Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beer Review: Barrel-Aged Abraxas

Reviewing the Barrel-Aged Abraxas from Perennial Artisan Ales out of St. Louis, Missouri. This beer is an imperial stout aged 11 months in Rittehouse rye whiskey barrels with cacao nibs, ancho chiles, vanilla beans, and cinnamon.
Score: 100

Tap pour served in a FOBAB taster glass and enjoyed (several times) at FOBAB on 11/17/12. Later enjoyed on tap at the release, and subsequently out of the bottle. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Color is deep brown, almost black. Not much head off the small pour; just a mocha-colored ring around of the glass. Good lacing nonetheless. Out of the bottle, there is a nice layer of head with good lacing and retention. 5/5

Smell: This beer straight up smells like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, peppers and dark chocolate. There is a faint hoppiness and a light bourbon character in the background. 5/5

Taste: Tastes exactly like it smells, but with more pepper and chocolate character. The bourbon is not in-your-face. Instead, it is really well blended into the flavor profile, adding complexity without taking a prominent role. There's also a subtle vanilla throughout. Absolutely delicious and easy drinking! 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. The oatmeal stout base provides an awesome viscosity. Ample spice kick on the tongue with a light peppery prickliness in the throat after the swallow. 5/5

Overall: This is the absolute, unqualified best spiced stout that I have had to date, and it was easily one of the best beers at FOBAB this year. The bourbon is not very prominent, which is not par for the course, but excellent here. The Rittenhouse aging worked wonders on an already amazing beer. Cheers to Perennial for this knock out treat.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out; it's better than Hunahpu's.

Pairings: Chris Gierhart's infamous homemade beef chili or some mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Cost: Unknown.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Beer Review: Hansel And Gretel

Reviewing the Hansel And Gretel from Goose Island Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This beer was the highlight of the Thanksgiving-themed ales they brewed for the festival.
Score: 93

Tap pour served in a FOBAB taster glass and enjoyed at FOBAB on 11/17/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Deep mahogany in color with ruby transparencies. Served with a thin layer of tan head. Good lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Cinnamon, gingerbread and sugar cookies. Christmas spices and cocoa too. 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes just like it smells! Cinnamon and gingerbread cookies. Less cocoa on the palate than in the nose. Slight prickly Christmas spice kick in finish. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is this beer's one weakness. Medium-light bodied, low carbonation. The beer is frankly "waterier" than desired. Slightly sweet, mildly sticky. 3.5/5

Overall: This was one of my favorite "new" beers at FOBAB, and it is one of the few beers that I went back for seconds (and thirds) of at the festival! It tasted just like a Gingerbread cookie, with added flavor complexities. Yum! Another hit from Goose Island's experimental brews.

Recommendation: If you ever see this on tap, pounce!

Pairings: Gingerbread cookies.

Cost: N/A

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beer Review: Masala Mama IPA

Reviewing the Masala Mama IPA from Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the description tells, this IPA is brewed using Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial and Mt. Hood hops. 
Score: 95

Tap pour served in a 16 oz pint glass at the brewery. Enjoyed the night before Darkness Day (10/26/12). Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Served with a thin layer of head that settles to a ring around the glass. The beer is a clear and clean copper color. Pretty nice lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Resinous pine and dank citrus. Fresh tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple and peaches galore. Excellent! 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes just like it smells. The hops are crisply bitter, piney, dank and resinous with a light spice and prickle on the palate. Behind the hops are mango, pineapple, grapefruit and caramel malt. Hoppy, but smooth drinking thanks to a good counterbalancing sweet citrus backbone. Lingering hoppiness. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Oily on the tongue, with a very dry finish. Crisply bitter. 5/5

Overall: An outstanding IPA that is available year round. I am jealous of the Minneapolis beer scene for having such easy access to this treasure of a brew.

Recommendation: Hop heads need to seek this world class IPA out.

Pairings: The hamburgers they serve on premise -- yum! 

