Friday, March 29, 2013

Beer Review: Hotter Than Helles Lager

Reviewing the Hotter Than Helles Lager from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida.
Score: 89

Canned on 12/05/12. Served in a tulip-style wine glass and enjoyed on 01/21/13. Major thanks to Adam for the hook up!

Appearance: Pours a golden straw color that is between transparent and translucent. Thre is a mildly effervescent appearance to the brew, as a parade of bubbles float to the top when poured into the glass. A finger of white bubbly head settles completely. Poor lacing and retention. 3/5

Smell: Apple juice, malty grainy bready/cereal malt and a little lemon and white grape. A little yeast and mellow, grassy hops too. 4/5

Taste: The flavor is malty and juicy and refreshing. Sweet, but not tart, lemon, apple juice, peach and a little white grape. There is more lemon on the palate than there was in the nose. There's a faint, slightly stale grassy hops flavor in finish. The bready/cereal "graininess" from the nose is very faint in the taste, and mostly present in the aftertaste with some residual lemon as well. Very refreshing and easy drinking! 4/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, medium carbonation. Drinks like a juice, with a faint dryness on the finish. Slightly acidic. 4/5

Overall: This might be the perfect summer beer. It's light, refreshing, and flavorful!

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out this summer and crack it on a 90+ degree day!

Pairings: Nutrigrain bars.

Cost: $8.99 for a six pack of cans.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beer Review: Peg's G.O.O.D. RareR D.O.S.

Reviewing the highly coveted Peg's G.O.O.D. RareR D.O.S. from Cycle Brewing/Peg's Cantina & Brewpub out of Gulfport, Florida. This beer is their Doug’s Original Stout (the "D.O.S." part of the name) aged in Rum barrels (presumably the capital R part of the "RareR").
Score: 97

2012 vintage 500 ml growler from the 12/21/2012 release. Served in a Tyranena snifter glass and enjoyed on 01/17/13.

Appearance: Ink black in color. Pours a thin layer of mocha-colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor, splotchy lacing that is primarily oily, but average retention. What little lacing and oil clings slowly oozes down the side, back into the glass. 4/5

Smell: Vanilla, fudge and milk chocolate. Behind that is a sweet rum backbone that gets a little more prominent towards the tail end of a whiff. Oak too. Some roastiness and a little dark fruit. Hint of cherry. 4.75/5

Taste: The sweet rum is a lot more "forward" on the palate than in the nose, but it is deliciously incorporated. The first flavor to hit you is the rum, followed shortly thereafter by a wave of vanilla and fudge. This is then followed by a wave of dark fruit, brown sugar and faint milk chocolate. Finishes with lingering vanilla and fudge. There is some bold "boozy flavor," but no "booziness." Slightly sweet overall. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite full-bodied, low carbonation. Rich and creamy on the palate. Finishes dry, but not quite "chalky." 4.5/5

Overall: This is a baby Churchill's Finest Hour 2012 with sweet rum and cherry characteristics. Holy wow! I love how rich and complex this brew is.

Recommendation: Seek a bottle of this out!

Pairings: French vanilla ice cream.

Cost: $20 for a 500 ml growler.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Beer Review: Kuhnhenn American Imperial Stout

Reviewing the American Imperial Stout from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company out of Warren, Michigan. This imperial stout was most recently released at Kuhnhenn's annual Winter Solstice party.
Score: 98

2012 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 01/16/12. Shout out to Robbie Moy for hooking me up with this bottle!

Appearance: The body of the beer is black as ink with no transparencies (sorry, no ruby tones here) to speak of. Pours a thin layer of mocha-colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Dare I assume that this Kuhnhenn beer has some carbonation!? Absolutely outstanding lacing and retention. Quite frankly, this is a beautiful looking beer. 5/5

Smell: Slightly sweet milk chocolate, roasty malt, fudge and a little caramel are my first impressions. A modest amount of fig and raisin and a little leather is present as well. Faint bitter/burnt coffee and bakers chocolate too. As the beer warms up and airates, a little more sweet dark fruit complexity and a touch of brown sugar come out as well. What an absolutely inspiring and complex imperial stout nose! It is sweet/bittersweet, and totally balanced. A dash of "woody" and pine hops are present in the nose, but it's perfectly incorporated. A faint hint of black licorice comes through at room temperature. 4.75/5

