Saturday, November 30, 2013

Southern Tier Warlock

This 8.6% ABV stout brewed with pumpkins and natural flavor is from the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York. It is part of their Blackwater Series of beers with high gravity (comparing its relative density to water and indicative of the ultimate alcohol content of the beer).

The beer pours mahogany in color, opaque black, with blood red ruby and garnet when held to the light. There is a short head of thick and creamy light tan foam. The aroma is semi-sweet roasted pumpkin, spices, brown sugar, perfectly melded together like a roasted and creamy pumpkin pie, or the most rich and moist spiced pumpkin bread ever made. The taste follows the aromas, adding in vanilla and coconut to massive pumpkin and spices perfectly melded into the most perfect liquid pumpkin baked good ever made, and then the stout adds in coffee and it is like you are drinking a cup of premium black coffee as you eat the most rich and delectable semi-sweet pumpkin baked good ever made. 

This is reminiscent of Pumking, I would love to have them head to head to see if one is discernibly better.

Summit Union Series Rebellion Stout

This is a 8.5% ABV export double stout made with Boadicea hops from the United Kingdom and stout malt from Ireland. It is from the Summit Brewing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota. This is the second in their limited release Union Series which according to their website is "The inspired union of new ingredients and time-honored brewing traditions. Brewing has always been about discovery. For the Summit Union Series, we scour the globe for new (and sometimes rare) hops and malts. Then we add equal parts craft and creativity to bring you a whole new brew. Released in small batches every so often." 

The beer pours a dense and opaque black, even when held to the light. There is a half-inch or so of thick and somewhat creamy head, light brown in color. The aroma is very dark roasted malt, char, dark chocolate, subtle mocha. The taste follows the aromas directly, bittersweet, but then ending dry and fairly bitter. It has a fine, smooth carbonation that is still intense enough to tingle the mouth. This fits together so nicely into a unified, smooth, drinkable whole.

This latest Union Series, and their latest Unchained Batch 14 Biere de Garde are some of the most solid Summit offerings yet!

Summit Unchained Batch 14 Biere De Garde

The Summit Brewing Company is in St. Paul, Minnesota and has been making craft beer since 1986.  This is part of their Unchained Series of limited release special batch beers. Number 13 in the series is a 7.3% ABV biere de garde style beer by brewer Jeff Williamson. It uses Pilsen, Special Aromatic, Biscuit, Vienna, Carared, and De-bittered Black malts, and French Strisselspalt hops. They recommend serving in a tulip glass. 

The beer pours mahogany in color, with blood red ruby when held to the light. There is a short head of light brown foam, quickly dissipating. The aroma is dark roasted malt, light coffee, toasted, dark caramel. The taste follows the aromas directly. It is finely carbonated, tingling and refreshing, medium-bodied, with a relatively dry finish. This is just all around so solid. This latest Unchained, and their latest Union Series Rebellion Stout are some of the most solid Summit offerings yet!

Widmer Brrr Seasonal Ale

This is a 7.2% ABV winter seasonal from Widmer Brothers Brewing of Portland, Oregon. According to the bottle, it is a winter red ale with citrusy hops and caramel and chocolate malts. My cap says “To The Dude”! Hooray for the Big Lebowski.  

The beer pours a medium dark chestnut brown with lots of dark burnt orange. There is nearly an inch of thick and somewhat creamy head that is very light tan in color. The aroma is a wonderful combination of rich, caramel malt and piney, orange hops. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. The melding of roasted and toasted caramel maltiness and citrus, orange, piney hops in this beer is deliciously excellent. Rich, smooth, medium-bodied mouth, which still has a tingling carbonation. To the Dude!

Boulder Never Summer Ale

This is a 6.5% ABV winter seasonal release from the Boulder Beer Company of Boulder, Colorado. According to the bottle, “…our cold weather seasonal, is a robust Red Ale. Deep ruby red in color, assertively hopped and brewed with dark caramel malt…” 

The beer pours a medium dark chestnut brown, with dark orange, ruby and garnet. There is an inch of thick and creamy head, very light tan in color. The aroma is caramel malt, plums, cherry and strawberry. The taste is rich and follows the aromas, lots of caramel malt and fruit flavors, especially strawberry. The finish is dry and moderately bitter, with just a touch of pine. It is medium bodied with a smooth carbonation that is sneakily and subtly intense. Delicious!

