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.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Beer Review: Brooklyn Local 1

Brooklyn Brewery Local 1 Ale

I went on a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery this Sunday and was very impressed. While the Brooklyn location doesn't do any of the bottling they are responsible for all of the draft beer you may have had. They offer some great rotating selections for 4 dollars per beer (not sure of the exact serving size). In true Williamsburg fashion the place was loaded with hipsters. Good people for sure. When it was time to leave I had to pick up a bottle of the Local 1. Hyped as a Belgian style ale with loads of malt I was very intrigued. Suffice to say Garrett Oliver has created a classic here.

This is one of only a few bottle fermented ales made in the United States. The yeast left behind and the fresh flavor are great results of this process. This really packs a punch. I am euphoric already and I am not even through a full glass. Heavy duty malt action going on here. The Belgian yeast really adds some spiciness. Hopping is absolutely perfect, enough for bitterness and aroma but doesn't interfere with the yeast or malt qualities. Alcohol is very apparent in every sip, warming and evaporating on your tongue.

This beer is an example of using a lot of everything in just the right quantities. It is a bit pricey ($10 per bottle) but it comes in a large bottle with plenty of alcohol to keep things alive. I will certainly get this again. I would say its similar to Duvel but better and less expensive. This is simply the best Belgian ale I have ever had. I just wish I could buy a whole keg of this. That would be some fucking party.

Final Score: 97% (Absolutely Awesome)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Beer Review: Wolavers Pumpkin Ale

Wolavers Will Stevens' Organic Pumpkin Ale

My first organic beer review. I really do love pumpkin ales, an organic pumpkin ale just makes sense. I think of pumpkins being grown on very remote, rural farms in upstate New York where there is one little mom and pop shop in the town. I love mental imagery as well. This brew pours a medium copper (pumpkin?) color with a fantastic head. The lacing is also great, far better than any other pumpkin ale I have had. Many pumpkin ales are just a malty ale with some spicing thrown in. This is definitely not the case here.

The first thing I notice about this brew is the pumpkin and a good amount of hops. I love the farm fresh flavor of this. Everything just tastes fresh, full, and homegrown. Having some fresh hops thrown into a pumpkin ale really makes a huge difference. Makes other harvest ales just taste stale. I don't know if its because its organic or not but the flavors just feel like they were finished brewing a couple of hours ago. Everything explodes in your mouth.

I will definitely be trying more offerings from Wolavers. I will also be sure to get another 6-pack (or case) of this if I can find it. Don't be a fool, this is easily the best pumpkin ale of the season. Even if you don't ordinarily like these you owe it to yourself to try this.

Final Score: 94% (Fresh Flavor and Pumpkin Rich)

I wish there were more organic beers in the world. If this beer is any indication they are a force to be rekonded with.

Beer Review: Sea Hag IPA

New England Brewing Company Sea Hag IPA

This is my first brew from the New England Brewing Company. I found it at the Whole Foods on Bowery in NYC. That place is fantastic for beer lovers. They sell growlers even! I love a good IPA and I try to support any brewery that uses cans. I think they are great packaging and I want to make sure every brewery that uses them has a fair shot at success. I don't buy that whole metallic taste argument. If it tastes metallic its from the brewing process, not the can. This India pours the normal dark copper color with a decent head and good lacing. All signs of a solid IPA. The hop aroma is actually exceptional. I get lots of floral hop aroma from this, much more rich than your standard brew.

The malt quality is where this one stands out. They must have used quite a bit of crystal malt because the mouthfeel is extraordinary. Its rich and thick. They didn't forget balance. Honestly, the hop flavor leaves a little something to be desired. They are definitely there and noticeable but if I was looking to get a severe hop fix out of this I would be disappointed. I do enjoy this beer very much, but it just doesn't taste like an IPA to me. I would call this a pale ale.

If you want a lot of hops (which is probably why you picked up an IPA) you should go elsewhere. The malt character is rich and tasty but only serves to further offset the lack of hops. Give this a try if you always want more malt in your IPAs but beware. The Hag doesn't have a green thumb.

