Thursday, November 25, 2010

Williamsburg AleWerks White Ale

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your respective feasts as much as I did...but I doubt it!

I have the privilege of eating a massive Thanksgiving Day meal twice every fourth Thursday in November, as a result of my wife's and my families living relatively close. I usually get mixed reactions when I tell people this fact because of the sheer amount of gastric fortitude this requires, but I consider it to be one of my favorite days of the year!

We are finally home now, and before I lapse into a Tryptophan induced coma I want to sample one last brew on the day.

My wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary this past weekend by driving a few hours away to Williamsburg, Virginia. We ate some incredible food, toured the Jamestown settlement, visited Colonial Williamsburg, and on a whim stopped by Williamsburg AleWerks - the town's local craft brewery.

I have sampled several of their offerings before, from a previous trip and also from finding one in a local shop where I live. The brewery was a cool little hole-in-the-wall, and they offered an abbreviated tasting while I got to talk to the head brewer. Everything was delicious, so I picked up a sixer to bring back with me!

I will get to the other beers shortly, but there was one in the pack that they didn't have on tap as it is typically a summer seasonal.

Williamsburg AleWerks White Ale is a bright yellow brew that pours with a two-finger white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of Belgian yeast, coriander and citrus.

At first sip, this Belgian Wit has a biting and spicy flavor with orange zest becoming increasingly present on the tongue. As I drink more I get the impression that this beer has a much higher ABV than it probably does in reality - it warms probably from the spices involved. The pilsner malt provides a pleasant medium body, and the wheat malt gives the beer a crisp, refreshing finish.

This is a VERY good representation of what this style should taste like, and I am thoroughly impressed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harpoon Unfiltered Offering (UFO) Hefeweizen

The only other beer I have sampled from this brewery in Boston is their Summer Ale, which I really enjoyed. I had been looking for something from this line for a while, and this summer when my buddies went up to Bean-town one actually sampled it in the brewery and had nothing but good things to say.

So, a couple weeks ago another friend found some of this stuff at a store in Northern Virginia and brought it back for us all to sample. Unfortunately, we were all completely underwhelmed...

Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen is a hazy, orangish-yellow with a two-finger head of white lace. The beer smells very citrusy, but at first taste is just thin and disappointing. The flavor is pale with lots of biscuit and buttery texture - but just not impressive whatsoever. Hopefully I can find another brew from Harpoon to reaffirm my faith in them!

Victory Helios Ale

What is with all the awesome brews from PA? Troegs, Yards, Erie, Stoudt's, Weyerbacher and this one - just to name a few...and then you throw in the talent of Michael Vick on Sundays and it almost is enough to make me move up there!

This beer was just recently re-introduced, and re-branded from a Saison. The 22 oz bomber was brought back from a trip to New Jersey by a friend and has bottle conditioned in my fridge for several weeks. Time to pop this bad boy open!

Victory Helios Ale is a hazy, light-orange colored brew with a two-finger white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of fresh-peeled oranges and spicy hops.

This 7.5% ABV Farmhouse Ale is brewed with Belgian yeast, and from the pour you can tell is highly carbonated. At first sip the beer is incredibly complex, it is very spicy with flavors of black pepper and some zesty citrus - I get lemon peel rather than what the initial orange aroma suggests. This is an awesome beer and I will be picking it up again!

Abita S.O.S. (Save Our Shores)

I had been searching for this brew for some time, as it has been a popular topic in craft beer news in addition to being one of my favorite breweries.

For those of you that don't know, Abita has been through a lot in recent years - having to close down temporarily due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina, and now having the BP oil catastrophe hit so close to home.

Following each disaster, however, this brewery has shown incredible support for its local community by release special edition brews to help raise money to rebuild or offer relief. Save Our Shores has developed a fund to assist those who are working to rescue and restore Louisiana wildlife, and to help those affected in the LA seafood industry. They are accomplishing this by donating 75 cents of every bottle sold of this pilsner.

Abita S.O.S. is an unfiltered Weizen Pils, a slightly hazy buttery yellow beer brewed with pilsner and wheat malts. The brew pours to a two-finger white head of foam and lace, and smells grassy but not overly dry-hopped.

At first sip you can definitely taste the wheat malt, and in my opinion it transforms a run-of-the-mill pilsner into a much better beer! The flavor is a bit earthy and tastes of toasted grains with a slightly bitter finish. Great beer and a great cause!

Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale

This brew is another on the list of The New York Times' best American Pale Ales. Yards continues to impress me with their offerings, and it is kind of fitting that they yield such an impressive APA coming from a historical center known as the City of Brotherly Love...

Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale is a hazy, straw-yellow brew with a thin white head of small bubbles. The beer smells of floral hops and citrus zest, and the first taste is incredibly piney. The hop aroma and flavors completely fill your mouth, and the mouthfeel is very pleasant and crisp from the pilsner malt.

As incredible as the beer is itself, I feel that I must have drank it incredibly fast because a few minutes later as the aftertaste kicks in I get slammed again by a wave of bitter piney hop flavor. This taste lingers and reminds me why I love this style of beer!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cape Ann Fisherman's IPA

Depending on how this brew goes, this could be the final chance for Cape Ann Brewing to be in my the 3rd time the charm? The other beers I have reviewed from this place failed to impress...

Cape Ann Fisherman's IPA is a dark amber, almost crimson brew with a three-finger off-white head of dense styrofoam that rises up out of the glass and will not go away. After a good three minutes have passed it has lowered to a reasonable froth and smells pleasantly hoppy and floral.

Finally a beer from this company that I can relate to! The first sip does not contain incredibly high IBUs, but there is definitely some good flavor to this brew. The hops are a little metallic and dry in the finish, kind of unusual but I enjoy it. The texture is great - I feel like I could drink this brew all night.

I am relieved that I finally found a beer that could redeem this brewery for me, because I really want to like them!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen

Here is another one from old Munich, Germany! I am loving these beers and I WILL make it out a the fest one year if I die trying...

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen pours a clear orangish-gold with a two-finger white head of lacy foam. The beer smells much more bready than the others of this style that I have sampled. That is a good start! The nose also consists of slightly skunky pale malts and light hopping.

At first taste, this beer is nice and crisp with a dry, slightly salty finish. This lingering salty flavor will have you coming back for swig after swig! Just ask the folks at the beer tents - they drink over 1 million beer steins of this brew each year!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest

This has been the year of fest beers, but it always just seems like the domestic versions can't compare to the ones from Munich! It helps that they have been at it for what seems like forever - this one has been in production since 1417!

Something else special about this beer, however, is the fact that even though it is a Marzen style beer it is offered as a year-round brew.

Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest is a clear amber brew with a two-finger off-white (almost peach) head of foam. The beer smells of caramel and light hops, but the first taste of this fest bier is different than many of its peers.

For one, it is a bit darker in flavoring than other Oktoberfests, and it is also a bit more full-bodied. There is still the familiar biscuity, salty taste that makes these types of beers so popular - perfect as a beer you know you are going to get drunk from!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tuppers' Keller Pils

This makes my second brew from Tuppers', but since I sampled their Hop Pocket Ale Old Dominion Brewing in Ashburn, Virginia has taken over production from the original brewery in Maryland. That means this beer is somewhat local!

In addition, the Pils has won two GABF medals and is considered the only bottle conditioned pilsner in production in the US! All of that and half the proceeds of this beer go to charity...How could I not pick up this brew?!

Tuppers' Keller Pils is a hazy, dull gold and pours to a HUGE 5 inch rocky white head of large bubbles. The beer smells of light malts and is a bit floral and fruity. This brew doesn't taste like any other pilsner I have ever had - it is very crisp and clean like a traditional, but still extremely flavorful. There are unfiltered earthy toasted grain notes and some grassy hops in the finish. Very good beer!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bell's 25th Anniversary Ale

Bell's is a brewery that was unknown to me until recently, but after doing some research it is easy to see what I have been missing! These purveyors of fine brews specialize in making some of the most well-received dark beers in the US. That is right up my alley!

Bell's 25th Anniversary Ale is a deep amber/mahogany strong ale that pours to a two-finger off-white head of lace. This beer was created to celebrate 25 years of brewing from this company, which supposedly started its first batch brewing in 1985 with a soup pot.

This 8.5% ABV ale was brewed using only Michigan-grown barley and malts - I am happy to see that the trend in craft brewing is to turn to local suppliers as often as possible!

The beer smells very earthy with some chocolate malt and grassy hops. At first taste there are some smoky malt textures and flavors - all heavily roasted. The alcohol is warming and this beer has a bitter aftertaste similar to a double bock - perfect for this time of year!

