Friday, May 31, 2013

Beer Review: Midnight Sun 3000

Reviewing the Midnight Sun 3000 from Midnight Sun Brewing Company out of Anchorage, Alaska.

Score: 85

Bottle is from the January 2013 release. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 03/23/13.

Appearance: Pours just under a finger of tan head atop a deep brown colored body. Good lacing, above average retention. 4/5

Smell: Red wine/grapey sweetness, fruitiness, cinnamon, brown sugar, yeast, vanilla and toffee. This is a complex nose that is different (a lot more vinous) than anticipated. Hops-devoid for an American-style Barleywine. 4.25/5

Taste: The red wine aging is quite apparent on the tongue. This beer has a tangy sweet red grape flavor that has a sour-esque quality without actually being sour. Lots of fruitiness, almost like slightly funky jam in flavor. Vanilla, a little cocoa and toffee too. The flavors do not particularly integrate well, and the "tangy" red wine character really throws me off. Where are the hops (not that I think they would go well with this already messy flavor mix)? 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite full-bodied, but viscous. Average carbonation level. Does not drink like a 13+% ABV beer in the least. 4/5

Overall: I am very glad I got to try this beer and am grateful that my friend could hook me up with it, but found this one to be a massive disappointment. I was expecting a much better integrated beer that was not so vinous in light of the reputation of M. I brought this beer to a group tasting, so I did not have a large enough poor to dwell on the negatives for too long, but there is a good chance that had I had a full pour that I would not have wanted to finish it. Maybe time will treat this beer well, but I am finding more and more that I do not particularly care for stouts or barleywines aged in red wine and port barrels.

Cost: $15 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beer Review: Black Damnation

Reviewing the Black Damnation from De Struise Brouwers out of Belgium. This is the first beer brewed in the Black Damnation series. Black Damnation is a blend of Black Albert and Hel & Verdoemenis.

Score: 96

Unknown vintage bottle served in a Founders snifter/tulip hybrid glass and enjoyed on 04/05/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Coffee colored body. Pours a finger of khaki head. Awesome head and lacing. The lacing slowly oozes back unto the glass. 5/5

Smell: Chocolate, roast, light wood, hint of licorice. Reminds me of fresh Surly Darkness without the hoppiness. A little brown sugar and stale coffee too. 4.5/5

Taste: Bitter bakers chocolate, wood, char, and toasty malt. Bittersweet syrup, light coffee and licorice. Finishes with a lingering bitter chocolate and syrup flavor. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. On the bitter end of bittersweet. 4.5/5

Overall: Excellent; the best of beer of Black Damnation I-IV

Cost: $12 for a 11.2 oz bottle.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Beer Review: Framboise For A Cure (Batch 3, 2012 Vintage)

Reviewing the Framboise For A Cure from Russian River Brewing Company out of Santa Rosa, California. Batch 3 of this brew is the same as Batch 2; it uses Temptation as a base and is 6.5% ABV. Russian River describes this beer as a "sour barrel aged beer with raspberries." 100% of the profits from this beer's bottle sales are donated directly to the Sutter Breast Care Center of Santa Rosa. You can make a direct donation to the cause of curing breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation by clicking here.
Score: 98

2012 vintage bottle (batch 3) served in a Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 02/11/13.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous, slightly dark rose color with a finger-plus of frothy pink head that settles to a thick (half finger?) layer atop the glass. The beer is on the opaque side of translucent and "clean" in appearance. No noticeable army of floaties or any haze. Average, soapy lacing with awesome cling. Truly a gorgeous-looking sour. 5/5

Smell: The minute the cork popped of the top of the bottle, a "wild raspberry" aroma became immediately apparent to my nose, which was perched a couple of feet away from the bottle. Smelling from the glass, I get sweet and tart raspberry, strawberry ice cream, cranberry and a little bit of "all berry jam" akin to what they serve/sell at the Egg Harbor in Lincolnshire. There's a faint amount of that straw-like sour funk (my friend humorously calls this "Cantillon Dust") that you get in beers Cantillon Classic Gueuze present as well. Absolutely delicious! 5/5

