Friday, September 28, 2012

Beer Review: Batch 6,000

Reviewing Batch 6,000 from Bell's Brewery out of Michigan.
Score: 70

2003 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/18/12.

Appearance: Dark chocolate color with brown to coffee fade. No head. Minimal oily lacing and really poor retention. 3/5

Smell: Caramel, raisin, and fruity malt. Not very complex. There is a faint hint of oxidation. 4/5

Taste: Huge doses of sweet malt, brown sugar, caramel malt and plum. There is a hint of cocoa too. The finish is loaded with bitter, "warm" oxidized cardboard flavor that kills the upfront flavor of the beer. No hop flavor whatsoever. 2.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, no carbonation. Malty sweet and "warm" on the tongue from the oxidation. 3.5/5

Overall: This beer is clearly past it's prime. From it's residual profile, I never would have guessed this used to be a hoppy American barleywine. I was glad to finally get a chance to tick this beer, but I wish I would have been able to do it a year or two ago.

Recommendation: Skip this beer, it's past its prime.

Pairings: Cherries.

Cost: $17.99 for a six pack.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beer Review: Unplugged Berliner Weiss

Reviewing the currently retired Unplugged Berliner Weiss from New Glarus Brewing Company out of Wisconsin. A big thanks to Mike for sharing this bottle with me!
Score: 91

2008 bottle with bottle code "1558 10:36." Served in a snifter/tulip hybrid glass and enjoyed on 08/23/12. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a nice and transparent golden honey color with a thin film of head on top. Average lacing, but excellent lacing/cling. 4.5/5

Smell: Apple juice, white grapes and a fruity acidity. Peaches, Pinot Grigio, and a light "wheatiness." 4.25/5

Taste: Apple juice backbone with a little lemon and white grapes flavor overlaying. Slight tart acidity with an apple aftertaste. As the beer warms up, a faint funkiness comes out in the finish. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, medium carbonation. Juicy mouthfeel with slightly dry aftertaste. Moderately acidic and slightly tart. 4/5

Overall: Light, refreshing and flavorful! This beer has aged gracefully like a nice mild gueze.

Recommendation: Seek this one out if you get the chance; it's one of New Glarus' better Unplugged series beers

Pairings: Potato latkes with apple sauce.

Cost: $10.99 for a four pack.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beer Review: Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock (2007)

Reviewing the Raspberry Eisbock from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. HUGE thanks to Mike for sharing this rare bottle with me!
Score: 97

2007 vintage bottle served in a Cantillon tulip glass and enjoyed on 08/23/12.

Appearance: Pours the color of maple syrup with a slight chocolate tint. Virtually no carbonation or head is apparent off the pour. No lacing. 3.5/5

Smell: Raspberry, milk chocolate and fruity malt. As it opened up, an aroma of fresh pureed raspberries takes over. There is also a very faint oxidation present in the nose, but it is only apparent off deep whiffs. 4.5/5

Taste: Fresh raspberry jam goodness! The raspberry flavor is absolutely out of this world -- smooth, moderately viscous and perfectly sweet. Zero booziness is present here, which is shocking given that this is a a 13.5% ABV eisbock! Fudge-y chocolate towards the finish with a hint of fruitiness in the finish/linger. So smooth and "light" without being light bodied. Hint of caramel in the background too. As it warms up, there's a little alcohol tingle in the finish. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied. No carbonation, but it works here unlike the Bourbon Barrel Barleywine I had from Kuhnhenns earlier this month. Sweet, but not too sweet. Oily, slick mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: Every bit as good as I could imagined it! The raspberry flavor here is truly out of this world good. It's a good thing this beer comes in 6.3 oz bottles because this beer is entirely too drinkable for the ABV!

Recommendation: Unless you hate raspberries, make sure to seek this bottle out.

Pairings: Fluffy chocolate cake.

Cost: $10 for a 6.3 oz bottle.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beer Review: Brandy Barrel Aged Dark Lord With Vanilla Beans (2011)

Reviewing the Brandy Barrel Aged Dark Lord With Vanilla Beans from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana. This is one of the most sought after beers in the craft beer world, so I have to give a major thanks to Robbie Moy for cracking this one open and sharing it with me. This beer was only released once, and only to those who were lucky enough to have a winning scratch-off ticket at Dark Lord Day in 2011. This is the 2010 vintage of Dark Lord, aged for one year in brandy barrels with Madagascar vanilla beans added. Only 433 bottles of this were released. We cracked this one, in addition to several other big name goodies, to celebrate the end of the Illinois bar exam, my birthday, and Robbie Moy's birthday.
Score: 99

