Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thomas Hooker Brewing Company - Liberator Dopplebock

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug

Liberator is, local (to me) favorite, Hooker's take on the German double bock style. The beer pours a deep rich mahogany with a frothy and creamy light tan head. Sporting solid retention, the foam fades slowly leaving dispersed lacing as it receeds. Chocolate malts show prominently on the nose and play nicely minor coffee notes for a deep and rich aroma. A tinge of grassy hops push through, giving the beer a bit of a sharp edge.

The beer has a smooth and even mouthfeel, brought to life by satiny carbonation. Lagery malts are buttressed by earthy tones. A bit of the unmistakable base malt employed by Hooker shows through, but their specialty roasted malts add character with hints of dark chocolate and coffee. The beer packs plenty of body to match its depth of flavors, making it a very tasty and enjoyable brew.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paulaner - Salvator Double Bock

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a flute glass

The Salvator Double Bock, reportedly the world's first double bock, pours a light chestnut brown with amber highlights. The beer has a still appearance, but is topped by an airy head of light tan foam. The head retention is mild and leaves almost no lace behind as it hastily departs. The nose is light and malty with hints of candied fruits. The mildly sugary aroma contains hints of caramel and slightly earthy aromas.

The beer's flavor profile exhibits a damp woodiness with a mild acidity and earthy undertones. Vague caramel sweetness creeps in on the mid-palate, but the emphasis is clearly on the decaying funk of rain soaked wood. The beer is enjoyable, but very light, almost inconsequential. Mild alcohol heat tinges on the finish.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bruery - Mischief

Serving Type: 750ml bottle, poured into a 25cl glass

This Belgian-style Strong Pale Ale from The Bruery pours a hazy glowing orange body, very light in appearance. Light floating yeast sediment is bumped about by continually rising streams of carbonation. The airy white foam head musters excellent retention and leaves large chunky swathes of lace on the glass as it fades. The nose is sweet and very spicy. Sweet and tart grape-like notes contrast the cellary and dusty aromas.

The mouthfeel is light and airy with crisp, playful carbonation that leaves the beer almost evaporating on the tongue. Despite the robust nose, the flavor is very mild overall. Light malts are golden with a dusting of dry hops. A mild spritz of citrus refreshes the palate. The finish is tingling, yet dry and almost incidental seeming. A mild chest heat finishes off the beer. Despite the bold flavor profile the beer is mild and almost reserved.

Final Verdict: A-

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Brouwerij Corsendonk - Christmas Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a snifter

In celebration of Christmas this year I chose to review, the very fittingly named, Christmas Ale from Belgium-based Corsendonk. The Christmas Ale is a seasonally released interpretation of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale produced by the well-known Belgian brewer.

The beer pours a deep chestnut body with a large, frothy yellowed light tan head. The foam retention is excellent and leaves sparse lacing on the glass. The snifter-concentrated nose is very dusty and dry. Definite cellar notes combine with mineral water to form a solid musty base. Dry, but potent, spices emanate late on the aroma and combine with dark smokey incense notes.

On the sip the mouthfeel is very smooth. Carbonation is light overall, but features pockets of bristling bubbles that prod the palate. Surprisingly bright fruits light up the flavor with minor orangey citrus and a dusting of apricot. There's even a hint of light mango or papaya. As the citrus fades the apricot opens the door to some darker Winter fruits that usher in a dash of candied sweetness. Spices play well with the fruity notes and lend a dryness on the back end. The finish comes across with a minor carbonation bite and a lasting, but receding, fruitiness and a satisfying chest heat.

An excellent beer for Winter drinking that proudly features bright flavors, often lost in the deluge of Winter Warmers and the like.

Final Verdict: A

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Humming Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Humming Ale, an American Pale Ale, from Anchor Brewing pours a hazy orangy straw body. The off-white head is healthy in its dimensions with a frothy consistency and excellent retention. Layers of chunky lacing adorn the top of the glass as the head slowly fades. Hops are pungent and stinky with heaps of low earthy tones. Mild malts underlie the bouquet with a customary sweetness.

The beer is light bodied and highly drinkable. Contrasting the beer's nose, mild hops are lightly fruity, matching the airy beer feeling. The contrast between the nose and the hop flavor is intriguing and lends itself to a pleasant drinking experience. Malts are somewhat grainy and pack a somewhat honey-like sweetness. This is an easy going beer for easy going people. A simple pleasure to drink and enjoy.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oskar Blues Brewery - Old Chub Scotch Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a pint glass

Old Chub, a Colorado-brewed Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy, pours a deep rubied brown body with a medium-large light brown head. The beer's foam is moderately creamy in appearance with healthy bubbles of air. The head fades slowly and leaves light lacing on the glass. The nose is malty, but light. Toasted malts are sweet with caramel and a light sugary candied edge. Very mild earthy tones underscore the brew's malt base.

A sip reveals, not unexpectedly, a sweet malt body with almost no hops perceptible. Mild candied stone fruits lend additional sweetness to the toffee caramel and contrast light coffee-like flavors. The beer is straight forward and malt-centric, true to the style, but not an overbearing malt bomb. Highly drinkable with a light robustness, this is a classic session ale. The finish is drying with hints of hard water and a bit of lingering sweetness.

