Monday, December 28, 2009

Avery duganA IPA

This was another beer from our most recent trip to Shangy's a little while ago. I'm a big fan of pretty much anything that comes from Avery, so when Jimmy suggested their latest imperial IPA release, I was on board immediately. I'm hoping not to be let down which has been the case with other imperial IPAs boasting high IBU counts (93 IBUs for duganA) but have lacked the hoppy punch you would expect.

Appearance: A nice clear amber color with a quickly fading finger of head, a constant trickle of carbonation floating to the top.

Smell: Hopgasm. A blast of pine hops with some background resiny hops, some citrus fruits are noticeable too.

Taste: Resiny hop flavors, HUGE bitterness, this nails the DIPA style. There are some nice bready malt flavors that hang onto your tongue to wash away the bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low to medium carbonation, a little bit of an oily texture from the hop oils, some alcoholic tinges on the aftertaste, but overall a pleasant mouthfeel for hopheads.

Drinkability: I don't know if I would have more than one bomber bottle of this in a night because I would be on bitterness overload if I did. It's not as heavy in the alcohol department, clocking in at 8.5% abv, but it would still get you nice and toasty. *Cue Stephen A. Smith voice* HOWEVA, I would buy another bottle every time I see it in the liquor store. This is my new go-to DIPA and I look forward to enjoying the rest of my half case. I'm going to be bold and give it a 10/10.

Serving type: Bottle, 22 oz.
Glass type: DFH bullet glass

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sierra Nevada & Dogfish Head Life and Limb

Time to go from one extreme to the next: from the Sam Adams Holiday Porter that was pretty pedestrian but a solid brew, to a collaboration beer that definitely pushes the bounds of creativity. This is one of two brews recently made in collaboration by two of the premier craft breweries in the country, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. If you follow the beer buzz online, you'll notice that this beer is extremely polarizing, you either love it or hate it. I think this stems from the insane hype leading up to its release, it became nearly impossible to live up to the expectations of these two behemoths collaborating. Jimmy and I were on cloud nine when we asked if they had any cases of these at Shangy's and they came through for us by giving us a case from the back room. We knew that we were extremely fortunate to get our hands on it, especially once Jimmy heard reports of a 24 oz. bottle going for almost $40 (!!!!!) a pop. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Jimbo) We had also heard that this brew is meant to be aged for quite some time, on the order of years, but I just can't help myself from drinking one now and bringing you a review, if for nothing else, to give us a comparison for the aged ones down the road. Enough chit-chat, on to the beer!

Appearance: Dark, almost black, completely opaque, plenty of carbonation and head that has decent retention.

Smell: Wow, there is a lot here: roasted nuts, sweet maple syrup, pine/earth hops, chocolate chips, and a faint smell of some fruit, maybe a grape or raisin?

Taste: Very busy, pretty much all of the smell scents in taste form, lots of sweetness followed by a bitter bite at the end. As it warms up, the roasted nuts create a nice balance to the sweetness of the maple syrup.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, well carbonated, an interesting mouthfeel in that it seems like it's slightly watery, but then a thick syrup coating washes over the tongue and roof of the mouth, which balances the bitter dry finish.

Drinkability: It is a very good beer, but I don't think you wan't to drink more than one in a night for two reasons: 10.2% abv, and just the extreme flavor and mouthfeel makes you crave for some water. The first time I had this, I thought maybe it was a Belgian Dark Ale or Belgian Stout, but there was just too much sweetness for that to be true, as well as other characteristics like the roasted nuts and the absence of some citrus hop flavors. Like I said, it is a very good beer and I am glad to get my hands on it, but it could use some aging. Usually, you want to age a beer to reduce the bitterness from the hops, but I think the sweetness from the syrup needs time to settle down. I'm looking forward to revisiting this in the future, maybe I'll have one every Christmas time and compare it to the past. I still give it an 8.5/10, but I think with age it has some potential to rise up.

Serving type: Bottle, 24 oz.
Glass type: Duvel tulip

Note: As stated before, this seems to be a polarizing brew, so if you have had the pleasure of having it, we would love to hear your take on it in the comments section. I guess this goes without saying since we would love to hear your take on ANY beer we review, or even those we haven't reviewed yet.

Samuel Adams Holiday Porter

I've had this guy sitting in my fridge for way too long, but I didn't want to drink it without giving it a proper review. I don't know why, there really isn't anything special with it that I've heard, just that it was a solid brew from Sam Adams. I'll always hold Sam Adams near and dear to my heart because after years of downing piss water from the other major brewers, Boston Lager was the first beer I had that made me realize beer can have other tastes besides raccoon urine and bat feces. Granted, my palate has expanded greatly since then, but I always give kudos to the first macrobrewer to experiment with their beers.

Appearance: Pours with a dark brown color, you can barely make out the shadows on the other side of the glass when looking into the light, but for all intents and purposes, it's thick enough that you can't see through it. A ton of frothy light cream colored head that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Smell: Chocolate and roasted nuts, with a little bit of sweet caramel, a very enjoyable scent to say the least.

Taste: Less chocolate, more roasted nuts and sweetness, none of which is too overpowering, and a little bit of resin hop flavors that also provide a bitterness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, crisp, clean, a little dry on the aftertaste, well carbonated, no real heavy alcohol bite.

Drinkability: "This robust brew was the London porters' drink of choice after their long work days and it will keep you warm on any wintry day." The back label says it all, this is an easy drinking porter that will warm the soul on a cold winter day. There are some very good flavors here, and none that are too overpowering or strong that will make you avoid having another one. 5.8% abv also won't stop you from having a couple more, hell you could even use it as a winter session beer. The only thing that may be a negative is that each sip is the same as the previous one, which could bore some of you enthusiasts looking for something more from their beer. Overall, I do give it a solid 8/10, and will continue to look for this for the rest of the season.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ninety 9 Bottles

My past review was a beer store so heck! why not review another one. I am still enjoying and drinking craft brews in the background, but my life and work have taken up too much of my time recently (like Mikey). Instead of our friendly state PA, we are heading over to a town near my residence in CT, named Norwalk.

I found out about Ninety 9 Bottles through our friend/beer connoisseur Greg M. and Facebook in an attempt to find a better than average beer store in Fairfield County CT. I moved to the area a couple months back and have been sticking to BevMax and Stew Leonard's Wines to pick up quality craft brew. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a new "beer" store pop up in the vicinity (opened in November?), especially in Connecticut where craft beer distribution is very limited.

I came in with the attention of buying a case of Imperial Stout Trooper from New England Brewing (released around late December) but they sold out within 25 minutes! So I scratched that off my list, stuck to the same style and bought Brooklyn Black Ops ($25.99) and Lagunitas Imperial Stout ($5.99). Beer seemed a bit pricey, but I got to say that I am willing to pay a premium to get quality ales in this Stamford area that I live in. They had other offerings such as Lagunitas (Brown Suga', Hop Stoopid, etc.), Ballast Point, Harpoon Leviathan Series, Brooklyn, Stone, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish and some others outside of microwbrewery USA. All of the beer was tucked away in the back left corner of the store displayed on a counter with some nice shelf displays. Was a little bit disorganized in that corner, but will probably get better as they expand their selection down the road.