Bottle number 332/433 (2011 vintage). Served in a wine chalice and enjoyed on 07/28/12. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Jet black, with a thin brown highlight strip atop the glass when held up to light. A think layer of creamy melted milk chocolate colored head at pour settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass. The lacing is incredibly oily and it coats the side of the glass, slowly oozing back down. 4.5/5

Smell: Sweet vanilla, fudge, milk chocolate and a hint of alcohol heat. Then brandy and more fudge. Complex, balanced and chocolatey. Sweet on the nose, but not nearly as sweet as the base beer. Mild molasses in the nose too. 5/5

Taste: Sweet and creamy Edy's vanilla bean ice cream and brandy layered on top of molasses and fudgey milk chocolate. Decadent flavors coat the tongue in rich, lingering goodness. Molasses and raisin too. Definitely a sweet stout (but not cloying), though this one is a little less sweet than the 2011 bourbon vanilla dark lord was. There is a nice alcohol warmth to the finish without any real "booziness" that gives this one some "life after death" on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Viscous, sweet and "sticky" mouthfeel. 5/5

Overall: One of the best beers out there with a reputation for the same for a good reason. This beer is definitely one of the sweeter stouts out there, but it never crosses the line into the land of cloyingly sweet. I found the base beer and others like Lindley Park to be much sweeter. This is not a beer I could load up my cellar with at its retail price tag, even if I had the chance to buy multiples, and it's even harder to get through trade, but this is a must-try beer to hunt down and split with friends.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this beer out. It is just as good as everyone says.

Pairings: Vanilla custard.

Cost: $50 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beer Review: Apple Brandy Hunahpu's Imperial Stout (2012)

Reviewing the Apple Brandy-Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing out of Florida. Hunahpu's is Cigar City's most famous stout and it is released at an event that is essentially similar to Dark Lord Day. We cracked this one, in addition to several other big name goodies, to celebrate the end of the Illinois bar exam, my birthday, and Robbie Moy's birthday.
Score: 97

Counter-pressurized growler is from the summer 2012 release. Served in a wine chalice, shared with friends and enjoyed on 07/28/12. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a pitch black color with a nice layer of cappuccino-colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Very oily, coating lacing with a solid cling factor. 4/5

Smell: What a delicious medley. Fudge and sweet dark chocolate impart a bittersweetness. Then brown sugar, a little dark fruit and vanilla, and a sweet rum-like aroma that must come from the apple brandy aging then tips the balance of the nose towards sweet. The oak, peppers and a hint of cinnamon then give the beer a nice spiced anchor to the sweetness. There's a touch of booziness as the beer warms up, but nothing powerful or off-putting or overwhelming in the least. This is a really excellent nose! 4.75/5

Taste: Chocolatey fudge, smooth vanilla and a sweet apple-and-watermelon-like rum flavor (almost like a smooth and less sugary Bacardi grand melon flavor that is nothing like the off-flavors being reported in some bottles of the 2012 vintage of Dark Lord) are my first impressions. There is a faint oakiness and chili pepper flavor at first on the sides of the tongue that modestly grows as the beer warms and layers on the tongue. The apple brandy aging seems to have mellowed out the pepper heat substantially in comparison to the base beer, but there's still a little bit of life left in the peppers and the smooth, subtle heat they give off on the sides of the tongue and the roof of the mouth give the beer a nice bold complexity that makes the bitterness from the chocolate/fudge flavors pop on the tongue. The chocolate and rum sweetness really soak the tongue in flavor and linger with the faint pepper heat. There's some mild dark fruit flavor and a hint of molasses as well, though the aroma has more of each present. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Rich, thick and viscous. Full bodied and very low carbonation. There's a faint pepper heat on the tongue. Slightly sweet, but not a "sweet" beer. 4.5/5

Overall: The balanced pepper kick is what made me really love Hunahpu's, but even though it is largely missing here the apple brandy aging imparts more than enough additional complexity and flavor to make up for it. I need to get some more.

Recommendation: Seek this beer out; even those who are not good at handling spiciness (I am looking at you, Scott) should be able to enjoy this one thoroughly.

Pairings: Fresh strawberries.