Final Verdict: B+

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sixpoint Brewery - Righteous Ale

Serving Type: 16 oz. tallboy can, poured into a Becker pint glass

Righteous Ale from New York-based Sixpoint pours a deep auburn body with a moderate haze and a deep glow. The voluminous light tan head is large and frothy. Retention of the beer's foam is excellent and leaves layers of thin lace on the glass. Hops on the nose are pungent and piney with a slightly earthy undertone. The beers malts are sticky sweet and the addition of rye malt adds a distinct spiciness to the aroma.

The body is slick with a moderate crisp carbonation. Malts are sweet with some molasses, but also carry a spicy complexity. Rye malt is quite pervasive here. Hops hit on the mid-palate with a moderate dryness and bittering to match the beer's spice. The beer is fairly boozy, and seems a bit strong for 6.3% ABV. The finish is tight with some lingering malt sugar, minor bitterness, and a mild warming effect.

Final Verdict: B+

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Victory Brewing Company - Golden Monkey

Purchased From: Spiritus Wines
Serving Type: 750 ml bottle, poured into a goblet

Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing Company pours a light orange body with mild golden-yellow undertones. The body is hazy and topped by a creamy and voluminous white head of foam. The head has excellent retention and leaves elegant wisps of lacing on the glass. The nose is spicy with minor citrus aromatics. Coriander and a very modest clove mix with the beer's significant malt base and moderate sweetness.

Velvety crisp carbonation greets the tongue on the first sip and produces an airy mouthfeel that dispels some of the beer's alcohol. Big sweet malts are tempered by the traditional witbier-type spices and hints of cracked white pepper. Dry aromatic hops cut through the malts as well. Minor earthy tones meld with the dry finish and the beer departs with a minor chest warming feeling. The beer isn't bursting with as much flavor as many other tripels, but is a very solid entry from Victory.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sebago Brewing Company - Hefeweizen

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass posing as a Weizen glass

This Summery hefeweizen from Sebago Brewing Company pours a yeast-clouded light yellow body. The medium sized white foam head is light and airy. Moderate retention keeps the head around just long enough to produce light wisps of lace at the top of the glass. A fresh and grassy nose is packed with wheat malts that are featured prominently. Matching the malts is a classic wheat beer spice profile. Light clove, coriander and a citric orange peel create the beer's aroma.

Crisp carbonation takes up the wheat malts nicely and produces an airy body. Wheat malts are sweet and pleasant without much weight. The beer's buoyant body leaves it incredibly easy to drink. Grassiness is moderate throughout and meets up with the spices on the mid-palate. The flavor is semi-fleeting. It is not quite, but almost leans toward inconsequential in this featherweight of a beer. The finish is mildly earthy with a somewhat meaty component, but very light overall. The beer leaves the tongue slightly dry.

Final Verdict: C+

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cottrell Brewing Company - State Line Handcrafted IPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twin pint glass

The State Line Handcrafted IPA is a private label beer brewed by Cottrell Brewing Company, based in Connecticut, for Trader Joe's. Essentially what you get is the quality of a Cottrell beer for the private label price. Worth checking out if your local Joe's has some in stock. The beer pours a slightly hazy orange-amber body. The medium-large head is a slightly yellowed tan head of frothy foam with a mild oily sheen. The beer's head retention is solid and leaves swathes of sticky lacing on the glass.

Resinous pine hops are prominent on the nose with a slight soapiness. The aroma is very fresh and strong, full of hops. The underlying malts add a base of caramel essence to the beer. The beer has a vivacious carbonation, producing a full-bodied mouthfeel when combined with the malt body. Hops are dry and palate-attacking, but give a slick, oily feel with moderately high bitterness. The malts are secondary, but not a second though. Breadiness is moderated by a molasses sweetness. The finish is somewhat dry and quite crisp. The beer is refreshing and highly drinkable. At Trader Joe's prices, you're getting a Cottrell brew for quite the bargain.

Final Verdict: B+

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New England Brewing Company - Gandhi-Bot Double IPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a tulip glass

Gandhi-Bot, the canned Double IPA from New England Brewing Company, pours a very hazy orange body with minor tawny notes. The head is smallish for a beer poured into a tulip glass, but the foam is a frothy yellowed off-white that sports excellent retention. The foam leaves a solid ring of lacing at the top of the glass and bits of foam on the glass walls. The beer has a very tight hop nose with a viscous oily pine resin quality. Minor earthy notes mellow the pronounced hops in combination with a minor alcoholic, but not boozy, sweetness.

The body of the beer provides a velvety mouthfeel. The beer remains crisp despite the substantial hopping that lends a slick and oily character. This beer is absolutely huge with a dominating pine at its center. Resin is key to the hop component, but a minor woodiness plays off the earthy malt tones that underpin the beer. The grainy malts of the beer are crushed by the hop profile, but the cracked grains lend texture and a sturdy malt base. The finish is warming and the beer leaves your mouth with a viscous coated feeling.

Final Verdict: A

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blue Point Brewing Company - Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

The Pumpkin Ale from Long Island-based Blue Point pours a crystal clear light amber body with a moderate orange glow. The medium-sized light tan head is slightly creamy with moderate retention, but leaves almost no lacing on the glass. Pumpkin is big on the nose with mild spices the give the beer a pumpkin pie-like aroma. Spices are dusty seeming with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of allspice. A mild astringency tugs at the edges of the beer's nose.

