Monday, August 31, 2009

62. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

Racer 5 is our second beer from Bear Republic in Healdsburg, CA.

Racer 5 IPA has a floral hoppy nose, a burnt straw color, and a light ivory head. This beer is hops start to finish. While there is a slight malt start, it is pretty much straight into hops, with some more hops on the side. Besides the hop bitterness, the middle has floral and resin flavors, and the end has some resin and vegetal flavors to accompany the lingering bitterness. Mouthfeel is smooth and a bit spicy; medium carbonation with very fine bubbles. Overall, an enjoyable and refreshingly hoppy beer—good fer drinkin’.

From Bear Republic’s website: “This hoppy IPA is a full bodied beer using American grains. The malt base shows off the unique floral qualities of two Pacific Northwest hops, Columbus and Cascade. It is a true California IPA and is our brewer's statement on the style. Racer 5 is one of America's most medal winning IPAs. There's a trophy in every glass.”

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 75
OG: 1.070


Sunday, August 30, 2009

61. Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Here’s to Oktoberfest—ugly facial hair and tight tight lederhosen!

Great Lakes Brewery Company is in Cleveland, OH. Great Lakes’ Oktoberfest starts with a toasted malt nose, and has a rich amber color with a light white head on it. It begins with a lightly sweet and toasty malt front, moves into a smooth rounded middle, and ends with a crisp lager bite, both from carbonation and hops, finishing clean. We called the middle smooth and rounded because there was not much between opening and ending flavors, just a nice smooth transition from front to back. Mouthfeel is smooth and clean with a light body; Great Lakes’ version of an Oktoberfest is a little on the sweeter side, but very pleasant and enjoyable—the body is suitably complex with the lager taste and crisp bite at the end. So here’s to Oktoberfest in my mouth.

From the Great Lakes website: “Cleveland’s commemoration of Oktoberfest dates back to the mid 1800s when German immigrants celebrated at outdoor beer gardens like Haltnorth’s Garden and Kindvater’s St. Clair Garden. Oktoberfest is Vienna’s stronger brother. Gabriel Sedlmayr adapted the Vienna style for brewing in Munich. Because refrigeration had not yet been invented, March was traditionally the last month in which lagers were brewed. Sedlmayr’s beer was made in March to last until September and was served in autumn amidst traditional celebrations.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 20


Saturday, August 29, 2009

60. Terrapin Rye Pale Ale

From Terrapin Brewing in Athens, GA comes this Rye Pale Ale. We’ve got no clever stories for this one besides the fact that this is a rye beer and a damn good one.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale has a hoppy nose with fruit and citrus aromas; its rich amber color is offset by the white head that, while minimal, does hang around. There is a slight malty front before moving into the hop bitterness and rye spiciness of the middle. Terrapin Rye closes with the reassertion of hop bitterness, ending pretty crisp. Medium-bodied, Terrapin Rye has a smooth, rich, and clean mouthfeel with medium levels of carbonation. Overall, a refreshing and enjoyable rye beer; the rye spiciness is a welcome addition to the pale ale form. While there still is a bit of difficulty separating the hops and the rye in terms of describing flavors within the beer, this one seem easier to sort out than some of the rye IPAs we’ve had—the rye shines through a bit more in the middle of this one.

From Terrapin’s website: “By using an exact amount of rye, a grain seldom found in other micro brewed beers, the Rye Pale Ale acquires its signature taste. Made with five varieties of hops and a generous amount of specialty malts, it offers a complex flavor and aroma that is both aggressive and well balanced – a rare find among beers.

The Terrapin Rye Pale Ale was released in Athens, GA in April of 2002 at the Classic City Brew Fest. Six months later this beer which was sold only in Athens was awarded the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival, the most prestigious competition in North America. We hope you will agree with our peers in the brewing industry that this is truly one of the best pale ales in the country.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 35
OG: 13.3° P
Malt: 2-Row Pale, Munich, Malted Rye, Victory Malt, Honey Malt
Hops: Magnum, Fuggle, East Kent Golding, Amarillo (Dry Hop)


Friday, August 28, 2009

59. Stone Pale Ale

Stone Pale Ale is from the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, CA. We had this beer on tap at the Trolley Stop as part of their “Off-Centered Arrogance Night,” which was the night before the Dayton Beer Fest.

Stone Pale Ale is an amber color with minimal head and a light malty nose. It begins with a low-key malt front with limited sweetness, setting up things smooth and clean. From there, Stone Pale Ale moves on to light hoppiness before finishing clean with some minimal lingering bitterness. The mouthfeel is light, smooth, and clean. This is a well balanced beer overall—not the Stone most people think of or are used to drinking.

