Saturday, August 30, 2008

Beer Review: Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Matt Brewing Co. Saranac Pumpkin Ale

I love a good pumpkin ale now and then and try to enjoy them as much as possible during the fall as it is nearly impossible to find them any other time of year. I am also a huge fan of pumpkin pie. This is truly a great time of year to have beer. The head pours a rich off white color that lingers for a good while. Not very much lacing going on here. Aroma is of spiced malt as expected. I can't really distinguish which spices I smell but I get something. This is really a hearty ale also which is a great quality. I look for more than just a spiced beer with a pumpkin ale.

Flavor is very good. I was not sure about it at first but it really grew on me. The vanilla and cinnamon really make this a great beer. Its got the malty goodness of a rich ale with all the flavor and spice of a pumpkin pie. I will be sad to see these go eventually but at the end of August I will hopefully have them around for a while longer.

This is a great quality pumpkin ale offered at a below average price. I picked up a six-pack for 6.99 which was at least a dollar lower than other breweries were charging. I am becoming annoyed with Dogfish head as I enjoy their pumpkin ale but they only give you four bottles and charge you more money. In the words of moe "a Saranac will do just fine".

Final Score: 88% (A Delicious, Spicy, and Economic Fall Offering)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beer Review: Dundee Porter

High Falls Brewing Co. Dundee Porter Ale

Ah, the porter. I was very much looking forward to this as its the biggest beer Dundee offers. I wanted to see if they can deliver such a big style on such a small budget. As the bigger brother of the stout this should be very interesting. As much as I love big, extravagant, expensive beer; I really look forward to bigger styles of beer being offered at a low price. Everyone loves saving a buck, and if you don't have to sacrifice the quality its a great thing. Pours a rich, deep, and dark amber color. A ton of head and lacing on this one. This is dead one for the style by all appearances. Lets see if it delivers on the flavor.

Wow, lots of roasted malt in this liquid. Almost like a malt barbecue. If only I could get away with having a porter in the morning at work. I would be one happy man. The flavor is a large amount of coffee with a little bit of chocolate. I would say this is very standard for a porter. Almost exactly what you would expect.

Its hard to rate a beer like this. The price is so low that you could get almost twice as many Dundees as other brewery offerings. The quality is about average compared to other porters but you have to give it some bonus points for the low price. If you have never had a porter this is a good introduction.

Final Score: 84% (An Average Porter at a very Low Price)

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Octoberfest Lager

Finally, the bigger autumn beers have started showing up. I wanted to try this last year but was somehow unable to find it. I grabbed some and ran. This seasonal lager pours a rich mahogany color with an gigantic head that nearly overflows. Surprisingly, I get more hops in the aroma than malt. I really love the color of this beer, it is the perfect autumn beer. Dark enough to be out of summer but not yet as roasted and black as winter yet.

Flavor is very much the child of Munich. The biscuit-like Munich malt really comes through. This is one of my favorite styles of beer and the malt plays a critical role in this. This is one of the few styles of beer that really shows off its malt. I love a good hoppy beer but its nice to have a beer that has its rich malt come through.

This is a great beer overall, and above average for the style. I certainly would drink this over other beers and even many other Oktoberfest/Octoberfest (however you want to spell it) brews. Overall, I say kudos to Sam Adams for giving us an authentic American done German brew.

Final Score: 86% (One of the Best Oktoberfest Style Beers)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beer Review: Budweiser

Anheuser-Busch Inc Budweiser Lager

This is the most classic and pervasive lager in America. Advertised as being brewed with the choicest hops, rice, and best barley malt I decided I needed to do a formal review of this King of Beers. Pours a very light yellow color, no amber here at all. Head starts out strong but quickly reduces to next to nothing. No lacing at all. Aroma is malty and sweet but overall there isn't much there.

Flavor is very light with some rice sweetness and maybe some hop bitterness. I really don't get any hop flavor , just some bitterness. The sweetness is almost pleasant but when you drink a beer you really want more. I crave complexity and depth. This beer doesn't leave you with either. Just a light beer flavor that you can drink for a while without filling up.

This beer seems to be the best example of a mass appeal brew. They even used rice in substitution of barley to get a more light and smooth flavor (also cheaper). From a business standpoint this beer makes sense. It is cheap, has mass appeal, and will get you drunk. I just don't really enjoy it. If I am going to have a beer, I want hops and all barley malt. You can throw some fruit or spices in there if you want but just don't skimp on the good qualities that make a great beer.

Final Score: 50% (Macro Production, Micro Flavor)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beer Review: Dundee Pale Bock

High Falls Brewing Co Dundee Pale Bock Lager

The third of the Dundee 12 mix pack of beers. As I understand it this style is a combination of the high malt content of a bock beer with the hops of a pale ale. Pours a dark golden color with a head that rises to the top of the glass. Lacing is around the entire glass and displays the great use of hops involved. Aroma is strongly of malt with no noticeable hops. Lets see how big and malty you are goat lager.

Malty indeed it appears. This is a rich malty brew that soothes the tongue with malt goodness and then comes back to hit you with some hoppy bitterness. I would call this balanced but it is almost as if the two flavors have nothing to do with each other. I taste one, then the other. I actually really enjoy this. The mouthfeel is definitely big and rich. This is one chewy brew.

If you are a fan of big winter beers but also have a liking of hops (I fall into this category) this is a great beer for you. Not as gentle and smooth as the honey brown or as hoppy as the pale ale but excellent regardless. I believe beer drinkers of all tastes will enjoy this, unless they happen to like bland light lagers. American Style Light Lager drinkers need not apply.

