26 July 2009

KOTBR #80 - Potluck

For roundtable #80, we decided to have an old fashioned beer potluck. We added an element of surprise by declaring that no one should discuss their beer choice prior to the event. Here's what we came up with.

Brasserie d'Achouffe McChouffe
Brasserie d'Achouffe Houblon Chouffe

So what exactly would possess someone to name a brewery after gnomes? After all, the thought of the classic garden gnome doesn't necessarily conjure up anything but an image of annoyingly cutesy creatures--for example, the "gnome on holiday" from the film Amelie, which was later appropriated by Travelocity for a crappy ad campaign. Then again, there's the bizarre use of gnome imagery, such as the Nazi gnome; the satirical use, such as the Underpants Gnomes episode from the second season of South Park; and the juvenile yet humorous use, such as the farting gnome (a good gift for mothers-in-law with an inclination toward a green thumb--trust me on this). So perhaps gnomes aren't all that bad.

La Chouffe ("the gnome" in the Belgian Walloon dialect) beers, all from Brasserie d'Achouffe in Belgium, are on the good end of the gnome spectrum. Take, for example, McChouffe (8% ABV), which, according to the bottle, is brewed in the English Brown Ale style with a Belgian twist. Cloudy brown, redolent of apples, and smoothly sweet, this is a nicely satisfying beer. Not a world-beater, but still good nonetheless. 3.70 Mugs.

Houblon Chouffe, Brasserie d'Achouffe's IPA offering (9% ABV), is a pale, cloudy beer with a yeasty, lagery, and lemony nose. To my palate, it tastes like a hopped up lager with a little Belgian candi sugar sweetness backed up with a hint of lemon. The silky mouthfeel also pleases. Again, not a beer to end all beers, but one that I'd opt for again. 3.82 Mugs.

Brasserie d'Achouffe McChouffe
Jim: 3.7 Mugs | Mike: 3.15 Mugs | Rod: 3.4 Mugs | Jess: 3.0 Mugs | Gina: 3.0 Mugs | Chris: 3.3 Mugs | Matt R: 2.9 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.20 Mugs

Brasserie d'Achouffe Houblon Chouffe
Jim: 3.82 Mugs | Mike: 3.03 Mugs | Gina: 2.5 Mugs | Chris: 3.1 Mugs | Rod: 3.5 Mugs | Jess: 3.1 Mugs | Matt: 3.8 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.26 Mugs

Dogfish Head Sah'tea

There's a saying in brewing that goes "Every beer has a story". Sometimes the story is short--Bud Light Lime's story reads "For Sale: Common sense, never used"--and sometimes it involves white hot river rocks and "juniper berries foraged directly from the Finnish countryside". Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione never read a beer story he didn't like; he might be the Levar Burton of the craft beer reading rainbow.

Dogfish's Sah'tea is a take off of sahti, a beverage that has been made in Finland since the ninth century. If you're familiar with chai tea (which isn't Finnish at all) then the real surprise of this beer is that it tastes so familiar. If you're not familiar with chai tea, you might be surprised to find elements of mustard seed, black peppercorn, star anise, juniper, and . . . chai tea. You might remember that we once brined a turkey for a HBG thanksgiving. This beer had a lot of the same elements we used in our brine. My guess is that that's the juniper coming through in large doses. Does it work as a beer? Yes, yes it does. As with most Dogfish bombers, the price isn't cheap, but as with most Dogfish beers, you know there was a ton of work put into making it as interesting as possible.

My only complaint is that the beer might be too rich - which isn't a complaint you'd normally hear out of me. But you don't have to take my word for it. 3.64 Mugs

Dogfish Head Sah'tea
Mike: 3.64 Mugs | Gina: 4.5 mugs | Chris: 3.6 mugs | Jim: 3.9 mugs | Rod: 3.9 mugs | Jess: 4.1 Mugs | Matt R: 2.2 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.69 Mugs

BregDog Dogma

BrewDog is spicing things up over in Scotland's brewing scene. Not only are they introducing a lot of American style craft beer, they're also creating some of their own wacky concoctions. Dogma is a good example of this. Its unique ingredients such as heather honey, guarana, and kola nut make it sound a bit more like a Red Bull than a beer. I really have no idea what guarana is supposed to taste like, but with the inclusion of poppy seeds, I think they're just trying to get you fail a drug screening for reasons other than being drunk.

Dogma turned out to be a lot weaker in flavor than I thought it would be, especially with its 7.8% ABV. To the nose, this beer smells very diluted. A definite mineral presence brings hard water to mind. Honey is definitely there, and a flowery background implies that this is the heather honey. Spicy notes of pepper are very bold and a hint of Coca-Cola rounds out the nose. The kola nut is definitely present, but without a strong sugar presence to bring out its flavors, it's sort of lost in a watery body. Poppy seeds and rye create a spicy malt-like canvas but there's no real action happening on top of it. I don't know what I wish this beer was, but I know it didn't live up to that. I'm left with a lot of stray, interesting spices and nothing solid to bring their highlights together.

I'm sad to give this beer 2.2 mugs, as I appreciate what BrewDog attempted, but I feel the attempt fell short of what was intended.

