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.