Other than that, the store has a fridge section of both macro and micro brews, wines and liquors. Small quaint atmosphere and building situated across the river east of SoNo. I chatted with the owner? Sure was his name? for a bit and they even received bottles of Life and Limb and a Utopia!!! but were sold out instantaneously. I am looking forward to seeing this botique beer/wine/liquor store grow in craft beer and beer distribution rights and will continue to support it so that it will become like my favorites of State Line Liquors - Elkton MD, Julio's Liquors - Westborough MA, Shangy's - Emmaus PA and many more that my brain can't think of at the moment. I give it a 6/10 for now but can see this growing like the stock market to a 9-10/ buy buy

Photo courtesy of Ninety9Bottle's Facebook profile

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

This is another beer from the Shangy's run. I think I've liked every single beer I have ever tried from Bell's, so I was happy to split a case of this with Jimmy without having one before.

Appearance: A light orange color, clear just like the Celebration Ale, and about a finger of head that sticks around for a little longer and with some lacing.

Smell: A nice strong citrus and fruit scent, and not much else.

Taste: The flavor is a lot more complex than the smell suggests, as there is a combination of orange citrus, pine, and resin hops that provide some bitterness. The finish is a nice sweet maltiness that really balances the fading bitter bite.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, oily from the resin hops, low carbonation, almost no alcohol aftertaste, very smooth.

Drinkability: I guess another definition of drinkability is that the more I drink it, the more I like it. Every time I've cracked one open, I'll find something I didn't notice before. After drinking the Celebration and Two Hearted back to back, it really shows you how even though they are both IPAs, they are completely different brews for different occassions. The Celebration is the winter warmer style while the Two Hearted is lighter, refreshing, and can be enjoyed pretty much any time. 7% abv but you would think it had less alcohol than the Celebration because of the finish and aftertaste. 9.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: DFH bullet glass

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (2009)

It has been a REALLY long time since my last review. I've been stockpiling a whole bunch of brews primed for reviewing, but life has gotten in the way. I'm hoping that with the end of the semester and a break from work for the holidays will help me catch up. I'll start with the brews Jimmy and I picked up from our Shangy's trip almost a month ago. The blessing in disguise from PA's case law is that I was able to drink a bunch of the beers while still having some left for reviews. Huzzah!

Appearance: A nice clean amber color, very clear as I can see the DFH logo on the other side of the glass. It pours with about a finger of head that fades pretty quickly.

Smell: Floral and pine hop aromas and a little sweetness from the malts, there are also hints of fruits but I'm rusty and can't pick out the exact scent, maybe some citrus/orange.

Taste: That's a nice malty flavor for a winter ale, definitely toasted malts with some pine and a little bit of spice on the finish. The combination gives you a warm "sit by the fire" winter feel.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, well carbonated, somewhat of a dry finish and a little alcohol bite to let you know it's not a softy.

Drinkability: This beer has been my go-to after work beer for the past month, which I think would qualify as the definition of drinkable. It's not overly complex, but you won't get bored with it, and at 6.8% abv, you'll feel nice and toasty after a couple. This is a great winter IPA, 'nuff said. 9/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: DFH bullet glass

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shangy's - The Beer Authority

Recently, fellow hopheads Mike and I traveled to Shangy's in Emmaus, PA to stock up on our ever so frequently dwindling craft beer stash in our respective homes. We came out alive after many minutes of pondering, deciding and boner-ing over the many beers they had out on the floor ranging from east to west coast (Victory all the way out to Port Brewing). Yes, it sucks buying beer by the case (especially for us NJ/CT beer snobs), but if you do your homework and know what you want, Shangy's is the place to go. They have pretty much anything you can ask for...with the exception of such rarities and dreams of Russian River Pliny the Elder or Younger and Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA.

The main floor is loaded with all the beers stacked in "cute" mini pyramids with some glassware arranged in the center back and other miscellaneous non-beer beverages towards the back center room. As you walk in towards the back leftmost corner, there is the massive fridge warehouse room. In here you can pick up chilled cases as well as a plethora of kegs (1/2, 1/6, 1/8 etc.) that are stacked up beyond belief. It is like Christmas time all over again trying to pick out the live draft you want!!!

So on our trip this past weekend, Mike and I picked up a case of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale [$29.99 pre tax], Bells Two Hearted Ale [$36.99 pre tax], Avery Dugana IPA and Sierra Nevad / Dogfish Head Life & Limb [$79.99 pre tax]. We plan on drinking the first three right away with reviews to come so be prepared to see those! The special collaboration ale between Dogfish and Sierra Nevada review will come soon, but we plan on updating in the years to come as we will age this ale after the first bomber and see how it tastes as our knowledge and baldness grow.

Stop by Shangy's if you are in the Allentown, PA area!!! Great beer distribution destination if you know what your getting!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Magic Hat Odd Notion (Fall '09)

In honor of our trip to Split Rock Great Brews Beer Fest this weekend (more on that later), and because Thursday night is The Office night, I felt like reviewing this brew. I mean honestly, do I really need a reason?

Appearance: That. Is. Thick. Wow, it pours like midnight, as you can see in the pic below. Produces a couple fingers of thick foamy brown head that sticks around for a damn long time, very inviting appearance.

Smell: I was expecting a deeper malt smell just from looking at it, but I'm actually greeted with some herbal and floral hops, some hints of chocolate and nut, and...ok enough smelling, lemme taste the damn thing!

Taste: There's the malts! Roasted nuts, chocolate, dry coffee, almost none of the hops from the scent in the taste, and if they are there, it's completely overpowered by the malty monsters.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, but a little thinner than the looks suggest, a little more carbonation than you would think, very dry aftertaste with the very faintest touch of spice. Definitely dry enough that after a few sips I want to take a gulp of water, almost too much dryness, kind of a turn off.

Drinkability: Magic Hat has done well, not a heavy hitter like the Belgian strong ales, but could be a weekday night-capper at 6.3% abv. It's also not as thick as you think, so maybe you could go a couple before throwing in the towel, but not more than that in one sitting. It's no Chimay Blue or anything like that, but definitely a respectable brew that deserves a respectable 8/10.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Edit: BeerAdvocate says this beer is a Belgian Dark Ale, but the Magic Hat site says its a Belgian Chocolate Stout, and I'm agreeing with the brewers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stone Pale Ale

[Before I start the review, I need to take classes or read books on particular beer attributes for reviewing all 5 of the standard Beeradvocate categories. Any recommendations fellow Hopheads for me, JimmyHoppyHead that feels like his reviews are falling off the face of the earth as if it was a square like some of Christopher Columbus's nemesis' told him]

Never had this beer from one of my favorite west coast breweries, as well as wanting a light beer to mellow out to after a strenuous day at the office, are the main reasons why I picked up a 6 pack back in the middle of September at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. Lets see what my sub par review instincts can handle:

Appearance: Pours pale goodness with shades of an orange brown leather. Head dissipates from 1/4 finger of head to a remote fragile island in the middle of my 8oz NY Craft Beer glass. Surprisingly not as clear as expected for a pale ale but I can make out our pretty blog as I star gaze through the glass. Carbonation dies down after 3 minutes making the ale look uninviting as if Public Safety rolled in and broke up the party.

Smell: Nutty butternut squash aromatic qualities surround my nose with grassy hop characteristics.

Taste: Sweet and faint caramel touch to the tongue that is more weighted towards the malt side of the spectrum rather than hops in terms of the balance. The hops taste almost sour (probably from the yeasts) and give it a fruit like appeal - lime orange?

Mouthfeel: Carbonation bites the tongue and you can trace a little rascal of aggressive hops that shocked me in a pale ale. Caramel sweet not so pleasant aftertaste lingers. Beer goes down smooth but the carbonation makes it coarse.

