Tag Archives: barriques

New Brew: New Holland el Mole Ocho

10 Jun

A little spice can go a long way.  True in life, especially true in food, and occasionally true in beer.  When I saw New Holland Brewing’s el Mole Ocho at Barriques Fitchburg on a recent beer run before an epic camping and disc golfing (don’t call it frolfing) weekend, my inner spice fiend’s interest was certainly piqued.  A beer inspired by mole, the famous Mexican sauce often containing dried chiles, cocoa and/or coffee?  Count me in.  With Furthermore Oscura now constituting roughly 36% of my total liquid intake until I can’t find it on shelves anymore, a coffee-infused, Mexican-inspired beer couldn’t sound more delicious.  Unless you added cocoa and hot chiles, of course.

New Holland el Mole Ocho

Style: Spiced Strong Ale

Vitals: 8.0% abv; 22 degrees plato; brewed with cocoa, dried chiles and coffee; ~$6.99/22oz bomber at Barriques Fitchburg

Company Line: “Our exploration into the flavors of mole, the legendary sauce of central Mexico. Malty aroma and rich, cocoa-laden body laced with an invigorating tinge of dried chilies and coffee.”

My take: pours a dark mahogany/garnet in the glass under a finger of khaki-colored foam.  Nose oozes toffee, caramel sauce, vanilla and old coffee.  Palate is sticky-sweet with caramel malts, citrus, milk chocolate and the faintest chile heat in the finish.  Body is dense and slick, leaving the lips sticky with repeating sipping.  Like many spiced beers, this one is just a little too cautious with it’s theme ingredients.  I was hoping for more contribution from the cocoa, coffee and chiles in what could have been a seriously aromatic and complex beer.  Instead, I got what amounted to a a sticky doppelbock (Capital Autumnal Fire comes to mind) with a mildly spicy finish.  Don’t get me wrong, el Mole Ocho is a pleasant drink –  it just falls short of the the exciting potential of its culinary inspiration.


Wine O’Clock: Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008

28 Apr

Any self-professed geography nerd with a blog named after the geographic coordinates of his hometown has got to love a wine that proudly displays the lat and long of its home soil.  41 degrees 28 seconds South, 174 degrees 54 seconds East places this Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc in the Northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island.  Marlborough is a region renowned for the Sauvignon Blancs that sparked the nation’s wine industry and comprise some 70% of domestic production.  I first had this wine as part of a Wildman & Sons portfolio tasting at Barriques Middleton a few weeks ago and both I and my coworker were stricken by its intense herbal/grassy bouquet.  As the lawnmowers creep out of sheds across southern Wisconsin, the greenness of wines like this draw the mind to the summer days that lie just around the corner.

Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008

Style: Dry White

Vitals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc; 13% abv;  current Barriques Middleton tasting selection

Company Line:


In each vineyard the grapes were machine harvested in two lots to give flavor complexity. They were de-stemmed, cooled and the juice left in contact with the skins for four hours before gentle pressing. Two different yeast strains were used to maximize varietal flavor. Fermentation at 12-14ºC took place in tank and the wine was bottled young without malolactic fermentation.

2008 Harvest Notes:

The growing season started cool then developed into a warm, mild summer and harvest period. The grapes for this wine were produced from three vineyard sites, one in Brancott to the south, one on Raupara Road to the north of the Wairau Valley, and one in the upper Wairau. Each site contributes to the spectrum of flavors in the final blend. The four year-old vines were cane pruned and VSP trellised.

Tasting Notes: The wine shows intense passion fruit and mango aromas, backed by classic herbal notes of boxwood, nettle and ripe capsicum. It has a lively palate of tropical fruit with crisp lime acidity and lingering passion fruit.

Food Match: sushi, shellfish, salmon, oysters, grilled vegetables, fish, crab, chicken, Asian cuisine.

