Cellaring

Posted by Jim on Nov 21st, 2013
2013
Nov 21

I’ve been cellaring beer for five years this month, and all that time, I’ve used one wooden cabinet with particle board shelves and a door and many cardboard boxes to store my collection. This was not an ideal way to view my beers. I had to consult a spreadsheet to see what I had. With our current long-term finishing of our basement, we’ve taken apart the partially completed room which included the aforementioned cabinet. This gave me the opportunity to finally purchase some decent shelving for my beers. Today I ordered a 5ft steel wireframe shelving unit from Home Depot. It only has two moveable shelves, so I also ordered an extra shelf to maximize storage space based upon the heights required by beer bottles. This should give me plenty of space to store my bottles. Some of my verticals may take up a lot of space; I’m not sure if I’ll display them or leave them in cases. This included six years of Anchor Christmas Ale 6-packs and five years of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 12-packs (I’ll add a sixth year as soon as it comes out).

The shelves should arrive the first week of December. Once assembled and stocks, I’ll post some pictures. I’ll want to document it right away, for once my collection is sitting on the shelves, I’ll be more likely to drink it. How long will what I have now last? I wonder if this will be the beginning of a new chapter in my beer cellaring, or the beginning of its end? I’ll have to be good about adding new items to the collection as I drink my older bottles.

End of a Video Game Generation

Posted by Jim on Nov 19th, 2013
2013
Nov 19

With the release of the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft, I’m feeling nostalgic about my Xbox 360. I bought my console back in 2006 and when it was stolen this past April, I felt incomplete without it, and purchased a replacement device within days. Although I also own a Wii, I never took to it the way I did to my 360, and only played a handful of games on it. And while I’ll never be considered a person who devotes too much time and energy to video games (except by Nissa, who can tell you stories of how I spent more time in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. and aboard the Normandy than I did with her for months at a time), I do feel strongly about some of the games I’ve played on my 360. Many video game publications are posting “Best-of the Generation” lists, and I wanted to offer my opinions as well.

 5. Bioshock

    I’m actually in the middle of this game right now, but even partway through the story, I can tell this game is epic. Technically a first-person shooter, the game allows you to have genetic modifications that work the way magic does in any RPG. Fireballs and bolts of electricity are how you defend yourself against a dragon, not against a huge robot with a drill for a hand, but in Bioshock, it works. Health potions, weapon upgrades, and powerful tonics also allow for character customization you never saw in FPSes of old.

 4. Portal 2

    The first Portal game was an innovative puzzler that introduced one of the greatest villains in the medium (not to mention the cake and the song). The sequel expanded upon the first’s brilliance by giving you new tools, more challenging puzzles and providing a incredible back-story to GLaDOS. It also introduced a two-player option that allows you to tackle problems in a new way. It took a note from Bioshock and had some great retro-futuristic elements, but also straight ahead sci-fi sequences. Unsurprisingly for a Portal game, these two blended together beautifully. Lastly, Stephen Merchant provided what may be my favorite performance in a video game. He was perfectly cast.

 3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

    The day I bought my Xbox 360, I left the store with one game, and didn’t even feel need to purchase another for months. Oblivion was the game, and it singlehandedly brought back my love RGs and video games in general. It’s open world nature and dozens of quests and side-quests allow you to truly feel free and immerse yourself in its world. The facial animations and scenery were top-notch, the character customizations bordered on overwhelming (I think I spent 30 minutes deciding what class to choose and how to allocate my initial ability points), and even the most mundane tasks were made interesting—roaming all over the world looking rare plants called Nirnroots was actually exciting. The game was so appealing that Nissa created her own Xbox account to play it. [One of my favorite Nissa moments was when I found a to do list she made on one of her days off. It included the regular mundane activities like sweep the kitchen, wash the laundry, but in the middle of the list was the classic entry “Play Oblivion.”]

 2. Fallout 3

    I don’t believe I’ve ever become more obsessed over a game that way I did over Fallout 3. I dreamt about it. I spent free time at work plotting my next move. I created complex spreadsheets to ensure I was leveling my character the best way possible. It introduced me to the world of video game specific wikia sites (which I’ve linked to all over this post). Before Falout 3, I would read some game guides, but now I approach each game with a strategy. Nissa thinks it’s silly how I now play video games with an open Macbook Air in my lap, but I can’t imagine going back. For me, Oblivion was about exploring, but with Fallout 3, I had specific goals to accomplish (beyond the quests in the game). I wanted to make the best character possible. And after many hours of gameplay, I was able to. That’s not to say I didn’t do my fair share of exploring the wastelands of Washington D.C. in 2277. The setting of this game, and the mutants, robots and evil survivors who inhabit it are very engaging. Despite all of the quests, I could still have fun simply wandering and only completing random encounters. Of all the game saves I lost when my original console was stolen, this may have been the hardest to lose, for I don’t know if I could recreate my character. Maybe someday I will try, but at this point, it’s too much of a time investment. As you will read below, I still have a lot of games to play through once before I can redo this one.

