Posts Tagged With: collaboration

Texas Brown Ale – aka TBA

This afternoon I am sitting down with a collaborative effort by three breweries: Bear Republic and Stone out of California and Fat Head’s out of Cleveland, OH. The beer is called TBA which stands for “Texas Brown Ale.” As I understand it, this beer is a throwback to the early days of craft brewing, and stems from a recipe that used to be brewed by home brewers. The beer was so uncharacteristic for any style at the time it kept losing in competitions despite being popular (and quite tasty). It finally was accepted into the newly formed “California Dark” category in a Houston, TX competition.

If you’re looking for more info on the history and making of this beer please check out Stone’s blog on the subject.

The back of the bottle describes a Christmastime brew day between the three brewers full of the whimsy of nostalgia and new ingredients (apparently this is the first time that Stone has brewed with Cascade hops, which are typically one of the most prevalent varieties in most modern American breweries today.

In addition to various other hop additions and specialty malts, TBA was brewed using molasses and brown sugar. Don’t let the brown color or molasses/malty descriptors fool you though – this was brewed at Stone, and is meant to be an all0American style brown ale. As such, expect this bad boy to be richly hop-forward and much more bitter than that Brooklyn Brown Ale or Newcastle that you might be enjoying this St. Patty’s Day at home.

For now freshness shouldn’t be a question: it’s only been brewed once and was released just a couple weeks ago. That said, I do believe that there is a typo or oversight on the bottle. On the back there is a signature from Mitch Steele (Brewmaster of Stone). Underneath it is dated “January 2011). Either it was supposed to say “January 2012” – the likely time of bottling/label approval, or it’s just an old quote/old format from these collaborative releases. Either way, I find it a tad conflicting when you consider that on the side of the bottle it states “Drink fresh. Do not age.”

TBA Tasting Notes:

  • Appearance: Hazy appearance, the color of muted sarsaparilla. Tall creamy head.
  • Aroma/Flavor: Molasses is strong, as is a fruity yeast element with pine hop presence.
  • Mouthfeel: Muted carbonation, thick, lingering bitterness.
  • Overall: A fun beer, well priced for a specialty single, worth a trip down memory lane.

Rating: B/B+

The Review:

Poured into a Stone Ruination Pint glass. I know that pints are typically taboo for the most serious of craft beer nerds, but I prefer to serve a beer in a brewery-specific glass whenever possible, and as far as pints go – this one is pretty damn bad ass.

On the pour the beer quickly produces a huge head. From my own homebrewing experience, I’ll chalk that up to the usage of brown sugar – which can be difficult to control if it doesn’t ferment out completely before bottling. At 3 fingers it took a while to empty the entire bottle into my pint.

The foam cap is creamy and dense (what I often liken to a meringue). Lace is minimal, but does follow each sip on the inside half of the glass. The color I am comparing to is sarsaparilla and the beer showed some considerable chill haze which clear up rather well as the beer warms. Once clear, this brown ale takes on a bright garnet hue when held to the light.

The aroma is striking. From a distance, after popping the cap but before the pour I was already smelling the dark sugars of the molasses. In the glass, the beer is semi-sweet with aromas of snickerdoodle. Add in the fruity esters from the yeast and fruitcake isn’t entirely out of the question in the list of aromas one might discover. The hops are very bold in the taste, but take time and warmth to truly show their colors in the aroma. Once warm though, green leafy hops and pine bough present themselves.

After the first sip however, you won’t doubt the hop schedule again – very forceful hop flavors rush at you from the onset. Bitter pine and spruce flavors mingle with greener grassy notes. Very minimal white grapefruit pith character on the back end. The malt is not nearly as apparent as the bottle description might have you believe, but it is there. I imagine without the stronger darker malts this would be bitter enough to teeter on Double IPA territory perceptible IBUs. There’s some mild roast and a sweet breadiness.

The mouthfeel is fairly creamy with subdued carbonation. The green hop flavor lingers as does some residual bitterness. A tad sticky and coating on the palate.

