Archive for May, 2009
So, I lied. I complained about the Beer of the Month Club earlier, and the fact that they sent dark beers in the middle of summer here in NC. But, then, I opened the porter they sent. I opened it with an air of, “Oh, I guess I’d better get this out of the way.” However, now that I’m drinking it, it’s very very tasty. So tasty, in fact, that I’m about to instantly open another. But, before I do that, here’s a bit about it.
The State Pen pours a very dark brown that seems almost black until you hold it to the light, where it reveals some brown around the edges of the glass. The head is dense and caramel-colored, forming a thin cake over the surface of the beer. The aroma of this is very full of coffee, with some sweet toffee hints that complement it very well. And, onto the taste. This is not an ‘in your face’ porter. Rather, it starts out rather calm and quenching. The mouthfeel is fairly thin, so it tends to skate through the mouth. However, about the time this beer hits the middle of the tongue, a mild malty sweetness begins to rise, coupled with some subtle (but apparent) hints of coffee. This flavor rises and falls as the beer flows towards the back of the mouth, briefly joined by some richer breadier flavor. Finally, the beer goes down the throat and leaves you with little more than some coffee on the tongue, akin to the aftertaste from a rich iced coffee. The beauty of this beer is that it isn’t so strong or overbearing – it’s a light porter, but very flavorful. It is fresh and quenching for the genre, but offers some great darker flavors. So, apologies to BOMC, this is actually a great summer porter – I certainly didn’t expect it.
Third up this month, the Beer of the Month Club sent us another beer from Lion Brewery that I never knew existed. This one is an imperial pilsner – a beer with a lot of potential!
This pours a fairly clear golden, though it is apparent that there is some very fine debris, giving this a lightly cloudy appearance. There is also a decent head on this beer, flaring up a fluffy white before simmering down to a light coating. The aroma here is very rich and sweet, indicating that a ton of rich malts went into this. If the flavor is half as good as the scent, I’m in for a treat… In the mouth, this is certainly an imperial beer. The initial flavor is heavy on alcohol and very sweet. The sweetness is redolent of sweetbreads, starting rich and cloying on the front of the mouth and becoming richer and thicker as the beer flows down the tongue. Honestly, there isn’t much hop at all in this mixture, with the exception of a light bitterness that springs up right before the aftertaste. However, once that dwindles, we’re stuck with a very sweet aftertaste. The syrupy mouthfeel of this also ensures that the beer sticks around on the palate for ages, making the aftertaste last for quite some time. This is a mighty tasty beer, though the ‘imperial-ness’ of it all loses some of the subtleties of a good pilsner. Nevertheless, it’s enjoyable, and packs a punch at 8.8% abv.
Ed. Note – I can’t find a single picture of this beer label, so enjoy this picture of a kitten looking in the mirror.
The next selection this month from the Beer of the Month Club is the Lion Stout. The funny thing is, this is the 2nd time we’ve received this one from BOMC. The upsides are A) It’s a killer beer, and B) It was about a year-and-a-half ago when they first sent it. So, no hard feelings, and I’m glad to have more of these in the fridge. Here is the original review:
Now, I consider myself a fairly adept beer drinker. But, truth be known, I had no idea Sri Lanka made any good beers. Much less did I realize that Sri Lanka might make a decent Stout – just doesn’t seem likely to me. But, there it was, sitting in the latest shipment from the Beer of the Month Club.
The Lion Stout pours a deep, deep brown with dense debris and a dense, caramel-colored head. The aroma of this beer is sheer joy – it’s very rich with a sweet toffee aroma blended with coffee hints. In the mouth, this beer is all sweet and rich. There is a thick sweetness that encompasses toffee, coffee, nuts and chocolate. The sweetness is the predominant force here, but a light nutty bitterness creeps in to give some balance, and there’s even a slight sour tinge that is reminiscent of licorice. The mouthfeel of this beer is also excellent. It is thick and coats the entire mouth, lending the flavor to all parts of the tongue at once and finishing with a lingering flavor that sits in the mouth for many seconds after the beer has seemingly disappeared. Now, I gotta be honest with you – I think that this beer is a rarity when it comes to Sri Lankan beers – I just can’t imagine a ton of great beer exports coming out of a rather unassuming country. However, I do have to give my hats-off to Lion, because this Stout is as good as most anything that we’re brewing stateside or in the UK. I believe this beer enjoys fairly wide distribution, so I’d suggest that you pick up a bottle if for no other reason than to enjoy a Sri Lankan brew.
