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Session #2: Chama River Demolition Dubbel

The Session(This is my contribution to our monthly Session. Alan McLeod will be recapping them all.)

One Sunday last May, Ted Rice lifted a glass of beer homebrewed in the spirit of a Belgian dubbel.

“That’s the aroma I’m looking for,” he said, putting it to his nose.

This was literally one of the first batches brewed with the dark candy syrup that Brian Mercer (www.darkcandi.com) was just beginning to import from Belgium. Mercer had shipped samples to a few homebrewers and we invited them to enter their beers in the Enchanted Brewing Challenge. We’d judged the homebrew competition the day before at Chama River Brewing Co., where Rice is the brewer, and today we were drinking the leftovers while sitting on the deck at Il Vicino Brewing.

The dark syrup contributes rich caramel, rummy and dark fruit aromas we associate with beers brewed in Belgium. Westmalle started used caramelized sugar syrup in its Dubbel in 1922. (More about the syryp.)

Ted RiceNot surprisingly, it wasn’t long before Rice (shown at work in this un-glamorous photo) brewed a dubbel with the syrup. He’s since brewed two more, the latest of which is on tap now.

Tasting it as it matured, the consensus has been that it is the best Demolition Dubbel yet (to our count, this is the sixth edition since the first won a gold medal in the 2004 New Mexico State Fair). So I intended on Tuesday to ask Rice: “Are we there yet?”

I took along the previous version, bottled last summer for entry in the Great American Beer Festival and stored in a temperature-controlled chest freezer since October (we don’t have cellars in New Mexico). The GABF version was bottled-conditioned, meaning fresh sugar and yeast were added to kickoff re-fermentation in the bottle and carbonate the beer to a level not generally available on draft.

And it was carbonated, much more than when I last tried a bottle six months ago. Beer came surging out when I opened the cap, onto Rice’s desk in the brewery and the floor, leaving just enough in the 22-ounce bottle for three of us to sample. We quickly assured ourselves that an infection wasn’t to blame.

We didn’t find any off flavors or sourness, but one friend picked up a bit of tinny thinness in the finish and much preferred the one on draft. Even though the bottled version was cloudy (yeast in suspension) Rice and I decided we liked it better because of spicy character contributed by the yeast (this version was brewed with a different yeast than last). A bit of a surprise.

Is there a point (or are there points)? For one thing that when you brew in small batches not every edition has to taste the same.

For another, earlier this week Andrew at Flossmoor Beer Blog mentioned that American brewers “try to do a little of everything” (there’s more in his post worth commenting on, but that will have to wait). Well, Rice has won seven medals at GABF or the World Beer Cup in five different beers styles. None of which are among the six regular offering at CR, so brewing an every changing lineup for the other four hasn’t affected quality.

I’m not sure when we’ll next see Demolition Dubbel, but I do know that it will be different again.

“I could do this the rest of my life (and still be working on it),” Rice said.

Have you heard about Bud Dubbel?

The SessionHow excited must the people at Anheuser-Busch be about the advent of The Session?

Certainly they must have been disappointed that nobody blogged about Bare Knuckle Stout for the first round of The Session.

Apparently they don’t want to be left out again.

Is it coincidence that Alan McLeod has chosen dubbels as the topic for April 6 and A-B seems to be brewing a beer to that style?

They are. Really. OK, we won’t be looking for it before April 6. Instead of pretending they did it for us it’s time to remove tongue from cheek (thus making it easier to properly taste beer).

Miller’s Brew Blog reports that A-B filed a certificate of label approval application with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for three new beers under the Faust banner. Of course that doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly widespread distribution.

The beers are Faust Belgian Style Dubbel (7% abv), Faust Dortmunder Style Lager (5.5%), and Faust Early American Pilsner (5%). (And how about a collective hmmm for that last one?) The brands are attributed to the Beechwood Brewing Group.

The SessionA-B first created a Faust beer for the Oyster House and Restaurant, naming it for its owner, A. E. Tony Faust (best friend of brewery founder Adolphus Busch). In the 1990s the brewery experimented with a series of specialty beers called American Originals. These included American Hop Ale and a golden colored lager called Faust.

The Brew Blog has a long list of other A-B products recently killed or possibly in the works, but these Faust beers look the most interesting.

Even if the Dubbel isn’t in time for what Alan’s calling the “Son of Session.”

The Session #2 announced: Dubbels

The SessionAlan has written. The theme for the second round of The Session has been chosen:

“What do you really want in April? Frankly, I want an ale and one with some strength to get you warmed after a cold day turning half frozen soil. Something that can stand the keeping through the winter. Something with some flavour to match the warming of the earth. Something with an ecclesiastical aspect. I have just the thing in mind…

DUBBELS!”

Hey, I know somebody who wrote about a book about this “style” (in quotation marks because I don’t want New Belgium’s Peter Brouckaert knocking me upside the head).

I’m having second thoughts about not picking a New Mexico beer for our March tasting, so I’ll be leaning that way for April. Might have to try a few American and Belgian versions just to make sure.

Mark the date: We post on April 6. You may begin drinking and taking notes any time.

The Session #1: Stout roundup

The SessionWas it good for you?

Dryly sweet perhaps. Light and fluffy? Espresso and bitter cocoa. Maybe even structured.

The approaches to writing about the broad subject of stouts were as diverse as the stouts themselves for our first round of The Session. We got a little history, a little philosophy, some comparisons, a bit of travel and – of course – haiku. The official topic this month was Not Your Father’s Stout, and if you’re trying to figure out what this means here’s the history (ala blogs, in reverse order).

– Let’s start with the haikus. Captain Hops conjured them up for both Young’s Oatmeal Stout and Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout at Beer Haiku Daily.

