Archive for September, 2008
Matt - September 28, 2008
I’m out the loop on this one, in multiple ways. First of all this was a summer seasonal and I didn’t see it until mid-September and secondly who the hell is Frank Zappa? A quick google search lead me to wikipedia and while there is a ton of information I still don’t know anymore about the man than I did yesterday. I know this is part of Lagunitas’ shtick, being completely random, but at the moment I am just annoyed. This beer was brewed in honor of his (and his band, Mothers of Invention’s) 4th album, We’re Only in it for the Money. While the vast majority of the label art is weird and nonsensical, the very bottom right corner tells me all I need to know. This is a Belgian Triple and now I am a little excited.
I wish I would have known this was a triple before I poured it because I would have chosen different, more appropriate glassware. Fortunately I used the Sam Adams “super glass” so in theory it is releasing the most amount of flavor. Nonetheless I like my triples out of a goblet but oh well. This beer is darker than most triples and it would appear it has been filtered. I’m a little confused right now. I’m smelling oranges wrapped in hops and that smells good. The taste is much more complex and now I’m actually starting to enjoy this experience. There is a pepperiness that accompanies the carb burn that attacks the palate. These flavors then round into a sweet liquorice-like and dark fruit taste. The sweetness reopens and morphs into floral bitterness, then travels down the throat. The aftertaste is biscuity and has a thick, honey consistency. Right now I am both impressed and confused. There’s a lot going on here but there’s no rhyme or reason for it. In short the flavor is mismanaged and, while I like a complex brew, this one’s not for me.
Matt - September 27, 2008
It was a sad day at sevenpack.net when our Beer of the Month Club (BOMC) membership ran out. One day out of every month an angel would come to our house as Ben and I waited with bated breathed to accept that beautiful brown box of liquid goodness. And then “her” visits stopped and we wept…not really. Apparently the BOMC folks liked what we were doing because out of the blue our angel showed up again. That means Ben and I are privy to 12 more months of bliss and you have the fortunate pleasure to read what we think about each month’s selections…everyone’s a winner.
This month the BOMC sent out the Celis White, McAuslan Pale Ale, McAuslan Oatmeal Stout, and the BBC Dark Star Porter. At first glance this looks like another great batch of beer. A chance to get a beer the likes of the Celis White is reason enough to become a member but history suggests almost all of the beers sent out are dang good. Visit the BOMC website and give it a try yourself.
The St-Ambroise Pale Ale originated in Montreal, Canada and is distributed by McAuslan Brewing Inc. They’ve been creating craft brews on a professional level since 1989 and according to their website have won several awards both at home and abroad. This beer pours clear and clean with a generous amount of head. I would say this beer has a copper hue but it could be argued that the tint is a bit lighter than my description would suggest. I expected a floral aroma but instead I’m experiencing sweet bread and plum. There is an earthiness to the smell but it is very subtle. The taste is more characteristic of a pale ale as the hop presence melts down the sides of the tongue and a bitter, mustiness rises to the top of the mouth then clings to the upper palate. Bready flavors cut the sharpness of the taste and creates a rather smooth mouthfeel. This beer is very drinkable and quite tasty, a good start to this month’s batch.
Dave - September 25, 2008
Chow.com has an interview with Russian River Brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo, which people may find interesting. Though short, the interview does discuss his use of Brett in his beers.
We have two Russian River beer reviews here at sevenpack, Salvation and Damnation. Hopefully we will be able to add to that list in the future.
[Interview via: The Brew Site]
Matt - September 22, 2008
Before I get started, here’s a public service announcement for those of you living in the Durham area. Sam’s Blue light has a wonderful deal on the Weyerbacher Blanche, $9.99 for a case!!! Do yourself a favor.
