Archive for April, 2008
It seems a “letter of intent” has been executed where Magic Hat Brewing Company & Performing Arts Center, Inc. of Vermont will acquire Pyramid Breweries Inc. of Washington. Magic Hat beer is a staple around my parts (if a bar does not serve Sam Adams, or Harpoon, they probably serve Magic Hat as their microbrew offering) but Pyramid is non-existent (the closest distributor is in PA). Unfortunately Matt did not enjoy Pyramid’s Imperial Hefewezien, but Pyramid did win two gold medals (Crystal Wheat Ale: American style wheat, and MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale: Classic English-Style Pale Ale) in the 2008 World Beer Cup. Hopefully this merger makes both breweries stronger and allows them to reach even a wider market.
P.S. I find it a bit ironic both companies offer an apricot flavored beer (Magic Hat #9 and Apricot Weizen), since apricot is not your average beer flavoring.
[First seen on beeradvocate.com]
With spring finally here, it is time to do some spring cleaning of the beer fridge. The cleaning means getting rid of the single stragglers left over from various six packs sitting on the top shelf of the fridge. None of these stragglers have been in the fridge longer then five months, they have been kept at a constant temperature (roughly 52 degrees) and have received minimal light. This should mean the beers are in fine “drinking shape”.
The first beer in this spring cleaning is the Opa-Opa IPA. I picked up this six pack after a sampling done at a local beer store. I felt the sampling was quite good and the fact a free glass came with a six pack purchase, did not hurt things. (Note to beer sales people: with tastings, include a free glass with six pack purchase… it helps.) Ironically enough I did not use the free glass for this tasting.
Anyway, the easy pour gave a big off-white colored, pillowy head made of small bubbles. There were a ton of these small bubbles coursing through the beer’s clear, amber/orange body. A light grain smell was intermingled with the aromas of pine and citrus. Neither the pine or citrus were dominating each other and made picking either out a slight challenge to the nose.
In the mouth the beer was of medium body and coated the mouth fairly well. I noticed the hop bitterness but not much else. Only after a few sips did I finally notice some citrus and pine, and they were more relegated to the after taste. I enjoy a bitter beer, so I did not find it bad per se, but I definitely found it unbalanced. Some malt to balance the bitterness or a stronger pine/citrus presence would have been nice.
If you enjoy a bitter beer but do not feel like going the high abv route of an IIPA, this IPA could be right up your alley. Some more balance would be a plus though.
Ever since I posted the article about Boston Beer Company’s new glass, one of my first posts on sevenpack, I’ve wanted to write this proceeding post, but first I needed to own one of the glasses. Having finally purchased two of the glasses during a winter trip up to New Hampshire, I was able to do another battle royal, this time entitled “Battle of the Glasses”.
The premise is rather straight forward. I would pour Sam Adams Boston Lager into traditional Vienna Lager glasses (Flute, Mug, Pilsner) and also into the special Boston Beer Company glass. Unfortunately I do not own a flute glass, but I thought a pint glass would be a good replacement (when was the last time you were served Sam Adams Boston Lager in a flute glass?). I picked up a six pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager and the battle began! (As a side note: this “Battle of the Glasses” will not be a review of Sam Adams Boston Lager. You can check out Ben’s review for that information.)
I could pour a bit heavier into the mug and not worry about spill over, due to its size relative to the other glasses, so the head for the mug surpassed all the others. The shear size of the mug’s head also led to its great longevity. The head on the mug stayed around for a good minute or two longer then any of the other glasses. The quickest head to subside was the pilsner glass, with the pint and Boston Beer Company glass pretty much tying. Not only was the pilsner glass’s head quickest to subside but it was the only one to completely disappear. The rest of the glasses at least left a thin covering of bubbles.
Speaking of bubbles, those were quite varied by glass too. The mug had the smallest bubbles and they came at a pretty constant stream for quite some time. The Boston Beer Company glass was in the middle of the pack with bubble size, but left the pack behind with its constant stream and stream longevity. The glasses “nucleation site” kept bubbles streaming up the beer for a fare number of minutes beyond any of the other glasses. The glass with the biggest bubbles was the pilsner glass and they died the quickest. Unfortunately the pint glass I picked was frosted so I could not see its “bubble state” (on reflection I am not really sure why I chose the frosted glass, probably because it is the only Boston Beer Company Sam Adams labeled pint glass I have).
