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Beer and Chocolate Tasting Event

September 28, 2011 1 comment

On Tuesday evening, September 20th, Johnson Bank hosted a Beer and Chocolate Tasting at Three Cellars in Franklin. The event featured six different craft beers paired with six different chocolate truffles that were made by a local chocolatiere.

The beer and chocolate pairings:

  • Lindemans Framboise with Chocolate Raspberry truffle
  • Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout with Chocolate Kahlua truffle
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter with Chocolate Vanilla truffle
  • Grand Teton Sweetgrass with Chocolate Orange truffle
  • Schell Firebrick with Chocolate Caramel truffle
  • Rogue Chipotle Ale with Chocolate Chili Pepper truffle

Lindemans Framboise with Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

Upon arrival, guests signed in and received a 5 oz. tasting glass with the Johnson Bank logo on it. The Lindemans Framboise and Raspberry Truffle pairing was set up in the middle of the store. Lindemans Framboise is a low alcohol (about 2.5% abv) raspberry lambic. It’s bursting with fresh raspberry flavor and has a tart sweetness to it. As expected, when paired with the raspberry truffle the flavor of the beer compliments the sweetness of the chocolate, but also that tartness helps balance it out a little. This pairing really showcased how a fruit beer like this can be enjoyed as a dessert.

The other 5 tasting stations were set up outside in the brand new beer garden that was built adjacent to the store this year. We stepped outside, and they couldn’t have asked for better weather for the event. The temperatures were in the mid 60s as the sun began to set. It was a perfect early Autumn evening outside!

The first table right outside the door was pouring Rogue Chipotle Ale with a Chili Pepper Chocolate Truffle. The beer was really interesting and I got a slight peppery smokiness toward the back from the chipotle. I can’t recall if the truffle had any heat to it or not from the chili pepper, but the pairing was unique.

Next up was Grand Teton Sweetgrass American Pale Ale with the Chocolate Orange Truffle. I was really surprised by this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a hoppy beer with orange-flavored chocolate, but I have to admit, they went together really well. The citrus hoppiness of the beer was really bright on the palate, and when paired with the orange truffle, seemed to accentuate both the fruitiness of the beer and chocolate and the spiciness of the hops.

The Schell Firebrick is a smooth and easy drinking Vienna-style lager. It was paired with a rich Chocolate Caramel Truffle. The malty beer itself has caramel notes to it and seemed to step aside and let the caramel truffle really shine on this one.

I was really eager to try the remaining two beer pairings, because I’m a big fan of porters and stouts. Breckenridge Vanilla Porter is a dessert beer in some regards, just because of the sweetness the vanilla affords to this one. Here was another example of two complimentary flavors exhibited in each. The vanilla and roasted chocolate malt combined with chocolate vanilla was a smooth, rich treat.

Finally, Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout with the Chocolate Kahlua Truffle may have been my favorite. The stout had a deep roasted and espresso-like coffee flavor, along with a dark chocolate bitterness. That combined with the chocolate laced with Kahlua was heavenly. The truffle just melted in your mouth, and all those chocolate and coffee flavors merged into a rich, roasted deliciousness.

Johnson Bank's Beer and Chocolate Tasting at Three Cellars in Franklin, WI.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Beer and Chocolate Tasting. Three Cellars was a great venue to host the event (what’s better than keeping a beer focus at an amazing craft beer store?). I also thought Johnson Bank did a wonderful job organizing the event and making it a unique opportunity for customers to experience something wonderful with a special craft beer and food pairing. Maybe even for others it was a chance to open their minds to the possibility of pairing craft beer, instead of wine, with something like chocolate that they normally wouldn’t even consider.

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Stone Brewery Night at Three Cellars

Three Cellars in Franklin, WI

I was vacationing with some friends in San Diego in April of 2000 (yes, 10 years ago) when I had first heard of the Stone Brewing Company.  One of my friends was paging through one of those travel magazines that they place in your hotel room when the name “Arrogant Bastard Ale” caught his attention.  He became infatuated with finding it and we decided on the Sunday before we left to trek north to pay a visit to the Stone Brewery and land us some bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale. Our excursion ended in disappointment as the poor planning on our part only led us to the discovery that on Sunday the brewery and gift shop were closed.

It only took about 8 years along with continued growth on Stone’s part and in July of 2008 their beer became available in Wisconsin.  Prior to that, I had to stock up in Indiana, while we were visiting my wife’s grandparents.  I’m glad I don’t have to trek that far anymore to acquire their beer.  Needless to say, I was excited to hear that Stone was finally paying a visit to MY town after years of having to track them down.

On May 13th, Three Cellars in Franklin hosted another one of their Brewery Night beer tasting events. The featured microbrewery was, of course,  Stone Brewing Company from Escondido, CA. The original date that was scheduled for earlier in the year had to be postponed due to a snowstorm.

Three Cellars’ owner Shawn Vollmer welcomed Stone’s Mid-West Regional Rep, Aaron Tyrell, who hosted the tasting and gave insight to the beers that were poured that night. The four featured offerings were Arrogant Bastard, Stone IPA, Ruination, and a 2008 Old Guardian Barleywine. Samples were given in a small wine glass, about three-quarters filled.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is their flagship beer and is an American Strong Ale in style.  Ruby brown in color with a nose that consists of citrusy hops, malt, and dark rum.  The flavor has a nice caramel background to it with an assertive hop bitterness that’s balanced out nicely by the malt.  At 7.2% abv, this isn’t for the weak of heart.

Stone’s India Pale Ale  is medium amber in color with a piney and citrusy (a lot of grapefruit) nose from the hops.  Based on the aroma, you would expect this beer to be hoppy for sure, but they’ve done an amazing job striking a near perfect balance between the hop bitterness and malt sweetness. The body is smooth and this beer is quite drinkable.

If you’re looking for hops, then you will adore Stone’s Ruination IPA.  Thick, juicy hop flavors burst onto your palate.  Grapefruit and piney hop bitterness dominate the forefront.  Some malt sweetness arrives toward the back, but it’s not enough to steal the show. The 7.7% abv is handled and delivered nicely. You really don’t notice it in the taste, but eventually it could sneak up on you.

My favorite offering of the night was the 2008 Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale.  I’ve had this before, but never aged.  This style lends itself to cellaring and I was curious how the flavors had developed over the course of 2 years.  The aroma was sweet with hints of caramel and orange.  The mouthfeel very mellow and full-bodied.  From what I recall from drinking this beer “fresh”, the hops were much more apparent.  Aged, the hops have mellowed somewhat into the background and as a result it really lets the caramel flavor from the malt step forward.  There’s still an ample amount of citrus hops in the flavor.  At 11% abv, I could see this beer aging another 5 to 10 years.

Besides tasting the beers,  it was great to hear Aaron talk about them and provide a little history and insight.  He brought up the freshness of Stone and how most beers are on about a 180 cycle whereas Stone’s beer is best kept refrigerated and consumed within 90 days. Their ales are transported from Cali across the country in a refrigerated truck and distributors must keep them in cool storage prior to delivery.  The obvious advantage for the consumer means that Stone’s beers not left sitting in a hot warehouse somewhere prone to spoilage until they finally arrive at the store. That being said, obviously some of the higher alcohol beer can be aged over time.

Even though it wasn’t on the docket for tasting, Stone Pale Ale is, in my opinion, of the best American Pale Ales available.  I’ll have to post a review of it (along with their other beers) in the future.  Seek it out and give it a try.  Stop back and let me know if you agree.

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