Friday, July 31, 2009

31. Great Divide Double Wit

Yet another beer from Great Divide in ­­­Denver, CO. That’s right, we’re riding Great Divide like New Yorkers ride mass transit. Or like MF Doom drops sick rhymes. Or like Jon Stewart rocks fake-ass news. Basically, like anything that signifies something that can carry a whole friggin’ lot (like mass transit—I tried to think of something to do with a supertanker, but oil and Valdez references would blow the whole bad ass big boy blowin’ up reference) or that is really really large and is also well done (like Doom and Stewart). So maybe the mass transit reference could use some work. So sue me. Welcome the fine fine slippage of signification. And yes, I do take pleasure in explaining own jokes—it’s one of my comedic touchstones (nod to Bill).

Double Wit has a citrusy, spicy nose to start with a cloudy straw/maize color and a creamy luxurious head. It starts with a golden malt flavor followed by spiciness in the middle, and concludes with citrus tartness at the back of the tongue. There are some slight acidic notes, and slight alcohol notes in the flavor as the beer warms, along with some candy and sweet notes in the front. Light to medium bodied and well carbonated, Double Wit needs a little more punch to be a solid double. While the body is smooth and rounded, and while flavors are both crisp and fresh, it is good but not especially exciting. It almost starts to veer into a golden ale without the reciprocal complexity of flavors.

From Great Divide’s website: “Double Wit is our more muscular take on the beloved white ales of Belgium. Unmalted wheat and Belgian malted barley give the beer a light body and straw hue, while coriander and curaçao provide the traditional notes of spice and light acidity. This cloudy, deceptively drinkable creation should be enjoyed without the addition of fruit.”

What?!? No fat pulpy slice of crappy lemon in my beer? You might actually sound like you know what you’re talking about, you crazy risk takers!

ABV: 8.1%


Thursday, July 30, 2009

30. Brooklyn Pennant Ale ’55

Pennant Ale ’55 comes from the Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, NY, and is named for the 1955 World Champion Dodgers. Pretty nice thanks for a team that bailed on your city thirty years before you became a brewery. I get the idea of team love and having a history with a team, but you can be damn certain I won’t be naming any beer after the Seattle Sonics in the near future, like Seattle ’79, or some fool nonsense, or trying to colloborate with Starbucks coffee after the Howard Schultz debacle in Seattle. Although there is my long-cherished desire to make a Downtown Freddie Brown...

Pennant Ale ’55 begins with a malty bready nose that also has some slight floral/fruity notes; it is a rich copper color and has medium to low carbonation. The flavor profile begins with a light sweetness, then moves into a toasty, biscuity, and bready body with some low levels of bitterness and a light floral hop flavor before finishing dry and slightly sweet. Pennant has a medium body and a chewy, well-carbonated mouthfeel—overall, it’s a very enjoyable and drinkable beer, one that would go down easily all evening. I’m particularly partial to the bready and biscuity malty profile found in English-style ales like Pennant Ale ’55; while Elli likes them, she’s less drawn to them than I am, preferring the slightly sweeter and less obtrusive malt profiles of American ales that can balance larger hop profiles. While I do like the hops, I also like the bready malts, so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, and I’ll keep writing these descriptions up that make her look like the evil villain to my much maligned and put upon tragic self.

From the Brooklyn website: “Brooklyn Pennant Ale is a honey-colored pale ale with a brisk malt palate and finely balanced hop character. Pennant is a traditional English-style pale ale. The pale ale style developed in the early 19th century, and was called “pale” because it appeared so in comparison to the darker ale styles of the day (East India Pale Ale was a stronger, paler, more bitter version of the style). Brooklyn Pennant Ale is brewed from Scottish Maris Otter malt, which is justly prized for its toasty, biscuity flavor and the round smoothness it imparts to beer.”

ABV: 5.0%
Malts: Scottish floor-malted Maris Otter malt, Belgian Aromatic
malt, British Crystal malt from East Anglican
Hops: Hallertauer Perle, Williamette, American Fuggle, Cascade
OG: 12.5° P, 1.050


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

29. Brasserie à Vapeur Saison de Pipaix

La Brasserie à Vapeur is located in Pipaix, Belgium, which is 15 km from Tournai and 74 km from Brussels. While that really does nothing to clarify their location for me either, I'm just passing along the information I found on the maps on their website.

Saison de Pipaix has a bit of a sour smell in the nose mixed with wood and pepper notes; the rich copper hue works well with the creamy ivory head, and there was decent lacing left on the glass as we finished the beer. It begins citrusy—smooth, but no clear malt flavor—before moving first into tartness and then into sourness as it moves across the tongue, and finishes with a spicy/peppery citrus taste. There is a smooth, rounded but simultaneously sharp mouthfeel; there is spiciness evident across the range of the beer’s profile. Saison de Pipaix does lose the tartness as it warms, although it maintains its sourness. Overall, an interesting and well-crafted beer—the sourness in the body makes it reminiscent of Flemish Sours or something like Rodenbach’s Grand Cru, but it simultaneously has the spiciness and flavor profile of a saison. The combination works exceedingly well—not only did we both enjoy this beer immensely, it is our first official potential Top 10 candidate for the year.

From Brasserie à Vapeur’s website: “a traditional Wallonian saison beer, born with the brewery in 1785. Dry, normally hopped, slightly acidic, very spicy (black pepper, ginger, sweet orange peel, curaçao, star anise...)"