I also had a Dogfish Head Sahtea on tap: it was pretty much the same as in the bottle—lots of Chai, maybe less juniper taste present in beer. From there, I moved onto the Stone 13th Anniversary on tap: very nice—hoppy and delicious. Not nearly as overbearing or punishing as I’ve heard it is in the bottle (someone described it to me as “being so hoppy it clawed out my taste buds and left them for dead”). Needless to say, I was excited to try it, and thus was a bit disappointed when I found my taste buds pleasantly surprised instead of sacrificed on the altar of hoppiness. In my disappointment, I consoled myself with Dogfish Head’s Immort Ale, which was also on tap, but by then I was getting into my cups enough that I can only tell you it was enjoyable. And besides, you already got the main beer of the day plus a couple extras along the way—stop getting greedy. Finally, I did also get to see Casey shotgun a Stone 12th Anniversary—way to mainline the hard stuff. Chugging a big heavy beer like that seems painful, but everyone loves a dare.

From the Stone website: “Our flagship ale, Stone Pale Ale is our Southern California interpretation of the classic British style pale ale style. Deep amber in color, Stone Pale Ale is robust and full falvored. A delicate hop aromais complimented by a rich maltiness. This is an ale fo those who have learned to apprecaite distinctive flavor. Stone Pale Ale is great by itself, or with food that requires a beer of character.”

ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 41
Hops: Columbus, Ahtanum


Thursday, August 27, 2009

58. Highland Kashmir IPA

“The IPA for dudes in kilts”

Kashmir IPA is from the Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. We’ve had it before, but mainly when in North Carolina.

Kashmir IPA is a clear dark gold with a hint of red and a thin white head. Mixed with a buttery malty nose that has a slight hop aroma, Kashmir looks and smells ready to head into our bellies. The light malt front has a bit of biscuit and graininess to it; there is a big hop presence and piney flavors in the middle that carry on into the finish with resin hints and a solid lingering bitterness. Kashmir IPA has a soft light mouthfeel; it could use a better balance between the malt and hops—the two are not well integrated, and don’t always work in tandem. It feels like Highlands is trying too much to make this both an English IPA (biscuit malt and buttery flavor) and an American IPA (big hop punch), but the two don’t work together very well—they remain too separate within the context of the flavor profile. One possible solution would be to provide more hop aroma in the nose to help set malt into middle of beer, or to better marry the front and back in the transition from malt to hops so that it is not all one then all the other.

From the bottle: “A brilliant pale ale with an aggressive hop character balanced with a smooth finish. A bold beer best consumed with a stiff upper lip.”

ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 60
Hops: Stryian Goldings, Mt. Hood, Fuggles, Magnum, Willamette


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

57. Dogfish Head Squall IPA

Our third beer (see entries 9 and 13) from Dogfish Head. What can I say? They make some good beer. Don't worry—this won't be our last Dogfish Head beer for the year.

Squall IPA is copper colored with a creamy soft smooth head that generously laces the glass; the nose mixes floral and aggressive spicy hop aromas with malt notes. It begins with a soft sweet malt flavor and builds into an assertive but well-balanced hop presence, resiny and spicy flavors predominating. While Squall IPA is a bit sweet, it is balanced by the hop profile and the nice soft finish; it has a soft, delicate, creamy yet substantial mouthfeel. Overall, an interesting, delicious, and different offering from Dogfish Head; this is one of their less aggressive beers. While it has a 9.0% ABV, it is still mellow and balanced—we’ve dubbed it the “non-extreme extreme beer.” As well, it is the newest member of the potential Top 10 Best beers of the year.

From the Dogfish Head website: “An unfiltered, 100% bottle-conditioned, super-pungent imperial I.P.A. clocking in at 9% ABV and dry-hopped with Palisade, Amarillo, Simcoe, Cascade, CTZ, and Willamette hops. As many of you know, Dogfish Head is named after a ‘head’ of land off of Boothbay Harbor, Maine where company founder Sam Calagione grew up. A few years ago we discovered and fell in love with a Portland, Maine company called Rogues Gallery that makes beautiful, unique clothing. Their rustic, quality-centric creative approach mirrors our off-centered obsession with inspired brewing. As Time Magazine put it Rogues Gallery is all about ‘Masculine-style with a nostalgic eastern seaboard feel.’ Alex Carleton and the crew at Rogue’s Gallery were down with getting their chocolate in Dogfish Head's peanut butter. We agreed to do a beer in keeping with their brand and a line of co-branded clothing in keeping with ours. The theme of the clothing line is superlative stuff to wear while drinking beer at a sunset beach bonfire and the clothes will be available by mid-summer 2009. The beer first came out in June of 2009 in a handful of eastern seaboard states, a second 2009 release started shipping to wholesalers in November 2009. A more wide-spread release of Squall IPA is planned for 2010.”

