Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beer Reveiew: Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

Wow. This was a unique gift. I have never seen this before. I am a huge fan of espresso. I believe it to be the most flavorful and quality form of coffee. That combined with a stout should be a match made only by the beer gods. Pours a deep dark brown color that looks amazing coming out of the bottle. The head is solid and looks very inviting with it's brown tint. Aroma is all espresso. If I was closer to an alcoholic than I am this would be my breakfast.

Flavor is delicious. I had no idea a beer this rich could come from Japan. I enjoy a good Sapporo now and then but this is far beyond the yellow lagers. The malt is deeply roasted and the espresso flavor works very well with it. Providing a smoothness that I am surprised to experience. I don't know how this doesn't overwhelm my taste buds with a sharp bitterness but it is light and creamy in the mouth.

This is a great ale. At 7.5% ABV this doesn't pull any punches either. I will certainly pick up more of this if I find it. Anyone who like black coffee (or espresso) will love this. The combination of dark roasted barley malt, espresso, alcohol, and smoothness will keep me coming back. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Final Score: 94% (Rich, Smooth, and Unique. My Favorite Japanese Beer.)

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Celebration Ale

Finally got around to reviewing the celebration. I have seen it everywhere but never bought it. It definitely was not what I was expecting. Fortunately that is a good thing. I expected this to be standard holiday spiced ale with cinnamon and allspice and instead I found a wonderfully hoppy IPA style beer. I am not 100 percent certain that this is an IPA but it has more malt and more hops than a pale ale so in my book that is an IPA. The celebration pours a rich amber color with an astounding head that can only be produced by masterful hopping. Aroma is rich with hoppy goodness. Some sharp cascade hops.

Flavor is Sierra Nevada at their best. This brewery makes arguably the world's best pale ale and that skill is not lost on this IPA. There is no shortage of hops here. The bitterness is through the roof. While, the malt is bulked up a bit (6.8% ABV) I still wish there was a bit more.
I enjoy one-sided beers but this should lean a little more toward hop aroma and flavor rather than the large amount of bitterness. It's just very abrasive on the tongue.

Overall, this is a great seasonal release. I would recommend this to anyone who doesn't think there is such a thing as enough hops. Malt lovers should not seek this out. Where Sierra's pale ale is classic for it's rich balanced hoppiness this falls a little short for lacking the kind of malt needed to counteract the tongue blistering bite of the hop flower. A great beer, but not without it's flaws.

Final Score: 85% (Very Bitter and Hoppy, Needs More Malt.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beer Review: Old Speckled Hen

Morland Brewing Company Old Speckled Hen English Fine Ale

I have no idea what to expect from this. An English pale ale in a clear bottle. I really hate clear bottles but I will not judge until I try it. Pours a light amber color with lots of lacing and a robust head. Very creamy aroma if that makes any sense.

Flavor is as I expected a bit skunky. Clear bottles almost always mean skunky. Despite the skunky flavor this still has some good stuff going on. The amber malt provides a smokey bread-like flavor that is balanced by the strong hop presence. Very bitter hoppy aftertaste. Not much in the way of hop aroma but the bitterness is very pronounced. The bitterness combined with the skunkyness is very powerful. This combination really ruins any chance at true balance.

This would be an excellent ale if it was in an amber bottle. Since Morland has been brewing since 1711 they really should know better. If this was available in cans and the price was right I would certainly pick this up on occasion. This would be excellent if you like Heineken, Becks, or Stella but it really won't cut it if you don't want a less abrasive clean flavored ale. I just can't excuse a flaw like this.

Final Score: 69% (Skunky but Otherwise Solid Malt Character. Stop the Clear.)

Beer Review: Saranac ESB

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Extra Special Bitter Ale

Another Saranac limited winter release. This is one of my favorite styles as it tend to be balanced and drinkable. You get a little bit of everything. Pours a dark amber color with a creamy head that sticks around for a couple minutes. Aroma is very fleeting with a little bit of lightly roasted malt coming through.

Flavor is nearly identical to the pale ale that Saranac produces. This leans a bit more on the malty side though. Still very noticeable hops however. This is very refreshing and drinkable. This is one that I could enjoy year round. I would really like to drink this next to the pale ale and compare the two styles. Most of the ESBs that I have had have a sort of apple crispness to them that this doesn't have. I really miss that.

This is a solid ale and a decent addition to the winter releases but it really doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from the flagship pale ale. This is very mediocre for the style. This is essentially a lightly roasted balanced hoppy ale. Nothing more and nothing less. This will not wow you but it can hit the spot. I am forced to give this a very average score.

Final Score: 74% (Average and Forgettable. I Expected More.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Beer Review: Trader Joe's Vintage Ale

Unibroue Brewing Company Trader Joe's 2008 Vintage Dark Ale on Lees

This is a great Christmas present. Doesn't get much better than a dark Belgian Dubble that is bottle conditioned. This is my first taste of a Trader Joe's offering and I am excited. I can't imagine what my 12 year old self would have said if he (I?) was told that a great Christmas present would involve beer. Little would he know that beer would dig its way into my brain and motivate many of the actions that followed. This even comes with a loud pop when you uncork it. What is better for the holidays than that? This ale pours a smooth somewhat dark brown color with a magnificent head. Lacing all around. Aroma is loaded with that distinct Belgian spiciness that only comes from that magical yeast.

Flavor is exactly as I wanted it to be. The yeast offers up most of the flavor. I get lots of banana and spiciness. The rich brown malt provides a sweet balance to the strong yeast presence. While it doesn't have a strong taste, the alcohol is definitely in full force. My buzz will attest to that. If the hops are in there they got punched out. The spice and malt are in prime condition and won't halt for the citrusy green goodness that is the hop.

Rest assured that this beer will not disappoint if you like any Belgian ales. They say it ages well but I will never find out something like that. A bottle this good won't last more than a week. This is a great offering by Trader Joe's (via Unibroue) and I will definitely look forward to more from them. If you see this pick it up. At least cellar it for a special occasion. If I have steered you wrong you know where to throw the coal. Merry Christmas to all!

Final Score: 95% (Deep, Dark, and Spicy. Delicious Dubble Ale.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Beer Review: William Penn Lager

Commonwealth Brewing Company William Penn Colonial Style Lager

I picked this up on whim. I had a craving for an easy drinking lager and took a chance with this. It also helped that I have never seen this beer anywhere so I jumped at the opportunity. Pours a medium copper color, similar to a marzen beer. They describe it as a colonial style lager but from all the accounts I have read colonial beers were terrible. Should I expect a terrible lager?

Flavor is very rich in amber malt. Hops are noticeable but really dominated by the strong malt flavor. A bit of sour tang going on also. This is kind of like a Yuengling but with more malt. Fairly easy drinking but I don't think I would want more than two at a time. This is fairly clean but it feels like it is missing something. I suppose this would fall into the Vienna style lager category but I would much rather have a Sam Adams or a Brooklyn lager over this. It just doesn't have the hops to back up the increased malt flavor.

This is an OK beer but it really could use some improvement. I wish the hops were fresher and used in a larger quantity. They should either lighten up the malt or increase the hops. Lagers need balance and this one only has one leg to stand on.

