Archive for November, 2006
Okay, folks. I just got back from Virginia and, as usual, I had to pick up a few tasty brews. One thing I noticed is that there is a sudden influx of brews from Bell’s Brewery, which I have hitherto been unaware of. The only problem with this is that they were all full six-packs at the store I visited, and so I couldn’t grab one of each. So, as a starter, I grabbed the brown ale. My initial impression of this is good, based upon the packaging alone. it’s a pretty classic package with nice lettering and a picture of an owl. It’s hard to argue with owls. They’re wise.
The color of this is a darkish brown, and it is quite cloudy. The clouding is rather dense and there is no apparent debris. There is, however, obvious carbonation in this that presents itself in a champaigne-like constant bubbling. The aroma here is sweet and malty, as expected. In addition to this, there are light hints of chocolate and cola on the head. The taste is good, but I’m not blown away. There is an initial carbonation burn that is quickly followed by a spry sweetness. The carbonation stays high through the mouth as the beer merges into a bread-like taste mingled with a tad of dark chocolate. The aftertaste is light, but also borrows a bit of dark chocolate. This is a fairly flavorful beer, and the mouthfeel is at once both full and fleeting. However, it still doesn’t really sweep me off my feet. So, the bottom line is: good, but not great.
Winter time. Time for the leaf raking to be over. Time for college football to wind to its finale, for the last of the rivalry games to take place. And a time to enjoy those games with a bold imperial stout, warming the heart (or at least seeming to) with its higher alcohol content, chocolaty-coffee flavor, and gorgeously opaque blackness. This one (9% abv) pours with a thick head that takes its time to die down. The nose is complex, and I seem to detect hops (weird for a stout) and some mocha-like scent. Its color truly is enchanting, so much so that I hate to drink it (will it cement my insides?). It’s taste doesn’t have the hops I was smelling, and the mocha definitely shines through. A tasty treat from those kids in Richmond, perfect for my after-Thanksgiving football watching.
This beer has been in the beer fridge for a LONG time. Frankly, I’ve been scared to drink it. A beer like this has so much potential for disappointment. It’s a gimmicky beer; it’s fruity; it’s risky. But, you gotta drink it sometime – and so, tonight is the night. In the end, (and I’m surprised) this is a pretty good beer.
The pour of this one is dark and light. As far as brown ales go, it’s pretty standard, albeit a bit less viscous. The aroma is very heavy with red raspberry. I think this is a good thing – If you’re going to go for a fruit beer, you might as well go full-steam. Furthermore, I think raspberries are a great accompanying flavor for a beer. So, hats off to Lost Coast on a great aroma – this could practically double as a perfume in a pinch. The flavor, while initially slightly bland, overall redeems itself. The beer isn’t very hoppy at all. There is a bit of malt in there, and a slight flavor that is reminiscent of an English brown. But, the predominant player is the raspberry flavor. The foretaste is very light and crisp, and the aftertaste brings a rush of red raspberry that flows directly into the aftertaste. That’s about it, really. Simple, quick, and to the point – it’s a brown beer that taste like raspberries. So, in conclusion, this is NOT a complicated beer. And, it’s not what I would consider a great beer. But, it is a good beer. And, if you like a fruity beer, it’s a great way to spend $4.
As I pulled this out of my beer fridge I said, “Alright f-er, don’t let me down!” Ben asked me what I said and I replied, “If this doesn’t kick me in the nuts, nothing will.” And then he said, “If it doesn’t, I will.” I graciously declined his offer…After tasting it I wish he would have.
This is an unfiltered beer. Ben says it looks like the wet trub that is left sitting in the bottom of our carboy after we’ve transfer the liquid to our keg. The head is thick, white and frothy and clings to the side of the glass. The smell is very hoppy and makes me think this is going to be a very big beer. Before I continue I must note that I LOVE hoppy beers. But this is a lesson in being careful what you ask for. When I asked to be “kicked in the nuts” I wanted a beer that was big and strong but tastefully done. Instead I have stumbled across a beer that accosts the tastebuds and nasal cavity. Saying this is abrasive is an understatement. To be quite honest I don’t even know what this tastes like. There is a sweet malty backbone which is quickly snapped in half by a big hoppy monster that defecates on its corpse. Its is so piney/grassy/earthy that is is unenjoyable. The folks at Weyerbacher could learn a lot from Dogfish Head. The 120 Minute is proof that you can make a ridiculously bold beer and still do it with class. Weyerbacher decided to take a gang of hookers and substitute them for the Rockettes. Unless you are a masochist or a SERIOUS beer lover that must try every beer (like Ben and myself) do not bother.
