Thursday, November 29, 2007
Beer: Sam Adam's Hallertau Imperial Pilsner
Brewery location: Boston, MA
Beer Style: Euro Strong Lager
Serving Style: Bottle
I do have to say that I have respect for the Boston Beer Company. Jim Koch and company continue to create beer that most likely doesn't have a large profit margin and releases it only for a short run. Many craft brewers do it out of love, but for a very large company like BBC to do this several times a year for their size is really nice. They seem to really still have the spirit of craft brewing even though they produce and sell more than just about any other craft brewer. Some people would even go as far as to say that BBC isn't really a craft brewer, but I think that is so far from the truth. They produce an amazing lineup of beer, brew a winning homebrewers beer every year (I know except for this year because of the hop shortage), and produce special beers outside of their regular lineup. I would say the proof is doing in being a craft brewer and not based on size.
I've heard mixed reviews on this beer, but I was at the Hop Shop and decided to pick up two bottles and give it a whirl. This is my second bottle to give a review on. I will be honest that the first beer I wasn't really a fan of and wasn't going to review it all, but the second one things came together a little better for me.
The beer looks very cloudy inside of the bottle before I poured it. The beer pours a nice golden hue, but very hazy. I assume the haziness is from the amount of hops that went into the beer. A decent finger of head started the beer off, and the head retention was great on this beer. Heavy lacing on the walls of the glass and a good blanket of head stayed on the beer the entire time. The nose is full of mostly of hops with some some sugary sweet malt. Biscuity malt is actually my first real flavor that I can pick out easily with heavy complex hop flavor trying to overpower the malt, but that never really happens. The taste is actually a bit on the sweet side but is still fairly balanced with the bitterness of the hops. The beer finishes slightly dry and doesn't coat very well. My biggest complaint for this beer would be the mouthfeel.
I think this is a good offering from the Boston Beer Co. I don't think I would go out of my way to get any more of it though. It was a good offering, but overall wasn't something I would come back to again and again. Still for craft beer people that want to try everything under the sun you should give this beer a chance.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Beer: Stone's Double Bastard Ale 2007
Brewery Location: Escondido, CA
Beer Style: American Strong Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
I hope that all that read this blog have been introduced to one of the best breweries in the country and that is Stone Brewing Co. They continue to pump out amazing craft beer year after year and several times a year some special brews come out. Their winter release is Double Bastard. Double bastard is a beefed up version of their flagship beer: Arrogant Bastard. I've had a bottle of the 2006 stashed in my beer collection and haven't yet opened it. This year I grabbed multiple bottles and am going to age them over the years and see how the flavor will change for comparison, but I just had to have at least one right away.
I really like Stone's bottles. Great artwork on them and then the silk screening must be fairly costly, but the beer is still at a reasonable price. I picked this up at Party Pak for 7.99 a bottle. Just a few years ago you could pick this up for 4.99, but Stone's bombers still tend to be reasonable around 4.99 to 7.99 a bottle. They were on sale at the Sunflower Market in Broadripple a few weeks ago for 3.99 a bottle.
This beer pours a deep dark mahogany brown with rusted red accents into my chalice. It has a thin tan head that quickly disappeared with little to no lacing to speak of on the glass. The nose is already a workout on the senses. The smell is dominated by sweet malt and dark fruits coming through. The scent of alcohol and pineapple is present as well about mid-chalice. Sugary malt, pine, dark fruit, and a touch of citrus run across my palate. There is a great deal going on with this beer. Rich malted tones and a smoky caramel are the most dominant flavors to me in this beer. I served this beer at cellar temp and still somehow this beer tends to gain more life the warmer it gets. The sweetness of the malt and bitterness of the hops is very well balanced and well made. The taste is in your face the whole time and in no way subtle, but the balance is really a nice surprise. This beer is a very nice sipper and coats the mouth and tongue very well with it's stickiness. After finishing the bomber I don't really want another one right now and I wouldn't drink this beer with a meal most likely. It is very heavy and quite filling. I know the American strong ale category is a bit of made up category to fill a large variety of beers that craft brewers are making, but the flavors on this beer actually reminded me of a good barleywine.