Cost: $5 for a pint at the bar.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beer Review: Extremely Naughty Goose

Reviewing the Extremely Naughty Goose from Goose Island Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This is a recent re-brew of a long-retired offering.
Score: 92
Tap pour served in the Clyborn Goose Island Brewpub and enjoyed on 11/16/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: The color is dark syrup, reminisce of King Henry, with strip of brown highlight atop the body. Served with a thin layer of beige head that settles to thin ring around glass. Below average lacing, average retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Roasted malt, chocolate, and faint coffee. Toffee and mixed nuts too. Faint honey-like sweetness. 4/5

Taste: Roasted malt, nuts, chocolate malt and cocoa. Toffee too. Light caramel malt and booziness in the finish. Very malty, but in a good, complex way. The flavors really linger on the palate. This beer is bold in flavor with a little boozy kick. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Syrupy mouthfeel with moderate stickiness. Very malty! 5/5

Overall: An excellent malt-heavy beer, and one of the best brown ales I have had the pleasure to enjoy. I am very glad that Goose Island brought this one back!

Recommendation: Seek this one out if you get a chance, though be forewarned that the sticker price is a bit high. I imagine this beer would age well for some period of time, but have no clue how the 2006 bottle release is holding up.

Pairings: Beer bread with honey butter. 

Cost: $10 for a 10 oz tap pour.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beer Review: Faustenstein

Reviewing the Faustenstein from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. Per the description, this beer is a blend of Revolution's Fausten Weizenbock and their Eugene Porter, aged in Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve Barrels for 9 months. 
Score: 91

10 oz tap pour served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 07/24/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pitch black body. Served with thin bubbly ring of tan head. Good lacing, average retention. 4/5

Smell: Vanilla, whiskey/bourbon, dark fruit, sweet plum and raisin, brown sugar. Caramel backbone. Hint of alcohol heat in the nose. A friendly aroma to those who like bourbon. 4/5

Taste: Vanilla, caramel and ample smooth bourbon flavor with a little spice kick. Brown sugar, dark grain and fig flavor on midpalate that lingers thru the finish. Hint of banana. Nice caramel-y vanilla flavor in finish too. Very smooth, barrel forward beer that gets bolder as it warms. Faint caramel whiskey with a dash of dark chocolate flavor in the "aftertaste." The weizen character is very subdued, though it becomes a bit more prominent as the beer warms. Almond and a little Belgian yeast towards finish once the beer hits room temperature. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, light carbonation. Slick, syrupy mouthfeel. Slightly sweet, sticky finish. 4.5/5

Overall: While not one of revolutions best BA brews, this is still a pretty damn good brew. I like this barrel aged mixture but when the red scare is on tap for $2 less...

Recommendation: Fans of weizenbocks are encouraged to give this one a whirl. I enjoyed it as much as the Local Option/Central Waters collaboration Barrel Aged La Petite Mort.

Pairings: Hickory BBQ smoked chicken.

Cost: $8 for a 10 oz snifter at the Brewpub.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Beer Review: Smoking Wood (Rye Whiskey Version)

Reviewing the Smoking Wood (Rye Whiskey Version) from The Bruery out of California. This beer is an imperial smoked porter brewed with rye malt, beachwood and cherrywood smoked malt, and then aged in rye whiskey barrels.
Score: 92

2012 vintage served in a Duck-Rabbit snifter and enjoyed 07/01/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Black coffee color. Pours a finger of creamy milk chocolate head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Good lacing, excellent retention. 4/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, rye and a huge amount of wood. Ample smoke too. A little bacon, subtle whiskey caramel malt. Hint of molasses. 4.25/5

Taste: Smoked and slightly salty bacon. Lots of oak flavor. A little chocolate on the midpalate. Increasing "spiciness" and a soft rye kick towards finish as the beer warms. Mild caramel flavor in the background too. ABV absolutely hidden. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, made to feel lighter from smokiness. Creamy mouthfeel. Smooth and smoky finish. Subtly bitter. 4/5

Overall:Smoke beers are quite polarizing -- you either love them, or you hate them. I am personally a fan of smokey beers. For a smoke beer, however, I found the smoke quality of this brew to be more subtle than most, but still quite pronounced.

Recommendation: Smoke beer fans are encouraged to seek this one out; it is better than the bourbon version.

Pairings: Bacon and eggs.