Cost: $25 for a 32 oz (counter-pressured) growler.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beer Review: Churchill's Finest Hour (2012)

Reviewing the 2012 version of Churchill's Finest Hour from Port Brewing Company (Lost Abbey's alter ego). We cracked this one, in addition to several other big name goodies, to celebrate the end of the Illinois bar exam, my birthday, and Robbie Moy's birthday. I believe each year's batch is a different stout recipe.
Score: 99

2012 vintage bottle. Served in a plastic taster cup, shared with friends and enjoyed on 07/28/12. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Jet black color. Pours a thin layer of creamy dark tan head that settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing, but average retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge notes of fudge, plus bourbon and brown sugar. Dark fruit and subtle vanilla as well. There is a very light roastiness to the nose, which also emits a hint of wood as the beer warms. What an absolutely smooth and inviting barrel-aged stout nose! 5/5

Taste: Like the nose, fudge dominates the flavor with a little dark chocolatiness too. The fudge flavor is thick and luscious, and it coats the tongue with lingering flavor. Layered on top of the fudge is the bourbon, molasses and a hint of coffee. Not tasting any wood. There is some sweet dark fruit flavor as well, but the dark fruit characteristics are more subtle on the palate than it was in the aroma. There is a faint hint of alcohol towards the finish that gives the beer a little kick without throwing off the balance or drinkability. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, minimal carbonation. Thick, viscous and slightly sweet. 5/5

Overall: A near-perfect stout that is easily one of the best that I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. It is hard to fault a beer like this for not being "pretty" enough, but that's about my only real criticism here. This brew is complex and smooth, and it lives up to the hype. I sincerely hope I will be able to try this one again in the future.

Recommendation: Seek this beer out.

Pairings: Cocoa-rubbed filet.

Cost: $25 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beer Review: Our Special Ale 1987 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Reviewing the Our Special Ale 1987 from Anchor Brewing Company. In honor of my 25th birthday, I decided to trade for and open a beer almost as old as me. According to the bottle neck:
"WASSAIL! Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor have produced a special ale which we sell from early December to early January. These ales are different each year, and we hope our friends and customers enjoy the variety as we do. This year we offer a "wassail," following an ancient tradition of spiced ales at Christmas time."
Score: 79

This is the 1987 release of Anchor's annual winter warmer Our Special Ale. Served in a stemmed tulip wine glass and enjoyed on 07/29/12. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a murky caramel color with tons of muddy dark tan flakes of sediment floating around the beer with a pencil thin fizzy tan ring of head around the glass. Poor lacing, average retention. Frankly, this is an ugly-looking beer. Then again, it is nearly 25 years old. 1/5

Smell: Ample caramel malt and almond nuttiness mixed with christmas spices. Some "pumpkin pie," peppermint and a touch of sweet plum. There is also a little "wet cardboard" in the nose (mild oxidation) that throws off an otherwise nice-smelling winter warmer. When I swirl the beer, more of the maltiness comes through, and there is less oxidation. 3.5/5

Taste: Surprisingly drinkable for a 25 yea old beer! There is a huge caramel-inspited malt profile mixed with pumpkin flavor and a faint hint of dark fruit. The christmas spices are less prevalent on the palate than the nose, but they are still there. There is also a mild fruitiness towards the finish. Less oxidation in the flavor than in the aroma, but it is still there throwing off the balance of the beer. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, low carbonation. Very watery mouthfeel. Malty sweet. 2/5

Overall: Tastes surprisingly good for a beer that's almost as old as me, but it's hardly anything "special" outside the novelty of it's bottling date. The appearance of this beer is incredibly off-putting too. I would never trade $36 of beer, even off-the-shelf beer, for a bottle of this again, but it was really cool to celebrate my birthday with a beer from 1987. My father and girlfriend (neither are beer nerds), who I split this beer with, enjoyed the flavor of this more than me. Time to cleanse the palate and crack open something legitimately awesome.

Recommendation: Not worth seeking out.

Pairings: Pumpkin pie.

Cost: UNKNOWN cost (I traded two 2012 Goose Island Juliets for this and a four pack of Ghandi Bot) for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beer Review: The Dissident (2010)

Reviewing The Dissident from Deschutes Brewery out of Oregon.
Score: 92

Batch 2 (November 2010 release) bottle served in a Stella Atrois chalice and enjoyed on 08/15/12.

