Sunday, March 31, 2013

I'm gonna get to the bottom of this Belgian style IPA concept if I have to drink each and every one of them in the process. Saturday night I had Tramp Stamp, a Belgian IPA by Clown Shoes, and I did enjoy it. The emphasis in this one is on Belgian more than on IPA, but it is pretty tasty. Tramp Stamp pours a hazy amber/orange with a lot of foamy, long-lasting head. The aroma is fruity and malty and rich. There is a big citrus and caramel mingling that I pick up on in my favorite Belgian tripels. The flavor is good, if understated. The malty and fruity notes in the aroma aren’t as strong on the tongue as I’d expected, but the finish is very hoppy and has a little burn, so the IPA assertion is justified. I liked this and may buy it again to see if I like it even more the second time.

The other night at dinner I had The Congo, which Devil's Backbone bills as a Belgian style IPA. That's a lot of globe trotting to cram into one brew, and unfortunately it doesn't quite live up to all that, but it ain't bad. It's a very clear golden color with a lot of carbonation and about a finger of head, and the aroma is more hops than malt. The flavor is, too. This thing is heavy on the IPA and not so much on the Belgian. Having said that, it's not bad. The hop character is grassy and citrus and the mouthfeel is medium-sticky. I liked it enough to have another.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

This is what happened...

My beautiful and gracious girlfriend offered to stop at Beer Run to pick up some brews for me, and I made a wish list. I asked her to bring back a full growler, preferably with Beer A, and if not, Beer B, and if not, Beer C. Etc. I also asked her to pick up several bombers and 12's for me. Based on my apparent taste, given the bottles I'd asked for, the guy at Beer Run told Kay that he felt certain that the best possible beer to put in the growler would be The Maharaja Imperial IPA by Avery. That wasn't even on my list, but this is what she brought home, and I rolled with it.

I was loving this beer within a couple of sips. This is the kind of IPA that hits a reset button and changes what I want from a beer. Great God, it's delicious. It's pretty, too, with a clear, varying amber body and a medium head that leaves a lot of lace. The aroma has a malty, buttery, rich quality with a big, dominant hop on top, and the flavor lives up to that promise. God, it's complex. There are a number of things going on here, and the harmony is the kind of thing I'd expect from a black IPA. The hops hit up front and dance all over the middle of the sip, and the malt just floods the back of the tongue in the finish. This beer constantly seems to be on the verge of something. It's sweet, but never cloying. It's citrus, but never stays on one note. This is a delicious, complex IPA. There are candy notes, along with almonds and molasses and liquor (10.5 ABV) and rye, and it never gets boring. The dude at Beer Run nailed it, this is the beer for someone with my taste, and I will have it again soon. (This is as much praise for Beer Run and their understanding of their customer base as it is for the beer itself.)

After I posted my review at RateBeer.com, I saw that the math worked out so that this thing had worked it's way into my top ten. That seems about right.

Keep in mind that this is a review of the draft version, consumed while fairly warm. For whatever that is worth to you.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It took me a long time to finally try Stone's basic pale ale because, as much as I love Stone, simple ales are usually not my thing. I like extreme styles and usually don't have the ability to appreciate subtle styles. Thankfully, Stone just doesn't do subtle. Even this pale ale is malty, hoppy and aggressive. Some people might call it a bit obvious. I call it delicious. Stone Pale Ale pours an orange/brown color with about a finger of head, and the aroma is malty and bitter at once, with the hops right up front. The flavor brings the hops up to the forefront and then closes with that rich, bready malt that demands the next sip right away. Stone Brewery is incapable of making me unhappy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Left Hand Milk Stout isn't bad. It's dark copper colored while pouring and deep brown in the glass, and this stuff has a strong, sweet, rich aroma. The flavor is the same. There's chocolate malt and and coffee notes,but it grows a little flat tasting by the end of the glass. Overall, not bad, but nothing special.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yesterday with lunch I had a Slumbrew Porter Square Portrer at Blue 5 in Roanoke, VA. The worst thing about this beer is it's name. The brew itself is pretty good. It's dark brown with little head at all, and the aroma and taste are strong, rich chocolate. It isn't at all complex, but it's really tasty and went well with a bleu cheese burger.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brooklyn Brewery's Local 1 is a pretty good Belgian style strong ale. It pours very blonde from the bottle and has a hazy lemon color in the glass with a big head that stays around. The aroma is sweet and malty with spice and apple notes. The flavor brings out a little citrus, too, and a little heat. Pretty tasty.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tonight I had Chimay's Peres Trappistes Grande Reserve Strong Belgian Ale, and I thought it was just OK. It pours deep brown with a fair amount of head, but it doesn’t hang around. The aroma is a very sweet malt with notes of pears, cherry and spice. The flavor is rich at first, those malty tones are big up front, but then the finish has a medicinal quality that becomes more prevalent as it warms. The hoppy tingle in the finish is nice. I didn’t dislike this, but I probably won’t buy it again.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Anderson Valley's Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is pretty good. Dark chocolate in color, very little head. The aroma is coffee, chocolate, and a little ginger and nutmeg. The flavor is a rich malt with all of those notes and a little bit of hops in the finish. At only 5.7% ABV this might be a good stout for long nights.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weihenstephaner Vitus is a Weizen Bock, and it's the best beer in the style that I've tasted. It pours absolutely blonde with a body that’s got a hazy grapefruit thing going on. Lots of carbonation. The head is big and foamy, and the smell is citrus and cabbage. The flavor brings forth peaches, too, and bananas and some spice, and some nice tingle in the finish. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kay likes this style more than I do, and she said she loved this beer.

