Archive for October, 2008
I’ve heard about the Peche Mortel in beer circles, but only in passing. Until recently, we didn’t take delivery of any Dieu du Ciel! beers in NC, and so I hadn’t really given them much thought. However, upon opening this beer tonight, I uncharacteristically took a look at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, and I can’t help but notice that this brew has received an A+ and a 100 rating from each site, respectively. That’s a mighty big bit to chew on. When I see reviews like that, I always just get scared that it’ll be a disappointment. Maybe it’s just me.
The Peche Mortel pours a black dark as the night that doesn’t let the least bit of light in. There is, initially, a fair amount of dark creamy head, but this slowly dissipates into small islands floating on the surface of the brew. The aroma of this is super dark and rich – there are elements of coffee, toffee, and a bit of chocolate – you won’t find a much richer scent on a beer. In the mouth, it is immediately apparent that this is a big beer. The first sensation on the tongue is of a rooty, earthy flavor with rich dark malt that coats the mouth. As the beer floats through the mouth, the sweetness and rich bitterness of the beer develops. The sweetness is a contribution of mostly toffee and dark malt flavors. At the same time, there is a rich bitterness that encompasses flavors of coffee and bittersweet chocolates. It seems like these flavors only grow in amplitude through to the back of the mouth, culminating in a huge aftertaste that remains for several seconds after the beer is gone. And, as this beer warms to room temperature, all these flavors only grow, making this a rich cold beer and a bonkers rich warm beer. I must admit, this is a big and delicious beer. In the realm of imperial coffee stouts, I’m afraid that Terrapin and Founders own the twin keys to my heart, and this beer doesn’t change that. This beer is a bit more complex, and contains a larger bitter element. To my simple palate, the more straightforward sweet toffee and chocolate of the Wake N Bake wins out. However, I can’t deny that this beer deserves the accolades that have been heaped on it. It’s expensive, at around $5 for a small bottle, but probably worth splurging on just to see what all the chatter’s about…
Oh yeah, did I mention that this beer’s name is French for “Mortal Sin” – seems tres appropriate for this All Hallow’s Eve, eh?
Who would’ve thought SevenPack would be genuinely interested in writing a real review from AB? By that I mean, not just going through the motions and ultimately putting forth mediocre effort for a mediocre brew. These same sentiments aren’t solely resigned to AB but extend to Miller, Coors and any other brewery that makes beer suitable for beer pong. I will say that this isn’t the first time I’ve had this beer, I was introduced at the preseason Hurricanes hockey game. Ben and I gave it a shot and turns out we actually enjoyed it.
This beer has a clear, clean, copper hue and creates a moderate amount of head. Holy crap it actually smells like something other than plain ‘ol beer. The smell has crisp floral tones and a slight sweetness. The hop characteristics carry over into the taste, which are more noticeable at the front of the mouth. Carbonation is more apparent in the middle of the mouth and seems to take center stage, although it does carry the floral flavors into the nose via the upper palate. I remember this beer having more of a malt backbone than I am experiencing right now, as a matter of fact I’m not picking up on much at all. I get the sense that there is some dark fruit flavor that wants to emerge but for whatever reason they are subdued. I have to tell you, this beer was much better from the tap than from the bottle. I have poured it in one of the Sam Adams specialty glasses but it doesn’t compare to draft (obviously). This beer is light and very drinkable but the carbonation I’m getting right now makes it hard from me to say it has a mild mouthfeel. This does improve as the beer warms. I don’t want to back track on what I’ve already said but along with the warmth I’m getting some “roastiness” in the back of the mouth rather than the mild sweetness I talked about earlier. I’m feeling a little let down right now due to my first experience but upon further reflection I have to give credit where credit is due. This beer has a personality, and thus I have to say good job AB. This can certainly serve as a session beer, so if you’re looking to shake it up at your next tailgate pick up the American Ale instead of the usual “light/lite” option.
Beers of the World, an international consumer beer magazine, announced their World Beer Awards 2008 winners recently. The list of winning beers reviewed here at sevenpack is pretty small and are all Samuel Adams beers, but I thought I would post it up. Congrats to all the winners, hopefully some day we will be able to review some of your award winning creations.
