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Friday, December 19, 2008

When Aged Beers Are Still Green and Other Minor Discoveries

Although a last minute crap-out is often in the cards when I plan to go to a beer event (introversion, decrepitude, alzheimers--pick one), I did manage to make it to Roots last night. For my troubles I was rewarded with a great bounty: snifters of both '06 and '07 vintages of Epic, three bottles of 2008 Epic ($22/22 ounces or, inexplicably, $45 for 40 ounces--methinks the Roots boys skipped the business class where they taught the "volume discount" lesson*), and an introduction to Bill, the illustrious blogger from It's Pub Night. As a cherry on top, Bill was sporting a fine Honest Pint Project t-shirt. (It with embarrassment that I tried to explain, inadequately, why I wasn't wearing my own.)

But you care about the beer.

As I sniffed and sipped the icy Epics (and tried to warm them with chilled hands), a couple things came to me as snow does, lately, in Portland--softly and tentatively. The first is more an admission than a discovery: with beer as strong as Epic (14%), one travels to a land where the signposts don't mean anything. The aromas and flavors are saturated and dense--beyond the ken of someone with only a good palate. I was picking up notes I didn't recognize and couldn't describe. In the middle of the '06, for example, there seemed to be something toasted, but this made no sense; shouldn't anything toasted be swamped, Tsunami-like, by the liquor and hops and malt alcohol?

Observation two: big beer, more than other styles, has no fixed nature. The constituents wink in and out of expression so that in a vertical tasting, the best years might be dominated by different elements--alcohol here, oxidation there, hops in another one. (A point relevant to the Epics--see below.)

Finally, and this is the most surprising discovery: a one-year old beer can be green. The '07 wasn't quite done yet; its notes were too sharp-edged. You might not have noticed had the '06 not been available--but there it was, creamy, rich, softer, more appropriately stewed. I picked up a bottle for the larder, and I don't plan on cracking it for years--three at a bare minimum, five more likely, and maybe longer. Homebrewers know that you can tell what your beer will taste like when you bottle it. Sure, it's flat, warm, and unfinished, but you get the idea. That's what young Epic is like--halfway done. You don't spend a dollar an ounce on a beer so that your reaction is "I get the idea." Let it sit and you'll experience the idea, not intuit it.

Okay, some notes. We picked up a pour each of the '06 and '07 and tasted them side by side. Both were a very dark brown, but the '06 was murky while the '07 was brighter and had red notes. The '07 had zero head (could have been the pour), while the '06 had a gorgeous, creamy (if quickly-dissipating) frosting. I got more nose off the '06, something like those traditional fruit cakes that are made with liquor--lots of fruit and alcohol. Also a note of wood. The '07 was sweeter and smelled more like straight liquor. On the tongue, the '06 was a lot creamier, while the '07 seemed thinner and more viscous than creamy.

The '06 had a clearly identity in terms of flavor: the malt alcohol came forward while the liquor notes remained that, notes. I got a lot of toffee more than fruit, some roastiness and that toast. The '07 was liquor-forward, sharper and less refined. However, and here's the thing about age, it had a wonderful vanilla middle wholly absent in the '06. My attention went back to it on each sip. I wouldn't say it's worth cracking a bottle of '07 to find this note, but it shows how beers are not fixed entities, but evolutions of flavor and aroma.


Two other Roots-related items. First, they now have a full kitchen. I don't know how long, or how long I've missed it (though more than once, for sure), but you can now get cooked food. I haven't a clue whether it's good, but it's pretty fast. Even amid the rush last night, a friend I was with got a burger in about 20 minutes from ordering it.

Second, the side room is sort of open (see pic, circa 5:45 last night before the crowd arrived)--Cheers to Belgian Beers-goers will recognize the space. It's pretty raw, with the adhesive still on the cement floor, sheet rock unpainted, and no heat to speak of--but it made it possible for a lot more people to enjoy the Epic release.

*Okay, this may not be true. A commenter on another thread says they're 50 ounces--which would make them a slightly better per-ounce deal than the 22s, restoring order to the universe.


  1. Samurai Artist, that is by far the most attractive beer bottle/label I have ever seen. Especially with the white wax giving the "snow capped" effect that matched the label perfectly.

    You've got some serious talent!!!!

  2. "Finally, and this is the most surprising discovery: a one-year old beer can be green."

