Monday, December 24, 2012

Beer Review: Furniture City Stock Ale

Reviewing the Furniture City Stock Ale from Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This beer was brewed in celebration of the Grand Rapids Public Museum's historic beer exhibit in the fall of 2012.
Score: 75

Fall 2011 vintage bottle served in a Kate The Great snifter and enjoyed on 12/14/12. Big thanks to Shawn for the hook up!

Appearance: Pours a dark, clean amber color with a finger of off-white head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Awesome lacing and retention. 5/5

Smell: Stale hops, lots of malt and nutty caramel malt. Toasted barley grain and cocoa. Faint brown sugar too. 3.5/5

Taste: Very malty, though that is to be expected based on what Founders was going for. Carmel malt, and barley grain. Some nuttiness too. Faint roastiness. Where's the cocoa from the nose? 3/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, minimal carbonation. Despite the viscosity, this beer feels watery on the palate. Malty, but not really sweet. 2.5/5

Overall: Drinkable, but not good. Not bad, but nothing special.

Recommendation: It was nice to tick this beer, but it was not worth hunting down.

Pairings: Hershey's chocolate bar.

Cost: $6.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beer Review: Susan

Reviewing Susan from the Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Vermont.

Score: 87

Two week old 2L growler. Served in a stemmed Hill Farmstead snifter and enjoyed on 09/19/12.

Appearance: Pours a translucent sunset yellow color with three fingers of white foamy head. Really good lacing and excellent retention. Leaks a lot of streaky head along the side of the glass. 4.5/5

Smell: Orange, pine, sweet malt, citra pellets, grapefruit and a faint wood aroma. 4/5

Taste: There's lots of sweet tropical fruit and malt, but none of the necessary bitterness for an IPA. Oranges, grapefruit and mango. The citra hopping is clear. There's a faint bitter pine in the finish that needs to be more prominent. Tastes a lot like hoppy, unfermented wort -- somewhat underattenuated quite frankly. Not bad, but not that good either. Gets sweeter/maltier as it approached room temperature. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full-medium bodied with decent carbonation. Super dry, almost cotton-mouthing. Bitter on the finish, sweet on the pull. 3.5/5

Overall: Missing the necessary bitter kick. This is a rare miss for Shawn Hill in my worthless opinion.

Recommendation: If you have to skip any Hill Farmstead IPA, make it this one.

Pairings: Thai food.

Cost: $25 for a 2L growler (including the cost of the growler).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beer Review: Kabert

Reviewing Kabert, a collaboration between De Struise Brouwers and Portsmouth Brewery. This beer is a blend of Kate The Great and Black Albert.
Score: 89

Batch 42. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 12/14/12.

Appearance: Black in color. Pours a finger-plus of mocha head that settles to a ring around the glass. Awesome lacing and retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Muted port, cherry, and fudge. Dark chocolate, light oxidation and some alcohol esters. Faint roasted malt. Some dark fruit too. When it warms, some brown sugar comes out. 4.25

Taste: Cherry, chocolate and light fruitiness. Finishes with bakers chocolate and faint fruitiness. More port in the taste than the nose led on. The nose was more Albert-heavy, but the Kate shines a bit more in the taste. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, just shy of medium carbonation that gives the flavor a little "fizziness." Sweet, but not as sweet as the aged Kate.  3.5/5

Overall: Better than the aged Kate and aged Double Oaked Kate we drank, but still very disappointing.

Recommendation: Worth drinking, but not worth the rarity.

Pairings: Steak.

Cost: $10 for an 11.2 oz bottle.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beer Review: Double Oaked Kate The Great (2011)

Reviewing the infamous Double Oaked Kate The Great from Portsmouth Brewery out of New Hampshire. Wales bro!
Score: 87

2011 vintage bottle served in a Kate the Great snifter and enjoyed on 12/14/12.

Appearance: Ink black in color with a thin layer of beige head that settles to a bubbly ring around the glass. Good lacing, excellent retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Lots of fruitiness, dark fruitiness and then fudge. Much fruitier than the 2011 regular Kate we just drank. Some vanilla, but not much oak at all. Lots of red grape sweetness. The aged regular Kate lost a lot of its balance with nearly two years of age, with the vinous port qualities taking over; the Double Oaked Kate followed suit. Sweeter in the nose than regular Kate. As it warms up, more fudge comes through. 4/5

Taste: Quite sweet and vinous. A lot more so than regular Kate. Borderlines too sweet in my opinion. Lots of port and red grape sweetness, followed by mild vanilla and a hint of chocolate. There is ample fruitiness upfront too. Gets sugary-sweeter and fruitier as it warms. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, low carbonation. Malty, fruity. 4/5

Overall: Fresh, Kate The Great lived up to its reputation. However, aged, it was nothing special. The aged Double Oaked Kate was not that much better. This was an extreme let down of a beer. It's good, but it is not very complex.

Recommendation: Save your beer; what you'll have to give up to acquire this brew is likely better than this brew (at least with nearly 2 years of age).

Pairings: Chocolate cake.

Cost: Unknown.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beer Review: Golden Nugget IPA

Reviewing the Golden Nugget IPA from Toppling Goliath Brewery out of Decora, Iowa. Toppling Goliath is a relatively new craft brewery to the scene, but is making a bold early impression and making some exciting brews, such as Mornin' Delight (a CBS killer, if you ask me) and Zeelander (a super lemon-forward IPA).
Score: 94

Growler pour from a growler filled the week before FOBAB 2012. Served in a Founders snifter and enjoyed on 12/01/12. Shout out to my friend Mathieu LaFontaine for hooking me up with this brew as part of my "winnings" from the fantasy baseball beer league this past summer.

Appearance: Pours a light amber color that is clean and falls between translucent and transparent. Only a thin layer off head off the pour, which settles to a pencil-thin ring around the glass. Below average lacing, but excellent cling. 4/5

Smell: In-your-face lemon, pine and grapefruit! Not just a lot. I mean its like someone took a sledgehammer made of lemon juice, pine needles and grapefruit and whacked you upside the head. Ample doses of dank, resinous hops as well. Very West Coast IPA-esque. Candied caramel malt, mango and sweet non-descript tropical citrus too. The aroma on this beer is an absolutely intense beast; and I love it! It is much more lemon/pine forward than most IPA I have had. 5/5

Taste: The taste is more subdued than the aroma with less citrus and more maltiness, leading to a more balanced profile on the tongue. Upfront is caramel malt, grapefruit and lemon, with a strong piney backbone. The back half is bitter, resinous hops, pine and mango-y lemon. Lots of lingering piney bitterness with a dash of candied caramel. There is a faint amount of non-descript residual black pepper-like spice in the finish as well. Some dirty hops come out in the finish/aftertaste as the beer warms. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Viscous and oily! This is one of the more full bodied IPAs that I have had to date with a nice low level of carbonation that nonetheless gives the hops a good kick while leaving the bitterness on the tongue to layer. Very bitter, and the hops prickle the palate. 4.5/5

Overall: This one blew me away. The nose on this brew is absolutely unreal. This is one of the tastiest IPA I have had in a long time.

Recommendation: Hop heads need to seek this beer out, though it is likely too intense (in a good way for IPA fans) on the bitterness for the casual beer to truly enjoy. Toppling Goliath is a brewery you may not have heard of yet, but need to check out ASAP!

Pairings: Thai chicken pizza.

Cost: $13 for a 64 oz growler fill (if you bring your own growler).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beer Review: The Devil Made Me Do It! Coffe Imperial Oatmeal Porter

Reviewing The Devil Made Me Do It! Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Porter from Tyranena Brewing Company out of Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Tyranena makes some of the finest porters in the country. If you have not tried the other beers in their Brewers Gone Wild! imperial series, then you are missing out.
Score: 96

Bottled 10/26/12. Served in a Leinekugel's Big Eddy snifter and enjoyed on 12/08/12.

