Beer Reviews: Hitachino Nest XH and Evil Twin Freudian Slip

March 2nd, 2016

Everything I’ve ever had from Japan’s Kiuchi brewery has been daring, indelibly complex, and empirically Japanese, so I was not surprised to find the Hitachino Nest XH (Extra High) matured in red wine barrels was challenging in its depth.

HitachinoXH

Out of the bottle, it pours a luscious ruby red with a thin head that correlates to its mild, soft carbonation. No bubbles got in the way of this beer’s punch. The first sniff is a rush of dried raisins and candied dates. Sharp tartness and sweet notes follow, almost like fresh cherries covered in balsamic vinegar.  After a few minutes in the glass – I was warming my quarter-portion in a snifter – bitter oak tannins and spice languidly rise.

 

The palate, the beer begins with a sweetness of body, subtle tartness, and a comforting boozy warmth. Tartness turns to notes of apple cider before a salty quality blooms that I found distinctly like umeboshi, or Japanese pickled salted plums. It really is incredible, and had it not been corroborated by the others I was tasting the beer with, I would have doubted it altogether simply on the grounds of strangeness and unfamiliarity. Also swirling around were more bitter notes of plum skin and a crisp minerality that was not at all unpleasant. But all of this complexity fades, or perhaps comes together, in an elegant and simple finish so much like fortified wine that our accounts of it were unanimous. If you can imagine a drinkable port, this would be it.

 

All in all, this is a delicate, soothing brew that might be my favorite new nightcap on these last few cool evenings before Summer – I mean Spring in Texas – gets officially underway.

ETFreudian

Next up was Evil Twin’s Freudian Slip. Firstly, I think we’ve all been appropriately nuts about all the fantastic breweries that have finally begun distributing to our neck of the woods (The Bruery, anyone?) and Evil Twin is maybe one of those were are nuttiest about. Secondly, if you find yourself in Brooklyn (don’t be scared) you also need to find your way to Tørst, the spiritual home of Evil Twin Brewing. I visited last summer, had some wonderful beer in that wonderful bar, and crushed a Westbrook Gose before heading out just for good measure. I found it a satisfying process.

 

Now, for the Freudian Slip, a barleywine, we found many sublimities that floated their way into our collective consciousness. On the sniff, we got a myriad of notes. Toasted nuts, confectioner’s sugar, and burnt honey were immediately noticeable, followed slowly by an unexpected fruitiness, stone fruit specifically. We found very heady notes of caramelized peaches and overripe pears before chocolate wafted up as it warmed.

 

On the palate, the nose was translated very faithfully. More sweet notes of honey with toasty flavors of peanut brittle and creme brulee. Chocolate-covered raisins was called out several times as was red licorice. The finish is sweet, yet relatively drinkable. It is substantial beer that maintained an amount of subtlety and – dare I say – grace for a style that can sometimes be overwhelming. At the end of the day, this was a great beer to taste with my friends and another fine entry into the “Big beers that drink like not-so-big beers” list I have apparently been compiling.

 

And, finally, we are happy to welcome back Stephen Beaumont for another collaborative beer dinner here at the Moth. The menu is as follows and Mr. Beaumont will be curating the beer list, so expect great beer and incredible pairings.

 

Three New England Oysters

Steak Tartar & American Caviar

Beer mignonette& pickled hops

Yuzu Ice

 

Smoked House Corned Beef Brisket

Apple mustard butter, roast turnip, rutabaga & pickled bulb onion

 

Seared Skate Wing

Smoked egg puree, pickled farm egg, black winter truffle & winter greens

 

Braised & Seared Pork Belly

Acorn squash gnocchi, blood orange, sage & parmesan

 

Lemon & Rhubarb Napoleon

 

We’ll announce beer pairings and ticket prices soon, so stay tuned!

 

-Chase

Beer Reviews: Orval Trappist and North Coast Old Stock Ale

January 7th, 2016

Well, the holidays are over and most of us (I assume) made it through relatively unscathed and perhaps with a few new notches on our beer belts. Just to shake things up I decided to taste a pair of classics in the catalogue, two beers I’d taken my fill of over the years, but hadn’t quite stopped to smell their roses in a way that one tends to when writing about them.

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First up is one of my all time favorites: Orval. This is a unique trappist ale that is wholly its own beast and has inspired many brewers to pay homage with beers that take after many of its greatest qualities. Remember Rayon Vert? Pop it open and pour gently. This thing is so full of bubbles that, if you’re not careful, you may end up pouring this beer three or four times just to get to the bottom of the bottle. Or, go for it, and watch the eager head climb the walls of your glass.