1. Mass Effect 2

    This is it. Never have I felt so involved in a game. Never have I felt such a connection to a character. Everything about Mass Effect 2 is appealing to me, probably because everything you do in the game (or so it seems) has a consequence down the road. The series introduced something that was entirely new to me: importing old saves to determine how the next entry in the series would play out. Not only will my Commander Shepard look the same and have the same backstory, but little choices in optional side quests will cause different events to take place. Speaking of side quests, there are so many in this game. Entire planets are available to explore. The amount of data packed into the game’s two discs may seem overly vast, but I went though it all and purchased the additional downloadable missions.

   All of these aspects of the game were improved over the original game. Mechanics were improved, yet were familiar enough so that this felt like a continuation of the game. Much like how each entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was visually superior, yet all felt like part of one long movie. The new supporting characters were more enjoyable, yet some favorites were retained (and other appeared in non-playable capacities). The ability to create a heroic or evil character was more pronounced and made each conversation seem like it could have serious ramifications.

   When my old console was stolen, I was so afraid that I would lose all my progress through series and have to play ME3 with the default choices (which were vastly different from my own), but fortunately Mass Effect has a well understood save file format that gamers have been able to hack. Using sites like Mass Effect 2 Saves, I was able to recreate my lost character and take her into Mass Effect 3 to finish her story.

   I still have a lot of games I’m looking forward to playing. I have the rest of Mass Effect 3 to complete, as well as the remainder of the Bioshock trilogy. I have yet to play an Assassin’s Creed game, or L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption and the Borderlands games. I’ve only played the first entry in the Batman: Arkham series and am looking forward to the rest of them. As the Xbox One gains popularity, the prices for the 360 games will only get lower, which is advantageous to a gamer like me who doesn’t need a game as soon as it’s released. Will I someday be jealous of the new games for the One my 360 cannot play? Sure. But I see a lot of life left in my now-outdated Xbox 360.  I think I’ll be using it for a long time to come.

Dusty Bottle

Posted by Jim on Jan 23rd, 2013
2013
Jan 23

Tonight I opened a bottle that I’ve been sitting on for at least two years. It’s a scotch ale from Berkshire Brewing that was aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, brewed to commemorate the life of Greg Noonan.

Berkshire Brewing Company Gude Greg’s Wee Heavy Private Reserve
3.83/5
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I received this bottle as a gift from Dave from the Great Lost Bear back when it was released. I probably should have opened this beer before now, but oh well. Better late than never.

It has been cellared since I took ownership and I’ve poured into a pint glass.

The beer has a dark ruby color with lots of clinging carbonation. Holding the beer up to the light reveals its perfect clarity, but in a low light setting, it’s hard to see through it. There is a decent amount of grey foam on top that settles down to a skim. No lacing on this glass, despite me giving it a hot water rinse and dry before pouring. Swirling leaves patchy foam.

Big bourbon aromas emanate form this beer. I could smell them as soon as I popped the cap. The aroma took me by surprise; after two years, I would think the aroma would have mellowed. I can smell, peat, toasted oak, smoke, and warming alcohol. Malty sweetness is very subtle. In a blind smell test, I think I would mistake this for a glass of straight whiskey. The aroma seems appropriate for a fresh bourbon barrel-aged beer, so I’ve docked half a point for the lack of mellowing.

Where the nose may be a bit overpowering, the flavor profile is really well done. There is plenty of bourbon flavor, but not so much that you would mistake this as anything but a barrel-aged beer. It begins with a nice sweetness—velvety toffee and cherry flavors. Crystal sugars mix in before the bourbon makes itself known. It has mellow alcohol, smokey peat, and oak. These bourbon flavors linger on after swallowing. I was afraid this beer would still be quite hot, but it has mellowed into an interesting, balanced ale. The cherry flavor did catch me off guard. It may have a slight tartness, but I don’t think this beer is showing signs of infection.

The beer is a bit stickier than I would have liked to have felt. A noticeable coat remains on my lips and throughout my mouth. The coat holds onto the sweet flavors; very little of the bourbon remains. The alcohol does provide some warmth as I swallow.

