I've been really behind with reviewing beers and posting the reviews I've done. I'm one week away from sitting for the first section of the CPA exam, so I've been doing my best to devote as much time as I can to studying for that. However, keep an eye out, early this week, for some updates from my trip West.
I think the updates will come in four posts. One will span a big portion of my trip, including photos I took with my cell phone camera and reviews of beers that I tasted from Portland, Oregon through Arizona (and maybe further). Then expect posts from San Francisco and San Diego. My stops in San Diego included visits to Port Brewing Company/Lost Abbey, Stone Brewing Company, and Pizza Port. The Pizza Port photos will be included in my mobile set.
I hope you enjoy reading about the beers from my travels. I really enjoyed the trip and getting to taste all of the great beer along the way.
The last of the Narragansett brews for me to review, the Summer Ale is the newest. This first time run is the Summer seasonal from the re-started brewery based in Rhode Island. 'Gansett's Summer Ale pours a medium golden straw with a huge white head. The light, cloud-like, fluffy foam has solid retention as it fades with a gentle crackling. Light sticky lacing clings to the top of the glass. A musty and slightly lagery aroma is immediately apparent on the nose. The beer seems dry with a slight sweetness and a mild hoppy component, too.
The high carbonation of this beer makes it very crisp, but not fizzy, and perfect for a refreshing drink on a hot Summer day. The malts a fairly thin, but don't seem sour and hold up to the massive carbonation attack. A nice hop kick is not overly pronounced, but pleasantly clear. Overall, the beer is on the lighter side and highly sessionable. It's a refreshing Summer seasonal. Worth keeping around as an everyday type of beer.
It's a little late, based on the name, but the Spring Fling ale from Blue Point still makes for solid summer drinking. The beer pours a clear and even amber body with a large head of light fluffy foam. Modestly off-white in color, the head has moderate retention and great initial lacing. The nose carries a slight sour graininess on top its malt-centric aroma. The slightly lagery edge brings this beer in line with a lot of standard amber ales.
The velvety mouthfeel is smooth and consistent overall with a solid carbonation. The beer is quite malty with an understated caramel sweetness. The toasted malts lean a bit toward biscuity, held back slightly by a minor dusting of hoppiness. A mild finish sends this beer off with a lagery edge and a hint of dryness.
Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a mug
This final ale in the Beer Camp sampler has given me the most trouble. After the first bottle I was turned off. I didn't find it revolting, but saw it coming in somewhere between a C and a C-. I had it again since first reviewing it and thought I must've been off my rocker to think it so disappointing. I'm not sure if it was the level of Juniper flavor and its interaction with the other characteristics of the beer that changed so dramatically from bottle to bottle, or my impression of it. I'm still not sure I've worked it all out, but I've arrived at a place where I'm happy with my thoughts on the beer.
The beer pours a deep mahogany, it is quite dark. The large, rich brown head has a creamy consistency and great retention. Likewise, the lacing on this beer is excellent. A roasty, coffee-like malt nose is complimentary to the pungent and piercing piney hops character, which is itself magnified by the distinct pine-like aroma of juniper.
Initially a standard-seeming Black IPA the beer is very high on its sappy and piney hop character. Juniper berries add a light tartness and some bitterness. The finish is slightly vegetal with a bitter piney hop edge and a pronounced and a lingering juniper flavor.
Third in the Best of Beer Camp series, the Weizenbock Camp #37 pours a hazy, almost opaque, golden orange with a silky stream of floating yeast. The large, lightly yellowed head is great on retention and produces chunky thick lacing on the glass. Very sweet wheat malts envelop the aroma and carry a mild astringency. The beer has defined orangey notes with a mild bread on the end of the nose with some mild spice notes.
Clove spice is huge and majorly pronounced on the foretaste, followed by a considerable banana sweetness. This is a total classic for a wheat beer. The crisp carbonation keeps the beer light, but the wheat malts give the texture a silky smoothness. The beer is delicious and sweet. It's like dessert, a treat in a glass. It's just out of the sessionable range, but very drinkable. Slight heat on the finish adds a hint of dryness to the sweet breadiness and keeps it in check.
