Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Hopheads!

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Look what Santa brought me. (Ok, Santa didn't bring it to me, I bought it myself, I couldn't resist.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Victory Baltic Thunder

This bottle wasn't as cool as the Sam Adams one, but I decided to pick it up from the Beverage Barn because it was one of those Victory beers I heard of in passing but didn't really know a lot about. So I figured I would try it out for myself.

Appearance: Pours as a thick brown lacquer with very little light passing through. Almost no carbonation and no head to speak of, as if I just opened up some used Mobil 1. Similar color to the Sam, but you can definitely tell the difference between a bock and porter.

Smell: Roasted, oakey malts with a tiny hint of spice or flowers. No bitterness or hops to speak of.

Taste: Deep roasted malts, but not overpowering, with some hops in there. I was expecting a little more. I'm kind of suspecting that its too cold and I may need to wait for it to warm up a bit before the beer's character really comes through.

Mouthfeel: Thick, almost chewy, and flat, pretty standard for a porter. Leaves a little something for you on the way down.

Drinkability: Porters don't lend themselves to being drunk in massive quantities and this is no exception. While the malts are good I was kind of hoping for a little something more. Seemed kind of generic and didn't really bring something special to the table. At a modest 8.5% abv its not the strongest beer out there but you can't drink too much of it. I'll give it a 6.5/10, which may be a little harsh, but its just not doing it for me. Try it, you might find something in it I missed.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams pint glass

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Ok, just look at that bottle. Can you blame me for seeing that badass in the store and picking it up instantly? The price seemed a little steep for a Sam at $14, but I also knew that the triple bock was priced at $200 according to the late Michael Jackson (not the glove wearing pedophile, the beer god). Hopefully the beer tastes as good as the bottle makes you think it does.

Appearance: Pours thick and dark, with no light whatsoever passing through. Very little head present, about half a finger, and it fades pretty quickly. Slightly carbonated, but for the most part it just looks like liquified chocolate in a glass (who knew?)

Smell: Chocolate, toasted malts with the tiniest scent of hops in the background. I expected the smell to be a little bit stronger and really shove a candy bar up your nose, but its pretty relaxed.

Taste: Cocoa beans and chocolate, but not overly malty like I was expecting, definitely had a good bitterness to it, nothing was really overpowering. Chocolate aftertaste, obviously.

Mouthfeel: Light and kind of watery, a little carbonation which is a plus, I was worried from the appearance that it would be flat, good finish.

Drinkability: I am a huge Sam Adams fan but was pretty underwhelmed with this one. There was chocolate as advertised, but that was it. It left you kind of wanting something else to appear from the beer, but it was over before you knew it. It is a very easy beer to drink thanks to a mild mouthfeel that doesn't try to attack you, and at 5.5% abv you could drink it all night. I just wouldn't want to because the taste isn't interesting. It says "Hey, I'm chocolate in a bottle" and that's all you get. I give it a 7/10, and combined with the pricetag I probably won't buy it again. Maybe one day I'll come across the triple bock.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Stein

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chimay Grande Rèserve

Ok, so this review will mean two out of my last three reviews are about the Chimay Trappist ales, and 4 straight Belgian style ales, but that's what I'm in the mood for as I try to expand my horizons. Don't worry, the next couple will be different, I promise. I'm becoming such a fan of the Chimays I might have to pick up one of those sweet goblets. This one comes with sky high expectations from a combination of what I've read and from my experience with the red label Chimay. I have to give a shout out to my local beer store for having these hidden gems I am starting to find there, so if you happen to be in the northern valley of NJ go to Beverage Barn in Northvale, NJ. On to the masterpiece.

Big Red approves of Big Blue

Appearance: The beer pours similar to champagne, you can hear it fizz as it builds its three fingers of head. The color is a crisp dark brown with no visibility. The head retains pretty well after a few minutes, but not as lacey like the Chimay red.

Smell: A combination of sweet malts, perfume and spicey hops, with what I swear smells like a bit of pepper are the dominating forces of the smell. I can't put my finger on it, but something in there reminds me of champagne again.

Taste: Wow. So many tastes that present themselves then disappear making it a unique experience. The spicey hops kick it off but are gone in a flash as the sweet malts take over, but just when you think its done it finishes with what can be described as roasted woodchips, almost like a dark chocolate, but with just the flavor and not the feel. Speaking of feel...

Mouthfeel: Alive and carbonated but not overly so, still relatively smooth. It feels light but heavy at the same time because of the dark malts.

