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Hi everyone!

I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s been quiet around here lately. Part of that is because of the insanity surrounding the Boulevard Chocolate Ale – it’s been getting so many views that I figured I should leave it up for a while.

Part of it, more importantly, is because I’ve been busy setting up a new blog. I’m now reviewing beer, wine and cocktails at http://kimandtonic.com/ 

So follow the link and read me there!

Best,
Kim

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Boulevard Chocolate Ale

In which two of the bestest of all best things of Kansas City collaborate: Boulevard and Christopher Elbow (whose chocolates YOU NEED TO HAVE IN YOUR LIFE)(because you know what a chocolate truffle needs? Earl Grey Tea, that’s what. Seriously. So amazing.) made an ale together. Yes, an ale. Not a stout, an ale. Like a roughly amber-colored ale. With hops (and chocolate) and everything.

It comes out on Tuesday. I got to try it already because my job is awesome like that.

Basic Info:
Name:
Chocolate Ale
Origin: Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
Style: Chocolate Ale
ABV: 9.1%
IBU: 24
I drank this: as a sample at work, taking copious notes

See, when I heard Boulevard was making some kind of limited edition chocolate “thing” for the Smokestack series, I assumed what anyone else would: the “thing” in question would either be a stout or a porter (because, being that both styles often use chocolate malts, chocolate is a good, if obvious, addition).

No one ever mentioned that Christopher Elbow would be involved. I seriously cannot describe his chocolate beyond saying a) it is amazingly amazing, b) the flavors are unbelievable, and c) IS PRITTY. So here’s his website to describe it for me. Anyway, had I known Christopher Elbow was involved I would have known there was no way in hell they’d bother making a stout, because that would have been too easy.

Anyway, having tried it, I suspect everyone involved had a whee of a good time.

So here’s the beer. It’s a gorgeous amber color with a thick, tan head and a scent of rich, *slightly* bitter milk chocolate. There might be a touch of fruit in the back.

Upon first taste, I noticed the mouthfeel before I noticed the chocolate (which is a good trick given the chocolate was what I was looking for) – it’s silk. Or cream. It’s smooth and rich and soft and luxurious and wonderful. And yet, as silky as it is, there’s a bite to it from the hops.

Flavor-wise, the chocolate is easily the dominant flavor. On first taste, I really thought milk chocolate; later, I was leaning more towards semi-sweet. It’s probably bittersweet or cocoa nibs or something like that which has then been sweetened by the high alcohol content to read more sweetly. The malts – and the chocolate, I suspect – has a definite sort of fruitiness to it, which I took to be almost cherry-like at first sip. The hops, while bitey, aren’t particularly bitter – just enough to keep the ale from being too sugary.

To be honest, my first reaction was “chocolate-covered maraschino cherry with hops,” but I revised that on the second taste. The second round through, I can still taste the chocolate and the hint of fruit and the bite of the hops, but it’s so much more complex than my first reaction. It’s really pretty awesome. I also think it’s the type of beer that would cellar BEAUTIFULLY – a year or so would really round out the hop bite and let it all meld into a happy chocolate beer heaven.* That said, it’s already kickass, so enjoy whenever you want it.

So basically, try to find some, especially if you love Kansas City, because it’s a project of some of the greatest epicureans we have in this city. I think it’s going to FLY off the shelves at light speed, so this is one of those “swing by your liquor store during lunch at work on Tuesday to get it” type beers, because I’m not convinced it’s going to be around much longer than that. And enjoy it, because it’s a master creation of some amazing artisans and deserves to get some love.

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*If I am the luckiest bastard ever to live, there will in fact be a chocolate beer heaven, and I will get to go there.

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Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Grand Cru

For tonight’s post-tsnownami snowmageddon snowpocalypse -blizzard update,* I thought I’d pull one of the fun beers out of the fridge, happy that 1) it isn’t still snowing, 2) my car seems so far in good working order, and 3) we still have functional heat and electricity. Given the low tonight is in the -10 area of the Fahrenheit scale, that last one deserves particular celebration.

Here is the chosen beer, in its gloriousness:

Basic Info:
Name:
30th Anniversary – Grand Cru (which I keep mistyping as cry). There were actually four 30th Anniversary beers released from what I can tell, so if we go by wine standards, the Grand Cru label means I managed to snag the best of the bunch.
Origin: Sierra Nevada, Chico, CA
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: couldn’t find it, but it was WAY up there.
I drank this: at home, with a cat in the background. The cat, who was refusing to play along and look at me, is Jamie.