BrewDog Dogma
Rodney: 2.2 Mugs | Gina: 1.6 Mugs | Jim: 2.0 Mugs | Jess: 1.8 Mugs | Matt R: 1.99 Mugs | Mike: 2.75 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 2.05 Mugs

Founders Blushing Monk

Tom Keifer sang it best when he sang, "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)". Like it's true for everything else, it's true for this beer. Founders Blushing Monk is the bigger, stronger brute of a brother to Rübæus. Founders has since gotten rid of Rübæus (ale with Raspberries), trading it in for Cerise (ale with cherries). And with this trade of raspberries to cherries, so goes Blushing Monk as well. What a shame!

I've always been a fan of Rübæus, but my first attempt at Blushing Monk did not leave me with a favorable impression. To be fair, the first time I had Blushing Monk, I was fairly new to "imperial" styles of all types and my palate was simply not ready. Of course, something as silly as "not liking the beer" rarely means we won't try it again at some point.

The beer poured a rich red color with a bright pink head. The nose was like paint, heavy and stinging. But the taste was a spectacular blend of tart raspberries and alcohol with a Belgian finish. I re-found this beer a little too late and will miss it as much as I miss Rübæus. I guess I'll have to wait and hope for an Imperial Cerise to take its place. 4.5 Mugs

Founders Blushing Monk
Gina: 4.5 Mugs | Mike: 4.25 Mugs | Chris: 4.3 Mugs | Jim: 4.5 Mugs | Rodney: 3.9 Mugs | Jess: 3.9 Mugs | Matt R: 3.25 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.08 Mugs

Three Floyds/Mikkeller Oatgoop

Like most Three Floyds one-time-only beers, this is big. I'm talking monumental big, and when you throw a rock star brewery like Mikkeller into the mix, you get something that smells like graham crackers and tastes like fruity pebbles. We had meant to drink this right away but had put it off a few months while it stewed in our beer cellar. When we had an opportunity to share it with the rest of HBG, we knew it was time to experience the Oatgoop.

Pouring it out it flows thickly from the bottle and appears copper in color, almost like maple syrup, but then it still delivers a nice billowy head (which it retained throughout enjoying this heady brew). The nose is like someone has been dunking their graham crackers in a nice aged barleywine (why you would do that I don't know - I can only assume that Nick Floyd does that as his afternoon snack). Hints of hops and lots of boozy notes make you curious to know where the graham cracker comes from and then you taste the beer.

It explodes on to your tongue with lots of sugar and grassy notes - then it hits you. You're drinking the adult version of drinking the milk after having a bowl of fruity pebbles. You taste what Fred and Barney were arguing about on those commercials as a kid and you decide you have to drink more. That's when you realize that this wheatwine clocks in at 10.4% ABV and you had better back off before you're on the floor. That's the sign of a great high gravity beer, although I'm still trying to figure out what a wheatwine is for a style. I still haven't figured it out after drinking Oatgoop.

I give Oatgoop 4.6 mugs as I like fruity pebbles and graham crackers. I never thought I'd like them in beer, especially with hops.

Three Floyds/Mikkeller Oatgoop
Jess: 4.6 Mugs | Mike: 4.75 Mugs | Rodney: 4.0 Mugs | Jim: 4.1 Mugs | Matt R: 3.4 Mugs | Chris: 4.1 Mugs | Gina: 3.9 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.12 Mugs

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

If your grandma could bake a mean cherry pie, it would taste like this in beer form. This isn't really beer in the truest sense, but more of pure cherry bliss in a bottle. It has a rather light nose that is mostly cherries. It also has a wonderfully rich flavor profile that is all cherries, floating from decadently sweet to sour and packing in every sip a full pound of cherries per bottle. The mouthfeel has plenty of carbonation that really helps cut through the richness of this beer. This beer is a true classic in every sense of the word. I love cherries and this beer is about as perfect a fruit beer that you are going to taste. I think many fruit beers taste like beer + fruit, but Wisconsin Belgian Red sets the standard for the style and is the best made fruit beer I've ever tasted.

I wish that you could find this beer in Indiana, but what is nice is that if you are in Wisconsin you will most likely find this beer sitting on the shelves in grocery stores. New Glarus beer is widely available all across Wisconsin in grocery stores. Indiana once got New Glarus, but they pulled back from all markets a few years back and now only brew just for Wisconsin. I found some information that stated this year that New Glarus would brew around 85,000 barrels of beer just for Wisconsin. I guess New Glarus heads is a more fitting title than cheese heads.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
Matt: 4.85 mugs | Mike: 5.0 Mugs | Chris: 4.6 Mugs | Jim: 4.9 Mugs | Rodney: 4.4 Mugs | Jess: 4.9 Mugs | Gina: 5.0 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.80 Mugs

(It's worth noting that this rating of New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red makes it our fourth highest rated beer ever, even under the scrutiny of 7/9ths of the KOTBR.)


  1. Belgian Red is the tastiness. It's also a great beer to blend into stouts and other darker brews.

    Blushing Monk is a favorite of mine. I've opened one ever Christmas Eve for the last several years. And I acquired enough to do so for years to come!!!

  2. And thus begins the great war of Mike and I trying to put unflattering pictures of each other in roundtable posts.

  3. Hey, those are some awesome napkins!

  4. Thanks, they're available in the HBG store; $5 for 20.

    What's that, we don't have a store? Ok then payment can be made directly to me. They are limited edition and dated (not the date of KOTBR 80).

  5. Very happy to see a contribution from Jonathan in the comments.

  6. I find it funny in the first picture you can see our dachshund passed out on the floor in the background. She had too much to drink apparently.

  7. Ah...New Glarus beers do rock. I'm glad to see it at the top of your list.