Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 Brewtopia IPA Bracket Challenge

Photos by Ashton Smith, Gail Graves and Mark Hall

Owen Ogletree set up 16 noteworthy American IPAs that were poured at last April's Classic City Brew Fest in Athens in an IPA blind tasting bracket. The panel of tasters and beer judges moved a beer forward from each group or pair that seemed to have the most clean, impressive IPA character and hop profile.

The tasting panel was comprised of Owen Ogletree, The Beer Wench, Sachin Patel of Five Points Bottle Shops, Ian Meents, Ashton Smith, Mark Hall, Dean Graves, Gail Graves and Jeff Rapp.

From the BJCP American IPA style description...

American IPA: A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.056 – 1.070
IBUs: 40 – 70
FG: 1.008 – 1.014
SRM: 6 – 14 
ABV: 5.5 – 7.5%

Here's how the blind brackets went down...

Comments from the tasting panel...

- Golden amber color; mild grapefruit; slightly earthy; light hop character; dry finish; orange aroma; fruity; malty; pleasant.

02.  ALPINE DUET - First Place Best-of-Show
- Resiny; crisp; dry finish; mineraly; golden amber; nice citrus and grapefruit; medium body; fresh hops and orange zest; citrusy; complex; delicious; slight herbal note; complex hop profile; zesty; good malt backbone; resin nose.

- Attractive golden/amber color; herbal, grassy hops; mild bitterness; slightly earthy note; light hay note; fruity esters.

- Golden yellow in color; big initial hop aroma; long finish with mild bitterness and sweet malt; light musk; sweet toffee note in malt profile; big fruity esters.

- Sweet malt nose backed by moderate hops; citrusy; big malt component that lingers; not dry; finishes a bit sweet with light bitterness; toffee hints.

06.  QUEST ELLIDA IPA - Honorable Mention
- Amber in color; slight alcohol presence; citrus; well balanced with malt and hops; quick, dry finish; citrusy hops; malt comes through more as the beer warms; orange; malty; biscuit; toffee hint; orange marmalade tone; fruity; good bitter finish; floral aroma.

- Citrus; pine; slightly sweet finish; attractive golden color; good bitterness; hops are bold and upfront.

- Citrus and pine resin aromas; a hint of a vegetal note; honey; complex hop character; seems well balanced between malt and hops.

- Over-ripe fruit; lemons; dry finish; citrusy; lemon peel; a hint of acidity in the finish; only mildly bitter.

- Kiwi, grapefruit, papaya and other tropical fruit notes; musky hops; a touch earthy; catty hops; nice bitter finish.

11.  GOOD PEOPLE IPA - Second Place
- Nice hop aroma; pleasant malt and hop balance; good bitterness; deep golden color; light nose; body and mouthfeel borders between an American Pale Ale and an IPA; good balance; lightly hopped; slightly light body for style; citrus; quick finish; perfume-like hops; clean citrus; toasted malt hints; good, lingering bitterness.

- Slight haze; resin in aroma; dry, crisp flavors; piney, citrusy hop notes; clean hops; moderate malt; 

- Light aroma; sharp bite in the finish; fruity esters; earthy aroma; veggie hints; a bit astringent; more malty than hoppy; could be more crisp and clean.

14.  RED HARE GANGWAY IPA - Honorable Mention
- Sweet, malty aroma; slightly sweet finish; tea-like hints; somewhat light body for style; hints of pepper; mild flavor notes; mild hops; light bitterness in the finish; attractive color for style; finishes a bit sweet; some piney hop notes.

- Fragrant, perfumy nose; fruity esters are apparent; American hop character is subdued; more malty than hoppy; could be a touch more crisp and hoppy for style.

- Complex, earthy hops; grainy aromas; nice bittering hops; fruity; tropical; intriguing hops.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Frank Boon: Lambic Icon, Artisan

By Owen Ogletree

Beer styles sometimes become extinct. Trying to imagine the countless varieties that have disappeared over the past thousand years seems hopeless. Thankfully, a few almost forgotten styles of ale and lager have been snatched from the brink of oblivion – often by the passionate efforts of a handful of brewers.

