Monday, December 31, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio (2012)

Purchased From: Brasserie Cantillon, Brussels, Belgium
Serving Type: 750ml bottle, corked and capped, poured into a Champagne flute

Happy New Year 2013! In celebration I'm posting my review of the true Champagne of Beers, Gueuze, and specifically, the world-class Gueuze from Cantillon.

The signature beer from Cantillon, their Gueuze, pours a medium-straw body with a honey golden glow. A small stream of bubbles rise gently in the glass for the entire life of the beer. The natural carbonation from bottle refermentation creates a smallish off-white head of foam. After a short period of head retention, a thin layer of foam remains. No substantial lacing forms while drinking this Lambic beer.

This Gueuze's nose is supremely funky. The leading sour edge features heaps of grapes and tight tartness. Light barnyard aromatics bring in hints of earthiness and turf. A sweetness couples with dusty cellar aromas that show off both the aged Lambic and the young Lambic involved in this artisinal blend. A light metallic sheen hits on the end and a mineral water hardness rounds out the nose.

Cheek-pinching sourness enteres up front, but it does not overwhelm the palate. As the beer hits the back of the tongue it delivers a funky sour punch. Light grapes and moderate fruitiness are featured prominently on the mid-palate. Dry sweetness with a light sugary edge are pervasive, but the beer's seche character dominates. The tart, highly carbonated beer is reminiscent of a Champagne and delivers a refreshing balance that at once seems to quench thirst, but leaves the mouth dry, inviting another sip. This beer exudes both subtlty and refinement and bold outstanding flavor. A true craft worthy of highest praise.

Final Verdict: A

Friday, December 28, 2012

Brouwerij The Musketeers - Troubadour Obscura Mild Stout

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

Obscura, dubbed a mild stout, pours a lightly hazy, but seemingly opaque mahogany body with a lightly milky appearance. Streaks and flakes of yeast dance throughout the glass and speckle the large, creamy, tan head. The retention is excellent and layered swathes of lace adorn the glass. A mild cellary funk greets the nose, but subsides to sweet aromatics. Mild candy, plums, and a surprising fruitiness define the nose. Almost no real smoke or coffee aromas are to be found.

Sweet winter fruits meet the palate up front and sail in on a smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel, but a crisp carbonation breaks it up. Chocolaty toasted malts come through in the middle. The cocoa seems semi-sweet, not bitter, and there's almost no smokiness at all. The finish is almost winey with a mild Port character, a touch of earthiness, and the faintest hint of smoke in the aftertaste.

I'm not exactly sure what a 'mild stout' is, and I'm not sure how this beer really fits into the description of a stout, but it is a great beer and well worth trying!

Final Verdict: A-

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brouwerij Sint Bernardus Watou - St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Purchased From: Bierkraft
Serving Type: 750 ml bottle, corked and caged, poured into a wine glass

Yesterday I posted a Christmas review of Fantôme de Noël for the holiday. I was happy to realize I had the beer to drink because I thought I had lost my review of the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Today I found my notes for the review and instead of waiting a year and reusing it in celebreation of Christmas 2013, I'm adding a second bonus Christmas beer.

This holiday special from Brouwerij Sint Bernardus in Watou Beligum pours a deep chestnut body with a mild amber glow that shines in light. The beer's foam produces a medium-sized light tan head that musters modest retention and leaves thin wisps of lace on the glass. Sweet candy adorns the nose, buttressed by spicy undertones of nutmeg and allspice. The beer seems very sweet with a light hint of astringency.

There's an interesting component of sweet leatheriness up front. The beer is initially smooth and slick but strong carbonation tumbles in on the mid-palate. Sweet and slightly sugary, the beer features figs and a mild touch of raisin. The dark fruits, light mustiness, and sugar give this Winter beer an edge like a Port wine. Carbonation dances on the tongue and evaporates the candied fruit leaving darker toffee notes and a full bodied creamy mouthfeel. Sweet breadiness and caramelized sugars define the finish that leaves a warming chest heat, perfect for cold Winter relaxing.

Final Verdict: A

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Brasserie Fantôme - Fantôme de Noël

Purchased From: Bierkraft
Serving Type: 750ml bottle, corked and capped, poured into a snifter

To celebrate Christmas and Winter Seasonal beer this year I enjoyed a bottle of Fantôme de Noël from Brasserie Frantôme in Soy, Belgium. Unfortunately I do not know the year on this bottle. It is at least from 2011, brewed ahead of last Christmas, but it could possibly be older. The drink by dates on the label were not notched.

Fantôme de Noël pours a medium auburn body with a lightly reddish undertone. The body is very hazy with both fine yeast suspension and large pieces of sediment floating idly. The light tan foamy head is fairly small from a moderately vigorous pour. Mild retention leaves nearly absent lacing. The nose is spicy with a huge candied sugar aroma. Dusty and lightly boozy the beer is reminiscent of the cellar with a dash of apple cider and wafting Belgian yeast.

Light Belgian ale on the foretaste introduces the distinctive earthiness of the underlying saison. A tiny hint of sourness sneaks in on the mid-palate with a well received Belgian funk. The earthiness becomes an undertone that carries pronounced cinnamon and the resurgence of apple cider. A hint of woodiness leads into the mildly bitter finish that leaves a warming heat on the Chest, perfect for sipping by a Christmas tree on a cold Winter night.