This is good wee heavy that is tending towards great, but misses the mark slightly. Maybe it would have been better if I had opened the bottle sooner, but I’ll never know. I will enjoy what I have left to drink though. If you get a chance to try some (and you’re a fan of the style), I’d got for it, but I wouldn’t go as far as trading rare beers known to cellar better than this one.

Beers for Christmas

Posted by Jim on Dec 1st, 2012
2012
Dec 1

Nissa gave me a Christmas present a little early this year: a six month membership in Bier Cellar‘s beer of the month club. I’m really excited to get a bunch of interesting and mostly unknown (to me) beers each month. We are skipping the madness of Zwanze Day at Novare in favor of time with our kids, but while they are napping, we’re opening the first bottle obtained through the club membership.

To Øl Snowball Saison Ale (brewed at De Proef in Belgium)

4.1/5
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
A chilly 750ml bottle is poured into an Oxbow tulip glass.

The beer has a golden copper color and is very clear. The head is initially large (it fills about half the glass), but has settled to about 3/4 of an inch in height. It has a light tan color and is made up of small bubbles. Lot so of spiderwork lacing has been left clinging to the glass as the head settles.

Snowball has a really great aroma. It is funky without coming across as sour. There is a touch f sweetness. It reminds me of powdered sugar instead of the Belgian candi sugar often used in saisons. The dry hopping imparts a grassy aroma. It reminds me of late winter, as spring is struggling to bring some green back into a grey world.

The beer tastes very good. The bitterness is fairly pronounced. It adds a spiciness that I am really enjoying. It replaces the pepper flavors that you sometimes find in saisons. The brett is noticeable, but the beer doesn’t taste too funky. It’s mild enough to impart a farmhouse feel to the flavor.

The beer has a fuller body than some other saisons I’ve had. A high number of carbonation bubbles in each mouthful give it a foamy feel. My lips are a little sticky, but it’s not distracting. The coat inside my mouth is light, but it allows some of the grassy hops to linger.

I like this beer a lot. I am intruiged by how far brewers can take the saison style. Ther eis also somethign fun about drinking a Christmas beer brewed by Danes at one of Belgium’s more famous breweries. If you get a chance, I’d recommend you try this beer.

Some Local Flavor from the Cellar

Posted by Jim on Jul 11th, 2012
2012
Jul 11

One of my cohorts in the SMBDC posted on BA that this beer was getting a little thin and that any of us holding on to bottles should drink them soon. I have to say that I think this beer is drinking quite nicely. It was a great surprise to open this bottle tonight and find such a wonderful beer inside. I’m glad I still have one bottle from the original run in my cellar, as well as a bottle from the second batch.

Sebago Brewing Company Lake Trout Stout aged in Bourbon barrels (Batch #1, 2010)

4.65/5
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
This is a bottle of the first batch, from way back in early 2010. It has been in my cellar since that time. I am pouring it into a Delerium Tremens snifter. I heard from a friend that this beer may have turned and that I should drink my bottle soon.

A very loud hiss was heard as I popped the cap. I actually felt the released carbonation force the cap off. As I pour the beer, it appears to be 99% foam. It is a dark foam, the color of chocolate milk. It is begining to turn into a liquid, but very slowly. The beer at the bottom of the glass is opaque and a shade of dark, dark brown—nearly black. Swirling the beer leaves a uniform lace coat behind.

The aroma is very pleasing. It isn’t quite subtle, but it isn’t overpowering or in your face. It is complex. There is a good mix of toasted malts, oak, bourbon and a hint of smoke.

This is a bourbon barrel aged stout that isn’t entirely about the bourbon! A dark, roasted malt base has some slight chocolate flavors. Plenty of oak comes through. Peat, smoke and bourbon are present in the finish, but none are all too strong. There is no harshness form the barrel aging process; the 2 years in my cellar have really mellowed this brew. The bourbon is most noticable in the aftertaste. Here you can really pick it out of the other flavors. It also provides some warmth once it is in your stomach.

The beer is heavier in body without being thick. Carbonation is a lot lower than I expected. Despite the large head when I poured, the feeling within my mouth is of a calm beer. I can feel a few bubbles, but it is hardly noticeable. My lips are left a little sticky, as is the inside of my mouth, but I do not feel a film.

I am going to have to go ahead and say that I really like this beer a lot. It’s been a while since I’ve had it fresh so I won’t compare it to this aged variety. I can say that the original batch of bottles is still drinking quite nicely. It is very refreshing to have a bourbon barrel aged stout that doesn’t taste like a shot of bourbon poured into a bit of stout. This is a more subtle, complex kind of beverage. If you have a bottle of this in your cellar, consider cracking it open, as it is drinking beautifully. If you don’t have any, perhaps you should track some down and sit on them for a spell.