Enough with the head and bubbles however, what about the smell? The smell was pretty constant for the pilsner, pint and Boston Beer Company glass: sweet, caramel, malt, light hints of hop. The deviation came with the mug. There was a definite smell of hops in the beer’s aroma from the get go (I would hanker a guess a stein or maßkrug would display the hop aroma even more, considering either vestibule’s large mouth. Unfortunately my maßkrug suffered a crack in it a while back, yes that was a sad day, so I am maßkrug-less. I had to use a mug with only a slightly larger mouth than a typical pint glass). As the beer decreased in each of the glasses (i.e. as I drank the beer), I noticed both the pint and Boston Beer Company glass’s hop aroma seemed to increase and soon matched the mug’s original aroma. This all leads to the taste and the bestowing of medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver and shameful bronze in this battle royal.
I am going with Boston Beer Company’s new glass for the gold. Its not a landslide in my mind however. The mug really put on a good showing. I felt its initial aroma was a bit better than the Boston Beer Company glass, and the beer seemed to stay equally cool in both the mug and Boston Beer Company glass (side note: I did not have all four glasses in my hands at all times, for obvious reasons. I would hold each glass, take a drink, and set the beer back down. I held the glasses as it came naturally, the mug with the handle, the pint and pilsner glass towards the base, and the Boston Beer Company glass around the glass’s “bulb”. I used the very scientific method of holding each glass and comparing their coldness throughout the tasting. No thermometers were used and all beers were served from a beer fridge set to roughly fifty-two degrees). There was something about the “life” of the beer coming out of the Boston Beer Company glass. A slight bubble tingle, good tongue coating, and nice flavor variety, just made the beer enjoyable for the whole battle royal, where the mug seemed to fade after a while. Third goes to the pint glass, due to the relative harshness of the beer when drank compared to the mug and Boston Beer Company glass. In last was the pilsner glass. It warmed quicker, its bubbles died faster, and the beer lacked life in the mouth when sipped.
Boston Beer Company definitely came out with a good glass and it showed when compared next to the competition. The glass gave the Sam Adams Boston Lager a certain life and smoothness which was not found in the other glasses. Overall I am glad to have the glass in my glass collection.
Patriot’s Day. Celebrating the start of the American Revolution, the running of the Boston Marathon, a day off from work, and the start of spring. Well not the “official” start of spring (which is astronomically March 21st and meteorologically March 1st) but up here in the Northeast, the weather, in my mind, seems to get consistently better (warmer, sunnier) after Patriot’s Day. So how did I celebrate the “start” of spring? With a beer of course. A Saison styled beer to be more specific.
Saison’s are an interesting style, with the Brewers Association 2008 Beer Style Guidelines stating “there may be quite a variety of characters within this style”. I cut through this variety with a simple question I ask myself every time I sip a new Saison. “Could I find myself drinking this after a hard day ‘working the fields’?” When done right I answer “yes” because the beer is crisp, refreshing and mildly complex. When done “wrong” (in my personal opinion of course) one of these attributes is missing.
Why such a question? Saison’s were originally brewed for consumption while working the fields during the late Summer harvest. With scarce sources of potable water, Saisons acted as a good form of hydration without the fear of illness and could be quite refreshing. Though Saisons are now brewed year round and with higher abv (before the style barely broke 3% abv because farm owners did not want the farm workers getting intoxicated while working), I still feel a good Saison should fulfill its original purpose. This brings us to the beer I had this past Patriot’s Day. The Nøgne Ø Saison.
Poured with a nice frothy white head into my Saison glass, it gave off a lemon-citrus aroma even without my nose directly over the beer. There was a nice, heavy stickage to the head, which coated the glass as it receded. The body of the beer was a hazy, though I could still see the lettering on the glass’s far side (the letters however were not legible), golden straw color.