Final Verdict: A-

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hof ten Dormaal - Amber

Purchased From:
Serving Type: 12.7 oz. bottle, corked and caged, poured into a plastic cup

This amber saison from Hof ten Dormaal has a clouded unfiltered amber hue with a brilliant inner glow. Rapidly rising carbonation fuels the huge yellowed-tan head which features distinctive and chunky peaks and valleys of foam. The beer's head features superb retention and leaves massive swathes of lace behind. The nose is malty with a minor lagery aroma and a sweet honey-like character. The nose is vaguely like a German bock, or perhaps more closely, a mäibock.

The body features prominently complex earthy tones and a broken down graininess that brings the character of this amber saison more in line with the flavor profile of a Belgium dubbel. Caramel and a dank woodiness hold up the lower end of flavors, which are matched by the sweetness of dark fruits like figs and dates. Spiciness comes in late with a minor dustiness. The beer doesn't seem much like a saison, but it is delicious.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hof ten Dormaal - Blond

Serving Type: 12.7 oz. bottle, corked and caged, poured into a plastic cup

This blonde saison ale from Belgium-based Hof ten Dormaal pours a hazy unfiltered yellowy amber body with a straw-colored inner glow. The large head is a thick yellowed foam with sticky consistency that slowly fades leaving stiff standing peaks and deep craters. The had leaves thick chunky lacing. The nose is spicy and almost lightly meaty with moderate earthy barnyard twang. Minor cellar notes and a slight dustiness lead to a vague lagery aroma of clean malts.

The beer seems incredibly spicy on the front end and almost hints of a smoked or cured meat, with a lean toward prosciutto. Massive malt notes enter in on the mid-palate and line up a profile that is at once sweet and powdery dry. A dash of ginger accents a moderate grassiness on the bank end. The carbonation is pointed from the mid-palate through until the end. The finish is dry, lightly earthy and organic, with a persistent freshness.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, December 10, 2012

Smuttynose Brewing Company - Smuttynose Winter Ale

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

This Winter seasonal from New Hampshire-based Smuttynose pours a rich mahogany body with a tawny, warming glow. The moderately-sized tan head is made of a frothy foam and features medium retention and solid lacing. Chocolately aroma matches earthy hops and a very mild smoke. Moderate spiciness rounds out the nose and builds further on the Wintery theme.

The beer is spicy up front with velvety carbonation. Roasted malts are impressive and despite the carbonation the beer seems silky smooth. Earthy and nicely smoky, the beer is no smoke bomb, but satisfyingly complex. The finish is dry and layered with dark flavors and a lingering smoke and light sweetness.

Final Verdict: B+

Monday, December 3, 2012

Magic Hat Brewing Company - Circus Boy - The Hefeweizen

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

This wheat ale from Magic Hat pours a hazy, unfiltered yellowy-orange body. A thin white head of slick foam adorns the top of the beer. The nose is extremely feint and almost lagery. Wheat malts are not overly apparent and only a hint of minor banana phenols can be detected.

The beer is very lagery up front with a crisp, biting carbonation. Wheat malts come through fairly spicy on the mid-palate and drop definite banana flavors. The beer is very sweet with almost no hops perceptible. Spice seems to add the only contrast to the highly sweet malt base. The finish is feint with a light grassiness, mild spice, and a lingering sweetness.

Final Verdict: C+

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Braueri Beck & Co. (AB InBev) - Beck's

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

This well-known German pale lager pours a medium pale straw body, crystal clear with a fast-rising carbonation. The light and fluffy white head builds quickly to a medium size and features modest retention, but leaves thick swathes of lace as it fades. The nose is stinky with the signature Euro lager aroma. Skunky hops give a vague Pilsner-like profile. Light maltiness rounds out the base.

The beer is very crisp and gives a light and airy body. Malts are very sweet and almost honey-like. A minor sour graininess comes through on the mid-palate and are matched by a light dusting of dandelion-like bitter hops, which bring forth the Pilsner profile of Noble hops. The flavor fades fast, but leaves a minor skunk on the finish and a moderate crisp bite.

Final Verdict: C

Friday, November 23, 2012

Innis & Gunn - Winter Beer 2011

Purchased From: Received as a gift, thanks!
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a branded glass

The Winter Beer 2011 pours a chestnut body with a lightly tawny complexion. Amber and yellow glow through at the base of the glass and a large tan head of frothy foam fills the opening. The nose is spicy with prominent vanilla, mild cinnamon and fragrant oakiness. Sweet toasted malts and heaps of caramel fill out the grain profile.

Satiny carbonation hits immediately on the front end and slides smoothly into layers of caramel sweetness. Dark earthy tons aid the emphasis of Winter spices. A hint of vanilla adds some additional sweets and a light milkiness plays well off the caramel grains. Oak flavor develops quickly and is intense from the mid-palate through the finish. A slick, oily wood leads the beer out and leaves the palate with a light seche aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Innis & Gunn - Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer

Purchased From: Received as a gift, thanks!
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a branded glass

One of the last times I left off on posting I was right in the middle of reviewing a sample pack of beers from Innis & Gunn. Now that I'm trying to get some posting going again, it is time to pick up with the Rum Cask aged offering. The beer pours a lightly rubied mahogany with a striking clarity and glow. The head is a medium-large off-white foam with a lightly tanned tinge. The foam is light and airy and musters a moderate retention and lacing.

Rum is obvious on the nose with tons of vanilla and oak influence also present. Very minor licorice sneaks in at the edges and adds a light punch to a healthy malt aroma with light sugar and a modest alcoholic infusion. The sweet maltiness of a Scottish ale is apparent, but like the standard cask aged Innis & Gunn, barrel flavor dominates the palate. Sweet woody oak and dry vanilla flavors are clearly imparted from the barrel and dark rum influence brings layers of spiciness and a light fruit flavor.

