Archive for September, 2006
This is only my second tasting from the Jolly Pumpking brewery, but the first one really rocked socks and so I expected the same from this one. Fortunately, I was not surprised. This amber ale pours a pretty standard dark ruby color – nothing exceptional there. However, you really start to get a feel for how big this beer is with the aroma. This beer has more to say in the aroma than about any Amber I can recall – it is very pungent and spicy, and the smell literally wafts from the table to your nose. None of that up-close-and-personal stick your face in the beer mess. In the mouth, this beer continues to shine. The initial taste is very spicy and slightly burns the tip of the tongue. Developing through the mouth you get a fairly malty competitor to the spice along with tastes of caramel and a slight candy-like sourness. Overall, this is a very very robust beer – probably the biggest Amber I’ve found. I’m continuing to really like what Jolly Pumpkin is doing, and I’m very excited about trying more of their beers as they come available here in NC.
The folks at New Belgium brewery are revered here on the East coast for their impossible-to-find Fat Tire Ale. Unfortunately, they don’t distribute this nectar (or any of their brews) on this coast, and so I always take care to enjoy whatever they have to offer when I visit the left side of the country. Usually I am very impressed. My experience with the Tripel is no different.
This beer pours a light straw color – lighter than a typical Tripel. The aroma is sweet and light. There is a fair amount of spice in the head, but nothing overpowering. In the mouth, this beer subtly shines. The initial sensation is spicy and lightly sweet, and it ends with a fruity-sweet aftertaste. There are typical Tripel characteristics, but they all seem slightly subdued and much smoother than many stronger Tripels. Honestly, this almost seems more like a Witbier that is hyped up than a Tripel. In all, it is very palatable – smooth, subtle, sweet, and delicious. I would rank this near the top of my American Tripels.
This is a pretty big jump from the beers that I’ve been drinking lately – seems like I’m always digging on the Belgians or the American micros these days, and I’ve been sadly ignoring those fine German folk. So, today I’m jumping into a good German doppelbock.
This one pours a dark, dark brown with dark chocolate and a bitter nut aroma. In the mouth, the beer is true to form. It carries a chocolatey sweetness with flavors of malt. Throughout the palate, however, there is a constant bitterness that rides the tongue and sticks at the back of the mouth. This bitterness makes the beer a bit more sophisticated, and slows the drinking considerably. The persistence of the aftertaste draws the presence of this beer out for well over a minute after each drink. I have to admit that I generally reach for a simpler, sweeter dunkel or doppelbock, but I can really appreciate the complexity of this beer and I feel like it is probably a better brew by most accounts.
When all was said and done this was a difficult decision. Many factors were taken into account and after much deliberation we have come to a concensus. The winner of the 2006 Two Times Brewery Beer-toberfest is…..
It embodied all of the characteristics of the Oktoberfest style – toasty, spicy, malty and sweet. All of these combined to create a complex array of flavors that perplex the palate and entice the drinker to reach for more.
Nevertheless we were impressed by some of the more adventurous varieties put forth by our other competitors. For instance the Harpoon was in tight contention for 1st place, only taking 2nd due to its slack adherence to the traditional Oktoberfest style. Similar results were considered for our offerings from Dogfish Head and Red Hook – while they are exceptional beers, they stray a bit too far from traditional standards. On a similar note, the Sam Adams offering was quite good, but perhaps lost points due to the fact that it comes from a popular macro-brew – as beer nerds, we are unfortunately biased towards our less mainstream brewers. It should also be noted that the Pumpkinhead Ale was not considered in the running only due to the fact that it is not a true ‘Oktoberfest’ beer. But, were we crowning the ‘best-tasting’ beer tonight, Pumpkinhead would have won hands down. While the top 5 beers tonight are all exceptional beers, the Otter Creek offering is sadly a distant sixth place, due to the fact that it is completely and entirely undrinkable beside a true Oktoberfest beer.
