Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dogzilla - Black IPA



Dogzilla - Black IPA
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into a Becker pint glass
The Dogzilla Black IPA from Laughing Dog Brewery made it all the way from Idaho is an interesting, and fairly rare, style referred to either as a Black IPA or a Cascadian Dark Ale. It’s a fairly new and innovative style that blends dark roasted malts with characteristic hopping in IPAs.
The beer pours very dark, but quite clear. It’s light enough to get some serious glow from ambient light. The light tan head is massive with a slightly milky appearance. It also sits easily above the top of the glass, packs serious retention, and produces crazy lacing patterns on the glass.
The nose is remarkably sweet and citrusy. It’s common for an IPA but somewhat surprising because of the color. The mouthfeel is pleasant and silky. There’s a slight caramel sweetness and a mild smokey finish. The hoppy foam produces a bitter bite on the front, but mellows nicely and produces a clean finish.
Final Verdict: B+

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trappistes Rochefort - 10



Trappistes Rochefort - 10
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a snifter
Rochefort 10 is the most expensive and the strongest of the three ales from the brewery. Coming in at a towering 11.3% ABV it’s an example of the Quadrupel style. It pours a cloudy dark brown with a thin brown head. The head struggles to maintain, but leaves pleasant wisps of foam floating on the top of the beer for the entire duration of the drink.
The nose is sweet with dark fruits and a slight must and spiciness. Most noticeable are notes of ground pepper. On the taste immediately present are earthy tones and a selection of nuts. Most prominent are chopped walnuts. There’s a spice likely from the alcohol, but perhaps some hints of clove.
Dark fruits like plums and apricots come though with a bit of raisin flavor. There’s a very mild astringency, but far from medicinal. The alcohol is present throughout, but the real impact comes in late, producing a faint warmness in the chest on the way down. This is a very enjoyable, but strong beer. It’s perfect for the cool weather and a somewhat rare occasion.
Final Verdict: A-

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trappistes Rochefort - 8



Trappistes Rochefort - 8
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass
Rochefort 8 is the middle sibling in the line of beers from Brasserie de Rochefort and in my opinion, the star of the family. It pours a musty earthen brown with swirls of yeast which quickly collect at the bottom of the glass. A murky chocolate hue winds its way throughout the body of the beer. The head is initially large, but shrinks down quickly. What remains is a small circle of foam in the center of the beer, which is constantly refreshed from rising carbonation.
The nose is very sweet and reminds me initially of purple grape candy. It’s characterized by a mild alcoholic spiciness, plums, and crystalized sugar. The aroma comes across accurately in the flavor. Concord grapes and dark fruits like dates and figs are clearly present. There’s solid carbonation to produce a refreshing mouthfeel that is light and crisp.
Mild alcoholic esters and a slight tartness are clear on the finish. A lingering sweetness and dry feel carry on after the beer is finished.
Final Verdict: A

Trappistes Rochefort - 6



Trappistes Rochefort - 6
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass
Number 6 under the name Trappistes Rochefort is brewed by Brasserie de Rochefort at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy in Belgium. Rochefort is one of the six Belgian Trappist brewers, who all number among the most highly regarded in the world. These beers are brewed by Monks and they know what they’re doing. Orval, the fourth beer that I reviewed here, is another example of a Trappist beer. 6 is one of three beers available from Rochefort. You’ll see the other two in the coming days.
It pours a murky brown with plenty of floating yeast. The head is made of very fine carbonation, and only achieves mild retention. This time around I had no retention at all from the beer. Alcoholic esters and white grape juice are most prominent on the nose. This beer weighs in at 7.5% ABV, so the detectable presence of alcohol is not surprising. There is also a characteristic sweetness and a light cellar must.
The mouthfeel is dry and almost somewhat biting. There’s an interesting and noticeable white wine component as well as hints of fruits like peaches and plums. It seems very sweet, but it’s never overpowering. It remains subdued and pleasant throughout. The sweetness lingers in the finish and an alcoholic tinge sets in. 
Final Verdict: B+*
*My first reaction was to give this beer an A-, but after consideration I think it’s more deserving of a B+. It’s an excellent beer, but it’s not perfect. The flavor is great, but the alcohol is overt and there’s a slight lack of complexity that you might expect from a fine Belgian ale. Finally, coming in at about $4.99 per 11.2 oz. bottle, it’s a bit pricey for its own good.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Berkshire Brewing Company - Imperial Stout