The mouthfeel is slick with a tinge of carbonation on the finish. Huge rum notes carry through to the aftertaste and a hint of heat fills the back of the palate and the chest. Overall a tasty and enjoyable beer, which brings dominant barrel flavor to a solid malty beer.

Final Verdict: B

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren - XII

Purchased From: De Biertempel, Brussels, Belgium
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a snifter

This famous and exceedingly rare (in the United States, at least) was a treat and something I sought out on a recent trip to Belgium. The brewery recently released a collectors pack featuring a few bottles and a glass in the United States and sold like hot cakes. Unfortunately, none of those packs were even available in Connecticut, as the importer apparently doesn't find the state worthwhile for such beer. Westvleteren is one of seven Trappist brewers (Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Achel, and La Trappe being the other names familiar to beer drinkers), but is among the rarest with second lowest production (lowest being held by Achel -- according to numbers published here).

The Westvleteren XII is perhaps the most iconic entry by the brewery and stands tall at 10.2% ABV as a Belgian Quadruple. It pours a hazy, if not murky, chestnut brown from its signature bottle featuring the moniker "Trappistenbier" on a band around the shallow sloping neck. The beer's head ia a healthy light brown foam and musters a fair retention considering the strength of the beer. It does, however, leave a thin layer on top of the beer for the entire drinking session.

The nose is extremely bready, but somewhat understated initially. Light pumpernickel features atop an alcoholic sweetness. The toasted malts subside on the backend to dark sugars and caramel notes that reveal winter fruits like dried figs and a hint of nuttiness. A dash of spice leads up to the lightly medicinal finish of the aroma.

The beer is strong and boozy. Light carbonation builds waves of velvety texture in the mouth and breaks up the sweet alcohol with an airy evaporation on the tongue. Brown sugar with a dank cellariness defines the beer with a syrupy classic Belgian edge. Deep sweets from dark fruits pair with a light fruit meatiness. Hints of plum and currant combine with the light sweet edge of raisins and produce a hint of Port.

The grainy pumpernickel bread is prominent near the finish and features the lightest hints of caraway seed and even a dusting of flour. The finish is clean with a pronounced, yet refined alcohol that heats the chest. The fruity sweets fully subside and welcome in a powdery dryness and leaves the beer's spicy hints behind.

Often trumpeted, perhaps fueled, at least in part, by its rareness, as the world's best beer this is an absolute must try. Unfortunately very difficult to find, this beer is worth waiting for or seeking out and a requisite part of any trip that brings a dedicated beer drinker to Belgium.

Final Verdict: A

Monday, September 17, 2012

Heineken Blows Doors Off With New Packaging

Be prepared to be wowed by the latest "innovation" in beer packaging design. Perhaps nonplussed by the waning popularity of their "ultra premium" import lager, Heineken announced today that they will be rolling out a newly designed bottle. If you're excited, make sure to keep an eye out in New York state later this month and nationwide starting in March of 2013.

The new bottle design joins the long-neck crowd, eschewing their classic 'stubby' look. But, the real innovation comes with the inclusion of " embossed thumb groove that improves grip and encourages people to hold the bottle at a lower point, keeping the beer colder." Which is not only not a change worth a press release  but also a ludicrous claim. 

In what way will holding the bottle lower keep the beer colder? If the drinker holds the bottle at the bottom the hand will be covering the point where there is beer the longest. Perhaps the press release is simply a bit vague on this point and the drinker is intended the use some sort of awkward claw hand position to hold the base of the bottle using the thumb and four fingers arranged vertically, or maybe the groove will be positioned on the neck.

Yet another entry in the 'diversify by design' not substance series that plagues the macro beer market.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stone Brewing Company - Bottleworks 13th Anniversary Ale

Purchased From: Bierkraft
Serving Type: 750mL bottle, poured into a stemmed water glass

Bottleworks, a well-known Seattle-based beer seller, turned to Stone Brewing Company this year to create a beer to commemorate their 13th year in business. The beer was release today, June 20, 2012. Apparently Bottleworks has been creating anniversary ales with a number of collaborators over the years, but, this year they decided to work with craft-brewing titan Stone. Everything about this ale is 13-centric, but, despite their intentions, the ABV only came out to about 11% (the word is that too much specialty malt held back the fermentable sugar).

This epic collaboration features 13 grains: Pale 2-Row, White Wheat, Aromatic, Weyerman Chocolate Rye, Light Munich, Brown Crisp, Crisp Light Crystal, Crisp Amber, Caramunich, Baird's Chocolate Malt, Lightly Peated, Simpsons Dark Crystal, and Oats as well as 13 hops: Bravo, Target, Columbus, Cascade, Delta, Warrior, Magnum, Apollo, Calypso, Perle, Galena, Chinook, and Mt. Hood. 

This beer, billed as an American Strong Ale, plays out much like an Imperial Porter or and Imperial Stout. The body is deep, almost completely opaque in a wide glass, with a mahogany brown body with auburn and ruby inner glow. Only the base of the glass reveals the beer's true hue when held to light. Gently rising streams of minuscule carbonation bubbles fuel a large, fluffy, and creamy head of dense light brown foam. The head retention is fantastic and it leaves a thick ring of lace around the top of the glass and dissipates with elegant patterns as the beer disappears. 