Drinkability: Interesting...the appearance looked boring after awhile but the over carbonated mouthfeel was the opposite. Same with my smelly, which picked out different malts and hops then my taste(less) buds. All in all, an interesting Pale Ale that I say is well balanced and I would have another before changing flight to something more "extreme" for the night. 5.4% abv, 41 IBUs and 7.5/10 for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer

I picked up a six pack/box of this at the great State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD a couple of months back. I wanted to try something new instead of my favorite hoppy IPA-ness flowing through my veins.

Appearance: Opaque yellow pour that is alive with sizzling carbonation that fizzles to no head. Color turns to a cloudy orange as the beer settles that does not look inviting. Shocked of the differences within a minute between the pour and aftermath.

Smell: Caramel malts blended with some biscuit action that remind me of Waffle Huts on ski resorts. I can sense the sugar candy scent of a watermelon flavored Jolly Rancher candy.

Taste: Clearly refreshing and can totally hit the spot on a hot summer day for sure. Watermelon is not overpowering and sweet from what I expected (this is a good thing). No bittering hops to taste which is shocking for me but fits the style.

Mouthfeel: Goes to smooth and bubbly with a light watermelon coating over your tongue that is not overpowering. Aftertaste escapes quickly but isn't pleasing partly due to the wheat style.

Drinkability: Totally not like me to be drinking a wheat beer but hey, I am expanding my pallet damnit! As much as I miss the hops slapping me in my face, for this style, it is a good beer. I might get bored of it after 2-3 but I like this creation and have never seen anything like it. This is my second beer that I have tried from 21st (had IPA before) and looking forward to see what else they make. 4.9% abv and a 8/10 rating

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen

This is the last of the Harpoons in my fridge, one of the more popular brews they put out.

Appearance: A very light golden yellow color and very cloudy, typical for an unfiltered brew. It has about a half finger of slightly lacy head that disappears pretty quickly.

Smell: Lots of different types of fruitiness and spices, some orange, apricot, lemon peel, and other indistinguishable scents.

Taste: A couple of light fruits that are gone in an instant, really leaving you with a bland kind of taste. It goes so quickly that its real tough trying to nail down which of the fruits you can taste, not really impressive. The aftertaste is kind of wheaty, if that makes any sense.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, dry, high carbonation, a little bitterness but no traces of alcohol.

Drinkability: If there is one real positive, its that it is extremely easy to drink and refreshing, which makes it a great summer beer. Beyond this, there isn't much to talk about. The smell is good, but the taste is forgettable. There isn't much else to grab your attention, and even though its 5.1% abv, you might not want to drink more than a couple before you get bored. I do see its appeal as an easy drinking summer beer, so it still gets a 7.5/10 from me, but there are definitely more complex and better hefeweizens out there for those looking to expand their palates.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Weizen glass

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Harpoon Munich Type Dark Beer

Another one from the Harpoon collection that I thought would be interesting to try.

Appearance: Very deep dark color with some amber shades, bubbly finger of head that rests for a while, and lots of carbonation bubbles sitting all along the glass.

Smell: Big contrast from the brown ale I just reviewed, these scents are extremely subtle, a hint of roasted malts and a bit of chocolate. Ah, and a tiny bit of fruit, surprisingly.

Taste: A nice toasted malts that finished with some hints of fruity hop bitterness flavors. As it warms, the chocolate makes its presence felt. Overall, a good blend of flavors for this dunkel style brew.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied, a tiny bit thin, well carbonated for this style, and a little bitter aftertaste.

Drinkability: This is a pretty well balanced beer that has great flavor and is easy to drink at 5.3% abv. After a couple, I would probably move onto something else just to get my hop juices flowing after this malty rich beer. I did enjoy this beer and even more so when it warmed up. A respectable 8.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel tulip

Note: Even though the style has been labeled as a dunkel lager, it is actually brewed with ale yeast, which technically makes it an ale. Thanks to BeerAdvocate for clearing up the confusion.

Harpoon Brown Session Ale

Harpoon is more well known for their Leviathan series and IPA, or so I feel, so I wanted to explore a couple of Harpoon's other brews. This brown ale is one of the next few beers I'll review that my girlfriend dumped on me after her Halloween party. I figured this would be a good way to go through them all.

Appearance: Has a rich brown color, clean and clear, and has a thin layer of head. Also a steady stream of carbonation bubbles rising from the bottom.

Smell: A nice mixture of nutty, caramel, and sweet malts with almost no hoppiness in the scent, pretty typical of other brown ales, but there is some other sweet scent in there that kind of separates it from the rest, I just can't put my finger on it. Maybe a little taste will clear this mystery up.

Taste: Nope, in fact a lot of the malt scents disappear in the flavor, or become muted. There is some nuttiness and some slight caramel sweetness, but without the same intensity from the aroma. Really not as intriguing as the smell would suggest.

Mouthfeel: A little thin and watery, light bodied, a tiny bit of alcohol on the aftertaste, but you have to be searching for it. There is a little bit of a hop bitterness bite as it approaches room temperature.

Drinkability: For transparency, I must admit that brown ales are not my cup of tea. This is a drinkable brew however, at only 4.3% abv you could probably finish off a six pack and be ready for more. There were some really deep aromas that made me a little excited to drink this beer, but it was a little misleading as the taste wasn't a true complement. All in all, a pretty good beer that I wouldn't completely avoid. 7/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Victory Vista Harvest Ale

While on our way to a fantastic wedding in the Downingtown, PA area, Alex, Jimmy and I stopped in for lunch and a few brews at Victory Brewery. First off, if you haven't been and you live even remotely close, I highly recommend it. They had 4 beers on cask and a whole bunch more on tap, along with an awesome menu. Secondly, if you have about half an hour to get to a wedding that's ten minutes away, and its on a busy Saturday both at Victory and on the roads, we don't recommend filling up your growlers. Chances are, you'll have to break a few driving laws in order to make it to the church just before the bride gets out of the limo. Totally unrelated, I have a growler of the Vista Harvest Ale that I would like to review for you all now.

Appearance: This has been sitting in the fridge for a while, but I am still shocked at how much carbonation there still is, with a good couple fingers of head, however it recedes fairly quickly. There is a light golden color, very clean and clear.

Smell: Mmmmm, great grassy, herbal, and floral hop aroma, but that is pretty much it, maybe a little sweetness. Not necessarily a bad thing, it is a very pleasant smelling beer.

Taste: What an interesting mix of flavors, with your grassy and herbal hops and definitely more noticeable yet still light nutty malts. It is as crisp as the appearance suggests, and has good balance for a seemingly lighter brew.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied (more towards light), a tiny bit thin, but a great oiliness texture that coats your mouth, followed by a gentle bitterness aftertaste.

Drinkability: I could drink this all day out on the porch one summer day. It is extremely easy drinking, and even though I don't have an exact abv on this, I have to imagine it falls below 6%. I would rate this comparable to a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but with a little bit cleaner finish and a little bigger bitterness bite. I wish this was released in bottles so I wouldn't have to lug my growler down to Downingtown, but I guess that's what makes it special. Like I said before, if you have the chance to go to Victory, do so, because you will find great stuff you can't get in stores, along with their entire selection of craft brews. For this style, it is very close to being the gold standard, and in my humble opinion, that is not an exaggeration. 9/10

Serving type: Tap/Growler
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sierra Nevada Estate

Unstoppable: Eli Manning is. So is his Sierra Nevada Estate Brewers Harvest Ale, fueled by hops and barley, it never needs a recall, just like the people...who drink it.

