Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale, Fulton (Mpls, MN)

 Paul's Pick: "Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale, Fulton Brewery (Mpls, MN)

I have to say that Fulton have been knocking it out of the park, I mean garage, lately with one impressive offering after another. Such is the case with the latest offering in their "garage" series, "Maitrise" which they have labelled an Imperial Farmhouse Ale (IFA) -don't bother looking up the style in the BJCP handbook though - is masterful, even if it is a made up style! Maitrise translates from the French for expertise/mastery and its Fulton's interpretation of a new world farmhouse ale dedicated as a tribute to the creativity, ingenuity required for the brewing profession.

It's a quirky blend of American and German wheat and barley malts with a traditional French saison yeast strain and not so typical dose of New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, renowned for imparting white wine characteristics similar to Sauvignon Blanc. The results are fascinating - divine tropical fruitiness with hints of gooseberry, mango, and honey and a dry, tart, soft and slightly boozy finish. Fulton weren't joking by labelling this as an Imperial farmhouse ale with a majestic 9.5% ABV and a regal 80 IBU's this is not your typical saison consumed by the gallons by seasonal farmhands for lack of potable water in days of yore (though the idea appeals to me)! Kudos to Fulton also for taking advantage of the economies of scale of the brand new brewery and putting more limited releases in affordable 4 pack bottles rather than bombers (perceived perception of value is what I like to call it, LOL).

"Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale by Fulton Brewery available for $10.99/4pk bottles.
I gave it a 4/5 on my UNTAPPD account app, what did you rate it?

Brut Cidre de Bretagne (LeBrun)

Paul's Pick: Brut Cidre de Bretagne (LeBrun) Brittany, France.

Do not adjust your sets, I have not been abducted by aliens (though I'm open to the experience) but you are correct in noting that this is the first time in print I've recommended a cider. Cider reminds me of my lager lout youth when my palate was a little less sophisticated than today and I'd break up the monotony of tasteless euro lagers by drinking the odd cider - nothing good mind you, mass produced sugar bombs with ridiculous sounding macho names that threatened to send you into a diabetic coma. Incidentally the UK consumes the most cider per capita in the world today, thankfully they have also ceased the 18th century practice of adding lead salt (cheaper than sugar) as a sweetener in the cider. No idea how many thousands died before they realized that sometimes saving money is not such a killer idea!

Le Brun ciders have been produced by Ciders Bigoud (20 employees)! in Brittany, NW France (Plovan - about 500km from Paris) since 1955. Using *gasp* only hand picked hardy apples with wonderfully exotic names such as Kermerrien, Marie Menard, Peau de Chien. Sometimes everything sounds so much better in French! The apples are then collected and aged for 3 weeks in special wooden cases, a process that allows the fruit to slightly dehydrate and concentrate its aromas. Once mashed the resulting pulp and juice rest in a tank, helping balance the taste profile and eradicating any harshness. Pressed again the pure Apple juice then is stored in regulated fermentation tanks where the carbonic gas naturally dissolves in the cider. After a slight filtration the cider is bottled non-pasteurized in order to fully preserve the taste profile in 750ml champagne-like bottles, cork and caged as tradition dictates. The cider pours golden yellow with a moderate carbonization amid aromas of sweet ripe apples. Tart and funky with moderate acidity and a snappy dry finish this is a wonderful example of a farmhouse cider made the right way. A modest 5.5% ABV makes this a perfect picnic accompaniment and its a steal at just $8.99! I rated it a 4/5 on Untappd.

We also carry Le Brun Organic Cidre Demi-Sec at $10.99/750ml - I found it "cleaner" and more acidic than the Brut.


Kirsch Gose, Victory Brewing Company (Downington,PA)

It's been a fascinating trend of late as American craft brewers have taken an interest in somewhat obscure German beer styles, dusted them off and reinvented and reinvigorated them. I'm talking Cottbuser, Berliner Weisse, Radlers, Doppelsticke and of course Gose. Who said Reinheitsgebot was restrictive and boring? I think not!

 Interesting to see that American breweries have taken notice of the vast potential of the European beer market - craft beer exports rose by 43% last year to almost $75M. Stone Brewery is planning on opening a $25M facility in Berlin, Brooklyn has partnered with Carlsberg to open New Carnegie in Stockholm and famed gypsy brewer Mikkeler has collaborated with cult favorites Three Floyds to open a brewpub in Copenhagen. Strange times indeed!