Final Score: 68% (Not the Commonwealth's Finest)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beer Review: Victory Prima Pils

Victory Brewing Company Prima Pilsner Lager

Continuing in my drinking summer beers in between rich winter beers condition (nothing wrong with variety). I decided to pick up a six pack of the Victory pilsner. I would also like to congratulate Victory on being named the number 3 All-Time Top Brewery in the on Planet Earth by Beer Advocate magazine. Quite an honor. Beer Advocate is also an excellent magazine for those who want to learn more about beer. Though I would still say the best way to know beer is to brew it, second best is to (of course) drink it. Doing both often makes a good lifestyle. The bottle has a best by date of February 09. The prima pilsner pours a light golden color with a decent head that sticks around for a while. Not much in the way of lacing. Very sharp hop aroma probably because of the whole flower hops used. I gotta start growing hops. Hard to beat a fresh, aromatic hop.

Taste is classic pilsner. Very sharp hop bite. Tastes like Saaz hops to me. The malt is very soft spoken but it shouldn't be too rich in this style. Pennsylvania water seems damn good for beer. Though Jersey is no slouch, we produce some great beers as well. This is such a spicy hoppy beer. Really dances around the tongue. The aftertaste is a bit bitter but I don't mind. It would be strange if a beer like this didn't have a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

The great flavor combined with the relatively low price makes this beer one of the best pilsners you can buy. Anyone who wants an easy drinking, hoppy beer will be pleased with this. The most similar one to this is the Stout's Pils. That had less of a hop bite with a larger malt backbone. Less true to the style. I really don't like giving out too many 90%+ scores but I can't rate this any lower than it deserves. I feel confident saying this is as good as pilsners get.

Final Score: 94% (Fantastic Hoppy Pilsner. Good Year Round.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beer Review: Brooklyner Weisse

Brooklyn Brewing Company Brooklyner Weisse Ale

Finally got around to trying this one. Even though this is actually brewed in upstate New York it still feels like I am supporting local brewers. This definitely isn't the season for a wheat beer but I just had a craving for some unfiltered goodness. Damn the rules. Maybe it's my Bavarian ancestors. I have no idea why they left if this was a daily occurrence. I have yet to brew a wheat beer that I really enjoy. I just don't know what I am doing wrong. Maybe if I drink enough of these I will figure it out. That usually works... Anyway, aroma is actually very sour smelling, kinda like a wheat malt brewed with wild yeast. Though I doubt they would use that if they wanted the kind of quality control you need to be a successful commercial brewer. The weiss beer is cloudy as expected and the head is actually pretty good for a lightly hopped beer. Moving on to the taste.

Flavor is classic hefeweizen. Loads of banana and clove yeast flavor. Mostly clove. This fits perfectly for the style. Though there really isn't anything unique going on here flavor-wise. This is exactly what you would expect going into a hefeweizen. No more and not a bit less. It hit the spot but I wouldn't be fair if I gave it too high of a score. It would be just above the bell curve if this were a test. I don't really taste any hops but I don't want to when I drink these.

In the end, this is a beer that will give you what you want. As long as you don't expect to be blown away. If you find a wheat beer that is cheaper I would try it. Most likely it's just as good as this. Unless you are talking about Dundee's failed wheat beer. Makes sense that this is brewed in Utica. This is pretty much identical to the Saranac Hefeweizen. Must be in the water. I'd love to do a side by side comparison sometime.

Final Score: 77% (A Solid Hefe, But Nothing Special)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beer Review: Saranac India Brown Ale

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac India Brown Ale

Another of the new beers in the 12 beers of winter mix pack. This style was much needed in the winter pack. Last year's release had few hoppy beers. Hopefully this will fill the void. This one pours an amber color with a short lived head that leaves a very small amount of lacing. Aroma is interesting, it reminds me of the pumpkin ale they released a few months back. Just with less spiciness.

Flavor is not what I expected. The malt is a bit disappointing. It has a very weak presence and is dominated by the hops. Normally I would like this but the hops are really just bitter. There isn't much in the way of flavor or aroma from them. I would have expected this to be the most robust and flavorful of all the new releases but it really just leaves you wanting something else. I don't think the malt blends at all with this kind of hopping.

I definitely wouldn't buy a six pack of this were it stand alone. This isn't a horrible beer by any means, its just disappointing and lackluster. Their India pale ale is much better. They should have called this India amber ale. There just isn't much that's brown about this.

Final Score: 69% (Disappointing. Malt and Hops are Weak.)

Beer Review: Clipper CIty Peg Leg

Clipper City Brewing Company Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Another brew in the Heavy Seas line from Clipper City. I love a good imperial stout. They work excellently with the December chill. This one pours a dark brown as expected with a solid head. Doesn't get too high but really sticks around as a low level. Aroma is very much chocolate and alcohol. You will be hard pressed to find a more inviting aroma.

Flavor is extremely chocolaty. This is the most drinkable imperial stout that I have yet to encounter. This still has the alcoholic bite and rich roasted malt goodness of an imperial stout yet is somehow easy to drink. Sipping is recommended but not required. The hops are also here in more force than normal for a stout. I really like this. Its an attempt at balance for a beer that thrives on being extremely one sided and decadent. The crazy part is they actually succeed.

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a big beer and wants to experience a balanced brew. This is a great effort from Clipper City and one that I will seek out in the future. I've had imperial stouts with more alcohol but this just seems right. Enough to pack a punch but still goes down easy. I never thought balance could be brought to this style. Turns out I was wrong.

Final Score: 94% (A Balanced,Way Above Average Imperial Stout)

I would definitely consider buying a six pack of these. They are big beers that go down easy. An extremely hard task to pull off.

Beer Review: Climax Cream Ale

Climax Brewing Company Cream Ale

Time for another Jersey review. This time the year round cream ale by the extremely talented Dave Hoffmann of Climax Brewing. This is an interesting beer style with characteristics that will range heavily from brewery to brewery. Dave described this to me as basically a pale ale that was called a cream ale to stand out next to the popular IPA. Makes sense to me. It would be a rare day that I go for a pale ale over an IPA. I am a sucker for the hops. This pours a slightly cloudy straw golden color with some lacing and a decent head. Aroma is crisp ale and hop with a little bit of alcohol that seems to be unique to Climax beers.

Flavor is surprisingly hoppy. Very grassy. Less floral and citrusy than a standard pale ale. This is not anything related to Genessee Cream Ale. I just learned that a cream ale is an ale that is brewed somewhat similarly to a lager and usually incorporates lager yeast at some point. Kind of like the opposite of a steam beer. This is a very easy drinking ale. This is very balanced and would definitely be on my list of repeat beers. If you are looking for something that is malty you will probably want to look elsewhere but hop fans will be happy with this brew.

This is a nice, easy going ale that should definitely be tried at least once. Climax produces the some of the best beer that I have encountered. Support them. I would be very surprised if anyone was disappointed with this beer.

