Monday, February 28, 2011

Lagunitas Brewing Company - The Hairy Eyeball Ale

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

The Hairy Eyeball from Lagunitas is a bold California-inspired American Strong Ale. It pours a deep glowing ruby with a dark body and a massive creamy head in a medium tan. The nose is sweet with dark fruits. It's sugary with a cellary must and hints of crisp hops.

The dark fruit sweetness is prominent with some caramelized sugars. There's a bit of heat, but the beer seems to cool down in a spicy dip on the mid-palate. The finish is earthy with barely a trace of the beer's considerable alcohol in the aftermath.
Final Verdict: B+

Beerisms 9 - Louis Untermeyer

"Life, alas,
Is very drear.
Up with the glass!
Down with the beer!"
- Louis Untermeyer

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blue Point Brewing Company - Blueberry Ale

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

About a day before I reviewed this beer, when I was looking in the refrigerator to survey my reviewable beer supply, I noticed this bottle. While stocking up last week I grabbed two Blue Point beers that I hadn't had, not really paying attention to what I was grabbing. When I saw this bottle sitting there, I woed my decision. "Why did I buy another fruit beer?" Before reviewing it, I resolved myself to give it a fair shake. Reminding myself, there are good fruit beers out there. Why not this one?

The beer pours a light yellowy straw with a fizzy white head. The foam has a very slight bluish tint around the edges. The head retention and lacing are both minimal. Big blueberry nose. There's a very mild spice and a sweetness that reminds me of blueberry pie filling. There's a bit of artificial aroma, likening this more to a canned Musselman's filling rather than the real deal.

The malts are thin with high carbonation. Both pale in comparison to the standout blueberry. The beer is sweet, but not cloying. The blueberry is persistent, but luckily, it is somewhat understated. The artificial tinge steps in late, but isn't at the heights I've had in other flavored beers.

Final Verdict: C-

This is another beer I had some trouble giving a rating. To be honest, I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't drink it again if given almost any other option. The blueberry is marginally tasty, but why? The underlying beer seems like its been neglected (light and fizzy) and the blueberry doesn't work to make things better.

In terms of buzzwords, there's no synergy here. The complete beer should be greater than the sum of its parts. That's not the case. Each part is separate and middling. Together they're disjointed and the marriage borders on detrimental. They say that to truly love another, you must first love yourself. I guess the same applies for fruit beer.

The fruit should be enjoyable and distinct, and so should the beer. I'm not getting that from either. This of course, is not a problem unique to Blue Point's Blueberry Ale. This just happens to be the first time I'm really putting it all together. I heard a rule a week or two ago: Rule 1 - Don't fruit the beer. Rule 2 - Don't fruit the beer unless you know what you're doing.

My new rule? Stay away from fruit beers unless I've got a suspicion that the brewery might actually get it right.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blue Point Brewing Company - Toasted Lager

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

Blue Point's Toasted Lager is a Vienna Lager, the same style as Dos Equis Amber and Samuel Adams' Boston Lager. The beer pours a a deep straw bordering on a brownish amber. The head is moderately-sized with a fluffy white consistency. The retention is quite good, and the lacing is commendable. The nose is tight and clean and slightly lagery. The beer seems lightly hoppy with a bit of a sweet white wine aroma like a Chardonnay or a South American Torrontés.

The beer is crisp and refreshing with a very fine carbonation character. The hop profile is great, it stands out, but it remains in check. The prominence of the hops here reminds me of the similarly refreshing and well-timed Glissade from Sierra Nevada. There's a very light graininess and a moderate caramel sweetness from the toasted malts. For it's accessibility, tastiness, and price, this is a beer I wouldn't mind having around quite often.

Final Verdict: B+

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wychwood Brewery - King Goblin

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

The 'Special Reserve' bolder sibling of Wychwood's Hobgoblin, King Goblin is an entry into the ESB category by the English brewery. This Extra Special Bitter pours a ruby, almost maroon-tinted, brown. The body is clear and glowing with a large, creamy, off-white head. The retention is superb and the lacing is excellent and layered.