 It's no surprise that a brewery (Victory) with a mission statement of "innovative beers melding European ingredients and technology with American creativity" should jump into the fray. Gose is an old world German brewing process originating in Leipzig and is similar to a Berliner Weisse - both styles feature a heavy wheat malt body and a tartness caused by the addition of lactic acid and lactobacillus. Gose differs from Berliner Weisse because it includes the addition of coriander as a spice and salt for good measure. It's a whimsical beer, Victory adds a playful touch by adding cherries post fermentation. The resulting beer pours a beautiful ruby rose, almost pink with a whiff of coriander. My tasting notes simply noted "salty tart" - what a great name for a brewery or bakery! Tart and acidic and salty with a refreshing clean finish and a low 4.7% ABV this is a sessionable beer that is perfect for the patio - but be warned it's addictive! It's not cheap but it's a treat you deserve. Trust me.

Kirsch Gose , Victory Brewing Company available in 4pk bottles for $9.99

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Radler me this?

Radler me this?

 Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Naturtrub, Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg

 With a heat index approaching 102 this Saturday I thought some refreshing day drinking beer recommendations would be in order. Although I hate the sweltering heat it has contributed to quite an impressive farmers tan even if I do say so myself (bringing sexy back)!
"Radler" (German for cyclist) is a drink that was invented in the roaring 20s when cycling became all the rage. Enterprising Franz Xaver Kugler constructed a bike trail thru the forest that led to his hostelry 12 miles from Munich. On a  Saturday in June 1922 13,000 thirsty cyclists descended upon Kugleralm (meaning Kugler's Alpine Meadow) demanding beer. Kugler didn't have enough beer but in a light bulb moment realized he had several thousand bottles of clear lemon soda in his cellar gathering dust - he mixed the soda with the remaining beer to a 50/50 ratio and called his concoction "radlermass" (mass = liter of beer). Essentially the Bavarian equivalent of the British shandy.
Visitors to the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria know that it is not only known for Mozart balls, the Sound of Music and hoardes of Japanese tourists it is also home of the Stiegl Brauerei  who make the preiminent Radler in the world. Stiegl is Austria's largest and most successful private brewery, having been privately owned since 1492 (mind boggling). Stiegl's Radler is a mix of 40% Goldbrau (Helles Lager) and 60% grapefruit juice. Cloudy and straw colored it tastes more like fruit juice than beer, reminds me of San Pellegrino soda. Light, smooth, tangy and crisp low in calories and with an ABV of just 2% you can drink pitchers of this. Refreshing. What are you waiting for?
Side note - my favorite memory of Salzburg was a visit to the Augustiner brewery. Sitting in a huge communal beer hall at a picnic table supping on my man sized liter of beer in a ceramic mug I noticed that my mug had disintegrated leaving a bunch of debris in my half finished beer. It must have been quite a comical scene as I tried to explain to the German speaking monk what had transpired. He grabbed my drink and disappeared and returned with a replacement stein. Filled exactly to the same level as my original. Another example of ruthless German efficiency!
Stiegl grapefruit Radler is available in 4 pack 500ml cans for $8.99.

 Schofferhofer Grapefruit Binding-Brauerei (Frankfurt, Germany)

 Schofferhofer claims to be the first brewery in the world to combine a Hefeweizen beer with grapefruit juice. That gorgeous ruby hue it displays on pouring is the result of a natural food coloring called "cochineal extract" - if you are squeamish turn away - it's a red dye made from bugs that are primarily found on prickly pear cactus. Aztecs have been using it to dye fabrics for centuries. It takes about 70,000 insects to produce a pound of dye (thank you Wikipedia) and is harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. I'm guessing Schofferhofer is not vegan friendly? The drink is an equal mix of 50% unfiltered Hefeweizen and 50% carbonated grapefruit juice. Hazy, zesty and not as sweet as Stiegl with a bit more body and a slightly higher ABV of 3.2%. An invigorating thirst quencher it would be great to use in a cocktail.
Schofferhofer Grapefruit is available in 4 pack 500 ml cans for $7.49. Give it a try. Prost!