Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fort Collins The Incredible Hop

The Incredible Hop Imperial India Pale Ale is from the Fort Collins Brewery of Fort Collins, Colorado. The beer pours a deep and dark amber and copper. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is fruity, lots of orange, along with plum and light strawberry, over a noticeable malt base that is roasted, toasted, caramel and a bit nutty. The taste follows the aromas directly. The flavor puts the malt a bit ahead of the hops. It is very nice tasting, but on the malty side for an IIPA. Their website this comes out in April and I found it in October, so perhaps it is not hop fresh. Either way it is nice tasting.

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

This 5.7% ABV ale is brewed with pumpkin and spices and is from the Boston Beer Company of Boston, Massachusetts. The beer is brewed with 17 pounds of pumpkin per barrel.

The beer pours a deep and dark copper and amber in color, tones of brown heading to ruby, but not getting there. There is a large, thick and creamy head that is light brown in color. The aroma is Christmasy, cloves and nutmeg, and a tart fruity note, like cranberry juice. The taste is slightly sweet, smooth malt, some nutmeg-like spice, with some pumpkin, with a total effect of a pleasant pumpkin bread. The finish is moderately dry and lightly bitter. The flavor on this is more pleasing than the aroma.  The aroma seems over spiced, but the taste gets a decent balance.

Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Since I first chanced upon a pint of Dorothy's New World Lager at Shorts Burger & Shine and a pint of Golden Nugget at the Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City a couple of years ago I have been a huge fan of Toppling Goliath Brewing out of Decorah, Iowa. I will tell you this, Toppling Goliath generates strong opinions from me. They are currently at work on an expanded brewery, and I so look forward to their larger capacity leading to wider distribution. Their beers are currently only available on draft (with some small exceptions). The new brewery should change this, and they have been getting label approval for some of their beers. (Update 2014: Although demand far exceeds supply currently, they are getting as much product out in bottles now as they can). Drinking their beer is a highlight of my trips to Iowa City, but I would love to see them get even greater range. STRONG OPINION # 1: Toppling Goliath is hands down the best brewery in Iowa. STRONG OPINION # 2: Toppling Goliath is actually one of the best breweries in the United States. If you don't believe me, find a way to find their beers. Look, I have tried a lot of different beers, just check out my Beer List on here. So I am not coming out of left field on this, it is based on having tried a lot of different beers.

I was in Iowa City this week and finally had the opportunity to take some notes as I drank some Toppling Goliath beers at Shorts, the Sanctuary, and at The Mill.

Rush Pilsner - I did not even realize that TG made a pilsner until I sat down at the bar at Shorts Burger & Shine to get a burger. This beer is 4.7% ABV and was a  nice golden yellow in color with white  head. The aroma was fresh, grassy and floral on top of golden grain. The taste followed the aromas, with just a touch of sweetness with the malty grain, followed by a perfectly bitter  and dry finish. The aftertaste was pleasant and reminiscent of the original flavors. This beer is excellent and one of the very top American pilsners. STRONG OPINION #3: This is one of the top three American pilsners, it may even be number one.

Dorothy's New World Lager - This 5.5% ABV lager is a California common style (thanks to Anchor, other brewers can't call it a "Steam" beer).  It is a pure golden color with a white head. It has the taste and aroma of lightly honey sweet grain and fresh grass. It has a lightly bitter finish. This is a great beer, but I would have to take the Rush over this if I could only have one.

pseudo Sue Pale Ale - This 5.8% ABV, dark golden and orange beer is probably the most hop forward pale ale I have ever smelled. It features the Citra hop and has grapefruit, tropical fruit, lots of mango, and citrus. The flavor follows the aromas directly and has the most mango notes I have ever had in a beer. The finish is moderately bitter. This beer is unbelievably drinkable, with huge flavors, but easy drinkability. The aroma of this beer blew me away and had me salivating to take a drink of it. The flavor did not disappoint. STRONG OPINION #4: This is quite possibly the best American Pale Ale, and it is even better than Zombie Dust by Three Floyds. (Yep, I said it.)

Golden Nugget IPA - This 6.0% ABV beer's aroma is loaded with tropical fruit and citrus. The taste has lots of tropical fruit, citrus, grapefruit rind and a touch of pine. It is crisply carbonated and dangerously drinkable. It has loads of flavor, but drinks easy. This is a classic IPA. STRONG OPINION #5: This is one of the best American IPA's, possibly even in the top 5.