Overall I liked this beer. TBA starts off unique, carries a large hop punch midway, and ends even better than it began if you can stand to wait long enough for it to warm. Priced reasonably ($2.99-3.99 for the single). Definitely worth a shot if you come across this fresh.

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Sierra Nevada & Dogfish Head – Life and Limb

Two years ago when Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head breweries teamed up for the collaborative beer Life and Limb, the beer literally flew off the shelves. There was an unspoken hysteria, and an apparent lack of planning for the demand the beer would incite. As such, I distinctly remember hearing stories where a store was allocated 2 bottles for sale (and then promptly either kept those bottles for themselves, or charged people $50 to buy the $12 beer. I believe that Ohio was given something on the order of 4 cases for the entire state (a mere 48 bottles). I had hoped to try it on tap at Winking Lizard, but the keg blew in under an hour and I missed out.

Much to the joy (and chagrin) of many in the craft beer scene, the two brewers teamed up again to brew batch two of this beer. Only this time, they made a lot of it. Panic stricken when I heard reports that the beer was reaching shelves across the country this summer, I started asking around about where to buy some in Columbus. A friend offered to pick up a couple bottles for me while he was at a bottle shop carrying the beer. I later found some myself, and bought two more bottles. Then, I saw it on tap, and ordered it a few times. What does this all say? Well, first off, they did a wonderful job of meeting demand. Secondly, the beer is just damn good.

I regret that I am blogging about the beer months after the release, however, I fully expect this to become an annual release going forward. And maybe, just maybe, if you get lucky, you may still stumble across a bottle of this at a lesser traveled bottle shop of liquor store. If you happen to find some, buy it. The price is excellent – $10.99 for the 750ml size bottle (same as a bottle of wine).

So, what is Life and Limb?

“LIFE-This beer is naturally carbonated to enhance complexity¬† refinement, and shelf-life; the family of yeast cells in every bottle working in vibrant unison.

LIMB-The two syrups used in making this beer, (Maple and¬† Birch) contribute to its unique and earthy flavor and symbolize the collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.”

The beer is 10.2% abv, and a style that’s a bit of an oddball. Slightly stout, slightly strong ale, and mostly a combination of those two styles plus a half dozen others. Maple syrup from Vermont and Birch syrup from Alaska mingle with the combined house yeast strains from both breweries to create something truly unique.

The Review:

I wanted to pour this into a Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head glass, so I selected the globe I have from Dogfish Head that I received with a glass of their Zeno saison earlier this year.

The cork was easy to remove, and the pour showcases a dark caramel colored beer with amazing clarity collecting into a deep molasses brown color in the bowl of the glass. The head is easily controlled, and I decided to keep this one shorter. the foam is airy and a light balsa wood color. A short cap of tight bubbles is always present, down to the last sip.

The aroma showcases all of the ingredients. There is an initial alcohol bite to the beer, and an interestingly fruity aroma I must attribute to the yeast used. Then comes the aroma of molasses and sweet dark Belgian-kilned malts. The birch is very woody and dry, while the maple – though more subtle – adds a bit of sweetness to the brew. There’s a nice nuttiness to the aroma as well, akin to toasty candied pecans.

I love how all of the aromatic elements come together in the flavor. The brew is sweet and woody. Though no wood was used in this version of the beer, one could easily be fooled. I wish it were though, as Dogfish Head makes some of the best wood-aged beers around (Burton Baton, Palo Santo Marron, and Wrath of Pecant). Sticky and drier than one might expect given the sugars used in the brewing process, Life and Limb is a tasty treat. The bottle recommends sharing it with friends and family. A good bet given the high abv. However, this is the third bottle I have savored alone, and while maybe a tad guilty, I am happy to have spent so much time to intimately enjoy what this beer has to offer.

There’s a website dedicated to this beer with a little more info and some cool pictures from the original brew day in 2009. Check out:

Below is a video (also on where Sam Calagione from dogfish Head and Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada discuss the beer.

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