3/17: Up at 6:30 to get a fire going in the Egg. Got the brisket on then down to Brouwers at 9AM to judge Barley Wine. Scored 6 entries, the one notable entry ended up being the Old Wookie from Waterstreet. Helped collate and add up the scores. Each entry had 5 score sheets to resolve and add up for a cumulative score (each sheet representing a score between -17 and +17). Half dozen or so needed a "retest" because the scores were so wildly disparate. Well experienced judges should be able to turn in scores within 7 or 8 points of one another. Some of these entries had scores ranging from a -12 to 9. Yike. Anyway, it looked like a solid ten or so advanced to the second round with scores in the upper 40's and into the middle 50's. Went downstairs and sat down with a glass of the Arctic Devil from Midnight Sun. Excellent beer! Firm malt (warm toasted marshmellow, vanilla/maple toffee) with good bitterness underneath, warming with added dimension of flavor from being wood aged. One of the beers we missed out on at Toronado. Shot the shit for a few and went back up to the house. Made a run for groceries and back to the house to make dinner. Pulled the corned beef off the fire (I had taken the supplied pickling spices that you're supposed to use in the boil, ran them through the spice grinder with some more bay leaf and a fair whack of black pepper and used it as a sort of rub. It looked and smelled awesome), stoked the Egg up a bit, laid out some applewood and put the trout on. Went after a pitcher of my Dry Stout to find that it was really iced up. Thawed it a bit in a bucket and it started to pour OK. Finished dinner prep and dug in. Excellent meal of BBQ'd corned beef, smoked trout, cabbage (braised in water with a bit of chicken stock and green apple), carrots glazed with honey and orange, boiled potatoes (broken up on the plate, well buttered and loosened with a bit of the cabbage braising liquid) and fresh from the oven soda bread. All washed down with me Stout. Yummy to say the least. Back down to Brouwers for dessert. Notable examples were the Old Ruffian from Great Divide and the Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog. Both beers excellent examples of a more West Coast-Styled Barley Wine. Firm heavy dextrin malt flavors, quite firm bitterness long in the palate and very aromatic. Sampled 20 good Barley Wines and one spoiled Barley Wine. The 2004 Stone Old Guardian was bad. Cloudy, vile smelling and tasting of garbage. Lots of good conversation and it looked like the yahoos were mostly well behaved too. I think I may have three offers for a job as a brewer. Stay tuned.
3/10: Washington Cask Beer Festival. Better. (see 10/16/06 post) Showed up in a rather more timely manner than last time and were treated to the last three festival glasses on the table. Lots of tasting note sheets though. Back in the Alki room which I like better than the Fisher Pavilion, not quite so bright and cavernous. Lots of good beers put out for us. Started off with the Bottleworks VIII Oak Aged Strong Scotch Ale brewed by Flyers and released to honor the Anniversary of the Bottleworks store. Very rich, satisfying meld of soft toffee-ish malt flavor and whiskey. Lush and mouthfilling on the palate. I'll have to make run for a few bottles. After putting up with a bit of weirdness from Younts we managed samples of Adambier from Hair of the Dog. This is an amazing beer; firm, full bodied, great depth of flavor, deep dark bittersweet chocolate, dried fruit (black currants and cherries), long firm bitterness and gently warming in the finish. I hadn't been too keen on this seasons' Jolly Roger out of the bottle. Maritime had a tank of Jolly seasoned with rum soaked oak on hand. Very nice, the rum and wood added some nice vanilla/maple flavors and a certain richness, like a boozy rum hardcandy. Skagit River had an excellent wood aged Porter. Medium bodied, mild nutty and toasty malt flavor with dry chocolate cocoa, just the correct amount of hop finishing a bit chewy and inviting. Perfect for a nice, ripe salty sheeps milk cheese and ripe pear. I think Dave Leonard may be on to something. He had his Belgian-Style Dubbel with him; very impressive, medium bodied, nice malt flavors (toast, raisins, dates) but very nicely attenuated. Good dextrin development and a modest terminal gravity combined for drinkability. On top of that he threw in a bit of Brett to add complexity. Not funky by any degree but just enough tart and green apple to add a savory mystery to the finish. Many good beers on hand and good people in attendance. Straight home to bed. No "Afters" this time, I had to work Sunday.
2 ozs. 4.8% alpha Domestic Goldings in one addition.
Pitched the Wyeast 1084.
3/13: Rack to keg.
Terminal is 3.75P (or 1.015). Higher residual sweetness; a little too firm and chewy for a proper Dry Stout, quite nutty (Choc. Malt), long coffee-ish finish. Needs a bit of conditioning to sweeten up a bit, still a fair bit of yeasty sulfur hanging in. But tasty nonetheless.
Tapped the keg to check the gas level. Turned out fine. And the sulfur has cleared. Deep brown/black, moussy tan head, mild aromatics (coffee and dark bittersweet chocolate), a light-medium body, not so chewy with the gas in it, slightly oily on the palate, firm roast flavors ending on a quite smoky note in the finish. Tasty and drinkable. Cheers.