My take: Pale straw yellow wine  displays ample nose of melon, white peach and grassy herb.  Intensely herbal on the palate with a bracing acidity cut by lighter fruit notes of tropical citrus and passion fruit.  Another overwhelmingly grassy New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc that opens up in fruit and acidity as it warms slightly.  The greenness really grew on me the more I drank and I can imagine this going as well with grilled seafood as it did with the fresh, cilantro-heavy, smoky pico de gallo I made this morning and am snacking on as I type.  Summer feels closer with each sip.

New Brew: Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA

24 Apr

The Belgian-style pale ale fest continues with Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA.  Ale Asylum has attempted to one-up your standard Belgian-style beer by evoking the holy aura of the Trappist designation.  While obviously not a true Trappist beer (Ale Asylum’s East Side warehouse digs are neither a monastery in Europe nor staffed by monks of the Trappist order), the use of the phrase summons a certain expectation of sublime complexity due to proprietary yeast profiles used by the famous breweries.  If nothing else, the word gets your average beer geek all hot and bothered.  Brewer Dean Coffey has exhibited a fairly deft hand with Belgian-style beers in the past – his Triple Nova, Diablo, Happy Ending, and Mercy all strong efforts.  Paired with a demonstrated love for hop-forward ales (Hopalicious, Ambergeddon, Balistic IPA, and Action Jacksin DIPA all tongue-scorchers), Bedlam! has the pedigree for New World-Old World nirvana.

Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA

Style: Belgian-style IPA

Vitals: ~7.5% abv; Citra hops; Trappist-style yeast; ~$9.79/six-pack at Barriques Market in Fitchburg

Company line: “A chaotic blend of Citra hops and Trappist-style yeast give this IPA aromas of summer fruit and a bright hop presence with a plush finish.  Bedlam is unfiltered and all natural for superior flavor and quality.  It is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way.”

My take: pours a radioactive reddish-orange in the glass, echoing the hue of the mad bear-creature on the label.  Aroma is intensely citrusy and dominated by the lime-y hop profile, with ripe fruit and spice filling out the bouquet.   The aptly-named Citra hops are the first impression on the palate as well, followed by apricot, mango and yeasty spice.  Body is light and airy, which along with the dry, hoppy finish lends ample drinkability.  A beer and a style made for spring, Bedlam doesn’t quite deliver enough Belgian-style yeast character to overcome the brisk Citra hop profile, but makes a fine warm-weather quaffer nonetheless.  While Ommegang BPA and Flying Dog Raging Bitch might deliver more of the spicy/fruity Belgian yeastiness, Bedlam is a hop-forward foray into the posh, tradition-blending new style set to take the brewing scene by storm this season.

Crispin Grover: The Saint Artisinal Reserve Cider

13 Apr

Sometimes you just need a break from the barley. Ciders can be a nice beer alternative and pair well with food in their own right.  When I saw a new cider on the shelves at work brewed with Trappist yeast and organic maple syrup, my interest was piqued.  I had tried one of Crispin’s standard ciders before on a lark, somewhat intrigued by their insistence that it be served over ice.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, their website reads more like that of a new club-worthy liqueur than a craft-brewed beverage.  With their Super-Premium billing, extensive Mixology recipes and food pairings, it would seem they are targeting somewhat different audiences than the typical craft beer brewer.  Their new Artisinal Reserve cider, The Saint, however, seems aimed at the more adventurous craft beer drinker familiar with the legendary Trappist beers of the Belgian Abbeys.  They hit their mark with me, and a pairing with seared pork chops and curried potato salad seemed as appropriate as anything.

Crispin The Saint

Style: Hard Cider with Maple Syrup

Vitals: 6.9% abv; Trappist yeast, Organic Maple Syrup; ~$6.50/22oz bottle at Barriques Wine & Spirits

Company Line:

Prepare to be converted. The Saint is a uniquely debonair & elegant cider, a cider to convert skeptics.

Naturally fermented using a premium blend of fresh pressed apple juice, not from concentrate, and fermented with Belgian Trappist beer yeasts, The Saint boasts a sweet floral bouquet that develops a yeasty, herbal complexity.

The Saint is uncorrupted by added malt, spirit or grape alcohols, and is free of added sugar, colorants, sorbate and benzoate preservatives, and is filtered cold for crisp refreshment.

