Archive for February, 2008
Well, dag nabbit (as my good friend, Roy Williams, might say) – I really thought I had found a new brew when I saw the Holy Sheet on the shelf. However, I’m now hearing that this beer first debuted back in early 2007. So, where have I been? And, why wasn’t this beer on NC shelves in 2007? Frankly, I’m insulted. But, frankly, I’m still glad to try this beer. Clipper City makes some serious brews, and they make some big brews. I’m curious to see what they can do with a genre that is, by nature, pretty serious and big already.
The Holy Sheet pours a surprisingly clear, but deliciously dark ruby red. There is a medium off-white head for just a bit, but it quickly sizzles down to nothing. The aroma of the beer is fairly mild, but full of spice. I’m sensing a fair amount of cinnamon here, but there is also some licorice involved. On the tongue, the initial sensation is a light sweetness that isn’t entirely large. However, the flavor does fill out a bit as the beer travels down the tongue. This beer is slippery and rich in the mouth, going from lightly sweet to rich and maple-y, ending with a mild holiday spiciness with a mediocre bitter kick. The aftertaste does stick around on the back of the mouth for a bit, leaving us with a lingering mild bitterness. Honestly, I’m not near as blown away by this beer as I have been by other Clipper City brews. However, what can you expect? The Belgian abbey ale category is chock full of exceedingly delicious beers, and may have as tough an arena as any varietal out there. So, for what it is, this is a tasty brew – better than most even, but not one of the best abbey-style ales you’ll have.
And…. Here’s the second of the latest Longshot batch. This one is a weizenbock – an interesting genre that’ll appeal to those of you who are into dark beers but light wheaty flavors, or those of you who really dig a good dunkelweizen but might want something with a little more kick.
This one pours a very murky dark brown with a dense caramel head. Frankly, this beer looks downright dirty! It’s obviously unfiltered and thick with debris, which will be good or bad depending on what you’re into. The aroma of this is very interesting. Surprisingly, the aroma of this beer is exceedingly fruity – I’m smelling a bunch of dark grape along with a bit of clove. It also has that unique ‘wheaty’ aroma that I really enjoy. This beer is a regular party in your mouth. It’s quite big and rich, with a full mouthfeel that sticks to the tongue. However, the flavor isn’t overwhelmingly thick. Rather, it seems like a bunch of fleeting light flavors hitting you with a steady barrage. It’s like, instead of a shark, this is a team of tiny barracudas nibbling at your tongue. Each one seems unassuming enough but, altogether, they make for a vicious attack. Except, while I don’t think barracudas usually cause a pleasant sensation, this beer surely does. The flavors here take a lot from a fruity dubbel or a dunkelweizen. It is light and crisp, like a good wheat beer. But, the mouthfeel is thick and full of spice and dark fruit, like a darker Belgian Ale. In fact, there are a lot of flavors here that might be considered ‘girly’ all on their own, but they combine into one mother of a beer. And, the aftertaste has an interesting tangy quality that makes you pucker up just a bit. Okay, I know I’m all over the place with this review, but what I’m getting at is this is a REALLY good beer. In fact, this is one of the best beers I’ve had in the past several months. Fruity and rich, light but substantial. So, if nothing else, go out and seek it out and try it for yourself – let me know what you think…
The last time the Sam Adams Longshot beers came around, I was extremely impressed. Besides being some all-around killer beers, I admire Sam Adams’ willingness to gamble on beers created by the common Joe and put them on store shelves. Granted, it isn’t THAT much of a gamble, since these go through a lot of hands before being selected. However, it is a great incentive for the homebrewers out there to put their best foot forward, and that almost always results in good and, more often than not, creative brews. So, needless to say, I’m really excited about these two new Longshot beers that just hit shelves. This, the first of the Longshot beers, is a Grape Pale Ale – peculiar to say the least. Apparently this beer is brewed with ‘natural grape flavoring’ and maple syrup.
