Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monk-Day at the Monk

Being way too new to Asheville, I was not lucky enough to learn about Rob Tod of Allagash's visit last week until it was too late. A little bummed at first until I saw that there were still a couple of varieties on tap at The Thirsty Monk on Monday August 31st. Monday, or Monk-day, is a great day to visit the pub as you are able to try three samples of their beers for only $5. Going with my wife, it greatly expanded the tasting arsenal.

On the drive over, which for us is about 30 minutes, we had decided to keep it to 9 samples, or 3 flights, between the two of us. We knew that if it was that long of a drive there, it would be even longer to get home. It also made us realize how we can't wait for the new location to open in Arden, only about 5 minutes away from us.

Now for our tasting experience and the 9, I mean 10, tastings:

Allagash Burnham Road : The first of our flight was Burnham Road from Allagash Brewery out of the other Portland in Maine. I was really looking forward to this beer due to the description of being smoked. I have always had a soft spot for anything that reminds of Southern Barbecue and then being from Allagash I figured you couldn't go wrong.

I stared glowingly at the dark amber liquid in front of me and tipped it for my first taste. Hmmm, not sure. Must drink another. Ok, so this one confused me. I described it immediately to my wife as tasting what a burnt out house smelled like. Not entirely bad. I actually like the experience in some weird way. Maybe it was my glowing stare that set something on fire and that was what I was tasting. It smelled a little leathery and smoky. I actually think this would be an amazing beer if you had a stack of wood in a backyard that your landlord forbid you to set afire. You could seriously believe it was burning if you closed your eyes real tight and had an electric heater beside you while drinking this ale.

If this review confused you, don't feel bad. The beer truly confused me. I liked it one drink and not so much the next. I do recommend pairing this beer with something charcoal grilled to enjoy it all of the way through. I do have to admit that it was fun to stump my taste buds.

Delirium Nocturnam : The journey continued with a Belgian Strong Dark Ale named Nocturnam brewed by Delirium in Belgium. A deep inhale gives way to a slight alcohol aroma with backnotes of sweetness. I was a little disappointed with the first sip and then I remembered the previous beer that I had enjoyed. Though it was darker than the Burnham Road, it had a lighter and sweeter taste. I decided that I needed to cleanse my palate a little more before truly rating this beer. Do over time. Ahhh, much better. Although lite, it was very drinkable with a raisin-y, fig-y and kind of a plum flavor to it. I am a little inexperienced with good Belgian beers, so I almost feel that I should not be reviewing them, although there are probably a lot of you out there who have not experienced Belgian's as much as you would have liked.

While not my favorite Belgians, I did enjoy this and would like to give a bottle a try. I figure that the spiciness of the yeast from the bottle conditioning may add a nice note to the beer that was lacking in the draught. Make sure that if you give this one a try you need to take a few drinks before bashing it. It seemed to really open up after the third or fourth drink.

Ommegang Rare Vos : Here was another ale I was really looking forward to. Rare Vos by Brewery Ommegang challenged me to enjoy a special occasion ale while sitting in a bar with people I had not yet met. Being a Bronze Medal winner at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, I had high expectations for this one and it really did not disappoint. Pouring nicely with a medium amber color, it just looked yummy. It had a nice floral aroma with hints of caramel. The first sip gave way to an immediate caramel sweetness that gave way to a slight fruity, citrus-y flavor. The floral aroma was almost non-existent in the flavor, although there was light hint of it in the background. This is a great dinner ale that would pair nicely with just about anything.

Dupont Biere de Miel : This is the reason for the 10th sample instead of the nine that the wife and I had planned for. We were just about ready to head upstairs to try the beer we came here for, Midas Touch by Dogfish Head, when we were overheard talking about it by patron Paul. He had just had Midas Touch and insisted that we try Biere de Miel before indulging in it ourselves. It would not be until later that I understood why he had us try it. Biere de miel from Brasserie Dupont in Belgium was like candy in a bottle. I would have just left this review to "Wow!" except that i was in for an even more amazing experience later on upstairs. Up to that point, as good as my other beverages had been, Bier de miel was definitely the best.

The aroma definitely beamed of alcohol and sweet spiciness. My first sip was heavenly. I loved this beer. The color was a cloudy orange. The flavor was sweet without being sickening, almost nectar like. There was a nice balance of sweet, spicy and bitter without any of the tones being overwhelming. There was a light fruity, almost orange-like finish to it. All in all, I would definitely have this beer again.

Time to go upstairs.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir : So this is the reason that we came here in the first place. Dogfish Head has always been a favorite brewery of mine and to experience the rare occurrence of trying one of their beers on tap just could not be missed. Midas Touch can be purchased locally at Bruisin' Ales in a bottle, although as most of you know, it is a completely different experience having them on draught. Heralding itself as the oldest known fermented beverage in the world at 2700 years, this beer has had a long time to get itself perfected and Dogfish Head did it right. I now know why patron Paul had us try Biere de Miel first. While similar in styles, it proved that Belgian's are not the only ones to perfect their ales.

I truly do not like being influenced by other people's reviews when tasting. On this occasion I can honestly say that I smelled something unique and passing the glass around to the wife, patron Paul and beer-tender Scott, we all smelled the same unique aroma. Refrigerated corn tortillas. That's strange...especially since their was absolutely no taste of the flat maize discs anywhere throughout this sweet and spicy beverage. Somewhere between beer and mead, there were tastes of honey and saffron as well as a citrus-y, fruity finish. This was nice. I could have been complete just drinking this beverage all night and whistling a nice tune while strolling home. Unfortunately, I drove and the higher alcohol content of just over 10% made me glad that I had only shared a half flight with my wife. I can see a couple of bottles of this in my very near future.