Incidentally, they also have this beer so if all goes well with the review you might want to pick this one up as well. This is a Presidential Pale Ale brewed to commemorate the inauguration of our next president on January 20th, 2009 in the year of our Lord. Avery has committed to keeping the new Prez well stocked so that he can focus on bettering our nation both at home abroad. Thus, at this very moment you will be happy to know I have decided to throw my proverbial hat into the political arena with Ben running as my VP. Vote Matt on Nov. 4, please!
Ahh the site of an Avery beer warms my heart and entices my palate. These guys know how to brew and I can’t imagine they would come up short seeing as this is associated with the Commander-in-Chief. It has a hazy, copper appearance although I can’t discern any debris. A thin, creamy ring of head dawns the top like the halo on an angel. The smell is hoptastic, earthy and floral-esque. These characteristics continue as hoppiness abounds throughout the mouth. Hops and carbonation tickle the tongue and rise to the top of the palate. The malt brings a sweetness to the fold but it only serves to buffer the hops. Despite its apparent “flavor size” the overall mouthfeel is very soft. This beer is very well balanced and, since I’m a hophead, quite delicious. I really like this beer, really want more of it, and now want to be elected President so I can have as much as my body can handle at no charge.
Dave - September 21, 2008
Hey guys. Magic Hat recently gave us at SevenPack the opportunity to review a couple of their newer brews. They sent a couple of lovely packages to both SevenPack Central here in Durham and our satellite office up in Boston, including both this, the Participation Lager, and their Jinx ale. To thank them for their generosity, we’re doing a couple of joint reviews from the whole SevenPack crew. Enjoy!
I gave this beer a nice steady pour into my pint glass and I was rewarded with a clear, golden bodied lager with a solid finger of white head. Lots of small bubbles coursed through the beer’s body, which meant during the majority of the tasting there was close to a quarter of an inch of head, that seemed to climb the glass walls. Only towards the very end of the beer did the head recede to a thin covering.
The nose of the beer was of grain and cereal. Really not much going on in the aromas for me. The mouth was a slightly different story. Though the grain taste was prominent, I noticed some light malt sweetness, and hints of black pepper at the back of the mouth. I also noticed a subtle fruit note as the sampling progressed.
I would not qualify myself as a big lager drinker but I could definitely see myself picking this one up. It was not overly complex but it was nicely balanced with some interesting characteristics and I was sad to see the bottle finished.
I poured this brew gently into my miniature British pint glass (had to leave enough for Matt to review it), presenting me with a slightly cloudy golden color and a very thin ring of head around the sides of the glass. In the nose, this is mostly malt, slightly sweet and very bready. The taste of this brew is pretty by-the-book lager. There is a lot of bready malt flavors, and a decent hop backbone. I’d say the hop presence here is slightly more than I’m accustomed to in most American lagers, and that’s not a bad thing. There is also a musty flavor that, combined with the fairly high carbonation of the beer, makes for a nice mouthfeel – it’s peppy but coats the tongue well, leaving a good hop bitterness for quite some time after the beer has made it’s way to the gut. All in all, a pretty good lager, and one of my preferred Magic Hat brews. A bit bigger than something like, say, Moosehead, and along the same price points. A well executed brew, indeed.
I won’t bore you with the appearance, I haven’t read the Ben and Dave’s post but I seriously doubt I would have anything to add. It smells semi-sweet, bready and clean. There is nothing outstanding about the taste. The “flavor” seems to wash over the front of the tongue without initiating a taste response. Maybe my tastebud synapsi (?) aren’t firing on all cylinders but I got nothing until it crossed the middle. Here the malt takes center stage giving way to a bitter, hoplike encore. This is a crisp, clean brew; could be enjoyed at length if the mood hits you just right. It is certainly a step above the macrobrew lagers but don’t expect this to knock your socks off. Also, keep in mind that this is just my opinion, again I haven’t read my counterparts’ reviews so they may think I am way off base. In the end it comes down to who’s opinion you respect more, but let’s be honest, we all know it is mine.
