Throw away your favorite frosty beer mug… it’s doing your beer a dis-service… Trust me. Don’t trust me? Let me explain.
St. Arnolds is my favorite brewery… It’s the oldest craft brewery in Texas. I love the fact for that $7 you can visit the brewery, get a souvenir glass, try at least 4 craft beers, tour the brewery, and on many days meet and talk to the owner. One of the best $7 experiences that can be had in Houston!
Once in many moons, St. Arnold’s (named after the patron saint of brewers) releases a Divine Reserve. Today, they released Divine Reserve #11. If you didn’t take the time to click the link, They made just over 4,000 cases, 72 barrels, and 35 casks. It’s a double IPA with about 8.9 ABV. This was distributed throughout Texas today. At the flagship Spec’s Liquor in midtown, lines started forming as early as 8:30am.
I was lucky enough to be at Central Market when they were wheeling out a 5 foot pallet of the prized DR#11. I was happy to get a six pack (all that the beer guy would let me buy) and even happier when a friend was able to score me two more six packs… I had to pay a one bottle finder’s fee, but that was a small price to pay in retrospect.
IPA’s or India Pale Ale’s, are so named because British sailors would add extra hops to the beer on the voyage from the UK to India. The additional hops would prevent spoilage, these beers were intended to be diluted upon their arrival in India… but they weren’t. The characteristics of an IPA are a tremendous hop aroma, something that beer drinkers go nuts for. Divine Reserve #11 is a DOUBLE IPA! Double Extra Hops… STREETS!
If you clicked the Divine Reserve #11 link above, skip this paragraph… for everyone else, here’s how St. Arnolds describes this brew:
The color is deep amber with a light, creamy head. The nose starts off with a touch of citrus but then turns decidedly into peaches. The taste starts off with creamy malt resulting from the pale 2 row and caramel malts and Saint Arnold yeast. The hop bitter starts low then builds to a crescendo, but always maintains a balance even in its big finish. The hop flavor continues to be peaches, an interesting manifestation of the Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial hops. This is the first Divine Reserve that we have filtered. This decision was made to make the hop flavors brighter, plus it would have been a bottling nightmare with all the hop bits in it. This beer is best enjoyed at 45° or even a little warmer. Though the recipe and style indicate this beer to be enjoyed fresh, we expect this beer to develop interestingly over the years
After thuroughly tasting this brew, i find the above description to be very accurate, however I DID NOT read it before I competed my tasting… I wanted to see what my pallet could detect and also learn how different variables effected the flavor and experience…
I wanted to officially induct myself into the world of being a beer snob… I wanted to taste at different temperatures, in different glassware, and different pouring techniques. I hit up my beer afficianado friends Lou and Adrian for some tips and came up with a list of things to try:
- With/Without Stirring the beer
- Cold Vs. Room Temp
- 3 different vessels
This created 12 possible experiences… But before we get into what happened… the Mise:
Ready to take some tasting notes:
And here’s the results…
Can’t read my handwriting? here:
St. Arnolds Divine Reserve #11
Room Temp (78F)
|Pint Glass||Tasting Order #6. Better aroma than>> No Foam until the end of glass. Better than>>||Tasting Order #3. Less of everything! Least Favorite!||Tasting Order #12. (Temp = 57F) Least favorite experience.||Tasting Order #9. (Temp =54F) Best middle flavor so far.|
|Brandy Snifter||Tasting Order #5. BIG hop aroma. Foam Texture First, Velvety in mouth. Mild Pepper notes in middle of taste profile. Almost no hop finnish.||Tasting Order #2. More Hop, Less fruit than #1. Light mild middle profile. Light spice/mild pepper notes. BIG HOP finnish. Smoother than #1. L||Tasting Order #11. (Temp= 54F) Foam and Liquid hit almost simultaneously. Mild white chocolate notes. Creaminess. FAVORITE EXPERIENCE!||Tasting Order #8. (Temp=53F) More nose than #2. More pepper/spice finnish.|
|Tasting Glass (Mini Pilsner)||Tasting Order #4. Stirring adds aroma to beginning of experience. Alters Texture of the drink. Foam finnish/dribble creates completely different drinking experience than non-stirred.||Tasting Order #1. Lemon aroma, Hoppy nose. BIG HOP Flavor! Light carmel finnish…. Long lingering (hoppy) finnish.||Tasting Order #10.(Temp=54F). Foam and liquid hit simultaneously and then liquid slides under foam. Better than>> Getting very buzzed at this point||Tasting Order #7. (Temp=52F) Less aroma/hop than #1. Muted Flavors compared to room temp. Better texture.|
Let me give you the play by play. Cracking the top on the first bottle was like loosing your virginity. Entering the world of beer snobs is intriguing… here goes:
I started with the room temp beer… first in the mini pilsner tasting glass aquired from my last visit to the brewery.