La Brasserie à Vapeur is a steam-powered brewery, and offers brewery tours where you can watch them brew their beers: "We brew the last Saturday of every month. The mixing of the wort in the mash tub starts at 9 a.m. and lasts all the day. You are cordially invited to share this day with us." Hanging out for the day watching them brew and getting fed sounds much better than how I normally spend my Saturdays--I just need to find a way to start spending my Saturdays in Belgium. Ah, to be such a jet-setting trend setter.

ABV: 6%


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

28. Ommegang Witte

The Ommegang Brewery is located in Cooperstown, NY, which, in case you didn’t know, is also the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. It is coincidentally the hometown of James Fenimore Cooper as well—Cooperstown is named after his family—but something tells me that La Longue Carabine doesn’t draw the tourist trade like the chance to look at George Brett’s famous overly-pine tarred bat. I know, I know, the cruelties of American culture that make us choose baseball over American literary history. But for those of you who are hardy and obdurate followers of the literary tribulations of one James Fenimore Cooper, I’ll send you here to see what Mark Twain had to says about Cooper and we can call it even. I would like to also throw some props to Ommegang for locating themselves where they did—you don’t think they pick up some extra visitors from all the traffic traipsing through Cooperstown, whether from baseball fanatics or bibliophiles? Damn straight they do. I only wish I liked Belgian beers as much as I do now when I ventured through Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame game in about 2001. Stupid immature beer palate.

Ommegang Witte opens with a nose composed of a careful balancing of clove, citrus, spiciness, and light fruity esters. It is a cloudy vibrant straw color with a light white head. Starting with effervescent citrusy and fruity flavors, Ommegang Witte moves into wheat malt sweetness in the middle and finishes bright and spicy with a touch of bitterness and tartness. It is light bodied with a fresh crispness in the mouthfeel from the lively carbonation. Overall, a clean, crisp, and delicious beer that is very thirst quenching—Ommegang Witte screams summer drinking like a sun tea fresh from the back porch or a mint julep garnished right from the garden. How’s that for a heavy-handed metaphor? Uncas be with you, indeed.

From Ommegang’s website: “Ommegang Witte is our take on a Belgian-white, or Witbier. Adhering closely to traditional ingredients and flavor profiles, Witte proved its worth at the 2008 World Beer Cup by capturing Silver in its category amongst the best in the world. Initially the first Ommegang beer available on draft, Witte is now featured as the Summer Seasonal in our featured-seasonal draft rotation. Though available for year-round enjoyment in 750 ml and 12 oz bottles, summer is the ideal time to enjoy a Witte draft at your favorite warm weather, draft beer destinations.

Imagine...High, white, fluffy summer clouds. A soft breeze through a citrus grove. A heavenly bite of orange chiffon cake. All of these come to your mind as you lift our pale golden wheat ale to your lips. It's so soft, so light on your tongue, you think, as the tart lemon, bitter orange, and subtle spiciness of coriander arrive to round out the intriguing delicacy of this delicious ale. You smile, knowing you have more in the fridge.

Witte is brewed with malted and unmalted wheat, barley malt, a light hops addition and spiced with sweet orange peel and coriander. Though adding a slice of citrus fruit is common while enjoying a wheat or Wiess beer, we feel that Witte's gentle spicing and slight tartness renders the fruit superfluous. Here's to Summer..."

ABV: 5.1%


Monday, July 27, 2009

27. Red Hook Double Black Stout w/ Coffee

From the Red Hook Brewery, originally from Fremont, WA before making a deal with the devil and expanding to Woodinville, WA and then Portsmouth, NH on their way to conquering the whole planet. Not be to be overly old fashioned, but I recall rolling into the Trolleyman, the old brewery in Fremont, and getting the bartender to fill up our bike water bottles with Ballard Bitter for the ride home. I really can't see that that sort of thing happening much anymore, but since I just turned forty this year, I’m allowed to wax nostalgic, at least on occasion, right?

Double Black Stout with Coffee has a distinctly roasted barley nose and a dark tar brown color with red highlights. The brown head was minimal, but did lightly lace the glass. It featured burnt and roasty flavors at the front with growing bitterness towards the middle—a bitterness that was more burnt malt than hops—fore closing with a generous coffee and slightly grainy flavor. The mouthfeel was viscous with a light bite from the carbonation; it could use some creaminess in the body to balance out and mitigate the big burnt flavors that characterize the body, as it is not as carefully balanced across the palate as it could be. Double Black Stout does get better as it warms—the burnt flavors begin to mellow and marry with the other flavors in the beer, and the coffee flavor at the end takes on a slightly winey flavor reminiscent of Ethiopian or other African coffees.

From Beer Advocate: "Double Black Stout History: Launched in 1995, this Imperial Stout was an instant success and sought after by many beer enthusiasts. Redhook stopped brewing Double Black Stout in 2000 and consumers have been asking for it ever since. Double Black Stout: A smooth, imperial stout enhanced by the addition of rich, flavorful coffee and dark malts to create a big, roasty flavor that is rounded out with a touch of honey."

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 47
OG: 1.07


Sunday, July 26, 2009

26. Brauerei Hofstetter Seit 1229 Granit Bock

Labeled as a Stein Bier Bock, Seit 1229 Granit Bock is brewed by Brauerei Hofstetten in St.Martin, Austria.

