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)