Archive for July, 2009
It’s no well-kept secret that I’m generally not a big fan of black lagers. I’m not sure what it is – maybe that they’re so dark yet so thin and wispy in texture. Regardless, I almost never reach for this variety of beer. However, the good folks at the Beer of the Month Club sent us a couple of these this month. It is also no well-kept secret that I don’t believe in wasting beer. So, I’m gonna drink it.
This black lager pours, surprise surprise, a dark black color with just a bit of brown around the edges of the glass. The head here used to be a deep caramel, though it admittedly disappeared rather quickly. In the nose, the aroma is rather sweet and nutty, exhibiting some earthy tones that are really rather pleasant. Then, there’s the taste. Again, I’m initially a bit turned off. Sure, it tastes good – nutty with a lightly cloying sweetness and an earthy bitterness that gives it some character. However, despite these fairly rich flavors, the beer itself flows through the mouth thin and light, heavy on flavor but washing quite clean. Don’t be fooled, though, as the aftertaste sticks around for a mighty long time. All in all, it’s a rich peanutty dark beer that has a great, big flavor. The texture is light and refreshing, and the aftertaste is bodacious. For me, this is a weird combination, and not my favorite, though they all be great attributes when standing on their own. For a fan of the genre, I’ll bet this would be a great beer. So, if that’s you, then seek it out!
Dang – I’d credit Obama with better taste than he’s demonstrating here – courtesy of a press release from our friends at Magic Hat:
In the wake of the recent arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, President Obama has called a Beer Summit between himself, Gates and his arresting officer, James Crowley. The meeting, set to take place at the White House at 6pm this evening, will see the three men drinking beers of their choice. Their choices, however, have American Craft Brewers up in arms. For Obama: Bud Light. For Gates: Red Stripe. For Crowley: Blue Moon.
I mean, I understand that Obama is perhaps showing that he’s not above the “great American beer” (okay, maybe it’s not great, but it is the most popular for better or worse). But, hold on, did no one tell Obama that Budweiser is now owned by Belgium-based InBev? Hell, even Blue Moon is technically owned by a SAB MillerCoors, a London-based company (don’t even get me started on those guys), which leaves us with an American summit involving not a single American beer.
Personally, I’m disappointed. The US of A has emerged as a leading contributor to the world beer community, cranking out some of the best and most creative craft brews you’ll find anywhere – not only beating much of the world at their own game by recreating their characteristic styles, but also emerging with a number of our own standouts. C’mon, Obama, show a little backbone and get a six-pack of Oskar Blues’ Old Chub on plastic rings. Come in carrying that and you’d garner my instant respect…
Anyone that keeps up with the site here at Sevenpack…. well, anyone that has been keeping up with us for the last couple of years… knows that we tend to stay on top of Dogfish Head. DFH is consistently one of our favorite breweries, and we’ve even been up to Delaware to visit the guys. I even have a keg of 90-minute IPA in the kegerator right now. However, we’ve been pretty disappointed in the last year or so at the slim amount of new brews that Sam and company have produced. Sure, they’re still putting out some good beers, but it’s the same-old-same-old. So, I was happy to see the Sahtea show up. Admittedly, this is a niche brew and a bit gimmicky, but at least it’s new and interesting, so I’m excited to try it out. Apparently this is from a 9th century Finnish recipe involving rye and juniper, and the guys even heat it the traditional way with wood fired stones. Finally, just for good measure, a dose of Chai tea is tossed at the end of the boil. Interesting indeed!
The Sahtea pours a hazy medium golden with hints of ruby coloration and a very thin, dense head. In the nose, this beer is spicy and light with a decent burn in the nose. The aroma is slightly akin to a Belgian tripel, though certainly heavier on the spice. The flavor is very unique, but full of accessible components. There is an initial spicy burn on the tongue where we can taste the chai component. In addition, you catch a grainy twang from the rye that I know well mainly because of Terrapin beers and their love of rye. On through the mouth, there is some syrupy sweetness that reminds me of a Belgian tripel and a lightly tart fruity component. This makes for a complicated beer, but a tasty one. The aftertaste seems to hold primarily to the spice and candi sugar flavors that stick around for quite some time. I’m actually surprised at how accessible this beer is, considering how and from what it is made. I think that most anyone would enjoy this, and some may enjoy it more than more traditional brews. This is attributed to the fact that, despite the exotic ingredients, this has so many familiar flavors. It’s a great beer and, surprisingly, one that I could imagine drinking repeatedly. Seems like those Finns were really onto something some 12 centuries ago, and that’s pretty impressive… I’m very happy that this beer worked out so well, now if Dogfish Head will just keep it up and gives us a few more fresh additions!
