Friday, November 20, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Maple Porter

Matt Brewing Company Saranac Maple Porter

This is a beer I am excited for. If it is anything like the caramel porter I am in for a treat. I have never heard of or encountered a maple flavored beer but I have to say I really like the idea. Sweet maple flavors combined with dark roasted porter can't be bad. This may be a novelty beer but I really don't care. All I care about is how it tastes. I never said I was too good for novelties. The porter comes out a dark amber color with a solid white head. Aroma is pure maple.

First sip... wow. Like the stellar caramel porter the maple flavor is not hidden at all. Even if it is added flavor this is not lacking anything maple. I feel bombarded with breakfast flavors that I very rarely actually eat. I am more of an eggs and meat guy than a pancake and syrup guy but this really works. Ironically, the typical beer flavor of this beer is dominated by the maple. Sounds bad but in my opinion it really isn't. I crawled up this beer mountain for maple and the top is by no means lacking. I may be ranting but it also could be beer bliss.

This is a great beer. One that I would buy a case of if I had the option. I wouldn't want this year round but this is a great winter treat. The beer lives up to its name and offers a rare flavor experience that inspires greatness. This is a great part of the 12 beers of winter and one I will try to enjoy as much as possible. Drink this with breakfast and you may win the lottery by lunch time.

Final Score: 93% (Unique and Flavorful. Dark, Rich, and Full Maple.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Rye IPA

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Rye IPA

My second review of the new brews in the 12 beers of winter mix pack from F.X. Matt. The Saranac line seems to be including more rye beers lately and I can't help but be happy about this. Rye is underused and too rarely experienced. The spicy character really adds some depth to the malt flavor that can't be replicated by any yeast that I am aware of. This India pours a golden color with a nice full head. Lacing abound.

Sweet and spicy. The flavor in this brew is awesome. Very aggresive hop flavors swirl around your palette while the rye malt brings you back home. This is a big, bold, and hoppy beer that is as close to balanced as you really want an IPA to be. One of these days I have to get a nice rye sandwich and pair these up. Maybe with some Russian dressing to mix things up.

If you are craving a serious helping of hops and want something a little different from your usual IPA this will hit the spot. I love these mix packs. F.X. Matt has the right idea with the constant rotation of their brews. New and long lost brews really keep things interesting.

Final Score: 87% (Spicy and Hoppy. Not a Single Punch Pulled. Delicious.)

Beer Review: Saranac Black Lager

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Black Lager

My first review from the new 12 Beers of Winter from Saranac. I always love Black Lagers. This iconic Bavarian style is always rich in flavor yet immensely drinkable. A fantastic choice for winter sessioning. I hope this lives up to my high expectations. The lager pours a very dark amber color, not quite black but damn close. Aroma is loaded with chocolate.

First taste impressions.... very drinkable. Smooth with a very rich mouthfeel. Slightly malty flavors high you first with a very creamy carbonation feel following. I also taste a very large hop bite. This is somewhat similar to last years India Brown Ale, just tweaked slightly off to the malty side. Roasted caramel flavors are floating around but you really have to do some digging.

This is an enjoyable beer despite it not quite tasting like a traditional black lager. This definitely tastes more like a brown ale brewed with lager yeast. I expected a little more depth but this is by no means a bad beer.

Final Score: 71% (Lackluster and Light on Flavor. Needs More Roasted Malt.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beer Review: Highland Gaelic Ale

Highland Brewing Company Gaelic Ale

My first Highland review. This is a craft brewery located in Virginia that is not normally available in New Jersey unless you have some very generous connections who are willing to drive down to Asheville and pick up a variety pack. I am very fortunate. This is the brewery's flagship beer so it seems fitting that this is my first review. This it touted as a balanced ale with a generous amount of malt. The appearance is exactly as pictured. Dark amber in color with a decent sized fluffy white head. Aroma of sweet caramel and some hop spiciness. Very appetizing.

The flavor is fantastic. I love when I find a really well balanced ale that meets both of my cravings (malt and hops) and this brew falls into that rare category. The lightly roasted sweet caramel flavor really adds great depth to the beer. You can almost chew the beer, very rich and full. Nothing feels watered down. The hop flavor is also in full form here. Spicy and bitter, the hops stand up to the mammoth task of balancing the malt without burning out your taste buds. This is not far off from being a very balanced IPA.

This is a very sessionable and deep ale that is certainly worthy of being the flagship beer of any brewery. If you are lucky enough to have this in your area I certainly recommend supporting Highland. Judging from this beer they are also well worth traveling for. I love a great beer. The only downside is the limited availability.

Final Score: 93% (Outstanding. Worth a Long Journey.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beer Battle!: Budweiser VS Miller High Life

Beer Battle I: Budweiser (The King) vs. Miller High Life (The Champagne)

Time for my first beer battle. This time its Budweiser versus the High Life. Blind taste testing is the only way to go here and I will rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 in the areas of flavor, aroma, and sessionability. One will be beer "A", the other beer "B". This is the first of hopefully many more to come...

Aroma:

This is a tough one to call, both very similar but I have to hand this to beer "A". Slightly more of a grainy aroma. No real hop aromas in either one. I always find it really hard to get much in the aroma department when drinking rice malt light lagers but there has to be a winner here.

A: 3 B: 2
Flavor:

Another very close call but A just has a deeper flavor. A has a rich malt flavor compared to "B" which just tastes like a toned down version of "A". "A" has a crisper aftertaste while "B" is a little sweeter. Not much going on in the hop department. At least nothing which sets one apart from the other.

A:3: B:2
Sessionability:

If I was to reach for another one which one would I go for? Hmm... I have to go with "B". The tables seemed to have turned. "A" just starts to taste watery after a short while and "B" still maintains its flavor after a few sips.

A:2 B:3
Results:

Looks like "A" wins by a very narrow margin. This was much harder than I thought it would be. Fun, but tricky. The winner is.... Budweiser! I am honestly surprised, I thought Miller High Life would edge out the King of Beers but the opposite happened. Never again will I buy a High Life. Who needs Champagne when you are the King?

Final Score: A: 8 B:7

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beer Review: Blue Moon Harvest Moon

Blue Moon Brewing Company Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

Fall seasonals are by far my favorite. These months just don't last long enough. While Blue Moon may be owned by Molson-Coors they produce some decent craft beers and I have yet to try this creation. I have to first give them credit for very cool bottle art. It may not be very important in the grand scheme but I believe everything is part of the whole. I am very fickle about pumpkin ales. I love drinking them in the fall but if they have too much spice I quickly get disgusted. Sessioning with these can be very difficult. It is a very fine line to walk. The Harvest Moon pours a medium amber color with a sizable head that lingers for the duration of the glass. Very faint malty aroma though I do have a cold so you probably shouldn't go by my nose at the moment.

Now for the first taste. Very surprising. This is exceptionally balanced with the rich malt flavor and the delicate spicing. This may be the session pumpkin ale I have been looking for. The spicing is noticeable and delicious but will definitely not cause my tongue to recoil. The pumpkin flavor is actually pronounced in this where as other pumpkin ales tend to overpower this flavor with malt or allspice.