Berkshire Brewing Company - Imperial Stout
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into a Nonic pint glass
This beer is extremely dark, as to be expected. The nearly black liquid reveals only a faint brown glow at the base of the glass, when held to light. The craterous tan-brown head quietly crackles at the top of the beer. The staying power of the foam is impressive given the beer’s high alcohol content.
The nose carries mild alcoholic esters, but is defined primarily by chocolate and espresso. The beer starts out sweet and ends sweet, characterized by caramel and coffee. The chocolate hints on the nose are more hidden in the flavor produced by the roasted malts. The mouthfeel is somewhat slick, but remains pleasant. After the finish a lingering smoke remains. Perhaps the only time you might find a mouthful of ashes enjoyable.
Final Verdict: A-

Berkshire Brewing Company - Drayman’s Porter



Berkshire Brewing Company - Drayman’s Porter
Serving Type: 22 oz. bottle, poured into a nonic pint glass
Drayman’s pours with a large tan head that has a creamy appearance and a mild oily sheen to the bubbles. It’s nearly black with only a burnt sienna glow at the base of the glass, when held to light. Massive chocolate and toffee on the nose.
There’s a light smoke to the beer but it primarily comes with tons of coffee and chocolate flavors. Caramel notes round out the beer and lend some extra sweetness. The hops are extremely light here, but there’s a slight bitterness to the beer from the roasted malts and smoke. The bittering, though, is far from prominent. The mouthfeel matches the head, and is quite creamy. The aftertaste has a mild char, but there’s a lingering sweetness. This beer is very drinkable!
Final Verdict: B+

Monday, October 25, 2010

Opa-Opa - Red Rock Ale



Opa-Opa - Red Rock Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass
Red Rock Ale comes with a deep amber and red body with ruby glow throughout. The head is modest with a light-to-tan coloring and fair retention. It produces light lacing on the glass. Crisp malts are present on the nose with a bit of unusual soy or ginger scent. Smells a lot like a lunch bento box from a Japanese restaurant. Interesting indeed.
There’s medium body to the mouthfeel and a crunchy malt character. There’s a slightly rough early component and the lightly toasted malts are full of flavor. The hops add fair bittering, but also have an interestingly coarse feel to them. The hops persist into the aftertaste and bring a bit of malt with them on the way out.
Final Verdict: B 

Ipswich - Oatmeal Stout



Mercury Brewing Company - Ipswich Oatmeal Stout
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug
This Oatmeal Stout from the Mercury Brewing Company is a very dark deep brown. The frothy brown head has small carbonation bubbles around the edges, but the center is characterized by much larger bubbles that carry a mild oily sheen. There’s a sweetness on the nose, but it also comes with a charred character and light hops.
The mouthfeel is fairly creamy, likely a result of the oatmeal added to the brew. There’s a mild sweetness up front with the flavors of caramel and toffee. The taste thins out a bit in the middle, but is met soon by considerable smokiness. The finish manages to not be too heavy and the dry hops give a bite on the way out. Smoke lingers well past the aftertaste.
Final Verdict: B+

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Samuel Adams - Latitude 48 IPA



Samuel Adams - Latitude 48 IPA
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Tapping Into Twain pint glass
Latitude 48 IPA comes with an interesting story. The beer is hopped using hops from the US, England, and Germany the supposed “hop belt” of the northern hemisphere stretching across the 48th parallel north. They do disclose the fact that the hops come from areas ‘close to’ the 48th parallel, which is good, considering the south of England is actually closer to the 51st.
Bickering aside, the Latitude 48 IPA is a solid beer and differs from the Samuel Adams Pale Ale. It not only packs an extra hoppy punch (to be expected from an IPA over an English-style Pale Ale), but it also has a more differentiated flavor. I’ve always thought that there’s a slightly off-putting similarity between the bulk of the Boston Beer Company’s beers.
Latitude 48 pours with a crystal clear copper tone with bright orange highlights. Massive carbonation bubbles make up the head that has some serious staying power and leaves huge lacing. The nose is somewhat faint with a musty tinge and a citrus aroma.
The hops make up the bulk of the body of the beer with moderate underlying malts. The beer seems fresh and the finish is crisp, but the flavor fades fast. There’s only a lingering dryness that remains soon after each sip.
Final Verdict: B-

Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse



Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse
Serving Type: 500mL bottle, poured into a weizen glass
Hopfen-Weisse is an interesting collaborative creation by Hans-Peter Drexler of the Schneider brewery and Garrett Oliver of The Brooklyn Brewery. The brew masters, fans of each other’s work, as the tale goes, decided to team up to produce a unique beer, using the other’s brewery. This is their experiment, as produced at the Schneider brewery. I’ll keep an eye out for, and hopefully review, the Brooklyn half of this equation.
The body pours with a light orange hazy glow, diffuse with silky yeast left over from bottle conditioning. The nose is extremely hoppy  and carries a slight must. The large head is full of tons of very crisp carbonation and produces considerable lacing.
There’s a slight astringency to the wheat malts. They produce a sweetness to balance out the bright hoppy character of this beer. There’s an intense and delicious citrus character to it, reminiscent of fresh grapefruit. The hallertauer hops used in brewing are clear, but they mix well with the wheat malt to create a very interesting and rare combination.
The beer is certainly strong, but hides its alcohol well. At 8.2% ABV, suppressing the alcoholic esters is a nice feat.
Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, October 21, 2010

G. Schneider & Sohn - Schneider Weisse



G. Schneider & Sohn - Schneider Weisse
Serving Type: 500mL bottle, poured into a weizen glass
This is Schneider’s original hefeweizen and it pours a dark-for-the-style murky tannish brown with feathery yeast flowing throughout the body. What it most closely reminds me of is an unpasteurized apple cider. Great thought for the season. The base of the glass reveals a mild yellowy hue.
There’s a light dust to the nose along with clear banana scents and hints of citrus. The head is very light and airy, but keeps a moderate level throughout the life of this drink and produces light-to-moderate lacing on the glass. 
The beer brings characteristic banana phenols and yeast that give the illusion of banana bread augmented by clove and cinnamon spices. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, but goes out with citrus and fresh apples and gently fades to a somewhat tart aftertaste. The spices linger on to balance out the finish.
Final Verdict: B

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

St. Ambroise - Oatmeal Stout



St. Ambroise - Oatmeal Stout
Serving Type: 11.5 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a mug
C’est une bière Montréalaise. And it comes in a strange 11.5 oz. bottle with a twist off cap. In the U.S. 12 oz. is the norm and imports from Europe and other metric-system-using countries usually opt for 11.2 oz., which works out to 33cL. 11.5 oz. works out to about 340mL, who know’s what they’re doing? Besides brewing great beer, of course.
This oatmeal stout pours incredibly dark. I always hesitate to call anything actually black, but this approaches about as dark as I’ve seen a beer. The head is a solid brown and is very thick and frothy. Chocolate and oatmeal pervade on the nose with a mix of sweetness and hops. Tons of lacing on the way down.
The body carries chocolate and oatmeal characteristics with a moderate caramel sweetness, but the toasted malts define the beer. The essence of coffee is clearly present. French roast for days. The beer is both dry and bitter with a serious body of smokiness. The finish again reveals a bit of the underlying sweetness, but the incredible char prevails.
Final Verdict: A-