Drinkability: I am probably not doing this beer enough justice, because it really is phenominal, whether you compare it to other beers of its style or to any beer. Its got many characteristics from a hoppy pale ale to a stout all combined to make a great Begian Strong Ale. Although you wouldn't know by drinking it, the 9% abv makes this a one bomber a night drink, but it is light enough where it doesn't have to end your night. In fact, if you are planning on drinking heavier stuff like stouts or porters later (like I am), you could get away with drinking it first because of its Belgian ale qualities. This one basically met all my ridiculous expectations and gets a 9.5/10 from me. I better put that goblet on my Christmas list.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel snifter

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop Ale (2008 12th Release)

I could not help but compare this fresh hop ale to the one I just had from prestigious Great Divide Brewery. I bought the last 4 bomber bottles of this beer from Ramsey Liquors, Ramsey NJ. Lets see how this one goes:

Appearance: A sloppy pour producing 3 fat fingers of head. Not as opaque as the Great Divide. The carbonation is more of like a fluffy cumulus cloud, and the lacing sticking to the glass is appearing due to the lack of retention.

Smell: Tangy and spicy hops coming from the resins/oils of the freshly picked Yakima, WA hops. Same sweet malt back bone as the Great Divide.

Taste: Well balanced with hops being the dominant ingredient.

Mouthfeel: Exactly as the appearance demonstrated in terms of it being medium bodied. The hop resins surround the palette perfectly.

Drinkability: Better than the Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale, if you want to put the two beers in the same category. 6.7% alc by vol. 60-65 IBUs, Cascade & Centennial hops. 9/10 rating. Would definitely have it again and would love to get my hands on the Chico Estate Harvest! Anybody have this one on draft yet?

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale

I picked up this bomber from State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. Ever since trying some of Sierra Nevada's Harvest series, I have been looking for other fresh hop style ales to try. I love the smell and taste of hops, I wish there was a cologne with that scent. Enough of my hop loving dreams, here goes the review:

Appearance: Pours 2 fingers of head due to my awful pouring abilities, but dwindles down to an inch. Inviting carmel cherry wood color that is permeable. I can almost read the label of the bottle when looking through the glass.

Smell: A blend of the crisp Rocky Mountain air and Pacific Northwest hops put a huge smile on my face as I take a deep 5 second long sniff. Oops, I got some foam on my noze. Intense srassy hops with some sweet malts lingering too.

Taste: Very fresh and relieving type of taste. I taste more hops then what the 55 IBUs for this beer is. The sweet and musty malts stand out and hide the lawn grassy hops overpowering taste that I was going to expect (I was expecting that spicy fresh hop taste). It gave me a "Got Beer?" style mustache :)

Mouthfeel: Unlike the appearance, this brew is not as smooth, especially with the constant carbonation attacking the tonuge. The bitterness aftertaste would even be tolerable for a non-hop-lover I guess.

Drinkability: This beer leaves a spiderman web of hop lacing all over my tulip glass. I wonder if it is doing the same thing in my stomach right now. The beer is catergorized as an American Pale Ale, so it is hard to compare to other fresh hop ales. It was easy to consume and I think I could have a couple more...would be a good session beer if the price was right. I will give it a 8/10. 6.1% Alcohol By Volume. Cheers mate!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ommegang Three Philosophers

My final review of the weekend. These bombers are putting a hurting on me, but it's been a hell of a ride. I wish I could drink like I did in college, but then I would be sucking down Natty Light and lighting up the pong table with Jimmy the Face. Young Gunz for life! Ok, enough of that, on to the review.

Appearance: A great dark brown color with that signature lacey finger deep head of most Belgians, it retains its head pretty well, taking quite a bit for it to disappear, couldn't see a damn thing through if I tried, without the head and the carbonation rising, you would almost mistake it for a stout

Smell: Fruity hops, mainly cherry, which is no surprise since the bottle touts that 2% of the beer is ale with added cherries, the one drawback being that no malts come through the smell because of the cherries, but that could just be my sensitivities

Taste: Wow, not what I was expecting at all, only the slightest hint of cherry with the oakey malts playing a huge role in the taste, the cherry and other fruits leave a great finish though

Mouthfeel: Well carbonated all the way down, heavy body leaves a full presence in your mouth, in between light and chewy

Drinkability: This beer definitely makes its presence felt at 9.8% abv. A good nightcap for me, but I definitely would not have more than one or two of these. I know you shouldn't make direct comparisions between two different styles of beer (although they are both Belgian, this is a Quadrupel and the Chimay is a Trappist Dubbel), but you can definitely notice the difference of styles. The Three Phils is aggressive in both feel and taste with distinct parts while the Chimay is more subtle and lets the ingredients play with each other. However, I do recommend this beer and will probably buy it again. It's hard for the American breweries to truly do it like the Belgians, but this puts up a fight. I give it a 8/10.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel Snifter

Chimay Première

I know I pretty much say "I'm excited" for every beer I review, but I mean it this time. My first true Trappist, brewed in the walls of an existing trappist monastery where beers have been brewed for hundreds of years. Each new beer coming out of these monasteries end up taking the characteristics of those brewed before it.