Some months ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Boulder, CO. It was for work, sure, but I managed to take in a number of good breweries and brewpubs whilst there. Fortunately, during my 2nd week in the area, I realized that Boulder Brewing Company was literally across the street from my hotel. I proceeded to try the vast majority of beers they had on tap in the brewpub. Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing some of their bottled options find their way onto NC shelves. This limited edition brew, the Flashback, is one of those. However, our friends at the Beer of the Month Club also sent us a couple of these. So, good news for me – that just means I have a 6-pack plus some in the fridge. Let’s see how it tastes…
The Flashback pours a medium brown color that appears filtered and is topped with a sticky caramel head that is quite persistent, floating in big rocky islands around the surface of the beer. The aroma of this brew is both remarkably hoppy and remarkably malty. There is a nice, bitter hop blast initially in the nose, but some super rich malt and caramel flavors leave this smelling quite rich. I’m very impressed with the flavor of this beer. Initially, there is a substantial hop burn on the tongue – much more than I’d expect from such a dark ale. The flavor is fairly floral, not very metallic, and medium on the bitter scale. However, that bitterness is quickly squelched by some great toffee flavors that ride the middle of the tongue – a contribution from a substantial malt profile. This richness coats the mouth all around, giving this a rather decadent mouthfeel. Towards the back of the mouth, though, we get another quick hop blast. This is a rich hoppiness that doesn’t kick out the malt, but rather just lives alongside it, floating up the nose and sticking around for many seconds after the beer is gone. All of this makes the beer fairly complex, in that it has at least 3 flavor profiles through the mouth. For a beer that comes in a six-pack, this is quite rich and decadent, and I’m really digging it. Despite all that, it’s still rather affordable. All in all, a great bargain, and highly recommended. And, oh yeah, if we’ve gotta give this a style, I’d say it falls in the India Brown Ale category…
Fermenting Beer at Magic Hat
I visited Burlington, VT a few weeks back. Not only was I able to see a good friend, I was able to sample some of Vermont’s locally made beer. First stop was Magic Hat, who was celebrating their grand reopening. Though the weather was not the best (gray with scattered rain), we still had a good time. We received a tour of the newly expanded brewery from one of the brewers, which, I believe, is not normally done. Being able to walk among all the brewing equipment, and watching beer ferment in their tanks was fun. I also got to see a bottling line up close (not running at the time), which was a first for me and something I found very intriguing (had a “How’s it Made” vibe). Since it was their grand reopening there were others things going on including a broken bottles ribbon cutting extravaganza, free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, free chips from Mad House, live music (one band played Killer Cars, an early Radiohead b-side, so props to them), and a variety show. Though the weather could have been better, it did not dampen our mood. Of course there was plenty of Magic Hat, with a special hat tip to Bob’s 1st Ale. I am not a big amber drinker, but found it very enjoyable. Maybe Magic Hat will introduce a six-pack flashback featuring the beer?
Magic Hat Bottling Line
From Magic Hat we hit Burlington, with a slight rest in-between. We decided to do dinner at American Flat Bread Burlington Hearth. Though there are a few American Flat Breads in New England, only the one in Burlington brews its own beer. Being a party of three and arriving around “dinner rush” (though our friend mentioned the place tends to be always bustling) we decided to find a place at the bar, which has full menu service. Ordering a two flat bread pizzas, we scanned the beer menu. The interesting thing about the beer menu is the fact they stock other craft brewery beer on tap and bottle. I am not sure how common this is, but around Boston, I can not think of one brew pub that does that. Through the meal our party ordered Calamity IPA, IPL (India Pale Lager), Conehead from Cask, Kolsch, and London Calling. Though no notes were taken (the beer list is constantly changing anyway), everyone found their associated purchases enjoyable, with IPL sticking out for me (is the IPL style the next big thing? I have seen this style popping up in a few different places recently).
Next up was the Vermont Brew Pub, which is right up the street from Flat Breads. Fortunately Burlington is a very walkable city, so no need for cabs, designated drivers, or public transport schedules. The place was bustling (it happened to be UVM graduation weekend) but we were able to find some seats at the bar. Their Springtime IPA really stuck out, with a great noble hop character from the Perle hops used. I just do not seem to find that characteristic all that often in an IPA. The Red Burly Irish Ale, and Dogbite Bitter were both pleasant, enjoyable beers too.
