Beer of the Week: Elysian Trip XV Belgian Buckwheat Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

unstitledTrip number 15 in the Elysian/New Belgium series brings us a Buckwheat Belgian Ale. It seems like it would be a bit of a strange combination, but I figured what the heck, this is what beer drinking is all about. The beer was from a 22 oz. bottle and clocked in at a healthy 7.5% ABV.

The beer pours deep brown in color with lots of sediment in the glass, producing heavy notes of banana, Belgian yeast, buckwheat and grain on the nose, with subtle notes of dates and raisins. The beer starts out with a hearty and oat profile before moving into deep notes of roasted dates and plums with hints of bitter chocolate before finishing long with a strong sweetness from the Belgian yeast. The beer has some nice bold flavors but some of the more subtle flavors are lost in the mix, causing the beer to be out of balance, especially as it moved through its grain components. Buckwheat is a strong flavor and was complimented nicely with the roasted flavors, but it does produce an oat-like mouth feel and reminded me of a buckwheat pancake with jam.

Elysian Trip 15 Buckwheat Belgian step it up and throws back with 3 O’Tays out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark o’ the Moon 2012

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I was not overly impressed with the 2013 version of Dark o’ the Moon, but fortunately for me, I have a small stash of the previous versions of the beer, so I decide to crack one of the 2012 bottles open to see if I just forgot what the beer tasted like and my tastes have changed or the cinnamon was too overpowering in the 2013 version of the beer.

From the Elysian Website:

STYLE Pumpkin Stout

BODY Medium to Full

TASTING NOTES Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

MALTS Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

HOPS Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

SPECIAL Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer poured jet black as expected with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice present on the nose joined by mild hints of roasted malt and pumpkin. The beer stars off with pleasant chocolate notes on the palate before moving into lightly roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. The beer then transitions into the spice realm with distinct notes of nutmeg and cloves balancing out the pumpkin flavors before being joined by a mild dose of cinnamon mixed in. The finish is long and slightly sweet with dominant notes of cinnamon and roasted malt/pumpkin, providing a deep chocolate finish with just a touch of heat from the cinnamon.

The 2012 version of Dark reminded me why I loved this beer so much.

Elysian 2012 Dark o’ the Moon comes to the edge of the cliff and lets out a deep howl with 5 Canis lupus out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark O’ the Moon

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Every year I look forward to the early fall release of my favorite pumpkin beer – Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon. I love the stout combined with the roasted pumpkin and just a hint of spice to balance and bring the beer to the next level. The best part of this beer is it is available both on tap and in bottles (about $7 for a 22 oz. one), so it is readily accessible. This review is for the beer I had on tap.

From the Elysian website:

Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer pours jet black in color with copious amounts of roasted pumpkin, roasted malt and chocolate on the nose with background notes of allspice and cinnamon. Pumpkin dominates the palate early on before yielding to roast malt and grain with bits of pumpkin pie spice and finally finishing out with a rather intense and moderately long chocolate and cinnamon finish – intense dark chocolate and cocoa nibs (not at all sweet) and a strong burn of cinnamon, with just a hint of bitterness coupled with more pumpkin notes. The chocolate plays hide and seek on the tongue long after the sip, but is eventually overwhelmed by building cinnamon, especially as the beer warms, to the point where the cinnamon becomes the dominant flavor on the finish by the end of the pint. The 2013 version is definitely more cinnamon forward but the chocolate and pumpkin notes are still present and discernable, but the increase in the cinnamon intensity seems to throw the beer out of balance. Still delicious, but not as great as it has been in the past. I am wondering if the cinnamon needed a bit more time to mellow out and integrate into the rest of the beer.

Elysian Dark O’ the Moon draws blood with 3 Warren Zevons out of 5.


Beer of the Week: Elysian Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle3dThis was a very disappointing season for fresh hopped beers. Even ones that I have had in the past and loved seemed to be lacking something this year. One of the few exceptions to this was Elysian’s entry into the style, their Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA. Elysian described the beer as follows:

Named for the scented flowers of the Yakima Valley and the Texas Panhandle – Amarillo – Prairie Rose is a fresh hop IPA bittered with eponymous hop shooting stars – Galaxy and Comet – to a magnitude of 60 IBU’s and finished with 40 pounds worth of we Amarillo hops from Virgil Gamache Farms. 6.5% ABV.

The beer pours vaguely orange in color with citrus and citrus peel dominating the nose with background green hops and grain. A burst of citrus on the palate initially but quickly moving to slightly floral hop bitterness with a touch of resin. The beer then finishes with a mild burnt citrus peel that lingers pleasantly with just a hint of bitterness. Big bold hop character dominates without overpowering your palate, leaving a rich and complex flavor profile when you debate if a second pint is a good idea.