Appearance: The beer is a murky, blood-orange color that fades from a yellow to ruby when tilted and held up to light. Two fingers of fizzy yellowish tan head at pour settles to a thick ring around the glass with a thin foggy layer in the center. Excellent lacing and retention/cling. 4.5/5

Smell: Cinnamon, rose petals, and horchata. There is some sweet vinegar and a lactovallus-common aroma too, a light amount of cherry and a little platicky funkiness. I am really digging the slightly floral horchata nose. It is very unique and was entirely unexpected. 4.5/5

Taste: The taste is much different than the nose led on. There is some "Red Hots"-like cinnamon flavor upfront and in the finish with some sweet and sour vinegary lacto flavor mixed in. The sourness is extremely mild; no pucker and it is mostly confined to the "middle" of the beer and washed away by the finish. There is an ever growing cherry flavor on the midpalate that becomes somewhat medicinal as it warms up. A little layering funk on the back of the tongue as this beer warms as well. As the beer approaches temperature, I find myself enjoying it less. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with a low amount of carbonation. Dryly sweet (almost like a red wine) mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: An excellent and unique nose with a more traditional, slightly funky flavor for the style. The nose is what really makes this beer in my opinion.

Recommendation: Not for casual beer drinkers, but this is a good beer for fans of the style who don't mind a little funkiness and medicinal cherry flavor.

Pairings: Chocolate Cake

Cost: $12.99

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beer Review: Lips Of Faith Super India Pale Ale

Reviewing the Lips Of Faith Super India Pale Ale, a collaboration brew between Alpine Beer Company and New Belgium Brewing that is part of New Belgium's ever more interesting Lips Of Faith series.
Score: 92

Released in the middle of August 2012. Served in a Half Acre tulip and enjoyed on 09/05/12.

Appearance: Pours a nice clean, muted honey color with a finger of off-white seafoam head that settles to a thin layer. Slightly below average lacing, but really good retention and cling. 4.5/5

Smell: Huge notes of dank grapefruit, sweet citrus and resiny pine smack you right away. A touch of spice/horseradish is interestingly blended into an earthy caramel aromatic backbone that sits on the front of the nose. A hint of earthy rose as well. Very nice and surprisingly complex for an IPA. This one has an intriguingly complex IPA aroma. 4/5

Taste: Holy bitter and earthy caramel malt bombs Batman! This malty IPA walks the line between barleywine and IPA, tilting towards the barleywine. Super IPA is a lot more earthy on the palate than I imagined, though I suppose the nose gave me plenty of fair warning. Layered on top of the maltiness is a nice fresh, juicy and hoppy grapefruit flavor. The bitter, earthy malt backbone to this beer -- a mix of caramel, spice, onion, (not Devil Dancer 2011 onion, but fresh Deviant Dale's pale ale-like onion) and dank, slightly resinous mulch -- really lingers on the way back of the tongue like crazy. There's a little pine overlaying the malt backbone too, but the malt is really the star of this show. Fresh, this beer is a nice malty IPA; however, I could see this one turning into a real disaster when the juicy hops, which give the beer some balance, fall off. At 9% ABV, I guess there's a chance this ages like Three Floyds Behemoth, but it's malt profile reminds me much more of Avery's Maharaja (which I hated aged). As it warms and layers, this beer gets increasingly bitter -- which balances the malt nicely. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, light-medium carbonation with a bitterness that sits heavy on the back of the tongue. Very oily mouthfeel. Malty and bitter, but not sweet. 4/5

Overall: An excellent bitter, malt-forward IPA. Think Maharaja meets Hoptimum. This one is not quite on par with Alpine's better IPA offerings (though I enjoyed it as much as Exponential Hoppiness), but it is nice to see an Alpine beer make wide distribution without having to hear the brewer complain about people outside California enjoying his beer (I got to give some props to New Belgium for their input on this one too).

Recommendation: An excellent for the price point. Fans of malty IPA and hoppy barleywines -- especially those with a penchant for Southern Tier's Unearthly IPA -- should seek this one out fresh. This is not a beer for the faint hearted, however, and I can almost guarantee you tha casual beer drinkers and hop-haters will despise this brew.

Pairings: Thai food...maybe peanut saute?

Cost: $5.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beer Re-Review: Nemesis 2009

Re-reviewing the Nemesis 2009 from Founders Brewing Company. The Nemesis 2009 is a wheatwine aged in maple bourbon barrels.
Score: 78

Bottled 02/03/10. Served in a Three Floyds teku glass and enjoyed on 09/04/12.

Appearance: Pours a sediment-laden translucent glowing amber-orange color with a finger of creamy tan head. Excellent lacing, good retention. If not for the army of ugly sediment flakes floating around in the beer, this would be a nice looking brew. 3.5/5

Smell: Piney malt, faint maple, wood, wheat, a little cardboard, mild coconut, distinctive black licorice Twizzlers (where the heck is that coming from?), and a little spiced whiskey. Some stale hops too. 3.5/5

Taste: Super sweet caramel malt, wheat grain and a hint of maple. The finish has some cardboard flavor and oxidized "hotness" on the back of the tongue. As the beer layers, however, a delicious caramely bourbon malt flavor aftertaste develops. A little boozy still. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium-light carbonation. Oily, malty mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: Has not improved any since I had it in December; to the contrary, the maple has almost entirely fallen off. The degree of maltiness present, plus the oxidation, made this one a sipper.