World’s Best Porter
[First seen on Real Beer.com]
Lagunitas generally puts a cute little message on their labeling, for this beer they decided to “spoof” a bible verse. I don’t know the exact book and verses but it is the one that begins, “The Lord is my shepherd…” I’m certainly not offended, although I’m sure some people without a sense of humor could be. In fact, I thought it was kinda funny. I might memorize it and say it to myself as I drink coffee on those early morning bus rides to the hospital. On the off chance that God doesn’t find it amusing, I hope I don’t get struck by lightning for drinking it.
This beer is pretty thick and black as coffee, who knew? Despite its name, this beer smells less like coffee/cappuccino and more like chocolate. It doesn’t have the eye-opening, whole-roasted aroma I’m accustomed to with my morning caffeinated beverage. By the way, I can’t remember ever having a cappuccino, so my preconceived notions about its taste are solely based on my basic coffee experience. Although at this point I kinda feel like I’ve given way too much credence to the name and maybe I should drink the beer and quit with the comparisons. This has a very soft mouthfeel and the chocolate flavors sit nicely on the front of the tongue. There is a bit of carbonation that rises in the back of the mouth that compliments toffee and toasted nut. If you take a breath at just the right time the carbonation sneaks into the nasal cavity and intensifies the backside of the taste. This beer weighs in at 8.29% abv resulting in a subtle presence of the alcohol content throughout the mouth, but rest assured it’s not harsh. I like this beer, a lot. It isn’t on the same level as the Terrapin Wake ‘n Bake (yeah I said it because that’s how I will forever refer to it) or the Founders Breakfast Stout, but that’s asking a lot. As far as I’m concerned this is a really good beer and well worth a try.
P.S. I’m still alive so I guess God CAN take a joke…
This is the final offering from this month’s BOMC package. We actually had a very short review of this blonde ale posted from way back when we first started the website. Suffice to say to didn’t do this beer justice, so we took it down and tonight I’ll give it another go. Of note, according to the bottle’s back label this brewery began only 7 years ago (2001) and has already become a favorite among the folks in the southern portion of Belgium. I know there are a lot of young breweries in the states that would love to have as much success.
This beer is much darker than I would have imagined a blonde ale should be. It is exceptionally murky and the fluffy head rests very lightly on the liquid below. The smell is heavy with citrus and mint. This, unlike the appearance, is more in line with the genre. Just when I thought we were on the right track the beer took a major detour and now has me slightly confused. It’s not that the taste is terribly weird or complex but, again, it isn’t what I expected. There is a citrusy characteristic but it is overshadowed by spice and carbonation. I like my blonde ales light and mildly sweet, with bright citrus notes and a gentle mouthfeel. The spice flavors expand throughout the mouth due to an effervescent quality making the mouthfeel a little harsh. The harshness does mellow as the beer warms but it still still too much for a blonde ale. The aftertaste has a malty stickiness that clings to the back of the throat. Good news is it finishes relatively clean. Much like Ben’s experience with the other Geants brew this one doesn’t fit the genre it has been put in. To me this is more like a triple, although it isn’t quite big enough for that category either. I will agree with Ben’s theory that maybe the differences in styles are merely a result of the brewers interpretation. Overall this is a good beer. It smells and tastes fine but it loses points in my book because it isn’t a real blonde ale.
A few nights ago I reviewed Summtynoses’s version of the pumpkin ale style, tonight I look forward to comparing it Saranac’s interpretation. This Saranac varietal came in our latest BOMC package. It’s very easy to find in these parts during this time of the year…go figure. Both Ben and I have had this beer on multiple occasions as parts of variety packs so I was actually quite surprised it hadn’t been reviewed yet. Truth be told we do drink for pleasure sometimes and chose not to put our thoughts on paper and I guess that is what happened in this case.
This beer appears to have a distinct color variation between top and bottom. The bottom of the glass holds a clear copper liquid, while the top has a much darker, ominous looking tone. The smell is much the same of all pumpkin ales, cinnamon and nutmeg. It isn’t as pronounced as the Smuttynose and it also has a roasted characteristic to it. There doesn’t appear to be a stark contrast from the Smuttynose with respect to taste, just a difference in how the flavors present themselves. A vanilla-ish flavor carries itself throughout the mouth and the carbonation is a little more harsh. Again the spice is not noticed until the middle tongue region. If you’re a fan of pumpkin pie you’ll enjoy this flavor, if not you’ll probably think it is a bit excessive. For beer purist this makes it very difficult to appreciate these specialty/flavored brews. There is little hop presence if any to this beer; thus this pumpkin ale doesn’t finish with the same bitterness as the Smuttynose. If I had to point out a flaw I would say it has a watery characteristic at times but for the most part it is a good beer. This is certainly an appropriate, although a bit gimmicky, addition to this month’s BOMC offerings.
