Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Clipper City Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Smoke on the Water Smoked Porter

Pretty cool back story with this brew...The "Mutiny Fleet" started out as side projects for the brewers at Clipper City to make stuff that suits their own, more complex palates, and some of the beers turned out so well that they started bottling them in 22 oz. "bombers" to sell. This one happens to have the notes of its Deep Purple namesake printed on the bottle...

Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Smoke on the Water Smoked Porter is an 8% ABV black brew with ruby accents and a two-finger, brown head of small bubbles. The beer smells of dark chocolate and smoked peat, and has a very dark, bold flavor.

Despite being much more highly carbonated than I was expecting, the beer is very smoky and smooth. The coffee aftertaste lasts FOREVER, making for a great finish. Good stuff!

Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest 2010

The other new beer in the "Night of the Living Dead" mix pack, this brew is replacing Roxy Rolles as the Autumn seasonal. I can really appreciate this beer because I think it is more fitting for the time of year...

Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest 2010 is a deep copper-colored brew with a one-finger, off-white head of small bubbles. Thee beer smells lightly of cinnamon with more prevalent aromas of sweet malts and nutmeg.

I was actually expecting this to be a pumpkin beer, but instead the flavors are caramel and toffee - a VERY nice surprise. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and there is some smoke with the sweet - the finish is a little spicy. Really good brew!

Magic Hat Fall '10 Odd Notion

What will it be this quarter? That is what I find myself asking each season with the release of the newest Magic Hat mix pack. The Odd Notions never cease to amaze with their abnormal ingredients and cockeyed approach to brewing...This one happens to be a Green Apple Wit

Magic Hat Fall '10 Odd Notion is a hazy, lemonade colored brew with a two-finger white head of lace. This beer smells like a sour apple BlowPop, mixed with a Blue Moon. The first taste is fruity and light with some citrus, and a little too sweet for my taste.

I have to say I was worried at first with the addition of apple that it would make this beer taste like a cider - fortunately that was not the case. Also, despite the sweetness the brew is very refreshing with a sour finish. The tartness puckers your mouth yet leaves a pleasant sweet aftertaste with some spice from the coriander. I would drink it again!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

This is another brew that I sampled years ago and only just now am getting back to reviewing. However, I have written previously about my enjoyment of other North Coast brews...

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is a black brew with ruby accents, and a one-finger head of dark tan foam. The beer produces heavy lacing and smells intensely of dark chocolate and coffee.

As an Imperial Stout you can imagine the full-bodied, and full-figured flavor that this one has to offer...The first taste is sweet malt and alcohol, but is very smooth for its heavy body. The immediate sweetness is followed by some serious bitterness, and the 9% ABV brew finishes dry.

With lots of flavor and lots of texture this is a great beer for dessert or before bedtime!

Flying Fish Exit 6 Wallonian Rye

Short history lesson with tonight's post...Did anyone else out there know that the Belgians were once called Dutch Walloons? Well, I didn't - but the folks at Jersey Fresh Ale sure did! They also knew that these "Walloons" settled in the New World in Burlington County, New Jersey, and their first order of business was to build a fort - and then a tavern. Sound like my kind of people!

My buddy's wife was born in Burlington County - unfortunate for her (j/k, I have to joke on NJ) - but fortunately for me they go back from time to time and they brought this brew back to share!

Flying Fish Exit 6 Wallonian Rye is a hazy orange and gold brew with a thin white lacy head. The beer smells of spicy Belgian yeast and fruit. This 7.5% ABV brew has a wonderful dark malt taste as a result of the use of locally grown rye, in addition to the warming alcohol and citrusy hops. A lot of spice and some lemon add to the dry finish. This is a good one!

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Every brew I have ever had from this company kills! Talk about consistency...I have had Sierra Nevada Pale Ales that sat in my fridge for a year or longer (only because I forgot they were there, not because I didn't want them!) and they tasted as fresh as the day I bought them!

However, this beer is a bit of a departure from what I normally see from SN. The brew focuses a lot more attention on the dark and sweet malts that should make up all late Summer/Fall beers. The good news is that it proves that they are fully capable of making great beer that isn't hopped to the max with those incredible Magnum hops!

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is a deep chestnut brown colored brew with a two-finger, off-white head of small bubbles. There is good lacing from this beer and it smells of sweet malt.

