Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Old Heathen

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

The Old Heathen Imperial Stout from Weyerbacher follows up the IPA from yesterday with a completely different palate. The beer pours an extremely deep brown. The beer is very dark with a massive creamy brown head with great retention on the foam and broad swathes of lacing on the glass. The nose is potent with coffee and a smokey essence, accented by mild hops that piece the imperious malt char character.

The body is creamy smooth with considerable sweetness from the dark roasted malts. The beer is moderately smokey, but the effusion seems to encapsulate the entire beer. Mild chocolate notes surface on the mid-palate, but they're overtaken by the power of the espresso-like coffee. The beer is heavy and satisfying and develops a chest-warming heat on the finish. A lasting smoke persists long after the sip.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Hops Infusion

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

The Hops Infusion IPA from Pennsylvania-based Weyebacher pours a nearly completely opaque flat brown. The cloudy yeast infusion features a series of wispy strings of sediment floating just under the head of the beer. The head is a large frothy foam colored light brown with speckles of yeast. The beer's retention is solid and the lacing is moderate on the walls of the glass. A sweet hop perfume springs forth on the nose, backed up by toasty malts and a hint of sweet melon.

This IPA is interesting and different with powerfully floral hops and a backing waxy honey sweetness. Rough cracked grains seem to add depth to the mouthfeel and compliment the beer with a gritty down to earth appeal to balance the flowery sweetness of the hops. The finish is herbal with lingering honey notes. The beer doesn't exactly fit the bill of an IPA, but it is an excellent beer and an excellent pale ale, nonetheless.

Final Verdict: A-

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Flying Dog Brewery - Woody Creek White

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

Woody Creek White, from Maryland-based Flying Dog, is an American take on the classic Belgian witbier style. The beer pours a cloudy mild yellow with tons of floating sediment that turns the color flat and opaque. The small wispy white head musters commendable retention and modest lacing. The nose has a mild sweetness with a clear spiciness. Big coriander with a hint of clove is buttressed by a lemony citrus aroma. A mild astringency sneaks in around the edges.

The beer is somewhat herbal with a clear refreshing edge of clean wheat malts. Mild lemon flavoring plays well with a distinct grassiness. The beer seems slightly medicinal on the mid-palate, but wears it well. The fresh grainy finish is sweet, but subdued. A mild spice note lasts nicely on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lagunitas Brewing Company - Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale

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

The limited release Undercover Investigation from Lagunitas is an American strong ale that weighs in at a strangely precise 9.87% ABV. The body is a deep chestnut with a cherry red glow. The head is a huge creamy light tan foam with excellent retention. The lacing matches with thick layers down most of the length of the glass. The nose is sweet and syrupy with a dominent piney hop component. The toasted malts give nose some added depth with a light hint of dates.

The mouthfeel is velvety with sudsy carbonation. The beer is sweet and immensely fruity with minor earthy undertones. The hops are big and primarily piney, with a significant resinous edge. The finish is fairly boozy with some warming that helps develop the lasting caramel flavor and nearly-biting dry hops.

Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Smuttynose Brewing Company - Summer Weizen Ale

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

Smuttynose's Summer Weizen Ale pours an orangey golden straw with a hovering cloud of wispy yeast that floats just below the lightly specked white head. The retention on the foam is great with moderate lacing at the top of the glass. The nose is characterized by a sweet, but subdued, wheat malt. Slight spicy and herbal elements play in with a moderate orange peel citrus aroma as well.

The mouthfeel is light and airy, complementing the refreshingly sweet wheat malts. There's a considerable grassy component that lends both freshness and a very mild earthiness. Hints of coriander are melded nicely with the floral addition of chamomile blossoms. The finish is clean and refreshing, giving this beer all the trappings of a choice Summer seasonal.