Imagine that, something from Atlanta named Peachtree! Now, I lived in ATL for a while, so I know a few things about that town, and one of them is that there is far too much Peachtree going on down there. Demerit #1, Atlanta Brewing Company. This beer had better be good. But, I jest (sorta) – this is the 2nd entry from our Beer of the Month Club shipment this week….
The Peachtree Pale pours a slightly hazy deep golden color with a sparse head. In the nose, this is full of light tangy malts – it’s actually reminiscent of a rye beer judging from the malt aromas. In the mouth, this is a pretty tasty pale ale. There are mostly malt flavors with just a hint of hop. Again, it’s an interesting malt – quite tangy. If someone handed this to me, I’d really thing it was a rye beer, as the malt is light and sweet up-front, and suddenly jumps into a tangy sharp flavor. Honestly, it’s an interesting and fairly complex pale ale. However, it could also serve well as a session beer. Full flavored and complex, but clean and crisp. Not bad at all, even if it is named Peachtree. Definitely buy this if you’re no longer finding your Sierra Nevadas interesting – it’ll provide an interesting divergence in the form of a tasty brew with some bite.
It’s that time of the month, folks – in a good way. Today, the DHL delivery-person showed up at the door with another tasty batch of Beer of the Month Club beer! This month, we have a good looking offering of two beers from Brasserie des Geants, a seasonal pumpkin ale from Saranac, and a pale ale from so-and-so (I’ll let you know as soon as I get back to the fridge)… First off, I want to start with the saison ale from Brasserie des Geants. I just had a saison last night that knocked my socks off, so I’m craving a bit more.
The Voisin is mighty dark for a saison! It’s a very deep golden color with some dark ruby hints about it. The head is still mostly white, but just a tad darker than I’d expect. In the nose, this is fairly non-descript. You can sense some darker malts, but the pungent citrus and sourness just isn’t there. There is just a BIT of sourness, but it’s minimal so far as saison ales go. The taste of this is akin to the aroma – fairly non-descript. There is a bit more sourness here than the aroma belies, although there isn’t too much citrus and definitely no lemon zest sweetness to speak of. Rather, we get a light sourness and lots of earthy dark flavors. This certainly isn’t a bad beer. It’s musty, pretty flavorful, and fairly light on the mouthfeel, making it fairly refreshing. The only strange thing is how little it resembles a typical saison. According to the bottle, however, this is an old Belgian saison ale recipe from 1884. So, this could be a regional difference (since most saisons are French), or it could just be a sign of an old and less creative recipe. Regardless, I’d say this is an interesting and tasty, but not representative, saison ale.
This beer has been sitting in my fridge for a while, which isn’t the best way to treat a saison ale. Furthermore, I don’t know why I allowed this to happen – I’ve been saison crazy for the last year. Maybe I just overkilled. Dunno. Anyway, I’m finally getting this thing out before it’s too late. I was a bit worried – the cork didn’t look great and there was excess debris in the neck of the beer – but everything looks and smells okay, so let’s go for it.
“The Blackbird”, as “La Merle” is translated in English, pours a hazy light golden color that almost glows in the light. There is a lot of dense debris here with a thin white head that sticks around for ages and ages, giving the beer a pillowy soft quality as it enters the mouth. The aroma of this is sour and citrusy with some nice hints of lemon zest sweetness. It’s not an especially pungent saison, but it’ll give you a decent nose-full. In the mouth, this beer, as I mentioned before, has an especially soft and silky mouthfeel. There is a lively effervescence to the beer, and it quickly coats the tongue and mouth. The flavor here is a great balance of sweet and sour. There are elements of lemon drop sweet flavors, sweet malty bits, and a strong citrus sourness. Altogether, it kinda makes you want to pucker up, but is well-balanced enough that it pulls you back before you look funny in front of company. I gotta be honest – this is one of the best saisons I’ve had in ages. The perfect balance of sweet and sour, soft and effervescent is just delightful. The flavor is strong, but not overbearing. The aftertaste sticks with you and makes you anxiously await the next sip. This is an especially great saison for anyone who is new to the genre, as it’s very forgiving and lacks the pungent sourness of some of the variety. Frankly, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to open this – I fear it’s now gone from store shelves and I really want to stock up!
