Monday, January 31, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Anchor Bock Beer

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a flute glass

Anchor's Bock comes in as the fifth Anchor Brewing Company beer in a row. I originally had four to do a short series with, but when I was stocking up for the next week of beer reviews I saw this one and thought I'd extend the series a bit. This bock pours a very dark brown with a mild chestnut glow. The beer is a lot darker than I was expecting out of a bock. The appearance features a very generous and airy brown foam head. The retention is substantial with lacing to match.

The nose matches the beer's appearance with a dark coffee-like aroma. The nose is also extremely bready. The added wheat malts come through with the likeness of an entire loaf of stone cracked whole wheat bread. No pulverized wheat or bleached white bread here. Despite the dark appearance of the beer, the underlying lagery malt is fairly light. There is, though, a considerable, but not overpowering, charred smokiness. This is balances by a subtle hop component.

Near the finish there's a earthen dryness with a slight clay-like character. The body is smooth and somewhat milky. The darkness and smokiness of the beer is a bit out of character for a bock. I would say this beer seems to have more of the qualities of a porter than a bock. Not bad, but not what I'd expect from a bock.

Final Verdict: B-

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale

Purchased From: Sonoma Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a snifter

Old Foghorn is Anchor's barleywine, a style known for its strength (although not extraordinarily strong in this case) and malty character. Unlike many American barleywine's Old Foghorn isn't highly hopped, and instead allows the malts to remain the focus of attention, more in the English tradition. The beer pours a murky brown with a slight cherry hue and a healthy light tan head. The foam fades fast and doesn't leave much in the way of lacing.

The aroma carries hints of vanilla and has very fruity components. The beer seems quite sweet off the nose, but stays not-quite-cloying. Beneath the sweetness there are mild earthy tones and a slight complimentary spiciness. Dark fruits like figs and plums are clearly present along with minor hints of dried apricots. The mouthfeel is quite crisp and there's a prominent alcohol character. At only 8% ABV it seems that the alcohol comes through stronger than expected.

At first it seems like the flavor dissolves very quickly leaving a somewhat bleak palate. Luckily, the beer opens up nicely as it warms up. This is definitely a candidate for cellar temperature drinking. The finish is dry and lightly peppery. There's also tons of sweetness in the aftertaste and alcohol warmth.

Final Verdict: B

Friday, January 28, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Anchor Steam Beer

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

Suddenly I find myself three fourths of the way through an impromptu series of Anchor Brewing Co. beers. This one, perhaps their signature, is their Anchor Steam Beer. Recalling the seemingly lost style of 'steam beer' invented in San Francisco, I'm suspicious that this is the real deal. Although its name is suggestive, and Beer Advocate labels is as "California Common" / "Steam Beer," some of the wording on the label leads me to believe otherwise. I'm sure there's some truth to it, but because Anchor went to the effort to trademark the term, I have a feeling a lot of the motive is advertising. I'll leave that for the end of the post, though.

The beer pours a moderate coppery-amber body with a generous and fluffy yellow-tinted head. There's plenty of carbonation and the retention is significant. There's not a ton of lacing, but a small layer of foam sticks around for the entire life of the beer. The nose carries hints of mildly sour grain and a component of hops with an edge similar to that of the Noble variety.

Overall the beer is very malty and quite lagery. I really can't tell what might be going on here that sets this apart from any other (good) amber lager. The mouthfeel is airy and refreshing and a solid hop profile adds depth and character to the beer. However, overall there's not much extremely different or unique about it. Finally, a dry and hoppy aftertaste sneaks up nicely and persists nicely.

Final Verdict: B

From the label (emphasis added): "Anchor Steam brand beer derives its unusual name from the 19th century when "steam" seems to have been a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice. The word 'steam' may have referred to the pressure of natural carbonation developing in the beers. Today the brewing methods of those days are a mystery, and for many decades Anchor along has used the quaint name 'steam' for its unique beer."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Liberty Ale

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

Liberty Ale, from the San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company, is a refreshingly delicious american pale ale. The beer pours a bright glowing orange body with a moderate-sized off-white head. The foam has a minor hop oil sheen too it as it begins to fade. The retention is solid, but the lacing is a bit thin overall. The aroma has a spicy sweetness with plenty of fresh-smelling citrusy hops.