Final Score: 89% (Heads and Shoulders Above Most Cream Ales)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Beer Review: Brooklyn Black Chocolate

Brooklyn Brewing Company Black Chocolate Stout Ale

Finally sat down to review this gem. This is my favorite Brooklyn release so far and one I almost always go for when I see it. Also happens to be their biggest beer (even bigger than the Monster Ale). This is from the Winter 08-09 vintage. Pours as dark as they come with a small controlled head. Lacing is not stopped by the high 10% ABV. This is a true imperial stout. No bullshit going on here. This has the balls to compete with the big boys of winter. Aroma is of chocolate and alcohol. A winning combo if there ever was one.

Flavor is extremely rich for even an imperial stout. This is a sipping beer. Even if it comes in the standard six-pack. Beer pong with some black chocolate equals trouble. The alcohol is very noticeable. Has a cooling effect on the tongue as it evaporates. Very pleasant. The chocolate malt is extremely rich as well. Not as much coffee or caramel flavors. Just deep dark chocolate. There are some bittering hops here but you really won't notice or pay too much attention. Hop heads seek elsewhere.

Overall, this is a great imperial stout. One of the best. The price certainly can't be beat at under 10 dollars for a six pack. This is a winter classic and one I wish I got a case of. A beer like this could age well. If you see this pick it up and try it. This is a beer that will warm and satisfy your taste. Those of the faint palate need not apply.

Final Score: 95% (Big Beer. Big Taste. Affordable Price.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beer Reivew: Clipper City Loose Cannon

Clipper City Brewing Company Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

This is my first review for the Clipper City Brewing Company. They are still pretty hard to find here in northern New Jersey but I am glad to get to try what I can. This is part of the Heavy Seas line that they released to cater to the fans of big beer. This beer is touted as being "a hop shot across the bow!" with 3 lbs of hops per barrel. That is impressive to me, I usually don't add any more than a pound. Very good aroma, sweet and caramelly with some hop spiciness. The head is a bit lackluster. Goes away after a minute or two. I expected more retention from a beer this hoppy. They definitely bumped up the malt to compete with the hops which I like. A sign of a true big beer.

The flavor is surprisingly sweet. This to me tastes like they went light on the bittering hops and used the three pounds for flavor and aroma. The result is a sweet hoppy beer that doesn't overpower in any way. The 7.25% ABV will creep up on you though. The flavor really hides the potency very well. I do find myself missing some of the bitterness that seems to be left out.

This is a good IPA but it isn't one I would go to often. I do however think it is a good addition to the heavy seas lineup and serves to round out the malty collection. The sweet malty hop flavor is very nice but I would find myself seeking an IPA elsewhere.

Final Score: 73% (Unusual for an IPA. Still Average.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beer Review: Saranac Vanilla Stout

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Vanilla Stout Ale

A new 12 beers of winter! I am happy to be able to try the latest Saranac offerings. The old ones will be missed but I always have room in my heart for new beers. Pours a dark mahogany color with a pretty good head. Sticks around for a while. Aroma is definitely of vanilla and roasted malt. No hops in the aroma. Lets see how it tastes.

This is a decent beer. The vanilla flavor is there and it's not as dominant as I was afraid it would be. It works well with the dark roasted malt flavor. I do wish it was a little fresher tasting. This just feels like it is missing something. This is an OK stout but this can't compete with the Caramel Porter that they released in the last 12 beers of winter. The stout just doesn't excel in any area. They went a bit overboard with the bittering hops. The bitterness completely overwhelms the vanilla flavor.

I just feel underwhelmed. This is fairly drinkable but this isn't something I would get a six pack of. Definitely different from a standard stout but this probably won't amaze you. I'd like to try this one on draft and see how it fares. If you want a lot of vanilla flavor or a warming stout seek elsewhere.

Final Score: 72% (Disappointing. Needs Improvement.)

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Harvest

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Harvest Wet Hop Ale

This is one that I am glad I found. Very hard to find a real wet hop ale so I quickly snatched a bottle of this. The bottle has a description of the amazing effort involved with harvesting these hops and quickly adding them into the kettle. The pour alone is amazing. Rich amber color with the most amazing head I have ever seen. Towers over the beer and really sticks around. Its still there 15 minutes later. Lacing all the way up the glass. Almost like a wall of foam. Aroma is eqaully great. Extremely rich pine and floral hop notes that really overwhelm.

Despite the great aroma and apperance the flavor is even better. This is like drinking hops. The hops are defintiely in the driver's seat but this still manages to be well balanced and drinkable. I will choose this over your standard IPA any day. This is a delight to the senses. This might be the beer to make an army of hop heads. The malt is still there though. Just the right amount of caramelly sweetness to balance this out. If I get the opportunity I will be picking up a case of this. A rare release this good needs to be stocked up on.

If you like hops this is a beer you must try. I wonder if it is even possible to get more hop flavor in here. The flavor is still ridiculously clean. I need to figure out how I can get my own wet hops. I may have to start a garden. This is just amazing. I don't want to overhype any beer but I feel that this won't disappoint. Sierra Nevada sets the bar really high with this release.

Final Score: 95% (Hop Perfection. Amazing.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beer Review: Lord Chesterfield Ale

D.G. Yuengling & Son Lord Chesterfield Ale

I believe this is my first Yuengling review. Very surprising. I remember having this about a year ago and being very disappointed. I decided to pick up a single and give it a second try. Singles are good for second chances. This is the only ale brewed by Yuengling and named after Philp Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. No idea why they decided to name this after him. Aroma is very skunky with a bit of corn malt. Not a good sign. I really want breweries to stop using these damn green bottles. I want to avoid all skunky flavors. I am willing to pay the extra 50 cents a six pack (if its even that much).

Flavor is surprisingly bland for an ale. Even though I remember being disappointed before I was still surprised by how unremarkable this is. This may be Yuengling's hoppiest beer but it that apparently doesn't say much. I definitely taste the bittering and flavor hops but it really leaves you wanting more. The malt flavor is very bland. You can really tell when a brewery uses corn to add to the body. I would describe this as a skunkier version of their traditional lager. There is nothing ale-like about this.

I really do enjoy most of the Yuengling offerings. They are some of the best value beers out there. I advise you to stick with the Yuengling porter or the traditional lager. They are worlds better than this. Steer clear of lord chesterfield. You won't end up with what you want, regardless of what you are looking for.

Final Score: 61% (Skunky, Disappointing, and Bland.)

Beer Review: Ramstein Classic Wheat

High Point Wheat Beer Company Ramstein Classic Wheat Beer

Continuing in the efforts of supporting local breweries I picked up this bottle of wheat beer brewed in Butler, NJ. I can say that I've never had a beer like this before. I've had dark wheat beers but never one that tasted anything like this. Pours a very dark amber color similar to a porter or stout with a very brief head (could have been a poorly cleaned glass). Aroma is very clean, all I get is smooth wheat. Almost smells like a small bakery.

I went into this thinking I would end up with a wheat bock of sorts. Flavor is not at all what I expected. The roasted wheat malt really comes through strong. Very delicious. Has an apple-like acidic bite as well. If you baked wheat bread with apples and blackened it a bit you might get an idea of what this tastes like. This is incredibly easy to drink for such a dark beer. The esters produced by this ale fermentation really add some layers of complexity. As it warms the fruity clove flavors really come through. I don't get a strong hop flavor but I usually can't detect much in dark or wheat beers. They aren't missed.