At first sip, the taste hits you square in the mouth: mesquite hickory smoke and chocolate, followed by toffee and a bit of nutty flavoring. The finish is dry and all hop bitterness - but not enough to kill your tastebuds before the next sip. This is a GREAT BEER and I will be buying lots more of it before the season is through!

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale

In this crazy world of craft beer I am constantly finding myself pleasantly surprised by the most unusual flavor combinations and pairings...Ingredients that I would NEVER expect to belong in an ale or lager end up making the most flavorful, complex and delightful concoctions that have ever been bottled. 

Of course, it takes just the right maniacal suds-lover and brewmaster to come up with these recipes, but in that spirit let me raise a toast to the micro-brewers out there that are constantly pushing the envelope to make that next great, twisted batch!

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale is cloudy, light gold colored brew with a thin white head of small bubbles. I was initially scared and turned off by the aroma of this brew - it smells an awful lot like soured milk. Not horribly curdled or rotten, but definitely bad, and paired with a light fruity hop smell I didn't know what to think...

Fortunately, I persevered past the nose and was rewarded with a great tasting first sip. The taste and palate overcome the aroma and the flavoring is earthy at first with an herbal texture to it. It is reminiscent of gin - as juniper berries are one of the primary ingredients - and it has a bit of an evergreen taste. But that is where the comparison ends...the malt base is biscuity and delicious with just the right hop bitterness in the finish. 

Yet another great, unique brew from Rogue!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Night off from beer...

My wife's parents just got back from MY dream vacation - nearly two weeks in Scotland - and wanted to catch up. So, after a scrumptious lunch at Olive Garden with all the in-laws, we went to their house so the cousins could play and we could open our gifts from the trip.

Always thoughtful, they never fail to bring back something unique and fun - especially for the grandkids - but this time they really went the extra mile! My father-in-law knows and appreciates my affinity for high-class booze and surprised me, without my asking, with a few well-chosen bottles of Scotch Whiskey straight from the distilleries! Then, from his own stock we proceeded to have a sampling session right there at his kitchen table...

We started out with what he explained was literally the smallest distillate in the country - the company only has three employees! Edradour is a single Highland malt whiskey that is aged for 10 years in oak casks, of which only 12 are produced each week. With a motto like, "Enjoy life's small victories" you can imagine the amazing  nutty and sweet honey taste this smooth liquor has going down!

Next on the list was my favorite, Dewar's Aberfeldy, a 12-year single-malt. Although produced by one of the world's best known distilleries, Aberfeldy is nearly impossible to find outside of Scotland as they focus primarily on distributing their blended recipes...All the more exciting for me! This Scotch was a bit more aromatic than the Edradour, and MUCH more full and complex. There was a lot of depth to this nectar, including various spices and citrus flavors along with floral textures and vanilla.

Then I had two more that I have sampled before that are a bit easier to find in the States: Dewars 12-year blended, and Glenfiddich 18-year single-malt.

The Dewars 12-year is the harshest of the lot, but that isn't saying much! I will always remember this liquor and prefer it to Dewars' White Label as a much more flavorful drink...It is very sweet, but is also incredibly warming. More citrus than the previous two, and leaves a lingering taste of honey on your lips. It may also just be in my brain, but it seemed a bit inferior as the only blended Scotch in the group!

The Glenfiddich 18-year is certainly an incredible spirit...I had sampled it before - only once - and this was every bit as good as I remembered. Unfortunately, it is a little pricy for my pay grade so both times the tasting has been on someone else's dime! This whiskey, as the most mature, has a velvety smooth texture and a much more smoky flavor. The oak flavors from the cask are much more noticeable than in the others tasted, and I can pick up some tree fruit in the aroma and taste.

Yeah, that old saying that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach may be true for most women, but for me the way to welcome me to the family is through my tastebuds!

Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale

Man, am I excited that my favorite beer store is finally starting to pick up more from this brewery! Until now it has been very difficult to come by, but everything I have sampled over the years is great stuff! This one didn't let me down either...

Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale is an unfiltered, hazy pale amber brew with a three-finger head of white lace. The beer smells of sweet honey and coriander with faint citrus notes. Brewed with Oregon honey, orange peel and spices, this beer is amazing from the first sip!

The immediately noticeable flavor is biscuity malt and spicy yeast, and the high carbonation provides a great medium-bodied mouthfeel. Sweet and fruity with spicy hops in the finish, this is a beer that you have to pick up during the Summer months!

