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