Granit Bock has a malty, caramel nose and a hazy toffee color—it’s a dark-ass brown that makes you think of rich sweet gooey goodness—with an off-white and almost tan but very minimal head. It opens with both a sweet and burnt sugar malt flavor; the caramelized sugars created by the white-hot rocks used to heat the wort are prominently featured in the opening malt profile. From here, Granit Bock moves into a lightly spicy but drier middle before closing by returning to the malt sweetness, although with less burnt or caramel flavors than found in the front of the beer. The medium bodied mouthfeel has some slightly syrupy and sticky components to it, particularly as it warms. There is no discernable hop presence detectable in the beer; the spiciness noted in the middle seemed more related to yeast flavors and the malt profile, particularly as the end was marked mainly by sweetness. While the malt profile is suitably complex, it does have a bit too much sweetness to it—a better balance would make the beer more enjoyable, especially as the sweetness becomes a bit cloying as the beer warms.

(MF Doom is like D. B. Cooper )

From the B. United International Inc. website: "Unfiltered, Unpasteurized & Bottle Conditioned. Granit Bock is brewed according to the historic style “Stone Beer” (Stein Bier). Stone beer is a unique style that comes from the Baden-Wurttenberg & Franconia regions of Germany and the Kaerten region in Austria, it dates back to the Middle Ages. Granit Bock is brewed in large granite open troughs. The granite stones are then heated to be white hot and added to the wort. This causes the sugars in the malt to caramelize around the stones and gives the beer lovely caramel and roasted flavors. It also gives the Granit Bock a unique smoked flavor.Yeast is added about 1 hour after the white hot rocks have been added to the wort, allowing for an open fermentation. Granit Bock is then matured for several months on the cool cellars under the brewery."

ABV: 7.3%
OG: 17.8° P


Saturday, July 25, 2009

25. Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady Ale ESB

Our second selection from Stoudt's, located in Adamstown, PA.

Scarlet Lady Ale has a bready, biscuity malt nose—almost a dry crackeriness even—with a slight floral hoppiness to it. It is nut brown in color with subtle red hints, and minimal carbonation. Opening with a rounded bready malt flavor and some British-type ester qualities, Scarlet Lady moves into a slightly bitter middle before finishing clean and crisp with some residual malt and biscuit flavors. The mouthfeel is medium to light bodied with little to no bite from the carbonation—basically, Stoudt’s actually follows through on the British style implied in the name, with bready malt flavors and bitterness being used to build the beer profile, and a lower level of carbonation than found in most American pale ales. Scarlet Lady is a crisp and refreshing ale—it is both well-balanced and very drinkable.

From Stoudt’s website: “This English-style ale is brewed with Maris Otter and Caramel malts for a rich, reddish-copper color and smooth malty palate. The use of bittering & aroma addition hops balances the regal, sweet maltiness and imparts a softly perfumed aroma.”

ABV: 5%
IBU: 32
Bittering Hops: Perle
Aroma Hops: Williamette
Malts: Maris Otter, Caramel, and Carafa III


Friday, July 24, 2009

24. Great Divide 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA

Another enjoyable beer from Great Divide in ­­­Denver, CO, brewers of the already enjoyed Denver Pale Ale, or DPA for short. And in this case, their latest offering is a beer in honor of their 15th anniversary. If an anniversary is the excuse Great Divide needs to add another delicious beer to their brewing line up, then I’m all in favor of it—here’s to many more.

Opening with a malty nose that also brings with it oaky and tannic notes, Great Divide’s Wood Aged DIPA is a deep burnt sienna color that also carries slight red highlights—it’s like that old wood paneling in the back of your grandparents’ house, only in a liquid and much more delicious form. While there is a lower level of carbonation than some of the other beers we have been sampling, there is still a very creamy tan head that laces the glass, and a soft creaminess in the mouthfeel that belies the minimal carbonation. The beer begins with an even malt flavor before moving into a tannic oakiness that is mixed with creamy roasted and lightly burnt flavors, and finishes with a bitter resinous hop flavor along with vanilla hints at the end. While the oak flavors are still pretty big and raw, it is not overbearing. I can see a less forgiving critic (ahem) being turned off by such flavors—possibly complaining about the beer being like “chewing on bark” or getting a “mouthful o’ acorns”—I found the oak flavors well suited to the malt body, and more an indicator of the potential for the beer to continue to develop with aging. There is currently a bit of alcoholic warmth to the beer, but it meshes well with the oak and creaminess to round out the beer across the palate. There is also less of the initial breadiness found in many of the other Great Divide ales, although this is undoubtedly attributable to both the larger alcohol content and the younger age of the beer—there hasn’t been enough time for the oak and malts to marry together. While more maltiness and oak emerges in the flavor profile as the beer warms, it still is a beer that should age well and come into its own with at least another year or so in the bottle. Which sucks, because we only bought one extra bottle as a backup.

God damn this beer is good.

From the Great Divide website: "Based on our most award-winning beer, Denver Pale Ale, this copper-hued treat is a celebration of everything Great Divide does best. Plenty of malty sweetness provides a backdrop for earthy, floral English and American hops, while French and American oak round off the edges and provide a touch of vanilla. Thanks to everyone who's supported us for the last 15 years - here’s to 15 more!"

ABV: 10.0%


Thursday, July 23, 2009

23. Barley’s Rye IPA

We had this beer on tap at Barley’s Ale House No. 1, which is located at 467 North High St., Columbus, OH. Funky fresh little bar, and they make some damn fine beer.