The flavor has a distinct dryness, but is understated on the whole. While not as pungent as many pale ales, Liberty has a subtle depth of flavor. The hops are high on aromatics with plenty of floral tones. Citrus and fruit also make it in to add to the range. Finally The grainy malts wind up the beer with a mild and pleasing honey sweetness. The aftertaste is long-lived and rewarding.

Final Verdict: A

Anchor Brewing Company - Anchor Christmas Ale 2010

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

I'm a bit late to the game on Anchor's special 2010 Christmas Ale, but I'm glad I made it. I'm hoping I can find a six-pack of this around somewhere soon, before I have to wait 11 months to have it again. The beer, a 'Winter Warmer' has a dark body with a ruby glow that lets only hints of light through. The head is medium-sized tan foam with a mildly creamy consistency. The retention on the head is moderate.

The nose is predominantly dusty and earthy. Underneath there's a vague licorice scent among hints of chocolate and a moderate bitterness. The beer is initially a fair bit spicy with a complimentary sweetness, which gives the beer an almost dessert-like quality. After only a second or so, the beer is seemingly transformed by a meaty, almost salty flavor and a very light smoke that adds considerable depth.

Overall the mouthfeel is creamy and lends itself well to cold-weather drinking. The finish is a bit herbal and a coffee-like aftertaste lingers for some time. I'm a huge fan of this, and I'll have to find it again somewhere soon.

Final Verdict: A

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stone Brewing Company - Levitation Ale

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

Stone's Levitation Ale is an amber/red ale and another solid entry from the San Diego brewer. The beer pours a deep ruby brown with amber highlights. It has a large creamy tan head with great retention. There's a ton of lacing the the pattern is quite varied. The nose is intense with sticky pine hops that beat back all but a notion of malt sweetness.

The mouthfeel is quite airy and keeps the beer seeming fairly light. Hops are dominant and stand out among the other flavors. The hops have a minor floral component to them, which keeps them from pushing this beer too far toward a darker IPA. The beer finishes up with caramel malt sweetness and a lingering hop character that creates a crisp finish. Overall the beer is very drinkable, but hoppier than most red ales.

Final Verdict: A-

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Berkshire Brewing Company - River Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 650 mL 'bomber' bottle, poured into a weizen glass

River Ale is a Dark American Wheat Ale, which is an Americanized version of the traditional European dunkelweizen. The beer pours a deep mahogany brown with a light orange glow. The unfiltered beer also carries a considerable haze and moderate active carbonation. The light tan head is generous in size with huge retention and excellent lacing. The musty nose has a minor hint of clove atop a dry breadiness. There's a bit of sweetness, but it has a tiny cloying edge to it.

There's a big toasted malt character with a cracked grain texture. The dark wheat comes through spicy with a hint of caramelized sugar. There's an edge of dark fruit sweetness and a slight kiss of hops that help produce a dry finish. Finally, the beer wraps up with a dry somewhat woody aftertaste.

Final Verdict: A-

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beerisms 4 - Egyptian Proverb

"Do not cease to drink beer,
to eat,
to intoxicate thyself,
to make love,
and to celebrate the good days."
-Egyptian Proverb

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coranado Brewing Company - Idiot IPA

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

From Coranado's "Crown Series" of big beers comes Idiot IPA an 8.5% ABV West Coast-style Imperial IPA. The body is a deep amber with a mild copper glow with a fine yeast suspension that floats throughout the unfiltered beer. The beer has a thin head, but manages moderate retention and ends up with a light film of foam. The nose is complex with a light vanilla aroma and hints of candied fruits. The citrus hops come through with an overall ferocity. Overall the beer smells strong with an underlying malty and alcohol sweetness.

Matching the aroma, the beer also seems strong right off the bat. It manages, however, to hide its alcohol well and the sense seems to come primarily from the density of the beer. The beer is sweet with hints of caramel, but the hops steal the spotlight. There's a strong bitterness to the beer and the hops come through clearly with a slight grassy freshness. The beer wraps up with a bit of spiciness and leaves a lingering bitterness. Only the most mild alcoholic sweetness sneaks in at the last minute for a finishing touch.

Final Verdict: A-

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Asahi - Super Dry

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

Like Kingfisher, the Indian beer brewed in upstate New York, Asahi is a Japanese rice lager brewed in Canada. The body pours a medium straw with calm carbonation and a large foamy head. The texture is slightly soapy. Although the retention isn't outstanding, there is some light airy lacing to start off the beer. The nose is musty and lagery with a slight hint of what seems to be Noble hops. The rice grain sweetness comes through a bit on the nose as well.

