Archive for February, 2007
Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to sit in an uppity Belgian beer bar and spy some odd sots drinking from a glass that appears to be some permutation of a graduated cylinder balanced in a wooden frame. If so, you’ve probably had the same emotion towards them as I – “dumb showoffs”. I tend to look down my nose at these folks, although I am most definitely a beer snob myself. However, I tend to try to hide my beer snobbery in public by not partaking of any excessively flashy glassware. So, we can say that I am a bit of a hypocrite in my beer drinking. Regardless, I made a special point to see exactly what type of beer came in this crazy glassware so that I could find a bottle and enjoy it in the privacy of my own home. That beer is the Bosteels Kwak.
The pour of this beer (in my normal glass) is a hazy light amber. There is very little head, but what is there is a light caramel color. The aroma of the Kwak takes elements of caramel, toffee, malty sweetbread, and a slight bit of anise. In the mouth, the beer tastes about like it smells. The initial flavor is a malty sweetness. This then moves into a melange of caramel and anise. On through the mouth, the anise falters, leaving behind a mix of toffee and licorice. It’s a rather interesting mix, and quite complex. The aftertaste leaves behind some caramel with an interesting sour twang that came out of nowhere. Very interesting. Overall, I’d say this is a pretty good beer. I can’t completely dismiss public drinkers of Kwak (as I would public or private drinkers of Stella Artois – seriously folks, it’s not good), because it is actually a very good beer. Nevertheless, I will maintain a mild disdain, since that glass is a little excessive, you guys…
The Anderson Valley “High Roller” Wheat was, admittedly, a disappointment. While I am a fan of the wheat beer category, this one contained a bitter blandness that was displeasing to the taste. While this claims to be an unfiltered wheat, it held less of the characteristic “cloudy” nature that I generally enjoy. I probably would not buy this beer again
Our first tasting today, a framboise lambic from Lindeman’s, was largely a success. Made from a wheat base, and aged in Spanish oak barrels residing in Belgium, the story behind the beer is almost as compelling as the beer’s effect on the palate. The complex fruity and refreshing flavor was an excellent opening act for our tasting.
Once upon a time, if you are a long-time SevenPack reader, you may have seen an additional link on the right-hand side of this page that sent you to a series of beer tastings entitled “Boone Beer Fest”. These tastings, numbering 10, happened in various areas of the world. However, the first occurred in Boone, NC, and so we maintained the name for future Fests. Generally, these tastings would involve anywhere from 2 to 5 tasters who would simultaneously enjoy 6-10 brews in a single sitting. Whilst enjoying the beer, we would each give our input, and afterwards each review was posted to this site – it was the embryo that grew into SevenPack.net. Unfortunately, since that time, some of our members have gone on to careers of dubious responsibility. For this reason, many of the members wished their names and pictures to be removed (When a Google search for your name brings a top-link to a beer tasting, some eyebrows might be raised in these parts). As a partial recompense for this loss, I am planning to begin posting my reviews alone from these Boone Beer Fests. These reviews will generally be much shorter than usual, and will be denoted by a category of “Boone Beer Fest” at the bottom of the post. They are presented in their original and un-edited entirety.. Sadly, I will not be including the others’ reviews, although many of them were much funnier than my own. Also, sadly, these are probably a bit boring. However, for completeness, I wanted to make sure that these reviews had some representation on the site. Enjoy!
This is a brew that I’ve heard about for ages. I read about it any any number of “top beers” lists. I read accolades for this beer from dozens of reviews. Hell, I even watched a 30-minute Thirsty Traveler show dedicated to this beer. So, while this isn’t available in my home state of NC, I was sure to pick it up during a recent trip to the northwest. And, for obvious reasons, I have anxiously awaited an opportunity to enjoy and review this beer. The problem is, I’m not really blown away by it.