Taste: Tastes just like it smells, but a little less bold. Tart raspberry, creamy strawberry and a little bit of that "Cantillon Dust" funk in the finish that faintly lingers with a hint of raspberry. Truly delicious, simply magnificent! Not very complex, but boy is this beer tasty! Although not very tart at cellar temp, this one grows in tartness as it warms up. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Has a juicy juice-like mouthfeel that moistens the palate while also slightly drying out and inflaming the gums after the swallow -- which makes for a really interesting mouthfeel. Nice blend of sweet and tart here. 5/5

Overall: One of my favorite sours consumed to date. This one can roll with the big boys (Fou Foune, Beatification, Tornado 25th Anniversary Ale, etc.). Give the average price one must pay for a quality sour, I would absolutely recommend this brew at the price point (even though it breaks the $1/oz retail threshold).

Cost: $15 for a 375 ml bottle.

Beer Review: Hardywood Gingerbread Stout

Reviewing the Gingerbread Stout from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery out of Richmond, Virginia.

Score: 88

2012 vintage bottle served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 04/02/13.

Appearance: Black in color, though it turns a slightly brownish soda color when held up to the light. Pours two fingers of fizzy tan head that settles to a thin fizzy ring around the glass. Has a surprisingly effervescent appearance even after the head settles. Poor lacing, below average retention. 3/5

Smell: Biscuity malt, grain, fizzy vanilla soda, brown sugar and faint cinnamon. There is also a gingerbread cookie dough smell present, but it is not nearly as pronounced as anticipated. 3.5/5

Taste: Has an unimpressive biscuity and fizzy stout flavor upfront, but before you can be too disappointed that flavor is immediately supplanted by a wonderful medley of spices, chocolate and gingerbread cookie flavor. Some sweet honey flavor too. This beer has a nice amount of sweetness, but is well-balanced. The spice finish is quite wonderful! If only the upfront flavor was not there. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Mouthfeel falls somewhere between silky and creamy, with some fizziness. 3.5/5

Overall: Taste is what matters most in a beer, and this one has a really good flavor save for an initial disappointing flavor that hits the palate. This beer has a lot of potential, and I would loved to see what a little refining of the recipe could accomplish.

Pairing: Creamy vanilla bean ice cream. Trust me on this one!

Cost: $12 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beer Review: Armand'4 Oude Geuze Zomer (Summer)

Reviewing the Armand'4 Oude Geuze Zomer (Summer) from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen out of Belgium.

Score: 97

2011 vintage bottle served in a taster glass and enjoyed on 05/11/13 to celebrate the end of law school. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Similar in appearance to Lente. Hazy golden-amber in color. About a half finger of head off the pour, good lacing. 4.5/5

Smell: Mustier than Lente. Sharp lemon flavor. More sweet vinegar too. A little pepper spice. Has a faint and funky earthiness that I really dig. 4.5/5

Taste: More sour vinegar and less juicy tart citrus than Lente. Yeast, lemon, pineapple. More tart than Lente at colder temperatures but not quite sure which is tarter by the time they both warm up. The lemon lingers well. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied (but slightly lighter in body than Lente) with spot on carbonation (but with slightly less carbonation than Lente). Dry and sour. 5/5

Overall: Not quite up to part with Lente, but still quite excellent. This beer is not cheap, but it is so excellent. Highly recommend you seek a bottle out. This was my second favorite season in the series.

Cost: Depending on the exchange rate, this one is likely to run between $45 and $60 for a 750 ml bottle (if you can still find it online).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beer Review: Armand'4 Oude Geuze Lente (Spring)

Reviewing the Armand'4 Oude Geuze Lente (Spring) from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen out of Belgium.