Statue at The Alchamist
The next day on our drive back to Boston, we decided to stop in at The Alchemist in Waterbury for an early dinner. I had a burger, which was cooked competently, along with their Wild Child (American Wild style) and Shut The Hell Up (American Mild style). The Wild was excellent with a great sour flavor, and the Shut The Hell Up had a rather intense hop aroma but a great malty presence in the mouth. If I did not have a three hour drive in front of me I would have loved to have a couple more of their beers. My wife, along with getting a sampler, enjoyed a pint of the Heady Topper (DIPA), which just smelled hop-riffic. Unfortunately The Alchemist does no off-site sales, no bottles or growlers, so to sample their wares you have to go to the source. I hope to be back soon.
Overall a very enjoyable trip into Vermont. I just scratched the surface with my trip, and I hope to explore Vermont in more detail in the future.
Honored with at least a press release. Magic Hat named their distributor of the year, or should I say “Pouring Partner of th Year Award”, recently and it was Mims Distributing of Raleigh, North Carolina. From the press release:
Pouring Partner of the Year Award
This year’s coveted Pouring Partner of the Year Award goes to Mims Distributing of Raleigh, North Carolina. Some of the scintillating numbers from Mims include growing overall Magic Hat volume by 32% and the brewer’s IRI market share to 7.5%. Mims also increased on- and off-premise distribution by 14% and 27%, respectively. Says Chuck Bassford, Divisional Deputy of Ales and Sales for the Mid-Atlantic region, “From senior management, sales personnel, inventory control, accounting and merchandising, Mims Distributing has displayed an unwavering commitment to excellence.” In other words, they really rock.
You go N.C.!
Beernews.org does an excellent job in keeping up with beer releases (their beer release calendar is a very handy tool), so no need to duplicate their efforts. I would like to point out one beer to be released that really caught my eye. Avery’s Gosling’s Rum Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Imperial Stout. That sounds intense. I do not hear about a lot of rum barrels being used in beer aging. Rum is seeing a resurgence in the liquor world, so maybe it will become a more common occurrence for beer to be aged in the barrels. Another couple of spirits seeing a resurgence in the liquor world, tequila and mezcal. I wonder how beer would fare when aged in those barrels?
Speaking of barrel aging… the Samuel Adams 2009 Utopia is due out in November for the retail price of $150.00 per bottle. Start saving now people.
Green House Energy has recently been teaming up with breweries to use brewing waste in the creation of fuel grade ethanol with Green House’s MicroFueler. Karl Strauss is their most recent partner. Always like to see brewers doing their part for the environment.
[First seen at http://beeradvocate.com/]
My love for the Dunkelweizen genre goes all the way back to some time spent in Germany. However, more recently, my love was made concrete during many a Wednesday night at Tyler’s Taproom in Carrboro, NC circa 2005 when me and my roomies carried our pub quiz dynasty (by our own assessment) through several months, fueled by many pints of delicious Franziskaner Dunkelweizen (or ‘Frankenberry’, as some of our team would have you believe). This particular offering is neither a Franziskaner product nor from Germany at all, but I’m still excited about it. So there.
The Great Divide dunkel pours a medium brown color that is hazy with debris and is exceptionally effervescent for a dark ale. The head here sparks up a caramel white color, but quickly dissipates down to almost nothing. In the nose, this beer isn’t terribly pungent, only putting off a light aroma. This aroma is, however, quite sweet and almost candy-like with just a wee bit of dark malt. In the mouth, this beer is an immediate flavor explosion. Given the light aroma, I’m frankly very surprised by how big the taste is here. The flavor throughout the mouth is very sweet with a flavor that I’d compare to SweeTarts. It’s almost cloying, sugary, and lightly tart. In addition to this, though, there is a decent malt backbone. The malt is darker and offers some toffee flavors, but nowhere near enough to challenge the aforementioned sweetness. So, what we have is a beer that is both sweet and tart, though the malt does enough to keep it from being overpowering in either regard. However, the flavor is powerful indeed, carrying all the way through the mouth and sticking for some time in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is also quite delightful, washing clean and making this brew exceptionally refreshing for such a dark ale. All in all, I really like this beer. It isn’t much different than the Franziskaner that I know and love, though it is perhaps a bit more tart. Definitely a beer I hope to drink again…
This is an old standby brewery and an old standby beer style – kinda hard to imagine Brooklyn getting this one wrong. In fact, I’m a little surprised we haven’t reviewed this yet. But, hey, it’s not on the list, so better late than never…
The Brooklyn Summer pours a very clear medium golden with a medium-sized stark white head. In the nose, it’s a straight up grainy scent with a light hop presence. By grainy, I mean that this smells like fresh cut grain in the field – very fresh and very crisp. In the mouth, this beer surprises me with a burn on the tongue that seems equal parts carbonation and hop – very lively and perky. This quickly leads into a tongue of fresh light grains, very biscuity and earthy. This grain continues down the tongue, becoming quite sweet by the time it reaches the back of the mouth. On top of this, there is a decent hop presence – it doesn’t take the forefront, but rather serves to offer depth and cut the sheer graininess of this beer. At the back of the throat, this beer becomes mostly a sugar sweet grain that sticks to the tongue with an almost sweet-corn presence – quite delicious, very clean, and makes me want to keep drinking. It’s a really tasty beer – crisp, sharp, but sweet and enticing and super for summer.