Hopefully I am not underselling this beer as it is actually very complex. The chocolate malts provide Tootsie Roll-esque flavors and there are also hints of raisin and toffee. This is a full-bodied, full-flavored brew from Kalamazoo and I loved it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Great Divide Samurai Rice Ale

I am beginning to think of Great Divide as the Dogfish Head of the West...they are always coming up with new, quirky brews but still have a level of respect for brewing's history.

Great Divide Samurai Rice Ale is an unfiltered ale that pours to a hazy gold color with a one-finger white head of small bubbles. The beer incorporates rice added to the foundational ingredients to produce a sweet and fruity taste, and an aroma of wheat malt and steamed rice.

The first sip of this brew is definitely fruity and sweet - it is a bit like chilled sake bu more bitter. This beer is interesting, as most brewers cringe when they hear about rice added to a brew - it is commonly used as a cheap ingredient with big-name brewers - but I like this beer a lot!

The taste is very clean, crisp and refreshing and would pair very well with most foods.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Uinta Four+ Punk'n

I first heard about Uinta this summer when I was in Salt Lake City, Utah for work, but I never got around to actually trying one of their brews. I was very happy to find this beer in my local craft beer shop, and my excitement was taken up a notch by the fact that it is a pumpkin ale.

Uinta Four+ Punk'n is a dark, copper-colored brew with a two-finger off-white head of small bubbles that thin out quickly. The beer smells heavily of cinnamon and nutmeg, but there was another aroma that took me a while to place - brown sugar. Punk'n is a part of Uinta's Four+ series, brews made with the traditional four ingredients: water, hops, yeast and barley and then the "plus" ingredients are added to make a unique, creative brew.

At first sip this harvest pumpkin ale is very sweet with good amount of spice. The actual pumpkin taste is only noticeable in the lingering aftertaste, but the malts really possess some great base flavoring. I NEVER would have guessed there would be so many great brews coming out of SLC!

Kona Pipeline Porter

My third installment of Kona's offerings is definitely my favorite of the bunch, but it also helps that it is a bit more seasonably relevant...

Kona Pipeline Porter is a deep, dark brown ale with a two-finger head of dense, tan foam. The nose leans heavily towards java as a result of the addition of 100% Kona coffee grown on the big island of Hawaii at the Cornwell Estate (this just happens to be one of my favorite blends of coffee, so I had high hopes for this brew!).

The first sip of the beer is very smooth with a slightly thin mouthfeel, but the flavor is intense. Heavy and robust roasted malt pairs well with the coffee bitterness, and spicy hop flavor is noticeable in the finish. I was hoping for a lot, but not expecting much in a dark brew from a state that is perpetually warm - but this brew really turned out great!

Kona Longboard Island Lager

This brew has been around for a while, but just this year won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival! However, it is a little bittersweet drinking a light, sunny beer from Hawaii in November when it is 35 degrees outside...

Kona Longboard Island Lager is a crystal-clear, straw-yellow colored brew with a two-finger, lacy white head of fluff. This beer looks and smells like a pilsner with light crystal malt dominating the nose.

The first sip is buttery and oily, followed by some light, spicy bitterness in the finish. The beer is slightly more flavorful than I was originally expecting, but still way to light for a serious lager-head like me. Not to say I wouldn't quaff large quantities of this brew sitting on the sand at Waikiki Beach...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kona Wailua Wheat

It is a dream of mine to actually visit this brewery, but I haven't been fortunate enough to make it yet...

This brew is inspired by a waterfall on the island of Maui - Wailua Falls. What better inspiration could you find to make a sudsy, frothy drink than a beautiful, naturally made piece of scenery in Hawaii?

Kona Wailua Wheat is a clear, pale yellow brew with a one-finger white head of lacy foam. The beer smells of wheat malt and citrus, and to the naked eye must be filtered due to the lack of haze.

This limited edition brew was surprisingly sour, apparently from the addition of tropical passion fruit - the flavor from this fruit really caught me off guard, and I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flying Dog Double Dog

Work has been taking it out of me the last couple of weeks, and on top of that with the time change it is getting dark at about 6 PM. Lately it has been feeling like by the time I get home, make and eat dinner and put my daughter to bed it is somehow 11 o'clock and I am left wondering where the day went! Unfortunately, you would think this would lead to a great night's sleep - but apparently I have also turned into an insomniac...