Baltika Grade 9 Extra Lager

All the way from St. Petersburg, Russia, this brew was not what I was expecting at all! Named a lager, the 8% ABV of this brew was not very forgiving. It takes your mouth capture and doesn't let go until your head is warm and fuzzy!

Baltika Grade 9 Extra Lager is a hazy dull gold colored brew with an aroma of fruit esters and heavy alcohol. The beer produces a two-finger white head of lace when poured and the first sip is alcohol, alcohol and more alcohol! I mean to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if they added vodka to the beer before bottling! The beer is warm and biting, and the sharp bitterness lends to a bitter, dry finish. I would probably avoid this beer the next time around...

Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier

If I had to guess, I would say this beer is just the filtered version of the "World's Oldest Brewery's" original wheat beer...and that is DEFINITELY not a bad thing!

Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier is a clear, pale straw colored brew with a white foam head unlike anything I have ever seen - it sits 4-5 inches in a hefeweizen glass and will not budge, even after 5 minutes. The beer sparkles like champagne and smells of wheat and fruity esters.

There is a bit of sulfur in the first sip of this brew, but it is very clean and refreshing. The beer's flavor is much like the Hefeweissbier, but lighter. Mostly wheat malt with very little bitterness, the flavor may be a bit paler than the original but it is incredibly good!

Flying Dog Road Dog Porter

What's not to love about a cheeky, irreverent brewery that puts out a great product? Flying Dog continues to impress me, all while "sticking it to the man" with their dirty slogans and offerings with names like "Doggy style, In-Heat Wheat, Horn Dog and Raging Bitch"...

Flying Dog Road Dog Porter is a 6% ABV, dark chestnut brown brew with a three-finger head of small tan bubbles. The beer smells of chocolate and toffee, and at first sip has a delicious and full-bodied flavor of rich chocolate and caramel. The sweet malts give way to a bit of charcoal in the dry finish, and this beer is the perfect ending to a night filled with otherwise lighter brews.

With the motto, "Good beer, no shit" this brew is exactly what it claims to be. A fine example of an American-made porter that is just plain good! The history is also intriguing, as the label was the first produced for the brewery by Ralph Steadman, and the print was the inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson's Road Dog essay. You have to try this beer!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Review - Shmaltz He'Brew Jewbelation 13

Last week I submitted my first guest review to Lost (Josh) from Lost is a fellow blogger and beer enthusiast from Boston, and was kind enough to return the favor with a guest review of his own...Make sure to check out his site, and let me know if you are interested in submitting a review yourself to be posted on the site!

Here we go:

Before I start my reveiew of Jewbelation 13, we must first hop in our time machine. Back to April 2009...

I had just started blogging, and I had a good friend down to review some beers together. It was well before I realized I had no business reviewing more than two beers in one night. In any event, one of the brews we tried was Jewbelation 12. I would be remiss if I didn't reference that beer in this review. Other than "Wow", my now ancient review states that I picked up licorice in the flavor. To quote myself from that evening "on a more sober evening and in less quantity, I might be able to enjoy Jewbelation Twelve." 

 So tonight I sit down with Jewbelation 13 without any pregaming activity. 100% sober to start out. 

The beer pours a deep dark brown with a superb foamy head. Incredibly strong flavor of booze and coffee among other aromas. 

Once again, I'm definitely picking up big-time licorice flavors. That and the distinct presence of alcohol. I actually just turned to my wife and said "I'm gonna be on the floor by the end of this...13% ABV". 

The beer is incredibly complex, which makes sense given it is brewed with 13 different malts and 13 different hops. It's overkill in the complexity department as far as I am concerned. Frankly, you could probably pick out 40 different flavors you taste in this beer and I wouldn't challenge any of them. 

In the end, while I love a lot of the beers from Schmaltz brewing, I just don't dig this one all that much.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blanche de Bruxelles - Biere Blanche (White Beer)

Continuing on to another, more traditional Belgian wheat...

This beer actually hails from Brussels (literally translates as "Brussels White"), so you can't get more authentically Belgian than that!

Blanche de Bruxelles - Biere Blanche is a hazy, very pale-yellow colored brew with a four-finger white head of dense foam that fades into a fine layer of film. The beer smells of citrus and Belgian yeast, and at first sip you get very complex flavors of spices, citrus and malts. Noticeably there are distinct notes of coriander and lemon peel, and from the website I glean that the beer's makeup is 40% wheat...Very good beer!