Appearance: Black as ink. Pours a finger of tan head that recedes to a thin ring around the glass and patchy fog that covers most of the top of the glass. Above average lacing, good retention. 4/5

Smell: Tons of roasted coffee, hot cocoa, dark chocolate, oatmeal and raw coffee beans. There is some "molasses" that reminds me more of the complexities of the Diablo roast coffee from Intelligensia than actual, straight up molasses. Absolutely wonderful nose; rivals Founders Breakfast Stout in my opinion. 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes almost exactly like it smells, with a strong lingering coffee finish. There's a smooth unsweetened chocolate backbone behind the coffee. There is only a hint of that "molasses" character that I detected in the nose. Some 20 or 30 seconds after the swallow, there is still some coffee breath flavor floating on the palate. This one does everything you could possibly want in an oatmeal porter, and it does it excellently. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied with a low amount of carbonation. Slightly chewy, modestly dry finish. Slightly acidic, modestly bitter. Not overly so of either. 5/5

Overall: This one gives Founders Breakfast Stout and Terrapin Wake-n-Bake a serious run for their money. Cheers to yet another outstanding porter, Tyranena!

Recommendation: Fans of oatmeal stouts and coffee beers need to seek this one out while it's still on the shelf.

Pairings: Cranberry walnut biscotti.

Cost: $10 for a four pack.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beer Review: Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA

Reviewing the Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA from Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon out of Ohio. This is one of my absolute favorite IPA's, and a review of a fresh bottle for the blog was quite overdue. Major thanks to Brian Callahan for hooking me up with some during FOBAB weekend.
Score: 98

I did not think to check the freshness date on the bottle, but Brian knows the importance of freshness with IPA. Served in a Stella Artois chalice and enjoyed on 11/18/2012.

Appearance: Pours a clean and modestly dark honey-orange, almost bourbon-like, color with a finger of beige head that settles to a thin layer. Has a nice, mildly effervescent appearance out of the bottle. Absolutely ridiculous lacing and retention. This is exactly what you want an IPA to look like in my opinion. 5/5

Smell: Huge doses of fresh citrus and grassy hops. In-your-face grapefruit, peach, lemon zest and tangerine. There is a hint of lime too. Faint caramel maltiness in the background, and an even fainter earthiness. 4.5/5

Taste: A bittersweet, bold hop bomb with good balance. Upfront, you get the sweet citrus -- grapefruit, peach, pineapple and a touch of lemon-lime flavor. This is followed by a sharply bitter counterbalance of grassy, slightly earthy hops on the back half. The finish is bitter with some lime rind flavor. Mild sweet caramel malt backbone. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium-high carbonation that pops and sizzles the hops on the tongue. Oily and slick on the tongue. Bittersweet, leaning towards bitter in the finish. 5/5

Overall: Like a DIPA in disguise and single IPA in name only, hoppy ales rarely get better than this one. Fans of Bell's Hopslam will adore it.

Recommendation: Hop heads should absolutely seek this beer out, though it is likely too aggressive for casual beer drinkers and hop haters.

Pairings: Pad Thai for those who want to accentuate the spiciness, and roasted brown sugar coated pineapple slices a la Brazilian steak house for those who merely want to dwell in the doses of sweet citrus that this beer has to offer.

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Beer Review: Who's Your Daddy? Imperial Porter

Reviewing the Who's Your Daddy? Imperial Porter from Tyranena Brewing Company out of Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This is the first time this beer has been brewed since 2006.
Score: 96

October 2012 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 11/28/12.

Appearance: Pours an ink black color with a finger-plus of beige foamy head that slowly recedes to a thin layer atop the glass. Awesome lacing sticks to the side of the glass like white on rice. 5/5

Smell: Chocolate, marshmallows, and a hint of coffee. Faint caramel and a light hoppiness too. There is not very much bourbon in the nose at all. There's a sweetness in the nose that reminds me of fresh 2011 Darkness in a good way. For whatever reason, the scent of a box of theater candy "malted milk balls" also comes to mind. As it warms, and maybe this is because I am crazy, I also get a faint note of cherry in the aroma as well. More chocolate comes out in the nose as the beer warms up. 4.5/5

Taste: The nose is substantially more nuanced and subtle than the taste. Milk chocolate and fig flavor followed by a wave of bold bourbon and a light vanilla flavor. There's some dark fruit and mild caramel flavor with residual bourbon. Most of the chocolate flavor is up front, but there is definitely some lingering cocoa-like residual in the aftertaste. There is a light alcohol warmth on the palate, but this is hardly boozy at all. Quite smooth, balanced and bold, with a light leaning towards sweet. There is a faint hint of coffee and hops flavor towards back half too. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied with an incredibly silky and creamy mouthfeel. Low carbonation. Balanced, but slightly sweet from the vanilla and bourbon characters. Very light alcohol warmth on the back of the palate. No booziness whatsoever. 4.5/5

Overall: What more could you ask for in an imperial porter? It's silky smooth, easy drinking and bold in flavor! Prost!

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out while you can. Only 120 cases were bottled.

Pairings: Mocha meltaway chocolate truffles. 

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout (2012)

Reviewing the 2012 Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana. This is bottle number 4 out of 420. We consumed this bottle as part of a Dark Lord (and Behemoth) vertical to celebrate the then-impending, now-official marriage of my friend Scott Nicholas. Thanks again for bringing the bottle Scott, and congratulations! A picture of all the beers we opened at this tasting is below the picture of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord.
Score: 99

2012 vintage bottle served in a stemmed wine-style glass and enjoyed on 09/19/12.

Appearance: Pours an ink black color with a thin layer of beige head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing, but excellent cling and retention with what little lacing there is. 4/5

Smell: Smooth bourbon, milk chocolate, oak, dark chocolate and a surprising amount vanilla (though there is less vanilla than the Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord). Brown sugar and dark fruit too. There is the faintest hint of coffee in the nose. Huge doses of chocolate and smooth bourbon are present in the aroma. A slight roastiness and more oak comes out as the beer warms up. The aroma is bold and perfectly balanced. 5/5

Taste: Brown sugar, sweet bourbon and light vanilla. The sweetness is nowhere near the level of the base beer, which greatly lends to its drinkability. This tastes a lot like the Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord, but with less vanilla character -- shocking, right? The Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord seemed sweeter than this variant as well, though I would not characterize either variant as remotely being "too sweet." Molasses and raisin flavor too. No coffee. Like the nose, the flavor is bold and balanced. There is a light alcohol warming effect on the palate in the finish, as might be expected from a 15% ABV beer, but this beer is far from boozy. To the contrary, it is smooth and easy to drink. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Viscous and full-bodied with minimal carbonation. The beer is sweet, slightly sticky and creamy on the palate. 5/5

Overall: This beer's only real flaw is it's cost. As with all barrel aged Dark Lord variants, this beer cost $50 retail and was only obtainable at retail pricing by having a winning scratch off lotto ticket that each person got after buying a ticket to Dark Lord Day (and even then, you had to claim one of the four variants before they ran out). Those who struck out on the Dark Lord Day lotto would have to pay an even higher premium via trade or otherwise, as this beer sold for $300+ on eBay before eBay halted alcohol sales earlier this year. This beer is substantially less sweet than the base beer, but it's still a sweet (just not "overly sweet") brew.

Recommendation: This is one of those few highly hyped, hard-to-get, extra-premium priced beers that absolutely delivers, but there are plenty of comparable beers out there that cost half as much (or less). This is one to seek out and try for the purpose of ticking, but I recommend trying to acquire one with a group of friends to share to ease the cost.

Pairings: Drink this decadent beer as it's own digestif. It's heavy enough to suffice.

Cost: $50 for a 750 ml bottle.

As an aside, I mentioned that we also drank a vertical of the base beer (2006 through 2012). My favorite vintages, in order, were:
  1. 2011 (has smoothed out nicely, and is surprisingly coffee-forward over one year later).
  2. 2008 (perfect balance of the flavors, thick and viscous without being too sweet)
  3. 2009 (reminded me of a dryly sweet red wine in its profile, mouthfeel and complexity).
  4. 2010 (surprisingly hoppy still).
  5. 2006 (oxidized upfront, but pure, smooth fudge flavor in the finish).
  6. 2012 (no green apple, but almost cloyingly sweet and still rough around the edges -- too fresh. I have previously been told that Dark Lord is not meant to be opened before Thanksgiving and is bottled "green.").
  7. 2007 (way over the hill, totally oxidized, and very sludgey look).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beer Review: Three Hour Tour

Reviewing the coveted Three Hour Tour from the infamous Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. This coconut milk stout is released once a year, and is rated as one of the top milk stouts in the world. 
Score: 94

"Pre-filled" growler from 10/27/12 (Darkness Day) kept in a fridge at 30 degrees to hold over for FOBAB-eve. Served Tyranena snifter and enjoyed on 11/16/12.