The nose is big and sweet with an impressive malt showing. Caramelized specialty grains bring a variety of profiles, most noticeably a molasses sweetness with deep coffee notes. A hoppy edge tightens this beer and its impressive grain bill. Hops pinch at the nose slightly with a mildly resinous pine and sweet sappy cones of fresh hop essence.

The beer is crisp up front and quickly yields to a huge roasty character. Blackened, coffee-like grains produce a smokey essence that is perhaps the most prominent characteristic of this strongly dark ale, which sports most of the trappings of an export stout. The most darkly roasted malts easily overpower the lighter nuances of the White Wheat grain and Pale Two-Row malts. However, the scattering of rye malt here lends a spicy edge the coffee-like tones and the oats in this beer lend their distinctive smooth slickness, despite the opening and finishing crispness.

Smooth smokiness on the finish beckons another sip along with the dry hoppy finish. Light mineral water characteristics play in at the end and lead effortlessly to the long-lasting dank hoppiness of the aftertaste. 

This beer is excellent, highly drinkable, and very, very good, but the 13 by 13 grain and hop bill seems stuntish when taken in context of the impressive and overbearing stout profile of this beer. To miss the spicy nuances of the beer, the resinous, floral, and earthy hop profiles would be remiss, but, the overpowering roasted coffee profile is the true identity of the beer.

If it's still around, find it, but if you miss it, don't feel slighted if you can pick up the absolutely-world-class Imperial Russian Stout by Stone.

Final Verdict: A

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MillerCoors Debuts New Packaging Gimmick

If you want a full article, rather than reactionary ramblings, check out this "Miller Lite Punch Top Can debuts this week" over at BeerPulse.
As much as Budweiser makes me grown by churning out poor variations on their most popular product Bud Light, I've got to give them some credit. At least they're coming up with new products. Then again, that's the more sinister approach. By pumping out new products, they demand more shelf space in package, grocery, and convenience stores and have the chance of catching the eye of a beer shopper that is looking to "expand his/her horizons" and "try something new." But, alas, this is not about Budweiser coming up with new products, this is about MillerCoors spending "creative energy" churning out packaging redesigns.

At least this one is practical, if you're goal is to improve the flow of beer to facilitate chugging. The last improvement from MillerCoors to a Miller Lite product was the "Vortex Bottle" that purported to do the same thing, but was a ludicrously made-up mechanism. Here, the punch tab in the top of the can, actually will improve air flow. It's like the marketing folks have been taking cues from frat guys and binge drinkers and have attempted to implement in-can shot-gunning. I think by next year they'll have put another punch out in the side of the can.

What kills me is that this is clearly part of a larger pattern by MillerCoors. Rather than reworking the beer or improving the product they simply create a new, pointless, marketing feature. It's product differentiation without any substance. For Miller it was the Vortex Bottle, now the Punch Top Can. For Coors it's been an even more hilarious/pitiful series for the Coors Light line. The Cold-Activated labels, then Cold-Activated cans, then, the epitome of idiocy, the Cold Activation Window! "Another engineering marvel from Coors, we've cut a hole in our packaging!" All, just in case you're not able to accurately gauge that you've chilled your beer enough. Or, is it to help ensure that you never drink the beer at a temperature that most beer (read: not Coors and its cohort) is intended to be consumed. Because, after all, if you actually experienced the flavors of these beers and dared to compare, you'd perhaps find that there really is something better out there.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Posting Update

I just wanted to post a short update about the posting here. As has happened a few times over the last six months I've been very busy with work and life. As a result, my backlog of posts has run out and I haven't been able to keep to the regular updates. Unfortunately, this happened right in the middle of what was going to be a three-part series on Innus & Gunn oak aged beers.

I hope to get a few more posts queued up so the beer continues to flow. I've also had a few beer recommendations sent in by readers that I hope have posted up here soon as well.

So, keep an eye out and check back in a week or so.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Innis & Gunn - Oak Aged Beer

Purchased From: Received as a gift, thanks!
Serving Type: 330ml bottle, poured into a branded glass

Innis & Gunn is a Scottish brewer that produces a line of barrel aged beers that show off not only their Scottish heritage, but pack huge characteristics of their aging vessels. This, the Original, is aged in oak barrels and pours a crystal-clear orangy amber body with a nearly-white head. The foam is light and airy, mustering moderate retention and light wispy lacing. The nose is potent with vanilla notes. Oak influence is huge and inluences the malt base adding hints of candy and a minor ice cream appeal.

Vanilla and oak dominate the palate. Malts are strong and singular, but are overtaken by the tremendous barrel age character. The impact of the aging vessel absolutely defines the beer, pushing out almost every other flavor. The beer is aged only 77 days in oak, so it is surprising that the impact is so dramatic.

Final Verdict: B-

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Oskar Blue Brewery - Mama's Little Yella Pils

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

This Pilsner-style brew from Colorado-based Oskar Blues pours a glowing-golden medium straw body, clear with a chilled-haze. The head is a large, soft, airy foam in off-white. The nose is feint overall with a slight sour graininess and mild apple juice notes. The aroma is semi-sweet with a dusting of hops.

A mild carbonation produces a muted crispness on the tongue. Apple juice comes through with a hint of under-ripened pear. The beer is very lagery with an emphasis on light malt body. A very light hopping provides a hint of drynesson top of a vague honey sweetness. No Noble hop influence in this lager steers it away from its Pilsner designation. A finish is semi-tight with carbonation, a sweet malt profile and understated hops.