    Sorry, Jeff, but "DUH!"

    Would you drink a glass of fine Cabernet from the fermenter and call it done?? A Real wine, not one that comes in a box... ;-}

    The same applies to big, high gravity beers. These beers need to maturate over a period of time, to combine and round out flavors. To slowly ferment out some that cloying sweet residual sugars. There should be some yeast left in the bottle to help with a slow continuance of fermentation and maturation.

    Thomas Hardy Beers state on the label that the beer can mature for 25 years and beyond.

    Other beers and breweries should follow suit! These overty sweet, still slowly fermenting and changing YOUNG high gravity beers are worth a SIP to taste progression of flavors, but DRINKING this type of beer while so young is pretty much a waste... unless you enjoy a nice hangover from all those residual sugars still in the beer? ;-}

    That said! When you buy a high gravity beer that you want (and should) age for awhile. Try and make sure that beer still has some yeast in the bottle and has never been chilled or refrigerated, as that could have killed the yeast.

    High gravity beers without yeast left in the bottle will not mature the same! The flavors may change do to oxidation, temperature changes and maybe degredation of beer ingredients, but they won't mature. In other words, they kind of spoil, rather than mature.

    You can rank the intelligence and caring of the brewer, brewery or beer store owner based on seeing the yeast in the high gravity beers and whether the beer is kept refrigerated.

    Any thoughts on this??


  3. For more info on Cellaring and properly maturing a high gravity beer.... I've updated Dr Wort's site with an article on Cellaring and other info.


  4. Jeff, it was a pleasure to meet you and Sally! But "illustrious"? You'll make me blush.

    Great writeup of the Epic. I have to say, I didn't notice as big a difference between the two years, especially after they warmed up.

  5. Did they serve the beer ice cold? I remember the first year they released Epic and it was fricken cold as swill in a frosty glass. I had to order two other pints while it warmed up enough to have flavor.

  6. Doc, I have never encountered a beer so green as Epic after a year--Hardy's is fine at that age. The issue isn't the virtue of aging, but how even a year ain't enough time for some beers. Amazing.

    DA, yeah icy. Dunno why--I had to really hold my fire until it warmed up, too.

  7. A question regarding the serving of some beer styles at the wrong temp (too cold typically): Is this because most places have keg lines that originate in a cooler thus making it impossible to serve beer a varying temps? I've had to wait on Abyss to warm up a few times at Deschutes and now Epic. Just curious.

  8. "Doc, I have never encountered a beer so green as Epic after a year--Hardy's is fine at that age. The issue isn't the virtue of aging, but how even a year ain't enough time for some beers. Amazing."

    I think everyone knows I'm not a fan of Roots beers. I always WANT their beers to be good, but just rarely happens for me.

    I don't mind bashing brewery or pub owners, because they can be money grubbing pigs and I don't mind bashing my fellow Bloggers...It's just part of the fun in blogging. BUT! I don't like bashing brewers! They're usually out there trying to make a living and a decent product. They don't get paid very well, s it's usually a labor of love or money.

    I guess I really want to add in the most diplomatic and educational way...

    When brewing a beer, homebrewers and professional brewers check the Gravity (Sugar content) of the beer and can check the gravity of the beer as is starts to come to completion. There are some acceptable sugar contents for beers and there are some sugar contents where you just say, "It's not done and it needs to ferment more."

    It's a basic brewing formality.... You check and say, "Ooops! Not done yet, better let it ferment more or have an intervention with a new dose of yeast." Of course, you should have a good understanding of your yeast and what it's potential fermentation strength. Yeast will only ferment a beer down to a certain alcohol level AND THEN IT STOPS! If you brew a beer beyond the sugar content that the yeast can handle.... You'll be left with too much residual sugar witch is just NOT good! The will never get fermented beyond that point and residual sugar give any possible bad yeasts or bacteria a play ground to infect the beer and not in a good way.

    The sad part is.... It's not that hard to figure out how much (how complete) any given yeast will ferment (% attenuation), nor do a simple calculation to figure out what is an acceptable starting sugar amount....

    If you create an extremely sweet beer and it's still sweet after a year.... There's a major problem.


  9. If you create an extremely sweet beer and it's still sweet after a year.... There's a major problem.

    True, but it's not Roots' problem. Epic is not sweet with residual sugars--it's finished out fine. It's green with the sharp edges you have to create when you brew a beer of this size: IBUs, malt alcohol, and in this case, liquor notes.