The 30th Anniversary Grand Cru I have seriously typed cry every time is a blend of Oak-Aged Bigfoot (Sierra Nevada’s Barleywine), Celebration Ale (the Winter Seasonal Fresh Hop IPA), and “fresh” Pale Ale (i.e., the Sierra Nevada with the bright green label that y’all had better already know by now). They took this lovely mishmash, dry hopped the bejeezus out of it, and then bottled it. The result (once we managed to get the cork out of the bottle, which was a lengthy feat involving gnashing of teeth, twisting of bottle, breakage of cork and eventual deployment of corkscrew) looks like this:

You can see the wire cork cage peeking out behind the glass if you can avert your eyes from the pretty copper color of the beer. Corked beer bottles: when you care enough to snazz it up like wine.

Anyway, the actual beer is flipping fantastic and easily one of the top 10 I’ve had in years. It starts with the awesomesauce fresh, resinous hop scent of the Celebration Ale, with a touch of caramelly-sweet malts in the back. The head that you can see on the beer is lovely – thick, creamy, and around for the whole glass.

Flavor-wise, it was roughly what I was expecting when I saw the combination of beers they listed. It’s primarily a hophead’s dream beer, yet it also has a strong malty backbone. To start with the malts (before I go into hophead spasm): the malts are primarily caramelly and sweet and toasty, held up by oak-aging (read: more toast) and the high alcohol volume – the combination works to create what is easily the smoothest, creamiest mouthfeel I’ve ever experienced in a beer this hoppy. This is one of those beers that is the mouthfeel equivalent of drinking heavy cream: I wouldn’t want it in July, but if it’s going to be minus supercold degrees out tonight, I’m all over it.

While I tend to go more strongly for the bright, clear, citrus-style hops most of the time, this beer isn’t in that kind of mood – it’s a resin-bomb. It’s the sort of resin that screams “wet hop” – rich and piney and bitter, almost mouth-coating. And STRONG.  *insert happy gurgle noise here*

Honestly, what happened, and why I’m so unabashedly in love with this beer over so many others that I’ve had, is that it confused the hell out of my tastebuds. What I mean by this is that if there’s any truth to the idea that tastebuds are “mapped” to emphasize certain tastes in certain areas (i.e., the tip of the tongue tastes sweet, the back bitter, the sides sour and salty), this beer redrew that map. I could map out specific areas of my tongue that were tasting specific sorts of flavors, but it wasn’t the normal map: the alcohol/caramel sweetness came on the sides of my tongue, the dry toast flavor at the back, the hoppy bitterness more at the tip. So, like, everything was backwards. It’s *fascinating* (<—– with jazzhands).

The closest comparison I can come up with for those of you in the 30th Anniversary-deprived sectors of life is a Stone Double Bastard, but with a heavy cream mouthfeel. This was excellent, and I’m glad I got to enjoy it.

Keep up the awesome brewing, Sierra Nevada!

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*It appalls me that “tsnownami” and “snowmageddon” were both accepted without question by the spellchecker on this program. I thought I’d made up that particular spelling of tsnownami just then (my brilliant addition being the t at the beginning of the word – I hadn’t seen that yet). Poo.
Oddly, despite the program’s acceptance of the words I just mentioned, even this program won’t accept the word “snowpocalypse.” I think it must be over it too. So seriously, by next winter we really need some new bad snow puns to work with.

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Goose Island Honker’s Ale

The first beer I ever had from Goose Island was the Honker’s Ale. Because of this (and because of the distinctive goose head tap handle), I tend to think of the Honker’s Ale as Goose Island’s calling card. Realistically, I think more people actually prefer the 312, but, well, lots of people like wheat beers.

Basic Info:
Name:
Honker’s Ale
Origin: Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
Style: English Bitter
ABV: 4.2%
IBU: 30
I drank this: on tap at Old Chicago, Olathe

If you’re ever watching a show or a movie filmed in England, populated by English actors or written by English authors, during which the characters take themselves to a pub, they will often ask for a pint of bitters. This beer is an example of what they’d receive (or what you’d receive were you to wander into an English pub and order a pint of bitters – I suspect that if you did that Stateside, most bartenders would just look at you funny).

Let me say at this point that for a beer referred to as “bitters,” this is not a particularly bitter beer – compared to the hops extravanganzas so prominent in American brewing right now, this stuff is positively malty. The scent is medium malts (caramel, biscuit, that sort of thing) with a touch of a hoppy bitterness floating on top – the bitterness is noticeable, but only if you’re looking for it. Otherwise, malts.