If I’m not mistaken I had some rather harsh words about the Bison Gingerbread Ale. I would like to apologize to the fine folks at Bison and say that I may not have given it a fair shake. Furthermore, I will more than likely amend my comments once I try it again. Until then let’s see how your IPA stacks up against the competition.
This beer has a dense copper appearance and a hop-heavy aroma. I am also picking up a slight grape-like sweetness that I’m not sure I’m fond of. There shouldn’t be anything sweet about an IPA. The bigger, the bolder, the more bite, the better-if you ask me. Much like the smell, I can’t get a firm handle on the taste. The “fore-taste” boasts a strong foral flavor that rounds out with a rich malty feel. The hoppiness rises into the nose as the metallic finish covers the tongue. On paper it sounds like the perfect IPA but it isn’t as well-balanced as it sounds. At times the malt and hops seems to be in competition rather than working in concert with one another. At times I am experiencing an abrasive smokey aftertate. I just don’t know…It’s kinda like a relationship; when it’s good, it’s great and when it’s bad, it sucks a mean one. And every morning, like every sip, you’re not quite sure what your going to get. Maybe she’ll give you a kiss or maybe she’ll be pissed about something you were “supposed to have known about” which makes your life miserable. This certainly isn’t my favorite IPA but it has its finer points and it isn’t nearly as bad as others; so ,despite its shortcomoings, I’ve had worse, so I would have to say it is a slightly above average brew.
The folks at Shmaltz never fail to bring interesting beers into their He’Brew line. And, while often a bit peculiar, I’ve never had a bad beer from these guys. Accordingly, I’m always excited to see a new He’Brew beer hit the shelf. I spotted this little gem a couple of weeks ago. First of all, I laughed, because the name “Jewbilation” is pretty witty. Secondly, I said something along the lines of, “Sonamighty!”, because the beer is a 10th anniversary beer made with 10 different malts and 10 different hops. That’s a lot of hops and malt.
When pouring this beer, I was surprised by the extremely dark color of it – as Matty says, it looks almost like a Coca Cola. It’s very dark, not terribly viscous, and has a head consisting of lots of tiny caramel-colored carbonation bubbles. The smell of this is nothing as crazy as I expected. It is fairly sweet with a bit of molasses, a bit of cinnamon, some pepper, and not a lot of hop. In the mouth, I sincerely expected a flavor explosion, judging from the impressive content of the beer. However, in reality, it isn’t too wild. Don’t get me wrong – this would knock the socks off of anyone accustomed to your run-of-the-mill Budweiser. However, compared to some of the IIPAs or Imperial Stouts we’ve tried here at Sevenpack, this is nothing too extreme. That being said, it IS pretty good. It’s a lot of stuff going on, and it’s pretty mild, but it’s good. You can definitely taste the malts in this beer. There are chocolate, toffee, and breadlike flavors that result from this. There are also hops. The big combination of hops makes it a general bitterness that doesn’t take any definite shape, but the presence is undeniable. There is also a bit of licorice in here and, strangely enough, I sense a light cola taste (although that might just be because Matt has me thinking about Coca Cola now). So, this is indeed a complex beer, but what can you expect when you throw a handful of everything into it? This complexity runs the risk of making the beer too muddled – however, it seems to just barely elude that end. Rather, everything works together to make a relatively tasty beer. In general, I’d rather have something with a more defined palate. However, I’m going to give this a pass because it’s different and it works pretty well. Another solid showing from Shmaltz. L’Chaim!
I recently had the pleasure of trying this beer at the Lighthouse Beer Festival in Wilmington, NC. The nice folks at the Arcobrau table even let me take a bottle to enjoy later. Ok let’s be honest, I “commandeered” a bottle when no one was looking but God bless the servers for being totally oblivious to what I can imagine was the worst heist ever attempted. I had this at the end of the tasting so the specifics of my initial impression are a bit hazy. I look forward to trying it again for the first time.
This unflitered brew pours a beautiful golden yellow. A moderate amount of white frothiness emerges that quickly diminishes into a minuscule ring that sits on the top of the beer like a halo. It doesn’t have an outstanding, or should I say extraordinary aroma. Pretty typical, heavy with citrus. The taste is much like the smell, nothing to write home about but still very pleasant. The coriander flavoring is apparent throughout the mouth and there is a mild metallic finish that rounds out the taste. This beer is missing something that would make it great, although I can’t quite put my finger on it. I believe the answer lies in the character of the beer. It doesn’t seem to be bold enough for my taste because there is nothing that captures or demands the attention of my taste buds. That being said it is a very refreshing brew that would quench any thirst on a hot day. If you’re looking for a session brew during the summer months this might be the one for you.