A small batch, hand-crafted, super-premium hard apple cider, The Saint is smoothed with pure organic maple syrup for a silky, sustained mouth-feel that develops complexity on the palate. The Saint is vinted to a 6.9 percent ABV for a full body, yet remains exceptionally easy to drink from the first crisp sip to the last drop.It’s very, very good. The Saint has an elevated drinkability that is never sacrificed to overbearing complexity.

Cloudy Filtration. The embodiment of artisanal style, The Saint uses rack-aged apple wine through our cloudy filtration process. Discerning drinkers will find residual apple wine sediment in each bottle for a rich full-bodied flavor that’s true to the apple and good to the last drop. Give a full Bottoms-Up! Tilt & swirl to disperse the apple-wine sediment evenly and to ensure an even taste profile through the entire bottle.

My take: pours a cloudy, opalescent lemon yellow with no head to speak of (though carbonation erupts briefly when poured over ice, as directed).  I sampled The Saint two ways: over ice as recommended and, you know, just in a glass.  Aroma is light and, well, crisp with hints of lemon and appleskin and an underlining banana-clove yeastiness and caramel sweetness.  Palate explodes with sweet, ripe apple, caramel/maple and the aforementioned, slightly funky Trappist yeast characterized by spice and green olive.  Finish is lightly sweet with a yeasty dryness lingering.

Certainly, among the more Belgian beer-like ciders I have sampled and overall a very interesting drink.  I preferred the sharper flavor profile of the un-iced version, but the chilled sample did example a slick smoothness that is appealing in its own way.  A fun change of pace from beer without giving up the great complexity of traditional Belgian beer.

New Brew: Ommegang BPA

11 Apr

A beautiful spring Sunday with good sports drama (the Masters and Brewers-Cards) and good food (pics to come) calls for a tasty beverage.  A quick jaunt across the street to Barriques fixed me up with a bottle of Ommegang’s new limited release BPA or Belgian-Style Pale Ale.  Ommegang has been turning out solid and inspired Belgian-stlyle beers in Cooperstown, NY since 1997.  From textbook takes on traditional styles like Hennepin and Abbey Ale to experimental creations like Ommegeddon and Chocolate Indulgence, I always know I’m about to drink a quality beer crafted with passion.  While their special releases rarely knock your socks off with over-the-top flavor profiles, Ommegang beers are always deftly balanced and well-executed.  They just don’t know how to make bad beer.

BPA is the first in a series of beers for the brewery that, according to a beernews.org, is testing the waters for possible flagship beer or what they’re calling an “accessible draft” candidate.  Currently, Hennepin is the Ommegang beer most likely found at better beer bars, at least in this region.  While certainly more complex than your average premium macro lager, Hennepin remains a great gateway beer for the Belgian-style genre.  Pale ales have become a de facto entry point for many new craft beer drinkers, so you can’t blame Ommegang for attempting a drinkable hop-forward beer with a Belgian twist.

Ommegang BPA (Belgian-Style Pale Ale)

Style: uhhh, Belgian-style Pale Ale

Vitals: 6.2% abv, Belgian yeast, 5 malts, 2 hops, dry-hopped with Cascade, warm-cellared at the brewery; ~$7.49/bottle at Barriques Market in Fitchburg

Company Line: “This fine pale ale offers citrus and tropical fruit aromatics coming from a well balanced – yet ample – hop character.  It uses our own Belgian yeast, 5 malts, two hops, and plenty of patience.  Finishing touches include dry-hopping, with Cascade hops, and warm-cellaring.”

My take: pours a distinct tangerine-amber in the glass with ample white foam that fizzles quickly to a patchy film.  Aroma brims with lime, dry, herbal hops, apricot and a little yeasty funk.  Dry-hopping with Cascade lends a powdery herbal character accentuated by toasty malts and buttressed by tropical citrus and juicy pineapple.  Finishes dry with a lingering herbal bitterness.