Score: 99

2011 vintage bottle served in a taster glass and enjoyed on 05/11/13 to celebrate the end of law school. Review is from notes.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy orange-amber color with a finger of white head. Good lacing and retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Tart lemon juice, pear and subtle musty vinegar. A little fruitiness. Residual funk. Really nice sour citrus aroma. 5/5

Taste: Sour lemonade-like with good pucker. Acidic orange, a little apple and pear. Lots of juicy sour citrus. Only a little vinegar funk. Layering sourness. Nice and subtle grassy hops too. Really excellent! 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, perfect carbonation. Excellent layering pucker. Dry. 5/5

Overall: One of the best sours I have ever had. Shame it took me a year to type this review up. I need to get a bottle. This was my favorite beer in the Armand'4 seasons series.

Cost: Depending on the exchange rate, this one is likely to run between $45 and $60 for a 750 ml bottle (if you can still find it online).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Solar Eclipse

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Solar Eclipse from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company out of Warren, Michigan.

Score: 85

December 2012 vintage bottle served in a Tyranena snifter and enjoyed on 01/25/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Tradional Russian imperial stout color with minimal head off the pour. Minimal lacing, below average retention. 3/5

Smell: A vanilla and booze bomb! Bourbon, brown sugar, oak, fudge and caramel too. Tiramisu? Has a dessert-like sweetness in the nose that reminds me of Scotty Karate. The nose is well integrated and bold. Very complex, but apparently sweet. 4/5

Taste: Chocolate, bourbon, light caramel and a LOT of perky spice. Was this aged in rye barrels? Plenty of booziness too, borderline fusel-esque at room temperature. Has a vanilla undertone, but where is the intense vanilla from the nose? Not as sweet as nose led on. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, no carbonation whatsoever. Boozy warmth and spiciness pair well. Very dry finish. 3.5/5

Overall: This beer is high in unashamedly high in ABV, but it is no World Wide Stout. Worthy of a tick, not worth seeking out. Kuhnhenn's American Imperial Stout was not barrel aged, but it was much better.

Cost: $8 for a 12 oz bottle.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Beer Review: Assassin Imperial Stout (2012 vintage, red wax version)

Reviewing the 2012 vintage of Assassin Imperial Stout (red wax version) from Toppling Goliath Brewery out of Decorah, Iowa.

Score: 88

Early 2012 vintage bottle (red wax version) served in a Tyranena snifter and enjoyed on 01/25/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Coffee color body with minimal head off the pour in the form of mocha-colored swirls. No lacing or retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Vanilla, whiskey, brownies and milk chocolate. Dark fruit too. 4.25/5

Taste: Chocolate, whiskey, and a little soy sauce-like flavor. Burnt caramel, vanilla and a touch of booze too. A little spice. Slightly oxidized, but in a way that plays decently well with the spice quality. A little sweet. No coffee whatsoever. 3.75

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and under carbonated. Has a nice rye-like kick on tongue that makes up for the under-carbonation. Finishes very dry, almost chalky -- like a less dry The Count. 4/5

Overall: This is a really good beer that just did not deliver out of the bottle when aged. I have had this one fresher, and it was much better. The 2012 vintage bottles had some issues (e.g., the brew is filled so high up in the bottle that it leaks if not refrigerated), so I encourage folks to give Toppling Goliath the benefit of the doubt on this one and seek out the 2013 vintage that was just released. I will review the new release when I get my hands on a bottle.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Beer Review: Blushing Monk

Reviewing the Blushing Monk from Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is the first release is Founders' Backstage Series.

Score: 94

July 2011 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 01/19/13 in honor of my good friend Adam Kaplan's wedding.