The mouthfeel is medium in body with a very slight tinge of carbonation on the tongue. The actual malts are clearly present although thin overall. The adjunct rice cuts through a bit of the depth of the malt character and adds a bit of astringent sweetness. There are minimal hints of fruit like apples and grapes, but they're not standout. The finish is dry with a mild aftertaste that seems like a dash of honey.

Final Verdict: C-

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

North Coast Brewing Co. - Ruedrich's Red Seal Ale

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

Interestingly enough, Red Seal Ale comes from Fort Bragg, California, in Mendocino County, which is also the home of Mendocino Brewing Company, the brewers of Mendocino Imperial IPA, which I reviewed last week. An unplanned, but notable coincidence. This red ale is a dark hazy amber in color with a generous yellow-tinted head. Both the head retention and lacing are modest.

The nose has initially noticeable light sweet malts with hints of white grapes. The hops on the nose are herbal and highly floral. There's a slight yeasty must component as well. The taste starts off with a pleasing honey sweetness followed up by bready, lightly toasted malts. The finish is sweet with delicious clover honey and a light dusting of spiciness. The aftertaste is long-lasting and flower-infused.

This beer is incredibly pleasing and has a complexity not found in many red ales. Worth seeking out.

Final Verdict: A

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heavy Seas - Peg Leg Imperial Stout

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

"For brewery fresh taste, purchase before [December 2010]. Didn't notice that the freshness date had gone by when I bought this, but at least it hasn't been very long. So, any Heavy Seas lovers, feel free to excuse my rating on this. However, I don't have much bad to say. The beer has a very dark body with a large, smooth foam head in a tan lighter than I'd expect. The foam fades within a minute or two, but leaves a healthy layer atop the beer for some time.

The nose is full of chocolatey sweetness with an understated smoke. The beer is only slightly sweet with roasted malts that suggest coffee. There's more charred bitterness than I expected based on the nose. There's a seemingly significant amount of carbonation that makes for a more airy mouthfeel than most stouts. It's still full-bodied, which keeps it from seeming too light to stand among other imperials. There's a bit of alcoholic heat near the end and a dried smoke finish. The aftertaste lingers with an interesting bitter leafiness.

Final Verdict: B-*

* Note: The freshness date had gone by when I had this, but it hadn't been long at all and there was nothing noticeably off about this beer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Heavy Seas - Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA

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

Hop3? Hop Cubed? This American IPA from Maryland pours a light amber body with a slight haze and a bit of coppery glow. The off-white head is generous in proportion and frothy in texture. The retention is solid, but the lacing is quite light. The nose is strong with piney hops underscored by light bready malts and a fruity sweetness.

The beer is heavy on hops (to the power of 3?) but not even approaching overly bitter. The flavor is strong and prevalent, but not nearly as strong as many others. There's a caramel sweetness with biscuity hints to the lightly toasted malts. The carbonation lends itself to a full-bodied texture. Finally, the beer wraps up with persisting dry hops.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homebrew Series 1 - Making Mead - Part 5 - Bottling and Labeling

Part 5 - Bottling and Labeling
So, after my failed attempt at racking the mead to remove the yeast from the bottom of the jug, I decided to take a different approach and bottle the mead into 12 oz. beer bottles. Starting with 8 bottles, not enough to use all the mead, I saved some to drink and a bit of waste to avoid bottling tons of yeast as well.
I used a sanitized plastic hose to siphon the mead from the jug to the bottles. I started the hose with some water which I poured into the glass seen in the picture above. This is an easy, much more sanitary, way to begin a siphon. Alternately, using a solution of no-rinse sanitizer and water to start the siphon is cleaner yet. 
As the jug started getting closer to the bottom I was careful to keep the hose hovering just above the sediment in an effort to leave as much behind as possible. These are also crucial moment. As the jug begins to empty, it is much more difficult to restart the siphon because of the vertical distance that the mead has to travel to begin a continuous flow.
After all of the bottles are filled to about mid-way through the neck, its time to cap them. This nifty contraption is used to crimp the edges of the cap on top of the bottle creating the seal.

After capping all of the bottles I decided to use some of the 'Hello my name is' name tags that I've had laying around since Halloween to label the bottles.
Once they were all done they went back to the refrigerator for future enjoyment. Now I'll just have to find out what professional mead tastes like and if my homebrew attempt at it was indeed as successful as I think it has been.