Ah yes, the first release of the new Estate Harvest Ale (not to be confused with Chico Estate Wet Hop Harvest), Sierra Nevada's experiment of brewing with completely their own ingredients grown at their brewery in Chico. I've been waiting to get my hands on this ever since I heard of the concept a little while back, since I have been such a huge fan of the other brews in the Harvest lineup. Of course, our friends at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD pull through and had some available.

Appearance: A deep amber color with alive and kicking carbonation that produces greater than a finger of fluffy head, topping off a crisp, clean beer.

Smell: Tremendous hop scent, a combination of citrus, floral, and juicy (a first for me in describing a scent like that, but it does remind me of a juice box smell, in a good way) hops, along with a hint of sweetness from the malts.

Taste: Fantastic taste, resiny and citrus hops with some light biscuit malts as backup, and finishes with that juiciness and fruit taste, very light on the spice, only subtle hints until it warms up, with the hop bitterness giving way to the malts.

Mouthfeel: Oily and resiny, not too thin, perfectly carbonated, which I was afraid of overcarbonation given the amount of head on the pour, light to medium body, almost no alcoholic aftertaste or bite that you might get from an IPA (which it technically is).

Drinkability: Maybe I'm biased towards Sierra Nevada's brews, specifically the Harvest ales, but for a 1st release (technically the Chico Estate used only its own hops, this went a step further) this is a great beer, albeit a tad overpriced. I've heard prices everywhere from $8-$11 for a 24 oz. bottle, which is a little steep in my opinion. If money is no object, you could easily put back a few at only 6.7% abv and still be game for more. I would give this beer a 9+, but I'll have to ding them a bit for the price. 8.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dogfish Head Theobroma

Man, it's been a while since I've done this, but I've been dying to do one. I moved, so maybe my pictures will have different backgrounds now instead of the same monitor/desk/dresser that's usually there. Anyways, on a recent trip to State Line Liquors, Jimmy, Alex, and I went on a spending spree to match all spending sprees, picking up everything from the old standards to the rare and exotic. This one falls more towards the latter in the exotic category with its extensive flavor profile described on the bottle.

Appearance: A light lively golden color with about a half finger to full finger of growing head, a tiny bit opaque.

Smell: Lots of fruity smells, some apricot, citrus, honey, a little pine, barely any sweetness, some spiciness, just a little hint of chili (maybe?)

Taste: Very interesting mixture and timing of the flavors as it starts like a tripel with light citrus, but then a mix of honey and chili coat the tongue on its way down, leaving you with that mellow spice on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: A little watery, but perfectly carbonated for the style I feel. Thin body with not much bite for such a high alcoholic brew.

Drinkability: Easily drinkable at 9% abv, this beer will sneak up on you before you are done with your bomber bottle. The one thing that may slow you down is the chili/spicey aftertaste, it's not completely overpowering, but it lingers and is definitely noticeable. The chili is a good idea to have in the taste, but I feel like I'm missing out on the rest of the possibilities like cocoa that's used. Overall though, it's another inventive brew from one of the most creative breweries in the country that, for the most part, delivers. 7.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel tulip glass

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale

From fellow hophead Ryan:

"Don't know if Jimmy told you, but the Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin ale is legit. In my past dealings with pumpkin ales, I found them to be a nice spicy treat, but with no "real" pumpkin flavor. Not this one. It's brewed with pumpkin puree (HORRAY!), caramel malts, and two varieties of hops. And it comes as advertised. The aroma is like Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, and the taste is a nice (and authentic) pumpkin flavor mixed with cinnamon spice and caramel sweetness (great balance). Also, at 9% there was absolutely NO alcoholic tinge to it, which I found very surprising. Usually, with spiced beers like this, when they get up past 7% they start to have a smell and taste of alcohol. Also, in my tasting (didn't happen for jimmy), as it warmed, the caramel flavor kicked into high gear, and actually overshadowed the pumpkin flavor and spice a bit too much for my liking, giving it an overly sweet taste (which knocked it down a few marks, as I am not a fan of too much sweet). I'd give it a 8.85/10 and definitely want to have another go at it."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

NYC Beer Week is upon us...

...and we couldn't be more pumped! After Ryan's experience with Philly Beer Week (where we will venture to hopefully next year), Jimmy, Alex, and I were inspired to check out NYC's version. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it into the city for more than one day, so we are going on an all day marathon beer week extravaganza, beginning around noon time and ending whenever we get thrown out. Pile on top of that that it's the opening Sunday for the NFL, along with it finally supposed to stop raining here in the tri-state area, and we've got ourselves a nice little day planned.

So follow us on Twitter (@hopheads) for up to the minute news, reviews, ramblings, and drunken pearls of wisdom, as I'm sure they will be flowing as much as the casks and taps allow us.

For beer week information, visit the official NYC Beer Week website here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sierra Nevada Porter

Sierra Nevada is one of the original and classic microbreweries in the USA, so it is safe to say that whatever they make is going to be damn good. After Mike's review of Sierra's Kellerweis and Alex's acknowledgment of the ~20 different Sierra Nevada ales (I did not know over half of them!) on tap at Blind Tiger, NYC about a month ago, I decided on trying a new Sierra Nevada myself. Luckily for me, I did not have to buy this beer one but simply "borrow" it from my father's beer sanctuary.
Appearance: Two fingers of head as a result from a careful pour that appeared watery. However, as it sits in the glass awaiting its fate, it seems quite [midnight/unpermeable]-ish. The head dissipates to a fragile layer after 4 minutes of chillin'.

Smell: Very refreshing that gives you the "ahhhhh!" factor. Caramel and chocolate malts stand out like a stout, but not as bold. Not recognizing the Goldings & Willamette hops used in this creation, but the aroma is pleasantly warming as if you were waking up to a fresh roast of coffee or even a good night desert brownie.

Taste: Goes down smooth and tastes like fancy dark chocolate with extra cacao. Well balanced with a sweet caramel malt finish.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation bite is almost too tingling. Chocolate after bite melts in your mouth and you can actually sense mild hop bitterness on your tongue after awhile (this beer has 40 IBUs Sierra Nevada Porter.

Drinkability: This American Porter beat my expectations and hit the spot as fall is kicking in with 50-60 degree weather already. I am a IPA (make that DOUBLE IPA) drinker year round, but this hit the spot to take a break from the hop slaughter on my body. Coming in at just 5.6% abv, I would have another with no question. Excellent creation! 9/10.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Samuel Adams Imperial White

On a recent trip up to the Thousand Islands with my girlfriend, we stopped at a Wegman's near Syracuse (the same store where I picked up a Cascazilla last year). I picked up a four-pack of the second beer from Sam Adams' Imperial Series to be reviewed here. I love that Sam, considered one of the more mainstream brewing companies, is dabbling into imperial brews. They always seem to be ahead of the curve compared to the other big brewers, which is a great testament to Jim Koch and Bob Cannon, head of the R&D department at the brewery.

Appearance: A dark golden copper color with half a finger of head that doesn't stick around long, a little hazy with a moderate amount of carbonation rising from the bottom.

Smell: Starts with a strong fruity apricot and orange smell, a little hint of spice and a tiny bit of banana, overall a good scent.

Taste: It's almost a reversal of the smell as the spiciness really takes the forefront and overpowers any of the fruity flavors, which don't emerge until the final moments of the sip and in the aftertaste, citrus flavors on the finish to try and balance out the huge alcoholic bite.