Choogled down to Frisco for a long weekend and the Toronado Barley Wine Festival. Flew out the Thurs. night and man I was pissed. Air travel in Post-9/11 Soviet America sucks. And motherfuck the TSA. That's all I got to say about that. Missed out on an early start time on Saturday for the BW Fest (too much carrying on the night before). Wink, wink. Strolled in later in the evening to a relatively light crowd. The 2004 "Big Nugget" from Alaskan Brewing was already up on the 86'd sheet, came to find out that it took a first in judging. Figures. Also missed out on the Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine from Drakes. Must've gone while we were getting our accomodations squared away. That left only 52 Barley Wines to hunker down to. We sat down to the first half of the list. 2005 Hair of the Dog "Doggie Claws" stood out; a hazy pale orange-amber, very aromatic (fruit, toast, some alcohol, flowers and resin), medium-full body, very firm on the palate, very firm/forward bitterness and a deep resinous finish. The Best. Had the "Angel's Share" from the new Port Brewing Trappist-Style outfit, Lost Abbey; an intense and deeply flavorful interpretation of a Trappist 12, think St. Bernardus with rum flamed Bananas Foster. Very slightly too full bodied yet otherwise heavenly. Enjoyed J.W. Lees Harvest Ale; brilliant, ruby red, very leggy, intense aromatics (rum, raisins, chocolate, dried black currants) and great depth of flavor. I imagine an all pale grain bill with a real long boil to develop the intense color and flavors. Enough for the evening. Back to the apartment and sweet dreams. Early afternoon on Sunday, back up to the Toronado for the second half. Now at this point the 86'd sheet had quite a few more dead soldiers posted. Missed out on a couple that I was curious about (but weren't being served the previous evening); 2005 Southampton "Old Herb", Midnight Sun oak aged "Sun Devil" and Dogfish Head "Old School Ale". Not too put off by missing the Midnight Sun, should be able to pick that up later at the Hard Liver. Would have liked to check out the Dogfish Head. Not a fan of Dogfish Head but I will sample their beers just to keep up. 2007 "Big Woody" from Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage was worthy; big, flavorful West Coast-Style aged in French oak. Firm, chewy yet elegant and pleasantly warming. I'll put off a complete posting of tasting notes for another time. These were all the 2-plus beers off my notes. Overall the quality of flavor and condition was a bit rough. Most of the younger beers were a bit green or had some defect; thin bodied and solventy being a common theme. Most of the older beers seemed to have lost a little somethin'-somethin'; stale. Good times.
Met my sweetie at the Pike after her run through of the Flower and Garden Show for their Valentines' Day Beer Lovers' Dinner. Four courses accompanied by Pike beer. Appetizer was some local organic radish with truffle salt and Beechers Butter with an assortment of charcruterie served with the Pike IPA; Peppery radishes (with the salt and butter washed down with the IPA, the best!) nice Salami and Coppa from Salume (a bit mild to my taste) and some amazing Prosciutto (salty, melt in your mouth buttery) along with the Pikes' toast-ish, firmly bitter IPA. A simple salad course of local greens, beets, wee yellow tomatoes and Estrella Blue Cheese dressed with a Framboise vinaigrette accompanied by the Pike Scotch ale; fresh and toothsome greens, lovely beets, (not enough) excellent local cheese, a relatively mild dressing. Not too sure the beer worked very well though. Perhaps too malty and alcohol forward for such a delicate preparation. My entree was Prime Rib sauced with Pike Tandem jus and served with horseradish mashed potatoes along with the Pike "Old Bawdy" Barleywine. Pffft... Good beef but from too near the middle of the roast for my taste, a bit pink and that's the bit that cools the fastest. Mashers were fine, mildly horseradished. The jus missed the plate. And, eek, grated horseradish as a garnish. Serving grated horseradish is simply uncivilized and a dirty trick. Old Bawdy helped; deep red/mahogany, toffee malt flavors, firm bitterness and warming. A nice counterpoint to the more appetizing bites of the roast. My sweetie had the King Crab legs, nice but similarly "not so much". We chose one of each of the deserts; a house made chocolate tart with vanilla gelato and the cheese plate along with one each of the accompanying drinks, Pike Chocolate Stout from the cask and Siegerrehe (a sweet muscat-ish wine from Bainbridge Island Winery). The chocolate tart was OK; crust was a bit too firm, the filling a very firm bittersweet chocolate but the gelato was delicious. The cheese plate was amazing (really); Brewleggio a firm Tallegio-style with a Pike Tandem Double ale washed rind from Estrella Farm Creamery, "Vache de Vashon" a soft-ish, buttery/nutty cheese and "Cirrus" a Camembert styled cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend. Holy shit! An amazing cheese, soft buttery, earthy with hints of grass and wildflowers. All the cheeses were fantastic.
Once and a while I have a difficult time with eating out. I hate sitting through a meal knowing I could have done better. Though I enjoyed our dinner at the Pike here's what I'd do; Appetizer; same charcruterie but fewer more generously portioned slices of the cured sausages with a taste of Parmasan Reggiano or well aged Edam and bit of cracker served with the Pike Pale, mild bitterness and firm nutty maltiness to go along with the rich meats and the salty cheese. Salad served a bit more rustic and deconstructed; beets roasted in the oven with garlic and fresh thyme, a fair chunk of the Blue, perhaps a compote of the tomatoes served with a stack of the Framboise vinaigrette dressed greens with the Pike Scotch ale, here we'd want to start with a salad emphasizing the hearty/earthy quality of the ingredients and counterpoint the vinegar and blue cheese with the relatively malty sweet character of the Scotch ale. Entree; same roast of beef perhaps a cut from a smaller, very slightly more well done roast, better browning, seasoned better (salt and pepper!). Put the jus in its own ramekin on the plate. Mashers = OK. Serve a horseradish sauce! A simple preparation of fresh, finely grated (or ground) horseradish, sour cream, salt and white pepper is more than sufficient (as well as suitably civilized). Old Bawdy is still served. Desert; chocolate tart, bittersweet genache in a flaky crust served with lemon cream and Stoli Raspberry couli. Cheese plate; same cheeses but with a second 1 1/2 ounce portion to make sharing better. Both accompanied by the world class Pike 5X Stout.
Dinner was nice. But the best is our traditional Valentines' treat of chocolate and Orval. 'Cept this year we ended up with some shitty truffles. That's the last time I pass on the Diletantes.