Final Verdict: B

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company - Anchor Summer Beer

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

Anchor Summer Beer, brewing in San Francisco, is a pale wheat ale that pours a very-clear moderate straw body with a golden glow. The huge fluffy head is a craterous white foam with large carbonation bubbles. The retention on the head is excellent and the lacing is light. The nose is dry and bready reminiscent of a fresh pizza crust with a light basily herbal component. There's a lightly fruity edge and seemingly leafy vegetation.

This beer is all malt with a mélange of barley and wheat malts. It's lightly sweet, but even without hops the beer remains balanced. The different malt flavors play off each other, but seem to turn a bit sour. The beer is crisp and full-bodied with a refreshing texture, but is a bit more filling that expected. The beer has herbal and dry notes, but finishes with a lasting malty sweetness.

Final Verdict: B-*

* - I've never had an 'all malt' beer before, so my rating might be naïve (in either direction). If you've had Anchor Summer Beer before and have an opinion, let me know. Also, if you've had and enjoyed a malt-only beer before, please recommend it so I can expand my palate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Homebrew Series 2 - Making Dandelion Wine - Part 2 - Fermentation




Part 2 - Straining and Racking the Wine

After about 10 days (this blog post is quite late) of initial fermentation in a large bucket, the early stage wine was ready to be transfered to a new fermenting jug. To my surprise, the blossoms, as well as most of the fruit, was floating at the top of the original bucket. I scooped out most of the blossoms, squeezing the liquid from them through a cloth steeping bag.

After most of the fruit, blossoms, and debris were scooped out, and with some help, I transferred the wine to the new jugs through a large funnel with a mesh screen. When purchasing the plastic carboy I under estimated the amount of wine that I had. Luckily, I had some extra jugs left. The jug on the left is 4 liters and the jug on the right (not full) is 1 gallon.

With airlocks in each of them, they are continuing the process of fermentation. According to the recipe, I should let this next stage of fermentation go for about 30 days. After that, I will rack the wine to new jugs (probably to a bucket temporarily) to sit for another 90 days before bottling.

I plan to keep an eye on them during the 90-day period. If the wine starts to become clear, I will rack the wine again to leave as much sediment behind as possible. The more times the wine sheds some sediment is racked, the clearer the final product will be. As you can see, the wine has a lot of time ahead of it.


The three-gallon carboy undergoing vigorous fermentation one day after it was transferred from the bucket where the initial fermentation began.


A large bubble of carbon dioxide escaping the carboy through the airlock. The staff at the homebrew store suggested the 'S' shaped 'bubble-type' airlock be used on the carboy. I used the 'three-piece' airlock on the two glass jugs.


An closeup photo of the active fermentation in the carboy. The yellow scum around the neck of the carboy is primarily pollen from the dandelion blossoms. The large amount of pollon from the flowers also stained the inside of the food grade bucket I used for the start of the fermentation. I plan to keep the bucket, but use it primarily for dandelion wine in the future.

See the other parts in this series:

Part 1 - Beginning the Wine

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

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

Geary's Summer Ale is a Kölsch-style beer brewed in Maine. The brew pours a shining brownish amber with a crystal-clear body. The head is a large, off-white, fluffy foam. It's airy and voluminous with excellent retention and fine lacing. The nose is very lagery with a mild bitter dandelion. There's a slight skunkiness to it, with a minor toasted malt sweetness.

The beer is crisp and full-bodied with a sparkling carbonation. The lagery edge is in full force with an added dryness on the foretaste. The malts are sweet with a toasted biscuity flavor. A slight metallic tinge seems to line the beer and gives it additional bite. The finish is crisp and refreshing with a mild lingering bitterness.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thomas Hooker Brewery - Watermelon Ale

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

Kicking off what could be a long list of interesting and diverse Summer seasonals is Watermelon Ale from Hooker. I've reviewed quite a few Hooker brews, with unflinchingly positive results. This, is, unfortunately, the glaring exception.* Supposedly employing 'natural flavors,' this beer smacks of artificiality. To be sure, there is no actual watermelon involved here (let me know if I'm wrong, but I'd be extremely surprised).