The nose is malty sweet with a sour and pungent grainy character. There are also light vanilla hints with a slight woodiness beneath. The beer's texture is slightly creamy, but it carries a cooling carbonation that keeps it seeming quite refreshing. The biscuity toasted malts strike a delicate harmony with the clean and prominent, but not overbearing, English hop profile. The finish is crisp making this a great and refreshing drinking experience.

Final Verdict: A-

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stone Brewing Company - Stone Pale Ale

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

From another great looking screen-printed bottle comes Stone Pale Ale from Stone Brewing Company of California. The brew pours a glowing amber with a hazy fine yeast suspension. The generous head is a creamy off-white foam. The retention is great and there's tons of lacing. The beer seems light and fruity with a hoppy nose and a moderate sweetness.

The beer is smooth right of the bat, but maintains a nice level of carbonation. Full-bodied toasted malts and a prominent hop profile define this pale ale. It's definitely in the tradition of the American Pale Ale and definitely with West Coast spirit. The hops are big, but not overly bitter. I'd say this might rival some of the lesser (in terms of hop bill) IPAs out there, but compared to Stone's own entries into the IPA category, this is relatively mild on the hop front. The finish is refreshing with some lingering hops and a tiny leather edge.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company - Best Brown Ale

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

The last in my short series from Gritty's (but not nearly their last beer) is their 'Best Brown Ale.' The beer is on the light side, but still a fairly full brown color. A very light yellowy glow flares from the bottom of the glass. The head is a sizable (but not huge) light tan foam. The foam retention is decent, but the lacing is quite minimal. The nose is malty sweet with bits of brown sugar and spice. There are hints of cinnamon and maybe full-blown apple pie spice.

The beer has a full-bodied mouthfeel on top of fairly robust and toasty malts. A caramel sweetness comes customary with the toasted malts and it adds pleasing character. There's a gentle hopping that seems to add a bit of depth, but definitely takes the back seat. The finish is crisp, making this a very drinkable brown ale. After there's a very minor prevailing sweetness.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beerisms 8 - Kaiser Wilhelm II

"Give me a woman who truly loves beer, and I will conquer the world."
-Kaiser Wilhelm II

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company - Original Pub Style

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

Gritty's Pub Ale is an American Pale Ale that stands in contrast to many of the quite-hoppy examples typical of the American style. The beer pours a moderate straw with an amber tint and high active carbonation. The head is thin to begin with and manages only modest retention. There's not much in the way of lacing either. The nose is sweet and grainy with a minor toffee edge. The hops are light and it leaves the beer seeming like it might be syrupy.

The beer is very interesting and different, but I'm torn. I'm not sure how much I actually like it. It's highly floral with hibiscus hints throughout. There's a sweetness like honey that pushes this beer into the interesting realm of almost resembling a sweet tea. Maybe more like a hibiscus-infused herbal tea? There's also a minor artificial tinge to the beer, although I have no reason to believe that it's anything actually artificial causing that. I'd say its worth a try, but not something I'd go out of my way to have again.

Final Verdict: C+

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company - Christmas Ale

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

With warmer (low 40s) weather promised for the next few days, the time for Winter seasonals is quickly disappearing. Up today is the Christmas Ale from Gritty McDuff's, which will also have two more beers up for tasting this week. This ESB (Extra Special Bitter) pours a medium brown with a slight yellow glow. The light tan head is modest in size and quite light on retention. The nose is malty with subdued hints of vanilla and coffee, as well as a moderate bitterness.

The beer seems fairly light on carbonation, and as a result, the mouthfeel is a bit on the watery side. The moderate hops are present up front and seem very earthy. The toasted malts have a cracked grain flavor that seems somewhat bready. Bits of coffee are seemingly sprinkled throughout and a slight caramel sweetness appears to round out the finish.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sierra Nevada - 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

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

This year's Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada marks another great special release from the California brewer. The beer pours a dark ruby body that borders on brown. The creamy, yellowed-tan head is very large with big oily bubbles. The retention on this beer is great and the lacing is solid for a high ABV brew. The nose is huge on hops that are both potent and piney. Underneath is a fruity sweet bouquet and mild alcoholic esters.

