Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beer Review: Saranac Lake Effect Lager

Matt Brewing Company Saranac Lake Effect Lager

Finally sitting down to write a review. Been too long but now that my wedding is over it needs to happen. I've written far too much to let this blog die. Feels good. I figure a good place to start is with one of my favorite breweries that happens to continually come up with new offerings. I love that they switch things up. The same beers year after year get very old, it makes it even better when one of you favorites makes an appearance (Bring Back the High Peaks Series!). The lake effect lager replaces the winter lager of last year. The lager pours a rich amber color with a brief fluffy white head. Smells of German goodness and some sweet malt.

The first thing that hits me about the flavor of this beer is the big malt presence. Very sweet and biscuty with a slight hint of roasting. Hops are also in effect here, the Hallertau hops add a pleasant spiciness that really balances this beer out. I would say this is similar to other bocks you may have had, just more balanced and drinkable. Somehow goes down easy. Could be that I just really like beer though.

The Matt Brewing Company seems to specialize in German style beers, probably due to their German heritage. This beer tastes truly German, all the lager yeast and malt flavor you would be looking for. Just without the import price. This makes a solid addition to this years "12 Beers of Winter" mix pack and a slight improvement on last year's Winter Lager.

Final Score: 86% (Big and Warming but Drinkable)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beer Review: Original Flag Porter

Darwin Brewing Company Original Flag Porter

Hearing rumors from a friend that this beer is retired and not seeing it on the website make me feel very fortunate to have found this historical beer (in more than one sense) before it disappears. This porter is brewed with yeast that was recovered from a ship that sunk in 1825. Very cool stuff. How can you not want to try this piece of history? The ale pours a dark amber color with an off white head. Aroma is very sweet. Almost like burnt sugar.

The flavor is also sweet. Dark roasted sugars dominate the palate with a very noticeable carbonation. Tingles on the tongue. I don't get much in the coffee department but some subtle chocolate comes through. Nothing revolutionary about the taste but I have to say that his is very drinkable and a solid example of what an English porter should be.

Overall, I don't have anything negative to say about this beer besides the price. I paid about 12 dollars for a four pack. This is a fun beer to try because of the historical gimmick but after you have had it I would recommend switching to something less expensive. In my opinion you aren't getting anything extra for your buck.

Final Score: 82% (Solid Beer, Too Pricey)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beer Review: Stoudts Karnival Kolsch

Stoudt's Brewing Company Karnival Kolsch Ale

This Cologne style used to be more obscure and is thankfully making a solid comeback in America. This is also a tough one to describe. Similar to a pilsner in ingredients with a twist on the fermentation process. The warm fermenting estery, fruity kolsch yeast really adds some depth to what would typically be a simple session beer. The kolsch pours a light golden color with a rich and foamy white head. Aroma isn't too strong, nothing too different from a standard pilsner or helles lager.

The most surprising thing about this beer after the first sip is the amount of hop flavor present. This is just way too assertive. Typically the hops are in balance with the malt in this style. This balance is critical to give the beer its needed depth. I just don't get much more than a hoppy pilsner. Slight malt sweetness and an aggressive grassy hop flavor. A little boring.

This is a decent beer but it really leaves me wanting a more traditional kolsch. If I went into this craving a pilsner I would be satisfied. The Karnival just doesn't provide that Kolschy flavor that I so rarely find. The hoppiness is way too strong. It drowns out any of the subtleties of the yeast.

Final Score: 69% (Fine Taste. Not A Kolsch.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beer Review: Saranac Irish Stout

F.X. Matt Brewing Company Saranac Irish Stout

This is one of the newest Saranac released contained in the "What Ale's You?" mixed 12 packs. St. Patrick's day may now be a year away but Irish ales can and should be enjoyed year round. At least in the spring time. I think Irish stouts tend to be more dry than the traditional English Stouts but I am not certain about this. The aroma on this beer is pure roasted barley. Deep and dark. I also love the appearance, extremely dark in color and the head has that awesome tan color that comes with truly dark beers.

This is a big beer. Just fills my mouth up and really gives me that satisfying feeling that can only come from a beer that lacks nothing in flavor. This tastes like thick and delicious coffee. Similar to a Guinness but much better in my opinion. The lack of the nitrogen results in a slightly less smooth mouthfeel but it brings out a certain sweetness in the roasted barley. This is a very solid beer.

This would easily be one of my "go to" picks for an American made stout. I think even the Irish would have a hard time beating this take on one of their top export beers. This is big enough to really hit a couple flavor notes but drinkable enough that I could certainly have quite a few. I am hard pressed to find flaws in this.

Final Score: 88% (Deep, Dark, and Drinkable. A Credit to America.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beer Review: Tyskie Lager

Tyskie Brewery Tyskie Gronie Premium Lager

Finally! An imported lager that comes in an amber bottle. Green seems way too common for my liking. The lager pours a remarkably clear golden color with a decent head retention. The head was slow to build but managed to stay around for a while. Aroma is of very faint malt. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Flavor is actually pretty dry for my taste. Similar to a typical Japanese lager (Asahi). Very sweet and clean malt flavor with almost nothing in the hop department besides the absolute minimum. This beer goes down very easily but it really doesn't leave me with much of an impression. Hops would have gone a long way to balance this and really make it drinkable.