Okay, this is the 2nd day of some brewery pretending to be someone else. In this case, Pyramid Brewing out of Seattle has decided to be Buffalo Bill’s Brewing Company for this Pumpkin ale. I mean, I understand the idea, but these days I associate this too much with Anheuser-Busch and all of their craft-beer wannabes. Did it work out that well for them? Do you really need to do it? Pyramid? Really? You’re a pretty well respected brewery, and I’m not sure that this is necessary. At any rate, I’ll review it…
So, it’s the first pumpkin ale of the year for me, and it pours the expected dark golden color with a bit of amber thrown in. In the nose this is, well, quite pumpkin-y. It’s actually more along the pumpkin pie line, with heavy notes of cinnamon and holiday spice. In the mouth, this beer is just what it claims to be – full o’ pumpkin. Again, it contains a lot of cinnamon and spice that places this squarely in the pumpkin pie category. In fact, the spice is pronounced enough that I don’t get much else from this beer. It’s hard to say how I feel about this. It is a tasty beer, without a doubt. And, when you consider that it claims to be a pumpkin beer, we can’t fault it for having so much pumpkin flavor. However, I do feel like there are pumpkin ales out there that are altogether tastier and more refined, although they may contain less of the actual pumpkin flavor. So, I don’t know. If you like a pumpkin pie, and you want a beer that tastes just like pumpkin pie, then you’ll love this. However, if you’re into subtlety and want just a touch of pumpkin in your pumpkin beer, then steer clear of this one…
Howdy y’all. Frankly, I haven’t seen a lot of new Unibroue beers out there recently. Not that this has stopped me from drinking them – I always love a good Don de Dieu or Trois Pistoles (which I see we haven’t yet reviewed. wtf?). Anyway, I was psyched to see this new commemorative beer down at Sam’s Blue Light.
This beer pours a very light golden with lots of dense debris and little islands of white foam on the head. In the nose, it’s mostly sweet and citrusy, and I have a feeling there is some wheat malt in there. It is a very pleasant aroma – strong but fleeting, and I’ll bet this would be killer on a sunny day. In the mouth, there are layers of sweetness. Initially, there’s a sharp citrus zest on the tongue. As this travels through the mouth, we’re hit with a stronger candi sugar sweetness. However, running underneath all of this is the light bready malt sweetness from the wheat. All of these provide a different sensation, making for a sweet and strong, but pleasant, beer. In the aftertaste, we mostly get the candi sugar and citrus components. There really isn’t much hop to speak of here – it’s pretty much different varieties of sweet rolling together into a very good and refreshing brew. I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out what kind of beer this is. As usual, Unibroue just calls this an “Ale on Lees” which tells us nothing. Judging from the color and the wheaty flavors, I’d say this is a unique Belgian witbier. However, there are also some aspects of a tripel here. Either way, it’s a delicious and flavorful beer. It also has a silky but slightly syrupy mouthfeel that really appeals to me about now. This is an excellent addition to Unibroue’s offerings – I hope it sticks around.
This is a beer that recently appeared on shelves here in NC. Contrary to what you may think when you see the bottle (which, btw, is very tastefully decorated), this is actually brewed by Thomas Creek. It seems that Thomas Creek got wise and improved their marketing a bit. I’ve never been a fan of their bottle art in the past, but I love the colors and simplicity of this bottle. Also, this appears to be a beer that is attempting to take advantage of the eco-friendly thrust of the past months. While I can see no indication of exactly HOW they may be ‘earth friendly’, the bottle sure has an ‘earthy’ tone to it. But, regardless of any gimmicks, I can assure you that they’ve put together an excellent pale ale here.