Mouthfeel: Definitely a full-bodied witbier that begins creamy but ends with a dry coating and the alcoholic bite I mentioned earlier, smooth and not too heavy.

Drinkability: I think the goal of Jim & Co. was to go for a big, bold witbier, with bold being the key word. To me, it seems like they took your generic wheat ale, said damn the torpedos, full fruit/spice/alcohol ahead, and waited to see what they got. Each ingredient made its presence felt, but there was no subtlety, no chemistry and balance between them. On top of this, you definitely know you are drinking a 10.3% abv brew, making it a chore/deathwish if you want to polish off a four pack in an evening. Overall, a noble attempt by our friends in Beantown, but not one of my favorites from the imperial series, let alone from their entire offering. 7/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Witbier glass

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen

Alex and I made a stop at Shangy's in PA and picked up a case of this beauty and Founders Double Trouble. We were stoked to see both of these cases and decided to split them between the two of us. After enjoying most of the case in one afternoon between us, we found it only appropriate that we do a collaboration review of this newly released, highly anticipated brew.

Appearance: Pours a golden cloudy yellow/orange with about a finger of fluffy head, sticks to the glass.

Smell: A strong orange/fruitiness and some lemon zest with a hint of spicy esters, along with a natural yeast scent.

Taste: Banana and clove flavors as the label would suggest, along with the lemon zest that we smelled, and the subtle spiciness that doesn't overpower this wonderful combination of flavors.

Mouthfeel: We have two complete opposite interpretations of mouthfeel; Alex feels that the unfiltered nature of this open fermentation brew gives it a thick quality but not overpowering, however I feel that it is pretty light despite it being unfiltered. We both can agree that there is zero alcohol aftertaste, providing us with a smooth summer drinking experience.

Drinkability: A perfect summer session brew, we could drink this all day (and did), and at 4.8% abv, have the ability to move on to the heavier stuff once the sun goes down. We could not be happier with Sierra Nevada's continued inventiveness, and love that they are moving that creativity to their new year-round brews like this hefe and the Torpedo Extra IPA. We give it an 8/10.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

21st Amendment IPA

Micro beer in a can? Yes sirree! Gone are the days where the only way to drink a can, such as Natty Light, is by shotgunning. My first quality craft bib in a can was from the talented Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado (I have had their Dale's Pale Ale, GORDON!, Ten Fidy & Old Chub). This time, I had my eyes set on trying something new for me: 21st Amendment Brewery - IPA. Picked up a six pack at Whole Foods, Paramus, NJ for $9.99 before tax.

Appearnce: Cloudy peach amber that poured a fat finger of head into my tulip glass. The miniature carbonation bubbles are having quite a party that I am about to crash.

Smell: Knock knock. Whose there? 7. 7 Who? 70 IBUs screaming up your nostrils! Piney hops followed by faint caramel malt breeze.

Taste: Impressive creation that is well balanced between the crisp, bitter piney hops and sweet malt finish.

Mouthfeel: A hair bit over carbonated but it goes down quite smooth with the medium-light body. There is an alcoholic bite bringing up the caboose of the drink.
Drinkability: Strange finding, but I prefer this beer cold, even though I get more flavors and answers as it warms up into proper IPA drinking temperature. It makes love with our liver at 7.0% abv and I would definitely have more than one in a night (or day). 8.5/10 hophead rating for me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama drinks Bud Light!

As a conservative, I will digress from the political comments. But I just wanted you to imagine how sweet it would be if our president was into micro brews! Example news headline: "Barry Obama looking like he was slapped in the face with a sack of hops after drinking a Dreadnaught IPA." Anyways, cheers fellow craft beer followers and have a handy dandy summer weekend.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flying Fish Exit 4

Ok, I don't know how many people outside of New Jersey have heard of the latest "controversy" with Flying Fish's Exit series, but here's an article to bring you up to speed. Basically, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) feel that naming your brews after Turnpike exits is promoting drinking and driving. Regardless of yours or mine personal feelings whether they are right or wrong, Flying Fish gets some free press and promotion out of it. Hell, it certainly caught my attention enough to where I saw it at Whole Foods and decided to pick up the Exit 4.

Appearance: A cloudy golden yellow color with plenty of head, this brew dances its bubbles wildly from bottom of the glass to the top, plenty of action and very inviting.

Smell: A light herbal and flowery hop smell, similar to Cascade hops, and a tinge of spice and citrus, like a twist of lemon and orange zest, almost no malt scent, but it might be there on the taste.

Taste: A decent amount of spices and some sweetness, which finishes with a little citrus and almost like ground pepper (?), the taste definitely sticks around and plays with your tastebuds for a while before relinquishing its grip.

Mouthfeel: Pretty crisp smooth feel, plenty of carbonation, and a little alcohol kick, your typical well-brewed trippel, not chewy obviously, maybe a tinge of watery.

Drinkability: If you happen to be one of the few who frequent this site often, you know my love for exploring the Belgians. I give high praise to the usual kings and really dump on those that put up a poor effort. Luckily, this brew has done my state proud, as it is a well crafted trippel that is surprisingly easy to drink at 9.7% abv. You will want to keep drinking more as the beer continues to get better the closer it gets towards room temperature, and its not too heavy or overpowering to make you head for the hills. A respectable 8.5/10 for this Jersey beauty, and I look forward to trying the Exit 11 from the guys at Flying Fish in the near future.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel tulip glass

Friday, July 24, 2009

Schlafly Reserve Barleywine-Style Ale (2007)

Jimbo got this brew as a Christmas gift this past year, and has been trying like hell to fight off the temptation to drink it while it was aging, but six months was all he could manage. Of course, he needed reinforcements for this bad boy because, well, we all know the testicular fortitude of James.

A very cloudy thick brew with very little head, a deep luscious amber brown color, similar to the color of the sap that the mosquitoes were trapped in in Jurassic Park, but we digress...

Smell: A basket full of fruits, grapes, peaches, raspberries, and a little bit of honey, the smell doesn't suggest heavy "I'm going to hang you by your balls" barleywine, it almost reminds us of the fruity ice and sweet wines, very subtle hints of oaky nuttiness, but you really need to search for it, almost no hop scent, very surprising for a barleywine.

Taste: OAK!!!!!!! Holy crap, that's where it was hiding. As we took our first sips, we stared at each other and simultaneously said, in our best Keanu Reeves impersonations, "Woah, oak." We have completely different smell and tastes because that ice wine fruity scent has disappeared from the taste. Some spiciness, but the oak flavors just take over any hop bitterness that could be there.

Mouthfeel: A big deep beer with a dry finish, definitely a sipping beer, well carbonated for the style, aftertaste finishes you off with a faint alcoholic tingle, our tastebuds are starting to become overpowered the more we drink it, and the dry oak taste leaves you wanting some water.

Drinkability: Even though it says its ready to drink when its bought, we would recommend aging it a year or two longer. Jimmy aged it over 6 months and we still feel it has a long way to go before all the flavors and bites mellow. At 10.2% abv, you definitely wouldn't want more than one to end your night. Compared to other barleywines, aged or not, this one ranks pretty low, especially with its ready to drink claim. We give it a 6.5/10.