Keep an eye out for future homebrew series here at Musings on Beer. It's been quite a while since I last attempted to brew beer, so maybe I'll get a new project going soon.

See the other parts in the series:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homebrew Series 1 - Making Mead - Part 4 - Final Racking

Part 3 - Final Racking

After a few weeks of fermenting away in my refrigerator, my mead is actually mead. I originally planned to leave the finished mead in a jug, so I decided to rack the mead one more time to remove some of the yeast sediment from the mead.
 I poured the mead through the funnel again, which has a fine mesh screen in it. I had naïvely hoped that this would catch a majority of the yeast, but it didn't, what I ended up with was essentially all of the sediment mixed in with the final batch. In the future, if I decide to try to filter out yeast from mead (or beer) I might opt for several layers of cheesecloth instead of the screen.
Before shaking up all of the yeast on the last rack, I poured myself a small sample to try. Unfortunately, I don't have much to go on for comparing this mead to the professional stuff.

For now, though, I know that this honey wine is quite sweet, but not cloying. The spices that I added in the original boil come through quite clearly. The cinnamon as well as the cardamom seem to be most prevalent. There's a minor citrus note from the lemon zest and an interesting waxy honey-comb like essence near the finish. I'd say its certainly enjoyable and there's nothing about it that I see as off-putting. So, at this point I'd say my experiment in mead-making was a success. I also think any future attempts will benefit from the experience I gained this time around.

Stay tuned for one last installment of this series, where I bottle up the mead and label it.

See the other parts in the series:
Part 1 - Mixing the Ingredients
Part 2 - Pitching the Yeast, Beginning Fermentation
Part 3 - Racking the Mixture
Part 5 - Bottling and Labeling

Friday, January 14, 2011

New England Brewing Company - Imperial Stout Trooper

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 750 mL bottle, poured into a Nonic pint glass

If you don't get the gag at hand here, you're either not nerdy enough or, more likely, you've been living under a rock for decades! I'm just wondering how close to some sort of trademark infringement New England Brewing Company is really skating. Imperial Stout Trooper pours an exceedingly dark, nearly black, body from a slick pour. The brown foam head is quite large with a great creamy texture. The retention on the head is stellar and the lacing is understated, but commendable.

There are huge coffee and mocha notes on the nose. A bready and sweet aroma also manages to sneak in under the powerful espresso scent. Finally, a mild hoppy spiciness is detectable among the mélange. The beer starts off slightly sweet with a velvety mouthfeel. The coffee-like malts are prominent with hints of chocolate that add depth and richness. There's smoke for days and it mingles nicely with a modest hoppy aromatic bitterness. The coffee and char aftertaste is pleasant is lingers for quite some time.

A great beer that owns its gag label and turns it into both a great novelty and an excellent treat.

Final Verdict: A-

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cottrell Brewing Co. - Mystic Bridge IPA

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

Another entry from Cottrell, the Mystic Bridge IPA pours a somewhat dark amber with a mild orange tint. The tan foam head is plentiful with large carbonation bubbles and a frothy texture. The retention is moderate without any lacing. The nose has a fruity sweetness with apples and citrusy hops. There's a slight spiciness with hints of coriander.

The beer is quite malty and not very hoppy at all. There's an understated mild, earthy, bitterness to it, though. The distinct hop aromatics on the nose fall short of producing any significant flavor. The aftertaste fades quickly leaving only minor remnants of the beer's maltiness. Overall, it's not bad, but this falls short as an IPA.

Final Verdict: C+

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Flying Dog - Double Dog Double Pale Ale

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

The Double Dog Double Pale Ale is quite strong Imperial IPA, coming in at 11.5% ABV. The body is clear and light with a glowing ruby hue. The off-white head is medium in size and gradually subsides to large sudsy bubbles. The nose is noted with vanilla extract and a distinct sweetness. The hops here are herbal and seem powerful. There's also a slight hint of alcoholic fumes rising from the beer.