The beer pours a typical pale ale hue – medium golden with a light white head. The aroma of this isn’t a standout, but is pretty good. There is a light malty aroma with a light, crisp sweetness. In the mouth, though, is where this beer really shines. It is definitely a pale ale – A fair dose of malt pervades the flavor, while a light hop bitterness sits in the background. However, this beer has the added element of sweetness imparted by maple syrup and grape. These are 2 very different sweetnesses, one rich and one light and crisp. Together, this makes for one of the more complex light beers you’re going to find. It has the elements to stimulate your tongue from front to back with it’s interesting combination of bitter, rich, and sweet. However, through it all, it maintains a airy refreshing attribute that, to me, really sets it apart. Altogether this is a fabulous beer, and I really wish this would be put into regular rotation at Sam Adams.
And here we come to out final beer from this month’s Beer of the Month Club shipment. It dawned on me this evening that this month’s shipment consisted of only very dark beers. Not a bad choice, but an interesting one from BOMC – while varied geographically, it is the least varied stylistically that I’ve seen yet.
Personally, I have never seen a Cooper’s beer anywhere but at the Outback franchise restaurant. For that reason, I’ve often wondered if it was some house beer that was being contract brewed by some lackluster brewery. However, seeing the Cooper’s Stout in this BOMC shipment legitimized the brand to me somewhat, and I’m curious to finally taste and assess this brewery.
This Stout, predictably, pours super dark. It has a very luscious head – thick and dense with a finger’s worth of dark caramel color. The aroma of this beer is chock full of coffee and chocolate and smells downright delicious. In the mouth, this is a REALLY respectable stout. There is a ton of coffee here – almost enough to merit a “coffee stout” title. However, there is also enough toffee and chocolate here to round it all out, along with a nice nutty bitterness to keep this from being either to sweet or too coffee-y. There is much more flavor in this stout than you expect to find in almost any beer. In fact, it is, by all accounts, ‘imperial’ in my book. Perhaps it’s true that everything is bigger in Australia, because this flavor is so much more than you expect when you open any normal stout. What I’m getting at here is that this is a huge stout, full of sweetness lent from chocolate, toffee and coffee along with a balancing nutty bitterness. It is an excellent beer and likely takes it’s place among my top 5 Stouts of all time. Definitely try this out and don’t blame ‘em for selling to the Outback…
This is another beer from our friends at the Beer of the Month Club. Honestly, I’m surprised that we haven’t reviewed this beer yet here on SevenPack. I’ve certainly had it before, on several occasion. But, we’ve never gotten around to putting it up, so this seems as good an opportunity as ever!
The Munich Dark pours a very dark brown with a paper-thin caramel head. The aroma is fairly subtle and smooth with mostly chocolate malts. In the mouth, this is a straight-forward beer. It is subtle and smooth and has a fairly non-viscous mouthfeel, despite the dark color and apparent thickness of the beer. The flavors are mostly of chocolate malt with some underlying dark bready flavors. There are also some light hints of nuttiness here, although the chocolate flavors take the forefront. This is a mighty good beer and a staple around Munich when you ask for a dark ale. However, it can be a little disinteresting if you expect a stout or porter flavor, as this is considerably easier to drink and, in some circles, will pass for a session beer. However, so long as you know what you’re getting into, Harpoon has made a great representation of the style here, and it’s an enjoyable brew.
Tonight we’re trying the second offering this month from the Beer of the Month Club. This one is a Winter Ale from Maine. I’m pretty excited to try this, as I love the Winter Ale varieties. However, in the same breath, I sure am ready for some light spring beers – I feel like I’ve been slamming my tastebuds for the past few months and I’m ready for a little something lighter. Anyway, I won’t let that hamper my review here – just wanted to let you guys know where I’m at…
This beer pours a medium-dark ruby color with a sticky white head. The aroma of this is uber-spicy with tons of cinnamon and various holiday spices, making this smell like a Christmas dessert banquet at your local Moose Lodge. In the mouth, the spice just keeps coming. Honestly, this is the nearest beer I’ve found to my favorite Winter Ale, the Highland Cold Mountain. There is a ton of cinnamon and spice, and an interesting backbone of dark malt with hints of blueberry. The flavor is certainly not subtle, but throws it all right in your face. The aftertaste is almost cloying, it’s so strong. It really kicks you right in the teeth and makes this beer almost dessert-like. Frankly, I like this type of winter ale. I know I just complained that I’ve had about enough of Winter Ales, and this is true. However, I have to admit that this is one of the best Winter Ales that has crossed my lips this winter – I just hate I found it so late in the season! (I also hate that we can’t get this stuff in NC – why don’t you start giving us North Carolinians some distribution, Casco?)