Cost: $20 for a 750 ml bottle.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beer Review: Exp Hop 2012-6

Reviewing the Exp Hop 2012-6 from Bell's Brewery, Inc. out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This is an "experimental" imperial IPA that can only be found in Bell's Eccentric Cafe (their on-site tap room/bar).
Score: 98

Tap pour served in a taster glass (followed by a full serving in a snifter glass) at Bell's Brewery and enjoyed on 12/28/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Unfiltered tangerine color. Served with thin layer of white head. Crazy lacing and retention. The color and appearance scream fresh IPA. 5/5

Smell: Mango, pine, grapefruit and pineapple. Smells like hoppy tropical fruit juice. Hint of lemon 4.5/5

Taste: Super dank grapefruit, mango, and peach. Sweet tropical citrus. Malty "orange juice" backbone. Grassy piney hops add a good amount of bitterness to counterbalance the sweet citrus. Bold and balanced, this beer pushes the extremes of what an IPA can do while remaining easy drinking and non-palate wrecking. Easy drinking; absolutely no booziness whatsoever. I was absolutely stunned to discover this beer is over 10% ABV. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Perfect IPA mouthfeel. Medium bodied, medium-light carbonation. Oily on the tongue with a nice bitter perk from the hops. 5/5

Overall: Unexpected, delicious and bold in flavor. Bell's needs to bottle this one; it's a knock out success. I would easily buy a case or multiple growlers if it was made available "to go." This is one of the best IPA I have had in a long time.

Recommendation: Hop heads should absolutely seek this beer out before it's a long-forgotten one off. If I was not the "designated driver," I would have ordered several pints of this brew.

Pairings: Asian zing BBQ chicken wings.

Cost: $5.75 for a snifter glass that looked slightly larger than 12 oz in size.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beer Review: Blot Out The Sun Stout

Reviewing the Blot Out The Sun Stout from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana. My presumption is that this is a barrel treatment of their Irish Dry Stout, Black Sun. This beer is aptly named after the infamous Simpsons story arc "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"
Score: 88

Tap pour served in a 10 oz glass at the Three Floyds Brewery and enjoyed on 12/28/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Deep brown color. Served with thin layer of khaki tan head that settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, above average retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Smells like a brown sugar infused IPA. Piney hops, brown sugar, and non-descript tropical citrus. There is a faint hint of bourbon, but not much barrel characteristic present at all. 4/5

Taste: Are we sure this is a stout and not a black IPA? malty brown sugar and grassy, tropical citrus  hops. Very hoppy. Hint of cocoa. No booziness. Mildly sweet. Virtually no barrel characteristic present. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, low carbonation. Sticky, malty and hoppy. 3.5/5

Overall: Outside of their variants for Moloko and Dark Lord, I have been very disappointed by Three Floyds' barrel program.

Recommendation: Worth drinking, but not worth going out of your way to try. This beer is overpriced for what it is, and for what you can get (even at a bar, even in Chicago) for $8, in my opinion.

Pairings: Hamburgers.

Cost: $8 for a 10 oz glass.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Beer Review: Trappist Westvleteren 12 (aka Westy 12)

Reviewing the Trappist Westvleteren 12 (aka Westy 12) from the monks of Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren) out of Belgium.
Score: 93

Unknown vintage bottle (the dates were rubbed off on the cap). Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 06/23/12 at the inaugural Chicago craft beer lovers meeting. Huge thanks to Robbie Moy for sharing this one with me. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a murky caramel color with a thin layer of tan bubbly head. 4/5

Smell: Sweet and fruity. Sugary caramel, berries, blueberries, plum, brandy, raisins, and bready clove too. 4.5/5

Taste: Exactly like it smells, with a lingering fruitiness. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, low carbonation. Juice-like mouthfeel. Fruity, dry finish. 4/5

Overall: All-in-all, I enjoyed this one. However, I did not think that it lived up to its lofty hype as one of the world's best beers. I am told that this one is best aged, but I also had a 2009 bottle at Dark Lord Day this year that I was not overly impressed with either (although in all fairness, that other bottle had been sitting open on a table for several hours before I got a chance to try it). I personally liked Westy 8 better, but I will have to try to age the bottle I have for several years to see if my opinion of this brew changes with time.