Someone didn’t want to let any of it go to waste...
ABV: 9.0%

P.S. Anyone who can tell me what the phrase “masculine-style with a nostalgic eastern seaboard feel” actually means is entitled to a beer on me. Not a Squall IPA, howver, as that shit is hard to find.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

56. Unibroue Raftman

Raftman is brewed by Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec. I’m happy to see this beer back—I used to get it in the 750ml bottles when I was living in Buffalo in 2000, and then it disappeared and I couldn’t find it anymore. And believe me, I tried: I got a lot of “they aren’t shipping that anymore” or “we haven’t been able to get that recently,” which I interpreted as the nice version of “go away and buy some other damn beer.” So I did, but I always hoped it would come back, as it was the first beer I ever had with whiskey malt in it, and I liked the spicy characteristics it added—this was, after all, well before the current rye craze, and finding decent Belgian-influenced beers required more money than I was sporting as a lowly graduate student. Plus, the outdoorsy dude on the label made me laugh—it was so very different from the other Unibroue labels.

Raftman has a yeasty malt nose, a burnished tan color, and a plentiful lacy white head. It begins with a soft, rounded spicy malt front with rye notes and progresses into a clean, crisp refreshing middle before finishing with a bit of a bite and some creaminess, but an overall clean conclusion. Medium-bodied, Raftman has a zesty mouthfeel: slightly spicy with a decent carbonation bite and some yeast ester characteristics. A smooth, well-balanced beer—the interesting mix of Belgian and New World influences that play out in this beer make Raftman eccentric yet accessible, but not overdone.

From Unibroue’s website: “Launched in March 1995, Raftman is a beer with a coral sheen that is slightly robust. It contains 5.5 percent alcohol and combines the character of whisky malt with the smooth flavours of choice yeast. It has a subtle and exceptional bouquet that creates a persistent smooth feel. Raftman complements fish, smoked meat and spicy dishes. It is brewed to commemorate the legendary courage of the forest workers These hard working men knew when to settle their differences and share their joie de vivre with a beer and a whisky.”

ABV: 5.5%


Monday, August 24, 2009

55. Duchesse de Bourgogne

Duchesse de Bourgogne (pronounced DOO-SHAY) is brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. The rest of the pronunciation is up to you. Matured in oak casks for 18 months, Duchesse de Bourgogne is then blended with younger 8 month old beer to complete the final delicious product. Duchesse de Bourgogne is named for Mary of Burgundy, born in Brussels in 1457, who was the sole daughter of Charles the Bold. A champion of the Flemish people, she was the Duchess of Burgundy from 1477-1482. She died at the age of 25 in a fall from a horse while falconing when her horse tripped, threw her, and then landed on top of her, breaking her back. Unlucky. She died several days later, having made a detailed will. Why did I include the part about the detailed will? It seemed an interesting and pertinent detail.

Duchesse de Bourgogne starts with a candy sweet but simultaneously sour and tart nose; it has a hazy reddish brown color and a soft white lacy head. Starting smooth and soft, Duchesse rises into sweet candy and tart notes with slight sour notes that build and then take over the flavor, continuing to linger nicely on the palate. The soft, slightly viscous mouthfeel and sharp citric bite merges with the bright feeling of the carbonation to minimize some of the heavy sweetness (sugary, not malty) found across the flavor profile; the sourness level builds nicely throughout the profile. Duchesse does get a bit sticky in the mouth as it warms and tartness starts to overwhelm the sweet candy flavors, which is a plus in our book; as well, the adhesive and band aid flavors come through more as the beer warms—again, another plus for us. All told, a delicious beer that gets better as it warms, giving the sour qualities a chance to shine.

From the Brouwerij Verhaeghe website: “‘Duchesse de Bourgogne’ is een zoet, fruitig bier met een aangename fris-zurige eikenhouten afdronk. ‘Duchesse de Bourgogne’ wordt gebrouwen met diep gebrand gerstemout en overjaarse hoppen met een laag bitterheidsgehalte. Na de hoofdgisting en de tweede lagering ondergaat het bier een derde lagering van circa 18 maanden in eikenhouten kuipen. De in het eikenhout aanwezige looistoffen geven de ‘Duchesse’ het fruitige karakter. Na deze lagering wordt de ‘Duchesse’ versneden met jonger bier van 8 maanden oud. Het resultaat is een ‘Duchesse de Bourgogne’ met een volle, zoete en licht rinzige smaak. Een robijnrood juweel van 6.2% vol. alc. dat het best geschonken wordt tussen de 8 en de 12°C. Een volmaakt bier!”

That disembodied arm is sweeeeet sweetness!

