The Barrels

The barrels are on cradles in a back corner of Black Bridge Brewery by the roll up door leading to the patio.  One looks charred and beaten, the other is oakishly white and new-ish.  Both contain beers – as you would expect in a brewery.  The weathered barrel is a from a 10 year old Knob Creek whiskey and it holds the newest iteration of Katastrophic Humiliation.  The other barrel is from Desert Diamond Distillery, used for their 5 year reserve rum; the barrel now contains an aged Old Pretender.  Both barrels were carefully drilled into recently and a few ounces were released for sampling to the small group that bloomed around the barrels.

Old Pretender was brown, like a beer bottle or growler.  It’s hard to expatiate the flavors that were happening in that sample.  The rum definitely holds a presence, some commented that they tasted chocolate.  It’s a rich drink, plenty of complexity to satisfy a good beer snob.  Katastrophic is continually a brilliant beer.  The aroma from the barrel, bourbon and vanilla, will enhance it’s reputation no doubt.  It was very, very dry and a pale bronze color and I don’t remember a lot else about it.  It’s still very young and has to further mature.

Look for both at the Real Wild & Woody beer festival in Phoenix, July 28


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)

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%)

Session 67 – How Many Breweries in 2017

In order to respond to this months Session, we can begin with some simple facts.

Beer Sales
The sale of craft beer has remained strong for several years, averaging eight percent growth per year for the past five years; this despite overall beer sales dropping.

The number of breweries has also grown for the past few years, averaging a 7.5% growth yearly. Production, stated in terms of barrels per year has increased yearly, coinciding quite obviously with the increase in breweries, right around eight percent.

2008 – 1500 breweries – 8,501,713 barrels
2009 – 1639 breweries – 9,115,635 barrels
2010 – 1793 breweries – 10,133,571 barrels
2011 – 1938 breweries – 11,146,815 barrels
2012 – 2051 breweries – well, year’s not over yet

So, if we stick to an eight percent growth the year 2017 should see 3014 breweries producing 17,688,595 barrels of beer.

But, there may be a little more to the numbers game. And that piece is …

Population Growth
The figure gleaned from several internetual searches revealed that the US population is growing at about 1% per annum. That will put the population at approximately 330,017,155 by 2017.

Craft beer has 5.7% of the total beer market. If it follows the current trend of approximately .89 percent growth, this will be 5.9% by 2017. This puts per capita craft beer consumption at 1.77 gallons per year per person. Yes, this sounds low.

But, at that rate that means by 2017 there will need to be enough breweries to produce 18,842,915 barrels of great beer. That is still more than the seventeen million barrels noted above. in fact, it will require a fifteen percent growth in number of breweries and production, giving us about 3,209 breweries by 2017.

And Now The Conclusion
But, reality check for this amateur blogger guy. I face the solid fact that this brewing business is just a hobby for me. I made a feeble attempt to startup a brewery and was smacked down by local beaurocracy and stupidity. I’m not a member of any brewing association thingy, no professional, not a follower of business trends. Nope, just like beer, occasionally make my own and long for a real local brewery. I don’t even know if any of the numbers I spewed out above make good sense!

So for me this comes down to a guess, conjecture, speculation. I shall attempt to make it fun.

This year the neo-prohibitionists will succeed in getting a fundamentalist Christian agnostic elected. This person will have socialist leanings and will decide that while alcohol may not be sinful, it isn’t in the best interests of the people.

Beginninng in 2013, breweries will be combined with wineries and distilleries into single state operated entities, doling out a prescribed amount of beer, wine, and spirits once a week. Since fifty states comprise this union, there will be five of these alcohol production facilities (APF) in each state bringing the number of breweries to two thousand five hundred by 2017.

Then Yellowstone will explode and glaciers will melt and God will bring judgement on a stupid world that makes alcohol complicated and turns beer talk sessions into market trend analyses.

Then I shall begin brewing anew and all shall rejoice.

Sent with Writer.

Sent from my iPad

(Insert Your Own “what the!” Expressions)

So my best friend brought over a Lost Abbey beer that he bought well over a year ago.  It’s The Angel’s Share from Port Brewing.  That is Tomme Arthur‘s place, and he’s got brilliant beers there.  This one is no exception.  According to the bottle, the titular angel’s share is a distilling term.  “Over time, some whiskey is lost to evaporation.  They refer to this loss of spirits as ‘The Angel’s Share’.  Each time a barrel is filled, a measure of this liquid seeps into the oak and is lost forever.”  Port Brewing aged this beer in oak barrels.

It’s brown and burgundy and beautiful following the current theme of appearance.  However, unlike some of my previous beers it is quite headless.   It clocks in at 11.5% alcohol. 

This beer exudes no hop flavor or aroma.  Yeah!  It is dominated by anise, or black licorice.  Boo!  And I do mean dominate.  Boy is it strong.   My friend and I both had the same reaction (see post title) with our first swig of this beer.

But there is also a streak of vanilla that slinks around the slightly heavy and oily body.  Once the anise goes away (which Royal says it does; I drank mine too fast) the brandy overtures arise.  I could taste the warmth of brandy coagulating at the back of my throat earlier.  Very nice sensation.

It was suggested that I harvest some of this sediment, but, come on!  I don’t have that kind of equipment.  That would be cool, though.