Final Score: 83% (Not Quite So India)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Beer Review: Climax Nut Brown

Climax Brewing Company Nut Brown Ale

Ah yes. Time for another Climax review. I do eventually want to get all of their offerings reviewed. If only I can find that damn Oktoberfest beer. I want to try that so fucking bad. This is a unique offering from Climax. This is one of the few Climax core beers that has the malt as the lead role with hops supporting. Traditionally brewed with both roasted and pale malts this should be a hybrid to remember. Pours a very deep dark red (mahogany?) that barely allows any light through. You can see tiny bits of lighter red coming through on the edges of the fluid. Aroma is very bitter. I get lots of roasted malts and some definite citrus hops. Head is again non-exisitant, which isn't a huge problem. I will trade the head for Climax quality any day.

Flavor is extremely complex. The combo of pale and roasted malts means you are getting a little bit of both extremes. I really taste a lot of chocolate with some coffee thrown in. I don't really taste any caramel though. The roasted malt really dominates the pale malt. I think the pale malt's main goal is to reduce the stout like qualities of the beer so that it is more favorable to some quality hopping. The hops do indeed stand out. I will never accuse Climax of going light on hops. The citrus and floral hop flavors are huge. Citrus is the main hop flavor with the effect of squeezed lemon present in the beer. I am not sure what kind of hops were used but I want them. Lots of them.

This beer is definitely a unique offering in the nut brown category. Most nut browns I have had rely solely on the roasted malt with the hops taking a huge backseat. This is not the case here. If you like stouts and pale ales this is definitely a beer to try. You could say this is the best of both worlds. I think most beer drinkers will truly enjoy this beer. Unless you are one of those "don't mix my peas and carrots" types. If so, I imagine that you have many other greater problems in life.

Final Score: 93% (Great Stout and Great Pale Ale. Together.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Beer Review: Climax Extra Special Bitter

Climax Brewing Company Extra Special Bitter Ale

This is one of the core Climax beers. My experience with ESBs is pretty limited but as I understand it the key to this kind of beer is balance. A good amount of hops with a generous amount of malt to keep things even. Nothing too extreme, but no slouch either. This brew pours a dark gold color with another nonexistent head. I don't know if its a problem with Climax or growlers in general but I can't seem to get a good head out of these. Not the most important thing but it is missed. Aroma has a lot going on, I get lots of floral hops, some roasted malt, and even a bit of honey.

Definitely some diacetyl going on here, I get some apple in both the flavor and aroma. Not too much that it is overpowering but enough so that it adds some character. The malt is very much a combo of toasted and pale. Exactly how the style should be. Hops are also very noticeable with a lot of floral flavor coming though in each sip. This is a truly great beer. This may be a perfect example that big beers aren't the only ones with a lot going on.

There are so many flavors and aromas swirling around this beer that it is almost overwhelming. This is really a beer to be sipped and enjoyed. This is also one of the few times I feel this way without it being a high alcohol big beer that sends your mind into solvent fueled bliss. If you happen to find this in the store and want to try something a bit different you can't go wrong with this. I can't think of one thing to improve with this flavor.

Final Score: 95% (Fantastic Flavor and Aroma, Few Can Compete)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Beer Review: Dundee India Pale Ale

High Falls Brewing Company Dundee India Pale Ale

The final brew of the Dundee variety pack. This looks and smells like a quality IPA. There are a ton of hops in the aroma and lacing that would make you eyes water. I can also tell from the appearance and ABV that there is some serious malt going on here too. Anytime you combine a large amount of hops and a large amount of malt you are bound to make a quality beer. This appears to be the case here.

The flavor is very good. The floral and citrus hops are in full effect. You even get bombarded with some hop aroma when you go in for a sip. The malt also provides a nice balance. This is fortunately styled after the West Cost IPA. Not too much to say about the flavor, its very hoppy and tasty. Basically the classic IPA.

Easily on par with the Dogfishhead 60 minute IPA caliber of brewing at a significantly reduced cost. I love Dogfishhead but this is just as good as their 60 minute. Dundee has managed to produce a quality IPA that is on par with most other examples. I wish they would sell six packs of these in addition to the honey browns. You will get your hop fix with this one. I don't know how they make their money.

Final Score: 91% (Great IPA at a Low Cost. Very Hard To Beat.)