    I know you're down on Roots, Doc, but you're in the minority on this one. The cool thing about diversity is that it means we'll all encounter beers that don't line up with our palate's preferences. I think many would take issue if you extend personal preference to a comment about a brewery's competence.

  10. "I know you're down on Roots, Doc, but you're in the minority on this one. The cool thing about diversity is that it means we'll all encounter beers that don't line up with our palate's preferences. I think many would take issue if you extend personal preference to a comment about a brewery's competence."

    I was trying to make a general problematic Brewing Statement and NOT make a point that Roots has Sugar balancing problem (or competent is doing so), but after re-reading my post, I may have slipped over the edge in pointing a finger of possibility. That was not my intent.

    BTW, Does anybody know what the ending gravity of the Epic Ale???

    Also, the colder the beer, the less you can taste in flavor.... Maybe, that was done on purpose?? :-}

    Sorry, couldn't resist, that one.

    In regard to being in the minority in my regards to Roots.... If your check out most National reviews of their beers, you'll find there's a split decision on enthusiasm. If you take out local reviews, you'd find the enthusiasm in their beers falls off even more...

    The fact locals have embraced their beers is "NICE," but non-locals down seem to NOT share that enthusiasm. That said, if locals truly enjoy their beers...more power to them...

    These reviews are based on what I've been reading on the Rating web sites. Plus, reviews from other nation wide beer enthusiasts that I either personally know or read their blogs and reviews.

    I'm not a bandwagon beer drinker, just because everybody SAYS something is good, doesn't always make it true. I make my own judgments with my own palate. I don't expect "THE MAJORITY" to always like what I like, nor to really give a care if they do... ;-}

    Just like in blogging, I'd prefer to give MY REAL review and evaluation of a beer or brewery.... I would be embarrassed to lower myself to kowtowing to the local opinion or majority of thought.... That's a cop out.... Any fool can be follower.... :-O

    I have not sampled this beer and would enjoy reading some descriptions of this new Epic ale? Something other than Green and cold!

  11. DR.Wort, whats a cop-out is your bashing of others mere observations and of beers you have not even had while hiding your identity.
    Your comments cant even pass as criticism, but are simply rude holier than thou statements that give beer geeks a bad name.

    As far as the discrepancies in peoples opinions of Roots, I think most people only have beers like their IPA and dont know what to make of their specialty beers that are noble risks that are almost always great such as their Gruit Kolsch. The best Gruit and certainly in the top summer beers. People are taken aback by the lack of hops or the unique pairings of ingredients like their Calypso. All anyone does around here is praise the latest hop bomb or barrel aged beer.

  12. **Sorry for this distraction, Jeff! I'm bored watching the snow fall, so I figured I would address some hate mail...

    Samurai Jack!?

    I can't criticize a beer I haven't had... We were merely discussing what can cause Green flavors; i.e. unfermented beer wort flavors. Jeff stated that he thought the beer was properly fermented, so that discussion was done. "Green" to me, means unfinished. The fact I'm not a fan of Roots is redundant.

    My identity? Like "Samurai Artist" is YOUR real name.... :-O Dr Wort is my online character, I'm Jeff Alworth's evil twin! There's more truth to that, than you'll ever know.

    The fact you're offended about my "Cop out" statement, might tell me you'd rather follow the major majority...???

    In regards to others Roots reviews.... Maybe you should of looked up some of the reviews online before making that statement.... There are reviews on all or many of Roots beers.

    Best Gruit? How many have you sampled to come up with that conclusion? Did you drink your gullet load in a past life when you were a Samurai?? ;-}

    Beer Please! I surpassed Beer Geek before you probably were old enough to drink... I'm a Beer Snob ;-}

    You may get into more trouble than I, with this statement, "All anyone does around here is praise the latest hop bomb or barrel aged beer."

    You just limited the locals beer acuity to about nil with that statement!

    I merely implied that locals are dedicated to their local breweries... You just said they're incompetent... Way to go Samurai Jack!

    I have a question for you, Samurai Jack?

    You may paint a "pretty picture", but can every picture tell a thousand words (as the old saying goes)?

    Can you post a 1000 words that describe the beer that you placed your artistry or was that just a paid gig?