I can’t say this is as good as an aged bottle of Sebago’s barleywine, but it is nearly that beer’s equal. It’s an excellent beer and is highly recommended.

Dry Hopped and Delicious

Posted by Jim on Jun 15th, 2012
2012
Jun 15

Founders Centennial IPA

4.45/5

A slightly chilled bottle dated 05/21/12 is poured into a pint glass.

A clear copper liquid fills my glass. Plenty of clinging carbonation can be seen in the upper half of the vessel. The top inch is filled with a light tan foam head. The occasional bubble rises up from the bottle of the glass.

A strong hop aroma can be detected while the beer is poured. Getting closer to the glass, I can smell big juicy citrus hops. Floral notes are in abundance. It’s an enticing bouquet.

The beer has a strong caramel malt base that holds up under all of the hop flavors. Bitter oils are present through out each sip. It is mostly floral, with a little bit of pink grapefruit. After swallowing, an earthy/pine hop flavor remains. This is a big, bold IPA. I feel as though I can taste every one of the 65 IBU’s.

The beer has a full body and low carbonation. There isn’t too much stickiness, but I can feel some on both my lips and the roof of my mouth.

Big IPAs always seem to come from near the coast (whether it be East or West), so it is refreshing to have such a top notch IPA coming out of Michigan. I tend to associate Founders with it’s malty offerings (stouts, Scotch ales, old ales, etc.), this is my first exposure to one of their hop-centric beers. I am impressed. I’m really glad I can now buy their beers here in Maine. I feel that I’ll be enjoying many bottles of it.

New England Rye

Posted by Jim on May 26th, 2012
2012
May 26

Harpoon Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA

4.43/5
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
The beer has a very clear consistency. It is the color of clean, shiny copper kettle. There is a lot of carboantion clinging to the sides of my glass. A very large head of off-white bubbles fills the top third of my glass—there is so much that I can’t pour all 12 ounces into this pint glass. Very good lacing is left behind.

The beer has a very nice aroma. I could smell big hops aromas as soon as I began pouring. On closer inspection, there is also a healthy dose of rye in the nose. The hops are both earthy, like a pile of crisp leaves, and citrus-like, recalling orange zest.

The beer’s flavor comes across as very balanaced, even though it is a hop forward beverage. The rye spices are tasted immediately. Soon, more traditional hop bitterness comes forward. The bitterness stays through the finish, although here it is more oily than it was earlier. The malt sweetness is also tasted here, but it isn’t too sweet. It’s like a watery malt syrup (without that viscous feeling).

This beer is slightly thicker than average for the style, but the carbonation, while a little intense, seems to be par for the course. My lips are left a little sticky. The mouthcoat is noticeable, but not too sticky.

This is a very good Rye IPA. I’m glad that Harpoon has decided to release it in 12 oz bottles. I imagine that it will find it’s way into my fridge somewhat regularly.

Rising Tide Rarity

Posted by Jim on Apr 29th, 2012
2012
Apr 29

Before heading out to Harrisburg PA last November, I had to run out to Downeast Beverage to secure myself a bottle of Rising Tide‘s first one-off bottling, Polaris, which is their Weizen Stout aged in bourbon barrels. I have since learned that it will be brewed and bottled again, which is exciting news!

Rising Tide Polaris

3.9/5
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
A cellar temperature bottle is poured into a pint glass. This is bottle number 163 of 336.

The beer is completely black, with a decent of amount of tan foam resting on top. The liquid is too opaque to make out and rising carbonation. Lacing is good.

The beer has a strong bourbon aroma. It’s like sticking my nose into a glass of Jim Beam. I’m not really smelling any of the roasted malts that make up the nose in Ursa Minor (the base beer). There is a little bit of malty sweetness, but for the most part this beer smells boozy. If it still smells like this after 5 months of aging, I wonder how hot it was when fresh?

Luckily, the bourbon in the flavor isn’t as overpowering as in the aroma, although it is still strong. It provides some good oak and peat moss flavors, and a smokiness that works very well with Ursa Minor’s roasted malts. There is a slight chocolate flavor here that I didn’t pick up on in Ursa Minor, and Polaris doesn’t have any obvious wheat characteristics.

The body is thick, but not as thick as some other stouts. It leaves a slight stickiness on my lips. The mouthcoat is also sticky, but retains some decent flavors. Despite the strong aroma, there is no heat from the alcohol.