Appearance: The Chimay greets the glass with a dark reddish brown color, along with extremely well laced and long lasting head about 2 fingers deep

Smell: Lightly spiced hops with bits of fruit are the main character of the smell, almost a hint of apple, specks of light sweet malts in the background

Taste: The apple and fruity hops take center stage as the spiciness I smelled adds just a touch to it, but don't dominate, which creates a great taste, the hops don't stick around for long as the malts create this wonderful aftertaste on the finish, a combination of sweet and almost toasty chocolate, very complex flavor that bring your tastebuds for a ride

Mouthfeel: Short version - Awesome. Tolstoy - a perfect combination of carbonation to tickle the roof of your mouth, but a smooth finish, a little bite just to let you know that yes, this is a strong Belgian, but like the hops the bitterness is gone in a flash

Drinkability: I enjoy the Belgians so this is truly heaven. I could drink this alll night, and thanks to a not so earth-shattering 7.0% abv, I can. Every sip you take you will notice something different you didn't catch the previous time. I would absolutely recommend this to Belgian lovers and even non-Belgian lovers, give this a shot. I give it a 9.5/10 and it has passed Duvel as my favorite.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel Snifter

Friday, December 5, 2008

Brooklyn Local 1

I've been trying to experiment with more Belgians so I'm extremely excited to try this bad boy from Brooklyn. This will be my last review for tonight because I won't be able to distinguish between flavors soon, nor would it be coherent enough to print.

Appearance: Pours like you would expect, cloudy golden color with 2, maybe 3 fingers of lacey head, bubbly and alive

Smell: A scent of piney and perfumey hops greet the nose with a slight hint of herbs, very interesting mix, malts are very hard to distinguish as the flowery hops hide the rest

Taste: That mix of hops are prevalent in the taste, with a hint of spices on the aftertaste, again malts are too hard to distinguish, but it's not that the hops are overly aggressive, they just might be too subtle for my tastebuds at this point, overall a great balance because the hop flavors are at the right concentration

Mouthfeel: Extremely clean, well carbonated, plays around the palate before finishing nicely, smooth with a little kick at the end

Drinkability: Scarily easy to drink at 9% abv, you can start sucking these down before you realize your bomber is gone. Not as biting like you would expect from something like an IPA, but it definitely is stronger than other Belgians. I would definitely recommend this beer, especially for those looking for something extra in their Belgian beer; however, I would also recommend you be careful in how much you drink as the bottles can pass you by. I give it a 8.5/10 and would like to add that I like it almost as much as I like the Duvel Belgian Golden Ale.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel Snifter

Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale

Very excited to start the night with this bomber. I'm a huge fan of red ales and I have heard good things of Lucky 13.

An amber to red clean color with about 2 fingers of head, constant stream of bubbles heading to the top, looks refreshing

Smell: A great combination of hops and malts from the smell, the former being floral and citrus, and the latter has a background contribution of sweet malts

Taste: Good flavor with a little more bite than expected from the smell, floral hops are present and have a bitterness similar to an IPA, but with more subtlety, some sweet malts but they take a back seat as the bitter hops dominate

Mouthfeel: Lighter carbonation than the appearance would suggest, but it's not too weak, also a good mix of texture, not chewy by any means, but it has more substance than other reds I've had

Drinkability: I enjoy red ales about as much as anyone, but this one had an interesting twist with how bitter the hops were, containing 76.92 IBUs. At 8.3% abv, a bomber bottle should be enough to get you started for the night. I would recommend this beer and will definitely buy again, but it isn't something I will go out of my way for. I'll give it a 7.5/10. I enjoy hoppy beers, but this one threw me for a loop because I wasn't expecting it to such a degree. I'm noticing that as I'm drinking it, I'm definitely liking it more, so I'll bump it to an 8/10. Maybe Alex should weigh in on this one; he is another red ale lover.

**EDIT** While finishing the bottle, I realized what was irking me: although I was enjoying the bitter hops, it was just a bit too sweet. The combination of the two wasn't as great as you might think. I still really enjoyed this beer, don't get me wrong. However, I wasn't blown away like I was hoping.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams Glass

Weekend Lineup

Admiring the lineup

Buon giorno, fellow hopheads! I stopped by my local beer store and found a pretty good lineup that I wanted to tackle this weekend. I'm excited because according to my memory I haven't had these yet besides the Harvest (2008). I could have had Lucky 13 before, but I can't remember. From left to right: Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop Ale (2008), Ommegang Three Philosophers, Chimay Première, Brooklyn Local 1, Lagunitas Lucky 13, and another Harvest. A feature I just discovered is that clicking on the pics will give you the full sized pic. Being one of the creators and authors, you would think I should know these things. I'm so pumped right now, I'll keep you posted (pun intended).