Final Verdict: B-

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Great New London Brewing Co. - Safe Harbor American Blonde Ale

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

This American Blonde Ale by The Great New London Brewing Company is contract brewed by Cottrell in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Anyone familiar with Cottrell will have an idea of what to expect. The beer pours a very hazy orange-amber with a light yellow glow. The head is large and slightly yellowed with a fluffy foam consistency. The beer's head retention is excellent and leaves delicate lacing on the glass. A strong hoppy nose places this beer's emphasis clearly on citrus with potent orange oil aromas. A sweet, but light, malt base holds up the beer underneath the hoppy aromatics.

Grainy light malts greet on the foretaste with a coarse, cracked grain texture. Velvet, rolling carbonation creates a refreshing mouthfeel to usher in dry hops. Despite a light bitterness in the hop character, huge orange notes pervade. A spray of orange oil plays up the bitterness while a dash of orange juice keeps the citrus componenet sweet. Mild blossom honey contributes further to the beer's nectarous quality. A dry crispness defines the finish.

Final Verdict: A-

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Löwenbräu AG - Original

Serving Type: 330 mL bottle, poured into a plastic cup

Löwenbräu Original is a classic Bavarian lager, from one of the historic breweries of Munich, Germany. The beer pours a light, almost greenish, straw body with a crystal clear glimmer. The foam is smallish, but shines in bright white. The head retention is moderate and the lacing is quite light. The nose is quite lagery with a pungent skunkiness. Moderate dandelion notes add bitterness and mild grassy elements of traditional Noble hops. The underlying malts are sweet with an ever-slight drop of honey.

Crisp carbonation gives the beer a classic Helles feel. Noble hops and the Pilsnery impression of this lager style are unmistakable. The beer is light and drinkable and make for a very refreshing brew at 5.2% ABV. The malts are sweet with minor pear notes. The finish is crisp and drying. Overall the beer is a classic with the traditional tropes of a Munich Helles lager, right down to the predictable Reinheitsgebot marketing. A drinkable brew, perfect for slugging by the litre at an Oktoberfest event.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bass Brewers Limited - Bass Pale Ale

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

With a history as rich as Bass Pale Ale's in the UK, I'm not sure if it is funny or dismaying that featured prominently on the label are the words "Product of the USA." Bass was once the highest selling beer in the UK with wide export among the former empire. The triangle logo was the first trademark in the UK, as well. Yet, today, the brand is owned by transnational beer-glomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev and apparently (at least those destined for consumption in America) this famous British ale is brewed in the States.

This classic Pale Ale pours a tawny amber body, clear with streams of rising bubbles. It's light tan head is moderately-sized with a semi-creamy consistency. The foam has modest retention and leaves layers of light lacing behind. The nose is feint and mildly lagery with light banana bread notes. Mild cinnamon pairs with a splash of grainy barley tisane.

A slight phenolic banana rush greets the sip up front before meeting a light bouquet of fruity hops. The malt base shows through with moderate tea-like grains and a lagery mid-palate. A mild sweetness is like a hint of honey and somewhat floral. Overall it is a bit thin with an unassuming profile. It's crisp finish makes the beer very drinkable with a refreshing edge.

Final Verdict: B+

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Blue Moon Brewing Company" a/k/a Coors Brewing Company - Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale

Brewed In: Boulder, CO
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

Among a number of seasonals from Blue Moon Brewing Company (ahem) Coors comes the Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale. The beer, fashioned after a Beligan dubbel, pours a crystal-clear, medium-brown body with a ruby glow. The head is a large creamy yellowed tan with solid retention. It leaves layers of lace at the top of the glass (err, plastic cup). A big malty nose features minor grassiness on the back end. Mild toasted caramel notes are slightly soured by graininess. Overall it seems fairly dry with a slight sweet kick.

Carbonation is big and crisp up front, but yields to a light wateriness. The beer seems more like a brown ale than a Belgian dubbel or abbey ale. There's a light earthiness with mild wood notes and a faded hint of chocolate. Malts take the center stage, but remain underwhelming. They're thin with a lagery base malt undertone. The finish is mildly medicinal with a dry sweetness.

Final Verdict: C*

* - While I think this is a better beer, I gave a C to the regular Blue Moon Belgian White as well. I think that this Winter Seasonal is a bit better as beers go, but not quite enough to earn it a C+. It is a far cry from a Belgian Dubbel, but it is functional as a brown ale, and not what I'd call bad at that.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Blue Moon Brewing Company" a/k/a Coors Brewing Company - Blue Moon Belgian White

Brewed In: Boulder, CO
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

Blue Moon is an entry by Coors Brewing into the "craft beer" market. It's got nothing to do with craft beer except for the fact that the idea behind it is to try to win customers over who might otherwise go for a craft beer. Either way, it is a welcomed departure from the other macro adjunct lagers produced by Coors and its counterparts.

The beer pours a hazy, almost milky, orange with yeast flakes that float freely in the unfiltered body. The off-white head is fairly small with a creamy consistency. The retention is moderate and leaves small rings of lace. The nose is mildly spicy with a huge orange component. A slightly medicinal sweetness tops the thinnish wheat malt.

The body of the beer is very light with a high carbonation that approaches lagery crispness. Malt flavor is mild with a moderate sweetness. The beer's graininess turns a bit sour on the mid-palate, but is tamped down by the impact of mighty orange flavoring. On the finish the beer is dry with a slight astringency.