The beer has a tight carbonation up front that produces a full-ish mouthfeel. Sweet caramel malts build the base of the beer and work with prominent pumpkin flavoring. The beer's crispness subsides to big notes of the spices found on the nose. Allspice and nutmeg are the primary standouts. The beer is sweet and almost tangy on the finish with a dash of pumpkin and lingering spices to match a hint of brown sugar sweetness.

Final Verdict: B-

Return to Posting

The blog has been dormant for over a month now, and I'm sorry for that. I'm hoping to get back to some regular posting, although it may not be on a daily basis. The blog's post frequency had been fluctuating for a while near the end of the Summer and through the Fall as my commitments changed. Then, with the beginning of October, my workload ramped up significantly and it's been difficult for me to keep to the habit of writing regularly, or at all. The one thing I have been doing, luckily, is drinking beer!

So, while the posting has dropped off, the beer tasting has not. Although I haven't been tasting new beers with the same regularity as previously, I've been building up a bit of a back catalog of beer reviews. I'm hoping that over the next weeks and months those beers will be making an appearance here on Musings.

If you're interested to see which beers I'm drinking on a regular basis, check out my account on Untappd. You can find that at You'll also notice that the beers appearing on Utappd usually make their way to the Musings Twitter account at You can follow these accounts to get an idea of my current tastes and maybe some sneak peaks at what may be coming down the pipeline.

For now, though, I anticipate there will be updates coming soon with a handful of beer reviews coming out each week. The first bunch might be a few Fall seasonal holdovers then the blog will be onto a variety of beers with some Winter seasonals sprinkled in.

Stay tuned. Drink beer. And Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Matt Brewing Company - Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

The Pumpkin Ale from the Matt Brewing Company's Saranac line pours a deep tawny amber body with mild, but radiating, orange glows. The beer's creamy light tan head is thick and fades slowly to leave light lacing along the top of the glass. A reserved nose is dry and dusty with allspice occupying the prominent aromatic position. The underlying malt component is somewhat feint overall.

This Pumpkin Ale has a big emphasis on spices. Pumpkin flavors are mild with spices taking the lead. Allspice and cracked clove are apparent with hints of cinnamon. I'm a bit curious about the lack of real pumpkin flavor. The flavor is a bit sweet, but there are no significant vegetal notes on the finish. It's unfortunate, but the exact nature of the pumpkin content is a bit suspicious. The label claims the beer is brewed "...with pumpkin and spices with natural flavors added." The addition makes me wonder just how much actual pumpkin is involved in the beer, and how much the natural flavoring is the beer's main crutch. The finish has a minor lasting sweetness and some dry spice held over.

Final Verdict: C+

Monday, October 24, 2011

Buffalo Bill's Brewery - Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

The Pumpkin Ale from California-based Buffalo Bill's pours a very orange brown body with a lightly yellowed head. The foam is thin and retention and lacing are minimal as the head dissipates in a hurry. The nose is sweet and semi-artificial with a fake-seeming pumpkin aroma. Light citrusy notes give the beer a smell that is very reminiscent of Blue Moon with a mild spice profile.

Sweet malts give the beer some body paired with light pumpkin flavoring. Strangely enough, the orange and citrus notes are much more considerable than expected. The sweetness borders on cloying, but a definitive spice edge adds a tinge of dryness and cuts the sweetness a bit. Velvety carbonation adds light body, but the flavor subsides quickly to a vaguely astringent orange peel flavor that leaves citrus notes on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: D+

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Punkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Dogfish's Punkin Ale pours a radiating copper body with a large creamy light tan head. The foam retention is solid and leaves mild lacing behind as the head slowly retreats. Sweet pumpkin from puree meets mounds of spices on the nose. The bottle cheerfully advertises extras added to the brew process including brown sugar, which adds nuanced sweetness, as well as allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Allspice and nutmeg are most prominent and give the beer a pumpkin pie aroma.

What gives Punkin Ale a solid footing is that it starts with a highly competent brown ale. A malt forward profile is buttressed by heaps of spice. Brown sugar and the toasted malts of the underlying brown ale give the beer defined caramel and molasses flavors. Pumpkin is delicious and spicy in and of itself with plentiful earthy and vegetal tones. Spices add pumpkin pie influence, but don't define the brew or pigeon hole it as a pie in a glass. The finish has some heat and a lasting spiciness. One of my favorites of the season.

Final Verdict: A-/B+

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anheuser-Busch - Shock Top Brewing Company - Pumpkin Wheat

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass posing as a weizen glass

Pumpkin Wheat from the supposed "Shock Top Brewing Company" is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, owned by InBev, and is one of the companies many (many) brands of beer. Originally under AB's Michelob lineup, the brand has been a fairly successful competitor to Coors' Blue Moon in the macro-posing-as-micro market segment.

The beer pours an attractive hazy orange body with long wisps of floating sediment. The large, yellowed off-white head is fairly creamy and boasts solid retention. The nose is dry with a minor astringency. Mild pumpkin is present, but the emphasis is on spiciness with nutmeg and cinnamon as the standouts. The nose finishes on a semi-medicinal note.

Matched to a velveteen carbonation the silkiness of the wheat malts pairs with pumpkin flavor for an interesting combination. The bottle claims real pumpkin, but it's unclear what exactly that means and I'm skeptical if that means that real pumpkin chunks pass within a mile of the brew process. Dry spices round out the beer. Clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg give the beer a traditional pumpkin pie edge. The finish has a tinge of citrus and makes for a strange pairing with the nutmeg. The aftertaste is astringent and slightly medicinal, but the beer is surprising okay overall.

