Archive for May, 2008
Warming weather, blooming flowers, spring is here… bring on the Weizenbier!
Not your typical American brewers spring/summer seasonal mainstay weissbier: Hefeweizen. Oh no… we are going to be changing it up with a “Hopfen-Weisse”!
What the hell is a “Hopfen-Weisse”? Its a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewing (located in Brooklyn, New York) and Schneider Brewery (located in Kelheim, Germany). I was led to believe (and if anyone can verify this, please leave a comment) this is the first year it has taken bottle form (last year they only sold it in kegs). And thank god it did make it to the bottle.
Poured into a weizenbier glass the beer had a golden-ish hue with slight haze in its body. The brilliantly white head let forth a beautiful mix of hop, spice, light-buttery bread and fruit aroma. All of these aromas intermingled so well with each other, none over powering the others, but each making their presence known. With a light body, the beer was able to highlight all of its intertwined aromas within the mouth. It was complex, but not over-powering.
Very few beers have made me exclaim out loud how “beautiful” and “wonderful” (along with numerous other adjectives) they are. This beer did. Maybe it was the mood I was in, or the fact my senses wanted to move away from winter beers, but this beer hit it out of the park. The first time having this beer I did not even finish taking notes on it (I made it up to the beer’s visuals, and some aromas). I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it. I picked up a second beer the next day to take more thorough notes and finish this review. After that second bottle, I picked up a third the following week. I personally do not remember the last time I went back, twice, to pick-up a new beer.
One thing I noticed over the three bottles was the variance in hop aroma with the beer. I felt the first bottle had the most spice-hop aroma, the second had the least and the third was in the middle of the two. Besides that however, this was a consistently enjoyable beer.
A light, complex, enjoyable beer… one that you need to pick-up.
So far, so good with the Boulevard beers – I haven’t had a dud yet. Today, let’s try out the Stout.
I’ve gotten accustomed to seeing unusually dark beers from Boulevard. Unfortunately, with a Stout, that’s hard to pull off, ’cause they’re all black as oil. This one is no different – very dark with a thin caramel head. In the nose, this beer is quite pungent with a variety of flavors, including caramel, smoke, and nut – very nice indeed. The flavor of this Stout is very, very good, albeit it a bit bitter. The flavor transitions from an initial caramel sweetness to a flavor that quickly picks up nutty notes. Meanwhile, there is a notable smokiness that begins to fill the mouth, from side-to-side and front-to-back. Around the middle of the mouth, the nutty flavors begins to get more bitter, and that transition continues to the back of the mouth, where the sweetness has all but disappeared and the bitterness lingers long into the aftertaste. Meanwhile, that smokey flavor just won’t stop, and it clings to the mouth for quite some time. This beer manages to grab all of the predominant flavors that we associate with Stouts, and it contains them all in large doses. It is rather dry, it is extremely flavorful, and everything is in a moderation that allows the flavors to play nicely together. Hats off to Boulevard for one of the best American Stouts I’ve had in a while…
Next up is the Boulevard Irish Ale, a seasonal offering from these folks.
This beer pours a very dark amber hue with some light debris, which makes this much deeper and more intimidating than most Irish ales out there. In addition, there is a thin, swirling caramel head that floats around on the surface of the beer. In the nose, this beer has a caramel-cream sweetness, which is again a unique feature. So far, this beer seems darker, stormier, and sweeter than most Irish reds, and we haven’t even tasted it yet!
In the mouth, this beer more or less lives up to the hype. There is a very rich sweetness that has aspects of dark malt and caramel cream candies. In addition, we get a light hop presence on the back of the tongue that adds some off-setting bitterness that just keeps this from tasting like a dessert beer. In addition, there are some earthy tones that seem to swirl around the sides of the mouth, and stick around in the aftertaste long after the bitter and sweet flavors have had their say. This is a pretty big beer – certainly bigger than the vast majority of Irish red ales. If I were really in the mood for an Irish red, there are many beers I’d sooner reach for. However, I can honestly say that this is a tastier beer than most of them. However, the extra sweetness makes this a divergence from the typical style. So, if you’re in the mood for a dessert-ish Irish red, this will be a great beer for you. However, if you want something a bit more typical, go grab a Killians.
Okay, folks, get ready for a barrage of Boulevard Brewery reviews. I just picked up a fresh mixed-sixer of their beers, so I’m prepared to get a head-full of this stuff. So far, I’ve been impressed with the two of their offerings that I’ve thus far had, so I hope for a good showing from the rest.