The bottle pours a very light, extremely pale, straw body with a thin airy head bearing minimal retention and no lacing. Tons of active carbonation brings the glass to life. A very sweet candy watermelon aroma dominates the nose. It's somewhere between watermelon chewing gum and a watermelon jolly rancher. A feint hint of graininess follows the overbearing candy on the nose.

A short wave of flavor rolls in up front with a super-sweet watermelon-esque candy flavoring. The sugar onslaught slowly subsides to a mild grainy twang. The grains are weak and tea-like. There's no perceptible alcohol or body. Seems more like a cooled, unfermented, wort than beer. Sweetness rises again on the finish. The beer doesn't leave your teeth feeling as sugary as other fruit beers, but there's a hint. I guess you could say it's 'refreshing,' but it's barely beer.

Much different from my modus operandi, I poured more than half of this beer out. I'd prefer to drink or review a 'malternative' than this, even if it means getting down on one knee and chugging it to my embarrassment and the entertainment of others. The only other "beer" I might put in this category is Miller Chill. But, I haven't had one in years.

Final Verdict: F*

* - Many people actually like this beer (and I use the word beer lightly, here). You may be one of them. Maybe you've never had it, maybe you would like it. I'd say: "What you think passes for beer, I just can't understand" But, you're more than welcome to drink and enjoy it. Nothing against Hooker Brewery, but man, I just can't get behind this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Piccolo Birrifico - Sesonette

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

Sesonette is an Italian take on the classic Belgian Saison style. It pours a light orangey amber, significantly darker than I expected for the style. A fine yeast suspension accents the hue of the beer and a few larger, darker specks of yeast float gently through the brew. The white foam head is made of fine carbonation, the small size was also unexpected, especially for a pour in a tulip glass. The aroma carries a honey sweetness with the added character of a light sun tea. The spiciness on the nose is a definite nod to the Belgian roots of the beer. A minor boozy hint rounds of the nose.

The beer is very interesting and a unique and inventive take on the style. While the makings of a Saison are present, this Italian version is more a reinterpretation of what a Saison can be than it is a Saison that happens to be made in Italy. The advertised juniper berries are a defining flavor in the beer. They add both sweetness and a singular herbal edge to the beer. The carbonation is very mild, but the beer is never watery. It remains refreshing throughout. A sweet waxy honey comb element adds some depth and character to the beer, which finishes with a minor crispness and a lasting sweetness coupled with mild spice.

Final Verdict: A-

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Birrifico le Baladin - Super Baladin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 8.45 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass

This interesting Italian take on a Belgian strong ale comes in an uniquely-shaped and disappointingly-small 8.45 oz. bottle. The beer pours a fuzzy amber cider with a fine yeast suspension and gently rising carbonation. The head is a fluffy light tan made of fine carbonation bubbles. The retention is solid for the original size, but leaves very little lacing behind. The nose is slightly spicy with a huge white grape juice component. Light candied fruit notes show the beer's significant Belgian influences.

The beer is lightly earthy with a gritty grain texture. It's very sweet up front with apricots and dried fruit essence. The beer is fairly complex and spicy with just a hint of alcohol. The finish is slightly thin, but it delivers a lasting bouquet of mild citrus notes and a considerable winey character. Expensive for sure, but worth a try for this rare import.

Final Verdict: B+

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Deadlift Imperial IPA

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

The Widmer Brothers' Deadlift Imperial IPA pours a slightly hazy orange-tinted amber body with a medium-sized head. The foam is creamy with a yellowed hue and a minor hop oil sheen. The retention is moderate with extensive lacing. The nose is tight and potent with a hoppy bitterness. A huge citrus component supplements the clearly-sweet beer.

