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