This ale pours a deep golden color with a slight white head. In the nose, this is heavily hopped with some notes of grapefruit. In the mouth, this beer is big and flavorful. Again, there is a lot of big floral hop with hints of grapefruit citrus. In any other situation, you might mistake this for an IPA. However, the decent level of malt backbone sets this apart, making for a very hoppy but well-balanced brew. In addition to all these flavors, there is a note of evergreen pine flavoring to this – it’s subtle but evident, and gives this an interesting note. All through the mouth, these flavors co-mingle, and it goes down the throat leaving just a hop aftertaste that is subtle and sweet. Altogether, this is great beer. It is a bit overpriced when compared to other comparable pale ales. But, it is good, and it is hefty at 7.3% abv. So, I’ll leave it up to you. It’s a premium price for a beer that is also premium, but only slightly moreso than other less-expensive beers. It’ll be great for the uppity hippy hopheads out there…
I’m standing by my previous claims that Clipper City beers have some serious cojones. I absolutely love their Heavy Seas series. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever had any of their beers outside of this series. Every one of the Heavy Seas beers pushes the limits of its chosen genre. But, they’re also tastefully made with care, instead of just throwing massive amounts of ingredients at an imperial ale. So, basically, I’m impressed – big beers that are both adventurous and sophisticated – that’s what I’d call Clipper City’s Heavy Seas brews…
I notice that Clipper City is moving away from the naming customs on this particular doppelbock. In case you didn’t know, a doppelbock should traditionally end with “-ator”, like “terminator” or “eliminator”. But, I’m guessing that if it’s a wheat version of a doppelbock, then we must get a pass, ’cause Clipper City surely wouldn’t have such liberties with such an established tradition. Anyway, on with the brew.
This beer pours a very dark, chocolatey brown color. There is some obvious debris, but not so much that you can’t see through this in front of a light. There is some thin caramel head to this, but it dissipates quickly and is no predominant presence. In the nose, the first sensation is a spicy yeast, which is certainly unexpected given the color. In addition, there is some powerful sweetness reminiscent of dark fruit, primarily grape. There is some bready richness here, but it is subdued in the scent and you have to look for it. In the mouth… flavor explosion. This is certainly a big beer, and that’s no surprise. However, the scope and size of the flavor surprises me. Early on the tongue, my first impression is of how thick and syrupy the mouthfeel is – quite silky. Also, there isn’t any major flavor at first, but this quickly changes as a dark grape and cherry explosion takes place about the middle of the tongue. This bunch of fruit goodness is joined by some heavy yeast flavors reminiscent of a good dunkelweizen, but understandably exaggerated. Really, the rich malt never rears it’s head here, and there isn’t any noticeable bitterness. What we have is a beer that is rich with fruity sweetness in the flavor, but with a thick and silky mouthfeel reminiscent of a big, dark doppelbock or stout. You can get some chocolate and toffee, especially in the aftertaste, but what really strikes me is just how much dark fruit comes out of such a ‘different’ looking beer. This is an excellent showing by Clipper City. It’s not a cheap beer at around $10 for a 4/pack, but it’s huge in flavor and big on content at 10% abv, and I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t try it out.
Honestly, the only reason I picked up this beer is because it is from Boone, a place near and dear to my heart. I spent many a day of my adolescence scraping down the slopes of Boone trying to be the next X-Gamer. Unfortunately, I later learned that A) I ain’t all that on a snowboard and B) Sugar Mountain is pretty dang small. Oh well, it’s still a cool town, and I’m very happy to support the local breweries.
This ale pours a dark golden color with just hints of ruby when the light hits it just right. The head on this is slim and white and floats around in tiny islands on the surface of the beer. The aroma here is quite rich with hints of maple. In the mouth, this seems to be a rich version of a traditional amber ale. The beer initially seems light and smooth in the front of the mouth, but the flavor quickly heightens with flavors of maple, brown sugar, and dark sweetbread. In addition, towards the back of the mouth, we get some light hints of licorice and just a bit of hop bitterness. This is actually a very rich and very tasty amber ale. It is rich, sweet, and bitter, all in turn. I can’t actually recall what this beer costs, but I feel like it’s less than $8 for the six-pack and, at that price, it tastes more expensive than it is. I believe this is currently the only packaged offering from the Boone Beer Company, but it says great things about the brand, and I’m hoping this takes off so we can see what they do with some more adventurous genres!