Celis White

After having tasted their Raspberry wheat, I thought it would probably be best to go back and sample the original in its true form...

Celis White is a hazy, and very pale yellow colored brew with a two-finger white head of small bubbles that dissipate to thin ring very quickly. The beer smells light and sweet of citrus and Belgian yeast. The mouthfeel of this beer is light and airy from high carbonation levels, and it is almost too fizzy - I find that I need to belch after every sip which my wife finds disgusting!

The flavor of the brew is very fruity, and the finish is very dry and spicy. Despite the effervescent mouthfeel this is a very good beer!

Highland Kashmir IPA

After a somewhat self-indulgent dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, this was my second beer of the night. Unfortunately, it wasn't included in the mix-pack that I had tried from Highland earlier in the year. But now I can just check off another great beer that they offer!

Highland Kashmir IPA is a brilliant, clear apricot colored brew with a two-finger white head of lace that fades quickly. The nose is whole-hop floral notes, and from the first sip you get a nice bitterness from the delicate hopping. This beer is medium-bodied with some citrus in the middle and a spicy hop finish.

This beer just reminded me of how good everything I have sampled from Highland has been...I now know that I need to plan a short trip to Asheville, North Carolina to stop by their brewery and see them in action!

*This brew marks number craft beer #550! I have some catching up to do on my reviews!

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dark

So after watching my Virginia Tech Hokies finally win a game this season, I figured I could relax a little and settle in to sample a couple brews...

What better to start with than a proven brewer that I enjoy - perhaps the World's Oldest?

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dark is another one from the brewery founded in 1040 AD. Printed on the label of the bottle is the fact that the beer adheres to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516...the only problem is that the brewery had already been producing beer for almost 500 years when this law went into effect!

The beer is a dark caramel color with what I joked with a friend about being a "full-fisted head" (the head poured well over 4+ inches of off-white lace). The brew smells like toasted wheat and Belgian yeast, and is a bit sweet in the nose. The flavor is very good with nutty and roasted malts. The beer is unfiltered, but is completely different than the other two wheat beers I have sampled from this brewery - the yeast is much more prevalent. A great brew!

Bison Organic IPA

The first two brews I sampled from Bison Brewing were very good, so when I finally decided to pick this one up I was expecting a lot.

I had actually avoided grabbing this beer for a while because I was worried about the whole organic thing...I know it shouldn't be an issue, and actually should be applauded, but unfortunately most of the other organic brews I have sampled have been below par. That was all before I tasted Bison's Honey Basil, and I thought that maybe this one would be different...

Bison Organic IPA is a pale copper colored brew with a one-finger white head of tiny bubbles that fade rapidly. At 6% ABV this beer smell like wheat and dirt, and faintly of citrus - there is no hop smell whatsoever, which concerned me immediately. Then I read the bottle - They even promote themselves that the "hop aroma and bitterness are not over the top". This goes against everything I am looking for in my IPAs....

The beer consists of four different malts and three different hops, but this brew should have been considered a hefeweizen in my opinion. With only light wheat flavor making itself known, there is hardly any other taste to speak of. I was most disappointed with this brew because the others from Bison had been so good....But I am not ready to give up on them quite yet!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Its FINALLY getting to that time of year, my favorite season - Fall. Down here in Virginia the leaves on the trees of the Blue Ridge Mountains slowly start to change color and then fall off the trees (and I spend a zillion hours blowing and raking them up...). More importantly, it is college football season - meaning I will be worthless every Saturday from now until early January...

It also means that it is now time for every brewer and their mother to release their version of a pumpkin beer. This sole fact immediately makes me rethink my retirement plan...I believe I need to liquidate all of my assets and invest in a pumpkin farm to facilitate the growing need for all these bandwagon breweries!!! Fortunately, they are not all cookie-cutter brews, and this one is a prime example.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale is a clear, pale pumpkin color - haha - with a one-finger off-white head of tiny bubbles. Not until after the pour do I formally inspect the bottle's label, which points out that this brew is produced by the Brooklyn Brewery - Cool! Now things just got interesting!

The brew smells spicy of cinnamon and nutmeg. After just one sip I am convinced that this is the best pumpkin beer I have ever tasted...this includes Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale and all the rest! This brew is a borderline AMAZING dessert beer, with a bready, medium-bodied mouthfeel. The full-on flavor is every bit pumpkin pie and I love this beer! Go get some now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

Every time I pull up a Great Lakes brew on their website and I scroll down to it's accolades, my eyes about bug out of my isn't because I'm not expecting them to earn awards - they have all been amazing - but the sheer number of gold medals is astounding!

