Review: William’s Brothers Ebulum

William's Brothers Ebulum

William's Brothers Ebulum - Elderberry Black Ale

I normally shy away from fruit/berry beers. I generally find them too cloying and light on actual beer flavor. While there are a TON of examples of great fruit beers, there are certainly many that just don’t cut it.

This one avoided the filter by having its base beer be a Black Ale. Black Ales are one of my favorite styles, and I couldn’t imagine a way that the addition of a bit of berry flavor could completely dominate the roasted malt and burnt acridity that comes with a Black Ale. Here’s how William’s Brothers describe Ebulum:

Introduced to Scotland by Welsh druids in the 9th Century, elderberry black ale was part of the Celtic Autumn festivals when the “elders” would make this strong ale and pass the drink round the people of the village. The recipe was taken from a 16th Century record of domestic drinking in the Scottish Highlands. Elderberries were used for many natural remedies to cure sciatica, other forms of neuralgia, influenza and rhumatism as they contain tannins and fruit oils. Ebulum is made from roasted oats, barley and wheat boiled with herbs then fermented with ripe elderberries.

I can enjoy a bit of anthropological brewing, especially when it falls right in a style that I really enjoy.

Ebulum pours a dark brown with mocha-brown head that lasted only seconds. Fruit dominates the nose with roasted malts coming through underneath with some caramels and burnt sugar.

There is a fruit sweetness up front which is quickly covered by a deep roast malt flavor, flowing into a nice acrid bite. There’s a lingering berry flavor without any sort of cloying sweetness. Very nice. The beer is smooth without being very heavy with a nice, crisp carbonation.

Overall, a very nice beer. I’m usually not one for fruit beers, but the roasted, acrid notes work really well to cut the cloying sweetness you sometimes end up with in a fruit beer.

Beer Review: Red Hook Eisbock 28

Red Hook Eisbock

Red Hook Eisbock - 11.2% ABV

I read about this in a Binny’s Beer Blog post. In the post I said I would probably get the Brrbon which is a bourbon barrel aged winter warmer, but standing there in the store with one bottle being $7.99 and the other $12.99, economy won out. The slick frosted black finish on the bottle certainly didn’t hurt at all.

I usually don’t read reviews of beers online before tasting it myself because I don’t want to biased. With this one, I wanted to tell a friend which beer I was drinking, and the easiest way was to just hop onto and link the page. While on there, I skimmed some of the lower review. Some, like this one, weren’t very positive:

Big ass, hot, malt bomb. Alcohol very, very upfront with no balance forethought. Might be nice to lay down, but now is very offensive.

I was undeterred. I like to think I have a very accepting palate, and there’s a certain enjoyment in drinking a beer that is largely independent of the beer, especially when it involves experimentation and discovery. So, I tried my best not be biased while writing down these tasting notes:

Pours an amber gold with tan, cream head that disappears quickly.

Tons of roasted malt in the nose with spiciness coming from the alcohol, but it’s not unpleasant. Little to no hops, but that seems to be by design.

The taste is incredibly complex and comes in about three waves. The first is a spice mix of maybe coriander and ginger. This is followed by an intense malt sweetness that would almost be cloying if it were not for be being cut by a burning alcohol taste.

The beer feels like it has a ton of malt, and is smooth, but it is certainly not heavy.

There is a lingering, coating mix of malt and alcohol. Almost like a burning sensation on the tongue.

I actually really enjoyed this beer. The alcohol warmth was almost like what you’d get with a spirit, but that seemed totally appropriate for something that purports to be a warmer. The taste beyond the alcohol was complex and came at me in waves. If I were to get it again, I would split the bomber with a friend, because I got a little too buzzed off the one bottle for just a relaxed tasting.

This beer isn’t for everyone. If you don’t mind the alcohol burn, this beer shows how complex and interesting a beer that focuses on the malt can be.

Quick Site Note

So… I just noticed that comments were set to logged in users only. That was an accident that has since been fixed. I certainly feel like an idiot for not making sure comments were open, but I feel less like a pariah due to lack of comments. Everything evens out in the end, I guess.