I have to make one final observation on the Zeelander IPA (5.5% ABV and featuring the Nelson Sauvin hop). This one is an acquired taste, and I have not acquired it. The hops it uses imparts a distinctly oniony taste (they call it earthy and marigold, but it is straight onion to me). If you like this, try to explain to me why, it just doesn't work for me. 2014 edit: Not sure what was happening when I first tried this, now I love it, check my notes HERE.

Rubicon IPA

This 6.5% ABV India Pale Ale is from the Rubicon Brewing Company of Sacramento, California. I wonder if they have some connection to Moylan's, as they have the same California Brewed bottle caps. Actually, the bottle says this is brewed and bottled for them by Sudwerk out of Davis, California. Maybe a cooperative of them have just agreed to use the same bottle caps, or maybe Sudwerk also contract brews the bottled Moylan's.  Anybody know?

The beer pours a deep amber and burnt orange in color. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is fruity, lots of orange, some tropical fruit and melon, and tea with lemon. The taste follows the aromas quite directly, with the orange predominant, but the other fruits present, and just a hint of pine. This all sits on a balancing base of malt. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, and there is a well-developed bitterness on a dry finish. A very solid IPA.

Two Brothers Atom Smasher

Atom Smasher is a 7.7% ABV Oktoberfest style lager from the Two Brothers Brewing Company of Warrenville, Illinois. It is in the Marzen style, but then aged in their French oak foudres (large wooden casks).

The beer pours a clear dark amber, deep copper in color. There is nearly an inch of thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is malty, caramel and nutty, woody and tart. The taste follows the aromas quite directly.  On the one hand is the malt, nutty, caramel, true to the Oktoberfest style.  Then there is the dry, woody, tart side imparted by the oak. It drinks smooth with a dry finish.  Interesting, but not my favorite Oktoberfest beer.

I liked the 2015 version of this beer better: The beer pours a deep copper in color. There is a short and thin head of off-white. The aroma is caramel, vanilla, with light nut and fruit. The taste is rich caramel, a bit nutty, with a tinge of vanilla. The finish is very dry, with an oaky bitter astringency. The beer drinks smooth and round, with light and tingling carbonation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Two Brothers Outlaw IPA

This 6.3% ABV India Pale Ale is from the Two Brothers Brewing Company of Warrenville, Illinois. It is the first canned offering from Two Brothers.

The beer pours a deep amber and blood orange in color. There is a tall half-inch of thick creamy head that is off-white in color. The aroma is just hop forward over a substantial malt base, with lots of orange, some floral, light pine, and a herbal, yeasty note.  The taste is sweet and tangy citrus, over a solid malt base, some caramel, a touch of light pine, and a moderately bitter and fairly dry finish.  This is well-constructed and tasty.

Great Lakes The Wright Pils

This is a 5.3% ABV pilsner from the Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The recipe follows the original formula from Pilsen, Bohemia and is also brewed in accord with the German Purity Law of 1516.

The beer pours a pure, clear yellow golden in color. There is a tall head of thick white foam. The aroma is lightly sweet, golden grain, fresh tall grass, and light floral. The aroma has me licking my lips. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. It is moderately bitter with a dry finish.  This is a tasty and elegant, yet simple, pilsner beer.  It is definitely one of the better American brewed pilsners.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Boulevard 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat

This 5.5% ABV beer is a hybrid of an IPA and a wheat beer from the Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, Missouri. As it is from Boulevard, I have high expectations and can't wait to try this.

The beer pours a hazy honey golden yellow in color with tints of orange. There is an inch of foamy white head, there are large air pockets in the foam, a bit like sea spray, thickly ragged like whipped egg whites. The aroma is hoppy, lemony, lots of citrus, light tropical fruit, floral, over a bed of toasted wheat. The taste is tangy, citrusy, lemony, tangerine, tropical fruit, just hint of pine and light toasted wheat. It is refreshingly carbonated, but also smooth. The finish is moderately bitter. This is a tasty easy drinker, and one of the best warm-weather day beers you will ever find.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale

This 5.0% ABV ale brewed with pumpkin and spices is from the Brooklyn Brewery listed on the bottle as in Utica, New York (which would indicate they are having some of their beers contract brewed at the Saranac-Matt Brewing Company). The original Brooklyn Brewery is in, well, Brooklyn.

According to the bottle: In the 18th Century, colonial Americans brewed wonderful and interesting ales by using local ingredients. Pumpkins were favored by brewers for their rich and spicy flavors, which melded perfectly with malted barley.