Appearance: Pours a black coffee color that's largely opaque with only a paper thin stripe of caramel brown highlight layering atop the top of the glass when held up to light. Poured a half-finger layer of dark tan, almost brownish head that settles to a ring around the glass. Really good lacing, average retention, some cling. 4.5/5

Smell: A huge wave of coconut hits you upfront. Then creamy milk chocolate, sweet milky lactose that reminds me of dulche de leche, light vanilla and a faint amount of coffee towards the end. There's something else really distinctive about the aroma that I cannot put my finger on at first, at until I glanced at prior reviews on Beer Advocate to try and figure out what it was. It's suntan lotion! Like a coconut butter suntan lotion. Not in a bad way at all. Very pleasant, in fact. Basically, this smells like a Mounds bar with a slight coffee and suntan lotion twist. Incredibly unique, incredibly appealing. 5/5

Taste: More milk chocolate and vanilla, but less coconut, on the palate than in the nose. Still very balanced, with an excellent medley of flavor. Upfront is a milk chocolate "brown ale" like flavor, though the "brown ale"-like flavors are pretty subtle and complementary. Hint of hazelnut, sweet caramel, a little coffee and a touch of toffee. Then smooth, milky coconut flavor coats the midpalate with a light vanilla creamer twist. Finishes with a coffee and coconut flavor with a faint touch of hoppiness towards the finish. The nose was better, but the taste is still delicious. I have frankly never had a beer like this before. It's like a milk stout/brown ale hybrid with coconut added. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, low carbonation. In terms of viscosity, this is frankly waterier and substantially less creamy than hoped for or expected. The mouthfeel and viscosity reminds me a lot of Stone's vanilla porter. As it warms up and layers, the beer seemingly gets a little "thicker," but still does not come close to the level of viscosity this beer should otherwise demand. Finishes moderately dry, slightly sweet. 3/5

Overall: An amazing beer that is slightly marred by what I believe to be too thin a mouthfeel for it's bold and innovative flavors. This growler held up surprisingly well; my pour was just as good as the sample I had at the brewpub following Darkness Day. This is a beer that was well worth seeking out.

Recommendation: Hunt this one down if you get the chance. This is a limited tap-only beer that is sold in limited quantities of "pre-filled" growlers once a year, so you'll likely have to wait until late 2013 to get a shot at this one if you live outside Minneapolis.

Pairings: Mounds bars. Seriously.

Cost: $18 for a 64 oz growler.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Birthday SaBEERmetrics!

It's been one year ago today since this site went live. Many a great beer have been shared with many great friends over the past 12 months. I raise my snifter to the next 12. Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beer Review: Brown Shugga'

Reviewing the Brown Shugga' from Lagunitas Brewing Company out of California. This is one of Lagunitas' better regarded beers.
Score: 92

Bottle stamp code is 26365315, meaning it was bottled on or around 09/20/12. Served in a Minneapolis Town Hall Belgian-style tulip and enjoyed on 11/09/12.

Appearance: Pours a nice copper color with three fingers of foamy beige head that takes forever to settle.  Leaves a thick lacing on the side of the glass as it recedes. Amazing lacing, unreal retention. 5/5

Smell: Caramel malt, grapefruit, grassy hops and molasses/brown sugar. Reminds me of six-month old Three Floyd's Behemoth with some brown sugar added. Citrusy pine as well. Faint alcohol esters tingle the nose towards the back end of a whiff. Bold and balanced. 4.5/5

Taste: Not quite as smooth or balanced as the nose led on. The alcohol is much more present than it was in the nose, and the flavor is much more malt-forward that the nose led on. Lemony caramel malt and a touch of earthy, slightly spicy hops that remind me a little bit of hop profile of Oskar Blues' Deviant Dales. The hoppy bitterness lingers on the middle of the tongue in the finish. There is some brown sugar on the mid-palate, but to a lesser degree than was present in the nose. The alcohol tingles the palate slightly. I am not quite sure I would call this one "boozy," but it is apparent this beer is not of a low ABV (it is 10%). As the beer layers, the IPA-like qualities of tend to wash over the palate more and give it a more consistent citrusy bitterness throughout. Though the above taste description may sound like I did not enjoy this beer, that could not be less the case. I found this brew quite tasty. The disappointment comes from an aroma that built me up for a flavor that the beer did not deliver. Nonetheless, this is a really solid brew. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied with below average carbonation. Oily, but dense on the palate. The beer's viscosity and low carbonation allow it's bitterness to sit and layer on the tongue. 4/5

Overall: Labels are overrated, but I was shocked to find out that this one was a strong ale. I thought it was an IPA and would have guessed American barleywine in a blind tasting. The nose is excellent, and the appearance is great, while the taste is merely "good." I would certainly drink this one again -- especially at the price.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out, particularly if you like IPA or American-style barleywines. Casual beer drinkers may be put off by the bitterness.

Pairings: Glazed ham.

Cost: $9.99 for a six pack.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beer Review: This One Goes To 11 Ale

Reviewing the This One Goes To 11 Ale from Bell's Brewery, Inc.This beer was brewed in honor of Bell's 11,000th batch of beer. It is technically not a part of their now-retired Batch X,000 series.
Score: 90

"Packaged 09/13/12." Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 10/22/12.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous amber color that reminds me of the mosquito-containing fossils of Jurassic Park. One-plus fingers of tan head off the pour settles to a thin layer. Good lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Lots of bready malt, caramel, slightly stale resinous hops, earthy spice and grapefruit. 4/5

Taste:Lots of bready malt and earthy, dank hops upfront. Light onion on midpalate mixed with a "dirty" citrus hoppiness. Tastes a lot like it smells, but with more hoppiness present. Virtually no alcohol flavor whatsoever, which is surprising given it is 11% ABV. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, light carbonation. Oily mouthfeel with a slightly sticky and bitter finish. 4/5

Overall: A really solid and tasty hoppy red ale with zero trace of its ABV. It's a shame that Bells took over a month to distribute this beer to Green Bay because I have a feeling this one may have been something special fresh.

Recommendation: Worth buying, but consume this one sooner than later -- the hoppiness is already noticeably falling off. Casual beer drinkers will probably not enjoy this one.

Pairings: Spicy chicken fajitas.

Cost: $18.99 for a six pack.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beer Review: Thumbprint Cherry Stout

Reviewing the Cherry Stout from the Thumbprint series produced by New Glarus Brewing Company.
Score: 80

Bottle is from the late winter of 2012 -- I want to say February 2012, but do not know for certain off the top of my head. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 09/19/12.

Appearance: Pours a translucent reddish brown color with a half to full finger of off-white head that settles to a bubbly ring around the glass. Lots of ruby highlights in the center when held up to light. Decent lacing. 3.5/5

Smell: Cherry Robitussin, cherry-flavored lozenges, and hot cocoa mix. 3.5/5

Taste: Tastes like an acidic, chocolatey stout that was featured on an episode of Will It Blend with a bag of cherry lozenges. Light caramel flavor too. Finishes with a fizzy, Belgian Red-esque and cocoa flavor. Finish is above average tasting, but the upfront flavor of this beer is an absolutely muddled mess. 2.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, medium-high carbonation. Fizzy on the tongue. Horrible mouthfeel for a stout, but OK mouthfeel for the Belgian Red-like finish. 3/5

Overall: A great example of why I generally avoid "cherry stouts." New Glarus has a lot of really good beers in their unplugged/thumbprint series -- this is not one of them.

Recommendation: Skip this beer.

Pairings: The common cold.

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beer Review: Madame Rose (2012, fresh)

Reviewing a fresh bottle of Madame Rose from Goose Island Brewing Company.
Score: 91

Shared a 22 oz bomber dated 7/31/12 with Ilana "B is for Bananas" Feldman. Served in a silver goose chalice on 10/19/12.