Recommendation: Not worth seeking out at this point in the beer's life.

Pairings: Steak.

Cost: $17.99 for a six pack.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Beer Review: Gratitude (2009, blue wax)

Reviewing Gratitude from East End Brewing Company out of Pennsylvania.
Score: 86

Blue wax (2009) vintage bottle served in a snifter and enjoyed on 08/13/12.

Appearance: Pours a murky dark brown, slightly orange color. The center is mostly brown and the outer edges are an orange caramel color. I cannot see through the beer, but I can see the shadow of my hand on the other side of the glass. There is a thin layer tan of head off the pour. Below average, oily lacing with decent retention. Nothing pretty, but nothing ugly. 3.5/5

Smell: Fruity caramel, oak, vanilla, raisin bread, and sweet malt. No booziness whatsoever. Very nice. 4/5

Taste: The taste is almost entirely dominated by a fruity malt flavor with a sweet caramel backbone. Super malty with a little bit of vanilla on the midpalate that disappears by the finish. There is a little brown sugar flavor too. The maltiness is kind of "musty," and the fruitiness is very prominent throughout. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Olive oil-like mouthfeel and very malty. 3.5/5

Overall: I remember this being better when I drank an indigo wax (2010) version at Dark Lord Day this year, so maybe, being an American barleywine, the 2009 blue wax vintage is
at an awkward phase in its life where hops are entirely gone but the beer's barleywine qualities have not yet matured into their complexities. From my experiences with Behemoth, I am guessing this beer is better fresh (or, more accurately, that I would enjoy it better fresh). The 2009 version I drank was not worth $25.

Recommendation: Hop heads should seek out younger vintages, while barleywine nuts should seek out older ones or keep aging their blue wax 2009 vintage bottles.

Pairings: Raisin bread.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beer Review: Rum Barrel Dark Apparition

Reviewing the Rum Barrel Dark Apparition from Jackie O's Pub & Brewery.
Score: 87

Bottle is from batch 11. Served in a tasting glass and enjoyed on 08/25/12 at the second Chicago Craft Beer Lovers event. A big thanks to Jonathan for cracking this beer (in addition to a 1414 and Black Tuesday) before I had to leave the event.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color with a thin brown highlight strip atop the beer when held up to light. There is a thin film of khaki head off the pour. Below average lacing and slightly below average retention. It is hard to fairly judge the "appearance" of a beer from a few ounce pour in a taster glass, but this one looks like what you would expect from a Russian imperial stout. 4/5

Smell: Chocolate, desserty vanilla bean, pound cake, and sweet rum. The aroma components are each pretty prominent, but well balanced. I could smell this all day. 4.5/5

Taste: Sadly, the taste does not live up to the nose. Sweet, slightly sugary, rum hits you in the face upfront, followed by an artificial vanilla cake flavor that does not seem to blend well on the tongue with the rum. A little bit of chocolate flavor in the finish, but much less chocolate flavor than the nose led on. I was expecting much more balance from the aroma, but this at least still tastes good. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied and light carbonation. This beer is way too thin for a double digit Russian imperial stout. Slick and mildly sweet mouthfeel. 2.5/5

Overall: I loved the nose, but the mouthfeel here was a huge let down that really ruined my enjoyment of this brew. I like my stouts to be heavy on the palate, but this one was too slick and light. Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout and Haymarket's bourbon-aged Indignant are full-bodied beers by comparison.

Recommendation: I was really glad to get a chance to try this one, and I would drink it again, but it is neither worth going out of your want to hunt down or trading the high-caliber brews it takes to acquire this limited and sought after beer. I'd recommend chasing down a much easier to acquire bottle of Peruvian Morning instead.

Pairings: Chocolate cake.

