Archive for July, 2008
Shmaltz just keeps upping the ante with each iteration of their anniversary ale. With this, the eleventh year version, they showed up with 11 types of malt, 11 types of hops, and 11% abv – that’s a lot of 11′s, and it could make for a confusing brew. However, these guys usually don’t put out a lackluster product, so I’ve got high hopes.
This beer pours an exceptionally dark brown – nearly black. You can only see the hints of the brown around the edges of the beer when held up to light. There is very little head here – what exists is in the form of thin caramel islands that float along the surface of the beer. The aroma of this is rich with caramel and toffee. It smells very sweet and doesn’t betray much hop presence, but rather gets most of its character from sweet dark malt. In the mouth, this is a very rich beer. Honestly, I don’t really know how to characterize it, so I’ve put it into the abbey ale category (a sort of catch-all category for this type of beer). The flavor’s main characteristic is rich toffee. In addition, there are some chocolate hints and maybe just the tiniest bit of licorice. There is actually quite a bit of hop here, but it doesn’t really compare to all the rich flavors – you can sense it in a bitter burn around the middle of the tongue, and maybe a floral hint in the aftertaste. I ain’t gonna lie to you, this is a very busy beer. It’s full of flavor, it’s super rich, and it has a thick and syrupy mouthfeel. However, considering the myriad ingredients here, it came out pretty tasty and straightforward. Ultimately, it’s rich and sweet with substantial hop bitterness. Within this consistent flavor, there are a lot of variations evident in the flavor, but they all stick to the theme, and you might not even catch them if you weren’t really paying attention. Regardless, it’s a good beer, and I haven’t had a bad one from these guys yet. Now if we could just get distribution of Shmalt’s other beers down here in NC, I’d have even more to talk about!
I picked this little ditty up at Total Wine last night while perusing their selections for an upcoming taste challenge (be on the look out in the next few days). I didn’t really want it but I was one of the few bottles I didn’t recognize, so, what the hell, you know?
As it pours into the glass this beer has a pale straw-colored hue, but as the liquid and sediment settle is has a merky golden color. The frothy, pure white head sits cleanly, about 3/4 inch on the top. Oh by the way, my girlfriend is going to try her hand at beer reviewing so I will post her thoughts in italics. “It looks like beer. The head looks like snow.” There is a combination of lemon and red apples in the smell. It is sharp but not pungent or abrasive. “It smells like apricots.” She’s totally wrong. This is a very light triple. I’ve had some whose spice characteristic burn so much that it over powers the flavor but this one is very drinkable. It has a well-rounded, soft mouthfeel that allows the flavors to glide across the palate. There isn’t any one taste that sticks out. Lemon, grapefruit, apple and grapefruit mix together nicely with the floral hop arrangement. “It has some apricot in it with a hint of lavender. P.S. I’m making stuff up to make fun of my boyfriend.” She’s an idiot…Oh yeah be careful with this beer because the abv will sneak up on you quick. I really like this beer. It’s not hard to find so give it a try if you’re into triples.
Oh bitter style of beer, how do I enjoy you so much? I am not sure what your allure quite is, but when done right you are all I can drink. Lets see if Rogue does the bitter style proud, which they have already done once before with their Brutal Bitter.
Pours a nice clear, amber-orange into the awaiting pint glass. An off-white pillowy head tops the beer off. The head does not retain well however, and quickly recedes to a thin covering, leaving light stickage along the way.
Heavy malt aromas, with some sweetness to them, greet my nose. Providing a nice secondary aroma is a non-descript fruit presence. This fruit aroma is tough to nail down as a particular fruit, so I want to say it is caused by the yeast, though it may be from the intermingling of hops. Overall, very inviting.
As this medium bodied ale hits the mouth the malts take charge with a nice sweet, smoothness. This malt flavoring covers the tongue and provides a nice foundation for the bitter snap that hits. There is a nice dry, floral factor to the bitterness, which makes the beer quite refreshing. The aftertaste provides the slightest hint of grain.
This is a nicely balanced bitter which showcases both the malts and hops. This beer captures the essence of the bitter style quite well, while still giving the style it’s own unique twist. Definitely going to add this to the list of bitters to have again.