ABV: 6.2%
OG: 16° P


Sunday, August 23, 2009

54. Wachusett Green Monsta Pale Ale

Green Monsta Pale Ale is from Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster, MA. And as the label and website attests, it is a BIG Pale Ale. We hope those at Wachusetts don’t take this the wrong way, but it was not as big as we thought it would be.

Green Monsta has a bready, hoppy nose, and a reddish copper color with a creamy off-white head. Beginning with a dry malt and biscuit flavor and moving into sweeter maltiness with reciprocal hop bitterness, Green Monsta then finishes oddly: it is kind of sour or something, almost like the biscuitness returns to drown out the hop bitterness or there is some sort of lager finish going on. Either way, we weren’t sure what to make of it. The mouthfeel is smooth and medium bodied with a medium level of carbonation. All in all, it works, but we still feel let down by the promise of it being a BIG Pale Ale, and then getting this. You can call us lame for being suckers and believing in the advertising, but the truth is the reality still hurts when one’s hope is crushed. Khan!!!

From the Wachusett website: “A BIG PALE ALE with an awesome balance of Belgian malts with Fuggles and East Kent Golding hops.”

ABV: 6.4%
IBU: 53


Saturday, August 22, 2009

53. Bell's Octoberfest

Our second beer from Bell’s Brewery, which is still located in Kalamazoo, MI. As this beer indicates, Oktoberfest will soon be upon us, which means that seasonal beer season begins in earnest. And while I know that the reporting on this comes late, just recall the joys of Oktoberfest, and you’ll be transported back in time to the most wonderful time of the year. Which, regardless of Andy Williams’ sentiments, will always be in early fall for these two contrarians. So take that current holiday season.

Bell’s Octoberfest has a bready malt nose and a crystal clear orangish tan/amber color (seriously—check the clarity on that photo) with a lacy white head. It starts with a soft bready malt flavor, moving into light sweetness in the middle, and finishing with the light hop bitterness and lager-ish crispness indicative of the style; for me, that lager hop flavor is always has a slight soapy quality. The mouthfeel is smooth with light carbonation and something of a grainy taste that adds to the overall lager qualities of the beer. Like with all of the Bell’s products, this is a well-crafted and well-balanced beer—an enjoyable example of what an Oktoberfest beer should be.

From the Bell’s website: “A coppery amber lager that showcases a full bodied, malty flavor that is balanced by a refreshing bitterness derived from fine noble hops.”

ABV: 5.5%
OG: 1.056

P.S. It’s OK—go ahead and Google the Andy Williams reference.


Friday, August 21, 2009

52. Lagunitas IPA

Our second beer from Lagunitas Brewing Company; we had this on tap at South Park Tavern. Lagunitas IPA has a burnt honey color with a very light head and a delightfully hoppy nose with floral and citrus aromas most evident. There is a very light malt profile to this beer—it begins with a minimal crystal malt flavor before allowing the hops to take over; there is strong bitterness with minimal hop flavor in the middle, and it finishes bitter and clean with the bitterness lingering in the back of the mouth and the throat. Bitterness does makes an early appearance in this beer; Lagunitas IPA transitions quickly into hop bitterness, and it is mostly bitterness and not flavor that comes across in the middle to end of the flavor profile. The body is smooth and medium-light to medium with a nice bite from the carbonation. If you like bitterness, it would make a good session beer for the evening; we’d personally like a bit more flavor to help finish out the hop profile. As it currently stands, Lagunitas IPA is straddling the American and British IPA fence a bit too much, with none of the strengths or advantages of either.

From Lagunita’s website: “This is our unique version of an ancient style. A style as old as the ocean trade routes of the last centuries Great Ships. Not as old as the equator they had to cross twice enroute, nor as old as the 10,000 or so miles of Di-Hydrogen Oxide and Sodium upon which they sailed, but older than the Circulithium-4 Lentloid that binds the Lupulin Quartnate onto your taste buds. Weird. Think about it. Now stop. OK, go again, now stop. Think again, and stop. But we digress. Made with 43 different hops and 65 various malts, this redolent ale will likely float your boat, whatever planet you’re on.”

Think they’re looking to sport that esoteric and eccentric vibe?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

51. The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

Our second beer from Duck-Rabbit; in our first post, we forgot to add the “The” to their name. Rather than retroactively fixing it, I’ll just point it out here and note that while I generally think that any gesture to include “The” in an institution’s or product’s name is nothing short of egregious hubris deserving only of mockery (i.e. see “The” Ohio State, which can shut “the” hell up), there’s always the exception that proves the rule. And I’m granting Duck-Rabbit the exception. So if any of you other beers out there start using “The,” be prepared for a verbal tongue lashing from yours truly. Punks jump up to get beat down.