The beer has a thick, almost syrupy, consistency, which is broken up by some solid velvety carbonation. Citrusy hops are prominent with a defining grapefruit flavor. The hops transition slightly to a piney edge that balances the significant sweetness. The nectarous draw of the beer pushes the alcohol back slightly which manifests itself primarily in a warming heat. The finish seems slightly alcoholic and the beer leaves with a toothsome sugary feel.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Widmer Brothers 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 Oregonian hefeweizen from Widmer Brothers pours a hazy, unfiltered, yeast-infused orange with a yellowy glow. The large off-white head is a creamy consistency with great retention and moderate lacing. The nose is light with somewhat feint dusty wheat malts. A mild spiciness accents the sweet edge and adds a dry characteristic.

The mouthfeel is fairly velvety, but flirts with wateriness. The wheat malts are sweet and find an accompaniment of standard coriander fare. Light citrus notes illuminate the beer near the finish and mix with a clear graininess. Some lasting lemon flavor develops in the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: C+

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thomas Hooker Brewery - Irish Red Ale

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

Hooker's Irish Red Ale pours a rich auburn body with a large frothy head of lightly tanned foam. Huge carbonation bubbles make up the head and manage a moderate retention. This pour resulted in no lacing on the glass. The nose is huge and malty. Hooker's base malts have their fingerprints all over this brew and leave it with a very fresh edge. Toasty grains and caramel sweetness round out the nose.

The beer is a sweet mouthful of grains, and it is definitely a malt bomb, for those who enjoy them. There are layers of malt flavors with lightly toasted malts adding caramel and molasses sweetness, while others bring biscuit notes and cracked whole grain bread. The light hopping in nearly imperceptible and the beer finishes with a slight grainy sourness and a mild earthy component.

Final Verdict: B

Monday, May 9, 2011

Heavy Seas Beer - Small Craft Warning - Über Pils


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

Über Pils is an Imperial Pilsner-style beer that pours a medium, radiant golden straw body with a healthy off-white head. The foam is creamy in consistency with solid retention and light lacing. The nose is very feint and understated. A light hop aroma is present with underlying hints of sweet lightly toasted malts.

There's a big malty pilsner flavor up front. The beer is dry and bitter with the traditional infusion of Noble hops, creating a classic balance with hints of dandelions. The beer is crisp and bubbly and creates a refreshing edge. The finish is dry with some astringency and very little alcohol heat.

Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rogue Brewery - American Amber Ale



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

Rogue's American Amber Ale pours a deep, but clear, cherry amber with light visible carbonation. The head is huge and fluffy with a slightly frothy consistency and an off-white coloration. The retention is great and the lacing is commendable. Hops are prevalent on the nose with a light dusty dryness and an underlying malty sweetness.

The beer is super grainy with a gritty, coarsely cracked grain mouthfeel. There's a light sour mash component to the front palate. The beer is slightly earthy with toasted biscuit notes and sweet caramelized malts that add color and flavor. The hops are tight and turn the palate crisp and shift the focus of the beer. The finish is grainy, but carries a lasting hop dryness.

Final Verdict: A-

Friday, May 6, 2011

Harpoon Brewery - Harpoon Leviathan - Imperial IPA

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

Harpoon's Imperial IPA, from the brewery's Leviathan series, pours a light golden amber with a honey glow. The large frothy head is facilitated by the tulip glass. The foam retention is excellent and the beer's sticky lacing clings to the glass. The pungent piney hops provide a sharp edge above a syrupy malt sweetness.

The hops are piercing and biting with a tight citrus component and heaps of pine needles. The ample bittering backs the sweet malts. While the malts are present, they're crushed by the hop character. There's a feint heat, but not much alcoholic bite, which is a plus. The balance isn't perfectly struck here, the hops seem a bit heavy handed, but overall a highly enjoyable Imperial IPA.

Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Augustiner-Bräu Wagner KG - Maximator

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

Maximator is a a doppelbock, customarily named, from Augustiner-Bräu in Munich, Germany. The beer pours a moderate chestnut with a mild chilly haze. The head is medium-sized with a light tan hue. The retention is about average and the foam soon recedes to a thin layer on top of the beer. The nose is very nutty with a prominent caramel sweetness and a slight woody component.