After the pour I stuck my nose right up to the beer and inhaled its intoxicating aroma of lemon-citrus. Though lemon-citrus was definitely the dominate aroma, with some concentration I noticed slight yeast and spice notes. This lemon domination gave me some worry before tasting the beer. Though I do not enjoy my Saison’s being overly complex, I do not want a lemon drop either.
I had nothing to fear however because the beer’s taste was very enjoyable. The taste actually took on a more orange- citrus side, which I found rather surprising. The wheat used to brew the beer, which I do not believe is a typical Saison ingredient, made its presence known. This gave the beer a whit beer type presence and upped the mouth feel into the light-medium realm of things. There were also some black pepper after notes but these were quite light. I wish the beer was a little crisper, for a more refreshing bite, but I found the beer as a whole clean, smooth (almost silky), refreshing and very good.
Could I find myself drinking this after a hard day ‘working the fields’? Possibly. I prefer my Saisons a bit lighter and crisper after a hard day ‘working the fields’. I could definitely see myself drinking this after ’tilling the garden’ however, because this beer still hit the “crisp, refreshing and mildly complex” notes I look for in a Saison.
This is a great interpretation of the Saison style by Nøgne Ø and I would suggest this beer to someone trying out the Saison style for the first time, though Saison “connoisseurs” should pick it up too. Nøgne Ø has been increasing their distribution lately (before I could only find it in one beer bar, but now I am able to find their stuff in some of the better beer stores around me) so definitely look out for this one.
The World Beer Cup 2008 winners were announced this past Saturday (April 19) at the end of the Craft Brewers Conference. I created a little list of all the beers that won 2008 awards and have been reviewed on sevenpack. Granted we have not reviewed all of the 2008 winners (we try though!) so check out the full list of winners at http://www.WorldBeerCup.org.
- Alaskan Brewery, Smoked Porter, Smoke-Flavored Beer, Gold
- Allagash, Dubbel, Belgian-Style Dubbel, Gold
- Allagash, Curieux, Wood- and Barrel-aged Strong Beer, Bronze
- Anderson Valley Brewing Co, Brother David’s Double, Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale, Bronze
- Anheuser-Busch Inc., Redbridge, Gluten Free Beer, Bronze
- Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Porter, Brown Porter, Gold
- Brewery Ommegang, Ommegang Witte, Belgian-Style White (or Wit)/Belgian-Style Wheat, Silver
- The Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, British-Style Imperial Stout, Gold
- The Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Lager, American-Style Amber Lager, Bronze
- Clipper City Brewing Co., Winter Storm, International Pale Ale, Gold
- Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Midas Touch, Specialty Honey Lager or Ale, Bronze
- Flying Dog Brewery, Gonzo Imperial Porter, American-Style Imperial Stout, Gold
- La Brasserie Unibroue, La Fin du Monde, Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale, Gold
- Meantime Brewing Co. Limited, Meantime Coffee Porter, Coffee Flavored Beer, Silver
- Narragansett Brewing Co., Narragansett Lager, American-Style Lager, Bronze
- Oskar Blues Brewery, Gordon, Imperial or Double Red Ale, Bronze
- Pennsylvania Brewing Co., Penn Weizen Bock, South German-Style Weizenbock/Weissbock, Silver
- Rogue Ales, Morimota Black Obi Soba Ale, Specialty Beer, Bronze
- Russian River Brewing Co., Salvation, Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale, Gold
- Starr Hill Brewery, Dark Starr Stout, Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout, Silver
[First seen on beeradvocate.com]
Honestly, I’m a big fan of what the folks at Terrapin are doing. They have a good stable of adventurous beers (check out the Wake-N-Bake Stout and the recent Hop Shortage Ale that Matt SHOULD be reviewing as soon as he quits playing Rock Band long enough to do it). Beyond this, Terrapin still manages to make a nice collection of daily drinker beers that, while easily palatable and light, still manage to have a ‘je ne sais qua’ that sets them apart from anything else on the shelf. This Rye Pale Ale is no different.