This is a superb example of what this American original fall seasonal should be. Very mouthwatering. Just because it is owned by one of the big boys doesn't mean you should dismiss it. The beer world would do well to keep an open mind. The Blue Moon people hit all the marks with this one.

Final Score: 90% (Solid, Balanced, and Delicious. A Masterful Pumpkin Ale.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beer Review: Bud Select 55

Anheuser-Busch Inc. Budweiser Select 55

This is a new one for me. I don't know how long this has been out but it is most certainly an attempt to fight back at Miller's "MGD 64". With a whopping nine calorie difference they are most certainly coming out with guns blazing (there is sarcasm here). Before I go into depth with this I do want to point out that I will review this brew based on the style that was attempted. I won't compare it to a Triple IPA because everyone should already know that this is not going to have that much depth. This is a light light beer (or double light as I would like to call it). The 55 pours like any other Budweiser product with a light golden color and a short lived head. I can't smell anything besides a slight grainy aroma.

The flavor of this is almost impressive. Hear me out. This doesn't taste a whole lot lighter than a coors/bud light and it manages to cut out roughly half the calories. Calorie conscious people who enjoy very light beer would do well to try this. However, the alcohol content is an extremely low 2.3% ABV. So if you are attempting to get a buzz you should certainly look elsewhere. Also, if you enjoy the taste of a full bodied beer you should definitely avoid this. Bohemian style Pilsner this is not. This is more yellow seltzer than anything else. With maybe a little skunk flavor to mix things up.

The main problem I have with this personally is that I just can't see a need for it. Are there really people who drink Bud Light and ask if there is anything lighter? NA beers have more flavor than this. I do, however, think that the target demographic for this beer will love it. People who want to be seen drinking a beer but don't like the taste of it will never have it better. Experiment with this if you like but don't complain to me when you realize you spent the same amount of money on half the beer.

Final Score: 60% (Successful in Being Light, Failure in Retaining Flavor)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beer Review: Guinness Draught

St. James's Gate Brewery Guinness Draught

This is the most classic stout on the planet. It isn't the original but it's prevalence throughout the world is impressive to say the least. Thank you Diageo. Having the innovative widget in the can is awesome. Such a nice touch. The nitrogen head forms perfectly and laces all over the glass (does anyone really not know what a Guinness looks like?). I don't get very much in the aroma department.

The flavor is ridiculously smooth for a stout, I think due in a large part to the nitrogen used for nitrogenation (carbonation doesn't make sense). The majority of the flavor is all coffee with chocolate thrown in. The roasted malt does it's job but doesn't go overboard. Some hop bitterness in the aftertaste. This all goes down so easy, makes it seem like this is a watered down version of what a stout should be. Isn't a porter a lighter version of a stout? This really should be called a porter if you ask me.

It may not be very deep but it does provide a great introduction to the darker beer styles. This is a beer that everyone should try at least once. For me, this is a beer that I will get occasionally in bars but really won't seek out. It isn't bad at all, just doesn't stand out after having experienced a couple of very rich stouts.

Final Score: 73% (Classic and Drinkable. Not Very Complex.)

Beer Review: Mama's LIttle Yella Pils

Oskar Blues Brewing Company Mama's Little Yella Pils

Love those cans. This is a definite craft beer take on a commonly watered down style. The name will try to tell you otherwise though. The pils pours a bright yellow color with a long lasting moderate head. The malt aroma dominates everything. Smells similar to how unfermented malt tastes. Very appealing.

The flavor of this yella is everything I could have hoped for. The bright malt sweetness hits you quickly and with force right before the hops take charge. This is one of the most floral tasting beers in the world. Oskar Blues really captures the hop aroma and flavor properly (the cans help).

I would definitely place this in the top three pilsners I have yet to try. Right alongside Stoudts and Victory. This is one of the best beers you will find for summer and I urge anyone who can find it to buy a case. This will refresh you in even the hottest weather. Not a bit of taste missing either. In my opinion this is one of the most consistent and outstanding breweries in the country and any can detractors would do well to try these.

Final Score: 95% (World Class Pilsner. Mama Never Had This.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beer Review: Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout

St. James's Gate Brewery Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout Ale

It is a rare year (or decade?) when Guinness comes out with a new brew. This stout is to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sir Arthur Guinness signing the lease to the St. James's Gate brewery in Dublin. I do wish this was served in the classic widget can that the Guinness Draught inhabits. It may be little more than a novelty but it really is the little things that count. The new kid pours a very dark mahogany color with a with an average sized caramel head. The aroma is compiled mainly of roasted malt and alcohol. Classic stout.

The flavor really stands out from the original Guinness despite them both being Irish stouts. The 250 is really sweet. Large amounts of roasted caramel all over my palette. Very enjoyable and surprisingly drinkable. This is more of a cross between a traditional schwarzbier and a traditional stout. The sweet caramal flavor really combines well with the roasted barley. Even a slight grainy aftertaste. The hops are there only for bittering and you probably won't pay much attention to them.

There is nothing to complain about with this beer besides its limited edition status. I would really like to see this offered indefinitely. What would be even better would be to have this offered on draft as widely available as the classic Guinness Draught. Even throw in the Extra Stout while you are at it. The original is classic but I can tell you that I would be more likely to order stouts if there were more choices available in bars. This is a winner.

Final Score: 86% (Rich, Sweet, and Roasted. Manages to Stand Out.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Beer Review: Anchor Summer Beer

Anchor Brewing Company Anchor Summer Beer

This is a classic beer. Although this is my first time trying it, this is the first American wheat beer brewed in modern times. Thank you Fritz Maytag for getting the ball rolling. This wheat beer pours a clear golden color with a very fluffy white laced head. A ton of wheat in the aroma.

The flavor is spicy and smooth at the same time, most likely due to the large percentage (over 50) of wheat malt used. What sets this apart from other wheat beers is the lack of noticeable citrus, banana, or clove flavors. You get wheat, some hop flavors, and a tiny bit of barley malt. Nothing too exotic by today's craft standards.

If there ever was a sessionable wheat beer this would be it. Exactly as a summer beer should be. This definitely has nowhere near the depth of an Imperial Stout but this really hits the spot on a hot day. More than enough character to keep thing interesting. If you are in the mood for a very clean and refreshing wheat beer this is a great choice.

Final Score: 80% (Refreshing, Spicy, and Smooth. Very Enjoyable.)

Beer Review: McSorley's Irish Pale Ale

McSorley's Brewery McSorley's Irish Pale Ale

This is to my knowledge my first Irish Pale Ale. The Sorley pours a not so pale amber color with a quickly fading head. Roasted aromas seep into my head. I know of the famous McSorley's pub in NYC and I assume this is the same brew served at the old ale house. I wonder how close this comes to the actual ale served on tap.

This is very different from your standard pale ale. Loaded with roasted malt flavors and having a very creamy mouthfeel, this beer will certainly wake you up. The hop presence is a bit subdued when compared to the robust malt flavor. This is almost a pale ale/porter hybrid. Hard to find a comparable beer, this is very unique. It does seem to be lacking some depth.