Standings: 1 – Brooklyn Oktoberfest; 2 – Harpoon Octoberfest; 3 – Flying Dog Dogtoberfest; 4 – Red Hook “Late Harvest” Autumn Ale; 5 – Samuel Adams Octoberfest; 6 – Otter Creek Oktoberfest; VIP – Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
**Disclaimer: These are solely the opinions of the tasters at hand. We recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We don’t do this in an attempt to degrade the efforts of any brewery. Rather, we ask that you patronize your local brewers and explore various options to form your own opinions. We also ask that you post these opinions, as we don’t have all the answers and we will certainly benefit from your views in our future tastings.
This is noticably different than the other beers we have had this evening. It is very malty with a hint of vanilla. That coupled with the spice and berries = a well-rounded, balanced beer. No flavor stands out above the rest and all of them seem to stimulate the appropriate parts of the tongue and mouth. Another thing I like is that I have yet to experience a bad aftertaste. I don’t fee like I have to take another sip to rid my tongue of bitterness. Harpoon has created a sophisticated and complex beer and one I think others should try to imitate. -Matt
As Matt says, this is another unique take on the genre. This one carries a heavy aroma of berries on the head. In the mouth, there is just the slightest burn. But, this burn is quickly overtaken by a fruity sweetness on the middle of the tongue. Towards the back, this sweetness kicks into a hoppy bitterness that sticks on tongue with some residual sweetness. I find this Octoberfest very nice, very easy to drink, and probably one of the most accessible Octoberfests of the evening. -Ben
Matty was worried that this would be too off-the-wall – sometimes Flying Dog does that. But, fortunately, I think we made out okay. This beer is very pleasant. The color is typical (dark amber) and the aroma is sweet with lots of grape. In the mouth, the beer maintains a malty presence throughout. In addition to this, I still get a lot of grape out of this beer. Cutting this grape is a tart flavor and a blend of autumn spices. I wish I had a better vocabulary to fully describe the flavor of this beer – but, I don’t. So, I’ll suffice to say that this is a good Oktoberfest – a little off-kilter with a unique sweetness that isn’t cheap and plays well with the other spicy undertones involved. I like it. -Ben
This brew doesn’t have the strong, hoppy, metallic aftertaste that some of tonight’s brews have had and I can’t say that is a bad thing. Ben is right, it shares SOME of the characteristics of a traditional oktoberfest and its smooth drinkablility makes it quite enjoyable. It reminds me more of a typical lager than the actual “oktober” style. For this reason I can’t give it the highest honor but I can say I will buy it again. I must also say that I apologize to the brewers at Flying Dog for doubting you, strong work. -Matt
This pour produced the frothiest head thus far. This beer is riddled with bitter sweetness but the berry flavors do linger like they do with the Sam Adams. The metallic undertones stand out between sips and accentuate the hoppiness I think Brooklyn was going for. I have much respect for this brewery so my impression may have been skewed in the positive direction. This may not be the best beer of the evening but I feel it is the “boldest”, most manly beer of the 5 reviewed. While I can see myself drinking some of the others at social events I think I would reserve this brew for my favorite past time, relaxing on the couch watching football. -Matt
In my opinion, this is probably the most refined and least accessible Oktoberfest brew thus far. The pour on this one is typical of the genre, but the aroma has some interesting characteristics. While there still exists the malty sweetness, there is also a noticeable presence of dark cherry and even a bit of grape. In the mouth, this one is much smoother in the front of the mouth – hardly any burn. Through the mouth the beer is complex, moving from a light sweetness to a sharp bitterness and then to a more subtle sweetness of dark fruit on the back of the tongue. While there are a lot of flavors involved, they all melange wonderfully for a smooth and refined interpretation of this genre.