Isn’t the color beautiful? Like a perfectly tanned hourglass. I start by giving the beer a thorough smell. There’s lots of fruit (lemon?) in the aroma… as expected there are also plenty of hops. Upon tasting, there is a BIG hop flavor and along hoppy finish… I like this beer.
Next up is the snifter. The vessel completely changes the tasting experience. There’s more hop in the nose, less fruit. the middle of the flavor profile is lighter than in the pilsner glass. the finnish is smoother and some mild white pepper/spice notes come out. I like this beer in the snifter even better.
Next up is the room temp in a traditional pint glass. This is still good, but has less of everything… funny because a pint has been my favorite way to drink beer… until now:/ One good thing about the pint is that is shows off the color of the beer the nicest.
Next up, stirred beer. My buddy Lou said that Iron Chef Morimoto suggested using the tines of a fork to whip air into the beer, thus aresolizing the armoa compounds… sounds good to me, let’s try!
We go back to the mini-pilsner vessel, this time stirring vigoously after the pour.
This changes the drinking experience completely. There’s more aroma (as expected) and also an altered texture. The foam on top adds a creaminess. The drink also ends with a foam (with this particular glass). I love foams, so this textural contrast is quite nice.
Taste #5 goes back to the snifter, this time stirred. There’s a BIG HOPPY aroma… much bigger than the non-stirred snifter. the pepper comes back out in the middle of the profile and oddly there is nearly no hop in the finnish. Or at least, there is much less than the non-stirred equivilent… I guess it was moved to the beginning of the flavor profile. A big change compared the non-stirred snifter is that the foam and liquid hit your mouth almost simultameously. This adds a velvety texture to the entire drink. Also, because of the shape of the glass your nose is right in the middle of the aroma…Snifter is now my favorite beer drinking glass.
Last of the room temp tasting is the pint glass, stirred. It has a better aroma than it’s non-stirred version, and is generally better than the non-stirred. In this vessel, the foam and liquid contact first simultaneously, but then the liquid quickly slides under the foam… creating a new drinking experience. Not as good as the snifter, but different and unique.
Also, because the liquid slides underneath, you finnish the drink with foam… and aroma. On to the cold stuff…
This requires a bit more equipment as to accurately monitor the temperature of the beer.
First up in the cold round: Mini-pilsner tasting glass, unstirred. When tasted cold, this beer has less aroma than the room tempertaure equivilent. The flavors are still there, just muted, but the texture is better. Could it be that the ice cold beer I have come to love has been depriving the beer of it’s flavor… this is starting to blow my mind. I’m not sure I like this experiment any more…
Reguardless of my emotions, I forge ahead. 53 Degree, Snifter, Unstirred. This has more nose than the room temp (oddly) and is more refreshing. My faithin cold beer is slowly restoring!
I forgot to take the temp of the non-stirred pint glass… I’m getting slightly buzzed at this point. It has the best middle flavor profile so far… another redemption for cold beer.
Mini-pilsner, 54 Degree (Fahrenheit), stirred. Here the foam and liquid contact your mouth at nearly the same time. The cold stirred pilsner is better than the cold unstirred…interesting.
Snifter, Stirred, 54 degree Fahrenheit… This is my favorite! Foam and liquid hit together and stay together for most of the drink, the texture almost brings out white chocolate notes… Winnning!
Here we are the last drops of my first two bottles of a St. Arnold Divine Reserve. Cold (57F) stirred, in a pint glass… and it’s my least favorite of all the combinations. It has the least of everything. Booo.
At least it’s pretty.
If you want to TASTE your beer, drink it warm in a snifter, stirred. If you’re after the best overall drinking experience, chill it, and serve it stirred in the same snifter. I guess I can stop storing pint glasses in my freezer… what a revelation!
Now hurry up and see if you can find a stragling case or two of St. Arnolds Divine Reserve #11… you won’t be sorry you paid the $15/6pk price… it truly is DIVINE!