If you crave a dark roasted beer but don't want to go all out with a porter or stout this would be a good choice. The roasted malt presence is very strong and tends to dominate every sip. Despite the roasted flavor I would still say this is fairly balanced. The ale never seems to taste overly bitter or sweet, usually somewhere in between. Easy to follow one sip with another.

Final Score: 74% (Good, but Fairly Simple. A Solid Session Beer.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beer Review: Licher Pilsner

Licher Private Brewery Licher Pilsner Lager

Another very generous gift beer.  This is a very authentic German pilsner, I can tell from the untranslated website.  Which has a surprising amount of content for a beer website and if you feel comfortable navigating it you can find some unique stuff http://www.licher.de.  The pilsner pours a light golden color with a very long lasting and fluffy white head.  Lacing is in force here.  Aroma is rich in sweet golden malt and sharp hop spice.  I also want to point out that they use the superior amber bottle rather than the green so often found with imported German brews.  

The flavor is exactly as it should be.  Uncomplicated lager goodness.  I love a good pilsner, the drinkability combined with the sharp spicy hop flavors and smooth malt really can hit the spot. I drink a ton of these in the summer, especially when it's incredibly hot or humid out.  You will find this to be one of the more balanced pilsners with a very noticeable hop flavor.   Definitely on the spicier Saaz hops side of things.  

This is a very high quality classic pilsner and one that I don't think will disappoint.  If I was to pick an area where this brew differed from other pilsners I would again say the hop profile is deeper than most, you really get some bitterness and flavor.  I am not sure how much this retails for but if you happen to find it (not that common yet) it is worth a shot.  

Final Score: 85% (Sharp Spicy Hop Flavor, Rich Malt, High Drinkability.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beer Review: Simpler Times Lager

Minhas Craft Brewery Simpler Times Lager

This is a beer that I have yet to find in stores and the only reason I possess it is due to the generosity of a very beer friendly individual who is often feeding me interesting malted beverages. Nice to see more cans, I like the preservative and lightweight quality of cans. If you are poring the beer into a glass why go with a bottle? The lager pours a slightly hazy yellow color with a quickly receding head. Aroma is interesting with a full full malt profile with a sharp alcohol kick. The surprisingly high 6.2% ABV is noted.

The malt flavor in this brew is one of a kind. I have never tasted anything quite like this. It has almost a fruity malt flavor with possibly a little bit of corn (or corn like) flavors swirling around. Very hard to describe. I wonder if this was brewed intentionally with any "off" flavors to create this unique quality. Almost has the same diacetyl taste you can pick out of a good ESB. I don't taste a large hop presence but I also don't think that would be keeping with the retro lager (real category?) style.

The most ironic thing I find about this beer is that while it describe simple times, the malt flavor is nothing close to simple. If this is just some basic all barley malt lager then I will bow my head and admit I was reading too much into this but I really feel that this is something unique. It is definitely a drinkable lager and one that I would certainly consider getting if I can make it to Trader Joe's. This brew really makes me wish I could taste the extinct brews of yesteryear, Rheingold being near the top of the list followed by Ballantine's IPA.

Final Score: 82% (Great For The Style. Drinkable but Not Boring.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beer Review: Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale

Flying Fish Brewing Company Farmhouse Summer Ale

I can't believe this is my first Flying Fish review. I like to buy local and they are located in the memorable town of Cherry Hill. The main thing I think of when I think of Cherry Hill is that the mall there offers very cheap sushi. A big plus in my book. This is also a very unique offering. You will find a ton of summer ales this time of year. Few that also happen to use Belgian malt and are bottle conditioned (aka carbonated naturally in the bottle using the yeast). The farmhouse brew pours a surprisingly clear golden color with a very solid head. Doesn't last for a ridiculous amount of time but I wouldn't really expect/desire this in a summer offering. Aroma of yeast, wheat, and cloves. Inviting.

The flavor is loaded with natural yeast flavor. I get a lot of clovey goodness upfront followed with a wheaty lemon flavor and some sweet barley malt. Not much in the hop department besides a lingering earthy aftertaste but it really isn't needed. I don't really see the farmhouse connection since this is noticeably different from a traditional Belgian Saison (farmhouse) ale. It may not be traditional but the depth of flavor renders any style questions negligible.

This is delicious. A very much above average summer ale for a very reasonable price ($7.99 a six pack). I recommend this to anyone who wants an easy drinking summer beer but wants some exceptional depth (who wouldn't want this?). This could easily become a summer staple for me. Don't miss out!

Final Score: 91% (Easy Drinking and Complex. A Belgian Creation. In Jersey.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Summer Brew


F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Summer Brew

I have never had a Radler (lager and lemonade) before and was a bit hesitant. I enjoy lemony flavors that can come out from certain strains of yeast but I don't know how I feel about mixing lemonade in. Seems too easy. Pours a VERY light yellow color with a minimal head.

Flavor is sweet. Loads of lemonade with a bit of malt and hop notes going on in the background. I really don't like when beer flavors are in the background. Especially when drinking a beer. There really isn't much to describe here, the malt flavor is paralyzed and the hops are in a coma. This is only for someone who doesn't like beer and is a huge fan of lemonade. But if that is the case why not just drink a lemonade?

I am glad they are still experimenting and trying to bring new flavors to America but this one can stay in Europe. This isn't horrible but it really doesn't taste like a beer. Drinkable only on the hottest of days and even then I would go for a pilsner over this. Lemonade and sweetness needs to be toned down a few notches. This might be good for the style but I really can't give a good score if there isn't anything positive to note.

Final Score: 55% (Very Lemony. Where is the Beer?)

Beer Review: Ottakringer Helles

Ottakringer Brewery Helles Lager

My friend from Austria recently brought two cans of this back. He said it is the equivalent to a Budweiser over there, being prevalent in almost every bar. The Vienna stunner pours a slightly hazy golden yellow color. Short lived but noticeable head without any lacing. Aroma is nonexistent.

The flavor is OK. Tastes very similar to a standard Euro lager (Heineken or Becks) with few differences. Clean malt flavor with a very brief hop punch. By brief I mean by the time you notice it, the flavor is gone. The malt flavor is a bit richer than a Euro lager but not a whole lot of difference. Bit of boiled vegetable taste going on. Fortunately not skunky.

Definitely a step up from the bland Budweiser but really nothing that you couldn't get in America in a better form. If you find yourself in Austria and want to try a domestic its worth a shot but don't expect to be wowed. I don't hate it but it doesn't get too much love. I am sure Austria has much better beer to offer.

Final Score: 61% (Light on Hops. Light in Malt. Light on Score.)

Beer Review: Long Trail Ale

Long Trail Brewing Company Long Trail Ale

The flagship brew from the very Eco-friendly Long Trail Brewing Co. I really admire their efforts to go green and still release a very affordable product ($7.99 a six pack). The ale pours a rich amber color with a long lasting head. Lacing is in the picture. The rich aroma is loaded with malt, malt, and more malt.