This beer pours a rather clear dark golden color with a slight off-white head. The aroma is actually quite hoppy – moreso than you’d expect from a simple pale ale. It is just pungent enough to raise an eyebrow, but certainly not obtrusive. In the mouth, this beer again displays a surprising amount of hop for a pale ale. However, this isn’t the defining factor. The real thing that sets this apart is the usage of rye. Rye, as opposed to barley or wheat or rice, gives this beer an interesting twang that is hard to describe. It complements the hop superbly and I can only describe it as somewhat ‘sweet-and-sour’. It offers a slight sourness on the tongue, but there also seems to exist a phantom bready sweetness. This, combined with the floral hops, gives this beer a much more complex palate than one would expect. However, everything works together so well that you can easily slip this one to your less-adventurous beer drinker, and they’ll still be satisfied without being scared away. Overall, a great beer, and worthy of the accolades it has won at many beer festivals. This is a great one to have in the fridge for either a daily drinker or an occasional treat (or just a daily treat).
It’s been a while since we’ve touched upon any Canadian brews. Apart from the folks at Unibroue, we don’t see too many exotic beers from Canada, and the rest generally fall into the general yellow beer categories (Moosehead, Molson, etc – beers that I quite like). So, I was interested to see a Cream Ale on the shelves from Sleeman, a brewery that I’m entirely unfamiliar with. If the label is to be believed, the Sleeman family in recent years dug up beer recipes that had been hidden away by great-grandfather Sleeman years ago, and thus was born the modern Sleeman Brewery. Let’s see how it tastes!
This cream ale pours a crystal clear golden color with an effervescent (but quickly dissipating) white head. The aroma here is fairly light, only contributing mild bready malt scents to the nose. In the mouth, this beer is tasty, albeit subtle. The presence of hop is minimal here. Rather, we get a lot of bready flavors with light sweetness. In addition, there is an almost buttery flavor that coats the tongue and gives this beer a somewhat syrupy mouthfeel, even though the beer itself isn’t very viscous at all. This lighty, sweet, buttery flavor flows all the way down the tongue, only contributing an additional metallic taste towards the back of the throat before subsiding into a light aftertaste that disappears after a few seconds. All in all, this isn’t a bad beer. However, I’d prefer a more robust flavor out of my cream ale if given the option. It’s easy to understand that this was made from a generations-old recipe, as the flavor doesn’t take anything from the extreme beers of the modern day. The main use I can see for this beer is that it’d make a great session ale due to its light flavor, 5.0% abv, and pretty sweet embossed bottle.
So, we haven’t QUITE reviewed the full stable of Terrapin beers yet, but I aim to resolve that in the near future, starting with this, the tamest of them all – the Golden Ale.
This beer pours a soft golden color that is just the slightest bit hazy, with tiny bubbles lackadaisically rising to the thin white head on the surface of the beer. In the nose, there is a medium hop bitterness combined with a lightly sour malt aroma that makes this pungent in a way that isn’t entirely pleasant, but invokes that ‘beeriness’ that is familiar to many golden ales. The taste of this ale is more pronounced than most golden ales you’ll run into. Initially, there is a light carbonation burn on the tip of the tongue, but that quickly transitions into a sourness that is reminiscent of the bastard-son of a French Saison ale – it isn’t quite so defined as what you get in a typical Saison, but the characteristics are there. On top of this is a sweetness that sits in the background, but is most certainly present, in the form of some biscuity malt flavor. As this moves on down the tongue, some metallic hopiness also comes into play, and this increases until the back of the mouth and takes center stage in an aftertaste that sticks around for quite a while. The mouthfeel of this beer is also quite substantial, leaving a thin coating of the beer over the mouth and tongue for seconds after the swallow. Altogether, this isn’t quite my cup of tea. I can see how this would be refreshing on a hot day, due to the pronounced sourness. I can also agree that this is a good interpretation of a the admittedly vague ‘golden ale’ style. However, this melange of flavors isn’t entirely what I’ll usually grab, so forgive me if I’m less than ecstatic about this.
In my never-ending quest to find new beers to review for you guys (and, thus, to find excuses to drink new beers), I often pick up a sixer of something that, frankly, I’m not that drawn to. This is ESPECIALLY the case when I’m in Georgia, where the only quality local brews come from Terrapin and Sweetwater, and I’ve already had most of those. So anyway, long story short, I picked up a very generic looking lager from Holland, and here it is.