The Double IPA from The Best of Beer Camp variety pack from Sierra Nevada pours a yellowy golden amber with a medium-to-large lightly yellowed, off-white head. Steady carbonation rises from the center of the glass, slowly refreshing the head, which musters great retention of the sticky and frothy foam. Piercing pungent hops define the nose and are highly citrusy. The mild underlying sweetness reveals the presence of the malts that seem barely present beneath the powerful hops.
The smooth and velvety mouthfeel seems almost creamy. For an imperial IPA, the body is remarkably vibrant. The beer is robust, but stays refreshing. Bitter citrus hops dominate with heaps of fresh grapefruit. A clean and grassy freshness gives the beer a definite Summer feel. The finish is crisp with a light booziness.
First on the list from the Beer Camp variety pack is the Camp #8 California Common. The style is an interesting and fairly rare style native to the state. Otherwise known as Steam Beer, that title is actually trademarked by San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company.
The beer pours a crystal clear light amber with a moderate amount of rising carbonation. Colored off-white, the healthy-sized head is a light and airy foam. The nose is slightly herbal with a spiciness and a moderate vanilla essence. With the edge of a nose of a witbier the aroma features a dustiness on top of the prominent sweet malt character.
Bitter dry dandelion is up front and throughout the beer. Floral bitterness is pervasive and adds to this beer's very body and distinctive flavor. Toasted malts dominate the body and yield only to a tinge of alcohol. The slight fusel heat on the finish blends with and seemingly magnifies the beer's floral notes.
Rounding out the rest of this week I'll be reviewing the beers from the 2011 release of the Best of Beer Camp Variety Pack from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The variety pack, originally slated to be release in the Spring, features some of the selected top beers that come out of Beer Camp.
Every year a select group of individuals enter a contest to participate in Beer Camp. The participants travel to Chico, California for a camp session at Sierra Nevada brewery, where they learn about the brewery, tour the facilities, and design and brew new, interesting, and innovative beers. This year's selection features four very different styles, each making for interesting Summer drinking.
I reviewed this beer some time back and thought it solid, but not remarkable. Upon revisiting it, after trying the five single-hop variations, it is safe to say that I appreciate it more. However, I'm still not in love with it.
The nuance and depth of each of the component hops is there, but the total package doesn't overwhelm me. The beer pours a deep amber body with a modest ruby glow. The light tan head is large and frothy with great retention and feathery lacing. The lacing is light along the top off the glass and slowly fades as the beer disappears. Bitter and tight hops define the nose with a hint of mineral water. Mild citrus makes up the brunt of the hop profile backed by a subdued, but present, pine with a resinous edge.
Sweet toasted malts underly the beer with a solid presence, however, they're not center stage. The sharpest, most pungent additions on the hops bill seem blunted and diffused by the more aromatic and subdued varietals. The Simcoe and Ahtanum seem to be knocked down in their strength by the Hallertau and Goldings. The mild citrus notes play off the resinous pine. The finish is slightly sticky with pine hops that produce a lasting aftertaste.
The Hallertau Mittelfrueh varietal rounds out to the Latitude 48 hop bill and is the final single-hop beer in the Deconstructed variety pack. The same deep amber body pours with extra brown tones and a large, off-white-to-light-tan head. The foam is fluffy and sudsy in consistency with solid retention and large swathes of lace. The beer is sweet and malty on the nose with mild citrusy dry hops. Minor pine notes skirt the edges, but are far from prominent.
The mouthfeel of the beer is velvety and reveals and moderate, earthy hopping. The bitterness is mild and makes for very smoothy and easy drinking. The beer is closer to an amber ale than an IPA, but is not nearly as grainy on the malt side of things. Like the East Kent Goldings, this varietal seems to pair well with others, but doesn't stand its ground to produce a traditional IPA when it's done single-hop.