ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?! Of course you are. As Brian and I began nearing the weekend we felt it would be best if we got together and worked on a podcast...and drank beer(for research purposes). With all of the delicious Oklahoma brews that have been hitting our shelves as of late, especially from Roughtail Brewing Co.(Split Decision, Polar Night, 12th Round, Roughtail IPA) we thought it would be great to review their newest offering, Rock Tsar. Having just released within the past week we were eager to see what we were in for. Neither of us had heard anything about the brew prior to drinking it, there were actually only 26 check-ins for it on Untappd, so we were in for a true beer adventure. We were fortunate enough to have Jonathan and Trae from 405 Brewing Co. join us via phone for a virtual toast and review.
The first thing you notice before even opening the 750mL bottle is the vibrant label. Sitting on a canary yellow background is a grey Tsar atop a horse. Both figures being statue-esque, the Tsar is draped in bright yellow tassels, pink beard and hair, pink boots, and wielding a neon pink and blue dual neck Dean Dave Mustaine guitar. This dude IS the party. And what a terrific introduction to this beer.
If ever you could judge a book, er...beer by its cover label this is the point at which you can do so. The cool thing about Roughtail, among other things, is that they have a guide for serving temperature, glassware, food pairings, and in the case of this beer..MUSIC PAIRING! For all you headbangers out there you can now throw on some proper heavy metal tunes while you enjoy the proper beer. I for one think this is really cool. As a music lover and beer lover, I really like what Roughtail did. Rock Tsar’s is labeled as a Double Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout. The tasting guide says that the beer is aggressive with lots of bitterness. Instantly, I’m thinking coffee, chocolate, roasty notes….but interested to see where the bitterness comes.
So here we go! We cracked our bottles and we were ready to ROCK! You definitely get the traditional chocolatey roasty Russian Imp. Stout notes in the nose. The beer pours a nice opaque black with a caramel head. With a clink of the glasses and cheers to our pals in Norman, we entered the moshpit. Boy, did we ever. To put this into perspective, imagine you are drinking an imperial stout. Nice. Chewy. Chocolatey. Roasty. And out of nowhere Axl Rose busts through the wall (Kool-Aid style) and asks “DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU AHHHH?!” That’s the hops and bitterness on the back-end of this beer. This is definitely one of the most unique beers I have had in quite some time. But the bitterness and hops are balanced out nicely with the traditional Imperial Stout flavors. Everyone was in agreement that Rock Tsar is very delicious. As it warmed, you got more of the roasty notes. One review on Untappd said it has heavy coffee flavor and was spicy. Between the 4 of us many of us are black coffee drinkers and not one person could point to any coffee and certainly no spice. You can cellar this beer for up to 5 years. It would be interesting to see how this mellows with some age on it. Right now, it is not overly bitter, but The Tsar will definitely catch you slipping in the mosh-pit. Protect your neck.
*Note We had a wonderful podcast with Jonathan and Trae as well as a great interview, but unfortunately we lost the hard drive containing that podcast via theft. Hopefully, we will get that back *fingers crossed* and we can present it for you guys, but either way we will bring you more info on 405 Brewing in the near-future.
Wonderful piece D’Wain. While we are dealing with a set back I wanted to thank D’Wain and the boys of 405 for their time and we will certainly get a show recorded. It’s a shame we have to deal with desperate crimes these days. I don’t want to dwell but pass along a message to take the extra time and dollar to be safe and secure in your home. I am blessed and fortunate to have amazing friends in times of trouble and want to thank them for all their help.
On a brighter note, we were picked up on Stitcher Radio. Hopefully we will get back soon with fresh episodes, in the mean time please download the Stitcher app and subscribe to our show.
Here’s to a better start to 2014 and “Cultivating the Craft!”
For many years the traditional boys hang out was sitting around watching the game, sharing a few beers and discussing which movie had the best quotes. With the ever evolving craft beer market we have crept out of the primordial ooze of tradition and ventured on to test our palettes. This past Saturday my wife and I were invited to a blind IPA taste test. A sidebar here, I was never the biggest fan of IPA's and hops when first exploring craft beer but like all things my palette soon took to liking the slap to the face flavor these beers can pack.
With 8 attendees, 6 guys and 2 ladies, we were poured 27 different IPA's from around the country. Every participant brought at least 2 unique IPA's. A score sheet was created to rate Appearance of the beer, Aroma that the beer gave off, Flavor the beer presented and Taste of the beer and if you would purchase again. There were side bets as well to guess the actual beer you were drinking and how many IBU's (International Bitterness Units) each one had. We arrived a tad late and missed the first 5 but still had 22 beers of about 3 oz each to sample, not too shabby.