This beer rocks 9 World Beer Championship golds, has won 3 Great American Beer Festivals, and a spattering of other medals throughout...and after tasting it I can certainly see why.

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgeral Porter is a dark brown brew with ruby tinges, and a three-finger head of tan foam. The beer smells of chocolate and fresh ground coffee beans. At first taste there is dark chocolate and roasted malts with a lactose sweetness in the finish. I am so sad to be done with this sampler pack!

New Holland Sundog Amber Ale

When I hear the name of this brewery and where it is from in Michigan (just a couple of hours from the Indiana border), my mind automatically goes to Shipshewana, Indiana and the Amish there. I visited this huge population of Dutch descendants a couple of years ago, and they know how to brew some beer up there! Apparently the guys from New Holland do too...

New Holland Sundog Amber Ale is a copper-colored brew with a one-finger head of tiny white bubbles. This beer smells of sweet malt, and the taste is refreshing and sweet of caramel malt and roasted barley. This light to medium-bodied brew is very easy drinking, with a nutty finish. Perfect for the end of summer as an alternative the Oktoberfest and Pumpkin seasonals that dominate the market right now...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Am A Craft Beer Drinker

New Brew Thursday  (an incredible website and weekly video podcast) just released the video "I am a craft beer drinker" a few days ago, and it has already gained tremendous popularity and acclaim throughout the craft beer community.

I have seen it posted on several different websites and blogs, and I want to help get this message out. This video is to encourage those of you that make the choice to spend a little more money and go that extra mile to find the brewer that is doing something different. No where else will you find such a clear, concise (only 4 minutes) description of why I, and many others like me, choose to drink American craft beer over anything else...Enjoy!

New look, new location and a first for the blog!

Hey guys, just wanted to give a quick update on a few things that are going on with the site...Obviously I have a new header at the top of the page- proudly displaying the new logo (also at left)! I am hoping to have t-shirts up for sale for anyone interested soon...

Second, the site has a new url that is hopefully easier to remember and share - you can now find us at sure to tell all your friends!

Finally, I had my first guest review posted on a friends site: many thanks to Lost for allowing me to share on his page Lost In the Beer Aisle...check it out!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cisco Indie Pale Ale

I picked this brew up because it is from Nantucket, Massachusetts - a fishing town - and where there are fishermen there is normally really good beer!

Its kind of funny and ironic that I read the label and the first thing that popped into my head is some "indie" Emo kid with dyed black hair and skinny jeans...Not something I really want to picture or relate to before pouring my beer!

Cisco Indie Pale Ale is an orange colored brew with a one-finger head of light foam. This beer has a fresh, floral hop and grapefruit nose, and at first taste has very pleasant bitterness with a great bready malt finish.

I really wouldn't have expected the fuller mouthfeel that this brew had coming from such a lightly colored beer. The brew was quite obviously dry-hopped, both in nose and flavor...and after a couple minutes passed there is the most brilliant aftertaste of spicy hops that continued to build on my tongue. I really enjoyed the lingering flavor!

Thomas Creek Brewing Up the Creek Extreme IPA

This beer knocked me on my ass! However, it probably wasn't the best idea to have a 6-beer sample night and finish with a 12.5% ABV "Extreme IPA"...Nonetheless, if this brew was my first of the night it would still be INTENSE

Thomas Creek Up the Creek Extreme IPA is deep mahogany in color with a one-finger off-white head of small bubbles. This beer smells of hops and blueberries, and the first taste is incredibly smooth alcohol with a heavy roasted malt base and some serious hop flavor. 

To me, this brew is a bit too sweet from the malt. I love the overpowering hops that just continue to pound you into oblivion, but the sweetness and fruit is a little distracting. Aside from that, this is a really good, hefty brew!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beer Wishlist

Everybody has their own list of beers that they have either been searching for and couldn't find, or found but it just isn't convenient to walk around with a bottle (or 6, 12, 24...) of brew. Here is my current list - and I will of course think of about 100 different ones tomorrow...Feel free to comment - Do you recommend one of these or should I stay away from any one in particular? Also, if you are feeling generous and wanted to send one or more of them my way (brewers?!), I would be much obliged!