On the nose, you find stone fruit notes of overripe peaches and dried apricots, bitter lemon rind, and funky notes of the Brett with which it is bottle-conditioned. Hiding underneath were peppery oak and mild tannic notes. On the palate, the citrus is carried over, but shifts to sweeter and more bitter orange. The pepperiness comes back with suggestions of rye and caraway before giving over to a floral hop finish. This beer’s body is full, yet delicate, bubbly to no end and bone-dry. I hesitate to go further into the profile of this one, because, honestly, if you haven’t ever tried Orval, you’re simply missing out. Try it with… anything. Almost anything. Especially cheese. This is the most ridiculously versatile cheese pairing I’ve come across. Orval has taken everything I’ve thrown at it – from sweet goudas to funky Swiss mountains, from tangy blues to hearty trappist cheeses – like a champ.

Brimming with uniqueness and character, Orval has hewn its own path through the magical forest of beer. Ain’t no party like an Orval party, because there is nothing quite like Orval. Try to pin it down and watch it wriggle out from underneath your arbitrary style designations. This is a beer that stands on its own. This is a beer that is not defined by how you perceive it. It doesn’t need you, though it’s willing to ride alongside you for a time, and, if you listen carefully, it might show you something you’ve never known. Then again, maybe it’s just beer, even if a particularly fine one.

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Now, I believe North Coast’s Old Stock Ale to be a forgotten treasure. There is no good reason for this beer to have fallen out of my regular rotation, but it’s a mistake that has been remedied. This beer, as a friend once put it, is the warm, fuzzy blanket of barleywines, and it keeps me company on these sometimes chilly nights.

Tasting it now, I found Old Stock to be everything I expected, but articulated in surprising ways. This beer smells like you imagine a barleywine to smell, but it’s modest in its style assertion. Dark fruit notes are present in rich notes of raisin and prune. Sweetness comes through with candied plum, brown sugar, molasses, and toffee. However, these aromas are dug in and take a bit of effort to discover. They don’t overwhelm and seem to work together in securing this beer’s character. On the palate, Old Stock is unexpectedly dry and drinkable. Like a good guest, it lingers just long enough to encourage a second invitation. And a third. A fourth. And so on.

This is also one of the beers truly worth cellaring, in my opinion. Find a four-pack, shove it in the back of a closet and forget about for a few years. With maturity, Old Stock mellows even farther and becomes more confident. If it is a treasure fresh, it becomes a legend with a little age on it.

Pairs with fireplaces, contented sighs, and early Tom Waits. Old Stock =~ Old Shoes.

-Chase

2015 North Texas Beer Week & Easy Riding

October 25th, 2015

It’s almost North Texas Beer Week (henceforth referred to as NTBW) and, as per usual, we will celebrate and we will revel. We have some very special events lined up this year that you certainly won’t want to miss.

Kicking it off (with a steel-toed beer-boot) is our second Jester King beer breakfast on Saturday, November 7th at 10:00 a.m. Very special guests Jeffrey Stuffings and Ron Extract will be here to guide us through 5 very special brews paired with 4 of Chef Rick’s pairings. Did I mention they were special? They will be very special. Tickets are $55 for the general public on Eventbrite. Delerium Guild members should contact the restaurant for their tickets and reservations. Midday naps not included.

On Thursday, on our newly enclosed patio area, New Belgium brewmaster Peter Bouckaert will be hosting a 6-beer/5-course beer dinner. Tickets are $75 for the public on Eventbriteand $65 for our Delerium Guild members. This one is very special in its own right as we’ll be pouring a few beers Texas has yet to see. Beers for the dinner will include old favorites La Folie and Le Terroir, alongside newcomers Eric’s Ale, Love Apple Oscar, and Love Blackberry Felix.

Then, on Friday the 13th, Avery Brewing Co. President and Brewmaster Adam Avery (yes, you read correctly) will be here to run us through maybe the greatest lunch you’ve ever had. Avery’s Raja, Fortuna, and Insula Multos will be included on the 4-beer/3-course menu. I think I mentioned that NTBW would be very special, didn’t I? Tickets here will be $50 for general public and $40 for DG members. Pick ‘em up, pick ‘em up. These will all go quick.

We’ll also have (very) special tappings every day throughout the week so keep up with us on the Facebook to find out what all is happening.