It is nice to see a brewery focus on one continent in the large world of beer. I am looking forward to more of these in the future as well as trying their other offerings. I'd love to see their take on the traditional hefeweizen style. If you see this you should definitely pick it up. I still have yet to have a Bavarian beer on location but this has to be pretty damn close. This is a joy for your pallet as well as your brain. Great job High Point!

Final Score: 94% (Happy Tongue. Dark Wheat Beer.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beer Review: Brooklyn Oktoberfest

Brooklyn Brewing Company Oktoberfest Lager

Yet another Brooklyn review. They are one of my favorite breweries and I always like to support the local guys. Even if all of their bottles come from Utica. I had a party about a month ago and got a 1/6 keg of this to serve along with the hoppy River Horse Hop Hazard. Went over very well, these malty Oktoberfest beers are definitely one of the best style for sessioning and partying. This has the classic appearance down perfectly. Dark amber color with a brief head. Aroma is really malty, almost like bread.

Taste is very rich yet drinkable. You get hit first with that malty richness that does a great job of hiding the slight alcohol bite that follows. Hops are there but really just for bittering and they stay in the background most of the time. How does this stand up to other Oktoberfest beers? I would say this is better than most of the Oktoberfest beers that I have had. Definitely beats Sam Adams, Saranac, and Becks. Though I think it's still not up to Climax quality. I will say this on draft is hard to beat though. The bottled version loses some of the fresh malt flavor.

If you are able to get this and haven't yet I recommend trying it. This is about as good as this style of beer gets unless you go to a smaller microbrewery that can really deliver that great fresh beer flavor. The hopping and the malt flavors are pretty much dead on. This is another great offering from the wonderful borough of Brooklyn.

Final Score: 93% (Will Hit The Spot. A Great "Go To" Oktoberfest.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beer Review: Brooklyn Brown Ale

Brooklyn Brewing Company Brown Ale

Finally got a single of the Brooklyn Brown Ale. I've been wanting to try this for a while. I love a solid brown ale and Brooklyn has never disappointed. Pours a dark mahogany red with a decent sized head. Maybe an half an inch that recedes to a ring around the outside of the glass. Aroma is of pure chocolate spiced with hops. Very inviting.

The flavor is very chocolaty. Many browns skimp on the chocolate but this really delivers. Coffee flavors are there too but more muted in this than the typical brown. This reminds me of the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, just with less malt. The hopping is also great. The spicy floral hop flavor really balances the malt nicely.

This is one of the best Brown Ales I have ever had. This is such a wonderfully balanced beer. I can't think of a single thing to improve on this. Mr. Oliver didn't skimp on anything. This is easy drinking, chocolaty, hoppy, and satisfying. I really wish I had more than a single bottle now. I think this beer just earned a great score.

Final Score: 91% (As Good as a Brown Gets. Delicious.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Beer Review: Blue Moon

Blue Moon Brewing Company Belgian White Ale

This is the most common white ale in the United States. Blue Moon can thank it's availability to being owned by the powerful Coors Brewing Company. I have really enjoyed all of the Blue Moon offerings I have had so far and this one is no exception. Appearance is a light golden color with the characteristic cloudy yeast goodness of unfiltered beer. I wish more beers were unfiltered. It's good for you and just looks cool. Aroma is slightly sour with some definite citrus going on.

Flavor is dead on for the style. I don't think this needs a slice of orange. Really solid citrus and coriander flavors with the complexity of the wheat malt. You will definitely notice the spicing but it's not overwhelming. The hops are not really noticeable but this style generally doesn't use more than a tiny bit of hops. Unless you are a huge hop head you won't miss them.

If you've never had a white ale or a Belgian beer this is a great place to start. While this style is generally more popular on warmer days I enjoy a lighter ale to change things up in the winter. Spiced stouts and porters can get repetitive. This is by no means my favorite style but it can hit the spot now and then. A good go to beer at bars that don't have a huge selection.

Final Score: 75% (Refreshing, Different, and Available)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beer Review: Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas Brewing Company India Pale Ale

After that blueberry ale I think it is time for a beer that reminds you why you enjoy beer. A beer that is about the union of malt and hops. A beer that shows the innovation of the west coast and the hops they love. This IPA pours a surprisingly light copper color with a short lived head. I was worried until I got some aroma. Pure floral and citrus goodness.

Flavor is very nice. The hops flavor really comes out immediately charging your tongue while the malt flavor soothes out the sharp flavor. Classic west coast IPA. My only criticism lies with the malt. I taste a cereal like flavor in it. I am not sure of the cause but it does distract and take away from the hoppy flavor.

This is a good IPA but it isn't a masterpiece. They nailed the hop flavor and aroma but the malt still needs some improvement. I wonder if the light color is related. Either way you will get your hop fix from this. A cleaner, richer malt would have made this a world class IPA. The hop addition needs no fiddling. Definitely worth a shot if you are craving an aggressively hopped ale.

Final Score: 81% (Hop Flavor Is Great. Cereal Malt Flavor Is Annoying.)

Beer Review: Wild Blue Lager

Blue Dawg Brewing Company Wild Blue Lager

There is one tip off sign that should have told me that this beer would be different. The fact that this "beer" is called a blueberry lager but also referred to as a flavored ale on the side of the bottle. Correct me if I am wrong but as I understand it both can't be true. An ale is top fermented while a lager is bottom fermented. Maybe ale is just some antiquated way of describing that the alcohol content is above average. At 8% ABV you can't blame the alcohol for your lack of a good time. Just the flavor. As you can see in the picture above, this pours a very purple blueberry color with a short lived blueberry looking head. Aroma reeks of blueberries.

Flavor is just blueberry and alcohol. If this didn't say lager on the bottle I would have no idea this was even a beer. I get absolutely no malt or hops. Just fruit. Usually, a fruit beer can hit the spot if it is done with discretion and the beer flavor is in balance with the small amount of fruit flavor. There is no attempt at balance here. Pure berry alcoholic flavor. I really wish I didn't have a whole six pack of this.

This would make a great beer for someone who doesn't like beer. I don't really see the market for this since people who don't like beer won't buy this. People who like and want beer won't like this. This may be the worst "beer" I have ever had. Even other horrible beers at least bear some resemblance to the elixir of the gods. Let's get rid of the "may be". This is my least favorite beer. I can't even drink this. I don't recommend this to anyone. If you just want to get drunk try malt liquor or vodka. They are both cheaper and leave you less frustrated.

Final Score: 20% (Horrible Overbearing Fruit Flavor. No Beer Here.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stop Hiding!

Is anyone else getting annoyed by Anheuser-Busch's attempts at disguising their own brews? A-B is attempting to tap into the craft beer market by producing their own versions of popular styles (Sun Dog, Beach Bum Blonde, Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale, and Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale). I would have no problem with this if they were clearly marking the bottles as being produced by A-B. From a business standpoint I understand the desire to hide the fact that the beer is being produced by the same people who brought us Bud Light, but it really rubs me the wrong way.