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout has a burnt chocolaty nose with a rich dark coffee color and an off-white head. It begins with a creamy sweet chocolate taste before moving into roasty bitterness with malty cereal notes, and closes with burnt roasted barley notes and lingering sweetness. The medium bodied-mouthfeel is soft, creamy, and a little syrupy or slick on the palate; the lower level of carbonation in the beer does allow these characteristics to feature themselves more prominently. However, Milk Stout is still a delicious and enjoyable beer; the sweetness provided by the lactose blends well in this beer. While the sweetness is a bit more prominent that in others we’ve had, the beer is still very drinkable, and light enough to enjoy all evening long.

From the Duck-Rabbit website: “The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout is a traditional full-bodied stout brewed with lactose (milk sugar). The subtle sweetness imparted by the lactose balances the sharpness of the highly roasted grains which give this delicious beer its black color.”


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

50. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Hop Rod Rye is from the Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, CA; we had this on tap at the Trolley Stop. Once upon a time, I resisted purchasing this beer because of the lame hot rod imagery on the label. I regret that decision now. The lesson to be learned here: never judge a beer by its label. Actually, I take that back. Some beer labels, such as this one, do deserve to be judged, and judged poorly. I didn’t think it could get worse, and then I read that prose. Stunningly retarded. This one as well. For shame. But Hop Rod Rye is nowhere near in the same category as those two colossal losers. Their label may be less interesting, but it does package up a delicious beer.

Hop Rod Rye starts with a spicy rye nose; it is a reddish amber mahogany/cherry wood color with a light tan head. Beginning with a spicy but balanced malt front, Hop Rod Rye has a malty rye middle that finishes creamy, clean, and dry. The hoppiness and bitterness of the beer are not really prominent in any portion of the profile, but they are felt in the middle and finish; the bitterness also exudes a bit of cotton-mouthy dryness in the mouth. With a medium body, some creamy slickness, and a smooth but evident carbonation level in the mouthfeel, Hop Rod Rye is simultaneously easy drinking but complex enough to warrant paying attention to as you drink. A well rounded and balanced beer—if you like rye beers, this is one to not miss. And our guest commentators had their own two cents to add: Adam really liked the creamy spicy finish, while Jenn was feeling contentious and refused to acknowledge the spicy rye nose. Speaking for myself and Elli, we’ll continue to enjoy this one on tap whenever we get a chance, and we might even let one of the ugly hot rod bottles grace our fridge.

From Bear Republic’s website: “The first American rye to be produced, Hop Rod Rye is a high performance, turbo charged, alcohol burnin’ monster ale with dual overhead hop injection that revs out the hop-o-meter at over 90 IBUs. For all that, a good dose of rye and caramel malts ensures a sturdy chassis to carry all that flavor. The rye malt adds a spicy grain character that takes this beer to the winner's circle!” While I have forgiven their label, I’m not sure I can forgive this prose. It takes the badness of the label to a whole another level...SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 90+
OG 1.074


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

49. New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Our second beer from New Belgium. Unlike other historical recipes that call for esoteric ingredients, this one is pretty normal. Speaking of which, you want to see the depths of possibility available via the brewing process? Check out Stephen Buhner’s Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers, which is an interesting book for the homebrewer interested in experimenting with the occasional odd ingredient or two. For example, I’ll bet you didn’t know that using yarrow as a brewing ingredient would make the finished product slightly hallucinogenic. See the fun facts that I provide you all? For a more complete run down, see The Mad Fermentationist’s review of Buhner’s book. Do make sure you read through the comments after the post to sort out some of the finer points about the book—while I think the review is pretty solid, The Mad Fermentationist’s overall take is a bit harsh, particularly since most of the complaints he makes about the book are openly stated in the introduction. But I digress—New Belgium is the focus here...

1554 Enlightened Black Ale is a rich mahogany in color with a creamy tan head. In terms of smell, besides the malt and chocolate notes, there is a slight note of burnt malt. The flavor profile begins with a rich toasty and creamy malt front, moves into chocolate hints with a bit or roastiness, and finishes creamy smooth. No real discernable levels of the burnt flavor detected in the nose—roastiness is about as close as it gets. Light-bodied with a soft and creamy mouthfeel, Black Ale is enjoyable and easy drinking. Our guest commentator for the week, Adam, adds “I want to thank Tom for buying this beer. It’s really good.”

From New Belgium’s website: “Born of a flood and centuries-old Belgian text, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale uses a light lager yeast strain and dark chocolaty malts to redefine what dark beer can be. In 1997, a Fort Collins flood destroyed the original recipe our researcher, Phil Benstein, found in the library. So Phil and brewmaster, Peter Bouckaert, traveled to Belgium to retrieve this unique style lost to the ages. Their first challenge was deciphering antiquated script and outdated units of measurement, but trial and error (and many months of in-house sampling) culminated in 1554, a highly quaffable dark beer with a moderate body and mouthfeel.”


