Lindeman’s Framboise: A beer for non-beer lovers…

I think the cat adds a certain je ne sais quoi, non? Photo courtesy of http://beerathomejapan.wordpress.com

I think the cat adds a certain je ne sais quoi, n'est-ce pas? Photo courtesy of http://beerathomejapan.wordpress.com

I remember the first time I had Lindeman’s Framboise.  I was with the epic-ness that is Tim Van Loan and we were on our way to Dolores Park in San Francisco for a picnic of sorts.  We stopped by Bi-Rite Market to pick up food and drink and the conversation went something like this:

TVL: “Okay, I am going to introduce you to the most deliciously epic beer…see, it’s a beer that doesn’t taste like a beer, but it’s an explosion of flavors in your mouth!!  Have you ever heard of Framboise?!”

Me: “Uh, no….doesn’t that mean raspberry in French?”

TVL: “Who cares what it means in French, in Tim Van Loan language it means AWESOME!!!”

(at this point I must have backed up a bit because TVL was scaring me with the intensity of his words)

Me: “Uh, okay…I’ll give it a go.”

Now, I have to tell you, recommendations of “epic proportion” from TVL are a dime a dozen, so I didn’t really have high expectations (sorry, TVL! :-P) but as soon as I tasted it, I knew I was hooked.  Framboise is a fruit lambic beer, usually flavored with fruit or syrup, and has a sour finish.  However, Lindeman’s Framboise has quite a sweet flavor to it.  It has also got a lovely carbonation and is especially tasty on a warm afternoon.  If you don’t like sweet beers, stay far, far away from this one.  But if you like sweet cocktails, this beer is for you.  And at 2.5% ABV, you can drink this for a while before worrying about getting drunk.

Five out of Five pints!

Belgian Ales, Chapter One: Saison (Saison Du Buff)

On my recent trip down to San Diego, I stopped by Toronado to check out the selection of beers.  Similar to its sister location in San Francisco, they have a wide variety of draft and bottle beers.  As it was a warm afternoon, nothing seemed more fitting than a saison.  A saison is a style of beer from Belgium that is a delicious complement for a warm, sunny day.   Saison Du Buff is a collaboration of the guys behind Dogfish Head, Stone Brewing and Victory Brewing.  I was instantly drawn to this beer since it contains parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  And like that classic Simon and Garfunkel song, it didn’t disappoint.

As you can see, it’s a beautiful honey colored beer.  What you can’t see in this picture is that it had a lovely, meringue like head.  Despite having parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme in it, I couldn’t really distinguish these herbs in the smell or taste.  This really smelled and tasted like a traditional saison, citrus and cloves with a dry finish.  The thing I love about Saison Du Buff (and saisons in general) is that it’s simple and refreshing.  At 6.8% ABV,  this could be a session beer…especially on a warm, sunny, not a care in the world, San Diego afternoon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 pints

An Evening At La Trappe

Tuesday night was the first “Pint Sized Musings” sponsored event at La Trappe in San Francisco and there was a decent turn out.  It all started with my friend Suki mentioning to me that she had never been to La Trappe.  After I got over the shock of it, I immediately started looking at the calendar to see what dates would work for the both of us.  Then it turned into a “who else can we invite” which then turned into a “let’s make it an event!”  And so it went and I invited some good friends to come out to La Trappe for an evening of tasty Belgian beers.

I got there right at 6:00 pm to secure the back lounge area which would allow a larger group to sit together.  After my eyes adjusted to the low lighting, I decided to start with a Maredsous 8 dubbel (served in a Malheur glass).  I’ll save that for another review but I will say it was very good.  As people started to arrive, I took them up to the bar to try a few beers before settling on what they wanted.  Most people are not familiar with Belgian styles so luckily Mike (bartender at La Trappe) was kind enough to give tasters (he does this regularly so if you visit, don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure!).  People got settled with their first drink and there was a lot of conversation and merriment.  La Trappe offers Belgian fries and so a few people ordered those to share….they go so well with beer!

Next I started ordering bottles of various styles for people to try.  We started out with a saison, Sason D’Epeautre.  This was a perfect farmhouse ale, light and dry.  Everyone thought it was very tasty and refreshing as well (perfect for those monks working out in the fields…LoL).  Next up was Chimay White.  The name Chimay is familiar to most people although not everyone has had the white.  This is a wonderful example of the tripel style, fruity and well balanced.  For the last bottle I had wanted everyone to try Three Philosophers because of its unique flavor (thanks to the kriek that is added).  Sadly, La Trappe were out of it and so I opted to go with two other quadrupels, Allagash Four Ale and Koningshoeven.  Out of the two, Koningshoeven definitely won the favorite of the night from the vast majority of the people in attendance.   We also ended up trying a couple others, thanks to Andrei and Neha – Malheur Dark Brut (think champagne style beer) and Zoetzuur, a Flemish red.