Ben and I had the opportunity to attend a “talk” given by Peter Egelston, owner of Smuttynose, and Rick Tufts, co-owner of Triangle Brewing Co at the most recent World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. Both of these gentlemen make some pretty dang good beers and it was interesting to see their different perspectives related to brewing philosophy and marketing. Mr. Egelston has been at this a little longer than Rick, by about 20 years, so he has certainly seen the bleakest of microbrewing times and I’m glad he and his company are still around to enjoy the recent boom. Thankfully, Smuttynose is now distributing throughout NC because until recently I haven’t had any of their beers. I promptly bought their 12 bottle variety pack, in which I could not find a bad brew. Ben has reviewed all of them except the pumpkin ale so check the archives if you’re interested.
Pumpkin ales can be hit or miss, but as I’ve already said above, this one is right on the money. It has cloudy orange-amber hue with a fluffy white head that sits on the top like whipped cream on a pie. No doubt fitting given the style. It smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. Not a lot of pumpkin there, but enough to evoke Thanksgiving nostalgia. There isn’t a lot of sweetness to the taste. The spices take center stage after they cross the first 1/3 of the tongue. Before that there is no flavor to speak of, only noticeable carbonation. The cinnamon tickles the tongue and the top of the mouth. I’m picking up a bit of vanilla as well resulting in a light creaminess. There is a mild floral undertone that rounds out the overall flavor and leaves subtle bitterness in the mouth. This beer gets better as it warms so if you start drinking it and think I’m way off base give it a little time. I must mention again that I think this beer is quite delightful and delicious. There nothing complex about this beer but it’s nice to be able to appreciate how well the flavors mesh together. This is the seasonal addition to the variety pack so grab it soon or you may have to wait until next year.
You can’t order a buritto at a Mexican restaraunt without adding this beer to your tab and, if you do, you are making a HUGE mistake. The Negra Modelo is a staple in “El or Los (fill in the blank)” eateries across the nation and there is good reason for it. This beer pours a deep copper, almost brown hue with no notable sediment. It smells delightfully sweet, malty and with a touch of dark fruit. The taste is oh so clean, crisp and smooth. Despite its dark style, this beer is surprisingly light and exceedingly drinkable. There is a cool, sweet berry likeness associated with the taste that evolves into a malty goodness that all but screams to be enjoyed over and over again. The carbonation presence is more apparent at the front of the mouth and then mellows towards the back. Aftertaste? Is sweet and enjoyable but who cares? Any aftertaste presumed to be there should be covered up by meat, cheese, floured “accoutrement”, sour cream, guac, or any combination there of. The most impressive thing about this beer is it is excellent when paired with any Spanish/Latin style cuisine, but it can also be enjoyed alone. You can’t go wrong with a Negra Modelo on any occasion, and that my friends is an understatement.
Sometimes a beer falls through the cracks here at SevenPack – often it’s one of those beers that is so commonplace in the fridge that we simply assume that someone has reviewed it when, in fact, everyone else was assuming the same thing (and you know what happens when you assume, right?). The Modelo beers are just such a phenomenon. You’ll often find both the Especial and the Negra in the fridges here at SevenPack central, primarily because a) it’s pretty good, b) it comes in a sweet bottle, and c) it’s usually on sale for $10.99/12-pack at the Harris Teeter (hey, we can’t drink the expensive stuff EVERY night – just most nights, to the detriment of our checking accounts). Anyway, we’re going to take care of this discrepancy – me on the Especial and Matty on the Negra.
The Especial pours a dark golden color, as is evidenced without even pouring it into a glass, as it handily comes in a clear bottle. There is no noticeable head on the beer, just a thin white coating that is of no major consequence. The aroma of this lager is beer-y, nothing more. It smells like a brewery or a frat house on the morning after. It’s a smell that, until you’re about 18, is disgusting. But, once you realize just what a great thing beer really is, this aroma becomes pretty darn endearing. In the mouth, this is a pretty standard lager, but quite flavorful when compared to other domestic or Mexican varieties. It has a pretty full mouthfeel for a lager, coating the mouth with a crisp, but just slightly viscous liquid. There is a decent beer-y flavor here – akin to what you’d expect from any other lager (even a bit Pilsnerish). The characteristic that I like about this beer is that it adds a bit of sweetness to the mix. The sweetness is refined and simple – almost just like someone added a packet of Splenda to the beer. I know, it sounds a little weird, but this sweetness takes the edge off the inevitable sour off-flavor that can occasionally throw a lager off-kilter. This sweetness is especially evidenced towards the back of the tongue and then into the aftertaste, leaving a relatively clean feel to the mouth while retaining flavor for a few seconds after the beer is gone. Overall, I think this is a great lager for the money. Between this and Moosehead, you’ll see a fair amount of my economical-lager-fund spent. However, I must admit, you’ll want to drink it pretty cold, as it doesn’t stand up well to loss of carbonation and room temperature. But, then again, what lager really does taste good warm and flat? I can’t think of any…
I tell you what, folks. It’s cold in Durham tonight. I mean, like, sub-arctic 45 degrees cold. I don’t relish the onslaught of winter weather, but it does remind me of growing up over in the mountains of NC and that first frost of winter. So, in that vein, it seemed fitting to reach for a brew from Asheville, NC to warm me up this evening, and it just so happens that the Clawhammer Oktoberfest is the lucky winner.