Final Verdict: C+

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peak Organic Brewing Company - Fall Summit Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

This organic brew pours a deep amber body with a tawny brown base. The head is thick and frothy colored in a slightly yellowed tan. Foam retention is excellent and leaves extensive lacing at the top of the glass. The nose is quite hoppy with a minor astringency. Lightly earthy tones define the beer and sport a mix of spiciness and a slight chalky essence.

After the nose, the beer is more malt forward than expected. A distinct dusty chalkiness develops from big mineral-heavy water notes. The malt base of the beer also carries a vegetal edge and, contrastingly, a sharp metallic edge. Caramel sweetness is clear, matched by very slight chocolate notes. Hops dominate the mid-palate through the finish. They're aromatic and oily with a slight piney essence. The finish is gristly and grainy with lasting sweetness and bitter hops.

Final Verdict: B/B-

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hofbräu - Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 330 mL bottle, poured into a pint glass

This classic Oktoberfest märzen pours a medium yellowy body with a straw-like complexion. The healthy off-white head is a dense foam with a somewhat creamy consistency. Head retention is solid and the foam leaves traces of thin lacing on the glass. The nose is lagery with a pronounced dandelion bitterness. The beer has a very Pilsner-like quality with an added honey sweetness on the aroma.

Sweet honey up from with a velvety carbonation. High on the bitter hoppiness, this is a quite-dry beer. Noble-type hops are prominently featured and put this on the bitter side for a typical Oktoberfest, but it is welcomed. Underlying malts are moderately biscuity with a slightly toasted flavor. The finish is dry with a mild lingering sweetness and a leafy vegetal quality.

Final Verdict: B

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Matt Brewing Company - Saranac Octoberfest Lager

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint

Saranac's Octoberfest, produced by the Matt Brewing Company, pours a light amber with an orangey-yellow glow. The thick foam head is frothy with an off-white tint. The retention is moderate and the lacing is thin. The grainy nose is lightly sweet with a mild honey sweetness. A light dusting of hops provides a slight bitterness profile.

This Octoberfest's malts are fairly light with a hint of toastiness. The sweetness has a slightly sugary quality and is light on caramel elements or classic honey flavors. The light hopping is very mild with mostly an addition of aromatics. As the flavor diminishes on the finish there's a slightly funky astringency that leaves a sour, almost citric finish. Finally a wave of dryness finishes the beer.

Final Verdict: C

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Victory Brewing Company - Festbier

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

Victory's Oktoberfest-inspired Festbier has a full deep amber body with a glowing orange backlight. The large, yellowed light tan head has a moderately creamy consistency and solid staying power. The lace from the beer's foam is light overall, but elegant. The beer has a musty lager nose. Toasted malts have a pronounced sweetness and distinctive honey aroma. A very light dusting of hops rounds out the beer's nose.

Hop-forward for a märzen, this Oktoberfest beer hits the tradition bitterness profile. Dandelion bitterness is prominent up front with classic Pilsner-influence and Noble-type hops. Toasted biscuity malts add layers of body and sweetness to the beer. Mild caramel and choice honey round the flavor leading to an exceptionally dry finish that invites another sip.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, October 3, 2011

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Okto Festival Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

This Oktoberfest märzen from Oregon-based Widmer Brothers pours a full-bodied amber with a ruby glow to back it up. The yellowed-tan head is thick and creamy with solid retention and layers of thin lace. The nose is dry and dusty, but feint overall. It is slightly spicy, but quite mild with a reserved sweetness. The malts seem light and very light on the aroma.

Initially, the beer's hops are center stage and dominate the palate. It's not so hoppy that the beer pushes an IPA, but seems more like a hoppy amber ale than a traditional märzen. Overall the hops are piny with a complex bitterness. Toasted malts have a mild biscuity edge and a pleasing caramel sweetness, but are up staged all along. The finish is dry and tight with lingering pine notes. I don't know if this is a misguided attempt or a "West Coast interpretation," but I think this one misses the Oktoberfest boat. What I do know, is that this is a solid brew.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lakefront Brewery - Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

This Wisconsin take on an Oktoberfest pours a medium amber body with orange highlights. The medium-sized light tan head has a somewhat creamy consistency. While light on retention, the foam produces semi-thick and layered lacing on the glass. The nose is dry and slightly earthy. Mild caramel sweetness hovers below a lagery nose. A minimal astringency lingers on the aroma.

Airy and velvety carbonation contrasts the slightly nutty and damp woodiness of the foretaste. Caramel sweetness is pronounced, produced along side bread-like toasted malts. The beer has a semi-sour grainy finish and a lingering grain mash sweetness. A dash of hops adds a slight dryness to the finish that remains on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weyerbacher Brewing Company - AutumnFest Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

The AutumnFest Ale from Pennsylvania-based Weyerbacher pours a deep tawny amber body with a slightly yellowed light tan head. The creamy medium-sized head has solid retention and produces thin lace on the glass. The nose has sweet caramel malts with a slightly spicy edge. A moderate woodiness plays off the vaguest hint of chocolate. Hops lend a dryness, but are light on the bittering.

