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%)
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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. 

Mohave County Beer Fest, Year Three. Is There Hope For Number Four?

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Thank you to the anonymous (to me, at least) driver of a Ford Expedition for having a decal on the back window of your vehicle advertising Saturday’s Mohave County Beer Fest. It reminded me to buy tickets. Marketing works.

Saturday’s event was relaxing and enjoyable. Indeed, ‘there is nothing better for us than to eat and drink and enjoy our lives.’ While I did no eating at the MCBF, I did drink and enjoy. So here’s a recap of the beers and breweries and a few notes about the event itself.

THE BEERS

Black Bridge
Kingman’s local was pouring Secret Pass, a blonde ale; Holy Water, a Belgian Pale Ale; and Raspberry Poison. Holy Water is a refreshing drink, crisp like an APA with a little mystical off-ness to it. Owner and brewer Tim Schritter also discovered that Raspberry Poison (a wheat wine with a little raspberry) and Pints’ Chocolate Porter makes an awesome concoction. The Poison subdues the roasted malt while that roasted malt moderates the sweetness of the Poison.

Canyon Distributing
Not a brewery but a distributor with a few different offerings available here in Kingman. I had the Big Butt Doppelbock by Leinenkugel. Well made bock.

Founders
They were offering their Dirty Bastard, a scotch ale and several IPAs. The Porter was my natural choice. It was very roasted, sublimely black and tasty.

Four Peaks
Arizona’s heavyweight brewery was pouring several selections, including their flagship Kiltlifter. I chose their Peach Ale. It’s a golden ale brewed with Arizona peaches. It was moderately interesting and very easy to drink.

Goose Island
So, the volunteers at this desk were proactive. They were right by the entrance and encouraged everyone to get their first drink there. I complied. I’m not sure what I got, really. It was a Goose Island table, but I think they were pouring Widmer Brothers product. I couldn’t make out the label well enough. I think it was Brrbon ’12. It certainly tasted heavy and barrel aged. Oak and vanilla and lots of caramel malt were present. It was a strong, strong start to the festival.

House of Hops
This new local tap house didn’t have any of their own brews since that’s not what they do. But it was good to see them there doing their part to increase Kingman beer culture. They were pouring some Widmer beers, too. One was the Brrbon ’12 and the other a raspberry imperial stout. I sampled the stout. It was nicely done, but I honestly don’t remember too much about that beer.

Mudshark
Three words: Vanilla. Caramel. Porter. I had this either last year at MCBF or at the Boulder Beer festival. I may not remember the venue but I have not forgotten that beer. Look for it around town in their “Shark Cages.” The vanilla dominates the flavor, to be sure. It was good enough for seconds.

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North Coast
Amongst the selections at this venerable breweries table was Old Rasputin, one of my most favoritest stouts. It did not disappoint. Also on the table was Brother Thelonious, a transcendent, jazzy Belgian abbey ale.

Odell
This Fort Collins trendsetter had a beer that briefly vied with the Chocolate Porter as best beer in show for me – and get this, it was an IPA. I have tried to make it abundantly clear that I do not care for that style. But Tree Shaker is a style breaker. The citrus smell and flavor blends seamlessly with the peach character. The usual hop overload is not present. It’s interesting that they still call this an IPA when it only comes in at forty-eight IBU and generally they should range from sixty to one hundred. It definitely shakes up the genre.

Pints
This brewery continues to impress me. I love their Rehab Red, and they had an interesting watermelon beer at a quondam festival. At this one they had a Chocolate Porter and it was my favorite beer from the whole event. The burnt, roasted malt that makes up the grist bill for this beauty had no qualms about showing themselves in the nose and in taste. It wasn’t aggressive or brutal, just delightful.

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Shock Top
Ha-ha, yeah, like I would’ve even stopped at this table. Heh, funny, yeah – No!

Sierra Nevada
They were offering a kolsch style beer and I’d never had it. It was a respite from their usual hoppy masterpieces.

Stone
Almost as surely as Sierra Nevada, the wizards at Stone always have highly hopped brews. They were pouring one I’d not heard of nor tried before and it was a complex five ounces. It’s called Points Unknown (very esoteric) and it’s a double IPA blended with a Belgian tripel and aged in red wine and tequila barrels. It is one of those beers that is truly layered. The top layer was all hops – lemonpine for the nose, bitterness at first sip. Then the maltiness is perceived in the next layer, with some caramel and alcohol and that loamy Belgian mystique. It finished with tequila and wine. Still an IPA.

