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.)