Monthly Archives: February 2011

This is a positive beer review.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve run across a few comments in various places which have described an overall negative vibe from many of my posts, particularly the guest beer posts I make. Some have accepted the idea that since it’s my job to search for defects in beer, then that is what I will do and those defects will rise to the top of my descriptions of beers. There is probably some truth to that, however finding defects is certainly not my sole function when I assess a beer. I look for positive aspects of beers as well, but when certain defects are present at certain levels it becomes hard to look past them and it’s not always possible to describe a silver-lining for a bad beer. So, I just wanted to reiterate that I try to be as objective as possible when I taste beer, that I really do search for good qualities in all the beers I try, and if I come across a beer that I really enjoy or find unique in some way I will discuss it here. In fact…

… just yesterday my panel tasted the 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada (blind, as our guest beers are always tasted). I’ve had previous incarnations of this beer before, but it has been awhile. I don’t normally seek out many barley wines when I shop for beer, as I usually look for the more drinkable session beers instead. That doesn’t mean I don’t like barley wines, however, there’s just so much I can take sometimes. It would probably take me close to a week to finish a six-pack of this beer.

So as I mentioned, it’s been a couple years since the last Bigfoot I had, but I don’t recall it being this floral. Alcoholic, caramel, roasted malt flavors, etc, but not much in the way of floral character. The initial “orthonasal” aroma of this beer is very floral. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the floral character blew off and left behind the very malt-oriented flavors associated with a barleywine. Can’t really fault the beer for that, it’s just a fact of life with flavors, particularly these kinds; by their very nature they are volatile and therefore do not necessarily last very long in the beer (some more than others). There was some mild oxidation in the beer, and some panelists mentioned a harsh and lingering bitterness (perhaps bile-like) but I would not consider these to be particularly negative aspects of this beer. Overall, as barley wines go, this one was quite nice. If you like big, chewy beers, go get some of this.


Lingering bitterness


I’ve been informed that [REDACTED] has included this blog in it’s list of [REDACTED]. I’ve only started looking at the list just now, but I’ll be checking it out more soon. A few that I’ve looked at are pretty cool, and one or two of them are operated by people I know. Anything regarding [REDACTED] is the bees knees, so check it out!

EDIT: I’ve been requested to remove links to this site due to their issues with Google and penalizations involved with link building. So…

EDIT2:  I’ve been informed that my efforts to remove links were not sufficient, so to put this to bed for the final time, I’ve all but removed the post.


Guest beers: a Sahti and an Imperial IPA

We’ve got two more guest beers to discuss today.

First up, we have what looks like a new offering from New Belgium’s “Lips of Faith” series – at least I hadn’t seen it yet. This is Sahti, which is a traditional Finnish beer usually brewed with various spices, often with juniper. This particular beer was apparently brewed with orange and lemon peel, as well as juniper. At 7.2%abv, this beer is in the ballpark of a traditional Sahti, but the flavor profile wasn’t nearly as unique as the marketing implied. Few defects were apparent, but at the same time there wasn’t much to write home about either. It seemed moderately drinkable because of a relatively low bitterness and clean finish, but there wasn’t much in the flavor to latch on to; it was just a bit more boring than I’d expected. Not bad, just not great.

Ethyl acetate
Flat (low carbonation)
Low bitterness

The second beer we’ll briefly discuss is a new Imperial IPA from Pyramid Brewing called Outburst. Most of Pyramid’s beers haven’t ever excited me much, although I can enjoy their Curveball Kolsch when it’s available. Outburst took me a bit by surprise. Much of the harsh, bile-like bitterness in their Thunderhead IPA was fortunately not present in this beer. The hop aroma was nice and floral and resinous, there were some complexities in the malt-character, and enough alcohol to warm you up a bit. Overall, it was nicely balanced and a pleasant experience, although the higher bitterness and alcohol cuts the drinkability a bit. Our terms:

Tomato Vine
Hop resin

20 things you “didn’t know” about taste.

Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) just tweeted a link to a fellow Discover Blog author’s post about 20 things that you didn’t know about taste. There’s a few interesting things in there, and they have lots of links to further information, but over half of those should already be known by anyone paying attention to semi-recent science news.


Yes yes, I know. You’re right: it’s been far too long since I’ve posted. Well, I’m going to try to make it up to you with a nice article about one of the most influential and ubiquitous flavor components of beer: esters. I bet you’ve been waiting a long time for this article.

So, what are esters? If you ask a chemist they’ll tell you that esters are a class of molecules which contain a specific type of functional group called an ester group, if you can imagine that. These ester groups are made up of an oxygen molecule double-bonded to a carbon which is immediately adjacent to another oxygen which is bonded in-line with the carbon chain of the organic molecule. Perhaps a picture would illustrate the concept well.

A generic ester.

Looking at that picture we see a portion of a larger molecule, where the R-groups represent what could essentially be any kind of organic chain. The ester group consists of the carbon and the two oxygens that are bound to it. Esters, due to the variation that can occur at those R-groups, are found in many shapes and sizes, but they all share the common feature of the ester group. The smaller weight esters are quite volatile and are frequently used in the production of food products and fragrances; they are largely responsible for much of the flavors and aromas associated with many types of fruits. Larger weight esters are also found everywhere, from DNA and plastics to triglycerides and explosives (nitroglycerin).

More after the break. Continue reading