Cost: $18 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beer Review: Cuvee Delphine

Reviewing the Cuvee Delphine from De Struise Brouwers out of Belgium. According to the label:
Black Albert was used in a new barrel aging project. More than a year ago, Carlo was able to get his hands on a stock of Four Roses Bourbon barrels, and we happily filled them up with Batch 0. This unique creation was originally to be named "4 Black Roses" in honour of its heritage, but our friends in Kentucky strongly advised us not to do so! What to do? As the disowned offspring of Black Albert, the name Cuvée Delphine imposed itself. Savouring the Belgian irony, we are most honoured to have artwork by Delphine Boël shining on this label. You will not find this ale all over the globe. There is no export program, but we will try to provide stock through our web shop and some specialty beer pubs.
Score: 92

2009 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 09/02/12. Big thanks to Matt Hope for hooking me up with this bottle.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color, completely opaque, with three full fingers of thick, styrofoamy mocha head that formed a beautiful meniscus atop the glass without ever pouring over. The head slowly recedes to a thin layer atop the glass. The lacing and retention on this beer is absolutely unreal; even sixty seconds after tilting the glass once the head settled down some, a thick lacing was still coating the entire side of glass. This is one beautiful Russian imperial stout, and at 13% ABV, the amount of lacing and retention present here is an unexpected prize. 5/5

Smell: Plum, sweet raisin, cherry, roasted malt, and bakers chocolate. A touch of lemon peel, a little sweet red wine and some faint boozy alcohol as it warms too. The nose is a little sugary sweet, but in a good way that works with the aroma components -- particularly the accent of lemon zest. Some vanilla also comes through as the beer warms up. 4.25/5

Taste: Molasses and sweet dark fruit flavor upfront with a creamy "melted nestle bittersweet morsels" flavored backbone that reminds me of fresh chocolate chip cookies. The dark fruit flavors seem to get sweeter as the beer warms, and while it never really gets to the level of a diabetes-inducing cloying sugar bomb, it really reduces the drinkability of the beer. There's a hint of caramel and a hint of cherry as well, though the cherry flavor is hardly as prominent on the tongue as it is in the nose. The alcohol presence on the palate is also much more subtle and smooth than it was in the aroma. I am not really detecting a whole lot of "barrel-aged characteristics" in the flavor; there is even an absence of the vanilla I got in the nose. As the beer hits room temperature, the flavors seem to get "creamier," and a little burnt roast flavor, which nicely counter balances the sweetness a little bit, comes out. I frankly enjoyed this beer best once it was warm and sitting out of a little while. 4/5

Mouthfeel: This is a viscous, full bodied beer with a low amount of carbonation. Sticky, sweet and syrupy mouthfeel that turns a bit creamy at room temp. 4/5

Overall: A well-crafted beer that is just a little too sweet for my tastes. I enjoyed Black Albert more, but this one was certainly still tasty enough to be worth the cost of a tick. I would definitely have another glass of this, but it's not going to be the first beer I seek out a second bottle of if I am going to be "repeating" past ticks down the line.

Recommendation: Well worth a tick, but haters of sweet stouts should be forewarned.

Pairings: Ricotta & zucchini bread with raspberries, honey and mint (a dish the Publican currently serves for their Sunday brunch).

Cost: $15 for an 11.2 oz bottle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beer Review: Enjoy By 9.21.12 IPA

Reviewing the Enjoy By 9.21.12 IPA from Stone Brewing Company. This beer was only distributed by Stone to Chicago, New Jersey and Southern California.
Score: 92

The bottle I obtained was distributed to the store the same day I picked it up and enjoyed it (08/24/12). Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Clean and transparent honey yellow-orange color with one finger of soapy off-white head that settles to a thin film atop the glass. Awesome lacing and retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Pinesol, tangerine, grapefruit and a hint of earthy hops overlaying a "sourdough bread" aroma backbone. As the beer warms and opens up, more tropical citrus comes through. 4.25

Taste: Sweet and hoppy juicy tropical citrus throughout with a "drying" sourdough bread flavor on the midpalate. Nice grassy hops with a touch of resinousness. The flavors here just work for whatever reason; never expected to enjoy such a bready IPA! 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Heavier side of light bodied, medium carbonation. Juicy mouthfeel. Bitter finish. 4/5

Overall: An excellent IPA; in fact, this is one of Stone's better beers. I would absolutely drink this one again (especially at the price point) if only it both a) did not immediately fly off the shelves in Chicago, and b) was not a "one-off" IPA.

Recommendation: Stone's Ruination IPA and their Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA that came out earlier this summer were both better, but this is a really excellent IPA in it's own right as well. Fans of savory citrus-loaded IPA should thoroughly enjoy this brew.


Cost: $6.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beer Review: Stone 16th Anniversary IPA

Reviewing the 16th Anniversary IPA from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California.
Score: 85

Bottle is from the 08/13/12 release. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/24/12.