The 1620 looks like any fizzy light beer you’d find anywhere else – it’s effervescent and crystal golden, with the slightest bit of white head. The aroma of this is pure light malt with just the lightest hint of metallic hops. In the mouth, this beer won’t knock your socks off, and you shouldn’t expect it to. However, this is honestly tastier than I thought it would be. There aren’t a lot of flavors involved here, but the simple flavor that sticks out is a light malty sweetness that coats the mouth, is very refreshing, and finishes clean leaving just a light sweetness at the back of the throat. There is just a BIT of hop here – not much, but between that and the carbonation, it gives this beer a light tingly bite that awakens the tastebuds just enough to be receptive to the forthcoming subtle sweetness. Furthermore, the 1620 manages to avoid the overtly metallic or paper-pulp flavors that often invade beers of similar appearance. Really, there isn’t much else to say about this beer. It’s nothing special and, honestly, there are other beers that are similar for a cheaper price tag here in the US of A. But, for a fizzy light beer, this is quite good, and will be great in the coming summer sun.
Despite the fact that I have Left Hand stickers plastered all over my beer fridge (thanks, Jon), I’m generally not that wild about Left Hand beers. Don’t get me wrong, they make some tasty brews, but they also make some that I find sub-par. So, let’s just say that I find Left Hand to be pretty hit-or-miss. Nevertheless, this sounds like a rather interesting beer – a barleywine ale, 50% of which is aged in oak barrels.
The pour of this is murky brown with light hints of ruby and a thin off-white head. The aroma of this is rich and biting. There are hints of licorice, spice, dark fruit, and a light metallic tint. In the mouth, this is quite a big beer. Initially, there is a bite on the tip of the tongue full of bitter spice. As the beer moves down the tongue, the complexity increases with tastes of dark cherry and a bit of grape. There is also a licorice contribution and some apricot sweetness, all co-mingling with the ever-present bitterness. The aftertaste is all bitter fruit, and it lingers for several seconds after the beer is gone. Truthfully, there is more going on in this beer than can easily be described. And, to be honest, it’s a bit much for me. I like a complex beer when it is refined and the boundaries of the various flavors are clear. However, this beer comes across as muddled and confused to me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good flavors here, but it’s just too much for my current tastes. So, it’s a good beer – not great.
Every now and again it’s fun to grab a real nail-biter of a beer – something quite off the wall that snaps the tastebuds into action. For me, a sour ale fits this bill very well. Whether it’s a sour ale or a lambic, these beers do things on the tongue that no other beer, no matter how extreme, can seem to do. This particular beer is a sour red ale made in, of all places, Italy. Frankly, I’m not accustomed to finding great beers in Italy, so I’m rather interested to taste this. Furthermore, this is aged for 3 months in Cognac barrels, which is bound to impart some interesting flavor.
This beer pours a murky purplish red with just a very thin off-white head. The aroma is quite sour and full of dark cherry. The sourness is fairly biting in the nostrils and may even have a slight bit of citrus presence. In the mouth, this beer is fairly complex and very biting. There is a predominant sourness here that tingles on the tip of the tongue and burns a stretch all the way to the back of the mouth, making you pucker up in the process. The actual flavors in this beer are fairly straightforward, including a dose of dark cherry, some light licorice, and some rich complexity no doubt coming from the cognac barrels. Honestly, I expected more fruit and sweetness in this beer, for some reason. However, it is apparent that Panil was going for a true sour ale when they crafted this. The sourness is metered by the surrounding flavors, but their presence in no way competes with sourness. The sour notes take center stage and give this beer a pourful kick. If you’re into exceptionally sour beers and can handle the pucker-factor, then you’ll probably like this. Personally, I find it very good. In my favorites of the genre, I would request a bit more of a balancing sweetness. However, this is, by all accounts, a well-made brew.