Appearance: Pours a thin fizzy tan head that quickly bubbles away and totally settles. The color of the beer is brown with a reddish hue -- almost a darker chest nut brown. Minimal lacing, mediocre retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Slightly tart cherry, oak, sweet red grape and a hint of brown sugar. Smells like a less intense, less complex Enigma fresh, though I have had this one aged and it gains a lot of complexities over time. 4/5

Taste: Tart cherry, oak, sweet grape and a very light brown sugar and caramel character towards the finish. Most of the tart cherry flavor is on the center of the tongue, though some rolls down the sides as well. Only a very faint, mild pucker is present. Likely because it is so young, there is a greater amount of "stock" brown ale flavor present compared to the aged versions that I have had (I have never had this beer fresh before). There is some earthy walnut flavor too. No funkiness. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: On the lighter side of medium bodied with a fizzy level of medium-high carbonation. The fizziness really pops the tartness on the tongue. Sweet-and-tart, dry-ish finish. 4/5

Overall: Delicious fresh, but this one gets better with age.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle out and age it. This one does not really get "funky" over time. Even the 2010 bottle I had recently that was stored in an attic for two years was delicious and not funky.

Pairings: Raspberry-walnut salad with earthy cheeses and peanuts.

Cost: $20 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beer Review: Beatification (batch 5)

Reviewing Beatification from the Russian River Brewing Company. A big thanks to Matt for hooking me up with this one!
Score: 98

Batch 5. Bottled on 01/10/12, served in a Hill Farmstead stemmed snifter and enjoyed on 010/19/12.

Appearance: Pours a nice mimosa-orange color that is on the opaque side of transparent with a half finger of fizzy white head that settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass that ultimately settles completely. Okay lacing, but not a whole lot of retention. 4/5

Smell: Very tart lemon juice hits upfront. Then there is a nice medley of sweet cole slaw vinegar, white grapes, oranges, granny-smith apples, sour peaches, "lacto-ey yogurt and brett" and a hint of oak. There is a very faint band-aid funkiness, but it's quite subtle. 4.75/5

Taste: Whoa! Tons of pucker-inducing tart lemon juice upfront, with more funkiness on the back half than the nose nose led on -- but it's really well incorporated into a sweet citrusy mix of flavors so it never overwhelms and merely complements the flavors of the beer. Tart white grapes, tangerines and sweet vinegar on the midpalate, with granny-smith apples towards the finish. "Lacto-ey yogurt," lemon and a hint of banana round off the finish and linger well past the swallow. Very gueuze-esque in flavor. Different than, but just as good as, Consecration in my opinion. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation that really accents the zesty tartness of the beer on the center of the tongue. Dry finish, but juicy on the palate. Has a decent amount of pucker. 5/5

Overall: Another outstanding, world class sour from Russian River. This one lives up to its hype, but for its difficulty to acquire, I probably prefer an in-season Consecration.

Recommendation: Seek this one out -- it is truly world class.

Pairings: Monterrey jack cheese wedges and sociables.

Cost: $15 for a 375ml bottle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beer Review: Solstice D'ete

Reviewing the Solstice D'ete from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal in Canada.
Score: 93

Bottled in August of 2012. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 10/16/12.

Appearance: Pours a pink Rose color with a thin bubbly ring around the glass that totally settles. Some oily legs, but minimal lacing and retention. The color of this beer is absolutely gorgeous! 4.5/5

Smell: Sweet and slightly tart "freeze-dried strawberries" (more specifically, this stuff), fresh and slightly floral puréed raspberries, and a light amount of lemon too. Very inviting! 4.25/5

Taste: More tart than the nose. Absent is most of the strawberry from the nose, but in its place is a greater presence of tart raspberries and freshly squeezed lemon. The flavor towards the finish reminds me of a less sour raspberry warhead candy. Mild pucker at first that grows slightly as the beer warms. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, medium carbonation with tons of tart citrus zest on the tongue. Sweet and sour. 4.5/5

Overall: A delicious Berliner weiss that reminds me of a sweeter, less tart framboise.


Recommendation: Seek this one out; it's quite excellent.

Pairings: Pretzels.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Beer Review: 6e Soir

Reviewing the 6e Soir from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal in Canada.
Score: 87

Bottled in August of 2012. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 10/16/12.

Appearance: Pours a translucent golden color with a finger of white head that quickly settles to a bubbly ring around the glass. Oily lacing with splotchy froth. Poor lacing and okay retention. 3/5

Smell: Biscuits, subdued tropical citrus, malted barley, and a hoppiness that directly reminds me of Samuel Adams' Noble Pils. There is also a light "mustiness" in the nose akin to what a glass of what you leave out overnight smells like the following morning. There is also a faint "Corn Pops cereal" smell too. 3/5

Taste: The nose gave me low exceptions, but the taste is actually pretty good! Corn Pops, mango, mellow tropical citrus and a very mild, clean hoppiness that layers and grows as the beer warms. The amount of tropical citrus flavor in the beer also grows as it warms up, with notes of orange, grapefruit and tangerine coming out. As the beer warms, the amount of Corn Pops flavor present drops off and this beer's flavor profile approaches that of an IPA. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Oily mouthfeel, lightly sticky. Bitter, but not IPA bitter. Lightly dry finish. 4/5

Overall: An IPA-esque pilsner that delivers where it counts -- the taste and mouthfeel.

Recommendation: Delicious and worth drinking, but not worth specifically hunting down. This would make a great gateway beer to IPA's for casual beer drinkers in my opinion.

Pairings: Horseradish crusted Djion chicken.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beer Review: Solstice D'hiver

Reviewing the Solstice D'hiver from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal in Canada.
Score: 83

Unknown vintage bottle with the 1 and 0 ticked on the side of the label. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 10/16/12.

Appearance: Pours two fingers of beige foamy head that slowly recedes to a thick layer atop the glass. Crazy lacing and retention. The beer is a deep mahogany color with a blood-red halo around the glass. Not quite opaque. 4.5/5

Smell: Vanilla, toffee and malty caramel. Faint, musty hops. Light plum, raisin and pine. Yum! 4/5

Taste: Sadly, the taste does not live up to the inviting appeal of the nose. Malty caramel, faint dark fruit and ample stale hops. There is a hint of vanilla upfront, but it is very very faint. There is a slight nuttiness too. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-light carbonation. Super malty, slightly creamy. 3.5/5

Overall: Taste is a mediocre, unincorporated mess of flavors and stale hops, but the aroma was nice.  

Recommendation: Definitely not worth the price tag.

Pairings: Spicy Pad Thai.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Beer Review: Aphrodite (aka Aphrodisiaque)

Reviewing the Aphrodite (aka Aphrodisiaque) from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal in Canada. DDC is probably best known for their imperial coffee stout Peche Mortel.
Score: 91

Unknown vintage bottle with the 2 and 7 ticked on the side of the label. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 10/16/12.

Appearance: Pours a coffee color with a thin layer of tan head that settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, but good retention. 4/5

Smell: Roasted chocolate, faint coffee and toasted oatmeal. Mild amounts of non-sweet molasses too. Hint of fig and caramel. 4.25/5

Taste: Primarily oatmeal and bittersweet bakers chocolate. Mild coffee flavor and some creamy milk chocolate too. Somewhat simple and uncomplex, but tasty. 4/5

Mouthfeel: A little over-carbonated, but not enough so to kill the beer. Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel. 3.5/5

Overall: A delicious oatmeal stout that had too much carbonation and is overpriced. That said, I'd absolutely drink this one again.


Recommendation: Worth drinking, but not worth specifically seeking out. Really drinkable and flavorful for 6.5% ABV.

Pairings: Flank steak.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beer Review: Jai Alai IPA

Reviewing the Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida. 
Score: 84



Bottle is from the 238th day of 2012 (08/26/12), won in a fantasy baseball BIF. Served in a Founders tulip glass and enjoyed on 10/15/12.