When I do find this out (and I always examine bottles for hidden information) I feel deceived. I personally like that A-B is producing better beer and I am always interested to see how their offerings stand up to the craft beer giants (Boston Beer, Dogfish Head, Matt Brewing, etc.). There will always be those who will refuse to ever try anything from A-B because they are the big guys. Some unfulfilled desire to be rebellious and fight the man. I don't like to judge a book by it's cover. I have been guilty of it before but I have really started to open my mind and accept that every beer has it's place and time.

That being said, it really bothers me when I try a bottle of beer that is produced by what seems to be a ghost company. Like the Blue Dawg Brewing company's Wild Blue Blueberry Lager (review to follow). Correct me if I am wrong but this company is really just Anheuser Busch. The Blue Dawg brewing company makes only this lager and doesn't actually exist. "Blue Dawg" is A-B using a different name to conceal who actually created this beer. I enjoyed Budweiser American ale and I urge A-B to start taking some pride in what they do and clearly indicate what brews they put on the shelves. If they want to improve the perception of their name, they will have to make a strong effort to show what they can do and make sure they get the credit for it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beer Review: Sam Adams Cream Stout

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Cream Stout Ale

I think it's fitting that I am reviewing this directly after the holiday porter. They are cousins but one is stronger and darker than the last. My final review for this year's winter classics mix pack. I don't get too much of an aroma from this but I may have waited too long. The appearance is about as dark as beer comes, some lighter brown on the outside of the glass but very dark overall. Head is caramel colored and lacing shows up strong.

Flavor is definitely deeper than the holiday porter. You really get down into the chocolate and coffee with this brew. Dark roasted goodness. This doesn't come free though. The price you pay is decreased drinkability and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The rich roasted flavor will fill you up very fast. Great flavor but this beer forces you to take the slow sipping approach.

This beer doesn't have any serious flaws. The increase in flavor causes a decrease in drinkability. It really comes down to your personal preference. If you want to down a couple of dark beers you may have to look elsewhere. I just find that after I have one, I don't want another. You will have a hard time finding a richer or more flavorful stout.

Final Score: 85% (Deep Flavor, Low Drinkabilty)

Beer Review: Sam Adams Holiday Porter

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Holiday Porter Ale

Another seasonal offering from the Sam Adams winter classics mix pack. I am very mixed about porters at times. I generally find them to be much smoother than stouts but I just don't crave them very often. I am glad they used English hops in this brew. Not only is that more authentic but to me it seems to add smoothness to dark roasted brews. The porter pours a deep black color with a caramel colored head. Lots of lacing too. Aroma is hard to describe. I want to say smooth milk chocolate but it just sounds weird. Very pleasant though.

Flavor is very surprising. While I'll admit that I haven't had more porters in my relatively short craft beer drinking career than I can count on my hand, this is one of the best. The holiday porter is extremely drinkable in a way that even great lagers aren't while still providing roasted chocolate flavors. This is a way to get the best of both worlds. I didn't expect very much from this but the quality was a nice surprise. I don't know why they don't offer this year round. The roasted flavors are primarily a creamy milk chocolate with some light coffee mixed in. There is no bitter aftertaste, which I normally expect with such a dark beer style.

This is a great porter. If you like porters you would do well to pick up the mix pack and try this out. I can't find much to improve on this besides the malt character. The chocolate flavor is there but really not as upfront or as strong as you might desire. It's light in your mouth, has some good roasted flavor, and goes down very easity with no bitter aftertaste. This is an excellently executed beer and I will certainly consider getting more of these packs just to indulge.

Final Score: 86% (Boston Does England Proud)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic

This is a very unique offering. Its not everyday that I get the chance to try a lambic. Mark from Must Love Beer gave me the suggestion of pairing this with turkey on Thanksgiving. That is something I must do. I will save at least one of these for that magical day where dinner happens all day. This is a beer I had been very curious about. I've had some authentic Belgian lambic imports and I wanted to know how Boston stacked up. This beer is also interesting because of the choice of fruit. Usually, fruit lambic beers utilize sweeter fruits (apple, raspberry, cherry, etc.) while this uses the juice of tart cranberries. Pours a cranberry copper-red color with an average head. Aroma definitely of cranberry and that characteristic sour lambic malt smell.

Flavor is surprisingly authentic. The sour malt tastes exactly as it should be, tart and crisp. The cranberry flavor really comes through. You don't have to do any digging to find it. I think they must have used sweetened cranberry juice as there is a sweetness to this beer that couldn't have come from cranberries and sour mash alone. This is very balanced but it is lacking some of the sharp flavor that you can get from a lambic of the Lindemans quality. The sweetened cranberries don't have the kind of clean flavor that this brew needs.

Even with it's flaws this is still a good beer. Not explosion of flavor good, but it is fairly authentic and a nice departure from the hop and malt variety. I am glad this is included in the winter variety pack and I would even consider buying this in sixes if available. Don't expect to be blown away but this is enjoyable.

Final Score: 82% (Tasty, but Lacks Depth and Refined Flavor)

Beer Review: Heineken Light

Heineken Brouwerijen Heineken Light Lager

A friend of mine left some of these over after my Halloween party and I felt this was a good chance to review another light beer. Though, I will be honest and say that I have an idea of where this one is going before I even try it. Pours a light golden color with a decent sized head, aroma of sweet skunky malt, no noticeable hop background.

How is the flavor? There is some malt flavor that comes through but it's very skunky and doesn't really have anything complex to offer. Same kind of malt flavor in a standard light lager but with added skunk flavor. I can't really taste any hops besides the ones used for bittering. I honestly expected very little from this but I was still disappointed. I thought this would at least go down easy. The skunky old vegetable flavor is very unpleasant and I just wish they would brew this correctly. No skunking and good hopping to provide quality flavor and aroma.

One important question comes to mind. Is this beer better than a Bud or Coors Light? My answer would be no. While this brew does have more flavor, the flavor it does have I find to be unpleasant. Just reminds me of all the things I don't like about light euro lagers. I would rather have a Bud light that has less flavor but is far more refreshing. I don't even get refreshment from this. I can't believe I am going to say this but I would prefer a Milwaukee's Best Light over this. That's a bad sign.

Final Score: 40% (Bad Flavor, Poor Drinkablity, and Generally Boring)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beer Review: South Hampton IPA

South Hampton Publick House India Pale Ale

More Long Island suds. Gotta get them while I can. The back of the bottle goes into a history of the Publick House and the notables that used to frequent it flowing into a discussion of the India Pale Ale and it's balanced quality. I have mixed feelings about a balanced IPA. On most beers I really appreciate this quality but having grown fond of the pacific northwest aggressive hopping style I have a hard time viewing anything else as an IPA. When I go for an IPA I generally want to be overwhelmed with hops. Otherwise, I will go for a pale ale. Pours a rich copper color with a solid head. Aroma of sweet malt and some hop citrus smells.

Flavor is indeed what it promises. Very balanced and drinkable. The rich malt shines through being countered expertly with the hop flavor and bitterness. I appreciate it for what it is but I personally prefer my IPAs to be unbalanced. I want load of hops so that I get my fix. Don't get me wrong, this is a great IPA, it's just not the style of IPA that I prefer. Many will love this beer.