Although not an amazing bourbon barrel aged stout, this is an enjoyable beer. I think I would have liked to let it age a little longer, but I was in the mood for Rising Tide tonight, so I cracked it open. If you were one the people who sought this beer out, I think you’ll be happy with it. Hopefully, this is the first of many barrel aged releases that Nate has in the works. There is a lot of potential here, but I am left wanting slightly more. Still, no part of me regrets checking Facebook obsessively until I saw Polaris was on sale and rushing out right away to secure bottle. I only regret not picking up a second bottle (but with such a low bottle count, I wanted to leave plenty on the shelf).

Two “from Vermont”

Posted by Jim on Apr 9th, 2012
2012
Apr 9

I still have two bottles in my cellar that I obtained while in Vermont back in August. One is a limited release from Hill Farmstead, the other an Austrian beer I learned about while visiting the Blackback Pub and Flyshop.

Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #1

4.6/5
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
A cellar temperature bottle poured into a large red wine glass. I was lucky enough to get one of the last bottles available from the brewery, purchased a week after the release. It’s been in my cellar since that time.

The beer is a clear golden liquid with many streams of carbonation rising within. There is a large white foam head. It has settled down to about two fingers worth of thickness, leaving plenty of lacing.

Even while pouring this beer, I could smell a healthy amount of Brett. The Brett is still apparent while I actively inhale from my glass, but there is a lot more going on here than just the wild yeast. I smell orange and lemon citrus, Belgian candi sugar, and some grassy hops.

The beer has a light, grassy flavor. There is plenty of orange and lemon. I really like the sweetness a touch of funk in the finish. There is a great mustiness in the aftertaste that works really well.

The beer is slightly thick, with plenty of carbonation. Despite all of the bubbles and the sour flavors, there is hardly any tingling sensation. Nor is there much stickiness. A slight coat has plenty of fruit and grass flavors.

This is a really great beer. Like everything else brewed here, it is worth checking out. Too bad this one was a one-time only brew.

Meinklang Ancient Grains Ale

3.93/5
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4
A cellar temperature bottle with a best by date of 2012-05-31 poured slowly into a glass mug, keeping the sediment in the bottle.

The beer is translucent and golden orange in color. Lots of carbonation can be seen within, both clinging to the bottle of the glass and rising to the top. The head is large, white, foamy, and made up of many sizes of bubbles.

There area lot of grassy hops in the aroma, as well as many different grains. There is some citrus and some sweetness; the overall aroma reminds me of lemongrass.

The beer certainly has an interesting malt profile, thanks to all of those uncommon grains. The sweetness is subtle, and the bittering hops are especially strong. They seem to fade out after I swallow before the malt flavors do, which is rare. Although different from any other pilsner I’ve had, I like this beer.

The beer has a medium body and a lot of carbonation. In fact, there was so much carbonation, it was hard to determine the level of body. There is a lot of coating, but its not too sticky. The carbonation does tingle my tongue.

As I said above, this is a different kind of pilsner, but I enjoy it. It’s worth seeking this one out, especially if the odd grain bill grabs your attention.

Draft-only Allagash Treat

Posted by Jim on Mar 23rd, 2012
2012
Mar 23

Allagash Saison Mihm

4.03/5
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Served in a 13.5 oz tulip at the Great Lost Bear. This beer has been available in town for a month or so, but this is my first time trying it.

It’s a dark copper colored beer, almost like an amber ale. The head is tall, off-white and foamy. As it settles plenty of uniform lacing is left behind. It’s too dark in here to see if there is any internal carbonation.

The beer has a semi-dry, grassy aroma. There is apparently a lot of lemongrass in this beer, s that is probably what I am smelling. The are small amounts of lemon citrus and candi sugar sweetness, but I am not smelling anything that I can directly attribute to the yeast.

There is a lot of lemongrass to the flavor of this beer. Some Belgian sugars are also evident. A somewhat dry finish has some musty flavors that I assume are caused by the yeast. There is a touch of pepper in the aftertaste that is very interesting.

The beer has a light effervescent feel. The pepper and carbonation manage to tickle my tongue a lot more than I expected. The beer has a fuller body than most Samson’s and has a lot of carbonation.

This is an interesting beer. I can see what it is draft only. I can’t see myself drinking a full 750ml bottle of this one, but I also don’t see it having the wide appeal that would move it in 12oz bottles. Allagash could get away with doing a brewery only release in 375ml bottles, but the draft only method of delivery will get the beer into more people’s glasses. It was a good decision to go this way. If you are a fan of Allagash, give this one a try.

Next »