Bell’s, Bell’s, Bell’s. Y’all make some pretty sweet beers, and I just keep buying ‘em.
The Lager of the Lakes pours about like a lager should – it’s a crystal clear light golden (actually a bit lighter than most lagers) with a nearly non-existent head. The aroma of this is quite malty and a little bit sour. In the mouth, this is a pretty straightforward lager. There is some carbonation on the front of the tongue that leads into some malt that is meaty and a little bit sweet. Through the mouth, the richness of the malt develops a bit more, and there is a decent complement of hop bitterness. The flavor of this, the meaty malt and the hop bitterness, seems to build and build through the back of the mouth, culminating right at the back of the throat and then dissipating at a moderate pace after the swallow. It’s interesting how this beer looks lighter than most lagers but actually tastes a bit bigger than most. More than meets the eyes, I suppose. So, all in all, this is a lager. It’s a pretty good lager, and pretty big, but I just have difficulty getting TOO excited about a lager. However, make no mistake, this would be a a tasty daily drinker. For my money, though, I’d settle for a cheaper beer of comparable quality like Moosehead (I do love those Canadian lagers)…
Hefeweizens, specifically those from the folks at Franziskaner, were probably my gateway into ‘good beer culture’. When in Germany, and subsequently in the States, I would seek out Franziskaner brews like a pig after truffles. That got me started figuring out a few other genres, and the disease quickly spread over the next several years until, now, when I’ve probably enjoyed over 1000 different beers in my day. So, needless to say, there’s a special place in my heart for these brews. Whenever I spot a new one, I gotta try it… Immediately. So, I found the Miltenberger at Brawley’s in Charlotte, NC during a recent visit and made a quick impulse by.
The Miltenberger pours a lovely light golden color full of fine, dense debris and a thick, pillowy white head that sticks around for quite some time after the pour. The aroma of this brew is light and sweet. It is almost flowery in it’s sweet subtleness, but contains light tints of citrus, as well. In the mouth, this beer is a pleasure beginning to end. At the tip of the tongue, there’s a tiny carbonation burn that’s just enough to give this beer a little pizazz. On through the mouth, the citrus develops slowly into a subtle but tasty flavor that is almost like a lemon drop. It gets all the great bits of sweet citrus zest without any of the sour rind. Furthermore, this beer has a silky smooth mouthfeel that coats the tongue and walls of the mouth, really spreading the flavor around. Down the throat, this beer hits us once more with a big burst of lemon zest and some flavors of yeast before going down the throat, the flavor gradually diminishing during the next several seconds. The flavor of this one is akin to the Wittekerke, which I early dubbed the “world’s best beach beer”. Well, Wittekerke will hold onto that title only because it comes in a can. However, I really think the Miltenberger takes the cake for flavor. It’s delicious, subtle, and has no negatives for me. I DO think there are better hefes out there, but this is the best I’ve had in many months.
This is part of the Terrapin Side Project series. I believe the last “side project” offering I wrote about was the Hop Shortage Ale. If memory serves me correctly, I liked it. This beer is a combination of the roggen and rauch styles hence the very unique and innovative name. Here’s a little German lesson for you; roggen means rye, rauch means smoke and bretzel means bread pretzel (you’re welcome). For those of your that are a little slow essentially we have a rye/smoke beer. I don’t have a firm handle on it either but I trust the folks at Terrapin so I’m giving this beer the benefit of the doubt.