While it may seem like from my review that this beer doesn't have adequate hopping, this isn't the case. The hops flavors are always with you throughout your glass, they just aren't of the excessive quality that I like. If you are a fan of the more balanced European style IPA this is a wonderful beer for you to try. But if you went out seeking more hops than your tongue can handle, you will be dissapointed.

Final Score: 84% (Very Good and Masterfully Balanced, Just Not My Style of IPA)

Beer Review: Fosters Special Bitter

. Fosters Australia Ltd. Fosters Special Bitter Premium Ale

This is my first Fosters beer. I had heard that the lager was just like any other macro lager and didn't really live up to the 90's hype that hit America. I saw that they had this giant can (25.4 oz) of special bitter ale and I had to give it a shot. I don't get too many chances to try this kind of ale and I wanted to see what Fosters take on this was. Pours a caramel amber color (makes sense since they add caramel color to the beer) with a white head. Some lacing all around the glass.

Flavor is fairly nice. I am not sure what the alcohol content is but they certainly don't do a good job of hiding whatever it is. I get that tongue cooling evaporation feeling during each sip along with a slight green apple taste that I find in many ESBs. This really isn't that bitter, I get a slight hop background used only for bitterness but no real hop aroma or flavor. This is a step up from your standard macro lager but it doesn't take it to a whole new level. This is on par with a Yuengling quality.

Overall, this is a very drinkable light ESB. Not the most flavorful or complex brew but it is fairly true to the style and at a very modest price. I would definitely consider getting this again if the craving hits me. I want to try their lager now just to see how that holds up. Give this a try if you are on a budget and want to try something that has some flavor. This would make a good intro to the style.

Final Score: 72% (Some Flavor and Style Points but Not Anywhere Near the Best)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beer Reivew: Becks Oktoberfest

Brauerei Beck & Co. Becks Oktoberfest Lager

I was very skeptical about purchasing this after being burned so strongly by Beck's light. I mustered up the courage and decided that it was only a brief commitment and that it can't be any worse than premiere light. They still use the damn green bottles. I was tricked into thinking it was amber from the beer color. Bastards. Pours an amber marzen color with a head that sticks around for a good period of time. Aroma is of sweet Munich malt with a hint of crystal. Kinda like sweet buttered bread. So far it looks the part.

Flavor was surprisingly nice. Nothing too amazing but the malt flavor really comes though. It has that sweet full character with a hint of roasting that comes from the crystal/Munich combo. The hopping leaves something to be desired. While not critical for this style it is required for greatness. The area where this beer really delivers is in drinkability. Goes down ridiculously smooth and I feel like I could drink the entire six-pack without thinking twice.

The drinkability and malt flavor make this brew pretty much dead on for the style. This won't be the best Oktoberfest you'll ever have but it is good and will certainly work in a pinch. I would like to compare this to Beck's dark and see where they differ. I have yet to try that. As far as I have experienced Americans ironically brew the best Oktoberfest beer. If they had hopped better this could have been world class. As it stands right now it's no better than average.

Final Score: 75% (Very Drinkable but Lacks Hop Background and Complexity)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beer Review: Guinness Extra Stout

Guinness Brewing Company Guinness Extra Stout Ale

One of the select few offerings from Arthur Guinness’s brewing company and a relative of one of the very first beers that got me into the world of craft beer. This is one of the quintessential Irish beers. This stout pours a deep dark black with a caramel colored head that sticks around for long enough. Aroma of alcohol and roasted malt goodness. All things to expect when drinking a strong stout.

Flavor is surprisingly smooth. I get caramel upfront followed by some cocoa and then a background of black coffee. Very tasty stuff. You can definitely notice the alcohol but not in a bad way. It serves to cool the palate and breakup the roast party. This also has a bitterness that I can’t quite nail down. If I had to guess I would say lactic acid but that could be way off. The bitterness keeps you awake and your tongue active while the other ingredients slowly go in and out of focus. Coffee aftertaste stays with you for a long time. I would like to try this blended with coffee and ice.

This is a real Irish classic and stands tall as an example of a great stout. I will certainly get this again in the future. It would be fun to have this side by side with the Guinness draught and see what differences can be found. If you have a hankering for something dark and bold, this will not disappoint.
Final Score: 83% (Smooth, Roasted, and Complex)

Beer Review: Stoudts Gold Lager

Stoudts Brewing Company Munich Helles Gold Lager

My first Stoudts review, about fucking time. A great PA brewery that offers some selections that aren't the standard fare. I love a good Helles. I used to think of it as a summer only beer but I have been finding myself with a craving year round. A beer like this is very impressive when done well because it has so little to cover up flaws. Even a light pilsener has stronger hopping. This has a balanced combo of hops and malt where both flavors a very noticable. This seems to be very hard to come by in such a pale beer. Pours a golden yellow color with a nice head. Some lacing with a honey malty aroma. Not sure where the honey came from but I like it.

Flavor is very good. Some malty sweetness balanced by earthy, grassy hop goodness and more than a hint of honey. They didn't use any honey but I view this as a nice yeast product. This is a very flavorful and surprisingly complex beer. Very drinkable yet deep enough to relax and enjoy. This is one of the most deliciously balanced beers out there.

I really enjoy this beer. The amount of flavor and aroma I am getting out of this pale malt is very surprising. I would love to get my hands on this yeast. I am thrilled that this is available year round. This may not be the best Helles I have had but it certainly is a great go to beer. I applaud Stoudts for attempting and succeeding at making such a difficult and hard to sell beer.
Final Score: 87% (Very Good Bright Beer, Balanced, Delicious, and Light)

Beer Review: Oaked Arragant Bastard Ale

Stone Brewing Company Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

This is something that I looked forward to. I was already a big fan of the original arrogant bastard and if the oak added anything it could only add to near perfection. My experience with oaked beers is limited but this one definitely didn't hide it's wood. Pours a mahogeny amber color with a standard head. Aroma is of sweet oak. Very unique and appealing. Oak may be the trendy thing to add to beer but lets see if it tastes up to par.

Flavor is nearly shocking. The oaking is the first thing I taste followed by the hop bitterness and flavor. This tastes good but may have swung toward the unbalanced end of the spectrum. The malt character is very much dominated by the oak. Only a shadow of the rich caramelly malt goodness remains. This is still a delicious beer but it's drinkability and matlyness have been sacrificed in the name of trend.

While still a big and flavorful beer I really prefer the original unoaked bastard. I have not lost all hope for oaking goodness because it does provide an alternative and more possibilities. This is a beer for someone who can't get enough bitter. The strong hopping and oak flavor really tip the scales over to the bitter side. Some malt gets through, just not enough for greatness. I would really like to have them side by side.

Final Score: 90% (Very Good, But a Shadow of Unoaked Greatness)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beer Review: Heineken Lager

Heineken USA Brewing Company Heineken Lager

This is Holland’s most famous lager. This is also one of the most available European lagers in America. Pours a very light golden color with a very short lived head. Slight hop aroma with a very clean malt background. This green bottle crap is really annoying. I know they do the skunking on purpose because most American’s think this is the taste of a superior European beer but it drives me insane. I wish they would sell the non-export amber bottles in America. I am not a fan of skunking. I can hold my own beer up to the light if I want defects.