Another day, another Southern Tier review. First came their Imperial Cherry Saison and now it is their Creme Brulee Stout. This beer just hit store shelves and it seems to be moving quite fast, and for good reason. It is a good beer.
The straight and skinny on this beer is the name does not lie. It tastes and smells like creme brulee. I am not even sure Southern Tier brewed this beer. I think they baked a creme brulee and liquefied the results. I did not notice any malt, hop, or alcohol aromas/tastes in the beer. Vanilla and burnt sugar were the aromas and tastes, plain and simple.
The fact it tasted just like creme brulee I find incredible. Most times when a beer is named after a flavor the beer has the “essence” of that flavor. Southern Tier’s Imperial Cherry Saison is an example of this, along with numerous chocolate and coffee stouts. There are essences of those flavors intermingled with other flavors. Not in this beer. Creme Brulee.
For the lack of tasting “beer like” (I do not even know what that actually means with all the variety in beer, but there is a certain aptness in the statement) this is a great beer. Due to its sweetness and rich mouthfeel factors, this is a great dessert beer. If you have a friend who is not all that “into” beer and prefers a sweet mixed drink, this beer could certainly suite their fancy.
Hats off to Southern Tier for this beer, showing once again the boundaries of beer can be stretched in so many directions.
If you need to know, the beer poured in a snifter is black with a slight tan head. It smells like Creme Brulee, but I am pretty sure I have already gotten that point across.
Yesterday (July 21) was Belgium’s Independence Day, so in late celebration, a review of a Belgian beer! This beer could also qualify as one of my “Spring Cleaning” beers, since it has been in my fridge since February. I am not really sure why I have not had it yet, other beers have gotten in the way I guess. Anyway, on with the review.
The beer pours a slightly hazy amber-orange, with a constant stream of carbonation throughout the tasting. The off-white head leaves a nice lace stickage, almost forming full rings, down the goblet. Cooked pineapple hits me as an aroma with some interplay of yeast and slight grain. The mouthfeel boarders on medium, with the carbonation lightening the beer in the mouth. The carbonation adds a certain coarseness to the beer towards the back of the mouth however. The taste of the beer is a mix of slight toffee and banana sweetness towards the front and green pepper/vegetable middle. This sounds odd, and quite frankly it is. The finish of the beer is bitter and astringent. This is a 10% ABV beer and there is no masking of that fact.
Overall I am not all that impressed with this beer. Two qualities of the beer that really stuck out through out the tasting were its coarseness and astringent value. These are two values I really do not want to stick out in a beer. I can say that “I have had it”, but I probably would not revisit this beer.
Honestly, I grabbed this beer thinking that I’d had it before and didn’t like it that much. However, I couldn’t confirm said rumors, so I decided to pick it up and give it another go. Thankfully, I was incorrect in my assumption.
This beer pours a rather clear golden color with a minor stark white head. The aroma of this is lightly sour and grassy, like a field full of freshly cut hay. In the mouth, this beer is very grainy, with a slightly noticeable rye twang, but nothing as pronounced as what you’ll find in other rye beers from folks like Terrapin. The flavor through the mouth, isn’t overwhelming. Beyond this graininess, there is some light sweetness and a tad bit of citrus sourness. This washes down very clean, leaving you with a quenched, clean palate. Actually, I’d rate this as one of the better summer beers I’ve had this season. The rye characteristics and light sourness make it very thirst quenching, and it washes nice and clean. Furthermore, that rye twang sets it apart from the more typical summer ales. Good job, Red Hook – I’m glad I gave you the benefit of the doubt!
This beer was released a couple of months ago and once again I was at it’s introduction party. Unfortunately, either my schedule had been hectic or I was in the mood for a different styling of beer, this beer purchased at the party had languished in my beer fridge, yearning to be opened. On July Fourth however, the stars aligned and I finally sat down to drink and review this brew.
Poured into a pint glass the beer is a clear, stark amber with a white head made of lots of small bubbles. The carbonation of the beer is a constant stream of bubbles coursing through the body of the beverage. This carbonation released the beer’s aroma of bread to my awaiting nose. With some slight warming the notes of bread became more pronounced but so did the beer’s aromas of grain and rye, which were hidden originally.