This ale's carbonation is mild and the beer almost seems to teeter on wateriness because the beer doesn't exude body. The flavor is very earthy with a dank woodiness that gives the beer an almost bock-like quality, two seasons late. Light biscuity malts have a toffee sweetness. Chocolate notes develop late and fade into the aftertaste. After the mild sweetness of the beer, the mild cocoa adds a bit of depth.

Final Verdict: B-

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Boston Beer Company - Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The Samuel Adams Oktoberfest from the Boston Beer Company pours a solid amber body with a slight orange glow. A medium-sized yellowed tan head of creamy foam sits on top and slowly fades with moderate retention. As the head disappears it leaves light wispy lacing along the glass. The nose is fairly light with some dry earthy tones and a modest sweetness. A very, very slight astringency lingers on the aroma.

The malts have a modest caramel component matched with a pronounced toasted breadiness. The beer has a very light hoppiness that is mostly dry, rather than bitter or overly aromatic. A slight spiciness appears late as well. The finish is dry and fairly flat on the flavor. A minor sweetness lasts on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B-

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ayinger - Oktober Fest-Märzen

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 500 mL bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

The Oktober Fest-Märzen pours a full-bodied straw with a medium-large creamy off-white head. The foam retention is moderate and the lacing is a light and delicate. The nose is sweet with honey notes over robust biscuity malts. Light caramel hints add a slightly darker sweetness, which compliments a slight cellary must.

The mouthfeel is rich with satiny carbonation that is refreshing and lends a lasting crispness to the beer. A dry body is produced by moderately bitter hops with the slightest dusting of dandelion bitterness, which accents the pervasive sweet malts. A mild caramel tone to the malts is pleasing, but the distinct honey sweetness is center stage. The malts are bold and biscuity, giving the beer a substantial feeling. A very dry finish beckons another sip of this outstanding Oktoberfest beer.

Final Verdict: A

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hacker-Pschorr - Original Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 330 mL bottle, poured into a pint glass

Hacker and Pschorr were separate breweries, with an intertwined history dating back to 1417, until the early 1970s. By 1975 the breweries were merged and the labeling and products were fully integrated. This storied brewery produces a range of traditional Bavarian brews, not the least of which is their classic Oktoberfest märzen.

The beer pours a tawny, brownish, amber body with some light highlights. The head is a medium sized tanned white foam of fine carbonation. The retention is fairly light and the lacing is modest. There's a distinct honey sweetness on the nose, mildly reminiscent of orange blossom honey. The light toasted malts have an earthy, lagered aroma.

The malts' earthy notes are pronounced up front with a slight woodiness and a classic lager aire. The mildly bitter hops are light overall. The malt body is not substantial, while the honey essence is significant and persistent. Although, the sweetness is never overblown. The beer is drinkable and light bodied with a lasting sweetness and mild hop dusting.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company - Tumbler

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug

Sierra Nevada's Tumbler, a self-described Autumn Brown Ale, pours a deep mahogany body with a thick, creamy light tan head. A craterous surface appears as the long-lasting head slowly fades. The lacing is thin, yet elegant. The nose is dry with mild chocolate notes. Roasted malt aroma is pleasing with hints of aromatic hops. The nose also has a slightly earthy edge with a mildly vegetal character.

Chocolate notes are pronounced on the foretaste with lightly roasted malts. A very slight hint of smoke develops, but fades gently into the palate, leaving the beer miles from a Porter with minimal coffee-like influence. Sweet molasses and caramel temper the darker tones of the beer. While full-bodied and substantial, a light, but crisp, carbonation brings a hint of refreshment, while allowing the strength of beer to stand out. The finish is lingering with dryness and a mildly bitter aftertaste.

Final Verdict: A-

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mercury Brewing Company - Ipswich Harvest Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

Mercury Brewing's Ipswich Harvest Ale pours a very deep, tawny chestnut brown body. The Large head is light tan and very dense. The foam is creamy with a frothy consistency. Retention and lacing on the beer are both solid. The nose is very hoppy with citrus and resinous pine notes. The sticky hop aroma gives way to a significant malt character with molasses and brown sugar notes. A minor hint of coffee lingers at the edges.

A moderate smokiness on the front almost give the impression of a Black IPA, when paired with the considerable hop profile. The beer is highly hoppy with dry pine that lends heaps of bitterness to the beer. Certainly hoppier than most amber ales, this is another solid entry to the Ipswich line. Lingering hops on the finish further contribute to the beer's bold character.

Final Verdict: B+

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Brooklyn Brewery - Brooklyn Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The Oktoberfest entry from Brooklyn Brewery pours a mildly-hazy deep amber, slightly tawny, with a gold glow. The head is medium sized in a slightly yellowed light tan. The retention is moderate and the lacing is fairly light. Lagery and slightly bready, the nose is full of toasted malts with a caramel sweetness. There's a very mild underlying hop profile.

The beer is very malt forward with a strong caramel sweetness. However, the sweets aren't overwhelming. The malts have a moderate tea-like profile. The carbonation produces a cascading mouthfeel, despite the beer's dry body. A slight cellary must amplifies the beers lager qualities. The finish is rewarding with lingering malts. The dryness on the finish leaves the drinker wanting another sip.

Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Magic Hat Brewing Company - Hex Ourtoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Hex: 'Ourtoberfest' is an interesting and unique take on a traditional Oktoberfest Märzen. Like Magic Hat is known for, they've put their own spin on this one. The beer pours a slightly hazy amber body with a golden glow. The head is medium-large and is quite yellowed. The foam is frothy and sticky with excellent retention. The lacing is dispersed, but chunky. The nose is musty and lagery with a prominent honey sweetness. The hop bitterness is very subtle.

Definitely a modern take. The most noticeable departure is the addition of spicy rye malts. The lagery edge and crispness are characteristic. The beer has a defined honey sweetness with a balance of bitter dandelion-like hops. The carbonation is crisp and velvety giving this beer a fresh edge. Lingering sweetness and tea-like malt base make up the finish.

I found this beer surprisingly good. I've long heard the praises of Magic Hat, but I've met them with very mixed results. Some of the beers I've had in the past just weren't doing it for me. After this experience I'll have to reconsider some of them soon.

Final Verdict: B+

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Brooklyn Brewery - Post Road - Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The Post Road Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn Brewery pours a clear amber body with a medium-orange tint. The head is large, fluffy, and aerated, colored in off-white. The nose is very dusty and dry, reminds me of running a canister vacuum cleaner. It's highly spicy with light cinnamon, nutmeg and plenty of allspice. There's moderate underlying pumpkin. While the spices are on, this isn't a nose of pumpkin pie.

The beer is highly, highly spicy. Allspice dominates almost completely. Cinnamon is detectable as are notes of nutmeg. Light pumpkin blends nicely with the malted barley base, but it is absolutely secondary. Again, for pumpkin beer lovers seeking liquid pumpkin pie, this is not the right choice. While it's a pumpkin ale, I'd say it falls more in line with spice beers, if I've ever had one. The finish is dry and dusty and lingering.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

D.L. Geary Brewing Company - Geary's Autumn Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug

Geary's Autumn Ale pours a very deep brown, but features a shimmering clarity and an auburn glow. The medium-to-large foam head is tan and creamy in appearance, which manages moderate retention, but leaves almost no lacing on the glass. Toffee and caramel aromas emanate from the toasted depth of the beer. A distinct fresh-like malt sweetness underlies that seems almost on the sugary side.

The beer has an initial roasted character with smokey richness over a crisp body. Almost cloying sweetness comes in on the mid-palate that's reminiscent of unfermented sweet malt extract. A minor reprieve is provided by a moderately bitter hop profile on the finish and continued crisp carbonation. The aftertaste give a mishmash of smoke and extract-like sweetness.

Final Verdict: C+

Monday, September 19, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company - Harvest Special Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The seasonal Harvest Special Ale from Southern Tier is billed as an Extra Special Bitter, a classic English style. The beer pours a tawny copper body with a slightly yellowed, medium-sized head. The despite the frothy consistency, the retention and lacing on are both light. It has a bitter, almost piney hop nose. The maltiness is moderate with toasted caramel and slight cocoa hints.

The nose hinted it, but the taste confirms, the hop profile seems a bit off from that of a traditional ESB. Hops are pungent and piney, giving this beer the feel of a moderate IPA or a hoppy amber ale. The malts aren't pronounced, compared to the hops. A slight toasty biscuit profile is present, but not distinguishing. An ESB true to the style should have a more developed malt character that strikes a balance with the hops. While bittering is important and central to the style, a more reserved, less pungent, hop profile would've given this beer a more spot-on feel.

Final Verdict: B-

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harpoon Brewery - Octoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

The Octoberfest märzen from Harpoon Brewery pours a dark tawny copper body with a light orange glow. The medium-sized yellowed tan head sports modest retention and is very light on lacing overall. The nose is very malty with sweet caramel notes and a lightly toasted bread component. A slight spicy hop character is also clear on the aroma.

The brew is malt-forward with a big malt profile. Hops in this märzen are very light and provide a slight dry bitterness more than anything. The breadiness is very mild and the malts seem more sugary than full-bodied. Mild alcohol near the end seems a bit out of place for the style and strength of the beer. Additional, but moderate spiciness is present on the finish, but it doesn't out do the grainy sweetness of the beer.

Final Verdict: B-

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company - Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Mark Twain pint glass

Originally founded in 1867, Leinenkugel, based in Wisconsin, was purchased in 1988 by Miller Brewing Company (now itself a subsidiary of brewing behemoth SABMiller). Much of its beer is still produced in Chippewa Falls, WI. Their Oktoberfest beer pours a light amber body with a moderate gold glow. The medium-sized light tan head has a creamy appearance and solid retention. Lacing on the glass comes in large swathes. The nose is sweet and grainy with light caramel hints. A slight sour grain funk seems a bit out of place for the style, but a moderate mustiness gives the lager a somewhat traditional feel.

Smooth and plush carbonation gives the beer a feeling of big body, but not of substance. A light hopping is dry, but the dusting seems overshadowed. The beer's malts are prominent, but not bold or defining, although a mild spiciness adds a hint of depth to the palate. The overall flavor of the beer seems to evaporate quickly leaving a dry, slightly dissatisfying aftertaste.

Final Verdict: C+

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Narragansett Brewing Company - Fest Lager Head-to-Head

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 16 oz. 'tallboy' cans, poured into Becker pints

During my quest to collect all of the Narragansett beer varieties I inevitably had some prior season beers in my refrigerator and as a result I decided to do a head-to-head comparison of the 2010 and 2011 Fest Lagers. While an interesting experiment, normal gravity lagers have 'Best by' dates for a reason. While some new flavors developed, some of the best characteristics of a fresh Fest Lager were lost.