I liked Schlafly's Coffee Stout. It is chocolate color with rust highlights and very little head at all, the aroma is espresso and caramel and malt and a little hint of hops. The flavor adds cocoa and cola to the mix. The sip finishes with a Coca Cola like bit of burn. I liked this. I didn’t love it, but if you were to hand me one, I’d thank you.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tonight at dinner I had a Smithwick's "Ale." It is a red,copper color with a trace of a head. There is no aroma at all. None. Zilch. Paper smells stronger and more appetizing than this stuff. The body was watery and the flavor was a very, very, very mild, watery malt. There was also a damn near undetectable tone of something like applesauce. This stuff didn't ruin dinner, but a glass of water would have been just as good.

Weyerbacher Quad is, aptly enough, a Belgian Quad style ale. And it the worst quad I've ever tasted. It looks like orange pekoe ice tea, but with no foam or suds at all. Not even a hint of a head. The smell is just pure alcohol. That's all I pick up on. The flavor is cough syrup with just a little lemon. This is horrible. I'd be reluctant to serve it as punishment. This is the worst beer I've had in ages, and I'll be surprised if I have a worse one this year.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another of the beers I fell in love with in 2012. I've heard Rochefort 10 called the best beer in the world, and I'd be reluctant to argue that it's not. It isn't my all time favorite beer mind you. But it has my utmost respect. This Belgian Abbey Ale never lets me down, and every time I spring for it and then open an $8 bottle I find myself thinking how it's worth every penny. There are new tones in the taste every time I drink it. Fruit, bread, ginger, molasses, almonds, honey, vanilla, citrus, candied yams ... I don't know how the monks do it, but I'm glad they do. And that 11% ABV is a nice little surprise, given how drinkable this stuff is.

21st Amendment's Oyster Stout, called Marooned On Hog Island, is the second Oyster Stout I've tried. I did not enjoy the other brand's Oyster Stout when I had it several months ago, but this one is delicious. The body is almost flat, with little head, but very dark brown with rust highlights. The aroma is salt, chocolate and coffee. Those flavors dominate the flavor, too, and it’s just damn good. There is hardly any presence of hops, just a lot of salt, chocolate and coffee. The salt gives it a really unique quality; kinda like a Starbucks salted latte or a chocolate covered pretzel. I love this and I hope I can find it again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I think I need to accept the fact that I like barley wine. After all, it seems like most of the time when I review one, I write something like "I'm not a big fan of the style, but I love this beer." That is certainly the case with Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot. I've loved this thing since the first time I tried it, and I'm continually challenged by it's complexity. It's big and hoppy up front and then sweet, smooth and sticky in the finish. The smell is smokey and boozy, and the combination can be kinda heady since this thing is so drinkable. I don't know that I'd recommend Bigfoot to everyone, but if you think you dislike barley wine but you enjoy beers like Arrogant Bastard or Oskar Blues G'Knight, then Bigfoot might be worth your time.

Bear Republic's Red Rocket Ale is pretty good. It pours a deep, shiny brown with not much head. The aroma is much like a Scotch ale with some mild caramel apple and bready notes. The taste is good. Malty, rich, and not too sweet, but with a little molasses going on and a bit of hoppy burn in the finish. Not a whole lot of burn, but enough to mention. This thing borders on strong. If Arrogant Bastard knocked up Fat Tire, the baby might taste like this.

Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde is a Belgian triple, which is really just behind Imperial IPAs and Imperial stouts as my favorite style. I like a good triple even more than a quad, and this is a good triple. It pours cloudy golden amber with a soapy head that leaves some residue on top of the beer. There is a bananas, citrus and liquor quality to the aroma, and I dig that. The flavor is delicious. Fruity, but not overly sweet, with candied praline notes and a buttery malt. The mouthfeel is slightly sticky, and the finish packs a little heat.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rather than the very obvious pint of Guinness I decided to mark St. Patrick's day with a Murphy's Irish Stout, since I'd never tried it. I should have had the Guinness. I should have had anything else. Murphy's pours chocolate brown with a creamy head that hangs around forever. There is hardly any aroma at all and hardly any taste. Maybe a little malt and a little hint of hops. This stuff just implies beer. It doesn't taste BAD ... it doesn't taste like much of anything.

I wish Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout were easier to find in my area because, damn. Of the 12 Dogfish Head brews I've tried, this thing is the champion. It's Jet black, and the brief head fades quickly, as you'd expect from something this big. The aroma is really great. It smells like dark but creamy chocolate, coffee notes with hazelnut and vanilla, caramel, something like bread pudding, too, and pumpkin pie. God, it smells good. I could sit and just smell it for a damn while. All of that is in the flavor, of course, but there’s also a booziness that isn’t surprising from 18% ABV. Plus there is more hop burn and tingle than I expected, big coffee on the finish, and a strong ABV punch on the exhale. When Dogfish Head gets it right, they get it completely right. This is exhibit A.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The idea behind Founders All Day IPA is that it's very light, so you can drink it ... well, all day, any time of day. It has a clear amber body, and very little head. Very little aroma, either. A slight hint of grassy hops and not much else. The flavor is like water served in a glass that wasn't rinsed after someone had an IPA. I just don't see the point in this kind of beer, but if you're looking for something like to wash down lunch, this is probably fine. Then again, so is water.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Belgium Ranger is a tasty IPA; clean and crisp, and I enjoyed it. It's a very clear, golden color with an average head and a lot of lace. The aroma is not strong. The flavor has a medium malt with a citrus and pine hop character that dominates from the beginning to the end of the sip, and there is a decent amount of carbonation, a full mouthfeel and strong aftertaste. The price is low for the quality, and I'll buy this again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I like Laughing Dog's Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA. It pours pale red/marble brown with a huge head that became a problem while pouring. I had to work around it. The aroma has a lot of malt and hops, and a background quality that reminded me a little bit of the smell of crayons, and I don't mean that as a bad thing at all. The flavor is so smoothly malty that this is, to me, kinda like a heavily hopped red ale. The malt is just very rich, and there are notes of ginger and a little rye, but the big, bitter grapefruit citrus at the end just screams IPA. Once I got past all that foam I liked this beer a lot.

I've been hoping to try SixPoint's 3 Beans Porter for some time now, and now that I've had it, I have to say it isn't as good as I'd hoped it would be. It's better! The appearance is dark, dark brown with light brown head that leaves thick sheets of lace that look like icing. The smell is like smelling a Russell Stover sampler box. That big rush of chocolate and other sweet flavors you get when you take the lid off of one of those boxes? That’s this. The flavor is just outstanding. Coffee and chocolate and root beer and a big malt, plus hops and some heat from the 10% ABV. This is probably going to become my favorite porter. I’ll buy the hell out of this whenever I can find it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid imperial IPA reminds me very much of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, but I like this more. It's bright golden and clear, with a lot of carbonation and continuous bubbles, and the foamy head shrinks back but never disappears. The aroma is buttery and smooth, with big, floral/citrus hops everywhere. The flavor is delicious. The malt in the flavor is sweet and rich and malty, like Two Hearted, but the hops are bigger, tangier, punchier. This is officially on my buy-again list.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I ordered a Yuengling lager tonight with dinner, and it occurred to me that I've never reviewed it. I don't think of this as a "beer" beer, it's just something fine to drink with dinner. Toward that end, it does exactly what I want. Yuengling lager has a clear, brown body with a small head, and there is very little going on in the aroma to comment on. The flavor really isn't bad. It really is better than typical rice/corn adjunct lagers, it's mildly malty toward the middle and there's a lot of carbonation. There are far worse beers than this for washing down salad and a slice of pizza.