Barley’s Rye IPA was first introduced in 2005; the current version has a hazy tan color with a lacy white head and a piney, grapefruity nose. The initial feel on the palate is rather smooth and neutral; there is not much malt sweetness at the front, although there is spiciness from the rye followed by citrus, grapefruit, and pine hop flavors, before moving on to close with a nicely balanced bitterness that lingers on the back of the tongue. There is also a bit of spiciness or resin at the end as well—we were not sure if this flavor was from the rye or from the hops. While the beer could use a bit more malt in the body to balance out the large hop profile, this is still a very enjoyable beer. And on top of that, Barley’s growlers are ridiculously cheap: $11 got me a growler filled with Rye IPA to take home. I thought the bartender was undercharging me, and told him that I hadn’t brought in the growler, but he assured me that the $11 charge was correct. Lamentably, Columbus is still an hour away by car. Stupid lack of local Dayton breweries...

From Barley’s website: “Drier than our flagship IPA, Centennial IPA, Rye IPA bites back thanks to generous additions of Simcoe and Nugget hops. Why rye?

Necessity is not always the mother of invention. This is especially true at Barley's, where the spirit of inquiry and the pursuit of new and different styles and flavors has inspired many styles over the years.

Enter rye. This grain has a distinctive flavor, imparting a dryness and biscuit-like quality. Our first brew with rye was Angelo's Crooked Sky Rye. Now, Rye IPA.

(Why is my pant leg still rolled up? Because I'm that cool. Or an idiot. Your call.)

Rye's ability to thrive under poor soil conditions and cold temperatures has long made it a staple in the diets of Northern and Central Europeans. Although perhaps best known for its use in baked goods, rye also has a history of use in the production of whiskey, gin, and even beer. This scrappy, nutritious grain has over the years made its way into the hearts and beers of Germans, among others, and is rapidly making headway among brewers in the United States.

"Why rye?" you may ask, and not without good reason. Mention rye and the average person thinks of dense, flavorful breads and crisp crackers. Beer does not immediately leap to most minds. Yet rye makes for an interesting recipe component, contributing a distinctive, refreshing flavor; its growing presence on the beer frontier is well justified in light of its unique contributions to the taste and quality of beer.

Rye's main contribution as an ingredient is its enhancement of the overall complexity of the beer's flavor. Although the crisp, slightly spicy rye flavor does emerge somewhat distinctly (usually at the finish), at the proportions generally used it is neither too forceful nor overpowering. The subtlety of the rye flavor is due to a variety of factors, including the amount of rye used in the recipe, the form of rye used, the hopping level, the type of yeast used in the recipe, and the other ingredients involved in the brew.

In many ways, the flavor of rye beer is reminiscent of wheat beers. Light bodied and somewhat dry, rye beers tend to have a nice head and an interesting grainy, slightly spicy flavor.

Why rye? Why not?”

ABV: 5.9%
IBU (estimate): 70
OG: 1.059
Malts: British pale and American flaked rye
Bittering hops: Simcoe and Nugget
Finihsing hops: Simcoe and Nugget
Dry hops: Simcoe
First Tapped: January 15, 2005


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

22. Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber

Tröeg’s Brewery is located in Harrisburg, PA, and began brewing in 1997. I do like that there is a close attention to language on the website—just in case you were wondering, they’re perfectly happy to tell you what their name means:

TRÖEGS (tr?gs) *v-tröeged, -tröeg'in The act of tröeg'in, i.e. “I tröeged it” or {slang} “that boy is tröeg'in” -adj. An aura of complete enjoyment and contentment, i.e. “My you look Tröegy this morning” -n. a new tradition of Pennsylvania specialty ales {from the brewers of Tröegs}, i.e. “I'll have a Tröegs!”

Nugget Nectar has a hazy rich coppery orange color with an off white head. The slightly malty nose balances well with the piney and resiny hop notes, and the beer has a chewy substantive mouthfeel. Nugget Nectar opens with light malt flavor that is chewy and a bit bready before moving into a hop bouquet of flavors in the middle of the beer—the bitterness is balanced with resin, pine, and some slight floral flavors. Beer closes with a nice bitterness and some slightly astringent and resin flavors that stick to the middle of the tongue. Overall, there is a nice balance between malt & hops, with the hops they should. As well, there is a nice carbonation bite, but it works well within the overall beer profile—it doesn’t get in the way and helps round out the mouthfeel in an effective manner.

From Troeg’s website: “Squeeze those hops for all they’re worth and prepare to pucker up: Nugget Nectar Ale, will take hopheads to nirvana with a heady collection of Nugget, Warrior and Tomahawk hops. Starting with the same base ingredients of our flagship HopBack Amber Ale, Nugget Nectar intensifies the malt and hop flavors to create an explosive hop experience.

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 93ish
SRM: Straw/ Orange
Malts: Pilsner, Vienna, Munich
Hops: Nugget, Warrior, Tomahawk, Simcoe, Palisade
HopBack Hops: Whole leaf Nugget
Dry Hops: Nugget, Warrior

More umlauts!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

21. Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #24 Glacier Harvest ’08 Wet Hop Beer

Harpoon Brewing is located in Boston, MA. For all of you who were wondering, Boston is also home to the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial. And if you don't remember Glory, you should probably be beaten with a rubber hose. Beer and history--does it get any better than that?