I can't tell you how much more fun I've had by simply enjoying a beer with friends and trying to guess exactly what I am drinking. Several good points came up throughout about not seeing a beer label and having a preconceived notion of what may be inside. Such a case was the surprise of the evening when everyone's overall scores were averaged and 2 Oklahoma craft beers beat out Pliny the Elder in the blind tasting. (Those beers were COOP F5 and Roughtail's IPA.) Again an example of heavily sought after beer that either did not live up to the hype or has found new and unexpected competition. A question of freshness was brought up but I do believe nothing was over a couple months old.
One of the disadvantages of the quantity consumed was that of our palette's constantly being tossed around. Near the end many participants felt they couldn't give an accurate grading no matter how many mozzarella sticks and pretzels they consumed. Our highly talented servers caught on to this and incorporated an interesting experiment. Our first and last beer was exactly the same, Schlafly's Tasmanian IPA. A world class IPA in my opinion and most scored it either the same or lower.
So next time you want to have some friends over, maybe get a little creative and challenge your taste buds. You may find your next go to beer or discover a whole new style of beer you never tried before.
Keep challenging your taste buds and Cultivate the Craft!
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I never really understood where the song "12 Days of Christmas" came from and why they got such lame gifts...except of course the five gold rings. So I came up with my own list as a beer enthusiast and what others like me may want this Christmas if you're having trouble finding that suds-loving partner of yours a gift.
I'll stay away from shameful plugs for my own merchandise (which can be found at Okie Crowe in the Deco District of Tulsa [OK. One shameful plug]) and focus on some easily attainable and affordable items that won't bust your wallet like the price of a Utopian.
1. "Mastering Home Brew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer"
by Randy Mosher (Author of Radical Brewing and Tasting Beer)
One of my favorite authors has done it again by giving us blue-collar beer brewers the tips and knowledge to brew world class beers in the comfort of our home. This won't be available until April of next year but you bet I got my preorder in already. In tandem with his Radical Brewing book this rendition gives home brewers tips, recipes and technical knowledge for beginners to novices. I'm most excited to learn how to develop a recipe and create unique craft beer that I would enjoy. Release date April 22, 2014
2. Hydro Flask www.hydroflask.com
Designed to keep beer cold, this is the first vacuum sealed, double-walled, stainless steel, blah blah blah. Frankly what they are saying is it doesn't get any better than this to store your beer for hikes, camping and picnics and shut up and give them your money. It also keeps coffee piping hot for when you have drank your session IPA or Breakfast Stout too fast and need to cure that hangover. But then why would you want to go and do a thing like that...
3. Okie Crowe Beer Basket
Another way to support local is shop Okie Crowe this holiday season. They have home made soaps made from spent grain, beer making kits, pet treats and custom holiday baskets. Pictured here are Beer Flat crackers, Sfoglini spent grain pasta, Slant Shack Bronk Brewery jerky, Beer Nuts hot bar mix, Beer Is OK koozie, Anarchy in a Jar beer mustard, and A. Whip Designs metal bottle opener.
4. Brew Master: The Craft Beer Game White Labs
This game is perfect for beer fans and home brewers where you collect cards to brew a beer and compete against each other through actual beer events to win the accolades of your adoring fans. While I have not played myself, Brew Master looks challenging as you learn how to brew certains types of ales and learn about all the trials and tribulations that can take place at a microbrewery. Good for beginners who know how to play Rummy and can drink craft beer at the same time.
Here's our take on fall and Oktoberfest style beers. Criteria is based solely on opinion and knowledge based on reading loads of books like Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer and any beer related article we can find. If you want a professional opinion look somewhere else. If you want the layman's opinion and where you should spend your hard earned money then hopefully we can guide you in the right direction. Cheers!
1. Brooklyn Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher
I picked this amber colored beauty up in Texas and was glad this was my first Brooklyn experience. I've read so much about Garrett Oliver and his craftsmanship for great lagers coming out of NY and finally got my hands on one. It poured a deep amber color with a very small head that soon disappeared. Initial aroma was heavy with malt and earthy hops. Flavor was a juicy biscuit malt, small bitter finish with a bit of nuttiness to it. Very smooth over all as a 5.5% beer. While the beer was refreshing I probably would not seek this one out again. I look forward to finding more Brooklyn beers though and hopefully much sooner.
