The B3 Brunch Redux

Black Bridge is hosting breakfast again. This time the brunch is catered by Sirens Cafe, a restaurant next door to our venerable nanobrewery. The menu is quite different from the previous offerings, but Carmella usually does good work so I was optimistic.   

We started with drinks: a beermosa made with Lil Orange Van, Oktoberfest and 66 Porter, and a Dr Pepper.  So, everybody – Lil Orange Van Beermosas. Fantastic!  You’re welcome, Kingman, for having that drink introduced to you.  Seriously, you want it. (Insert Jedi mind trick hand wave). 

Then we ordered breakfast; a ham & Swiss quiche; candied bacon avocado toast; chicken & waffles with bourbon syrup. Now, I’ll be totally honest here. Sometimes, I feel that Sirens does some, well, eclectic food. And I was a smidge concerned when I saw the menu for today.  However, I am now totally a believer. The food was great. I had the chicken and waffles. Both were light and ambrosial. Really, that lightness was key. It was not a greasy slab of chicken and overly breads waffle. They were balanced and slight on the palate and the syrup was not overpowered with bourbon. The hint was there and that was sufficient. 

So, I won’t say it was superior to Tim’s fare last year -his candied bacon and pozole was just superb – but the food today was sapid, toothsome, yummy. I was very happy.  

Granted, I’m no foodie but this was a lot of fun and a good addition to the program for livening up the downtown area.  Cheers to Tim and Carmella!  I will look for the next opportunity to attend the Hipster Breakfast. Even if I’m beyond the “hipster” years. Whatever. 

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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%)

Regarding American Pale Ales; A National and Local Comparison

Recently I was afforded the opportunity to compare two American pale ales. One was a national favorite and the other was a local Kingman favorite. The beers were poured for me by a third party as I wished to do the comparison blind.  In other words, I knew what beers I had at home, but not which beer was poured into which glass.  I had to figure that out myself.

Beer 1
The head was poofy, rocky, prominent and very white.  It was copper, orange and yellow, like filtered sunlight. Slightly darker than an American lager.  The hops said hello immediately; they were piney but with a bright floral and citrus character.  The first taste offers up this bright, earthy hops flavor.  The beer was juicy.  Then it turned crisp, light.  It had a firm body.  Maybe a little light toast crept through.  It finished clean, not too dry, left a nice specter of hops but not harsh.  It was a beautiful beer, everything was in line, in focus.  Each element on display.

Beer 2
Consistent but more flat off white head.  It was brown and orange and bronze, much darker in color.  Hops aroma presented itself right away; once again it was piney, more resinous, though and less citrus, possibly a hint a tropical fruit.  Maybe.  Hops bitterness could be tasted right off but it was also grainy, had a nice malt backing.  It was bready but seemed like a bare hint of tin in the very outer edges.  It finished very clean, soft. This was not as focused as Beer 1 but no less enjoyable or beautiful, a little dark but completely appealing.

Overall:
Both had ideal presentations of hops both in aroma and flavor.  Beer 1 was brighter and sharper and had a better color (according to the school I went to and the eyes I possess), but Beer 2 had the grainy/malty aspects I prefer to balance the hops.  I found myself approving Beer 1 a minuscule amount more due to my perception of its crispness and focus; however, Beer 2 had the more appealing hops, earthier and more resinous and was more drinkable.

Beer 1 was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Beer 2 was Monolith from Black Bridge.  The above were rough notes made on a Sunday evening, just for fun.  I’m no actual beer judge, so please make your own determination about what beer you like.  See below for some highlights from the Style Guidelines regarding what to look for in a pale ale.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines:


  • Deep golden to copper or light brown
  • 
Chill haze is acceptable at low temperatures. Hop haze is allowable at any temperature.
  • Low caramel malt aroma is allowable. Low to medium maltiness may include low caramel malt character.
  • Hop aroma and flavor is high, exhibiting floral, fruity (berry, tropical, stone fruit and other), sulfur/diesel-like, onion-garlic- catty, citrusy, piney or resinous character that was originally associated with American-variety hops. Hops with these attributes now also originate from countries other than the USA.
  • Medium to medium-high bitterness
  • Fruity-estery aroma and flavor may be low to high. Diacetyl should not be perceived.
  • Body: Medium

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES:
18B. American Pale Ale

  • A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable.
  • An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.
  • Moderate to strong hop aroma from American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of possible characteristics, including citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon. Low to moderate maltiness supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuit, caramelly). Fruity esters vary from moderate to none.
  • Pale golden to light amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear.
  • Moderate to high hop flavor, typically showing an American or New World hop character (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Low to moderate clean grainy-malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). The balance is typically towards the late hops and bitterness, but the malt presence should be supportive, not distracting.
  • Moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish, but the aftertaste should generally be clean and not harsh.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to high carbonation.
  • Overall smooth finish without astringency and harshness.
  • Prior to the explosion in popularity of IPAs, was traditionally the most well-known and popular of American craft beers.
Typically lighter in color, cleaner in fermentation by-products, and having less caramel flavors than English counterparts. There can be some overlap in color between American pale ale and American amber ale. The American pale ale will generally be cleaner, have a less caramelly malt profile, less body, and often more finishing hops.

