Beer of the Week: Fremont Brewing Cherry Almond Dark Star

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I really like Fremont Brewing – they have great beers, a dedicated mission to reduce their carbon footprint and a really great tasting room located just a couple miles from the Iron Chef abode. One of the benefits of their tasting room is that they carry some one off beers on cask. The downside of this is that they tend to be very small production and are gone almost as quickly as they show up. A recent trip to the tasting room yielded a Cherry and Almond version of their very tasty Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout. It was a blustery day when I visited so something dark was in order and how could I pass up a beer with two of my favorite things – cherry and almonds.

I couldn’t find any info on the beer online, so here is what the regular Dark Star is described as:

Roasty, chocolate tones swirled with oatmeal smoothness and dark as the night. The Dark Star crashes, pouring its light into ashes, so follow as the Lady of Velvet in the nights of goodbye. This one is too smooth…and at 8.0% ABV, dangerous.
Down & Dirty: 2-Row, Roast Barley, Crystal-60, Chocolate, & Carafa-2 malts with Flaked Oats and Magnum, Wilamette & Cascade hops. 8.0% ABV
Availability: Year-Round

This beer pours jet black with the faintest hint of cream on the head, and was served at room temperature. There is lots of roasted malt and grain on the nose with a background of almonds, so subtle that you may not notice it if you were not looking for it. Taking a sip of this beer is an experience – lots of malt and roasting coffee initially, giving way to almonds, chocolate and dried cherries in a very long and lingering finish, which is good, since this beer is a bit boozy and a couple will do you in. There was also a bit of bitterness in the initial few sips, which might be off putting to some, but I thought was a nice balance to all of the flavors that were in the beer, and the bitterness did eventually disappear. There is a pleasantly mild residual almond flavor that lingers on the tongue between sips, and overall the beer makes me think of an unsweetened cherry almond dark chocolate bar – so much so that I could actually imagine it in a solid form.

This version of Dark Star was a very fun drinking experience and wish it was more widely available. My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more cherry flavor on the finish, but that is a personal preference as I love the combination of cherry and stout. Other than that, this was a great beer and you should rush down to the Fremont tap room if it does make another appearance.

Cherry Almond Dark Star pulls is a heavy 4 gravity wells out of 5.

Fresh Hop Beers

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Blog friend Annie S. asked me about fresh hop beer recently while we were knocking back a few malt beverages. I mentioned that they are generally only available in the spring and fall, right around harvest time for hops.

In case you are not familiar with fresh hop beers, they tend to have a very robust and green hop flavor and need to be consumed within about 6 weeks of production before the hop flavor starts to fade. Most beers use a dried form of hops and do not suffer from this issue.

I happened to be surfing the interweb recently and noticed that our friends at Seattle Met magazine had a story about fresh hop beers.
So for Annie and any other readers out there (all 5 of you) who care, here is some info on fresh hop beer s and where/when they will be available:

Once again, Two Beers is the first out of the gate on this; the brewery’s Fresh Hop 2012 started flowing in the SoDo taproom over the weekend, and is now surfacing outside the brewery. It’s the earliest release yet for its beer. Big Al Brewing also does a fresh hop brew each fall; the Santiam hops are being picked this very morning, and are destined for a batch of Big Al Brewing Harvest Ale, a malty amber, later this afternoon.

Fremont Brewing gets its hops from a one-acre plot in Yakima Valley’s Cowiche Canyon, half of which is dedicated to its Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop ale. The brewery is hoping to release this year’s version the first week of October, but like a restaurant opening, such matters are moving targets. Schooner Exact, 7 Seas, Big Time, and Iron Horse have also done fresh hop brews in past years.

Not surprisingly, Oregon breweries like them some fresh hop, too. Geoff Kaiser of Seattle Beer News and the excellent Noble Fir bar in Ballard put on an annual Oregon vs. Washington fresh hop throwdown, where 15 versions battle for crowd supremacy. This year’s hop bonanza happens Saturday, September 29. Get there early, brace yourself for a line, and be assured that what awaits inside is completely worth the wait. Not surprisingly, Yakima is also home to a Fresh Hop Ale Festival happening October 6.

One that I would love to get my hands on – Laughing Dog Brewing’s Fresh Hop. They picked 150 lbs. of hops by hand this past week to go into the beer. Hopefully it shows up in Washington

Beer of the Week: Fremont Dark Star with Lavender and Rosemary

By Iron Chef Leftovers

One of the reasons I like Brouwer’s Café in Fremont is that they tend to have the occasional short production, experimental beer from a local brewery that, if you blink, you will miss. That was the case recently when I was in for lunch and I saw the Dark Star with Lavender and Rosemary from Fremont Brewing on cask. Curious, I had to give it a shot, although, I have to admit that lavender tends to overpower beer and I am not a great fan of Dark Star to begin with.

Dark Star is, as you would expect, a very heavy, dark stout with just a hint of light able to penetrate its murky depths. Lots of roasted malt and smoke on the nose, with a serious lack of any floral characteristics of the lavender (this is a good thing). Heavy chocolate and roasted flavors appear of the front of the palate with just a hint of oatmeal, giving way to a slightly woody sensation (not really oak, more like chewing on a twig) with hints of rosemary. It finishes long and heavy with a subtle lavender background, but in a very pleasant way.

The restrained use of lavender was nice (it did not remind me of soap as so many lavender beers tend to do) and the beer overall felt like I was drinking a liquid Theo Chocolate confection. I was very surprised that the flavor profile did not change as the beer warmed.

Dark Star was a pleasant experience, but I don’t know that I would order more than one – it is a really heavy beer and didn’t pair too well with any of the food we had. Still, Dark Star with Lavender and Rosemary manages to score 4 Nibirus out of 5.