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)