My thoughts in 2011, they have upped the ABV and I think beefed up the beer all around, malt and hops: The third release in their Looking Glass Series.  This 5.94% ABV beer pours a medium dark brown and ruby, yet clear.  There is a quarter inch of light brown foam.  The aroma is caramel malt, stone fruits, a touch of fresh, tall grass.   The taste is rich, slightly sweet malt, with a fruity tartness.  A balancing hop bitterness on the finish.  Good fruity aftertaste.  This tastes like a really good American-style Oktoberfest beer.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Steadfast Golden Blonde Ale

This is a 5.5% ABV gluten-free beer from the Steadfast Beer Company of Holyoke, Massachusetts. It is brewed with sorghum, honey, coriander, orange peel and Belgian yeast.

The beer pours a pale golden yellow in color. There is a very tall head of fizzy, ragged, foaming and boiling white, that bubbles away to almost nothing. The aroma follows the ingredients list, you can smell the honey, coriander and orange peel, along with clove and banana from the yeast. The taste is tart, lip-smackingly so, very spiced in the flavor, with the yeast notes coming on strong. It is exceedingly dry and highly carbonated. If you combined a Berliner weisse with a Belgian white ale, you would get this beer, it combines the sour and the spice.

Cerveza Suprema

This lager beer is brewed and bottled by Cerveceria La Constancia in San Salvador, El Salvador. The beer pours a clear and pale yellow golden in color. There is over an inch of foamy white head, a bit thick and whipped, a bit ragged and bubbly. The aroma is light grain, grassy, a bit of tart fruit, fairly ordinary adjunct lager. The taste follows the aromas, light golden grain with a touch of sweetness, grassy bitterness counteracting the sweetness, a touch of crisp apple. It drinks light, very carbonated, crisp, but with a touch of smoothness inside, with very little bitterness on the end. Nothing to stand out, but not disagreeable as an adjunct pale lager.

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad

This is a special limited release ale, part of the Smokestack Series from the Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, Missouri. It is 11.8% ABV and is based around their Sixth Glass Belgian Abbey-style ale. The beer ages with cherries. The beer is aged for varying lengths of time in bourbon barrels. The aged beer is then brewed with freshly brewed ale 16% fresh and 84% bourbon barrel and cherry aged.

The beer pours a medium dark chestnut brown with orange and garnet tints. There is a head about an inch tall, fizzy and foamy, very light brown in color, it settles down to thick and nearly creamy. The aroma is cherries, vanilla, oak, very light bourbon, burnt sugar, dark roasted sweet malt. The taste follows the aromas, with much cherry, vanilla, and dark sugary malts, lighter on the bourbon and oak. The oak does add a dry finish, which is moderately bitter. There is a bit of a burn from the alcohol and barrel aging. It has the fine and intense carbonation typical of a bottle conditioned ale.  This drinks like a cherry bourbon and Coke cocktail, but richer and more nuanced than such a simple cocktail would be. The aftertaste is heavy on the cherry. This is a winner.

Upright Brewing Oyster Stout

A seasonal release stout brewed with oysters, this 6.25% ABV beer is from the Upright Brewing Company of Portland, Oregon.

The beer pours an opaque pure black, even when held to the light. There is a tall, foamy head colored of coffee with light cream. The aroma is bittersweet dark chocolate, herbal like light star anise, light mocha, light whole coffee beans, along with dark cherries. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. It is on the upper range of medium-bodied, smooth, but with enough carbonation to be noticed and provide a tingle. The finish is fairly bitter and lightly dry hand fighting with bittersweet. 

Old Crafty Hen

From Morland's "Hen" line comes this Superior Fine Vintage Ale. It is 6.5% ABV and imported by Total Beverage Solution.  