This beer is a remainder of a six-pack I bought whilst visiting Spokane, WA about a month ago. During my trip to Spokane, I suppose I was a bit too distracted to adequately appreciate the quality of this beer because, let me tell you, this is a tasty brew. While on the surface this is just another winter beer, New Belgium sets it off with the gimmick that it is cooled to 2 degrees below zero (a near freezing state) to give it enhanced clarity. Personally, I can’t really see the point – is it really worth supercooling a beer just to give it clarity? I don’t really think so. But, whatever – as good as this beer tastes, they are welcome to be as gimmicky as they want.
The pour of this beer is a deep amber – while Matt corrected me from calling it a ‘dark’ beer, it is a rather deep shade and couldn’t possibly be considered ‘light’, either. The aroma of this beer is different than any other holiday beer I have tried – it is actually quite hoppy and fresh. There are hints of dark malt involved, but the predominant smell is a floral and slightly acidic hop that is quite pungent and unexpected. In the mouth, there is a crisp sweetness that moves into a biting floral hop on the middle of the tongue. On through the mouth, the hop bitterness changes to a malty sweetbread flavor. Finally, in the aftertaste, the beer finishes with an interesting mix of sweet and bitter that is quite different and pleasant. Really, it is the strong hop presence in this beer that sets it apart from the competition. All other components of this beer can be found in other holiday ales. However, New Belgium has somehow brought the hops to the forefront in a way that I haven’t tasted in any beer this rich, and I commend them for it – It makes for a more ‘exciting’ holiday ale, and one of the best I’ve yet tried. I only wish they sold this brew in NC so I could stock up.
Otter Creek, why do you have to be so inconsistent! With you guys, I just never know whether the beer will be great or it’ll be abhorrent. It’s similar to a less consequential game of Russian Roulette every time I pop the cap (no pun intended). Well, I’m sure you, the reader, are anxious to know how this round of roulette went. You’ll be glad to know that this one was a success. The Otter Creek Copper is an excellent amber ale. The pour is slightly darker than you get from many ambers and the aroma is rich, spicy, and dark. In the mouth, this is a very full-bodied amber with a silky mouthfeel. Initially this is just a refreshing smooth ale. However, as it moves through the mouth, it develops into a rather complex beer with lots of flavorful grains, a mild hop presence, and just a hint of spice. The primary player is the dark grain that lends this a very rich flavor and sticks with you throughout the aftertaste. This gives the beer a presence that I can only describe as ‘meaty’ – sounds weird, but makes a mighty fine brew. Now, Otter Creek, if you could just make all of your beers this full and tasty, we could play together a lot more often.
This is one of the two big competing amber ales here in Vermont. Being my first time tasting the Long Trail Ale, I can safely say that I’m not terribly impressed. It is, by color and aroma, an Amber ale – the aroma being fairly malty with a wee bit of spice, and the color being… well… amber. The taste isn’t anything to write home about. There is a fair amount of malty sweetness, just a bit of anise, and a lot of metallic flavor. The metallic flavor takes the forefront and, frankly, gives it a cheap institutional flavor. I’m concerned that my tasting this in an airport bar might be part of the problem, as the metallic hints could have been contributed by a chincy keg/tap system. Nevertheless, I can only review what I taste, and this stuff doesn’t taste good. So, Long Trail, I apologize if I’m short-shifting you here, but this is all I have to work with.
Ah, the knuckleball; feared big Big League hitters for its unpredictable, erratic flight. It’s difficult to control and difficult to hit — I would call this aptly named brew a big swing and a miss.
Stone Creek calls this a “light amber, light bodied lager with light to medium hop character.” That statement is correct. It is, in fact, light amber in color, light bodied, and has a medium hoppiness. I should point out, though, that Stone Creek failed to include “offensive” and “gross” in their description, and the bock classification might be a bit inaccurate. This is much more of a “light bodied lager” than a bock, but still unsatisfactory whatever cap it’s wearing. There IS an encouraging fruity undertone for the nose and palate, but that soft flicker of pleasantness is completely overpowered by the tawdry neon glare of cabbage and skunk.
To be fair, this is a Stone Coast seasonal brew which is available during baseball season, March 1 to October 31. Now November 13 isn’t too far past the 10/31 deadline, but it’s far enough into football season that a baseball beer probably isn’t the best choice. Perhaps I’ll give a fresh version of this brew a try in March when the Grapefruit League starts back up, but until then I’m going to give the other five bottles of this six-pack to any visitors I have that I don’t really like.
