The Motherlode: Dieu du Ciel – Route des Epices

•July 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Dieu du Ciel means “Oh my Gawd!” in French, and the Muntreal, Quebec, brewery of the same name certainly gives several reasons to evoke their name in vain.

The first was the sticker shock of the price of their beers. And the second was the flavor of one in particular.

I purchased a twelve-ounce bottle (someone help me with the metric equivalent) of their Route des Epices (translated as “Spice Route”) for $4.19 at the Beverage Den and Smoke Shop in Bennington, VT, a beverage store best known for putting beer and porn magazines right next to each other for my convenience. I hadn’t heard of the brewery, the beer, or Canada at this point — and I didn’t have my Droid, and it’s RateBeer.com app at the time — so I was flying blind, spending so much on a single bottle. But I figured if it costs that much, it’s gotta be good, right?

Well it pours an ordinary clear orange color, with decent amounts of carbonation, leaving a decent head and lace. Certainly nothing wrong with it, but nothing all that extraordinary either.

The aroma, however, let me know this was going to be different. The first thing I could smell is the roasted rye malts. They are burnt and lovely, and dovetail beautifully with the woody hop aroma therein. Oak and pine come through, but are sweet and not bitter. The malts are grainy and gritty and dark, and I love it.

I’ve never tasted habanero in a beer before, but I definitely sensed it here. And if it wasn’t habanero, it was some kind of a peppery spice. (The label says peppercorns.) It has the same burn on the way down as curry or Indian food, but not in an over-the-top sense. It fit perfectly with the burnt malts, which carried some of the rye characteristics, but also gave off hints of chocolate and walnuts, and more resembled a porter malt. (There was a bit of an astringent/battery aftertaste to it, but it doesn’t ruin the experience.)

I found this to be a very intriguing beer, and one that lingers on the palate long after you take the last sip. Get on it.

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Stafford Convenience Store: Salt City’s Best Kept Secret

•May 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

While it may not quite be THE most amazing beer store in the greater Syracuse region — Party Source, Brilbecks and Galeville Grocery still have the top three slots locked down, with Wegmans gaining — there is a surprisingly good beer-gettin’ locale on Stafford Street in Eastwood: Stafford Convenience Store.

As you can see in this poorly photographed evidence, the selection is better than your average gas station or convenience store.

The guys behind the counter are friendly (one even gave me some swag once!) and say that they are open to suggestions on what beers to get. Their selection of IPAs is surprisingly good.

It might not quite be a “destination” beer store (yet!), but if you happen to be on the north side and don’t want to go downtown, or Liverpool or Tip Hill, this is the place to grab an armful and be on your merry way.

Make a stop at Stafford, and tell em Beerjanglin’ sent ya!

The Motherlode: Founders Red Rye P.A.

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I type this, my palate is basking in the afterglow of one of the better beers I have had in a while: Founders Red Rye P.A. I first had this concoction at the great Moe’s Tavern in Lee, MA, about a month or so ago.
Founders is one of those breweries that we can’t get where I live, and so it was imperative that I try every possible beer they had. I remember this one being my favorite. Sooo, when I got the chance to order some beer by mail, I made sure this was on the list.

So what the hell’s so great about it? Welll, first of all, it pours a beautifully cloudy red-orange, with tiny black bubbles floating up from the bottom. The head is white, foamy and thick, and it takes its coat off to stay a while. The lace is spotty, but decent: the fact that it has any lace at all is a welcome change from the recent beers I’ve had.

The aroma is a perfect blend of spicy and sweet, with the hops and malt each taking a turn. The first whiff is amber malts, with some of that rye/pumpernickel, which adds a spiciness that I didn’t expect. The hops come in as citrus first, sweetening the air above the glass, but then some mild pine oil comes in. The malt then takes another turn. It alternates beautifully between the two elements, and I’d have to say it’s one of the most balanced aromas I can think of.

The flavor … oh baby that flavor. Again, the balance is crucial, like two strong personalities. The hop is spicy because of the woods, but the malt is spicy too because of the rye. The citrus adds a nice sweetness as well, but then the roasted amber-like malts come in to balance that. Just when you think it’s gonna zig, it zags. It is the perfect checks-and-balances beer. Add some creamy thickness and a lingering, effervescent aftertaste and you have something you could drink all night, even though it’s 6.6% and you probably shouldn’t.

I would have to say this ranks right up there among my favorite hoppy beers. Unlike so many IPAs, which fetishize the hops and forget all else, it’s the malt backbone that makes this one stand out.

•May 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Twenty things worth knowing about beer, courtesy of TheOatmeal.com.

The Motherlode: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

•May 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Due to the hopelessly arcane three-tier beer distribution system, there are thousands of incredible breweries that are not available to me in the Central New York region. Founders, Russian River, Three Floyd’s, New Belgium, New Glarus, Pyramid, Alesmith, Cigar City, Hair of the Dog, Surly, 21st Amendment … the list of beers to which I have no access literally goes on and on.