Final Verdict: C

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Brouwerij Lindemans - Faro

Brewed In: Vlezenbeek, Belgium
Serving Type: 330 mL bottle, poured into a fluted glass

Faro is a Lambic beer with added Candi Sugar, which adds a distinctive sweetness and cuts down a significant portion of the tart flavors common to other Lambics. This Faro, brewed by Lindemans pours a clear full amber body with a medium-sized light tan head. The retention is mild and the foam fades to space lacing on the glass. The nose is candy sweet with a hint of maltiness and a touch of vinegar. There's a sour funk, but it is reserved.

The carbonation is crisp and tight, like a freshly opened sparkling wine. Malted barley paired with unmalted wheat make for a silky body with a smooth flavor combination and a mild spice. Spontaneous fermentation give the beer its classic Lambic funk, but it is attenuated by the addition of Candi Sugar, which adds a prominent sweetness. The back end is slightly grapey and the sweetness persists for a candy-coated, but crisp finish.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stone Brewing Company - Double Bastard Ale

Brewed In: Escondido, CA
Serving Type: 650 mL bottle, poured into a snifter

The Double Bastard Ale isn't exactly a double up on the Arrogant Bastard Ale, but this American Strong Ale comes in a step up from its little brother at 10.5% ABV. The beer pours a cloudy, muddied brown body with a cherry-infused glow. The head, in this case, poured a paper thin tan foam with minimal retention and very minor lace-like spotting on the glass. The nose is oaky, but not oaked, and bready. Hops are very tight with a punch of pine. The beer stands out as clearly big and clearly alcoholic with a sticky sweetness.

Sweet molasses notes up front play off distinct woody notes. The beer is hulking and robust, but smooth and massively enjoyable. Sticky, resinous pine hops are potent, but do not overwhelm the layered maltiness. Sweet sugary malts carry deep woodiness and a candied dark fruit component. A spritz of subtle citrus rind adds another tone of the depth of flavor. The finish is dry and slightly vegetal. Throughout and lasting past the finish, the beer has a coarse maltiness with defined biscuity tones. An excellent beer that must be enjoyed and shared.

Final Verdict: A

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - St. Lamvinus

Brewed in: Brussels, Belgium
Serving Type: 750 mL bottle, poured into a snifter

Saint Lamvinus is a classic Gueuze, a blend of young and old Lambics, aged with French wine grapes, from the Bordeaux wine region in the cask. The beer pours a pinkish maroon body with darkish brown undertones. The thin white foam of the beer has a minor pink hue. The foam is wispy and leaves elegant, yet thin, traces of lace on the glass and clings slightly to the surface of the beer. The nose is very tart and sour with a definite cellary funk. Rich juicy red grapes enhance the tart character and offer a refined sweetness. The nose also carries a slight medicinal aroma, a bit like a medicated cough drop.

Like most excellent Lambics St. Lamvinus is highly carbonated with dancing Champagne-like bubbles. Lambic beers are the true "Champagne of Beers," Miller High Life, on the other hand, is a true joke. The grapes are fresh and fruity and give both hints of fruit and lend a remarkable meatiness to the beer. Hints of raspberry and other tart fruit show as well. The aged, cellary funk is pervasive, at once adding to the tart mouthfeel and lending an aged dustiness. The finish is tight and tart. The light medicinal edge returns, but is not off-putting. As the beer fades, a dry and vaguely sugary feeling remains.

This beer is a one of a kind and a true treat. Cantillon is a world renowned brewer and at the absolute height of the, very few remaining, Lambic producers. If you can find this beer, get it! While most Lambics are suitable for extended cellaring, I would not recommend cellaring this beer for any significant length of time. The delicate grape infusion is sure to lose its potency and its true contribution if left in the cellar for too long. If you find this, not only should you get it(!), you should enjoy it soon!

Final Verdict: A

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sixpoint Brewery - The Crisp

Brewed In: Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Serving Type: 16 oz. tallboy can, poured into a plastic cup

The Crisp, from Brooklyn-based Sixpoint Brewery, pours a clear golden straw body with a shimmering honey glow. Tons of carbonation bubbles rise rapidly throughout the beer. The off-white airy white foam creates a modestly-sized head that fades slowly with a quiet crackling. Light lace adorns the walls of the glass (plastic in this case) once the foam departs. The nose is fresh with a bouquet of hops and an almost soapy aroma. Orange peel adds citrus notes and the nose seems almost slightly spicy. A sweet lagered graininess creates the inviting base of the beer.

Crisp, sparkling carbonation tingles the tongue on the first sip. Citrus oils enter strong for a big and distinct hop profile that never overpowers the malt base. Fresh grains are grassy and reminiscent of the gristmill in mid-operation. Mild pears and a hint of apple juice meet a smooth buttery component on the mid-palate that shifts the tone of the beer slightly. The lager finishes clean and refreshing. It lives up to its name making a highly drinkable and highly enjoyable go-to lager.

Final Verdict: A

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Butternuts Beer & Ale - Porkslap Pale Ale

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

This interestingly named, canned Farmhouse-inspired Pale Ale pours a deep amber body. The beer is semi-tawny with a slight grapefruit glow. The head is lightly tanned with a yellowish tint. Foam retention is solid and produces layers of lace as the head slowly disappears. The nose is malty and lightly spicy with a mild funk. By the nose, with light citrus hints, you might swear you were picking up the beer's hops. However, this beer, as advertised on the can, is an 'all malt' brew.