2. Shipyard Pumpkin Ale - Ethan Buckman
Sometimes, you get a beer that blows you away with how good it is. Sometimes you get a beer that's so bad you think it must have slipped through some type of quality control check. And sometimes you get a beer that's so assertively, aggressively bland that you wonder what human being could have thought it was something worth putting out. The Shipyard pumpkin beer would be the latter.
Pouring a pale straw color with a nice rocky head, the look was certainly the best part of the beer. The aroma was grainy with such a small hint of spice I may not have noticed it unless I knew it was supposed to be a "pumpkin" beer. The flavor matched, with a bready character being the only dominant flavor note. If it had been a blind tasting I might have asked myself "what kind of yeast did they use to get that barely perceptible spice character?". There was no hop character, no pumpkin flavor of any kind. Just some mild bread and malt notes backed up by the tiniest, tiniest bits of clove and cinnamon.The body fit the theme, being neither thin nor full, but just "medium".
Technically speaking, the beer was just fine. There were no off flavors, no evidence of brewing flaws. Which made the whole thing that much more disappointing. This beer suffers from a timidity in flavor that would leave a dedicated Inbev drinker wanting for more.
In short, there's nothing wrong with this beer. You won't feel the need to dump it out. But the overwhelming sense of "eh" will leave you sorely disappointed, thinking of what could have been.
3. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale - Brian Welzbacher
Do you remember the first time you had a pumpkin beer? Do you remember your first love? Schlafly's pumpkin ale has been creating memories for me and my friends ever since I turned 21. I've yet to find anything comparable to this pumpkin spiced treat and look forward to it's release (no matter how early in August it is).
This is an 8% beer brewed with pumpkin squash and a blend of secret spices you'll find in a classic pumpkin pie. It's not overwhelming with sweetness and the alcohol keeps it balanced making it a great dessert beer in my opinion. Just pouring into a snifter you'll immediately smell fresh pumpkin pie spice waft out and entice you to drink. It has an off white head with some lace and a nice copper color. Toasty, malty flavors of baked pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and hint of vanilla. This is certainly one to stash away for the coming holidays.
I typically treat this as a sipping beer and one to savor as I drink. The clove and cinnamon work nicely up front but don't linger too long. Very easy drinking for the 8% ABV so go easy but please seek this one out. I'm sure you'll find a six pack near my deathbed down the road.
4. Marshall Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher
October truly is the usher of fall and seasonal beers for me when I embrace the fall weather and look for something to satisfy my craving for a balanced, malty meal in a bottle. Since Marshall released their Oktoberfest I make sure to have a six pack on hand whenever an impromptu back yard party around the fire pit comes up. Marshall continues their pure German craft with this copper colored complex lager that rivals many Oktoberfest lagers in the market. Super drinkable with small lingering of noble German hops and medium body. Little lace left behind because I drank it too quickly. Notes of toasted caramel and great carbonation keeps my going and reaching for another. So toss back a few and throw the baseball around with friends while you can because this seasonal won't last long. Prost!
5. Left Hand Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher & Eric Marshall
I had a little help with this next one at McNellies the other night. Not quite sure what to get I suggested Left Hand's Oktoberfest as I have been taken by it's ease of drink-ability, light body and nice caramel flavor. "I haven't had this in a long time. It's an all around great beer, uses a different yeast than the Marshall Oktoberfest which gives it more sulfur flavor but not in a bad way," stated Eric. My impressions was different after first having this beer from a bottle versus the tap. It certainly beats out a majority of craft brew attempts I've had in OK like Shiner and even Sam Adams. Leaves a thin lace and has a small hop finish to it with a classic Marzen lager flavor.
6. Wachusett Pumpkan - D'Wain Carthen
A good pumpkin beer is often hard to find. You typically find people on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to this particular style of beer. You either love them or hate them. Tasting pumpkin beers like any other style of beer is dependent upon what you have tried and what you like. Personally, I like a pumpkin beer that has the characteristics of pumpkin pie. Lots of spice and lots of pumpkin. To date there have only been a few that I really like, and there is only one that I truly love.
I recently acquired Wachusett Pumpkan from a fellow trader in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it did not deliver on what I like in a good pumpkin beer. The can was really cool. As far as I can remember, it is the only pumpkin/harvest beer that I have ever had out of a can, so that is a plus in it’s column. What the beer really lacked was spice and flavor. It is 5.2% ABV and overall just not a strong beer. It tasted better as I ate some food, but I think that is because it added some spice and flavor to the palate. If you happen to get a can of Wachusett Pumpkan give a try. It may end up being something you like, but it is not for me.