So, I encourage you to join in the discussion about beer and brewing (hopefully one brave soul will comment first just to verify that I actually fixed it!).


Short’s Brew S’more Stout

Short's S'more Stout

Short's S'more Stout

I was particularly interested in trying this beer because we’ve brewed a s’more stout of our own, though unfortunately in the days when we weren’t so diligent with the blogging. Their recipe is undoubtedly different than our own was (in no small part because it was one of our first few batches, and we didn’t quiiiite know what we were doing yet).

While Short’s used actual graham crackers and marshmallows in their brew, we went for facsimiles like biscuit malt, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Despite the different processes, the flavor is almost a clone. Cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, maybe a bit of honey. The body was a little lighter than I’d expect out of the style (I guess “S’more Porter” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), but the color was damn near black.

The differences between their beer and ours come mostly in the clean finish of the professional version, in no small part because we were still working our way through the brewing process at the time we made our s’more stout. However, having a commercially-brewed version of the beer inspired us enough to make a new batch, starting from sratch with the recipe.

Beer Review: Avery The Kaiser

Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest

Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest - 9.73% ABV

I had just gotten my first graduate school exam back, and I got a pretty good grade. I decided this was a moment to celebrate, so I stopped at Binny’s to pick up celebration supplies. As I was perusing the aisles, The Kaiser caught my eye (largely because it was on sale for $5.99!). I, for some reason, tend to skip over Avery beers while buying bottles. I think it’s mainly because of the label art, which may be one of the stupidest possible reasons, but there it is.

Anyway, I really liked the concept of an Imperial Oktoberfest, especially on one of the early, cool nights in October. I also really liked The Kaiser as a name for an Imperial Oktoberfest. Avery Brewing describes it:

The Kaiser once said, “Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.” If the Kaiser and his significant other had tipped this bottle, we’d all be “sprechenden Deutsch!” We took all that is good in a traditional Oktoberfest – gorgeous, deep copper sheen, massive malty backbone and spicy, floral, pungent noble hops – then intensified each into this, an Imperial Oktoberfest.

My tasting notes:

Appearance: Extremely clear copper with a very thin, cream colored head that dissipated quickly.

Aroma: Dominated by molasses with caramel notes and a bit of pumpkin.

Taste: Tons of malt. Caramel in the beginning flowing into a vegetal, pumpkin flavor with warming phenolic notes at the end.

Mouthfeel: Coating and chewy.

Overall: Perfect for a cool night when I only want a beer a two. The alcohol will keep me warm, and the complexity of the malt flavor keeps it interesting. Also, I enjoy tasting a lager that has this heavy of a mouthfeel. It doesn’t happen all the time.

Brewery Tour: Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Dogfish Head is the 16th-largest craft brewer in America, located in Milton, Delaware

On my recent vacation to Philadelphia, I took a day trip down to Milton to get my first tour of a bigtime — or medium-time, as it were — brewery. As it turned out, a great time was had by all. Even though I didn’t learn much about the brewing process (aside from “this is what enormous versions of brewing equipment look like”), I enjoyed it.

Dogfish Head Treehouse. Not pictured: bocce courts

This artistic treehouse is outside the entrance to Dogfish Head. Not picture: bocce courts.

If anyone plans to visit from Philadelphia, I would recommend stretching the trip over more than one day. Traffic getting into and out of Philadelphia was a hassle, even though we were traveling at non-peak times, and Delaware – apparently unaware that it is, in fact, Delaware – had some surprisingly bad traffic. I would recommend making a weekend trip of it, and spending some time at the beach in Delaware. The brewpub in Rehoboth Beach (which I unfortunately was unable to visit) has tastings on Thursday nights, and you can easily take the main brewery tour in Milton on Thursday or Friday afternoon.

The Brewery

Dogfish Head Availability Calendar

Dogfish Head Beer Availability Calendar

The year-round beers for 2010 are 90-Minute, 60-Minute, Raison D’Etre, Indian Brown Ale, Midas Touch, and Palo Santo Marron. I’ve cut off the bottom of the poster, but there are several more brews listed. There are seasonal beers, limited-release beers, and much more.

