Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year Review

This was what Justin found looking back at him when he looked into his stocking Christmas morning. Quite a sight to be sure! ha ha ha. Quick review is that it was a very well liked beer around here. We also got Delirium Noel (yummy!), Sam Adam's Chocolate Bock (also yummy, but not worth the cost we thought), Bell's Special Double Cream Stout (good, but we expected more from it), as well as some other beers that I am currently blanking on. You can see some photos that we took of the beers here though: ~ This is Carrie's online photography portfolio, and that link will take you directly to beers. Always a good place to start in our opinion.
New Year's Eve finds us here at Soul One looking both back at the past year and forward at the years ahead (as we're sure it finds many people). Early in the year we began all-grain brewing and have had both success and flops with that. Lessons have been learned, and notes made for next time. We've entered our first competitions, both in our local homebrewer's guild ( and in a national organic one through Seven Bridges Cooperative.
We've seen one site we had hoped to place a brewery get "crossed-off" because the new Intermodal is supposed to go on the lot that it literally next to it. An small, eco-friendly, artisan craft brewery and a pollution spewing Intermodal facility hardly go hand in hand. We found another tentative site, wondered if it would ever become vacant, and then watched it ironically burn to the ground (we both have alibis! ha ha). We'll see what happens next year.
We finally designed a logo (that I've yet to figure out how to upload to here .. a goal for next year?), and Justin now has our first "official" Soul One Brewery t-shirt, a gift for Christmas.
We've learned a lot this year, taken a lot of notes and talked to a lot of people, readily listening to all advice. We've got a lot planned still for the future. We plan to begin finally kegging early next year. This should be quite a triumph as well as an ongoing source of interest. Our almost 5 year old is already figuring out how to open bottles, and I myself new how to pour beer from a keg at his age ... so LOTS to consider when switching to kegging!! :)
As we mentioned in our last post, we also joined the Beer of the Month Club at Wine Gourmet. Our first month was quite a shock. We had been expecting Bell's beers and, due to an sudden spike of new Beer of the Month members, they had to switch to Ballast Point. We got their IPA and their Pale Ale. Their Pale Ale was a very easy drinking beer, I liked that. The folks at Wine Gourmet told us they hope to have Bell's ready for next month, so we're still looking forward to that as we've had very good experiences with their beers.
We wish you all a very Happy New Year. Much luck in both brewing and drinking. We hope your cup never runneth dry and that the Ales are always plenty! Cheers!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas, Santa, & a Lump of Coal review

Tis the season and we've realized something. There is just no way that Santa would not leave beer in a brewer's stocking! However, unless he's bringing a time-tested favorite as a treat, he surely would leave a brew that has a nice Holiday theme to it. Ah, the joys of a new tradition being started.
So, yesterday found us at Wine Gourmet here in Roanoke. It is one of the best places to buy beer in the Valley, and their staff couldn't be friendlier or more eager to help! While we were there, as a gift to Justin, we joined their Beer of the Month club, so be looking for reviews and more to come about that.
One of the beers we got was Lump of Coal. It sounded deliciously tempting, slightly naughty, and so we drank it last night.
Here is the review of the beer from Shelton Brothers, Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.
The handiwork of vastly talented (but altogether too cheery) master brewer Peter Scholey, Lump of Coal is the perfect stocking stuffer for the beer lover or manic depressive in your family.
Though we had high hopes for Lump of Coal we were disappointed. Though somehow it seems like an oxymoron to have high hopes for a lump of coal. Our thoughts? First, it was seriously lacking needed aroma. The only scent we picked up from it was alcohol, which if it was classified as an American Stout (under BJCP style guidelines), wouldn't be too terribly bad. There definitely wasn't any roasted malt aroma or any chocolate aroma either. As far as the look of it though, it looked just fine & had a fine head on it, so that part was good. Flavor: it was definitely a sweet stout (intentional or not), with a slight taste of chocolate, but completely lacked any roasted flavor. Mouthfeel: It was an easy drinking stout, with an appropriate body. -- Ok, this is where we disagree: Justin found it medium to heavy bodied, and I (Carrie) like my stouts full-bodied enough to chew on, so I found it just medium. But still it was fine by definition.
Our over-all impression? It could've used some more time aging, and it definitely needed some more roasted characteristics. Grade - somewhere between a B- and a C+.
Santa's Butt will be in a stocking, so ... well, I don't think anything more needs to be said there. And this month's Beer of the Month are Bell's Two Hearted Ale & Bell's Porter - we've always liked their beers so we're eager to try them.. Tis the Season to have Santa's Butt in your stocking and Bell's beer in the fridge!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Porter Competition

For December's Star City Brewer's Guild meeting we had a 'Porter Competition.' This was the first one we have entered with the Guild, so we were excited. However, our Porter wasn't just a standard Porter, nor was it even a standard Robust Porter. Ours was an Imperial Bourbon Vanilla Porter! So, even though we were eager to enter it, we held no hopes of winning, since it wasn't "to standard."
While I disagree with some of the ratings our beer got, we have to keep in mind that there were 3 different tables of judges, each table with three judges at it. So, you have nine different judges who are coming to conclusions based on whatever personal nuances and opinions they have. Nor did each table get to try every beer, so if you had a table scoring harsher or kinder than the others, then .. well, there you go. This isn't meant as holding any sort of ill-will or anything like that, it is just a statement of facts that can not be taken personally but ought to be noted. Our beer did ok with scoring, though we think it ought to have done better.
One thing though that struck us was the personal reactions we DID get from the judges after the competition was over. Those who had tasted and judged our beer came up to us raving about how wonderful the beer was! This was better, to us anyway, than actually winning the competition.
While we look forward to entering more competitions in the future (and hopefully doing better in them) these past two competitions have given us a lot to ponder. What do WE want out of our beers? What are WE trying to achieve? What is important to US?
We want to use fresh ingredients, brew them well, brew in as great of an eco-friendly manner as possible, and brew beers that people WANT to drink and remember!! Having people coming up to us after the competition expressing regrets that they couldn't/didn't give it higher scores because it wasn't to standard, but saying what a GOOD beer it was, is what we want. We want people to say "wow, now THAT is good!"
So, along those lines, we thought it only appropriate to share a Porter that leaves us with that reaction. From Kona Brewing Company, "Pipeline Porter" --- the description from their website: Pipeline Porter is smooth and dark with a distinctive roasty aroma and earthy complexity from its diverse blends of premium malted barley. This celebration of malt unites with freshly roasted 100% Kona coffee grown at Cornwell Estate on Hawaii’s Big Island, lending a unique roasted aroma and flavor. A delicate blend of hops rounds out this palate-pleasing brew.
We couldn't say it better & highly recommend going out, getting a six-pack, and trying it for yourself. Our grade for this beer: Outstanding ... we'd say it'd score easily 45 or higher. Congrats to Kona for such a fantastic Porter!!