Appearance: Pours a dark copper color with a light flurry of finely ground floaties at the bottom. Three full fingers of foamy tan head at pour settles to a thick ring around the glass and big clumpy island of head in the middle surrounded by a moat of beer. Good lacing, retention and legs. 3.5/5

Smell: Tons of grapefruit and orange upfront. On the "back end" of the aroma is a slightly syrupy pineapple juice aroma -- you know, the cheap kind you make those store-bought frozen "just add juice" Jamba Juice smoothies with? That smell. Sweet caramel and pine too. The nose is surprisingly "syrupy sweet" for an IPA. 3.5/5

Taste: Tons of bitter caramel and pineapple flavor present here. The pineapple flavor tastes just like it smells and lingers after the swallow. There's a touch of orange too, but it's mostly caramel and pineapple flavor here -- though it's not what I would call a "malty" beer. There is a nice and smooth bittersweet balance that lends this beer a lot of drinkability. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, low carbonation. Very oily and juicy. Bittersweet. 3.5/5

Overall: Solid, but nothing spectacular. I imagine this one is better fresher. Oh well.

Recommendation: I'd order it on tap, but I would not seek it out again. Would make a good starter IPA for more casual beer drinkers given it's balanced flavors, not in-your-face hoppiness and smooth drinkability.

Pairings: Pretzels and cheese dip.

Cost: $12 for a six pack.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beer Review: Rye'da Tiger


Reviewing Rye'da Tiger from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana. HUGE thanks to Will "my name is fake" Wilberg for hooking me up with the bottle!
Score: 98

Bottle is from mid-September 2012. Served in a Founders snifter and enjoyed on 10/04/12.

Appearance: Pours a bright honey-orange color with a lot of color depth when held up to the light due its transparent quality. Can be a straight honey or orange color depending on the angle. Quite interesting! A finger of cream-colored seafoam head at pour settles to a ring around the glass. Excellent lacing and retention. I really dig the frothy head that clings to the side of the glass after every sip. What a beautiful IPA! On the second pour, there were some floaties in the glass that made this one a little less beautiful....still an excellent looking IPA though! 4.5/5

Smell: In-your-face doses of slightly candied peaches and tangerines upfront. Pineapple, orange peels, rye spice, pine, and lemon candy overlay a faint caramel malt backbone. This beer is just loaded with sweet tropical fruit juice aromas and a nice and clean, piney-hoppy counterbalance to the sweetness in the nose. Wow. Simply wow. I was not expecting something so balanced and robust! 4.75/5

Taste: Hoppy oranges, tangerines and peaches up front. This is pure tropical fruit IPA juice. There is also a nice and subtle spice kick on the front of the tongue that I presume is from the rye. The back end of the flavor of this beer is bitter, earthy hops, caramel malt and faint rye flavor. The finish is pretty bitter, but the tropical citrus sweetness really helps keep it from going to far over the edge. 4.75

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with carbonation on the heavier side of light. Super oily mouthfeel. The bitterness really layers on the tongue and makes for an interesting palate-experience when paired with the faint rye kick this beer packs. 5/5

Overall: What a world class, in-your-face IPA that is bold and unforgiving. Bitter, but dangerously smooth. The subtle rye complexity here is a real nice complement to the hoppiness. After my experience with Rye'd Da Lightning, I was not expecting something so great. Kudos to Three Floyds for creating yet another of the best hoppy beers out there!

Recommendation: Seek this out and and consume it fresh! Unless you hate IPA and hoppy beers, of course.

Pairings:Spicy, homemade beer chili (the kind that Chris Gierhart makes when you pony up to '86 the pork!).

Cost: $10 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reviewing the Marble IPA from the Marble Brewery out of New Mexico.
Score: 91

Unknown vintage can. Served in a Founders tulip and enjoyed on 10/15/12.

Appearance: Pours a clean, slightly darker honey-orange color than the Surly Wet, and is also less transparent than Surly Wet, but not quite translucent. Two fingers of off-white head at pour settle to a thin film atop the glass. Excellent lacing and retention. This is a really beautiful looking IPA. 4.5/5

Smell: Hoppy tropical citrus! Piney grapefruit, oranges and peach. Hint of earthy caramel malt. 4.25/5

Taste: Piney grapefruit galore here with a nice lingering bitterness. Caramal malt backbone. There's some dirty/earthy citrus in the mix too. Not a whole lot of sweetness comes off of the citrus flavors, which is making this a bit of a bitter bomb. I personally dig it, but others may not. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with a low amount of carbonation that lets the bitterness sit and layer on the tongue, though there is a little prickliness to the hoppiness here. Super oily mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: A super solid IPA. What an excellent New Mexico year-round local. I think it is super cool that Marble's stuff, including this IPA, has appeared in the background of various Breaking Bad episodes.

Recommendation: Seek this one out if you are trading with someone local to this brew and like IPA. Might be a little bitter-intense for the casual beer drinker, however.

Pairings: Biscuits.

Cost: $9 for a six pack of 12 oz cans.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beer Review: Surly Wet

Reviewing the Surly Wet from Surly Brewing Company out of Minnesota. According to the beer's description, "2,400 lbs of hops picked freshly in Oregon and shipped to Minnesota immediately. We brewed this beer three days later." Last year's batch (2011) was made entirely with Citra hops. This year's batch was made with Simcoe hops only. 
Score: 93

Can is from September 24, 2012. HUGE thanks to fan of the blog Mathew Schraufnagel for hooking me up with a few four packs of this wonderful nectar. Served in a Founders tulip and enjoyed on 10/15/12.

Appearance: Pours a very clean, bright and translucent honey-orange color that reminds me a lot of blind pig. Three-plus fingers of frothy cream colored head off the pour settles to a bubble ring around the glass and clump of head in the middle. Nice soapy lacing, but mediocre retention -- though what sticks around really sticks around. 4/5

Smell: Earthy, "dirty" tangerines, dank grass and pineapple. Faint caramel in the background. 4/5

Taste: Super fresh, earthy citrus and bitter, "dirty" and grassy hops! There's a nice hoppy bite upfront mellowed out by sweet tropical citrus on the back end. The hoppiness seems somewhat confined to the center of the tongue. Resinous pine sap, pineapple, and "earthy"-but-zesty orange. Sweet caramel malt backbone. The caramel mostly comes out towards the finish. Quite balanced and tasty. There's a faint "spiciness" towards the finish too. Surprisingly balanced in flavor. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Lighter side of medium bodied with light-medium carbonation. Super oily and slick on the palate. Towards the bitter end of bittersweet. 4.5/5

Overall: Delicious, but I have a suspicion that last year's all Citra batch was even better...I drank this side by side with Broo Doo last week and I preferred the Broo Doo.

Recommendation: Worth drinking, but not worth seeking out at its price point.

Pairings: Thai food.

Cost: $16 for a four pack of 16 oz cans.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beer Review: Elevated IPA

Reviewing the Elevated IPA from the La Cumbre Brewing Company out of New Mexico.
Score: 91

Can is of unknown freshness. Served in a Half Acre tulip and enjoyed on 09/27/12.  

Appearance: Pours a pumpkin-orange color with a slight dull golden hue that is on the opaque side of translucent. When held to the light, this beer turns to a really gorgeous sunset-orange color. One finger of off-white head at pour settles to a fog atop the glass, leaving patches of head clinging to the glass. Really good lacing and retention. Quite a beautiful IPA! 4.5/5

Smell: Grapefruit, peaches, tangerine and slightly earthy hops. Very smooth and mellow, and not nearly as in-your-face as most IPA. You know how orange peels smell after you cut out the pulp? I get some of that aroma here. Too. Very pleasant nose, very balanced. There is faint barley-malt aroma in the background too. 4/5

Taste: Like the nose, there is a balanced blend of sweet citrus, hops and malt, without any one of the components overwhelming the other. There's peaches and orange on the side of the tongue with an earthy hop flavor and some grapefruit on the center of the tongue. The maltiness is towards the finish, though a mildly bitter orange citrus flavor is what lingers. The earthiness of the hops is a little more pronounced on the palate than in the aroma, but it is not intense at all. There is a slight spiciness on the midpalate too, and a hint of lemon flavor. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Super oily mouthfeel. Medium-light bodied, higher end of light carbonation. Mildly bitter on the palate. 4.5/5

Overall: Nothing earth shattering or over-the-top here, but Elevated IPA is an incredibly smooth, balanced and easy-drinking IPA. If this were local to me, I would certainly buy this one regularly. 

