May 24, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 20
Interesting new beers

Jan. 18, 2001


Recently released new beers that you may want to look for:

- North Coast Brewing Co.'s Old Stock Ale. The Fort Bragg, Calif., brewery made just 1,200 cases ... then challenged beer drinkers to wait a year to enjoy the beer.

Stock ales have an fascinating place in brewing history. Before refrigeration, it was hard to make good beer in the summer months, so in the winter breweries would produce large stocks of beer for use in summer. They would mix newly brewed summer beer with a small portion of the strong winter beer to quickly make the summer beer ready for drinking before it began to acquire off flavors. If any of the stock ale was still around when brewing resumed in October it could then be served by itself, and was known as an "old" ale.


North Coast Stock Ale is a huge beer, with an original gravity of over 1.110. It is made from floor-malted Maris Otter Pale Malt and Fuggles hops, both from England. It's vintage dated, and the brewery suggests cellaring the beer for a year to let complex flavors develop.

- It almost seems as if organic beers have come full circle with the arrival of Samuel Smith Organic Ale and Organic Lager from England. The beers are imported by Merchant du Vin in Seattle. The company was the first to bring organic beer to the United States when it began importing Pinkus Muller Ur Pils, Munster Alt and Hefe-Weizen in 1979.

Even though organic barley costs 30% more than ordinary grain and organic hops are two to three times more expensive organic beers have enjoyed a surge in popularity along with organic foods.

Samuel Smith's organic beers receive organic certification from the prestigious Soil Association, the UK's leading organization for organic food and farming. The Samuel Smith Old Brewery uses only Soil Association-certified, organically grown malted barley and aromatic hops in the production of the beers. Samuel Smith Organics are available in 18.7-ounce "Yorkshire pints."

- The newest seasonal from New Belgium Brewing Co. is called Biere De Mars and its ethereal label lives up to the description that Belgian-born and trained brewmaster Peter Bouchaert gives the beer. "Picture rolling hills, brick farmhouses and an area once rich in mining," he said. "I want you to visualize the organic architecture of Victor Horta, a curving banister with soft light falling from the window. This is what we tried to put into the beer."

Bottle-conditioned, it was inspired by the southern Belgian/northern French beers that celebrate the half-winter, half-spring month of March. It's brewed with barley, oats and wheat malt, includes orange peel and a wild yeast strain is added for bottle conditioning. The beer pours to a hazy orange hue, has a light malty fruitiness and a refreshing citrusy finish.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Fuller's Brewery in London

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

The brewer renowned for its London Pride and Extra Special Bitter offers a malty Winter Ale, at 5.3 per cent. It has a dark orange colour and Fuller's typical interplay of appetising flavours: in this case, fruity yeastiness; earthy, herbal hoppiness; and a big, firm, nutty, sweetness that suggests crystal malt. Slips down with perilous ease. My choice to welcome this new year, at my local pub. This has the Fuller's range on draft, cask-conditioned and beautifully kept. The pub, which I shall not identify, is in a west London neighborhood less than a mile from the brewery. Fuller's bottled-conditioned Vintage Ale, at 8.5 per cent, is yet fruitier, with a grapefruit-like note reminiscent of American hops; astonishingly lively, slightly winey, flavours; and a creamy maltiness.

Brewed by Gray's Brewing Co. in Janesville, Wis.

Tasting notes from Roger Protz:

Classic in every way -- deep brown-black color with a ruby edge. Tart, slightly sour and lactic aroma with a deep grainy note from the oats. Chewy malt in the mouth with creamy oats making their presence felt and a hop prickle on the tongue. The finish is bittersweet and complex with hints of tart fruit, licorice and spicy hops. A well-crafted and deeply refreshing stout.

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