The 2010 Fest poured a deep muted amber with a mild diffuse glow, quite hazed after one year, while the fresh 2011 pours a shining amber with distinctive glowing orange and ruby hints. Both beers produced a large, craterous, light tan head, although the 2010 was slightly darker and speckled, both had solid retention. Lacing on the 2011 Fest was moderate, while the 2010 was fairly light.

A year in the can let the hop character of the older Fest dissipate a bit, leaving a malt-forward nose with a defined sweetness of broken down sugars. The 2011's nose was quite lagery with a cellar must and a mild vegetable aroma. Caramel malt sweetness was present with a light dusting of hops.

The 2010 was very sweet up front and lightly sugary, compared with a mild and relaxed caramel sweetness and lightly toasted biscuity malts on the 2011. What I took for a moderate earthiness on the fresh Fest seems to have developed into a mild nuttiness with accents of candied Winter fruits after a year's sit. The nuance of flavor provided by lightly bitter hops was all but gone in the 2010, while the fresh can featured mild, but overall tight hops that produced a dash of bitterness. Carbonation was modest overall on both, but not watery. Mild sweetness lingered on the finish of the 2011 Fest with a clear emphasis on the malts and a slight hint of vegetation. The sweetness was highly emphasized in the 2010 by comparison.

Final Verdict: Age beer that is intended to be aged. This head-to-head was an interesting experiment and not at all unpleasant, however, hands-down, the 2011 was more enjoyable than the 2010. This is an absolute testament to the importance of freshness dating. While the date isn't a drop-dead date by any stretch, it is an important reference when it comes to cellaring your beer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oktoberfest and Fall Seasonal Series

Over the next days, weeks, (and more?) Musings will see a series of posts celebrating the most celebrated beer season. Oktoberfest goes into full swing this Saturday (September 17) in Munich and accordingly beer stores everywhere are stocking dozens upon dozens of Fall seasonal beers ranging from small craft producers to macros who just can't seem to stay away.

The traditional Oktoberfest beer is a Märzen, originally brewed in March (or thereabout) and held in cold storage throughout the Summer. Before the advent of refrigeration technology Summer brewing was difficult and potentially unsafe (due to bacterial infection). Thus, Summer (and later Spring months) were not available for brewing and the early Spring stock was held through the summer (in cellars or caves) for drinking in Fall during the annual harvest.

While Oktoberfest/Märzen beers remain extremely popular, many breweries, particularly American craft producers opt for different styles of ale or lager for their Fall seasonal fare. Especially popular in America is the Pumpkin Beer. Pumpkin ales are made with the addition of real pumpkin, puree, or flavoring. Typically, these beers also introduce spices commonly used in making pumpkin pie.

Keep an eye out during this Fall seasonal series for at least two dozen Fall seasonals from American and European producers in a variety of styles. 

Southern Tier Brewing Company - 2XIPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass

2XIPA from Southern Tier (unsurprisingly a Double IPA) pours a chill-hazed golden straw with a minor orange glow. The beer's large head is airy with a constant rising carbonation from the center of the glass. The slightly yellowed foam sports fairly solid retention and produces great, complex lacing. The oily hop nose of the beer is strong on the pine, with some definitively earthy notes and a very vague astringency.

Surprisingly, from the nose, the beer is not overboard on the hops and comes across quite malt-forward. Perhaps I was getting to this Double IPA a bit late and some of the extra hop kick had faded in the bottle. After a slight hint of vanilla, the resinous pine hops make a come back with a spritz of citrus. The hops fade fairly quickly into dryness and a distinct alcoholic heat, which is not overwhelming, but warming. The carbonation and malts leave a slight gristle on the tongue.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company - IPA

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

This India Pale Ale from Southern Tier pours a light golden umber with a mild haze and a large frothy yellowed head. The head retention is solid and leaves delicate lacing on the glass as the foam slowly recedes. The nose is somewhat plain with a mild dustiness and dry, simple hops.

The bitter hops on the foretaste are prominent, but not overly bold. The hops give the beer a very dry mouthfeel, almost dusty, that dominates the palate. Tea-like malts are semi-sweet and medium bodied, buoyed by velvet carbonation.

Final Verdict: B-

Monday, September 12, 2011

Musings is on Auto-Pilot

As a reminder, Musings on Beer will be on auto-pilot for a little over a week while I'm traveling. Luckily, I've queued up enough posts to keep the blog busy for almost a month. This time I'm a bit more prepared than when I traveled to the American West and Southwest.

Over the next week I will be traveling and experiencing the cultures, cuisine, and drinks (beer especially) of Scotland (oh, I will be sampling Scotch as well) and Munich, Germany. At Oktoberfest in Munich I'll be enjoying Märzens by the maß and subsisting on schnitzel and würst. I hope to report back upon my return with photos, stories, and thoughts on the my experiences and beers.

Please enjoy the blog in my absence and continue to check back for daily updates.