The flavor is very clean. Almost no malt flavor followed by a sharp citrus hop flavor. The hopping is very nice with enough bitterness to balance the malt and some flavor to please hops fans. It’s just not enough. This needs real malt character with either some crystal malt or some Munich malt. Those would really add some punch.

This is a classic example of a skunked Euro-lager. I can’t tell the difference between this and Becks besides the brewing location. If Heineken wants to improve on this beer they need to prevent skunking and add more malt character. It is amazing that they charge as much as they do for this.

Final Score: 62% (Boring and Skunky, Not Worth the Money)

Beer Review: Colt 45

Hurricane Brewing Company Colt 45 Malt Liquor

Ah, the classic. The only malt liquor good enough to get you laid. Billy Dee approved. Pours a piss yellow color with a sudsy head that sticks around for only a short couple of minutes. Aroma is that classic cereal/rice beer aroma classic to many macro lagers. You know it’s going to be cheap if it’s served in a clear glass bottle. This is the most surefire way of spoiling a beer while saving a couple bucks.

Flavor is much more robust than I expected. You can definitely taste the alcohol on this one. The malt flavor is present as a sweet corn flavor that isn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. A little bit of a metallic flavor going on here too. Overall, this has a lot more flavor than a Budweiser but it lacks any real hop flavor or bitterness to balance out the malt and alcohol. Very one sided.

Considering this is usually drunk just to get you trashed I think this is a great success. This is high on drinkability and alcohol. If they included some hops it could have been a decent beer. For a 40 oz malt liquor drink this is near the top of my list. For any other beer this just doesn’t cut it.

Final Score: 65% (Good for a Buzz, But Not Much Else)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beer Review: Faxe Lager

Faxe Brewery Danish Lager

This is one giant can of beer. At 32 ounces this stands out on a shelf in a very big way. Pours a golden yellow color with a very robust head. Some lacing here too. Aroma is of slight pale malt. Not too much of a smell. Looks and smells like a nice lager. Nothing too extreme.

Flavor is very nice. It is very light on the hops, more like an American light lager in character. It has a very unique flavor that is hard to describe. I would say it has a slightly sweet buttery metallic taste. This adds a bit of depth to the beer and allows it to distance itself from a standard bland light lager.

This is nothing amazing by any means but it is a nice drink. Very refreshing and drinkable which is necessary because of the can size. This maybe a little above average for a lager but considering how bland they can get that doesn't mean much. This is definitely worth a shot if you want a lighter beer that has a unique taste.

Final Score: 74% (Good, but Nothing Amazing Here)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beer Review: River Horse Belgian Freeze

River Horse Brewing Company Belgian Freeze Winter Ale

Ah, the winter seasonals. Gotta enjoy them while they last. Pours a very dark amber color with a very thick head that sticks around for a while. Aroma is of quality fresh hops and strong Belgian yeast. I get some smoky Belgian yeast flavors. Definitely unique. Few winter beers dare to go into the rich and experimental territory of the Belgian freeze.

Flavor is solid Belgian. There is no substitute for quality Belgian ale and this one doesn't substitute. The smoky flavor is very distracting however. Tastes good but could be much more clean.

This is a good, readily available Belgian ale. I just wish it wasn't so smoky. If it was a bit smoother and hoppier I would be a very happy man. You won't hate this beer but you will miss the beer that this could have been. Smoke just isn't enough.

Final Score: 81% (Average Belgian Ale. Too Much Smoke)

Beer Review: Brooklyn Lager

Brooklyn Brewing Company Brooklyn Lager

This is a classic. After the tour of their brewery I had to have a taste of the flagship product. Pours exactly as seen in the above picture. Just with more hops than you can see. Head is strong and holds the line against the forces of weak thin evil heads. I definitely get some hops in the aroma. Citrus you tease me.

Flavor is exactly as a flagship balanced lager should be. The malt and the hops both shine. The rich amber malt shows it's presence and delivers the slightly roasted caramel flavor while allowing the very citrusy hops to shine though. No matter what you are looking for the flavor of this will not disappoint. Very drinkable yet deep. That rare combination of brains and brawn. If I could brew a beer of this quality I would be a happy drunk man. The only downside is the lack of... damnit, I can't come up with anything.

This brew has been a mainstay of my bar hopping choices for good reason. This will meet almost any beer craving I have. In one clean glass. Whether you want malt or hops this is a great beer for you. It doesn't explode with hops or malt but it delivers both. You will find yourself happier after finishing one of these.

Final Score: 88% (A Classic and a Quality Example of Brooklyn's Brews)

Beer Review: Saranac Pomegrante Wheat

Matt Brewing Company Saranac Pomegranate Wheat Ale

This is one of the most drinkable beers in existence. I don't know why this combo works so well but it does. I am not at all surprised that they decided to brew this year round after the popularity was clear. This is the epitome of summer beer to me. The head doesn't really happen but the aroma is all wheat and pomegranate. As expected.

The flavor is unique and delicious. The fruity pomegranate flavor hits you first followed by the solid wheat backbone. I am surprised there aren't more copies of this in existence. On a hot (or cold) day you will really enjoy this. Its kind of the sweet fruit and the sturdy/sour malt contrast. I have bought sixes of this in the past and will continue to in the future.

This is an excellent beer if you want something that is very drinkable yet different than a Coors light. I will always go for this on a hot summer day. If its warm, pick one of these up. You will be refreshed.

Final Score: 93% (One of the Most Drinkable Beers Ever)

Beer Review: Blue Point Oktoberfest

Blue Point Brewing Company Oktoberfest Lager

My second Blue Point review. I had to pick up the Oktoberfest as I love a malty lager and I don't really get Blue Point seasonals in Jersey City. Ah, the advantages of traveling. More places equals more beers. This fest brew pours a rich amber color with a brief head. I don't really get much in terms of aroma, though I am getting over a cold. Don't hold me to my aroma judgments.

Flavor is definitely malty and lagery (if that's a word). The malt flavor is radiant in this brew and is comparable to even the best microbrewed Oktoberfests that I have had. That same fresh lagered malt goodness. Its hard to describe. Kinda like sweet bread fresh out of the oven. That gets you drunk. Good bread. The hopping is exactly where it should be. Noticeable but in the background. The hops wait for the malt to come out on stage and pull the curtain down.

This is one of the most drinkable Oktoberfest beers that I have ever had. Second only to the Climax Oktoberfest. I will certainly get this again. Happiness comes from quality lagers.

Final Score: 90% (One of the Best Oktoberfests Available. Long Island Rocks.)

Beer Review: Blue Point Hoptical Illusion

Blue Point Brewing Company Hoptical Illusion India Pale Ale

The first thing that strikes me is that this is a strange name for an IPA. The name makes me wonder how much hopping actually occurred here. I wonder if this is some trick. What is the illusion? I have no idea, maybe it's just a play on words. Being that I am currently living part time in Long Island I felt that it was time for me to try some of the local offerings. This IPA pours a dark amber with a robust, lingering head. Aroma is all hops. Rock on.