G. Schneider & Sohn - Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock



G. Schneider & Sohn - Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a large wine glass*
This is an Eisbock version of the incredible Aventinus that I reviewed late last week. An Eisbock is a special type of beer, allegedly discovered accidentally by a former brewer of Aventinus, derived by the freezing of a portion of the beer. Because water freezes before alcohol, the water portion is frozen and removed. What is left is a considerably more concentrated version of the original brew.
Aventinus Eisbock pours with an initially large dark foam head, but it quickly disappears leaving no trace of its previous existence. On the way out, the head flares out with tons of crackling carbonation. Likewise, there’s no lacing to be found with this beer. The nose is incredibly sweet. Sweet. There’s an aroma of candied plums and hints of red wine and a Port character.
The deep brown body with some floating yeast begins with a dry and musty flavor, but quickly moves into dark fruits like dates and raisins. There’s also a prominent and deliberate nut component. The flavors of walnuts and hazelnuts are the most clear and add considerable depth to this complex beer.
There are only mild alcoholic esters, but the incredible sweetness of this beer is a clear indication of its considerable alcohol content. The nutty finish lingers in the aftertaste and allows the alcohol to sneak up on you. At 12% ABV this beer is quite serious, and not something you’re going to drink more than one of.
Final Verdict: A**
*A Note on Glass Selection: More commonly you’d find this type of beer poured into a snifter, the type of glass most commonly associated with brandy drinking. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. An oversized wine glass can be used as a substitute, that’s what I’ve done here. Other possible selections for this beer may have been a fluted glass, or a tulip. Because of the complex aroma of this beer, I wanted to go with something more likely to concentrate the nose. As its getting to the season where strong beers are most commonly drunk, I’ll look into adding a snifter to my cabinet.
**A Note on My Rating: This beer fully deserves the rating I gave it, but for factors different than the A I gave to the regular Aventinus. Aventinus is both bold and drinkable. It’s strong and full-bodied, but is easily drinkable, a combo that lends to an excellent beer. Aventinus Eisbock, while quite enjoyable, is not what you’d call “drinkable.” This is an occasion of a beer, not something to stock your refrigerator with. The beers take very different approaches, but are equally deserving of high marks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ayinger - Weizen-Bock



Ayinger - Weizen-Bock
Serving Type: 500 mL bottled, poured into a weizen glass
The label of Weizen-Bock from Ayinger brings a cartoon version of the goat from Celebrator. Perhaps the cartooniness is a sign. The title and style of the beer suggests a robust and dark hefeweizen, I’m not sure they’ve really embraced that charge.
The cloudy orange glow of the beer sits above a chartreuse yellow base. The initial large white head quickly shrinks down, disappears, and leaves no lacing. The nose is huge on a citrus bouquet accented by coriander and clove. 
The taste is initially very sweet with some carbonation for body. It narrowly avoids what I sensed as a wateriness in Ur-Weisse, also from Ayinger. The finish is dry and the 6.7% ABV produces a slightly alcoholic follow-up. There’s just not a ton of depth of flavor to be found here.
While it doesn’t bill itself as a wheat doppelbock, this beer comes no where near Aventinus in either darkness or complexity. What I’m confused about is the difference between this beer and Ur-Weisse, Ayinger’s dunkel weisse. One step further, Ur-Weisse really wasn’t much darker than Ayinger’s Brau-Weisse hefeweizen beer.
Final Verdict: C+

G. Schneider & Sohn - Edel-Weisse Mein Grünes



G. Schneider & Sohn - Edel-Weisse Mein Grünes
Serving Type: 500 mL bottled, poured into a weizen glass
Mein Grünes is an organic Bavarian hefeweizen, brewed by G. Schneider & Sohn in Kelheim, Germany. It pours light from the bottle, but in the glass a musty orange clouded by tons of free-floating yeast gives a different impression. The large white head shrinks to about half a centimeter of foam before long. Alcohol esters dominate the nose, but they’re backed up by more subtle fresh grapes and clove spiciness.
The beer is very sweet on the front, but mellows nicely. The initial sweet wheat malts are evenly balanced by cascade and hallertauer hops. The mouthfeel is far from watery, but it’s not robust. The moderate carbonation gives it some body, and produces a crisp finish for high drinkability.
Final Verdict: A-

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ayinger - Ur-Weisse



Ayinger - Ur-Weisse
Serving Type: 500 mL bottle, poured into a Weizen glass
Ur-Weisse is a dunkelweizen beer. If recall yesterday’s posting about a dunkel lager and are familiar with the wheat beer hefeweizen style, you can easily surmise that this is a dark wheat beer.
The body is a murky brown with yellowish highlights and a fluffy head. The retention is moderate and the head shrinks slowly down to a light foam layer. What remains produces very little lacing. The beer carries a citrus aroma with mild astringency. Its backed up by notes of dark fruits and must. A moderate active carbonation seems to refresh the head.
Wheat malts blend well with clove spice and typical banana phenols. They flavors combine for a somewhat sweet finish. Light hopping adds a moderate edge to the beer, but the hops aren’t substantial. The mouthfeel is thin and somewhat watery. All considered the beer is tasty but not exactly satisfying.
Something is left to be desired here.
Final Verdict: C

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ayinger - Altbairisch Dunkel