Boulder Beer Company - Kinda Blue

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass

Following yesterday's Double IPA from Boulder comes a blueberry infused wheat beer. Kinda Blue pours a moderate purply tinted pale amber body with a reddish glow. The large fluffy head is light tan, but also features minor red tint. The retention is solid and the lacing is light. The nose is dry and dusty with a mild astringency and very feint blueberry aromas. A slight sweetness lingers, but the nose does not seem candied or cloying.

What this beer does right, off the bat, is that it seems to start with a competent wheat beer. Mildly spicy wheat is apparent in this mixed-malt brew. Satiny carbonation mixed with a gristly malt body give the beer some additional texture. The blueberry flavor is semi-sweet and almost slightly tart. This "with blueberries added" beer does not seem candied, cloying or artificial. The fruit flavor is more of an accent, not overbearing. The aftertaste has a moderate sweetness and seems fresh, which contrasts some of the dry elements and the cracked malt texture.

Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Belgian Beer Fest 2011

On Saturday September 10, 2011 I volunteered for the Belgian Beer Fest hosted in Boston, MA by Beer Advocate and Allagash brewing company. This time, as compared to my time at the ACBF in June, I was able to take more photos, some of which you will see below, but I was, unfortunately, unable to take notes on the beers I tasted. Luckily, I was able to sample and enjoy a number of beers, a (very select few) I will mention as stand outs below.

The Cyclorama as the tables and curtains were being set up. If you've never been, the Cyclorama is a great space with exposed brick walls and a gigantic dome ceiling. The echo was loud during the set up and the magnification of the general hum of the beer drinking crowd was impressive.

During the set up period we delivered cases and kegs of beer to the tables for the breweries and distributors who would be in attendance.

Boston Beer Company featured two beers from their barrel aged series.

On the right side of the hall a number of breweries set up their tables with decorations and tap boxes. Smuttynose was one of several New England-based breweries in attendance.

On the left side of the hall Pretty Things worked on getting pretty with their signature felt banner and flower decorations.

The calm before the storm.

Fest attendees enjoying samples of delicious Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers.

Chimay USA, representing one of my favorite brewers, was in attendance, featuring a Seth Rogan look alike pouring excellent beer and dispensing beer knowledge.

As part of what looks like a new art direction for their advertising campaign, Chimay was giving away wooden-handled bottle openers.

I greatly enjoyed the fest and had a lot of fun working, but, unfortunately, I was unable to take notes on my favorite beers. I tried a many, but was only able to keep track of a few. Luckily, the ones I remembered were stand outs.

Low Alcohol Beers

While there may have been other in attendance, I noticed two, very interesting, low ABV beers. First was the Beerstand Berlinerweiss from Haverhill Brewery. The beer is a Berliner Weissbier that weighs in at between 2.7-3% ABV. Through a sour-mashing technique the beer has a distinctive tartness, but also features prominent wheat malt character and a mild spiciness. A great Summer-drinking beer that's light on alcohol.

Also featured at the Fest was Magnifico from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project. Magnifico is a Summer seasonal, draft-only, Belgian-style Pale Ale. The beer came in at about 3.4% ABV, but has all the trappings of a real beer. Delicious and highly drinkable the beer has a light bodied maltiness and a dusting of hops on the finish. Magnifico is a total rarity that may be a one-off run. I'd recommend checking it out, but it might not even be possible.

Belgian Lambics

Lindemans is a great Belgian Lambic brewery that has wide availability in the USA. While many of their Lambic fruit beers are easily found, their distributor, Merchant du Vin, brought Cuvée René and Faro with them to the Fest. Faro is a blended Lambic style, formerly exclusive to Brussels and still not commonly found outside of Belgium. The beer's blend also includes the addition of candi sugar and is often spiced slightly with pepper and orange peel. The addition of the sugar syrup takes away slightly from the acidity of other Lambics and makes the beer highly drinkable, although sweet.

Cuvée René is a Lambic Gueuze from Lindemans and it is fantastic. It's everything that a Gueuze should be. The beer is delicious with sweet notes and a defined fruity tartness. Grape-like components are spectacular and the carbonation dances on the tongue. A solid, solid, beer that is available in the USA, but is certainly more rare than the fruit-flavored fare from Lindemans.

Farm House and Wild

Two other stand outs from the Fest were Cellar Door from Stillwater Artisinal and Mattina Rossa from Allagash. Cellar Door was secretly available at the Fest. No sign was hung and the bottle(s) were kept hidden from plain view. However, requesting a taste gave you a nice pour and a wink. The beer is a spicy saison style oozing with freshness and yeast character. The spicing was elegant, but powerful.

Mattina Ross from Allagash is a Wild Ale style beer aged in oak and flavored through two additions of raspberries. Unfortunately, the bottle conditioning of the brew turned out a bit spotty. Some bottles refermented to produce carbonation, while others remained still (at least so far). As a result, the quality control issues prevented the beer from being offered for sale to the general market. Luckily, a few cases made it to the Fest. Delicious, tart, fruity, and spicy, this beer is a gem. I can only hope Allagash won't be deterred from trying this beer again, or following up with an even better entry sometime in the future.

Stand Out Stinker

I had a feeling, but I kept an open mind and tried this unusually flavored beer with some hope. Unfortunately, the Chapeau Banana Lambic from De Troch was just bad. The trappings of a quality Lambic were seemingly missing and the banana flavoring seemed artificial. Slight tartness was nice, but the flavors of a Lambic beer and a banana may just be destined to clash. I wouldn't recommend the beer to most people.