Lastly, as we’ve been tasting such fantastic beer from Firestone Walker all month long, I thought I’d share a few of my own experiences. Sucaba, Stickee Monkee, XVIII Anniversary, and Parabola are all well and fine, but for me it’s the Easy Jack that gets my gears turning. The all day/everyday beer I find is simply the perfect companion, wherever I go. We’ve been spending a lot of time together recently and I think it’s safe to call us friends.

Easy1

Here we are, just enjoying the day on the patio here at Moth.

Easy2

We had such a good time we decided to get a cup of coffee together, then decided to make a day of it and hiked out to another patio.

Easy3

Me: Sure is nice out.

Easy: Sure is, buddy.

Easy4

Me: Hey, Easy. Remember when I used to live there?

Easy: You used to live in a vacant lot?

Me: There used to be a building there, silly.

Easy5

Me: I don’t think that bus is coming, Easy.

Easy: Don’t worry about it, man. It’ll come or it won’t.

Easy6

Then we found ourselves at a playdate.

Easy7

Me: Any final thoughts, Easy?

Easy: I think you about covered it, Chase.

Me: Aw shucks, Easy. Thanks, pal.

Don’t make it too hard. Try to take it easy, everyone.

-Chase

Beer Reviews: Sierra Nevada/Boulevard Terra Incognita and De Ranke XX Bitter

October 3rd, 2015

First up this week is Sierra Nevada’s and Boulevard’s Terra Incognita #3. These are trusted names in the craft beer community, I’d say. Boulevard’s Smokestack series has given us nothing but gold with each new pressing and – among other things – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was one of the beers that got me into craft more years ago than I really care to count. I always expect good things and usually receive them. It’s nice, however, to still be surprised by breweries I think I have pegged, and #3 Terra Incognita did exactly that when I tasted it.

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By Sierra Nevada’s description, this is a hopped-up brown ale aged in a variety of barrels, then blended to taste. With 55% wine barrel-aged, 32% in bourbon barrels, and 13% fresh beer, it screams diversity. The nose is a scintillating tease, really, hinting at everything while betraying nothing. There are dates, prunes, raisins and figs alongside ripe cherries and raw chestnuts. As it warms, I find molasses and portwine, leather and sweet bourbon, before milk chocolate and liquorice dominate. A definite alcohol hotness lends itself to an unmistakable scent of holiday rum fruitcake and sweet autumn spice.

 

On the palate, peppery oak notes tingle while chicory, burnt caramel, and grape must swell. Again, it warms to something more robust. Give it a minute and you’ll find sweet pipe tobacco, bitter tannins and fruity grape must. The nose is insanely complex while the body is fairly straight-forward and simple. It’s a dichotomy that’s intriguing and satisfying. The finish is dry. Bone-dry. British comedy-dry. And for as big a beer (9.8%) with as much complexity as it boasts, it inhabits a dangerously drinkable space with all its smoothitudes and grooves.

de-ranke-xx-bitter-075-l

Then, there is the XX Bitter by De Ranke, and I’ll put this up front: I am and have been for quite some time in the midst of a love affair with this beer. I dream about this beer and this beer is my dream. Having said that, I had never tasted this beer in the fashion that I normally taste for these reviews, and in that way it has revealed its deeper, truer self to me.

 

Pour this one carefully. Its carbonation is restless and eagerly expands to form a generous head, betraying an aspect of the beer’s delicacy. In the glass, it seems a simple pale gold, understated in its purity. Dig your nose in – really get it in there – because this is not a beer that gives up its secrets willy-nilly. Search and you’ll find soft white fruit: crisp pear and tart green apples, alongside dry grassy notes, fresh hay, and spring flowers. I’d never considered candied lemon peel before tasting this with a friend who suggested it, but I don’t think I’ll ever drink this beer again without getting that sugary bitterness on the nose. But all of this is articulated in an entirely muted manner.

 

My new dissection of this beer proved my familiarity with it, and my underestimation of it. The aromas are so minute, so ethereal in comparison to the what lands on the palate. It’s as deceiving as the Terra Incognita, but in a wholly different way. It plays the razor’s edge game of expressing that which is hidden within while keeping the depths of its essence just out of sight. Tasting revealed a sharp minerality, a taste of honey, and notes of grapeskin and yellow raspberries before rising to bitterness of grapefruit pith and the ripe perfume of dandelion greens. The finish on XX Bitter is where the soul of it dances. The dryness and the aggressive carbonation marry to form a sensation like that of cotton candy melting in your mouth. It happens every time I drink it. “I know I just drank some of this beer, but now it’s gone. How did that happen? I better drink some more to make sure that’s what happened.” It happens from time to time, that something we think we know shows itself as more intricate than we could ever envision, and in a way serves to expand our own imaginations.

