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Friday, March 29, 2013

Half Acre Beer Co.'s Baume Rye Stout

  • Style: Rye Stout
  • ABV: 7%
  • Season: Winter
  • Ease to locate: Limited.  Bottle shops in the Chicagoland area are your best bet
  • Color: Solid dark brown
  • Head: Two & a half ingers of tan foam.  Wonderful lacing present for all of drink.
  • Aroma: Rye grains & hops right off the bat.  Chocolate & espresso notes as well as a hint of murk
  • Mouthfeel: Medium to full.  Creamy & smooth
  • Finish: Moderate & dry
  • Food friendly: Try pairing it with roast beef or other heavier deli meats.  It would go well with earthy cheeses, such as Camembert or with buttery varieties such as Swiss.

I have been given the impression, on more than one occasion, that most beer drinkers don't really consider the science that goes into producing a typical batch of beer. Yes, brewing a good bottle (can, bomber, growler) of beer is a craft too. But to create an amazing batch of beer, the brewer must have the soul of an artist and the know how of a mad scientist (and really, aren't all the really great scientist a bit batty?). Personally I had some rather vivid flashbacks of honors chemistry while completing my very first home brew last year. What is the resting temperature of the water?  Is the ratio of water to grain correct? Is the boiling temperature of the seepage within the right parameters? Wait, is this cheap, generic, damn thermometer even working? Luckily, I loved high school chemistry (Biology? Not so much. Better not to ask about the fetal pig fiasco.). They say that's all good brewers have to learn the science behind the craft before they can even begin to practice the craft aspect of brewing and I believe them.

                                                                                     I wonder where Oingo Boingo would fall on the Baume scale?

My hometown brewery, Half Acre Beer Company, must agree with this as well. This winter they created an interesting rye stout to commemorate the very first beer that they produced when opening their brewery on Lincoln Ave. Antonio Baume was a scientist who developed a way of measuring the density of liquid. Kind of an important part of brewing, so,  good call, Half Acre! In case you're wondering, this particular beer comes in as 8.2 degrees Baume. Throw that little fact out at your next beer tasting and watch yourself be crowned King (or Queen) of the Beer Geeks.   Of course, this gets me to thinking that more students would have done better in that chemistry class if beer was one of the examples used ( but maybe some things are better left for college.). On their label, Half Acre took the time to thank every one from the band Ween (to each their own I suppose) to the Red Shirts ( I like to think that this is some sort of Star Trek reference to drain pour versions of beers that just didn't successfully make it off the planet Half Acre) to a barber of some guy named Joe (you know, brewers aren't really known for their styling hair, so if Joe is reading this, feel free to pass your guy's digits around a bit at the next beer fest.).

Baume would have approved.  Maybe.  Do the French even drink beer?  Or do they leave that to the Belgians?

My Baume Rye Stout poured a dark, rich brown color. Two and a half fingers of head rose in the pint with dark tan colored foam. I started to get excited when I saw the lacing. I always am a sucker for really good lacing and this beer was a beauty. Clumps of foam crept up the sides of the pint glass and formed intricate webs of aroma. Speaking of aroma, this beer was taking no prisoners. The strong scent of peppery, chewy rye aggressively hit me with even the briefest of sniffs. Once I had become accustomed to the note, I could pick out the slightly bitter sweetness of milk chocolate and a darker sort of bitterness from espresso. There was a very soft scent of something earthy lurking under everything, but not muddy or green. More like burnt tuft. Upon tasting it, my first impression was that if you did not enjoy a good corned beer on rye sandwich, you would NOT like this beer. The note of rye, with it's dark wheat flavor and slightly peppery spiciness was dominant to the extreme. As it warmed a bit and my mouth grew accustomed to the rye, I could find the dark chocolate aspect and the mild roasted grain note. Try as I might, I couldn't detect any coffee flavor at all. There was, however, a smokey, almost ashy note that I couldn't quite put my finger on towards the back of the swallow. For a beer which boasted on it's label that it was "Handsomely hopped", I found it interesting that the hop presence was mild at best. The mouthfeel was creamier and smoother than I had expected. Because of the moderate amount of carbonation and the unexpected creaminess of the grains, I would give this beer a solid medium to lightly full mouthfeel over all. The finish was dry with a bit of hops coming in towards the very end.
Look at that lacing!  This was scientifically recorded occurring at minute 5.79 of the inital drink.  By that I mean i wrote it down on the scrape of paper I was taking notes on

The dominance of the rye makes this beer a difficult one to pair food with.  My best guess for a workable pairing is to try serving it with food that goes well with rye bread.  Try it with some corned beef and sauerkraut on the side (voila!  A deconstructed Reuben!)  Or serve it with an open faced roast beef sandwich with cabbage slaw and russian dressing. (voila!  A sandwich fancy enough to eat with a knife and fork!)  I think it might be fun to pair this with a fondue pot filled with a buttery cheese such as Swiss.(voila!  It's 1973!)   
 Scientifically speaking, carbonation is the chemical reaction of carbon dioxide dissolving into a liquid.  But it's sort of pretty too.  

My bottle had a price sticker in it that indicated that bottling date of 2/28/13. I drank it not quite a month later. I can't help but wonder how the rye note might mellow if this beer could be cellared for a few more months. Would it help balance the beer and pair down the wheaty aggression that concerned me or would it instead just flatten the taste, resulting in a forgettable sort of stout? Where science meets craft is a tricky sort of business in the beer world.  But I guarantee that the homework involved is a lot tastier than any assignment in high school.