Glass type(s): Duvel and Chimay glasses
Serving type: Bottle (1pt. 9.4 fl. oz.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stone Thirteenth Anniversary Ale

Superb artistic label and a June 2009 date made me purchase this ale without hesitation at Whole Foods in Paramus, NJ this past Friday. The bomber cost $7.99 before tax but I could not resist the temptation to what Greg Koch and his crew had in store for us this anniversary after last years exquisite 12th anniversary bitter chocolate oatmeal stout.

Appearance: Thick vampire desiring blood red with shades of mahogany as you hold it up to the light. Constant rise of carbonation bublets that concludes with a delicate lacing of head atop.

Smell: Caramel richly sweet malts that masks the dank resiny smell of hops attempting to be the boss of this ale at "90+ IBUs" (

Taste: Like the smell, caramel sweetooth taste. However, more hops are present for this red ale; particularly spicy pine with a hint of alcohol at the finish

Mouthfeel: Rich and succulent throughout every deep sip I take. Goes down smooth for me with my favorite hop bitter tongue tantalizing afterbite :)

Drinkability: I was not in awe with this brew at first, but as the ale warmed up from the frigid temperature of the beer refridgerator, I started to get a microbeer hardon. This was well balanced between the overpowering hops that I go ga-ga for and the sweet spicy malts. I give this a 9/10...pick it up now while it is fresh!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Great Divide Hercule Double IPA

Man oh man, am I glad I didn't see the review for this beer here yet, because I've been wanting an excuse to drink one of these since I picked up the four pack a little while ago. If there is a review of this already, then big whoop, you're getting two perspectives then. We had this all star out of a keg for Jimmy's birthday/Hophead reunion and it was spectacular, but as you can imagine, none of us were in any condition to write something up or even remember specifics.

Appearance: Pours to a dark amber color that's clear and alive, very inviting, along with two fingers of light creamy head with great retention.

Smell: An explosion of smells with heavy floral and herbal hops and a hint of sweet and bready malts, absolutely perfect combo.

Taste: Wow, almost as good as on tap, it starts with a heavy caramel and sweet malt flavor, then comes in with an almost barleywine style of hop bitterness, grassy and herbal for sure.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, not watery, perfectly carbonated and full bodied, so it doesn't taste too syrpuy despite great malt presence, a decent bite and alcohol aftertaste which makes this brew border on a barleywine.

Drinkability: At our gathering in June, we were able to drink this like water at the end of the night since we were probably a little drunk off of the Brutal Bitter, however, at 10% abv you should be careful when drinking more than a couple in a night. Luckily the alcoholic bite might be able to remind you to take this one easy. I absolutely love this beer and highly recommend it if you are up for a great DIPA. 9.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Friday, July 17, 2009

Long Trail Brewmaster Series Double IPA

I was impressed with the Rockart Vermonster last week so I decided to pick up another VT level 4 type beer, once again at the ever so popular Whole Foods in Paramus, NJ. What caught my attention to purchase this bomber were the phrases "A taste of Vermont" and of course "Double IPA" on the label. [Side note: I am on a mission to drink every single Double/Imperial IPA out in the micro USA beer economy].

Appearance: Is this really a double IPA? It literally pours a clear golden yellow stream of Miller Light piss. Lackluster looks, 2 fingers of head after a careful pour and it appears clear upon initial glance, but I can actually see some unfilteration going on.

Smell: Is my nose stuffy or not working? Very faint whiffs of Chardonnay with hints of lemon zest. No malt presence but I am detecting minor floral honeysuckle hops.

Taste: Sweet droplets of fancy grade A type honey and the bitterness definitely comes out from its hiding place. The IBU presence reminds me of biting into the rind or the inner skin of a grapefruit.

Mouthfeel: Looks clear, smells bland but it actually has some chewy body to it; definitely more than meets the bare eye. Kind of a minor unpleasant aftertaste as the ale digests; reminds me in a ways (no where near as bad!) of a warm natty light aftertaste.

Drinkability: Smooth as my skin was when I was a baby. I would say this is more of a mellow India Pale Ale than a Double, even though it is clocking in at 8.6% abv. My heritage lies withing my favorite east coast, but those west coast hop bombs just trump my coast and make them look like the NY Mets!!! 6/10 for me (this was like a government regulated DIPA, but I kind of liked the laid back stoner character to it....)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rock Art Vermonster

I picked this bomber bottle up at the mighty Whole Foods in Parmus, NJ about a month ago for $5.99 pre-tax. Fellow hophead Alex the Vredhead had this bottle on his kitchen counter for display, so I must have it of course. Side note: my taste buds might be off as I had 4 glasses of Avery Hog Heaven off tap from growlers before hand.

Appearance: Scary movie dark ruby red with a finger of head at the pour. Doesn't look inviting at all, but dark, stormy and cloudy like a horror movie.

Smell: Intense and predominant roasty malt backbone that blends with ease from the grassy VT hop character. Smell is pleasantly homewarming; I want to keep coming back for some more.

Taste: Reminds me of a stout in a ways but not as bitter/coffee/chocolate tinge that I am used to. Not overpowering as the barleywine style suggests, but definitely up there with a rich well-balanced blend of hops and malts

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, well carbonated and just made you feel full afterwards. Other than that, thick, dark and stormy = I am going to be hurting in the morning.

Drinkability: 10%abv with 100IBUs from the stoner state of Vermont = very impressive. This beer is BIG!!! I like it lots, debating whether to age another bomber???? 9/10

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ommegang Hennepin

I've seen this beaut staring me in the face in the beer store the last few times I've gone; I would pick it up, browse a little more, and find something else that I really wanted and put this one back. Today I took a stand and made sure that I hung onto it no matter what else I picked up, which is good because I picked up a 4 pack of Hercules, so I walked away one happy Hophead from the Beverage Barn.

Appearance: That was the most violent cork coming off of a beer I've ever seen! Anyways, pours with an energetic opaque golden color, with the opaqueness coming from the yeast and sediments aplenty throughout the brew, and has waaaay too much lacey head, so I will update later on a second pour for a more accurate reading.

Smell: Some light fruits, tiny citrus, and some herbal scents, no real maltiness or sweetness to come by, pretty subtle smell.

Taste: A good fruit/spiciness mix and a tiny sweet/bitter aftertaste that you really have to look for to get it, simple yet subtle, and done very well.

Mouthfeel: Typical Belgian carbonation, a little warmth to let you know the alcohol is present, but not a burning sensation, light, smooth, and not watery.

Drinkability: Wow, for something that's 7.7% abv, it's almost as drinkable as a session beer. This might just be me and my afinity to Belgians, but I could drink this all night long. I have also been meaning to try more Saisons the more I read about their roots in brewing these bad boys in farmhouses and open areas to gather some of the country aromas and even some natural yeasts as well. Looking back at my review, I didn't really write a lot describing the beer, but there really isn't much else to say. However, that's a testament to it's greatness in that sometimes brewers try to overcomplicate their brews and fail, yet some brewers know just the right combination of a few ingredients will give you perfection. 9.5/10

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Duvel glass

Monday, July 6, 2009

Southern Tier Gemini

Sorry for the delayed review, but like I said, packing for the July 4th weekend took temporary precedence Thursday night. Fear not, fellow beer nuts, for I present to you Gemini, Southern Tier's creation from 50% unfiltered Hoppe and 50% Unearthly. I believe someone here has reviewed the Unearthly, but not too sure about the Hoppe.

Appearance: Pours with a slightly cloudy golden color with a finger and a half of head, whose retention is very good.