 

This is a beer as quintessentially mysterious, as deeply puzzling, and as utterly satisfying as life can be. The aromas are rife with opportunity, yet the body delivers in ways unexpected. If the nose comes on like a welcome breeze in early Summer, full of promise and clues to the future, then it tastes like life’s realization. Even if we could know what might happen tomorrow or the next day, can we ever truly anticipate the subtle complexity within our experiences as they come to pass? And by the same token, you may read this and gain some general sense of what De Ranke’s XX Bitter is like, but trust that it holds so much more than I can convey through simple words. Taste this beer. Drink it, and let it whisper to you all the secrets and possibilities of all the days and weeks and years to come.

-Chase

Beer Reviews: Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca and Bière de Mars

September 15th, 2015

A year, a year. What happens in a year? Birthdays are forgotten, holidays are skipped, and taxes are begrudgingly filed. We slash the days on the calendar every half-dozen hours and realize that rent is due, yet again, and somehow it seems to come sooner every month. Woe is us. If only there was something in which we could take a moment’s absolute pleasure, something that could wrench free the hands of the clock from time’s pervasive grasp. If only there was- Oh, wait, there’s beer.

We are beer drinkers. We drink beer, and we have hardwired into us a facet from which to draw pure joy. That happiness is even twofold: we get to drink the beer and, then, we have to opportunity to share these experiences with our friends and family and strangers who possess the same passion for the bitter, the sweet, and the sour.

It’s been just about a year since I’ve shared my own adventures in beer through the Moth’s blog, and in that time we’ve seen dozens of new local brews and welcomed other world-class beers into Texas that have arrived in aid of assuaging the pain of the daily grind. Looking through old posts I found the last thing I wrote was for Jolly Pumpkin’s entrance into our local markets, and, in the spirit of the cyclical nature of life (they’re aging whiskey in beer barrels now, for pete’s sake) I figured I’d taste two other Jolly Pumpkin brews.

calabaza-blanca

First up was their Calabaza Blanca, a bier de blanche brewed very traditionally with coriander and orange peel then aged in oak barrels. It pours a familiar hazy straw color and with proper agitation produces an appropriately creamy white head. The first things I noticed were the two stylistic necessities. Coriander and its lemony tartness popped up right away with the fragrant bitterness of orange peel. These swirl delicately with mild tannic notes from its oak aging and subtle funk.

It drinks very much like one would imagine a barrel-aged witbier would. Everything is present and accounted for. The style is not tossed aside to let the wild-fermentation take center stage. Instead, these familiar parameters and the quintessential fermentation personality of the brewery support one another, lifting each to new levels. Understated carbonation ushers in subtle tartness with hints of tropicals, then finishes with a crisp dryness indicating that I would like another sip. And another.

This is a fantastic beer to drink as the summer draws to its close. When I taste, I see a patio bottle-share in the evening sun, perhaps whitefish crisps on the grill awaiting an orange glaze. Or, maybe enjoy this at the pool while your less-enlightened friends are crushing their adjunct lagers, because you know better.

JPBDM

Secondly, I opened the Bière de Mars. Historically, this was a beer brewed in winter or early spring for quick consumption by farm workers. A mild ABV, malty body, and dry finish were tantamount in keeping workers sated, quenched, and relatively sober throughout the day. And while it might seem out of season, I’d say Texas autumns and springs have more in common than they don’t.

This is a style that I generally adore and Jolly Pumpkin’s entry was no exception. This is another brew that just smells like Jolly Pumpkin, a brewery known for being one of the first in the States to open the windows and let the world into their beer through spontaneous fermentation. Signature oak tannins and wild tartness are there, but now with a roasty nuttiness, light notes of dried dark fruit, and pleasant leathery funk.

On tasting, an assertive carbonation is surprising and lively. Tartness is middling and far from dominating, letting the malt profile shine with flavors of vanilla, black pepper, caramel, and chestnuts before resurging on the finish to help scrub the palate. The balance in this beer is artful and demanding as you make your way through a glass or a bomber. Try this with rich, fatty foods like juicy pork or bone marrow, or with foods that possess complementary sour notes. This Bière de Mars with a plate of homemade pickles and a heel of good, crusty bread sounds like a day at the races to me.

Well, another review and another two beers down. I’m glad to be sharing fresh exploits in fermented world once again. So, check back with us here at the Moth for new beers, new adventures, and new friends.

-Chase

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