The Clawhammer pours a medium amber color – really more golden than amber – with a thin and slightly off-white head. The aroma of this beer is mostly malty, with a buttery, almost pretzelish, scent to it. In the mouth, this is a sweet and spicy Oktoberfest that, I must say, is one of the better Oktoberfest brews I’ve had this year. In the front of the mouth, we get a lot of malty sweetness. As this sweetness progresses, it gets a bit spicier with hints of those autumn spices that I know not the names for – reminiscent of tasty desserts and colors like orange and brown (or maybe that’s just me). Anyway, this does have some richer buttery elements to it that gives it more of a dessert-like quality. However, it tends to wash pretty clean, like any good lager. All around, this is a flavorful and refreshing Oktoberfest, meeting my expectations of a beer that would come from a town such as Asheville. Highly recommended, I think you’ll be hard up to find a better Oktoberfest than this, judging from those I’ve tasted thus far…
I have recently returned from a few different trips. One trip was car camping in Mount Desert Island, Maine (think Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor), the second trip was a vacation up in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada and the third trip was an overnight camping trip in the White Mountains. All the trips were excellent and all the trips allowed me to sample new beers!
I think one sign of being a beer nerd is walking into an establishment that sells beer, either corner store as in Mount Desert Island, or government store as in the NSLC of Nova Scotia, and being excited at what one might find. I definitely felt some excitement as I scanned the aisles looking for logos I did not recognize (unfortunately my name recall is not the best, so I tend to base a lot of new beer purchases based off logo. Let that be a lesson to brewers to come up with new and interesting label art!). I did find some beers I had yet to try, nonetheless heard of, and in the coming weeks I hope to start writing up my reviews of all the beers I was able to bring home.
I think my travel experience is also a great testament on how the craft brewing business has grown. None of the places I visited were all that far from home, but I was still able to find new beers and not be inundated by the same five or six beer brands. This great diversity of craft brewing gives the brewing business a certain regional factor again. Now yes, some craft brewers have distribution in many states, and that is great. I just think it is great to be able to find a brewer brewing for the local area. The downside to the local brewery is finding a really good beer from said local brewery while vacationing and then not being able to get the beer again until you revisit the area. More reason to savor the beer while you can, I guess.
Finally, I would like to mention the brewery I visited after my camping trip in the White Mountain region of North Woodstock, NH. North Woodstock is home to the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, and to celebrate a successful camping trip, our group decided to pop in for a bite to eat and drink. Along with great food and wonderful service (being a gorgeous Columbus weekend the place was packed, but they were still able to seat us, outside, within ten minutes of arrival and the food came promptly after ordering), they had some excellent beers. I had their stout on cask (I can not pass up a stout on cask), and my wife had their fall seasonal Autumn Ale Brew.
When I think of Fall seasonal beer, pumpkins instantly pop into my head (I actually have a pumpkin beer review waiting in the wings). Not this beer. This beer had aromas and tastes of apple and cinnamon. Now I only had a sip of the beer, so I will not go into a full review, but the beer had a certain cider aspect to it at the front, which progressed to a nicely rounded malt-cinnamon combination. I was thoroughly impressed with my sampling, and my wife enjoyed the rest of the beer immensely. The Autumn Ale Brew was an interesting take on a Fall seasonal, and I salute them for doing it.
Woodstock Brewery does have a few bottle options, with decent distribution through New England (I will try to get some reviews up at some point). To get the seasonal though,
you need to hit up the Inn [check the comments for an update on this statement... i.e. I was wrong]. If you are in North Woodstock, NH in the next few weeks, I would recommend a stop.