The flavor is extremely pleasing. The altbier style, when done correctly, delivers all the complexity of an ale with the balanced refreshing taste of a lager. This does indeed deliver. Loads of amber malt with a quick sharp hop bite followed by a clean creamy yeast finish. This really delivers on the amber malt, not as rich as the spectacular double bag but will still get you with loads of malty sweetness.

This is one of the best altbiers I have ever had. This is defintely the kind of beer you could buy a whole case (or keg) of and never once regret the decision. I would still pick the double bag over this but it is a close call and on warmer days this might win out. Everyone should try this at least once.

Final Score: 91% (Altbier Done Right. Great Job!)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beer Review: Radeberger Pilsner

Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei Radeberger Pilsner Lager

Quite the name. I really don't want to type that again. I love a good pilnser and late spring is a great time to get them. This authentic German pilsner pours a light golden straw color with a very solid head. Not much in the lacing department. Aroma is very malty, no noticable hop aromas.

The flavor is solid. A surprisingly matly flavor hits you up front and is then countered with a moderate bitter hop flavor. Nothing too crazy but this is very well balanced and drinkable. The malt flavor is very deep and compelling. I don't know if its the water or some special mashing process but the flavor of the golden malt is just very pleasing. The hop bitterness really works well. This is how a pilsner should be.

This is a great pilsner. There are equally good American produced pilsners that are readily available but this is a very good alternative. While the style may not have originated in Germany, this is one of the best examples I have found. If you want a lighter session beer with a large amount of flavor this is one to seek out.

Final Score: 88% (Refreshing and Malty. Just Enough Hop Spice. Expertly Done.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Rye Pilsener

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Rye Pilsener Lager

The final new release of the Saranac 12 Beers of Summer. This is probably the release I was looking forward to the most as I love a good rye beer and always enjoy classic styles redone with a little bit of rye malt. I still am not certain of the official spelling of this style of beer (pilsener or pilsner? I certainly see both.) but I will continue on. Pours a golden/bronze color with a light head. Minimal malt aroma going on.

The flavor is very well done. I think this may be the standout of the new releases. The rye malt melds well with the very rich golden malt to create a unique combination that is very drinkable. Hoppiness is also here in full force. All the spicy hop goodness that you enjoy in a traditional pilsener is here.

Overall, this has fantastic drinkability and a great rye malt complexity that is hard to come by. This is the one new Saranac brew that I think has enough strength to stand on its own and get sold in six packs. This is a great addition to the mix pack and will be very thirst quenching on those particularly hot days.

Final Score: 86% (Deep and Thirst Quenching. What a Summer Release Should Be.)

Beer Review: Saranac Pale Pale Ale

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Pale Pale Ale

Time for the most entertaining of brews. It’s hard to ignore the humor of the pale pale ale. A pale ale that is actually very pale? They must have hired some good writers in Utica. I like it. The pale pale (or pp, yes I am mature) pours as promised a pale golden color with a very sturdy head. Some slight lacing near the top of the head. Aroma of fresh straw and grass. Real farmy.

This beer is satisfying. I wasn’t sure what to expect but this really surprised me. There is plenty of hop flavor to go around. Certainly equal hop levels to what you might find in a standard pale ale. No cut corners here. The malt is also in force but with the golden pilsner flavor rather than the amber malt most pale ale drinkers may be expecting. This is very similar to a pilsner just with more hopping.

Overall, this is a great addition to the summer pack. I do slightly miss the toasted amber malt but this brew really delivers on its name. If you ever wanted a lighter malt to accompany your pale ale this will please. Very tasty and earthy but could use some more sweetness to counter the strong hoppy backbone. I like the concept of this brew but the malt levels really need to be upped.

Final Score: 81% (Light Color and Hoppy. Could Use More Malt.)

Beer Review: Saranac Amber Wheat

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Amber Wheat

Another of the new releases contained in the 12 Beers of Summer pack. I suppose this may be the hefeweizen replacement. While I love that beer, I am always up for trying something new. The only question is whether amber will be too much for the summer. Pours a very cloudy/unfiltered amber color with a very robust head. A fair amount of lacing on the glass with a solid aroma of sweet amber malt.

Flavor is very good. Copious quantities of amber malt really allow a depth to this brew that many of the blonde/golden wheat beers seldom achieve. The unfiltered nature of the beer also allows a nice refreshing yeast quality that really goes down well on the hot days. This is similar to a standard summer ale, just with more yeast, and much more amber malt. Hops are not here in force.

In the end, it really comes down to two things. This is one of the most drinkable summer releases I have had so far. This is also very rich in amber malt to the point that it makes my mouth water as I write this. I don’t miss the hops at all right now. This brew combines the drinkability of a light blonde weizen with the rich malt body of an amber ale. You will enjoy this.

Final Score: 85% (Mouth Watering. Unfiltered. Need More Than Two.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Helles


F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Helles Lager

A new Saranac 12 Beers of Summer! Rejoice warm weather is here! With it comes 4 new Saranac releases. Exciting times we live in. The helles style is very appropriate for summer with its light hopping and golden malt goodness. Pours an EXTREMELY light golden color with a very solid head. Lots of lacing all over the glass. Aroma of sweet malt and maybe a little alcohol (seems odd).

The flavor is unfortunately underwhelming. Gotta love two consecutive double U words. The malt is very light and sweet as it should be but really offers no complexity. Same is true for the hopping. There is a slight bit of bitterness but really no standout flavors or aromas. There really isn't much to talk about. This reminds me of a rice beer.

This is one of my favorite styles of beer and I wanted to love this but it really doesn't deliver. I get a sweet malt flavor with very little else. Is it a good addition to the summer mix pack? Yes, it is drinkable and good on a hot day. Does this bring anything new to the table? No, this is uninteresting and about equal to an unskunked Becks or Heineken. I would not buy this in a six pack.

Final Score: 60% (No Character. Couldn't Pick It Out Of A Lineup.)

Beer Review: Magic Hat Wacko

Magic Hat Brewing Company Wacko Summer Seasonal Ale

This is a very unique offering. A summer ale brewed with beet juice. The result is as wacky as the name and the big pink head is very eye catching. If there was ever a beer that makes you feel completely unmanly this would be it. Don’t get me wrong. I like pink just as much as the next guy but this brew really pushes the boundaries of what beer can look like. My first pink beer. The aroma is not very robust with almost nothing detectable. Maybe some sweetness provided by the beet juice. Very hard to tell. No hops and no malt.

Fortunately, the flavor is not as bland as the aroma. There is a definite contribution from the beet juice. A very clean sweetness hits you up front before the malt and hops come in to play. The malt flavor is fairly clean with a little bit of cereal in the aftertaste. Tastes better initially then gets less enjoyable as it sits on your tongue. The hopping is adequate for balance but really provides minimal flavor.

Overall, this is a drinkable summer beer that offers a bit of a twist on light summer ale. I don’t even think you have to be a big beet fan to enjoy this. The impact on flavor is very small. Just don’t expect any big malt flavors or any hop presence. On exceptionally hot days I would strongly consider getting this again. Everyone should try this at least once for the novelty.

Final Score: 81% (Full of Character. Light on Flavor.)