Finally, a Smuttynose brew that doesn’t entirely impress me! Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad beer. But, to my palate, it just seems a bit abrasive. Normally, I like very big beers, the kind that take a certain flavor to the limit and push a genre to its fathomable conclusion. However, I’m not so sure that I’ve had such a brew in a lager form – maybe, just maybe, that’s what this is.
The pour of this beer is a crisp golden with a hint of amber, and the aroma is very lager-y. I guess that means that there is a lot of malt on the head, not very much hops, and a distinct mustiness. In the mouth, the beer has the same ‘mustiness’ that I must eventually find a better word for. There is a light metallic taste, some considerable bitterness, and a hesitant sweetness that never quite evolves. The aftertaste is bread-like and sends a pungent maltiness to the nose. This combination of flavors comes on quite strong and I would say it makes for a ‘manly’ beer. The more I drink it, the more I like it – but, sadly, I couldn’t call it a favorite of mine for the genre or beer in general.
One of the first, I think, in a series of signature brews from Charlottesville’s Starr Hill brewery, it pours an impenetrable black (meaning: I hold it up to the light, and like a black hole, it sucks it in). It’s a chocolaty head, medium sized bubbles, and its redolent of coffee and chocolate (a dark mocha, I suppose, though I’m not into the frufy coffee drinks). It’s smooth for a carbonated (rather than a nitrogenated) stout, though it does make the mouthfeel a nothing-special experience. But I prefer it to the other dark beers I’ve had from Starr Hill, and were a six-pack to come to my fridge, I would enjoy its presence. In other words, though I don’t usually pick up Starr Hill’s at the store, I might actually consider it in this case, largely for that color and the balance of the brew.
I feel like, in recent Smuttynose reviews, that I’ve really been pumping up the brewery a bit too much. But, damnit, I just can’t help it if I keep opening tasty brews with a Smuttynose label on the front. And, in the case of the Shoals Pale Ale, I think I’ve found the tastiest Smuttynose yet. Honestly, when I think of great American pale ales, I almost always harken back to Sierra Nevada. Sure, they may be a bit bigger than a lot of the snobbier micro-brews, but they still make an excellent pale ale, and I consider it a benchmark for the American variety. After tasting the Smuttynose, I’m going to have to put it and the Sierra Nevada on an even keel. The Smuttynose pours a medium amber color and smells a bit more of malt than I would expect along with a nice hint of hops. In the mouth, this beer has a very rich flavor that mixes bread-like malts, lightly bitter hops, and a sharp floral element that sits in the background and creeps up the nasal cavity in the aftertaste. It’s a great combination of flavors. There isn’t really anything here that I would call weird or standout-ish. Rather, it’s just a nice mix of complementary flavors that combine to make a beer that is great alone or as a session beer on a sunny day. Highly recommended.
Apparently making “normal” beers just isn’t hard enough for the brewers at Dogfish Head so they have to try their hand at 9000 year old chinese recipes. I wish I could say I did extensive research on the the origin of this beer but I just don’t have the time or motivation. Instead I went to the Dogfish Head website and read the clif notes. Here’s what I found…The Chateau Jiahu was first created around the same time alcoholic beverages were being made in the Middle East. They used both barley malt and rice which should come as no surprise given that rice is the corner stone of many Asian cultures. This malt backbone, when combined with honey, fruit and grape concentrate, makes for a very complex and interesting brew.
This beer has a cloudy, golden hue but I don’t see any flakes of sediment that is found in most unfiltered brews. To be honest it looks like a weizen, but let me assure you it doesn’t taste like one. It has a bitter sweet smell which I am assuming can be attributed to the combination of fruit and honey. The taste has a mild tartness that is masked by mango and a hint of orange. Initially the taste is crisp but then thickens on the tongue leaving a rich mouthfeel. The rice gives it a slight sake characteristic which is quite different from most beers I’ve had. Although the abv is only 8% the alcohol taste seems to be more apparent, although not overbearing. I guess if I had to describe this brew with one word I would say it is fascinating. This isn’t my favorite beer, not even in my top 10, because it’s not “drinkable” enough for me to revisit it multiple times. BUT you can certainly drink and enjoy it once, maybe twice, before it completely exhausts and starts to offend your palate. The price may scare off some of you and if you only apperciate traditional styles don’t bother, but if you are blind to price tags and/or are an adventurous beer drinker give the Chateau Jiahu a try.