Boston Beer Company (ie Samuel Adams) has issued a voluntary product recall, which affects some of their bottled products. During inspections at their Cincinnati brewery they found sand grain sized pieces of glass in a small percentage of their bottles. Though they have not received any reports of injury from consumers, they wanted to make sure none happen, hence the recalling of the affected beers. Not all beers are affected, and information about the recall can be found at the voluntary product recall page on Boston Beer Company’s web site. [First seen at beeradvocate]
Yet another brewery that I haven’t yet seen around NC! I’m pleased to see so many new brewers getting distribution in our area. Frankly, pickin’s were getting pretty slim around here for new beers and, as I’m not willing to relocate to Europe to continue this blog, it caused a slight drought (not draught) in the amount of reviews you’ve been seeing lately. I’m glad to say that three Fiddler’s Green offerings have shown up, but today we’ll just be looking at the IPA.
This IPA pours a fairly typical IPA hue – a deep golden with hints of amber and a thin white head. The aroma of this is quite lovely – there is a nice blend of floral with a good citrus bite in the nose. In the mouth, this is an excellent beer. The initial sensation is a pretty strong citrus bite on the tip of the tongue. After this, a rather complex floral note comes along and seeps into the nasal cavity, giving this beer a rather big flavor. On top of this, there is a good bitter note here that travels all the way down the tongue and into the aftertaste – it isn’t as big a bite as some IPAs, but it serves well to balance out the myriad flavors here. In the aftertaste, we get an interesting melange of all the aforementioned flavors, from the citrus to the floral. They advertise this beer as having won some IPA blind taste test. Frankly, EVERY beer seems to have won some award these days, but I can easily understand how this beer would do well in such a tasting – it’s a delicious beer, and one that might creep it’s way up to my regular drinker list.
I gotta be honest with you folks – I don’t even know what a “Real Ale” is. Maybe I’m a hack who parades as a beer reviewer, but I’m at least a hack that drinks a lot of beer, and I’ve never been confronted with a beer that labels itself only as ‘real’. So, I’m not going to bother and research the style – I’ll just review this from the hip and see if it works out.
The Real Ale pours a very deep brown that only shows its color when held up to the light. It is obviously, however, well filtered. The head on this is a light caramel color, but frankly doesn’t stick around for very long. The aroma of this is interesting – there is a great amount of smoke here with hints of bacon – it’s overall rather complex and hard to peg. The flavor here is along the same lines as the aroma. The first and most obvious presence is of smoky charcoal. There is a sweetness on the back of this that is actually a bit ‘porkish’, but the predominant flavor, front to back, is along the lines of what would happen if you put a chunk of burnt wood in your mouth. Now, I know that doesn’t sound fabulous, but it isn’t bad. Some folks are really into smoky beers, and they’re going to love it. But, overall, that’s about it. This has a relatively light mouthfeel, a smoky, meaty flavor, and a smoky aftertaste. Not something I’ll likely buy again, but I can appreciate it enough to get through this six-pack…
I’m just now starting to see a couple of Atlantic Brewing beers showing up on shelves here in NC. Frankly, I’m not sure if they’ve just gone under the radar, or if they’re just now showing up. The packaging isn’t especially flashy, so it could easily go unnoticed. At any rate, I’m glad I found a couple, and they’ll be going up on the site in the next 2 days. First up is the Blueberry Ale!
Some folks consider a fruit beer to be a bit girly. Even Matt, someone who I once thought was a respectable drinker, thinks that any hard cider is for sissies. I completely beg to differ. I think the use of fruit in a beer or a cider is just an opportunity to make something interesting, and these same beverages often have ABVs that can hardly be called “sissy”. The Bar Harbor Blueberry isn’t especially alcohol-packed, but I’m still excited to see what these folks do with the genre, since they consider this to be “America’s original blueberry ale”.
This beer pours a rather deep golden with very little debris and very little head. The aroma is very pleasant with tons of blueberry and some light sweet malts. In the mouth this is, in fact, a very delicious beer. The backbone is that of a decent American pale ale. There is a fair amount of malt that gives this a sweet taste and a soft clean mouthfeel. In addition, there is a substantial dose of blueberries that really round out the flavor and give the beer some nice kick. The blueberry here is anything but subtle, but also not overpowering. Certainly don’t buy this beer if you have any aversion to blueberries – that’d be a dumb move anyway. But, if you like blueberries, then this beer will give you plenty in a package that is light, sweet, and extremely tasty. I really can’t find anything sharp or distasteful about this beer, so I’ll gladly let it call itself America’s blueberry ale…