This is a pretty great offering from Stone. It's absolutely a big beer and will be enjoyed by people that like those types of beers. I know some of my non-beer geek friends have told me they have hated some of the beers that I really love, so if you are drinking "fizzy yellow beer" (as Stone would say it) don't start with this beer. Craft beer lovers should pick this up and give it a try.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Beer: Three Floyd's Harvest Ale
Brewery Location: Munster, IN
Beer Style: American IPA
Serving Style: Bomber
I've really been looking forward to this since I learned it was out in bottles this year. They have been making it for several years, but I do believe this is the first year that it was ever bottled. I picked up a bottle at The Hop Shop the other night.
Harvest Ale is an ale that is made using "wet" hops. That means the hops are undried when added to the beer. The undried hops preserves more natural hop resins and fragrant oils. According to the bottle it states "from vine to brewhouse in one day." I am curious where these hops are coming from in that time frame. FFF's usually has some interesting artwork on the bottles, but this one is personally one of my least favorites, but don't hold that against the beer.
The beer pours a beautiful copper/orange color into my pint glass. This has a nice color for the fall season. There isn't much head to speak of for this beer. I poured in a very unaggressive manner, so that may have something to do with it. It does leave a nice swirl of lacing that stayed for most of the beer and left ample lacing on my glass. The aromatics on this beer are top notch. You can easily pick up the citrus hop resin scent on this as you are pouring it. The nose is just really nice to smell for a bit. I can pick up a bit of bready malt also coming through, but doesn't have much of a chance against the hops. The taste matches the nose very well. Pine, citrus, and grapefruit flavors are the first things that hit my taste buds, but the heavy malted backbone brings flavors of biscuits coming in. The caramel character comes to life as the beer warms. Good complex flavors going on with this beer and it is still well balanced the entire time. There isn't much carbination on this beer and the beer finishes almost creamy, but still somehow finishes a little oily as well. The drinkability is solid on this beer and would go well on about any occasion.
This has been my favorite thus far of the wet hop beers. The Sierra Nevada is a little more gentle on the palate and is also well made and well balanced. This beer is 100% a FFF's creation and would be enjoyed by a hop head. If you are not much of a hop head and still want to try the wet hop beers I would go with the Sierra Nevada over this, but if you love IPA's I give this one the nudge over SN.
Place: The Hop Shop
Location: 96th Street
I stopped by The Hop Shop the other night after dinner at the Claddagh. Living on the south side I don't really get to make it up to here very often, but I do wish it was much closer to me.
The store is run by probably the best and most accessible shop owner that I've ever encountered. Courtney that owns the place is very knowledgeable about his products in the store and will talk with you about anything in his shop. I probably talked with him for a good thirty minutes ranging from the hop shortage, his competition, breweries, and local brew pubs. It is just good to do business with someone that still believes in customer service that much and taking care of the people that take care of him.
Everything is the store is impeccable. Everything is well sorted and in order, and it is all categorized by location of the brewery. The selection is great for craft beer enthusiasts. The selection isn't quite as big as Kahn's or Party Pak, but everything that I could want for the most part is there. Courtney also told me that they are trying to sell out of their liquor supply and will be replacing that section with more beer, so soon enough he will have a bigger selection than he already has.
If you are in the area check out this place for your craft beer needs. I also found his prices to be slightly lower than the other places in town. .50 cents or a dollar here and there really add up.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Beer: Guinness Draught
Brewery Location: Dublin, Ireland
Serving Style: Nitro-Tap
Beer Style: Irish Dry Stout
I met some good friends out at the Claddagh Irish Pub last night for a few drinks and some catching up. One of the best things about beer is the social aspect of it. When you put it with a good atmosphere and good people it's tough to beat.