– Not all the contributors even write regularly about beer. Martini Republic offered up cocktails made with stout, including something called a Dog’s Nose. As an aside, Stephen Beaumont has a A Six-Pack of Stout Cocktails this month at World of Beer (his site, as opposed to where he blogs).

– Stephen joined the stoutfest in two blogs, nicely making my point about finding different approach with his words about Jacobsen Coffee Mint Stout at That’s The Spirit and O’Hara’s Irish Stout at On the House. O’Hara’s was the only Irish-brewed stout we reviewed (in part because Ireland’s Big Three were ruled out at the start).

– Another Canadian, Alan at The Good Beer Blog, found several stouts in his cellar he’s been waiting to try before settling on Avery Out of Bounds Stout from Colorado.

– Also from Canada, Greg at Beer, Beats & Bites couldn’t make up his mind and ended up writing about five stouts, three from Canada and a pair from the U.S.

– Stonch of Stonch’s Beer Blog provided the final international contribution – I expect more to join in the coming months. He reminds us that America doesn’t have a monopoly on microbreweries, reviewing Pitfield Shoreditch Stout.

– Tomme of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey was one of two commercial brewers heard from. He wrote about Port’s award-winning Seaside Stout – and provided a tip on brewer watching.

– And Andrew at the Flossmoor Beer Blog previews Flossmoor Station’s milk stout (it debuts this week in conjunction with a breakfast buffet – there’s a way to start the day).

– Keeping in the spirit of milk stouts, Ray at the Barley Blog put a bottle of Old Rasputin back in the fridge to try Mackeson XXX Stout, a beer he’d never had before.

– Al and Ron at Hop Talk warmed to the task by considering the history of the stout style, then they wrote separate reviews of Rogue Shakespeare Stout.

– No surprise that Lew at Seen Through a Glass did a little traveling to taste The Three Faces of Stout, all Pennsylvania beers he consumed where they were brewed. (One of them a milk stout.)

– At his Brookston Beer Bulletin, Jay stuck close to home with an old favorite, San Quentin’s Breakout Stout, consumed where it is brewed. It took a while to get to stout as he considered some of the discussions about writing about and evaluating beer that have been going on recently.

– Rick at Lyke 2 Drink also went to the source – after thoroughly preparing himself with by tasting stouts from here and there. He admits he picked Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout in part because of the name.

– If a monthly hosts declares a “drink local” theme a lot of contributors should be set. Jon at the Brew Site picked a hometown beer – is he rubbing in the fact that he has Deschutes Brewery in his town? – in Obsidian Stout.

cosmicpenguin.net’s Jordan works just block from Left Hand Brewing, but resisted picking Left Hand Milk Stout (my choice) and instead tapped beers new to him, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter and Avery Out of Bounds Stout (yes, the same one Alan wrote about).

– Perhaps Jonathan from the Beer Mapping Project is in denial, disregarding the fact that Bell’s has discontinued selling its beer in Illinois. He opened a bottle Expedition Stout to kick off a weekend that included the Night of the Living Ales and Goose Island Stoutfest. He told us, “I plan to drink my share of stouts (and possibly yours) this weekend.”

– Eli of foureyed(beer)geek added his favorite coffee stout to the mix. Schlafly Kaldi’s Coffee Stout has the Schlafly Oatmeal Stout at its base and uses a cold toddy method of extraction for the coffee.

– Jessie Jane at Bar Stories had hoped to whip up some ice cream for her session, but with time short decided to accompany Wolaver’s Organic Oatmeal Stout with a ramble.

– While Ray put the North Coast Old Rasputin back in the fridge, Dann at Dann Drinks Beer didn’t. It was beer #60 on his march to 365 for the year.

– Tedo at Barley Vine joined Captain Hops in drinking a Young’s stout, but made his the Double Chocolate Stout.

– Matt of Song of Myself first told us, “Shout it out from the top of your lungs: I LOVE BURNT BARLEY BABY.” Then he tasted a half dozen Midwestern stouts, only one of them from Bell’s.

– When you read across the posts you’ll see that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout keeps coming up, whether it was a beer that almost got consumed or if it was one of several. Both Adam and Bryan at The Brew Lounge included Black Chocolate – in fact Bryan “dove headfirst into his” (quite an image, yes?).

– Yes, this Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which Jim at Bostonbeerman Blog freely admits is one of his all-time favorites.

– Finding himself in Sandpoint, Idaho, Ben from SevenPack.net grabbed a six-pack of Laughing Dog Sweet Stout brewed just up the road in Ponderay.

– Andrew, andrew ager, dot com, found himself instead in his basement, where My Own Private Stout, Oh-Ho.

– Also on the homebrewing front, Chris at Beer Activist Blog arrived late (that’s OK) with an Organic Irish Stout.

– At the Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society, James evaluated Shipyard Blue Fin Stout by comparing it to Guinness.

– And what might have been at last call (almost midnight on the West Coast), Bill Brand of What’s On Tap finished off the evening with Drake’s Imperial Stout.

Last call unless I left somebody out ;< ( Please e-mail a link if I missed your post.

The Session: Administrative stuff

Wow. That was some turnout. Thanks to all who participated in the first round of The Session. Next one is on Alan – OK, don’t panic Alan, you are the host, everybody buys their own beer.

Since it’s the first I’ll post the recap sometime Monday (perhaps later than sooner), but I think in the future we should expect recaps in a “timely” manner, recognizing it might be four or five days.

Also, some contributors seemed to be concerned about they post on the exact day, racing to get done before midnight local time. Friday is preferred. A day early (as Tomme Arthur did because he was headed to Belgium) or late is OK. This is supposed to be fun.

I’ve created a Session category here where I will archive announcements about rounds and then the recaps (as well as my own contributions).

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