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THE EVENT

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The Improvements
Attendees received a commemorative tasting mug. It’s a little thing but I was tremendously happy to get it. It shows interest in the culture of the fest and respect for the partakers. Good call.

The venue was much improved over last year. It was indoors, in an exhibit hall. The brewery tents and tables were against the walls all around the room leaving the center open for mingling and sitting. It was still small, the whole event could be taken in via one glance, but it didn’t feel as crowded as it did last year. The volunteers seemed more engaged, too. There was music, though not a live band. But, we’ve got to have ways to improve for next year, right?

Overall, it seemed like an insouciant, agreeable good time. It didn’t leave me as tired as last year with all the heat and noise and cramped area.

The After Parties
A couple of “thank you’s” also go out to Tim from Black Bridge and T.J. from House of Hops for their invites to the after-parties. I had not made it to the House before Saturday although it’s been open for weeks and is getting good word of mouth in town. They do offer lots of good beer. The place was loud Saturday night with all the people crowded inside. It’s not really my kind of scene, but I do like that very long bar and their selections on tap. The owners and staff are all very welcoming and that is a novel approach for Kingman. Doubtless I’ll be there again.

Black Bridge had a band out back, Almighty Dog, playing on a newly constructed stage.  B3 is planning on booking more bands and really turning the back lot into a cool hangout, making it even more like a neighborhood or backyard gathering spot. I enjoyed some more Holy Water and some Chiapas iced coffee, as well. Black Bridge has helped make the downtown area very interesting and I look forward to their future.

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So, good improvements for the beer fest. It was an enjoyable event. It felt like everyone cared this time around. Look forward to year four.

The Second Annual Beer Fest in Kingman, AZ

Let me first transmit a “thank you” to my beer network. There are enclaves of friends and acquaintances out there who are listening to the grapevine and letting me know of beer events. This time it was my Goodyear crew that alerted me to Kingman’s second annual Beer Fest this past Saturday, May 31.

I’ve been in Kingman for some twenty years now and have attended a handful of events around town. There’s been only one alcohol related event that I found palatable. So I entered this beer festival with trepidation and left with … well, mixed feelings. That is, oddly, better than I anticipated.

But, first, the beers. A beer festival is all about the beers!

College Street
This brewery is from Lake Havasu City, Arizona. They had great beers at the last festival I attended.
Sweet Devil Nitro Stout. Can’t help but love this beer. It’s thick and dark and creamy, the desert’s answer to Guinness.
Jesse’s Malt Liquor. The moniker “malt liquor” always makes me think of a sweet, thin, cheap beer for hoboes. That’s not this beer. Nay, it is a medium bodied delight heavy on sweet caramel. It triumphed as my fave of the fest.
Big Blue Van. Just try it. Ye shall not be disappointed.

Barley Bros
Another brewery from Lake Havasu. It’s been there since 1997. They were among the first places I went as I discovered craft beer.
Kickstart Oatmeal Stout. It was supposed to have espresso notes. Alas, though, I found this one unrememberable.
Tripleberry Wheat. This wheat beer sounded intriguing and finally drew me back to their table for a sample. The cranberry was most prominent. It was well balanced but in the end it was just liquid bubblegum.

Mudshark Brewing
A third brewery from Havasu. They had about a half dozen or so of their beers on tap from their refer truck. I always go to Full Moon when I see Mudshark. As I’ve written before it is my favorite wit ever. So far. However, it was too cloudy and bland this time. Very unhappy.
V.C.P. They were also pouring their new vanilla caramel porter. Nice even color, chewy body, but not too heavy on either vanilla or caramel. I’d like to try it again. Somebody go buy me a Sharkcage.

Historic Brewing
This is Flagstaff’s newest brewery. That town just can’t stop producing breweries and good beer.
Piehole Porter. I did not notice it was a cherry vanilla porter. But the cherry and vanilla jumped out right away. It tastes like a pie. If it had not edged toward soda, like an ice cream float, this would have been my favorite.
Joy Rye’d – I did not try this for I dislike rye. But my beer Fest associate could only say it was “tooooo hoppy”.
Every Day Special – a “hopped up Pilsner” according to them but I tasted none. They must have dumped into the rye.

Grand Canyon
This brewery from Williams brought their American Pilsner and Sunset Amber. I like Sunset Amber, though it veers toward hoppy side instead of malt.

Pints
Laughlin’s brewery did not bring their Rehab Red but they had several other selections.
Loaded Jefe Mexican Lager. Not bad, good color, smooth. Laughlin’s version of Modelo.
Watermelon Wheat. Better than the berry.