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood
Anchor Christmas Beer
Anchor Liberty Ale
Anchor Porter
Avery Maharaja
Avery Mephistopholes Stout
Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout
Bell’s Expedition Stout
Bell’s HopSlam
Boulder Mojo
Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout
Brooklyn Detonation Ale
Brooklyn Sorachi Ale
Chimay Blue
Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
Delerium Tremens & Nocturnum
Deschutes Obsidian Stout
Dogfish Head Chicory Stout
Firestone-Walker Parabola
Flying Dog Double Dog
Flying Dog Raging Bitch
Foothills Sexual Chocolate
Founders Nemisis
Great Divide Denver Pale Ale (DPA)
Great Divide Hoss
Great Divide Samurai
Harpoon Leviathan (Any)
Harpoon’s UFO White
Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest
Lone Star
Lost Coast Alleycat Amber
Moylan's Kilt Lifter
North Coast Acme (Any)
Ommegang Hennepin
Ommegang Three Philosophers
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
Primo Island Lager
Rogue Double Dead Guy
Rogue Chatoe Rogue First Growth Wet Hop Ale
Rogue XS Imperial Younger's Special Bitter
Russian River Consecration
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Russian River Pliny the Younger
Russian River Supplication
Samuel Adams Longshot(s)
Samuel Adams Utopias
Schlafly Oktoberfest
Schmaltz Coney Island Human Blockhead
Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz’ and Ken’s Ale
Stone Double Bastard
Stone Levitation
Terrapin Gamma Ray
Widmer Broken Halo IPA

*Updated 9/18/2010

Great Lakes Eliot Ness Amber Lager

This brew is yet another 10-medal winner at the World Beer Championships. This was the only Great Lakes brew I had heard of before, thanks to Maxim Magazine's 99 Best Beers on Earth list - Jan. 2009 issue (Side note: I only have 24 left, and 6 of them are no longer produced, but most of them I am embarrassed to admit I have drunk at this point!).

Great Lakes Eliot Ness Amber Lager is a dark amber colored brew with a thin, off-white head that fades to nothing. The beer smells faintly of hops, and at first taste is impeccably well balanced with a slight lean towards the malty sweetness. The texture and mouthfeel is medium-bodied, and a bit bready in the finish. This is a VERY good beer full of sweet toffee flavors!

Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale

Man, Great Lakes' brews have won some serious accolades! This beer has won 7 Gold, and 2 Silver medals at the World Beer Championships in the past 16 years!

Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale is a clear, orangish-amber brew with a lacy white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of sweet malt and fruit, but the actual taste is an awesome combo of oily citrus hops and piney hop flavoring. There is a bit of nuttiness in the finish and the flavors dominate your palate for some time after drinking.

This beer was named after the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio - a river that was infamous for being so polluted in the 1960's that it was devoid of fish in the Akron-to-Cleveland stretch. The Cuyahoga had at least 13 reported river fires (oil slicks that caught fire on top of the water) since 1868, and on average the water temperature was 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its feeder, Lake Erie. Time magazine once wrote that it was the river that, "oozes rather than flows".

Fortunately, the river's water quality has since improved, which is more than I can say for the City of Cleveland...A burning river, dying manufacturing plants, jobs shipped overseas and now the loss of LeBron? History hasn't been kind to you! The only thing you still have going for you is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum - and I have never understood why Cleveland was selected to hold this treasure trove!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Allagash Dubbel Ale

You never really know what you are going to get when you find an American version of a Belgian ale, so I am often reluctant to pick one up. I usually try to stick with beers from US micro-brewers that are unique to American styles, but in reference to this brew I made the right decision!

Allagash Dubbel Ale is a dark, mahogany colored brew with ruby hues that produces a three-finger head of small white bubbles. This beer is produced with seven different malts, a special sugar and Belgian yeast - which is the primary aroma that emanates from the brew.

The taste of this beer is much more tame than most Belgians. The malts blend together well to provide a smoothness and creaminess to the beer, and the special sugar is a very noticeable flavor to the beer. The finish is a bit dry with some chocolate notes. This is a really good beer!

Rogue American Amber Ale

I have been a big fan of Rogue for a while, but unfortunately their stuff is just a little tough to find down her in Central VA...Fortunately, Ned's Beer & Wine has finally made them a bit easier to come by.