Recommendation: If you are local to the beer, nab some. If you are trading with someone local to this beer, ask them to get you some. Given it's mellow, balanced flavor profile, I have to imagine this would be a good starter IPA for casual beer drinkers.

Pairings: Cream-cheese jalapeno poppers.


Cost: $8.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Beer Review: Sticky Fat

Reviewing the Sticky Fat from Half Acre Brewing Company our of Chicago, Illinois. This is a wet-hopped black IPA.
Score: 82

Bottle is from late September 2012 release. Served in a Half Acre tulip and enjoyed on 09/26/12.  

Appearance: Pours three-plus titanic fingers of foamy head that settles to a thin, foggy layer with a thick clump of head in the center. The beer is a deep brown, almost black color with a thin brown halo outlining the beer. Below average lacing, good retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge doses of piney hops and citrus upfront, then a light roastiness, milk chocolate and a hint of mint. Nice blend of contrasting flavors. 4/5  

Taste: Nowhere near as well incorporated as the nose tricked you into believing. Has a distinct "roasted hops" flavor that I am not particularly enjoying. The taste i all about the chocolate malt and citrus flavors. Frankly, the flavor profile feels like someone filled up a bucket with oil and water, shook it, and said "voila." Some bitter grapefruit too. 3.25/5  

Mouthfeel: Medium-minus bodied, lightish carbonation with a zesty hop kick on the tongue. Very malty, slightly roasty. 3/5  

Overall: A huge letdown given the well-incorporated nose. This beer is a great example of why people are "bearish" on the style (sorry, I could not resist the pun).

Recommendation: Skip this one.  

Pairings: Chocolate-covered espresso beans.  


Cost: $8.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Top 20 Beers I Want To Try

Less than one month away from the one year anniversary of this blog, I can certainly make the claim that the past year has been a pretty epic year as far as beer is concerned. I have reviewed almost a beer per day, among which have been several "wales" (rare beers) that I have been lucky enough to either personally acquire or have great friends share with me. Some of my favorites have been Double Sunshine IPA, Abrasive Ale, Surly Darkness, Consecration, Sang Noir, 1414, Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord, Vanilla Bourbon County Stout and of course, my favorite beer of all time, Bourbon County Rare.

This weekend, I will be headed to Darkness Day where hopefully I will get to taste and trade for even more of my top wants. Right now, here are the top 20 beers that I want to try -- excluding the stuff that I have never tried before that is currently sitting in my cellar inventory:
  1. Närke Kulturbryggeri AB's Kaggen! Stormaktsporter (this bottle continued to elude me, and I am doubting I will ever get to try it at this point)
  2. Cantillon Blåbær Lambik (another beer I am not holding my breath to try any time soon)
  3. Several of the beers in De Struise's Black Damnation series (particularly Black Damnation XI (Special Kay), Black Damnation Molen's 666 Edition and Black Damnation V (Double Black))
  4. Peg's G.O.O.D. Rare D.O.S.
  5. Midnight Sun's Bar Fly
  6. Hill Farmstead's Twilight of the Idols
  7. Hill Farmstead's Genealogy Of Morals
  8. Hill Farmstead's Ann (holding my breath even less on this one that I am for Blaeber) 
  9. Portmouth Brewing's Oaked Kate The Great (I know how to acquire one, but do not like the asking price)
  10. The Funky Buddha's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (I also really want to try Morning Wood)
  11. Alpine's Great
  12. AleSmith Brewing Company's Barrel Aged Speedway Stout (or even the Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout)
  13. Dry Dock Brewing Company's Bligh's Barleywine Ale
  14. Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek  
  15. Big Sky's Ivan The Terrible
  16. Lost Abbey's Duck Duck Gooze 
  17. Various Alpine IPA such as Hoppy Birthday, Pure Hoppiness and Bad Boy
  18. The last of the barrel aged Dark Lord variants from Three Floyds that I have not tried: Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord, Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord De Muerte, Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord (Pappy Van Winkle), and Dark Lord De Muerte
  19. Flossmoor Station's Wooden Hell
  20. Freemont Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Abominable and Kentucky Dark Star
Sadly, there will be no barrel aged Darkness at Darkness Day this year. One of these years I will also make the mecca over to California to drink Russian River's Pliny the Younger on tap.

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beer Review: D-Day

Reviewing the D-Day from Goose Island Brewing Company. This is a barrel-aged variation of Goose Island's Liquid Inspiration Stout brewed with Calvados-soaked pears.
Score: 96

Tap pour served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/24/12 at the Clybourn Pub during Chicago craft beer week.

Appearance: Pours a black coffee color with a thin layer of creamy mocha head that settles to a ring around the glass. Decent lacing, but below average retention. 4/5

Smell: Roasty chocolate, pears and percolating dark roast coffee. Smooth, subtle and rich bourbon and a hint of vanilla. Some fig flavor too, and a touch of brown sugar. The combination of flavors in the aroma is truly majestic. Everything is in perfect balance with each other! 4.75/5

Taste: Complex, smooth and chocolatey. Upfront, there is a delicious roasted coffee and roasted dark chocolate flavor followed by milk chocolate covered pears and a little of sweet brandy and molassey-bourbon. The flavors here are really rich and velvety on the tongue. Finishes with a bittersweet chocolate and raisin flavor. Pure complex stout harmony; like the nose, all the flavors here are superbly balanced. At only 7.5% ABV, this is a shockingly flavorful "light" barrel-aged beer. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full-medium bodied with a level of carbonation that is on the lighter side of medium. Frankly, I felt this beer was ever so slightly over-carbonated, but not so much as to create a real problem or throw off my enjoyment of the beer too much. Silky smooth mouthfeel with a touch of stickiness. Roasty and bittersweet. 4/5

Overall: Like their candy cane-infusion bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, this is yet another Goose Island small batch brewpub and festivals-only masterpiece that needs to be bottled. I would easily purchase a case of this beer if it were made available. If Goose Island re-brews this one again (and I sincerely hope that they do) and turns down the carbonation level just a little bit, I have a sneaking suspicion this one would score on par with KBS.

Recommendation: If you ever see this tapped again, run -- don't walk -- to the brewpub and order a couple of glasses.

Pairings: Cinnamon apple sauce.

Cost: $9 for a 10 oz snifter.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beer Review: Boy King

Reviewing Boy King from COAST Brewing Company out of South Carolina.
Score: 92

Bottle is from May 2012. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 05/29/12. A huge thanks to Ryan Bradley for sending me this beer!

Appearance: Pours a sunset orange color with two fingers of creamy cream colored head that settles to a thin layer. Excellent lacing and retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Candied orange, mango and a light amount of onion and caramel malt. A little bit of cornmeal and pine too. A little more malty and less citrusy than expected, though more citrus comes out as the beer warms up. 4/5

Taste: Earthy caramel-and-onion upfront, then malty orange citrus and musty pineapple. Some fresher candied citrus flavors as it warms. There is a perky piney bitterness. Hint of spice. No booziness whatsoever despite being 9.5% ABV. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Nice bitter zesty hop kick on the tongue. Super oily mouthfeel. Bitter, slightly malty sweet finish. 4.5/5

Overall: A nice, earthy double PA with a high degree of drinkability

Recommendation: While I think this beer is a little overhyped, it is well-priced and readily accessible. This makes it one to seek out for you IPA lovers out there.

Pairings: Grilled chicken.

Cost: $XXXXXX for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beer Review: Bitter Monk

Reviewing Bitter Monk from Anchorage Brewing Company out of Alaska.
Score: 93

Bottle is from July 2011. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/29/12.

