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.


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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Beer Review: Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout

Reviewing the Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa Bay, Florida.
Score: 93

July 2011 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 09/12/12.

Appearance: Pours a jet black, ink-like color with almost three fingers of thick brown creamy head that recedes to a ring around the glass. Really good lacing and retention. Excellent looking stout. 4.5/5

Smell: Bittersweet cocoa, milk chocolate, Surly Darkness-esque sweet figs, some burnt roastiness and a cherry-like aroma that reminds me a lot of Black Albert. Hint of berry, a little soy sauce and a touch of toffee too. 4/5

Taste: Bittersweet roasted chocolate and milk chocolate flavor with some cherry on the midpalate and in the finish. Sweet fig, brown sugar, a little soy (less than in the nose), and a nice touch of bitter "burnt" roastiness in the finish to balance the sweet dark fruit flavor and cap off the beer's flavor. The more the beer layers, the more the cherry flavor seems to be "coated" in the chocolate flavors, essentially becoming a chocolate covered cherry flavor with a light "fizziness" to it. The finish is mildly bitter from the lingering roast flavor. Some cherry flavor lingers in the aftertaste too. This beer sort of tastes like a Black Albert Jr. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, low carbonation. Bittersweet and roasty. Has a slight "fizziness" from the cherry flavor on the tongue that gives the flavor a little life. Mildly syrup-like mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: A delicious stout that is worth seeking out and well-priced for what it delivers.

Recommendation: Fans of Black Albert should seek this out, while fans of this beer should seek out Black Albert.

Pairings: Dark chocolate.

Cost: $15 for a 750 ml bottle.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beer Review: Red Poppy Ale

Reviewing the Red Poppy Ale from The Lost Abbey out of California.
Score: 93

Bottle is from the March 2012 release. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 01/19/12.

Appearance: Pours a dark rosewood color that fades to a ruby color at the bottle of the glass. Three fingers of soapy, light beige head at pour settles to a thin foggy layer atop the glass with a thick clump of head in the middle. I am shocked a Lost Abbey beer has this much carbonation! Average lacing, below average retention. 4/5

Smell: Slightly tart cherries, oak, plum and a little vinegar. Hint of cinnamon. There is a touch of plastic at the end of the whiff. From the bottle, I can distinctly smell candied raspberries too, but out of the snifter the raspberry aroma is extremely faint. Hint of bakers chocolate too. I was expecting a much more "sour" nose. 4.25/5

Taste: OK, there is the sourness! The taste is much more tart than the nose led on. Sharply tart and acidic cherry flavor with a light plastickiness in the finish. Plum, oak, cocoa, candied sugar and tart vinegar follow through the finish. The cherry flavor really lingers past the swallow on the middle of the tongue. There is a nice, layering pucker. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-plus bodied. Tart, juicy mouthfeel that is slightly sweet and faintly dry after the swallow. 4.25/5

Overall: I had very low expectations for this beer, but walked away surprisingly satisfied. Drinks like a pucker-inducing cherry gueuze. Still, there are plenty of other beers, most of which are 22+ oz, that I would rather have for the price.

Recommendation: If you like cherries and tart wild ales, then this beer is up your alley. I doubt casual beer drinkers will enjoy this much.

Pairings: Chocolate cake.

Cost: $17.99 for a 375 ml bottl

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beer Review: Batch 7,000

Reviewing the Batch 7,000 from Bell's Brewery out of Michigan.
Score: 87

2005 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/18/12.

Appearance: Pours a black coffee color with a milk chocolate halo around the center. No head. Horrible lacing and retention. 3/5

Smell: Dark fruit, caramel, molasses and cocoa. Faint oxidization as it warms up. 4/5

Taste: Chocolate, brown sugar and caramel. Slightly sweet malt backbone that grows in presence as the beer warms. Faint oxidation in the finish; nowhere near as oxidized as the Batch 6,000 was. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, minimal carbonation. Syrup, malty and slightly sweet. 3.5/5

Overall: This one is definitely over the hill, but Batch 7,000 still holding up decently well at this point in it's life cycle (unlike the Batch 6,000).

Recommendation: Open any bottles you are sitting on. I would not trade for another bottle at it's rarity at this point.

Pairings: Coffee cake.

Cost: $17.99 for a six pack.