So when the forces of the free market are superseded by the thuggish influence of stringent state laws and special interests, you do what you gotta do. In this case, that includes taking the search online. To the internets!

For a very reasonable price, I split a large sum of unavailable beer with my erstwhile fellow blogger Javen. One of the beers that I decided we must have was Two Hearted Ale, an IPA from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI.

For fans of Stone’s Ruination, this one is a welcome (and likely cheaper) alternative, if you can find it near you. It pours a hazy, sunny yellow color. A nice white head, with a cloudy body reminiscent of a Belgian white.

The aroma is mostly hops at first: full of sweet citrus and flowery perfume. Lime and lemon come in with some agitation. There are some biscuity malts, but they fade into the background.

The first sip is interesting in that toasted pale malts emerge first, and the sweet hops fade into the background. The hops take on an orange peel and coriander quality. It’s very sweet, and although the hops have clearly softened up a tad, I would dare say this might qualify as a “gateway IPA.” The creamy thickness adds a nice, needed texture to keep it from being too acidic.

If this beer holds this well after being a couple weeks past its prime, I can’t imagine how it would be fresh. And since the big meanies perpetuating the three-tier system are still keeping it from me, I may never know.

The Motherlode: Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have been very lucky lately, as I have been on a helluva good run of beers going down my gullet. Of course, that helps when you do a tiny bit of research and learn to trust the breweries you know and love.

First let’s get this out of the way: Lagunitas’s Wilco Tango Foxtrot has nothing to do with Wilco the band, at least as far as I know. Sorry hipsters, there will be no Tweedy’s Best summer twelve-pack. The beer is quasi-military code for the acronym du jour, “W.T.F.” (Technically, it should be Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot, but I’m pretty sure Lagunitas would have all sorts of issues putting the word “Whisky” on their bottle.) If you don’t know what “W.T.F.” means, then how did you get onto the internet in the first place?

In this case, the always-current Lagunitas folks are referring to the recent economic downturn and hopeful recovery, as in “WTF happened to my 401k??” (Lagunitas has some of the best copy around on their labels, and are usually at least worth a read in the beer store, even if you’re not gonna buy it.)

So when the 2010 NFL Draft rolled around, I thought to myself, “WTF, why not try one.” So I poured this ruby-red concoction into a nonic pint glass, and noticed a massive white head, which was probably caused by approximately fifty million bubbles slowly making their way upward and onward.

Tangerine, citrus and flowery perfume hops abound in the nose, which was a shocker since the label had trumpeted its “double malts” so proudly. Still, no complaints here. These lofty aromas are grounded in a roasted amber malt, which is coupled with a rye bread aroma. The balance is top-notch.

A surprisingly burnt stout-like malt is the first taste, followed appropriately by a hop reminiscent of tangerine and blood oranges. The malt dominates first, and then the sweetness comes in at the swallow. The flavors are rather simple, but rather delicious. Add this to a slick, oily texture and you have yourself a sipper for the rest of the evening.

The malts definitely don’t disappoint, but never sacrifices a sweet, unobtrusive hop. It’s one of the more drinkable beers I’ve had in a while in terms of sheer enjoyment. Feels like it might be a little out of season, but that doesn’t make it any less terrific.

The Motherlode: Ithaca Ground Break

•April 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Saisons (also known as Farmhouse Ales) and Belgians as a whole are always very dicey for me, because sometimes they are pleasant, and other times they are too much. Ithaca Beer Company has also had a spotty track record with me, although mostly a good one. So you will pardon me if I sat on Ithaca Ground Break for a few weeks.

I’m glad I got to it when I did, because it is one tremendous summer brew.

The first thing I noticed about this beer is how ordinary it looks. It’s a pale straw yellow. Although the big fluffy head resembles baked Alaska at first, it doesn’t stick around for long.

That is all immediately mitigated, however, by the aroma, which was a real eye-opener. It’s got a heavy mint-leaf character at the first sniff, quickly followed by lemon, orange rind and spring leaves. But after all that fades, the mint remains. There is a real herbal character to the aroma, with cut grass and fresh potting soil. Add a few of those Belgian “Brett” spices, and you have yourself an effervescent, nostril-clearing beer.

The first sip is the earthy, grainy soil, which is followed by that mint leaf and cracked pepper. The hops are flowery and grassy, and balance the earthiness nicely. The malts take on a pumpernickel bread character, while the hops give off traces of lime. When your senses have been worn down and overwhelmed, you notice the soil at the end with a mint chaser. It’s got a smooth, rounded feel, with a prickly fizz at the very end.

I was thoroughly impressed with the combinations of flavors that Ithaca has put together with this one. I would put this one right up there with Flower Power and Cascazilla as one of Ithaca’s best beers.