Taste-wise, this is a nice mishmash of malts (which sort of remind me of Oktoberfest malt profiles) with a little bit of sweetness and some slightly bitter herbal/grassy hops. The hops are sharp – they feel biting on the tongue moreso than they provide any sort of bitter flavor. The aftertaste is faint and lightly bitter, gone in a few seconds.

Body-wise, this is medium, with what my notes incomprehensibly describe as a “slight hint of caramelly sort of something in the body if that makes sense to anyone but me.”* To translate as best I can, the body feels overall fairly light, but there’s a hint of something that seems thicker and which also reminds me of the texture of liquid caramel (like a caramel sauce). This is all simultaneous, making the body of the beer one of its most interesting qualities in my book. I’m pretty much incapable of describing it in a not-nonsensical way.

It’s a nicely balanced ale, very easy to drink. The fact that it’s fairly low in alcohol also makes it a great session beer – it’s totally within reason to be able to throw back three of these during the course of an evening and not be too far gone. (I think, anyway. I haven’t actually tried drinking three of these in one sitting.)

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*not that this makes all that much sense to even me at this point. Note to self: take moar bettar notes!

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Boulevard Harvest Dance

This is one of those where I’m in a minority. People on beeradvocate RAVED over this stuff – it’s got an A- average rating, which is huge. Me, I’m not so big on it. So remember, this is in no way a commentary on the beer or the brewing or the brewery so much as it’s a commentary on my tastes and my experience with this beer. Also remember: my taste isn’t *better* than yours. It’s just potentially different.

Basic Info:
Name:
Harvest Dance
Origin: Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
Style: Wheat Wine (I’ve also seen it described as a wheat barleywine)
ABV: 9.1%
IBU: the Boulevard site isn’t letting me through (I’m over 21, swearsies!), so I don’t know. I’ll update once it lets me in.
I drank this: on tap at Old Chicago, Olathe

This beer is a really pretty, bright golden color with a creamy white head. Looking at it, I would have guessed it was a Belgian Golden Ale – it has that sort of rich brightness to the color.

It smells like root beer-flavored bubblegum. And bananas. Maybe even a banana split featuring root beer ice cream. As I hate root beer and I tend only to like bananas in whole fruit form, this should serve as part of the explanation as to why I’m so *not* into this particular beer.

Moreover, it tastes like banana Now&Laters. Seriously.

For those of you unfamiliar with that particular candy, it’s like banana-wheat-yeast-hint of clove with a super-creamy mouthfeel and a slight bit of hops if it’s held in the mouth for a second or two. There’s no noticeable alcohol burn at all, which is impressive for a beer of this caliber (though I suspect the alcohol level explains how sweet this beer is – I make the candy comparison on purpose). Total lack of alcohol burn aside, it’s recognizable as a barleywine for those who know the style well. A banana Now&Later-flavored wheat barleywine.

The aftertaste is long and lingering. And root beer. Again, another thing that makes me go BLRG, but which other people would understandably like.

The best I can say is that it’s really interesting and that I’m glad I got to taste it, no matter how far it falls outside the realm of flavors I like. At the same time, NEVER AGAIN. At least, not for me.

For the banana root beer lovers out there, this means more for you. And y’all should try it, because you’d probably really like it.

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Crispin The Jacket Cider

 Dear Crispin Ciders,
I find myself having a problem. There are multiple Limited Release Ciders on your website that I would dearly, dearly love to get my grubby paws on (namely The Four Musketeers and Br’er Rabbit). How might I do so? If I need drive to your HQ, that’s fine, but I need to know this so I can plan it for a day when we don’t get 8+ inches of snow.
Smooches,
Kim
P.S. I love you and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

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Basic Info:
Name:
The Jacket
Origin: Crispin Cider
Style: Cider, brought all the way up to 11*
ABV: 8.3%
I drank this: poured from the bottle, provided to me by Derek Bean of Crispin Ciders (thank you!), shared with my brother after his nasty drive home in multiple inches of snow on a series of roads shared with people who have evidently never driven cars before (i.e., he had a crap day, loves cider and loves whiskey, and I felt it would be horribly rude of me not to share this lovely stuff with him).