I recently had two beers found on the lighter side of the beer scale. First was Victory’s V-Saison, which Matt reviewed a while ago so I just added my thoughts to the comment section. Definitely a beer to check out. Second was a Swiss Golden Ale by Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) called La Meule. Switzerland holds a special place in my heart (I look back on both my trips to Switzerland with great affection), so when the beer manager at a local store mentioned he had just received some beers from Switzerland, I just had to pick them up. Lets see if this beer matches my fond memories of Switzerland.
First thing I noticed about this beer was the “brewed with the herb sage” written on the beer’s label. I do not cook frequently with sage, so I was not really sure I knew what sage smelled/tasted like. To remedy this I went out and picked up a pack of sage from the local grocery store. Having smelled and tasted (I would not suggest eating sage just by itself) the sage, I was ready to crack open one of the beers.
The beer poured a nice two fingers of white head into the pint glass. The first finger of head dissipated rather quickly but the remaining finger left a rather firm head of small bubbles. The body of the beer was straw in color with a fare bit of debris floating around, which made the beer quite foggy. Due to the action of the debris, I could tell there was some very nice bubble action happening in the glass.
In the nose this beer had a strong lemon citrus kick to it with some light yeast funk. Since lemon was the predominant smell, lemon was very present in the taste. The lemon taste had a sour flavor at the front of the mouth which finished with a bitterness quality towards the back. Overall mouth feel was on the chalky side of things, but was light and drying.
One thing you might have noticed is the lack of my mentioning sage in my sampling. Personally I could not find the sage in the smell or taste. It might have helped with the bitter finish of the beer, but there was nothing with the bitterness that said “I’m sage”. Due to my initial lack of sage findings, I went back a week later and tried the beer again. Again I personally could not find the sage.
Though rather one dimensional (lemon is the predominant character in this beer), I found this to be a refreshing beer. I found the overall qualities of the beer to lean towards the saison/farmhouse style, so let that factor guide you in your purchasing decision.
This month, we’re again beset by a box full of tasty treats from the Beer of the Month Club! Again, they have a fairly eclectic group this month from the likes of Southern Spain, Australia, and the US. This, the first of the bunch, is a dark lager from Spain, and one that we don’t see distribution of here in NC. So, while I’ve had some Alhambra beers while visiting Spain, I’m excited to give my take on this particular brew that I’ve never tasted before.
The Negra pours a (suprise!) black, stout-like, color. There is a thin caramel head, but it quickly dissipates, leaving nothing but a dark liquid with a potent nutty aroma. In the mouth, this beer is a pretty tasty dark lager. The biggest presence in this beer is a deep nuttiness. It is lightly sweet and quite bitter with a rooty, earthy flavor. There is also a noticeable smokiness to the beer that isn’t necessarily expected in this genre. Overall, it’s not a complex beer, but it IS very good in the vein of a bittersweet dark candy like horehound. The nuttiness and rootiness give this a twang that you won’t find in a typical brown ale. So, I’d recommend this lager to anyone fond of a standard brown ale, but looking for something with a bit of an extra ‘kick’.
Sorry for the horrible “Hop pun” in the title but we are not above such things here at sevenpack. Anyway, it seems Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) is trying to help out some of the smaller players in the industry with a “hop sharing” plan. Boston Beer will be selling two types of hops (East Kent Goldings and Tettnang Tettnanger) at their cost to brewers in need. The email announcement, with full details, is below.
Nice to see one of the “big” (that term is used very loosely) guys helping out the little guys.
From: Jim Koch/Hop Sharing [mailto: Hop(dot)Sharing(at)bostonbeer(dot)com]
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 9:22 AM
Subject: Boston Beer Hop Sharing
For a couple of months now, we’ve all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it’s affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers–openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn’t make beer.
So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year. We’re offering 20,000 pounds at our cost to brewers who need them. Specifically, we are able to spare 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Tony Redsell, a top English grower featured by Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion (page 75 has a picture) and 10,000 pounds of the German Noble hop Tettnang Tettnanger from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. These are both type 90 pellets from the 2007 crop and are the exact same hops we brew our own beers with. We’re not looking to make money on this so we’re selling them at our cost of $5.72 a pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Goldings and $5.42 per pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Tetts. They’re packed in 22# foil bags, boxed four bags to a box in 88 lb. boxes and will be shipped from cold storage.