Glacier Harvest ’08 Wet Hop has floral hops notes in the nose, but not much in the way of malt sweetness. The head is creamy and white, although somewhat limited. Glacier Harvest has a nice balance of malt & hops in the body: the light malt beginning blends well into the floral and citrus flavors, which then lead nicely into the smooth bitter finish, with the bitterness lingering nicely on the back of the tongue. Resin flavors increase with warmth in the middle of the beer, and the beer gets sweeter across the palate as it warms; malt characteristics also emerge in the nose as the beer warms. Carbonation is somewhat low to minimal, but it works well with the beer; while the initial mouthfeel is rather non-descript, the low carbonation allows the beer to roll over your tongue to develop flavors rather than just using the bite of the carbonation to build contrast within the beer. While warmth does help some of the characteristics of the beer, we do think it is better overall when first opened.

From Harpoon’s website: “Brew Date: 8/12/08
Packaging Date: 8/26/08

For the 24th session of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, we’re celebrating this year’s hop harvest with Glacier Harvest Wet Hop beer, a pale ale made with fresh Glacier hops.

Wet hop beers are brewed using fresh, ‘wet’ hops instead of traditional dried hops—hops contain about 60% moisture when they are first picked. Typically, when hops are picked they are quickly dried and refrigerated to increase shelf life and make them more consistent for brewing. Freshly picked wet hops, however, need to be used within hours of harvest or they will begin to degrade rapidly. Wet hops retain more of their natural aroma and volatile flavors that dissipate when dried. This gives wet hop beers a fresher hop flavor and aroma than that of beers hopped with processed hops. This yields an immersed, intense hop flavor in the beer.

Harpoon brewer Ray Dobens, creator of the beer, added a heroic dose of fresh hops the day of the harvest. The result is a copper-colored ale with a pleasing blend of fresh hop flavor and sweet malt.”

ABV: 6.7%
OG: 16
IBU: 38

And yes, for all of you wondering at home, our drinking this now means that we forgot we had a bottle of it buried in the basement. You're already so over yourselves...


Monday, July 20, 2009

20. Eel River Açai Berry Wheat

The Eel River Brewery is located in Fortuna, CA, which is on the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California. We’re talking Redwoods and Paul Bunyan here. In addition to opening a second brewery in Scotia, CA, Eel River is the nation’s first Certified Organic Brewery. Take that, you evil bastards at large multi-national corporations.

Eel River Acai Berry Wheat has a subtle berry flavor in the nose that is not overbearing and balances well with the wheat malt. There is a light bubbly mouthfeel that pairs well with the golden translucent color—the beer is hazy, but only slighty. There is a bit of an alkaline/carbonation flavor at the start of the beer (something like seltzer water) before moving into the slightly tart and fruity berry flavors that run across the middle of the beer. Acai Wheat finishes with a tart and slightly astringent flavor that is not quite clean enough. The berry flavor not readily discernable as acai—could be any of a number of berry wheat beers, although this is less a critique and more an observation of the overall flavor profile. Does have solid and crisp flavor, and the lower alcohol content means it works well as a summer thirst quencher.

From the Eel River website: “Açai Berry Wheat (pronounced, ah-sigh-ee): A light-bodied wheat ale brewed with organic acai berries from Brazil, and a flavorful mix of four other organic berries. Acai berries boast high antioxidant properties too, so drink on!”

ABV: 4%
OG: 10.0º P


Sunday, July 19, 2009

19. Left Hand Milk Stout

Left Hand Brewing is yet another magnificent brewery from Colorado—this one is found in Longmont, CO; we had this beer on tap at the Trolleystop.

Left Hand Milk Stout has a roasted malt nose—the roasted barley comes across in the slightly burnt smell that dances around the malty notes in the nose. The mouthfeel is thick and hearty, but also smooth, and there is a minimal tan head. The beer starts smooth and a bit creamy with a minimal sweet taste and some lactose sweetness, and builds into a nice malty, roasted middle with burnt barley flavors before closing with a light, soft sweetness that leads into a chewy roasty and burnt finish. A warm smooth toastiness emerges in the body as the beer warms; we expected a bit more lactose sweetness across the beer’s profile, but it never really materialized.

From the Left Hand website: “2006 and 2008 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Winner in the Sweet Stout Category. The September/October 2006 issue of Draft Magazine calls Milk Stout ‘...quite possibly the best stout in America.’ Time Magazine described Milk Stout as ‘malty, roasty goodness.’ Strong roasted malt and coffee flavors built the foundation of this classic cream stout. The addition of milk sugar mellows the intense roastiness and gives this beer the most incredible creamy mouthfeel.”

Malts: Pale 2-row, Crystal, Munich, Roast barley, Flaked Oats, Flaked barley, Chocolate
Hops: Magnum and U.S. Goldings

ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 25
OG: 16.5º P


Saturday, July 18, 2009

18. Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

The Mikkeller Brewery is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. There’s some sort of cheesy Shakespearian joke implied in the location of Mikkeler, something about hauntings or spectres of the past looming. Or maybe I’m just channeling Bob and Doug McKenzie. Take off, eh? Worst Hamlet rip-off ever.

Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA is a bottle-conditioned beer; it has a cloudy tan color with some yeast bits evident inthe glass even though we were careful in pouring out the beer. The creamy off-white head matches well with the musty and piney nose. In terms of flavor, Mikkeller Simcoe starts smooth with minimal malt sweetness—the mild malty body works well to set up later hops flavors, and the subtle but sharp carbonation also works to accentuate the hoppiness of the beer. From here, the beer moves into a bitter and hoppy middle that has floral and pine notes. The building bitterness ends clean, although there are resiny hop flavors that linger on the palate—you can taste the bitterness on the back of tongue. The body has a bit more yeastiness that a traditional American IPA; while not a distraction, it is worth noting in relation to thinking about this beer as a European interpretation of an American IPA. Overall, an enjoyable and interesting take on an American IPA.

From the Mikkeller website: “Brewed at De Proef Brouwerij, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. The first in a new series of single hop IPA's from Mikkeller. Brewed with Simcoe, known for many great US micro-brews. An extremely fresh-hopped IPA.”

Ingredients:Pilsner malt
Cara-crystal malt
Munich malt
Simcoe hops

ABV: 6.9%


Friday, July 17, 2009

17. Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout

From the lovely folks at Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY comes this beer-based version of everyone’s favorite rich creamy dessert. Southern Tier also operates their own brewpub, the Empty Pint. We found Crème Brûlée on tap @ the Trolley Stop in the Oregon District.

Crème Brulee has a sweet and complex nose; hints of toffee mixed with caramel and accompanied by both vanilla and alcohol notes, making the beer’s nose reminiscent of fresh cookie dough. The head was pretty non-existent, and the viscous slick mouthfeel matched the opaque deep brown/black color of the beer. Crème Brulee opens with a sweet burnt caramel taste that also carries with it cola and vanilla flavors. The middle carries more sweet flavors, building upon and fleshing out earlier tastes. The beer ends with darker burnt and bitter flavors, and something of a roasty presence. There are no discernable hop flavors; the large malt profile creates a sweetness that covers over the hops, unless we are mistaking in ascribing the burnt and bitter flavors at the end to the malt profile. Sweetness rises at end as the beer warms, along with alcohol warmth, and the bitterness lessens. As well, the cola flavor in the front of the mouth comes out more as the beer warms. Overall, an interesting beer. And, quite honestly, I’m a fan of such experimentation—I like the idea of pushing the boundaries of what is and what isn’t seen as beer. While Elli likes this type of experimentation, she’s not always inclined to drink said experimentations. She’s more of a mind to appreciate the theoretical impulses behind such experimentation, and be less interested in the actual consumption of such products. And, as she aptly observes, this beer is bordering on being more of a liqueur than a beer.

From the Southern Tier website: “Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout: a stout of great contention. We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition.

By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew.”

2-Row pale malt
Dark caramel malt
Vanilla bean
Lactose sugar
Kettle hops: Columbus
Aroma hops: Horizon

ABV: 10.0%
OG: 25º P
SRM: 195º L


Thursday, July 16, 2009

16. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

The illustrious Two Hearted Ale comes from Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, MI. Technically, the beer is produced in Galesburg, MI, but as the website observes, that site is not open to the public. Instead, visit the Eccentric Café and General Store, which is located in Kalamazoo, MI.

This beer give me beer envy. It gives Elli beer envy as well. While she is less willing to publicly admit it, that’s because she’s in beer envy denial. Sorry, but I’ve outed you. Anyway, I’ve cracked myself another Two Hearted to enjoy on this little trip down memory lane...

Two Hearted Ale is a bright copper color that is clear with a light haze. The nose is deliciously hoppy, with grapefruit and floral aromas, and the mouthfeel is both well rounded and nicely balanced with bright clean carbonation. The head is very white, and it streaks well down the side of the glass. Two Heart starts with a soft sweet malt front, and then quickly climbs into floral hops and bitterness in the main body of the beer, closing with a bitter finish that is accentuated by the crispness of the carbonation. It closes clean, although there are some spicy bitter notes that linger pleasantly in the mouth. There is not much in the way of toasted or roasted malt flavors in the body, but still a deliciously well balanced beer between malt and hops, leaning more towards the hop side of things. The bitterness in the middle and end increases slightly as the beer warms. If it weren’t for the 7% ABV, we’d drink this as a session beer. Hell, we might anyway—it’s that good.

From the Bell’s website: “India Pale Ale style well suited for Hemingway-esque trips to the Upper Peninsula. American malts and enormous hop additions give this beer a crisp finish and incredible floral hop aroma.”

OG: 1.064
ABV: 7.0%


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

15. Shipyard Bluefin Stout

Shipyard Brewing Company makes its home in Portland, ME (the other Portland).

Bluefin is a traditional “stout-colored” stout, with red hints in the light. The body is a bit thin for a stout, and it could use more head (insert appropriately trite phallic reference here), but the overall mouthfeel is clean and pleasant. Burnt caramel and roasted flavor at the front, slight bitterness with no discernable hop flavor in the middle, and a clean burnt finish. Bluefin is a little uneven in the transitions—it could be more rounded, and less sharp or coarse on the palate with the burnt flavors. The nose improves as the beer warms, giving it more burnt notes in the aroma to flesh out the initial flavor. Overall, there’s nothing that makes you not want to drink it, but it is not terribly exciting. I’m reminded of an passage from Sherman Alexie’s “Assimilation,” where the central character attempts to rationalize her desire to cheat on her white husband: “White men were neutral, she thought, just like Belgium! And when has Belgium ever been sexy? When has Belgium caused a grown woman to shake with fear and guilt? She didn’t want to feel Belgian; she wanted to feel dangerous” (5). So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m left feeling rather Belgian by Bluefin.

