Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Albion Ale Clone by Wood Shoe Brew House

New Albion bubbling on the left
On Basic Brewing Radio, Jack McAuliffe joined James, Steve and Andy to brew up a clone of the original New Albion Ale. It was very interesting to hear a first hand perspective from the originator of New Albion brewing, the first brewpub of the modern era that proved the possibility of craft beer.

One of my initial allures of homebrewing was the chance to brew historical recreations. To date, I've done one previously, a clone of the original 1983 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale recipe from Charlie Papazian's book Microbrewed Adventures. I don't have notes but remember the comparison of the old to the modern standard being enjoyable and enlightening. Following the recipe from Brew Your Own, I've taken on my second historical beer, in part because I didn't have enough sense to pick up a six pack of the Sam Adams version earlier this year.

New Albion Ale by Wooden Shoe Brew House: off white head lingers a bit with a light lace; color is brown to caramel with gold highlights; floral and citrus of the Cascade comes through very lightly over sweet caramel; body is light without being thin, letting the sweet and spice wash over the tongue.

My version of New Albion Ale
Vaguely reminiscent of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Summit EPA. Not as a direct comparison, but more in that New Albion Ale tastes old school: heavy sweet malt with a light, barely-there hop nose and tingle on the tongue. Similar to the above named pale ales that are a part of the origin story of craft beer, it actually felt like drinking a time warp; an American pale ale today generally won't be this malty with a singular in the hop note. Many BA reviews alluded to the ale tasting more like an English bitter than an APA, which makes sense based on the London Ale yeast used in the recipe and the history of Jack McAuliffe's European models that inspired the brewery.

I reviewed the Basic Brewing Video tasting notes that compared the same recipe I brewed to the Sam Adams version. Based on their description and color comparison, I feel pretty confident that my version is close to the intended brew. In spite of my enjoymetn, the overall rating on BA and Ratebeer are relatively low. However it seems to me that many of the beer geeks are disappointed by drinking with a poor paradigm.

Each site lists New Albion Ale as an American Pale Ale, which it rightly falls short of when contrasted with highly hopped APAs that approach or surpass bitterness levels of my first India Pale Ales a decade ago. Just like reading literature, the standards of the time period must be considered to full understand a work. While I was 11 when New Albion opened, I still remember the wasteland of my father's beer drinking world of the 1970s and early 80s. Drinking New Albion Ale with that frame of mind greatly enhances the experience and let's me see how this beer must have been a revelation to early beer geeks. With adjusted expectations, this beer is growing on me as I work my way through my bottles. For me, this has been a very worthy experiment to be able to taste a reincarnation of the birth of craft beer. I recommend brewing up a batch of history to anyone wanting this unique experience.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse (Berkeley, CA)


In an earlier life, we lived and I coached speech and debate in LA. Each year I took my students to the Berkeley tournament in February. Gloria wanted to see the infamous Berkeley and I was reliving some old times. We enjoyed our walk around campus and replaced my Cal hat from the first tournament the Taft speechies attended. Sadly, some things are better left in the past—specifically, Fat Slice pizza didn't live up to my shades of memory.

In my previous (and only) personal trip to Berkeley, I met a friend at the Pyramid Alehouse, so I've been look forward to make up the missed opportunity to drink the Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse of Berkeley. On their website, Triple Rock places itself as the fifth brewpub ever in the US and the oldest one still owned by the originators. Walking in the door, the amount of cool breweriana is dizzying. According to Jesse, one of the TR staff members, it is all quite real and that the owner has enough to decorate the place several times over. It has the authentic feel of what TJ Friday's tries to accomplish. I found myself quite distracted the entire visit looking at historical brewery names I didn't know. With history literally in and on the walls, I was looking forward to adding Triple Rock to my database.

Quick table service on the 4th of July, so we ordered a draft of Lady Friend, a seasonal Belgian ale: pleasant yeasty spice and complex and delicate fruity taste. Very nice start. The very floral Big Juice pale ale was next in line for the best of the samples. The rest were all relatively good, but a bit thin for style shows up repeatedly in my notes.  IPAX IPA had a big, raw hop bite that more than soothed my hop monster after a few days in wine country.

One of our main reasons for trying Triple Rock on this trip was the vegan friendly menu.  Main course for us was the BBQ Seitan Sandwich, which was a bit messy but good; however, it didn't match up to the BBQ poor boy at our home Triple Rock Social Club.  The vegan chili (listed vegan but the waiter warned not vegan with cheese and sour cream that can be left off) was much better, as were the natural cut fries, tasting similar to In-n-Out fries we had been eating most of the week.

Overall, we very much enjoyed our stop. Solid beer drafts to wash down our choice from a range of veggie options, others of which I would like to try next time. With our one time stop, the darker or bigger beers seemed to be the best. Very near the university, Triple Rock seems to me to be a great training ground for young liberal minds to soak up some craft beer before heading off to change the world.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Alchemy Cafe (Madison, WI)

Long day ends at Alchemy

Taking a mellow approach to this year's Great Taste, we road a free bus over to Alchemy for dinner. We tried drafts of Potosi for the first time, a tripel for G and a Belgian IPA for me. Both were solid and Potosi may be worth a trip some day to visit the museums on site: the National Brewery Museum and the Potosi Brewing Co Transportation Museum.  Having read about the National Brewery Museum over the years, I've wanted to visit. Now knowing that pretty good beer will be available afterwards, the trip moves up a notch on the travel list.   
Sweet potato chips with first draft

Back to the Alchemy Cafe, the sweet potato chips were pretty amazing,  mostly because the blueberry jalapeño sauce made the appetizer. For dinner we had the Roasted Vegetable Coconut Curry. In spite of not being a fan of coconut, it didn't matter for this dish, which was fresh and savory. Veggie and vegan options for those who care; my wife went vegan and I dipped into the yogurt for an extra layer of flavor. In short, the stop is worth the effort for the food or beer, whichever is most important.  

In 2008, I had a draft of Surly Darkness and Two Brother's Cane and Abel at Alchemy before Great Taste that year, though I only vaguely recognized the bar when we walked in. Tonight made a clearer impression and I intend/hope to return again some day.