Smell: Great earthy, herbal, and floral hop overtones that have a slight background of citrus, also present are some lighter malt scents, almost reminding me of a combo wheat/Belgian, all of this done to perfection.

Taste: Unfortunately, the taste does not live up to the smell, it seems like there is too much going on to really get good identifiable flavors in there. Don't get me wrong, its quite good, but the smell sets such a high standard that it can't be matched. The hops that seemed to team up well before now just seem to mash together to give you one big bitterness bite, although the wheat style malts I mentioned earlier do complement this well.

Mouthfeel: Perfectly carbonated, not too heavy or thick, and relatively smooth for an unfiltered ale, a tinge of alcohol aftertaste reminds you its an imperial.

Drinkability: When I read the label and saw 10.5% abv, I was shocked at how easy it is to drink, which can be credited to the wheat malt flavor balancing act described before. You probably don't want to dirnk more than one bomber in a night, but it won't knock you out for the count (that's what the barleywine is for). I know it seems like I was harsh on the taste, but the smell gave me such high hopes that this brew could reach the 9.5 or even 10 point threshold that of course I would be let down when it didn't live up to it. Still, it is a very good brew with a good concept, which still gets an 8.5/10 in my book.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

*Side note: I hope one of the other Hopheads posts some pics from the epicness that was Jimmy's birthday and our attempt to kill the Brutal Bitter and Herc in a weekend. Good times...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Beer, Please, and a (Good) Menu

So I know the major slackage coming from the Hayes camp has reached a boiling point of absurdity, but I came across a great article in the New York Times "The Pour" by Eric Asimov. The article elaborates on the difficulty of balancing great beer with equally great food at beer bars in New York. Alex's favorite, Blind Tiger, is mentioned in the text as being a "great beer bar" not only because of the beer, but because of the food as well.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest (2009)

Harvest time is my favorite time of year. So when Sierra Nevada came out with the Southern Hemisphere last year, it just doubled my excitement. I've been looking forward to the 2nd release this year because I'm sure the brewmaster learned a ton after the first edition and knew where the improvements were needed. When I saw it in the beer store today, I was ready to buy the whole supply, unfortunately my wallet said otherwise. Combine this find with the fact that I feel like I half assed the Firecrotch review last night, and that we are celebrating fellow Hophead Jimmy's birthday this weekend with a Hophead reunion, I had the itch to review this bad ass fresh hop ale tonight.

Appearance: Pours with a clean light amber color with a couple fingers of head with plenty of carbonation being released from the receptors in the Sam Adams glass, great lacy head.

Smell: Great strong floral, herbal and resiny hop smell along with a nutty caramel malt scent, great balance.

Taste: Wow, tour de force of flavors! The light nutty caramel taste starts you off, then the hop bitterness and floral flavors finish you. In last years release, I remember the hops being more subtle, leaving you craving for more, but this year just comes at you hard. Much improved!

Mouthfeel: The usual oily residue from the fresh hop ales coat your tongue while the light carbonation that's left tickles the roof, light but not watery, a little more alcohol aftertaste than the previous release.

Drinkability: The 2nd release of the Southern Hemisphere did not disappoint, despite my high expectations. This beer is so smooth and easy to drink, yet has such a great flavor profile that you won't go bored. At 6.7% abv, it's no lightweight, but is still easy to drink and won't weigh you down. I don't even have to think hard over this rating, I'm giving it a 9/10.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Firecrotch Red Ale

I mentioned it in a previous review that I had brewed a red ale when bottling the special ale Jimbo and I made, but I never got to write a full review of it. I kept putting it off, but now it's ready, so I might as well combine the brewing and tasting posts into one.

I wanted to make a red ale that had some bite to it, so I took the "Mr. Beer" recipe and put my own twist to it. The original calls for just using the Bewitched Red Ale HME and Mellow Amber UME, but I wanted to boost the alcohol content from 4.6% to 6%, so I used the last packet of Booster I had left. Also, I added an ounce of Cascade hop pellets, which I boiled for ten minutes, which according to some calculations should put the IBUs around 50. This brew sat in the fermenter for 15 days and sat in the bottle for 2-3 weeks. Let's see how it turned out.

Appearance: A dark amber red that is pretty clear, extremely bubbly and alive, with a ton of head, I might have to start cutting down on the amount of sugar I put in during carbonation, even though I'm putting in the recommended amount.

Smell: Hops, hops, and more hops, this brew has a strong floral hop smell, along with hints of sweet malts in the background, and a tinge of caramel.

Taste: Wow, that's good stuff right there, great hop bitterness and flavor, not overpowering the usual red ale malt flavor, but enough bite to really satisfy most hopheads (except for maybe Jimmy, but I have to remind him its not a super duper ultra DIPA aged in Cascade hop barrels).

Mouthfeel: Light but not watery, a little tickle from the carbonation, relatively smooth, a tiny bit of alcohol aftertaste.

Drinkability: This is the brew I had wanted to make since I started a couple months ago, and it couldn't have come out any better. It is easy to drink, even at around 6% abv the alcoholic taste isn't strong, and the balance of hops make this an easy winner in the red ale category. There are a few tweaks I would make to it, maybe use a different secondary unhopped malt to add some more sweetness, add some finishing hops to create a more complex scent, and use less sugar during carbonation. Overall, I give it a 7.5/10.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager (2009)

I haven't done a beer review that wasn't a beer of mine in quite some time, added with the fact that I haven't visited my back up beer store River Vale Liquors since it moved to its fancy new location, and you get a review of the six pack of Summerfest I picked up this afternoon. I've had this beer a couple times if I remember correctly, and wanted to give it a proper review.

Pours a clean, clear golden yellow with about a finger of head with plenty of carbonation rising to the top as it settles, looks crisp and refreshing.

Smell: A very clean earthy and floral smell with a tinge of sweetness, all the smells are very subtle, which allows them to get their fair share of the spotlight.

Taste: A nice mellow sweetness with very tiny spots of floral hops, this taste is almost an exact opposite of its smell counterpart, well balanced, I think the brewmaster was going for a light refreshing summer brew that didn't want you to cut off your tongue on a hot summer's day, and he nailed it.

Mouthfeel: Light, smooth, a little thin and watery, but the carbonation gives it some feel, almost no alcohol aftertaste.

Drinkability: This beer should be a staple in every guy's summer cooler, right next to the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. If you go into drinking this beer with no more expectation than to find a light session lager that is easy to drink at 5% abv and not too heavy on the taste, it is perfect for its style. However, other than starting off your night with a few or bring a six pack while golfing, there really isn't much left to it. I give it a respectable 7.5/10, compared to other lagers of this style.

Glass type: Sam Adams glass
Serving type: Bottle

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly IPA

Be not mistaken by the label but this is not just a typical India Pale Ale, it is an IMPERIAL! My favorite style shows up unexpectedly, or should I say unearthly? The shimmer and shine of this bomber caught my attention at Ramsey Liquors here in the dirty Jerz. The price of $8.99 almost deflected my heart away from this ale, but the hop wearing a crown on the label was like love at first site. Let us see what the brewers from Lakewood, NY created in this limited release imperial.

Appearance: Pours a 1/2 pink finger of head that dissipates to a thin cover after it settles for a minute (as if you were skiing/snowboarding down the mountain and you come up to a patch of snow with dusting on top and then you realize it is a major ice spot and panic, leading to a monster yard sale wipe out). That comparison is basically how I feel right now, scared but anxious to try it. You can attempt to see through your glass but you will end up squinting due to the faint hop cloudiness. This goldenrod-brown-orange-yellow-ish ale is secretly alive as you watch the micro carbonation bubbles gasp for air at the top of the glass.