    After all, We are talking about beer, right? You seem to have some strong feelings about this beer. I figure you're an artist, you must have some Prose poetry for this Zymurgical conquest....

    Look forward to your response...

  13. DR. WORT,

    yeah If you just simply clicked on my name in the comments it links right to me, or you could just google Samurai Artist and find some beer related articles about me. My name is Ezra, I work for Belmont Station and The Green Dragon and I helped organize at the NAOBF and OBF as well as some time at Laurelwood and you will be seeing articles soon at BeerNW, as well as many projects with other brewers that I wont go into. You can ask pretty much anyone in the industry who I am. You would know me too if you werent hiding. And no one is going to take offense with my comments because I am not attacking anyone except maybe you.

    I have no problem with people loving the hop bombs and BA beers, I love them too. I am just waiting for people to broaden their horizons.
    That is not going to offend anyone.

    I spend almost every working minute of the day with beer geeks, I am a professional beer geek. I dont feel the need to mention my credentials usually. Write a 1000 words? I already have you just dont know where to look.

    This is a perfect example of you making a judgement call without knowing what you are talking and coming at it in a way that turns people off.

  14. **Once again, I apologize for this indiscretion Jeff... I will wrap this up.


    Was I supposed to be impressed with your "My Space" web site and your "worldly" 26 years of experience painting pictures and playing beer jockey??

    Wow! Will you come and be at my party, you're such a cool guy! I bet everyone wants to be seen with you..... ;-}

    I note you have an email link on your web site. If I prefer to dress you down any further, I'll do it direct and NOT on this web site!

    Lets' leave Jeff's blog for "BEER" related subjects which is where we started these posts. We were talking about beer, brewing, trouble shooting beer and a little on personal ethics. By bashing me with your youthful pontificating drivel and self importance, you've added NOTHING!

  15. Jeff,

    Getting back to the original discussion....

    Our usage of "Green" were different. I was thinking Green to me mean unfinished - Not fermented out. You are saying, "GREEN" meaning young and not matured.

    Got it!

    I've been looking for some stats on the Epic ale.... other than the more eccentric ingredients. All I've found is 14% ABV (alcohol by Volume) and 80+ IBU's.

    Obviously, I can't get out to sample any of the Epic ale since the whole city of Portland is an ice skating rink.... ;-}

    I'm curious to taste (at an ale temperature) this brew. As you have observed, you think the beer IS completely fermented out. So, I have to assume that this beer has some very big, chewy flavor components that are immensely bold and not melange or matured. Are we on the same page?

    If served icy cold, many harsh and un-fermented flavors would be masked, as well as, any positive malt and hop flavors. Serving a beer a proper temperature is an honest way to serve your wares, especially if you're charging $40+ bucks a bottle. (I'm sure someone will try and argue that point too!)

    I've noted that when I go to buy beer at HOTD's dock sales, the tasters are always free and served at proper temperature. Your attempt to warm the beer for tasting is very admirable!

    I would like to acquire the starting and ending gravity of this 14% ABV brew!

    In America we measure alcohol by WEIGHT, not by VOLUME. The American system by weight is exclusive to the USA, I think. Lets' not ask why!

    So.... the first thing I'm noting is that this beer is 10.9% ABW (alcohol by weight).

    Referring to my brewers calculator...

    In order to brew a 14% ABV beer, a possible starting gravity of 1.125 SG or 29 Plato would be needed with a yeast that would provide an apparent attenuation (Fermentation) of about 82% to leave us with a fairly sweet ending gravity of 1.020. Our taste buds would find a beer between 1.020 - 1.025 pretty sweet with residual sugar. Above 1.025 would be very sweet and sugary, probably undrinkable to many beer drinkers. That would be like a Barley Malt aperitif with some might find interesting, but not something you'd want to drink a pint...

    At what point would we call a beer under fermented? That's a good question, that may be up for a good discussion, as there may not be a black and white answer.

  16. Dr Wort says:

    "Just like in blogging, I'd prefer to give MY REAL review and evaluation of a beer or brewery...."

    Yes, a "real review" offered from behind a cloak of anonymity.

    You seem like a knowledgeable guy, but I have zero respect for someone who trashes other people and their work without opening themselves up to criticism as well.

    For example, I could go on and on about the spelling, grammatical, and other egregious errors littering your blog, but since I'm posting anonymously I'll refrain from doing so.