The beer pours a deep orange, amber and copper in color, turning almost garnet. There is a half inch of thick and creamy off-white head, but it does not last long. The aroma is roasted malt, nearly burnt caramel, raisins, dried dark cherries, dark toast, with a woody note like a sherry cask. The taste follows the aromas, the semi-sweetness of all the malt is brought to an abrupt and dry end. It is full bodied and smooth, easy to drink, but absolutely full of flavor.  All the flavors linger true in a long, slow aftertaste.

Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen

This is a 4.0% ABV beer with a natural apricot flavor. It is from Wasatch Beers, of Park City, Utah, part of the Utah Brewers Cooperative out of Salt Lake City. 

The beer pours golden in color, with a tinge of, oh, I don’t know, apricot shall we say? There is about an inch of white fuzzy head that disappears quickly. The aroma is big, round, juicy apricot, and lots of it, over toasted wheat. The taste reverses the aroma, hitting you first with a big blast of toasted wheat, then an apricot lighter than the aroma, like dark wheat toast with a sheen of apricot jam. If you like apricots and beer, then you can’t lose on this one.

Ritterguts Gose

The Original Ritterguts Gose has been a Leipzig tradition since 1738. Gose is a traditional German beer from Leipzig and nearby Goslar (whence the name) that is brewed with coriander and salt, and also uses a lactic (sour) fermentation and bottle conditioning. This one is 4.2% ABV. 

The beer pours clear, a combination of dark golden and very light copper and amber. There is an inch of pure white and fizzy head, quick to bubble away. The aroma is malty, touch of tart sourness, light coriander spice, grassy, tangy. The taste follows the aromas, with the tartness being lip-smacking, ending dry and spiced. It is medium bodied with a zippy and tingling carbonation. Between the sour, salt, spice and carbonation, it stings the mouth. Old school beer with a great old school picture.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bent River Mississippi Blonde Ale

This 4.2% ABV blonde ale is from the Bent River Brewery of Rock Island, Illinois. Their motto: "Get Bent!"

The beer pours honey golden in color, just a touch of haze. There is nearly an inch of white foamy head that settles down very quickly. The aroma is slightly sweet malted golden grains. It smells like the air outside a brewery. The taste gives the slightly sweet and malty grain up front, followed by a light floral/fruity note, then hit by a wave of grassy bitterness. The aftertaste is a pleasant amalgam of all the flavors. It has a light to medium mouthfeel with moderate carbonation, as soft as it is crisp. This makes for a very tasty and refreshing blonde ale.

Brasserie de Blaugies Darbyste

The Brasserie de Blaugies is in Dour, Belgium. This is a tiny micro brewery working out of the garage of a pair of Belgian school teachers. This is a bottle conditioned ale brewed with fig juice and is 5.8% ABV. According to the bottle it is “A traditional style ale named for John Darby – preacher of temperance whose parishioners  were oddly moved by a “soft drink” they insisted was just fig juice.” 

The beer pours orange amber in color with just a touch of haze. There is a very tall, thick, foaming head that is off-white in color. The aroma is yeasty, floral, hints of clove, tartness tempered by the sweet, earthy, fig notes. The taste is the perfectly balanced meld of all the notes of the aroma, floral, earthy, fig, tart, woody, herbal, yeasty. It finishes dry, tart and fig-sweet all at once. It has a full, fine, bottle-conditioned carbonation. This beer is exquisitely balanced in every way.

Nethergate Dirty Dick's Audit Ale

This is a bottle conditioned 8.0% ABV beer from Nethergate Brewery (now Growler Brewery) of the Stour Valley in England.  It is imported by Artisinal Imports of Austin,Texas. According to the bottle, this beer was historically “Specially brewed for the feast held on the annual audit of accounts from the mid fourteenth century at the famous colleges of both Oxford and Cambridge. This style was brewed right up to the late 1960’s although the style had morphed into a barley wine ale by then. We hope you enjoy our more original 0.5 lbs. of hops to the bushel." 