Dogfish Head Whiskey Barrels

Whiskey Barrels used for aging

These whiskey barrels were labeled as coming from Old Granddad Distillery, but actually had a wine-line scent on the inside, and I’m not sure if they were ever used to age whiskey. They were used to age an upcoming beer that was made in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewery in Indiana (outside of Chicago). The tour guide didn’t know a whole lot about the specifics of the beer, but has tried some, and said it’s delicious. From what I could dig up on the internet, the Poppaskull is a Belgian golden ale. It was supposed to come out in October, but hasn’t quite been released yet. If I see it in any stores, I’ll certainly check it out.

Dogfish Head Brewpot from afar

Brewpot (20,000 gallon, if I recall correctly) and a holding vessel that the hot wort is transferred into during the cooling process

Dogfish Head uses a counterflow chilling system, but obviously on a much larger scale than that used by homebrewers. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the mash and lauter tuns, which are located to the right of that control tower.

The Original Dogfish Head Brew Master "Brewery"

The Original Dogfish Head Brew Master brewing setup.

Sam Calagione and a couple of his friends brewed on this Brew Magic system in the early days. They experimented with new ideas on this system in the early days of Dogfish Head, when it was merely a brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, DE. This system is capable of 14-gallon (half-barrel) batches, and the current infrastructure at Dogfish Head produces around 100,000 barrels of beer each year.

The entirety of the original Dogfish Head Brewery

The entirety of the original Dogfish Head Brewery

The fermentation “cellar” isn’t much of a cellar, as it’s on the ground level along with the brew room. It’s a temperature-controlled room with stainless steel fermenters on the left, and wood fermenters/aging barrels on the right. In the background, you can see a huge tarp separating this room from the area that is under construction as the facility continues expanding.

Dogfish Head fermenting and aging room

Dogfish Head fermenting and aging room

Dogfish Head Aging Barrels. Palo Santo on the right.

Palo Santo oozing sap on the right

Behind me in this picture is the yeast lab. Dogfish Head is making a transition to only using house-strain yeasts. A better view of the enormous wooden barrels. On the far right is the custom-made barrel made from Palo Santo wood. Sam Calagione heard about this wood from a friend who was vacationing in Paraguay, and Dogfish Head invested in making a commercial-scale barrel from it. This barrel should be in use for approximately 20 years.

The Tasting

Tasting at Dogfish Head Brewery

Tim tasting at Dogfish Head Brewery

After spending all my energy on the tour (not really), it was time to relax and try a couple free samples in the on-site pub/gift shop.

The four beers that were available for free samples were the 90-Minute IPA, the Indian Brown Ale, the Olde School Barleywine, and Palo Santo Marron.

Since the 90-Minute and Indian Brown are standard Dogfish Head brews that you can get pretty much anywhere, I won’t spend too much effort talking about them. The 90-Minute is a standard IPA with citrus and pine hops. It’s fairly bitter, but the hops are more notable in the aroma and the flavor. The Indian Brown Ale is a three-way blend between a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, and an IPA. It tastes pretty much like you’d expect, as a slightly fuller-flavored brown. There isn’t as much hop flavor or bitterness as I expected, and it had the dry finish that you expect from an American Brown Ale.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Yeah, I took an artsy photo.

The Olde School Barleywine is a strong beer at 15%, and is mostly what you’d expect from a good barleywine. As a lover of the style, I had no complaints with this beer. Not particularly bitter or hoppy to balance out the malt flavors, but there was some fruit flavor in there. It had a thick, almost viscous texture, and the alcohol was definitely apparent in the nose and taste. The alcohol flavor wasn’t overwhelming, especially given the high ABV, and this was an all-around enjoyable brew.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron with Palo Santo wood stave

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron with Palo Santo wood stave

The Palo Santo Marron is an interesting taste, and the wood-aged qualities are a little distinctive due to the unique wood used. The beer is pictured in front of one of the staves of Palo Santo wood that was cut to create the barrel. Though this piece wasn’t used, identical ones compose the enormous barrel seen above. This bad boy was surprisingly heavy, probably around 15 pounds despite only being a couple feet long.