Goose Island - Sofie

Goose Island is an American brewery located in Chicago. They are known for their quality Belgian style brews, and this particular example, "Sofie" is their version of a traditional Belgian Saison aka a "Farmhouse Ale." I wasn't quite sure what the definition of a Belgian Saison Ale was, so I google-educated myself on the subject. 

Apparently, "Saison" is the French word for "season" and it was the name originally given to the lower alcohol, pale ales that were brewed in the French-speaking part of Belgium. They were traditionally fermented during the fall and winter so that their peak flavor would be achieved by the late summer harvest. Goose Island ages this beer in old wine barrels with orange peels to give it the characteristic citrus flavor. 

Now on to the tasting. The beer pours a lovely golden color with a thick, white head. With my nose in the glass I detected a strong citrus aroma with hints of lemon and orange. I also detect hints of apples and wheat. The mouthfeel is nice. I would classify it as medium-bodied and moderately carbonated. Not surprisingly, there is a strong citrus flavor to the beer. Lemon and orange dominate the flavors, but I detect hints of apricot, apple, clove and coriander. The alcohol is nicely hidden for a beer that is 6.5% ABV, which is about the midway point (5-8%) for a traditional Belgian Saison. 

Overall I would say that this is an extremely high quality beer, and quite delicious. The fruity notes are so strong that it almost drinks like a cider or a sparkling wine. It would be quite nice on a hot summer day. Some similar-tasting beers that come to mind are Blue Moon, Sam Adams White Ale, Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Avery White Rascal. I would recommend this beer to a friend, but it is not easy to find, and is quite expensive at $12.99 for a four-pack of 12 oz bottles. I only recently obtained regular access to the Goose Island beers when my wife and I moved to Ohio. If you can get your hands on some, try it and let me know what you think!

I rated it as follows: 

Aroma: 4/5
Appearance: 4/5
Palate: 3/5
Creativity: 5/5
Taste: 8/10
Overall: 24/30


THE epitome of Belgian Strong Ales...

Trappistes Rochefort 10
If you are a fan of Belgian Strong Ales (Tripels, Quadrupels, etc.,) and have been searching for the perfect beer, then look no further. It only took one taste for me to tell that this beer should be the standard to which all other trappiste ales should be compared. This beer is unbelievably good, and meticulously crafted, so that almost every aspect of the beer is as good as any lover of Belgian brews could hope for. First off, the beer pours a dark brown, with a thick, tan head. With a nose in the glass, you can detect hints of cherries, plums, apples, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and coriander. When I took my first sip, the thing that stood out most about this brew is the mouthfeel. It has an incredibly creamy texture, is chock full of flavors, and has just the right amount of carbonation. I would classify this beer as full-bodied and moderately carbonated. As far as tasting goes, this is one of the most flavorful beers that I have ever imbibed. There are so many different flavors, that it is hard to tell where to begin. I detected hints of chocolate, cherries, plums, nuts, cinnamon, and spicy hops. There is also some honey and pear in there. The array of flavors nicely hides the whopping alcohol content of 11.3% ABV. The only downside to this beer is that it isn't cheap. I paid $6.29 for an 11 oz bottle at Whole Foods. While that is quite expensive, I think it is worth every penny. As I mentioned earlier, this is the best Belgian Strong Ale I have ever had, and it isn't even close. Since this category of beers happens to be my favorite, this particular brew is now at the top of my list of favorite beers. Subsequently, it is the highest rated beer that I have reviewed to date. If you can find it, you should buy it! You will not be disappointed...

Using my new rating scale, I rated it as follows:

Aroma: 5/5
Appearance: 5/5
Palate: 5/5
Creativity: 4/5
Taste: 10/10
Overall 29/30


New beer review, with a new rating component added!

First things first. I have decided, that with all of the unique beers that I have tried lately, I need to add another component to the rating scale that I have been using. I am adding a "Creativity" rating because some beers may not be my personal favorites, but they deserve kudos for "thinking outside of the box" in their brewing process and use of ingredients. For example, I would consider the previous beer that I reviewed, the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, to be a 5/5 on the creativity scale. I have also decreased the possible points for "Aroma" to 5. This means that if one day I find a beer that manages to garner a perfect score in every category, that beer would achieve a 30/30 on the overall rating. This brings us to my next review:

Samuel Adams "Alpine Spring"
I know, I know, this is not a microbrew, and people will probably look down on me for reviewing a mass-produced beer, but I enjoyed this beer so much that I simply had to review it. This beer is the new spring seasonal brew by Samuel Adams. This beer is a lager that belongs to the category of "Keller Biers" or "Zwickel Biers." This is a unique German beer style which is unfiltered, unpasterized, and is thought to have originated in the Middle Ages. These beers are usually characterized by a cloudy appearance, a strong hoppy taste and variable alcohol content. This particular brew has a golden, cloudy color with a white head when poured into a goblet. With my nose in the glass, I can detect aromas of lemon, spicy hops, honey, and florals. The beer has a nice and crisp mouthfeel that I would classify it as light to medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation. When tasting the brew the first thing I notice is tart hops and citrus (more lemon than orange). I also detect hints of pear, florals, and wheat. It has a smooth, dry finish and doesn't have the bitterness that some of the more hoppy beers have, which is surprising, considering the strong presence of hops in the flavor. I am trying to think of similar brews that I have tried recently, but I am having trouble. It is pretty unique. It drinks like a combination of a Belgian wheat beer and an IPA. Perhaps, Magic Hat #9 is simliar? Sweetwater 420 is another one that comes to mind. Overall I think this is a delicious brew, and is probably going to be one of my go to beers in the Spring, since it is cheap, easy to drink, and easy to find.
Using my newly revised rating scale, I rated it as follows:

Aroma: 4/5
Appearance: 3/5
Palate: 3/5
Creativity: 4/5
Taste: 9/10
Overall: 23/30

Well done Sam Adams, well done...


Finally, a beer that isn't Belgian...

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
This beer is one of the most unique beers that I have ever tasted (but in a good way!). I can honestly say that I have never tried another brew that even remotely comes close to what you experience when sipping this one. It is classified as an "American Strong Ale" but really should be in a category of it's own.
I am a huge fan of the "Boilermaker." And I must admit that during college I downed my fair share of "Bud heavy" with a shot of Evan Williams black label. I have since fallen out of love with this particular drink, but when I took a sip of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel I fell right back in. The beer pours a nice, light caramel color with a white head. With your nose in the glass, you are struck by strong aromas of vanilla, oak, caramel, and bourbon. The beer had a nice mouthfeel, and I would classify it as light to medium-bodied and moderately carbonated. The flavor is "in-your-face" vanilla, oak, and bourbon, but the beer has a nice, dry finish, which offers a nice counterbalance to its sweetness. When sipping on this one, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't back in Greenville, SC, sipping on a "Boilermaker."
This beer is so unique, that I thought I would post a little blurb about the brewing process. This is taken straight from the brewer's website (http://www.kentuckyale.com/beer/Pages/KentuckyBourbonBarrelAle.aspx):

"...a unique sipping beer with the distinctive nose of well-crafted bourbon. Our
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel ale is aged for up to six weeks in freshly decanted bourbon
barrels from some of Kentucky's finest bourbon distilleries..."

Because this beer is so different, I had a hard time rating it with the same scale that I used in my other beer reviews, but here goes:

Aroma: 8/10
Appearance: 3/5
Palate: 3/5
Taste: 9/10
Overall: 17/20

I would definitely recommend this beer to a friend, but I can easily see how some people would find its sweetness offensive, and the vanilla-notes overpowering. For me personally, it was a nice blast from the past, and one of the more creative and delicious beers that I have tasted in some time. Since it is not available here in Mobile, AL, I might just have to settle for dropping some Evan Williams into an ice cold Budweiser tonite...


Top 10 most beautiful places that Gib has been to...

1) Glacier National Park, Montana - My family and I took a 10 day trip there this past summer. My mom used to drive out there in her VW van during her free summers, and it has always been her dream to take us to see it. Needless to say, it was the trip of a lifetime. I have never been surrounded by such awe-inspiring beauty (besides on my wedding day :P). I know God is proud of all of his creation, but he must be particularly proud of this place. I think everyone who lives in the US (and has the means to do so) should take a trip here before they kick the bucket. The above photo is one that I took during our trip, and below is a link to some more. Fair warning though, if you click on it, the next thing you do might be to book plane tickets to Montana...

Is this real life???

2) Muir Woods/Redwood Forest, California - My dad took me here on a father/son trip when I was in the 9th grade. The one word I can think of that accurately describes the ambience here is "magical." The ginormous trees make you feel like an ant. The beautifully green creeping ferns, the moss-covered stones and tree stumps, and the fact that some of the trees are over a thousand years old, is enough to drop even the most rigid of jaws. When standing underneath the massive Redwoods, I felt like was in a scene from some fantastical movie. I am so grateful to my parents for taking me here, and I am grateful to my Maker for creating such beauty. Again, you simply MUST see this place.

3) Upper Albert Lake, Etna, California - I had a chance to visit this lake several times when I worked out at the JH Ranch. It is probably the most peaceful place I have ever been. This is the third, and highest lake on a trail that takes you up 3,000 ft. of elevation in only a few miles. Upper Albert is situated at the top of one of the highest peaks in the area, so the view from the surrounding ridges is breathtaking. Also, this lake, as well as Lower Albert Lake are one of only a few remaining places in the world where you can catch a golden trout! During the summer, both lakes have a huge population of these crazy looking orange salamanders. The water in the lakes is some of the coldest, AND the most clear that I have ever witnessed. If my wife and I could build a cabin on the side of the lake and spend the rest of our lives here I would be all for it...