Beer Review: Saranac Adirondack Lager

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Adirondack Lager

This lager is the flagship brew for the Saranac lineup. At least according to the website. It seems to me that the Pale Ale is more prevalent and shown in more Saranac publications including their newsletter. Yes, I am a proud member of Club Saranac. The lager pours a light copper color with a very foamy white head. Very minimal in the aroma department. I get a little bit of the characteristic Saranac yeast odor but really nothing else.

The flavor is very straightforward. This is a classic German style amber lager. Very drinkable and with a sharp hop bite after the initial sweet amber malt. The malt is extremely sweet and full but is balanced very well with the sharp hot finish.

This is not a deep or complex beer by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly is drinkable. There is enough flavor here to keep things interesting but I probably won’t buy this very often. If I want a flavorful session beer I can go elsewhere. There are other Saranac brews that would fill this role much more effectively.

Final Score: 70% (Not Enough Depth or Character. Not a Standout.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beer Review: Sam Adams Irish Red

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Irish Red Ale

Time for another Irish Red. Enjoying them while they are around. This used to be a style that I really didn't care for but I have definitely grown a taste for these. The malt flavors are generally very hard to compete with. This Red pours a deep copper/redish color with a sizable tan head. Aroma of toasted caramel malt and oven baked bread. Lets see how Boston's IRA stands up.

Flavor is nice. Immediately hits you with very sweet toasted malt flavors then follows up with a little spicy hop bitterness. Fairly balanced but I would like to see a little less sweet on the malt and a little more hop presence. It becomes too sweet after a few sips. This has flavor, just no drinkability to go along with it.

This brew hits all the style points and is certainly better than some IRA offerings but fails to wow me. My Irish Red of choice is still the Saranac version. This really isn't that much better than Anheuser-Busch's offering and you would safe a few bucks if you picked that up instead of this. Still, better than a Killian's or a Smithwick's.

Final Score: 76% (Tasty and Sweet. Needs More Balance.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beer Reivew: Sixpoint Eight Days of Wheat

Sixpoint Craft Ales Eight Days of Wheat Ale

Picked up a growler of this from the Whole Foods on Bowery St. Great beer destination. They constantly rotate their tap selections and any place that offers growlers is way up there in my book of great stores. I almost always go for Sixpoint when available because they are local and they are very limited in the bottle department. You almost always need to either sample their offerings in the bar or bring them home in a growler. The eight days pours a very cloudy copper color with a very strong head. Very unique aroma going on that has loads of fruit, hops, and yeast.

The flavor is one of the most unique wheat flavors I have every experienced. Very fruity and has almost a tropical flavor to it. Hard to describe but this is great for warm weather. Has coconut and pineapple flavors swirling around. I would love to get my hands on this yeast. The wheat flavors are definitely there too. You won't get a typical hefeweizen flavor but you will get something different and in my opinion better. The wheat provides a very rich bready flavor that is malty but not overly sweet. Hops are there in force but do not overpower anything.

Balance is just right. This beer has everything going for it and is a great beer to show something new to someone who thinks they have seen just about everything wheat beers have to offer. You get hops, malt, wheat, and yeast. All in balance and done with expert proficiency. The only flaw I can find is the difficulty I may have finding this in the future.

Final Score: 96% (My Favorite Wheat Beer. Balanced, Complex, Unique, and Drinkable!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beer Reivew: Arcadia Cocoa Loco

Arcadia Brewing Company Cocoa Loco Stout

My first encounter with Arcadia's big beer series. This is of the 2006 vintage. I am excited about this creation. I love a chocolaty stout and this one should be able to deliver. The loco pours a very dark brown color with one of the darkest heads I have ever seen. Impressive work. Aroma is loads of chocolate. Very exciting.

The flavor of this brew is amazing. Rich chocolaty flavors immediately come through and end very smoothly. The lactose addition really makes this drinkable. Aging could have helped a bit too. This is that rare big beer that you just want to keep drinking and drinking. The molasses flavor stays in the background but does surface after the initial shock of chocolate. The sweet flavors swirling around in the glass add plenty of complexity. Just don't expect a very pronounced hop presence.

You will not be disappointed with this beer. Occasionally, I will try a beer advertised as chocolaty and be very disappointed. I was not with this. This has what I feel is a maximum chocolate concentration for beer. The use of different fermentables really add a tremendous amount of depth to this crazy ale.

Final Score: 95% (One of the Best Stouts Around. Chocolaty Paradise.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beer Review: Magic Hat H I.P.A.

Magic Hat Brewing Company "H" India Pale Ale

All brewing companies should release two different IPAs like Magic Hat. A hoppier version (the H) and a more malty version the year round IPA. I love a good seasonal release. The HIPA pours a hazy copper color with a ridiculously robust head. Loads of lacing all over the glass. Full citrusy aromas from even a weak sniff. This has all the right appearance characterisitics. Lets get down to the soul.

Hoppy flavors burst from this beer. This is a very rare kind of IPA. This has loads of hop flavor and aromas while not being overly bitter or undrinkable. Surprisingly thirst quenching. I think I could drink this all night (or day) and not burn out any essential tasting abilities. Very light on malt flavors but because this is drinkable I don't really mind as much as I might in other IPAs.

Definitely one of the best IPAs around. I would pick up some of this before summer rolls around. This was a great surprise and a solid example of a very hoppy beer that is extremely drinkable. A little more malt character would have taken this beer to the next level but I really don't know if you can add even a small amount of malt while still maintaining the crazy hop flavors showcased here. Get this!

Final Score: 90% (Wonderful IPA. Beats Most Hands Down.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Stout

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Stout Ale

This has been one that I have been awaiting for a while. I know that the Saranac Stout is included in the year-round Black and Tan but I really wanted to try the unadulterated Stout. Finally, the newly available "What Ales You?" variety 12 pack contains two bottles of the hard to find Stout. The brew pours very dark. Nearly opaque mahogany color with a strong tan head and loads of lacing everywhere. I don't get much in the aroma department. Maybe some coffee notes but nothing too overt.

The flavor is very roasted. On par with the style you will get loads of coffee and chocolate flavors coupled with strong hop bitterness. While this brew does conform to the style guidelines it does also have a unique milky creaminess that sets it apart from other Stouts. I also find the relatively low ABV of 4.8% really showcases the flavor of a solid stout. I find myself more and more liking the lower alcohol stouts more than the bigger beers. The roasted malt flavors seem to come out better without the alcohol flavor competition.

This is definitely one of the best Stouts around. I would call this a couple steps above (some may cry sacrilege) a Guinness. The roasted malt flavor with the very noticeable hop bitterness is extremely well done. You will certainly enjoy this brew and I will be sure to pick up more of the "What Ales You?" packs while they are still around.

Final Score: 87% (Great Stout. Drinkable, but Deep. Nice Addition)

Beer Review: Long Trail Double Bag

Long Trail Brewing Company Double Bag Ale

About time I got around to reviewing some Long Trail products. They generally provide solid quality craft brews at very affordable prices (my favorite qualities). This is a very unique brew that comes highly recommended to me. I don't know what category or "style" to force this beer into but then again it really doesn't need to be compartmentalized and can be its own style. The double bag pours a clean amber color with a very solid bone white head. Some definite lacing around the glass. Aroma is pure, rich, and deep maltiness.