Beer Review: Dundee Wheat Beer

High Falls Brewing Company Dundee Wheat Beer (American Style Hefeweizen)

Another Dundee variety pack offering. I was very interested to experience the Dundee take on a hefeweizen. The idea of a quality wheat beer at a low price is very appealing. This weizen pours a cloudy gold color with a robust head and moderate lacing. Aroma is very malty but not much else. If cloudiness was enough to make a great wheat beer this would be great. Unfortunately, the appearance isn't enough to get this beer high acclaim.

The flavor is okay. The flavor has a bit of wheat character but really nothing that stands out. I would call this a truly bland beer. Some faint malt and hops but nothing really exciting or interesting. I usually feel that Dundee beers are dead on for the style but this is a very below average wheat beer. I don't even taste any banana or clove flavors. Its like they took everything I liked about hefeweizen out and only left the cloudiness.

This isn't a terrible beer, but it is the most boring hefeweizen I have ever had. If this had some banana flavors I would enjoy this significantly more, but without them its just very dull and mediocre. If you dislike the banana and clove flavors of a traditional wheat beer this might be one to try. Otherwise, there are much better examples. Just about any wheat beer is better.

Final Score: 57% (Boring and Bland)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beer Review: Hoffman Helles

Climax Brewing Company Hoffman Helles Lager

Finally, I found a place in Jersey City that sells Climax beers. This is a pretty great liquor store called The Palisade, offering make your own sixes and a ton of craft beer. My only complaint is that I wish they had the climax growlers in the fridge rather than sitting out near the register. This is also my first helles beer and I am glad that my intro is coming from such a great brewing team. The Hoffmans have yet to disappoint me. I was usually hesitant to buy these because I know they are somewhat similar in style to pilsners which I am not crazy about. Doing some research I discovered that helles lagers were developed by German brewers in Munich to counter the growing threat of the Czech pilsner, brewed to be more malty and still have the hop bite of a pilsner. Pours a cloudy pale gold color with a non existent head. I don't know what I am doing wrong but I almost never manage to get a good head out of growlers. Any ideas?

The flavor was really surprising. I expected to get a pilsner but got something new and exciting. The body is definitely more bulked up. I get more pale malt so that the hop spiciness is in a nice balance. The hops are still in full effect though. Its really a floral spiciness that stands out and grabs your tongue. This is the kind of beer that really takes a master to produce. Any small defect would be immediately apparent and wouldn't be covered up by a heavy body. This is a naked beer with hops and malt on full display.

This is a great summer seasonal and has opened my eyes to the world of Munich style helles lagers. I will try some more examples in the future but I would really be surprised if anything could top this. Dave and Kirk know their shit and they really show it off. If you love hops and a good malt body this is a beer for you. Climax has a true fan in Jersey City. Worth every fucking penny.

Final Score: 92% (Kicks Some Pilzen Ass)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beer Review: Honey Moon

Blue Moon Brewing Co. Honey Moon Summer Ale

I really enjoy honey and beer. One of the first beers I brewed, a honey pale ale, was one of my favorites. Something about the body that honey adds to the beer. This was one I was really looking forward to. Blue Moon, despite being owned by Coors, has made some decent beers. Nothing to rave about but beers that can blow a standard macro lager out of the water. I am normally not impressed with summer seasonals (seems like only lemony summer ales and pilsners) so I look for different things. A summer ale with honey falls into this category. Pours a cloudy pale straw color with a head that disappears after a short while. Aroma smells like pale malt, not much else.

Flavor is pretty good. The pale malt comes through most heavily followed by the honey and then a bit of the wheat. It's very interesting in appearance. There is quite a large amount of particulates in the glass that settles to the bottom quickly. I guess that it is yeast but it could also be honey. Regardless, this beer tastes pretty damn good.

Having a rich malt body and the flavor of honey this is different from most summer ales. I don't get any overwhelming lemon or citrus flavors. This is a good departure from boring summer seasonals. Definitely give it a shot if you want something with more punch and flavor. Don't get me wrong, it's not a heavy rich ale, but compared to other summer beers this is obese.

Final Score: 77% (Great for Summer, Average for the Rest of the Year)