In the mouth the beer had a light to medium mouthfeel with a caramel sweetness which grew to encompass the whole entire mouth. Though this sounds overwhelming it was not. It was a light sweetness through out and was well balanced with the taste of bread. The rye comes in at the end of the taste with a light spice ending. This spice lent the end of the beer a dry finish, which I found very refreshing.
I am not a big red ale drinker (I’m not able to think of the last red ale I had) so with my depth in the red ale field lacking, I’m unsure how this beer stacks up to others. That said however, I did enjoy this beer. I found it quite refreshing and easy to drink. The intermingling tastes are present, but subdued, which I find to be the case in many of Harpoon’s offerings. This beer actually comes close to being a pretty good session beer, but the 6.5 ABV pushes the beer out of that designation, in my opinion. A nice 100 barrel series.
InBev’s takeover offer of Anheuser-Busch has been accepted. After all the “Hell No, Bud Won’t Go” slogans, politicians deriding the selling of yet another American “icon” to a foreign company, and those pathetic commercials with August Anheuser Busch IV blathering on about the company, InBev raised their initial offer of $65 per share to $70 and Anheuser-Busch was placated. Anheuser-Busch did not have too much hope in actually fending off a hostile takeover (neither shareholders nor analysts were all that impressed with Anheuser-Busch’s take over defense of trimming a $1 Billion in costs), but on the other hand, InBev did not want the negative publicity a hostile takeover would incur. Some quick facts of the deal: the combined company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be based out of Belgium, with its North American headquarters in St. Louis, will be the world’s third-largest consumer products company behind only Procter & Gamble Co. and Nestle SA, and will produce 460 million hectoliters of beer annually (http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iEjUN6uz_03NO_PAWirFXsUkSM4AD91TQB5O0). InBev plans to save $1.5 Billion over the next three years due to “cost synergies” in the deal. Ironically enough $1 Billion of these savings were already laid out in rather detailed plans by Anheuser-Busch to fend off the initial hostile takeover (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/14/business/BEER.php). To top everything off… the deal made The Colbert Report.
The self proclaimed “organic pioneers” have created a barleywine style ale that they say “you’ll be lucky…” to walk away from. Barleywine ales are typically very robust and this is no exception as it weighs in at 10.6% abv. With these types of beers there seems to be a fine line between a complex, well balanced mouthfeel and a pseudo liquor shot with very little beer-like qualities. I tend to shy away from the barleywines because they tend to dance on the side of the latter due to the small amount of flavors created during the brewing process. However, there are some out there that are palatable and I am very happy when I find them.
This beer pours a deep, dirty copper. There is a considerable amount of debris scattered throughout the glass, adding to its haziness. The smell is a mixture of grassiness and pineapple. There is a significant hop presence in the aroma which usually leads to a hop explosion in the mouth. Such is not the case in this instance. There is more of a roasted malt flavor to this beer. The front of the mouth is privy to toasted almonds which evolve into a soft, bready flavor in the back. There is a spiciness that is present at all times but it is more prominent in the middle of the mouth, more specifically on the hard palate up top. There is also a noticeable aftertaste that hearkens back to the initial toasted almonds. All told this beer is quite flavor full and while you can still discern the high abv it isn’t totally overwhelming. You kinda know what you’re getting into from the beginning with this beer so I can’t take off points because I taste alcohol. This is certainly a beer-flavored train racing out of control in route to smashing into your tastebuds. This surely isn’t my favorite beer but I respect it for not trying to hide what it is.
Seems odd that I continue to drink the dark heavy stuff this late into beach season but I keep finding intriguing offerings at the “Blue Light.” Many of you have already read Ben’s review of the hop-bomb that is the Existential Ale so I figured I’d follow his New Holland post with another from their High Gravity Series. If this beer is as big as the aforementioned my taste buds are in for a proverbial a**whooping unlike anything they’ve experienced before.