Recommendation: While an excellent beer, it's not quite worth it's trade weight. Nonetheless, it is a delicious beer that is worth drinking if you get the chance to sample this beer.

Pairings: Banana bread.

Cost: $85 for a "brick" that comes with six 12 oz bottles and two Westy 12 glasses.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beer Review: Red Scare

Reviewing the Red Scare from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This imperial red ale is super-hopped with Citra, Chinook, and Cascade hops
Score: 97

This is a long overdue beer review from iPhone notes dated 06/27/12.

Appearance: Color is a deep ruby. Served with a finger-plus of soapy, cream colored head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Spectacularly thick lacing with awesome retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Super grapefruity, grassy pine, peach, subtle pecan, and lemon. Some caramel in background. Huge fresh notes of hoppy citrus prevalent here. Smells like an outstanding imperial IPA with a faint twist, not a traditional red ale. 5/5

Taste: Super hopped caramel malt backbone. Heavily bitter, mildly sweet. Huge amounts of citrus. Hops, lemon, and like the nose, ample grapefruit. Hint of roasted malt. Very light earthy spiced onion flavor on back of tongue in the finish. Lingering hop bitterness. Nice complexities. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Has an oily mouthfeel on the tongue, but much drier mouthfeel on the swallow. 4.5/5

Overall: Absurdly stellar red ale that drinks smooth for it's hoppiness, but is too complex to labe a simple hop bomb. There is a healthy amount of bitterness without ever becomeing "too bitter." This is about as much of a "red ale" as Nugget Nectar; which is why I probably enjoyed it so much.

Recommendation: Better than Nugget Nectar. If you like the hoppy, IPA-like take on the "red ale," then seek this one out

Pairing: The bacon fat popcorn the brewpub sells.

Cost: $7 for a 13 oz tulip pour.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beer Review: Oak Aged Bamberg Brew (cask version)

Reviewing the Oak Aged Bamberg Brew (cask version) from Titletown Brewing Company out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The beers pictured in the flight, from left to right, are Green 19 with Cascade hops, Oak Aged Bamberg Brew, regular Bamberg Brew, Bourbon Legend and Bridge Out Stout.
Score: 87

4 oz sample glass enjoyed as part of a flight on 12/13/12.

Appearance: Pours a dark, but clean copper color with a good deal of clarity.  Pours a couple of fingers of beige head that settles to a thick ring around the glass. Poor lacing, average retention. 3/5

Smell: Barley malt, grain, hint of corn meal. Faint, faint hops. Light oak and a lighter amount of smoke. 3/5

Taste: The nose really downplays the quality of the taste! The oak is much more prevalent and plays nicely with a subtle smoke complexity that adds a good liveliness to the tongue without overwhelming and destroying the palate. Barley malt, faint caramel behind that. Very malty backbone. Not very complex, but refreshing. Maybe I am just a sucker for smoked beers. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Nice, faintly prickly mouthfeel from the oaky smoke. Not much carbonation at all. Just shy of medium bodied. 4/5

Overall: I was underwhelmed by the base beer, but the oak aged cask version was much better. Still nothing amazing, but quite solid nonetheless. I'd order another.

Recommendation: Fans of the style should order this if/when in Green Bay.

Cost: $5 for 16 oz pint pour that comes in a 20 oz nonic pint glass (don't ask).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Beer Review: Bourbon Legend Barleywine

Reviewing the Bourbon Legend Barleywine from Titletown Brewing Company out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. This barleywine has been aged in an Evan Williams bourbon barrel for five years. I forgot to take a photo of the snifter pour I drank, but I did snap a photo of the sampler glass I ordered before hand as part of a flight.
Score: 93

10 oz tap pour served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 12/13/12.
Appearance: Pour a murky, dark apricot-caramel color that has the clarity of melted road slush. Pours a thin head that settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass. Minimal lacing and retention. 1.5/5

Smell: Looks can be deceiving! Molasses, raisins, fig, bourbon and toffee. Caramel and oak too. Light vanilla. Very dark fruit and bourbon-forward. 4.5/5