The pour of this is, as expected, extremely dark. It doesn’t come across terribly thick, but it is a deep, deep brown with (in my case) an entirely non-existent head. The aroma of the beer is thick, smoky, and nutty. It really is a delicious smell, and reminiscent of dark woods and campfires. In the mouth, the aroma really comes through in the flavor. There is a lot of smoke here. In addition, you can taste some nuttiness and a mildly sweet malt in the background. In the finish, the smoke sticks around and creeps its way up into the nose. Again, this entire sensation reminds me of campfires and wintry vistas. The essence of these flavors consistently builds as the beer warms, and so I recommend drinking it around room temperature. Now, I know that, altogether, this has been a positive review, and it has been honest. However, my real catch on this beer is that the carbonation is almost nil. I agree that a beer like this doesn’t benefit from high carbonation. However, a bit of carbonation would’ve given this beer an additional kick that would have taken it from tasty to excellent. I’m hesitant to completely dis this attribute, as I think it’s quite possible that I received a faulty bottle. And, if that’s the case, then I gotta give props to Alaskan Brewing for making a beer that, even when completely flat, is still pleasant to drink. I really hope I have another opportunity to drink this beer so that I can see what the true story is with this and figure out this carbonation issue. Or, if anyone else out there has enjoyed this beer and could clear up this for me, I’d certainly appreciate it!
Of course I had to pick this beer off the shelf. First of all, it’s a tripel, which I love. Actually, they call it a “Tripel Nightcap” on the bottle, which sounds even better. In addition it’s got a name that is very fun to say – Slaapmutske. Round all that out is a picture of the man in the moon smiling and wearing a nightcap on the label. Does it get much better? Not really.
The pour of this beer is typical for a tripel. It is a slightly cloudy and translucent golden color. The aroma is quite sweet with definite elements of spice. In the mouth, this beer is more of a Belgian tripel than an American, for sure. The flavor indicates some sweetness, but not near as much as most American varieties. Furthermore, there isn’t a huge amount of spice in the flavor. Rather, there are mild indications of both of these flavors with a larger presence of a grainy malt and some metallic flavors at the back. It is, generally, a tasty brew. I certainly wouldn’t consider it top of the pack for tripels, but it does do the variety justice in a rather generic way.
Me and Matty were just discussing what exactly a “Grand Cru” is. To be honest with you, I don’t really know. I just know the concept that I’ve devised in my head based upon the several Grand Cru ales that I’ve had. My theory is that a Grand Cru is a subset of abbey-style ales, and generally is considered to be a ‘slightly better’ abbey-style ale. Maybe the abbey-style that the brewery is most proud of, or one that tends to use better ingredients or a more long-winded brewing process. I dunno – that’s just what I think. You guys can tell me if I’m way off. Regardless of definition, this is an absolutely fabulous beer.
The pour of this is very dark and not too viscous. It is only mildly cloudy and most of the debris seems to have settled kindly to the bottom of the bottle. The aroma of this is sweet with vanilla and maybe even a bit of butter, which is strange but good. In the mouth, this is a delicious beer, while not terribly consistent with my concept of an abbey-ale. It is altogether sweet, with just a hint of hop bitterness around the middle of the tongue. Surrounding this touch of bitterness are different levels of sweetness reminiscent of blueberries and vanilla. I still just get a tint of a buttery richness, although I’m hesitant to say it for fear of grossing people out, because it is really delicious. The major absence that I notice is that there is none of the aniseed flavor that often gets into abbey ales. Instead, this is just sweet and delicious. To be honest, it reminds me a bit of the Cold Mountain ale from Highland Brewery, but it isn’t QUITE as potent in its sweetness. It’s just a delicious and subtly sweet brew that I would like to drink much more often.
