many of the offerings at Black Bridge, this one is high in alcohol content but that, too, is deceptive; for Legend of Tom wants to be a session beer but is far too sophisticated for such things.  In other words, it is ridiculously easy to drink.

Is it the best beer ever from Black Bridge?  If it were a novel it would perhaps be something from Dostoyevsky, maybe Crime & Punishment – dark but compelling, a long journey; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  If it were a song … Whiskey in the Jar or One by Metallica; God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols.

(Author’s Note:  I like it better than 80 Shilling). 

That answers not the question.  Is it the best?  It’s for beer lovers,  possessing all the t has all you could want from a beer.  Dark malt backbone.  A little hops presence.  Coffee.  High alcohol.  Below are the guidelines for American porter’s, standard and imperial.  You can see how Legend of Tom fits in to all these and then expands on the styles.

(Author’s Note, again:  I like it better than Shugga Momma).

But is it the best from B3?  Interestingly, this does not have the same “house” flavor that the Black Bridge beers carry.  That is no condemnation, either of the beer or the house flavor.  Such a thing is expected from using a particular yeast strain and local water and the same equipment.  It is what makes your local your local.  Tom paid meticulous attention to itself.

(Last Author’s Note:  I like it better than Evil Red).

Cheers and well done!

Beer Judge Certification Program
20A. American Porter

  • A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.
  • Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character.
  • Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color.
  • Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.
  • Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet.
  • May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. The dark malt and hops should not clash.
  • Medium to medium-full body. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
  • May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used

Brewer’s Association Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Porter

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Medium malt, caramel and cocoa sweetness should be present.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium- high
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery flavors and aromas should be evident but not overpowering and should complement hop character and malt- derived sweetness. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.5%-9.5% (7.0%-12.0%)

On Imperial Stout – Most Notably, Angry Elf

In his book Brewing Porters & Stouts author Terry Foster enumerates several stouts that he had readily available at the time of his writing or that were in his locale.  Some of the names are renowned and acclaimed:  Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Yeti Imperial Stout, Narwhal.  Foster consecrates an entire page to sundry stouts and then declares:  “You should have no difficulty finding other versions of this style in your own area.”

That was no fallacious declaration.  Verily, in our small town we can find our own imperial stout.  Angry Elf is that stout; brewed initially by Kingman home brewer Mike Hinman and now often offered on tap at Black Bridge Brewery.   There should be no qualms about putting it amongst the other beers noted above.  It was last on tap late last year (2016) and a portion of this inky potation secreted away in forgotten vaults.  I am grateful I was allowed a sample of this well aged beer.  It was outstanding.

It pours an impenetrable black, a darkness that even the sun cannot pierce, with a dense brownish bay of foam for its head. Only at the edges of the glass can you discern some brown and red accentuations.  The bouquet is redolent of dark fruit and high alcohol like a brandy or cognac or some other liquor of which I am ignorant.  This smell portends its alcoholic potency.  (Yeah, don’t really remember the alcohol content; knowing Tim & Mike it’s probably like ten to twelve percent.)

The first sip:  surprisingly, it’s very soft; not as aggressive as one might think after gazing upon it and recalling its name (Angry Elf).  It’s more like Will Ferrel’s Elf.  There’s a slight nod to vanilla and hops are palpable at the edges of the tongue; a bitterness intended only to offset the hedonic, malty power of the body but not to be harsh or resinous.

Great, now I’m thinking of Will Ferrel … the relish of candied marshmallow is discernible, maybe, in the next draught?  Along with a little anise?  It is even minutely smoky – as in cigar, not peat.  It dries on the tongue expeditiously while not being astringent.  The warmth of the alcohol is subtle, an alluring fade out.  Roasted malt becomes more apparent as the body warms.  The beer’s body, not mine.

Kingman has some sublimely talented brewers both in the home brew community and at the professional level in Black Bridge.  Angry Elf is a child of both.  It hits all the right markers for the style but is far more than a derivative of those guidelines.  It’s a confident, not arrogant, beer.  Everyone said that aging this beer made it even better (6-8 months, I think?) and they were not unsound in their views.  At all.  It’s a complex beer wherein no one factor overpowers or outshines the other.  Really a superb accomplishment.

(Joe even let me in on a secret:  apparently, this stout has won gold medals at beer competitions!  My shock is not apparent.)*

So, two gold medal beers from Black Bridge:  Angry Elf and Katastrophic Humiliation.  And I’m sure they will be appearing in competition once again.  Beware, other beers.

See below for additional info on what to expect out of any imperial stout you like to drink.

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES
20C. Imperial Stout

  • An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavor balances and regional interpretations.
    • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish.
  • Despite the intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.
  • Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong. The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like.
  • Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character.
  • An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.
  • Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head. Generally has a well-formed head
  • Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness.
    • Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors.
    • The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet
    • The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.
  • Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture. Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic;
  • The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Stout

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • 
Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Extremely rich malty aroma is typical. Extremely rich malty flavor with full sweet malt character is typical. Roasted malt astringency and bitterness can be moderate but should not dominate the overall character.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Medium-high to high with floral, citrus and/or herbal character.
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-high to very high and balanced with rich malt character.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery aromas and flavors are high. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full

 

*FOOTNOTE:
Oh, I guess Joe indulged in what we would call “humor.”  Apparently EVERYONE knows it’s a gold medal beer!