Final Score: 84% (Malty and Hoppy... The Goat Abides)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beer Review: Dundee Pale Ale

High Falls Brewing Co. Dundee Pale Ale

This is another offering from the 12 beer Dundee variety pack. Whoever designed Pours a medium amber color with great head formation. The lacing is very, very good. It hangs around for a long time. Aroma is extremely hoppy. They did a great job with the hop addition.

The malt is very rich in this ale. I can almost chew on it, which to me is an unheard of quality in a pale ale. The hops are absolutely in the house. Loads of citrus and floral flavors come through. This in combination with the rich hop aromas make this a pale ale for all hop heads.

I don't know how High Falls manages to put such a large quantity of malt and hops into their beers while charging nearly half of what other brewers ask for. However they do it, they earned a fan here from this pale ale and the honey brown alone. If they manage to be consistent with this level of quality they will earn my respect as one of the best breweries around.

Final Score: 83% (A Great and Hoppy Pale Ale at Crappy Beer Price)

Beer Review: Dundee Honey Brown

High Falls Brewing Co. Dundee Original Honey Brown Lager

After revamping their product line, even if it was mostly packaging, I decided that I had to try the new Dundee (formerly J.W. Dundee) lineup. Their most popular offering pours a color not far at all from honey itself. Very faint aroma, some malt with maybe a bit of honey, could be my imagination. The head is very strong, builds quickly and retains a solid covering for a long time.

The flavor is very nice. I can see why this is the most famous and popular of the Dundee lineup. The honey flavor is very pleasant. Enough is there so that it can be easily detected but not so much that it overwhelms the malt flavor present. I don't taste any real hop flavor but they are present for bittering.

This is a great offering. Something truly unique and flavorful. I am also extremely impressed with the modest price of the 12 bottle variety pack. I picked it up for $9.99. That kind of pricing is almost unheard of for quality craft beer. I look forward to trying more of the Dundee lineup.

Final Score: 85% (Flavorful and Unique beer offered at a Low Price)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beer Review: Bud Light

Beer Review: Bud Light Lager

I had a 16 oz. can of this hanging around and decided that I could use some more macro reviews. This is the classic American light beer, brewed with two-row malt and rice. I really have never been a fan of the addition of rice to beer, but for this style it makes some sense. This brew pours an extremely light yellow color with a solid head that lingers for a bit. Aroma is pretty standard with some malt notes coming through.

The flavor is about as light as beer comes. The rice really does reduce the flavor to little more than water. Some extremely faint malt comes though but it really isn't impressive. There aren't any hop flavors that I can detect besides the bitterness departed. This is a balanced beer but its so light that it doesn't really matter. I wish it was off balanced so that I could actually get some flavor. Some hops or more barley malt would definitely be appreciated. The additional hops wouldn't even add any calories.

Overall this is about as light as beer flavors get. The thing that annoys me is that Becks has been able to produce a light beer that has 64 calories which tastes like a beer while Budweiser can't do it with 110 calories! What is Becks doing differently? I would understand if it had an extremely low amount of calories. Even Guinness has 125 calories per 12 oz serving, just 15 more than Bud Light! I don't see any reason to drink this. Just doesn't stand out in any way.

Final Score: 45% (Light on Flavor and Not Light Enough on Calories)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Beer Review: Climax Hoffmann Hefeweizen

Climax Brewing Company Hoffman Hefeweizen Wheat Ale

This is the best hefeweizen I have ever had. This is also one of the few brews that I have been able to talk to the brew master about. I met Dave Hoffmann a few weeks ago and he described the thinking behind this unique wheat ale. He really disliked the clove taste that usually accompanies a hefeweizen so he decided to emphasize the banana flavor. He did this using a unique yeast strain at a lower than normal temperature. The results are impressive.

This beer pours a cloudy golden color with a malty banana aroma. The head is very modest but lingers around the edges of the glass. The flavor is very much banana dominant. Considering the banana flavor is what I really enjoy in a hefeweizen this is a great thing. Who needs cloves? This to me is the shining example of what a hefeweizen can be. I would describe this as banana bread beer. A great thing.

My only criticism is that this is a seasonal beer with limited quantities. It would be nice to buy this year round. Hopefully as Climax grows in popularity this becomes more of an option. If you don't like the traditional hefeweizens I suggest giving this one a shot. This is a refreshing change from the template.

Final Score: 92% (An Exciting and Unique Hefeweizen)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beer Review: Saranac Kolsch

Saranac Kolsch Ale

This is another one of the great summer offerings by Saranac. A Kolsch ale is a rare find anytime of year. Its a style that very few breweries attempt for some reason. This has really grown on me. This German styled ale pours a medium golden color with a persistent head that lingers. The aroma is of sweet fruity malt goodness.

I don't get a ton of hop flavor form this. In fact, I get next to nothing hop related. The malt is where this beer shines. The fruity malt flavor really explodes in this beer. Light enough to drink in the heat but flavorful and rich enough to enjoy in the comfortable A/C. I would describe the flavor as a pilsner that has less focus on hops and more on malt.

I sincerely hope that more breweries will get the balls to attempt this 200 year old traditional brew. I think its extremely refreshing and a nice break from the mainstream German beers.
I don't know if I would buy this in a six pack but I will say that I enjoy it greatly in the 12 beers of summer variety packs. Keep them coming Matt Brewing Co.

Final Score: 82% (Great intro to the Kolsch style but microbreweries offer the defining examples)