Taste: The taste is surprisingly different from the nose. The dark fruit and sweetness takes a backseat to the more roasty and bitter/bittersweet elements. Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate with a little burnt roast and "coffee breath"-like flavor are the boldest elements of the taste. A very faint amount of black licorice and a little non-sweet dark fruit follow the upfront bitter and dark chocolate flavors. Towards the finish, there is just a touch of sweet fig that rounds out the beer and adds balance to a bitter "upfront" flavor experience. Finishes with a nice roasty, slightly burnt (and ashy) cacao flavor. The beer is bitter/bittersweet. I am not detecting much, if any, hops in the flavor -- but they are not missed. As the beer warms up, a well-incorporated (a la Black Albert) cherry flavor starts to come through in the back half of the beer, in addition to a little more of the woody/ashiness in the finish. When the cherry comes through as the beer warms up, it loses a bit of its bitter edge and becomes more "balanced." Needless to say, this beer tastes as complex as it smells. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a perfect amount of "low carbonation" (versus Kuhnhenn's traditional "where's the carbonation"-type carbonation). Bitter/bittersweet on the palate. Finishes somewhat dry, but not chalky dry. 5/5

Overall: This is without a doubt one of the absolute best stouts that I have ever had. It is complex, flavorful and dynamic. The nose and taste have similar elements, but each is quite different in which characteristics shine. I love how the beer developed as it went from cellar temperature to room temperature, though I probably preferred it slightly more on the colder side of that scale. My only regret is that I only got one of these. I will have to seek out more.

Recommendation: Seek this beer out; it is one of the best imperial stouts you will find!

Pairings: A cigar.

Cost: $8 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beer Review: Fourteen Fourteen

Reviewing the Fourteen Fourteen from Central Waters Brewing Company.
Score: 97

Tap pour served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 03/24/12 at the Central Waters tap takeover at the Local Option during Chicago craft beer week.

Appearance: The beer is a black color with a thick caramel-colored strip atop the glass when held up to light. Served with a thin beige-colored head that settles to a bubbly ring around glass. Minimal lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Rich bourbon-soaked raisins and milk chocolate. Sweet fig, molasses, and a hint of vanilla extract. 4.5/5

Taste: Complex! A lot more bourbon flavor upfront than the nose led on, but it's not really "boozy" -- just warming on the tongue. Behind the bourbon is sweet milk chocolate covered raisins, fudge and a smooth molasses-y backbone with brown sugar flavor in the finish. A little dry whiskey spice in the throat off the swallow. Marshmallow and a hint of almond on the midpalate. Hint of burnt oak too. There's a faint hoppiness in the finish. I love these kind of beers that are loaded with complex bourbon and stout flavors without the bourbon bite from the barrel-aging. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Usually Central Waters' great downfall has been the mouthfeel of their barrel-aged beers, which are notoriously thin-bodied -- but not this one! Full bodied, low carbonation. This beer is dry and modestly sweet. 5/5

Overall: A knockout barrel-aged beer from Central Waters that does not let down in the mouthfeel department. Central Waters should seriously consider re-brewing this, packaging it in four-packs and then distributing it. It is easily Central Waters' best beer, and comparable in quality to Hill Farmstead's Damon in my opinion.

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

Pairings: Filet Mignon.

Cost: $7 for a 10 oz snifter pour at the bar, or $10 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Beer Review: Haymarket's Second Anniversary Blend

Reviewing Haymarket's Second Anniversary Blend from Haymarket Pub & Brewery out of Chicago, Illinois. This strong ale is a mix of several of the beers that were on tap. The second anniversary blend is the one on the far left.
Score: 89

4 oz sample served in a taster glass and enjoyed at Haymarket's 2nd Anniversary Party on 01/12/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Dark brown in color. Serve with a ring around the glass of tan head. 4/5

Smell: Sweet and malty nose. Bourbon and vanilla dominate with a little berry sweetness. Bakers chocolate is present too. 4/5

Taste: It is also a little more berry heavy and less sweet. I do not think the taste quite follows the nose. Vanilla and berry dominate the flavor. Oak, raisin, and chocolate too. Some dark fruit as well. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Thinner than expected. Medium bodied, low carbonation. A little bit sweet, but not as sweet as the Acrimonious. 3.5/5

Overall: This beer would be better if it had thicker mouthfeel. Still pretty tasty.

Recommendation: Worth the cost of a pint; give it a whirl if you see it around!