I'm not sure if it just me bringing work home with me or just a combination of stuff floating around in my head, but all I know is I am exhausted! So, tonight I am gonna hopefully get some help from this 11.5% ABV nightcap!

Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale is a light amber colored brew with an aggressive 3 inch off-white head of airy foam. The beer has a beautiful aroma of grassy hops and is making my mouth water! 

Click to enlarge
This head is stubborn and will not let me finish the pour for fear of spilling over the glass, so I will stop for a minute to punctuate the hilarious description on the bottle...Reading this makes me feel like I just might get a happy ending from this beer!

At 85 IBUs I was expecting this beer to be bitter, but at first sip - WOW - Grapefruit anyone? The sweet/sour citrus is followed by warming hop flavor all the way down my gullet. This is an awesome brew. I wouldn't call it "balanced" but the malt certainly holds up its end, adding delicious sweet and roasty notes. The hops are killer. The full alcohol content is definitely present up front, but it fades quickly until it is hardly noticeable - very dangerous for a nearly 12%!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier

The only other brew I have had from this brewery was a milk stout, and it was only a 8 oz sample during Microfestivus. Needless to say, I enjoyed that beer so I was happy to find another brewski from them - even though it was a non-traditional style.

Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier is a black lager that is incredibly dark but still manages to stay somewhat translucent. The beer pours to a two-finger tan foam head and smells of chocolate and roasted malts.

I fully understand what a Schwarzbier style is, but when I first saw this beer it immediately made me think of the movie Space Balls - My Schwarz is bigger than yours! Ahh, the stupid places a man's head will go...

The first taste of the brew is rich and roasty, but with a surprisingly thin mouthfeel. I guess you could say it was like a watered down smoked porter or stout but it still retained all of the powerful, smoky and delicious flavor palate. This actually served to help the brew, as I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor but felt that I could drink quite a number of these!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Yesterday we were excited to have some good friends come visit all the way from California, so we decided to go out with a third couple to a new restaurant downtown - Robin Alexander. This place was incredible! Very reasonably priced, and I can honestly say (after sampling everyone at the table's food) that I would be happy with any item on the menu! It was one of the best meals I have had in a while, and it was all capped off by the fact that our other friends from VA picked up the bill...It was very generous and we had a great time - Thanks guys!

We started with appetizers of Hibachi Barbecued Pork Shanks and White Cheddar Florentine. The others ordered a wide variety of fare: Pork Chops, Lamb Shanks, Crab Cakes, and Tuscan Glazed Grilled Chicken. I had the 10 oz. skirt steak, and I don't think I would have been much happier with Filet Mignon! The best part, however, was that they had a great selection of beers on draught and the brew I picked paired perfectly with my meal.

I have said it before, but nothing compares to a fresh beer straight from the tap - the difference is similar to drinking fresh brewed coffee compared to day-old java after being warmed-up in a microwave...anything else just doesn't do the brew justice!

I chose Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, a deep mahogany colored beer with a one-finger head of small, tan bubbles. The brew smells of sweet malt and a bit of chocolate, and at first taste there is a strong presence of coffee infused with sweet hazelnut.

This otherwise traditional brown ale is taken to another level with addition of the hazelnut nectar. The resulting flavor is very complex with a rich, malty finish. I loved this beer!

Shmaltz He'Brew Genesis Ale

I have sampled several brews from Shmaltz, both from their He'Brew and Coney Island lines, and I have enjoyed every one of them.

Jeremy Cowan, the founder of Shmaltz, has really got the tiger by the tail with his brewing methods, and somehow found time to write a book - Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah - which is now at the top of my Christmas wish list!

Shmaltz He'Brew Genesis Ale is the brew that started it all, thus the name, as the first creation of Cowan's Kosher beer line. The brew is a golden amber color with a three-finger off-white foam head.

Genesis smells like a rye or wheat beer, and when I check the ingredients list it is present with 4 other malts. A blend of 5 hop varieties helps to balance this incredible beer. The first taste is sweet caramel and roasted malt with a little bitterness and grapefruit in the finish.

This beer is very easy to drink with just the right texture and mouthfeel - and with mantras like, "L'Chaim to life!" and "Chutzpah never tasted so good!", Shmaltz is well on its way to converting me to Judaism!