Rogue American Amber Ale is a hazy, copper-colored brew with a two-finger off-white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of floral hops, but the real flavor in the first sip comes from its rich malt base. The malt character of this brew is great, with some earthy flavors and bready texture.

The sweetness of this beer is candy-like, but then the finish is all grassy hops that are bitter enough (53 IBUs) to take the enamel off of your teeth! Very good brew...

Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold

This beer is one of the most highly decorated beers I have ever sampled, but ironically I had only heard of one other brew from this brewery...

Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold is a clear, bronze-gold lager with a two-finger white foam head. The beer smells malty with faint hop notes, and the first taste is caramel sweetness with a grassy hop bite in the finish.

This 5.8% ABV brew has won 13 of the last 16 Gold Medals at the World Beer Championships, not including the Silver in 2003! How is that for absolute dominance in it's class?!

Bison Honey Basil

An organic beer from Berkeley, California, the land of Hippies! But apparently, Hippies make good beer! WOW...this was not what I was expecting at all - I bet that this brew would be incredible to use as a broth for cooking.

Bison Honey Basil is a pale amber colored brew with a thin, fizzy head of small white bubbles. The beer smells sweet and earthy, and at first taste is a bit piney and herbal. The earthy flavoring isn't extreme like a juniper brew, and it is sweet but not overly so. The honey is a natural sweetener and the basil takes the edge off of the sweet overtones...A real pleasant surprise when sampling this one!

Founders Red's Rye PA

This was my fourth beer from Founders, and I have yet to be disappointed. In fact, their brewery is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just an hour-and-a-half from my wife's family. These beers almost make me want to take the trip up there!

Founders Red's Rye PA is a dark, cherry-colored brew with a one-finger head of off-white foam. The beer smells of floral hops and fresh-baked rye bread. At first taste the beer is malty and sweet, with a brilliant bitter hop finish.

The texture of this abnormal IPA is warm and bready - it tastes to me like a hefty Scotch Ale that has been dry-hopped. This brew is very complex and flavorful, and it is helping me realize I really enjoy rye malts!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Full Sail Session Lager

What a killer brew! A short while ago I reviewed the Full Sail Session Black Lager and went nuts over it...Well this beer is even better, and I will now be emailing my local craft brew shop for them to order everything else that Full Sail offers!

Full Sail Session Lager is a completely see-through pale yellow with a tremendous four-finger white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of crystal and pale malts and lightly of hops, and is poured from an incredibly comfortable medicine bottle.

At first look I was worried that this beer was going to taste like an imported pilsner - based on the color and the aroma I honestly didn't think twice. But then I took the first sip and something hit me that I wasn't expecting - FLAVOR! The malt is delicious and the brew is well balanced. Oh, and did I mention it has won the 2010 World Beer Awards, a US Open Beer Championships Gold, and the GABF Gold medal among other awards?

These things are perfect for an everyday beer, and especially for a cookout. I noticed under the cap there is either a rock, paper or scissors picture so you can battle your friends over who gets the next six-pack. This is one time I wouldn't mind losing!

New Holland Mad Hatter IPA

To be honest, I have sampled a few different brews from this brewery and to this point they have each been pretty forgettable. Then this one came along and made me take notice...

New Holland Mad Hatter IPA is a clear, pale copper-colored brew with a three-finger head of medium white lace. The beer smells of floral hops and honey, with great hop flavor. Mad Hatter has a very light mouthfeel, and I feel like I could put down a bunch of these brews fairly quickly.

This beer is not your normal high-IBU hop blast...The level of the bitterness is just enough to be crisp and refreshing, and allows you taste the quality malt that is used. To me this one would be better suited as an American Pale Ale, with just the right qualities and a light finish and aftertaste. Certainly New Holland's best offering!

Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA

I'm a big fan of Anderson Valley, so when I was able to find a 7% ABV IPA with an 80 IBU rating from them I was elated! The bottle's label and the underside of the cap are punctuated with weird gibberish that is supposed to native to Anderson Valley in Booneville, California, but don't let it fool you - they know what they are doing out there!

Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA is a clear, pale copper brew with a three-finger head of off-white lace. The beer smells intensely of floral hops, and the first sip is a bit lemony followed by a vicious hoppy bite.

The slightly higher ABV of this brew is warming and there is a really good malt base to this brew, adding to the medium-bodied mouthfeel. I loved this beer!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber

For being less than 5 hours away, it can be REALLY difficult to find stuff from Flying Dog! Fortunately, everything I have sampled from them has been well worth the search!

Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager is a copper colored brew with a two-finger off-white head of large bubbles. This beer leaves a lacy crown all down the glass as you drink it, and has the aroma of caramel malt and oak with light vanilla overtones.

The mouthfeel of the beer is light, but there is some serious malt flavor going on here. I even pick up some grainy wheat textures and tastes in the finish. Self-described as "malty and mellow", this 5.5% ABV brew is balanced with some light hopping (19.5 IBUs), but the sweet malt is delicious!

Session Beers...

Check out the SBP site!
I have an apology to make to my readers - I overuse the terms "session beer" and "sessionable". I just finished reading a very thought provoking article on The Session Beer Project's site, detailing the very pointed and sometimes heated comments that craft beer enthusiasts can make against low-ABV brews: lack of flavor, mouthfeel, etc...

Fact-of-the-matter is, this is the truest form of beer-douchery. Who am I to say that a beer is better just because the weight of the beer is heavier or it gets you drunk faster? In fact, isn't it that much more of a feat to make a beer that is full-bodied, flavorful and delicious and just happens to be 4.5% ABV or less? - I certainly think so! The goal of every brewer should be to make a beer that you want to drink all day everyday...Just ask Jim Koch at Samuel Adams!

Now, this post is not to detract from all those Imperial Stouts and IPAs out there - I still love those heavy-handed brews too - I just want to promote and encourage the ability to have a 6 or 12-pack night without running the risk of alcohol poisoning!

The point of this blog is to advocate GOOD BEER...It doesn't matter the style, presentation or alcohol content!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Terrapin Side Project #11 Boom Shakalager

I have loved every beer that I have sampled from this brewery, so of course I am stoked when I find a limited run, special edition brew!

Terrapin's Side Project Series was started back in 2008 as a small-batch series of brews and an alternative to their year-round and traditional seasonals. A couple of these brews were transferred into the Monster Beer Tour seasonals (Gamma Ray and Monk's Revenge) because of their success in their respective years.

Side Project #11 - Boom Shakalager is a Bavarian-style Imperial Lager, produced with all German malts, German hops and a Bavarian yeast strain. This brew is a deep amber color with a four-finger head of off-white large, lacy bubbles. It has an aroma of spicy hops and alcohol, and starts out with a very sweet taste of caramel malt and a bit of honey. The beer has some bitter bite in the back of the throat as you swallow, and warms the rest of the way down. The alcohol is VERY heavy in this one and lends to a nice floral aftertaste from the hops.

I love the catchphrase on the bottle, "Guaranteed to turn any Fest Hall Fraulein's head!..."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Southern Tier IPA

Now this one is more like it! I had bypassed Southern Tier before at the grocery store on the poor assumption that a relatively new and unestablished brewery couldn't possibly make great beer...Man was I proven wrong!

Southern Tier IPA is a clear, apricot colored brew with a two-finger white foam head that looks like foam insulation it is so thick. The brew smells of citrus and grassy hops, and at first taste is light but full-on, hopped-up flavor!

This beer was surprising it that it has the essence of a wheat beer with citrus flavor from orange zest and spicy coriander, but the hoppiness is great! More Hefeweizens should try dry-hopping!!!

Shipyard IPA

This is my first beer from this brewery in Portland, Maine, and it is a confusing start...I don't know quite what to think based on the brew in my hand.

Shipyard IPA is a clear orange brew in color with a thin white head. This beer smells nothing like a traditional IPA, no hops in the aroma at all! Pale malt is the main smell that comes through, and the taste is good, but just not what I would normally expect from an IPA...The sweet malt base is delicious, and this brew is single-hopped, so the Fuggle hop flavor is well balanced and the finish is crisp and dry - just a little light for what I wanted!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (Number 500!)

This is it guys, the milestone I have been striving for over the past couple years...I have finally hit 500 craft brews! Queue the fireworks, explosions, confetti and parades...

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA is a true amber-colored, cloudy ale with a three-finger off-white head of small bubbles and good retention. The smell is intoxicating of citrus, pine and herbal whole-cone US hops. This 7.2% ABV brew tastes from the first sip of caramel malt and warm alcohol. They help to balance the bitter hops, but it still tastes like I am sipping this beer straight after dry-hopping.

The lace of this beer is like lingerie on display in my glass - it is seductive, and when mixed with the smell of the hops and the incredible flavor you can't help but fall in love with this beer!