Elysian’s Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA saunters in riding high with a handsome 4 gauchos out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Oblivion IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle3dThanks to the ever-changing tap list at Elysian, there is always a new beer to try, and I am especially happy when that new beer happens to be an IPA. This was a big beer, clocking in at 7% ABV and 70IBU, but considering that Elysian makes some of the more solid IPA’s around, I gave it a whirl.

The beer pours hazy golden orange in color and is brimming with hop character – I could smell this beer from over a foot away. Closer inspection yields light notes of grapefruit and citrus, light green hops and grain. The hop character dominates the front of the palate with significant orange peel with notes of grapefruit and a pleasant light bitterness than carries throughout the beer. These notes are then joined by moderate grain middle before finishing slightly sweet and grassy with those mild bitter notes. There is no obvious alcohol burn despite its ABV and the beer has a nice progression of flavors without being one note. Oblivion is more hop forward than most of the Elysian IPAs, but not so much that it will blow your palate.

Elysian’s Oblivion IPA races toward destruction with a brave 3 perils out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

fuzzI am a sucker for blood orange anything – I just really love the flavor. Back during the Beers of the Apocalypse series, Elysian brewed a blood orange IPA that was outstanding, so I couldn’t wait to try their blood orange pale ale – Superfuzz. The beer was available on tap and in 22 oz. bottles; the review is for the bottled beer.

The beer pours hazy orange in color, reminiscent of a hefe it is so cloudy, with lots of grain and malt on the nose coupled with hints of orange and orange zest. The beer tastes much milder than I was expecting with light grain quickly transitioning in to like orange and very little hint of hops. The orange does linger for a long period of time, finally finishing slightly sweet before fading quickly with an ever so slight bitterness. The beer lacked dimension – it had a dominant orange flavor but lack any supporting cast to go with it and probably could have used a bit more aggressive hopping or more citrus peel as some bitterness would have cut the sweetness and grain notes. I feel like this beer was drinking a hefe rather than a pale ale, so I was expecting more depth of flavor from the beer.

Elysian Superfuzz flashes back with a disappointing 2 bell bottoms out of 5.

Ed. Note: I did try this beer on tap and thought it was much better (don’t have tasting notes though). I so I picked up a second bottle and retasted it. Here is what I came up with:

The second bottle had a huge amount of sediment in the bottle. Light notes of citrus and hops on the nose with mild hints of citrus oil and grain supporting it. The beer starts off with a mild bitter component of orange peel before moving quickly into the pale ale, grain and hops and finishing quickly with notes of burnt orange and orange juice. The blood orange component is there, just more on the back of the palate as the beer fades out. It was better than the first bottle but not as good as the beer on tap, so the redux does a little better with 3 huggy bears out of 5.

The moral of the story? If you want to drink Superfuzz, do it on tap. You will be happier for it.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Raconteur

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle3dThe beauty of Elysian’s beers is that they not only have some grate creativity, but they do produce a good number of tribute beers – beers that are clones of very well known, but not necessarily great beers.  One they did recently was a clone of Yuengling Porter as a tribute to one of their employees. In case you are not aware, Yuengling from Pottsville, PA, is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the United States, brewing beer back to 1829, and their porter holds a soft spot in my heart as one of the first dark beers that I truly loved 20+ years ago (although calling the beer a porter is a bit of a misnomer, it is actually a black lager and not a true porter).  The beer was only available on tap and clocked in at just 25 IBU and 4% ABV.

Raconteur looks very much like Yuengling in the glass – a slightly opaque black, not the deep black that you might expect from a porter. Chocolate malt with hints of grain dominate the nose, with much a more pronounced aroma than the original. There is lots of grain up front on the initial sip with notes of chocolate and caramel interspersed – much bolder than the original, with a long and slightly hoppy finish. You get a great deal of the lager character on this beer, same as the original, but the malt, roasted flavors and hops are amped up making the copy a bolder and better beer than the original while still retaining much of the original character of the recipe. Raconteur takes a stab at an American classic and delivers a fine tribute while taking the flavors from a mass consumption beer to a fine specialty beer.

Raconteur brings me back to my college days and delivers a solid 3 TEP’s out of 5.

The Top 5 Washington Breweries

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I am insanely lucky to live where I do – we have over 130 breweries in the state and by the end of 2013, I should have at least 10 breweries within a mile of my house. It is a good thing that I like beer. In visiting all of these breweries, I have had some great conversations with the owners, brewers and patrons about beer in general and Washington beer specifically and one topic that usually comes up is who are your favorite/who are the best breweries in the state? I have been floating around the idea of writing a post about this for a while, so I am finally putting pen to paper and coming up with my list.