Ayinger - Altbairisch Dunkel
Serving Type: 500 mL bottled, poured into a flute glass
Altbairisch is a German dunkel (German for dark) lager brewed in Bavaria, by Franz Inselkammer brewery in Aying (a/k/a Braurei Aying). The body is medium brown with red and orange glows. A large craterous head sits atop the beer like high-floating clouds. The medium retention saves a light foam layer that produces complex lacing.
The nose carries a soapy citrus tone with a slight musty aroma and light tannins akin to green tea. The toasted malts produce a mild sweetness balanced by a musty and earthy component. German noble hops lend a mild bittering that gives the beer a rounded character.
Final Verdict: B

G. Schneider & Sohn - Aventinus



G. Schneider & Sohn - Aventinus
Serving Type: 500 mL bottle, poured into a flute glass
Aventinus is an interesting combination of styles, specifically a weizenbock; a wheat version of a doppelbock. This unique German brew is highly regarded, rightfully so.
There are huge carbonation bubbles in the contrastingly light-colored head. The rising carbonation is clearly audible. We’re talking Rice Crispies. The roasted malts give the beer a deep amber muted copper tone. The bottle conditioning lends the body a cloudy complexion, unfiltered with floating yeast. The nose is complex with notes of caramel and hints of beef jerky and brown sugar. 
The complexity of this beer carries directly into its taste. Tons of different flavors mingling with the strong and full-bodied wheat malts. Banana and dark fruits are prominent accented by clove and cinnamon. This beer is spicy and delicious! 
Despite the light and airy mouthfeel and crisp finish, Aventinus is a meal of a beer. It’s truly world-class. Seek it out.
Final Verdict: A (I’m not sure if I give A+, or else I would)

Free-Floating Yeast Sediment

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guinness Foreign Extra



Guinness Foreign Extra
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a goblet
Guinness Foreign Extra is seriously different from Guinness Draught, and seriously serious. Foreign Extra was original devised in 1801 with extra hops as a preservative to facilitate shipping to the Caribbean. When prohibition stuck in the United States the beer was pulled and never returned, until now. On October 1, 2010 the beer was reintroduced to the American market. I welcome it.
This beer is dark with only a slight ruby glow at the base of the glass, held to a light. There is no seeing though this beer. The carbonation bubbles in the tan head are large, in stark contrast to the creamy head produced by nitrogenation in Guinness Draught. The head sticks around for a while and produces solid lacing.
There’s an initial sweet aroma, backed up by smokey tones. The taste follows the same pattern. Initial sweetness followed up by a dry charred bitterness and dark chocolate hints. This is no Hershey’s Special Dark, either. The chocolate component here is at once rich and bitter, more like pure cacao. Hops are much clearer here than in Draught.
Finally, there’s a lingering smoke essence. This beer has character and packs a punch. Unlike its lighter cousin, I could not knock back many of these, but that’s a good thing.
Final Verdict: A-
A Bit of History: Thanks to the wonders of nature and brewers ingenuity, the yeast used in the brewing of Guinness Foreign Extra today is actually many generations descended from the original yeast used back in 1801. At the end of each brewing cycle the yeast is extracted and can be reused.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Murphy’s Irish Stout



Murphy’s Irish Stout
Serving Type: 16 oz. nitro can, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass
Murphy’s, Guinness’ less-expensive competitor, pours very dark. It’s considerably darker than Guinness with only hints of its true ruby complexion coming through at the edges of the glass when held up to a light. Like Guinness, the cascading bubbles, slowed by contact with the edge of the glass, are a prominent and eye-catching feature of the pour. (See below for more information)
The large creamy tan head is thick and liable to leave a beer mustache on an eager drinker. There’s a depth of flavor here lacking from Guinness Draught. The bold malts are toasted dark and there’s a considerable bittering from the beer’s hops. Sweet coffee and mollasses are present, but nicely rounded. The finish carries a smokier character that adds to the layers of flavor, balanced by a light caramel sweetness on the aftertaste.
Murphy’s has a lot going for it, over Guinness. It’s cheaper, it’s bolder and more flavorful, and the cans are bigger!
Final Verdict: B+ 
A Note on Cascading Bubbles: Pay close attention next time you’re pouring a beer into a glass. The characteristic cascading bubbles found in Guinness and Murphy’s are actually present in all beer. It’s just that the contrast between the color of the bubbles and the body is much more pronounced in a darker beer.
The cascade is caused by drag from the wall of the glass. Bubbles naturally rise to the top of the beer, but those in contact with the glass are slowed down, and as air rushes from the center of the glass (not touching the wall) to the top, those bubbles on the sides are actually pulled downward, creating the effect.

