Getting a Beer Education

Posted by Jim on Feb 25th, 2010
Feb 25

I attended my first Beer.EDU session at Brunswick’s Lion’s Pride last night.  It was a very fun experience.  I got to trade tasting notes and beer stories with another local beer blogger, Katy Too.  I got to hear about some crazy plans Chris Lively has brewing (beer-world-shattering, I-wish-I-could-share-with-you-but-he-swore-me-to-secrecy plans that should be made public over the next few months).  I got to trade Kate the Great Day strategies with the staff and my fellow patrons.  Most importantly, I got to try five incredible Belgian beers, as guided by Ryan’s tasting and general beer knowledge, all in preparation for the Lion’s Pride’s Belgian Beer Fest, which is now just over a week away!  I got a sneak peek at the promotional poster and an updated draft list; both have gotten me very excited for this event.

I was served five 6 ounce pours.  I tried to take review worthy notes of each pour, but there was a lot of information coming at me quickly, so these reviews may not be as in-depth as I am used to writing.  Luckily for me, all five beers are worthy of revisiting, so I may get to  flesh out these reviews at some point.

Urthel Saisonnière

A- / 4.05
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. I was served a 6oz pour in a small wine glass. The kegged version of this beer has been filtered, but the bottles are unfiltered. It possesses a light straw color with a head of white soapy foam. Some pretty lacework was left behind as I enjoyed my pour. It has a strong yeast aroma with a hint of citrus; typical of the style, but of a high quality. The flavor is slightly biscuit-like, but has some sweetness to it as well. There is a slight tartness in the finish that is rather interesting. I could taste some peppery spices as well, but they were subtle. The body is a bit heavier than I expected, based upon the transparent appearance. That’s not to say it’s a heavy beer–I still classify it as light bodied–but it is not as light as I thought it would be. It has a perfect level of mouthcoating. I find it to be quite drinkable. I don’t see myself sticking with this one particular beer for multiple rounds, but I will enjoy this glass very much.

Bink Blond

B+ / 3.95
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Reviewed from my notes based upon a 6oz pour served in a small wine glass. The beer sits in its glass like a yellow cloud with a thin cap of white bubbles. There is a slight yeast aroma to it, plus a hint of grass. I can’t smell much here, but that could be my fault, not the beer’s. It has a sweet and smooth flavor. I can pick out candy sugar as the source of the sweetness. The finish is dry with a slight peppery bite. The body of the beer is rather light, and I can feel plenty of carbonation tickling my tongue. There is very little in the way of a mouthcoat. I find ti to be very drinkable. The slight aftertaste may get old after a while, but I doubt it.

De Ranke Guldenberg

A- / 4.25
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Reviewed from my notes, as based upon a 6oz bottle pour. The beer has a cloudy, dirty straw color, making it rather opaque. There is a thick head of white foam. There is a musty, slightly floral aroma; it’s a good balance of yeast and hops. The taste is crisp and dry. I can taste white grapes and a hint of alcohol. There is a musty and bitter finish that echoes the aromas picked up as a swallowed. It has a light body and an appropriate amount of carbonation for a tripel. There is a very slight coat left after each swallow. Swishing the beer around in my mouth produces a bit more of a coating, but nothing significant. It is a very drinkable tripel. This exagerated taster pour goes down very easily, and I could certainly continue and finish off the entire bottle. This is a beer worth seeking out.

Caracole Nostradamus

A- / 4.2
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. I was served a 6oz pour from a chilled, freshly opened bottle. The beer has a dark copper color. t is translucent and has a thin tan head that dissipated quickly. After a few minutes there was hardly any head left. There is a robust caramel aroma. I am also picking up on some slight pine tones as well. The beer has a sweet flavor, but nothing overwhelming or indicative of the higher ABV. I found this up front malt quality to be very good, but was incredibly impressed with the finish. There is a slightly sour taste in the finish and after taste. It is reminiscent of a Flemish Brown. I found it to be totally unexpected and very tasty. For a strong dark ale, there is a rather light body to this beer. It also has a lot of carbonation, but not enough to distract from the flavor. There are some welcome estery alcohol vapors in my mouth after I swallow. As I seem to find many Belgian beers, this one is very drinkable. I can see the sour aspects being a limiting factor for some drinkers, but personally, I could go for multiple rounds.

t’ Smisje Great Reserva

A- / 4.2
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. The notes are based upon a 6oz pour from one of a trio of bottles shared among the patrons of the Lion’s Pride last night. The Great Reserva is a version of the Catherine the Great aged for six months on cognac barrels. It has a dark brown color and a single finger of light brown foam. It is translucent, with a very dark center, but I can see some light sneaking in around the edges. It is most important to note that this does not look at all like I expected a big barrel-aged stout to look. Smisje can make a world class stout that doesn’t look anything like it’s American counterparts. There is a slightly funky, sweet smell. I didn’t pick up on as much of the cognac as I thought I would. The flavor has some sweet toffee malts. I can taste some of the cognac, but again, it’s not excessive. The amout of alcohol is very good and doesn’t overwhelm or distract. It has a medium body (again, not like most big stouts I’m familiar with) and medium carbonation. There is plenty of alcohol and carbonation in each swallow to tickle my tongue. It doesn’t have much mouthcoating; it is more of a cloud of estery vapors that I can feel after I swallow. I certainly wouldn’t call this a session beer, but for a high ABV Belgian stout aged in cognac barrels, it is remarkably drinkable. If you are lucky enough to see a bottle of this beer, buy it!

In other news, I’ll find myself back at the Lion’s Pride again tonight, for Gank the Goblet night featuring Maine Beer Company‘s Spring Peeper Ale.  I think I may also have to order myself a glass of the Kasteel Cuvée Du Chateau, this Belgian brewery’s take on the English barleywine.  This is one of the rare draft selections advertised as part of the Belgian Beer Fest, but since it’s available now, I want to get a glass.  Also worthy of your attention are two beer events taking place in Portland tonight.  Novare will be hosting folks from Unibroue and pouring some rare selections (check out the list, posted at Beer Bloggers) and the Great Lost Bear will have special pricing on Brooklyn Beers, including the Manhattan Project, one of my favorite new beers.