This is our second real Oktoberfest tonight, and a vast improvement from the first. This one is a deeper amber and smells crisp and slightly metallic. In the mouth, this beer is more delicate and a bit sweeter. Initially, there is a light carbonation burn. This is followed by a subtle hop presence that subsides into a light but persistent sweetness lent by the malt. Throughout the mouth, there is a light hint of spice reminiscent of nutmeg and cinnamon. Overall, I find this to be a great offering from Sam Adams, and it’s reassuring to see good seasonal beers coming from the bigger breweries. -Ben
First let me start by saying many of the Sam Adams beers smell the same to me. Fortunately this brew strays from the typical bland SA style as the spices add a bit of zest. I also taste a bit of grape which oddly enough seems to be the defining characteristic. I would consider this one of the better SA varities, and as far as tonight goes, a pretty good oktoberfest ale.
Matt - September 22, 2006
I think Otter Creek may have missed the mark on this one. There is a harsh, ashy aftertaste that masks any good flavors this beer may have to offer. I taste peanuts, or maybe some thing comparable to burnt pumpkin seeds. This brew over stimulates the bitter tastebuds making it difficult to drink. I’m glad I only have to drink 6 oz of this is ale because I don’t see myself stomaching a whole bottle, let alone a 6-pack. I’m sorry Otter Creek but I’m afraid you may have secured last place in this competition. -Matt
Oktoberfest beers are some of the hardest for me to review, because the flavors are just so hard to describe by any layman’s terms. This one smells quite malty, looks a mild amber, and tastes slightly overpowering. The bad news is that the overpowering taste isn’t necessarily a good one. There’s a noticeable carbonation burn on the tip of the tongue the eases into a hoppy bitterness around the middle of the mouth. Then, suddenly, you’re hit with a shock of flavor towards the back of the tongue. It comes very quickly, and I can’t quite place the flavor. Matt might be on to something with the ‘burnt pumpkin seed’ descriptor. Regardless, I don’t find it very pleasant – it tastes harsh, and it sticks around a bit too long. While this beer definitely improves with a higher temperature, I don’t think it’ll be a favorite of mine. -Ben
Matt - September 22, 2006
To be honest, it is really really difficult to appreciate this after the prior Shipyard pumpkin ale. It is just such a different beer, and the sweetness of the previous taste really overpowers it at first. But, I’m gonna give it a try. The aroma on this one is of a bittersweet malt with a metallic tint, and the color is a deep ruby amber. In the mouth, this beer is very ‘autumn-y’ in a very different way than the pumpkin ale. The flavor has an immediate sweetness to it, but it is a less refined and wilder sweetness. This sweetness barrels headlong into a mild sourness, slightly akin to that of a Flemish wild ale. Finally, this subsides with a hop bitterness that rests on the back of the tongue for several seconds. I’m tempted to say that this is a rather complicated ale for the variety, but it could just be my tastebuds playing tricks on me. Nevertheless, it’s a nice take on the season, and a tasty beer. -Ben
Ben is right this is a very earthy beer. It has a much thicker mouthfeel than the pumpkin ale. The bitterness seems to cling to the sides of the mouth. There is also a spicy flavor that develops as the ale flows down the throat. I enjoy this beer but for completely different reasons than the pumpkin. It is deep and complex, and the miriad of flavors change much like the autumn leaves. -Matt
Matt - September 22, 2006
This is the one and only true “pumpkin ale” of the group and my initial impression is the rest of the brews have been stacked up against heavy competition. It pours a golden whiskey color with little head. It smells of cinnamon and tastes uncannily like a piece of pumpkin pie. Although this seems to be a simple review I can offer no other description because it really does taste like the traditional Thanksgiving desert. Very delicious and easy to drink. This is a difficult beer to share so rest assured you aren’t being rude if you tell your drinking buddies to buy their own. I give this brew my highest recommendation. -Matt
I’m with Matty on this one. I’ve had a few pumpkin ales in my day, but I think this may be number 1. The aroma and flavor are so sweet and spicy and delicate. There is a very noticeable flavor of pumpkin laced with cinnamon and nutmeg and a touch of brown sugar. All this combines with the subtle beer backbone – just a hint of malt and minor hops. Usually with a beer of this robust flavor, I would expect a syrupy or overwhelming aftertaste. However, this beer manages to finish quite crisp, and leaves just a lingering cinnamon sweetness on the tongue. A great beer to be sure. -Ben
Matt - September 22, 2006
Very rarely do we need a special occasion to review a particular variety of beer, we simply celebrate the fact that the sun comes up. However, given the time of year we now have a reason to drink in excess. Tonight, September 22, 2006 has been deemed Beer-toberfest here at Two Times Brewery. We will be reviewing 7 varieties of Oktoberfest brews in the hope of awarding the 2006 Beer-toberfest Champion.