Taste: Incredibly complex and bold in flavor. Malty caramel and fig upfront, followed by vanilla and bourbon. The finish slaps you with a heavy hand of waffle syrup-esque molasses. Cocoa, leather and toffee. Tons of raisin throughout. Boozy in flavor, but no alcohol cringe. The finish is absolutely divine. This brew is sweet, and gets sweeter as it warms up. At room temperature, the malty sweetness makes it harder to consume in larger quantities. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a very low amount of carbonation. Not "Kuhnhenns cabonated," however. Malty, syrupy mouthfeel. A light amount of liveliness fizzles on the tongue from the boozy flavors. 4.25/5

Overall: A shockingly delicious find from one of Wisconsin's finer, but obscurer, breweries. This brew is best enjoyed on the colder side in my opinion, and it's plenty complex to deliver at the colder temperature as well.

Recommendation: Seek this one out if you like boozy, sweet and malty English style barleywines.

Pairing: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Cost: $5 for a 10 oz snifter pour, $ (or $20 for a 64 oz growler to go, if you bring your own container).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beer Review: Society & Solitude #4

Reviewing Society & Solitude #4 from Hill Farmstead. This might be my favorite IPA that they make, which is to say a lot since Shawn Hill makes some of the best IPA out there. Sadly, I lost my picture of this one, so I borrowed someone else's...

Score: 97

A week only growler poured and served in to a snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/02/12. This is a backlogged review from notes.

Appearance: Pours a slightly dull, unfiltered orange-peach color with two fingers of off-white head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Good oily lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Fresh tropical citrus and pine. Loads of grapefruit, mango, pineapple, orange rind and grassy hops. Oh boy! 4.75/5

Taste: Aggressively hopped grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple upfront, which slowly washes away as more of the piney/grassy hops comes through towards the finish with only a hint of lingering tropical flavor on back of tongue. Touch of dirtiness/earthiness on the midpalate to balance out sweet citrus favors too. A near perfect balance is struck here between the sweet and bitter elements, with growing degrees of bitter, slightly dank qualities in the finish as it warms up. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with a low amount of carbonation that lets the bitterness sit heavy on the tongue. Juicy on the tongue. 4/5

Overall: Yet another knockout IPA experiment from the master. This imperial IPA gives Heady Topper a serious run for its money.

Recommendation: Absolutely seek this one out if/when rebrewed again, unless you hate IPAs.

Pairings: Hawaiian pizza.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beer Review: Track #10 (Bat Out Of Hell)

Happy New Years everyone! Let's kick 2013 off with a bang, and a beer that was eerily similar to the one I kicked 2012 off with a review of...

Reviewing Track #10 (Bat Out Of Hell) from The Lost Abbey out of California. This is one of the entries in their rock-themed Ultimate Box Set collection. This beer is their Serpent's Stout, aged in bourbon barrels, with coffee and cacao nibs added.
Score: 97

2012 vintage bottle served in a 4 oz taster glass at FOBAB 2012 (11/17/12). Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Jet black in color with thin layer of mocha head. Average lacing and retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Tons of coffee, then ample doses of chocolate. Molasses too. Faint vanilla. 4.5/5/5

Taste: Boat loads of coffee upfront and followed by cacao, milk chocolate and maple. Vanilla and bourbon comes through on the midpalate, followed by even more coffee in the finish. Has an aftertaste of "coffee breath." Truly divine! 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied. Low carbonation. Excellent balance between the coffee bitterness and bourbon sweetness. 4.5

Overall: Is it world class? Absolutely. I believe that this was one of the five best beers at FOBAB, which was absolutely stacked with great beer. This beer reminded me a lot of (a good bottle of) CBS. On the other hand, was it worth the $35 per bottle that each beer in the Lost Abbey Ultimate Box Set ultimately costs? Not when beers like Eclipse 18 and Chocolate Rain cost the same price for twice as much beer.

Recommendation: If you have the cash to spare, this is a must-try brew.

Pairings: Waffles and syrup.

Cost: $35 for a 375 ml bottle ($450 for all 13 beers in the Lost Abbey Ultimate Box Set).