I enjoy the Claddagh. Say what you will about chain resturants, but for me if I was going to eat at a chain, I like this more than most. We were at the 96th street location for the gathering. The downtown location is my favorite in terms of atmosphere. The other locations were made for the sole purpose of turning tables and making money. There is nothing wrong with that from a business standpoint, but they other locations just really don't have much character to them. I personally will also spend more money at the downtown location than the others just because I enjoy it there enough to order one more drink.
Guinness is one of my first loves in beer. I am not sure what originally turned me onto Guinness, but it was one of the first beers that I really loved when I had a choice of drink. This is my comfort beer is a good way of describing this beer. I've been lucky enough to travel to Ireland and go on the Guinness factory tour. According to a huge map in the factory the Guinness we drink here in the States is mostly brewed in Toronto. I am not sure if any Guinness from Ireland makes it into America at all to be honest though. Guinness is truly a huge company run by a large multinational (Diageo). I still enjoy a pint served on nitro-tap though from time to time. The funny thing about Guinness is people think it's heavy on the alcohol, calories, and mouthfeel, but it's lower in calories and alcohol than Bud Light.
The beer begins pouring a deep brown color mixing with the nitrogen and cascades into a midnight black beer with a soft two finger creamy head at the top. The cascading is always rather neat to watch. There isn't really much of a nose on a Guinness. Perhaps a bit of roasted barley, but not much. The taste is of the unique roasted malted flavor that allows for a bit of chocolate to find your palate from drink to drink and a dry finish leaves you going for another drink. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, but the beer is actually rather light and doesn't overly coat your mouth. The drinkability is very high on this. It's low in alcohol, refreshing, and satisfying. It would make a great session beer.
I will always like Guinness. It is a bit of nostalgia I guess. There are plenty of other stouts that Guinness doesn't stack up with, but you can't always get those when you want. I do have to say that I can't stand Guinness Draught out of a bottle though. It must be on tap for my liking. If you drink beer and haven't ever had a Guinness head out and get yourself one.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Beer: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Brewery Location: Milton, DE
Beer Style: DIPA
Serving Style: Bottle
I've had this on a number of occasions since I started this blog, but I've just never took the time to review it. This is one of my very favorite beers, and I am really curious what the hop shortage will do to this beer. DFH I am sure has their contracts with their hop companies, but I am curious if the recipe will change, pricing will go way up, or if this beer will be harder to find in the Midwest.
DFH are known for their big beers and unique takes on beers. Their IPA's come in 60 minute, 90 minute, and 120 minute. The name is reference to how long the wort (unfermented beer) is at boil with the continuous additions of hops. They recommend this beer be served in a snifter according to DFH's website. It really does help the nose on this beer.
I read a story that they first made this with an old electric football game that slowly added the hops. The board shook and gradually added the hops to the boil. I would like to see a picture of how this was accomplished. Now, I am sure it is all done with process automation with as much of this as they make.
It pours a nice deep amber hue with a slight touch of orange. Decent head to start with, but it quickly dissipated and left good lacing on my glass. The nose is packed full of hop aroma settling into citrus and pine scent with the malt scent trying to make it through all of that hop scent. The taste is what makes this beer something special. Bitter at first, but the malt quickly comes into play balancing out that bitterness. The malt is big and bready and rings in the hops just right. The sweet caramel finish on this is my favorite aspect of the beer. It is just very well balanced and not a tongue/taste bud grenade that will make everything taste like pine cones for the next few hours. Each drink the flavors of those hops keep coming though. Citrus, pine, and grapefruit meld so well with the sweet sticky caramel finish. The mouthfeel as I stated is very sticky and the beer coats your entire mouth very well, and is still so crisp and actually extremely refreshing. I would drink this beer pretty much any chance that I get in pretty much any time of the year.