Appearance: Deep claret in color. Two fingers of light pink, strawberry ice cream colored head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Gorgeous lacing and really good cling. 5/5

Smell: Huge, jammy raspberries galore! Also present is sugary citrus, a little bit of floral , and faint yeast. Touch of grainy malt towards end of whiff. More raspberry comes through as it warms and airates 4.5/5

Taste: The Belgian qualities are more prominent on palate than they are in nose. Sweet and tart, jammy raspberry upfront, followed by slightly Belgiany yeast and malt. A touch of funk towards finish. Faint hint of alcohol, but well  incorporated into the flavor profile. Gets tarter as warms 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low-plus carbonation.  Juicy on palate and slightly puckering. Lightly dry finish. 4.25/5

Overall: An excellent beer that was enjoyed by all the groomsman in the wedding party during the photography portion of wedding. This would have paired nicely with a donut or, more appropriately for the occasion, vanilla cake.

Pairing: A beignet.

Cost: $12.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Beer Review: Arctic Panzer Wolf

Reviewing the Arctic Panzer Wolf from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana.

Score: 96

Tap pour served in a La Fin Du Monde tulip at Kuma's Corner and enjoyed on 06/08/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Murky orange in color. Served with a finger or two of white head. Amazing lacing and awesome retention/cling. 5/5

Smell: Grapefruit, pine, orange juice, lemon zest, tropical citrus, pine and herbaceous, fresh grass. 4.5/5

Taste: Juicy tropical citrus hop bomb! Orange, grapefruit, tangerine, pineapple, and mango. Ample lemonade and bitter pine. Sharp lemon-zest flavor. Faint hint of onion. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Juicy mouthfeel. Bitter, slightly sweet. The mouthfeel here is directly comparable to Ghandi Bot. 4.5/5

Overall: One of the best IPA out there when fresh. I prefer this over Dreadnaught.

Cost: $10.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Beer Review: Zinneke

Reviewing the Zinneke from Smuttynose Brewing Company out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Score: 86

Winter 2012-13 vintage bottle served in a Dogfish Head snifter and enjoyed on 02/12/13.

Appearance: Molasses color with thin layer of beige head. Poor lacing, poor retention. 3/5

Smell: Roasted malt, cocoa, banana and subtle bourbon. A little fruitiness too. Roast more prevalent in nose than elsewhere. 3.75/5

Taste: Roast ones upfront, then chocolate and banana throughout. Only the faintest sweet bourbon flavor. A little fruitiness in the finish too. Chocolate and banana are the main characters on the palate here. Malty in a good way. Slightly growing roast towards the finish as the beer warms. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, good level of carbonation for the style. Moderately dry finish. 3.75/5

Overall: For the price, this beer is really solid. It is better than I expected, certainly something I would drink again, but it is not a beer I would recommend you particularly seek out.

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Aged 2009 Double Bastard Ale

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Aged 2009 Double Bastard Ale from the Quingenti Millitre Series from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California.

Score: 82

Bottle is from the June 2012 release. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 01/31/13.

Appearance: Chestnut brown in color with a finger of fizzy beige head that gradually settles to a thin layer atop the glass. Has a very traditional old ale look, but with a lot more head than expected off the pour. Good lacing and retention. Some serious floaties settle onto the bottom half of the glass. 3/5

Smell: Caramel, molasses, fig, sweet raisin, and sweet, faintly desserty, oaky vanilla. Lots of malt with a dark fruit twist. Bourbon complexities are very noticeable on the nose. Faint milk chocolate in the background. Some “leather belt” smell towards the end of a whiff too. Light alcohol esters present. There is a little brown sugar and a “fizziness” in the nose as the beer warms up. 4.25/5

Taste: Lots of caramel, then lesser quantums of brown sugar and fizzy vanilla. Finish is oddly bitter. There is some dark fruit too. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Too thin and over-carbonated. Dry, and slightly bitter on finish. 1.5/5

Overall: Although the nose was promising, the favors are too light, less complex and the mouthfeel kills the beer. Skip this one.

Cost: $20 for a 500 ml bottle.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Beer Review: Cucumber Saison

Reviewing the Cucumber Saison from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida.
Score: 86

2012 vintage bottle served in a plastic wine goblet and enjoyed on 07/29/12. Review is from iPhone notes I jotted down at my birthday bottle share.

