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Psychology & the Taste Buds: Abyss 2009

7th Feb 11 (Mon) Leave a comment

SO, in late 2009, I jumped on the “damn, I like this tasty beer” bandwagon and bought a case of Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss 2009.  I had it in 2008 and liked it; so why not!?  The price wasn’t something to sneeze at, but it essentially became the start of my now bustling beer cellar.  The Abyss is an Imperial Stout, clocking in at 11% abv – brewed with licorice and molasses with 1/3 of the beer aged in oak barrels.  It’s quite a treat, and it comes out once a year in black wax dipped 22oz bombers.

It’s also in limited quantity, hence my impulse purchase of an entire case being not all that irrational.  A beer barrel (BBL) is 31 gallons (roughly 2 full kegs)…

Vintages (production numbers from Deschutes):
2006 – Released December 2006 (approx 90 BBL)
2007 – Released January 2008 (approx 350 BBL)
2008 – Released November 2008 (approx 350 BBL)
2009 – Released November 2009 (approx 600 BBL)
2010 – Released December 2010 (approx 600 BBL)

Well, fast forward to Thanksgiving 2010, I cracked a 2009 Abyss open, and wow… I did not like it.  I shared it amongst friends; so we managed to kill the bottle.  We had plenty of beer on hand that day (various homebrews as well as growlers of Block 15’s La Ferme de Demons & Gilgamesh’s Mamba); so I didn’t make a big deal of it.

Then I had another Abyss 2009 around Christmas.  I drank about 8-12 ounces of it and hated it… I did the unthinkable.  I poured about half a bottle down the drain.  When you’re expecting a creamy & dense licorice & molasses bold stout on your lips, the taste that was coming from the glass was simply unpalatable.

The 2007, 2008 & 2010 Abyss vintages were / are phenomenal and hit the mark based on what you’d expect from a partially oak-aged imperial licorice & molasses stout.  What went wrong with 2009’s vintage?

Jan 31, 2011… the brewery announced that they found the culprit… a wild yeast called Brettanomyces (aka “Brett”) was found in some of their oak barrels (this also affected the 2009 Mirror Mirror release).  Brettanomyces varieties (Bruxellensis, Lambicus & Anomolus), as well as other wild yeasts like Pediococcus or Lactobacillus are sometimes used on purpose in beer.  In fact, I have a double red ale going now that just finished a fermentation with Wyeast’s Roeselare #3763 – which is a souring yeast blend with a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, two Brett strains, a Lacto culture, and a Pedio culture.

As with many things beer, I’m blaming my friend Aaron for my introduction and head-over-heels love of sour beers.  Last summer he was on a sour kick that baffled me, then he introduced me to some sours, and then Cascade Brewing in Portland opened up a pub.  Now… every time I go up there, I have to hit up their Barrel House in SE Portland.  I went to a brewer’s dinner last fall (menu) that was out of this world amazing.  They are the “House of Sour Beer,” but even Cascade trys to stay away from Brett, as it has a way of taking over everything.  They had some beer get infected, rolled it out to the barrel house and then destroyed the barrel(s) involved afterwards.

Brett is a wily devil, and its impact on the 2009 Abyss is likely bad news for many people.  Well, now that I know what is giving off the “bad flavor”… here is where I’m going to see if psychology and perception are gonna make this more than half a case left of “infected” 2009 Abyss turn into a treasure.

February 6, 2011… I decided to crack open another bottle.

First taste? Oh, yeah, it’s definitely infected.

But… now I like it.

Explain that! Not even five weeks ago, I had some of the very same infected beer, and I dumped more than half the bottle.  Now, I have it… tastes probably identical, but since I was expecting a soured Brett-y beer, I am totally digging it.

Oh, Brain, you have pwned me again.

Happy psychology experiment on Deschutes’ accident.  Well, at least I have some more left to enjoy over the coming years.  For future releases, they will be flash pasteurizing their oak-aged beers – to kill any wild yeast strains prior to blending.  2009 Abyss & Mirror Mirror may be bad for some, but they also may be a special treat for others.  I’d suggest not sending them back to the brewery for a refund.  Find someone out there who will trade you for it.  Rather than seeing it get dumped, put it to use… in a sour fiend’s mouth. :)

~Dan – np: MogwaiSpecial Moves

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my ideas for Frank Zappa tribute beers

29th Nov 10 (Mon) 2 comments

Well, I wanted to get this down on record… hey, any brewers, feel free to steal my ideas.  I’m gonna try to make these eventually, but you’ll likely make the better beer than I would… :)

I got an idea whilst listening to Frank Zappa‘s 1978 Hammersmith Odeon show, and post-watching the Brew Masters show on the Discovery Channel which covered Dogfish Head‘s creation of the Bitches Brew tribute beer (to Mile Davis).

My idea:
We need more Zappa beers!!

Lagunitas Brewing did an amazing job on their 40th Anniversary tributes to the first five FZ albumsUpright Brewing made “Billy the Mountain” (a traditional English-style Old Ale, having undergone over five months of oak barrel aging and another several months in the bottle).  I hear Upright is about to go into Billy round 2.  I have a bottle of the 2009, but I haven’t popped it yet.  Rogue Ales has “Yellow Snow” – which may or may not be a FZ tribute.  I mean, FZ didn’t invent the term.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on potential Frank Zappa theme beers

‎’Amarillo Brillo IPA: 100% use of Amarillo hops.  I envision this being a bold, citrus-y hop forward IPA.  This is probably the one I could pull off easiest, even in an extract brew setting.