Zoetzuur (Flanders Red ale), Koningshoeven Quadrupel, Malheur Dark Brut (Bière de Champagne), Allagash Four (Quadrupel), Saison d'Epeautre, Chimay White (Tripel)

Amazing selection or beer and I think everyone left feeling content and maybe a bit buzzed.  All in all, a wonderful evening spent with great friends, great beer, and a great locale.

Thanks to all who attended and I’m looking forward to planning the next one!

All photos courtesy of Andrei Zmievski

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse: My Session beer of choice…

Photo credit: http://snailstales.blogspot.com/

After reading Steph Weber’s post about session beer, I started to think about what beers I like that would qualify as “session”.  I blog a lot about my love of high ABV brews, but at the end of the day, these aren’t beers you can drink pints of without taste bud overkill or an extreme hangover the next day.  That’s where Franziskaner comes in.

There may be some people who discount Franziskaner as “good beer” based solely on the fact that it’s made by Spaten, a “macrobrewer” of sorts.  I may have even discounted some beers in the past because of this, but I’ve had an epiphany: not all macrobrewers make crap beer. 🙂  So Spaten “Darth Vader” Daddy aside, here are my thoughts on Franziskaner and why it makes a good session beer.

Franziskaner is a hefeweizen or wheat beer that is brewed with a high proportion of (you guessed it!) wheat!  This German style of beer has been popular for as long as I’ve been legal to drink and is often served with a piece of citrus.  Whether it’s required or not, this beer is good even without a lemon or orange in it.  Its appearance is a beautiful honey color and is a bit cloudy (normal for hefeweizens) with a decent head that drops as you drink it.  It has a distinct smell of cloves and citrus and the taste is refreshing…with flavors of spices (there’s that clove!), fruit and wheat.   There is practically no flavor of hops in this beer, so for those of you who don’t like hoppy beers, Franziskaner (and most wheat beers) would be a good choice.

This is my perfect hot weather beer although I can drink it year round.  The carbonation is light and mild and it feels smooth going down.  And at only 5.0% ABV,  I can drink more than one and not worry about getting drunk after a couple.  Four pints out of five on Franziskaner.  With the weather warming up, why not have one!

Other good hefeweizen to consider – Weihenstephaner

Note to SF’ers:  Mollie Stones had it on sale this past weekend for $6.99/six-pack.

What’s your session beer of choice?

Anderson Valley Huge’r Boont

Huge'r Boont, Anderson Valley 30/MAY/2010

One of my last stops on the Mendocino Beer/Wine weekend was Anderson Valley Brewing Company.  After trying their sampler, I decided to order their Huge’r Boont.  Strangely enough, this American IPA was my favorite…it’s strange because generally speaking, I don’t care for IPAs.  Now before you hoppy folks get your panties in a bunch, let me explain.  I used to detest any beer that had an overly hoppy flavor.  However, after some guidance and “palate expansion” I’ve come to enjoy many of them (including Pliny The Elder!).  Still, IPAs are midtable for me, but I’ve come to appreciate them.  Huge’r Boont has an impressive 73 IBUs, but manages to balance the hops with the malt quite nicely.  It poured as a beautiful amber color with a creamy head.  Definitely had caramel notes with a citrus background (sounds like an odd combination but that’s what I tasted!).  At the brewery you get this for a steal at $2.95/half pint, but I’m sure if you were to find it elsewhere it would be pricier…ah, the joys of drinking at a brewery!

Overall this beer was good but not great. I’m giving it 3 out of 5 pints rating.

33 Bottles of Beer Journal – A Review

Tasting beer (like wine) can be a bit daunting when you have to review it.  How do you remember the things you smell/taste?  What was your reaction upon first tasting it?  What were the specific characteristics of the beer?  Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend, I have Scout Book’s 33 Bottles of Beer Journals.  You may wonder, “why 33?”  I never thought of it until someone said this weekend, “did they come in a 3 pack?  For 99 bottles of beer?”  *facepalm*  But I digress.

Photo credit scoutbooks.com

These sell at Scout Books for $12 (for a 3 pack) which is a decent price.  They are 3.5″ W x 5″ H, which conveniently fits in a back pocket, or even a small handbag.

Below you’ll find the flavor wheel, which allows you to show how present (or not) specific characteristics are in the beer.

Photo credit scoutbooks.com

Here is a larger view of where you can state the who/what/when/why/how of the beer you’re tasting.

Tasting notes

Photo credit scoutbooks.com

As a novice explorer of the beer world, this has been incredibly helpful for me to remember the beers I’ve tasted.  I also love the stars rating area which helps me quantify how I really feel about the beer.  Some of the more technical aspects (OG, TG) I don’t use because they’re not important to me, but clearly a lot of thought has gone into the making of this little book.  Many thanks to the folks over at BS Brewing who designed this.  If you are at all interested in reviewing beer, I’d highly recommend this product.  I really love it and look forward to filling out more books as my education continues!

Have you tried these books or something similar?  What do you think?  Would you change/add anything?  Let me know your thoughts!