The beer is very bitter up front and lasts nicely throughout. Overall the character of the beer is slight with caramel, but with an emphasis on woodiness with a drying texture. Unfortunately, there's not a considerable depth of flavor, or complexity in the hop infusion. The finish is long-lasting and the beer hide its alcohol fairly well. There is a mild, but pleasing, heat in the chest.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lindemans - Kriek

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. corked, capped, foiled, green glass bottle, poured into a fluted glass

After essentially panning two flavored beers (Long Trail's Blackbeary Wheat and Abita's Pecan Harvest) I decided I needed to prove to myself, and my readers, that I wasn't irreversibly biased against flavored beers. So, I turned to a place I was confident I would be happy. I've had fruit-flavored Lambics in the past and enjoyed them, so that's where I went.

Kriek is a specific style of Lambic beer that is flavored with sour Morello cherries. Lambics themselves are a breed of beer all their own, brewed exclusively in Belgium. The beer has a glowing purplish-red body reminiscent of beet juice. The pink foam head is fluffy with great retention and leave tons of lacing in clearly delineated layers. The nose has a potent cherry scent like black cherry soda. There's also a sugary sweetness that reminds me of Luden's cherry cough drops (a/k/a candy).

The flavor is intense with tons of sweet cherry flavor. The carbonation is extremely strong with Champagne-like bubbles. The beer rounds off with a tinge of sour, grape-like crispness on the finish. Like other fruit beers, this also, unfortunately, leaves a sugar-coated feeling on your teeth after you're finished. But it's an understandable price to pay for this unique and delicious fruit-infused beer.

Final Verdict: B+

Bonus anecdotal content: On my visit to Belgium (the day before my trip to Chimay) we took a walk from the train station, where we arrived, to visit the Cantillon Brewery. Cantillon is one of the few famous breweries producing Lambic beers. The style utilized spontaneous fermentation, which relies on free-floating yeast to turn wort into beer. While there, we sampled their Gueuze (a re-fermented blend of young and old Lambics) and a variety of their flavored beers, including a Kriek and a Framboise (a raspberry-flavored variety). I took a few pictures at the brewery, which I'll look into posting in the next week or so.

Monday, January 10, 2011

BrewDog - Hardcore IPA

Purchased From: Canal's of Hamilton
Serving Type: 660 mL bottle, poured into a tulip glass

Hardcore IPA is a powerful Imperial IPA from the Scottish folks over at Brewdog who've bought us some of the world's strongest beers, which are far outside of my price range. This IPA boasts a glowing copper-like body with orange highlights. The thick, sudsy, yellow-tinted head is long-lasting and great on lacing. The nose features a syrupy sweetness with piney hops and grapefruit citrus. There's a mild alcohol to it and a cool, almost minty, quality as well.

The tickling carbonation mouthfeel dances on the tongue that compliments a distinct spiciness to the beer. The grassy, floral hops are prominent, but not overdone. The malts provide a slight sweetness that balances the significant, but well-masked, alcohol. Hints of the hops last quite some time with a mild cooling tinge.

Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beerisms 3 - Hunter S. Thompson

"Good people drink good beer."
-Hunter S. Thompson

Birra Moretti - La Rossa

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a Pokal glass

Coming from the makers of a middling Euro Pale Lager is a very solid doppelbock. While I find Birra Moretti's lager to be better than Peroni's, I don't come close to loving it. Their doppelbock, La Rossa, on the other hand, it quite good. It pours a clear medium brown body with a mahogany glow. The pale tan head is light and springy with excellent retention.

The nose carries mild toasted malts and is a bit nutty. There's a bit of cellar-like dustiness and a slight astringency. The mouthfeel is creamy despite the airy foam head. The beer is sweet with prominent toasted malts and minor dark fruits near the finish. The flavor is quite pleasing, but a bit thin. It reminds me a bit of Guinness, in that way. The beer wraps up with a lasting dryness and some hints of sweet candy-like cherries.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mendocino - Imperial IPA

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

Mendocino's Imperial IPA pours a slightly hazy copper-tinted amber. The viscous off-white head gleams with hop oil. The retention is solid and as the foam begins to dissipate it leaves light lacing on the glass. The nose is substantial with piney hops and some earthen tones. Beneath the hops is a detectable mild caramel sweetness.

The beer is quite hoppy with citrusy and piney flavors. The malt body sneaks in nicely in the middle, but aren't as sweet as the nose might have led on. Hints of vanilla mingle nicely with the malts and a late fruitiness develops as the beer begins to warm up. The high alcohol in this 'Imperial' is noticeable on the finish. Finally, a lingering sticky hop character persists in the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blue Point Brewing Company - Winter Ale

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

Blue Point's winter seasonal, an amber/red ale which pours with a deep amber body with a very slight copper-like glow. The large head has a medium creamy consistency with commendable retention. There's a distinct malty sweetness on the nose with a very light spiciness with hints of clove.