I’m a pretty big fan of hybrid style beers. I mean, there’s a plethora of beer styles out there, and they’re different enough that it’s hard for them to become stale. However, it’s always fun to see hybrid styles out there, and in this case to see a different region’s take on a particular style. This particular beer is a Belgian take on a pale ale which is (I know people are going to disagree with this) a style that America has made mainstream. Belgian takes on any beer usually turn out interesting, and Weyerbacher generally makes great beers, so I’m psyched.
This beer pours a deep golden with some rosy tints to it. It’s quite clear, looking very lovely sitting under the light. The head here is dense and white, but generally very thin. In the nose, there is a ton of yeast here. Yeast, candi sugar, light malt – generally a good smelling beer, but nearly on par with a Belgian tripel style ale. In the mouth, this certainly is a Belgian. The yeast is predominant, tasting sweet and lively on the tongue. In addition, there is a light and lightly-sweet malt flavor, very little (but noticeable) hop, and some alcohol-y sweetness. And, let’s not forget some decent spice and fruit notes laying around in the back. Frankly, this is just barely a pale ale to me. It tastes more like a hybrid pale/tripel ale. That being said, I liked it. It’s tasty and refreshing, though it is a wee bit syrupy for a summer brew – but, hey, that just means the flavor sticks with you. In my opinion, Weyerbacher has nailed it again – tasty, tasty beer…
Update: Ben beat me to the post once again. However since I just had the beer, and the review is only a day old, I thought I would do a repost with my thoughts at the end. Enjoy a little virtual side-by-side tasting.
Ben’s Post 7/14/2009: I always love to see Stone’s Anniversary series hit shelves. Hell, I love to see most any Stone beer on the shelf. It seems like every year, though, they push the limits a bit to make something novel and delicious for their Anniversary series. The only downfall is they never give you a clue of the genre on the bottle, so you just gotta buy it on faith, which I have done. Tonight, we uncork the mystery – let’s see what this year holds…
The 13th Anniversary ale pours a deep, deep brown that looks filtered and clear when held up to the light. The head here is sparse at most, but deep caramel colored. The aroma is an interesting combination of hop and malt. There are some rich caramel tints to the nose, coupled with a burn of fresh bitter hop, and it works very well. In the mouth, we discover that this is a hoppy brown ale. There is a hop burn on the tip of the tongue that is quickly squelched by a line of rich dark malt that coats the tongue, bringing a toffee flavored bready goodness to the flavor and offering a rich, thick mouthfeel. However, about the middle of the tongue, the hop rears its head again, blasting us with a huge dose of bitterness that joins the malt through the mouth to the aftertaste, finally leaving us with rich bready flavors all over the tongue and a grapefruit hop aroma up the nose. This is, by all accounts, a delicious beer. I’ve had a few hoppy browns before, but this one manages to blend the rich and hoppy together much better while still giving them independent presences in the mouth. I’m not tasting anything exceptional in the yeast. Rather, it seems that the malt and hop take the forefront here. Each of them offers big yet typical flavors that we expect, they’re just smashed together in one beer. Very, very good. Big, flavorful, and exceptionally balanced.
Dave’s Post 7/15/2009: The beer pours quite dark and my initial impression indicated the beer was black. However, holding the beer directly up to a light reveals a very deep-rich-amber hue to the beer’s body. Atop the beer’s body was a slightly off-white head comprised of tight small bubbles. The head had good staying power with a “life” of five to seven minutes, before subsiding to a thin covering. During the head’s “life” my nose was inundated with hop aromas. Pine, resin, even some light grapefruit all made a showing. All aromas I come to expect from a Stone brew.