I do have to say that I prefer this beer on tap vs. the bottle. It's not that much of a difference really, but I think it is slightly better on tap (but most are). If you are a hop head this is a fantastic offering from DFH, and easily one of the top DIPA's that are widely distributed across the country. If you are not much for big, bold, and hoppy beers this may not be for you. I would still suggest giving it a try, but try a regular IPA first (particularly Stone's IPA and Bell's Two-Hearted Ale to break you into IPAs).
Monday, November 12, 2007
Beer: Tyranena's Spank Me Baby!
Brewery Location: Lake Mills, WI
Beer Style: Barley Wine
Serving Style: Bottle
This was another pickup that my friend Courtney brought back from Wisconsin. I've heard many good things about Tyranena, but this was my first experience with them.
This was actually part of their Brewer's Gone Wild series. I am not sure what exactly that amounts to, but it is classified differently according to their website, and it appears it is on a limited run available only from time to time and not seasonally. According to the website they are brewing a different beer that is "big, bold, and ballsy." As far as I know as well this brand is only available in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The beer poured a deep ruddy color almost a rusted amber hue. It's very dark and clouded in the middle of the beer. Left some slick lacing on the walls of my glass. There was a slight off-white head that dissipated very quickly. A deep malted scent hits the nose before you can really get a good smell of it. Toffee and dark fruits dominate the rest of the nose on this beer. I can also pick up a bit of almost raw sugar cane scent that reminds me of rum, but a little more mellow. The taste is fairly complex. The first taste is rather sweet with a heavy malted backbone that is present at every sip of the beer. As the beer warms it real character begins to come out. Toffee and caramel come to the front of the palate with heavy flavors of dark fruits, mostly plums and raisins, with a bit of warming alcohol to finish off. The mouthfeel is rather quite nice with a velvety coating with a creamy consistency.
This is a very nice offering for my first experience with Tyranena. I like Barley Wine style ales and this is a good representation for the style. Well worth the try if you can get your hands on it. The consistency on this beer was my favorite part of the beer.
Beer: Bell's Winter White
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: WitBier
Serving Style: On Tap
My second beer that I will be reviewing from my trip is the winter white.
The beer pours a very hazy cloudy orange hue with a very thin white head of lace. The scent is dominated by the wheat in this beer. That is honesty all I could smell for the first few drinks and then finally the bouquet opened up a little bit. I got some coriander and slight citrus notes. The flavor profile is rather unique. Blasted upfront with the sweetness of wheat followed up by a slightly bitter touch of hops on the finish. Very well balanced and kept me wanting another sip. The mouthfeel is what I wasn't a fan of on this beer. Very thin and didn't coat very well at all. The carbination is just a little to much. For my tastes I wish it was backed off just a little bit. The drinkability overall is very good for this beer, and I would order this if I saw it on tap near me.
A good effort from Bell's on this beer. Not my personal favorite, but good nonetheless. In terms of style representation I think it does a good job for a Witbier, but it wouldn't be one of my first choices in the style.
Beer: Bell's Scotch Ale
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: Scotch Ale
Serving Style: On Tap
My first beer from my Bell's trip was the scotch ale. I've never had this offering from Bell's, but I am a fan of scotch ales so I gave is a whirl.
It pours a mahogany brown hue with a very thin swirl of head that quickly dissipated. The nose is decent for a scotch ale. Malty bready notes make way for caramel and toffee scents and a slightly burnt/smoky scent as well. The flavor matches the nose fairly well. Toasted malt is the dominant flavor with the toffee coming into play as the beer warmed. The malted backbone is very nice and balanced on this beer with the other flavors on the palate. The carbination is low on this beer and very quaff able and satisfying. The alcohol is very well hidden and never really made itself known. Drinkablity is good and I would have another if Bell's were much closer to me.
Overall it is a good beer, but hovers around ordinary for the style. Worth a try if you see it out, but not worth going very far out of your way for.
Place: Bell's Eccentric Cafe
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Me and the wife wanted to get out of town for the weekend. I am lucky she indulges me from time to time and allowed for that weekend to be up at Kalamazoo. The main reason for going was to visit the Bell's Eccentric Cafe, and really just get out of town. Sometimes you just need that.