The beer pours a deep amber, dark copper in color.  There is nearly an inch of thick and creamy off-white head.  The aroma is malted grain with some pumpkin and spices, a light whiff of fresh pumpkin pie cooling on a window as one walks by on a crisp fall day.  The taste follows the aroma, a solid grain based amber lager topped lightly by pumpkin pie, with a moderately bitter finish.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pyramid Outburst

Outburst is an 8.5% dry-hopped imperial India Pale Ale from the Pyramid Brewing Company of Seattle, Washington; Berkeley, California and Portland, Oregon.

The beer pours a hazy deep amber and dark orange in color.  It has a tall head of thick, somewhat creamy head that is off-white to very light brown in color.  The aroma is orange, tangerine, and malt-o-meal, with a creamy element.  The taste is orange, tangerine, malt, tea with lemon, and just a hint of pine sap.  The finish is massively bitter and quite dry.  Decent, but not great.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Erdinger Oktoberfest

This is an Oktoberfest wheat beer from Erdinger in Bavaria, Germany. It is bottle-fermented and 5.7% ABV.

The beer pours a hazy, dark honey golden and yellow. There is an inch of pure white head. It is noisily carbonated, you can hear the pour bubbling and snapping and popping. The aroma is toasted wheat and lots of yeast esters, heavy on the banana. The taste is toasted wheat, a hint of nuttiness, and a well-blended, well-balanced banana yeast flavor, with a touch of lemony tartness. It is very carbonated, with a refreshing sting in the mouth. This is one of the best weiss beers I have ever had. Also, gotta love the cartoonish Oktoberfest attendees on the bottle.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe Double IPA

This 9.0% ABV Double IPA made with only Simcoe hops is from the Weyerbacher Brewing Company of Easton, Pennsylvania.

The beer pours a very dark amber, very burnt orange in color. It is very deeply colored. There is a very slight off-white head. The aroma is tangy, citrusy, tangerine, and very light tropical fruit. The taste is tangy, floral, tangerine, and very bitter. The aftertaste is very citrusy and very bitter. This has its bright spots, but overall, not great.

Lilja's Hop Nest Monster

This 7.0% ABV India Pale Ale is from the Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls, Wisconsin.

The beer pours a dark honey golden, turning to orange in color. There is an inch of thick and creamy head, just off-white in color. The aroma is light, with floral and orange. The taste is full of orange, light floral, over full golden grain, with a very bitter and dry finish. The thick head adds a nice creamy element. Good, but not great.

New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

Staghorn is the Octoberfest offering from the New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin. It is brewed in conformity with German's famed Purity Law.

The beer pours a pure orange amber in color, veering towards a reddish tint. There is an inch of thick, foamy and somewhat creamy off-white head. The aroma is malty, nutty, caramel, tangy.  The taste is roasted, toasted, nutty malt, with a nice fruity, yeasty tang, and just enough hop bitterness to finish perfectly smooth.  It drinks perfectly carbonated for the style, with a light creaminess.  The aftertaste is a nice, nutty malt.  A very good Octoberfest beer!

Henry Weinhard's Redwood Flats Amber

Henry Weinhard's opened in Oregon in the 1860's. It was a regional powerhouse for over a hundred years; in  more recent years being acquired by Miller. The beer pours a dark amber, burnt orange, creeping close to ruby. It is violently carbonated and has a massive head of off-white foam with some creaminess. The aroma is malty, caramel, tangy, lightly fruity in a red plum type of way. The taste is lightly toasted malt, light caramel, light red plum fruit, a yeasty tang, and a moderately bitter and quite dry finish. Light in aroma and flavor, solid and drinkable, but boring.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Southern Tier Harvest Ale

This 6.7% ABV beer is a special seasonal brew from the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York. It is brewed with four varieties of hops and two types of malts.

The beer pours an orange-amber-copper in color. There is a very short off-white head. The aroma is hop forward, grassy, citrusy, lightly floral. The taste follows the aromas with tangy, citrusy, grassy and floral notes on light caramel malt, melding into fresh sun tea with fresh squeezed lemon. The finish is fairly bitter.  The bottle and name had me expecting a very malty, Oktoberfest style beer. Instead, this is a lighter drinking, very hop forward beer. It is not what I expected, but it is good.

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

This 5.2% ABV pumpkin ale is from the New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan.  It takes after Ichabod Crane, the headless horseman, who on the label has substituted a pumpkin for his head.  It is brewed with real pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The beer pours a softly glowing deep amber and burnt orange.  There is nearly an inch of thick, off-white foam.  The aroma is spices, tangy, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg, but not overtly pumpkin.  The taste is very spice filled, lots of nutmeg, some cinnamon and cinnamon stick, with a tangy finish that turns bitter.  Again, little to no pumpkin in the flavor.  The finish is bitter and dry.  This is like a spiced amber ale, but for a pumpkin ale, it is lacking in pumpkin flavor.