From the Shipyard website: “Classic Irish Stout. Full bodied, yet soft and spectacular in appearance.”

ABV: 4.7%

Kinda lame website; there’s not much information, it’s not well organized, and everything runs through a central frame. I mean, come on—this is your business. Get your head in the game, and either invest the money for a real website, or get someone who won’t use a TRS 80 with circa 1990’s graphics to set up your website. After all, my blog’s better organized, and I’m a 40 year old technophobe.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

14. Pelican India Pelican Ale

Pelican Pub & Brewery is located in Pacific City on Oregon coast (see map below). This means that besides the yummy beer, you’ll be getting scenic vistas that will make postcard companies envious. So don’t forget your camera. Or your microbrewery guide.

India Pelican Ale starts with a toasty malt and citrus hop nose. It has an amber color, and rich white head laces about halfway down the glass. The beer begins with a warm toasty malt taste that quickly fades into hop flavor—Pelican IPA is extremely dry throughout, and moves into both resinous and citrus hop flavors after the initial malt tastes before finishing crisp with a resinous bite and a slight warm feeling in mouth. The nose gets more resinous as it warms, as does taste and finish; while it does lose its balance a little as it warms, it is still a delicious and classic example of a Northwest IPA.

(note Elli grating cheese for dinner in background)

From the Pelican website: “Our mascot, Phil the Pelican, got this recipe from his long-lost Indian cousin, and has recreated the flavor of the British Empire with his own American twist. Enjoy the huge Cascade hop aroma, the subtle malty sweetness, and the spicy, citrusy flavor of this robust, gold colored ale. This brew began life as a seasonal beer during our first year and was so popular while we had it, and so frequently requested when it was gone, that we turned it into our fifth regular beer style the second year.”

Pale Ale Malt
Caramel Malt
Cascade Malt
Magnum Hops
Centennial Hops

ABV: 7.5%
SRM: 15
IBU: 85
OG: 17° P


Monday, July 13, 2009

13. Dogfish Head Burton Baton Oak Aged Imperial IPA

Our second beer from Dogfish Head; while it is a bit early to already be doubling up on breweries, we got a four-pack of Burton Baton as a gift and just couldn’t wait any longer to try it. Take that, Puritan ethics of denying one’s self pleasure. As with last time, Dogfish Head Brewery is still located in Milton, DE, and their brewpub is in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Burton Baton has a particularly delicious nose, combining maltiness, hoppiness, and oakiness to create a trifecta of olfactory delight. I almost didn’t want to stop smelling the beer, but was told I needed a) start the actual tasting, and b) stop bogarting the log. Remember, it’s puff puff pass. Or in this case, sniff sip pass. The rich full brown color was accentuated with red hints; while there was a bit of a sticky sweet mouthfeel, due in part to the higher ABV, it balanced nicely with the oakiness that was surprisingly un-tannic. Flavor-wise, a pronounced malty sweetness to start that was strong but not overbearing before moving cleanly into the hoppy middle, carrying with it pine and resin notes. There was minimal overall bitterness, at least in large quantities, probably due in part to the increased malt load of the beer, but the hop flavors worked well here. Burton Baton finishes with oakiness, although there is a noticeable lack of the vanilla hints that traditionally accompany oak. The oakiness does increase as the bottle warms, becomes more prominent; from the current flavor, I think that this is a beer that will age well, especially as some of the oak mellows and rounds out the overall flavor. For a 10% beer, the alcohol never really comes to the forefront, which is impressive.

From the Dogfish Head website: "“A blend of oak-aged English strong ale and our 90 Minute I.P.A. Citrus notes from Northwestern hops meld with vanilla notes from the oak.”

ABV: 10%
IBU: 70

"Huh huh...huh huh huh huh. You said increased malt load."


Sunday, July 12, 2009

12. The Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale

The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, which self-identifies as “the Dark Beer Specialists,” is located in Farmville, NC. I’ll be honest: I’m kind of partial to the Duck-Rabbit. It may be the label and the back story surrounding it (come on, who doesn’t love the rags-to-riches/pull-yourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps story of the academic turned brewmaster?) or it may be that I normally drink Duck-Rabbit when I’m hanging out in a cabin in the woods in North Carolina. Either way, it seems like a recipe for success. What makes Wittgenstein easier? Easy—beer and chillin'.

Duck-Rabbit Brown has a toasted malt nose with light notes of sweetness in it and a clear brown color with red highlights. The mouthfeel is smooth and mellow with slight rise from carbonation towards the finish. It starts with a toasted warm malt flavor and moves into a well balanced middle that combines a complex malt body with an abundant bitterness and a dry hop finish. Overall, an impressive and interesting take on a brown ale, even when judged by by the broader definitions allowed the American version; there are no heavy roasted overtones, no toffee or butterscotch notes, just clean clear flavor. There is a bit of creaminess in the front that develops as the beer warms and some dark raisin notes buried back inside the malt/hop middle flavor, but these mainly accentuate the overall profile in positive ways. As well, the hops become more evident in the flavor than in the bitterness as the beer concludes. Duck-Rabbbit Brown might almost be too clean tasting for a brown ale—it has a crisp hoppiness and a malt body that opts for a complex balance of flavors rather than just sweetness, even while maintaining the malt characteristics implied in brown ale category. For a brown ale, this is something that we’d actually want to drink on a regular basis, and that’s saying something, so well done. I’d call it a delicious and exemplary example of an American Brown Ale.