The beer pours amber and copper in color, slightly hazy. There is a short head of off-white soapy bubbles. The aroma is tart, sour, seemingly not a good sign. The taste is pure sour and soapy. This must be an off bottle, this can’t be right.  Unfortunately, this is a drain pour...Okay, hold on. I am reading multiple reviews, and apparently this is one and it is supposed to be like this. I didn’t know there were English sours! Taking a few more sips. Some very apricot fruit is coming in behind the sour. I'm getting an aftertaste of dried apricots. This has very low carbonation, mouthfeel is from medium-bodied to smoothly syrupy. As it warms it becomes more drinkable, more stone fruits, especially apricot, and earthy funkiness come in to moderate the sour. 

Be patient with this one, let it warm up a bit and keep sipping, you'll find a hidden gem under that initial wave of sour, which was made probably unnaturally intense just because it was completely unexpected.  I think they should put an indication on the bottle. You read the label and are expecting something akin to an English barley wine.

Schweinsbrau Dunkel

Hermannsdorfer Schweinsbrau bottled beers are brewed and bottled at Riedenberger Brauhaus of RiedenburgGermanyThis is a 5.0% ABV dunkel or "dark" beer. I found these beers at John's Grocery in Iowa City, Iowa, and who can resist a schwein wearing pearls?

The beer pours a medium dark chestnut brown. There is nearly an inch of off-white to very light tan foam, but it dissipates very rapidly. The aroma is malty, roasted, yet sweet; burnt caramel nearing molasses. The tastes is malty, following the aromas, adding in sweet potato, with just enough hops to curtail the sweetness on the finish as just slide into dry. It has a fairly light mouthfeel and low carbonation. There are much better dunkels out there for my taste.

Schweinsbrau Gold

Hermannsdorfer Schweinsbrau bottled beers are brewed and bottled at Riedenberger Brauhaus of Riedenburg, Germany. This is a 4.8% ABV Bavarian  Lager. 

The beer pours a pure and clear dark golden in color. There is an inch of white foamy head. The aroma is earthy straw and golden grain, a touch floral and sweet, grassy on the end. The taste follows the aromas, even more sweetness in the grain, but with a dry, yet soft, finish. The end is only lightly bitter, really just enough to cut the sweetness. It has a nice medium-bodied and soft mouthfeel. Sweeter than your average German lager. 

Schlafly American Brown Ale

This 5.0% ABV brown ale is a Schlafly Beer from the St. Louis Brewery (this one was brewed adn canned at Stevens Point, Wisconsin, indicating it was contract brewed, guess Schlafly has exceeded their capacity or desperately wanted to can and didn't have a canning line). It is part of their Can Sessions beer line.

The beer pours a light brown and copper in color. There is a tall foamy head that is very light tan in color. The aroma is roasted and toasted malt, lightly nutty, with a light plum-like fruit note. The taste is roasted malt, very nutty, with an herbal note that then veers towards light coffee, diner style. It is medium bodied, with medium carbonation, and a moderately bitter finish.  

Stillwater Classique

This 4.5% ABV beer from Stillwater Artisinal Ales appears to be a "session" saison and comes in 12 ounce cans. 

The beer pours a lightly hazy golden yellow in color. There is a tall head of thick, foamy white head, a bit like whipped egg whites. The aroma is floral, yeasty, with very light earth and funk, citrusy, mostly lemon, over toasted golden grain. The taste follows the aromas directly. It drinks light, yet smooth and creamy. The finish is dry and moderately bitter. I like session beers, this one is an “exquisite” session beer. This beer didn't generate a lot of words from me, but don't be fooled, it is definitely worth trying!

Great River Golden Ale

This is a 4.8% ABV golden ale from the Great River Brewery of Davenport, Iowa. It is part of their Session Series.  

The beer pours yellow golden in color. There is a short and short-lived head of white foam. The aroma is light, toasted golden grain and a bit of lemon. The taste follows the aromas, toasted golden grain with citrus fruit, mostly lemon, followed by a grassy bitterness. It is light bodied, crisply, but not overly, carbonated, with a lightly bitter finish that adds a note of straw. Not super exciting, but better than the mass-produced lagers.