4) Point Reyes Lighthouse, California - Looks fake doesn't it? That's what I thought, even when I was standing right there on the staircase going down to the lighthouse. I had a chance to visit here along with my dad when we took our father/son trip to the California coast. This lighthouse has an amazing history, and is considered one of the windiest and foggiest places on the US Pacific coast. Luckily the weather was crystal clear and a balmy 55 degrees when we visited! The view from the lighthouse offers an incredible view of the vast, blue-grey Pacific Ocean, and the view from the top of the stair case is of the breathtaking California coastline. Just thinking about it again makes me smile...

5) Pucón, Chile - I was able to travel here with several of my friends during the two weeks of travel time we were allotted after our 3 month foreign study term in Chile. It is about a 9 hour bus ride from the capital city of Santiago (we rode all night, and "slept" on the bus). It is considered by many to be the outdoor capital of South America. It offers a little bit of everything: hiking (we hiked to the top of the Villarica Volcano in the above picture), kayaking, windsurfing, white-water rafting, word-class salmon fishing, and amazing wildlife. One of my favorite places we hiked to was a series of waterfalls and lagoons called "Los Ojos del Caburgua." If you ever get the chance to go to Chile, this city should be on your list of places to visit.

6) Atacama Desert, Chile - I was able to spend a week here as part of my aforementioned 3 month foreign study term in Chile. It offers a different kind of beauty than the previous five places on my list, but it is spectacular nonetheless. It is the driest desert on planet Earth and it is estimated that some areas of this 50,000+ square mile desert have never received even a drop of precipitation (how scientists can tell that I have no idea). The area offers a multitude of attractions (check 'em out) and actually is home to one of the few truly wild populations of pink flamingoes on Earth!

7) Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park, Colorado - My family took a 2 week vacation here when I was about 10 years old. We did it all. We hiked, fly-fished, did some white-water rafting on one of the gnarliest rivers in the US (The Poudre), and then juxtaposed that with a manly wildflower hunt. I will never forget some of the views on the hiking trails there, and I will never forget the fun we had. I definitely hope to have the chance to go back some day...

8) Bariloche, Argentina - Yet another destination I was able to enjoy as a result of my foreign study trip to Chile. This town is breathtaking from the moment you arrive. It is situated on the edge of the beautiful Lake Nahuel Huapi, and like Pucon, offers a variety of outdoor experiences. It also, somewhat shockingly, is known for it's many famous dance clubs, my favorite of which was Club Cerebro. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend two days in Bariloche, but the impression this beautiful city left on me will last a lifetime...

9) Antigua, Guatemala - I was able to visit this town during one of several mission trips I took to Guatemala. The thing that makes this town so aesthetically amazing is the historic colonial Spanish architecture against a backdrop of three stunning volcanoes. While we were here, we were able to bargain in the town market, and we got to tour the ruins of one of the oldest monasteries in Latin America (Santo Domingo).

10) Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee - My family took a vacation here when I was very young, but I still remember taking my first train ride through this magnificent scenery. We did some hiking, and a bit of camping, and I think this trip (along with several my family took to Mt. Cheaha, AL) was one of the first that shaped my current love for the outdoors and nature!


MMMmm. Belgian Brews...

Boulevard -The Sixth Glass
Delicious and refreshing, this Belgian Quadrupel reminds me a lot of Unibroue's "Trois Pistoles" and "La Terrible." It pours nicely and has a reddish-amber hue with a tan head. When sticking my nose in the glass I can pick out hints of honey, caramel, figs, raisins, and of course some Belgian yeast. I would describe it as "medium bodied" and moderately carbonated. When tasting it I detect notes of citrus, caramel, nuts, apricot, and slightly bitter hops. Similar beers (other than the two aforementioned) include Avery "The Reverend," and St. Bernardus "Abt 12." I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and would probably pick up several more bottles if it were more readily available to me. I rated it as follows:

Aroma: 7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Palate: 3/5
Taste: 8/10
Overall: 16/20


Better than a White Russian?

Jamaican Mudslide
Katie and I recently returned from a trip to Jamaica where we got to experience Jamaican Rum Cream in full force. They put this stuff in everything! We didn't mind though. We love the stuff, and actually brought several bottles home with us.

They make flavored versions of the rum creams, but I think I prefer the original. The coffee flavored version tastes a lot like Bailey's Irish Cream, and could probably serve as an almost identical substitute in many drinks. One example would be the traditional "Mudslide." Which calls for Bailey's Irish Cream, Vodka, and Kahlua. In honor of our recent trip, I decided to make a Jamaican version of this delicious drink, but I used the original rum cream instead of the coffee flavored one. It makes the mudslide slightly less sweet, much creamier, and allows the coffee notes to be much more balanced. The recipe is below:

1 oz Jamaican Rum Cream
3/4 oz Vodka (I used Tito's)
3/4 oz Kahlua (I suppose you could substitute another coffee liqueur but why would you??)

Combine above ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously for about a minute, pour into a chilled cocktail glass, and enjoy!