7. Brooklyn Post Road - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
I'm fortunate to be married to someone who can appreciate good beer and actually share these huge 750 ml bombers I continue to acquire. On a recent Texas trip with my wife we picked up Post Road from the Brooklyn Brewery. It's described as a beer that reflects how people brewed with vegetables before hops became readily available. With a pumpkin on the label and being brewed with spices I was hyped and ready. I forgot this is a traditional beer and had a shock to the palate. It drank like with minimal pumpkin flavor and hardly any spice. Light bodied with a quick effervescence on the tongue and hoppy/bitter finish that didn't linger. I let it warm and found a bit more pumpkin flavor. Overall we weren't impressed but it was a nicely brewed beer overall. It certainly plays more on the traditional pumpkin ales of the 18th century then the pumpkin pie and high alcohol beers we are used to today. This one only clocked in at 5% ABV. I'd suggest many others we have locally before pursuing this one.
8. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin - D'Wain Carthen
Friday, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few brews with friends. Some buddies and I get together and record music as time allows. When we do we have mini bottle shares during the process. There is not anything too fancy being shared; just casual craft beer. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin/harvest beers (my favorite season), so one friend brought some Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale for us to try.
All due respect to Jim Koch and everything he has built with Samuel Adams, but this misses the mark for me. I think the group liked it, but it was not a favorite of mine. Again, it lacked flavor. Imagine sitting down at Thanksgiving and taking that long awaited first bite of pumpkin pie and it tastes like only a dab of cinnamon and maybe a pinch of cloves might have been added to the mix…and your life is ruined right then and there at Thanksgiving. Sounds horrible, right? I want cinnamon and spices to smack my taste buds around. Right now, Schlafly Pumpkin is in the top slot for me. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin unfortunately gets nowhere close to what I look for in a pumpkin/harvest beer.
9. Red Hook's Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter - D'Wain Carthen
I had the opportunity to try Red Hook’s Out of Your gourd Pumpkin Porter on Saturday. First of all, I had no clue that this beer even existed. I do not typically check for Red Hook when searching for brews. I think just about everyone has had the Red Hook ESB, but I have not ventured beyond that beer nor have I had it more than a few times. That is not because I think anything bad about their beer, but I just have not taken the time to look further. Thankfully, I was at an event on Saturday and someone was kind enough to bring some of this delicious brew for the group to try (Thanks, Chris!).
Out of Your Gourd has great carbonation and mouth feel and yes…finally…great flavor. I had enjoyed Founders Breakfast Stout, St. Bretta from Crooked Stave, Surly Overrated, Uinta Birthday Suit Sour Brown, and of course the delicious Pirate Bomb from Prairie Artisan Ales. Despite all of the big brews, OOYG still delivered on the flavor. I only had a small pour of this and would gladly take a pint. Red Hook has definitely gained a fan in me. I would put this brew in my 2 slot right now. I have a handful of pumpkin brews on the way this week including Pumpkinator from Saint Arnold’s, Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Uinta, and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (aged in Bourbon Barrels). I am eagerly awaiting these brews and hopefully getting my taste buds smashed.
10. Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Purchased in a variety pack from the fast growing Urban Chestnut Brewery in St. Louis the Reverence series pays homage to classic brewed European beers. This beer, translated as "tail of a squirrel", has a low hop presence and heavy malt that is surprisingly balanced and does not drink like a lager. It pours a gold to orange color with an off white head and lacing that follows to the end. Amy thought it very smooth and medium bodied but leaves without saying goodbye. It's very drinkable with a sweet malt up front but nothing really stands out to remember it by.
I'm a huge fan of Urban Chestnut but with me it is hit and miss on their beer selection. Ideally I will stick with their STLIPA found at Busch Stadium or Wing Nut. However, the next beer by UCBC is something I've never had anything remotely close to.
11. Urban Chestnut Count Orlok Black Pumpkin Ale - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Wow. I love black ales, Schwarzbiers and pumpkin ales but all of them mixed was unique. Count Orlok, or Nosferatu was the German version of Dracula. This beer pours dark like his heart with a brunette body and tan head. It diminishes quickly with no lacing and the aroma is heavy of pumpkin spices. Almost overkill on the taste as well with cinnamon and vanilla and very little if no roast in the back end. Low hop presence and slight aftertaste of spices and roast malt. Light to medium bodied beer with good effervescence throughout and flavor that lingers long. While we both enjoyed it, we felt the spices over shadowed the beer as a whole. Being part of a specialty 8 pack I most likely won't have this again but could see it being enjoyed with vanilla bean ice cream.
