Brew News – New Brews (and an old favorite)

I consider myself very fortunate to work where I work and to have an understanding boss like I have. I manage the homebrew department, but Wendy, the store manager, manages the wine and beer section. I am constantly appreciative of her willingness to try to get new and interesting beers in the store. Today was a great day – two new beers to taste and the return of an old favorite. A nice evening’s quaffing, worthy of a review.

I have always loved collaborations. I collected comic books as a kid (and on into my college years), and my favorites were always those issues where the characters from one series ended up teaming up with those of another (Spiderman with the FF, the X-Men with the Avengers, etc…). I also used to have a database to keep track of musicians from my favorite bands and their work with other bands…

Lately there have been a few interesting collaborations in the craft brewing industry, and here are two very successful ones.

Stone/Dogfish/Victory Saison du BUFF
Three of the most respected and most innovative of the craft breweries in North America, all known for their “extreme” approach to brewing, teamed up to create this most interesting beer. It’s a Belgian Saison, in style, but with the added intrigue of a dose of herbs – specifically, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. I’ve brewed with sage, rosemary and thyme before, but not parsley. I guess if you’re going to brew with three of them, you might as well go all the way to Scarborough Fair…

A nice moderately full-bodied ale, not very sweet, and, in this instance, quite herbal. The malt balances the herbs, the herbs complement the malt and the yeast, and in the end everyone is happy (if not hoppy)… 6.8% abv, no indication of IBU’s which suggests they may have skipped hops entirely… BUFF stands for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor… and, just in case you missed it, the name is a play on the name “DuBoeuf”, the name of a real Belgian/French saison…

Sierra Nevada XXX #2 Charlie, Fred & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock
Back in the winter Sierra Nevada introduced the first of their 30th Anniversary brews, a collaboration with Fritz Maytag of Anchor, a delicious Imperial Stout. This is the second of four, and it’s every bit as noteworthy. Co-designed by homebrewers and homebrew writers Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt, the Imperial Helles Bock is a HUGE chewy, bready blond lager at 8.3% abv, smooth and and amazingly malty.

There are two more installments of the XXX series coming later in the year, and I for one am really looking forward to them…

Westmalle Dubbel
Ah, the Trappists. If you really want to know what Belgian beer is all about, you have to start with the Trappists and their amazing brews. Abbey beers, golden Tripels, and amber/brown Dubbels… Had I been born a more religious man, I might have considered becoming a Trappist monk just to be involved in the brewing of these heavenly beers… but alas, I must observe from the outside.
The Dubbel style is probably best exemplified by this brew, made in Malle, Belgium, by the brothers of the Westmalle Abbey. An outstanding strong brown ale, it has malty notes but is dominated by the yeast. I often describe the Trappist yeast profile as being almond/pistachio-like, and this is a superb example of that. Absolutely delicious, yet less full-bodied and less alcoholic (only 7% abv) than the tripels of Westmalle and other Trappist abbeys, the Westmalle Dubbel may be the best starting point to appreciate this unique class of beers.

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