A few lines about how I came up with this list. First, I thought about the brewery’s overall lineup; how consistent are their beers, do they regularly exceed my expectations, how often do they make a beer that falls flat on its face? Second, would I order their beers if I was out at a pub and saw it on a tap list, over everything else on the list? Third, would I recommend a couple of beers from the brewery or would I recommend everything they have on tap without hesitation? Finally, the below list is not ranked by preference, but rather in alphabetical order. I don’t know that I could actually rank these in my order of preference because they each excel at something different and that list would change depending on my mood.

So, without further delay, the Iron Chef Leftovers Top 5 Washington Breweries:

– Anacortes Brewing – The Masters of Hops
For those who know me, this is really no surprise. I have been a fan of Anacortes for almost as long as I have lived here and (contrary to popular opinion) long before I got to know the guys from the brewery. Anacortes excels at IPA’s, so much so that I firmly believe their regular production IPA to be one of the 10 best beers that I have ever had. I ranked it higher than Pliny the Elder in 2 separate blind tastings and I have been known to make the 160 mile round trip to Anacortes just to get a growler of that beer. As good as the IPA is, the rest of their lineup ranges from good to outstanding, only occasionally faltering. The My Oh Maibock is an outstanding summer beer, their Klosterbier is one that I will go out of my way to drink when I see it on tap and their Dopplebock is probably the best in the state. They usually don’t disappoint at beer festivals and I feel that their brewer,  is as good as anyone in the world with his barrel aged beers – the oak character is there when he uses them, but they are restrained so that the oak compliment, rather than overpowers the beer, so you get to appreciate the beer and all of its character rather than just drinking liquid oak. Anacortes flys under the radar in Seattle since they are not widely available, but their stuff is usually gone in a couple days when it shows up on tap here.  Website

– Elysian Brewing – The Master of Pumpkin
untitle3dElysian is like the Rick Barry of Washington Brewers (In case you don’t know who he is, he is one of the greatest free throw shooters in NBA history) – the produce a ton of different beers and are successful with a very high percentage of them. One of the highlights for me every year is the release of their pumpkin beers, especially Dark of the Moon, another beer I would put in my 10 ten beers in the world. They make around 12 pumpkin beers a year, and most of them are excellent with the occasional miss (The Dill Pickle Pumpkin beer from a few years back was a mess). They are not just about pumpkin – their Apocalypse series last year produced 12 (mostly) wonderful and bizarre beers; their Maniac IPA series gave us such stellar beers as Idiot Savuin, and Prometheus; and they cover beer styles from a Corona clone, to a Yeungling Porter knock-off (which was as good as the original), to just about every beer style imaginable. I love going into their pubs just because you never know what new and interesting beer you are going to find. Website

– Reuben’s Brews – The Master of Rye
untitled2Reuben’s is the new kid on the block and is probably a surprise to most people that I would have them on my list. They have an impressive lineup and got through their growing pains very quickly, producing some of the most outstanding beers in the state (and winning actual awards for them). I named their pumpkin beer my “Best Beer of 2012” winner and called the cask version of their Imperial IPA one of the 10 best beers I have ever had. They are more than just rye based IPA though – their Mocha Stout was outstanding, they make a fantastic Kolsh, their Brown is easy to drink and tasty and Porter is a great beer for a cold winters day. The even are daring, producing little know styles like Roggenbier (a rye base Hefe) and Auld Heritage Ale, both of which have received high marks from me. These guys have been raking in the awards, and deservedly so. You want to know how good Reuben’s is – they won the 2010 Phinney Beer Taste People’s Choice award against about 30 other breweries, while they were still hombrewers. How about them apples?  Website

– Sound Brewery – The Master of Belgian Yeast
untitledSound Brewing is finally getting the recognition it deserves by beer drinkers. For a long time, Sound had been known for their outstanding Belgian style beers like Monk’s Indiscretion and Dubble (and Triple) Entendre, while their other beers lurked in the shadows. Unknown to most people, Sound produces a top flight IPA in Reluctant IPA and an exceptional double IPA – Humulo Nimbus as well as what I think might be the top Imperial Stout in the state with Ursus Spelaeus and incredibly good stout called Ursus Americanus. Their beers tend to be high alcohol brews, but they are incredibly well balanced and you should seek them out whenever you have the chance. Website