The toasted malts produce a clear earthy component, accented by a sweet edge of nutty flavor. The beer seems chocolatey and rich, but there is very little emphasis placed on the cocoa-esque elements. There's a depth of flavor that briefly plays up dark fruits with an edge of caramelization and molasses sweetness. The beer is silky smooth on the finish with hints of mocha.

Final Verdict: A-

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Homebrew Series 2 - Making Dandelion Wine - Part 1 - Beginning the Wine


Part 1 - Beginning the Wine

On Sunday I took advantage of the beautiful weather and the copious amounts of dandelions in Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut and decided to make a batch of dandelion wine. I spent about an hour and a half in the park, picking 3 gallons of dandelion blossoms (the third gallon-sized bag is not pictured here). The weather was great, the picking was easy, and people were surprisingly interested. Most of the people I talked to had either heard of or had dandelion wine, and everyone thought it was pretty cool.


After picking the dandelions, I washed them in batches and trimmed off some of the green and stems from the blossoms. Working with only petals makes the wine sweeter, but with a limited amount of time and manpower, I only trimmed the most obvious stems that I noticed. Given more time or additional help, I would've trimmed them more closely.


Added to the dandelions, the recipe (to make about 5 gallons of wine) calls for a 3 cut up oranges, 2 cut up oranges, and 1 pound of raisins.


About 4 gallons of boiling water are added to the dandelion blossoms and the fruit is added on top.


The mixture is stirred together and ready to cool overnight, while soaking. The recipe called for sugar to be added the next day.


Because so much sugar is necessary (the recipe specified by measured original gravity, but others called for anywhere between 2 and 4 pounds per gallon of water), I added between 40-50% of the sugar on the first day (all of the sugar I had). I decided that dissolving many pounds of sugar would've been too much of a hassle when the whole mixture was room temperature.

 The first day I used 4 pounds of large-granule pure cane sugar and about 2.5 pounds of brown sugar. On the second day I ladled some of the mixture into a large pot. I heated it on the stove and disolved (approximately) an additional 8 pounds of brown sugar, while the yeast primed in a small portion of the mixture. I reincorporated the portion with the added sugar, mixed it well, and added the yeast. 

The entire mixture is waiting, sealed with an airlock, as the fermentation begins. The next step, in about a week and a half, will be to strain the fruit and blossoms from the mixture.

See the other parts in this series:


Augustiner-Bräu Wagner KG - Edelstoff

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

Edelstoff is a classic Munich Helles Lager, from Augustiner-Bräu. It pours a very-light yellowy-golden straw and is highly carbonated with tons of active carbonation. The head is a large fluffy white foam with a wispy lightness. The retention is solid as the foam slowly departs with a light crackling, leaving thin, but consistent, lacing behind. The nose is sweet and malty with white grape juice aroma and a slight musty edge. The beer is very lagery with light hops.

The mouthfeel is crisp and airy. Light, sweet, golden malts seem very fresh on the front palate. The green grapes come through from the nose with a clear presence and a slight tartness. The hoping is very light with only a kiss of bitterness. The emphasis is clearly on the malts. The finish is crisp and very refreshing.

Final Verdict: B

Monday, May 2, 2011

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

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

Geary's Pale Ale pours a tawny, deep amber body with a large creamy light tan head. The retention and lacing are both excellent. The nose is sweet and malty, but fairly light on hops. There's a slight lagery aroma and a light cellary must that gives this ale an interesting and somewhat different character.

The mouthfeel is full-bodied with a robust and solid carbonation. Geary's is highly malty with a minerally hard water tone. The body of the beer is earthy, but somewhat understated. There's a seeming depth of flavor, but none is particularly marked. There's a moderate hop bitterness that gives this English-style Pale Ale a clear tie to the ESB. Seems as if there's an easy to see influence of the style in this beer.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, May 1, 2011

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