By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
I have never actually met former Jerseyan-Now-Oklahoman John Karmazin, though he and the missus were schoolmates in HS back in the days when you had to get up from your chair to change the TV channel. And when they re-connected on FaceBook, the missus discovered that John was a homebrewer. Being a dutiful wife who knows of my penchant for, um, things Oklahoman, she suggested John as friend.
And what a friend to have. After some initial consubstantiation, John arranged to have some of his Beer Snob Brewery beer sent halfway across the fruited plain (by private courier, of course) to me for sampling. Sending homebrew, especially "live" stuff, is an "iffy" prospect, even under the most watchful of eyes.
It got here. But it didn't stay long.
John sent four styles: a Belgian Dubbel, a northern English Brown Ale, an "experimental" IPA, and a Pale Bock.
The dubbel was brewed in memory of Karmazin's beloved Akita, Kuma. Translated as "Little Bear," that's the name of the beer—though, at 7.8% ABV, it is far from a little beer. A wonderful example of the style, it had a delightful nose and an exceptionally smooth mouthfeel, augmented by that Belgian candi sugar that graces some of the best Belgians. John says it has won many medals in the HB competitions he enters, and it's not hard to see why.
The Brown Ale was also absolutely true to style and absolutely delicious, especially as it warmed a bit. At 5.2% ABV, and with a nutty, chocolate finish, this could be a wonderful session beer for many a quaffer.
But The PubScout's choice for a session beer from this shipment would have to be what Karmazin called LK50. Named in honor of his wife Lori's 50th birthday, this beer was inspired by Sierra Nevada's Pale Bock. A distinct, though not overbearing, spicy hop note does not alter the smoothness of this exceptional beer. Produced from a decoction mash and lagered for FIVE months, this baby weighs in at 7.5% ABV, so the smart beerlover makes this a session beer only in his home.
Karmazin's last offering was an experimental IPA that he admits he was "not pleased with." But what does he know? He adds that "All of my friends really liked it. Hey, when it's free…" Add The PubScout to that friends' list, as I thought it was superb. A nicely balanced beer with hops predominant (as per the style), its 8.2% ABV is hardly noticeable—until later. If this is what "experimental" means, then let's hear it for experimentation.
Homebrewer John Karmazin of Oklahoma: ya done good, son! But his location poses a problem. Unless you're in John's circle of Sooner friends or a beer judge ( or a hack, like me), you ain't getting' this stuff.
And what good is a great beer if beer lovers across America can't get it? Therefore, to solve this problem, I am recommending to John Karmazin that he enters his beers into the Sam Adams national "Longshot" competition. I think he's more than a Longshot.
So thanks much for your work and your generosity, John. If you make any more, send it along.
The Better, the Sooner.
©Kurt E. Epps—The PubScout--2010