Romer Beverage Company
The AB wholesaler truck had some good beers available and they dominated as far as selection. Some memorable beers: Odell’s Lugene Milk Chocolate Stout. Odell Fernet Aged Porter (this beer is a personality to be reckoned with, to be sure. It’s in my top three beers of the day. But it is so powerful it’s almost difficult to quaff). There were several other Odell beers; plus some from Sleepy Dog in Tempe. And lots more.

So the beers were mostly delicious and enlightening. Now on to the rest. How did the Kingman Beer Fest hold up in the context of the beer festival world?

Attendees received fifteen tickets for $25. It wasn’t a bad price for several good beers. However, we did not get a tasting mug. Well, okay, the first fifty people did receive such a cup. The rest of us could get one if we wished to pungle down $3. I felt that was just cheap, Kingman cheap. Every other festival I’ve been to included a commemorative mug upon entry. Even the wine festival held here provided a glass. So, it’s a little thing, but it would be an improvement.

At first most of the people staffing the tables that I met were local volunteers not brewery employees or brewers themselves. That was distressing because they didn’t really know anything about the beer. For example, at one table where a pilsner and an amber were offered I was simply told one was their light beer one was their dark. Not quite accurate and it made it obvious the pourer did not know the product. It’s nice to go to these festivals and be able to interact with the brewers. But to be fair that was just the first hour I was there. Knowledgeable types did arrive.

While I was personally disappointed in the beginning the more I spoke with people, especially the visiting brewery staff, I began to feel a little better about the event. Some visitors remarked that Kingman is in a decent area for beer festival since it’s on a corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Many remarked that it wasn’t a bad festival for this being only its second year. There is potential for growth. Almost all the breweries said they would come to year three.

If there is year three, some modifications are in order. The booths and tables were tightly arranged in a corridor beneath the bleachers at the Fairgrounds. When I first walked I could look left and right and easily see the entire festival. My initial impression was that this was a tiny place and absolutely the wrong venue for a beer festival. Person after person commented that the location was too crowded, too small.

Mudshark’s refrigerated truck was running the entire time which did not go over well. It dominated the ambiance of the … corridor. However,I shall not lay blame at Mudshark’s fins. They were having mechanical issues with the truck from the moment they left Havasu. If the festival had been held in a more open area, say, a park, as the wine festival has been held in, the mechanical issues would not have been so noticeable and annoying.

Speaking of sound, there was a good buzz happening when I entered the … hallway. The good buzz was conversation that could be heard above even the Mudshark truck. I took that as a good sign. Another sound point: I heard over and over again that people wanted music, especially a live band. And, once again, if the festival would be held at a different venue a band would fit. Live music makes a festival memorable.

However, I also heard, from attendees and brewers alike, that this year’s locus, though cramped and loud, was still an improvement over last year. Why? It kept everyone out of the sun. And if the beer festival shall continue to be held at this time of year a shaded setting is imperative. Imperative.

So, festival organizers take note. This beer festival is a positive thing for Kingman. Choose a better location. A beer festival needs space; attendees need to be able to wander, chat, enjoy the beer in a laid back atmosphere. And there needs to be some live entertainment.

Combining the variety of beers available at this beer event with the annual Oktoberfest that is held downtown would vastly improve both events. Then we could start truly calling the thing a beer festival. Oktoberfest already has an okay venue (the whole, you know, train passing by thing annoys me) and live entertainment. I’m not sure which has better attendance. I’m leaning towards this beer event I’m writing about over the Oktoberfest. Put the two events together until it gets unwieldy and then we can move on. While doing that, add some additional food vendors if possible and consider a home brewing competition. There’s a good amount of home brewers around here and we wouldn’t mind showing off our art.

Everyone said that the beer selection was better this year. That’s my focus. A beer festival can provide some community interaction, sure, and it can highlight local businesses, okay; but let’s not turn our local beer festival into a lame Chamber of Commerce mixer-like event. No, it needs to be about the beer. Bring the beer and the rest will fall into place.

Windmill Porter by Black Bridge

How I love porters. The beer, that is. I’ve never had any other kind of porter. Well, see, the hotels I’ve stayed at are self service, see, so to speak. There’s no one there to carry my luggage.

Anyway, the beer style called porter is always a delight. Oft dry, always toasty, slightly charred which matches my mood of late. ‘My bones are charred like a fireplace.’ Such is the moment for a beer, a porter.

And this is what I wrote of Windmill:

Good brown porter
Carbonated, like a belligerent soda
Muddy brown
Burp worthy hop aftertaste