Moa Brewing, St Josephus Tripel
This is the second New Zealand beer I'm reviewing. I have to admit that it had one strike against it before I even opened the bottle, because of... the bottle. It's green. Yes, there's actually a reason why most craft beer comes in brown bottles, namely, to block UV light from spoiling it. Specifically, it converts the iso-alpha-acids (which make beer bitter) into 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, the smelly chemical that animals like skunks use to defend themselves. Yes, "skunky" beer really is skunky. So, while that green bottle, or golden beer inside a clear bottle, may look pretty, it's an olfactory time bomb.
For those unfamiliar with the style, tripels are Belgian beers that tend to be quite strong in alcohol, but light in body and color, and slightly sweet. They can knock you on your ass, because they're pleasant and easy to drink (if a little cloying), but pack a wallop.
Moa's St Josephus is no exception, and is a good example of the style. at 9.5% ABV, it's twice as strong as commercial pilsners.It's sweet but clean, avoiding the fruity esters, clovey phenolics, and firey fusel alcohols that can result from fermenting big beers. I personally don't think that tripels have a whole lot of character, but you may like them, and they're certainly an easy introduction to Belgian beers (if you don't stand up too quickly after drinking one). My only real complaint is that, after I drank it, Dr. P complained that my breath smelled like stale beer. So, if you have to kiss a beer connoisseur, you may want to keep that in mind...
Cooper's Extra Strong Vintage Ale
On a recent visit to the Church Key, they happened to have this on tap, and since I was on the lookout for beers from this Australian craft brewer, I figured I'd have a glass. It was a tasty, though not terribly remarkable, strong ale, with a copper-brown color, toffee nose, and malty taste. It left me wanting something with a little more character...
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
On the same trip to the Key, I was looking for something for my friend Tom, who had earlier in the evening enjoyed a bottle of my Duper Cooper oaked-double pale ale, and liked it better than the Cooper's we'd both tried, so I bought us a round of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.
Now, anyone who spent much time around me in the fall of 2010 knows that I have an intense hatred of Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head. It's not that he's an evil man, and I admire that, beginning as a homebrewer, he's built a very successful little craft brewing empire, pushed the industry in new directions, and even helped make some significant contributions to our understanding of the history of beer in different cultures around the world.
But, there's just something about him that sets me off. I got a whiff of it when I read his book, but it became really apparent when he got his own TV show. Basically, he reminded me of all the smarmy, preppy frat boy types I knew in high school and college. People with egos like his automatically irritate me (of course, people tell me all the time to my face that I'm an arrogant bastard, so I don't exactly have a lot of ground to stand on here), and because of this I must begrudge him his success and all the good he may have done. (I used to have a similar opinion of Sam Adams' Jim Koch, but no longer do, as I will explain in a future post.)
Fortunately, I'm man enough not to let any of that affect my opinion of his beer. The 120 min is a pretty extreme beer, more of a cross between a barleywine and an IPA. It's pumpkin orange, almost syrupy in its mouthfeel. The huge amount of hops is counterbalanced by a huge amount of sweetness, to the point that your mouth almost doesn't know what to do with it. At its worst moments, it's both cloying and pungent. Frankly, I think there are better beers out there for a super-hop experience; 120 min is sort of hop-head dessert. But, if you're looking for an gateway into extremely hoppy beers, it's probably a good place to start.
Moa Brewing, St Josephys Tripel. ABV 9.5%. IBU low.
Cooper's Extra Strong Vintage Ale. ABV 7.5%. IBU low.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. ABV 15-20%. IBU 120.