From the Duck-Rabbit website: “The Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale is an American brown ale brewed with loads of hops from start to finish (it’s hoppy and beautifully bitter). Amarillo hops in the boil provide a spicy citrusy bitterness. Saaz dry hops in the fermentor provide a refined flowery aroma. These hops are supported by a grain bill of seven varieties of malt. Oh yeah!”


Saturday, July 11, 2009

11. Southampton India Pale Ale

From the Southampton Publick Alehouse in Southampton, NY comes Southampton India Pale Ale. Luckily for you, I have no arcane tales about my past associations with the beer or brewery—just the alliterative joy found in repeating Southampton.

Southampton IPA has a fruity nose with an amber color and light clean carbonation. While it has a bit of flat start, it quickly climbs into a malty body that has caramel and butterscotch hints, making this very reminiscent of English Ales. There is some hop bitterness in the middle, but not a lot of hop flavor as the beer moves towards the finish—it closes with a return to malt sweetness and a bit of a noticeable hop bitterness. Overall, the hop profile seems underdone in relation to the style; there is hop bitterness, but not a lot of either hop nose at the beginning or hop flavor in the body. As beer warms, the nose does become a bit hoppier, as does the finish, but this is really more a case of too little, too late—the floral and grapefruit notes mentioned below never really made an appearance. While both the bottle and the website laud the careful balance between American and European IPAs, along with the subtle balance of hop varieties within the beer, balance here seems to be the new term for “unable to afford enough hops to make it a real IPA.”

From the Southampton website: “Balance. That’s what separates India Pale Ales. And that’s the difference between the Southampton IPA and most others.

Southampton IPA is balanced between the hopped-up West Coast-style IPAs and the Old World characteristics of a traditional European IPA. You could say that Southampton IPA is located somewhere between Europe and California, figuratively and literally.

Phil uses three grains and a blend of three American and two English hop varieties to make this complex and delicious IPA. It’s full of floral hop aroma and has fruity apricot and grapefruit overtones. It has an assertive hop flavor and a refreshing hop bitterness while still showing plenty of caramel malt character to balance the flavor.

It features more balance than any other IPA brewed in America. The result is an American-style IPA with the Old World characteristics of a traditional European IPA.”

ABV: 6.1%
IBU: 40
Malts: 2-Row Malt, British Caramel Malt, Wheat Malt
Hops: Centennial, Cascade, Vanguard, East Kent Goldings, UK Fuggles


Friday, July 10, 2009

10b. Flying Bison Rusty Chain

Since I was going to be out of town for our daily beer, I had to go it alone. And since I was going to be back in my old stomping grounds of Buffalo, NY, I knew right where I wanted to head: the Essex Street Pub. Many a long night I whiled away at the Essex, playing pool, listening to their eclectic but well-stocked jukebox, and having random conversations with the always odd collection of clientele that assembled like clockwork. Who doesn’t remember that crazy-ass old painter dude who would flip out at the drop of a hat and curse you up and down like his life depended upon heaping vile invectives upon your head? Twenty minutes later, he was buying you a beer.
photo credit: the artery magazine

Anyway, I digress. I rolled into Buffalo, and straight-off headed to the Essex. And what I found was Buffalo’s own Flying Bison Rusty Chain on tap. Consider me served.

So I’ll be honest—I didn’t take the best notes on this beer. As the random dude and now current outsider sitting at the bartop with a bunch of people who have no clue who I am, I didn’t feel like attempting to explain why I was both drinking alone and taking notes—something about giving off the creepy vibe of one who should instead be writing a manifesto somewhere in a secluded cabin in the woods. So consider this my best recollection. Rusty Chain had a dull copper color, clear, with a head that laced the glass nicely (see photo). While the initial taste was a bit malty for my palate, Rusty Chain had a solid body and nice finish. The hop profile reminded me more of an American Brown than an Amber, possibly from the malty front, but as I write this, I’m not even sure I know what the hell that means—at least not in a manner that I could tangibly explain to anyone. But clean, crisp, and enjoyable. I was slightly perturbed that the people I was in town to see called me at that point, because that meant I didn’t get another one. At least not right then.

From the Flying Bison website: “Rusty Chain is a beer FBBC is making in collaboration with Green Options Buffalo, Buffalo Rising, and Buffalo Microparks, based on Tim's Vienna Lager many of you have enjoyed in past years, to raise resources for bicycle parking throughout Buffalo. Rusty Chain will quickly become the beer of choice for cyclists and beer aficionados alike, and has been receiving rave reviews. More information can be found at thier website:

So, if you want to support bicycling, local business (i.e. Flying Bison), and transportation that's environmentally sustainable and community friendly in Buffalo, pick up your very own Rusty Chain T-shirt at the Rusty Chain Beer website: "show your support for beer drinking… or… bicycling in Buffalo! The original Rusty Chain design is printed in black and sparkling rust ink on unbleached white, 100% cotton...They are available in small, medium, large, X-large and XX-large for $15 each (postage included). For ordering info, contact Green Options Buffalo: (716) 851-4052 or"

That's right, I'm shillin' for Buffalo...