2017: Coming in now at 4.5% ABV, the beer pours a dark amber and copper in color. There is a short head of very light tan foam. The aroma is full of fall, pumpkin pie spices, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread. The taste follows the aromas, very spiced pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie. The finish is dry with a light to moderate bitterness. The beer is medium bodied.

Hermitage Ale of the Imp

This 8.0% ABV Imperial IPA is from the Hermitage Brewing Company of San Jose, California.

The beer pours a bright and coppery orange in color.  There is a short head of off-white foam, somewhat creamy.  The aroma is malty and orange, a bit of orange Dreamsicle going on, but with an element of grain.  The taste follows the aroma for the most part, adding a funky yeasty element (oddly enough, like a touch of green olive) and with a fairly bitter finish.  The aftertaste is mostly bitter, with some reminiscence of the flavor.  This is definitely on the low average side of Imperial IPA's.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #53 Floral IPA

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is from Chico, California. This 5.9% ABV beer is part of their annual Best of Beer Camp series. Apparently people can submit videos and be chosen to attend beer camp, where the attendees learn about beer and choose the styles for that year's beer camp releases.

Begetting its name, this IPA uses whole cone hop flowers and then for good measure adds rose hips and petals. The beer pours a slightly hazy orange-copper-amber in color. There is a tall head of creamy off-white foam. The aroma is hoppy, floral, herbal, grassy, tangy, with citrus and, yes, the rose is evident in the aroma. The taste is lightly citrus, floral, discernible malt, with a very bitter finish. It feels fairly light in the mouth, although the malt and bitterness leave a heavier aftertaste than the initial mouthfeel would seem to make likely. This is a solid, basic and quite bitter IPA with some nice floral notes, but it is not a mind blower either.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lagunitas Day Time

This limited release is a "fractional IPA" from the Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California. I assume the "fractional" term refers to its sessionable lower alcohol of 4.65% ABV.

The beer pours a dark yellow golden in color.  There is about an inch of tightly foamy white head.  The aroma is hop forward, citrus, grapefruit peel, pine, and some tropical fruit, including papaya.  The flavors follow the aromas directly.  The finish is dry and only moderately bitter.  The aftertaste is a pleasant reminiscence of the main flavors, bleeding out into light tea with lemon.  It drinks light, crisp, well-carbonated and refreshing.  This beer is a winner, and likes its name implies, would make a great day time drink (and night time as well).

Baraboo Bonfire

Baraboo Beers are a proprietary brand of the Hy-Vee chain of Midwestern supermarkets.  The beers are contract brewed by Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  This is a seasonal offering from them for Oktoberfest, it is a Marzen lager with a smoky note.  Marzenbier is German for "March beer."  It is a traditional Oktoberfest style.  In 1553 the ruler of Bavaria forbade brewing between April 23 and September 29 to avoid bacterial infection from warm temperatures that spoiled the beer (although they didn't know it was bacteria at the time).  Brewers thus worked overtime in March to have enough beer brewed that they then stored cool (lagering) so that it would keep.  The style took the name at the 1841 Oktoberfest.  

The beer pours a deep brown-amber-orange in color, almost becoming ruby.  There is an inch of creamy, off-white head.  The aroma is malty, roasted, tangy, with the slightest hint of smoke, almost a light chipotle note.  The taste is deeply malty, roasted, dark caramel, with the same light chipotle undertone of the aroma (subtle, not out front). I use that description as it is akin to a "spicy" smokiness.  This is a tasty and interesting take on a Marzen, and another winner from Baraboo.  For proprietary grocery store chain contract brews, they do a really good job.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Victory Festbier

It is that time of year again when Oktoberfest and pumpkin seasonal come forth from all the breweries.  So over the next few weeks, you will see quite a few of these beers reviewed.  Hopefully at the end I will be left with some clear ideas of which ones were tops this year out of the ones I can try.

This is a "rich amber lager in the tradition of Oktoberfest" from the Victory Brewing Company of Dowington, Pennsylvania.  It is 5.6% ABV.

The beer pours a dark copper, dark amber, and burnt orange in color.  It is well carbonated.  There is nearly an inch of off-white head, somewhat creamy.  The aroma is malty, nutty, fruity, dark toast with plum jam.  The taste is deep roasted malt, caramel, with a fruity tang.  There is the occasional flash of "beer essence" (I don't know what else to call it).  The finish is dry and fairly bitter, it puts a refreshing and abrupt stop to the maltiness.  The aftertaste is pleasant and recalls the original flavors.  A good solid take on the Oktoberfest style.