The beer is tart and dry with a gristly malt base. Sweet but not cloying and malty without being a bomb, the beer strikes an elegant balance of flavors. A solid graininess produces a coarse texture and lends a grassy component. The grassy earthy flavors give the beer the feel of a farmyard, whether or not its produced in the true style of a Farmhouse Ale. The finish carries a light crispness and and goes out with a lasting dryness on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B+

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Magic Hat Brewing Company - Howl Black as Night Lager

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

Howl, a black lager/schwarzbier from Magic Hat, pours dark blackish brown with a ruby inner glow. Active carbonation bunches on the edge of the glass and below the medium-sized head. The foam is airy and light tan with modest staying power and light lacing. The nose contains modest smoke with hints of chocolate. Graininess is apparent, even through the moderate toasty notes.

The body is light and crisp with slightly sour, tea-like grains, even through the toasted malt flavors. The flavor is underwhelming and very light on the whole. The beer seems a bit watery and the smokey body feels drowned out. A vague sooty smoke dryness brings in a dark roasted flavor on the finish to pick up the intensity slightly on the way out.

Final Verdict: C

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Magic Hat Brewing Company - #9

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

Magic Hat #9 is perhaps the most well-known and popular of the brewer's selection. This apricot flavored beer pours a slightly reddish orange body. It's crystal clear with a small, lightly yellowed head of airy foam. The retention is modest and the lacing is light overall. The nose is very sweet and sugary with a strong candy apricot-like scent. It seems to have a distinct 'flavor added' feel and it seems quite clear that no real apricots are directly involved in the production of the beer. I could be wrong, and if I am, please let me know.

Cloying fruitiness overtakes the beer on the foretaste. Malt body and any hint of hops are all but entirely missing here. Mild hints of grain sneak in on the mid-palate. The grains give a tea-like flavor, not that of a substantial ale. The finish is dry, but almost sickly sweet. A tinge of crisp carbonation lightens the mouthfeel a bit. The Ourtoberfest beer brought me back to Magic Hat a few months back, but at this point, I'm remembering why I left in the first place.

Final Verdict: D+

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Magic Hat Brewing Company - Encore American Wheat IPA

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

After reviewing and enjoying the Hex Ourtoberfest by Magic Hat, I resolved to give the brewer another try and seek out some of their other offerings for the blog. First up is the Encore American Wheat IPA. The beer pours a radiantly hazy orange body with a light grapefruit-tinted inner glow. The head is a frothy, slightly yellowed foam, which fades slowly and leaves plenty of lace behind. The nose is slightly acidic. Highly citric hops on the nose lend a sweet and refreshing aroma combined with a mild floral component. Sweet wheat grains are prominent with a light spiciness.

The mouthfeel is very smooth with a lightly fizzing velvet carbonation. The crispness accentuates the floral sweetness and helps to tone down the beer's minor astringency. Hops are bitter and slightly drying. The citrus hop flavors play up defined orange peel and combine with the sweet and coarse wheat malts. Minor honey sweetness adds a slight waxy viscosity to the finish. Lingering vegetal elements remain with a mild dryness.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mercury Brewing Company - Clown Shoes - Lubrication American Black Ale

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

The Lubrication Black Ale from Clown Shoes/Mercury pours a deep brown body, pushing black with a ruby glow around its edges and on the pour. The full tan head is small, but creamy in consistency with a mild oily sheen. The head fades slowly and leaves light lace behind as it goes. The robust smokey nose features hints of coffee and a dry powdery essence on the back end.

With a smooth and satiny mouthfeel the beer features a toffee sweetness up front. Slowly the sweets slide into a medium roast coffee with mild smokey notes. The beer seems dry with a vague mineral influence. From the mid-palate through the finish the flavor fades and leaves an exceedingly dry and lightly smokey finish.

Final Verdict: B

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mercury Brewing Company - Clown Shoes - Clementine White Ale

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

Clementine by Clown Shoes, brewed by Mercury (which also brews Ipswich), pours a light glowing orange body with steadily rising carbonation. The beer appears very cloudy, approaching opaque. The head is a thin white airy light foam with moderate retention. The head does not leave much lace behind. The dry nose is vaguely cellary with a minor sour-like funk. Orangy citrus on the nose sweetens the aroma and lends a light astringency.

Up front a grassy freshness meets light flavorful malts. Orange favor accents light citrusy hops. Mild coriander and white pepper notes mix with an almost ginger-like spiciness. The bold sweetness and spice culminate with a dry finish and a mild tartness. A lasting sweetness and spice profile persist on the slowly fading aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B+

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Company - Old Man Winter Ale

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

The Old Man Winter Ale from Southern Tier is dubbed an Old Ale, but doesn't quite fit into that category. It is however, perfectly at home for Winter drinking. It pours a medium-to-light amber body with ample frothy foam. The head is off-white and slightly yellowed. The retention is solid and the foam leaves chunky lace. The aroma is toasty with hints of vanilla and moderately dry hops. Toasty sweet caramel lightens the nose, but is contrasted by the slightest hint of smoke.

The beer is big with a full-bodied mouthfeel. A slight cellary feel teams with the hops for a drying effect, but is met by caramelized sugar providing sweetness and earthy tones and dried fruit with hints of raisins. Slight mineral water steps in as the flavor begins to fade. The lingering aftertaste is pleasant with a mild dustiness and a grassy grain feel. A slight chest head develops on the back end, giving this beer its cold weather feel.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brooklyn Brewery - Brooklyn Pilsner

Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

The Brooklyn Pilsner from none other than Brooklyn Brewery pours a light straw body with an orange tint. The head is a small white layer of airy foam that sports modest retention but leaves elegant lacing behind. The nose is grainy with a ton of citrus in an aromatic bouquet. It has a gristly toasted malt edge and a mild dry hoppy element.