Ommegang were going for flagship-worthy drinkability and accessibility with BPA and they have managed to hit both marks here.  Just hoppy enough without being resinous and tongue-twisting.  Fruity enough without scaring off the alpha males.  Would make for a solid addition to their year-round lineup and a viable alternative to Hennepin tap-handles in better beer bars.

Wine O’clock: Catalpa Pinot Noir 2007

17 Feb

Another day, another Barriques e-mail special washing away the haze of a shift spent catering to the eclectic masses of Middleton, WI.  The smooth subtlety of pinot noir is just what I need to scrub away the coffee grounds, scone crumbs and spent tea leaves acquired over eight-plus hours behind the bar.  Serenity now.

Wine: Catalpa Pinot Noir 2007

Vitals: 14.0% abv; Region – Alto Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina ; Aged 12 months on new French oak; Ageing potential – 8 years

Company Line: “Bright red ruby color. Aromas of blueberry and gooseberry jam, with hints of caramel and chocolate.  In the mouth, it is elegant and well-balanced, with smooth tannins and intense red fruit notes.  Great with soft cheeses, poultry and lamb.”

My take: deep garnet red in the glass with some floaty bits that stick to the side of the glass.  Blueberry and eucalyptus dominate the nose with a ribbon of milk chocolate upon deeper inspection.  Cherry and plum skins come to the front of the palate, which is pleasantly powdery as a result.  The overall impression is of a dark cherry truffle coated in dark cocoa powder.  Paired naturally with a salad of Granny Smith apples, walnuts, bleu cheese and blueberry vinaigrette.  A wine that added refinement to a day that desperately needed it.  And a steal at $11.99 (some $6 off retail).

Wine O’clock: Sumptuary Amador County Zinfandel 2007

12 Feb

Tonight’s wine comes with an interesting story.  I’ll let one of the big men behind the Barriques empire, Finn Berge, set the scene:

Sumptuary.  Kinda like Sanctuary but not.  That is of course unless you’re a trademark lawyer.  This will come as no surprise to any of you but I am not a lawyer and therefore when I heard about the David versus Goliath struggle between Tom Meadowcroft(David) and Brown Forman(Goliath) I just shook my head.  However, I stopped shaking my when I heard the end of the story where poor David lost the battle with Goliath and was ordered by the courts to sell off 900 cases of very spectacular Zin at lower then rock bottom prices.  Sniff, sniff…ah, opportunity!  But let’s back up a second.

Tom Meadowcroft operates a small 15,000 case a year winery in Cali.  They produce 4 different specialty wines including a Zinfandel called Sumptuary from Amador County.  Sumptuary comes from ancient Greece and Rome referring to laws controlling extravagance and morals of social hierarchies in society.  Brown Forman on the other hand, is one of the largest liquor and wine companies in the world.  They produce a wine called Sanctuary which is a compilation of juice from various appellations in California.  Now I’m betting that you wouldn’t confuse the two wines pictured below.

Sumptuary ZinfandelSanctuary

The lawyers for Brown Forman disagreed and forced Meadowcroft to stop selling the Sumptuary.  He was given 90 days to unload his remaining 900 cases which is where we left off.

Tough break for the little guy.  The least I could do was grab a bottle at what amounts to little more than half of its pre-litigation selling price.  This is my first time with a zin.  I hope she’s gentle.

Wine: Sumptuary Amador County Zinfandel 2007

Vitals: 14.9% abv; Region – Amador County, California; Grapes – 100% Zinfandel

Company line: sealed by court order or something.  There’s nothing.  Really.

My take: sits a vibrant, translucent  ruby red in the glass.  Nose explodes with blackberry and currant – extremely ripe and juicy.  Palate is brash with semi-sweet dark red fruits, brown sugar and spice.  Mouthfeel is juicy with a powdery finish that coats the mouth and demands another sip.  Sumptuary is fruity, warming, and pulls no punches.  A lot of wine for $10.99 (or $9.29 if you e-mail the big man asap).  Don’t worry, big guy.  Dudes can drink zin, too.  This ain’t no Franzia.

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