May 23, 2018

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GABF brewers' diaries

Vinnie Cilurzo

Santa Rosa - September 23 (there is something lucky, or unlucky about the number 23)

It is the night before we leave for the GABF, this is one of my favorite traditions of the GABF! For ten years now (the entire length of time Natalie and I have been attending GABF) we taste all the beers that we have entered into the event the night before we leave for Denver. The tasting that Natalie and I perform is a mix of how we feel the beers will do within the competition guidelines for the judging, and how we like the beers in general.

We line the beers up in order from mildest in flavor the strongest in flavor, sort of. This is a hard to do because my beers for the most part are a mix of hoppy brews and Belgian style ales. First things first though, a little Tom Waits for the background music, now that's beer drinking music! And an appropriate one at that, it's a bootleg (I think) of a Tom Waits show from 1972ish in Denver, from the Heart of Saturday Night tour.

Ok, for the beers:

Russian River Golden Ale (American Blonde Ale, 5% ABV): Light, fruity, tart finish, grainy. Not my favorite, a little out of balance. Not a bad beer, just not exciting.

Redemption (Belgian style Pale/Single Ale, 5% ABV): Hazy, bready/ doughy aroma. Mild spice and ester in the aroma and flavor. The spice is definitely on the clove side. Natalie and I both really liked this beer, but it's not a style that is usually brewed in Belgium. I first brewed this in January 2000 after we returned from a trip to Belgium where we stayed within the walls of the Abbey where Chimay is made. After tasting their Single Ale that the monks drink, I was inspired to brew the style. This is a GABF judging only beer - I wish we were pouring a keg at our booth.

Damnation (Strong Golden Ale, 7% ABV): Fruity, Natalie thought its aroma was of white peaches. A bit of sulfur from the bottle conditioning. Mild phenolic in flavor. I thought this beer was a bit low in alcohol. A nice drinking beer at 7% alcohol by volume though.

Salvation (Strong Dark Ale, 9% ABV): Rich, toasty malt aroma. Sweet flavors of orange marmalade. A tart, roasted, citrus finish is nicely balanced with the bittering hops.

Temptation (Belgian Blonde Ale aged in a White Wine Barrel for 15 Months with Brettanomyces, 6.75% ABV): Natalie's first comment, "A dirty little beer!" Brettanomyces (bacterial wine yeast, a component of Lambic beer) is big in the aroma and flavor. A mild tart finish makes this beer very drinkable. It's a little low in body, but for me, it's hard to decide between the Temptation and the Redemption. I like them both, we will finish this 22-ounce bottle tonight!

Russian River IPA (American IPA, 6.5% ABV): Big citrus, floral aroma and flavor. Peppery in bitterness, probably from the chinook hops. Very dry, no malt character. Yes, I think I've reached perfection in an IPA, no malt and all hops!

Pliny the Elder (Double IPA, 8% ABV): Aromatic but I can't put my finger on it. Natalie thought it was tropical. Again, this beer is bone dry, like its sister beer IPA. Medium body, bitter, but not bitter enough for a Double IPA in my mind. These bottles are over 3 months old though.

Ok, we've tasted all the beers, now for our rankings. This has nothing to do with how we feel they will do with-in the GABF competition, but how we personally like the beers.

Natalie's order or liking:
Russian River IPA
Pliny the Elder
Russian River Golden Ale

Vinnie's order of liking:
Russian River IPA
Pliny the Elder
Russian River Golden Ale

After seven beers, now I have to pack!

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