This beer is the color of the blackest tar you can imagine with a glint of caramel bubbliness skimming the top. It’s as if the folks at New Holland captured a black hole, liquified it and put it in bottle for all to enjoy. The aroma is heavy with dark chocolate and roasted nuts. There is also a biting sweetness, similar in nature to licorice. The flavor is semi sweet and the liquid seems to grow in the mouth. It has a very thick characteristic that makes it impossible to drink quickly (well not impossible, but I doubt you would enjoy hammering off one of these guys). This beer is definitely meant to be enjoyed over an extended period of time. As the taste reaches the back of the mouth the flavors separate and there is a clear distinction between the chocolate and the roasted malt. The aftertaste boasts a sweet cocoa-like quality and rounds out the overall richness of this beer. The presentation of the flavor isn’t as controlled as I would have liked, it has very much of a bang bang feel, also the “size” (abv 10.8%) isn’t masked very well. Some of the balancing issues can’t be helped due to the high alcohol content but I feel this beer is sacrificing taste for size. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just more abrasive than I would have liked. Because of the richness of this beer, I believe if you approach the Night Tripper with cautious enthusiasm you can have a relatively pleasurable experience.
I’m not sure if we can necessarily call this an India Pale Ale – it certainly isn’t labeled that way. But, frankly, I don’t know any other way to label a hop bomb, until we can figure out some new genre that is loaded with hop and malt and isn’t an IPA. This beer has a big ol’ hop bloom embossed on the label, and it’s brewed with 200 lbs of barley and over 1 lb of hops per barrel, loaded in ten strikes through the brewing process.
This beer pours a slightly hazy golden-rose color. The rosiness gives this an especially warm and inviting pour, and there are islands of white head floating on the surface. The aroma of this beer is sweet and floral, with the warmth of sweetbread and a hoppiness that is oh-so-welcome in this day of hop shortages. In the mouth, this beer is equally inviting. The first sensation is a sweet syrupy flavor full of rich malt with hints of pineapple. This is quickly met with a hop blast that is reminiscent of floral Northwestern hops and smacks you in the face pretty hard. However, the large amount of malt in this brew keeps the hop from being overwhelming – rather, the bitterness just rides along on they malty backbone without ever being too shocking or metallic. This has a very big mouthfeel, and feels silky and thick all the way across the tongue. At the back of the mouth, we’re met with a tasty coating throughout the mouth and an aftertaste that is more bitter than sweet, but has hints of all the aforementioned flavors. Basically, this is a very big beer, and in every way. The malt is big, the hops are big, and even the accompanying pineapple citrus flavor is pretty big. The thing that really makes this beer hum is the fact that all of the flavors are so big that they butt heads in a way that keeps any flavor from overtaking the other. In the end, we’re left with a big, well-balanced brew that is super tasty. It’s hard to drink this quickly, and it deserves to be enjoyed slowly. It’s flavor is as big as 3 beers, and the abv is the size of 2 beers (at 10.5%). So, do yourself a favor, buy this beer, and have a good sit down with it for a couple of hours.
It surprises me how much I’ve come to love the He’Brew beers. These guys are from a Jewish brewery, crack a lot of clever Jewish humor on their labels, and further pay respect to Jewish holidays and customs. Now, I’m not Jewish, but I’m really digging what these guys are up to. They incorporate a lot of clever ingredients and brewing techniques into their beers, and they do it in a way that isn’t gimmicky and ties in well to the heart and heritage of the brewery. But, in the end, these guys just make good beer, and that’s what it’s all about. So, I got very excited when I saw the latest He’Brew offering on the shelf, the Rejewvenator – an ale brewed with fig concentrate.