Great River Dirty Blonde Chocolate Ale

This is a 4.8% ABV blonde ale brewed with chocolate syrup and cocoa nibs. It is from the Great River Brewery of Davenport, Iowa and is part of their Session Series.  

The beer pours somewhat cloudy, a dark golden in color. There is about a half-inch of white head that disappears rapidly. It is surprising that they can use cocoa nibs and chocolate syrup and still have such a golden color. The aroma is a wave of golden-grained blonde ale, followed by cocoa and milk chocolate, with just a bit of fruity tang on the end. The taste follows the aromas quite directly, with a surprising amount of cocoa flavor packed into a pale beer. It is fairly light bodied, medium carbonation, with a somewhat bitter finish. The possibilities for beer cocktails mixed with various vodkas and/or liqueurs is endless with this beer.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion Black IPA

This is a 6.7% ABV fresh hopped black IPA from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, California. It is their "almost" homegrown estate beer. Why "almost"? They have their own farm where they grow hops and barley for their Estate releases. However, this year, their barley crop was ruined by strong winds and drought. So, this has their estate hops, but not their estate barley.

The beer pours black in appearance, a very dark ruby when held to the light. There is a tall head of thick, creamy, foamy head, very light brown in color. The head leaves sticky lacing on the glass. The aroma is deep and rich dark roasted malt, coffee, mocha, dark chocolate, with piney hops melding nicely, blending into a lingering tangy fruitiness. The taste essentially follows the aromas, a creamy, rich, dark roasted beer, with coffee and dark chocolate, melding perfectly with piney hops with just a note of fruitiness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and the finish is fairly bitter. Too many black IPA’s are too out of balance one way or another. The few that are the best are in perfect balance, just as this one is. I darn near left this one on the shelf, I am so glad that I didn't!

Ridgeway Very Bad Elf

The Ridgeway Brewing Company is in Oxfordshire, England. They are imported by Shelton Brothers. This strong bitter beer is 7.5% ABV and is based on a recipe from 1795 from the Thames Valley. It uses a rare variety of Fuggles hops from the mid-1800's and a pale amber malt that is rarely used today.

The beer pours a clear copper in color. There is about an inch of thick, creamy, foamy head, off-white in color. The aroma is malty, very light sweet potato, a bit grassy, a bit of red plum jam on toast. The taste is mostly malty, like the aroma, a touch of sweet potato, caramel, with a grassy and moderately bitter finish and just a touch of nuttiness. This is a classic strong English bitter.

New Glarus 20th Anniversary Strong Ale

This is a Belgian-style strong ale brewed by New Glarus Brewing of New Glarus, Wisconsin to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their brewery (and the 30 year anniversary of the couple that owns and runs the brewery, Deb and Dan Carey). They have been brewing since 1993. They are distributed only in Wisconsin.

The beer pours a mahogany or dark chestnut with a ruby tint. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white to very light brown foam. The aroma is malty, caramel, light molasses, herbal. The taste follows the aromas, malty, semi-sweet, caramel, a bit of dark fruits, with an herbal note on the finish. It is medium to full-bodied, with a moderate bitterness on the finish. This holds and fits together nicely for an overall nice effect.

Andechs Vollbier Hell

This 4.8% ABV lager ("hell" meaning "pale" in German) is from the Klosterbrauerei Andechs, from Andechs Germany. There has been brewing at this Benedictine monastery brewery located at the base of Andechs mountain in Bavaria since 1455. It has been a destination for religious pilgrims since the 15th century.

The beer pours a very pale golden yellow, like sun-bleached straw. It is crystal clear. There is a good amount of fine carbonation, along with a tall, thick, perfectly white head of foam. The aroma is grassy, golden malted grain, with a touch of honey kissed sweetness. The taste is malty, floral, lightly sweet, but tempered with enough hops to finish dry. It is very light in the mouth, but with a crisp and refreshing carbonation. The aftertaste is lightly grassy and herbal. This is very nice, subtle, but one of the lightest German beers I have had.