Kalamazoo isn't that bad of a drive from Indianapolis. I kept the cruise control on about 80 the whole way up and we made in about 3 hours and 20 minutes or so. Mapquest said it would take over four hours. You are pretty much on 69 the entire way and just cut over a short ways on I-94 and you are there.
Getting into Kalamazoo from the main street in from 94 you see (if you catch it) the Bell's Cafe right on the street as you come into town. This used to the be the actual brewery for everything until a new brewing facility was built outside of town. Not much has been done to really let you know that the cafe is there. It looks exactly like what it is: an old factory building. I almost passed right by it, but I saw KraftBrau across the street and had read that Bell's was exactly across the street from it. You park in the back and then walk up the ramp to the building. There isn't much signage in the back of the place, and you almost feel like you are making a mistake walking in that door, but when you open the door you would never expect the atmosphere that is in there.
The whole place is laid out with wood tables and wood siding up the walls. You first see the bar with all the taps, lots of trinkets and unique items all over the wall, and the huge chalkboard letting you know what is on tap. African masks, Native American tapestries, and old maps cover the interior of the place. Tons of natural light flood into the seating area from several very large windows. We found a seat and I went to order. Everything is cash only in the cafe. I am not sure why that is, but that is they way it is. Ordering food is a little interesting as well. You order your food from a little window by the bar and then you go back to the bartender and pay him for your lunch. I wish I would seen that sooner so I could have just done everything all in one shot. The menu is about typical for a brewpub. A few starters, burgers, soups, and a few desserts. I do have to say that the food was very good though, but typical.
There was a huge choir in the bar at the time we were there. They were there for a Russian Festival at Western Michigan University. They were singing Russian drinking songs, and that was very interesting to hear that. I didn't know what they were talking about, but it was nice.
It was a bit cold to go out in the beer garden, but you can easily see in the summer that must be a great place to hang out and have some great beer.
You can also visit the gift shop on the front of the building. You have to actually leave the pub and walk around to the front of the building. They have plenty of beer for sale, brewing supplies, and clothing to help separate you and your money.
The town of Kalamazoo is an interesting place. We stayed right downtown at the Radisson (which is very nice) and walked around the downtown area a bit. I don't know if it's Michigan's economy, the downtown area on the weekends, or something else, but the town was dead. All of the shops in the downtown area were open, but if you walked by them the owners almost attacked you seeing if they could help you find anything. Even at night after dinner it wasn't all that busy. I am curious how the places downtown survive with what I saw going on in town. Places had people in them, but they were not doing what I would think sustainable business would be to keep the door open.
I would go back if I had the chance, but hopefully would pair it with a trip to Grand Rapids as well to hit up Founder's Brewing. I was pleasantly surprised with the eccentric cafe. It has a great atmosphere, comfortable surroundings, and amazing beer. The great thing about the beer as well is the price. Everything on tap is right around 3.75 for an imperial pint. You can get three sizes as well for most drinks. If you are anywhere near Kalamazoo it's a great stop for the beer enthusiast.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Beer: Brewery Ommegang's
Hennepin Farmhouse Ale
Brewery Location: Cooperstown, NY
Beer Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
Where to start on this. First, I will give you a little background on the farmhouse/saison style. It started in the French speaking part of Belgium a very long time ago. Before refrigeration this beer was made in late autumn and winter and was consumed during the harvest season of next years crop. The word saison literally means "season" in French. It was very low alcohol at the time and workers drank the beer in the fields during the harvest since it was sterile and easily portable, and at the time water was not. According to Wikipedia the style almost died out, but has experienced a huge revitalization both in Belgium and in the U.S. (Particularly the U.S.) The beers tended to be very refreshing and very low alcohol, as to not incapacitate the workers.