Flavor is really good. The large amount of hops used is immediately noticed. I get lots of earthy and grassy hop flavors. The malt is also a great. Usually with a standard IPA the malt is good but nothing to take note of. This comes with delicious chocolate and caramel notes to balance out the strong hopping. This is definitely an above average IPA. Complex and drinkable in all categories. A great example of a big balanced beer.

This is a great beer. I would certainly consider getting more of these. You won't even notice the higher than average alcohol content (6.8%). If you have a craving for some serious hops this is no disappointment. They should call this hoptical no-illusion (takes some serious brain power to come up with this stuff).

Final Score: 89% (A Great IPA, Delightful in All Areas)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beer Review: Saison Dupont

Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont Belgian Farmhouse Ale

The saison style is quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles. Its got everything I love about beer. A ridiculous head, fruity ester flavor, hops galore, and unfiltered yeast goodness. At 6.5% ABV this pulls no punches either. The head is out of control, it fills up quick and lingers for a long time. A true product of bottle conditioning and quality Belgian yeast. Lacing sticks around for quite a while as well. Aroma is of citrusy hop and spicy fruity esters.

Flavor is obscenely good. This is truly a unique style of beer and if you haven't had a Saison I suggest you go out right now and find one. The spicy flavor the Belgian yeast contributes works so well with the strong bitter hop backbone. Its like a ying and yang, just done in an unexpected way. The hop oils taste so fresh. They must have done some dry hopping here. So full and rich in every way.

I really love this beer. I will certainly buy more of these. I wish more American craft brewers would attempt this style. I would love to have a readily available six pack. This is what the mystical Belgian brewing tradition is all about. Amazing and mysterious flavor. I can't think of one negative thing to say. This is traditional farmhouse ale at its best. I would work in the fields for this.

Final Score: 98% (Yes a Ridiculously High Score... Dupont Earns It!)

Beer Review: Saranac Hefeweizen

Matt Brewing Company Saranac Hefeweizen Wheat Ale

Definitely one of my favorite styles of beer. Wheat beer screams summer and warm weather to me. I love the combination of drinkability and depth of flavor. Pours a cloudy gold color with a rich and creamy head. It smells like a ripe banana.

Flavor is very good. Banana flavors hit you right away with a slight amount of clove. Refreshing and satisfying. I am not crazy about cloves and this brew keeps them to a minimum. This was the first hefeweizen that I got to experience and I hold it as the standard as a result. Other hefeweizens are better but this is damn good. I don't really taste any hops but that is expected. The hopping should be very light in this style.

If you want something inexpensive, satisfying, and different you can't go wrong with this. This is a staple of my summers and I suggest you make it one of yours. I think I just might need another.

Final Score: 90% (Banana Wheat Goodness...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beer Review: Budweiser American Ale

Anheuser-Busch Inc. Budweiser American Ale

I've been wanting to try this one for a while now. Finally got a chance to pick some up to see how AB's ale adds up. First thing I noticed was the excellent head and rich amber color. Very nice appearance. The head really sticks around with even some lacing present! I never thought I would see a Budweiser product with lacing. Aroma is very nice, I get some nice floral hop aroma with a nice malt background.

Flavor is very surprising. This is really a solid example of an American Pale ale. I don't taste any cut corners (rice) here. Very professionally balanced, I get enough of the slightly roasted amber malt with a solid hop presence. The hops really jump out. A quick bite with some smooth bitterness. Nothing too extreme but worlds better than the bland Budweiser lager. The dry-hopping really paid off.

I applaud Anheuser-Busch for getting smart and starting to cater towards the craft beer community. This is up there with any pale ale you'll find. I hope they continue to develop a line of richer, more flavorful beers and transition away from bland rice beer. The future of AB should be interesting.

Final Score: 83% (A Great Pale Ale, Budweiser fights Back)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Beer Review: River Horse Imperial Cherry Amber

River Horse Brewing Company Imperial Cherry Amber Ale

This is the second batch in the Brewer's Reserve line from River Horse. A craft brewing company based out of Lambertville, NJ. This is my first River Horse review but hopefully not my last. I like to support Jersey breweries whenever possible. Pours a rich cherry amber color with a decent sized head with some lacing. Aroma is very cherry like with a touch of hops.

Flavor is very nice. You definitely can't tell that this is 7% ABV. The cherry flavor really comes out but doesn't dominate. Hops, malt, and cherry flavors are all present and provide a very rich balanced flavor. The cherries were added in a perfect amount. Enough to taste but not too much. The hop bitterness is very much alive. They provide a nice counter to the sweetness while also imparting a little bit of earthy flavor. Very nice.

This is bound to be very scarce by now but if you see it, give it a shot. Even if you normally don't like fruit beer. This will surprise you. This is a great success from River Horse and I will certainly look forward to the next Brewer's reserve release.

Final Score: 83% (Hops and Cherries, A Nice Departure From The Norm)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beer Review: Beck's Light

Brauerei Beck & Co. Beck's Premier Light Lager

I picked this up primarily due to curiosity. At 64 calories per beer I wanted to know where they put the alcohol. I wish I had done my research. They simply left out the alcohol at 2.3% ABV. If they doubled the malt and starting gravity you would be left at 4.6% ABV and 128 calories. Higher than most light beers and equivalent in alcohol as well. No marvel of science here. Faint skunky aroma with a usual head.

Flavor is light skunky water. No malt character at all. There really isn't much to describe here. As bland and light as beer comes. I've had NA beers with much more flavor. Not much to describe here. There is absolutely no excuse for this. The marking people must have loved the idea of selling half the product for full price. Just water down your beer if you want this. Don't ever waste your time with this crap.

Final Score: 40% (Horrible, I will Add My Own Water Next Time)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Beer Review: Hoffmann Oktoberfest

Climax Brewing Company Hoffmann Oktoberfest Lager

Time for another Climax Seasonal. Can't get enough of these. Also had a tour with Dave Hoffmann of Climax today. Great stuff. That man really knows his beer. I could probably pick his brain for hours. Pours the beautiful mahogany color of the style with a head that is definitely tinted caramel. Aroma is pure Germany. The hops and malt hit you immediately with that brewery fresh smell that is usually lacking in so many commercial beers. Looks like the perfect Oktoberfest, lets see if it holds up in flavor.

Flavor is dead on for the style. The caramel loving Munich malt hits you first followed by the fresh hop flavor. Not heavy on the bitterness at all. The malt is the star of this show. This tastes so authentically German that I am wishing I had some wurst and sauerkraut in my hands. The malt is very complex with the caramel and sweet roasted flavors unfolding over time.

I am extremely glad Hoffmann has been brewing lagers after only brewing ales for the first couple of years. He nails every style he attempts and it would be a shame if such a classic lager style didn't get the Climax treatment. If you like great German style beer you owe it to yourself to try this. According to Dave this is flying off the shelves (I believe it) so he is going to do three tanks next year. Very good news. More Oktoberfest is a great thing. It is always good when an Oktoberfest beer actually makes it to October.

Final Score: 96% (Oktoberfest at its Finest. Pure German Goodness.)