 

Containers and the Local

The city council meeting tonight, July 5, had one item on the agenda that could have deleterious effects on the craft brewing scene locally.  It was this:

  • Public hearing and consideration of Ordinance No. 1828 amending Subsection 26.820 of the Zoning Ordinance of City of Kingman to allow storage containers on properties in the C-2 zoning district and prescribing certain standards and limitations

    Subsection 26.820 SECURE STORAGE UNITS, CARGO, FREIGHT, OR OVERSEAS CONTAINERS of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of
    Kingman permits portable storage containers in the C-3, I-1 and I-2 zoning districts with certain conditions.   Containers are expressly prohibited in all residential districts and the Recreational Open Space “O” zoning district. On June 13, 2017, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of Ordinance No. 1828 as written. The City Manager believes that containers should be either allowed everywhere in C-2 and not separate out the Entertainment District.

This ordinance would mean that a business in the Entertainment District could not have containers.  There is one business only in that District which would be restricted by this ordinance and that is Black Bridge Brewery.  They have two containers on site.  The city council did recognize that this was directed towards the brewery and that compliance with the amendment as proposed would create a hardship for them.  There would be a lot of engineering and architectural costs involved.

It could have interrupted our supply of beer.  This is bad.  Bad!

However, the city council seemed to be mostly supportive of Black Bridge.  They proposed revising the ordinance to remove the restriction on containers in the “entertainment district” and would define the “repurposing” of containers; i.e., adding refrigeration and electrical power, etc., essentially means the containers are not for storage.   The council seemed to acknowledge that Black Bridge is not really using the containers for storage, rather it is for operational purposes.  This was stated at least twice in the meeting.  Additionally, having two 20′ containers would be considered equal to having a single 40′ container.   Changes that made actual sense.

The council mentioned that if the containers were already in place and permitted then none of this would apply.  The business could continue as is.  However, Blake Schritter explained that they have tried to get the required permits but have been repeatedly denied with no explanation.  The mayor and building officials are supposed to meet with the Schritters on Thursday, July 6 to sort out this matter.

Aesthetics came up several times in regard to the containers.  In other words, the containers make the neighborhood look bad.  That’s what I got from it.  Not sure if those who added that bit to the ordinance have really looked around Kingman much, but, you know, there are some places that are pretty trashy – without the containers.  In other words, lots of “aesthetic” work could be given to other areas in the town.  First.  A couple of people did speak and gave examples of other sheds and storage buildings in their neighborhoods (and at the Fairgrounds) that were permitted but were terribly unaesthetic.

So, basically, Black Bridge can continue to operate with the containers … if they are given permits.  Evidently, though, this matter of permits has come up before in council meetings and still nothing was done.  Let’s hope it gets completely resolved this time.  We will all need to drink extra beer to accommodate any permit costs.

Anyway, at least a partial victory for your local!  Containers stay.  Beer continues.  The city council seems to be supporting the brewery and that’s good news.

Cheers!

A Belgian Inspired Imperial Porter

A new beer will soon be debuting at Black Bridge. Here’s a quick encapsulation. 

Remember in Star Wars (okay, Episode IV: A New Hope) when Luke and Han and Chewie and the droids that everyone was looking for were in a control room on the Death Star and R2-D2 locates Leia and Luke wants to rescue her and he’s got to convince Han to help?


 Luke tells Han … “She’s rich.”   That’s the new Belgian inspired Imperial Porter, Shuggah Momma, that’s on its way.    It is, essentially, the daring rescue of Princess Leia from the bowels of the Death Star.  In a bottle.  Without the trash compactor part.

What An Incredible Smell You’ve Discovered

The Belgian candi syrup powers the nose of this beer. It was immediately redolent of soda. Seriously, I thought they just gave me a Dr Pepper. 

Your Eyes Can Deceive You

Brownish orange really, the color seemed eccentric.  In other words, it’s not as dark as my perceptions make a porter. The Belgian motif, I would say, is at play here, too. The color is half trippel/quad, half brown porter. 

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

 It is lighter than I expected and not as roasted or rich as I imagined but it was intriguing. It’s full of two row and crystal malts.  It’s sweet, but not tropical or fruity.   Low carbonation, finishes dry, not much hops presence when I sampled it. 

I Sense Something

It’s a complex beer.  Where is it going?  What does it want to be?  Thematically and stylistically it is something it might not be but is. Confused? Delighted? Exactly. Well, anyway, make your own choice about it when it arrives.  These are just my initial perceptions and could be totally off. And after having aged for many weeks, the beer could transform into something other. Art lies in the realm of ambiguity and that’s what we have here. And at  10.9% abv Tom continues his strong beer — ah, I mean Tim. Tim continues his strong beer legacy.   

Sometime in June it’s supposed to be ready. Maybe sooner, maybe later.  Watch for it. 

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! 

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.