The beer is very rewarding with a crisp, but velvety mouthfeel. An initial taste from the refrigerator finds this beer quite sweet up front. A few minutes to warm (this is a beer best served at cellar temperature) and the sweetness is tempered by much greater depth and a pleasant floral character. The hoppiness is dry with Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial varieties. There's a mild heat that isn't outright alcoholic, but more like a spicy edge. The aftertaste is dry with a kiss of cherry sweetness.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ballast Point - Calico Amber Ale

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

Following up Ballast's IPA, Calico is a red ale for the California brewer. The body is a deep red amber with a sticky, frothy, tannish head. The head recedes very slowly leaving a ton of lacing clinging to the walls of the glass. Hops are potent on the nose with a mild astringency and a slight mineral edge.

From the start, the beer is quite hoppy, in true California style. The malts are clear and seem big and chunky. The mouthfeel is exaggerated by some carbonation on top of the malts that are already full of body. The malts give the beer a bit of a biscuity character. The mid-palate is hit with a cherry sweetness and a lingering toasted caramel. The finish seems a bit dusty and the mouthfeel is left seeming powdery.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beerisms 7 - Shakespeare

"Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale."
-William Shakespeare,
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Samuel Adams - Cream Stout

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

From the Boston Beer Company's 'Brewmaster's Collection' comes the Samuel Adams Cream Stout. The style is typically known for its extra sweetness and a creamy body. The creamy consistency of milk stouts is often achieved by adding lactose, which is unfermentable, to the brew kettle. The Cream Stout shows a very dark body, nearly impermeable by light. The creamy tan head is substantial in size and boasts excellent retention and lacing.

The aroma carries fairly light roasted malt notes, with substantial chocolate and coffee hints. The mouthfeel is creamy, but with a tingling carbonation. While I generally think of oatmeal stouts of having the most creamy texture, I was expecting less biting carbonation than is present here. The solid roasted malt character of the beer shows up nicely backed by a slight sweetness. The chocolate from the nose comes through quite bittersweet. The finish is strong with a moderate smokey aftertaste. The flavor throughout is very consistent and borders on an underwhelming flatness.

Final Verdict: B-

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sierra Nevada - Glissade Golden Bock

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

Just days after Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an early Spring, following a long, stout- and porter-filled Winter, I found Glissade, Sierra Nevada's Spring seasonal on the shelf. This helles bock pours a golden straw with a mild orange glow. There's moderate active carbonation and a thin, bubbly, white head of foam. The head is light on retention and the lacing matches. The nose is lagery with fresh grassy malts, a slight must, and very feint hops. Considering the impressive hop bill, I was expecting a bit more on the aromatic side.

The dry bitter hops are big up front, while white grape juice seems to dominate the mid-palate quite well. Again, the fresh grassiness makes an appearance, giving this beer exactly the character I'm looking for in early Spring beer drinking. The finish is fairly dry with a slight tartness. Overall the beer is quite clean and highly crisp. After the strong and hefty beers of the Winter, this is a much appreciated taste of the upcoming season.

A few days after trying this beer from the bottle I was treated to two pints of it on draft at the Arch Street Tavern in Hartford. The hops really made a showing from the tap. It was a great way to round out the night and a reprieve from the $6 pitchers of Natural Light.

Final Verdict: B+*

* - Might go as far as an A- from the tap.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

North Coast Brewing Co. - ACME California Pale Ale

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

North Coast's ACME Pale Ale pours a crystal clear amber, bordering on a darkened straw. The large fluffy white head has good retention and decent lacing. The nose is very lagery with sweet grains and light hopping that seems a bit like the Noble varieties you find in Pilsners, although, according to the hop bill, none of those varieties are to be found here.

The beer seems medium bodied with a somewhat velvety mouthfeel. The hopping is quite light, while the beer comes across quite malty. There's a light toastiness, which lends itself to moderate caramel sweetness, but not much. There are also hints of apple juice near the end. The aftertaste is a bit thin. In my mind, this is nothing like a Pale Ale. After the absolute hit that was Red Seal Ale, I was hoping for a lot more.