I like the bottle, but that is pretty much the only thing I can say I am pleased with. The flavor tastes like a slight step up from a typical light lager. Better than a Budweiser but not by nearly as much as I would like. I can't say that I hate this beer but I really don't see a need to import this, there are so many drinkable domestic lagers.

Final Score: 72% (Drinkable. Nothing Unique. Poland Must Have Better Beer.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Beer Review: River Horse Lager

River Horse Brewing Company River Horse Lager

The flagship beer of South Jersey's great River Horse Brewery. I am definitely a fan of this company. I have heard they have been often criticized for having uninteresting and mediocre beers but I must have missed that time. Every beer I have had from them has been loaded with flavor and the rotating "Brewer's Reserve" line has been filled with big, memorable beers. The lager pours a cloudy golden color with a moderately sized head. Aroma is pure malt.

The flavor is striking. Touted as an "ungespundet hefetrub", this lager is deep. I had to do some googling on this term because I have never encountered it before. I think it means unfiltered and matured out in the open, rather than sealed off. If someone knows, feel free to let me know. The malt flavor on this beer is amazing. Large grain flavors and aromas rise out of the golden clouds and dominate this beer. Some bitterness is provided by a gentle hopping but nothing too noticeable.

Don't fall into the trap of assuming that just because it is called a lager that it is boring. I have been guilty of this more than once. This is a deep beer that should be respected. Much more than a filler for a variety pack. I could definitely see myself getting a six pack of this now and then. Very drinkable.

Final Score: 86% (Complex, Unique, and Drinkable. A Great Choice.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beer Review: Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Flying Dog Brewing Company Raging Bitch Belgian Style India Pale Ale

This is an exciting offering. Not too often that you find this style. I hope it becomes more common. The name is awesome and is perfectly complimented by resident artist Ralph Steadman's badass bottle art. Who doesn't like a little gonzo art with their beer? The bitch pours out a medium amber color with loads of lacing around the glass. Aroma is nothing but hops and Belgian spicy yeast. Very inviting. At 8.3% ABV this beer is no joke.

The flavor is excellent. Exactly as I had hoped. Alternates between a very bitter aggressive hop profile and what tastes like a Belgian Dubble. The hops do seem to dominate the beer but that is how it should be. A raging bitch needs to be a bitch to your tongue. Seems appropriate to me. The Belgian side of this ale is very sweet, spicy, and alcoholic. There is just a lot going on here. Very complex.

When I am craving a Belgian ale and do not want to sacrifice hoppy goodness this is the perfect beer. I don't taste a single cut corner. This is a big beer done right and at a great price. $8.39 a six pack is very reasonable for a beer of this caliber. I am not sure what the availability of this brew is but I encourage everyone to get this before it is gone. I can't even find a real flaw. I declare this case worthy.

Final Score: 95% (This Bitch Is Raging. Not for the timid.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beer Review: Peroni Beer

S.p.A Birra Peroni Brewing Company Peroni Beer

Finally, got a chance to try this Italian import that I have seen popping up more and more. While I know Italy has a local microbrewery scene this is the only brush with Italian brewing that I have encountered. The green bottle is an immediate loss of a couple points but not the biggest deal. I have had great beers in green bottles. The brew pours a light golden color with a very white head. Classic pilsner look. Aroma of light malt. Not too much to smell.

The flavor is a dead ringer for Heineken. Light skunky flavor with a very light malt flavor. Some hoppiness but really nothing powerful. This is a very basic European import pilsner. Something that I am sure most people have had before. Just replace a Heineken label with Peroni and you are there.

I am not big on this beer. It seems like there are endless brands offering this same style of beer. I would like to be able to differentiate this beer but as I feared it is just another import clone. If you are a big Heineken fan give this a try but if you don't like skunky beer stay away. To me, there is nothing new to be found here. This is a disappointing offering from a country that produces such aromatic and flavorful cuisine and wine.

Final Score: 62% (Skunky and Boring. Been Down this Road Too Many Times.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beer Review: Köstritzer Schwarzbier

Köstritzer Schwarzbier Brewery Köstritzer Schwarzbier Lager

Sorry for the delay in another review, been busier than usual. Doesn't mean I have been drinking less, just writing less. The Black lager is one of my favorite styles of beer as it is rich on roasted malt and obscenely drinkable. If you are lucky, it will even have some depth. Do not be fooled by the appearance. The lager pours a very dark mahogany color with a light brown head. I get a little bit of alcohol in the aroma but nothing too crazy. Not like an Imperial Stout which will clear you right up.

This is tasty. Barely has any viscosity. The mouthfeel is light and airy. Strong chocolate flavors going on here. Very light carbonation also which I think is a plus. I have no need for extra bubbles. Sweet caramel flavors come through as well. Almost like drinking a very light hot chocolate that will still put hair on your chest. Who doesn't want more hair on their chest? The hop flavors are lacking but typically they are toned down when doing a black lager. Still, I would like more.

The originators of the style produced a damn good product here. Personally, I like some of the American versions better (Sam Adams Black Lager stands out) but I can't bring myself to pan this just because it isn't the best. This is a solid example of how a cold fermented lager goes down easy. Flavor doesn't have to be sacrificed. If you want something dark and not too heavy this will hit the spot.

Final Score: 83% ( Sweet and Dark. Not Too Deep. Average for the Style.)