    Grow a sack and tell people who you are before disparaging the labor of others.

  17. Anonymous is questioning why I'm anonymous and worried about me "growing a sack!" Now, THAT is funny!

    I'm getting tired of people who can't seem to grasp the concept of “the character” of Dr Wort!

    While reviews are real and knowledge is obviously my own, the character is made up to create an Anti-Christ type beer blogger. It's a cranky, obnoxious "character." It's a vehicle to be creative and controversial. A yin to others yang. To make people look in a different direction.

    I know there are people out there, who enjoy Dr Wort's crankiness and straight forward, NO BS dialog. Some people don't and that's OK too.

    Do you think Howard Stern is really an obnoxious pig or is that just his radio personality? Many critics use anonymous names or prefer to be anonymous, so do I.

    I'm sure everybody at one time wishes they could be somebody else or create pseudo-personality.

    Through Dr Wort, I can be creative. Without anonymity, I'm just another Beer Snob and that just isn't that interesting.

    If you read a review of a brewery or beer on Rate Beer, Beer Advocate or even in a magazine, does it matter what's the guys name? Are you more influenced by one persons view over another? Whether the name behind the review is Jeff Alworth, Fred Eckhardt, Rob Widmer or Shirley Temple does it really matter or does the content?

    I've never discouraged people from bashing me, my poor grammar (from those who are anal about those kinds of things) or content. It's part of fun....

    Wanna correct of poke fun of my grammar? Feel free! I know my grammar sucks! Wanna a nice grammarcially correct blog? Start your own.... Maybe you can proof read my posts and correct my errors. If not.... I really don't give a shit about my grammar.

    Dr Wort will remain anonymous.

    Criticize all you will, but you can't expect Dr Wort not to respond to that criticism. That's the nature of the character – A disgruntaled response.

    If someone wants to have a discussion on beer, I'm fully open to that.... If you're going to make statements and can't back them up, then you're just blowing smoke up my ass and wasting everyone's time.

    Want to pontificate? Go for it, but have some solid facts, reasoning or personal insight to back what your saying.

    I don't wish to bash anyone's livelihood. If I got a little out of hand in that regard, I apologize.
    Dr Wort can get out-of-hand at times...

    This is more fun than watching the sleet fall or shoveling my driveway.... ;-}

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  19. DR. Wort,

    you talk about people making statements and not backing them up? You try to call me out about knowing anything about beer and hiding under a moniker. Neither of those things were true whatsoever.
    Then you act like i am trying to impress when you are the one that called my knowledge into question for no reason.
    I have backed up my statements. What have you backed up? Nothing?
    Your still hiding under a fake name and changing the subject like trying to bring up my age and beer experience and calling me Samurai "Jack" which I really dont know what the hell thats supposed to mean.
    So as far as i can tell your some idiot who has no friends, has zero beer credentials and is all talk. If that is not true then lets hear your name and your cred?

    I dont know why I am asking because we all know you dont have any and that you are most likely some 50 year old snob living in his parents basement.

    You can try and call me out all you want but I am friends with almost everyone in the industry so its a waste of time.
    Everyone sees me in person and when I talk I am happy to say it to anyones face and back it up. And I am pretty sure I havent offended anyone so far but you.

  20. "Do you think Howard Stern is really an obnoxious pig or is that just his radio personality? Many critics use anonymous names or prefer to be anonymous, so do I."

    He may or may not be an obnoxious pig, but he's still Howard whether or not he's on the air. As to critics remaining anonymous; most critics post a review and leave it at that. They don't take their "character" into other people's forums and continue to further trash the object of said review.

    I think we all understand the concept of playing a character, and there's nothing wrong with being anonymous on the internet.

    It's your habit of trashing breweries and their beers while hiding behind your "character" that I (and surely others) find contemptible.

    "Are you more influenced by one persons view over another? Whether the name behind the review is Jeff Alworth, Fred Eckhardt, Rob Widmer or Shirley Temple does it really matter or does the content?"

    I wouldn't say I'm more influenced by one name or another, but I certainly have writers that I respect more than others, which is why I put more stock in reviews crafted by "real people" and not anonymous raters or bloggers.

    "Dr Wort will remain anonymous."

    That's good, because I would probably have a hard time keeping a straight face if I ever saw you in person.