Guinness Draught



Guinness Draught
Serving Type: 14.9 oz. nitro can, poured into a pint glass
Guinness is at once highly revered and strongly disliked, depending on who you talk to. Over my beer-drinking years I’ve moved from revulsion, to love, and now, somewhere in the middle. It pours a characteristic deep-brown-not-quite-black with glowing ruby hues. The large creamy tan head sits at the top of the beer, remains the entire time, and leaves serious lacing on the glass.
The toasted malts produce a characteristic sweetness balanced by dry hops. Coffee stout flavor is clearly present, but the mollasses sweetness takes the edge off. Despite the creamy texture of the head, the beer itself is somewhat thin, with a light finish. I can easily drink a ton of these, and at only 4% ABV it is a very doable feat.
Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Narragansett - Fest Lager



Narragansett Fest Lager
Serving Type: 16 oz. tall-boy can, poured into a Becker glass
Purchased From: Dotcom Wine & Spirits West
Narragansett Fest is a Fall seasonal lager from Narragansett Brewing Company. While I cannot say for sure, my guess would be that it, like other ‘Gansetts is brewing in Rochester by Genesee. What I do know, is that, according to a ‘Gansett rep, the entire run of Fest has already been sold to distributors and package stores. What’s on the shelves (if any, at this point) is what’s left. Find it quick, if you still can!
Fest pours a deep amber with hints of glowing orange accents. It’s got a large fluffy head with tan hints, great retention, and good lacing on the glass. The nose features full-bodied malts and the characteristic Narragansett hop smell. 
The toasty malts are prevalent on the front-end, but meet a considerable balance of hops in the middle to the finish. It finishes crisp and is very drinkable. I got a slight minerally hardwater taste to it, but it’s not off-putting. Blends well with the sweetness to produce a great seasonal. Keep an eye out for it next year.
Final Verdict: B+

Hooker Blonde Ale



Hooker Blonde Ale
Serving Type: Growler, poured into a Hooker pint glass
Hooker’s Blonde Ale pours a light golden straw hue with slight hints of oranges and reds throughout. It’s clear with moderate carbonation and a thin head. The retention was light out of the growler, but there was light lacing on the glass. Results might be different from a bottle or straight from the tap, rather than a growler a few days old.
The nose is malty with a honey suckle sweetness to it. There are hints of hops, but they’re not nearly as prominent as the fresh malts. The taste is directly linked to the smell. The malts are bright and fresh, a huge and central component to the flavor. If you take a tour of the brewery the distinct smell of their base malts can be found dinstinctly here. There’s a small hop component here, but its more of an accent than anything.
I would definitely describe this beer as being a “malt-bomb,” but not derrogotorily as I may use it in connection with the adjunct lagers I recently reviewed. Here, the barley malts are crisp and clean. In the mass-market lagers you get a muddled mess of barley thinned down by cereal grains and rice. The flavor is clearly different and the character of the Blonde Ale is somewhat rare. Very enjoyable.
Final Verdict: B

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ballantine XXX Ale



Ballantine XXX Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a mug
Finishing up this two-week series is a bonus ale made by a mass-producer. Ballantine was once a well-known label owned by Falstaff Brewing Company. The company was eventually sued during a merger with Narragansett Brewing Company by the State of Rhode Island over antitrust issues. Although Falstaff won, this, combined with declining sales, was a fatal blow to the company.
Just imagine, Falstaff was once the third largest brewer and it was sued over antitrust. How, then, do we have Anheuser-Busch merge with InBev to create AB InBev and SABMiller and MolsonCoors (both themselves products of mergers) join to create MillerCoors? It’s difficult to follow the series of steps that allowed these mergers, but fought to disallow the previous merger without getting a headache. Ballantine, the brand, is now owned by Pabst Brewing Company (one of its many obscure, but historic, labels). This means, of course, that Ballantine is contract-brewed by beer giant MillerCoors. 
Either way, onto the goods. Ballantine pours a golden straw color with a small head and minimal retention. Light lacing can be found on the glass. The nose, unlike the long list of lagers reviewed over the past two weeks, has a dry hoppy character and a hint of must. The malt-bomb lagers stand in stark contrast to this ale.
The mouthfeel is light and crisp with high carbonation for an ale. The malts here are light in flavor, providing some sweetness, but they’re overshadowed by potent hops that define Ballantine’s taste. The finish is clean, but there’s a lingering herbal touch.
Overall, it’s very drinkable. It’s crisp, affordable, and it makes a great beer for warm weather. I would, however, advise against buying it from Copaco. They charge an arm and a leg for it. I’m not sure if it is really “America’s Largest Selling Ale” as the can purports, but it fits the bill for mass-market appeal, price, and a good taste.
Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Narragansett Lager