Monday, August 17, 2009

48. Sly Fox Hop Project Whitbread Golding

Sly Fox Hop Project Whitbread Golding comes from Sly Fox Brewing Company in Royersford, PA—they also have a brewhouse and eatery in Phoenixville. The Sly Fox Hop Project is a brewing project that produces single hop beers, and has been running since 2004—they did IPAs for the first four years, and shifted this year to pale ales. Sadly, this year marked the end of the Hop Project annual brewing schedule—Sly Fox announced that the annual Hop Project Day on December 11th would instead be transformed into an anniversary party. See also Steph Weber’s post about his experiences at Sly Fox Hop Project 2009 for detailed commentary about this years complete run of Hop Project beers. Why am I always the last to know?

And yes, Jenn, I purposely picked the creepiest picture I had of're a half step off Sketchy Santa here

Sly Fox’s Hop Project Whitbread Golding has a biscuity nose with some slight mustiness, and, interestingly enough, not much in way of a hop aroma—they must be going for an English-style pale ale here. The clear amber color and creamy off-white head work nicely together; the beer works well visually. Hop Project begins with a biscuit malt front, moves into a strong but enjoyable bitterness, and finishes very dry and bitter—some of the biscuit comes back to clean the palate, and lets the bitterness of the hops linger with a bit of mustiness. No detectable hop flavors. It has a sharp clean mouthfeel and a bit of creaminess to round out the flavors; the carbonation provides some bite, but is not obtrusive. Interesting beer, and interesting project—I’m sad we won’t be getting to continue to sample other selections from the project as a whole. Oh, to live in New York, and have the world at my feet...

From the Sly Fox website: “The seventh release in this year's Hop Project brewed with an English hop variety known as WGV (Whitbread Goldings Variety) which was developed in the 1960's in an attempt to create a Goldings hop with a higher alpha acid content (the component of hops responsible for their bittering ability). It has a mild, spicy aroma with flavors of wood and tobacco and is most often used in the production of British style ales.”

ABV: 5.0%
OG: 13
IBU: 30


Sunday, August 16, 2009

47. Nectar Cask Conditioned IPA

Nectar IPA is brewed by Nectar Ales in Paso Robles, CA—Nectar was founded in 1987 in Humboldt County, and was bought by Firestone Walker in 2003. This delightful treat was brought to us by our good friends Adam and Jenn who packed us up a couple of growlers from Bierkraft in Brooklyn, NY to bring with them on their trip to Dayton. Why were they coming to Dayton when they live in Brooklyn? Well, that is another story, and we’ll save it for another time. And just in case I need to drive home the wicked awesomeness that is Bierkraft, check out their Twitter feed. I’d subscribe, but I don’t feel the need to be taunted on a daily basis about what I can’t have.

Adam proudly displaying his generous contribution to our selfless endeavor

Nectar IPA had a floral hop nose and a rich copper color. It was a bit light on the carbonation, but since it was initially a cask conditioned beer and then driven here in a growler from Brooklyn, I’m not really gonna kick up a fuss. Starting with a smooth malty sweet front, Nectar IPA quickly moves into a hoppy middle defined by both bitterness and hop flavor, including citrus, pine, and resin elements, before ending with a sharp bitterness that lingers enjoyably in the mouth. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and a bit slick, with a decent amount of carbonation bite. A Smooth and well balanced beer overall—certainly much more of an American IPA than a British one, except for the lower carbonation level coming from the cask.

From Nectar’s website: “Our IPA is created from a base of Pale and Crystal malts and is aggressively hopped throughout the brewing process with a final hop addition in the conditioning vessel. A beautiful flowery hop aroma will greet you as you dive into this hop lover's dream. A middle caramel presence balances high hop bitterness with hop flavor end to end...learn to love hops!”

ABV: 6.7%
Grains: Premium Two Row, White Wheat Malt, Crystal 75, and Carapils
Color: 18.0 L
Bittering Hops: Chinook
Late Kettle Hops: Mt. Hood and Cascade
Whirlpool Hops: Cascade
Dry Hop: Chinook and Centennial
IBU: 60


Saturday, August 15, 2009

46. Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale

From the Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH, Farmhouse Ale is a member of Smuttynose’s rotating limited release Big Beer Series. You can even purchase a subscription to the entire Smuttynose Big Beer Series, although there is no mailing option. If we lived anywhere near Portsmouth, we’d be taking advantage of their offer: 108 bottles for $485 makes good economic sense, even if we’re not sure we could put all of them down. But I digress...