Appearance: Pours a clean orange-amber color with one finger of off-white, tannish head that settles to a thick ring around the glass. Nice lacing, but mediocre retention. 4/5

Smell: Lemon, candied caramel malt, and earthy hops. Some herbal spice, sage and a little Dole's pineapple juice too. 3.5/5

Taste: Strong, earthy caramel malt backbone with a herbaceous hop overlay. A little rye towards the finish. Finish/aftertaste is a dirty earthy lemon and caramel flavor. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Bitter and malty. 4/5

Overall: A very disappointing IPA. I like lemon in my IPA (Zeelander from Toppling Goliath is outstanding), but the combination of earthy caramel and herbaceous spices did not bode well with my palate. Nothing undrinkable, but nothing worth celebrating a 16th anniversary with either.

Recommendation: Stick with a fresh bottle of Stone's Ruination IPA. It is still one of the best (and cheapest) IPA on the market.


Cost: $6.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Re-Review: Galactic Double Daisy Cutter (Can)

Reviewing the latest batch of Galactic Double Daisy Cutter from Half Acre Brewing Company out of Chicago. Half Acre decided to can this batch. If you recall, I had previous reviewed a nearly six-month old bottle of Galactic Double Daisy Cutter that had held up surprisingly well. Now, with a fresh can in hand, it is time to do this beer some justice with a fresh review.
Score: 96

Can is from the Chicago Craft Beer Week release on the last week of May 2012, served in a snifter glass and enjoyed while fresh on 06/06/12.

Appearance: Pours a hazy/murky yellow-orange color with three fingers of foamy/seafoam cream colored head that slowly recedes to a thin film atop the beer. Slightly below average lacing, but really good retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Sharp and fresh orange citrus zest, sweet grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple juice. Ample doses of fresh pine, dew-laden grass and even a little resinous sap. A fresh, powerful, bold and inviting IPA aroma. 4.75/5

Taste: Sweet grapefruit and orange upfront with a mild sweet-and-sour lemonade flavored backbone. Prickly fresh pine on the center of the tongue. Lingering tropical sweet citrus flavor that is just a touch tart and giving the bitterness of the beer an invigorating pop. Can't get enough grapefruit flavor on the palate here. The balance between the hop bitterness and the citrus sweetness is really nice, and it makes the beer incredibly drinkable and refreshing. Yum! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Juicy mouthfeel. Bitter, sweet and just a touch tart. The mouthfeel is spot on for an (imperial) IPA of this type. 5/5

Overall: Half Acre makes a lot of really excellent hoppy beers that rival the likes of Alpine, Three Floyds, Hill Farmstead and Lawson's, but I am firmly convinced that either this or Shewolf (a Three Floyd's collaboration IPA) is Half Acre's best brew.

Recommendation: Seek this out if you can find it fresh. It is a world class imperial IPA. I think it is on par with the likes of Arctic Panzer Wolf and Ghandi Bot.

Pairings: Grilled chicken.

Cost: $18 for a four pack of cans.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Beer Review: Fou' Foune

Reviewing the infamous Fou' Foune from Brasserie Cantillon out of Belgium.
Score: 98

Bottled 08/18/11. Served in a Kentucky bourbon ale snifter and enjoyed on 06/20/12.

Appearance: Pours an opaque pale honey color. Good lacing and retention. Pours a thick fizzy white ring around the glass. 4/5

Smell: Lots of sweet apricot mixed with pear, tangerine and sweet citrus. Nice lemon backbone to the nose, a little sweet vinegar too. No real funk in the nose, which is how I like my sours, though there is a touch of "plastic." The sweet citrus becomes a little more vibrant as the beer warms and opens up. 4.75/5

Taste: Tons of tart apricot and peach and lemon zest. A little pear flavor to boot with the tart citrus. There is just a hint of funk on the midpalate, leaving me to wonder what additional complexities this beer develops with age. I am still learning to appreciate sours and learning how to pin down their complexities, so I am sitting here wishing I knew how to better describe this beer drinking experience to no avail. Suffice it to say that I am greatly enjoying this brew. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus mouthfeel, light-plus carbonation. Tartly sweet and mildly dry on the palate, but no huge pucker effect here -- certainly less than the Classic Gueuze from Cantillon. 5/5

Overall: One of the best non-IPA/non-stout beers that I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. If this beer was cheaper and more readily available, I would likely have a case-plus of this stuff in my cellar. Cantillon is slowly turning me on to the world of lambics, gueuzes, and other "sours."

Recommendation: Seek this world class lambic out; it will not disappoint.

Pairings: Lemon poppy seed muffins.