Cost: $2 for a 4 oz pour or $6 for a 12 oz pour.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beer Review: Angel's Envy Port Barrel Aged Acrimonious Imperial Stout

Reviewing Angel's Envy Port Barrel Aged Acrimonious Imperial Stout from Haymarket Pub & Brewery out of Chicago, Illinois. The Acrimonious is the third beer from the right in the picture. Per the beer's description:
"This thick, black, Imperial Stout was aged for 4 months in port wine barrels that were used as a second finish for Angel’s Envy Bourbon. Dark fruit, coffee, chocolate, caramel, and bourbon combine for a warming experience." 
Score: 87

4 oz sample served in a taster glass and enjoyed at Haymarket's 2nd Anniversary Party on 01/12/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours the appearance of a traditional barrel aged stout. Dark brown, maybe black in color with a foggy, film-thin layer of tan head when brought to the table. Decent lacing/retention. 4/5

Smell: Chocolate, vanilla, tannic/vinous sweet acidity, oak and tobacco too. A little anise and soy. 3.75/5

Taste: Sweet bourbon/vanilla, a little red grape and brown sugar. Some cocoa and dark fruit too in the finish. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Dry finish. Sweet, but not cloying. 3.25/5

Overall: I think the port imparted a bit too much sweetness here. Although a solid beer overall, this was a far cry from the reputation established by those who have had this one before.

Recommendation: Worth trying at the price, but not worth going out of your way to hunt down.

Cost: $2 for a 4 oz pour or $6 for a 12 oz pour.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beer Review: Clare's Right Hook (aged with Lemon Zest)

Reviewing Clare's Right Hook (aged with Lemon Zest) from Haymarket Pub & Brewery out of Chicago, Illinois. This beer is a bold American style barleywine (13% ABV) aged for 6 months in Woodford Reserve Barrels with zest from a whole case of lemons. Sampled along side the cocoa nibs version.
Score: 82

4 oz sample served in a taster glass and enjoyed at Haymarket's 2nd Anniversary Party on 01/12/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Much uglier in color than the cocoa nibs version. Still looks like hazy homebrew, but this brew is more of a slightly reddish chestnut brown color. 1.5/5

Smell: Leather, fig, oak and lemon in nose. More caramel in nose and smells "sweeter" than the chocolate version too. The lemon does not particularly mix well here. 3.5/5

Taste: Tastes like a sweet malty English barleywine with a lemon twist in finish. Fig, leather, oak and lighter vanilla than nose. Molasses too. Pretty malty sweet -- more so than the cocoa nibs version. I frankly do not care for the lemon flavor here. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, minimal carbonation. Dry finish. Borderline cloyingly sweet. 3.75/5

Overall: The lemon did not work in tandem with the other qualities in the taste or smell. 4 oz of this was more than enough for me.

Recommendation: Skip this one.

Cost: $2 for a 4 oz pour or $6 for a 12 oz pour.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beer Review: Uber Mathias

Reviewing Uber Mathias from Haymarket Pub & Brewery out of Chicago, Illinois. Mathias is Haymarket's citra hopped imperial Belgian-style IPA. Uber mathias is their Mathias dry hopped with 10 lbs of Cascade per barrel. The Uber Mathias is the second beer from the right.
Score: 95

4 oz sample served in a taster glass and enjoyed at Haymarket's 2nd Anniversary Party on 01/12/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Amber/copper color witha thin layer of white head. Good lacing on the taster glass. 4.25/5

Smell: Huge tropical citrus notes in nose: lemon, peach, mango, grapefruit, orange and tangerine. Pine-iness too. Biscuity malt and caramel malt backbone. Not getting any Belgian qualities in nose. Nonetheless, this is an absolutely enticing IPA nose. 4.5/5

Taste: Taste has more fruitiness and a little yeastiness than the nose, but none of the phenolic banana traditionally associated with Belgian style beers. Atop that is grapefruit, earthy spice/peppercorn, orange and pear. Caramel malt, but no breadiness on palate. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of medum bodied. Low to medium carbonation. Slick, oily mouthfeel. Juicy on palate, dry on finish. 4.5/5

Overall: This and Clare's Thirsty Ale were the clear winners of the night. Uber Mathias was juicy, flavorful, and loaded with hoppy citrus. I will absolutely be seeking this out again in the future if it is rebrewed.

Recommendation: Seek this beer out; it is one of Haymarket's best beers!

Pairings: Beef chili.