In the mouth the beer felt rather light, compared to my expectations that is. At the start of the session my mouth was awash in pine-hops and their associated bitterness. However as the session moved along I started to notice a sweetness growing in the beer. This sweetness was of lightly caramelized sugar. I also noticed a more pronounced grapefruit-hop characteristic coming through the pine forest that was my mouth. The caramelized sugar and grapefruit-hop gave the beer a little more complexity then the first few sips let on. The caramelized sugar presence, though subdued, changed the beer’s character from IPA, which is what I originally thought I was getting, to a real hoppy amber.
You definitely get the typical Stone creation (a hugely hopped beer), but their are subtleties in this beer that make it stick out. I found myself enjoying the beer the more I got into the session. The beer more grew on me, then blew me away.
After a weekend of drinking entirely too much Bud Light, I felt it was necessary tonight to purge my system with a giant hoppy IPA. Tonight’s treat is from the folks at New Holland, who are often hit or miss with me, but are more often a hit, so I think they’ll do a good job with this genre.
The Imperial Hatter pours a deep, deep golden with almost zero carbonation. Even when pouring this vigorously down the center of the glass, no head at all rises from the surface of the beer. I’m not sure if this is a feature or a defect, but it takes away some of the sensory experience. However, if it’s a flavorful enough IPA, it can probably get away with it. The aroma here is rather hoppy with a fair amount of malt. However, for an IPA, it isn’t terribly pungent, so I’m not getting much out of this. In the mouth, though, this is a very flavorful beer. On the tongue, you do notice the lack of carbonation – no carb burn whatsoever. However, this is somewhat diminished by a decent hop burn on the tip of the tongue. The hops here are sticky, wet, and fresh, and they wash quickly through the mouth, giving us a ton of flavor. In addition, there is a nice malt backbone – it gives this beer a solid richness and a rather smooth mouthfeel. The hop also delivers a quite a bit of pineapple flavor. All in all, it’s an interesting beer. I do think it needs some carbonation, but the lack thereof is interesting in that it makes the mouthfeel all the more smooth and velvety. And, this is flavorful and hoppy enough that it doesn’t taste flat or boring. But, at the end of the day, the carbonation bite, combined with the hop, would likely make this thing blockbuster. So, this is good, but not great. Certainly tastier than all that Bud Light from the weekend…
Another day, another summer beer. This is a rather expensive six-pack of summer goodness from the folks at Smuttynose. It seems that, around here, Smuttynose beers are some of the more expensive American 6-packs on the shelf. But, they usually make good stuff, so maybe it’s worth it…
This one pours a rather clear light golden color with a thin island of white head floating along the surface. In the nose, there is a lot of rich malt and a light rose-like flowery aroma. It smells like it may be a biscuity summer ale, which is an interesting spin on the genre. In the mouth, this beer is soft, lightly sweet, and refreshing. The first sensation I notice is of a light, flower-petal-y flavor, which I now see is a contribution from chamomile that is added to the beer. This, coupled with an unusually rich malt for a summer ale, makes for a very soft flavor that is velvety on the tongue. However, there is also a light but decisive citrus note that floats along the tongue, giving this just the tiniest bite. It’s a very interesting take on a summer ale – different, but certainly not offensive. I’m not sure this is a beer for everyone, but I’m rather enjoying it, despite it not having many of the attributes that I look for in summer beers. If you’re into a flowery and gentle ale that is still quite flavorful and is certainly refreshing, then give it a go. But, for the $10/6-pack price tag, I likely won’t buy this again…
I’ve always been a big fan of New Belgium and their predictably Belgium-inspired beers. Even before they finally found distribution in NC, I had tasted and reviewed the vast majority of their catalogue, actively seeking them out whenever in the Pacific Northwest. The Skinny Dip, however, is not a beer that I ever happened across in my travels. I’m unsure how long it’s been around, but I was very happy to see it appear on NC shelves.
The pour of the Skinny Dip is a deep golden that is super clear, with a thin white head. The aroma is mostly malt – more light and grainy than biscuity sweet. In the mouth, this is a crisp and refreshing brew that would make a killer session beer. The malt is crisp and grainy, and there’s just enough of a hop bite around the middle of the tongue to give the beer some kick. In addition to the crisp bite of the grain and hop, there is a dash of kaffir lime tossed in, lending some sweetness and a light citrus tang to the flavor. All this, combined with the forgiving 4.2% abv, makes this an exceedingly tasty and drinkable summer beer.
In some ways, I suppose this is an answer to the Bud Limes and Coronas w/ lime of the world. Generally, I’d find such responses a little tacky or tasteless, but this actually comes out rather tasty and refined, and the lime flavor isn’t overpowering at all (a la Bud Lime), and just serves to set the beer apart. Overall, a good beer, and one I’d like to drink a lot of this summer…