This beer looks very interesting. It has a brown hue that lightens from top to bottom. As per the name it smells kinds smokey but not ashtray smokey, more roasted nut smokey. I expected a slight bacon/beef-like quality as well but this beer seems to be more subdued than some. Truth be told there is also a malty sweetness that follows the smokiness into the nostrils. This characteristic carries over into the taste as well. The flavor is quite smooth with scant meatiness. The sweet, bready flavor arises in the front of the mouth and then morphs into carbon flavoring. The smoke is more pronounce as the beer warms but not so much that it attacks the tastebuds. To this point I have enojoyed this beer but the thing that put it over the top for me is that it doesn’t have a disgusting, ashy aftertaste. As a matter of fact there is more of a malty aftertaste that washes away the smoke flavor. This isn’t a beer I would drink on a regular basis but it is unique and drinkable. I urge the folks at Terrapin to keep making beers on the side.
I won’t lie to you – this beer is mad suspect. I assume it is of the Oktoberfest genre, and I know it’s from Shmaltz, who generally makes an excellent brew. But, it also pours a cloudy blood-red hue with no head and claims to have an abv of “6.66%”. Honestly, seems a bit gimmicky, but I’ll of course not judge a beer by it’s cover. Let’s give it a taste…
The aroma of this beer is rather sweet – there is some sweet malt and spice here, but I’m also getting some interesting berry tints. In the mouth, this beer is mostly rich malt and spice. All through the mouth we get dark, rich flavors of sweet malt. There is some mild bitterness here, mostly of the rootsy and metallic variety, and it hits around the center of the tongue, continuing on into the aftertaste where it sticks to the back of the tongue. Riding along periodically with the malt, we get some doses of spice. I’m having some difficulty placing the spice, but it is mildly reminiscent of the desserts and spiced breads you expect around the autumn and winter seasons. I’m not really getting much of the berry flavors in this beer – maybe just a bit of dark cherry – which leads me to wonder if I’m not swayed by the color of this beer to think I’m smelling something that’s not there. Honestly, this isn’t either a great or bad beer. It’s good, and I’d say about par for the course of Oktoberfest beers I’ve had thus far this year (those are limited to this and Sam Adams). To be perfectly honest, the color of this beer really throws me off, and Matt seems to agree. It freaks you out initially (thus the name), it manages to taint my expectations a bit, and I can’t help but feel it makes the beer feel a bit artificial. So, while I respect the gimmick, this would’ve been a better experience for me if we’d done without that little touch.
I’ve been hearing about Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! for quite some time now. I’ve always known them to make beers that are adventurous, hard to find, and highly revered. So, when I happened upon 2 of their bottle beers in limited availability down here at the Blue Light, I had to pick ‘em up (even though I really paid to much – c’est la vie). The first of these is one I was not familiar with – the Route des Epices, a rye ale brewed with peppercorns. Very interesting.
This ale pours a deep chocolatey brown with a thin caramel head with all sizes of bubbles circling around the top of the beer. In the nose, this isn’t very spicy or rye-y. Rather, the aroma is all big and rich, with lots of chocolate and caramel, leading me to believe this is going to be a super-rich beer. The first flavor of this beer is, indeed, very rich. We get a ton of caramel, good doses of chocolate, a bit of dark cherry and grape, and some nutty bitterness to round it out. This richness is also met with a nice malt backbone, giving this a big velvety mouthfeel to meet the rich flavors. On through the mouth, however, this beer gets VERY interesting. It eventually washes pretty clean in the mouthfeel, not leaving too much noticeable residue on the tongue. However, the beer then plays a magic trick as the peppercorns spring to life and start to tingle all over the tongue. All of a sudden there is a great deal of peppery spiciness and the beer absolutely springs to life with this tingling sensation that sticks around for several seconds, not really dissipating before your next sip of the beer, ‘causing the rich malt to wash away the spice and then quickly rekindle itself. This is a very unique beer, and the first time I’ve had a brew with peppercorns. I won’t say it’s the tastiest daily drinker in the world, but it is really good and completely worth trying out – it’s probably the most sensory experience I’ve ever gotten out of a beer.