This month, the folks at the Beer of the Month Club sent us another box of treats. Honestly, I’m a bit skeptical about a couple of the selections. While there are a couple of light beers here that look pretty refreshing, we’ve also got a couple of dark beers that I can barely bring myself to drink. Seriously, it’s nearly 90 degrees here these days, and a Porter is hardly what I want to reach for. I suppose I’ll have to turn the AC up, pretend it’s February, and drink up, eh?
But, first things first. My first selection this month is going to be a Pilsner from the nice folks at Pennsylvania Brewery. It pours a crystal clear golden color that is just the slightest bit darker than a lot of the lighter American pilsners. The head on the beer barely flares up at all, but the constant streams of bubbles coming up the glass indicates that this is, in fact, well carbonated. In the nose, I’m catching lots of pungent sweet grains. This is fairly stereotypical for a pilsner but, again, it seems just a bit darker and heavier than the average. The initial flavor of this beer on the tongue is a light carbonation burn, followed by a sharp metallic flavor from the hops. It’s not terribly bitter, but there is definitely some hop presence here. As the beer flows through the mouth, the grain begins to peak out, turning into a sweet and fairly rich flavor that sits on the back of the tongue. While this grain flavor coats the tongue for quite some time, the aftertaste is mostly that metallic malt flavor. Overall, it’s a pretty good brew. The flavor doesn’t have so much of the typical pilsner flavor, but just enough that you can tell what it is. This isn’t what I’d consider a ‘standout’ amongst beers, but makes a decent summer seasonal.
We don’t often see much of Red Hook in these parts except for their fairly generic six-packs, and the occasional 12-pack variety box that we’ll pick up when we can’t decide on a single genre. In fact, I’m not sure I was aware that they even produced specialty bombers until I saw this one on the shelf a while back. And, sad to say, you can gauge my excitement by the fact that this beer has been sitting in the fridge for a couple of months now. I want to drink this and get it out of my life before summer gets too far along and I swear off stouts completely…
So, the Double Black pours a thick motor-oil black color, as one might expect. The head started off thick, dense, and caramel-colored. But, to be honest, it dwindled down to nothing much quicker than I expected. In the nose, this is pretty chocolatey and has the expected hints of coffee. The flavor of this is as rich as I expected and even more flavorful than anticipated. Initially, there is a super-rich chocolate sweetness on the tip of the tongue. This is subsequently met by a bit of bitterness. The bitterness may or may not be attributable to a hop contribution, but it tastes more like a bittersweet chocolate with a rootsy, earthy tone. This doesn’t last very long, before a sharper dark bread sweetness rears it’s head and carries the beer on through the mouth. And all along with these flavors is a backbone of coffee grounds that actually serves the beer very nicely. Honestly, I’m quite impressed with this – moreso than I expected. It is the summer, and I am shying away from these types of beers about now, but this really is pretty tasty…
Last up in the newest Longshot pack is the Double IPA. I was honestly a little surprised to see one of these pop up in this series, just because it’s a generally played out genre that every brewery has a go at. But, as far as I know, Sam Adams hasn’t done much with the super-hoppy beers so, eh, why not?