– Walking Man Brewing – The Master of Playing Hard To Get
walkingmancolor21The selection of Walking Man might surprise most people and a good number of people might say “who”, but Walking Man produces West Coast IPA’s that I feel are second to only Anacortes in terms of how good they are. In case you don’t know, Walking Man is located in tiny Stevenson, Washington, on the shores of the Columbia River, about 45 minutes from Portland and their beers are hardly available anywhere outside the brewery. Heck, they don’t even have a website. Their best beer is probably their Double IPA – Homo Erectus but they have also produced some other outstanding beers such as Fire Walker Jalapeño Lager (one of the few I have ever liked), Walking Stick Stout, Jaywalker Russian Imperial Stout and Knuckle Dragger Pale Ale. Their barrel aged beers, like Anacortes, are incredibly well balanced and worth seeing out under any circumstance. If you haven’t had Walking Man’s beers, make the drive from Portland next time you are there. Heck, forget Portland, just go to Stevenson and try their beers. It would be worth the trip. No Website, but here is their beer list from

You are probably wondering how I could leave Fremont or Black Raven off this list. Well, stay tuned for part 2 where I give out a few honorable mentions and explain to all of you pissed off Black Raven fans why they are not in the top 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Brewing Hansel & Gretel Pumpkin Pilsner

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love pumpkin beers and there are a ton of them out on the market these days. Fall also brings us the annual pumpkin beer festival at Elysian Brewing, who seem to roll out somewhere around a dozen pumpkin beers themselves, with just a few making it into bottles. Hansel & Gretel is one that made it this year into the bottle. From the Elysian press release:

Brewed with organic pale, Weyermann Munich and Cara-Hell malts, with pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. Spiced with fresh ginger and hopped with lots of Czech Saaz hops 4.5% ABV

HGEditTTBThis beer is unmistakably a pilsner – golden yellow in color with a fizzy white head. Initially you get a good amount of grain on the nose, but as you get closer, there are strong notes of ginger with a pumpkin background. The is initial sip is a strong hit of spicy ginger, like biting into a ginger snap cooking without the sugar, but it is so strong that your taste buds never fully recover from it. The ginger gives way to a distinct pumpkin flavor and it finishes just a bit sweet with a touch of spicy heat from the ginger. Any grain notes are completely overwhelmed by the ginger and there are no discernible hops on the nose or the palate. The spiciness is more pronounced as the beer warms and really overpowers everything else. There aren’t many pumpkin pilsners on the market so this beer has the potential to be a good one with more balance so you get more than a one note beer (and make pumpkin the star, not the ginger), but it is not quite there yet.

This was not my favorite pumpkin beer of the patch; so as a result, Hansel & Gretel skips into the gingerbread house with a score of 2 children out of 5.

Or was the Rabbit Correct?

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I am referring to this post.

I don’t normally order a pilsner, let alone when it is cold and raining in April. A recent trip to Elysian Fields caused me to make an exception to this rule when I saw that they had a new beer on tap – Discount Double Czech Imperial Pilsner. I will be honest, I ordered the beer solely because I loved the name – it does happen.

I tried to take a picture of the description from the beer menu, but I did not get a great exposure, so I know this beer has Czech Saaz and Mosaic hops and Pilsner, Munich and one other malt, clocking in at a whopping 7% ABV and 42 IBU. This is not your father’s pilsner. The beer is only available on tap.

The beer is golden straw in color with a creamy white head. It has a very subtle nose – light grain and malt with hints of hops interspersed. You are deceived into thinking that this big beer is anything but by the way it smells and its subtle nature. The first sip is lightly bitter with notes of yeast and malt giving way to a surprising grapefruit finish – very long and slightly sweet but not overpowering, with hints of orange peel. As the beer warms, the citrus flavors become more subtle and the beer becomes slightly more balanced between the malt and hops. This beer definitely has more hops than you would normally expect from a pilsner, but it felt just slightly out of balance between the hops and the grain if you are looking for a more traditional pilsner. If you like hops however, this beer is definitely right up your alley. There is enough balance to hide the 7% ABV on this beer and it has a hybrid pilsner/pale flavor profile – there is enough pilsner character in the beer to recognize the pilsner hops and malt, but enough hop complexity to know that this is something more than a pilsner.

I liked this beer – it was a nice change of pace from what I have recently been drinking and probably would order one without hesitation on a nice warm sunny day. The rabbit is incorrect, I would be happy if you ordered me this pilsner.

Discount Double Czech strolls in like a good neighbor with a respectable 3 Aaron Rodgers out of 5.

In case you don’t remember “Discount Double Check” because you were not paying attention/don’t care/hiding under a rock/abducted by aliens, here you go: