Beer of the Week #4 – Cuvee des Jacobins

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Beer of the Week | Posted on 07-06-2012


Cuvee des Jacobins… I love just saying the name. Unfortunately I don’t know the proper pronunciation so I’ll sometimes get a strange look from the bartender when I’m lucky enough to find it on tap. “Jack – Oh – Bins please!” or “Jacque-Oh-Bean!” if I’m feeling particularly Belgian that day. However it’s pronounced, it’s delicious in so many ways.

To fall in love with this beer as I have, you need to understand what sets it apart from other beers apart from taste. Sure it leaves a tart, sour taste in your mouth like a pinot noir mixed with grapefruit but what’s really going on in this beer? Let me take you through the process of making Cuvee des Jacobins so you can appreciate what you’re drinking to its full extent.

Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge

Brewing Process

Your everyday Budweiser and Coors Light is not too far off of your favorite premium lager or strong ale that you may get at a craft brewery around San Diego in terms of time and steps. Before San Diego beer lovers (every resident) get mad at me for making that comparison let me explain. A common pale lager, brown ale or even IPA can be ready to drink within 3-4 weeks of brewing. Sure a lot of ingredients differ and that’s a large part of what makes the beer, but the main steps are the same.
Mash > Lauter > Boil > Cool > Ferment > Bottle or Keg.

Cuvee des Jacobins Red Color

Where a lot of brewers start to have fun with this is in the fermentation stage by trying wild yeasts floating around in the ambient air or aging their beers in a oak barrel. Bockor Brouwerij, brewers of Cuvee des Jacobins, do both of these but with a specific strain of yeast that sours their beers and has been floating around their breweries for hundreds of years. They also do not force this yeast into their tanks by simply adding it when their beer has cooled as do most beers. They spontaneously ferment by putting the beer in “coolships” or shallow containers only about 18-25″ deep that are exposed to the air.

Anchor Steam in San Francisco was one of the first breweries in North America to use coolships which basically helped cool the beer quickly before mechanical refrigeration was around. Ocean breezes off the Pacific would cool the shallow beer that Anchor Steam would put on top of its brewery.

Coolship used at Anchor Steam

Coolship from Anchor Steam

Well Bockor uses these coolships to expose the beer to the wild yeast and waits until the beer starts to ferment. They then put it in oak barrels and age it for 18 months! Only then will they know if the beer turned out which is pretty crazy to think about when it comes to patience. In that time it spends in the barrel, the yeast is settling down but leaving a nice tart character and the wood is imparting some of its flavors to the beer as well.

Finished Product

After its 18 month soak in the barrel its bottled or kegged and ready for our consumption. Cuvee comes out in a deep cherry red color that smells like cherries, currants, cranberries and a sweet red wine. This is when you think about all that went into this product and take your first sip. Now that I’ve built up this beer so much you’ll probably be expecting something wonderfully pleasant. WRONG. This beer easily makes 50% of the people who try it put on their worst sour candy face. Lips purse and eyes narrow. I’ve had people who I didn’t warn tell me “This beer’s gone bad!”. I just laugh and enjoy another.

Cuvee des Jacobins Bottle and Glass

The Specs
Style: Flanders Red Ale (or Flemish Sour Ale)
ABV: 5.5%
Color: Dark Cherry Red

Aroma: Cherries, cranberries and sour fruit. It smells more like a sparkling wine than it does a beer, with a little oak in it too.

Taste: Instant puckering from the sourness on your first sip but then it subsides. Medium carbonation in bottle and on tap with a sparkling wine feeling. It has vanilla, cherry and grape in the middle with an acidic burn on the way down.

Overall: 4/5 – I have a lot of respect for this beer (if you haven’t guessed already) but the taste alone is something unique and fun. I love drinking this beer any time of year and any time of day.


Beer of the Week #3 – Pliny the Younger by Russian River

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Beer of the Week | Posted on 26-02-2012


Pliny the Younger at Tiger! Tiger!

I’m going to do my best here not to sound like every other person who lines up for Pliny the Younger when it comes to town. We’ll see if I can pull it off – here goes.

Pliny the Younger brewed by Russian River is a rare beer only produced once a year for two weeks, usually right around February up in Santa Rosa, CA. Russian River distributes some kegs to lucky bar and pub owners and San Diego happens to be a major recipient. It’s not unusual to find lines out the door for this beer alone once a bar announces they’ll have it on tap. You might be wondering now, is the beer worth it?

Well…I…yes goddammit it is. Screw this I’m a fanboy and I’ll admit it. The beer is freaking delicious. Now I will say that it may not be 1 hour wait on a Tuesday at 3pm good (although I did wait at 11:30 in the morning for it at Tiger! Tiger!), but if you find yourself in the frenzy by chance, order the beer immediately. Ok enough of the sucking up, here are the facts.

Tiger! Tiger! Pliny the FundraiserTickets at Pliny the Fundraiser put on by Tiger! Tiger! in North Park.

The Specs
Style: American Double IPA
ABV: 10.7%
Color: Golden, Burnt Orange

Aroma: Not as distinct as expected for a beer with this many hops but still aromatic. Smells of pine, fruit and a combination of hops.

Taste: This beer is very smooth and leaves a little bit of resin in your mouth but not too much. Everything about this beer is well rounded. Hops come through in the middle but the finishing taste is a slight sweetness of alcohol.

Overall: 5/5 – Trust me, I didn’t want to give this beer a perfect score but I just can’t resist. It’s not the elusiveness of the beer that makes me love it but the way Russian River masks 11% so smoothly and still delivers a complex taste.

Pliny the Younger Fundraiser

Beer of the Week #2 – Mongo IPA by Port Brewing

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Beer of the Week | Posted on 07-02-2012


Beer of the Week #2 - Mongo IPA by Port Brewing

Poured on draft at Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Mongo IPA is a double IPA with a hop-forward taste and plenty of bitterness to leave you smacking your lips like you’ve just eaten a grapefruit. Sound bad? In my opinion, it’s great! I love aggressive beers like this and even though it can’t be said this beer is balanced, I say who cares? The guys at Port Brewing certainly don’t and they do a good job of making a “West Coast” brew here.

The Specs
Style:  American Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: ? (Most likely up there)

Aroma: Hoppy with citrus notes from the Cascade, Amarillo and Simcoe hops. Smells of grapefruit and pine.

Taste: There’s a strong resin left in your mouth after drinking a pint but it’s a good feeling. Flavors from the hops dominate the taste with very little malt coming through. The beer also has a big head that lasts for some time leaving tracings along the glass.

Overall: 4.25/5 – I liked Mongo quite a bit and even though it’s up there around 8.5%, I ordered a couple of these to see me through a pizza. Would definitely order this again.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Beer of the Week #1 – Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Beer of the Week | Posted on 30-01-2012


Big Bear Black Stout

It is safe to say that I drink a lot of beer. However I don’t drink to get drunk unlike some friends of mine (looking at you Brian). I want to enjoy my beers and remember them too (that’s not to say I don’t feel good after a couple IPA’s). Living in San Diego, there is plenty of opportunity to explore what craft beer has to offer so I’m going to write about the good and the bad each week in my new weekly series: Beer of the Week.

Snifter of Black Stout

Kicking things off this week, we have a Big Bear Black Stout from Bear Republic.

The Specs
Style: American Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.10%
IBU: 55

Poured into a snifter on draft, the color is more dark brown that black with a good tan head on it. Definitely leaves some tracings on the glass with some creaminess to it.

Aroma: Roasted malt takes over here with a little bit of coffee and caramel notes. Some hoppy aroma comes out right when you start to drink.

Taste: Coffee and roasted malts come in to play here too, with a hint of chocolate. It’s not very thick for a stout but very balanced.

Overall: 3.5/5 – I want to say I really liked this beer but I don’t see myself adding it to my fridge anytime soon. That said, it was good overall and beats out some similar stouts you’d find in the store.