The Lunar Ale gives no real style indication on the label, only indicating that a pinch of yeast is tossed in at bottling so that this beer can undergo a secondary fermentation. This is not a strange practice in craft-brewing, so that doesn’t really tell us much. I guess we’ll just have to figure it out on our own…
This beer pours a medium purplish-brown color with noticeable dense debris (surely a by-product of the secondary fermentation) and a nearly non-existent head. The aroma of the brew isn’t terribly rich, but rather shows signs of light grape and a light Kool-Aid undertone, which is quite unexpected. In the mouth, the first sensation is of a light fruity sweetness, most reminiscent of white grape. On down the tongue, some touches of dark malt come into play that give this a rootsy flavor that really reaches a peak around the back of the tongue with a bitter, earthy blast. Down the throat, this earthy flavor slowly subsides, leaving behind a residue of the light grape flavor and an overall refreshing and clean aftertaste. Overall, this is a really good beer. It doesn’t really stick to a particular genre, but it reminds me most of some Belgian brown ales that I’ve had. That being said, this actually tastes more expensive than it is. It’s refined, tasty, and complex enough to keep you coming back for more – probably the best Boulevard beer I’ve had so far.
The New York Times has a nice article about the Bitter style of beer called “A Tour of Bitters for the Summer“. Though not a very in-depth article, it serves as a good starting point with the style, hits upon all the points I enjoy about the bitter style, and gives some suggestions on different beers to try.
Giving a quick look over at our “Bitter Style” review section, it seems we are rather lacking in that department. Hopefully over the coming months we will be able to add some reviews for your reading pleasure. Just because our bitter section is lacking does not mean the bitter style is not good however. The bitter style makes a great summer time and/or social drink, and whenever their is a bitter on cask at the local beer bar I definitely order a pull of it. (Actually, Coniston Bluebird Bitter, the beer mentioned but not reviewed in the article, was recently on cask and it was great stuff.) Overall the style will not blow your palate away with anything too wild and crazy, but that does not mean it is a style you should pass up.
There are a couple of interesting things about the Finnegan’s Ale. The first thing that strikes me is that this is an amber ale made with potatoes – a little odd, but very Irish. Secondly, Finnegan’s gives every cent of the profit from their beers to charity. So, regardless of flavor, this beer is starting out on a good foot with me with those couple points of originality.
The Finnegan’s pours a rather light amber color – light relative to other beers of the genre. This beer does not, in fact, smell like a plate of mashed potatoes. Rather, it has a rather typical amber aroma, with some dark bready aromas and a hint of spice. It is, however, a bit less rich than some ambers I’ve encountered, and I’m getting just a touch of cinnamon. In the mouth, this beer is good, but it IS a bit different. Again, there are some sweet dark bready flavors here. In addition, there is some spice. However, the predominant presence here is an interesting twang that hits around the middle of the mouth. The twang is sweet and sour and, in fact, a little ‘meaty’. Perhaps this is the dash of potato talking, but it comes across with this flavor that, while exotic for an amber ale, overall gives this beer a less rich flavor, making it a bit crisper and maybe even more accessible than a typical amber. Granted, it’s quite different from most amber ales I’ve had, but I quite like it. I’d be interested to hear other opinions on this beer, as I could see it being somewhat divisive amongst amber fans…
I’ve seen this beer on the shelves for quite some time now, and I’ve been tempted to buy it on a few occasions. But, honestly, any beer called “Sweaty Betty” puts me a bit ill-at-ease. But, honestly, I’m in the mood for a nice blonde ale, so I decided to see what Boulder has up their sleeve.
The Betty pours a hazy glowing golden color (not literally glowing, but you get the picture) with a fair amount of tiny carbonation rising to the surface. The aroma here is very nice. It is fairly thick for a blonde ale, but full of rich light malt and citrus zest, giving this a pungent but refreshing aroma. In the mouth, I’m immediately pleased. There’s some carbonation burn on the tip of the tongue that wakes up the taste buds. Shortly thereafter, we get a citrus-y sweet lemon zest flavor that rides atop a bready malt flavor that is unusually rich for a blonde ale. These flavors are both big all through the mouth, and then a more pronounced citrus sourness comes into play towards the back of the tongue. This flavor is another shock after the initial carbonation burn, and it keeps the beer both interesting and thirst quenching. This sourness stays in the mouth all the way through the aftertaste, giving it a finish much like a sour lemon candy. Honestly, I’m surprised by how big and rich this beer is, given its genre and appearance. However, I’m also surprised at how refreshing and thirst-quenching it is, given its richness. Altogether, Boulder has managed to blend 2 great attributes of a blonde ale into an excellent beer. Despite a kinda gross name, I could drink this stuff all summer.
This news item over at Bloomberg.com says, “InBev is working on a bid valued at $65 a share for Anheuser-Busch” (roughly $46 billion). Not only is the bid price impressive (roughly ten dollars higher then AB’s current share price), but if the two brewers were to combine they would distribute 25% of the WORLD’s beer supply. Not to get completely ahead of ourselves however, the news item states, “While extensive preparations have been made, a bid from InBev isn’t imminent….” Something to keep an eye on none-the-less. (The news item goes into further financial details about the bid, if that is your “thing”.)