Appearance: Pours three fingers of white, soapy head atop a cloudy, dull golden-wheat colored body. Good lacing and retention. Looks a lot like you’d expect a saison to look. 4/5

Smell: Totally cucumber forward. Cucumber water, light wheat and yeast. 3.75/5

Taste: Cucumber waiter with a light funk and straw/grain flavor. Simple and straightforward. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, medium carbonation. Smooth mouthfeel, somewhat dry on the finish. 3.5/5

Overall: Light, summery and refreshing. It should be pointed out that I am not a fan of saisons. However, this one was pretty solid and “inoffensive” (and I mean that in a good way). No horse blanket, barnyard, etc. This beer essentially smells and tastes like lightly fermented cucumber water. This is not one I would go out of my way to seek out, but it is certainly a beer that made a good palate cleanser at the tasting. While no one loved the beer, no one disliked it either.

Pairings: A very basic salad.

Cost: $10 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Beer Review: Brandy Barrel Aged Dark Lord

Reviewing the Brandy Barrel Aged Dark Lord from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana. This is the 2010 vintage of Dark Lord, aged for one year in brandy barrels.

Score: 97

Served on tap at Dark Lord Day 2012 in a taster glass. Review is from notes that I lost, but recently found.

Appearance: Jet black in color. Served without any head, no lacing to speak of either. This beer is imposing as hell; like crude oil in its appearance. 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 smelling as the base beer. Mild molasses in the nose too. 4.75/5

Taste: A complex sweetness. Raisin, brandy, milk chocolate and molasses. A red grape-like sweetness is mostly prominent towards the finish, while the raisin/dark fruit is more "upfront." Decadent, but delicious. Not as sweet as fresh, regular Dark Lord, but it's one of the sweeter Barrel Aged Dark Lord variants I have had. 4.75/5

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

Overall: While this beer was nothing short of excellent, it was not quite as good as the Bourbon aged versions or the Brandy Vanilla version. Even at its price point, this is a beer worth trying; it's just not a beer worth stockpiling.

Cost: $50 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beer Review: Black Magick (2011 release)

Reviewing the 2011 release of Black Magick from Voodoo Brewing Company out of Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Score: 94

2011 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 01/13/13.

Appearance: Ink black in color. Pours a thin layer of beige head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, average retention with a nice cling factor. 4/5

Smell: Coconut, vanilla and milk chocolate followed by a light amount of boozy bourbon, sweet brown sugar and faint leather. The bourbon character is much more subtle than anticipated given the ABV and time spent in the barrel. Some oak too. 4.25/5

Taste: Vanilla, creamy coconut (less than the nose, however) and milk chocolate, as the nose implied, are the primary flavor characters. There is a little more bourbon flavor, and it is better integrated into the flavor than it was in the nose. There's a little plum and dark fruitiness too. Alcohol warms and light booziness towards the finish -- not unexpected for a 15.5% ABV beer! There is some brown sugar flavor in the mix too and a hint of licorice. There is a touch of a roast too. Very tasty, lots of complexity in how the flavors interact. This was a fun beer to consume and pick apart. This beer gets a little sweeter as it warms up. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, minimal carbonation. Syrupy, slightly sweet and sticky on the palate. Finish is faintly dry with a residual stickiness from the brew. A little liveliness from the alcohol warms the tongue in the finish. 4.25/5

Overall: An excellent barrel aged imperial stout that is slightly sweet. Although it is not quite Uncle Jacobs, it is definitely one of the better barrel aged beers available, when available, in a 12 oz format. I am suprised this beer gets so little fanfare, though that impression may simply be the byproduct of the fact that it has been well over a year since this one was last released...a new batch is on the horizon, however, and I would recommend seeking it out...

Recommendation: Fans of imperial stouts, particularly the boozier ones, should seek a bottle of this out.

Pairings: Smoked Gouda.

Cost: $140 for a case at the brewery or $9 for a 12 oz bottle retail.