Cost: $2 for a 4 oz pour or $6 for a 12 oz pour.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Beer Review: Clare's Right Hook (aged with Cocoa Nibs)

Reviewing Clare's Right Hook (aged with Cocoa Nibs) from Haymarket Pub & Brewery out of Chicago, Illinois. This beer is a bold American style barleywine (13% ABV) aged for 6 months in Woodford Reserve Barrels with two pounds of Roasted Cocoa Nibs. The "Cocoa Clare's" is the second glass from the left. The beer to the right of it is the lemon zest version.
Score: 90

4 oz sample served in a taster glass and enjoyed at Haymarket's 2nd Anniversary Party on 01/12/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Looks like an unfiltered, hazy homebrew milk chocolate milk shake blended with a dash of roadslush. 3/5

Smell: TONS of cocoa notes in the nose, followed by figs, leather and hot chocolate mix. 4.5/5

Taste: Much sweeter and less bitter than anticipated given the amount of cocoa in nose. Leather, oak, fig, prune and malty caramel. A little biscuit too. In such a small sized pour, the sweetness is not overwhelming, but I can tell that I would struggle to finish a 12+ ounce pour of this in respectable time. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, minimal carbonation. Sweet. Very dry on finish. 3.75/5

Overall: The nose was complex and enticing, but the rest of the beer does not quite live up. The flavors were than I would have liked, and the mouthfeel was thinner than hoped for. That said, this was still a pretty darn good beer that I would order again.

Recommendation: Worth ordering if on tap, but there is no need to order a larger sized pour of this one.

Cost: $2 for a 4 oz pour or $6 for a 12 oz pour.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beer Review: Revolution Brewing's 3rd Year Beer

Reviewing the 3rd Year Beer from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This brew, created in honor of the company's third year of existence, is a wheatwine brewed with piloncillo and aged for four months in Jamaican rum barrels.
Score: 92

Tap pour served in a 5 oz taster glass at the brewpub and enjoyed on 02/06/13. This review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Served with a ring of head around the glass. 4/5

Smell: Vanilla, rum, molasses, faint wood and malt.  Caramel and toffee too. 4.25/5

Taste: Very barrel flavor forward and slightly boozy. Sweet rum, molasses, vanilla, dark sugar and a little biscuity malt. A distinctive vanilla cake flavor comes through as the beer warms up. There is a lot of alcoholic warmth, but this is nothing unexpected at 11.2% ABV. This brew is definitely a sipper, but the more I sip, the more I like it and the more I find the brew complex. I can imagine this mellowing out and aging well with some time in the cellar. 4.2/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Slightly sweet. Faintly dry. 4.2/4

Overall: A really nice and complex beer by Revolution to celebrate their three years of existence. It's a little boozy and hot fresh, but the flavor profile should age well as the beer mellows out over 6-12 months. I would recommend snagging a bottle while they are still around; this is one of the better wheatwines I have had to date.

Recommendation: Snag a couple of bottles from the taproom and be sure to age one.

Cost: $5 for a 5 oz taster glass or $9 for a 9 oz glass.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Beer Review: Imperial Maple Milk Stout

Reviewing the Imperial Maple Milk Stout from Perennial Artisan Ales out of St. Louis, Missouri. Perennial is one of the best up-and-coming breweries in the craft beer world; their brewer used to work with both Goose Island and Half Acre before opening his own brewery. This one-off brew was specially brewed for the Northdown Cafe & Taproom for a Perennial-themed beer event. The ABV is listed as "??%."
Score: 91

Tap pour served in a mini (12 oz) nonic pint glass that was then poured into a generic snifter and enjoyed on 01/11/12. Review is from iPhone notes

Appearance: Pours a dark black color with a finger of mocha-colored head that slowly settles to a thin layer that then settles to a ring around the glass. Absolutely amazing lacing and retention. This is a gorgeous-looking dark beer. 5/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, barley malt, bananas and maple. Light alcohol esters and a faint hoppiness too. Some brownie-like chocolate notes also present. More banana as the brew warms. 4/5

Taste: Chocolate, molasses, a little banana and a little bit of booze too. Maple and creamy milk chocolate towards finish. Did this beer use a Belgian-style yeast strand? Modestly sweet, but not a "sweet" beer. Not bitter at all. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite full bodied, mild carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a little prickly warmth from booze. 4/5

Overall: Not quite up to par with their Abraxas chili stout or Vermillion barleywine, but still a pretty delicious and worthy beer.  

Recommendation: Not a can't-miss beer, but worth ordering before the keg kicks and the beer disappears into obscurity...

Pairings: Northdown's signature grilled cheese.

Cost: $8 for a 10 oz pour.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Logo!

Major thanks to Will Wilberg (follow him on Twitter) for the incredibly creative design. Etched glassware to come soon!