Smuttynose’s Farmhouse Ale has a bready and spicy sweet candy nose. With a hazy dried hay color and a thick, lacy creamy head, it certainly looks and smells like a saison. Starting crisp and then moving quickly into a sweet candy malt taste, Farmhouse Ale has a nice spice body in the middle, including hints of clove, citrus tartness, coriander, along with yeast ester flavors and some slight hop bitterness before finishing crisp and refreshing. There is a soft, thick mouthfeel that rolls around in your mouth, and a decent carbonation bite that helps frame the flavor profile. Elli was less excited about this beer than I was; I do like it, although I agree that the middle is a bit sweet compared to the front and end of the beer. As well, the sweetness on the front comes in more as it warms—it does get a bit gooey with increased warmth. Nonetheless, an interesting and complex beer, one worth a second try the next time a bottle comes our way.

From the Smuttynose website: “Broadly speaking, a farmhouse ale - or saison - is an esoteric style native to the French/Belgian border region. Characterized by a golden to light amber color, light to medium body, and noticeable fruity/spicy esters, this beer, known also as a ‘country ale’ was traditionally brewed in primitive conditions in farmhouse breweries for consumption throughout the warm weather by seasonal farm workers. Our Farmhouse Ale is an homage to traditional European beers brewed for quenching the thirst of farm workers, or ‘Saisonaires.’ A unique Belgian Saison yeast is used to impart a mixture of spicy, fruity, & earthy notes along with lip-smacking palatability.”

Also available through the Smuttynose website is “Smuttynose Brewing Notes,” a blog run by Smuttynose’s Executive Brewer, David Yarrington. While there are a limited number of posts (three this year, for example), it is pretty interesting stuff. Finally, there is a section called “Brown Dog Pinups.” You want your dog to achieve internet beer fame, here’s the initial stepping stone for future success. Something tells me the photo of Buddy with a Harpoon wouldn't win us any favors at Smuttynose.

ABV: 8.8%


Friday, August 14, 2009

45. Boulder Beer Flashback 30th Anniversary Ale

Flashback 30th Anniversary Ale is from Boulder Beer Company in Boulder, CO. Boulder Beer has been making good beer for a while (hence the 30th anniversary)—they’re one of the reasons that Colorado brewing kicks so much ass. After all, if you’ve got them as a basic model for what a brewery is supposed to produce, it sets a pretty high initial bar. Yet another reason why I wish I lived in Colorado.

Flashback smells malty and hoppy, with some floral notes. The sweetness does increase in the nose as the beer warms, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Flashback is a rich brown color—as Elli observes, it looks “like a nice Irish setter”—and a light tan head. It starts with a warm smooth sweet malt flavor, and moves into roasted and sweet caramel flavors with some biscuit malt mixed with light dry chocolate flavors along with hop bitterness and floral hop flavors. The end is dry and roasted, with some dark malt and burnt flavors creeping in, and some lingering bitterness. Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth with some nice bite from the carbonation. Flashback is an interesting and complex beer—the mix between IPA and brown brings together hops and a more complex malt profile—but neither of us are big fans of brown ales. This could be a possible Top 10 Best contender, but the brown ale body is not in enough balance with the hop load, even if we considered this as heading in the American Brown direction. The flatter, dryer malt profile mixed with the floral Cascade hop load is interesting, but lacking some overall coherence.

From Boulder Beer’s website: “Flashback Anniversary Ale: An India Brown Ale. Citrusy with a prominet hop aroma, finishes clean, crisp and dry with dark roasted flavors from the biscuit and chocolate malts perfectly complementing the bountiful Cascades.”

ABV: 6.88%
Grains: Belgian Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt, Pale malt, Gambrinus Honey malt
Hops: Cascade, Cascade, Cascade, Cascade, and Cascade (five hop additions)


Thursday, August 13, 2009

44. Nuova Mattina

Described as a “New Morning Ale brewed with spices (ginger, coriander, green pepper, and chamomile)” on the bottle, Nuova Mattina is from Birrificio del Ducato in Roncole Verdidi Busseto, Italy.

Nuova Mattina has a floral, zesty bouquet with notes of coriander and chamomile. The soft, cloudy burnished gold color works well with the white head and small bubbles. It has a soft malty beginning and then a spicy middle—both spicy and peppery—before finishing dry, with a slightly lingering bitterness and an underlying flavor of chamomile. Nuova Mattina is dry and sharp on the palate; the spiciness comes from yeast and ester flavors, as well as the spices added to the beer. The carbonation is good but not obtrusive, and offers a nice bit of bite in the middle. Overall, a delicious and tasty beer—the saison characteristics coupled with an interesting spice profile create an enjoyable and very drinkable beer. This one is easily a Top 10 Best candidate for the year.

From the Birrificio del Ducato website: “Production of craft high quality beers needs time, are and passion, thus at the moment we cannot dedicate as we want to creation of our web site. If you want to tast our beers you can send us an e-mail, we will answer as soon as possible.”