The flavor is very surprising. As advertised, you will not notice the robust alcohol level of 7.2%. The malt flavor really shines. I don't know how they accomplished this miracle of science but I imagine that a large amount of crystal malt was involved. The depth of the malt flavor in this brew is awesome. Malty sweet and slightly roasted flavors really raise the bar for strong ales. The hops are also here in force. Very robust citrus hop flavors come through to balance out the sweet malt flavors. Somewhat similar to a bigger Oktoberfest beer.

The "INDULGE IN MODERATION" warning on the label is actually a good idea. This is much more drinkable than you might expect for the ABV level and I could definitely see how someone could but these down really quickly and get into trouble. This is a delicious brew and one worthy of your drinking. If you want a fresh brew that has flavor to spare this is a great find. This is not going to last very long in my fridge. In fact, I think I may want another...

Final Score: 92% (Dangerously Drinkable. The Double Bag Abides.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beer Review: Brother Thelonious Ale

North Coast Brewing Company Brother Thelonious Belgian Abbey Style Ale

Interesting idea for a beer release. North Coast donates two dollars for every case sold to the Thelonious Monk Institute to support Jazz music. I like it. I am also a huge fan of dark Belgian ales. Seems like a recipe for success. Pours a dark mahogany color with an off-white head. Lots of lacing all over the glass. Aroma is pure chocolate and spice. Very inviting.

Flavor is wonderful. Very complex chocolate and caramel malt flavors with that classic Belgian spiciness floating around. Hoppy flavors and bitterness are there but in the background and subdued. This beer really melts in your mouth if such a thing is possible. Really viscous in your mouth and then lightens up as it warms. Chocolate to caramel to spice. I even get some oaky flavors. Delicious.

This may be a hard one to find in Jersey but I really recommend picking up a bottle if you can. The fact that this supports Jazz music is also a huge plus. The high alcohol percentage (9.3%) will also ensure good aging if you feel so inclined. I doubt I would have the patience for that. This is one complex beer that will hit the spot. Worth every penny.

Final Score: 95% (Deep, Warm, and Complex. Dark Belgian At Its Best.)

Beer Review: Arcadia IPA

Arcadia Brewing Company India Pale Ale

Its rare for me to find anything from Arcadia around Jersey so I was pleased to be able to pick this up. Seems like IPAs are quickly becoming the most prevalent craft beer style produced in the country. Would be interesting to see production volumes for different styles. This IPA pours a hazy dark copper color with an average head. Some lacing around the top. Aroma is very minimal. Some hops and a little bit of malt but not too much.

Flavor is very odd for an IPA. The malt has an odd sour flavor which doesn't do a very good job of balancing this hoppy brew. The hops are there in force but it really isn't very aromatic or flavorful. More bitter than anything else. Sour and bitter really don't work well together. Tasting this doesn't make me want another.

I don't know if much of the freshness was lost in the journey from Michigan but this is really underwhelming. Definitely one of my least favorite IPAs. I would like to try it on tap somewhere to see if it's just this batch. I will try more of their releases if I can find them but this is really not impressive. I would avoid this.

Final Score: 65% (Poor Malt Flavor. Only Bittering Hops. Not Much To Love.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beer Review: Michelob Irish Red

Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company Michelob Irish Red Ale

Time for a seasonal Michelob release. Have to give the "King of Beers" a fair shot too. Price is right too. Hard to beat just over six dollars for a six pack of good beer. Lets just hope this actually turns out to be good beer. The Irish Red pours a medium copper color with an average tan head. No lacing present. The aroma is very malty. So far so good.

The flavor is surprisingly balanced and drinkable. Very nice sweet malt flavor up front followed by a very nice hop balance. The lightly toasted malt really adds a lot to the body. The hops aren't extremely assertive but they really shouldn't be for an Irish red. They are ample for balancing the malty ale. There is still that characteristic Anheuser-Busch yeast flavor that seems to come up in most of their products but the malt power dominates.

This is a very solid example of the style. This won't blow you away with a deep malt complexity but it will provide you with a great session beer. The price really makes this a great buy. I would still point you too the slightly (under a dollar) more expense Saranac Irish Red over this due to the better crystal malt quality but this is a very close second. Good job AB!

Final Score: 84% (Drinkable and Simple with a Sweet Malty Flavor. Great Price!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beer Review: Franziskaner Weissbier


Spatan-Franziskaner Brewery Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier

Time for a true German original. Spell-check really loves this name. For this style of beer I don't mind the green bottle as much because wheat beers usually aren't heavy in the hop department. Lowering the hop levels limits the amount of skunking potential. This hefe pours a very cloudy pale straw color with a very solid head. Lighter in color than most blonde wheat beers. Not much in the way of lacing but the head does last for a long time. Aroma is pure clove.

The flavor is classic hefeweizen. A bit heavy on the clove flavor but still very drinkable. I could have used some more banana or even more of the tart wheat malt flavor. Very refreshing brew. It's hard for me to describe but when I swallow this a really nice malt flavor comes to my mind. Makes me want to have another sip. Complexity is lacking but this is easily on par with some of the "benchmark" American craft beer producers.

Overall, this is a very average hefeweizen. Definitely drinkable and not bad but it lacks a solid unique quality. I would not be able to pick this out of a lineup. I would wager that this tastes much better in Germany. Anytime a food product has to travel across an ocean it must lose some of it's freshness. Worth a shot if you are new to the style or love cloves. Otherwise, I would try to find a locally produced hefeweizen.

Final Score: 74% (Very Average. Drinkable but Not Complex.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Beer Review: Sixpoint Righteous Ale

Sixpoint Craft Ales Righteous Rye Ale

My first Sixpoint review! About damn time. This local Brooklyn based brewery has been consistently impressive with their wide variety of ales. It is rare to find a quality rye ale (that is not from the Midwest) so I jumped at the chance for a growler of this. I believe very few (only 2) of their 19 beers are actually bottled. That means I may have to use growlers more often. Nothing wrong with that. Fresh beer is the best. The aroma coming off of the glass is staggering. Very rarely do I get a rich malt aroma followed with creamy yeast and floral hops all at once. Inviting is an understatement. The appearance is a lace lovers dream. All over the glass and on top the head just doesn't quit. Superb hopping. Dark amber color holds true for the style.

The flavor is much hoppier than I expected. At just under 54 IBUs and 7.2% ABV this beer is hoppier and stronger than almost any rye ale I have had to this point. This is truly righteous. The rye malt flavor is delicious. It really has a fresh cut sweet rye bread flavor that quickly rolls into a powerful hop attack. Very smooth transition. This has a higher IBU level than even some leading IPAs! I like the lack of conformity to style guidelines but make sure that you are in the mood for hops. You will get lots of them.

This is one hell of a beer. This is not in any way similar to most rye beers on the market. I have never had one like this. I would classify this as a RIPA. The hops are here in full force and they taste as fresh as possible. I only wish the rye malt was a little stronger. It is there and flavorful but the hops really dominate this brew. If you see this on tap you would do well to try a pint.