Appearance: Pours a hazy golden orange color with three fingers of soapy, slightly off-white head that settles to a thin foggy layer atop the glass. Absolutely amazing lacing and retention. 5/5

Smell: A nice tropical citrusy IPA with a Belgiany sour twist. Tart white grapes, lemon zest, candied mango, orange, pineapple, fruity citrus and a little funky brett. Apples towards the back of the aroma too. Hint of oak. 4.5/5

Taste: Loads of bitter lemon zest, orange, mango and bitter/tart white grape. A little caramel malt on the midpalate, with earthy/grassy hops and a growing fruitiness in the finish as the beer warms/layers. There is a clovey residual aftertaste. The flavors get more tart as the beer warms up, with a a mild pucker effect from a growing sour lemonade flavor. Not oak or funk. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, high carbonation -- or maybe the life on the tongue from the zesty tartness, which really makes the bitterness perk on the tongue, is being deceptive in terms of the the true carbonation present. Juicy mouthfeel. Bitter and tart on the tongue. 4/5

Overall: One year after it's bottling, this beer is more of a sour with an IPA twist than an IPA with a sour twist. Quite an enjoyable hybrid. The artwork on the bottle is amazing.

Recommendation: Sour haters and casual beer drinkers should avoid this one, but all others are encouraged to seek out a bottle.

Pairings: Chicken pot pie.

Cost: $17 for a 750 ml bottle.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beer Review: Black Damnation II (Mocha Bomb)

Reviewing the Black Damnation II (Mocha Bomb) from De Struise Brouwers out of Belgium.
Score: 92

Unknown vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/15/12. A big thank you to Bryan Hernandez for bringing this bottle to my law school graduation tasting. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a black coffee color with a thin layer of brown that settles to a ring around the glass. Oily lacing, minimal retention. 4/5

Smell: Freshly ground raw coffee beans, mocha, bark, raw chocolate and leather. A little beef jerky too. A little warmth in the nose, but there are no alcohol esters discernible. 4.5/5

Taste: Mocha bomb indeed! Sweet chocolate, cocoa and acidic coffee. There is a bold warmth on the tongue, but again, it's not what I would describe as a "booziness." Molasses, a light "woodiness" and a blend of dark and milk chocolate too. The acidic coffee lingers. Hint of residual berry in the aftertaste. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, no carbonation. Acidic, dry mouthfeel. Bittersweet leaning towards bitter. 4/5

Overall: Tasty, but the acidity holds this one back from being something potentially better.

Recommendation: Worth drinking, not worth going out of your way to hunt down. For the price, Black Albert is the better buy from De Struise in my opinion.

Pairings: Vanilla cream donuts.

Cost: $12 for an 11.2 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beer Review: Rose de Gambrinus

Reviewing the Rose de Gambrinus from Brasserie Cantillon.
Score: 90

Unknown vintage bottle, though I suspect it is from 2011 or 2012. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/15/12 at my law school graduation tasting. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a Jello reddish pink color with a thin fizzy later of pink head that settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing, above average retention, minimal cling. 4/5

Smell: Raspberry candy, vinegar, and a little funk. A little beach water and sea salt. The nose is fruity/floral and slightly herbaceous with a light yeastiness. 4/5

Taste: Tart raspberries throughout. Fruity vinegar on the midpalate. Very clean and straightforward on the palate; pleasant and refreshing. A good amount of midpalate tartness. Acidic and sweet-and-sour berry fruitiness with a touch of rose petal and lemon, though less sweet than the nose led on. A bit of mustiness in the finish as the beer warms up. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, high-medium carbonation. Clean, fizzy, and tart with a mild pucker effect. 4/5

Overall: Very solid and tasty, but unspectacular. For the $13.99 this cost me, I would rather spend the extra couple of bucks for a 750 ml of the Classic Gueuze.

Recommendation: Not worth the sticker price, but definitely a beer worth drinking.

Pairings: Chocolate cake,

Cost: $13.99 for a 375 ml bottle.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Beer Review: T.B.A.

Reviewing T.B.A., a collaboration brown ale from Stone Brewing Company, Fat Heads Brewery & Saloon and Bear Republic Brewing Company.
Score: 87

2012 vintage bottle. Served in a Dogfish Head snifter and enjoyed on 09/15/12.

Appearance: Pours a root beer-ish brown color with three titanic fingers of tan foamy, dense soda-like head that slowly settles to a think creamy layer of head. Really good lacing, slightly above average retention. 4/5

Smell: Lots of grapefruity hops upfront, then cocoa, brown sugar and a touch of caramel malt. A hint of raisins too. Smells like a black IPA. 3.75/5

Taste: Pine wood flavor upfront, followed by creamy, but cotton-mouthing grapefruit and hot cocoa. There is a little brown sugar flavor towards the finish too, but it is not very sweet. Smooth and subtle caramel malt backbone. A cocoa-y grapefruit flavor really sticks and lingers on the back of the tongue. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, medium carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a dry finish. A little sweet, a little bitter. 4/5

Overall: I honestly expected to hate this beer, but I found that I enjoyed it. The grapefruit aroma/taste is really interesting, and the mouthfeel really works with the beer's flavor profile to enhance the drinking experience. While not anything that would set the earth on fire, this brown ale tastes much more like a solid black IPA. This not a beer I would go out of my way to try again, but I would certainly drink another glass if offered again.

Recommendation: Worthy trying, not worth going out of your way to hunt down. Casual beer drinkers might find the mouthfeel and wood flavor strange, but I enjoyed it.

Pairings: Cohiba cigars.

Cost: $3.49 for a 12 oz bottle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beer Review: Peaches & Crème

Reviewing the Peaches & Crème from Short's Brewing Company out of Michigan.
Score: 80

August 2012 vintage bottle. Served in a Three Floyds' teku glass and enjoyed on 09/15/12. I received this one in a box from Raymo55 for whooping his butt in fantasy this year.

Appearance: Pours a murky yellow-orange color that fades from a a dull golden halo to an orange peel colored center. Half a finger of tan head at pour settles to a thin, slightly bubbly ring around the glass. Average lacing and good retention with a shelf of head that clings. No floaties (unlike Short's Key Lime Pie). 3.5/5

Smell: Peaches, apricot and pineapple juice. Almost like a mellow, tropical IPA without the piney hoppiness. Milk and sugar too. Very pleasant. 4/5

Taste: What a sweet-and-sugary flavor bomb. As with Key Lime Pie, I suspect Short's is trying to give it's consumers diabetes! Lots of sugary peach flavor. Peach flavored yogurt, peach syrup and a little apricot-y hoppiness. The sugary peach flavor really dominates and lingers. This beer was entirely too sweet to drink the entire 12 oz serving, but at least it did not have an American adjunct lager aftertaste (unlike Key Lime Pie). 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation with a sugary zing. Very sugary-sweet. 3/5

Overall: Is Short's trying to give its consumers diabetes with it's latest releases? I really dug the aroma, but the taste was overwhelmingly sweet.

Recommendation: Skip this one too, unless you really love sugary peach syrup.

Pairings: Belgian waffles.

Cost: $10.99 for a six pack.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beer Review: Key Lime Pie

Reviewing the Key Lime Pie from Short's Brewing Company out of Michigan.
Score: 78

August 2012 release bottle. Served in a Three Floyds teku glass and enjoyed on 09/15/12. I received this one in a box from Raymo55 for whooping his butt in fantasy this year.

Appearance: Pours a murky reddish orange color that you cannot see through. Some floaties are definitely hiding in the murkiness of the beer. Less than finger of tan head off the pour settles completely. Below average lacing, average retention. 3/5

Smell: You know what the green colored lime flavored ice popscicles smell/taste like? That kind of limey aroma smacks you in the nose from a distance with some graham cracker too. There is also just a hint of sweet and sugary vanilla. 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes like sugary-sweet key lime pie. The lime is kind of candied, but it is not the the flavored ice Popsicle lime flavor that the nose lead on. Graham cracker crusts and a little marshmallow too. The key lime pie flavor yields in the finish to an American adjunct lager-esque aftertaste following the swallow that is not the most pleasant. In this regard, the beer reminds me of New Glarus' Apple Ale. There is a faint tartness from the lime, and I am noticing the lime flavor really lingers. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied with a light amount of carbonation that has a lot of life from the tartish lime flavor. Super sweet, slightly tart and juice-like. 3.5/5

Overall: A great nose, but this beer is way too sweet and has a poor aftertaste following the swallow. I appreciate the opportunity to try this beer, but it is not one I will seek out again. I guess my quest to find a good Short's beer continues.

