Sunday, January 13, 2008


One more batch in the fermenter tonight. This one's a medium-high gravity dark English ale. Since I didn't add a whole lot of body malt, it'll probably be closer to a porter than a stout, which is in fact what the recipe for it originally intended, based on the pound of alderwood smoked two-row malt that went in at the beginning along with the half-pound of chocolate malt. I think that, so long as the dry yeast doesn't let me down, this batch should be quite delicious - a little toasty and smoky.

I also have a couple of beers to review.

The first is Great Divide's Wild Raspberry Ale. Now, I respect Great Divide; their Yeti imperial stout, especially the oak-aged variety, is amazing stuff, and their Hibernation winter ale is pretty tasty. This beer, though, was quite disappointing. It was a medium-bodied plain brown American ale turned to a rather artificial-looking reddish hue by the raspberries and blackberries used in the brewing. Unfortunately, the raspberry flavor and the flavor of the base ale just didn't complement one another.

There are good fruit beers; in fact, there are some damned good fruit beers in this very family. New Belgium's Frambozen is quite similar superficially; it's a brown ale brewed with raspberries. Unlike Great Divide's, it's only slightly pinkish, not deeply magenta hued. The key difference, though, is that New Belgium uses a slightly sour brown with a sort of Belgian lambic character. This works fabulously well with the raspberry's natural tartness and creates a beer that actually tastes like raspberries without giving up being beer.

Sadly, Great Divide's Wild Raspberry just tastes like soap. They did not use a sour brown ale, but rather a plain brown, and it really doesn't work. There are overly fruity hints of raspberry that actually might be good if they were developed further, but they're lost in a beer that really, honestly comes off as soapy. The mouthfeel is mediocre, because like the flavor, you don't really know what to expect. With a tart flavor like raspberry, you want a dry, crisp mouthfeel, but Wild Raspberry is actually somewhat full and heavy, and again, it's reminiscent of soap. Bleagh. I certainly won't tell you not to try this beer, because it might end up being more to your taste than mine, but I did not care for it. Unless you like chewing on the brightly-colored bars of hand soap in the guest bathroom at your grandmother's house, get some Frambozen instead.

The second I sampled was Widmer's Brewer's Reserve 2008 Crimson Wheat. It's a wheat ale with, they claim, three different wheat malts: hard red, dark brown, and caramelized. I guess that sounds okay. I've been quite pleased with Widmer's Brewer's Reserve beers in the past.

My first impression was this: I don't think I've ever had a smoother beer. There is a flavor there, certainly, and it's a pretty tasty one, but the first pint of this stuff slid down my throat practically before I even noticed any flavor. It's damned smooth. Widmer's normal Hefeweizen is delicious; in fact, I'm a fan of the Widmer Bros. brewery in general, and most of their beers are notable for smoothness (their Drop Top Amber is more or less everything I think an amber ale ought to be). This beer was... different. I honestly think that the normal hefe might have a better flavor - a little more robust. This brew is clearer, redder, and impossibly supple. I'm honestly still not quite sure what I think of it, though I definitely like it. I think I'm going to have to have another one tomorrow and finish up the review then.

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