I’m not a huge fan of the darker beers because they tend to sit heavy in my stomach but at the same time some of them are unbelievably delicious so I have to give them a try; in moderation of course. The Heresy is an oak aged Imperial Stout that pours with a dark caramel head. It looks like used motor oil and is quite intimidating in the glass. It has a sweet alcoholic smell despite it’s modest abv. It is obviously a high gravity at 8%, but when compared to others with a significantly higher abv I didn’t think its alcoholic aroma would be so strong. The taste is a bit milder than the smell which is a welcome surprise. The roasted nut/chocolate backbone mixes well with the floral accents creating a well balanced brew. There is also a hint of vanilla and it has some whiskey-like qualities. The alcohol content does present itself toward the back of the mouth and rises into the nose but it is not so pronounced that it is offensive. I suggest drinking it between 64-68 degrees. I basically “cellared” this beer instead of putting it in the refrigerator and based on past experiences with other imperial stouts that were “chilled” I think I was able to enjoy more flavors at higher temperatures. This beer is very smooth and despite its “size” is quite refreshing. Plus it has a cool lightning bolt on the label, so it’s “announc[ing] its presence with authority.” I changed that quote a little but major kudos to anyone that knows where it came from. Overall I enjoyed the Heresy very much and highly recommend it.
I was inspired to try this beer after keeping up with the series of “50 beers to drink before you die” over at The Brew Site. The Sahti variety of beers are something that I am totally unfamiliar with, and it sounds like something that an aspiring beer nerd like myself should probably try out. Fortunately, for me, my knowledge of this variety of beer coincides nicely with an offering from Otter Creek (the only such offering of a Sahti beer that I know of in the US of A).
The pour of this beer is a cloudy pale gold with a slight whitish head. The aroma is rich and malty with just a slight fruity sweetness on the side. In the mouth, the beer tastes similar to a malty pilsner with an exotic kick to it. The initial flavor is slightly sweet with a fruity tint that probably comes from the juniper berries & branches that are used to filter the malt from the wort. On through the mouth, there is a continued richness along with a tart tanginess from the addition of rye. All in all, it’s both a rich and refreshing beer. The richness stems from the combination of grains and the rich malt flavor. The refreshing-ness comes from the juniper additions that give the flavor a tinge that, as the bottle says, is almost reminiscent of a fruity gin flavor. I would really love to taste an authentic Sahti beer to compare, as this is a great brew, but might well have been American-ized a bit before making it to my glass. If any of y’all know of a Sahti beer that is available state-side, I’d love to hear about it!
I was really hoping to be able to write an overly positive review about something. I typically love the nutty, toffee flavors a lot of porters pack, so I figured this Sea Dog might fit the bill.
The porter is dark, but seems much less viscous than I expected and hoped – black food coloring in water. The head is colored a pleasant, creamy cafe-au-lait, but is just a little too threadbare to be effective. The smell is light of hazelnut and sweet, dark malt and heavy of stale, smoked-out coffee. Unfortunately, all I can say about the flavor is that it tastes a lot like I imagine hazelnut toothpaste for dogs might taste.
Over the past few months I managed to collect an obscene amount of quality brews and I am just now getting to the ones that haven’t yet been reviewed. Often times Ben beats me to the punch but tonight I reached into my secret stash and found a beer that I know he hasn’t had the opportunity to try. I brought the Blue Goat back from my travels in the Midwest as New Holland is still not currently distributing in NC. But the transport of this fine brew was not as easy as it it was in days of yore. The new FFA guidelines prohibited me from carrying the bottle on the plane so I had to trust that the bottle would neither break during the loading/unloading of luggage, nor spontaneously open in the pressurized luggage cabin. Fortunately, much like the billy goat on the bottle, it persevered through trials and tribulations of cold temperatures and high altitudes and thus I am able to enjoy this on the most holy of Hallmark Holidays, Valentine’s Day.
This is a muddy brown liquid with yellow undertones. It has a sharp chocolatey aroma that sweetens as it reaches the back of the nasal cavity. This characteristic carries over into the taste but the chocolate is secondary to coffee and caramel flavors. As a matter of fact you don’t experience all that this beer has to offer until after you swallow. The miriad of malty flavors seems to expand and evolve in the back of the mouth as the aftertaste rears its head. The Blue Goat successfully masks any undesirable qualities at a time when the tongue is typically inundated with bitterness. The hops are a nonissue in this beer but given its style and tastiness I’m okay with that. This is a good brew for colder nights when you’re just looking to relax. It’s a big beer that is mildly heavy and effectively warms the stomach. The Goat won’t knock your socks off but, in my opinion, it won’t disappoint either.