Allagash Black : This was the first Strong Belgian Dark Ale I have ever tasted and I can honestly say that I am hooked. Dark and caramel like on the pour with a nice creamy head made this Belgian look more like a creamy stout rather a Belgian. The difference was the distinct funky yeast flavor that usually accompanies a Belgian. The almost smoky chocolate flavor gave way to a coffee fruity finish. It was very smooth and surprisingly not as heavy as it looked making this a very drinkable beer. I could see having this beer with an array of Belgian chocolates. This beer from Allagash really made up for the Burnham Road I had tried much earlier in the evening.

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale : So this review will be in two parts. First, I must say that I am not a fruit ale drinker typically. My wife, on the other hand, is drawn to them. She does want to point out that even though she likes them, she has to go through many that she can't stand before she comes across one that she loves. This one would be no different. The Post Road Pumpkin Ale by Brooklyn Brewery poured to a coppery color and the aroma was spicy with hints of nutmeg and Cinnamon. The taste brought mixed reviews. My wife immediately did not like it, Patron Paul said it was too hoppy for him and I rather enjoyed the strong taste of nutmeg. Unfortunately, there was very little notice of pumpkin to this ale. it reminded me of a nutmeg flavored IPA, which in itself was a unique experience. Once I labeled it that, I quite enjoyed it. For that reason, I quickly inherited the ale from my wife who originally ordered it. This will be an acquired taste. I do need to add that this was the draught version and to my wife's dismay, we had a bottle of the exact same beer that she had been holding onto at home. This was not known to her until after we had cracked it open once we were safely at home and she had her first sip.

Part 2, the bottle. So I need to add that the bottle did have a more pumpkin-y flavor with less emphasis on the nutmeg. I again inherited a beer that was primarily for her, which I could not complain too much about. Still a little hoppy, although smoother and fruitier. The spiciness would make this beer better once it cools down a little, which would be my recommendation if you want to give this one a shot.

Duck Rabbit Rabid Duck : Now this is what I have been looking for. Being from Portland, I love my heavy, flavorful stouts that warm the body from the wet and cold weather outside. This ale did not let me down. I am so happy to see that Duck Rabbit bottles this wonderful Russian Imperial Stout. The color was pitch black with an aroma of vanilla, caramel and alcohol. I am happy to report that although the alcohol content is quite large(10%), it is not really noticeable. This is truly a sipping beer that is definitely a warmer. The common hints of chocolate and coffee which usually comes with a Russian Imperial are present and although not listed as such, it has a nice bourbon-barrel aged finish. This is a beer worth cellaring for a year or so. I think it could only get more complex. 10 thumbs up!!!(didn't I tell you, I'm all thumbs)

Highland Imperial Mocha Stout : Now this one was a pleasant surprise. I guess I had an unfounded negative attitude toward this Asheville brewery. Maybe it was Highland Brewery's rather plain packaging or the fact that they can be found everywhere here. Really, I think it was because the packaging and the ease of finding their beer reminded me of a rather inferior brewery in Portland called Henry Weinhard. This beer has erased that idea permanently from my head. 'Ol Henry never put out a beer like this. While this is a pricier and more than likely more flavorful version of their Black Mocha Stout, it is well worth it. Their website states that there are sill some bottles of this floating around. If you can't find it, I highly recommend you getting down to the Monk before they run out.

So the stout poured pitch black with a nice tan head that stuck around until the last drop. It had a wonderful sweet vanilla-like flavor with a nice coffee, almost sweet latte-like, finish. All I can say is, I wanted more and I was starting to get tipsy so that wasn't going to happen. My wife said it was her favorite of the night. This experience really changed my mind quickly on this local brewery. If you like stouts, you should love this one, and if you don't, give it a try. I think it could change your mind.

Oskar Blues Gordon : For the last taste of the evening I go for Godon from Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. Ah, an IPA. The beer of choice in the northwest. I guess they consider this a double IPA. I just consider it great. Then I was thrown for a loop. This comes in a can? I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Though this was on draught, I just could not expect that something this good could ever have come from a can. Of course, most craft brew lovers remember their college days filled with Natural Light downed by the truckloads. Natty Light came from a can, and it must have been good since we drank so much of it. Then again, there is a reason that we have not had beer from a can, aside from the occasional sporting event, in a long time. Because good beer stopped coming from a can. Craft brewers just did not do it. I don't know the exact reason why. Maybe it is just easier to bottle than it is to can. And from reading Oskar Blue's website, they found it quite hysterical, also. They just thought it would be funny to can instead of bottle. But don't let that fool you. This is great beer.

This double IPA was surprisingly low on bitterness in comparison to other double IPA's. Quite smooth and sweet with hints of citrus, almost pineapple-like, and a mild minty finish. I rank this up at the top of my list for IPA's and I come from the land of IPA's. I was also surprised to taste a little vanilla with just a slight bitter, peppery finish. I will never look at canned beers the same. Please do your taste buds a favor and give this beer a try. Even if you do not like IPA's much, I think you will like this one.

All in all, I had a wonderful first visit to The Thirsty Monk. I am excited to know that a new monk is opening quite close to me, and even more excited to learn that the new Monk will feature different beers with an emphasis on locals. Gives me a reason to frequent both. And to have an event like Monk-days every Monday, you just cannot go wrong. I am going to reserve as many Mondays as possible to head down to The Thirsty Monk in order to try as many beers as soberingly as possible. And I will always report what I taste.

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