The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. So if you don’t really need them, please don’t order them. And don’t order them just because we’re making them available at a price way below market. Order them because you need these hops to make your beer. We’re not asking questions, so let your conscience be your guide.
A few mechanics–until we know how much need there is, we’ve put a maximum out there of 6 boxes per brewer, which is 528 pounds. You can order less in 88 pound increments. You pay shipping. If we get more orders than the 20,000 pounds, we’ll have a lottery. We will be putting the basic information to order, some faqs and the actual offer on our website www.samueladams.com in the next day or so, probably no later than Tuesday. Look for “Hop-Sharing Program” on the front page of the site.
We hope this will make brewing a little easier for those hardest hit by the hop shortage.
Jim Koch, Boston Beer Company
[First seen over at drinkcraftbeer.com]
I’ll be honest with you – this beer has been sitting in my fridge for about a year now. I’m not sure why I bought it, and I’m not sure why I never drank it. But, at any rate, I decided it was high time to crank it out. So, here we are with another of the myriad Belgian dark ales, and this one in a funny bottle.
This beer pours a dark and musty brown with a fair amount of debris and a fairly substantial slightly off-white head. The aroma of this is straightforward, with mostly toffee and a slight ‘dustiness’ to it. In the mouth, this is a richer and tastier beer than I really expected it to be. Initially, there is a dose of chocolate on the front of the tongue, but this chocolate softens into more of a toffee flavor by the middle of the mouth. The mouthfeel of this is full and velvety and, by the back of the throat, I’m tasting tons of dark cherry. So, in short, this beer runs the gamut from chocolate to fruit, and it takes a smooth transition to get there.
I’m not sure why, but I think I give a bum rap to beers that come in bottles like this beer – it’s gimmicky to me, and it just seems more like a souvenir from some tacky “Belgium” attraction at Epcot. But, scientifically speaking, it’s good packaging, so I guess I should lay off. And, frankly, Brauerie Sterkens threw it all in my face here. I’d never heard of this brewery, and I’ve let their beer sit idly by for far too long. But, I’m tasting it now, and it’s an absolutely delicious beer at a good pricepoint. I doubt any of the makers will be reading this any time soon. But, if they do, I’ll gladly say “you told me so”.
So, many of you may have tried a few of Trader Joe’s house brews. I’ve had a number of them myself and, frankly, I’ve been disappointed on almost every occasion. So, I was reasonably skeptical of paying $5 for a big bottle of the Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. However, when I picked it up and checked out the bottle, I couldn’t help but notice the trademark Unibroue logo on the cage and cork of the bottle. So, what is this? A Unibroue beer in disguise? Because, if so, then it might just be a bargain on a tasty brew. So, I picked it up.
And, as we suspected, it IS indeed a Unibroue beer – apparently they contracted this excellent Canadian brewery to throw some flash into their house beer line-up. This beer pours a deep dark purple-brown. The smell of this is full of dark fruit, and the head is almost nonexistent – in fact, it looks very weak on the carbonation side. In the mouth, however, this is actually very good. Frankly, it’s fairly simple. It has some characteristics of a Belgian Dubbel – there is some cocoa hints and a tad bit of anise. However, the predominant flavors are of dark fruit – mostly grape with a hint of dark cherry. Throughout the mouth, there is a light sweetness, and the beer sits lightly at the back of the mouth, with a lasting but not overbearing aftertaste. Frankly, this is a Unibroue beer by any name – it’s delicious and well-balanced. It DOES seem a tad lighter than most Unibroue beers, which may make it more palatable to the general beer drinker. However, that could also just be my bias against store-branded beers. At any rate, it’s the best Trader Joe’s beer I’ve had, and a damn good beer by any name. [Ed. Note - 2006 Vintage Ale pictured - this review is actually for the 2007]
This here is the ‘non-imperial’ version of a Highland IPA that we reviewed just a few weeks ago. Again, this comes from a brewery in what I often consider my ‘hometown’ of Asheville, NC – they make some serious brews.