Recommendation: Skip this one unless you really like diabetes-inducing key lime pie and Miller light.

Pairings: Key lime pie.

Cost: $10.99 for a six pack.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Plead The Fifth (2012)

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Plead The Fifth from Dark Horse Brewing Company out of Michigan.
Score: 98

2012 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 03/13/12. A big thank you to Nick for sharing this bottle with me; I had been wanting to try it forever.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color with a super thin, creamy layer of mocha head that settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass. Good lacing too. 4.5/5

Smell: Lots of vanilla and raisin. Smooth bourbon, vanilla cupcakes, molasses, rich chocolate, fudge, tobacco and a hint of cherry. 4.5/5

Taste: Luscious dark chocolate and a little caramel flavor. Incredibly creamy and absolutely no alcohol presence whatsoever. Mellow vanilla too. Fig and prunes. As it layers and warms, molasses and a little bit of toffee and smooth bourbon-without-the-boozy-bite flavor comes out. Fudge, milk chocolate and melted dark chocolate on the midpalate. Super chocolatey backbone here. Finish is cocoa and dark chocolate with a hint of bourbon flavor. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, minimal carbonation. Incredibly creamy mouthfeel. Slightly sweet finish. 5/5

Overall: This is one of the best barrel-aged stouts out there; it is every bit as good as the FiftyFifty Eclipse White Wax (Elijah Craig 18-aged version). The taste is absolutely incredible. I wish I had a bottle of my own! Thanks again for sharing this one with me Nick!

Recommendation: Go get yourself a bottle of this magnificent elixir. Even casual beer drinkers should be able to revel in its chocolatey glory.

Pairings: French vanilla ice cream.

Cost: $8 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwrecked Porter

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwrecked Porter from Arcadia Brewing Company out of Michigan.
Score: 93

December 2011 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 03/13/12.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color with a think strip of caramel colored highlight at the top of the glass. Average lacing, but amazing retention. One finger of creamy tan head at pour that settles quicker than usual. 4/5

Smell: Very smooth bourbon and raisin, milk chocolate, tiramissu, brown sugar, a little walnut and a hint of alcohol esters. The aroma is nice and complexly inviting, but a lot more subtle than most barrel-aged beers that I have experienced to date. 4.5/5

Taste: Like the nose, the taste is mellow-but-flavorful (and quite creamy). Rich milk chocolate, smooth bourbon and a super-light alcohol bite. Raisin and vanilla on the midpalate. Residual smooth bourbon flavor and bitter chocolate finish. Hint of brown sugar and a touch of oaky spice in the mix too. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Creamy, smooth mouthfeel. Bittersweet finish. 4.5/5

Overall: At $6 per bottle, this one is a bargain. Very nuanced with barrel-aged complexity. I will be seeking this one out again (in multiples) next year for sure.

Recommendation: An underrated beer that is worth hunting down. It is a slightly bit boozy, which leads me to believe that it is not the best starter barrel-aged craft beer for the casual beer drinker.

Pairings: Vanilla ice cream.

Cost: $5.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Beer Review: Thumbprint Enigma (2012 release)

Reviewing Enigma from the New Glarus Brewing Company's Thumbprint series.
Score: 92

September 2012 vintage bottle. Served in a Goose Island Matilda silver goose chalice and enjoyed on 09/14/12.

Appearance: Pours a sangria-red color with a thin layer of fizzy head that quickly and completely dissipates. The beer is very bubbly and effervescent for the first minute or two after the pour, but then the beer "calms down" quite a bit. No lacing or retention. This beer is all about the color, and it's a pretty awesome color. 4/5

Smell: Sweet cherries, cinnamon, a little cranberry and a hint of vanilla and applesauce. 4.5/5

Taste: Sweet cherries hit the tongue first, but then the sweetness turns a little tart. There is sweet-and-sour cranberry and Macintosh apple flavor too. Nice lightly tart apple-and-cherry with a hint of oak finish with a little malted barley flavor too. The barley flavor in the aftertaste/finish fades a little bit as the beer warms and layers, but the residual aftertaste after the swallow is primarily barley grain-esque. There's a hint of cinnamon flavor too, but it's very subtle and infinitely less pronounced in the taste than it was in the aroma. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, high-medium carbonation. Soda-like fizzy mouthfeel that is midlly sweet and lightly tart. 4.5/5

Overall: This beer is like a cross between Belgian Red and Cran-bic. Though I am not a fan of the aftertaste, I really liked the rest of the aspects of this beer. The nose is awesome. I prefer Belgian Red, however.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this beer out while it's still available. Last produced in 2010, who knows when you'll see it again. Even casual beer drinkers should enjoy this one.

Pairings: Dark chocolate.

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beer Review: Humidor Series Cedar-Aged Jai Alai IPA

Reviewing the Humidor Series Cedar-Aged Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa Bay, Florida.
Score: 88

Bottle is from November 2011. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 06/23/12 at the inaugural Chicago craft beer lovers meeting.

Appearance: Hazy/murky golden orange color with minimal head and lacing. It is a little hard to discern much "appearance" from my pour size on this one, but nothing really stood out to me about the color. 3.5/5

Smell: Huge waves of cigar box cedar hit upfront. I love the smell of cedar, so this was quite awesome. Behind the cedar is malty orange, pepper and a little onion. Pineapple with a hint of hops too. 4/5

Taste: Bring on the cigars! This beer tastes like you are standing inside a humidor! Though the hops are almost entirely faded here, left behind is a residual bitterness and oily blend of peppery cedar flavor and malty orange citrus. Easy drinking. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied, medium carbonation. Nice peppery-cedar kick on the tongue. Quite malty. 3.75/5

Overall: I was not going to review this when I saw the bottle date, but then I found that I surprisingly enjoyed this stale IPA. I will be seeking out a fresh bottle of this upon its next release in a couple of weeks. Yum!

Recommendation: If you like cedar and cigars, seek this one out.

Pairings: Big, fat Cuban cigars.

Cost: $10.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Beer Review: Lady Of The Woods

Reviewing the Lady Of The Woods from Cisco Brewers Incorporated out of Massachusetts.
Score: 83

Unknown vintage. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 06/23/12 at the inaugural Chicago craft beer lovers meeting.

Appearance: Pours a golden urine-like color that is a little murky with a thin bubbly-ish ring around the glass of head. Below average lacing and retention. 3/5

Smell: Sour peaches and pears, a little bit of berries, lemon, oak and vinegar and greek yogurt. 3.5/5

Taste: Lemon, sour peach, oak and some lacto-y flavor. Very milk funk. Quite acidic. A little green apple flavor too. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium carbonation. Sweet-and-sour, dry mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: Drinkable, but did not float my boat.

Recommendation: Sour heads will probably like this one, but it does not seem to be the kind of beer that would appeal to the casual beer drinker.

Pairings: Apples and honey.

Cost: $18.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beer Review: Barrel-Aged Alpha Klaus With Cherries

Reviewing the Barrel-Aged Alpha Klaus With Cherries from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana.
Score: 92

Bottle #223/400, 2012 vintage. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 06/23/12. A big thanks to Moe for cracking this one at the inaugural Chicago craft beer lovers meeting.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color with a slight reddish tint. Pours a thick ring around the glass of tan bubbly head. No real lacing. 4/5

Smell: A nice medley of cherry, oak, brown sugar and whiskey-esque caramel malt. 4.25/5

Taste: Same flavors as the nose implied, but with more whiskey in the balance: whiskey-caramel, oak and cherry. There is a mild musty hoppiness on the front/middle of the tongue. There is a little chocolate flavor too, but it's pretty subtle in my opinion. This beer has a completely different flavor profile than regular Alpha Klaus. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-minus carbonation. Mildly malty-sweet. Dry mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: A nice, albeit expensive barrel treatment. This one is a different beast altogether from the base beer (Alpha Klaus). Though tasty, with a bottle count of 400 and price tag of $30, you're better off hunting down a Fruet.

Recommendation: Worth trying, but not worth going out of your way to hunt down. There are plenty of better beers that cost more than $20 out there if you really want to drop that much on a single beer.

Pairings: Flank steak.

Cost: $30 for a 750 ml bottle.