Final Score: 88% (Fresh Rye Flavor. Delicious Hopping. A Little Off Balance.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beer Review: Brooklyn Monster Ale


Brooklyn Brewery Monster Barleywine Ale

Finally found a six pack of this rarity (at least where I shop). This an intriguing beer to me because while it is truly a big beer (10.1% ABV) it is not as big as Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout (10.6%). I figured that with a name like "Monster" that it was going to be the biggest and baddest of the Brooklyn lineup. Is this Godzilla? Or is this the lowly insect Mothra? Let's discover. The monster pours a translucent dark brown color with a very robust tan head. Lots of lacing and head retention. Aroma is of sweet malt, alcohol, and maple syrup. So far so good.

The monster bites with loads of malt. Where the Black Chocolate Stout delivered roasted coffee and chocolate goodness, the monster delivers loads of amber malt. The hops certainly take a backseat to this malt monster, few recipes can fight this. The flavors constantly evolve as the solvent heavy brew evaporates off your tongue. Cake, rum, biscuits, and even a little bit of maple syrup like flavors await you. Although balance seems out of reach, maybe that wasn't the intent. Brooklyn created a malt monster that can't be stopped even with the copious amount of hops that I am sure were thrown into the mix. Why get balance when you can fuck shit up?

There is no balance. No attempt at peaceful reconciliation. This is war on hops and the monster sure seems to be winning. If you want a beer that will teach you to fear malt this is the one. Anyone who doubts the possible complexity of beer needs only to try a barleywine like this. If you see this in the store I highly recommend picking it up. It is more pricey but in this case you really get what you pay for. To answer my original question, the monster is Godzilla.

Final Score: 90% (The Monster has Malt Bite to Spare.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac IPA

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac India Pale Ale

Another of the core Saranac beers that I picked up in the new "What Ales You?" 12 pack. I am a huge IPA fan and I seem to be drinking quite a few of them lately. The most surprising thing about this brew is that it is a light golden color. Much lighter than even a standard American pale ale. Still, it may be light in color but the hop aromas coming out of the glass are very strong. Grassy with a little bit of citrus. There is a small amount of lacing around the glass.

The flavor is very bitter. The light pilsener style malt really takes a backseat to the aggressive hoping. The hop flavor is mostly grassy with enough fresh citrus flavors to keep things interesting. The pilsener malt does provide a tiny bit of malt flavor but is really not in a position to create a balanced beer. A bit of additional amber malt could have gone a long way.

If you love a balanced IPA this is not the beer for you. If you want a very bitter, hoppy beer with minimal malt character this is the ideal beer for you. I would really like some more malt flavor with this. As it is now, the drinkability is surprisingly low. Don't get me wrong, I like IPAs that have a ton of hops. The problem is that the lack of any real malt character renders this brew to be very one-dimensional.

Final Score: 72% (Very Hoppy and Bitter. Too Simplistic.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beer Review: Saranac Brown Ale

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Brown Ale

Good old Saranac Brown. One of the core Saranac beers and one that I should have reviewed long ago. The brown pours a very dark redish copper color with a very solid head. Lacing all around the glass. Nice to know they didn't skimp on the hops. The aroma is creamy Saranac yeast and some great hop backbone.

This is a great brown ale. The malt complexity is glorious. They definitely used just the right amount of chocolate malt. You get the what tastes like four different kinds of malt, all with different roasting levels and it really unfolds throughout your mouth. The chocolate is a great finish. The hops take no back seat either. They hit you in the beginning with a fresh hoppy citrus flavor and go smoothly into a sharp bitterness that really complements the rich malty flavor.

This is an amazingly balanced and drinkable brew. It really hides the slightly higher 6% ABV level. You get an amazing malt complexity and a very solid hop profile. At a low price this really can't be beat. Certainly one of the best browns out there. I highly recommend this.

Final Score: 94% (Extremely Complex, Very Drinkable, and Cheap. Awesome.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beer Review: Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

Stone Brewing Company Cali-Belgique India Pale Ale

This was an interesting find with a very bizarre name. It makes sense when put in the context of a west coast style IPA brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. Very intriguing. Could it be the best of both worlds? Pours a fairly light copper color with a strong head. Loads of lacing all over the glass. Aromas of Belgian spiciness and fresh hops quickly rise to your brain. So far so good.

Flavor is solid but not as crazy or delicious as I expected. The hops are certainly there in a big way. No questioning that. The spiciness is also there. The only problem I have is that there isn't much else beyond that. I don't know what I expected but at a price of $8 for a 22 oz. bomber but this isn't enough bang for the buck.

This is a great beer. You get loads of hops and a ton of Belgian spiciness but it really isn't as complex or mind blowing as it needs to be to justify the price. I love the Stone brewery but I will stick to their other offerings. Give it a try if you feel like splurging but don't expect to be blown out of the water. If they made this for less I would be thrilled.

Final Score: 78% (Great Beer. Bad Price.)

Beer Review: Saranac IRA

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Irish Red Ale

Finally, found a fresh six pack of the IRA. Funny that there is an Irish style beer that can be abbreviated as IRA. Where is Harrison Ford when you need him? Can't get enough Patriot Games. This brew pours a rich amber color with an average sized head. Aroma is Saranac. If you have smelled a Saranac brew before you will have a good idea what this smells like. They all seem to have a similar aroma.

The flavor is very nice. The drinkability is the first thing that strikes me as being great. This may be an ale but it drinks like a lager. The second great thing is the crystal malt. You really get the full amber flavor you are craving with this. Not overly complex but delicious. The hops are there but they only really provide bitterness and very little else. This is on par for the style.

This is a go to beer for a party. You could drink these all night and not feel full. The great malt quality is also a big plus. If you are in the mood for a drinkable amber ale you would not go wrong with this. The IRA isn't the most complex beer out there but it is tasty and drinkable. This is a great success for Saranac and I am glad they released it.

Final Score: 86% (Drinkable, Tasty, and Simple. Give it a try!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beer Review: Climax IPA

Climax Brewing Company India Pale Ale

This beer makes it the last Climax brew I can review until Dave and Kurt come out with a new brew. Sad in one way but I also feel pleased that I have reviewed all of there yearly offerings. This IPA pours a golden amber color with a great robust head. The aroma is beautiful. Some of the freshest malt and hop aromas around. I love fresh beer. When properly stored by distributors and stores Climax always delivers.

This flavor is wonderful. This is an IPA in true traditional European style. Very hoppy but not overpowering. If a brew can bring on the hops while still delivering a balanced beer I am on cloud 9. This is a beer I could drink all night. I just can't get enough.

Balance and freshness are the two most important characteristics in beer to me. This beer has both. If you are lucky enough to be able to purchase this at your local liquor store you should not hesitate. I would like to meet the person who could be disappointed with this brew. Fantastic.