I’ve had a few blueberry beers in my day – most of them are a golden hue with a light fruity scent and just a touch of blueberry sweetness in the flavor. But not the Wild Blue. This stuff is serious blueberry business. The first thing I notice is that this is 8% abv, which is high for any beer – especially a fruity beer in a small bottle. I’m anxious to see what this stuff actually tastes like.
The Wild Blue pours a ridiculously dark purple color with a thin off-white head and noticeable debris in the liquid. The aroma of this is pure blueberry and booze. You can smell lots of tart wild blueberry here, mingled with a burning alcohol aroma, foretelling the flavor to come. In the mouth, this stuff is extremely big and fruity. Initially, there is a sharp sweetness on the tip of the tongue – this is where the wild blueberry first makes its stand. It is very sweet with a sour tart bite and no bitterness to speak of. As the beer travels down the tongue, the tartness of this beer only increases while the sweetness stays pretty constant throughout. This is a great flavor – the only downside is that the sweetness does little to mask alcohol, and you can taste all eight of those 8.0% abv’s. Down the throat, this beer is cool and refreshing, leaving just a light sweet candy flavor at the back of the throat, kinda like a Starburst candy. All in all, this beer is quite a creation. It is super sweet, quite big, and has enough booze in it to throw you for a loop if you aren’t careful. The only qualm with this is that you’re liable to mistake it for some kind of girly drink when you first see and taste it. But, once you look past the purple color and the super fruity flavor, you’ll see that this beer is quite an achievement. I like any fruit beer with balls that is still this well-balanced. Typically, it seems like the Belgians are the only guys that can really pull this off to this level, so I’m glad to see an American brewer also giving it a successful go.
Does anyone actually know what an ‘urban’ wheat ale is? The ‘wheat ale’ part I’m familiar with. The ‘urban’ is what confuses me. Does this mean that it’s especially hip, and should feel at home at the newest Euro club uptown? Hell if I know – I just review beers.
The ‘Urban’ wheat ale pours a mildly cloudy light golden color with a very thin white head. It’s a very nice hue for a wheat ale and gives me the impression that the flavor will be light and refreshing. The aroma here has lots of lemon zest and a wispy sweetness to it. In the mouth, this is a pretty decent wheat ale. It is big on the lemon zest and has a lot of light malt flavor. Through the mouth, this lemon also contributes a bit of sourness that contributes to the refreshing aspects of this beer. In addition, there is even MORE lemon here in the form of a mildy unpleasant lemon rind flavor. Basically, they didn’t leave any of the lemon out of this beer, from the sweet to the citrus to the sour to the rind. This sweeps down the entire tongue, riding sidecar with the sweet light malt. Altogether, even with the lemon rind, this isn’t a bad beer. It comes across as quite accessible, and all the sourness would make this very refreshing on a hot day. I haven’t done too much with the Goose Island brews yet, but this is a pretty strong offering.
Man, it’s rare that I can get a new big bottle of imperial beer these days. Seems like we’ve had about everything that’s out there. Furthermore, when there IS a new big bottle of beer, it seems like it’s even more absurdly expensive. This brings me to the $13 Rogue Imperial Red. This is the newest of their XS line, and I bet it’ll be good. (Incidentally, I also notice that we haven’t done the Imperial Stout – maybe I’ll try to knock that one out sometime in the next couple of weeks).
The Imperial Red pours an absurdly dark amber – almost brown. There is some debris in here, and it’s really a beautiful hue that is only translucent around the edges of the glass where the light gets in. I’m sick, so I can’t smell that well right now, but I am finding some nice hints of anise and a bit of caramel seeping into the aroma. In the mouth, this is indeed a big red ale. There is enough hop here that it burns significantly on the tip of the tongue. These hops seem floral and bitter and are tres delicieaux. Early into the mouth, a rich sweetness creeps in that is both rootsy and caramel sweet. This sweetness soon merges into a more bitter sweetness that tastes like horehound candy. This then washes to the back of the mouth until it merges with that floral hop, giving a late flavor explosion that really kicks the flavor into high gear and leaves us with a super-big aftertaste. In fact, it feels like the aftertaste shoots the flavor back up to the front of the tongue – kind of a ‘flavor backdraft’. I’m very happy to conclude that this is a very big beer. I haven’t had anything this bodacious in my mouth (that’s what she said) for quite some time, and occasionally you want that (I’m talking about beer, people). So, thanks to Rogue for stepping it up a notch and bringing out some new beers with balls in the midst of ingredient inflation. Also, I picked up another treat from Rogue that is a little different today. I’m trying to figure out how to handle it, but I’ll hopefully have something posted soon…
Welp, folks, it’s finally the last of the Schell sampler – ending up with a bang with the Caramel Bock. Honestly, I used to love these kinds of beers – the rich, decadent dark brews. However, I’ve drifted away from them recently. I think that, too often, a barrage of rich flavors can hide the true quality (or lack thereof) of a beer. With enough make-up, you can make any old street hag look good, you know? Okay, bad metaphor. But, seriously, I think there are a lot of bad beers out there that only survive because they have enough caramel or brown sugar or strawberry to hide their bad base. BUT, I’ma try not to let that affect my impression of the Caramel Bock – I promise!