The mouthfeel is airy with solid carbonation and a bit of a grainy texture. Despite this, the beer seems a bit heavy overall. The malts are big with hints of toasty caramel. The hops are moderate and quite floral, but they seem a bit medicinal. The sweet maltiness here reminds me a bit of my first, failed, batch of homebrew, I'm sure that's not what they were going for. Although, this Long Island seasonal is much much better.

Final Verdict: C+

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thomas Hooker Brewery - Imperial Porter

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

Hooker's Imperial Porter is a Winter seasonal that's been around for a while, but I haven't seen available until this year. When I noticed it waiting in the the refrigerator at the package store, I know I had to try it. The syrupy looking pour produces a dark, but clear, brown body with a ruby glow. The head is a creamy tan with solid retention. The lacing is moderate.

The nose is high on cocoa with caramel, toffee, and hints of coffee. The mouthfeel is crisp and the sweet chocolate malts are dominated by smokey tones. Mildly subdued espresso makes an appearance in the middle of the beer adding a layer of depth. Moderate amounts of hops also compete nicely with the roasted, coffee-like, malts. Late hints of alcohol add a warming effect as the deep smokey finish billows out of this beer.

Final Verdict: A-

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Long Trail Brewing Co. - Pale Ale

Purchased From: Sam's Club
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

The final beer in Long Trail's 'Survival Pack' is the popular Pale Ale. This English-style Pale Ale pours a brownish amber body with a generous fluffy head. The retention on the head is more than commendable and the lacing is delicate, but light. The nose is primarily piney hops, but is accented with slight vanilla hints that blend nicely with the mild underlying maltiness.

The beer is mildly nutty with a sweet toasted malt character up front. The base malt present in Long Trail Ale and Hibernator is here again, and it remains tasty. The hop bittering is more mild than the nose would let on. These hops seem to be primarily for aromatics here. The beer finishes off pleasantly with a lingering pine sap finish.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, January 3, 2011

Long Trail Brewing Co. - Blackbeary Wheat

Purchased From: Sam's Club
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Blackbeary Wheat is a mixed wheat and barley malt beer with a supposed 'hint' of blackberry flavor. The beer is extremely light and pale. While pouring it, it appeared more like water than beer at all. In the glass, however, the crystal clear pale straw stands proud. It pours with a medium frothy white head that has moderate retention. The active carbonation is abundant.

The nose is dominated by candy sweet artificial-seeming blackberry scent. There's malt in there somewhere but its difficult to discern on the nose. The sweetness comes straight from the nose and dominates the front of this beer. The malts push their way through in the middle, but they're thin and seem sour in comparison to the flavor attack. It also seems as if the wheat malts get lost in translation here. Finally, the beer finishes up with a mildly unpleasant sugar-coated feeling for your teeth.

This seems to be one of the many flavored/fruit beers that I just don't like very much. Abita's Pecan Harvest was a major bust for me and I've been similarly dismayed by Hooker's Watermelon Ale and Magic Hat's #9 and Wacko beers. I've heard many good things about this beer, so if you're into flavored beers, definitely give it a try. I'll continue to look for a flavored beer I can get behind, but it may be a while. The next, and more promising candidates will probably be some fruit flavored Lambics like Kriek.

Final Verdict: D+

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Long Trail Brewing Co. - Hibernator

Purchased From: Sam's Club
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug

Long Trail's Hibernator tricked me at first. With a name ending in '-ator' I assumed it'd be a double bock and make for excellent winter drinking. Instead, it's a Scottish Ale, which also happens to make for great winter drinking. The body is a hazy glowing brown with an apple cider-like complexion. The sudsy yellowed head is creamy with great retention and eye-catching lacing.

The nose is grainy with a clear caramel sweetness. The hops are light but present with a floral bouquet. The same base malt from the Long Trail Ale is present and makes the two beers seem very similar. The toasted malts in the Hibernator give the beer a bread-like biscuity quality. Hibernator is also considerably hoppier, although the hops are more for aromatics in this beer. Like other Scottish Ales, this is definitely a malt bomb. If you like robust and malty beers, this is a great one to try out.

Final Verdict: B+