Final Score: 96% (One of the Elite All-Time Great IPAs. Hop Fans Must Try!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beer Review: Brooklyn Winter Ale

The Brooklyn Brewery Winter Ale

This is one that seems to be rare around the Jersey City area. Plenty of the Black Chocolate Stout but this is the first and only six pack I found of the Winter Ale. Pours a dark amber color with a strong head. No lacing that I can pick out. Aroma is extremely creamy. That's the best way I can describe it. Malty and creamy. Almost like beer-milk? Not as bad or outlandish as that probably sounds.

Flavor is great and malty. This is different from most winter seasonals in that there is a ton of lightly roasted malt flavor and they didn't fool around with spices. It's nice just to have a rich beer without cinnamon, wheat, or allspice. This is similar to a bock lager but with more of a punch. I like a spiced beer now and then but sometimes you just want a beer. I do find myself missing the hops though. I don't need this to be an IPA but I would like a bit more balance and fresh hop character. The bitterness is there but not much else.

This is also surprisingly drinkable for a winter ale. I have gotten half-way through this one and I wish I had another one lined up. If I ever get my dream of a kegerator this would be a serious consideration for a winter tap beer. If you are feeling the cold this will probably hit the spot. Just don't get this if you want hops. You will find the bare minimum here. That said, the malt flavor is second to very few.

Final Score: 86% (Drinkable, Better Malt Than Most But Lacks Hop Balance)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beer Review: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 90 Minute Imperial India Pale Ale

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this earlier. I think I assumed I did without realizing it. Sam Calagione is a master brewer and you are almost always guaranteed to get your money's worth (even with the somewhat higher prices). This hoppy brew pours a deep copper color with a very robust white head. Aroma is very citrusy and piney. Some very sweet malt aromas come through as well. Lots of lacing all over the glass. Very inviting.

The flavor is nothing short of wonderful. The full and rich hoppy flavor is heavily balanced by a very large amount of malt. At 9% ABV this is one rich beer. I had a huge craving for hops today and this is sure to quench it. The hop flavor is very strong and would be overpowering if not for the gigantic malt quantity used to counter it. Despite it's intimidating name and gravity this is a very balanced beer.

This is one of the best Imperial IPAs available. If you are in the mood for a big, bold, hoppy beer this will rock your world. The only complaint I have about this is that it comes in four packs for the same price as a standard six pack. I know that the quality is higher than usual but I would still prefer buying this in six packs. Four just never feels right. The quality is worth it though. You won't be disappointed.

Final Score: 93% (Wonderfully Hoppy and Rich. Craving Satisfied.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beer Review: Ramstein Blonde Wheat

High Point Wheat Beer Company Blonde Wheat Ale

Always love a good blonde hefeweizen. Especially a locally produced Jersey hefe. The bottle conditioning (carbonating in the bottle) is also a nice touch. Few breweries still do this. It generally doesn't make a huge difference but it is the kind of extra step that can put a brew over the top. The blonde pours a very cloudy light golden (blonde) color with an average head. Lots of clove going on in this aroma. I am not a hardcore clove fan but it is something that varies between breweries.

Flavor is pretty good. The freshness and rich clove flavor is really nice. I would certainly enjoy drinking a few of these on the beach. If I ever went to the beach. The sun always has to stick its over-heated omnipresent head into my business. The clove flavor definitely has a bit more freshness than you might get from your average blonde wheat. I really miss the banana flavors also produced by good German hefe yeast. The clove flavor is just too dominant.

This is an above average wheat beer that will satisfy most hefeweizen cravings. If they fermented at a slightly colder temp the flavor would be much more refreshing. Less clove and more banana. I feel like a broken record. If you live in Jersey and it's not winter (or if you are in the mood) you won't go wrong with this. I still prefer the Climax Hefeweizen over this. This is a good second though, even more so if you don't want to deal with the growler size.

Final Score: 83% (Fresh and Flavorful but Could be Better!)

Beer Review: Sam Adams Scotch Ale

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Scotch Ale

Since Scotch happens to be my favorite liquor and beer rocks my world this is a no brainer. Though I do lose the rewarding heavy buzz of sipping a neat glass. The beer pours a very pretty dark red color with crazy lacing around the glass. I can already taste the smoke in the aroma. Very exciting job this beer reviewing is. If only I can figure out a way to make real money (or get free beer sent to me). I will certainly work for beer. I think I already might.

This flavor is unmistakable scotch. I am always skeptical about this style because I never think it can really capture that smokey peat goodness but it usually comes through. This malt is expertly done. This is my flavorite scotch ale so far. You get the full smokey flavor combined with the sweet richness of biscuity malt. The hops aren't really noticable but if they were I think this brew would be very painful on the palette. Like gin. I really hate gin.

If you like scotch and beer you will love this. Sam's scotch ale is a fantastic winter beer. The malty flavor is complex and provides all the right things. You won't miss the hops. I wish they would offer this in six packs. I would certainly pick up a few. If they ever start a gin ale I am boycotting.

Final Score: 89% (Warming, Malty, and Complex. What More Do You Want?)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beer Review: Sam Adams Boston Ale

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Boston Ale

Time for another Boston brew review. This time its the ale cousin of the classic Boston lager. Eventually I will get all 21 Sam Adams beers reviewed. The ale pours a dark copper color with a very robust head. Lacing forms a solid cylinder around the glass. Very cool appearance. Aroma is very hoppy. Its rare when I can actually smell some serious hopping and it bodes well.

Flavor is really nice. This is very much a pale ale, I would say in the American style. The malt is fairly noticeable with some biscuity lightly toasted flavors. The hop bitterness is very strong in this one. It hits you up front and then comes around again in the aftertaste. A little bit of grapefruity hop flavor present too.

This is a nice balanced American pale ale. Really goes down very easy. The only characteristic I would change about this beer is to include a little less bitterness and more hoppy flavor. The small amount of citrusy notes are really nice and I would like to see this flavor strengthened. Still, this is very smooth and would make a great session ale. This is very similar to the Boston lager. This brew just happens to be slightly more hoppy than its lager relative. If you need a very noticeable (but balanced) hop presence in your beer you would do well to choose this.

Final Score: 82% (A Hoppy American Pale Ale. Fairly Average but Very Drinkable)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beer Review: Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55

Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55

Time for another semi-local brew. I love this brewery and I will continue to support them. Especially after reading their book "Beer School". Very good read for all beer enthusiasts. Just make sure you have some Brooklyn brew handy because you will be craving it. The Pennant ale pours a slightly dark golden color with a decent head that sticks around for a few minutes. Not much going on in the lacing department. Aroma is nice with a very malty character.

The flavor is very surprising. The malt really wows me. It has a unique quality that I can't put my finger on. Its a very lightly toasted flavor. A little sweet and really add some depth. The hopping is also well done, providing a great balance to the rich malt goodness. I could use some more hops but that might through off the balance. It's tough to say.

This is very drinkable. Maybe even more drinkable than the classic Brooklyn lager. I wasn't anywhere near born by 1955 so it seems weird to be drinking a beer that celebrates the Brooklyn Dodgers victory then. In the end it doesn't really matter. This is a great beer that I will be sure to get again in the future. This quality of malt is very hard to come by. You owe it to yourself to try this at least once.

Final Score: 88% (High Quality and Very Drinkable Ale. Go Dodgers!)