Bell's Best Brown Ale is OK.  It has a really pretty presentation, the brown lightens toward the edges and has a marble type of character.  There's no real head to speak of, and there's no real aroma.  The flavor is pretty good, it's malty with caramel, apricot, and iced-tea notes.  The mouthfeel is like slightly carbonated water, there's just not much there to comment on.  This wouldn't be a bad beer for session drinking.  Kay drank this with me and didn't enjoy it that much.  She picked up on the caramel, but little else, and just didn't think there was a lot here to recommend.

Friday, March 8, 2013

St Bernardus Tripel Belgian triple ale is delicious. It's a hazy, golden color with a huge, fluffy head. The aroma is rich, sweet and just outstanding. I picked up on apples and nutmeg and something like Ritz crackers That’s right, I said Ritz crackers. The taste and mouthfeel are really very good. The flavor is rich and balanced, with sweetness and hop burn mixing perfectly and mingled notes of fruit, buttered bread and spice. I love this beer.

Breckenridge Small Batch 471 double IPA is pretty good. It pours a bright copper color with a small head that leaves spotty lace. There is a mild sulpher and cabbage quality to the aroma, and believe it or not, I mean that in a good way. The flavor is crisp but malty, and the hops in the finish are grassy and slightly acidic.

Lagunitas DayTime is billed as a "fractional IPA," and I think that's about right. It's aimed at people who want a beer but really aren't in the right time or place for a beer, and with that in mind, it doesn't amount to much of anything. It pours the same yellow gold as American adjunct lagers, maybe just a shade darker. There's no real head, no lace, and not much to distinguish the presentation. The smell is actually slightly bad. It reminds me of babyfood peas. The taste is a little bit better. It's like someone figured out a way to hop water. There is no real flavor other than the hops, and the twang at the finish of the sip is kinda beer-like, but I won't have this again. I'm not in the target demo, anyway.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Green Flash's Palate Wrecker is a real monster of an IPA, and it does not give a slight fuck about your delicate sensibilities. This think is hoppy and bitter to the power of holy shit, and it's not something to have very often. If you really want to appreciate it, have first a fairly standard, drinkable little ale with a slightly bitter finish, ad then have this thing. If some barley wines are best called "beer syrup," then this thing might be described as "beer acid." It does not play around.

St. Bernardus Prior 8 is a delicious Belgian. I’d almost expected it to just be a slightly milder version of Abt 12, but it isn't. It has a similar warm, brown color and splotchy head. The aroma is similar; there are dates and rasins and allspice, nutmeg, etc. All of that is there in the flavor, too. But there is a bigger tingle and burn from hops than I’d expected, and some nice caramel in the finish. I enjoyed this very much for it’s own sake and I’ll buy it again.

Bell's Amber Ale is exactly that. Bright amber in color with an average head, and the aroma is malty with a little floral kick. The flavor is slightly hoppy and then very rich, buttery, malty and smooth. Very drinkable.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Firestone Walker's Reserve Porter is another justification for Firestone Walker being one of my top five breweries. It Pours a nearly opaque brown, and what little head there is fades to slight edge suds pretty quickly. The aroma is a complex malt with tones of coffee and hops, and the flavor is big and rich and a little acerbic. The finish has more hop burn than I expected. This is a fine porter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Uinta Anniversary barley wine is a barley wine that might just be aimed at IPA fans. It pours a rich caramel color with a slight head that leaves some lace. The aroma isn't overly strong. There's some malt and a little honey in the smell, but it isn't overpowering with sweetness, which is something I often dislike about barley wine. Where this thing really stands out is the flavor. Huge, forward, strong malt and only a slight background sweetness, and some bitter hops in the finish. It's crisp, not syrupy like some barley wine can be. This thing might disappoint some barley wine fans, but for someone like me who isn't in love with the style, this is very good.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sixpoint Resin is a fine imperial IPA. It's a cloudy golden color with a couple of fingers of head that leaves a splotchy lace. The aroma is straight-forward hops with a little grapefruit gliding over all, and the taste is punchy and strong. No sweet undercurrents here, just hops, hops, some malt, and hops. On the exhale there's a surprising final kick of a somewhat metalic bitterness. I like this.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

St. Bernardus Pater 6 is a Belgian double. It pours a deep copper color with a tan head that leaves continuous lace. The aroma is spicy and sweet with a warm malt, and the flavor is crisp and bright. There are allspice and cinnamon notes, some citrus, a light caramel quality, and rich malt. Very good.