Frank Boon and His Lambic Barrels

Frank Boon, probably Belgium’s most noted Lambic brewer and blender, ranks as one of the world’s most dedicated Lambic conservationists. Boon brews in Lembeek, the village outside of Brussels that gave Lambic its name. Boon’s history in preserving Lambic traditions, creating beers of exceptional quality and generating renewed interest in this ancient beer style will be apparent when he addresses attendees at the 2017 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Milwaukee in a full conference session Saturday, August 5th.

In the time-honored tradition, Lambic producers only brew during the colder months of the year and chill freshly boiled wort overnight in shallow vessels known as “coolships.” Carried on the breeze through open windows, wild yeast and bacteria sneak into the coolship to have their way with the wort – beginning the spontaneous fermentation that later continues in a variety of wooden barrels and foeders. When done properly, the process spawns a wheat beer of remarkable complexity with notes of soft lactic acidity, Brettanomyces character and esters reminiscent of apple, kiwi, rhubarb, citrus and honey. Geuze is a sparkling blend of old and young Lambic that can mature and evolve in bottles for decades.

In the late 1800s, multiple Lambic breweries and blenderies were scattered throughout the Pajottenland region just west of Brussels, but by the mid-1900s only about a dozen remained. The once ubiquitous rural beer style had fallen out of favor with the locals, replaced by bland lagers. Frank Boon loved the depth of character in a great Lambic and discovered the Geuze blender René De Vits of Lembeek in 1971. “René made a fine, delicate, old-style Geuze on a small scale,” recalls Boon. “When René was 65-years-old that year, he wanted to close the blendery. I made a financial plan, worked at first in a small blendery, and found a bank loan. I bought De Vits in 1978 and renamed it Boon. People thought I was crazy.”

Many modern beer geeks erroneously use the generic and overly simplistic term “sours” when referring to beers with acidity. Boon points out that Lambics should never be called “sours.” Boon suggests, “Lambics should have some acidity but not more than a white sparkling wine, and if acetic acid is dominant, this is a mistake. Lambic is not beer vinegar. One day a homebrewer gave me a sample of his beer and told me that he made a Lambic by accident. The beer tasted like vinegar – a good salad dressing but not a Lambic.”

Young Lambic can be refreshing, but taking the beer to new levels involves blending. “The quality of Lambic is expressed best in its bottled version – Oude Geuze,” Boon explains. “I will blend Lambic in the proportions of 60% one-year-old, 30% two-year-old and 10% three-year-old. The young Lambic provides the body of the Geuze, the two-year gives character and depth and the three-year creates a pleasant, winey taste. Refermentation in the bottle with the wild yeasts present in the two and three-year-old Lambic is responsible for the final touch that expresses the Brettanomyces character.”

Global Beer Network partnered with Brouwerij Boon in a bold new push to import Boon brands into the U.S. this summer that will include traditional Oude Geuze Boon, Framboise Boon with fresh raspberries and wild cherries, Kriek Mariage Parfait with 400 grams of wild cherries per liter, kegs of Lambic Boon and Oude Kriek, and bottles of the dry and intricate Oude Geuze Boon Black Label. Made from 40% unmalted wheat, 60% barley malt, aged hops and wild yeasts, the exquisite Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait rests for three years in oak before blending. Oude Geuze VAT 109 is a blend using Lambic from Boon’s 100-year-old foeder number 109. “Our oldest casks host some of our most remarkable colonies of wild yeasts,” says Boon.

Boon concedes that spontaneous fermentation of beer may be possible in most places around the world, but nothing compares to the true Lambics born only around the Zenne River valley near Brussels. He points out, “The reason Lambic is linked to the coolships from our Pajottenland region is that the local wild yeasts belong to the proper airborne strains, and they overgrow other microorganisms to make our delicious beer. 20 years ago, the terms ‘Geuze’ and ‘Lambic’ were protected by E.U. appellation regulations, and it’s important that brewers everywhere in the world respect the use of these names.”

It’s safe to say that no one respects the production, culture and history of Lambic more than Frank Boon. Taking into account his vast knowledge, zeal and experience, Boon’s discussion at BBC17 could easily fill an entire day, but attendees will have to settle for an hour or so.