The Kashmir IPA pours a very clear medium golden color with a light head that seems extra sticky and forms a spiderweb down the side of the glass. The aroma of this IPA is quite bitter with a light hint of malty sweetness. The hops are somewhat floral but also carry a musty, metallic aroma. In the mouth, there is an early noticeable sweetness from the malt backbone. However, this is quickly mediated by a hoppiness that is first very floral and fresh. This floral flavor spreads around the mouth and gets into the nasal passage as the beer progresses to the back of the mouth. The aftertaste of this, however, gets more from a metallic hop. It is bitter and not overwhelming, but a noticeable presence in the throat. This is an interesting IPA because, while it does utilize a decent dose of malt, it never seems more than a sideshow. In the center ring, however, we have two noticeable hop characteristics that intermingle and play through the mouth, ending with a pleasant but fairly subtle aftertaste. I find this to be a mighty fine IPA with a medium mouthfeel and a generous combination of flavors that you will find singularly in many other beers, but they here mingle together agreeably. Tasty, indeed.
Okay, you guys, you either understand the title of this beer or you don’t. Either way, we’ve named this exceptional homebrew due to the fact that it has been aged ‘just enough’ and it combines the best of a few flavors. To tell you the truth, Matty and I made this beer more than a year ago, and it’s been sitting in the beer fridge forever, and we’ve tested it periodically over the last 12-14 months. Tonight, I decided to see how it was doing, and I decided to review it. Frankly, it’s amazing.
This beer pours one of the darkest blacks I could imagine, and it’s positively syrupy. The head is caramel yellow and a couple of fingers thick – it dissipates oh so slowly. The aroma of this is painfully sweet. Seriously, you can’t pawn this off as nothing – it’s a cloying sweetness, and it’s delicious if you’re looking for it, but it can be a bit much if you’re not into sweet beers. As the beer progresses through the mouth, you’ll catch a complex group of flavors ranging from licorice to toffee to dark grapes. These all traverse the tongue and stick with you, as this beer has a mouthfeel that is smooth but sticks all over the place. All in all, I think this is one of the best beers that Two Times has ever made. But, it has required an expensive brew and over a year of aging. This sort of thing really makes you appreciate the work and expense that goes into a good beer, and makes you realize why you pay a premium for the real goods. Personally, I’m exceptionally proud of this beer, and I’m amazed that we made it.
This one comes from Palmetto Brewing Company based out of Charleston, SC. It’s a local brewery, and I have no idea how far or wide their distribution makes it, but you do see a lot of this in pubs and on shelves in Charleston stores.
This amber pours a lovely amber color, plain and simple. There is a quickly dissipating off-white head and a decent aroma with hints of cola and some rootiness. In the mouth, I find this to be a very pleasing amber ale. It’s in the same vein as a Killian’s or any other American amber. However, I find the taste to be both more pronounced and better balanced. There is a slight ‘cola-iness’ to it, and there are some earthy and spicy tones. But, overall, it washes over the tongue, tingling the whole way down, and then washes clean with just a sharp spicey amber flavor in the back of the throat. Frankly, I don’t think I can adequately name the flavors that this beer brings to mind, but I’ve done the best I can. I’d suggest just trying an American amber, and then imagine a really good version of it, and you’ll pretty much have this beer pegged. Hats off to Palmetto for making a tasty brew.
Here’s the second sixer of New Holland that I saw recently in SC. This particular beer I almost got to try at the most recent World Beer Festival in Durham, but they ran out just before I got to their table. So, I’m excited to finally have the chance!
So, New Holland, I was sorry about the showing from the Mad Hatter IPA recently, but I gotta say that the Poet totally makes up for it. This beer pours a motor oil black color with a lovely caramel head that clings to the sides of the glass. The aroma of this is heavenly – sweet and rich with hints of toffee and sweetbread. In the mouth, the flavor is even bigger than the aroma. There is a bright sweetness on the tip of the tongue reminiscent of caramel. On down the mouth, the sweetness becomes richer and more complex as a larger oatmeal aspect begins to show itself. A deep breadiness blends with toffee and caramel to make a beer that is sweet yet full with a silky mouthfeel. On down the throat, this beer drops off a toffee bomb that starts small and starts to spread again towards the front of the mouth, thus leaving you with a mouth full of delicious flavor. I seriously think this is the best Oatmeal Stout I’ve had, and I think I’ve had some pretty good ones prior to this. Well done, New Holland.