There comes a time in any beer drinkers life when he is humbled by the beer he drinks. For most of us, that time first occurs sometime in high school, bowing to the porcelain gods after a happenstance run-in with a 12-pack of Busch Light (hypothetically speaking, of course). Once we reach an age of, say, 24 or 25, we like to think that we have reached a pinnacle from which we are no longer as susceptible to such averse experience – at this point, if we happen to be smacked asunder by our beer, at least we choose to be smacked asunder. And, for the most part, this assumption is correct. However, sometimes – just sometimes – we happen upon a little bugger that gives us a proper jolt. This jolt may not send us crashing to the tiles, but it is enough to make us appreciate the proper respect that our beers should receive. The Dogfish Head Barleywine Ale is just one of those brews.
When you first pick up this bottle, it seems quite unassuming. It’s the same size and heft of any Bud Light bottle that I have ever picked up, and the label has nothing more than a picture of a friendly old buckaroo in a cowboy hat. A regular wolf in sheep’s clothing…
The pour of this beer is a light ruby-red in the center, with diminishing hints of golden as it reaches the side of the glass. The carbonation seems quite low, and the vaguely existent head quickly dissipates. The aroma of this is also quite friendly – very sweet with mild hints of anise and just a smidgen of malt – it isn’t harsh and doesn’t reek of alcohol (like many Barleywine ales). In the mouth, the brew is a bit more big-boned. The initial flavor is mildly medicinal, but it migrates so quickly into a rich sweetness that you hardly notice it. On the center of the tongue, there is a blend of two sweetnesses – one reminiscent of a bready malt, the other more refined with hints of toffee and brown sugar. Continuing, the brew spreads through the mouth, invading the back corners and careening a bit up the nasal cavity, providing for a big mouthfeel that is both complex and a bit shocking. However, throughout this flavor barrage, the beer never really tastes like an alcohol-bomb.
And that’s where they get you! I was sipping along, happily enjoying this brew (first of the evening), when I realized that my head was spinning the slightest bit, and perhaps I was a bit too amused at the bad humor of my Monday night stories. That’s when I peeked at the bottle and realized that this little mongoose rings in at 15% abv. So, essentially, the alcohol content of this single beer would be equivalent to about 2 glasses of wine. Respect.
What I’m getting at here is that this is an excellent beer. The flavor is complex and well-distributed, and it masks it’s alcohol beneath a blanket of tasty goodness. However, it’s a wily one, and will sneak up on you with a brisk roundhouse to the head. If you’re into this type of thing, or if you even like Barleywine ales at all, this is a beer not to miss.
Oh yeah, Happy Valentine’s Day.
I must confess – I have tasted very few ‘true’ lambics. I’ve been around the block with all the fruity permutations from the folks at Lindeman’s, and I’ve even tasted a couple of American varieties that were rather tasty. But, the fact of the matter is that I have rarely strayed from the fruity varieties into the sour, wild goodness that purists would consider a true lambic. Now, this is an issue that I truly want to remedy. However, there are a few things in the way – One is the fact that these lambics are always going to be imports, and most have been aged for quite some time. Therefore, they can be quite pricey. Another issue is the fact that, compared to many other beers, these are still quite a challenge for me, taste-wise. Much like the way that I at first didn’t enjoy a good IPA, but would prefer to reach for a lighter wheat beer, due to my unchallenged palate – Now, I often don’t want to reach for a Lambic, because I know that, in the short-term, I would rather enjoy something I already appreciate (like a good IPA). Regardless, this is a hole in my beer repertoire, and so I’m going to start making efforts towards remedying it – starting tonight.