Narragansett Lager
Serving Type: 16 oz. tall boy can, poured into a dimpled mug
Narragansett is a classic beer that went for years inactive. Recently, the rights to the name were purchased with an eye toward reestablishing the brand in New England. They’re certainly on their way to it, and I’m happy about it. Currently, Narragansett Brewing Company simply markets the beers, which are contract brewed in New York by Genesee Brewing Company. Their hope is, however, that they will someday reopen the brewery in Rhode Island, employing the inspiring catchphrase “Drink your part” to rally the beer-drinking masses.
Narragansett pours with a full-bodied straw color, and some depth of amber tones. The large foam head fades somewhat fast, but leaves light lacing on the glass during its departure. There’s a ton of active carbonation in the glass. The nose is primarily malts with a light must and a scent I’ve come to recognize as solely Narragansett.
The flavor is initially a ton of malts, but soon runs into medium hops for a clear differentiation in flavor. There’s a solid balance here and its well executed. The huge carbonation gives some body to the beer and produces a crisp finish.
Final Verdict: A-*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yuengling Traditional Lager



Yuengling Traditional Lager
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 16 oz. can, poured into a Becker glass
Yuengling is a well-known beer in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region. I’m not sure just which states you can find it in, but the list isn’t long. According to the company they’re America’s oldest brewery, and apparently this is logged in national and state registries. I don’t know how to verify this, but I’ll buy it. Good for you Yuengling!
Yuengling Traditional Lager may once have been important in the brewer’s lineup, but was absent until its reintroduction in 1987. Now, it’s the most well-known of Yuengling’s handful of beers. It pours a light foam head with some orange hints. The head stands in stark contrast to the deep amber glow that is the body of this beer. The nose is characterized mostly by a light must.
The flavor comes across medium-bodied, also surprising giving the depth of the beer’s color. The toasted malts provide some layers of flavor and a noticeable sweetness. A selection of hops comes across moderately to help balance the sweet malts. Overall the medium carbonation combines with the characteristic flavor of Yuengling to produce an astonishingly drinkable and refreshing brew.
Final Verdict: A-*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.
Interesting Aside: To help weather the storm that was prohibition, Yuengling switched to brewing near-beer products and celebrated its 100th anniversary under such conditions. In another bid to stay profitable, Yuengling also established a dairy operation. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pabst Blue Ribbon



Pabst Blue Ribbon
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a mug
Pabst Blue Ribbon, perhaps better known as PBR, kicks off the next section in the series. American Lagers, not made by the Big Three (which are really the Big Two. More on that another time, perhaps.), well sort of. Pabst Blue Ribbon, seen by many as the underdog of macro brew is only partially so. While PBR is owned by Pabst Brewing Company (it also owns a variety of other lesser-known brands) the brewing is done through contract by MillerCoors (a joint venture of SABMiller and MolsonCoors). Despite this, Pabst controls the specifications, and the results are good.
PBR pours with a full straw-colored body with a very light colored foam head. The head disappears quick under pressure from the very high active carbonation. It does, however, leave a medium amount of lacing on the glass.
The malts are prominent here, but are balanced by a moderate hopping. It’s more than refreshing to notice a balance of flavors in a macro brew. The finish is crisp and clean.
Final Verdict: B+
Side Note: PBR, formerly Best Select, then Pabst Select, takes its name (and its ribbon) from the Chicago World’s Fair (a/k/a World’s Columbian Exposition) of 1893 where the beer was awarded “Best in America.” For more information on the fair read here or check out a great novel filled with history, intrigue, and murder by Erik Larson called “The Devil in the White City.”

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