This IIPA pours a super dark golden color that, when in a thick enough vessel, suddenly becomes a shade of ruby. There is some obvious dense debris in here, and a transient off-white head flares up as you pour it, but doesn’t last very long. In the nose, I’m getting heavy notes of pineapple, courtesy of all the hop that obviously went into it. Quite nice really. In the mouth, this is a straight-up citrusy IIPA. The flavor isn’t terribly complex, but it IS well-balanced for a beer of this hop magnitude. The primary flavor through the mouth is big, fresh, pineappley hops. The flavor is both sweet and bitter and quite strong, but it’s balanced by a nice malt backbone that is mostly bready, but still sweet. So, this results in an IPA that is sweeter than most, and it’s a nice combination of citrusy tart sweetness and richer malt sweetness. However, the bitter hop rides along, as well, keeping everything in check. Basically, there are a lot of big flavors at play here, but they butt heads enough to keep everything fairly well-balanced, under the circumstances. I won’t lie, this isn’t the best double IPA I’ve ever had, but how could it be? There are literally hundreds of versions of this on the market, and they have been especially prevalent in recent years. However, given the quality of offerings out there, this does compete pretty well. I’d give it a definite top ten on the list of IIPAs that I’ve had in the last year, and that ain’t bad at all…
Next up in this season’s Longshot offering is what I understand to be the overall winner this year – a Traditional Bock.
This one pours a very deep brown color, but very clear. It’s even darker than most bocks I’m familiar with, with a thick caramel head that eventually peters out to nothing. The aroma here is heavy on the caramel, with hints of rich dark malts. The flavor is much the same. The mouthfeel of this is super rich and silky, carrying heavy toffee flavors with some dark fruit reminiscent of dark cherry or deep red grapes. This all co-mingles to provide a sweetness that is both fruity and very rich, courtesy of those dark malts. The beer is really quite decadent, even for a bock, but actually washes fairly clean, giving it a lightness that wouldn’t be indicated by the flavor. In addition, it has an interesting tart bite about the middle of the tongue that tastes as though it may be a yeast contribution. It isn’t very pungent, but just enough to give the beer some kick. All in all, it’s a totally inoffensive beer – I can’t imagine someone NOT liking this. In addition, it’s just darn tasty, and more of a standout in balance and flavor profile than most bocks I’ve put in my mouth. Very nice, indeed.
If you’re not familiar with the Sam Adams “Longshot” series, then I’ll tell you about it. Basically, it’s a homebrew competition wherein Sam Adams takes entries from whomever would like to submit them. From those submissions (this year, I hear there were 800 employee submissions and around 1,300 independent submissions), they take 4 of the best, mass produce ‘em, and put them out on the shelves! So far, these have almost ALL been phenomenal – I guess, when you have THAT many beers, the top tier must taste pretty good. So, this is the newest batch of those, including 3 beers. Look for reviews of ‘em all in the next 3 days!
The cranberry wit pours a very hazy deep golden color with a ruby red tint. There is a lot of dense debris here, giving this brew remarkable substance for a witbier. There isn’t a lot to be said of the head – it’s white and flares up, diminishing rather quickly. The aroma here is sweet and tart, with the cranberry showing itself early on. In addition to the cranberry scent, you can definitely sense the yeast note in the beer. The flavor of this is certainly interesting for the genre. We’ve all had a number of fruity wheat beers, ranging from blueberry to raspberry to strawberry. However, cranberry is a bit novel, and it seems to work. The flavor of the cranberries here is a bit more tart whilst also being a bit less acidic than many of the other berries used in this type of beer. This gives the beer an interesting flavor bite that doesn’t necessarily translate into any physical burn on the tongue that a more acidic fruity beer would. So, what we have is a traditional witbier, full of sweet yeast and light malt. However, riding atop this is a richer, softer fruit flavor that is tangy and just a bit spicy. The mouthfeel is rich and softer than expected, allowing this to coat the mouth and provide a more substantial aftertaste of fruit than you’d get from most beers in the genre. All in all, it’s very tasty. ‘Tis the season for fruity wheat beers, and this is one of the better new offerings for this summer…
The final bar we visited on our stay in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware was the Rehoboth Ale House. This place had just opened a week prior, so I do not feel right in giving this place an in-depth review. As with all new places, there are a few kinks to work out.
One kink seems to be the communication between the bar and the kitchen. Though my dinner order was fine, my wife’s order arrived with, what seemed to be, extra onions, even though she ordered it with no onions. This mistake was rectified with a free beer. The kitchen also made an extra quesadilla plate for some unknown group. No one knew who the quesadilla was for and since we were one of the remaining couples left (at 9PM), we were offered it free of charge.