This lambic, imported from Belgium, is the real deal – large wooden vats of wort are magically inoculated with wild yeast in the north-Belgian air, thus producing a beverage that must have been conceived by the gods, as it was initially created solely by accident and God’s grace in the form of airborn yeast. After this process, this Lambic is matured for over three years before being sent into my beer fridge. The pour of this beer is a rich clear golden with a very thin but long-lasting head consisting of tiny white bubbles. The aroma of this is shockingly sour and really smacks you in the face. It is quite pungent and gives the nasal passage quite a burn. In the mouth, the beer is very flavorful, but VERY sour. The first sensation is a rich and subtle sourness on the tip of the tongue that is slightly burning. As the beer moves down the tongue, the sourness becomes much more pronounced and a bit cloying, making me involuntarily pucker up. There is also a background sweetness that you catch if you’re really paying attention, but it’s easy to lose in the sourness. As the beer exits the mouth, the sourness retreats mildly, leaving you with a strong sweet and tart aftertaste that sticks around for quite a while. I certainly believe that this is an acquired taste, and I can certainly see how I might acquire it. However, even if you don’t care for the taste, this is a very interesting drink because it just tastes so ‘wild’. Akin to the haphazard and almost feral process by which Lambic is created in what can’t really be considered controlled or often hygienic circumstances, this beer just tastes like something that would come from a great wooden cask surrounded by spider webs in a Belgian cellar. It’s almost like an educational and transporting experience just to drink. I would recommend trying a brew such as this just to understand the limits of what a beer can be. And, hopefully, as I try more varieties of lambic, I’ll be able to give a legitimate review on a brand and not just a style in the future.
This brew comes to us courtesy of Miller (the guy, not the brewing company), who happens to come across cases of this stuff at Lighthouse Beer & Wine in Wilmington. It seems they were a bit overstocked with last year’s holiday beer, and so you can walk out of there with a case of this goodness for a song. If you’re not into holiday beers, it might be a bit too much of a good thing. But, if you’re into a tasty dark holiday brew, then this could be a god-send.
This beer pours quite dark – more like a stout than a traditional Christmas beer. The aroma is quite heavy with ginger and some mild holiday spices. There even seems to be the slightest bit of pine. In the mouth, there is a weird transition from brown ale, to ginger goodness, to refined sweetness, to a malty-ginger melange on the back of the tongue that sticks around for the aftertaste. It is certainly a complicated beer, and it brings a number of flavors to the front as it traverses the tongue. To be honest, it’s hard to say if this is a fabulous beer or an over-crowded muck of flavors – it would take a more refined palate than mine to determine. Either way, I find it pretty tasty. Readers of the site might have noticed that I have taken a shining to ginger in my holiday beers this season, and I think that this aspect wins the beer beaucoup points with me. However, I feel that this brew also brings other positive aspects of a holiday brew, and it does so in appropriate doses to make a beer that is complicated without being overbearing. For these reasons, I’m giving this beer a thumbs up. I would’ve been curious to taste this when it were younger, though.
This, the third and final of the Longshot series, is certainly the burliest and most interesting of the three brews in the series. Again, I’m not entirely sure what genre this should be tossed into, although it seems as though this would be on par with a Belgian abbey-style ale or even an oak-aged ale of some sort. Regardless, while I’m not sure what it is, I am certain that I like it.
This beer pours a dark and transparent brown with a very slight caramel head. The aroma of the Old Ale is very rich, with hints of maple, anise, and malt. In the mouth, this is a very complex beer. The initial taste is quite sweet and rich, moving to a substantial maple tone on the middle of the tongue. Through the length of the tongue, we get hints of maple, dark cherry, licorice, and finally some dark malt around the back of the mouth that sits around for the aftertaste. Also in the aftertaste, there are hints of toffee that seem to develop in the seconds after the beer is swallowed. Honestly, I’m sure I’m missing some flavors here. This beer is positively bursting with flavor, and it plays different all over the tongue. Apart from the Utopias, this is the craziest beer I’ve drank from the folks at Sam Adams, and I feel sure I would buy this regularly if it were offered outside of this specialty pack. (And, between you and me, they could probably sell this one for a lot more and get away with it)