This beer pours a clear dark purplish color that lets in just a bit of light around the periphery of the glass. There is very shortly a bit of head on this beer, but it dwindles down to about the least amount of head I’ve seen on a beer that is actually carbonated. The aroma of this beer is mostly caramel and dark fruit. You can detect the fig here, but it isn’t at all overwhelming. Rather, the predominant factors in the nose are caramel, nuts, and a bit of licorice. In the mouth, this beer is rich and warming. Initially, there is a slightly syrupy flavor that shows hints of fig, dark cherry, and caramel. This sweetness stays in the beer throughout, although it begins to show a bit more nut and anise around the middle of the tongue. The aftertaste of this is all dark fruit, and it’s fairly subdued, sitting lightly in the back of the mouth. The mouthfeel of this beer is one of the big stars – it is full and a bit syrupy, and it coats the mouth front to back, leaving a warm and sweet sensation all around the tongue. This is a very tasty beer, albeit a bit less complex than I’ve gotten from some of the He’Brew beers. However, the flavor that this does present us with is fantastic, and I wouldn’t want it stifled with extra hops or undue malt – it’s good just the way it is. I highly recommend drinking this beer over an extended length of time – it only gets better as it warms.
Apparently we here at SevenPack have “dunkel” on the brain. Ben is posting on the unique French Broad dunkel and here I am drinking a Weyerbacher “double” version. This beer has a lot to live up to ’cause I haven’t had a bad beer from this brewery. This bottle doesn’t have the same cartoonish label art as its counterparts. Instead it dons a hand with sledgehammer graphic and is quite tame. Let’s hope for my sake the beer’s taste doesn’t share the same characteristic.
This beer pours a deep hazy plummish color. The caramel head thins and forms a ring that clings to the glass. It should be noted that my beer is the same color as the one Ben is drinking. I have no idea how he described his beer so if his review is completely different than mine please disregard the last sentence. The aroma is of sweet licorice, with hints of orange and citrusy characteristics. It is quite a peculiar smell, one that doesn’t sound like it would fit well together, but in fact it is delightful. The flavor fills the mouth from the incisors to the premolars and then disappears. I’m not kidding, I feel a coating of flavor on the first part of the mouth and then a clean, crisp, light taste on the last 1/3. I can’t pin down a single sensation that attacks the tastebuds because it seems as if they change with each sip. Sometimes I experience banana, other times cherry, then orange, then lemon and spice. This is a very complex, full-bodied beer and yet it finishes very cleanly. I think this is a good representation of a dunkel with added “stuff” which in my book makes it a great “double dunkel.” It is truly a Slam Dunkel of a beer.
How’s that for a combination – a dark-white ale? Craziness. Matty and I have both had a lot of French Broad beers. We took a little trip to the brewery the last time we were over towards the mountains, and they serve this stuff in a few bars around the Durham/Chapel Hill area. However, we DON’T see much of this in bottles. Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a bottle of this stuff around here. So, I managed to see a big bottle of the Dunkel-Witte on the shelf (with the admittedly boring label you see here) at Sam’s Blue Light. All of French Broad’s brews I’ve had have been good, so I surely picked it up.
This beer pours a very dark brown – almost black. It doesn’t appear to have much debris to it – just a very dark hue. There is, momentarily, a creamy caramel head, but it quickly dissipates to nothing. The aroma of the beer is a little sweet and a little nutty – almost peanut buttery. There are some notable woodsy root aromas here, too. In the mouth, this is an interesting beer. It is much as the aroma would have us expect, and it is very much a dark wheat beer. It has some light sweet notes, and it has some deep rootsy notes. The first taste on the front of the tongue is nutty and lightly bitter, but this quickly moves to a sweet flavor that is still a bit nutty with hints of caramel. On through the mouth, both the nutty and sweet flavors develop in a way that I can only compare to peanut butter, although this doesn’t really taste like peanut butter, per se. The flavor hits a definite peak about the back of the tongue, and then tapers off to a lighter presence as the aftertaste lingers. Throughout this journey, we can also taste a bit of horehound, some smoke, and maybe some light spiciness. Really, this is a great beer. It is complex and very tasty, but it is also refreshing and washes pretty clean – these characteristics don’t often to fall into the same beer. So, I like it a lot – it continues French Broad’s tradition of making tasty big beers.
Hope all of our American Sevenpack readers are having an enjoyable fourth of July. Having just completed some more renovation work, I am going to celebrate the holiday with a Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Old Rusty’s Red Rye Ale (review
coming soonavailable), and a beer or two from a Magic Hat Summer Variety Show 12-Pack (containing #9, Circus Boy, Hocus Pocus, and Odd Nation… reviews to come for the last two beers). Happy 4th everyone.