This beer, as expected, is super dark. In addition, it is a bit cloudy and has a thin caramel colored head. The aroma of this isn’t as pungent as expected. However, what you CAN smell is a good dose of caramel and not much else. In the mouth, this is about what you expect. Obviously, there is a ton of caramel. An odd twist is an additional sweetness that is almost sweet-cream like, giving this a flavor that is akin to those caramel cream candies. And, frankly, it’s really good. This beer loses most of it’s beerness behind the sweet flavors, leaving only a dark malt flavor that lends a bit of a rootsy flavor. However, this rootsy bitterness combined with the caramel cream flavor gives us a pretty tasty beer. I do think that this is a flavor overkill, but it’s a good flavor, so it’s hard to argue with. This is very much a desert beer, nice to enjoy as an after dinner treat. I can’t imagine buying a six-pack of this, because you really won’t want more than one every few days. However, for what it is, it’s pretty tasty – might be a nice idea to go ahead and ‘take it to the limit’ with an Imperial version in a larger bomber bottle…
So far, the Schell sampler has been hit or miss. But, thankfully, it’s been more hits than misses. A Pilsner, on the surface, seems like a straightforward genre to recreate. However, because of its simplicity, this genre often gets screwed over. After Schell’s showing with the Kolsch recently, I’m anxious to see how they hang with the Pilsner.
In the glass, this beer is super clear and a light golden. The aroma is unobtrusive, but pretty nice. There is some light malt here, just a hint of hop, and it’s altogether pretty smooth – smells like a Pilsner. In the mouth, this beer is more carbonated than expected, but that’s not a bad thing. The carbonation enlivens the tastebuds and opens them for the flavor to come. The beer is certainly not overwhelming, but it does bring a good bit of flavor. There is a good amount of hop here that starts early on the tongue and never dissipates all the way through the aftertaste. In addition, we can taste a nice sweet malt that is smooth and fleeting, but weaves in and out of the hop bitterness through the mouth, adding a bit of variety. I know that a truly good beer tastes as good warm as cold. Don’t take this as a diss to the Schell Pilsner, but I highly recommend this very cold. The characteristics seem all the more biting when this beer is cold, and it’s refreshing in all the ways that the Kolsch failed. I won’t say that this is one of the best Pilsners I’ve had, but it’s very good and very accessible and would be delicious on a hot day. It’s a simple and effective take on a Pilsner, which is often the best way to do it…
That, my friends, is a mouthful. We’re moving on through this Schell sampler I got my hands on with a Kolsch. A Kolsch is, generally, a very crisp and refreshing light beer. I’m a bit skeptical of the addition of honey. No doubt, the flavor will suit the beer fairly well. However, honey additions can often bog down a crisp beer and give it a syrupiness that takes away from the refreshing effects. Let’s see how it works for the Zommerfest.
The pour of this beer is a very clear and light golden with tiny bubbles of carbonation and a uber-thin head. The aroma is light and fleeting, with just a whiff of light malt and no noticeable hop presence. In the mouth, the immediate presence is of the honey sweetness. Beyond this, the beer gets a little confusing. There is a fair amount of malt, a surprising hop flavor, and the ever-present honey flavor. However, I don’t think these all blend very well. It’s sort of a clusterf**k in the mouth for the first bit, and then all the flavors blend to provide a distasteful bitterness at the back of the throat. Furthermore, as I was afraid, the honey flavor (in my opinion) turns this thirst-quenching genre into a less refreshing beast. Honestly, if I had made this, I would be disappointed. I think it was an experiment worth performing, but it didn’t work out that well. When you’re playing around with a beer like this, I really think you need to leave that quenching sourness untouched – tossing some honey in just makes for a bad marriage…
Man’s best friend now has a beer all their own. A Dutch pet shop owner consigned a local brewery to make a nonalcoholic beer made from beef extract and malt. The beer has now crossed the Channel and Pets at Home of England is doing a test run at a pet shop in Derby, before rolling the product out nation wide. No news on when Kwispelbier (“tail-wagging beer” in Dutch) will hop the pond for these shores however. When it does, will sevenpack review it? Only time will tell.
[First seen at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/]