Sour Peaches En Regalia (sorry, Reg-ale-yuh was too corny): I’ve been really digging sour Belgian-style beers.  I’m fully blaming my friend and fellow beer-making Zappa head Aaron for that.  He turned me on to sours, and it’s mainly what I crave now.  I envision this Peaches En Regalia sour to be similar to Cascade Brewing‘s Apricot… but with peaches (duh!).  Cascade’s approach is “slow-ripened before being introduced to the beer. Based on a Belgian Tripel, this beer went through 16 months lactic fermentation and aging in French oak wine barrels, then rested on the fruit for four months before finishing.”

Watermelon Ale in Easter Hay: Frank’s guitar solo for “Watermelon in Easter Hay” is one where I distinctly recall stopping what I was doing to skip back to the beginning of the track and re-listening immediately (from the Guitar record).  I love it!  For the beer… maybe a wheat beer with watermelon added in secondary (a la 21st Amendment‘s “Hell or High Watermelon” wheat).  I’ll admit, I loved 21st’s watermelon the first time I had it (KLCC brewfest 2009).  It has sunk on my priority list on 2nd and 3rd tastes (KLCC 2010, Sasquatch, etc)… so, some reworking of that for the FZ tribute.

Pound for a Brown Ale: This one would have to be a hoppy brown ale.  To not ruin your pallet, I’d suggest fresh (wet) hops to come up with the required pound of hops.  At a rough 5 to 1 ratio, that’s still a big hop build for a 5 gallon beer recipe (3.2 ounces dry hop equivalent).

The inspiration (first appeared on)…
 
 

Any other homebrewers wanna tackle recipes?  I’m still new to the craft.  Let’s just put these on my long-term pipeline for now…

Ya Hozna!
~Dan – np: Frank ZappaHammersmith Odeon 

Cascade Brewing Brewer’s Dinner (10/15/2010)

20th Oct 10 (Wed) 1 comment

So, with my recent concert going and being out of town for work, I forgot to post about the utterly amazing Cascade Brewing Brewer’s Dinner last Friday (October 15, 2010).  I was luckily at the table with owner Ron Gansberg, his wife, and one of their brewers John (last name escapes me).   Super great beer-loving group at my table as well – Nicole, Drew, Josh and Josh’s friend (name also escapes me). 

The normal meat-y affair had some changes made for me (thank you, Paul Kasten – sous chef @ Wildwood).  The veggie options were great, and I’ll admit, just about anything paired with these delicious sour beers would be fantastic.

Here’s what I had (with notes below):

  • Mixed Chicory Salad w/ Frite Galois: nice farmhouse beer, slightly sour, not as over the top as we’d get later in the night.  Went great with the viniagrette and cheese in the salad.
  • Fall Pepper Crostone w/ Vlad the Imp Aler: oh, my, this may have been my first taste of Vlad … love it.  Spiced blonde quads, bourbon barrels, delightful.  I picked up two bottles of it earlier this week (it was released in bottle on Saturday the 16th).  My egg and crostone came out 10-15 minutes ahead of the meat-y dishes, and I was told by the server to eat it hot… I devoured it.  Simple fried egg on a salsa-fied version of bruschetta.
  • Matsutake Mushroom and Farro Risotto w/ Sour Rye: a younger one of the sour beers.  I didn’t catch the age when Ron talked about it… 3 months, maybe?  The risotto was phenomenal.  It didn’t work with the rye beer, in my opinion; however both the food and the beer were excellent indepedently.  The meat-eaters got a “rueben deconstructed” – cabbage salad with caraway seeds under a slice of battered and fried cornbeef, which was inspired by the rye in the beer.
  • Grilled Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Salad w/ Autumn Gose: the autumn gose smelled “like halloween” to me, carmal nose, nutmeg, cinnamon, sea salt, orange peel.  The eggplant was sliced nice and thin (i.e.- the only good way to eat eggplant).  I forget how it paired, but since I didn’t note that it didn’t work, it probably worked. :)
  • Oregon Star Tomato Soup w/ Sang Noir: sang noir was amazing, it’s a northwest sour red, ahed in pinot noir barrels with some of it being aged on bing cherries prior to the blend.  Another “great independently” food & beer, but didn’t work paired.  Great nonetheless, and again, I know the main pairings were for meat; so I’m eternally grateful for Paul at Wildwood for being awesome and making my nice and full.
  • Russet Potato Gnocchi w/ Bourbonic Plague: what to say about the bourbonic plague?  amazing, deceptive, will knock you dead without you knowing it.  it’s strong (12.1% abv), bourbon barrel aged (hence the name), hints of dates, spiced double porter base, abbey normal yeast, 16-18 months in the barrel.  12.1%, yet drinks like a juice box. :)  oh, it’ll knock you dead.  great with the gnocchi!
  • Pistachio Ice Cream w/ Apricot Ale: 2010 “raw” batch of the ale, unblended version, very fruit forward… nice with the subtler pistachio ice cream.  The honey on the ice cream was a bit much for my taste, but I think this dish went very well with the beer.  I think 30 oz. in on a high-octane beer tasting… well, it was bound to be awesome at this point.

Check out Cascade’s sour beers: http://www.cascadebrewing.com/
Check out Cascade’s new barrelhouse in SE PDX: http://www.cascadebrewingbarrelhouse.com/
Check out Wildwood Restaurant: http://wildwoodrestaurant.com/

Wildwood has another brewer’s dinner coming up – Sierra Nevada on Friday, November 5th.

Keep Portland beer’d!

~Dan – np: Peter Mulvey – Letters from a Flying Machine 

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