Cost: $35 for a 750 ml bottle (bar prices).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beer Review: Imperial Biscotti Break

Reviewing the Imperial Biscotti Break from Evil Twin Brewing out of Denmark.
Score: 93

10 oz tap pour served in a chalice glass at the Local Option and enjoyed on 06/20/12.

Appearance: Black coffee color with thin bubbly tan layer of head that settles into a bubbly ring around the glass. Poor lacing, above average cling/lacing. 4/5

Smell: Smooth raisiny bourbon, sweet chocolate, brown sugar. Almond bread, vanilla, and muffins. Dark fruit and roasted malt. 4.5/5

Taste: Malty brown sugar and boozy bourbon upfront. Bakers chocolate towards the finish. Sweet bourbon, almond, vanilla and dry fig/prune throughout. Tastes less sweet than it smells, not that the nose is all that sweet. Less chocolate flavor than the nose led on too. Residual coffee aftertaste. I am surprised by how little coffee flavor this beer has given its namesake. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, low carbonation. Syrupy mouthfeel. Bitter/bittersweet, mildly acidic. 4.5/5

Overall: An excellent beer with some well deserved hype. Hopefully this won't just be a one-off for Evil Twin because this stuff was delicious.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out if you get the chance, though it has already come-and-gone through the retail circuit.

Pairings: Fried plantains.

Cost: $10 for a 10 oz snifter pour.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beer Review: Mariage Parfait (2004)

Reviewing the Mariage Parfait from Brouwerij Boon out of Belgium.
Score: 91

2004 vintage bottle served in a Kentucky bourbon ale snifter and enjoyed on 06/15/12.

Appearance: Some floaties, but not bad. A bit of hazy golden straw color with a thin fog of head atop at pour that settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, decent retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Huge notes of sharp lemon zest. Slight medicinal funk, but that funkiness is well incorporated into the lemon aroma. Sweet and sour vinegar. Sharp, tart aroma. A little apple in the nose too. 4.5/5

Taste: Nice tart sweet vinegar and lemon sting on the tongue upfront with mild earthy funkiness and a little fruitiness on the back of the tongue. Funkier taste than the nose, but not very funky. Very clean on the palate except for a light linger on the back of the tongue. Some sour apple flavor too. As the beer layers, the beer seemingly becomes more tart, and the funkiness seems constrained to the aftertaste. The flavors become more consistent throughout and smooth as the beer layers. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, minimal carbonation with a "funk kick" on the tongue. Lemonade-like mouthfeel. Tart and drying on the gums, but never overly dry on the rest of the palate. 4/5

Overall: The nose is quite awesome, but the taste is a little too funky for my preference and less stand out than the aroma.

Recommendation: Sour heads should give this one a whirl; probably not the best beer for the casual beer drinker.

Pairings: Key lime pie.

Cost: $14.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Beer Review: Batch 31 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout With Coffee

Reviewing the Batch 31 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout With Coffee from 8 Wired Brewing Company out of New Zealand. Imported by the Shelton Brothers.
Score: 92

According to the label, this beer was brewed 01/31/11, barreled 03/31/11, bottled 10/31/11 and best before 12/31/18. Served in a Duck Rabbit snifter and enjoyed on 08/12/12.

Appearance: Pours a pitch black color with a thin dark tan ring around the glass. Good lacing and average retention. 4/5

Smell: Sweet boozy raisin, burnt brown sugar, sweet chocolate, toffee, and a touch of cherry and molasses. A hint of roast upfront and light booziness too. The flavor components are nice, but they are not well incorporated. 3.5/5

Taste: This one tastes much better than it smells. Tons of oak flavor upfront followed by cocoa and cherry. A touch of roasted coffee too. Dark chocolate and bitter hot cocoa flavor on the midpalate. A little brown sugar flavor. The dark chocolate sticks through the finish and lingers. Real nice bittersweet flavor balance here, though the sweetness starts to outweigh the bitterness as the beer warms. Unlike the nose, the beer is not boozy in flavor. Incredible drinkable; you would never guess this is 11.0% ABV from the taste. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Syrupy mouthfeel. Bittersweet, leaning slightly sweet. 4.5/5

Overall: Too many beers smell better than they taste, but this one gets it right by tasting better than it smells. Batch 31 is a bit pricey for what it is, but I would buy another bottle to try again with a little age on it. Nice job New Zealand!

Recommendation: Drink this one slightly chilled; seek it out if you can.

Pairings: Ribeye.

Cost: $15.99 for a 500 ml bottle.