Sunday, July 31, 2011

Southern Tier Tasting @ Chapel Street Cellars

Hi All,

A while back I heard about an amazing beer from Southern Tier called Creme Brulee, but found out too late to try any. I then heard Chapel Street Cellars was having a tasting that included it so was onto it straight away to get a spot. On Wednesday I made my way down there for it, and after being warmly greeted by Joanne and Rob, I sat down and prepared myself for the 8 beers they would have on show.

The first beer was a cherry saison (8%) which was translucent caramel in colour and some slight cherry sweet smell over the top of the typical fruity nose you get on a saison. Joanne showed off her tasting skills by noting a vinegary yeast aroma which I related to a white wine. There was some slight sweet fruit on the front of the palate which ran into some light sourness on the sides which transforms into tartness on the back. Still, with all these flavours being slight, it did not linger too long. I knew though not to let it warm up too much, as the sourness and tartness became stronger in aroma and flavour, but was interested to see it kept a little sherbert sweetness. Rod (the bloke sitting across from me) was not so lucky, as he let his sit too long, and his tastebuds (and his face, but the way it contorted) were tortured by his last sip of it.

Next was was the Hoppe (8%) an American strong ale which had a slightly darker caramel colour to the cherry saison, but just as translucent. Some definite caramel malt smell and to me some slight dankish hop. The malt body coats the tongue well before fresh hops hit from the midpalate to clean it up by the back. Pretty well balanced, and the meld of malt and hop only improved as it warmed up. I also found it went well with the chicken pizza I was eating halfway through the tasting. Definitely my favourite from the first half of the tasting.

A Double IPA then came to step up from the hops in the previous beer with the Un*eartly at a decent 11% alcohol. It had a reddish hue to the caramel body, that came through in aroma and upfront in flavour. However, flavour dissipated on the midpalate before a sharp rise in the bitter hops and then the alcohol leaves a bit of a dry aftertaste. This beer did not change as it warmed up

Letting malt start to take over the tasting, the Iniquity Black IPA (9%) came up, which while black, still had quite a bit of translucency to it. A balance of bitter and sweet in a dark malt nose with a hint of liquorice. Like the Hoppe, there is good body through the malt with a slight spike of hops before it cleans up reasonably at the back. As it warms, the spike in hops is noticably reduced, which of course I enjoyed more.

From here on we were going into Imperial Stout territory (Woohoo!), so while we ate pizza to help us get through it, we were also able to taste a couple of the beers they had on tap. First was the Mikkeller 1000 IBU, which has a very short sweet front before citrus hops hit and rise long and sharply to then die off slightly at the end. But it isn't done yet, as 5 seconds after swallowing the hops come back to hit hard in aftertaste and linger for quite a while. All I can say is that I am happy we were eating pizza at this stage. Of course, the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted tasted like water after the Mikkeller, but seemed more even in profile.

Our first step into the Imperial Stouts was the Javah (10.6%), which surprisingly had very little coffee as far as I could tell. Maybe if I didn't know it was a coffee beer I may not have noted the very slight coffee aroma that was all I could get of that aspect in the beer. Where it was bold was in the classic malt smell that also had alcohol mixed in with it, just so you know what you are in for when you get your tongue near it. There was a pinching sweetness on the very tip of the tongue before the hops even out and then the alcohol kicks in, which helps clean up the flavour, but left me phleming a little bit at the back. As it warms the sweetness holds on longer and the alcohol hits from the midpalate, both removing any trace of hops in the beer.

Coming from that it was natural to move onto the Mokah (10.9%) which was dark viscous with a hint of brown in the head. Some lovely chocolate and vanilla smell that was quite sweet and reminded Rod and I of Cottees Chocolate Ice Cream Topping. Unfortunately this did not come across in the flavour, leaving me very disappointed with the front palate flavours before the typical hop and alcohol hitting after. These later aspects in themselves spiked quite a bit on the tongue creating further disappointment, but luckily as it warmed both these aspects died off a bit, and more of the smell came through in the flavour. Well worth letting it sit for 20 mins before drinking.

As we neared the end, the Oat (11%) appeared showing little carbonation and smelling pretty subdued to go with it, apart from hints of liquorice. Dangerously easy drinking Imperial Stout with texture and classic style flavour holding over the whole palate very well and allowing it to slide down your throat. Even with that much alcohol, it hardly cuts through the texture of the beer, even as it warms up.

Finally, the beer that brought me here, the Creme Brulee (9.2%) appeared in front of me, and was almost surprised by it as I had really let myself get into the tasting and had nearly forgotten about it...nearly. Still, from now on I will remember it as the beer that smelt like Cottee's Caramel Ice Cream Topping, a combination of luscious burnt sweet caramel with a touch of vanilla, and luckily this time in transfers well into flavour. It is lighter in mouthfeel so it feels like you are drinking a cloud, and this beer may as well come from the heavens, as even with this lightness, it still coats your tongue lovingly with only the slightest sting of bitterness to bring you back to earth and cleanse the tongue. Absolutely amazing, and one of the most impressive and enjoyable beers I have ever had. Even better, as it warmed up, this profile held on, with only the alcohol coming through a little more.

Needing time to settle down after that last beer, I sat around talking more to the group I had been tasting with, and also Rob and Joanne. The store itself is very interesting having a good selection of beer even with limited space seeing they also have wine and spirits available. They even also have around 5 taps of beer to try, and Rob was nice enough to give me a taste of the latest Red Duck IPA, which I found to be of similar profile to the Bengal, but more towards the hop in flavour, probably making it a better balanced IPA, but of course not as enjoyable for me personally.

Cheers to Chapel Street Cellars and all those that came and appreciated the beer journey with me.


PS: Also had a tasting of Durham Brewery at Purvis on Friday. The Triple came out on top as the best beer for me in the range, as the IPA, Barelywine and Imperial Stout all seemed a little dull overall. Also had a try of the Brooklyn Brewery Local 1 Belgian Golden Ale. Wow, a very good example of the style with slight spice, zesty orange and non-spiky yeast character. Overall a very nice even beer for the style. I look forward to drinking the bottle of this I have at home.

PPS: Stass and I will be kegging our latest brews today. One is a Guinness that we tried a couple of years back, and now we have the keg, want to see if we can get it any better than that. The other one is a very special brew I have been contemplating for most of my homebrewing life...but more on that later.

PPPS: Have just found out The Wheaty in Adelaide will have kegs of the Moo Brew Vintage Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout on Wednesday. Yes, like the Rogue's Chocolate Stout I went over there at easter for to have on tap, I will be doing the same for this.

PPPPS: Basically anything is a post script after that Creme Brulee!

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