The other kink we encountered, would have to be the beer list. At first look, the list seems mighty impressive in length. On closer inspection however, I noticed most of the beers were either macro or typical foreign import in nature. Though I was able to have some craft beer from Flying Fish and one other brewery (whose name completely escapes me at this point), the rest of the list felt rather run of the mill. Unfortunately the draft lines were not in place yet (though there is supposed to be 14 of them). If the bottle list is any indication however, I would not hold out much hope for anything special.
With a large bar, plenty of dinning seating, stage for live music, and dart boards, there is potential for this place. If they fix the bar to kitchen communication issues, and shore up their beer list with more craft beer, I would not mind checking the place out again.
American Craft Beer Week starts today (11th) and goes until the 17th. The week is “a national celebration highlighting the culture and contributions of craft beer.” There could be events scheduled at your local brewery, so check out the American Craft Beer Week website for more details.
When I think Stone Brewing, I think hops… Big hops… Taste annihilating hops! Then I came across Stone Levitation at a local bar. Though it has been out since 2002, Levitation has only recently been released here in Massachusetts. I am glad it has, because I enjoyed this beer immensely.
In the pint glass sat a clear, dark amber bodied beer, with a two finger, white, frothy head atop. This head had longevity too, staying around for multiple minutes and still only receding to a half-finger full covering. This head retention allowed excellent time to in-hale the beer’s aroma. There is definitely a hop presence with nice citrus notes, but I am not blown away by them. There is also a nice mixing of malt and bread in the aroma.
The taste of the beer is rather complex. The hops start things off with a delectable citrus note, but progress to a mixed citrus and mildly earthy flavoring. In the middle of this flavor progression another flavor makes itself known, one with a light malt and grain profile. As the beer warms this malt profile starts to gain a caramel sweetness dimension. Though by no means pronounced, the caramel does make an appearance.
When the beer is done, which will be too soon because it is too good, the glass is a beautiful display of heavy lacing, with amazing stratification all the way down the glass.
The great thing about this beer, besides its enjoyable complexity, refreshing nature, and great taste, is the fact you will be able to fully taste the next one you order.
On my recent trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, I was able to check-out a couple of restaurants besides Dogfish Head’s Brew Pub. Fins is a block or two down the street from DFH, but it was certainly worth the walk.
What first attracted me to Fins was the ‘Raw Bar’ sign above the front door. Loving a ‘raw bar’, I went in for a closer inspection. When I noticed a Troeg’s Brewing sign in the window, I was all in for giving the place a shot.
In a restaurant I like to sit at the bar and the bar is what greets you upon first entering Fins. I did notice some dinning space divided from the bar and I believe there was seating upstairs, so if the bar is not your thing you have plenty of options. The bar was decent in size, seating roughly 15 people, and well lit. The raw bar section was located in the center of the bar, flanked by two sets of taps. The only macro-beer on tap was Coors (if I am remembering correctly), with the remaining seven taps dedicated to craft beers.
There was a chalkboard behind the bar which listed both the draft and bottled beers. The draft list was very legible, being written in large letters with colored chalk. The bottle list took up the other half of the chalkboard, and, due to the list’s length (I estimated 30 or so bottles), was a bit more cramped and harder to read. Not a major issue, since I was able to order two beers of the bottle list, but something I noticed.
The bar staff was both friendly and knowledgeable about the beer they were selling. I played “beer dumb” while ordering, asking questions about the beers, and received good, informative answers back. Though I failed to introduce myself, the beer ‘manager’ was at the bar both times we visited. He seemed knowledgeable and excited about all the beer on tap, expressing this enthusiasm to his bartenders when something new went on draft. The drafts seemed to change quite frequently, with three tap changes happening during or between our visits.
Good beer selection in both draft and bottle form, good raw bar selection with six oyster types to choose from, and great staff. Overall a very pleasurable experience, and a place I would definitely recommend.
My First Beer Oyster Shooter.