I gotta be honest with you – I haven’t really had much to do with the Left Hand Brewery in the past. While they seem good enough, and I have a few of their stickers on my beer fridge, I just haven’t been drawn to purchase many of their offerings. However, whenever I set eyes on a new IIPA, I can’t help but check it out. Fortunately, this one doesn’t disappoint. Named after the Twin Sisters peaks in Colorado, this beer pours a rather hazy medium-brown. The aroma is of floral hops – not exceptionally sweet, and not terribly bitter – just very fresh. In the mouth, the first sensation is of the heavy hop bitterness of this beer. It has an interesting traversal over the tongue, as it starts bitter, mergest into a slight malty sweetness, and then subsides back in to a sharp bitterness on the back of the tongue that lasts throughout the aftertaste. To be honest, I would say that this beer doesn’t go to the extremes of flavor that I have found in other IIPAs. However, it is quite well-balanced, and their choice of hops is superb. It’s a great sipping beer, and it is perhaps mild enough not to scare off amateur IPA fans.
Matt - September 19, 2006
I am a huge fan of witty beer names as I feel they add character to the beer, and I’m always up for a good chuckle. Once you taste this beer you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It is a nut brown ale and all I can say about that is, yes it is. It smells nutty and chocolatey, although not to heavy. There is also a hint of maple to enhance the sweetness. The taste is of dark chocolate, more bitter than its milk chocolate counterpart. The peanut flavor is very apparent on the back of the tongue and the back of the throat. It does leave a bitter aftertaste but it neither overpowering nor brash. It reminds me of the taste you experience while drinking coffee. And so we come full circle back to the name, just as squirrels gorge themselves on nuts a true beer lover could easily be inclined to enjoy this brown ale in excess. In the end both increase in size but with little to no regret. If you’re ever in Wisconsin grab a sixer of this brew if you’re feelin’ “squirrely.”
Matt - September 19, 2006
New Glarus is a family run brewing company located in, you guessed it, New Glarus, Wisconsin. It is my understanding that these brews are only distributed in the great state in which it is found. Your next question is, “Well, how could you possibly be drinking the Yokel while sitting on your couch in NC?” Glad you asked…While visiting my dad in Lake Gineva I came across 6 different varities and had them shipped back home. I mean, who could pass up a chance to review something few if any in this neck of the woods would ever try.
The Yokel is an unfiltered “lager”. That seems a very vague and unlikely discription given its characteristics. It pours a golden yellow with a cloudy hue. At this point I was expecting hefeweizen but what I got was a summer ale with some bite. The smell and taste are both crisp and rich with lemony flavor. There is a bit of corriander giving a semblance of a white ale but it doesn’t entirely capture the essence of a white. The Yokel is very refreshing and pleasing to the palate. The brewers of this fine beer claim it is perfect for washing down a delicious burger and I couldn’t agree with them more. The slogan is “buy local, drink Yokel.” It is my opinion that beer lovers outside Wisconsin would also show great patronage to the New Glarus Brewey if given the opportunity. My only quams with this beer is I don’t have more of it and I can’t run to the local “good beer” store and buy more.