ABV: 5.8%
Malts: Pale malt, unmalted & malted wheat malt, oats, rye malt
Hops: Hallertauer , Chinook
Spices/fruits/herbs: Coriander, ginger, green pepper, chamomile, licorice,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

43. Half Acre Baume Hopped Rye Stout

From the Half Acre Brewery in Chicago, IL comes Baume, a limited edition hopped rye stout brewed to commemorate their new brewery at 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. As the bottle informs us, it is a “handsomely hopped rye stout.”

Baume is an opaque mahogany—dark brown with hints of red—with the brown head normally indicative of stouts, and the nose is both burnt and roasty. Starting out with spicy rye flavors before moving into hop bitterness and roasted malt flavors, Baume ends with some lingering coffee and roasted malt flavors, as well as slight amounts of bitterness. While there is a full mouthfeel, the beer is only medium bodied—it tastes more like a dark lager or a black beer than it does a stout. As well, it is not as creamy or as heavy as one would expect from a stout. The rye spiciness is a nice touch, and the flavors are well-balanced and interesting, but it needs a bit more body and substance to make it a full-fledged stout. Nonetheless, an interesting and enjoyable beer.

From the Half Acre website: “Big, but not huge at 7%, this American Chocolate Rye Stout fires off a lot of coffee and chocolate notes. Balances well, but rides high on hop character at 60 IBU's while the Rye finishes it dry.”

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 60


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

42. Cantillon Classic Gueuze

Cantillon Classic Gueuze is from Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij in Brussels, Belgium. Gueuze is a spontaneously fermented sour ale aged in oak barrels and blended for bottling—part older and part younger—to make gueuze. As Cantillon’s website observes: “In the 18th century, a Benedictine monk, dom Pérignon, discovers the champaign method by blending different non sparkling white wines. One century later, a Brabant brewer blends different lambics and brings about a spontaneous fermentation in the bottle. The Gueuze is born...Gueuze became the icon of the Brussels beers.”

Cantillon Classic Gueuze has a tart sour nose and a deep golden tan color. The head is pretty limited on this one; what was there was light and white and quickly faded. Beginning tart and citrusy with candy notes and fruity esters, Cantillon Classic Gueuze’s middle merges with the front and back to close with a citric tartness that lingers on the palate. The tart and sharp mouthfeel puckers the tongue nicely—it is bright and citrusy on the tongue—and the low level of carbonation still has some bite in the body. With some warmth, the candy notes in the nose become more tangy, and the sourness becomes more prevalent in the flavor and mouthfeel with less acidity and tartness and more sour puckering flavors. A bright, sharp, and citrusy beer overall, similar to but also discernable from other sour beers we’ve had—it’s no dirty bandaid.

From Cantillon’s website: “Every blending will produce a different Gueuze. Since we work according to a natural process, it is impossible to make a standard beer. This beer is not only unique because of its brewing process, but also because it can be conserved for a long time. When kept in a good cellar, a Cantillon Gueuze will still have an exceptional taste and flavour after 20 years.”

On Saturday, March 6, 2010, Cantillon will be holding a public brewing: “the Master brewer, his family and friends invite you to the great brewing fair and propose you to experience the various steps in the really traditional production of the Lambic and Gueuze.” As if I really needed an excuse to cut out and head to Belgium...


Monday, August 10, 2009

41. Lagunitas El Chupalupalo Pale Ale

El Chupalupalo Pale Ale comes from the lovely brewers at Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, CA (Say “LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS”). This beer was specially brewed for Sam’s Wines & Spirits; we picked it up during our last trip through Chicago. Sam’s has since been transformed into Binny’s. I hope El Chupalupalo doesn’t change its name, too. That would be downright tragic.

El Chupalupalo has a biscuity malt nose with a slight grass hop aroma, coupled with a hazy reddish golden retriever color and a thin white head. It begins with low levels of biscuit malt flavor with not much sweetness before moving into a refreshingly pleasant hoppy middle—a balance of both bitterness and hop flavor, particularly piney and grassy hints, round out the main body of the beer as it heads for the homestretch. El Chupalupalo finishes dry and nicely bitter. The smooth and perky mouthfeel works well with the medium carbonation bite; overall, a well-balanced and thoroughly drinkable beer. And the label’s awesome creature is cold-crushin’ that hop blossom in his mouth—look at him biting down and sucking on that hop blossom!—this label has Top 10 Best Label written all over it.

Unfortunately, there is nothing on the Lagunitas’ site about El Chupalupalo; the only information on it was on BeerAdvocate or RateBeer. In fact, I had to work to find out anything about it at all. That's just horrific—this label is far too awesome to squander in such a manner. For shame, Lagunitas...

ABV: 5.8%