Crispin describes this cider on the label as “a blend of four unique apple-wines; fermented with Belgian Trappist ale yeast; Irish Stout yeast; wild fermentation heirloom cider-apple wine & Colfax Classic apple-wine: all aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. Finished with unfiletered Gravenstein apple-juice aged in the same casks.”

So, what does this tell us?** Basically it says that Crispin has taken a blend of their other ciders and aged them in what amounts to Jack Daniels barrels. This never would have occurred to me to try, which is probably why I’m the one writing a blog and they’re the ones making a (huge, I hope) profit. Because this cider is amazing. It is the bestest of all best ciders I’ve ever had.

The Jacket begins with a really rich smell of apples with a hint of wood and a touch of whiskey.*** It’s warm and wonderful, sort of like wassail.

The flavor comes in waves – it’s one of those drinks that is complex enough that it has to be broken down into moments. It begins with a hint of whiskey at the tip of the tongue, touched by a hint of yeast. That’s followed by a warm, slightly thick apple flavor with hints of wood and spice, which is followed again by whiskey at the swallow. There’s enough carbonation to be noticeable, but it’s still very smooth. The aftertaste is a really balanced combination of apple and whiskey.

Compared to other Crispin ciders I’ve had, this is the least overtly yeasty – the flavors are all so perfectly balanced that nothing stands out in particular, yet it all works together to make something amazing. It’s like alchemy.

It’s glorious. GLORIOUS. Like, I would date this cider if I could. This cider is like the apple wine equivalent of Clive Owen in a smoking jacket. *drool*

So Crispin, I think y’all are slightly insane for all the odd things you keep doing to cider, but I love you for it completely. Keep on keeping on, and I will do my level best to figure out how to get my grubby paws on more of this divine nectar.

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*If you don’t know this reference, you need to watch better movies.
**Other than someone needs to spend a couple of weeks reading Reasoning With Vampires and then revisit the punctuation issues.
***I am a loser side note: I actually *have* a perfume of this. It’s BPAL’s Fearful Pleasure, a Limited Edition perfume from fall 2008.

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Wild Blue Blueberry Lager

“It’s cherry limeade!” – Marcia
“This is like Jonestown” – Tony
“I like my blueberry wine better.” – Mom
“I need to go shave my tongue.” – also Tony
“This beer would corrupt children.” – Ben
“Why must you always kill the happy?” – Alan
*bemused look* – Dad


Basic Info:

Name:
Wild Blue Blueberry Lager
Origin: Anheuser-Busch
Style: Blueberry Lager, obviously. Otherwise, Fruit Beer.
ABV: 8.0% (!!!)
IBU: Um, no.
I drank this: at home, split amongst friends and family. My sample went into a tumbler.
Please note: I chose this particular picture because you can sort of see Dad’s reaction to the beer in the background, crinkled eyebrows and everything. It made me laugh.

The reason I decided, upon its recommendation, to go ahead and try this beer was because unlike the flavored Michelob Ultra creations sent from hell by Satan himself, this beer actually resembles something with blueberry in it. Like, color-wise, it’s roughly what I’d expect for something containing blueberry juice. Plus, you know, 8% ABV. And it’s Anheuser-Busch. I HAD TO KNOW.

And now I do. It smells like blueberry and some sort of pale malt, the kind of malt I associate with Pilsners. I’m not personally a fan of this sort of malt, but it’s not a warning sign per se. At first taste, it even tastes like blueberry, or at the very least like some sort of wild not-blue berry. It’s… surprisingly not bad, even for an avowed hater of 92% of all fruit beers on the market.

Here’s the thing, though: NEVER SWALLOW THIS BEER. EVER. The aftertaste is, according to my notes, “mold.” It’s horrid. Horrid. MOLDY HORRID. Make-it-stop-painful-horrid-give-me-more-Sambuca*-please-so-I-can-kill-the-taste-dead horrid.

Overall, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it might be. I could even see where people could like it, assuming their taste buds do different things to the aftertaste than mind did – I don’t see how anyone could survive the aftertaste I experienced and still enjoy the beer. The upshot is that if you like fruit beers and you’re feeling adventurous, try some.

If nothing else, it’s way better than a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

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*Sambuca is an Italian after dinner drink with a syrupy texture that tastes like licorice. It’s not my favorite flavor in the world, but it’s magic. To experience the magic, have a snifter of some after a huge meal, while you’re in the middle of that OMG NEVER EATING AGAIN phase. The Sambuca will cure your overstuffed, bloated feeling. It’s MAGIC, seriously. And why we always try to keep Sambuca around.

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