Smell: Intense wafts of vanilla bean from the "[oak aged]-ness" character that masks all else. Hazel-nutty malts and spicy/perfume-y hops (although my hop sense might be off from the overpowering vanilla bourbon tasting barrel. Reminds of smell of an Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing.

Taste: Butterscotch candy that has been spiked with alcohol melting in your mouth. Can taste the bitterness of the hops finally...over-ripened pineapple in combination with floral hops. Vanilla sweet malts leading the charge as the smell still, but not as overpowering as in the Smell category.

Mouthfeel: Goes down smooth as velvet, but that alcohol after bite stings as you let the beer mellow in your mouth and even has an unpleasant alcoholic taste minutes after you take a sip. I feel like eating on pretzels and/or beer nuts, or wait GOLDFISH! to act as a palette cleanser. As it warms up to room temperature, the not pleasing aftertaste isn't as dreadful...reminds me of a sweety malty red ale finish.

Drinkability: Overall this beer is diffult to consume for me, as I slayed this bomber in an hour approximately. Not the hopgasm I expected for a DIPA. My experience with the oak aged beers has been borderline kindergarten (my favorite is oak aged yeti from Great Divide), but for me it ruined this beer. I would keep the Oak Aged style to stouts in particular, but then again, I need to gain experience points with this style before I can make that judgement call. It was definitely worth a try buying this for educating my beer brain, but I don't see myself getting it again (fell hophead Ryan had this on tap in Philly I was it?) 6/10 for me. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the high octane beer (north of 10%abv), but I don't like when I clearly taste booze as I felt was the case with this ale: vanilla mellow sweet booze.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jimmy & Mike's Special Ale

Holy crap, alert the media! We are blogging again after going through a period of just Twittering when we drank at bars, took shots off of girls, and took dumps in our favorite shitters. I think it's only appropriate that the first post should be of the newly finished collaboration ale between myself and Jimmy. I have other posts lined up, but I wanted to do this one first.

A very dark amber/brown color that is crisp and clear, however, the lacey head created by the pour looked at first like it would be creamy, TONS of head, so much so that after I took the picture it almost started to overflow, I have to keep drinking the head a few times to avoid spillage, this brew looks sooo much better than the crappy pale ale I made in the first batch.

Smell: A deep sweet caramel and nut malt fragrance greets the nose on the first sniff, as I go in for a second whiff searching for some hops, I am left empty handed and slightly disappointed.

Taste: Wow, that was better than I expected, with almost no hop scent and flavor I was wondering if the malts would be too dominant, but the sweetness is just perfect, the aftertaste is nothing noticeable and/or detracting from the beer, which is all we could have hoped for, and even on a positive note, there's that slight bitterness we were hoping for as it warms up!

Mouthfeel: Well carbonated, light and smooth, but surprisingly not watery, a pretty unique combination that is making it difficult in how to classify this brew.

Drinkability: The more I drink this beer, the more I enjoy it, which is a good sign in the drinkability department. Based on our calculations, this brew should have just about 7% alcohol, but you would never know from having one. Prior to bottling, it did have a little alcohol sting, but that has mellowed out nicely after two weeks in the bottle. With the combination of sweetness, light mouthfeel, and low alcohol taste, I think this could be a great session beer for craft brew drinkers. In fact, I kind of wished we had brewed more than 2 gallons, maybe we might have to make a second batch of this recipe with some slight modifications. I'm going to give it a 7/10, which we should be very proud of. The real test will be to see what the other Hopheads think, and possibly others.

Side Brewing Notes: There are many things to learn from this batch that we/I couldn't have learned from the first batch that was a sad excuse for a pale ale. First, we need to plan our brews out better, including ingredients, calculations, etc., which is something I took with me when brewing the red ale (which I will discuss in a later post). Second, don't overthink what you are doing, and by that I mean why did we expect this beer to have any sort of hop presence when we added three different types of powerful malts and only added a 1/2 oz. of Cascade hops that we barely got to boil thanks to overflowing pots (essentially finishing hops). Lastly, we need to hone in on the carbonation, either by using less yeast during fermentation meaning less viable yeast left during bottling, or by adding less sugar. I had a bunch more things to say, but if/when I remember, I'll add a little update. Otherwise, job well done from our first batch together.

Serving type: Bottle
Glass type: Sam Adams glass

Rogue Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale

As I was walking through Ramsey Liquors, I noticed this Rogue bomber bottle that my eyes have never laid sight upon with a price tag of $6.49 on it. And it was Rogue, so I definitely needed to try what John "more hop" Maier created at 80 IBUs :). Was this an IPA I asked myself? Who cares, it has hops and it is new so I HAVE to try.

Appearance: Not as red as expected due to the cloudiness. Reminds me of a copper brown ale. Head retention leaves a stranded 1/2 finger island that I can only dream of being stranded on.

Smell: Refreshingly sweet malts with a faint musty pistachio aroma. Where are the 80 IBUs of Cascade and Amarillo hops waiting to enlighten my senses? Completely hiding if you ask me except for a tad of spicy hop aroma.

Taste: Built well and balanced for an American Amber/Red Ale that Beeradvocate classifies it at. Starting to taste the hops but the sweet malt character drifts you away.

Mouthfeel: This is where the hops come into full effect as you let the ale wander with a distinguishable pleasant bitter aftertaste that makes you crave even more. Noticing a stout like character in terms of the sweet toasty finish as well.

Drinkability: I would have another for sure at only 6.2% abv. Rogue classifies this as an India Red Ale (primarily due to the aggressive hopping I bet), which I think fits this style well as this is an Adult red/amber ale to me. Kind of wish I had this with my beef stew dinner instead of late night aperitif as the character of this ale is definitely worth trying. 8.5/10. Oh, this reminds me very much of Rogue's American Amber Ale, less the meticulously loving hoppy mouthfeel fest.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Port Brewing Midnight Sessions Lager

Shout out goes to fellow hophead Master Ryan Splinter for providing me with this bomber bottle of lager. He bought a quatro mix case of bombers from Port Brewing at The Beer Yard in Wayne, PA (legit store). I traded a Moylan's Hopsickle for this bottle. Lets get this review going!

Appearance: Barely any head as I pour. It is dark as the Black Hole as I try look through the glass as if it was a telescope. However, when I was pouring it, it appeared watery and not as thick as a stout.

Smell: Wow! Powerful and heart warming burnt chocolate aromas serenade my nostrils. Malts galore (chocolate, smokey, caramelly) and I am liking it a lot, despite my passion for sleeping with hops everyday. Interesting wafts of cardamond, nutty flavored coffee and burnt fig. Can't get my nose to pick out one smell!

Taste: It is as if I am biting into a roasty espresso bean. I wonder if the coffee flavor is from some dank earthy hops, or if this beer is strictly malts?

Mouthfeel: Watery. If this was warmer, I would mistake it for a medium bodied coffee straight black, without leaving you with that nasty coffee breath (instead lovely beer breath :) ).

Drinkability: This was the second beer of my cycle for tonight (had IPA first). Despite the darkness, I would drink it early on in the cycle since it only hits your at 5.0% abv. And I would really like to drink another bomber in all honestly. This was extremely good. It is my first beer of this style so I will give it a 9/10. I need to learn more about the style of Schwarzbier's (style taken from the wonderful Beeradvocate). Cheers!!