The beer is very grainy with a coarse texture, could possibly be classified as a 'malt bomb.' The beer is dry and straightforward, but seems like an all out malt assault. The emphasis on malts with a crisp carbonation gives the beer a refreshing drinkable quality. The flavor fades a bit on the mid-palate but leaves a dry grain taste on the tongue. It doesn't pack a real Pilsner feel with very light perceptible hops and not much in the way of traditional Noble hop flavor or aroma. The beer leaves an interesting citrus on the aftertaste.

Definitely a solid lager, but not what I would call a Pilsner.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guinness & Co - Guinness Black Lager

Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

Using the roasted malts found in the traditional Guinness beer, the brewer recently released the Guinness Black Lager employing lager brewing methods and traditional lager hops. The beer pours a dark brown body, deep in color like a regular Guinness, but without the nitro consistency. It features a ruby inner glow and is topped by a light foamy head colored in tan and moderate in size. The head retention is average and leaves light lacing as it recedes. The nose is tight and distinctly lagery with a minor hoppiness. It has a slight Pilsner-like aroma with the addition of toasted grains. Roasted barley is clearly present, but seem modest in their potency and modest overall.

The mouthfeel is quite crisp with plenty a carbonation. Toasted malts are comparable to a modest brown or red ale, falling far short of even the traditional Guinness. Lager notes are prominent and meet almost no smoke at all. Modest caramel notes provide some sweetness through the tight carbonation. Hopping is very minimal. The lager is sweet and crisp with nice color, but it lacks the punch of a solid black lager. It is certainly drinkable and perhaps even a bit adventurous, for the unadventurous.

Final Verdict: C-

Saturday, January 7, 2012

21st Amendment Brewery - Fireside Chat

Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a plastic cup

Fireside Chat, another history-laden name from the already decked out 21st Amendment Brewery, pours a deep tawny brown body with glowing chestnut tones. The head is a thick creamy light brown foam that fades slowly and leaves wisps of lace behind as it goes. The nose is malty with toasted grains and a slight chalky elemental essence. Hops are dank and semi-pungent, offering a slightly brighter edge to the aroma.

Minor coffee notes play off against a light crisp carbonation with a refreshing airy feel. The impact of the flavor with the light body offers satisfying contrast. Mineral water pervades throughout the body and acts as a foil to piquant hops featuring a dusting bright, fresh flavors. The beer is very pleasant and drinkable. It offers a different style for a canned beer, but remains fairly light overall.

Final Verdict: B

Thursday, January 5, 2012

21st Amendment Brewery - 21st Amendment IPA

Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a plastic cup

With its fitting namesake, Amendment XXI of the U.S. Constitution, which repealed the eighteenth and thus prohibition, the 21st Amendment IPA is a classic American IPA dressed in tradition and history. The beer pours a crystal clear orangy amber with a shining glow. The off-white head is lightly frothy with softly cracking bubbles of carbonation. The nose is tight and malty with distinct sweetness. Hops are fresh with an of citric aroma and a distinct stickiness.

The beer is light and the mouthfeel is very crisp and refreshing. Bitterness seems strong up front, but fades to a sugary sweetness. Minor pine notes trade places with the citrus from the nose to define the light bitter profile. Malts show through forcefully on the mid-palate and into the finish. Crispness finishes with a hint of dryness and fading flavor. The beer is highly drinkable and refreshing, but considerably sweeter than expected.

Final Verdict: B-

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal - Dark

Serving Type: 12.7 oz. bottle, poured into a plastic cup

The Dark beer from Hof Ten Dormaal is a Saison or Farmhouse Ale brewed with toasted malts for a darker body and bolder sweetness. The beer pours a hazy, woody brown. It is unfiltered with a murky appearance, packed with floating yeast sediment. The beer sports a thick tan head of sticky foam with excellent retention and elegant lacing. The nose is earthy with minor coffee-like notes juxtaposed against a sour, pungent air common among the style.

Crisp carbonation gives the beer a tight mouthfeel. Malted grains seem coarse and slightly earthy with hints of decomposing wood. Cellary yeast and ample spicy elements give the beer its defining Farmhouse heritage and contrast the almost Bock-like malt profile. Fairly boozy on the finish, the beer finishes warm with lasting caramelized sweetness and spice. Not a style I've had before, I'd like to try more dark Saisons. I found it very interesting how the style is able to absorb the toasted malts while prominently featuring the best parts of a brown beer and a Saison at once.

Final Verdict: B+

Sunday, January 1, 2012

North Coast Brewing Company - Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

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

It's no hyperbole to say that Old Rasputin, named for Grigori Rasputin, is a dark beer. An extremely dark Russian Imperial Stout, indeed. Only a feint ruby glow emerges around the edges of the glass. The large, frothy tan head of foam is creamy and pocked by large bubbles of carbonation. The beer's retention is excellent and leaves layers of lacing all the way down the glass. A mild smokiness emanates on the nose with a slight alcoholic sweetness. Massive dark roasted malts seem to mimic chocolate-coated candied fruits.

The body and mouthfeel of the beer are substantial, but very slick with very minor effervescent carbonation that manages to lighten this very hefty beer. Alcohol is strong and prevalent, but the beer isn't boozy in the least. A tinge of heat mixes with and seems to melt the caramel sweetness underlying the roasted grains. Earthy chocolate notes are reminiscent of raw cacao and accent a minor smokiness making for an inviting, but challenging Imperial Stout.

Final Verdict: A