Hell I even got to try my first “beer oyster shooter”!
Note: It is a shame Fin’s website is so out of date.
We all know I’m a sucker for Stoudt’s lately. So, needless to say, I was excited to see Stoudt’s summer seasonal wheat beer hit shelves. It doesn’t get much better on a summer day than a good ol’ Bavarian hefe. I can’t wait to see what Stoudt’s has done with the genre.
This brew pours a hazy white golden color with substantial residual debris and a dense, pillowy white head. In the nose, there’s a gigantic sweet yeast note along with some light hints of citrus and banana – a huge aroma for a wheat beer, and quite rich. In the mouth, this contains the typical Bavarian hefe flavors in spades. There is an initial yeasty sweetness on the tongue that enriches itself with banana richness and clove spiciness around the center of the mouth, balancing itself with some light lemon sourness. Down the back of the tongue, we catch some richer light malt flavors, ending with an aftertaste that is primarily banana and yeast. All in all, a delicious beer, and richer than many of the genre. In addition, the mouthfeel is silky, the beer coating the tongue and sides of the mouth, leaving you with tons of flavor even after the beer is long gone. This surely isn’t an ‘imperial’ in alcohol content, but I’d be willing to give it that label on flavor alone. This is delicious, refreshing, and as blatantly flavorful as the biggest of this genre.
Over the past few years barrel aging beer has become a big thing for breweries to experiment with. Barrels used can range from new oak barrels all the way to barrels formerly used in the aging of wine, scotch, whiskey, or bourbon. Along those lines, Southern Tier decided to give barrel aging a whirl with their Unearthly IPA.
The finger of white head, which graced the beer in my tulip glass, dissipated rather quickly, leaving only an island of foam atop the beer’s inviting clear, amber body. Though headless, the beer’s aroma was strong and distinct: hop and vanilla. This vanilla quality, from the oak aging, lent the IPA an intriguing and unusual characteristic. I do not remember the last time I had a vanilla IPA.
In the mouth the hop and vanilla battled it out for taste bud supremacy. The hops started strong, with an almost resin like character, but the vanilla battled back mid-tongue with a sweet-vanilla hit. At the end of the swallow the two flavors were still intermingled in the struggle with only a subdued bitterness finish (at least when compared to regular Unearthly IPA). Malt, though present, was merely a spectator to this spectacle. As the session progressed the vanilla was able to show its dominance. The vanilla sweetness had such a long aftertaste to it, it was not fully cleared before the next sip. This led to a ganging up effect on the hops, which the hops could not repel.
With its smooth, light to medium body, this beer had great potential. However, I think the oak aging did not do this beer well. The vanilla sweetness character became too dominating, and crushed all hope of balance.
Note: I do think the beer’s label is pretty kick-ass though.
This special edition brew comes to us from the Weinstein family, hailing from New Jersey, though I believe this home brew was conceived in Alexandria, VA. At any rate, this brew debuted (for me) at a recent bocce outing. Seeing as we had a couple of bottles left over, I felt that a review may be in order. And so here you go.
This lager pours crystal clear or fairly cloudy, depending upon your preferred pour. Due to bottle priming, there is a layer of yeast and sediment at the bottom of each bottle, leaving you the choice to include that or not in your pour. As I like to have ‘all’ of my beer, I chose to go the full monty and make this a cloudy beer. The head of this is super-dense, flaring up into a pillowy couple of inches that slowly dies away. In the nose, the predominant aroma is of yeast with a decent malt backbone. It’s fairly typical lager, with some light metallic hop accents and a heavy grainy note. In the mouth, there are tons of malts, tasting earthy and grainy from the tip of the tongue on down to the back of the throat. In addition, there is a slightly cloying sweetness from the yeast that indicates a higher fermentation temperature. Also, there is a decent hop note here. It leans more towards the bitter metal than floral flavors, but does well to cut the malty notes that play such a big roll. All in all, it’s a fairly balanced brew that sticks with you through several seconds in the aftertaste, quenching but subtly leaving you ready for the next taste. This would make a decent session brew, and served us well on the bocce field…