12. Saint Arnold's Pumpkinator - D'Wain Carthen
I've been doing a few beer trades as of late and experiencing a great number of beers that I never tasted before. All have been good thus far. I can honestly say that one of the most exciting things is tracking that beer mail and seeing it has been delivered. Well today, I received a box from my good buddy in El Paso. The drive home was furious (sorry if I cut you off on the Broken Arrow Expressway). I made it home safe and sound and so did the brews. In this box I received Not 1. Not 2. But 3 Pumpkinators from Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, TX. It released the same week that Pirate Bomb did. Apparently my buddy had quite the trek around the city gathering up these 3 bottles, just as many of us did gathering up as much Pirate Bomb as we could.
Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator is an Imperial Pumpkin Stout weighing in at 10% ABV. OK….srsly you guys. Let me just tell you guys, this beer is PACKED with flavor. I thought perhaps the pumpkin and spice would be over-powered by roasty/coffee flavor, but it definitely was not. The roastiness works really well with the pumpkin spice and balances out the sweetness very well.
Pumpkinator is absolutely outstanding. It gives all the flavor that you need and much much more. As it got warmer the flavor got even better, as it should. I am very excited that I have 2 more bottles. The two I have left will probably be drank at Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas respectively. This is a once per year release and once it is gone…it’s gone. Get some friends in Houston or find out the release date each year and make your way down to H-Town. This beer is absolutely worth it.
I had a religious experience! This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with the Reverend. No, I did not confess all my sins (I’m a saint), but I did sit down with Rev. Mason Beecroft who is the brewmaster for Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing. Yes, I said Reverend. Mason was a Lutheran pastor for 11 years and has been brewing for over 17 years. He learned how to brew in seminary, started a “How to Brew” class, and began teaching his parishioners the lovely art of brewing.
Despite what you may think, this is not an act of rebellion against one’s beliefs. In fact, beer and religion actually have a storied history. Many may know the story of Saint Arnulf of Metz, the Patron Saint of Brewing. Legend has it that on a hot day in July 642 his parishioners traveled to Remiremont to recover his remains and had little to drink. Unfortunately, there was but a small remnant of beer remaining at the bottom of a pot, which is always a bad feeling. So, what else do you do in your time of need? Pray for help! One of Saint Arnulf’s parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” The minimal amount of beer in the pot multiplied into enough beer for the pilgrims to quench their dying thirsts and they were able to travel safely back to Metz (in high spirits I presume).
Thankfully, we don’t have to pray to any Gods to get our beer from Dead Armadillo, but the Gods have been good to us! Their flagship beer is their Amber, which can be found on tap in many fine local establishments such as Main Street Tavern, both Tulsa McNellie’s locations, R Bar, College Bar (Stillwater), Wedge Pizza (OKC), etc. I am sure there are plenty of other locations that pour this fine brew. Also, be on the lookout for their IPA, wheat and mouth-watering Black IPA they have teased the masses with at local events.
We can also thank the heavens for Tony Peck. It was just within the past 2 years that Tony, one of Mason’s parishioners and fellow home brewer, had the great idea that they should take their brewing to the next level and begin brewing commercially. Mason acknowledges the struggle, “It is definitely a big step going from home brewing to commercial.” This is especially true when you have become as popular as Dead Armadillo has in such a short amount of time. “We began getting invites to do private events and our first public event was Wild Brew and then Harvest Festival .” Seeing as how they started Dead Armadillo in April of 2012, Wild Brew was that following July, and Harvest Fest in September…Tony and Mason were definitely busting their humps to provide us with their amazing creations.
As for future endeavors, be on the lookout for Dead Armadillo at Harvest Fest September 21st, Wedge Pizza October 1st, and First Draft in early November. They will be bringing some different beers to Harvest Fest including some experiments such as a watermelon infused version of their Black IPA. They also have a can design coming. Mason gave me a sneak peak at the designs and they look really awesome. The black and yellow color, which relates to the Yield sign, is a real eye-catcher. He told me they will also be producing more swag like their t-shirts, work shirts, trucker hats, and a can glass. They are currently sharing space with RoughTail Brewing Company, but recently put an offer on a location here in T-town.
We here at Beer Is OK wish Dead Armadillo nothing but success in the future. They have had an awesome start to their commercial career and I do not see things slowing up for them any time soon. Be sure to stop by and see them at Harvest Festival this Saturday (9/21) or at any of the other events we have talked about already. Stop by, imbibe, and enjoy the sweet fruits of their labor.
See you guys at Harvest Fest!
Cheers! – D’Wain