Final Verdict: C

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kiuchi Brewery - Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew

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

Here's another interesting spice beer, this time, from Kiuchi Brewery of Japan. Kiuchi's Real Ginger Brew pours a glowing orange amber with a very cloudy complexion (Real Ginger bits?).The beer carries a medium frothy head with a tan hue and moderate retention. The nose has a light ginger to it with mild malts as well as clear vanilla tones and a caramel sweetness. Smells a bit like a dessert, I'm thinking Bananas Foster.

The vanilla sweetness comes through big up front and blends nicely with the barley malts and a brief ginger hint. The beer turns floral in the middle, until the ginger returns to snuff out most of the other flavor. There's a distinct, and pleasant, heat and spice to the ginger. It all leads up to a dry finish characterized by ginger and a light hopping. Overall the beer is quite interesting, albeit a bit sweet. Not something to drink a ton of, but well worth a try.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ballast Point - Big Eye IPA

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

Ballast's IPA pours a moderate amber hue with a mild orange glow. A frothy, generously portioned, off-white head results from a vigorous pour. The head manages solid retention and tons of lacing. The nose is slightly earthy with underlying sweet malts with a light biscuity aroma. The beer is high on hops with a distinct pine essence.

The mouthfeel is full-bodied, giving the beer a large character. The carbonation provides a minor bite on the tongue. The malts seem fresh and grassy with a clean crispness and a slight grainy texture. The hops are quite potent, but not overbearing. A slight mustiness develops as the finish comes in and leaves a slight lingering dryness.

Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beerisms 6 - Egyptian Proverb

"The mouth of the perfectly happy man is filled with beer."
-Egyptian Proverb

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fuller's - London Pride

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

Quite possibly my first legally purchased beer (I can't remember if my first beer in the UK was at a pub the first night, in which case this was it, or if it was a can of some sort of English swill at a lunch spot the next day), either way, this beer gets to hold a landmark place in my mind. To top it off, I haven't had Fuller's since my visit to the UK three years ago. London Pride, a traditional English Pale Ale, pours a slightly hazy orange-tinted amber body with a small white head and most retention. I think, in this case, the thin bubbly layer of foam was the result of a botched pour.

The nose carries hints of light, whiskey-like malts with a somewhat sour edge to them. The hopping is clear, but well balanced with the sweet barley. The beer is malty and spicy with a moderate hop character. The beer is a total classic and very drinkable. Toward the end I noticed interesting hints of dried tobacco on the finish. Building on the tobacco leaf, the aftertaste has a very well grounded and earthy character.

Final Verdict: A-

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flying Dog Brewery - Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA

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

Another bold beer from Flying Dog, this vulgar brew is an American-made, Belgian-inspired take on the india pale ale. It pours a surprisingly crystal clear orange-tinted amber body with quite high active carbonation. The head is of healthy size with a yellowed hue. Orchestrated by a light crackling sound, the foam slowly dissipates and leaves bits of lace on the glass. The nose of the beer is very hoppy with some underlying and slightly doughy malts. The 'Belgian' component also comes through on the nose with a slight musty character and minor coriander spicing. There are definite hints of the popular Belgian Witbier style to be found here.

The hops are bitter with a certain acidity. The sticky sweet malts only barely eek out beneath the hops. The beer seems quite strong, but not really heated. It's clear, though, that the considerable hopping is masking some of the beer's 8.3% ABV. As it spends some time open and warming, the beer seems to open up a bit allowing some of the caramel nuance to make an appearance. The finish is slightly herbal and spicy, but the Witbier-like qualities of the nose seem largely lost on the tasting. I think it's less lack of attention to detail that understates the Belgian influence, but that the tremendous hop character of a powerful IPA tends to dominate the palate, leaving little room for subtlety.

Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hooker Brewing Company - Nor'Easter Winter Lager

Purchased From: Thomas Hooker Brewery, Bloomfield, CT
Serving Type: Growler, poured into a festive Hooker pint glass

One of my seasonal favorite's from Hooker, I literally put off buying it in bottles until I could make it to the brewery to get a growler fresh from the tap. While the experience was plenty satisfying, I'm not sure this is a beer that really stands up to a few days in a growler. The pour was lighter than I expected, but I think I'm used to seeing it in the foggy plastic sample cups from the brewery. The color is a copper-ish brown with a quite modest* head made of a thin white foam, which manages only fair retention. The nose immediately hits with big malts (they pack seven into this brew (including a bit of wheat) and a mild spiciness. The hopping is extremely light, but among the caramel sweetness of the malts are cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg.

This beer is sweet, but its pleasant with a moderate body and a slightly unfortunate mouthfeel that seems a bit watery*. Rumor has it that this spiced beer is accented with apple pie spice (although I always pegged it as pumpkin pie - then again, the only real difference between the two, according to some recipes, is allspice [apple] in place of clove [pumpkin], while they both, typically, share cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom) added during the brewing process. The finish is a touch thin, but quite grainy, with a solid lingering aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B-

* - I attribute these short comings to the fact that the growler sat in my refrigerator for a few days before I tried the beer. The beer isn't overly carbonated, so I think the resting time probably wasn't overly beneficial to the overall experience. If I have it again directly from the tap, or from a bottle, I reserve the right to revise my rating.

Then again, I may be locally biased (I've been to Hooker Brewery many times). Jason Alström, one (there are two) of the (niche-ly famous) 'Alström Bros' of, thinks this beer sucks. I do get a mild artificial tinge to this beer from time to time, but I hold it in significantly higher regard than some other flavored brews. Finally, one piece of evidence that I'm not (overly) biased in favor of Hooker, when summer rolls around and their Watermelon Ale is available, I will pan that wreck like there is no tomorrow. I haven't reviewed it here before (it's a summer beer and I began the blog during the Fall), I find it absolutely revolting. Then again, I know many, fine, upstanding people who enjoy it.

So, a message I haven't really trumpeted here: Don't take my grading as gospel. Try the beers I review and formulate your own opinion of their worthiness. Also, if you disagree with my conclusions, let me know!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Long Trail Brewing Co. - Double Bag

Purchased From: Sonoma Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Collins glass posing as a Stange

Like Long Trail's Long Trail Ale, Double Bag is an altbier, but as the name suggests its a 'double altbier.' Not exactly a real style, but does it bring double alcohol and double flavor? The brew is a full-bodied amber with very low active carbonation and a creamy off-white foam head. The head is of modest size with solid retention and thin, but elegant lacing.

The nose is malty and lightly spicy with hints of molasses sugars and a very mild honey. The lightly toasted malts provide a nice caramelized sweetness to the beer. The hopping is moderate, but the malts are center stage. There's a bit of an floral spiciness to the beer, and it hides its 7.2% ABV well. The mouthfeel is velvety and beer produces a long-lasting toasted finish.

Final Verdict: B+

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guinness - Extra Stout

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

Guinness Extra Stout is the second common variety of Guinness available in the United States. Unlike the Draught variety, the beer is carbonated, so it lacks the signature creaminess of its nitrogenated sibling. Also, unlike its other sibling, Guinness Foreign Extra, Extra Stout isn't quite so strong or full-bodied. It pours a quite-dark brown, bordering on black, with a very mild red glow. The healthy-sized head has a creamy appearance, but fades quickly and leaves a thin grainy appearing tan layer of foam. As the head departs it leaves solid lacing varying from thin to chunky.

The nose seems a bit dusty with a sour malty grain component. Hints of chocolate make it in, but the expected smokiness doesn't quite make it to the show. The mouthfeel is very crisp. The flavor is somewhat thin, characterized by watery roasted malts. There's also a feint caramel sweetness. Although seemingly missing from the nose, a very mild char flavor is present, but it does manage to provide some bite. Finally, the beer wraps up its presentation with a chalky and somewhat smokey finish.

Final Verdict: C+