I've really liked the offerings from Brewery Ommergang that I've had the pleasure of tasting. I know the brewery is actually now owned by Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat who are the makers of Duvel. It's a very smart move on their part, and I am sure very profitable. Regardless of who owns the brewery this is an exceptional offering.
I let the bottle warm a bit before pouring. The bottle has a cork in it, and once you get it off the bottle you can smell a very inviting fruity scent. The beer pours a beautiful golden straw hue with a dense cloudy interior and a huge billowy white head. You can also notice a massive amount of yeast in the bottle from the bottle conditioning. The nose is fruity, spicy, bready, and bit hoppy. The taste is very refreshing with fresh fruit flavorings coming to the palate including apples and lemon with a certain earthy graininess coming to the back of the palate, and a sweet malt profile makes itself known as the beer warms a little more. Very complex on the palate, but overall very satisfying taste. The mouthfeel is interesting due to the high carbination in the beer. Very refreshing and inviting in the mouth, and it doesn't leave a very heavy coat in your mouth. The drinkability is great for this offering. Perfect to share with someone over a meal or just by yourself.
This is a great offering from Ommegang. This farmhouse ale is so satisfying and well made. I would rather see this at a dinner party than wine. I would highly recommend this beer to anyone.
4.2 out of 5
Monday, November 5, 2007
Beer: New Glarus Spotted Cow
Brewery Location: New Glarus, WI
Beer Style: Cream Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
A huge thank you to my friend Courtney that was awesome enough to bring me back some offerings from her trip to Wisconsin.
The name cream ale is a bit deceiving. It has nothing to do with cream at all. It's actually an ale that is made to mimic a lager beer. I am normally not much of a fan of lagers, but I've heard so many great things about New Glarus and their beers. Here is a nice rundown of the style from BJCP that does it better than me:
"An ale version of the American lager style. Produced by ale brewers to compete with lager brewers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. Originally known as sparkling or present use ales, lager strains were (and sometimes still are) used by some brewers, but were not historically mixed with ale strains. Many examples are kräusened to achieve carbonation. Cold conditioning isn't traditional, although modern brewers sometimes use it."
Basically, craft brewers can compete with the major lager producers and get it out very quickly, and have a nice gateway beer that will appeal to the masses, because it is really not that far off from the traditional American lager beer.
I've heard New Glarus used to be available in Indiana, but I've never seen it before, if you have seen it let me know about how long ago that was. I am curious why it isn't available here anymore. Onto the beer:
The beer pours a cloudy straw color with no visible head after an aggressive pour and left virtually no lacing on the glass. There really isn't much of a scent to this beer. I pick up on some slight citrus scent and almost a slight corn, but a very weak malt scent. The taste is very crisp and clean, and tastes like a better made BMC's product without the metallic twinge I usually pick up on in one of those products. No real hop flavoring to speak of, but I can pick up on the grain and lemony sweetness going down. The mouthfeel is actually quite nice and smooth and very easy drinking. It is refreshing and quite drinkable. The drinkability is good on this, and I think this would be a good cookout and "just mowed the lawn" type of beer.
All-in-all it reminds of what a good lager should taste like, but it's an ale. I would grab this over most lagers given the chance. It's not that cream ales or lagers are bad beers, but they just don't deliver the flavor I am looking for. An aftertaste is not a bad thing in a beer, and most of them seem very afraid of that. I can't really give this beer a rating. I just don't think it's fair. If you like lager beer then this is a great choice. In terms of being a cream ale (I keep saying Lager, but this isn't a lager) it is a great representation of the style, but if you are looking for a big bold beer this isn't the choice, and it's not meant to be. It's an easy drinking and satisfying beer that is a standout for it's style, but overall just didn't deliver for me.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
For those that read my blog, but don't read Hoosier Beer Geek there is a beer tasting tomorrow in Fountain Square at the Big Car Gallery. I hopefully will make it out there tomorrow. Should be a good time.
Hoosier Beer Geek Link
Big Car Gallery Link
See you there.
Hoosier Beer Geek Link
Big Car Gallery Link
See you there.